Do you have what it takes?

January 16, 2010 at 8:00 PM | Posted in Editing, Reading, teen fiction, Writing, Writing Advice | 5 Comments

Are you supposed to be writing?

Now, don’t expect a happy encouraging post here. The job of this little post isn’t to assure you you can “do it.” It is to make very clear that some people just can’t.

We’ve all come in some kind of contact with them. We either know them personally, have heard of them, or… shock… read their (sadly) published novels. They are the ones that make us say “Hey, listen, the people who are meant to do this don’t need you taking up our agents’, editors’, publishers’, readers’ time. We have a hard enough job as it is.”

These are the people that have no business writing.

They are the ones who have grand ideas of what writing a novel is. They proclaim to the world that in a year or so they’ll have enough life experience to write the next great American novel but, in fact, it is simply that they don’t have the natural inclination to start as soon as the story hits them.

They pretend that the moments of writing must be perfect… the laptop computer must be new or the notebooks unsullied with grocery lists or the new pens have the smoothest writing in dark bold ink.

They bring hot beverages and soft music, to smother themselves in the writing mood they pretend must be there.

They are the ones who think writing a book is an easy way to make money from home, just write and submit. Unfortunately for the readers, these non-writers sometimes succeed.

Their ideas of writing fiction are simply fictional.

These are fakes who want to get noticed, not writers who live and breathe their characters, and how these characters are affected throughout a novel. We talk to our characters as if they are real, play the music that fits their moods, torture ourselves for hours at the desk chair telling their stories. We are the real writers, be we published or not.

Take this quiz to see if you are really a writer or are writing a novel for reasons other than ones you should…

And I say it here: I’d rather be a real writer and never be published, than a fake one who forces the readers out there to read my garbage. But that’s just me… sadly.

Impatience

October 21, 2009 at 6:31 AM | Posted in Beta Reading, Editing, Publishing, Writing | 5 Comments

Publishing, it has been said, is not for the impatient. Writing a novel can take months or years, getting an agent or publisher just as long.

Unfortunately, I am the heir to the throne of impatience (right behind my mom – yes, I blame the genes). All it takes is a well-meaning question from a friend or relative – “How are things going with the book?” – and all my suppressed nervous energy jumps to the surface. The truth is, my novel is progressing quite well – just not in any way that’s easy to measure or describe to non-writers. They don’t care how many words you’ve trimmed or how much better a storyline fits together. They just want to know when they can buy it (even if it hasn’t gone out to editors yet).

As a writer, it’s easy for me to fall into a similar trap. After finishing my latest round of revisions, I was tempted to send them off without having my beta readers look them over – despite the fact that I had made some major changes to the tone of the ending. I managed to resist the urge, but it was enough to remind me that impatience isn’t just an unpleasant state of mind. When we let impatience get the better of us – by rushing revisions, skipping beta readers, or developing carpal tunnel syndrome by pressing “refresh” on our email 40 times a minute while waiting for responses from agents or editors – the quality of our work is what suffers the most.

So how can we best avoid falling into the traps of impatience? I’m not entirely sure yet (as you can tell from this post), and I suspect different techniques will work better for different people. One thing that helps me is having another creative endeavor I can turn to when I start becoming impatient with my primary project – something that is not necessarily intended for publication and lacks the same kind of self-imposed urgency. Another is to read back through my work and remind myself of how much better it has become because of the time I have invested in revising it.

What about you? Do you suffer from writing related impatience? What do you do to avoid falling into its traps?

-DK

Carpe Diem

August 9, 2009 at 3:30 PM | Posted in Editing, Writing, YA | 5 Comments

Photo by a href=Just a quick blog post today, as things have been pretty hectic writing-wise for me – which is sort of what this blog post is all about. Carpe Diem – seize the day. Or, in my case, seize the opportunity. Recently I’ve had some interest from a teacher at my school in my current book, and he wants to pitch it to some literary agents in London. Now, perhaps this will go absolutely nowhere – he may hate the full manuscript, the agents may hate it, and it may be a complete disaster. But writing is a risky business; I’m not going to take any stupid risks, but I’m sure as hell not going to let a possible opportunity pass me by.

So, my advice for today is seize every opportunity you can get, and create as many opportunities as you can.

Oh, and the reason I’m so mad-busy? Well, on top of really getting into the sequel ‘Snap Shot’, and being hit with some ideas for the final book in the trilogy, I’m furiously checking through Family Portrait to make sure it’s as ready as I can make it for this opportunity. :D And hopefully my tiredness from all this writing has not made this into a pointless ramble!

-Becky

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

July 8, 2009 at 3:19 PM | Posted in Editing, Writing Advice | 2 Comments
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For today’s post I decided to take an old one from my blog and refurbish it. The post was aimed at fanfiction writers, but I realized that a lot of newbie writers and fanfiction writers run into the same obstacles.

It’s hard being a new writer, especially when you come into it late in the game. You make a lot of mistakes and a lot of times, there isn’t anyone to tell you what you’re doing wrong. And the people that do tell you (especially if you’re learning through posting on fanfiction sites) are  mean, rude and not all together sensitive about your ego or feelings. So I compiled a list of things that I’ve noticed are common in new writers. They’re all easy fix its, so if you think you’re doing any of these things, don’t panic. :) Practice makes perfect, after all.

Introduction/Prologue/Whatever you want to call it: First of all, if you’re introduction isn’t significantly different or separate from your first chapter, don’t separate it; it makes the beginning choppy. For example:

Anika stared at her surroundings in fear. She had never seen a place like this. The trees were immense and glowed silver in the light. She winced when she stumbled over a root, barely escaping a fall. Her head ached and she hadn’t been able to stem the bleeding.

Stay awake, she thought to herself. Stay. Awake!

But it wasn’t long before she found a seat on a large, protruding root. Soon after, her eyes closed and she fell asleep.

Chapter One

When she woke up, night had fallen and a light rain had started to fall.

Now, what was the point separating the introduction from the first chapter. Chapter one was a direct continuance of the introduction and the break only served to make the reading choppy. Instead, if you need a break between the two, use a line break. Clean and simple.

Commas are your friend…sometimes: Commas really help out when writing. They prevent you from sounding long winded and stupid. Learn them. Love them. Use them. But not too much! If you don’t know whether or not to use commas follow this simple rule: Write first, comma later. Read the chapter once you’re done  out loud to yourself, and if you need a comma, use it.

Voice: I cannot stress enough how important the voice of your story is. The character whose point of view the story is told should come through in the narration.  If the character is a thirty year old teacher, I want to be able to tell that she is an adult, a professional and not a snotty teenager. Really. It’s important.

“You guys!” she yelled into the dark. “Stop it! This is so not funny! I’m really scared!” She crossed her arms over her chest and scowled. This was so ridiculous. She was alone, cold and could be concussed. And no one cared? They were just going to leave her by herself? Like this? What was she gonna do?

How old do you think Anika is? Fourteen? Fifteen? Maybe seventeen? No. She’s thirty years old. But you can’t tell at all by the voice that comes through the writing. She sounds like a terrified teenager whose friends routinely prank her. How many thirty year old women do you know who have friends that prank them by knocking them unconscious and dragging them to the woods?  The language that you use in your story needs to reflect that of the character – if she’s sophisticated, kind, intelligent – all of that needs to come through when you’re telling your story.

Consistency: Also, keep the voice constant. Don’t start with the voice of a tween and suddenly decide to switch to the voice of an adult. Your characters should be so vivid and well thought out that they have a personality and that personality should continuously come through the writing. If you’re changing voices sporadically it means that your character lacks some depth and you don’t know who they are yet. Understanding your character, their traits, desires, motivation, etc is very important to having a fluid, engaging and believable story. In addition to that, keep the tense the same. If you’re using past tense, stick with it. The same goes for present, future, first person, third person, limited and omniscient. Don’t do this:

Anika’s legs trembled violently. I do not know what I’m going to do. She swallows thickly and closed her eyes.

Okay, what the hell just happened? I went from third person past tense, to first person present tense to third person present tense. Pick a tense and point of view and stick to it. It maintains fluidity and consistency in your story. Okay? Thanks.

Beta: This topic has been covered extensively on the TWFT blog, but only because it’s very, very important. Beta readers are there to help you, they improve your writing, and catch things that you don’t. Find one, use them and above all make sure they’re doing their job. If people are reading your story and are not pointing out grammar errors, plot holes, and inconsistencies, your beta has not failed you.

These are my two cents. I hope you enjoyed the read and any suggestions you have for future posts would be much appreciated! :)

A more dissected pacing post

July 6, 2009 at 3:35 PM | Posted in Editing, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Advice | 3 Comments

For some writers, pacing is a problem. Especially those writers who don’t outline their novels (like me). I’ve always thought that I was immune to any pacing problems, having been gifted with the ability to spot one a mile away.

But.

I was wrong.

Thanks to my lovely and very helpful beta Kody (who knocks me off my high horse a lot, with her ability to write, and write often), I’ve noticed some pacing discrepancies in Remember–the action was too slow, and I sacrificed plot for character-building.

So half a week and two drafts later, I gave her the much better, revised version. I’ve compiled a cheat-sheet below that’s gotten me past that pacing problem, and which I think will be helpful.

PACING CHEAT-SHEET (*based on an average 60K word, or 240-page book)

page 1-15: Reader get introduced to MC, gets a feel for their daily life activities. (ie MC in action)

page 15-17: There is some foreshadowing on behalf of the writer so the reader will realize that a Life-Changing Experience is right around the corner for the MC. (ie parents lose jobs, decide to move to another place)

page 17-20: MC has some hesitancy on embarking on the Life-Changing Experience, but later embarks anyways (ie MC’s parents move, ignoring the protests of the MC)

page 21-40: MC gets the first taste of the Life-Changing Experience (ie going to and being unable to adapt to, a new school)

page 41-160: MC embarks fully on the Life-Changing Experience, and either she affects the outcomes, or the outcomes affect her (ie running with the popular crowd at her new school)

page 161-170: MC realizes that there are problems with her present situation (ie she’s turning into a mean girl)

page 171-220: MC tries to solve problems, succeeds (ie she stops being a mean girl, stands up to her former best friends, and starts tying up subplots along the way)

page 221-240: Conclusion! What has happened or changed because of the MC’s Crusade To Solve the Problem, or else known as the Happy Ending. It doesn’t have to be happy per se, but the reader has to find some closure in the book.  (ie the MC and the hot jock driving off into the sunset, leaving the popular ex-best friend–who may or may not be a blonde cheerleader–screaming in the dust)

And there you have it! A foolproof plan that you can revise according to your own manuscript’s length.

If there’s anything I left out, or if anything’s confusing, let me known in the comments!

– linda

One Hundred Thousand Pieces of You

June 24, 2009 at 8:59 PM | Posted in Editing, Writing, Writing Advice | 6 Comments

Writing, like singing in the shower or popping zits in the bathroom mirror (hey, this is teens writing for teens), is an intimate activity. I’ve always found it strange when authors are asked whether their characters are “based on” them – of course they are, at least in part. Every character and plot twist begins with our dreams, anxieties, and experiences. When a well-meaning relative tries to sneak a peek at my first drafts, the urge to beat them over the head with my keyboard stems as much from the fear that I have not hidden myself well enough in the unpolished words as the embarrassment of early draft adverb-itis.

Which is all well and good for first drafts. But what about second drafts, or third? If the 100,000 words of your novel are all pieces of you, how do you learn to let go and view your work objectively? How do you accept rejections from agents with grace and read editorial letters without cringing? Your manuscript may be your “baby,” but someday you have to let that kid grow up, boot him out of your basement, and cut off his access to your credit cards.

When we write, our primary goal is usually to tell a compelling story (with the possibility of publication sometimes thrown in). To create distance between myself and my WIP, I find it helpful to think of words, analogies, conflicts, villains, and even protagonists as nothing more than tools I use to reach that goal. Then when an agent or beta reader tells me something isn’t working, I don’t have to kill my “darlings,” I just have to switch out a monkey wrench for a ratchet to help me tell the story I want to write. If I am having an especially hard time staying objective, I copy and paste the section I’m working on into a separate word document and deconstruct it sentence by sentence – breaking it down into the most basic elements to prevent my general angst from getting in the way.

I’ll admit this isn’t always easy, and I don’t always pull it off without breaking a sweat. But to be fair to myself and my story, I have to try to see everything that is not essential as subject to change. No matter how pretty that chainsaw looks stuck between the gears of my manuscript, I need to pry it out for the best parts of me – original concepts, three dimensional characters, polished words – to shine.

What tactics do you use to maintain objectivity towards your manuscript (be warned – if you say you always view your writing dispassionately, I may suspect you of zombieism)?

– DK

The Dreaded Writer’s Block

June 21, 2009 at 9:07 AM | Posted in Editing, Life, Writing, Writing Advice | 5 Comments

Last week for me was just one of those weeks. You know the ones – where everything just seems to go wrong. And the biggest problem of last week? Writer’s Block. Yes, that’s write, I caught it – and downright miserable it (from now on known as WB) is too.

I sat. I stared at the screen. I wrote three lines, then deleted them again. This pattern continued for three nights, before I decided I might as well just give up and not write anything new until my muse decided to kindly grace me with its presence once more. So, I moved onto editing Family Portrait – only to find that everything I read I’d written sound like complete and utter rubbish. I forced myself not to delete the whole thing, and instead rang up a friend of mine who betas my work for me. “I can’t write,” I moaned. “I’m just going to give up now, it’s all a load of crap. Why did I start writing?” It took her a good fifteen minutes to persuade me not to delete the whole thing, and then I had to go round to hers to get some editing advice – because nothing was working.

So, the point of this post: how on earth do you cure WB, and its companion ‘why-did-I-think-I-could-write?’. Well, here is my advice, having managed to get over the dreaded WB two days ago (and yes, I then stayed up ridiculously late writing, because I’m not going to waste any writing time!). Firstly, save your current draft, and then save a copy. With the copy, do whatever you have to; delete the whole thing, rewrite huge chunks, kill off all your main characters. (Last week I actually wrote a scene that went something like “As she sat in the bay window, she heard a bang; as the boiler exploded, she hoped that someone would survive. And then she took her final breath. The End.” — I was really that annoyed with them all!) But whatever you do, DO NOT (I repeat, do not) make edits and changes to your current WIP, or any other works you have completed. You’ll regret them – when you’re in a mood like that, changing everything with no back ups is never a good idea.

 Whilst I plan on following this advice next time round, it is not a way to cure WB – just a way to avoid destroying all your hard work when you have one of those moments, days, weeks. No, my advice on how to cure it is simple: read. Find a good book – a new one, one you read all the time, whatever – and just have an evening off writing. Reading is enough to inspire me again, to get me thinking in the right frame of mind; I hope it works for some other people too! Give it a go – it might be enough to cure that horrible feeling of not being able to write.

— Becky.

The Journey to Agenthood (Agentdom? Agentedness?)

May 28, 2009 at 9:03 AM | Posted in Agents, Authors, Editing, Life, Publishing, Queries, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Advice, YA | 14 Comments

Okay, so I was asked by a few of my fellow Twifties to type up a post about my experience over the past few weeks. When I asked what to write about, they told me just to write a story, so that’s what I’m going to do. Here’s my story for any who might be interested.

Here’s the short version: I got an agent!

But, come on, let’s face it—no one wants the short version in these matters, now do they? So let’s get on with the story, shall we?

Let me start by saying that this did not just happen over night. I didn’t just write a novel and suddenly get an agent, as many might believe when learning that I’m just a few months shy of eighteen. On the contrary, I’ve been writing for many, many years. Since I’ve been able to spell, I’ve been writing stories. I wrote my first full novel at ten, which I later realized was a Harry Potter rip off. I wrote another at thirteen (also a Harry Potter rip off), and there were several unfinished manuscripts littering that path along the way. But let’s fast forward, shall we? Kids are cute and all, but you’re not reading this to learn about my childhood. So, at sixteen, I wrote my first non-rip off novel, A Face In the Crowd. It was contemporary YA, and I was so proud of it when I finished. For that novel, I started doing research about publishing. I learned about the dreaded query letter, I discovered that to be published by a big house you need this elusive thing called an agent, and I found a little website called AbsoluteWrite that helped me along the way.

I sent out a few poorly written queries for A Face in the Crowd, but not that many. Each and every response was a rejection—not a single request. So I quit and decided to revise my query letter to try again later. In the mean time, I started a new project called The Duff. I posted a few of my sample chapters on AbsoluteWrite, and the response was fantastic. So much helpful criticism! And I was quickly falling in love with my main characters, and I had others telling me they loved them too. This support pushed me to write more. Looking back and rereading, I realize that A Face in the Crowd, while not bad, is not up to par. Perhaps I’ll revise and rewrite in a few years, but I’m not planning on it yet. Besides, Lauren Myracle claims to have written five novels before getting her debut, Kissing Kate published, so I’m very happy I didn’t get discouraged back then.

Anyway, I finished The Duff, which, in case someone missed the memo, stands for designated ugly, fat friend (horrible, right? Seriously, I know guys who use this term!), and I quickly sent it off to three fantastic beta readers I found on AbsoluteWrite, as well as forcing two of my best friends to read it. Most of the feedback I got was positive, but they did have a lot of construction, and I spent about a month editing everything before I started to query. This time, my query letter was better. I had lots of help from AbsoluteWrite members in polishing it. Believe me, without them it never would have gotten out of the slushpile. Just thinking of my early drafts makes me want to cry and hide under a chair. But once I felt confident in it, and in my manuscript, I started to send to agents.

To say my querying experience was, um, interesting, might be an understatement. I began to send out queries in early, early April. I sent out seventeen in total. But I hardly got any responses. I waited and waited, but not even a rejection popped into my constantly checked inbox. I was starting to think my queries weren’t sending properly, and I was so worried! Then I got the first response—a request for the partial! But don’t get excited just yet. That’s not the end of my story, kids. While waiting to hear back about the partial, I received 3 rejections. Then another request from an agent I hadn’t even sent sample pages to. I was feeling good! Feeling great, in fact! Two requests!

Then, the very next day, the same agent asked to see my full manuscript, so I was very, very upbeat…until the weekend. The day after sending off my full, I was rejected by the first agent, who didn’t connect with my main character based on the partial I’d sent. I was heartbroken, but I tried not to show it. So when I had an email on Monday from the agent with the full, I was sure she was rejecting me, too. I just knew it.

Well, you see, I’m a writer. Not a psychic.

Let me sum up what would likely turn out to be a rambling fit of giddiness by saying that I got a phone call the next afternoon with an offer of representation. From a great agent, at a great agency, who DID connect with my main character.

Needless to say, I didn’t hesitate to accept the offer. For a slight bit of perspective on The Duff, I’ll say that I started the first draft on January 6, 2009 and was offered representation on May 12, 2009. Coincidently, May 12 is the birthday of one of my best friends who read, and loved, The Duff, so that was a present to both of us. But I can’t help thinking of all those unanswered queries. At last count, 12 still hadn’t been replied to. Now, I almost look at it as fate. Only a few agents seemed to receive my query, and one of them happened to be the right one. I never thought I’d be grateful for a server malfunction (which is what I’m chalking this up to), but stranger things have happened, I guess. So you want to know how the story ends? Honestly, it hasn’t yet. I signed the contract and just finished up some revisions on The Duff, though nothing major. Actually, my agent didn’t want me to cut anything, which was a relief, but also a surprise. The revisions were just added scenes and extended subplots, really, and I sent the new version to her this weekend. I’m waiting on her reactions to the new version now. Once it’s approved, we’re off to a quick polish edit, then she wants to start submitting to editors.

But I have plenty to occupy me while I wait. My high school graduation is this Friday (May 29), and I’m working on a new project, The Outcast Society. I leave for college this fall, and I’m excited to say that I’ve been accepted into the Honors Program at Ithaca College in New York, where I’ll be majoring in Writing. I plan to work my way up and get my PhD so that I can teach Creative Writing or Literature on a college level, like a lot of modern novelists do. So, anyway, that’s my story as it stands so far. I’m not published yet. It will be two years before that happens, but I’m a step closer than I ever expected to be. Like I said, this didn’t just happen over night. There were a lot of hills to climb, and still more ahead, but I’m getting there. Just remember, all of you aspiring writers, that for every million “No’s” you get, there is a “Yes!” waiting out there for you.

Best of luck!

~Blind Writer (Kody Mekell Keplinger)

***

Dear Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Bianca knows she’s the Duff (the designated ugly, fat friend).  So when Wesley, a notorious womanizer, approaches her at a party, she knows he wants to score with one—or both—of her hot friends.  God, the man-whore’s arrogance really pisses her off!  But Bianca needs to escape from some personal drama, like her mom’s abandonment and her dad’s denial, and a steamy fling with Wesley seems like the perfect distraction.  Bianca makes it clear she’s only using Wesley, as if he cares.  He’ll sleep with anything that moves after all.  Unfortunately, the enemies-with-benefits plan totally backfires.

When her mom files for divorce and her father stumbles into a downward spiral of drinking and depression, Wesley proves to be a surprisingly good listener, and Bianca finds out that his family is pretty screwed up, too.  As sickening as it sounds, she has to admit that she and Wesley are a lot alike.  Soon she becomes jealous of the pretty girls he flirts with and his cocky grin begins to grow on her.  Suddenly Bianca realizes—with absolute horror—that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated.

THE DUFF, my contemporary YA novel, is complete at 53,000 words.  The manuscript is available upon request.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely
Kody Mekell Keplinger

Rachael’s Top Ten Manuscript Mishaps

April 7, 2009 at 4:53 PM | Posted in Editing, Writing Advice | 1 Comment
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In my beta reading exploits of partials and fulls, I’ve picked up a lot of information. Not only have I improved others’ writing, but I have improved my own and compiled this list of the most common mistakes I see in manuscripts. Some of these would seem like obvious common knowledge, but I have seen them more often than I can believe. I hope that, with this list, you can improve your own writing. Here are the top ten mistakes (that I can think of).

Too much back-story. Some back-story is good, but a ton is not. As easy as back-story is to write, it’s better to work it into a story. Let the reader learn things as they go along. We prefer it that way. Tell me, which would you rather read: five pages of back-story with no action, or five pages of real story with plenty of action and the back-story worked in? Exactly. And for the love of writing, do NOT start a story with 10 pages of back-story.

Info dumps. So many writers have heard these two words but aren’t sure what they mean. Then there are the writers who use them all the time and don’t realize it. So, info dumps are just that: dumps of information in a story. They may or may not be relevant to the story (many info dumps have nothing to do with the story and do nothing to advance the plot) but they can always be worked into the story. Prologues (see Back-story) are often info dumps. Let’s use another example. You’re writing a sci-fi novel taking place on a space station and spend two paragraphs describing how the space suits work. It might be interesting, it might even be relevant (say if the space suits fail and have to be fixed), but it can ALL be worked into the story somewhere. Through dialogue, through actions, or when the space suits fail enough that the reader understands what’s happening. Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best example. But still you get my point, I hope!

Unrealistic dialogue. Dialogue is a wonderful thing. After all, it’s how we communicate, unless you’re some kind of telepathic mutant alien coming to take over earth. It’s how the reader learns a lot of information in a novel. However, like all parts of writing, it does take practice. Some people write dialogue naturally. It’s so real, you can literally hear it in your head. Others are better at descriptions and have to work at dialogue. If your one of the latter group, then here’s a little tip. While you’re editing (or even writing), if you can envision someone actually saying that, then you’ve got it. If you couldn’t in a million years see anything talking like that (or if it just seems unlikely), then chances are, it’s not natural dialogue.

Show and tell. This is one thing that commonly confuses writers. I’m not talking about that show-and-tell in kindergarten where you brought your teddy bear in to show your class… though it is close. Now that we have the teddy bear analogy in our heads, let me give you can example using it.

Tell: This would be the day you forgot your teddy bear, so you decide to describe him to the class. In writing this would be a sentence like “I was furious” or “She looked confused” or “He didn’t know what to do.” That would be telling the reader. Telling is typically considered bad. The reader wants to be shown, not told. Telling, however, can be used in certain situations – in moderation. For example, when you’re giving a quick summary of events, and you want to skip ahead in time a couple weeks instead of going through them day by day.

Show: This is when you bring your teddy bear to school and show everyone. Let’s use the “I was furious” example from earlier. Instead of just saying that, you could say “I clenched my fists, itching with the desire to hit something.” See how much more that says? It says everything the first sentence says, but in showing form rather than telling.

Tense and POV changes. These are simple problems that are easily fixed. I know I do the POV changes all the time. If you’re used to writing in first and then write something in third, you might find yourself accidentally lapsing back into first. A tense change is usually when the writer switches from past to present accidentally or vice versa.

Using the same word to start every sentence. So it ends up being like: “I went for a walk. I noticed that it was very sunny outside. I would need to hurry if I wanted to make it to the meeting on time. My boss would be angry if I was late again. I started walking faster until I broke into a run.” See how boring and repetitive that paragraph is? All the sentences start with a subject, mostly “I.” A little variety sounds a million times better.

Using the same word or phrase a lot. For example, in my first draft of Andra, every time someone cried I would say “tears streamed down their face.” It was boring and repetitive. There are many more ways to say the person is crying. Once again, variety is the spice of writing. If you find yourself using a word a lot, find a thesaurus. Of course, don’t look up the longest word and use it even though you can’t define it to save your life.

Overuse of adverbs. Adverbs commonly go under the category of tell instead of show. When used sparingly, they are a wonderful tool. There are many things you can say with just one word. But most of the time, it’s better steer clear of adverbs. Which of these sounds better: “He walked heavily along the side of the road” or “He hauled his feet through the gravel as he walked on the side of the road”?

Saying things the character shouldn’t know yet. This happens sometimes. The writer forgets that this particular character wouldn’t know such-and-such yet. For example, in Andra, Claudia meets an old ship captain for the first time. The problem is that the sailor already knew her name even though she hadn’t told him. Unless the sailor was some kind of freaky telepathic human (which he isn’t), then he shouldn’t have known that. It’s small things like that which you might not notice, but the reader might.

Using the wrong word. This happens a lot too – like using quite instead of quiet, or there instead of their, or its instead of it’s. These are sometimes difficult to catch in a quick read-through edit because your brain just reads right over them. Quick grammar lesson: If you don’t know if you should use it’s instead of its, then split the contraction into its two words. If “it is” fits then use “it’s.” If “it is” doesn’t fit then use “its.”

~Rachael (aka Horserider)

Interview with author Becca Fitzpatrick

March 26, 2009 at 3:17 PM | Posted in Agents, Authors, Editing, Interviews, Publishing, Queries, Writing, Writing Advice, YA | 10 Comments

Today I’m totally psyched to post the Twifties’ interview with upcoming author Becca Fitzpatrick. She’s got a YA book coming out in early 2010, and she also happens to be a fellow Coloradan. *ahem* Which, you know, means that she MUST be completely awesome.

A couple of us collaborated for this interview, so a big thank-you to Emilia, Poppy and Rachael for helping me come up with questions!

Kristin: Describe your upcoming novel in 20 words or less.

Becca: A sexy thriller about a girl who falls for a fallen angel with a dark agenda to get his wings back.

Kristin:
What first made you want to publish a novel?

Becca: This is going to sound way cheesy, but the first time I remember wanting to publish a novel was after watching Romancing the Stone at the tender age of nine. I thought all romance writers went to Colombia and hunted for treasure with a guy who wore crocodile boots.

Poppy: What has been your favorite part of the writing and publishing process so far?

Becca: Wow, it has all been amazing, but working with my editor just might top it all. There’s something incredibly exciting about working with someone who gets my book and wants it to succeed. Whoever said a team accomplishes more than an individual was dead on!

Emilia: On your blog, you said that after finishing your fourth manuscript revision and sending it out, you had three offers of representation in five days. Obviously, you worked insanely hard to get to that point. But for all the naively motivated daydreamers out there (okay, maybe just me) – how did it feel to have your dreams come true in less than a week?

Becca: It was sheer exhilaration. I was euphoric, and at the same time, I felt totally unworthy. As writers, we almost come to expect rejection. We earn every small success by stumbling twenty times first. I kept expecting someone to rip my dream away and tell me it was all a joke. Fortunately, it wasn’t!

Kristin: Since you had those three offers in one week, what made you choose your agent?

Becca: I’m a total people pleaser, so I knew I needed an agent who was tough, savvy and decisive. In hindsight, signing with Catherine was one of the best moves I’ve made in my career. We make a great team!

Kristin: Can you tell us a little about the revision process? What was your first revision letter like? Was it hard to make those changes to your “baby”?

Becca: I did a lot (and I mean a lot) of revisions for my agent before she shopped the book to editors, so my experience might not be typical. When my revision letter arrived from my editor, the changes were pretty cosmetic – I didn’t have to cut characters or plot lines, or rewrite the entire second half of the book. What I did have to do involved clearing up some character backstory, eliminating coincidental encounters that felt contrived, and bulk up my climax, holding nothing back. But going back to the much more comprehensive edits my agent required prior to selling the book: yes, it was a little scary and intimidating, but at the same time it was weirdly fun because I knew I was doing the best thing for my book.

Emilia: I love HUSH HUSH’s playlist! What kind of connection is there, if any, between classic rock and your novel? In your mind, what song does the best job of summing up the story and its characters?

Becca: My protagonist is a fairly naïve and pure girl who falls in love with the ultimate bad boy. She’s constantly walking the razor’s edge between her distrust of him, and her irresistible attraction to him. The music I chose makes me feel the conflict of a girl in love with a guy who might not be in her best interest. There’s a line from Erasure’s Always that says, “Wear no disguise for me, come into the open.” That’s exactly what my main characters is asking of the guy she’s falling for . . . but the more he reveals, the more reason she has to be frightened.

Rachael: How did you know when the novel, synopsis and query letter were ready? Do you have any tips on how to write a great query and synopsis?

Becca: I’ll be the first to confess—writing the query and synopsis are hard. Looking back, my query letter was pathetic. So pathetic that I’d be happy to post it as an example of what not to do. If I had to do it all over again, I’d concentrate on making it hookier. Meaning, I don’t think the role of the query is to summarize your book. Its role is to entice your reader into wanting more. One of the best ways to do this is by introducing the unique conflicts, setting or characters that should be immediately present in the opening pages of the book. Even when agents didn’t request it, I always included the first few pages of my story with my query.

Poppy: Did you write as a teenager?

Becca: I started a few stories that never made it past fifteen pages. They were always about unrequited love. I’m intentionally choosing not to draw any parallels to my own teenage life! However, I wish I’d written more as a teen. Teens writing for teens don’t have to remember what it feels like to be in high school, to fall in love for the first time, to fight for independence—because they’re living it in real time.

Poppy: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Becca: Look for opportunities to learn from criticism. Keep a journal, and write in it daily. Be true to your story, but also be true to yourself. Oh, and read—it’s brain candy.

Kristin: And now for the final million-dollar question – What is your favorite flavor of jelly bean?

Becca: Sizzling Cinnamon, baby!

***

Becca Fitzpatrick grew up reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden with a flashlight under the covers. She graduated college with a degree in health, which she promptly abandoned. After a stint as a secretary/accountant/teacher at an alternative high school, she considered becoming a spy, but rejected the career due to her inability to lie with a straight face. When not writing, she’s most likely prowling sale racks for reject shoes, running, or watching crime dramas on TV. HUSH, HUSH is her first novel.

~Kristin

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