Feb 28

Welcome to The Big Reveal

I enjoy reading author interviews, but often times they don’t ask the kinds of questions I wonder about, and usually an interview is just with one author. So I’ve assembled a group of writers at all levels, from not yet agented to published; every week I will have a new question for them. Some of these ladies have helped me with my own work, or given me advice on blogging or writing, so check out their blogs too and see what they’re about.

I’ve made up my own designations as to the status of each author.
Published means they’ve had a book(s) published.
Pre-published means they’re agented and have sold a manuscript to a publisher, but it hasn’t been published yet. (The correct term would be ‘on submission.’)
Agented means they have an agent, but haven’t sold the manuscript to a publisher yet. (They are on submission also.)
Un-agented means they are looking for representation by an agent.

So let’s get to know some of our fellow writers…

What is the title and genre of the book you are working on/trying to sell/waiting for publication? Do titles come easy? Do you have a process to figure it out or does it usually just come to you?

Joelene B. Perry, Published author

Some titles come REALLY easy. Dizzy is one of them. The Happiness of Joy – I had the title before I started the book. Left to Love took me FOREVER, and Used To Be, will probably change. No method. I just toss things around until something FEELS right.

(Suzi’s comment: Jolene has a number of on-going YA/new adult contemporary projects, all in different phases: The Next Door Boys is out and her others are all in different phases (from editing before submission to almost published to just entering on submission), including: Left to Love, Night Sky, Knee Deep, Dizzy (a collaboration project with Kelley Vitollo), The Happiness of Joy, and Used To Be. Wow—she’s been busy.)

 

Liesl Shurtliff, Pre-published author
RUMP: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin, (MG Fantasy) will be released in Spring 2013 from Knopf/Random House. Titles do come easy for me and sometimes emerge before most of the story. I guess I have a hard time getting a feel for the story if I don’t know what it’s called. It kind of feels like having a baby and not giving it a name for a year!

 

Mindy McGinnis, Pre-published author
My title is NOT A DROP TO DRINK, which is a YA dystopian about a world where freshwater is scarce and people kill to protect backyard ponds and hand-dug wells. Titles do tend to come easily to me, usually in the wee hours just before I slide off to sleep. One last synapse fires and it’s usually in all caps, telling me what the title of the book is.

Melodie Wright, Agented author
My working title is Saving Andromeda but we’re in the middle of changing it. I don’t have a process – some titles come easily, some do not.

 

Ryann Kerekes, Agented author
The book I’m currently revising with my agent is a young adult contemporary romance, titled Aerial Mystique. It’s about a ballerina who joins with the cirque. Titles are hard for me in general. I usually begin writing, thinking a title will somehow come to me, but I have several completed manuscripts still called “Untitled,” so I guess that’s not really working for me! For this particular book, the title is the name of the cirque show, so that seemed to work, but who knows if it will change.

Cassie Mae, Un-agented author
HOW TO DATE A NERD. And titles totally suck for me! Lol. This one came easy, thank heavens, but usually the document reads this: Think of a title for this before you type ‘The End’.

 

Jade Hart, Un-agented author
My new WIP is called Venom’s Curse. However this is still on the fence. I’m not that great at titles. I try to wait till the end or until a sentence or word springs to mind while writing. I know it’s quite important to have a title to capture an agents attention, so I do agonise over the right one! :) This story is a YA cross-over novel that deals with fantasy, but in an Indian urban setting. It’s 90,000 words and I wrote the entire thing in 8 weeks. :) Which is something huge as my last MS took me two years! lol. I’m on the editing and revision phase with the thanks of my CP’s and their advice.

Janet Taylor, Un-agented author
The title of my current WIP is Adventutyme. It’s a YA book of time travel. I’m this close to finishing my last and final edits. When I’m done- I’ll begin the submission process….eek! (Do titles come easy?) Hmm- this is only my second novel, but I’ve changed the title twice, so I’d say…not too easy.

 

Krista Van Dolzer, Un-agented author
The title of the manuscript I’m currently querying is THE REGENERATED MAN AND ME, although I usually just call him Steve:) He’s an MG historical with a dash of science fiction, and no, titles do not come easily for me (hence the nickname). In fact, with my last manuscript, I had to hold a blog contest to help me come up with ideas.

 Stacy Stokes, Un-agented author
THE STAIRS AND THE FLY, YA Contemporary/Magical Realism.
I came up with the title when the story idea came to me, although lately I’ve been rethinking it after some input from various readers and query reviewers. My latest options include THE STAIRCASE and THE STAIRCASE THROUGH THE SKY, although my heart belongs to the current title.
For other stories the title has taken a little while longer to develop, but usually there’s a point in the writing process when the name comes to me.

 

Me (Suzi) Un-agented author
Some titles come easy, some do not. I got FROSTY right away because someone refers to my main character with that name. And it just fits in with the whole cold/aloof personality thing of my MC. I have no special process. If nothing comes to me, I scour the thesaurus for words relating to the theme of my story and wait for something to click.

 

So that’s it. Check back next week to see what the next question will be.

And thank you to all the ladies for participating in The Big Reveal.

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Feb 26

(FYI: Come back Tuesday for a new feature… The Big Reveal)

Learning to read is hard. Or so I assume because I did it so long ago and can’t remember. But my kids are there now. One thing they don’t fully understand yet is abbreviations. I guess I shouldn’t expect much, they’re young.

A conversation held with my daughter.
Miranda: I know how to spell U-N-D
Me: Oh yeah, how?
Miranda: I don’t know. (With a confused look on her face.)

We had this conversation in the kitchen as she’s standing in front of Lincoln’s art project, a collage of
C-3PO. On it are a few Star Wars words but also the name of C-3PO, or as he attempted to write it: See-Three-Pee-O.

Abbreviations must be hard for kids when they’re first learning to read. They learn to sound out a word to spell it, and that obviously doesn’t work. A beginning reader might try spell it youndee. With Miranda, she knew UND refers to the school, but I’m sure she doesn’t know that it stands for the University of North Dakota shortened down.

So it got me thinking about how the abbreviations we use change over time. Lately I’ve been learning all the ones that writers use, but here are a few of the important ones from my life.

Life in the 80s
SCUBA: Thank you Alex P. Keaton. I will always remember what this means. Self contained underwater breathing apparatus, just in case you didn’t know.
AU: Although I have since memorized many elements from the periodic table, gold was one of the first thanks to Natalie and Tootie. (A U, give me back my gold). How I loved that show.
USSR: I remember being proud of knowing the difference between the USSR and Russia, which we discussed in 9th grade Global Ed with Mr. K. (So I was a little nerdy back then, who cares)
BFF & JK: Best friends forever and just kidding—the precursor to the :) . I was a ridiculously avid note writer in jr. high and high school—not sure how I got good grade, since apparently I was writing notes all the time. Being the pack rat I am, I still have the notes I got from my friends during those years. They’re HILARIOUS and reading them brings back many things I’d forgotten.

College Life
KAΘ: Kappa Alpha Theta, the women’s fraternity I belonged to.
ASCE: American Society of Civil Engineers. The student organizations I belonged to which brought us fun things such as the steel bridge competition and the concrete canoe contest. Did you know concrete floats? It does if you mix it right.
Diff EQ: This was one of the most dreaded math classes we engineering students took. (And trust me, there were plenty) Differential Equations. I still shudder at the thought.
FE: The Fundamentals of Engineering exam is a national test we took at the end of college. If you want to become a licensed professional engineer, this is the first step. This was one long test and it covered not only my discipline of engineering, but all those others I didn’t learn much about other than the random introductory class all engineering students took.

Worklife
PE: This is the professional engineers exam, and is a requirement if you want to become licensed, which I had to do. One long, tough test taken in your discipline. I’m registered in three states by the way.
CAD: Computer aided design. For years I got to draw at work. Okay, there was a little more to it, but that’s basically what CAD is.
RCP, PVC, CMP: Reinforced concrete pipe, polyvinyl chloride (plastic) pipe, and corrugated metal pipe. The pipes underground that transport water and other unmentionables in and around the city.

Life with young kids
SAHM: stay at home mom—a lot of my friends
DTP: Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (one of many shots the kids cried over when receiving) and yes, buy now I know what DPT stands for. Back when Lincoln got his first shot, I probably didn’t.
bpA: Bisphenol A { (CH3)2C(C6H4OH)2} Okay, I copied that out of Wikipedia; I didn’t know that. This is the dangerous compound used to make many of the plastics that my kids probably ate and drank out of. I’m not scared of it, but I’m glad they’re not using it like they used to.
SIDS: scary stuff, not much to say.

Life with Semi-Older kids
Pollys: Polly Pockets are the toys that live in our vacuum cleaner because they’re so darn small. Some moms throw out the shoes right away because a complete pair never lasts longs. I keep them. They can wear mis-matched shoes.
WWE: Wrestling. It’s not just for boys, girls like it too.
NCLB: No Children Left Behind. I won’t get into politics here, so we’ll leave it at that.
PS2: The video games my son loves to play: Playstation 2. Luckily we got it cheap and used from the neighbors.

Writing Life
SCBWI: Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Pretty self-explanatory.
MS: Manuscript, your story. (It’s not a book until it’s published.)
MC: Main character. One of the people who takes over your brain when you’re writing.
SS: Simultaneous submission. Submitting your work to different agents at the same time.
MS: Multiple submissions. Submitting multiple works to one agent. (Took me a while to figure out what these two meant). This is a no-no with literary agents. One ms at a time.

I’m not sure what the next stage will be. Most likely learning all the chatting codes. But luckily cell phone usage for my kids is a few years off.

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Feb 23

Sloppy Writing 101.05: Like I really need your help

Pop quiz. These five sentences have something in common. Which ones are not correct?

1. It’s not like I had many close friends.
2. The school parking lot looked like every other one around town.
3. I wished I had hair like that.
4. Everyone wore big smiles and looked like they were having fun.
5. I smiled like a beauty queen.

I have a problem with like. Two problems actually. But the first problem relates to the sentences above.

The incorrect ones:
1. It’s not like I had many close friends.
4. Everyone wore big smiles and looked like they were having fun.

The problem is like versus as. I didn’t know there was a difference between when you used them. But you use as when it’s followed by a verb, and like when it is not. So I would change #1 and #4.

1. It’s not as if I had many close friends.
4. Everyone wore big smiles and looked as if they were having fun.

I’ve gone through and changed all the necessary likes to as in my manuscripts. The only exceptions would be in dialogue, because sometimes using as sounds too formal, especially for a teenager.

My other problem is when like is used as a synonym for enjoy/love. I have way too many likes and need to come up with some other words. But I’m in luck; apparently, they have this cool thing called a thesaurus where I can find some other great words!

So pay attention to your like vs. as and make sure you don’t overuse like like me.

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Feb 19

School conferences were this week (which went well by the way.) That means the PTA Scholastic book fair. Of course, they let the kids look ahead of time and send home the list with the exactl location of the book(s) they want. (And it’s always books). Lincoln had two he picked and I told him we’d get one.

Lincoln likes books, but he prefers to be read to than reading himself. So when he said he wanted a chapter book, I agreed to buy him two books—one was a chapter book, one was not.

The next day he brought the book to me and said, “I don’t want this book because it belongs to somebody else.”

Huh? It’s a brand new book.

“Yeah, it’s some girl’s book.”

I asked why he said that, thinking a girl had written her name in the book. He opened it up to the page that said, “For Jessica.”

I had to laugh. Then I showed him a few of my books and explained what the dedication was. He understood and readily accepted the book back.

It got me thinking about the book dedications. I often wonder who those people are and why that author chose them. I’ve known for a while who I’ll dedicate my first book to but after that, I don’t have it figured out.

Do other writers agonize over whom to choose? Especially with the first book. And what happens when you get to book number thirty? Is it hard then to figure it out then?

This is a great question to ask other writers. In a few weeks, I’m starting something new, tentatively called The Big Reveal. I have a group of writers from all levels: aspiring to to pre-published to published. Every week I will ask them a question about writing because it’s fun to learn about how other writers work and think. 

So watch for that.

My other fun news is this. I’m participating in two contests. This past week is my first time participating in my first Secret Agent Contest on The Authoress’ blog Miss Snark’s First Victim. You post your first page (250 words) and others can comment. Then a mystery agent reviews the entries  and decides from whom to request sample pages. He/she also gives a comment on each entry. My entry is #25.

The other contest I’m excited about is the Cupid’s Literary Connection contest. It started a few weeks ago and I made it to the second round with the agents, which starts tomorrow.

It’s too much for me to explain how it works, so click on the link above to find out. Last week was the time for others to comment on the query and first page. But this week is only for the agents. My entry is #40.

Wish me luck.

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Feb 16

Sloppy Writing 101.04: And then I’m going to show you something important.

I didn’t know this was a problem. And then one day I was blog hopping and came across why you should avoid this phrase. And then I went into my manyscript to see if it was a problem.

It was.

Here are my examples from Frosty. I took these straight out of an old version. And I am aware there are other issues, but look for the one problem that shows in each line.

-They had a hot lunch line. A heart attack line—pizza, hamburgers, hotdogs and fries. And then the deli line.

-Kids started to filter in, most checked me out and then went back to their conversations.

-How long before he told his friends and then everybody would know too?

The unnecessary phrase would be and then. Specifically the then.

I found 52 occurrences of and then in my old Frosty manuscript. For comparison, I found 4 in my current manuscript and they are all in dialogue–which is okay.

Totally. Completely. Unnecessary.

So I added and then to my list of sloppy writing. The list keeps growing.

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Feb 12

I’ve been working on a few things. One is my pitch.

A pitch is a description of your novel in about 35 words or less. Usually in one sentence, but sometimes two.

And let me tell you, it’s not easy.

I entered a pitch workshop where my pitch for Frosty and my first 150 words were evaluated by one of three women. See Shelley Watter’s Site to see my pitch.

You have to be 35 words or under. You have to get your story across. You have to make it interesting.

And I repeat, this is very difficult.

I’ve revised mine several times—trying new things. I think my very first pitch explained the story to a T. But unfortunately, it was dry and probably wouldn’t grab an agent’s attention. So I’m trying to spice it up.

This opportunity was a workshop to improve my pitch. (The same woman had a pitch contest a few weeks ago that I entered.) Pitch contests don’t seem as common as query contests, but they’re still out there. Usually a pitch contest will be with an agent and if they are interested, they may ask to see your manuscript. So it’s important to get your pitch right.

The next thing I’m working on is my query for When The Mist Clears.

A query letter once again is what you send to a literary agent, hoping that they’ll like your story and want to see your manuscript.

Even though I’m only editing WTMC right now, it’s important to get that query ready because when I am done with my editing, I want to be ready to query and not wait two more months as I get my query figured out.

Query writing is hard too. But you have about 250 words to do it instead of 35.

Once again, you have to explain your story enough, but leave a little question as to what happens at the end. It shouldn’t be a synopsis, but should give them enough details of the story. It needs to have voice. It needs to grab the attention of the agent. It needs to be perfect.

Therefore, once I get my query ready, I will submit it to websites like Agent Query Connect or Absolute Write Forums where other members will critique it.

One thing I worried about a while ago was that I didn’t want to reveal the details of my story on the internet. But 99% of the people on these writers’ forums are honest and are not out to copy others. So I no longer feel wary of this. And it really is the best way to get help.

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Feb 09

Sloppy Writing 101.03:That is my problem, not yours.

I want to tell you about something that I’ve been doing much too often. Let’s see if you can figure out what that is. Here are four examples that I pulled from the first page of Frosty.

…because we all know that starting a new school as a senior halfway through the year will be hell.

Did the caseworker think that Brooke and I would become close friends and that my senior year would be the best ever?

I figured that they threw a bunch of names in a hat and sent me to the first one they pulled.

So if you didn’t figure it out, the problem is THAT. I overuse THAT so much it’s embarrassing. There are two issues. The first is using it correctly as in that vs. which vs. who. I won’t go into a description of how to choose what’s right, so go to Grammar Girl if you don’t know.

Luckily, most of the time I got that versus which right. I say most, not all. And really, it was luck. Now I know exactly what the difference is and when to use which instead of that.

My problem was that I have so many completely unnecessary THATs. You can bet that I was slightly stunned when I went through my When the Mist Clears ms in January (after I figured out my problem) and found over eight hundred THATs. Wow—way too many. I have cut it down to three hundred something. Yes, I got rid of 500 THATs in one ms. And I’ll probably go through one more time.

This is definitely one thing that I’ll watch out for when I’m writing because I spent three hours (yes, 3 hours), finding all my unnecessary/wrong THATs.

So watch out for your THATs.

And did you catch all the unnecessary ones in this post? It might be a hard habit to break.

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Feb 07

I was so excited on Saturday about a contest I got into, but before I get to that, I want to mention a great query/agent opportunity.

Melodie Wright at Forever Rewrighting is having a query contest with her new agent Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. This is a great opportunity because the EMLA is not open to unsolicited queries. That means someone like me can’t submit to them. So check out her site before February 15th and get your query and first page ready.

My other cool news.

There is a new anonymous blogger, Cupid’s Literary Connection, who has started putting on these unique query competitions with agents. The first contest had two agents. The rules mandated how many full or partial requests they could make. You sent your query and first 250 words and if they really liked it, they would request to see your full manuscript or a partial (a few chapters).

The current contest is called the Blind Speed Dating Contest. It’s too hard to explain so check out their site to see how it works.

Friday morning was the first window to submit and I learned a very important lesson. I waited about a minute, worried about a time discrepancy. BIG MISTAKE. I had Cupid on Twitter and a tweet popped up that said FULL. My mouth about dropped to the floor. I was so shocked, I didn’t know if I should try submit anymore but I did, just in case others were rejected. Within about 2 minutes, Cupid had about 150 submissions. I’m still shocked.

So the next window was Saturday morning. Once more chance. And wouldn’t you know it, I woke up from a dream where I was trying to do my submission but my computer wasn’t working and by the time I got it, I was about 2 minutes too late. So I woke up frustrated. A great start to the day.

But I had my plan. The window started at 10am. So at 10:00:02 (yes, two seconds, I watched the second hand tick on my computer), I hit send.

And I got in. I am so excited because this just sounds really cool. Of course I’m not fully in yet. The first step is to get by the gatekeepers. There are four judges and they get to pick who goes on to the speed dating round with the agents.

This week the first 50 entries went up. Next week, the next fifty entries go up (which includes me). Over those two weeks, the 4 judges will pick who moves on to the next round. Then the third week (Feb. 20th), the agents will do the speed dating rounds with the finalists the judges chose.

This is so creative and fun. And the neat thing is I know (in the internet sort of way), several entrants. I’m looking forward to it.

One last note. I’ve started a new story so check out my new WIP under Current Projects. This is the first time I am querying, editing one project and writing a 2nd. It’ll be interesting.

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Feb 05

Guess what.

I won my first blog award from Jade Hart at Dream, Write, Publish. She’s got one of those fun blogs with a great mix of personal stuff and writing tips. And she lives in New Zealand, which is cool too. Check out her blog.

The Skunk Award is a fun blogging award named ‘The thumbs up from Skunk award’ since “we all feel like stinky, stinky skunks some days” and there are people who “make us feel (and smell) a lot better”. Stuff like this is the reason why the writers/blogging community is so great: supportive and fun.

So thank you Jade.

In order to accept my award, I have to name one thing I love about myself than pass it on to some other bloggers.

I love that I am able to stay home with my children. (Yes, I know that is more about what I love about my life—and thank you to my husband for that—but  I don’t think there are any Skunk Award Police, so I’m going with it.)

I have two people to pass this on to plus an honorable mention.

Krista at Mother. Write. (Repeat.). Krista’s posts terrific agent interviews and does query contests—she’s a wonderful resource but she also shares more personal stuff about her writing/publishing journey and the ups and downs. Krista’s blog was probably the first one I started following and I look forward to her returning from her blogging hiatus.

Janet at My Journey as a YA Writer. Janet hasn’t done many posts but I like her blog for two reasons. She made me laugh. And I can relate to her posts.  Plus she got me thinking of something I should read more: historical fiction. I love to read stories set in other countries that take place long ago (meaning centuries, not years), but I just haven’t read much of them. But now she got me excited and thinking about reading more books like that. I really don’t know of any off hand, so if you have any suggestions of good historical fiction, let me know.

The honorable mention goes to Cassie Mae  at Reading, Writing, and Loving It! Cassie has the best blog and is so fun to read, positive and hilarious sometimes. (She also gave me great tips on how to improve my blog. I am trying to take her advice, but WordPress keeps frustrating me.)

And in case you’re wondering, I gave her the honorable mention because Cassie is such a great blogger, she has received this award several times already—well deservedly of course—and I won’t make her go through the whole award process again.

So check out these ladies’ blogs.

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Feb 02

Sloppy Writing 101.02: You are going to learn something whether you like it or not

I am going to show you another one of my sloppy writing issues. See if you can pick it out.

All four of the sentences below are internal thoughts by my mc Sydney in Frosty.
-I wasn’t going to fit in with them.
-I wasn’t going to share my life story…
-The other kids are going to love you.
-I knew today was going to be crappy

These four sentences occurred in the first 10 pages (1” margins, double-spaced :) ) Can you identify the problem? If not, here it is…

Going to + verb is totally unnecessary. This is how these sentences should be written.
-I wouldn’t fit in with them.
-I wouldn’t share my life story
-The other kids will love you.
-I knew today would be crappy.

In each sentence, I can delete two unnecessary words. I’m not sure how many ‘going to verb’ phrases I had in my original Frosty, but I found four occurrences in 10 pages so I’m guessing quite a few. I left some of them in the dialogue, but otherwise strike through all those going to verbs phrases.

And from now on, I am going to try avoid this worthless phrase.

Btw: I won a fun award for my blog. Check back Sunday to see what the Skunk award is.

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