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FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Amy Boggs of The Donald Maass Literary Agency November 30, 2012

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If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript.  You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping  your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.

 

The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first five pages of a manuscript.  By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your MS a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.

 

Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Amy Boggs’ perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.  And yes, it is hard to outline an interview with someone who shares the same first name as you!

 

Amy :  Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is that to you as an agent?

 

Amy Boggs: The first line is very important, but what’s more important is the second line. And more important than that is the third, and all the way down to the end. The author should build a relationship with their reader and, much like a good pick-up line, a good first line can catch that first interest but it will not be enough to hold it.

 

It is also supremely important that the first line matches the rest of your book. I actually see this quite often, where it’s clear that the writer came up with a totally brilliant first line but that over the revision process the rest of the novel moved into a different tone or direction but that line stayed the same, and so now it feels off. Killing our darlings doesn’t just apply to characters.

 

 

Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc…What are some common beginnings you recommend writers stay away from?

 

Amy Boggs: Waking and traveling are the big ones. In urban fantasy, any kind of bar or club scene is rote. In YA and children’s, there’s also the protagonist finding out they’re moving, arriving to their new house, starting up the first day of school, or “It was the most boring normal day ever and I was so bored.” On a psychological level, these kind of beginnings make sense; most of them are on the crux of changes and new beginnings anyway, so of course you’d start a novel there. But that’s what makes them so boring, so expected. “I went to a bar to hit on chicks and that’s when I met your mom” is an expected beginning. “I wolf-whistled at a cute guy who was running around the track on campus, and that’s when I met your dad’s roommate” is an unexpected beginning. Which one do you want to hear more about? My money’s on the latter.

 

Of course, these examples can all be worked in brilliant ways to be great openings, but the main thing is to know that you’re working with a cliché so you can consciously play with reader expectation. Doing things in ignorance or because they are easy is where writing runs astray.

 

 

Amy:  When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

 

Amy Boggs: What piques my interest is something new. This is not to say that a rewrite of Twilight with chupacabras and bigfoot will appeal to me; that’s just painting the horse another color. (Side note: Twitter hivemind helped me decide that the plural of bigfoot is bigfoot; like moose.) Newness instead comes from being beyond clichés and having a character who shows why they are worth following from page one. It’s a hard thing to describe, so I’ll give a couple of examples from now-published books I pulled from the slush pile.

 

The first is DRAGON BOUND, a paranormal romance by Thea Harrison. Thea had a query that was so-so, but her pages really drew me in. Here’s the first line:

 

Pia was blackmailed into committing a crime more suicidal than she could possibly have imagined, and she had no one to blame but herself. That line does a lot of heavy lifting. We meet our heroine, we’re introduced to the inciting incident, and we get the tone of the book, with Thea’s wonderful humor. It also gives us great questions to propel interest forward: What was she blackmailed for? What suicidal crime did she commit? Why is she the one to blame? The answers to all these questions are important to the plot and to Pia’s character. Her first five pages aren’t a throwaway opening; everything in them is tied to what comes next, and the tension is there from the very start. In the pages, Thea also, quite brilliantly, keeps weighing the familiar with the fantastic. Pia internally laments about how her ex screwed her over, something many people have gone through. But he screwed her over by blackmailing her; that’s unusual. And what did he blackmail her into doing? Stealing from the hoard of a dragon. Boom. The balance of the familiarity of Pia’s feelings with the uniqueness of her situation makes for a compelling opening.

 

The second is THE CITY’S SON, a dark YA urban fantasy by Tom Pollock. Here’s the first paragraph:

 

I’m hunting. The sun sits low over Battersea, its rays streaking the brickwork like war paint as I pad through the railway tunnels. My prey can’t be far ahead now: there’s a bitter, burned stench in the air, and every few yards I find another charred bundle that used to be a rat. Very different tone and opening. Tom focuses more on the situation, but notice he does a similar reveal to Thea’s: The character’s hunting. But wait, he’s hunting in a city? But wait, the thing he is hunting turns rats into charred bundles?! There is that little bit of normalcy, followed by the strangeness of the world. We soon find out that our narrator, Fil, is hunting the spirit of a train through the railways of modern day London. And then what does Tom do? He ups the stakes by having Fil find the body of a boy. The only thing missing would be a way of attaching the reader to the character, but Tom addresses that, too, by having a moment where this strange hunter admits to being unable to go to one part of the city. There is a being there that even he fears. That little glimpse makes Fil, the son of the Goddess of London, feel very human. His situation might be unique, but his emotions are familiar. That is a powerful blend.

 

 

Amy:  What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?

 

Amy Boggs: This is a tricky one, because for me the only mistakes that really matter are those that deal with the writing itself. But “not engaging my interest” is not a very helpful answer. So here are some ways opening pages fail to engage:

 

Starting in the wrong spot. From my query reading, I feel that many writers start their story too early. This is understandable, because as a writer you need some time to get to know your character, but much of this needs to come out in later revisions. A fair few also start too late, throwing us into the middle of action that the reader doesn’t have a reason to care about yet. It’s a balancing act, finding the right moment where caring about the protagonist and plot action converge.

 

There is also starting the pages with a non-main character. As an agent, there’s a bit of whiplash when you’re reading a query all about a specific group of characters and story, and then the pages start and none of that story or those characters are in the pages. As a reader, why would I want to spend that time getting invested in a character that isn’t the main one? Often these non-main character starters die or disappear after the opening pages, either because they are a parental figure whose death/disappearance shapes the protagonist’s journey or because they are a hapless victim to the Big Bad to show just how big and bad they are. So a reader gets invested in them and then, whoops, that person doesn’t matter, here’s the *real* person you should care about. I find it irritating. It also ties to my answer to question one. You want to hook the reader for the long haul, and the best way to do that is give them a protagonist they will want to follow right from page 1.

 

Starting without any questions. I think curiosity is a great way to drive the reader and create line-by-line tension. When a reader says, “I just had to keep reading to find out what happened next.” it is because there are questions that they want to see answered. They don’t even have to be big questions; a roommate once told me that a book drew her in with simply the question of, “Will the protagonist be able to get off the phone in time to save his pasta from overcooking?” That is an average moment made tense. What I normally see in openings are average moments presented as average, likely in the hopes that when the plot starts, it seems more exciting. I think it is better to present the average as unique and then let the even more exciting elements build on that strong start. (For example, the Harry Potter series starts with a businessman commuting to work. Could have come off as plain average, but Rowling instead makes the average (amusingly) terrible.)

 

 

Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

 

Amy Boggs: All of the above? My, I am horrible at answering questions. But I think I’m going to go with voice. Yes, I’m quite sure writers are sick of hearing it, but the thing is, voice is an amalgamation of everything in your writing. It’s what makes you the storyteller, rather than someone making an elaborate list of events. In high school, my brother had a very clever friend who could come up with in-class quips quite easily, but he couldn’t pull off the delivery to save his life. My brother, bless him, couldn’t come up with such clever observations but his delivery always had the class rolling. Their powers combined, they were the perfect class clown. As a writer, you need both. It doesn’t matter how funny a joke is if you don’t deliver it right, it doesn’t matter how good a story is if you don’t tell it right. Your voice is your delivery.

 

Amy Boggs joined The Donald Maass Literary Agency in 2009. She is looking for fantasy and science fiction, especially urban fantasy, paranormal romance, steampunk, YA/children’s, and alternate history. Historical fiction, Westerns, and works that challenge their genre are also welcome. She is seeking projects with characters who are diverse in any and all respects, such as (but not limited to) gender, race, ethnicity, disability, and sexuality. She is not looking for thrillers, women’s fiction, or picture books.  She is a graduate of Vassar College.

 

 

If you’re interested in submitting to Amy, please make sure to check The Donald Maass Literary Agency for their guidelines.

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Ashley Elston November 28, 2012

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I absolutely love asking the question about a writer’s “call” with their agent.  I’ve heard some pretty good stories, but I think at this point,  Ashley Elston’s story may just be the best I’ve heard so far. If you love Laffy Taffy and Coke Icees (my favorite!) you’ll understand what I mean.

 

 

Ashley, like many other authors I’ve interviewed, went through the critical process of writing and then shelving something to move on to a new project.  Undaunted, she went on to write her debut novel that will be available in 2013.

 

 

Here is Ashley’s writing journey - I hope her odyssey will inspire you to stick to your writing dream!

 

 

Amy: What drew you to write a YA Thriller?

 

Ashley: I love a story that takes you for a ride – the more twists and turns the better. And I love a story that has an element of crime – so many possibilities open up when you deal in that world.

 

 

Amy: How many manuscripts have you completed to date?

 

Ashley: 3! I just finished the first draft of the sequel to RULES.

 

 

Amy: Was THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING your first completed manuscript?

 

Ashley: No. The first manuscript I ever wrote is on a permanent siesta in my bottom desk drawer. It was a wonderful learning experience writing it but that’s really all it will ever be – practice.

 

 

Amy: How long did it take to complete?

 

Ashley: The first draft of RULES came together rather quickly – 3 months! But it went through round after round of edits – my own revisions, my agent’s revisions and finally my editor’s revisions.

 

 

Amy: Did you use critique partners for THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING? If so, how did that affect your writing process?

 

Ashley: The best thing I came away with from my first SCBWI conference was finding a wonderful critique partner. It really changed how I wrote. We began swapping chapters shortly after the conference and two things happened – my writing moved to a higher level since I didn’t want to share anything that wasn’t as perfect as it could be and it kept me on a schedule since we were trading pages every couple of weeks. I think you learn as much from critiquing others work as you do having your own work critiqued.

 

 

Amy: When you first wrote your query for THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING did it come easily or did it go through many drafts?

 

Ashley: Since this wasn’t the first book I queried, I felt like it didn’t take as long to get my query where it needed to be. It went through a few changes along the way but it stayed very close to the original draft. And it broke a lot of the “rules” – it was written from the character’s perspective. The entire query was backstory, ending just where my book opened. I didn’t even tell my main character’s name. But it worked.

 

 

Amy: How many queries did you send for THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING?

 

Ashley: I sent out queries in groups – 5-7 at a time. If I didn’t get great results, I tweaked it a bit. I probably sent out four or five batches.

 

 

Amy: Did you receive immediate response or did you have to twist your hands and wait a while?

 

Ashley: Both. Some query responses were rather quick – from a couple of minutes to the next day. Others not so much. I even got a full request from an agent after my book sold to Disney Hyperion. I had written that agent off as a non-responder.

 

 

Amy: As many writers know, the publishing world is very hard to break into. What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention?

 

Ashley: I tried to submit the best possible work I could. It’s seems simple but that’s the best way to get their attention. The first manuscript I wrote, the one hiding in the drawer, wasn’t it. And sometimes the hardest thing to accept is when to move past one story and start something new.

 

 

Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Sarah Davies?

 

Ashley: I got a heads-up when the subject line of her email read: “A chat?” Holy moly – all I ever heard was if an agent wants to talk to you on the phone – they will probably offer representation. We planned a time to chat later that afternoon. Since I had three kids at home and it sounded like I was in the middle of an amusement park, I got a sitter, drove to a convenience store and bought a Coke Icee and banana Laffy Taffy and waited for the call. Yes, I took the call in the parking lot of a gas station while eating junk food. It was a great call. We clicked and every idea she had to make RULES stronger sounded perfect.

 

 

Amy: You currently juggle a lot being a mom and helping run your family business. Were there times when you just couldn’t get to the writing and wanted to give up on the dream? What kept you motivated?

 

Ashley: I don’t think I ever wanted to give up writing – I just had to figure out how to make it all work. I wrote most of RULES in the middle of the night when everyone else was sleeping because that was the most uninterrupted time I could find. It helps now that all three of my boys are in school full-time. As far as my motivation – I’m not sure. I just can’t imagine NOT writing.

 

 

Ashley Elston lives in northwest Louisiana with her husband and three sons. Her debut, THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING, will be published by Disney Hyperion in May 2013. She can be found on Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

 

100th Blog Post Celebration/Giveaway – UPDATE!!! November 27, 2012

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It’s true, this is my 100th POST! I can’t believe it!

When I first started this blog in January I had NO CLUE what I was doing (ummm…I still really don’t!) But the effort has been worth the journey. I’ve connected with so many cool bloggers, and other writers, and learned a lot not only about myself but about publishing in general. It’s been a blast and I look forward to 100 more.

 

 

So here’s the cool stuff. As part of the celebration I’m giving away a TON of books to one lucky winner!

 

 

THE UPDATE!!! The fabulous Lisa and Laura Roecker, sister writing team of THE LIAR SOCIETY series, will critique the winner’s query + first 1,000 words. (critique to be done at beginning of 2013).

 

 

Wahoo! What a cool thing! These ladies are amazing writers and will give you great feedback on your query and first 1k of your manuscript!

 

 

To enter, leave a comment and tell me what you enjoy most about writing and/or reading.

 

 

Here are more details…

 

 

1)  Follow or already be a follower to enter

 

2) Extra +1 entry if you tweet about it using hashtag #chasingthecrazies

 

3) Leave a comment

 

4) Make sure you leave contact info – so I can notify you if you win

 

5) Only available to followers in the United States

 

6) Contest ends 5 p.m. Pacific Time on Monday, December 3, 2012

 

THE BOOKS UP FOR GRABS – ALL OF WHICH I’VE EITHER REVIEWED OR TALKED ABOUT THIS YEAR!

1) CITY OF BONES by Cassandra Clare

2) LIES THAT BIND by Lisa and Laure Roecker

3) THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers

4) RAPTURE by Lauren Kate

5) TEN by Gretchen McNeil

GIVEAWAY WINDOW IS NOW CLOSED!!

 

Just Submit It and 100th Post Celebration! November 26, 2012

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Before I get to the glory that is the 100th post celebration, I want to share with you a lesson it took me a long and hard time to learn.

 

 

When I first started writing it was purely something I did for myself.  I wasn’t sure if anything I put on the page was ever going to see the light of day.  But as my first manuscript came together, I thought maybe it was worth submitting.  When I finished, I took the time to revise and gave it a hard look for content, voice, pacing etc. All the things I read about and knew I had to have in order to be published.

 

 

Then something terrible happened – fear set in.  What was I doing?  I was fooling myself if I thought my work was ever going to be published.  I let that little devil called doubt take over and I shelved that novel.

 

 

Flash forward a year later.  I was still writing but now I was also taking a class with a professor who insisted we share our work.  I was terrified when it was my turn to be critiqued. In fact, I almost had to leave the room several times I was so nauseous.  I made it through, and while the class was kind, they were also firm about what needed  to change in my writing.  Their parting comments to me?  After you revise, send it out on submission.

 

 

On submission?  Were they crazy? This was just a little short story I wrote as part of an assignment.  It was never meant for public viewing.  But their words stuck with me for months after.  The story gnawed at me and eventually I went back and retooled it. Then one day, I got a burst of courage and sent it to a dozen on-line literary publications.  One-by-one the rejections came in.  Yes, I was heartbroken but I felt like I’d jumped over a big hurdle just by beating back self-doubt and trying.

 

 

Now a year later, I’m happy to say (after many tries) I have a short published as part of an anthology (THE FALL) and another is going to be published next month.  My point?  You never know what is going to happen with your work unless you send it out into the world.  Yes, there are going to be MANY rejections, but if you persevere, I guarantee, you will eventually get a yes!

 

 

It’s true, this is my 100th POST! I can’t believe it!

When I first started this blog in January I had NO CLUE what I was doing (ummm…I still really don’t!) But the effort has been worth the journey. I’ve connected with so many cool bloggers, and other writers, and learned a lot not only about myself but about publishing in general. It’s been a blast and I look forward to 100 more.

 

 

So here’s the cool stuff. As part of the celebration I am giving away a TON of books to one lucky winner!

 

 

To enter, leave a comment and tell me what you enjoy most about writing and/or reading.

 

 

Here are more details…

 

 

1)  Follow or already be a follower to enter

 

2) Extra +1 entry if you tweet about it using hashtag #chasingthecrazies

 

3) Leave a comment

 

4) Make sure you leave contact info – so I can notify you if you win

 

5) Only available to followers in the United States

 

6) Contest ends 5 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, November 30

 

 

THE BOOKS UP FOR GRABS – ALL OF WHICH I’VE EITHER REVIEWED OR TALKED ABOUT THIS YEAR!

 

 

1) CITY OF BONES by Cassandra Clare

 

 

 

 

2) LIES THAT BIND by Lisa and Laure Roecker

 

 

 

 

3) THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers

 

 

 

 

4) RAPTURE by Lauren Kate

 

 

 

 

5) TEN by Gretchen McNeil

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Blog Hop – Day 4 November 19, 2012

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Day 4 – I am grateful for…books!

 

 

Yep, I know what you’re thinking. You’re a writer –  you better love books.

 

 

Sure, I know it’s a given but to me books are like oxygen.  I must read them, not only to hone my own craft, but because they KEEP ME SANE.  They are my warm milk at night. I simply can’t go to sleep unless I’ve read for at least 20 minutes. There is something about shutting off my brain and immersing myself in another world that allows my body to shut down and relax.

 

 

If I say I’m grateful for books, then I have to acknowledge my mom. My entire childhood she was always reading. At the beach, all day gymnastics competitions, and especially on a lazy Sunday; she always had her nose in a book.  There wasn’t a week when she didn’t take me to the library to check out something new.  I was motivated to learn cursive just so I could get my first library card and sign my name properly. She IS the reason, I love books. Thanks, Mom :)

 

 

So what books am I grateful for?  There are many, but this post can’t be 10,000 words long, so I’ll choose just a few:

 

 

1) TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

 

 

 

 

Harper Lee, thank you for showing me how intense and yet beautiful a story can be.  Your novel is simply perfection and convinced me  I wanted to be a writer.

 

 

2) HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE

 

 

 

 

A given choice for writers. But at a time when I was deep in my career, and thought I had no time for leisurely reading, this book reminded me what I loved about children’s literature and got me reading for pure joy again.

 

 

3) CITY OF BONES

 

 

 

 

The first book in The Mortal Instruments series.  I’ve read this book five times and it NEVER gets old.  Why? Amazing world-building and a cast of characters so vividly painted, I’m in complete awe (and a little bit jealous) of Cassandra Clare every time I read it.

 

 

What books have impacted your life? Are there stories you read over and over? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

 

 

One last note… this will be my only post for the week.  Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I hope you get to spend a restful day with family and/or friends!

 

 

Next Monday will be my 100th post.  Check back then for details on some cool giveaways!!!

 

First Five Frenzy with Mary Kole of Movable Type Management November 16, 2012

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If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript.  You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping  your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.

 

 

The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first five pages of a manuscript.  By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your MS a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.

 

 

Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Mary Kole’s perspective on what is important in those critical first pages…

 

 

Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is that to you as an agent?

 
It’s very important. I like to have something in there that raised tension or hooks me–makes me wonder about something that’s been mentioned. Cramming too much information in the first sentence or starting with dialogue (you haven’t put the characters “on stage” yet, don’t make them talk) are two weaker gambits.

 

 

Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc…What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?

 
Dream openings are a huge cliché and I recommend you avoid them at all costs, even if you think you’re the one writer in the world who has the perfect reason to make it work. Everyone has already ruined it for you, don’t even try. Another big opening no-no is the disorienting beginning, where a character (who we don’t know) is running from something (we don’t know what) and the stakes are…we don’t really know but it sure is frantic! We aren’t connected with the character yet so throwing us into life-or-death drama right away is a waste. More on that here:

 

 

http://kidlit.com/2012/05/21/confusion-is-not-the-same-as-mystery/

 

 

When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

 

 

Voice, starting in a specific scene, being grounded in a present moment, and getting some kind of conflict. It doesn’t have to be life-or-death (see above) but it should inject tension. More on what I mean by “grounding the reader” here:

 

 

http://kidlit.com/2010/08/04/grounding-the-reader/

 

 

What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?

 

 

A character sitting in their room and thinking about how much their life sucks. Not only is this telling, but it’s all internal conflict. We need a nice balance of internal and external conflict in fiction. Also, that action should be balanced well with information–too much information at the beginning (whether through telling or flashback) is an info-dump and also stalls pacing.

 

 

What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

 

 

I have to have a sense of voice, as I said above, and that action or conflict right off the bat that will keep pacing brisk. The concept is more something that I react to after reading the query letter and seeing the larger scope of the story–it doesn’t have to come into play in the first chapter but, if your novel is truly unique, getting a sense of that early on certainly won’t hurt!

 

 

Be sure to check out Mary’s new book, WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers from Writer’s Digest Books for more tips on how to make your novel stand out in the slush!

 

 

 

 

Mary came to literature from a writer’s perspective and started reading at Andrea Brown Literary Agency to see what it was like “on the other side of the desk.” She quickly found her passion there and, after a year of working behind the scenes, officially joined the agency in 2009. In 2012, she became a Senior Literary Manager at Movable Type Management, where she is also heading up the children’s department. In her quest to learn all sides of publishing, she has also worked at Chronicle Books and earned her MFA in creative writing at the University of San Francisco. At this time, Mary is only considering food books, food memoirs, cookbooks, and, for the children’s market, young adult and middle grade fiction and truly exceptional picture books from authors, illustrators, and author/illustrators. She prefers upmarket premises with literary spark and commercial appeal. Her favorite genres within children’s books are character-driven fantasy, thriller, horror, adventure, humor, contemporary/realistic, romance and mystery. She blogs at http://www.kidlit.com, which has been named one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writer’s Digest Magazine for three years running.

 

 

Mary is currently open to queries and represents PB, MG, and YA. If you’re interested in submitting to Mary, please make sure to check the Movable Type Management website for their guidelines

 

Thanksgiving Blog Hop #3 November 15, 2012

 

 

Day #3 – I’m grateful for…OTHER WRITERS

 

I was TERRIFIED when I first started this blog.  What did I have to say to other aspiring writers that they didn’t already know?  I made a decision then that this blog was simply going to be an outlet for me and my writing - nothing else.

 

But then a funny thing happened. I started networking, participating in AgentQuery Connect (which also terrified me at first), and reaching out to other authors for advice.

 

What I found was an amazing, supportive community who was honestly interested in teaching newbies like me about the wild world of publishing.  In the last year alone, I feel like I’ve earned a four-year college degree in what it takes to get published. And my professors?  All the other authors who’ve taken time to teach me about what makes a good pitch and how to stay away from things like the dreaded passive voice.

 

Online friends have taught me how to hone my query.  Some authors who live in far-flung places, have offered to read and critique my short stories.  Other authors simply said “Yes” when I asked them to participate in my Writer Odyssey Wednesday series (Thanks R.C. Lewis and Mindy McGinnis for being my willing guinea pigs!) And when I struggled with revisions, I called on others for solid advice (Thanks MarcyKate Connolly and Katie French!)

 

At the beginning of next month, I will post my 100th blog entry. I can’t believe it’s 100!  This year has flown by and so has the time I’ve spent creating this blog – and I’ve LOVED every single moment.

 

So to all those aspiring writers out there like me, I encourage you to reach out to the writing community if you have a question.  Join a forum like AQC and get help.  Go to conferences and ask other authors questions.  I guarantee, you will be immersed in a world where other writers want to help you make your work the best it can be!

 

 

What about you?  What are you thankful for this holiday season? Leave me a comment and let me know.  And if you’ve had another author help guide you in your writing, give them a “shout out” in the comments.  I’d love to hear about it!

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Jennifer Echols November 14, 2012

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My featured writer in the W.O.W. today is Jennifer Echols.  Her latest release, “SUCH A RUSH,” is in my opinion, one of the best Young Adult reads of 2012.

 

 

 

 

When I read Jennifer’s books I’m struck by how well she understands the YA audience.  Her characters are strong yet vulnerable and always completely relatable.  Anyone who writes YA knows what a hard concept this is to master – and Jennifer is a complete pro. Her prose is intense and masterful.  I’m always grabbed from the first page, and savor each and every plot twist, until the final word. Yes, her work is really THAT GOOD!

 

 

Jennifer’s writing journey is filled with ups and downs, yet through it all, she’s become an incredibly accomplished writer. I’m thrilled to share her story today…

 

 

Amy: You alternate between writing YA Fiction and Adult Romance. Is there one you are drawn to more?

 

Jennifer: No, I honestly love reading and writing both. In 2004 when I was gearing up for another stab at publication and doing lots of research online, I read that even unpublished authors should have career goals. Mine was to be published in both YA and adult romantic comedy so that I could write more books and have more career stability in case one genre lost favor with readers. My agent actually had both my YA and my adult romance out on submission when the YA, Major Crush, sold in 2005. It simply took me another six years to sell an adult book.

 

 

Amy: While reading your blog, I stumbled across your post titled, “Lucky Number Nine.” I loved how it detailed how far you’ve come from releasing your first book, MAJOR CRUSH, six years ago. How long did it take you to complete that manuscript?

 

Jennifer: Only a month! I was working as a freelance copyeditor and taking care of my toddler while my husband worked the night shift and slept during the day. So I wrote big chunks of that book while on the elliptical machine at the YMCA.

 

 

Amy: Had you written any other manuscripts prior to MAJOR CRUSH?

 

Jennifer: Yes, nine.

 

Amy: Did you have beta readers or critique partners for that first manuscript? How did that affect your writing process? Do you still use beta readers now?

 

 

Jennifer: I had three critique partners for Major Crush, and I still have one of them (Victoria Dahl) to this day. One of the best decisions I made in 2004 was to reach out to other romance writers and ask to trade manuscripts. You really can’t predict how your writing is coming off to other people unless you ask.

 

 

Amy: When you first started writing did you struggle with rejection, and if so how did you keep on writing?

 

Jennifer: I completed my first manuscript in 1990, got my first agent in 1992, finally sold a book in 2005, and stopped writing and submitting manuscripts for only a couple of years during that time, when my son was born. You can imagine how many rejections I amassed during that 15 years. But my grandmother was a writer who submitted one short story to The New Yorker, got rejected, and never sent anything out again. I learned by her example. Your work will never be published if you don’t offer it for publication.

 

 

Amy: What was your first query like? Did you struggle with it or did it come easily?

 

Jennifer: I did the best I could with the reference books I had. But there was no internet back in 1990, and it was much harder to research agents and tailor a query to a specific person.

 

 

Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Laura Bradford?

 

Jennifer: I think of the “call” as the first time you sell a book, and Laura wasn’t my agent then. But it was a very happy moment for me after a lovely day at the water park at the beach in Florida with my family. In fact, I had such great memories about it that I set a whole book there (Forget You).

 

As for Laura, I can’t say enough glowing things about her. She has been my agent for two and half years and has sold nine books for me during that time. When she called me to offer representation, we chatted for a long time before she finally popped the question. Then she admitted she likes to feel clients out first just to make sure they’re not “whackadoodle.”

 

 

Amy: You just released your ninth book, SUCH A RUSH. After being in the industry for six years now, if you could go back in time and tell yourself one important thing about the publishing business, what would it be?

 

Jennifer: Not to worry so much, because my love of writing would pull me through.

 

 

Jennifer Echols was born in Atlanta and grew up in a small town on a beautiful lake in Alabama—a setting that has inspired many of her books. Her nine romantic novels for young adults have been published in seven languages and have won the National Readers’ Choice Award, the Aspen Gold Readers’ Choice Award, the Write Touch Readers’ Award, the Beacon, and the Booksellers’ Best Award. Her novel Going Too Far was a finalist in the RITA and was nominated by the American Library Association as a Best Book for Young Adults. Simon & Schuster will debut her adult romance novels in 2013, with many more of her teen novels scheduled for the next few years. She lives in Birmingham with her husband and her son. Her adult, romantic comedy, STAR CROSSED will be released, February 26, 2013. For more on Jennifer, check out her website – http://www.jennifer-echols.com.

 

 

 

Blog Hop Thanks #2 November 12, 2012

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For Day 2, I want to give a shout out to all my critique partners.  While I know they have their own writing to do, they’re always there to answer a question or toss around an idea.  Without them, my prose would be decent but not fantastic.  Without them, my characters would be okay, instead of amazing.  Without them…well without them my work would be total @#$%.

 

When I started my first manuscript, I had no clue I needed others to help my writing along.  That others would see plot holes, when I didn’t.  That characters I was trying to paint as snarky, were really just plain unlikable. You fall in love with your own writing so much sometimes, that you really can’t see where you need help.

 

So today, I am thankful for all my CPs who keep my writing honest and real.  They’re not just my partners in writing but true friends!

 

 

Do you have amazing critique partners?  If so, leave a comment and let me know.  I always love to hear about the give-and-take between great writers.

 

A Meaningful Blog Hop November 9, 2012

 

 

2011 was not a good year for my family.  In September alone, we had our beloved pet die unexpectedly, and two family members get incredibly sick – both of which required hospitalization, and then months, which will now turn into years, of treatment.  So needless to say, I was happy to kiss last year goodbye.

 

2012 has been infinitely better. My family members are doing well, and no new dog yet, but it may happen some time in the future.

 

It goes without saying that this year has been much better than the last – and for that I am sincerely grateful – which leads to the new blog hop I’ve decided to join.

 

Author Brenda Drake has designated the next several weeks to encouraging bloggers to post what they are most appreciative of this holiday season. It’s a chance to recognize all those things we are blessed with and most likely don’t have time to recognize during the year.

 

Today, I am grateful for…

 

My family who is always supportive of everything I do…

 

When I decided to train for a 1/2 marathon they said, “go for it” – although they were skeptical I would actually pull it off  (which I DID)

 

When I finally confessed I was writing a book they didn’t say “What are you crazy?” they just said, “We always knew you were a writer.”

 

And when my short story, “Emanate” was recently published (as part of “The Fall” anthology), they cheered and celebrated like I’d won an Academy Award.

 

Celebrating family is something I think we should do every day, but I know we get too caught up in life to do that. But at least for today, I hope I can honor them in some small way by saying, “thank you,” “I love you,” and I’m eternally grateful to call you my own.

 

How about you?  What are you grateful for this holiday season?  I’d love to hear from you , or better yet, join the hop and let the blogosphere know what you are celebrating this time of year.

 

 
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