Friday, January 29, 2010

TIP from a 5-year-old

I've been kind of quiet lately in the blogosphere. Why is that?

Is it because (A) I have realized that I blog to the detriment of my writing and have decided to focus my efforts on manuscripts this month instead?

Is it because (B) my Scramble habit has returned (but I've been too embarrassed to admit it?)

Is it because (C) I have a secret and I'm scared if I blog, it will slip out, the same way I accidentally told my college roommate who her Secret Santa was?

If you guess D, all of the above, you'd be correct.

There are some things going on that I can't talk about, but there are plenty of things I can talk about. So, I will choose a safe topic. Writing tips. When my five year old blogs, she dictates and I type. Every few words, she says, "Read me what I have so far." This cracks me up. She's only in kindergarten, but she already knows that her words have to "sound good."

ME: You have "I asked my mommy to sign me up for gymnastics because I thought it would be really fun. But then I discovered that some moves hurt me and I didn't like class. One day I came and I started to cry. I wanted to go home. A nice assistant named Alex helped me out, and then I discovered something new. Class could be really fun if I just give it a chance!"

JORDAN: I said discovered too many times. Change the second one to noticed.

What's interesting is that Jordan can read perfectly well by herself. But she doesn't feel she can adequately "listen" while she is reading. She needs me to read it so she can focus completely on how her words sound.

So, here is my tip. Ask someone else to read your work aloud.

Do they stumble or trip anywhere. Are there words you repeated by accident. Is your dialogue natural? Do your transitions flow?

You may discover something you hadn't noticed before! :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jill Myles- To Sequel or Not to Sequel

I think as writers we all dream that our book will turn into a series. Am I right? Well, for Jill Myles the dream has come true.

We get to take a behind-the-scenes look at how Jill's debut book became the first of many in THE SUCCUBUS DIARIES.

Jill, welcome. Can you give us a time line of when you wrote books 1, 2, and 3 and when you got offers on them?

Book 1, GENTLEMEN PREFER SUCCUBI, was conceived and written in 2005. I cleaned it up, shopped it around and got an agent in early 2006. From that point on, it was a waiting game. 2006 was probably the longest, most angst-riddled year of my life up to that point. It paid off, though - in early 2007, we got an offer on Book 1, and the publisher wanted to know if it was a series. At this point, I'd never written a sequel, though I had ideas for further adventures involving the same characters. My agent suggested that I put together some ideas for Book 2, so I wrote one paragraph and sent it off to her. She came back to me and asked for a real live outline. Oops! Who knew. ;)

NOTE: I am embarrassed to admit that I wasn't familiar with the term "pantser," so I had to look it up. Apparently, there are plotters and pantsers. Plotters outline. Pantsers have no plan. They write by the seat of their pants.

Go on, Jill.

At that point, it was a little trickier for me to come up with a plot concept - I had given my agent the high level pitch, but to actually think the story out was a lot trickier. I'm very much a pantser, so this was a new concept to me. It took a few rounds of discussion and writing out ideas, but I eventually came up with a one page outline for book 2 (a whole page!) and we sent it off to the publisher, who accepted it.

My book got pushed out to 2010 (due to a format change) so the rest of 2007 and most of 2008 involved a lot of waiting. I wrote book 2, SUCCUBI LIKE IT HOT, turned it in, and waited and waited and waited. My book finally came up on the schedule in early 2009, so I spent most of the last year doing revisions and copyedits and galleys for both books in a row, as well as prepping a proposal for book 3. My editor asked to see a proposal for book 3 in June or so of 2009, and we had a confirmation that they wanted it a few weeks later. I'm still writing book 3 at the moment (deadline March 1st!) so after that, I'll start thinking about book 4.

Many authors want to start writing a sequel before they have sold their first manuscript. What is your advice to them?

I think that starting a sequel before selling your first manuscript is a bad idea. I've had 3 agents and all 3 have agreed - don't write the sequel until you have a contract in hand and the OK from your editor. I've known writers that wrote a connected trilogy before finding an agent...and then the agent was not able to sell the books. At that point, you have 3 dead manuscripts on your hands instead of just one. And a lot of editors might like the writing but not necessarily the story, and will say "Got anything else for me to look at?" Book 2 of a trilogy won't cut it.

Another thing to think about - editorial input. Your editor might love book 1, and hate the concept for book 2, which means starting from scratch. When it came down to book 3 for my series, I sent a proposal to my editor - 50 pages and a lengthy synopsis. My editor then pointed out all the things she didn't like in my synopsis and wanted me to change. I rewrote it and made some suggestions on plot, and we went back and forth a few more times before cracking down on the final plot. It's easy to change mid-stream if all you have is an outline -- not so easy if you've already written the darn thing.

Wow, Jill, thank you so much!

Before you go, be sure to enter Jill'
s contest! Her fabulous agent, Holly Root, is offering a query critique for one lucky winner drawn at random. Leave a comment here and you'll earn one entry for the drawing. Comment at each of the other blogs on Jill's tour to earn additional entries.

Jill will pick the winner on January 27.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sneak Peak- Jill Myles' Blog Tour

What could be more fun than a book that starts with this opening line:

It had obviously been one hell of a night if I couldn’t recall why I was waking up in a Dumpster.

Not much, I tell you! Which is why I am so excited to have paranormal author, Jill Myles, as my guest tomorrow as part of her fabulous blog tour. Not only was Jill's first book, GENTLEMEN PREFER SUCCUBI, released this month, but her second book, SUCCUBI LIKE IT HOT, was also released this month!

So, come back to tomorrow to hear Jill's answer to the question "To sequel or not to sequel?"

In the meantime, you can read chapter 1 of her book here.

And for details on how to win a Query Critique from Jill's fantastic agent, Holly Root, visit Shelli at Market My Words.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Michael Stearns- He Had Me at Hello

Okay, not sure why I am so obsessed with Michael Stearns.

1) I already have a literary agent. And a good one at that.
2) I already have a husband. No complaints about him either.

But I am totally in love with this guy's article on Agenting Picture Books.

I want to send it all my talented writer friends. Not to mention all the people out there who think that just because they were once a kid and they know how to form sentences that they are qualified to write a picture book.

Michael Stearns captures it brilliantly:

A really great picture book is a difficult art to pull off. I’m deadly serious when I use the word “art” here. That’s how I view a great picture book. It is about grace and the right words in the right place—much more akin to poetry than mere storytelling.

He goes on to explain:

It is rarely obvious in a well-written picture book draft what, exactly, is missing. The prose may read well enough, the story may have a beginning, a middle, an end. The punctuation may be in all the right places. The images called to mind may be original and fun. And yet, something about the manuscript is off. Perhaps the concept isn’t quite “there.”

So in some cases, the agent reads the manuscript, ponders it, sets it aside to marinate. Comes back to it a week later, rereads it, ponders it, makes a few notes. Keeps doing this until something unlocks. Because seeing the “fix” that will give a good manuscript heart, or finding a way to cut out half the words without cutting out the soul of the story—is hard work.

So, if you don't LOVE picture books. If you don't enter a bookstore and head directly to the PB section (without your kids). If you don't feel like you are destined to write them and no other career could possibly be right for you. Then stick to being a dentist. (Or a fourth grader).

Or pick a different art form.

And if you're looking for an agent (or a husband), head on over and read Michael's article in its entirety. You might fall for him, too.

Monday, January 18, 2010

At Least I Haven't Done Everything Wrong

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." — Dr. Seuss (The Lorax)

Made another donation to the Red Cross today. I hope the money keeps pouring in to Haiti.

I told Jordan all about the earthquake and how the people of Haiti desperately need food and medicine.

She ran to her wallet, and came back and handed me six dollars.

"My tooth fairy money," she said. "Give it to the earthquake people."

My sweet girl.

Isn't she fabulous?

P.S. If you or your kids read Junie B Jones, please enter Jordan's first ever Junie B blog contest.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tell the Truth Thursday

Before I start this post, I just want to say that my heart goes out to the people of Haiti. I made a donation yesterday to Doctors without Borders, and I hope everyone else will open their hearts and wallets as well and give whatever they can to help alleviate the tremendous suffering that is going on there.

Since I can't really move on from that to something light, here is an unusually serious topic: POST-MORTEM PUBLICATION. (you didn't see that one coming, did ya?)

A friend of mine sent me an email the other day titled "Weird Request." In it, she wrote, "Not to sound morbid, but in the event that something happened to me, would you try to get my manuscript published for me?"

Maybe it's my wacky, neurotic mind, but this request didn't seem the least bit odd to me. I have actually made my husband promise me the same thing!

Promise me, if I die, you won't rest until Shoo, Scoot, Skidoo is on bookshelves!

If we pour our hearts into a manuscript that we want to share with the world, why should a little thing like an untimely death interfere with that cosmic plan?

The classic, A Confederacy of Dunces, was published 11 years after the author's death due to the tireless efforts of his mother.

What better way to live on than through our labor of love- our printed words?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


So happy I picked this as my mantra for 2010. According to the dictionary, stamina is a "capacity to continue without weakening."

Then, again, stamina is not always a good thing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

One Little Word

I may not be the laziest person on the planet, but I am certainly in the bottom 5th percentile. The other day, I woke up, put my aerobics clothes on, got my kids ready for school, dropped them off, came home, took my aerobics clothes off, and went back to sleep.

I think it weren't so darn cold, it would be easier to get myself to the gym. My husband, as chance would have it, is writing a fitness book with his uncle who is an expert in the field. He said they have a whole chapter on "excuses" and "too cold" isn't one of them. I told him to add it. And give me a credit.

Anyway, last year, I saw a lot of bloggers choose a "Word of the Year." This one word was supposed to sum up what you want to focus on for the year. People chose words like balance, patience, and freedom.

“A single word can be a powerful thing. It can be the ripple in the pond that changes everything. It can be sharp and biting or rich and soft and slow.”

So, for 2010, I am choosing stamina. More mental stamina than physical stamina. I have little spurts of energy. But it's not enough to dress for aerobics. I need to GO to aerobics.

Anyone else care to choose a word for 2010?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Different Strokes

Okay, I had a new plan for getting Scramble out of my life. I would drop the F-word in my Facebook status and be otherwise inappropriate, and that would get me permanently booted from the site. I was very pleased with this idea as it was sure to gain me several hours in my day, when lo and behold... Plan A kicked in, and I actually started to get sick of playing!

So, here I am. Done Boggling. And back to blogging. (Which is by the way an anagram of Boggling.... ah, the things you see when your mind is habituated)

Let's see... what to blog about?

Okay, here is a random anecdote (names have been changed to protect identities).

My friend Q wrote a brilliant rhyming PB called Circle and Square. Truly one of the best picture books I have ever encountered. I fell madly in love with it.

She sent it to Agent Y who said, Terrific premise, but "unfortunately your rhyme is very poorly executed." Hmmphh. I consider myself a good judge of rhyme and I beg to differ.

She then sent it to Agent Z, who adored it and said. "You are a rhyming genius. I'd like to represent you."

Go figure.

I bring this story to your attention, not to criticize Agent Y who I happen to like very much. But just to reaffirm one of my "2010 Don'ts." Do NOT take rejection to heart. This is a very subjective business.

Cast a wide net. Someone will fall in love with your story. And it only takes one.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Not Ready for 2010!

We're five days into the new year and I am still not ready for 2010! There are 2009 recap posts to write, new year's resolutions to make, and .... holiday gifts to still buy! (Crap, was that today?)

I may have to bring out the new, improved Corey on Friday (for my birthday) since she has yet to make an appearance in 2010. I napped instead of going to the gym yesterday. I have not unpacked from either of our road trips during the break. And I have only blogged once in the past two weeks!

I blame this entirely on Scramble, a Facebook game that is essentially Boggle. I've played 218 rounds at three minutes apiece. (I'll let you do the math) This is a disgrace.

So, I needed a plan. My first strategy for getting this game out of my life was to increase play. What? you are probably asking yourself. Well, I reasoned.... if I played NON-STOP, I would probably overdose and get sick of it. You can see how well that has worked out so far.

My new strategy is to write to Hasbro and encourage them to sue Facebook. It worked for Scrabble. Facebook lost the lawsuit and was forced to pull 'Scrabulous" from their site. Had it not been for that, NINJA PIGS would probably never have been written.

So, let's hope for GOLDI ROCK's sake that this plan works.