Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WOW Weds: Lisa and Laura Roecker on Writerly Butt Kicking

Lisa and Laura Roecker are sisters-turned-writing-partners with a love of all things Young Adult. Some call it arrested development, but the sisters claim it keeps them young. Plus, it’s cheaper than Botox. THE LIAR SOCIETY, just released, has been described as "a page-turning, pearl-clutching mystery." It's their first novel. Catch them on twitter or on their blog. They are represented by Catherine Drayton at Inkwell Management

The Roeckers on Getting Their Literary Butts Kicked

Writing is terrifying. First, you have to battle your own inner-critic, who says your descriptions aren’t…um, descriptive enough, your characters two-dimensional, your dialogue stilted. And then, in our case, you send your chapter to your partner, who edits it to within an inch of its life. There’s beta readers, agent feedback, editor critiques, line edits (yowsers), professional reviews, blog reviews, fellow writer reviews, the list goes on and on. Our biggest piece of advice for aspiring authors is to learn how to accept and apply feedback.

The sooner you thicken your skin, the better
We finished our first book in about two months. Naturally, it was the best book we’d ever read. Oh, and it was the best idea in the entire world. Or so we thought until we got rejected by almost every literary agent in the United States. After over 100 rejections we were ready to figure out what we’d done wrong. Luckily, some very kind agents provided some incredibly valuable feedback about our writing. Was it easy to hear our writing wasn’t perfect? No. Was it easy to learn how to grow as writers? No. Was it important to grow as writers? HELL YES. These generous agents helped us identify our writing ticks that distracted readers and the tells that gave us away as a writing team. Who knows where we would be now if we hadn’t listened. Probably slapping another band-aid on that mess of a manuscript!

Beta readers, whut whut!
We’ll never forget attaching our first manuscript to our dad in an email. We typed, “Hey Dad! Our friend is hoping to be published one day and would love a reader’s opinion on her book. Do you have the time?” At this point, we hadn’t told anyone we’d begun writing together. I mean, we still thought we’d sell in some overnight, ginormous, mega deal and we couldn’t wait to see the looks on their faces. But we were smart enough to know we needed outside opinions. So, who better than our dad?! Even better, he wouldn’t know WE had written it! Win-win. Well, unless he writes back and says, “Not my cup of tea.” Yowsers. With our tails between our legs, we learned (the hard way) that beta readers who are not related to you are quite possibly one of the most valuable tools a writer can have. Even better if they’re fellow writers! With The Liar Society, we were so incredibly lucky to find readers who weren’t afraid to tell us we were missing an emotional core or the beginning seemed to drag on forever. We could never write without them.

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping
Take. Your. Time. Okay, full disclosure: We STILL struggle with this advice. We have a tendency to rush and are constantly afraid our idea is going to be snapped up or we’re going to miss the next big thing, etc., etc. The reality is, publishing moves at glacial speed. Your big idea today (if it’s good enough) will be a big idea six months from now. Learn from our mistakes. Make your work shine BEFORE you send it out to hundreds of literary agents. As exciting as it is to type “The End” and ship that bad boy off, resist the urge, take a step back and make sure you’re completely, utterly, whole-heartedly proud of your work. Because you get one chance to make that first impression.

You’ve got a friend…er you need a friend
Unless you want to turn to the bottle (or the bag of Hershey kisses), you’ll need some friends to soften the blow of all this feedback you’ll be applying. Plugging ourselves into the writing community has made us feel like we’re a part of something bigger, like we’re surrounded by people who understand, who care and share and want to see us succeed. There’s absolutely nothing like a community of supportive writers. We love talking about our hope tank. This tank is constantly fluctuating and is at different levels for both of us. The best remedy for an empty hope tank are friends who make you laugh or listen to you complain or pick you back up again. We’re lucky enough to have each other, but it still helps us immensely to be surrounded by likeminded individuals. They get us and that’s saying something! So, if you’re comfortable, plug in to the world of writers. It’s such a wonderfully supportive place to be. Just don’t forget to…um, write. Yeah, this whole world can be a little distracting sometimes.

We really appreciate being featured on Adventures in Children’s Publishing. Thanks so much for having us!


  1. Great advice. My critique groups have helped me so much over the years I've been working on one manuscript. And I've been realizing the importance of beta readers too lately. So I'm definitely going to see what they think too before I decide I'm done. You're right. You have to develop thick skin. And I need to be less distracted by blogs. Help!

  2. I use betas and love to beta other people's work. It's a wonderful bit of sharing especially when you find the right people that want to help bring the best out of your story.

  3. Great post, ladies! And you're definitely right -- we have to grow thick skin AND open our eyes to the things in our MSS we're too stubborn to notice. That last part is something I'm always working on! But it usually doesn't take long before I realize my critique partners were right to begin with.

  4. Great tips! I definitely need to learn to be patient--though I hope I'm getting a little better at it. :)

  5. You guys have always been dipped in awesomesauce. Great post. And I heartily agree, especially with the you need friends to get through it all part. ;D

  6. It's scary being a debut author and having your first book available to the public. I would never have been able to do this without the support of my crit group and my beta readers. Invaluable.

  7. You girls are the best! Awesome advice, every word of it. Now, to put it into practice . . .

  8. Such great advice--thank you! I really like the part about needing a friend, one of the great reasons I connect with blogging and Twitter. You two are so lucky to have each other!

  9. Lovely interview! I enjoyed reading this. Haha, sending it to your dad incognito. That's great. :)

  10. Thanks for the great advice. I especially like the encouragement to refrain from rushing into querying. My friends, especially those who don't write, can't believe I'm still revising my manuscript. But as you said, I want to be completely and utterly proud of it before I start querying. And I totally get how joining the writing community, through blogs like this one and through Twitter, can be a source of constant support. Thanks, Lisa and Laura!

  11. Great advice! It's hard to take our time when the ideas are pushing on through :)

    LOVED the book and would advise everyone to read it - NOW! :)

  12. great post guys... no wonder you're flying like eagles! (sorry couldn't resist)

  13. Thanks for the great advice! I especially like the part about slowing down and having a support system. It's taking me a long time to write my first book but hopefully that means it'll be completely ready by the time I query it.

    I'm really excited to read THE LIAR SOCIETY! :)

  14. You two are great! And you're right -- THICK SKIN is so necessary. I also hear it keeps you warm in the colder climates. Or maybe that's fat? Yes, fat. *sigh*


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