Monday, October 21, 2013

Are You Ready to NaNo?

by MarcyKate Connolly

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably heard me whine, er, mention how excited I am to start a new project for NaNoWriMo. If you’re not in the know, NaNoWriMo is a gloriously crazy challenge to write a 50K novel in the span of one month. It happens each November, and for me and countless others it’s something to dive into with gusto.

But like any challenge, it’s often best to go into it prepared. Everyone has their own way of getting ready, but I thought I’d share mine.

1) Brainstorm the Plot. Generally, this requires a lot of sitting and staring into space, then occasionally noting random twists or things that could happen. I am an unabashed plotter, but I suspect even those who prefer to pants their stories benefit from jotting down a few possible directions the story could go.

2) Write a faux query. I realize this tip may strike fear in the hearts of many given it’s an unfortunate, yet evil necessity (though not as evil as the equally necessary synopsis).  This doesn’t have to be a full length query, really it’s just a brief summary of the inciting incident and the basic problem of the book. Even just a one liner will do. This serves to remind me why I was so excited about the story in the first place when I start to struggle and it helps me stay on point.

3) MOAR PLOTTING. This can take a variety of shapes, and I know plenty of pantsers who prefer not to do this at all (which is completely fine and normal. Everyone’s process is unique!), but it’s probably my favorite part. I like to use the Save The Cat Beat sheet to help me determine how those ideas I brainstormed earlier will fall into which beats.

4) Cheat, and write a little bit now. I can’t help it. If I’m excited about a story, I’m going to want to write part of it. Usually the voice is in my head, begging to get out and play on the page for a bit. Why not just give in? You’ll only count the words you write starting November 1 toward NaNoWriMo, but a little head start like this can be pivotal in connecting to your character’s voice and mindset.

How about you? Will you be joining us for the fine frenzy in November? Please feel free to add your own Nano preparation tips in the comments! 

MarcyKate Connolly writes middle grade and young adult fiction and becomes a superhero when sufficiently caffeinated. When earthbound, she blogs at her website and spends far too much time babbling on Twitter. Her debut upper MG fantasy novel, MONSTROUS, will be out from HarperCollins Children's Books in Winter 2015.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Daily Grind

by Matt Sinclair

It’s become a basic truism that we all lead busy lives. Many of us struggle to eke out what writing time we can out of a day. I consider myself lucky to have a half hour or so on the train to read, write, edit, and organize my writing life. In fact, as I’m typing this blog the train is exiting the tunnel and about to cross a river. At times reminiscent of the opening sequence of The Sopranos, but it’s home…

Unless we're careful, it’s easy to get distracted from our writing routine. Sometimes that’s fine, as a writing mind is an exploring mind, and I don’t want to stunt anyone’s imagination. But at the same time, writers need to be able to focus and use their time wisely. A routine might seem like drudgery to some, but to others it's the only way things get done.

Perhaps the easiest way to approach that discipline is to write down things on a calendar and keep notes. But when there's so much going on, notes aren’t always enough. And as the old cliché goes, there are only so many hours in a day.

The future will only bring more change – some we must anticipate and some to which we must adapt quickly. I’m curious: how do you manage your time? Here at FTWA, we’ve posted a few blogs about whether we’re pantsers or planners when it comes to our writing. But what about when it comes to our lives?

Are we pantsers about when we write? I know lots of writers who plan to write a thousand words every day – usually to varying levels of success. But do you vary when you do that? Do you write in increments and squeeze fifteen minutes of writing here and another ten later and maybe a half hour just before or just after bed? Has that changed for you over the years?

Do you have specific days when you write? How easy or hard is it to get through your writing days? I know many writers aren’t able or don’t feel compelled to write every day. Trust me, I get it.

But do you know when you write your best? Are you able to optimize your peak writing moments?

What do you guys think? How do you approach that daily (or not quite daily) grind?

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, is also president and chief elephant officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which recently published Summer's Edge and Summer's Double Edge, which are available through Smashwords (SE) (SDE) and Amazon (SE) (SDE), and include stories from several FTWA writers. In 2012, EBP published its initial anthologies: The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse, (available viaAmazon and Smashwords) and Spring Fevers (also available through Smashwords, andAmazon). Matt blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68.

Monday, October 14, 2013

3 Query No Nos

by Jemi Fraser

I haven't talked about queries for a while here, so I thought I'd jump back in the pool with 3 things I've found DON'T work.

No No #1

Describing your story.

The Fellowship of the Ring is an epic adventure set in Middle Earth-a land of hobbits, wizards, elves and dwarfs. When an unlikely hero inherits an heirloom of awesome power he sets out to destroy it. Along the way he discovers life is more than second breakfasts and friendship is the most powerful weapon of all.


LotR is one of my favourite stories - definitely NOT yawn worthy! Don't tell your story, show it. Start with your main character and the trouble he/she faces. Draw us in!

No No #2

Character soup.

When Jonah Williams discovers a talking salamander named Leopold, he can't decide if he's losing his mind or about to make a fortune. When Leopold decides Starlight, the pet frog of Jonah's nemesis Charlie is his true love, Jonah needs to act quickly. Enlisting best friends Shari and Kyle, Jonah concocts a plan sure to not only bring him fame and fortune, but keep Leopold a single salamander heartthrob forever.


Okay, obviously that one's made up and way over the top, but limit yourself to the bare minimum when naming characters in a query. The main character (or characters if it's a romance) and the villain are the most important. If someone else is mentioned, try to stick to an identifier instead (his mother, her publicist, the police officer...).

No No #3

Sucking up.

From reading your fabulous and helpful blog, I know you're interested in Mermaid Gothic Romances. I want to thank you for taking the time to help new writers like myself. Working with you would be an incredible opportunity and I hope you feel Fin's Castle would fit your wonderful list.
*shudder* No one likes a suck up. Keep it real and honest. Be yourself.

Hope those help you out a bit! Do you have another Query No No to add?

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

Friday, October 11, 2013


by Riley Redgate

Recently, I took a break from the internet. For forty-five days, I did not venture into the realms of Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter. Not even Google. The only things I used were sites like Moodle, SaplingLearning, and Gmail, which were necessary for me to not fail classes.

It had an interesting effect on my writing. Initially, I thought that since I'd have so much new free time, time that I used to spend on the internet, I'd spend that much more time on writing. Instead, though, I found myself avoiding the computer altogether. It helped that school started back up and provided a multitude of distractions, of course, but still. Once I was unplugged, I wanted to stay unplugged.

Still, though, unplugging provided some vital help to my writing, even if that wasn't exemplified by my pathetically flagging word count. Here's a list of benefits:

1) I spent that much more time reading. In the month and a half I was gone, I read six excellent books, from Neil Gaiman's slight and fantastical The Ocean at the End of the Lane to Haruki Murakami's fantastical but not-at-all-slight 1Q84. Imagine if, every time you read a post on Facebook, you were reading a novel instead. How many books would that give you?

2) I spent that much more time around humans, as opposed to staring into the depths of my computer. Unplugging from a constant source of interpersonal information means seeing less of the minutiae of my friends' lives; instead, I saw more of a big picture, because I spent more real time with them. I also made more connections. It's so easy to lurk on social media and feel like you're "getting to know someone" just by reading information they post on the internet. But if you're a chronic lurker, like me, they likely have no idea you're there and reading it, which means the connection is one-sided. Writing-wise -- as much as I love internet connections and talking to people online -- sharing experiences in real-time is helpful in a whole different way.

3) I spent that much more time with my own style of writing. The internet is a fascinating place -- it has developed a whole new type of communication. Everything is abbreviated. Everything is designed to be as eye-catching as possible in the shortest amount of time, which includes news pieces and other articles (Buzzfeed, for instance). Some speech patterns of the internet are downright incomprehensible (Tumblr, I'm looking at you). Getting away from the frenetic, everything-at-once, short-attention-span mode of communication that exists online ... it feels like everything slows down. Not to mention that there are these catchphrases you see online over and over, a collective internet slang. As with any slang and verbal shorthand, it infiltrates your writing, affecting it in whatever small way. Disconnecting from it helped me write more purely, write a higher proportion of words that came out of my brain, rather than words that happened to be buzzing around my skull because I saw the phrase a million times online that day.

4) I broke my dependence on the internet. With the prevalence of social media, people sometimes seem to forget that the internet is, at its heart, a tool. It is not the place to have one's entire life. Some days, over the summer, I would spend ten or eleven hours on the internet, jumping from site to site. Totally unhealthy. And sure, some of it was writing research, or getting to know someone, but most of it was not. Unplugging helped me get some perspective on what portion of my internet usage was actually necessary, and what was just a distraction from things that matter more to me.

Have you tried quitting the internet? Taking a break for an extended period of time? If so, what did you discover?

Riley Redgate, enthusiast of all things YA, is a bookstore-and-Starbucks-dweller from North Carolina attending college in Ohio. She is represented by Caryn Wiseman of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Sporadically and with occasional weirdness, she blogs here and speaks with considerably more brevity here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Revolving Door(s) of Publishing

by R.C. Lewis

"Change is the only constant."

The math teacher in me can only think that such a sentence will confuse my students. But really, it's a contradiction that works. One of the only things we can count on is that things change. Publishing is no different ... maybe in ways you haven't thought of. Mostly in ways that prove none of us ever "have it made."

My book is completely done! (Pre-Querying)
Hopefully it's ready to query. If so, it's done enough ... but it's not done. You're going to make changes. Maybe with your agent before you go on submission. Definitely with your editor after you sell. Don't think of your manuscript as a finished thing. Don't get too attached to how it looks right now. Think of it as malleable, waiting to be taken from Awesome to Awesome-PLUS.

I have an agent—I'm out of the query trenches forever!
You and your agent may be a match made in heaven. Even if you are, the relationship may not be permanent. Agents quit the business. Writers decide to take their career in a direction their current agent isn't well-suited for—these splits can be amicable.

Or you discover your agent isn't the hot stuff you thought they were.

These things happen. They happen all the time. And back to the query trenches you go.

My editor is part of the immutable triad formed by me and my agent!
Well, I already covered that your relationship with your agent isn't immutable. The editor who buys your book may not be the one who sees you through to publication. Sometimes because the publisher hands it off to another editor after acquisition as a matter of course. Sometimes (particularly with the length of time the traditional publishing process takes) because your original editor gets a job at a different publishing house.

That happened to me. It's not the end of the world. It's not even a bad thing. Though some people found their new editor wasn't as fond of their project as the original one ... and that sucks.

I've been published once, so now I just rinse/repeat for the rest of my career!
Unfortunately, a label of "successful manuscript-seller" must be re-earned on each and every outing. The next manuscript may not sell. And this goes for all the details of the deal, too. Your next advance may be a different size. Your next contract will almost certainly have different provisions. You'll probably get different treatment by a different publishing house in varying ways.

Maybe this post seems like a big ol' downer, but it's not. It's not cause for despair.

We just need to be aware that a lot of things can change. That way when a change comes along to smack us in the face, sure, we might feel a sting. But we'll also know others have been through the same.

And we keep rolling.

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. Her debut novel Stitching Snow is coming from Disney-Hyperion in Fall 2014, and she's been lucky enough to work on it with TWO awesome editors. You can find R.C. on Twitter (@RC_Lewis) and at her website.