Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Learning Curve: A Guest Post by Kristen Strassel

I just reached THE END of my fourth book. It’s mind-boggling to think about.  Finishing this particular manuscript also closed the door on this series.  I’m actually mourning not being able to work with these characters anymore. They became such a huge part of my writing identity, as well as who I am, to not be able to live my writing life through their story is going to be just plain strange for a while. 

A writer friend of mine just nabbed an agent. While this isn’t his first book, this is the first one that just might get published.  Now he’s waiting anxiously for revisions. We chatted a bit about it last night, and I realized that the decision to publish really changed the way I wrote.

Once you want to make your book available for the world to love as much as you do, you really do have to let go. For many of us, representation means the first set of industry eyes that will look at our manuscript. I thought my first book, the one that I was offered representation on, was perfect when I got The Call. You can laugh, I’ll wait. Several rounds of revisions later, I learned how to write subsequent manuscripts tighter and more effectively. My later books haven’t needed as many revisions because of it. 

The book I just finished was the first one I started writing with the knowledge that it would be published. It intimidated the hell out of me. As I finished it, feedback started coming in on the first two books in the series. To hear how these characters effected people, and to know what they thought of the story, was extremely humbling even with good reviews. As much as we all say we write fiction, it’s hard to keep some autobiographical elements from sneaking in. I was much more aware of the rules I broke, and the how people might react to this new chapter of the story.  My main character had a major decision to make to close out the book. Would she do the right thing, the thing many readers might hate, or would she screw it all up? Were those all the same thing? I had to let my main character do what was best for her. 

In this series, many of my parameters were set by the first book. I already started working on a new book, and it’s exciting.  This new project already has all the benefits of the things I learned while writing this last series. No book is ever perfect, but thanks to books one through four, book five starts light years ahead of where I used to be. 

Want more of Kristen? You can check out her book, BECAUSE THE NIGHT, right over here and follow her on Twitter for extra awesome! 

We're going on our annual holiday break, but no worries, we'll be back with more awesome than ever on January 6th. Have a great holiday, everyone!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Little Tip on How to Put Your Year in Perspective

I had this entire blog written out about goals and submission and rejection but in the end, I was too chicken to post it. Do you guys ever do that? Tell me I'm not alone.

Anyway, I thought it was more fitting to write about a different topic, especially since the new year is just around the corner (and since this is my last blog post until next year).

Last year around January, one of my good friends told me to write 10 things on a slip of paper that I wanted to focus on achieving throughout 2013.

"Then you put that tiny slip of paper in your wallet or another place where you KNOW where it is, but you won't lose it," he explained.

So I did. I wrote things that seemed achievable for me at the time--personal goals, financial goals, fitness goals, writing/publishing goals, etc.

"After you write those things, tuck that piece of paper away for the year," he explained. "Then at the end of the year, take it back out and look at the things you wanted to accomplish and compare it with the things you did accomplish."

So I did. It's December now. And even though it's a bit early, I opened it up today.

Before opening it, I was just like, ugh. This year wasn't as rad as I thought it'd be. In fact, it was the very opposite of rad at some points. I DOUBT I hit any of my "goals."

As writers, we have big dreams. We tend to set big goals for ourselves. That's not a bad thing! It's good to work toward something, but it's also important to realize that achieving that One Big Dream maybe won't happen in a year's time frame.

I thought I would be disappointed after opening my list. But you know what? After reading it, I realized I did hit some of those little goals I'd set for myself. And it made me realize that those little accomplishments matter too. 

Why the list? I mean, yeah I guess you can write out a list of 10 goals and slap 'em on your refrigerator so you're reminded at what you should work toward every single day. But I think the point of this was perspective. Because even though you're not consciously thinking of hitting those 10 goals every day, it's really great to be a little surprised when you look back and read what you wanted to achieve for yourself and what you DID achieve for yourself. 

Anyway, I thought I'd share it with you guys because it helped me focus on what I did achieve versus being disappointed on what I didn't achieve. I guarantee you'll at LEAST achieve 1 of those 10 things you write down for yourself (unless you're listing stuff like, WINNING 1 MILLION DOLLARS! which, I mean, you never know, but if I were you I'd make the list realistically achievable ;)

Writing is TOUGH, y'all. It's a hard industry. People don't lie when they say you have to have thick skin. But this list? It's just a little reminder of how awesome you are :)

I hope you guys have a great holiday break and an even happier new year!

* * *

*Sidenote: I won't be blogging on here for the month of January due to traveling/moving, but I have some really great stuff lined up for you! I hope you enjoy it, and I'll see you all in February!

Farrah Penn enjoys staying up way too late and making up for it in large quantities of coffee. On top of her love for reading books with memorable characters, she also enjoys internet memes, yoga, and her adorably bratty dog. When she’s not rushing to complete marketing projects at work, she’s writing and daydreaming about traveling the world. Farrah writes YA and is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary.  

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Year's End: Be Bold

Man, how did this happen? All of a sudden it's nearly new years again and I'm studying like crazy for finals. It's been one more year of working on a project, making playlists, revising, and also joining this awesome blog. I may not have an agent to announce, or a shiny pub deal to close out the year, but Heather does, so we're celebrating with her!

The holidays are great, but sometimes it's kind of a bummer to look at goals you had at the start of the year and realize you still haven't reached them. Like Stefanie said in her birthday post, we may know that the goals we set for ourselves are slightly arbitrary (like this is the year I land publishing deal, or this is the year I get an agent) but it doesn't take the sting off not making them.

So instead of focusing on the goals I met and didn't meet this year, I'm going to look at what changed during the course of it.

A few months ago, my friend Kate Brauning and I tweeted about where we were a year ago using the hashtag #keepgoing, and, amazingly, it caught on. I have it bookmarked for when I'm in a yuschik, why don't we just chuck this mood, and it never fails to make me feel better. If you need a good pick-me-up, check it out. Here's a few of my faves:

We're writers. We know we're playing a long game, and the improvements we make are usually so invisible that we need the lens of time to appreciate them. All those tweets are right: a lot can change in a year.

So here's what I've learned in 2013, compressed in two micro-bites of Courage Wolf-esque wisdom: go all out, but also be aware that it takes time.

What do I mean by going all out?

That idea you have that you're not sure you can execute? Write it. If it works out, then this time next year you could be like whoa hey, remember back when that idea I had was just a one-page response to a writing prompt? And sometimes, yeah, it's not going to work. But how else are you going to know unless you try? 

That perfect image/wordplay that you keep in your back pocket because you don't want to waste your best stuff? Use it. The beauty of the creative mind is that it keeps creating. It's not like you're born with a finite supply of ideas and you have to ration them out-- you're an idea factory on infinite overdrive. Your best stuff is what agents, publishers, and readers want to see (and, frankly, deserve). There'll always be more, so don't worry. 

That revision that you're on the fence about doing before you query? Do it. You get one shot at a lot of these things (per manuscript), and if you know that you can make a draft better before querying, then put in the time to do it.

Yeah, the flip side of all this being as awesome as you possibly can be is that it's going to take time. But, if you'll allow me to bust out some Epictetus:

The competition out there is fierce. I can tell you that as someone who's read queries and who now reads submissions. I see a lot of stuff that's not ready, that really needs extra polish and thought, but also some stuff that blows me away. Writing is hard. It's going to take longer than you think (at least it does if you're me), but it'll be worth it.

One year ago, I had an idea for a writing prompt response and I wrote maybe eight paragraphs. I had zero CPs, my agency internship was winding down, and I was hoping to query my behemoth 130k urban fantasy draft after some (hefty) revisions. I legit wanted to work on the UF, but that weirdo eight-para story about a boy in an abandoned church fascinated me. Those paragraphs since have changed a lot, but the boy is now my protagonist in my current manuscript, the first YA contemporary I've ever written.

So as you go towards the next year, my wish for you is to take chances. Experiment a little and veer off the beaten path of your favorite things. Sometimes, yes, it's going to feel like you're doing something dumb and should just play it safe, because the time investment is just too large to risk for something that won't work.

But being a writer is always walking that fine line of oh-man-nervous-breakdown-I'm-no-good-shouldn't-do-this and two seconds later being the badass who's like no worries, guys, let's just

I leave you with my favorite Goethe quote, also about boldness. My parents sent me a card during my first year at college with this and ever since it's been one of my favorite things. Because yeah, you're going to be insecure-- you're trying new things and putting a lot of time into these new things without any guarantee they'll work out. But there's a whole lot of power in beginning something.

I'll keep you updated on where those eight paragraphs take me in 2014. Yuschik, out.

When Alex Yuschik isn't writing her next YA novel, she's working on someone else's as an intern at Entangled Publishing. She writes about lock picks, ghosts, the abandoned places in cities, and how not to strike bargains with stars. Between sneaking in time to game and rocking out to indie music, Alex spends the rest of her free time working towards her PhD in mathematics. You know, as one does.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

From Querying to Book Deals and All That Fun Stuff

So if you follow me on Twitter, then you know I shared some big news last Friday. If you don't follow me on Twitter, well, why the heck not? Jay kay. Okay. For those who don't know, here's my big news:

My YA supernatural horror, THE GATEWAY THROUGH WHICH THEY CAME, will be released from Curiosity Quills in Fall 2014.


It's absolutely crazy to picture myself as a published author, and I get a little sick to my stomach just thinking about it. I'm nervous and happy and scared and so AAAAAGH. But this is what I've always wanted and I'm so incredibly lucky to have such an amazing support team (aka YOU GUYS) and incredible friends/family. This was such a long journey and so, so worth it.

Here's a quick timeline of how/when it all began:

I started writing YA seriously back in 2011. This is when I actually sat myself down, stared at the computer screen, and told myself I was going to write a book. It was a horrible book, by the way, but a book nonetheless.

I then got an agent last year (2012) with my fourth manuscript that was a totally different YA supernatural. You read right. FOURTH. It took those first three, that were super sloppy, to pin down my writing flow and actually write something worthwhile.

For reasons that are better kept unsaid, I parted ways with my agent eight months later. This was a major personal decision that I feel was best for me at the time, and still is. For the record, people leave their agents all the time for all sorts of reasons. It's not the end of the world, though it feels like it might be. You work your ass off, snag an agent, go through the submission process, only to go back to square one. I'm here to tell you that it's going to be okay. You made the decision because something inside you told you it was right. Stick with your gut and remember that you WILL get another agent. Maybe right away, maybe not, but you will.

Have I gotten another agent yet? No. Would I like one? Of course. But I'm not going to beat myself up over it. I'll sign with another agent when the time (or rather, the manuscript) is right. When it came to GATEWAY, I had several agents interested in it who asked for revisions. I even had some who were sad to see it go when I accepted my offer with Curiosity Quills.

But here's why I decided on a small press and not an agent:

The enthusiasm and love CQ had for my manuscript went beyond anything I could have ever expected. They had so many fantastic ideas that helped me realize how great my manuscript could be. Not only were they super excited and willing to spend the time walking me through revisions, but they immediately made me feel a part of the family. I connected with them from the get-go and ended up emailing back and forth like we were old friends. This is not something that happens often, at least not for me. I knew in my heart that CQ would be an amazing move for GATEWAY, and I was right. I'm so looking forward to this next year, and can't wait to see GATEWAY in print!

For those going through the query trenches, don't give up. THE GATEWAY THROUGH WHICH THEY CAME is my sixth novel, and I have since started working on manuscripts 7, 8, and 9. It never stops as long as you keep pushing yourself. (Remember that occasional writing breaks are okay, too.) But more importantly, always keep writing during the waiting process, because even if that manuscript doesn't get signed, it could be your next one or the one after that. Continuing to write will keep you distracted and it'll also keep you ahead of the game, if for some reason you have to shelf a particular manuscript. But whether you sign with an agent or a small press, the journey is different for everyone. Just make sure whoever you sign with is legit, and don't be afraid to ask someone to look over the contract. This is always a must!

So with that, cheers, my friends! Thanks for sharing this amazing moment with me. xo

Heather Marie is a YA writer who loves all things creepy. She enjoys writing horror/supernatural stories that make you question that feeling of someone watching over your shoulder. Heather spends most of her days reading and writing and plotting her next idea. When she's not in her writing cave, she enjoys watching creepy TV shows with her husband and picking apart plot holes in movies.

Her YA debut, THE GATEWAY THROUGH WHICH THEY CAME, releases Fall 2014 from Curiosity Quills.

You can find her on Twitter @:
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Monday, December 2, 2013

Another Year Older...

Happy Monday Secret Lifers! And also happy birthday to me :D That’s right, I like you guys so much that I’m interrupting my birthday festivities (which mostly consisted of binging on chocolate chip cookies and episodes of Doctor Who because I know how to party) so I could write a sparkly new blog post.

So I was lying around last night (also possibly binging on chocolate chip cookies) and watching the clock out of the corner of my eye, counting down the minutes until I was twenty-six, and my mind started to wander—as it so often does—and I started thinking about where I was this time last year. Book-deal-less, for one. I suppose that’s the main difference that’s relative to the blog. Without a book deal and without any way of knowing if I would ever actually reach that goal. As I recall, it was a bit of a bittersweet birthday because of that—because for years, I’d always said my goal was “book deal by twenty-five” (I have no idea when or how I decided twenty-five was “the” age, but I had). And then suddenly I wasn’t twenty-four anymore. I’d missed my goal. I was bummed.

But, I managed to remind myself before plunging into a pit of bottomless despair, I was also a long way from where I was when I turned twenty-three. In the year between December 2, 2011 and December 2, 2012, I’d finished two books, (finally) been offered representation from some insanely awesome agents, and then began a fantastic working relationship with one of said agents.

Oh, and then a few weeks after my bittersweet birthday, I did manage to get that book deal. So I wasn’t too late after all.

Anyway, all of this had me thinking, last night, about where I’ll be a year from today. My book will be on the shelf, at least, and I’ll (hopefully) have more on their way to readers. Craziness. Of course, I have no way of knowing, really, how it will all work out—all I know is that a lot can happen in a year. And just because good things don’t happen according to schedule doesn’t mean they aren’t waiting right around the corner for you. You just have to keep moving forward, doing the best you can.

So on that note, I hope 2013 has been an awesome year for all of you, but if not—take heart: you still have 2014 to make it happen—whether “it” happens to be landing an agent, getting a book deal, or anything else.

As for me, I’m off to eat more cookies. I’ll see you in 2014! (I can’t believe I’m already saying that. wut,)

Stefanie Gaither writes YA novels about killer clones and spaceships, with the occasional romp with dragons and magic-users thrown in for good measure. Said writing is generally fueled by an obscene amount of coffee and chocolate, as well as the occasional tennis and/or soccer break. She's represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary, and her debut novel, FALLS THE SHADOW, is forthcoming from Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers in 2014. You can add it on Goodreads here!

You can find her on Twitter @:
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