Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Today, we have a special guest! Here's Nicole Wolverton with how NOT to request blurbs! Take it away, Nicole!

Can we get a round of applause for Nicole?!
So last weekend I was at the Rosemont College Book Festival to sign copies of my psychological thriller, THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS. Another writer approached me.

“How did you get Emily St. John Mandel to blurb your book?” he asked. “Do you know her?”

I shook my head. “I have no idea why she agreed.”

Probably not the answer he wanted to hear, but it’s the truth. And it’s true of all three wonderful writers who blurbed my novel. One of them had been a guest judge for Five Minute Fiction when I was organizing it, but none of them knew me or owed me a solid. So how did it happen? And what is the process for securing blurbs anyway?

In some cases, the marketing and promotions team at your publishing house may want to target certain writers, perhaps writers also published with your imprint or writers who are well-known in your genre. Often, though, you—the writer—will be responsible for soliciting your own blurbs, whether you’re being published with one of the big houses (HarperCollins, for instance) or your book is coming out with a small press (like Bitingduck Press, who published my novel). That’s clearly true if you’re opting to self-publish.

Yeah, think about that: you have to email writers you admire, most of whom you don’t know or have no connection to, in order ask them for a huge favor. That’s not mortifying or fraught with opportunities to embarrass yourself at all.

So, today, I give you the top four ways NOT to solicit blurbs:

1.      Be a jerk. Assertiveness is key when dealing with strangers from whom you want something, so definitely skip the polite request to consider your manuscript for a blurb. Simply assume each writer on your wish list has the time and inclination to read your novel, no matter how long or out of their genre it is—either attach it right to the email and give them a two-day deadline to have your blurb in hand.
2.      Be creepy. In your email, be a total fangirl. Not normal fangirl-y but the stalker type. Mention that you know where the writer lives and will be happy to stop by to read the entire manuscript aloud to them. Be sure to include a line about something you found in their garbage during your last pilgrimage to his or her house.
3.      Take it public. You should totally pressure each writer on your list to blurb your book by posting about it on your blog, on Facebook or Tumblr, or by tweeting incessantly at each person on your wish list. But the very best way to get your writers to say yes is to bug their friends and followers, asking them to convince the folks on your list to provide a blurb.
4.      Throw a hissy fit. Are the writers on your wish list playing coy? Don’t they know who you are? Bombard them with emails to let them know exactly how miserable and stingy they are. Take to your social media accounts to ream them out for not jumping at the chance to read your brilliant manuscript. Complain to anyone who will listen about how badly you’re being treated by the writing community.

Oh, and no matter what . . . never, ever say thank you. For any reason.

Now, go forth and request your blurbs!


Nicole Wolverton spends an inordinate amount of time figuring out what makes people creeped out and uncomfortable. And when she’s not scheming or writing, she can be found running (for fun, not from things), dragon boating, or cooking. Publisher’s Weekly calls Nicole’s psychological thriller, THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS, a “skillful […] examination of a psychotic woman’s final descent into insanity,” while The Millions describes it as “wholly original and fearlessly dark.” She is represented by Michelle Witte of Mansion Street Literary Management. Nicole writes young adult and adult horror and thrillers.

Hang out with her on Twitter: @nicolewolverton
or on Facebook

Visit her website:
Monday, April 28, 2014

Love, Money, and Metaphors

So I don't know if you guys saw the results from the epic writing survey that were posted a few weeks ago, but if not, you should go here and check them out. Definitely interesting stuff. One of the questions that was particularly interesting to me was this one:

What's the best part about writing for everyone, we wondered?

You probably need to click it to make it bigger and see, but the main thing that caught my attention here was the last answer--"The Money." Zero people said this is why they wrote. This wasn't especially surprising to me, because it's probably the one constant piece of "advice" that I've gotten since embarking on this "make writing a career" journey however long ago it was now. That is, "Don't do it for the money." 

Because if that's what you're here for, then most likely, you're going to end up severely disappointed and frustrated.

Five years ago, when I was writing that first book, this was easy enough advice to get behind. I'd loved writing for as long as I could remember, and I loved the idea of simply writing a book-- of accomplishing that, and seeing it through to the end, regardless of what came next. It was nothing except the sheer joy of words and the amazing feeling that came when you managed to string them into a whole, coherent story. When you'd created a world and cast of characters entirely in your head, and then--with even just a little bit of success--managed to recreate those things on the page for other people to see and believe in. And that's what it's all about. It's cheesy, but even just typing those last few sentences made me feel all warm and fuzzy, because it woke up that part of me inside that said oh yeah. that is what this writing thing is supposed to be about.

But--and brace yourselves, because this is the part of the post where I'm going to level with you--I have to be honest, those warm and fuzzies have gotten harder to feel, the longer I've been at this. After that first book, I wrote three more before I was offered representation. And with each book, though I didn't really notice it at the time, I think it became less about the simple joy of writing, and more of a complex combination of yes-I-love-writing-but-what-I'd-really-love-is-a-book-deal-now-please-and-thanks. It became about not failing at something I'd already dedicated so much time to. About getting to the point where the accepts started outnumbering the rejections.

This is a hard post to write. I debated about posting it, even after drafting it and thinking about it forever, because I'm not sure how this reflects on my character; I've had enough private conversations with fellow writers to know that I'm not the only one who feels this way, but in public? In public it seems that often we're only allowed to talk about how much we love writing, and how we would do it forever and ever even if we never saw anything but rejection from it.To feel differently--even on only the occasional bad day--means that GASP! we must not be real writers! Real writers do it because they love writing. Period. 

But I don't know if it's that simple. Yes, real writers love writing. Obviously. Obviously, some part of me is madly in love with writing, too--because if it wasn't, I seriously doubt I would have spent four years writing four books only to have the publishing door slammed in my face over and over again. Yes, some part of it was sheer stubbornness; but stubbornness alone doesn't write a book. Not a publishable book, anyway. And I eventually wrote a publishable book. I hope to write many more publishable books. And yes, some part of me would always be a writer, even if I never managed to make anything resembling a career out of this.

But this is where it's gotten tricky for me, and why I think this topic has been on my heart lately: because once you're published (or soon-to-be-published), it becomes harder to think about that simple love that got you writing books in the first place. You suddenly have Expectations. You have people who have read your debut book and asked about sequels. You have an editor and possibly an agent who you have to keep on impressing. You have well-meaning friends and family who want to know when you'll be quitting your day job since you're obviously making a ton of money now (ha!). Or who want to know when you're going to stop spending so much time writing and get a real job (because they know how poor you actually still are). 

And when you don't know what to tell these people, it's hard. It's disheartening. You get tired of explaining to people that publishing is slow and there's nothing you can do about it, and that yes, it's a HUGE accomplishment to have gotten a book deal in the first place, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're "in" at that point, or that it's all going to be smooth sailing from then on, or that this is even an actual, viable career now. There are still a lot more hurdles to leap. A lot more books to write. And now you're writing with all these people staring at you, wondering what's going to come next in your fledgling career--and to top it all off, a lot of what happens in said career is out of your control. That is, basically, everything except the actual writing is out of your control. Wheee.

It's sort of how romantic relationships often go, isn't it? You start out all infatuated and loving everything about your partner, but then you start noticing how annoying their laugh is and then suddenly they're all "sorry but you're not quite right for my list right now" and you're like "well, damn". And then you have to decide if what you have goes deeper than infatuation, and if it's worth it to keep fighting until you get it right. Or something like that half-assed metaphor.

On to my point, though (yes, I did have a point all along, I promise): this post isn't meant to be a complaint, or a woe-is-me-publishing-is-so-hard-and-unfair sort of rant, just for the record. I am ETERNALLY grateful to know that I will have a book on the shelves in September, even if it's the only one that ever makes it to said shelves. But in the true spirit of this blog--revealing the  secret life after surviving the slushpile and such--I thought it was time for another painfully honest topic. So here you go. Bottom line? The warm-and-fuzzy feeling that writing gives you may not always be as warm and fuzzy as it was when you first started. Sometimes it will be downright cold and prickly and you'll probably wonder if it was ever there in the first place, or if you were just fooling yourself. I personally don't think that makes you less of a "real writer"; it just makes you human. To revisit my terrible metaphor, all good relationships--including the one I share with my writing--need work sometimes. And sometimes you want to just completely break-up and crank up some Taylor Swift and tell your polished turd of a manuscript that you are never ever ever getting back together, and that's totally okay and I'm totally not judging you for that. Also, I have no idea how Taylor Swift just became a part of this post.

Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Scott-- aka: my spirit animal.

Anyway, the trick, I guess, is to just do what you can to not lose that warm feeling completely. Maybe write some random bad poetry that you're never going to show anybody. Read a book for pure enjoyment and pay no attention to how it compares to yours, or how the writer crafted this or that. Remind yourself that writing is actually really, really hard, and then go eat a cupcake. Fall asleep dreaming of words and scenes you want to write, even on the bad days when you didn't actually write a single word. You're still a writer, even on those days. And it's that warm feeling that will remind you of that over and over. You just have to hang on to it, and let it convince you to write one. more. sentence. Even when you're pretty sure nobody else in the publishing world wants anything to do with those sentences. 

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 @:
Or drop her an email at:
And also visit her website @:

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Book AFTER the Book That Snags Your Agent

Hey, lovelies!

Today I'm dishing out some behind-the-scenes info I wish I would have known before I signed with my agent. When I was in the query trenches, I didn't think that far ahead. I didn't even ponder the idea that after the contract signing and going on submission, I would eventually show my agent another book.

But eventually, there will be another book. The idea of that was…terrifying to me. Mostly because I did not enjoy the query trenches, like just about everyone, and I never ever ever ever ever want to go back there. Ever. Thoughts would flick around my mind like "What if she hates it and she drops me?", "What if she reads it and thinks I'm a hack and she made a mistake?", "What if I run out of wine while I'm waiting for her to finish reading it?" (Good news, that last problem was totally solvable.)

A year and a half later, after I clicked "send" on that email containing my wimpy excuse for a second book, I've learned a few things about this whole publishing thingy we're doing:

1) It won't be perfect. I can just about guarantee that no matter how many drafts you did before you sent your next manuscript to your agent, it will not be perfect. You will have to do at least another round of revisions with your agent, and they may even be major revisions. (In my case, seven. But who's counting?) And, from what I've heard, there's a high probability that you may even have to do more rounds this time than you did with the book you queried with. Why is this? *shrugs* I have no idea. My theory is that we spend so much time tweaking and prepping and polishing that first book, and less than we realize on the second because we don't have to query. It may be because we grow as writers, and we're trying out more complex story lines. Either way, you're going to have to revise. A lot. And that is A-OKAY. Your agent doesn't expect it to be perfect right away, either.

2) Dream bigger, darling. I wrote a little bit about this for Camp NaNoWriMo this month, but basically, make sure you're with someone you trust deeply. I hope when you queried, you looked for someone you would want to be with for the long haul. And what that means is not just someone who has the connections to sell your book, but someone you actually like. As a person. Bonus points if you have similar tastes. The reason for this is because you greatly heighten the chances that your agent is going to love your next book this way. If you know that you both love the same books, themes, music, whatever, then there's a huge chance you're going to produce something that she is excited about and wants to submit. Why does this matter, you ask? Because if your agent is excited about the story you're trying to tell, she will do everything in her power to help you tell it. For me, that meant endless brainstorming sessions, outlines, and her willingness to read this thing seven times.

2) It's okay to be assertive. This is your career. You have an agent now, and that's great! You're making a career out of this writing thing you love to do. (Note: This is not saying that if you self-pub or don't have an agent, you don't have a career. For the purposes of this post, I'm just talking the traditional publishing route.) So remember, this is your destiny, and you're co-creating it with your agent now. If she gives you revision suggestions, it is okay to question them, to disagree with her, and to come up with a new solution together. Honestly, I followed almost all of my agent's suggestions because I agreed with them. But the ones I didn't agree with, we talked about, and I explained why I didn't want to change them. Ultimately, we came up with an even better idea when I voiced my concerns over it. You never quite know what magic could happen when you're honest about your work.

That's all, folks! I wish I would have known all this when I first sent that manuscript. What are some things you've learned along the path to publication? 
Andrea Hannah writes about delusional girls, disappearances, and darkness with a touch of magic. When she's not writing, Andrea runs, teaches, consumes epic amounts of caffeine, and tries to figure out how to prevent her pug from opening the refrigerator (unsuccessful to date). She's represented by Victoria Marini of Gelfman-Schneider/ICM, and her debut novel, OF SCARS AND STARDUST, is coming from Flux in Fall 2014. You can add it on Goodreads here!

You can find her on Twitter @:
Drop her an email @:
And visit her website @:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

32 Things You Can Do While You’re Playing the Waiting Game

You know what waiting game I’m talking about. The one where you’ve submitted your query or submission and are waiting for days--nay! Weeks!--or (GASP) MONTHS. The waiting game where you find yourself constantly refreshing your email to the point where you eventually convince yourself you have actually and literally broken the internet.

Don’t worry, friends. I feel you. That’s why I’m sharing my super important list of things you can do while you’re waiting.

32) Play on PhotoBooth. Because you haven’t done that shizz in so long.
31) Learn all the dance moves to this sweet jam (the real moves begin at 2:48)

29) Read the entire Harry Potter series.
28) Go on a walk.
27) Watch baby panda videos on the YouTubez.
26) Become a Vine star.
25) Realize you’re not funny enough to become a Vine star and eat an entire pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.
24) Learn how to juggle.
23) Go online shopping.
22) Repaint your living room.
21) Go to the dentist for your semi-annual teeth cleaning (you know you’ve been putting it off).
20) Go through your childhood Disney movies and watch all of them because you can’t decide on just one.
19) Have a nice Sunday brunch.
18) Do learn how to do something you’ve always wanted to:

17) Clean your entire house.
16) Remember how much you hate cleaning.
15) Drink a glass of wine and have a Johnny Depp movie marathon instead.
14) Tumblr for 5475849367857079734857438562457492 hours.
13) Find your 30 seconds of fame:

12) Prank call some people.
11) Create a super cool invention:

10) Play Cards Against Humanity with friends.
9) Read a bunch of food blogs.
8) Get inspired to cook a bomb meal.
7) Realize you don’t have half the ingredients and order a pizza instead.
6) Listen to music:

5) Marathon all 10 seasons of Friends
4) Try and paint your cat’s nails.
3) Realize that was a seriously bad idea.
2) Watch videos of celebrities falling on stage.
1) Watch every Jennifer Lawrence interview ever in existence.

Or I guess you can be a responsible writer and write another book, tackle your TBR, or critique other’s WIPs. But just in case you need other ideas . . . the list is here for you. ;)
Monday, April 21, 2014

Writing Prompt and a Contest

Hey guys! We haven't done a writing prompt/exercise in a while, so I figured it might be fun to bring that back. I'm a big fan of daily writing exercises, and one of the easiest things to help me flesh out characters, back stories, or ideas for plots is using prompts. If you haven't tried writing with prompts before, it's really fun. Currently, I'm working a lot with photo prompts, but words/phrases and songs are also great to use.

Today's prompt is the picture below or this song (or both, for you overachievers out there). Write up a response as long or short as you like, leave the link in the comments, and I'll choose one person to win their choice of a query critique or crit of their first five pages Tuesday night. Don't worry too much about editing-- the purpose is more to write, have fun with it, and see what cool things other people can come up with given the same prompt. 

My take on the picture's below. It's a scene after my WIP's protag Gemma bargains her way out of captivity and things don't go quite as she'd planned. Good luck, and have fun!

Clouds cut into the air and blur the horizon line, and the mid-morning humidity weighs down her clothes. Escaping should feel better than this-- less damp and cloudy, but windier, warmer, clearer. 
This is nowhere she recognizes, and Gemma's hands curl up into themselves. Of course. This is just what happens when you bargain with stars, and Bet wouldn't have done it any other way. He's one of them, after all. 
She hears the sound before the pain snakes up her arm-- the staccato slap of flesh on metal, her palm stinging from where it smacked the yellow fence overlooking the gully. Bet. She'd even nicknamed him, because Betelgeuse was a mouthful. Even now, she can recall his easy smile, dark eyes, the way he shrugged acquiescence when she'd laid out the terms for their trade. He'd seemed so good, and that should have tipped her off from the start. 
Gemma leans over the railing and looks down. Brush and woodland debris, a railroad, a factory whose smokestacks reach high enough up to hold the fog in place like a low ceiling. She has eleven dollars in her pocket, a dead phone, and keys to a car and house that may be hundreds of miles away for all she knows. 
It's not uncommon for people to come back like this: in the middle of nowhere or stumbling through foreign cities like addicts strung out between fixes. That's just how stars work: they screw you over. Gemma closes her eyes and breathes in the wet air. So what if Bet wasn't any different? She got out. She may have no idea where she is, no easy way home, but she got out, and that's all that matters. 
Soon, she will walk down the street to the police officer and ask him for the date, place, and time in her most affable manner. He will look at her over the rims of his dark glasses, like Bet looked at her with his black hole eyes, tell her what she asks for, then mutter aw hell, another bright one when he thinks she's too far to hear. 
And soon she will wander through this city without a name, shrouded in fog and decaying letters, and somehow, slowly, she will find her way home again. 

none yet! 

(picture credit: me)

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.

You can find her on Twitter @:
Or drop her an email at:
And also visit her website @:
Friday, April 18, 2014

How to Be a Writer and Keep Your Friends

If you're like me, then you probably stay home most days. Like, everydayyoupossiblycan. I've always been okay with being home by myself and not talking for hours, but over the last few years, I've gotten much worse. When I was single and living in Downtown Sacramento, it was easy to get away with staying in. People never really noticed, and if they did, they never really cared. Friends would bug me every now and again to go out, and I'd make up an excuse that involved not having money and such. Which was partially true. Actually, the no-money-thing is more true today than it was then, but anyway.

But I'm not that single-hermit-girl anymore. I'm married and have a husband who reminds me that I have to be a human being sometimes. I'm a daughter and a friend and a co-worker. I'm all these things to people who expect me to BE who they want me to be. I'm supposed to go out and have a good time and laugh and whatever else normal people do. I'm supposed to listen and react and say something that matters. But these things don't come easy for me. It's hard to explain to the outside world, but I know YOU understand, my friends.

Being a writer means there's always something needing to be done. There's always another chapter, or another deadline, or another shiny book idea. You're always thinking and plotting and itching to tap your fingers against the fading keys of your keyboard. Sometimes you're stuck on Act II and your characters suddenly come to life in your head and everything clicks! Sometimes you want to be able to drop whatever is it your doing and run home to flesh out the words, but you can't. You can't because you're supposed to be available. You're supposed to be human.

I forget that sometimes. I forget that I'm not the only person in my quiet little world. That I'm supposed to interact and show the people I love most that they matter. And just because I'm okay with being locked inside all day, every day, doesn't mean that my family and friends are.

So I force myself to go out. And, yes, I mean force myself. But not in a bad way, though it sounds that way. I have to tell myself that it's okay to let things go. For another day. Maybe two. Because even when that book has come to an end, it's the people on the outside waiting to share their stories with me.

I'm writing this for myself, and for you, as a reminder. It's easy for us to lose sight of the things that are the most important. Because even though that lingering deadline is staring us down like a fire-breathing dragon, we have to be able to battle it 'til the death, while still maintaining our muggle form.

So go out today, maybe even tomorrow (hell, why not both days!), and be a human being. There are so many story ideas out there, waiting to be discovered. We just have to leave our comfy little writing caves in order to find them.

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 August 25th, 2014 from Curiosity Quills.

You can find her on Twitter @:
And visit her website @:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Love Letter to Readers

I've been up to my ears in work lately. And the end is not in sight. So, the anxiety monster has been poking his little head over my shoulder quite frequently. I've been fighting the "I sucks" on a regular basis. I'm always reaching out to my awesome writer pals and they're always there to cheer me on. But you know what really lights a fire under my ass? Readers.

Readers, bloggers, reviewers, all you lovely people who take the time to read those silly words I put down. To all of you who post reviews, be they one star or a billion. To all of you bloggers who put my book in your multitude of Top Ten lists, be it a Top Ten Rereads or your Top Ten "I don't get it"s. Can I just say THANK YOU! 

Sometimes I dread sitting down at my manuscript. On those days, all it takes is a kind word from a reader to get my fingers typing. And sometimes, all it takes is a one star review to get those fingers typing, too. Because I want to do better. 

They say, "Write for yourself." And there's a lot of truth to that, but I also think it's a good idea to find a balance. Yes, write for yourself, because if you don't love what you're doing, it's probably not going to turn out well. But I think we should also write for our audience. Give them what they want!

Recently there was a hashtag on twitter started by @ShaelynCherie called #RBWL or Reader Blogger Wish List. It's similar to the #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) editors and agents do where they tweet what kind of stories they want to see, but I think #RBWL might be more important. These are requests from the people who really, really matter: THE READERS (sorry agents and editors). 

So, here's my writerly advice for the day. Whether you're published or aspiring, get to know your audience. Read their blogs, follow them on Twitter, start conversations and get their opinions. Because just like you want to write the best words you can, they want to read the best words you can write! They don't want to hate your book, they want to love it! 
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

2014 SLoW Writer's Survey Results!

Hi all,

I'm so excited to announce the results of the writer's survey! In case you missed it, this survey was a fun idea to see how alike (or not alike) we are in our writing habits, traditions, style, etc. We were so excited to have received 97 survey results!!!!

The results are all anonymous, and Google docs actually did all dirty work (AKA math) for me. So without further ado, here are the results!

(Click the image to see it larger*)

Graph 1: 31% of you said you write whenever you get a spare second. I fell in the 14% category of evenings.

Graph 2: 31% said you write at a desk!

Graph 3: Can you believe I forgot to include alcohol in the beverage section? I'm going to go ahead and guess that's what the "Other" was selected for! Coffee was the winner of the category with 34% and water close behind at 30%. Gotta stay hydrated, right?

Graph 4: 42% of you said your word count varies from day to day, which surprised me! Mine does too, so I'm glad I'm not the only one. For you sticklers out there, 1k-2k came in at 30%. Go you! 

Graph 5: 38% said you try and write in any free moment you have! 21% said you set aside 1-2 hours each day.

Graph 6: 28% said your pre-writing ritual consists of reading over where you left off so you can get back in the world. (I'm right there with you) 25% said you check ALL social media so you're not distracted when you write (I feel you).

Graph 7: 38% said you're the type of writer who prefers to write in isolation! Maybe it's why we call it the "writing cave," huh? 20% said you're very self-motivating and challenge yourself.  

Graph 8: It surprised me to learn that 31% of you can't listen to music/prefer silence while you're writing! 21% said you listen to music but always change things up. I love playlists, personally!

Graph 9: WOW! 77% of you have never been to a writing retreat. I haven't either. Let's make a group retreat, yeah? But the 14% who HAVE been to one say they're motivational!

Graph 10: Dang, 33% of you are plotters! Good for you! 29% say that it depends on the story/deadline. Which, you know, understandable.

Graph 11: 57% of you said you have between 1-4 CPs you trust with every story you write. (Me too!) 19% said you don't have any. (Are you looking for one?! I suggest this tumblr CP-pairing website!)

Graph 12: 28% of you say you read your revision notes, take a few days to process, and then dive in. 25% you read, process, consult CPs/editor/agent, ask questions, then dive in!

Graph 13: 36% say you've never worked on a deadline before while 18% say that it depends: sometimes you're on top of it and other times you're eating chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Graph 14: Wow! 63% of you said the best part of writing the book is the moment everything clicks, when you're passionate about the story and when you can't get your characters out of your head. I LOVE THAT. I also love 0% of you said it was about the money.

Graph 15: I love that 37% of you have never thought about quitting. 33% said you've thought of quitting more than once. Our advice? NEVER GIVE UP! (Also, you're not alone in those thoughts. But keep perservering!)

Graph 16: 27% of you said your ideas can come from anywhere! 16% said the shower and another 16% said after watching an inspiring movie, book, music, musical, etc.

That was fun! I hope it was fun for you, too.

What did you think? More importantly, what were you most surprised to learn? For me, I was surprised that more of you aren't night owl writers! I always feel like that's a stereotypical writer schedule, but it seems like the majority is just trying to write whenever we get a free second.

Feel free to leave a comments on if you fell into the majority or minority within a certain question! For me, my minority was inspirational commuting! I love getting ideas on the road while blasting music. But I was apart of the majority on graph #14!

I can't wait to hear your thoughts on this. And for all of you who filled this out, THANK YOU <3
Monday, April 7, 2014

Six Tips for Writing Your Synopsis

Haha, I know. wow you mean it's not only Monday but also the day the secret life talks about writing synopses??

If you've queried, are querying, or are planning to query in the near future, chances are you have heard people being unhappy about synopses. It's not entirely without reason: these things are hard. Because Susan Dennard is amazing at life, she wrote a super handy guide on making a synopsis paragraph by paragraph. Today's post isn't meant to replace that, but more to talk about the in-between steps, or strategies for helping you make the most of that guide.

tl;dr: if you haven't read her guide yet, read it and then come back here. Done that? Awesome. Now let's get into the nitty-gritty how-to-tough-out-writing-a-synopsis-when-all-you-want-to-do-is-not part

1. Be prepared to revise/ less is more, but writing more at first can help you get to less.
The problem: Yeah, okay, this isn't a fun thing to admit, so it goes at the top. When I tried to write my first synopsis by making each paragraph perfectly mirror what was happening in Susan Dennard's guide before moving on to the next, I got super frustrated and quit a lot.

The fix: It's not going to sound elegant, but it is going to work: word vomit up your main plot and streamline it. Give yourself permission to make it a first draft and realize that the synopsis is not going to come out of your head fully formed. Granted, this means that you will probably end up with three pages worth of synopsis when you finish. This is okay. This is normal. You do need to get it to at least half that length or so (more or less, depending on what length is acceptable) but having the full musculature down will help you pick out where the bones of the skeleton are.

2. Focus on the main conflict and tell the ending. 
The problem: You have all these great subplots, and you are super sad that you don't get to include them all. Also how on earth are they even supposed to want to read the full if they know how it ends.

The fix: Honestly, getting agents/editors to want to read more (or all) of your manuscript is the query's job. The synopsis' is to convince your readers that you can incite, build, and resolve tension-- that you have the skills to both write this book and to break down how you wrote it for a reader. This is also an important skill! It's not that the people asking you for this are spoilsports and don't want to read your nine million fun subplots (because they so are not and likely would enjoy the subplots), it's because they need to see that you can develop a character and raise stakes across a book. If you look at it that way, then yeah, it makes sense to tell the ending-- otherwise, how would you show how much the character changed or that the plot resolved?

3. Be wary of including too many named characters. 
The problem: It's like a party up in here! You know all these characters by heart, but you also are aware that agents and editors are incredibly busy people are not likely to be able to keep ten different characters straight over your synopsis. But all these characters are important! I have an ensemble cast.

The fix: Step back and go through #1 again-- streamline. A good synopsis rule of thumb is to aim for three named characters (but like all good rules of anything, you can bend them a little when it's for a worthy cause): your main character, the antagonist, and then either the best friend/sidekick/mentor or the love interest. Notice how Luke and Ben are named in Susan Dennard's synopsis but Han Solo and Leia aren't. They're instead referred to as "the pilot" and the "the princess" which hey, it does what it says on the tin.

If you absolutely require a lot of characters, then consider mentioning them by their titles/what they do instead of by name. It's easier to keep track of that way and it's a little reminder to the reader that this person is a recurring character but perhaps not quite important enough to make named status. If it sounds too stupid like that, like there actually is a fourth character that you cannot live with calling "the princess" all the time, then okay, name them. Obviously, there are no hard and fast rules in writing, but my personal rule is no more than five named characters and you better provide me with an excellent reason for naming the last two.

4. Don't worry about being descriptive or not voicey enough. 
The problem: I have so little page space and word count leftover, but I really need to convince this person that I've built a sweeping world and/or that my protag is fun to be around and engaging enough to stick with for a full book.

The fix: Again, voice and caliber of writing is going to help you the most in your query and then your manuscript. You're absolutely right: you don't have a whole lot of page space, and you do have to limit yourself. The way I worked it was that I allowed myself a paragraph at the beginning to sketch out my characters with a few choice adjectives, and then a few sentences to paint an ending scene/to talk about the scene I ended on in a little more descriptive detail--but, detail that related back to the main plot. Young wandering lord reunites with his countrymen, fights epic battle, looks out on ruins of his ancestral home glistening in the dawn.

The purpose isn't to sell us on the book-- it's again #2, show us that you can develop tension and resolve conflicts. Ending on a pretty scene is alright, but it's not like every single line of your synopsis must be gold-plated. It is literally just the facts.

5. To thine own self be true.
The problem: You need to stop. You hate this synopsis, you hate this story, and you feel like you're killing all the magic by writing out the ending and you never want to work on it again.

The fix: Take a break. If you've stuck with me thus far (yay!) and you seem to like the advice this girl from the internet is giving you, then listen to this one especially: this is not easy, it does not make you a bad person/incapable writer/whatever negative noun if it takes you a while or it is hard. Ask my CPs: I told them I was going to start my synopsis for a week, like every day of that week. I just didn't. I was worried I was going to suck all the coolness out of my story by writing it down. Like saying oh hey did you know the narrator is actually Tyler Durden before someone watches Fight Club. It would be lame.

That being said, you still have to buckle down and write it later. Take a deep breath, find your ass-kicking music, crack your knuckles, and when you get on fire getting the first draft of it down, absolutely do not stop. It's is so much easier having something on paper to work with than not.

6. The right time to write a synopsis-- before you even write the first draft, in the middle of drafting, or at the end of revisions-- it when you know what happens in your story.
This is less of a problem/fix situation and more of a hey, this all sounds very overwhelming and how on earth do I start? situation.

You start whenever it's right for you. I wrote my query for my latest manuscript when I was, what, about halfway through drafts or so? (I guess I am a halfway person) I probably could have written the synopsis at the same time. I do know some people who love to write the synopsis first, before writing anything in the story--actually, I am going to try this for my WIP-- so that you work out a basic framework for yourself plotwise and you have a skeleton to start from rather than digging the skeleton out of the story later. Or, you can do the tried and true write-it-at-the-end approach. All of these are valid, and all will work-- all you need to do if you revise your manuscript after writing your synopsis is just to make sure that the main conflict is still the same between synopsis and book.

And there you have it! Got any synopsis tips or tricks to share with us? Drop them in the comments below!

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.

You can find her on Twitter @:
Or drop her an email at:
And also visit her website @: 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Getting Ready for a Book Release

I can't even tell you all how busy it's been for me these last few months. Everyone thinks I'm crazy for being on top of my game so early (GATEWAY releases August 25th), but I'm pretty much OCD and my mind won't allow me to relax for ten seconds without thinking of everything I need to do.

To start, I already have all my blog tour posts set up with bloggers and soon we'll have material to post. Kind of crazy, but I knew that come August, I'm gonna be insanely busy trying to get each post ready. So I thought I'd prep myself by knowing what to expect.

The most important thing I've focused on is swag. A lot of people have asked me where I got my buttons and such. I thought I'd use this post to share. And what I can tell you is this: It's never too early to purchase swag. There have been too many times when someone has asked me about my book and I had nothing to show or give them. I decided to follow in Kristin Bailey's footsteps and order some postcards. She suggested and they were fantastic! AND… fast! I got these postcards within a week.

Pictured here is the front AND back. This has been the perfect way for me to show people what GATEWAY is all about. Meanwhile, it also gives them the information for my launch party in August. (Which is at Barnes and Noble in Roseville, CA on August 30th, btw. You should go!)

I also got these cute little buttons from They were recommended to me by the awesome Jenny K! Pure Buttons is another company that was cost efficient and super quick. I love these little guys and they seem to be pretty popular with people, too. I can't wait to share them at my school visit this month!
Next up, I plan to order some bookmarks. I also have some posters in the works, but I haven't printed them just yet. But I'll show you what they'll look like. Thanks to David Bock for his help!
I can't wait to share all this swag at conferences and special events! It's hard to believe that the Gateway release is less than five months away. This year is going to be incredible!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Some Practical Advice for Debut Authors

A year ago I was gearing up for the release of my first book which would come out on May 7th. Being a complete and total newb, I was playing it by ear. I was super busy, to say the least. And during this past year, I have learned a few things, but I'll admit that I still HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING! 


But let's pretend for a second that I might have a little advice to impart to you awesome debut Fourteeners and beyond. Here are a few practical tidbits.


Be it a signing, a book festival, or a conference, these things can be nerve-racking. But you're a professional now right? *snort* So, I'd suggest putting together a table kit. In your kit put some little things you've had made up, if you can, like bookmarks or buttons to hand out. Things that have the title of your book on them because people might be interested in your book but they might not want to buy it that very day. And everybody loves freebies! A bowl of candy probably wouldn't hurt your chances of selling a few more books either.

Also, have a couple copies of your book. A seller, like B&N, might be at whatever function you're going to and you've been told that they will have stock of your book. But that seller could be on the other side of the area. And people will come up to you going, "So what did you write?" In my experience, people remember the cover better than they remember the title so having a couple of your books with you will give them a picture to go along with the title.

Everyday Authoring

Please, don't make the mistake I've made. Get some business cards!!! I don't know how many times I've been in some random place and wanted to kick myself for not having a business card to hand out to this librarian, book shop owner, professor of specific field who I could ask about things for future book research, etc. 

Blog Tours

If you do a blog tour, I'd recommend creating a stock answer document because you're going to get asked the same questions. Everyone is going to want to know how you came up with your idea, as they should, it's a great idea that got you published! But, when you go to answer that blogger's questions, don't just copy and paste from your answers sheet. Personalize it somehow, add something extra and unique. These bloggers are taking the time to do this for you and your book. But having an answer sheet will save you time and it'll make each interview seem less intimidating, I think. Put that document in a file that also has your author picture and the cover of your book so they're easy to find and so the blogger doesn't have to go hunting for them.

One last thing...

As I said earlier, appearances and stuff can be nerve-racking the first go around, so own your nervousness! Face it, deal with it, then let your excitement kick it in the ass! The you'll be free to have fun and make new friends!

So, good luck you awesome present and future debut authors! 

Do you have any other tips to add? Or any questions? Let's discuss in the comments!