Friday, July 30, 2010

Guest Post: How My Publishing Deal Found Me…

Please welcome my guest blogger, K.L. Brady, author of The Bum Magnet. I asked her to share her story, since she has such a cool one.

K. L. Brady is a D.C. native but spent a number of her formative years in the Ohio Valley. She’s an alumnus of the University of the District of Columbia and University of Maryland University College, earning a B.A. in Economics and M.B.A., respectively. She works as an analyst for a major government contracting firm and is an active real estate agent with Exit Realty by day—and writes by night (often into the wee hours of the morning). She lives just outside of D.C. in Cheltenham, Maryland, with her son, William, and two pet Betta fish, Spongebob and Jerry, and lives to eat chocolate, shop, read, and write.

How My Publishing Deal Found Me…

Some say luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I probably wouldn’t consider myself “lucky” any other way.

A few short months ago I was offered a two-book deal with Simon and Schuster on the first novel I ever wrote. Authors go years and years waiting for the fortuitous “break” to happen—sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. So, I’m often asked what was the secret ingredient? Karla, how you did get an editor to notice your novel? The easy answer is, “I dunno!”
The complex answer is I prepared like hell for opportunity, and when it came, I was ready.

For those who may not be aware, I self-published my debut novel, The Bum Magnet officially in October 2009, after fruitlessly trying to find literary representation. By February 2010, an executive editor at a publishing house had expressed interest in my book. A month later, I had an agent, and within another month I had a deal.

So, how did I prepare?

1. I wrote a pretty good book. It’s commercial which, in short, means the editors think it has the potential to sell a lot of copies. In all the letters I received back from editors, rejections or expressing interest, nearly every single one said they are looking for good commercial fiction and asked my agent to send it the moment he got his hands on it.

2. I also workshopped it and had it proofread and edited pretty well. Not perfectly mind you, but pretty well. I quite frankly could not afford to get the line edit from a former editor at a publishing house like I really wanted to do. So, I opted for the cheaper manuscript review in which she read the entire manuscript and gave me tips on plot, structure, pacing, etc. The suggestions she made were VERY minor, she was surprised that it required so little—but this was after it had been workshopped on

3. I designed the book so that it looked professional, that includes ensuring that it had a catchy book cover. Feedback has been about 70-30 in favor of the design. Can’t please everyone…but you can try to please as many as you can.

4. I designed and implemented a comprehensive marketing strategy.
The ebook versions on Kindle and Smashwords were as much a part of my marketing strategy as they were a part of my sales strategy. I sold them for 99 cents and got them into A LOT of hands. My Amazon rankings shot up high and remained there for a long time. My priority was getting my work out there, not profit.

I promoted my book like CRAZY. Every single day, I did at least 3 to 5 marketing activities. Posted it anywhere they would allow you to post a book. Promoted everywhere I could, including on the Amazon Discussion Boards which is where I think I had the most success. I also marketed heavily to book clubs.

5. Got it reviewed. I sent it out to book blogs, book clubs, and review sites and requested reviews. Among the most helpful were the book clubs and the Midwest Book Review, at least I believe that’s where I got some attention.

Along came Luck…

Fast forward to sometime in early February 2010. To this day, I don't know how she found me, but the editor from Kensington sent me an email and said that she was interested in talking about my book. Needless to say, I was over the moon. We spoke the next day for about 45 minutes or so.

The details are foggy now. I just thought it was surreal to be talking to her. She has a number of African-American NY Times Bestsellers on her list (Carl Weber, Mary B. Morrison, Mary Monroe). I knew exactly who she was and I knew the publisher well. As a matter of fact, I had sent a partial in mid 2009 but never heard from her. (For those of you not aware, you can query Kensington editors directly. You don't need an agent.)

So, she asked me about how I got into writing, how I went about publishing my book, what kind of marketing plan I’d put together, etc. In one of the funnier moments in the conversation, she asked me if I'd queried any agents or editors. I said, "Well, as a matter of fact I sent my partial to you."

She got quiet and I heard her fish around her desk. She had my query sitting in an envelope right in her overhead. Ha! How's that for coincidence? Of course, she was mortified. I told her not to feel bad. I truly believe that things happen for a reason. There was a reason that she didn't read it back then. So, she suggested she'd be making me an offer. She asked me for a copy of my manuscript and to see my two works in progress. So, I sent them to her.

I was advised to get an agent and sent a note to the editor asking if she minded. She said no. As a matter of fact, she referred an agent to me.
At that point, I knew she was serious.

I queried a few agents, including the one she recommended for me. I went on Publisher's lunch and found agents who worked with author in similar genres. I wanted someone with experience in selling African American (AA) fiction. Within a few days I had a few that were very interested. I ended up picking the agent who represented two female best-selling AA authors who write in different genres than mine. He had great credentials (a former editor for big houses) and he knew how to sell AA fiction. I couldn't go wrong.

He asked me to make a few edits to the manuscript. Admittedly, I was reticent only because my book was already out there. But it came down to the fact that, even though I'd sold a couple thousand copies (ebook and paperback), I hadn't sold enough to the point where changes to the manuscript would impact millions of readers.

So, I got over myself and my few measly sales and I made the changes he suggested. He sent it out wide—meaning submitted to all the major editors at the major publishing houses that he thought would be interested. He submitted it just as he would an unpublished manuscript but in the accompanying letter, we let them know that it had been self published, received great reviews, was building word of mouth, yadda yadda yadda.

So, two weeks go by and the rejections start rolling in. After about 4 or 5 I asked if I should get depressed and he said we had a long way to go. Finally, an editor from S&S said she liked it and was passing it around. The original editor who expressed interest from Kensington was still interested and waiting on her boss to return from vacation. Then another editor from Grand Central (Hachette) expressed interest. After all the offers and counteroffers, we finally accepted the one with Pocket.

That's pretty much the story.

To answer some of the questions I received, no one ever asked about my sales numbers until after the offers were made. I did not query anyone after I published the book. I queried before I published but not after. So, I can't really say whether trying to query an agent or publisher after you've self-published will work for you. I didn't have to query.

How do I think she found me? Well, my book had been reviewed on several sites where her authors book were also reviewed. Mine was one of the few self-published books to get a 5-star rating, "favorite," or "top read" status. My book also stayed in the Top 100 African American fiction list on Amazon. I went through the list at the time, and I was the only book on the list that didn't have a publisher. I'd also been reaching out to book clubs and stuff like that. So, there are a lot of ways she could've found out.

I was also asked why if an author, such as myself, was doing well in distributing my book and getting good reviews, why would I relinquish control and sell my rights to a publisher?

Without a whole lot of work, there is no way I could reach the audience that S&S or another major publisher could reach. It was not about the advance for me. It was about the opportunity this deal offered to build my author brand and I plan to take advantage of every perk the brand and affiliation with a house comes with to market and sell more books. As a new/first-time novelist, I also wanted the chance to work with an editor so that I can improve my craft.

So, the long and short of this story is, I didn’t really find this deal, it found me. Your deal is waiting to find you too, and it all starts with writing a good book. When opportunity knocks, just make sure you’re ready!

Thanks, K.L, for sharing your story and what worked for you. Check out the synopsis and trailer for The Bum Magnet.


Real estate agent Charisse Tyson seems to have it all-a great job, a dream car, and a McMansion in high-and-mightyville. Everything in her life is just right...except the Mister. While lamenting the break-up with her most recent "the one" during a holiday meltdown, Charisse realizes she has a type when it comes to men—players, players, and more players. A magazine article motivates her to swear off men and examine the complex roots of her romantic fiascos.

Just five simple steps to turn her life to the stuff of legends, right? Life is never that easy... Charisse commences her do-it-yourself therapy project and barely cracks open her emotional toolbox when she encounters the monkey wrenches: an irresistible new beau, two persistent ex-flames, and an FBI agent with life-altering secrets threatening to turn her world upside-down. A tug of war ensues and Charisse is dead center, trying her best to distinguish the Don Juans from the Romeos. As her love life is propelled into unpredictable twists not even she could imagine, will a twenty-seven-year-old secret keep Charisse from finding the right “one”? Laugh loud and often as Charisse discovers whether her choices in men reflect more than a penchant for good looks, great sex, and bad judgment.


Thanks so much, K.L. Very informative post. I especially enjoyed the marketing aspect, which included things I hadn't thought of.

Swing by K.L. Brady's blog and website if you'd like to connect or learn more about her upcoming novels.

~ CV

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Writing, Passion and All That Jazz

I've been pondering my love of music. I enjoy all different kinds. I listen to more styles than anyone I've ever heard of. And there's something kinda cool about Indie bands, untapped musicians who are trying to make it, playing their hearts out, writing because they're passionate about the art they create. Some indie musicians, like writers, are truly awful, but in the vast sea of sludge there are some true gems to be found. And when you discover one, your day feels a little bit brighter.

Kris Allen's unlabeled CD Brand New Shoes for instance, features songs that are quite lowkey and James Taylorish but definitely awesome in their own right. And I'm not trying to knock him, but his new album with 19, entitled Kris Allen, lacks something.

I'll attach the singles Beautiful Moon and Live Like We're Dying so you can see what I mean.

Beautiful Moon

Live Like We're Dying

Beautiful Moon is gorgeous, right? Live is a good song too, but it's a little too commercial, a little too polished. You know what I mean? See how bluesy and free and sung-from-the-heart Beautiful Moon is? And sure he sings Live full gusto, but Kris's unique style gets lost in all the gloss.

And take jazz on another note. Yeah, you can listen to those greats like Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Miles Davis and his glorious sextet with the amazing John Coltrane, all remastered on CD, stripped of all grit with the tracks separated and then remixed the way Scotty at the controls thinks they should be, but you end up with much less than what you had before.

You see, there's something amazing and enjoyable about kicking back and listening to old music on LPs a.k.a. records. (Those vinyl discs with the holes in the middle for all you sprouts who've never seen them outside of Flickr.) Vinyl showcases more. The crackles. Vocal glitches. That one part where the sax rules the room. I love those imperfections, as though the musicians are just jammin' in a room somewhere. And you can picture your grandma or great grandma swinging on her porch and sipping lemonade as she daydreams of dancing with her true love who's off at war.

The glossed-over, perfectly mixed, auto-tuned music of today is slapped together for mass consumption, but it's vastly empty. It lacks substance and, more often than not, fails to move people.

1960's tunes, on the other hand, encapsulate history. Pick up nearly any album and you'll get a stance on war, drug culture, loss of innocence, civil rights or free love. Where is that today? Sure, you get the occasional Linkin Park song or whatever, but where is the urgency, the fury, the fire, the passion, the drive to sing about the things that matter, the things that affect our world and threaten out freedom?

And sometimes when you write, what comes out of you first, all raw and passionate, IS what's best. You CAN over-edit, where your work ends up so very pretty on the outside but a shell of what it once was. Taking the advice of too many critters can strip your work of its original rawness, of its best stuff. Use your judgment. Only you can tell your story and know the best way to tell it.

I think I've done this with Kings & Queens to a degree. Don't get me wrong, the novel did need major help, I was way too wordy and used too many be-verbs, but I inadvertently removed some of my best stuff. I let others alter my voice and scrub my work too much. My stupid drive for excellence! It's too late really to go back now, and I am liking the way it is, but it gives me something to keep in mind as I go forward.

For future novels, I'm going to handle the red pen a little more delicately and not be quite so vicious. I don't want a work to lose ALL its rawness and the passion with which I wrote it. Because just like camps of CD listeners versus LP, someone will notice the difference.

Write on, rock on and listen to your soul.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Unleashing Your Awesomeness

Sometimes our work is just not cutting it. Everyone knows it, even your mom, even Santa Claus. You need to be honest with yourself in order to bring your work up to snuff. You may have an unsnuffable work that you need to scrap, as I did with my first novel, and that's okay. Move on. Pick up the pen. Try again.
Really, really, really read books on craft to give yourself good blueprints and so you can write well and recognize quality from trash.

And even if your work IS cutting it, there are some jewels you should always include to make sure it goes from workable to downright awesome.

1. Good flow

Create good flow, pace and rhythm not just in the plot but in your narrative, the way things unfold, the way sentences and paragraphs connect.

This means varying your sentence length, starting with a gerund every now and then, mixing things up, avoiding crutch words or awkward turns of phrase, not having every sentence start with He/She/Sue. You don't want to have a choppy read nor do you want to one that forces readers to struggle through shattered and plentiful ten-line sentences.

Avoid dumps of description and backstory. Even if you're writing omniscience and can do it seamlessly and the point-of-view character is super observant and truly notices everything you point out, don't go overboard. Consider those details to be ribbons, sequins, accessories. They should dress up your work, not make up the bulk of it. If readers are tugged into a quagmire of verbage, no matter how great it sounds to you, you risk losing them somewhere in Ch. 6.

In my novel, Kings & Queens, I made the mistake of including a few paragraphs of backstory on my character Derek when I opened his POV, but that clashed with my close perspective. I slashed all that and took it down to a line or two, as it applies to his thoughts in the scene.

Sometimes we get caught up in wanting to include everything, and too much info can be overwhelming and annoying. Think of your prose as music. Only important details are needed in that score.

When you think you're all polished and ready to shop, email yourself the first couple of chapters and random sections. It sounds weird I know, but reading scenes out of your text document will help you notice issues with pace and rhythm especially. I noticed some choppiness and sludgy spots in my chapter 1 this way, which is the first thing agents see. Now I'm good to go.

2. Unforgettable Characters

It sounds obvious. Every wants unforgettable characters, but as a reader, how many times have you read a great book, then a month or too later, can't recall names? Then you have to skip over to Amazon to check 'cause the not knowing is bugging the snot out of you.

I have photographic memory, and this happens to me. A lot. Even if I loved a story and the characters in it.

Don't' let readers experience amnesia. Let your characters jump off the page and demand to be noticed and not quickly forgotten. Develop your characters so that they're nearly palpable, then tether aspects of plot to their identity and desires. Give an extraordinary quality or interest that's rarely seen and this will create the memory stickiness you hope to achieve.

3. Fresh Voice

Your voice is in everything you write from tweets to novels. Be inspired, but don't emulate the style and voice of others. Let your own uniqueness emerge. Voice is an expression of the weird way your mind works, your personality in written word, your take on things, your way of speaking. Even this post has voice.

It should flow out naturally. Even if you write with different tones or various quirky First Person narrators, a bit of you should still shine through. If you're feeling unsure or self-conscious, it will be noticeable. The only way you can gain confidence and to find YOUR voice is to practice.

People have called my writing quirky and different. I love giving readers golden nuggets of my weirdness. It puts a branding on my own works.

4. Balance in The Force

Your work can be packed with darkness, conflict and obstacles aplenty, but it should have some kind of forward momentum. In darker works, add some ribbons of dark or dry humor, irony, hyperbole, romance, tone shifts, brief moments of peace, lightness and success. This will bring more scope and needed contrast into your work.

Also, if your work is lighthearted, you should have present or brewing trouble, a paperboy who wants his two dollars, office cat fights (they happen!), insomnia, a stalker, a death in the family, skeletons in the closet, the annoyance of every Starbucks within twenty miles being out of whipped cream so there's no way to gloriously top off that Java Chip Frapp.

Always think about balance and contrast. My novel, Kings & Queens, deals with violence and psychological terror, but it still has bits of humor and scenes that tug at the heart.

So, I've given you some direction towards making your work shine. Go write and make your work AWESOME.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

TWILIGHT: From A Writing Standpoint

So, I’ve been putting off reading Twilight because I know it’s in First Person, and not the best demonstration of one. But I decided to throw caution to the wind and snatch it up to see what all the Edward Flair and tomato throwing’s about.

Well, it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be, but it was far from excellent. My rating reflects a combo of reader fulfillment and applicability to novel writing.


It’s one of those books that has a nice concept but its potential far outweighs execution.

I consider every book I read to be a learning experience, whether for good or bad, and there are things that can be learned, even in a book like Twilight, which divides readers into passionate, bloodthirsty camps:

Loved It! Most Awesome Book Ever!!!!
Hated It! And Stephenie Meyer Should Be Shot And Left In A Ditch For Putting Such Crap On The Market!

Team Edward!
Team Jacob!

Great Love!
Unbelievable Love!

Edward IS AMAZING & BEAUTIFUL, Takes Such Good Care of Bella!
Edward Is A Freakin’ Stalker And A Control Freak, One Step Away From An Abusive Nutjob!

Millionth-time Reader! Aaaand Counting!!!
Never Ever Read It. Don’t Plan To. And I Hope Every Copy Burns So Those Poor Strangled Words Can Be Free.

Well, no matter which camp you’re in, here are the good and bad points about Twilight, as it applies to novel writing in general. (And I’ll be referring to Stephenie Meyer as SM for brevity’s sake.)


Unique adaptations. Well, SM gets laughed at about the sparkly skin of her vampires but so what. SM created her own version of vampire that worked for her story and rocked it. And her brand of vampire inspired writing possibilities, kickstarted a subgenre and pulled droves of readers, who never would've considered reading YA, to the genre. Her vampires can sparkle in sunlight rather than burn if she wants them to. They can be strong, insanely fast and beautiful, “vegetarian”, play baseball in thunderstorms. It’s her story, her characters. Who’s to say you have work within the confinements of myth. Creatures of lore are fictional, so I applaud her for stepping outside the box and being creative. I think that’s what makes Twilight feel fresh, because she took a concept and turned it upside down. Tolkin had his own elves. Stephenie can have her own vampires. Next.

Excellent use of sexual tension. Sexual tension is one of the most powerful hooks. Like in Star War—aside from the few who crushed on Luke—everyone could see the real sparks were between Han Solo and Princess Leia. Sexual tension carries more hooking power than action or constant bliss because it’s conflict, and conflict always wins. Of course, almost everyone loves to get into the thick of it, to reach that long-awaited kiss, but the teasing, the getting there is so much fun. In the end, that’s when tension can finally be put to rest and buried for all eternity.

In Twilight, Edward and Bella love each other but can’t get toooo close because Edward’s sexual desire is so closely aligned with his thirst for blood, and Bella’s blood is far too enticing. The sexual tension was so expertly drawn in fact, that if you use sexual tension, and your work is Urban Fantasy, or maybe even generic YA, it will be compared, there’s no way around it, because Twilight set the bar.

Evident story question. The story question of “will Bella end up with her star-crossed, oh-so dangerous, fang-bearing soulmate” carries strong and flows throughout the series. It is this question that keeps readers reading and pushes them on quickly to the remaining books. It makes the books seem as though a spell has been cast on them. There is no spell, just an evident story question readers care to see resolved. And in that way, I suppose, readers are charmed.

Every writer should strive to include a story question, that subconscious thing that plagues readers and urges them onward, even if you plunk in history, even if you take detours, even if you have countless subplots. If you have that question out there to grab and hang onto, readers will follow you wherever. I tried reading The Last Juror by John Grisham. I normally love his books, but this one has no story question or track at all really. It lost me about ten chapters in and I have no urge to revisit it. Every book should have a point, a mainline. If yours doesn’t, give it one.

Solid conflicts, both internal and external. Conflicts abound in Twilight, both internal and external. Bella has issues with self-esteem, and wonders why Edward can’t stand her when they’ve never met. Then they both struggle with their building emotions. There’s an underlining enmity between werewolves and vampires, that is really just hinted at in Twilight and comes into play in greater detail later. Rife also exists between vampire sects and that explodes as the story wraps up. She did great here. The more types of conflicts you can layer in, the stronger your story will be.

Fascinating secondary characters. Twilight has interesting secondary characters. And this almost makes me wish the story wasn’t in First person, because the perspective through Bella’s eyes is just too limited. I wish to know more about the others and don’t get that satisfaction. Jacob doesn’t have a major role in Twilight, but he’s interesting and there’s something there between him and Bella. Even this early on, you can see the potential for future conflict, which works as another hook. The groundwork has been laid. And Edward’s family is full of interesting characters, each with their own history and talents, that come to the forefront at different points in the story. Interesting secondary characters will make your work much more interesting.


Underdeveloped main characters. The main characters have little essence. Bella only seems to exist to be with Edward. She’s been nothing until she sees him. Characters need to feel more real and more well-rounded. So he’s beautiful, so she smells good. What else? Why are they drawn to one another? Why do they connect? My only view of Edward is through Bella, and she focuses so much on his outward appearance that I don’t think she sees his good qualities or bad. And she is so paper-thin, I find it implausible that in his 117 years on the planet he’s never found anyone more fascinating than this drippy, boring doormat with suicidal tendencies. It’s the author’s job to expose what’s beneath the surface so I and everyone else can totally “get” it.

I get that SM wanted young readers to feel like Bella could be any one of them, that there was nothing really special about her, that their love was “just because”, but all that hits me as lazy.

Super thin story for one so wordy. In 118,000 words, there’s not much meat here. The central characters don’t start hanging out until the middle of the book, so the beginning is sloooow build-up and fluff. Then they fall in love rapidly, no, they don’t even fall in love, they just are in love--automatically, just because. But they can’t “Be” together because he’s a vegetarian vampire--denying himself human blood--who might give into his primal urges in the heat of passion, and well, eat her, because she smells so stinkin’ luscious.

And she cannot live without EdwardWell, why not?BecauseBut I wanna know why?Just because she can’t, okay? He’s sooo beautiful, remember? He sparkles evenOh, yeah. How could I have forgotten with SM telling me that ad nauseamHe’s her life. She’s nothing without himTrue, very true.

Then, after pages of nothing much happening except for some close-call snuggle sessions and baseball during a thunderstorm, dum-dum-dum, evil carnivorous vampires rush in wanting to kill her and drink her blood because it smells better than anything they’ve ever sniffed. A fight ensues. But you don’t see it. Someone wins. The end. I want the events to change Edward and Bella in some way, I want more purpose, I want more arc, I want them to realize their love has been superficial and to seek something real and better and stronger.

A bland and rambling First Person narrator. Bella just had no personality or strong voice. I’ve never had to plod through such doldrums, that didn’t have a bent towards economics, with greater effort in my life. If a character is going to relay a story with his or her ONE perspective, I want that character to be engaging, interesting and fully-developed, not a fill-in-the-blank Mary Sue. If you use First Person, do it well. Many readers connected with Bella’s voice, were able to hop right into the story, so I know I’m in the minority, but with a little bit more oomph, the story could’ve been so much more. Fiction writers should aim for more than MAD-lib, fill-in-the-blank sketches of voice, character and plot. Just saying.

Gutless actions. Not by the characters, no, no, by the author. SM shrinks from grit here, hence Bella’s blackout at the highest point in the book. Then we hear about what happened when Bella wakes up in the hospital. What? No. As writers, we need to be willing and daring enough to write scenes that make us uncomfortable sometimes. Why else would SM pull us away from a cool battle, the BEST part of the book--Hello!!!--if not for fear or discomfort in showing violence or utter laziness, I don’t know. Maybe she intended on getting back to it later, and said, “Oh, what the cawing crow! Blackout. Perfect. Done.” Violence can still be tasteful, but the scene needs to be written. Not writing it, and instead telling us what happened after the fact, totally robs readers. This takes me to my next point…

A false climax. The true climax in any given-story is not necessarily action-packed, although it can be, it’s rather the point of revelation. It’s where the most layers peel away, where the obstacles break down, where lovers decide to be together, where the sleuth discovers the killer, where the protagonist and antagonist face off, where forces collide, where a big choice must be made, where everything that's been learned can finally be put into action. But instead, we get a very telly, after-the-fact, word-of-mouth version of what happened in a climax that should have been SHOWN. The movie shows the scene. Why? Because it’s important and interesting. How dull would it have been if Edward had shown up at the hospital and told Bella what happened? Well, that’s what happened in the book! Edward is not the protagonist and that is what’s wrong with this behind-closed-doors fight. It should have been a joint effort, a true testament of their love, but we get nothing.

Which brings me to the next point…

Weak love. This is the main drive the book, right? Everyone talks about their love being so passionately akin to that of Romeo and Juliet. But as is, it is too fanciful and unbelievable for me, given the lack of chemistry between the two leads and reason for its existence. Just because an author says they love each other is not good enough. I want to know, why? I want to see it, understand it and feel it. Why these two? Their love should be as dense as good, well-rounded characters should be, and because these characters are closer to chimeras than people, their love is vapid and so much less intense than it actually could have been with proper construction all around.

Inadequate editing. Twilight is sloppy with many grammatical errors and first person glitches. And the dialogue tags with action after EVERY single spoken line are insanely annoying. Come on. I know a few errors are bound to slip through the cracks, it happens, but they are just too numerous here to not mention or care about when I’m hoping for quality on the market, especially in such a highly loved work. The work feels very rough. How could Twilight get past so many levels of professionals and remain in this blatant first-draft state? How was it that no agent, editor, suitcoats at the cherry wood table or copy editors cared to trim the meandering fat or fix the parts of Twilight that are such a hot mess. That is so baffling to me, I don’t even know what to say about it. I’ll leave it at that.

So those are the good and bad things about Twilight. Have you read it? Do you plan to? What are your thoughts?

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Vampires Suck Trailer

Well, I'm working on my Twilight post. Here's something to tide you over until I put it up. So funny! And this movie stars the lovely Matt Lanter, whom I want to play Derek, if Kings & Queens is ever turned into a movie. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Learn How To Grow As A Writer

The cool thing about writing is you get a lifetime supply of do-overs. If one piece doesn't work, you can scratch it and start something else. You can also try your hand at different things, poetry every now and then, a flash piece or even a song.
And no matter where you are in your writing career, hobby or graffiti scrawls, you can always improve and get better.

Here are the main things that taught me about writing and helped me improve once I put paper to pen:

Reading books in my genre. You can't really reach your intended audience or break into a market if you know nothing about either. Dip your toes in and try out different subgenres and things you may sneer at at first glance. You never know when someone's writing will spark an idea in your own. Read, read, read. I read Twilight, which wasn't wonderful for me, but it had good points and bad. I learned things from it about writing which I'll share in an upcoming post.
Reading books on craft. There are tons of books out there on craft. Some good ones are How To Write A Damn Good Novel, How To Write A Damn Good Novel II, The Fire in Fiction (one of the BEST books I've read of late!!!), Writing The Breakout Novel, Characters & Viewpoint, The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes. What I typically do is wait for these books to be sold inexpensively by outside sources, that way I can build my own resource library for cheap.

My husband took a creative writing class with the Stafford Institute, and reading the books he got in the mail was what inspired me to write my first novel. It wasn't a perfectly marketable book—my structure's all wrong, my protag is an unlikeable age (19) and I rely too much on coincidence—but it's still a really great first effort with an adorable romance. Reading books on craft is what helped me see why it falls short. Without that knowledge, I'd falsely assume I've got a wonderful story on my hands.
Diving into the blogosphere. Writers who are in the trenches as you are provide inspiration, and those who have published can give you the do's and don'ts, the ins and outs, and agents will tell you flat out what they're looking for, what works and what doesn't, how to write queries, how to pitch, etc. So many helpful tidbits are out there for free, just waiting for you to gather them up.
Joining a critique group. I can honestly say, my work is a thousand times better because of my wonderful, stupendous critters. I have just learned so much from exchanging reviews, I can't even tell you. Not only will you learn how to improve your own work, the feedback you get and give will help you learn the major things you need to know about writing, from avoiding plot holes to understanding how POV works. Writing is an isolated effort but revision should be a team job.

You can certainly learn a lot from beta readers as well, but with a crit group, you can get more sets of eyes and more diverse perspectives on your work.

Sometimes deeper issue opinions can be wrong, a critter can be wrong, so you want to be able to balance all the input, to figure out for yourself what works and what doesn't for your story.

Go find a group, either online or in person, whatever works best for you.

Joining good forums. In forums, like Absolute Write Water Cooler for instance, you can ask questions about research details or when an issue pops up in your writing, get feedback on your work and submission pieces and make some writer friends. There are hundreds of forums out there and you can generally find them to go with your genre, if you want to get more specific.

People always ask me how I learned about writing, and those are the main avenues that have helped me learn technique to begin with and continue to improve. So open your ears, eyes and hearts to the bounty of information that's out there. It doesn't matter how awful you are now, you can grow.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.