Wednesday, August 31, 2011

7 WOW Wednesday: Jessica Corra on Letting Your Crazy Out

Jessica Corra, today's guest, eats, sleeps, and breathes words. Really, she's only nominally crazy. In real life, she has a degree in English/Creative Writing which qualifies her to type really fast and point out your comma splices. She lives in Philadelphia, where she is working on more books. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary, but you can find her on her blog or on Twitter.

“My Crazy, Let Me Show You It”

by Jessica Corra


When I found out my debut novel, After You, would be published by Dial in Spring 2013 (look, I got my plug out of the way in the first line, I’m efficient), I was standing in a Barnes and Noble. I began flapping my hands up and down in front of my face, squeaking, “My book’s going to be here. My book’s going to be here.”

Because no matter how excited I am about everything else related to publishing, the whole endeavor is summed up in that line: my book’s going to be here. You’re going to be able to read my book. The gravity of that astounds me at the most basic level. We often say we write because we want to share our stories with people, but until your story is going to be shared with people, it’s an abstract idea. At least, it didn’t hit me until it was going to be a reality. (This is as it should be, I think. I would never have finished a novel if I had any real sense of an audience. Your mileage may vary.)

I think it took a full day for me to realize precisely what that meant: you’re going to be able to read my book? Oh. Em. Gee. I’m a practical writer; I believe in deadlines and wordcounts and the daily unbeautiful work of it. But I also believe that books are truth, words have magic, and that good writing is a piece of our souls made manifest.

So, basically, I’m writing to show you my soul. And you’re going to see it, in all its broken, vulnerable beauty. You might not like it. I have to be okay with that. Thing is, souls are resilient. They can be shaped and molded into stories, tossed around between the writer and the reader, and when caught, still shine their truths out. They’re soft things, vulnerable but resilient. Haven’t you noticed that about the books you love? They are fierce things, and they can burn themselves out in their fierceness. They leave you hollow and aching because they took a piece of you with them. I hope my books could be like that for someone.

Writers are some of the most courageous people I know, emotionally. We’re not afraid to let our crazy out, and we get that you have your own crazy. Heck, we write because of that. We want you to see you aren’t alone. So, come Spring 2013, I hope you’ll like my crazy. I worked very hard on it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

13 Tumblr - The Missing Link for Writing and Social Media

I love to blog about books and writing. I do. And I love the amazingly warm and supportive writing community on Twitter, although when I'm writing or knee deep in the quicksand of (gulp) actual work, I have to resort to Tweeting vicariously through Google Reader.

I don't totally love Facebook yet, and I'm mostly on it because my son went to college and he wants me to keep in touch with what he's doing without having to repeat  himself. (So yeah, I'm on Facebook because I raised an efficient kid. And oh, good, I just admitted that out loud.)

As much as I loved all this social networking though, until this weekend, there was something missing. All the time it takes up was time I used to spend reading newspapers--yes, Virginia, they DO still exist--or craft books. My craft book time has dwindled, and my newspaper reading has become nonexistent. I still devour actual book books as much as I can, but I find that it is reading nonfiction and looking at art and the world in general that opens my mind to perspectives, thoughts, and break-throughs. Without the random nonfiction fix I'd been getting through the newspaper, I felt like my brain wasn't getting as much imagination fodder, and without that, I started to worry that my writing would eventually become dull and uninformed.

I needed a quick way to catch up with the stuff that feeds other areas of the brain: social issues, fashion trends, culture, news, scientific breakthroughs, etc. And then Tahereh Mafi introduced me to Tumblr.

Game chANging! Epically. Brilliant.

Tumblr has blogs on all the topics I just listed. And they are visually-based. I can go through and quickly collect a whole slew of different topics, think about these briefly, and squirrel them away under appropriate tags like Story Ideas, Inspiration, Genetics, Faeries, etc., all in the blink of an eye. With enough time to spare to actually--oh, I don't know--write something.


So now, here's how I look at the different social media I'm using:
  • Blogging gives me a chance to coalesce my thoughts about writing, craft, inspiration, the market, whatever. In the process of collecting the best articles for our Friday posts, I learn so much and stay on top of the publishing industry. Our Monday posts usually keep me up to date on new releases and what people are saying about them.
  • Tweeting is a quick way to find new blogs, new writers, and connect with the writing community. It's an amazing community. And if I need a pick me up, a kick in the ass, or whatever else, there is ALWAYS someone there to administer it. How cool is that?
  • Facebooking lets me stay "friends" with my friends, connect on a personal basis.
  • Tumblr exposes me to a stream of images and information as broad as I want to make it. While the information isn't necessarily "deep", I can dig deeper when something interests me, and meanwhile, I see all sorts of things that make me pause and think about the beauty and problems in the world at large.
I finally feel like I have a balanced diet of social media.

What about you? Are your thoughts Tumblred? No? Come on, what are you waiting for? Shake things up a little!

Happy social networking,

Martina

Monday, August 29, 2011

14 Breaking the Writing Rules Can Lead to Failure or Possibly to Magic



Is the Universe Hitting You Over the Head?

photo via Arwen879

You know those times when you hear something, over and over, until you just know the universe is trying to tell you something? We'll I'm having one of those months. Everywhere I turn around, I run into the concept of rules that writers should live by, and someone (okay, mostly me) questioning whether or not it's okay to break them.


Committing Suicide. Or Magic.
First, I do believe we have to know the rules, get intimate with them, and think about why they are "the rules."

Next, before we decide to break one of those "rules," I think we need to consider it in context with our own work and see if we have a truly valid reason/inspiration for breaking it.

Finally, I am certain that if we break "the rules," we are risking failure. But we also risk committing art. And magic. And a piece of truth that will reach out from our hearts straight into the hearts of our readers.

photo from tellmeyoufeelthisfire
Ultimately, the decision to follow a "rule" or break it must be yours. Do you follow and play it safe? Or walk the gangplank, stare into the eyes of the shark, and risk making a great big bellyflop into infested waters? You might die. Or you might have the most adrenaline-charged swim of your life, with an amazing story at the end of it.

Not the Regularly Scheduled Program
I was going to start us off on a discussion of one of the books we chose on Thursday, but I'm taking a risk. I want to know what book you have read recently that broke a rule and gave you chills as a result. What rule did it break? Why did the author choose to break that rule, and how did she manage to pull it off? Or can you think of a book that broke the rules and did a face plant?

Are You Taking A Risk?
Are you taking risks in your writing? What rule are you breaking? Thinking of breaking? Are you comfortable with your decision and how's it working for you?

Leave a Comment by 8/31 for a Chance to Win Crescendo
Give us a thoughtful answer and I'll put you in the running to win Crescendo (Hush, Hush book 2). (Winner will be selected Wednesday night and announced on Thursday. U.S. or Canada entries only.) I might pick some surprise additional winners too, depending on how many great answers we have.

So tell me, what do you think of rule-breaking?

Happy writing,

Martina

Friday, August 26, 2011

9 Best Articles This Week for Writers 8/26/11

A Quick Request

It came to my attention this week that Goodreads, which provides a wonderful service for both readers and authors, will let anyone add a book, and let them rate it, even if the book isn't available in anything except manuscript form. According to Goodreads, this is valid--people can use the rating system any way they wish, including adding a star or two before a book comes out as a sort of bookmark to express interest. Unfortunately, the rating system doesn't numerically distinguish between these uses. A few of us suggested to Goodreads that they add an "Available for Rating" field or some other mechanism to help separate prepub interest from post-release ratings, but they were disinclined. If you would like to see this happen to help create an even fairer rating system, please consider signing the petition to give the request more weight.

Thanks very much!

Martina

After the Sale
Book Reviews
Congrats!
Contests
Craft
Critiquing
Inspiration
Issues, News, and Trends
Just for Smiles
Self-editing
Social Media
To Market
Other Weekly Round-Ups:
Did we miss anything? Anyone? Please leave a comment!

Happy reading and joyous writing,

Martina, Marissa and Clara

Thursday, August 25, 2011

10 Winner of BEAUTY QUEENS and Next Week's Book Selection


Winner

First and foremost, the winner of Libba Bray's BEAUTY QUEENS is LisaPotts. Lisa, please email me your addy and I will get that out to you next week.

If you didn't win, I highly recommend you pick up this amazing book. If you're a Libba Bray fan, you won't be disappointed. And if you've never had the pleasure yet, quick, what are you waiting for? Click the pic to get it. You'll snarf, you'll roll your eyes, and you'll see things in different ways. You'll be amazed at what comes out of Libba's superbrain. I promise.

From Goodreads:

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.



What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program--or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan--or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.

Next Week's Book

Next, we need to pick what we're going to talk about on Monday. Ideas anyone? I'm trying to think of all the amazing books I've read recently, and frankly there are so many the list would be ridiculous. So once again I'm going to throw it out to you. What novels have you read that have been mind-blowing? Life-changing? Inspiring to you as a writer?

Drop your suggestions in the comments! I can't wait to hear what has made you stop and think!

Happy reading,

Martina

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

28 WOW Wednesday: Julie Musil on the Power of "Going for It"

Julie Musil, today's guest, is a children's author, wife, and mother. She lives in a rural California town amid hiking trails and dirt bikes, and married my high school sweetheart. They have three sons, two cute little doggies, and two leopard geckos, which gives Julie fodder for her YA books. She's been a writer since she was 10 years old, when her Christmas poem was published in her hometown newspaper. Catch her on her website, her blog, or on Twitter.

The Power of “Going for It”
by Julie Musil

Wanna know a secret? When Martina and Marissa asked me to guest post, I panicked. Their blog is amazing, and what in the world could I say that fits in this wonderful place? After all, I’m simply a stay-at-home mother of three with a passion for writing. And then I realized that’s what I loved so much about blogging. It’s regular people, like you, like me, connecting and sharing what we know and what we’ve learned.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to just go for it. That’s a big step for me, because I’m not outgoing. Sure, when I’m with family and friends I’m confident, and sometimes even witty. But put me in a room with strangers or industry pros and I freeze up, lurking behind the courageous people.

But “going for it” helped me write three books and secure representation from a wonderful agent. I’ll tell a brief version of my writing story, hoping it’ll inspire someone else who’s holding back.

I wrote several magazine articles for kids, and had some successes in that field. A major accomplishment for me. And then I wondered if I had it in me to write a novel. I thought why not? Go for it. I finished a middle grade novel, had it critiqued, prepared the query, and sent it to many agents. I received only one full request, which ended in a rejection.

After considerable thought, I wondered if I had it in me to complete a YA novel. Then I thought why not? Go for it. And I’m glad I did. I found that this is where I belonged. I was comfortable in this writing place, with telling a longer story about wonderful teens with heart. Sure, it was an over-written story in desperate need of revision, but I had finished a story I loved and felt passionate about.

While letting book #2 cool, I plotted book #3. An idea came to me, a vehicle for telling this story, that was out of my genre. Did I have it in me to write in a genre I’m not familiar with? I thought why not? Go for it. I wrote the story and fell in love all over again. My heart was in this story. Yes, this one needed a lot of work also, but I’d accomplished something I never thought I’d do.

While revising book #2, I saw an open submission call from a major publisher who normally only accepted agented manuscripts. They were seeking stories about main characters who perfectly matched my MC in book #3. But book #3 wasn’t ready. I hadn’t touched it since writing those final words, and the submission call ended in 30 days. I wondered if I could clean it up in time, and then I thought why not? Go for it.

For 29 days I spent every available moment revising that manuscript. I sent it out to my wonderful beta readers, Lisa Green and Leslie Rose. They read it promptly and sent it back with valuable comments. I revised again, and again, and again. One day before the deadline, I submitted my manuscript.

This publisher ended up rejecting my story, but the silver lining was I had a polished manuscript. I had already prepared my synopsis and query, so I was ready to submit book #3 to agents. I was ready to go for it once again.

I prepared a list of agents, and selected the few I’d submit to first. In the meantime, Lisa and Leslie attended a writing retreat where they met Karen Grencik, a seasoned agent who was partnering with Abigail Samoun and launching Red Fox Literary. My friends thought this agent and I would hit it off, so I added Karen to my short list of first-round agents. And like magic, or like someone else’s literary dream, a week later I signed with Karen Grencik.

I have such a loooong way to go on my writing journey, but there’s one thing I know for sure--amazing things can happen to ordinary people, and we won’t know what we’re capable of unless we go for it!

Tell me, are you holding back or are you going for it? I’d love to hear about your writing journey.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

40 Goodreads Allows Ratings Before the ARC is Out -- Let's Change That

Update 3: 87 wonderful folks have signed the petition so far. PLEASE help us spread the word. And if you know of anyone who has been reluctant to sign because they require the name and address, just let them know to UNCHECK the "Make This Public" box. I've looked at the signature file, and the address doesn't show up when the box is unchecked. Hope that helps!

Martina
UPDATE 2: I received the answer (posted below) from Goodreads in response to my additional explanation. In response, I posted a petition on Change.org that should explain WHY this is so important. Please take a look or send your own response. Their answer doesn't make sense. The pre-read interest level and the post-read rating should be two different things!

To see the petition, go here: http://www.change.org/petitions/goodreadscom-protect-books-from-being-rated-before-copies-are-available-to-be-read?share_id=rnHVzWAqaR&utm

And here's the note I got back from Goodreads:

Hi there,



Thanks for contacting us. Goodreads policy allows users to rate a book as soon as it is listed on the site. While most users use the star-ratings to review a book, some like to use the rating system to indicate interest or excitement in an upcoming title. There is not one set way to use the rating system.


Additionally, it’s not a simple matter to prevent ratings of a book based upon publication date. The publication date is frequently inaccurate. Thousands of our users receive advanced copies of books; we have no way of knowing when ARCs for individual books are sent out. There is no universal standard in the industry for that. In the end, we have no way of knowing that any person on the site has read any of the books they claim to have read. Verifying this would be impractical.

Please keep in mind that when users rate a book that has not yet come out, other users tend to take the rating with a grain of salt.


If you feel a user is being abusive in other ways, please let us know and we'll look into the matter further.

Best, Kara


UPDATE: Evidently, Goodreads is responding that this early rating is a "valid use" of the rating system.

Please see the bottom of this post for the letter I recommend sending in response to their response!

Thanks,

Martina

So I was on Twitter the other night--I wish I had more time to spend there--and I happened to see a tweet from a writer about getting a two-star review on Goodreads for a book that no one has read yet. Now, to clarify, by no one, I do mean NO ONE. The book is still in manuscript form. There are no ARCs, no copies, no nada. Needless to say, it's a little unnerving, not to mention unfair, to find that someone doesn't like the book when they clearly haven't read it yet.

How can this happen, you wonder? I wondered too, so I asked her to explain.

It turns out that there is no mechanism in Goodreads to distinguish between an author's advance post about an upcoming book, and a book that is out there and ready for reviews. Many authors have evidently had their books rated before people have read them.

Now I may be naive, but it strikes me that this is something we could, and should, change. It should be a relatively easy fix, too. All it needs is a date field: available for rating after XX/XX/XXXX. And so long as that date hasn't passed yet, the author should be able to change it, in case ARCs are late going out. But once the date has passed, the book is fair game.

What do you think? Does that make sense as an approach toward Goodreads? Do you have any alternate suggestions?

Let's work together to fix this hole in Goodreads and make it more fair to authors. Hopefully, several voices raised together will be heard.

Since everyone's time is at a premium and I haven't personally experienced this situation, I wanted to post my draft letter for critique in case anyone has suggestions. Once we have the facts/approach right, if anyone wants to use that same letter, I'd be happy to share. This letter, or one of your own devising, can be posted to the Goodread's contact page (http://www.goodreads.com/about/contact_us)
in support of a requested fix to the problem.

Please make suggestions to improve the letter below, or otherwise let me know where I've screwed up. I just wanted to start the conversation going.

Draft Email:

Dear Goodreads Staff,

It has come to my attention that once an author creates a Goodreads page and adds their "in the pipeline" book, there is no way to keep people from rating/reviewing the book before copies are actually available for reading. This seems to be a hole in the system, and I wondered if it might be possible to add a date available for rating field for each book to eliminate this loophole. Such a field could contain the date ARCs will be released, and would, ideally, be changeable by the author prior to that date in case ARCs are delayed.

An additional service to authors might allow for a field to help build pre-publicity buzz or let fans build pre-release support, a way to show that someone is looking forward to reading a book once it becomes available. This could be as simple as allowing a book to be added to a TBR pile, and then showing the number of times it appears in a TBR pile for any book that hasn't yet passed the ARC release date.

I hope you will consider these suggestions.

Thank you and best regards,
Blah, blah, moi

So what do you think? Anything worthwhile in this? Changes? Gripes? Grudges? Grumbles?


Response I am sending (and recommending) to the stock, "this is a valid use" answer that Goodreads is sending back:

Dear Goodreads Staff,



That cannot be a valid use of ratings so long as the ratings factor into total ratings for the book, nor can it be a valid use when such ratings can actually deter someone from buying the book or reading it once an actual copy becomes available. Pre-release ratings can be highly prejudician to a book's success, not to mention demoralizing for an author and the editorial team.


Furthermore, it has been brought to our attention that anyone can add a book and attribute it to an author, even if the book does not exist.


The Goodreads site performs such a service to readers and authors alike. It is truly a shame to allow an easily-fixed loophole to become a policy that makes no sense and damages the very industry you serve.


Best regards,




etc.

Thanks for the help, everyone!

Monday, August 22, 2011

14 Writers' Book Talk: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Today marks the first of our Writers' Book Talks, and the first book we're going to do is
Libba Bray's Going Bovine
. Here's what Goodreads has about it:


Going Bovine by Libba Bray



All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.


On a slightly unrelated note, the above paragraph, would make a great query letter, wouldn't it? It sets up the plot, the inciting incident, and the main characters, and it even gives you a good idea of the voice in which the story is told.

What the summary above doesn't set us up for is that the story tips its hat to Cervantes' Don Quixote de La Mancha, but twists that around to very overtly give us a microcosm of some issues facing kids today. In the Cervantes story, the antihero, Don Quixote, read too many novels and overdosed on chivalry, honor, glory, and knights errant much the way kids (and many adults) today overdose on video games or movies. Convinced the real world sucks because it doesn't live up to his expectations, Don Quixote sets off to win some glory of his own in honor of the fair peasant maiden Dulcinea. Accompanied and constantly berated by his skewed perception of the world and his trusty "squire" Pancho, Don Quixote creates nothing but disaster for everyone he tries to help at first. All the while that he battles through his adventures, we see Don Quixote's madness. Even he seems dimly aware of it in brief glimpses of sanity, until eventually, he comes to see the world more realistically at the end and, declaring himself sane, makes us wonder if he ever was crazy or only faking. Cervantes pulls off a masterpiece of slight-of-hand, leaving the reader constantly questioning.

Libba Bray achieves a similar bit of trickery. We're never quite sure whether her stoner antihero, Cameron, is lying in a hospital bed slowly having his brain eaten away by mad cow disease, or if he is in fact running around saving the world. The closer he comes to death, the more he becomes engaged in life, in his family, and in the love he starts to feel for Dulcie, the angel who guides him, watches him, and ultimately needs saving herself. But as with Don Quixote's Dulcinea, we're never completely sure if Dulcie or anything Cameron sees is real. There are glimpses of events in the hospital that break through into the quest action (hero's journey) throughout the book, but then there are several places, the phone calls to the parents, for example, where reality and quest intersect in ways that can't be explained. In the same way that Cervantes uses Don Quixote to show his readers the lack of chivalry and morality that has pervaded their world, Libba Bray shows young adults the follies of floating through life, of disengaging. Her lessons aren't subtle, and that's another way she breaks the rules.

Agents and editors tell us not to do the Wizard of Oz, it-was-only-a-dream, endings. Libba pulls it off because she does it in a way that is unique and integral to the story. It's not a gimmick, and it doesn't leave the reader feeling betrayed. Maybe that's the key to breaking "the rules."

What do you think? Can you think of other rules this book has broken? Things that might appear to be plot holes but could very well be intentional? How writers can/should/shouldn't break rules in general?

What did you like about this book? What didn't you like? What lessons did you learn as a reader? As a writer?

Let's talk so we can all learn! Looking forward to hearing what you have to say,

Martina

P.S., I'll pick a lucky winner at random from those participating in the discussion. The winner will get a copy of Libba Bray's current book, Beauty Queens. So leave your thoughts before Thursday when we will get together to pick next Monday's book!


Friday, August 19, 2011

10 Best Articles This Week for Writers 8/19/11

Sorry for the delay posting this. We had an apocalyptic thunder storm here, and I had to turn off all the computers. Then work interfered this morning, along with another stupid migraine. But never mind all that. We have a couple of announcements.

The lovely Jill S. Alexander is launching her 2nd book tomorrow, August 20th. Here's the link to Book People, if you happen to be in Texas. And if you aren't, check her out on Amazon, because her writing is fabulous.

Also, we have decided on a book (okay, mostly I decided, and all of you who commented, I hope you don't mind TOO much) on Libba Bray's GOING BOVINE for our book discussion on Monday. We're going to talk about breaking rules, making writing magic, plot as it relates to the hero's journey, the Wizard of Oz, Don Quixote, gnomes, and/or anything else anyone wants to say. Please stop by and join us.

Have a great weekend,

Martina


After the Sale
Book Reviews
Congrats
Contests
Craft of Writing
Critiquing
Inspiration
Issues, News, and Trends
Just for Smiles
Self-Editing
Social Media
To Market

Other Weekly Round-Ups:
Did we miss anything? Anyone? Please leave a comment!

Happy reading and joyous writing,

Martina, Marissa and Clara