Friday, June 28, 2013

Sophie’s Guide to Conference Success

by Sophie Perinot

I am just back from my 5th North American Historical Novel Society Conference. Yep, I am a conference veteran with all the swagger that entails—or rather deliberately WITHOUT swagger (confidence = good, swagger = counterproductive). And, while I am still thinking conference, I thought I would share my quick-and-dirty strategies for getting the most out of such professional events.

Eventually (and I would argue sooner is preferable to later) every writer will attend a professional conference. For some reason, this prospect seems to engender a certain amount of angst in the heart of word-smith types. Perhaps it is because what we do day-to-day is rather solitary. Perhaps it is because we’ve come to think of our writing as art, or hobby. But once you put a professional conference in the right frame of reference things become a lot easier. Professional conferences are BUSINESS events first and foremost. By treating them as such you are likely to get the most out of them with the least amount “oh my god what should I do/say/wear” anxiety.

Here are my bullet point tips for conference attendance:

  • Remember you are attending this event with career goals in mind. Depending on where you are in that career those goals may vary. I attended my first conference before I had a completed manuscript and I was there primarily to learn as much as I could about the “B”usiness end of publishing. I attended this last conference as a published author with totally different goals. Know what you personally want to achieve going into the event. Not generally, specifically. Make yourself a list of goals. If you do this then planning which sessions to attend and even decisions that need to be made on the fly once you arrive will be made infinitely easier.
  • Do the prep, seriously. I don’t just mean the research to make sure you are attending a conference that is right for you (right genre, right stage of career, etc). Make certain you’ve made a list of the panels you are most interested in seeing, the fellow attendees you are most interested in meeting. Have the supporting materials you plan to take with you—business cards being the most obvious—ready to go. If you are going to meet someone for cocktails, breakfast, a night cap (all useful), get that on your schedule before you even get on the plane if at all possible. Chaos happens at conferences and while serendipitous opportunities to connect are awesome and should be capitalized upon, you do NOT want to snub someone who you’ve planned to meet up with just because you haven’t got a plan.
  • Networking begins long before you arrive at your conference destination and remains vital while there. Please tell me you are already networking inside your genre—following folks on Twitter who share your market niche, friends with people on Facebook, etc. If you are not, now, pre-conference is the time to start. Many conferences have Facebook pages and/or Twitter hashtags, allowing you to begin meeting your fellow participants early. At the last HNS conference we used a hashtag in the lead-up to the event and then quite a number of us live-tweeted from the conference using that tag. This allowed us to spread the reach of the conference to those unable to attend, and allowed us to network with a larger circle than the 300+ people who actually came down to Florida. Seriously consider sharing the wealth of information and experiences you are gaining at your conference by actively posting to social media while you are at the event.
  • It’s ALL business, even when it seems like it is not. Yes, there will be social occasions—cocktail parties, meet-and-mingle moments, and you should by all means enjoy yourself and see your friends, but one of the chief reasons to attend a conference is professional networking. If you just stand in the corner and talk to someone you already know from AQConnect or your critique group you are wasting precious opportunities. Work the room and while you do remember—
  • It is NOT about you. I know, you spent good money to fly to wherever you are (and on those business cards tucked neatly into the back of your name tag) and you are there to advance your writing, but that doesn’t mean the best way to proceed is to self-promote. Talk about yourself all the time and you seem like a narcissistic twit. Seriously, this is the in-person equivalent of that misguided author who is constantly on social media shouting, “Buy my book.” Listen to people. Ask intelligent questions. What is the person standing opposite you working on currently? Have you read his/her book? Tell them what you liked about it. Find connections and similarities between yourself and whoever is standing in front of you and build a bridge. In other words, having a meaningful conversation is not only your best bet for enjoyably passing the time, it is darn good branding as well. I remember people who were interesting and engaging, people who I had genuine discussions with.

    Oh and to the extent you are following my advice and using social networking to keep those outside of the event “in the loop” this same rule applies. Post pictures of other people and not just yourself. Quote panelists. Be a fan, and talk about meeting some of the writers you admire. Do not start every tweet and Facebook post with “I.”
  • When you don’t know what to do, say, wear, etc., ask yourself, “What’s the most professional option?” Do you have a day-job? Most of us still do. In your other incarnation—mine was big-law-firm attorney—you know darn well how to dress, talk, and behave, for professional success. You would never get falling-down drunk at an event related to that job (at least I hope you wouldn’t). Well, writing is your other job. Behave accordingly. Sure you might be able to get away with that off-color comment, or super-short skirt and I know we are a society of “Go big or go home,” but you want to be memorable in a GOOD way, not in a “Note to self, avoid Sophie at the next conference” way.
  • Do not sweat the small stuff. Forget someone’s name ten minutes after you’ve met them? So what—I can’t remember my kids' names half the time. Make a joke of it or apologize without seeming like you are overreacting. What to wear? This seems to be huge for a lot of people. Why, I cannot say. I mean this is not prom (or any part of high school, thank god) the outfits aren’t the main point. You do not need to change multiple times a day (unless you like to and then follow your zen). Just pick some professional outfits (see last point) and zip the suitcase shut.
  • Cool, calm and relaxed—you can manage it, really you can. Relax. Not only will you have more fun and retain more of what you hear (though taking notes is good), you will project the sort of image that makes it clear you are a seriously player in this writing game.
Networking—the most fun you can have at a conference
if you do it right.
There you are—conference ready. Now get yourself registered forthwith, because I guarantee you will have more fun than it should be legal to have and learn more about this industry and your colleagues by attending a writers conference than you will learn sitting at your desk in sweat pants!

Sophie Perinot is currently holed up in a corner of the 16th century working to finish her next novel. Her first novel, The Sister Queens, was published by NAL/Penguin in 2012 and is on sale in bookstores (brick and mortar and virtual) everywhere. Learn more about TSQ here.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Boxes Full of Women

by Brighton Luke

There has been a lot of talk going around on social media recently about sexism in certain genres, particularly speculative fiction. The problem of bias towards female writers by some is a big issue tied strongly to the culture of sexism you’d find anywhere else it exists. To try and tackle it all head on as an individual would be daunting and impossible. As writers though I think we’re in a unique position to affect a more subtle, more effective change.

Stories in their myriad forms are how we as society spread, process, and establish our culture. We are all collectively the stories we tell. Some stories are verbal—a recounting to your friends over drinks of the events from the night before—while others are blockbuster films or novels that reach millions.

Regardless of how large the audience, every story you tell is a reflection of you and your culture, and every story you tell adds to the perceptions we all have of the world around us. That’s why stories are so powerful.

Ignorance and insecurity, even if only on some imperceptible level, are the root of the stereotypes and boxes so many of us feel compelled to put people in. It feels safe to define and label everything to know where it fits. This is the box for women, this is the box for men, these are the actions, attributes and feelings you are allowed to have. The more we tell stories that reinforce these, the more true the lie seems in our collective perceptions.

It is easy to tell stories that continue to put people in those boxes, because there are plenty of people out there who are happy as clams to read them to have these notions validated. You have a choice, though; you don’t have to take the easy way out, you don’t have to write those stories that keep everyone locked away into preconceived cookie-cutter templates of what a person is based on their label of man or woman. Look around, and really see people for who they are as an individual—they don’t fit into those boxes. Those are the kinds of characters whose stories will change our culture. Those are the stories that are truly unique, because their characters are unique.

Recently in a conversation about love-triangles it was interesting to see responses about why so many of them seem to be the woman choosing between two guys. It made me sad to hear explanations such as: women like to shop around and can’t make up their mind, and men just cheat and date both. Not only is a belief such as that a narrow way to go through life, you will never truly know anyone if you go into it already deciding what they are like simply because of their gender. It also is a stagnating way to approach writing. Right off the bat that attitude towards men and women cuts off countless possible characters they could have had in their stories. Real characters, who are nuanced and textured and individuals, whose actions are a culmination of their life experiences not just predetermined by their sex.

This idea of vast differences between men and women, these stereotypes, are a fallacy and a social construct. It stymies creativity, individualism and reality. I walked into one of those everything-marts the other day and the girls' toy aisle was a blinding mass of bubble-gum pink. I guarantee you pink is not every girl’s favorite color. [Having just done an informal poll of every woman in my general vicinity right now, there were as many colors named as women I asked. Though the one who said, "That red that's on my Racetigers," (a racing ski by Volkl) really won my heart.] Real life and real characters are far more nuanced than generalized boxes proclaiming universal truths based on their chromosomes. Truly great characters aren’t men or women, they are just people.

As a writer you have the choice, you can write the stories that will change our culture.

Brighton's chromosomes, by the "box" logic, would dictate that he doesn't own Dawson's Creek on DVD, and yet he does. Clearly he has magic. You can find him on Twitter, Tumblr, and motivating the procrastinators of the writing world here.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Nice Rejection Vs. The Honest Rejection

Hooray! A rejection!

OK, so that might not be realistic. I used to get rejections that had the inevitable initial sting, but after that I would get past my despair and actually read the rejection. It would say something like:

After careful consideration I decided that while your concept is fresh and interesting, I just wasn't as pulled into those first few critical pages as I would've liked to be. Understand that this is a subjective business, and another agent may feel differently.

Ouch - my first few pages aren't that great. Hooray - I've got a fresh and interesting concept! That's a seriously big hurdle cleared! So I get my e-self over to QueryTracker to record my latest failure and see that another user has posted their rejection in full and it reads:

After careful consideration I decided that while your concept is fresh and interesting, I just wasn't as pulled into those first few critical pages as I would've liked to be. Understand that this is a subjective business, and another agent may feel differently.

Oh... so my concept isn't fresh and interesting. And maybe this means my first few pages aren't that bad... So what do I do?

If you're me (and I know you're not, but let's play) you obsess about it for a bit. So, somebody that sent a query about a girl torn between her love for a vampire and her buddy a werewolf would've had the same "fresh concept" form rejection I did. It also means that someone who sent a badly written query for a 500 page biography of a field mouse named TukkaBobba did too.

What do I deduce from this? The very real possibility that I suck, and no one has bothered to tell me yet.

I'm not saying that agents need to tell every single author exactly why they are rejecting them - that's an impossibility. From the other side of the fence as an agented author, I don't want my agent spending her time responding personally to stranger's emails. I want her focusing on me, and my latest neurotic missive.

But the query trenches aren't that far behind me, and I remember the pain - I have ten years worth of scars because of them. When I was in them I wished that agents used a "You really need to do more work on your sentence structure and grammar use before considering being a writer," and a, "Hey nice try, keep working at it - you might have something here," form rejection.

Do you obsess over every word in the query, like I do? Or do you just notch the bedpost and keep going?
Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent, available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins September 24, 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and contributes to the group blogs Book PregnantFriday the ThirteenersFrom the Write AngleThe Class of 2k13The Lucky 13s & The League of Extraordinary Writers. You can also find her on TwitterTumblr & Facebook.

Friday, June 21, 2013

How to read a screenplay

by R.S. Mellette

Having as many novelist friends as filmmaking friends, I often find I’m handing a script to a novelist for notes, or the other way around.  So I thought I’d write this primer on how to read a screenplay.  I hope it helps you, because one day you may help me – and you know... it’s all about me.
The first thing to keep in mind when reading a script is that it’s not made to be read. Like an orchestra score, a script is a blueprint for professionals to use in the creation of the final product.  But, as a fellow writer and someone who has probably seen a movie or two, you qualify as a professional.  You know the hard part – story, characters, objectives, obstacles, etc. – this little outline will help with the easy stuff, formatting.
So, here we go:
Screenplays have seven types of formatted paragraphs: Scene Headings, Action Lines, Characters, Parentheticals, Dialogue, Transitions, and Slug Lines.

SCENE HEADINGS: This what you hear about anytime someone mentions a script.  They all start with INT., EXT., or INT/EXT., which stand for Interior, Exterior, and Interior/Exterior.  The latter is used almost exclusively for cars – inside a car that is driving outside.  “Inside” and “outside” are another way of reading these, but don’t sweat them too much.  Producers and Assistant Directors will cut and paste scene heading into a shooting schedule, so they generally need to know if the crew is inside or out in case of bad weather.

A full scene heading will look like:


That could also be written:


The DAY or NIGHT call out, again, are for production to help with scheduling.  Some writers will write MID-DAY, or DAWN, or EVENING.  That’s fine, but a confident writer will only call that out if it’s 100% important to the scene.

The thing to look out for if you’re proofreading a friend’s screenplay is consistency.  If John and Martha live in the house, you don’t want to call it “John’s House” in one place and “Martha’s House” in another.  Production will get confused.  Also, come hell or high water, the scene heading is one line.  Never any more than that.

SLUG LINES are scene headings that don’t start with INT. or EXT. and don’t have a time call out.  For example, in John’s house, a scene might start in the hallway outside of the kitchen, then move to:


Which would be written just like that.  Sometimes these will call out shots like:

JOHN’S POV of the kitchen

Notice how it starts in all caps, then changes to standard.  That’s a matter of fashion in writing.  All caps is more correct, but mixed is not wrong.

ACTION LINES:  This is the paragraph that tells us what happens physically in the scene.  Remember, the audience only knows what the camera sees or the audio hears.  Look out for a writer who puts a character’s feelings or thoughts in the action lines.  In a comedy, look out for jokes in the action paragraphs that will not translate to the screen.  Like head hopping in a manuscript, putting the wrong information in the action lines is easy to do and hard to catch.  Help your screenwriter friends by constantly asking, “how do you shoot that?”  You can’t film a thought or an emotion.  Films are 99.5% showing.  Telling is only allowed in dialogue, and even then, best avoided.

CHARACTER NAMES:  Easy.  Who is talking?  Make sure they are not centered, but left-aligned about a third of the way into the page.  An experienced reader’s eye will naturally fall to the same columns for each format type, so it’s easy to tell an amateur by their margins.

PARENTHETICALS:  These are to screenplays what adverbs are to novels – things that should be cut most of the time.  They are clarifying notes to the actor intended for that character only.  A good writer will NEVER put an adverb in a parenthetical.  If it’s not clear how the line should be said within the context of the scene, then that’s a bad comment on the writer’s skill – and telling an actor how to read a line is an insult.  Sure, sometimes it can’t be avoided, but almost always these should simply clarify who the character is talking to, or if it’s not clear, what they are referring to.  In the later case you’ll often see: (re: the cat) or (off Bill’s reaction). 

DIALOGUE:  This is the meat and potatoes of any script.  As a reader, you’re looking for the same things you’d look for in a novel: separation of character voices, honest lines, not hitting anything on the nose, etc.  I tend to not read the character names in a scene.  If I can’t tell who’s talking by what they say and how they say it, then there’s usually a problem.  Proper grammar is not a plus.

TRANSITIONS:  You’ve heard the phrase “Cut to the chase”?  The “cut to” part of that comes from the transition lines in scripts.  CUT TO: FADE TO: etc.  Decades ago these were put at the end of every scene.  The current fashion is to use them at the end of major scenes and not the vignettes.  A bit of filmmaking insider info: Some writers like to put SMASH CUT TO: or SLAM TO: etc., which junior studio executives find exciting.  An experienced filmmaker knows that there is no such thing as a “Smash Cut.”  Two pieces of film either cut together, cross fade, or now, digitally morph.  So a good writer, working on a script that’s in production, will limit transitions to what an editor can actually do.  That same writer, working on a speculative script, might use the more flowery transitions to help the junior executives get excited about the project.

The main things to keep in mind when you’re a beta reader on a screenplay are:

1)     Does the script jump off the page?  Can you see this in your head?

2)     Is everything on the page recordable, either with a camera or an audio recorder?  Picture and sound are all the writer has to work with.

3)     Just like a manuscript, does anything interrupt the read?

Volumes have been written on what make a script good or bad.  I won’t try to get into that here.  It’s only for you to say if it’s good or bad in your head.  This post should help keep the formatting from getting in the way of your interpretation of the story.

R.S. Mellette is an experienced screenwriter, actor, director, and novelist. You can find him at the Dances With Films festival blog, and on Twitter, or read him in the Spring Fevers, The Fall: Tales of the Apocalypse, and Summer's Edge anthologies.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Blood and Audience

by Matt Sinclair

How important is building an audience to you? As writers we often want to leave our art on the page. Be bold, we’re advised. Be honest and open. Bleed your emotions on the page, we’re told. Some of us have trouble with all that.

I won’t argue against the advice. In fact, I’d go further. Bleed everywhere. Ok, maybe not everywhere; that gets messy and tends to wig people out and attract vampires. Plus, it’ll cost a mint to replace those bed sheets all the time. I’m talking more metaphorically, anyway.

How has your audience found you? Do you have an audience yet? Sometimes they find you as a result of a blog post or an interview. In this era of Twitter and Facebook and other social media vehicles, you often don’t know where or how your next reader might discover you. Those retweets of retweets might just be an ore you’ve yet to mine.

But if you haven’t bled in your interview, if you haven’t compelled someone by your honest, open writerly persona, then you’ll be just another undiscovered talent waiting for someone to chisel out the real you.
But how do you do that if no one has asked those probing questions? Well, learn from what publicists do: suggest questions or avenues of thought. Most blog interviews of writers are done via email; let’s face it, the vast majority of us are not being called by Vanity Fair or the New Yorker or even Writer’s Digest for anything other than a new subscription. Heck, not even for that!

Remember to be polite in suggesting other questions. It’s their blog, not yours. Even if you’re writing up a guest blog post, they still control what goes out to the world from their channel.

In my opinion, readers don’t merely like to read great and entertaining stories, they like to find interesting voices. That voice happens not only in the manuscript but also in the interview. Readers like to learn a little bit about the writer behind the voice. If you’re an irascible curmudgeon, that’s fine. By all means, bleed curmudgeon juice. (What color is it, by the way?)

The object is to build an audience. Whether you’re approachable or mysterious, you don’t have many opportunities to make initial impressions. Don’t waste them. Be interesting.

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, is also president and chief elephant officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which published The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse, (available via Amazon and Smashwords) and Spring Fevers (also available through Smashwords, and Amazon) in 2012. The latest anthologies from EBP, Summer's Edge and Summer's Double Edge, will be published in July. Matt blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Writing for Change

S. L. Duncan

Last night, I had the chance to attend a presentation by the author of one of my favorite books, A THOUSAND SPLENDID SONS. Author Khaled Hosseini included Birmingham on his whirlwind tour to promote his most recent book, AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED. He proved to be a fantastic and entertaining presenter, and a very personable guy despite a somewhat clumsy interviewer. Who asks someone from Afghanistan if there is anything surprising that they pack for a plane flight?

The answer is nothing. Nothing surprising whatsoever.

Anyway, Hosseini revealed that AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED and THE KITE RUNNER were both the result of those thunderstruck moments that inspires an idea which inevitably unravels into a novel. You’ve probably heard many of the FTWA gang discuss this process. But Hosseini then told the audience that A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS was the result of a more direct approach. He set out to write a book about the misogyny found in the modern culture of Afghanistan. In effect, he wanted to write a story that put on display the hardships of the everyday lives of women there. And he did so with great effect.

In a way, A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS quits being a piece of entertaining, moving fiction and becomes something more. It becomes activism. In the wake of his success, Hosseini has started the Khaled Hosseini Foundation, which is doing amazing work bettering the lives of those in Afghanistan while raising awareness here in the West.

I sat there, in the auditorium, hearing these amazing things he’s done, feeling somewhat inept, and it struck me that none of the good Hosseini's brought to the world would have been possible without his work as an author. It got me wondering about what sort of impact my writing will have. Certainly, the subject matter of my work doesn’t exactly lend itself to changing the world, but hopefully it’ll have some effect. Hopefully, you’ll learn something either about yourself or the world around you.

So then, should we as authors be writing to better the world or elicit some sort of change? Is it our duty to be voices for those that suffer injustices and then demand those injustices to be righted? Khaled Hosseini did it very intentionally with A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS. Should we follow his example? Or is your work already primed to make the world a better place?

S. L. Duncan writes young adult fiction, including his debut, the first book in The Revelation Saga, due in 2014 from Medallion Press. You can find him blogging on and on Twitter.

Friday, June 14, 2013

5 Reasons Authors Should Create Fun Book Memes

by +Jean Oram

First of all, what the heck is a meme? Basically, it is most commonly an image with some text on it which has cultural value. In other words, something shareable. And by shareable, I mean it is something people will want to pass on to their friends because it is funny, ironic, or hits on some cultural phenomenon.

If we really get down to it, often a meme is advertising in one shape, form, or another. Those funny ecards you see on Pinterest and Facebook--advertising. Those goofy ones George Takei shares/makes? Advertising. I know who George is now and I have a very good sense of his brand as well as his sense of humor and even what sort of things he stands for. That is a good use of memes. Plus, his memes get shared a CRAPLOAD. You might even care to toss the word viral in there to describe some of his memes.

How does that happen? The memes have value to the user which makes them want to share them. And by sharing them, they are sending his mini advertisements out in the world on his behalf whether they think of it that way or not. They think of it as sharing something others will like and get a kick out of--and will increase their online esteem in some way.

That is a good meme. And that is why authors should play around with them if it feels like something within their skill set.

Yep, it's a meme. Yep, it is shareable.

5 Reasons Authors Should Create Memes

1. They are fun. If you do it right, you should enjoy the challenge of making one, and readers should want to share them. Exciting!

2. They are free advertising. Free, my friends. Well, if you have your own images.

3. It gets your name and brand and book titles out there (of course, this depends a bit on how you create this meme and whether you include these things). It is said a reader has to see your name/title several times before they actually purchase.

4. They can go viral. Or well, at least get around on Facebook and Pinterest a ton (if they are good) and gain access to places you might not be able to pay to get to.

5. They are a visual way to cement what you have for sale in the minds of others. A picture is worth a 1000 words, right?
Quote, title, cover art, author name. But is it shareable?

What to Put in a Meme

1. Something (your) readers will like.

2. Something that speaks to your brand. Eg. Something about love and romance if you are a contemporary romance writer. (Not gory and dark.)

3. Something that will give the reader/viewer a sense of who you are and what your books are about in a more specific sense than your general brand. Eg. Maybe an image of your book's setting along with a book or author quote.

4. Something to draw it all back to you whether it is your website's URL in the bottom corner, your name and book title, etc. The purpose (at least in my opinion) is to get something fun out there that leads people back to you. You don't see Kellogg's out there giving away t-shirts without their logo on it, right? Brand it.

5. Cover art--if it fits your meme and your meme is specific to your book, characters, setting, etc. If you are simply quoting yourself on the meaning of love, then your cover art might not suit the meme. However, adding your name (attributing the quote!) as well as adding "author of TITLE" afterwards is smart--and still branding it!

Note: If you are quoting others be sure to attribute it! As well, be very very careful with images. Be sure to find out whether you have the rights to use the image in this way. You may have rights to use an image in your book cover, but check to see if you have the rights to use those individual images in different ways. Rights usage can vary and you may find you need to purchase an additional license to use a cover image in other materials or if distribution of that image reaches a certain threshold. As an author/writer it is ALWAYS best to err on the side of caution--even if it means falling off your wallet. The cost of an image is less than a legal suit. And they DO happen.

If you want to get into the nitty gritty of memes and the ins and outs and faux pas of putting together a meme, and what to do with one once you've made it, jump over to my website where I'm talking about memes in more depth and getting downright specific about what works and what doesn't.

Now that you've looked at memes from the write angle, what do you think of memes? What makes you share them? Have you ever created one? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Jean Oram is a meme creating fool. Okay, not exactly, but she has played around with making a few for her free ebook Champagne and Lemon Drops. Some of which you may see in this post (and are completely shareable)! Connect with Jean at tip a week to help make you a better writer. You can also find her here:, Facebook, and Twitter.

Friday, June 7, 2013

5 Tips for Busy Writers

by Jemi Fraser

This is one of those crazy busy times for me. We have provincial testing going on, then report cards and the year end wrap up (we're in school until the end of June here). Add in family, house, friends, coaching and volunteer obligations as well as life in general and I'm busy ... and completely wiped out most of the time.

Sound familiar?

I bet it does. Of course, the details are going to differ, but we're all busy, busy, BUSY. So, how do we fit in our passion for the written word? It's not always easy, but I've found some things that help me. Maybe they'll help you too.

1. Think of time in 10 or 15 minute chunks. Seriously. Looking for a continuous hour or two during the week is impossible for me. If I felt I needed a full hour in order to write, I'd never get anything done. But, if I have a 15 minute window, I grab it and feel good. It's amazing how those 15 minutes add up!

2. Eliminate those quirks. I've heard stories about what some writers need in order to get in the mood to write (a specific drink at hand, a tasty treat, 10 minutes to exercise/stretch/meditate/relax first, a favourite chair or special playlist, ...). Sure, there are some things that help us get into the ultimate writing mode, but because I rarely have time for them, I've learned to live without, and now it doesn't take any time at all to get into the scene.

3. Learn to write with noise. I know! This is probably really, really difficult for some of you, but I think it helps. Although I do find it awkward writing an intimate romantic scene with my son and his buddies in the living room, I've learned to sit in the corner, angle the laptop and type away while still participating in life around me. It probably helps that I prefer background noise to silence in the first place, but you might be surprised too. It's far easier to find a place with a hum of background noise than a place of silence. Embrace it!

4. Leave a scene hanging. It's much harder for me to start a new scene than to finish up a scene I'm in the middle of and loving. That unfinished scene won't let me go, and when I find those 10 minutes, my fingers are ready to fly! Sometimes I even leave myself mid-sentence. Stressful, yes, but I definitely don't need time to get back in the scene when I return to it.

5. Work on your project every day. Or as often as you can. I don't kick myself if I miss a day, but even if I can't get in actual writing time, I get in some thinking time on my story every day. It keeps it alive in my head and gears me up for the time I do have.

Do you use any of those tips? Do you have any more to add?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs and tweets while searching for those HEAs.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

De-Deifying Agents

by Charlee Vale

Anyone who has done even the most basic research about getting traditionally published will come across the term literary agent. An agent will most likely help you get your book into the best shape it can possibly be. Having one of these is a really good step toward getting a book deal with a legitimate publisher. They are a commodity, something that is highly sought after and notoriously hard to procure.

Notice anything about that last paragraph? The language I intentionally used in the above paragraph about agents, is language that could be used about anything. Not once did I refer to them as people—or even human—and this is pretty much our normal perception of them.

In the internet community of aspiring writers, you'll often hear agents described as something: gatekeepers, the way to fame, elusive, or any number of positive and negative things that dehumanize them and make us treat them like the mythical creatures of the publishing industry.

The language we use to describe literary agents inherently has problems in it. When we stop referring to people as people, they become objects. And when someone becomes an object, not only can they be acted on without their consent, but a whole host of behavior is opened up that would be otherwise unnacceptable.

I've heard more than a few horror stories—writers tracking down agents' home addresses to send them material, showing up in person at a non-business location, screaming at agents at conferences for not accepting their pitch, following them. Would we ever consider doing these things to a random stranger? No, probably not. So why is it okay to do it for someone with the title literary agent? It's not, and it's the image that agents are somehow not human that is to blame.

Literary Agents are people just like us. They have families, birthdays, apartments, and houses. They cook, clean, get dressed, and go to the bathroom. They are people, they have names—more than that, identities. Being a literary agent is their job, and despite most of them loving what they do, it isn't who they are.

When interacting with agents on the internet and in person, get to know them. They're really fun people. I encourage you to talk to them looking to hear their thoughts and opinions rather than looking for an opportunity to pitch to them. Listen to their interests in order to get good book recommendations instead of trying to seek out the next trend. Try to see them as a person with hopes and dreams similar to the ones you have, not just a potential business opportunity.

Don't make literary agents gods—that image puts just as much pressure on them as it does on you, probably more.

"What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person." —Paper Towns (John Green)

Charlee Vale is a Young Adult writer, photographer, and tea lover living in New York City. You can also find her at her website, and on Twitter.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Networking Introvert

by R.C. Lewis

This isn't the first time we've talked about introverted writers here on From the Write Angle. It probably won't be the last. I see frequent comments on Twitter indicating a belief that the vast majority of writers are introverts. I'm not sure that's true, because I know an awful lot of extroverted authors. (I'm looking at you, Mindy McGinnis.) But the introverts definitely make up a solid contingent.

And I'm one of them.

To be fair, I've given myself enough practice faking it that people don't always realize I'm an introvert (or that I'm shy—yes, I'm a two-fer). That doesn't necessarily make it easier on my end, especially when I fall back into old habits that need breaking.

Natalie Whipple at the TRANSPARENT
launch. Isn't she adorable?
Last year, I moved back to my home state after spending eight years living elsewhere. My first forays into writing began while living out-of-state, so I never had reason to get plugged into the local writing scene. In particular, the local kid-lit writing scene ... which in these parts is significant.

After pushing through a school year at a new school with a new curriculum (and, oh yeah, a newly acquired agent and publishing contract, too), I realized I'd let myself settle into my little cocoon of home-work-internet. Nothing wrong with that, maybe. You can accomplish a lot on the internet, and "work" has me spending a lot of time with my target audience.

But sometimes you need to get out into the real world. Opportunities in this industry often arise because of connections. And besides, it'd be nice to have friends who understand the industry more than my math department does ... especially if a few of those friends didn't live a thousand or so miles away.

I realized it was once again time to push out of my comfort zone. I used one of my online connections to make a local connection and found out a local author was having a book launch two days later. (An author whose blog countdown widget I'd made, not realizing she was local. Small world.) I'd never been to a book launch or signing in my life—sad, right?

Me with Natalie at the signing afterwards, proving I
really was there and spoke to someone.
Okay, universe. Baptism by fire it is. I carpooled to the book launch with four women who were essentially strangers to me, ranging from published to querying.

Talking to them was instantly comfortable. It wasn't awkward, and the launch wasn't scary. We had fun.

Even better, I broke that shell. Sure, being social at big events still takes a lot of energy. When the next event comes around (one of the carpooling women has the third in her trilogy coming out this week) I can go with even less anxiety. I already know some people who'll be there. Writers supporting other writers ... it's fantastic.

And friends are a good thing. Even in real life.

R.C. Lewis teaches math to teenagers—sometimes in sign language, sometimes not—so whether she's a science geek or a bookworm depends on when you look. That may explain why her characters don't like to be pigeonholed. Coincidentally, R.C. enjoys reading about quantum physics and the identity issues of photons. You can find her on Twitter (@RC_Lewis) and at Crossing the Helix. And every once in a while, you can find her in the real world, too.