Friday, December 31, 2010

13 Best of the Best: Character, Plot, Dialogue and Structure

Today, we're taking a break from our usual round-up to bring you part one of our Best of the Best link review.  We'll complete this next week, then catch up on all the articles we missed to bring you a special three-week edition of the best articles for writers. Enjoy!

Character

Conflict, Tension & Pacing
Dialogue


Editing & Revision
Emotion
Plot and Structure

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2 In Stores This Week: Contest Winner!

We're pleased to announce a winner for this fantastic new book...


Jamie!!!

Thanks so much to all who entered and congrats, Jamie! Be sure to stop by Monday for a huge giveaway!

Happy New Year!
Marissa

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

16 WOW Wednesday: J.A. Souders

Please welcome Jessica Souders, today's guest blogger, for our WOW Wednesday feature. Jessica  first began writing at the age of 13, when she moved to Florida and not only befriended the monsters under the bed, but created worlds for them to play together.  She is represented by the fabulous Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Agency, and blogs at Angels and Demons and Portals, Oh, My!

Agents and the Submission Process
(When It Doesn’t Happen Like It Did for Stephanie Meyers)

by J. A. Souders


When Martina contacted me, I was like, uh…I’ve NO IDEA what to talk about. Then I was like: “Did she really mean to contact me? Really?” Then, I was, “well, yes, of course she meant to contact you, because she used your name, dummy.” And that made me think about how I felt when my now agent contacted me to request the full off my partial. Then the offer of representation. The edits. Being on submission. Then the rejection letters. So that…brought me to this.

I don’t know about everyone else, but when I started subbing my very first (and, shh, very BAD) first novel, I had high (and unrealistic) expectations. The book was going to find an agent within a few weeks, then a few more weeks after that I’d have a publishing offer and I’d be published within the year. Uh, yeah…REALITY CHECK! That very rarely happens to even the BEST of books.

So, then, I trunked that novel and wrote another, and another, and finally on that third book I knew I had something special. My crit. partners loved it and so did I. Even when the rejections poured in, I kept subbing, changing things here and there, but then I got THE EMAIL! Yes, it was an email, and not THE CALL. Though I did get one of those, too.

The first was a simple. Hi, I really liked the pages you sent, would you please send the rest? And I was like, “heck yeah I will.” And I started printing it out (she was snail mail only at the time.) and while the rest of the 200 odd pages printed I went into full panic mode. Doubt had set in. Had she really meant to contact me? Well, sure she did. She used my name. But there’s a lot of Jessicas, could have been the wrong person. But she used the name of the book. She meant me.

I finally (a few days later) battled the doubt down, and sent it off. In the meantime, I got THE CALL from a different agent. We talked and I asked questions, etc. Then hung up and promptly emailed Natalie to ask if she hadn’t received the rest by snail mail would she mind if I emailed it because I’d been offered rep by someone else. She responded immediately with a yes, please send and then three days later (over a GRUELING weekend) she emailed again to offer rep.

Again I went through the doubts. Here I’d been subbing for a year (yes, I know a relatively short time) and I now I had to make a decision. Which actually turned out to be pretty easy when I turned the doubts off. I wanted Natalie because she got my book.

So, then I signed and I kept thinking, this is it. I’m really going to be a published author. But in the back of my mind, I kept hearing a voice telling me it was all a mistake. This wasn’t really happening. It was a joke. Or I wasn’t good enough. Look how many rejections I had. The book wasn’t. Any. Good. I should just give up. Save Natalie and me the heartache of not selling.

But I pushed it off to the side and the edits came and I flew through them as I’d already had them plotted out. And then we went on sub about a month after I signed. And then a month after that the rejections came. And I started in with the self-doubts again. But with each one Natalie told me not to worry, it wasn’t the book, she LOVED the book. We’d keep going. So we did.

In the meantime, I gave her another of my books (she loved that one, too) and we edited that, just in case. Then we got good news. An editor LOVED, loved, loved my book and wanted to take it to the ed. board. She just needed to get a second reader to sign off on it and we’d be good to go.

Unfortunately, after almost 6 weeks of fingernail biting and email stalking, the bad news came. The second reader didn’t like it and, therefore, I wasn’t going to the editorial board. But she wanted to see my next one.

I was heartbroken. And again the doubts went through my head. Am I not good enough? Why? And Natalie again reassured me she still loved my work, we’ll just go on sub with my second story.

We did, unfortunately the market is flooded with this kind of story and our timing was off, so… we’re now in edits of my third story. And I’m hoping the third time’s the charm.

As you can see my story is MUCH different than Stephanie Meyers. She was that one in a million shot. Her story is the exception, while mine is more the average. Most writers don’t sell their first books, or even their second. It usually takes YEARS to find an agent and even that’s no guarantee of a sale.

But if you keep at it and don’t lose faith in yourself or your writing, it WILL happen. There are no tips or tricks that will make it sell instantly. The only things that will make it happen is perseverance, hard work, and a healthy dose of luck and good timing.

The publishing process is much like a roller coaster. A wild and exhilarating ride with ups and downs, twists and turns. But if you give into doubts and don’t get on, you’ll never know how great it is.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

11 A Writer's Toolbox: Prepping for 2011



"The secret of getting ahead is getting started."
-Agatha Christie

With the holidays coming to a close, it’s time to snap out of that food coma and gear up for another productive year, right? Maybe you have plans to work on a new writing project. Or revise the NaNo novel that almost made your eyes bleed a few weeks ago. Or maybe you just want to get a little more organized. 

No matter what your New Year’s Writing Resolution is, here’s a list of resources to help you ring in 2011:

FOR THE BRAIN
Behind the Name – Need a name for your character?
Scholar Google – Search for specific scholarly literature
Crime Spider –search for crime, police, fire, and prosecution info
CIA World Factbook – current facts about the history, government, population, economy, and more, of almost 300 countries/entities
How Stuff Works – Want to know how animated tattoos work? Or how to change the oil? What about lock-picking? This site puts all the research in one place.
Encyclopedia Mythica – Encyclopedia for mythology, folklore, and religion

FOR THE MUSE
Rory’s Story Cubes -- Like throwing dice. Except with images. ($)
The Story Starter -- "first sentence" writing prompts
The Imagination Prompt Generator -- More writing prompts than you'll know what to do with!
Seventh Sanctum -- Need help with a name for a supervillain?
DeviantArt -- An artist-based community offering everything from anime to photography; great for visual inspiration
Flickr -- Browse through thousands of photos shared by users from around the world

FOR THE TASK-MASTER
Scrivener – Many Mac writers swear by this content organizer. Windows version coming soon. ($)
Ywriter – Free word processor to help you organize your novel into chapters and scenes.
OneNote – Compile all your notes and research links in this application ($)
Evernote – Free note-taking application; iPhone app available
MindMeister – Online brainstorming tool used for creating visual outlines; basic version is free
Bubbl – Free, easy-to-use mind-mapping application to help you brainstorm and collaborate with others
DropBox – Great for backing up your work and syncing between multiple computers; iPhone app also available
Remember the Milk – Online to-do list helps you manage writing tasks and deadlines; compatible with Google calendar, gmail, Outlook, iPhone, Blackberry, Twitter, and more

FOR THE NUDGE-NEEDERS
Write or Die – Use the online version for free or download it to your desktop ($) for those times when you really need to crank out the words
Dragon NaturallySpeaking – Speech-recognition software ($)
Freedom (for Mac) – Turn off the internet or use Anti-Social for just the social networking sites
Writechain App – an iPhone app that stores and tracks your  word count with the intention of training you to write daily; If you miss a day, you break your "write chain" (free for a limited time)
Q10 or WriteMonkey – Free text editors with no bells or whistles to distract you; can also be set up to sound like a typewriter when you type
Pandora Radio – personalized radio stations
Playlist.com – Listen to free music online and create playlists for your WIPs

FOR THE EDITOR
Wordle -- A visual way to see what words you like to use in your manuscript.
Wacom Bamboo Pen Tablet -- I just got this little gadget, but I can already tell it'll be great for editing 'on the page.'
EditMinion -- From Dr. Wicked, the mastermind behind Write or Die, is the editing application (still in beta) to help you spot common editing mistakes.
Grammar Girl -- Daily grammar tips and podcasts
Lulu/FedEx Office (formerly Kinkos)/Office Depot/Staples -- Get your manuscript printed and bound to catch editing mistakes you might otherwise miss by reading on the screen.


So obviously this is just an abbreviated list to help you get 2011 off to a great start. But there are tons of great resources for writers these days. What tools have you stumbled on? Is there anything you wouldn't be able to write without? For me, it's DropBox, Pandora, and DeviantArt. I think I'd go crazy if I couldn't sync my work between computers, and whenever I'm stuck, the right music or image will usually guide me back on track.

 Beautiful Snow 3 by Saphitri

Exercise:
For this week's writing prompt, use the photo above as inspiration to write a short story based on the theme: Beginnings (a new start). If you’d like to share it with us, enter it in the comments below (up to 250 words) or provide a link to where we can find it on the web. (And please don't forget to credit and link back to the photographer if you choose to post the picture on your blog or website.) We also welcome comments on the stories or the craft tip.    

And the winner of last week's giveaway of Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick is:

Lee Mandel

Congrats Lee! I'll be mailing out your copy this week. 

Today's giveaway is a signed copy of Forget You by Jennifer Echols. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and fill out the entry form. The contest is open to US residents and will run until Jan. 3 at 8pm EST. The winner will be announced next Tuesday. Good luck!

Happy New Year!

Cam