Sunday, June 30, 2013

39 Question of the Week: How Many Books Do You Read Each Month?

Hey everyone! We took a break from Question of the Week to celebrate ONE MILLION VISITORS to this blog (and you’re one of them! Thank you!), and now we’re back. Pretty much the only thing writers love as much as writing is talking about writing. So each week here at Adventures in YA Publishing, I post a question for you to answer. The questions cover all topics important to writers: craft, career, writers’ life, reading and books. Together we’ll become better writers by sharing tips and discussing our habits and practices.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK
for June 30, 2013
How Many Books Do You Read Each Month?

A quick question this week: On average, how many books do you read every month?

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/43602175@N06/4070018686/">goXunuReviews</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

My answer: Before I started seriously pursuing publication, I probably read six to eight books a month. When I got my first e-reader, the number of books I read each month multiplied—boy, did it multiply! With a simple click on that magical little device, I could download any book I wanted in seconds. The ease and convenience of my e-reader doubled the number of books I read each month.

Then I started writing. For real this time. Any spare moment I had, I wrote instead of read. While my word count increased, the number of books I read each month diminished. Which was really, really sad. And it was bad for my craft. Every writer knows that the more you read, the better you write. So, to improve my writing skills—but mostly because I just missed it so much—I started reading voraciously again. Writing (and revising) still take up much of my time, but I make sure to read every single day. I’m still not reading as much as I used to. Unless I’m deep, deep, deep in writing/revision mode, I probably average three or four books a month, about one per week. I’d like to read more—my want-to-read list is a mile long—but for now, I think it’s a good balance for me.


WHAT ABOUT YOU? How many books do you read each month? Does writing take away from your reading time? Conversely, do you wish you’d spend less time reading, and more time writing?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

7 This Week's Pick and Mix for Readers and Writers

Thought for the Week



Reader Recommendation of the Week


I've had a bit of a talk with myself this week. It wasn't pretty. 

Part of the talk was driven by the fact that Google Reader is going away as of Monday, and part of it is because, post-book-deal, I'm realizing that I am going to need to juggle a few more things that I have been. 

Even now, it's impossible to discover and leave comments on other blogs as often as I would like, and my solution to that has been to post a huge list of links on Saturdays.

I've decided I'm going to have to stop doing that. I will still tweet what I can, but I won't post the list of links anymore.

Instead, I will pick a reader each week from among those who leave comments on the previous Thursday Character Bucket List or the Friday New YALit Releases post. I'll include a link to the reader's blog, if they have one, and I will ask them for a book recommendation, which I will spotlight here. The chosen reader will also get DOUBLE ENTRIES for the following Friday giveaway, provided they leave a comment and enter the giveaway.

Here we go. Are you ready?

Joni's Book Pick and Why She Loves It:


Choosing only one book is hard, but my go-to recommendation would have to be CINDER by Marissa Meyer. I'm sure that everyone has by this point at least heard of the LUNAR CHRONICLES, but I can't help but add my compliments. It's becoming an obsession, really. ^.^ Aside from some dystopian reads, I'm not really a big sci-fi reader. Still, this futuristic story managed to capture me completely. The skill with which the writing pulls you into the world is masterful and awe-worthy. The plot plays out with strong visuals that make it easy to see- as though watching an action-packed movie. (Really, where is my theatre release date?- because I'd be camping out opening night!) It's almost hard to call the books "fairytale retellings" because they read so original, real, and freshly sleek. However, the elements of our favorite Grimm and Andersen tales are put in in clever ways. I would recommend anyone and everyone give this series a try. Even those who aren't into science fiction or fairytales. As long as you like layered storytelling, a colorful cast of characters, and some epic action, these books are for you.

Buy at Amazon | Buy from IndieBound | View on Goodreads

Martina's Read of the Week:

I actually read this last week, but I'm going to choose Corrine Jackson's If I Lie

We don't talk a lot about honor these days, not nearly enough. If I Lie is all about honor and the hard choices that come with sacrificing for honor's sake. It's also a great example of an author letting the reader live the story instead of telling a story to the reader. It packs an emotional whallop, and I highly recommend it! 



Buy on Amazon | Order from IndieBound | View on Goodreads


Quote of the Week:

via Pinterest

"Books are a weird collaboration between author and reader: You trust me to tell a good story and I trust you to bring it to good life in your mind. I can only hope I held up my end of the bargain."

That's lovely, isn't it? Do you ever think about the relationship between the reader and writer as you write? As you read?

How much of what you bring to the book creates your reading experience?



Giveaways This Week

We have two giveaways from among the books coming out next week, THIS IS W.A.R. by Lisa and Laura Roecker, and FOREVERMORE by Cindy Miles. Plus as always, the post includes book covers and blurbs for all the titles. Many of the authors also share what they love about their books. Looking for a great new read? You'll find it here!

http://childrenspublishing.blogspot.com/2013/06/new-yalit-releases-in-stores-629-75-and.html

Candace at Candace's Book Blog and Lori at Pure Imagination hosts a weekly Linky of Giveaways. Here's this week's:

http://www.pureimaginationblog.com/2013/06/saturday-situation-link-up-your-reviews-giveaways-75.html

Blogger of the Week

Similar to the Reader of the Week, I will pick a blogger to profile each week, with preference given to those who leave comments here on the blog any day but Thursdays and Fridays. The profile will include links to great content on their blog and a bit of something about the writer. I will also link to the profile in the sidebar here the rest of the week. 


Stacey Haggard Brewer writes fantasy, historical fantasy, and modern fantasy, but she also suffers from the occasional steampunk and sci-fi ambition. Stacey loves reading, herb gardening, drawing, and all manner of geekery and spends a good deal of the time she should spend writing dedicated to these pursuits.
She lives in southwest Missouri with her husband and her funny little dog whom she calls “Rabbit”.


Here are a few wonderful recent posts from Brewer's Cauldron:

Peek Inside the Industry

TAKE ME TO YOUR READER
Via Wordpainting





Tip of the Week


If you're a Scrivener user, Justin Swapp offers 7 free templates to help you structure your novel or short story. These include:
  • The Seven Plot Point Structure
  • The Hero's Journey Template
  • Two Snowflake Method Templates
  • A Beat Sheet Template
  • A Mystery Novel Template 
  • and more... 


Writing Life and Inspiration



via WritersWrite






Just for Fun

More Great Round-Ups


via Jessica Saunders
What About You?

 What have you been up to this week? What are you writing? What are you reading? Books? Blog posts you want to share? Sound off! I'd love to know. :)

Happy writing,

Martina

Friday, June 28, 2013

21 New YALit Releases In Stores 6/29-7/5 and Two Giveaways

THIS WEEK'S GIVEAWAY


* * * *


Forevermore
by Cindy Miles
Paperback Giveaway
Point
Released 7/1/2013

On a misty cliffside, mystery and romance await. . . .

Ivy Calhoun's life has been turned upside down. Her new stepdad has uprooted Ivy and her mom, bringing them to live in an actual castle in the misty Scottish countryside. There are stone-faced servants and shadowy corridors, and the ancient walls seem full of secrets. Ivy is at once frightened and intrigued.

Especially when she meets Logan, a gorgeous, elusive ghost who has haunted the castle grounds for decades. Ivy is immediately drawn to him . . . but Logan is not the only spirit around. Something dark and deadly is afoot, and soon Ivy finds herself in mortal danger.

Is Logan exactly what he seems? Could his mysterious past be tied to Ivy's present? And can Ivy stop herself from falling in love with him?

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Forevermore?

It's so difficult to pin-point one single favorite thing about Forevermore! But the setting is definitely up there in the top two. I LOVE Scotland, and the history there, the crumbling old castles, the people, how it smells, the BROGUE...it all inspires me, every single time I visit. I never tire from it. That Forevermore is set in the Highlands of Scotland, in a creepy old haunted castle, is one of my most favorite things. And of course, the handsome Scottish ghost! :)

Purchase Forevermore at Amazon
Purchase Forevermore at IndieBound
View Forevermore on Goodreads

* * * *


This is W.A.R
by Lisa and Laura Roecker
Hardcover Giveaway
Soho Teen
Released 7/2/2013

This is W.A.R. begins with a victim who can no longer speak for herself, and whose murder blossoms into a call-to-arms. Enter four very different girls, four very different motives to avenge Willa Ames-Rowan, and only one rule to start: Destroy James Gregory and his family at any cost. Willa's initials spell the secret rallying cry that spurs the foursome to pool their considerable resources and deliver their particular brand of vigilante justice. Innocence is lost, battles are won--and the pursuit of the truth ultimately threatens to destroy them all.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about This is W.A.R?

Our favorite thing about THIS IS W.A.R. is the first and last chapter. It was very important for us to share Willa's voice and those passages gave us the freedom to do that. THIS IS W.A.R. is truly Willa's story despite the fact that her friends are the ones telling it.

Purchase This is W.A.R at Amazon
Purchase This is W.A.R at IndieBound
View This is W.A.R on Goodreads


LAST WEEK'S GIVEAWAY WINNERS


* * * *


Golden Girl
by Sarah Zettel
Hardcover Giveaway plus trade paperback of Dust Girl
Random House Books for Young Readers
Released 6/25/2013

Winner: Joni

Callie LeRoux has put her grimy, harrowing trip from the depths of the Dust Bowl behind her. Her life is a different kind of exciting now: she works at a major motion picture studio among powerful studio executives and stylish stars. Still nothing can distract her from her true goal. With help from her friend Jack and guidance from the great singer Paul Robeson, she will find her missing mother.

But as a child of prophecy and daughter of the legitimate heir to the Seelie throne, Callie poses a huge threat to the warring fae factions who've attached themselves to the most powerful people in Hollywood . . . and they are all too aware that she's within their reach.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Golden Girl?

First of all, I loved being able to continue the story of Callie LeRoux, watching her grow and stretch and rise to meet the new challenges her identity and her magic create for her.

But I also loved writing in the intersection between the movies and magic. I love movies. I always have and I have a special fondness for the kind of magic and high glamor created by the classics. So, getting to go there in this book, to play with some of the settings and personalities, and the kind of high style that you see in things like The Great Gatsby, say, and wrap it all in the magic of the American Fairies was tremendous fun.


Purchase Golden Girl at Amazon
Purchase Golden Girl at IndieBound
View Golden Girl on Goodreads



* * * *


Hidden
by Marianne Curley
Advance Reader Copy Giveaway
Bloomsbury USA Childrens; 1 edition
Released 6/25/2013

Winner: Wendy Spinale

For as long as Ebony can remember, she's been sheltered. Confined to her home in a secluded valley, home-schooled by her protective parents, and limited to a small circle of close friends. It's as if she's being hidden. But something is changing in Ebony. Something that can't be concealed. She's growing more beautiful by the day, she's freakishly strong, and then there's the fact that she's glowing.

On one fateful night, Ebony meets Jordan and she's intensely drawn to him. It's as if something explodes inside of her--something that can be seen from the heavens. Ebony still doesn't know that she's a stolen angel, but now that the heavens have found her, they want her back.

Purchase Hidden at Amazon
Purchase Hidden at IndieBound
View Hidden on Goodreads

* * * *


Weather Witch
by Shannon Delany
Paperback Giveaway
St. Martin''s Griffin
Released 6/25/2013

Winner: Whitley Abell

In a vastly different and darker Philadelphia of 1844, steam power has been repressed, war threatens from deep, dark waters, and one young lady of high social standing is expecting a surprise at her seventeenth birthday party--but certainly not the one she gets!

Jordan Astraea, who has lived out all of her life in Philadelphia's most exclusive neighborhood, is preparing to celebrate her birthday with friends, family and all the extravagance they might muster. The young man who is most often her dashing companion, Rowen Burchette, has told her a surprise awaits her and her best friend, Catrina Hollindale, wouldn't miss this night for all the world!

But storm clouds are gathering and threatening to do far more than dampen her party plans because someone in the Astraea household has committed the greatest of social sins by Harboring a Weather Witch.

Purchase Weather Witch at Amazon
Purchase Weather Witch at IndieBound
View Weather Witch on Goodreads


* * * *




Data Runner
by Sam Patel
Ebook giveaway
Diversion Books
released 6/25/2013

Winner: voodoospork

In the not-too-distant future, in what was once the old City of New York, megacorporations have taken over everything. Now even the internet is owned, and the only way to transmit sensitive information is by a network of highly skilled couriers called “data runners” who run it over the sneakernet. It is a dangerous gig in a dirty world, but Jack Nill doesn’t have much choice in the matter. A brilliant young math whiz and champion of parkour, Jack must become one of these data runners in order to get his father out of a major gambling debt. But when a mysterious stranger loads Jack’s chip with a cryptic cargo that everybody wants, he soon becomes the key figure in a conspiracy that could affect the entire North American Alliance. Now it’s all up to Jack. With the help of his best friend, Dexter, and a girl who runs under the name Red Tail, Jack will have to use all his skills to outrun the retrievers and uncover the truth before they catch him and clip him for good.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Data Runner?

The running. For thousands of years, the only way to traffic information was to put it in the hands of able runners and deliver it by foot. Now we take it for granted that we can encrypt anything and send it over the wire, but what if that were no longer the case? In my story, the sneakernet is not a new system for delivering information, it's the revival of a very old system that's been modernized by technology and a contemporary form of running known as parkour. That idea is what inspired me to write Data Runner in the first place.

Purchase Data Runner on Amazon
View Data Runner on Goodreads




Two Page Critique by Liz Coley, author of Pretty Girl-13

Winner: Sheri Levy

Pretty girl
13 when she
went missing

lost
to her family
to her friends
to the world

found
but still missing
her self

In Liz Coley's alarming and fascinating psychological mystery, sixteen-year-old Angie Chapman must piece together the story of her kidnapping and abuse. Pretty Girl-13 is a disturbing—and ultimately empowering—page-turner about accepting our whole selves, and the healing power of courage, hope, and love.

Purchase Pretty Girl-13 on Amazon
Purchase Pretty Girl-13 on Indiebound
View Pretty Girl-13 on Goodreads



IN STORES NEXT WEEK WITH AUTHOR INTERVIEWS






Vortex
by S.J. Kincaid
Hardcover
Katherine Tegen Books
Released 7/2/2013

The impossible was just the beginning. Now in their second year as superhuman government weapons-in-training at the Pentagonal Spire, Tom Raines and his friends are mid-level cadets in the elite combat corps known as the Intrasolar Forces. But as training intensifies and a moment arrives that could make or break his entire career, Tom's loyalties are again put to the test.

Encouraged to betray his ideals and friendships for the sake of his country, Tom is convinced there must be another way. And the more aware he becomes of the corruption surrounding him, the more determined he becomes to fight it, even if he sabotages his own future in the process.

Drawn into a power struggle more dramatic than he has ever faced before, Tom stays a hyperintelligent step ahead of everyone, like the exceptional gamer he is--or so he believes. But when he learns that he and his friends have unwittingly made the most grievous error imaginable, Tom must find a way to outwit an enemy so nefarious that victory seems hopeless. Will his idealism and bravado cost him everything--and everyone that matters to him?

Filled with action and intelligence, camaraderie and humor, the second book in S.J. Kincaid's futuristic World War III Insignia trilogy continues to explore fascinating and timely questions about power, politics, technology, loyalty, and friendship.

Author Question: What do you love most about Vortex?
VORTEX is the second book in the INSIGNIA series, and what I enjoy about it the most is the exploration of the character relationships established in the first book of the series. INSIGNIA leaves off with Tom at odds with Medusa after his actions at the end of the last book; he and Blackburn are at each other's throats, and Tom and his friends, Vik, Wyatt, Yuri, are in a place of perfect friendship. All three of these major dynamics are challenged in various ways by the events of VORTEX, especially after Tom and his friends realize they've made a very serious mistake and devastating consequences ensue. I always find it interesting exploring both the good and the bad of a very strong emotional connection (or repulsion) between two characters, and VORTEX gave me that opportunity to do so while also following Tom's progress in his second year at the Pentagonal Spire. 


Purchase Vortex at Amazon
Purchase Vortex at IndieBound
View Vortex on Goodreads


* * * *


Shutdown
by Heather Anastasiu
Paperback
St. Martin''s Griffin
Released 7/2/2013

The battle is all but over, and hope seems to be lost. Zoe and her fellow Resistance fighters are on the run, having lost their home, their protection, and their leader. They are outnumbered and outmatched by the powerful corporation that controls the world, and the cruel Chancellor is inches away from completing a scheme that would kill most of humanity. Zoe's only remaining option is to chase the impossible dream of upending the Link system, freeing the world from the hardware that controls their thoughts and emotions, and hope it will trigger a revolution.

The plot requires a nearly impossible mission to infiltrate the dangerous Community, and it is a task that Zoe must unfortunately complete alone. With challenges and surprises at every turn, nothing goes according to plan. Adrien's visions of the future now show two possible outcomes: one in which they succeed, and one in which humanity falls. It all lies in Zoe's hands.

Full of romance, high-adrenaline action and shocking twists, Shutdown is a heart-pounding conclusion to an exciting sci-fi adventure trilogy for young adults.


The thrilling conclusion to an action-packed sci-fi trilogy

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Shutdown?

I wanted this third and final book to have a lot of symmetry with the first book so that yes, while there is plenty of kick-butt action, at the heart of everything is a love story. For me, the fun in approaching it was writing about people falling in love again, after life has gotten in the way with all its terrible complications. Real life tends to do that--throw a wrench in our plans just when we think we've got everything under control. So in this book, I'm hypothetically asking my characters: do you really have a love that can withstand anything?

Things get difficult, people change. In a way this was a very personal question for me about the way love has to either transform or be abandoned as the lovers themselves are forced to change in unexpected ways. And then, you know, there's also all the super-powers and battle scenes and narrow escapes and explosions, and that made it fun to write too. ;)


Purchase Shutdown at Amazon
Purchase Shutdown at IndieBound
View Shutdown on Goodreads


MORE RELEASES IN STORES NEXT WEEK




Truly, Madly, Deadly
by Hannah Jayne
Paperback
Sourcebooks Fire
Released 7/2/2013

Sawyer Dodd has it all. She's a star track athlete, choir soloist, and A-student. And her boyfriend is the handsome all-star Kevin Anderson. But behind the medals, prom pictures, and perfect smiles, Sawyer finds herself trapped in a controlling, abusive relationship with Kevin. When he dies in a drunk-driving accident, Sawyer is secretly relieved. She's free. Until she opens her locker and finds a mysterious letter signed by "an admirer" and printed with two simple words: "You're welcome."

Purchase Truly, Madly, Deadly at Amazon
Purchase Truly, Madly, Deadly at IndieBound
View Truly, Madly, Deadly on Goodreads

* * * *


Since You Asked...
by Maurene Goo
Hardcover
Scholastic Press
Released 7/1/2013

No, no one asked, but Holly Kim will tell you what she thinks anyway.

Fifteen-year-old Holly Kim is the copyeditor for her high school's newspaper. When she accidentally submits an article that rips everyone to shreds, she gets her own column and rants her way through the school year. Can she survive homecoming, mean-girl cliques, jocks, secret admirers, Valentine's Day, and other high school embarrassments, all while struggling to balance her family's traditional Korean values?
In this hilarious debut, Maurene Goo takes a fresh look at trying to fit in without conforming to what's considered "normal" in high school and how to manage parental expectations without losing one's individuality...or being driven insane.

Purchase Since You Asked... at Amazon
Purchase Since You Asked... at IndieBound
View Since You Asked... on Goodreads

* * * *


Awaken
by Meg Cabot
Hardcover
Point
Released 7/2/2013

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, the dark reimagining of the Persephone myth comes to a thrilling conclusion.

Death has her in his clutches. She doesn't want him to let go.

Seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera knew by accepting the love of John Hayden, she'd be forced to live forever in the one place she's always dreaded most: the Underworld. The sacrifice seemed worth it, though, because it meant she could be with the boy she loves.

But now her happiness -- and safety -- are threatened, all because the Furies have discovered that John has broken one of their strictest rules: He revived a human soul.

If the balance between life and death isn't fixed, both the Underworld and Pierce's home back on earth will be wiped away. But there's only one way to restore order. Someone has to die.

Purchase Awaken at Amazon
Purchase Awaken at IndieBound
View Awaken on Goodreads

* * * *


A Midsummer Night's Scream
by R.L. Stine
Hardcover
Feiwel & Friends
Released 7/2/2013

The master of horror takes on the master of theater!

Get ready for laughter to turn into screams in R.L. Stine's re-imagining of Shakespeare's classic romantic comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Everyone knows that Mayhem Manor is cursed. After production on the horror film was stopped due to a series of mysterious deaths, it became a Hollywood legend--which makes it perfect for Claire and her family. If they can successfully finish the film, it should be enough to save their ailing movie studio.

Sure, the old haunted house is creepy, and strange stuff has been happening, but this is Claire's chance. Her chance to become the movie star she's always dreamed and her chance to finally convince her friend Jake that she is girlfriend material. Of course, the fact that Jake thinks he's in love with her best friend, Delia, who is crushing hard on Jake's friend Shawn, who insists on following Claire around, could be a problem, but Claire is sure she can figure it out. After all, the course of true love never did run smooth.

But once shooting starts, "creepy and strange" morph into "bloody and deadly," as the lines between film and reality begin to blur...

Purchase A Midsummer Night's Scream at Amazon
Purchase A Midsummer Night's Scream at IndieBound
View A Midsummer Night's Scream on Goodreads

* * * *


This Strange and Familiar Place
by Rachel Carter
Hardcover
HarperTeen
Released 7/2/2013

Rachel Carter’s breathtaking time-travel romance, This Strange and Familiar Place, is a great pick for fans of Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red trilogy.

In the second book of the So Close to You YA trilogy, Lydia Bentley has discovered that the conspiracy theories about the Montauk Project, the ones her grandfather had told her about all her life, were true all along.

The little town on Long Island really is the Area 51 of the east. Lydia’s hometown has been the site of government time-travel experiments since World War II. Among the “recruits” the Project has used as subjects in these experiments are two members of Lydia’s own family, and Wes, the boy she loves.

What is Lydia willing to sacrifice to save them?

Purchase This Strange and Familiar Place at Amazon
Purchase This Strange and Familiar Place at IndieBound
View This Strange and Familiar Place on Goodreads


Thursday, June 27, 2013

3 Character Bucket List: Lisa Gail Green and Gabe from The Binding Stone

Today, our post is from Lisa Gail Green. She's a contributor here at Adventures in YA Publishing, and she is also a permanent mentor on the First Five Pages Workshop. In addition to that, she blogs over at Paranormal Point of View.


*****


First a bit about the book:

"I dream of Lisa Gail Green! The Binding Stone is magical in so many ways. My Djinn asks for my third wish? The sequel, of course!" - NYT bestselling author Nancy Holder

"Genies like you’ve never seen them, THE BINDING STONE is a wild ride of treachery and deception. For my first wish, I’d like a sequel, please." - PERSONAL DEMONS author Lisa Desrochers

Tricked into slavery by the man she loved, the Djinni Leela has an eternity to regret her choices.

Awakened in the prison of her adolescent body, she finds a new master in possession of the opal that binds her. But seventeen-year-old Jered is unlike any she’s seen. His kindness makes Leela yearn to trust again, to allow herself a glimmer of hope.

Could Jered be strong enough to free her from the curse of the Binding Stone?

Buy The Binding Stone on Amazon
Find The Binding Stone on Goodreads


*****

Most of my character interviews so far have been with Leela and Jered. It’s understandable because they are the main character and “love” interest. But I thought, why not give Gabe a chance to shine? He deserves it. He’s been Jered’s best friend for years after all.

Gabe, what do you have to say?

Seriously? I mean I appreciate the opportunity and all, but Jered’s the one who got the hot genie – uh, Djinni – sorry, Leela. Not that I’m bitter. I still get to do some uber cool sh- I mean stuff. *fidgets in seat* *adjusts clip on tie*

So. Bucket list.

1. Find a beautiful girl who’s really into me.

2. Be a hero.

3. Fly.

I guess in the grand scheme of things, if I’m gonna kick the proverbial bucket, I want to go out in a memorable way. So, yeah, definitely number two.

Thanks, Gabe! Good luck with that.



About the Author

Lisa Gail Green writes paranormal and fantasy. Look for the first novel in her DJINN series, THE BINDING STONE, available now! She would most definitely have a werewolf for a pet if she weren't allergic.

Lisa's Website
Follow Lisa on Twitter

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

12 The Road to Publication by Liz Fichera

Today's WOW Wednesday post is by Liz Fichera. Liz is an American author living in the American Southwest by way of Chicago. She writes stories about ordinary teens who do extraordinary things. Her contemporary YA debut HOOKED from HarlequinTEEN is available in bookstores now. Its companion, PLAYED, will be released in June 2014.


******

When I look back on all the stuff that was firing at me during the time I was trying to figure out how to go from being a writer to a published author, I can think of 10 key things that were the most helpful in the road to publication:

1) Not all rules were meant to be followed. In other words, just because one publishing path worked for one person doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for another. Be flexible. Be open. Investigate all publishing options, be it traditional or self-publishing or a combination of both. For me, I chose the traditional route.

2) If choosing a literary agent, choose wisely. Use all the resources available to investigate before you query—Query Tracker, Publishers Marketplace, Writers Market, other writers, etc.—to research the agent and literary agency that will be right for you. Remember: you should choose an agent with whom you can have a long-term relationship, someone who’ll stick by you when/if your first book doesn’t sell or doesn’t sell right away. Make sure you’re choosing someone with a track record of sales. If you’re choosing an agent that’s new to the business, make sure it’s someone with an established agency. If that agent maintains a blog (and most of the good ones do), follow it to get a feel for the agent’s style and personality.

3) Keep writing. Always be thinking about (and writing) your next book and your next book after that, even as your book goes out on submission. Your sanity will thank you.

4) Write every day. Enough said.

5) Make sure to have a life outside of writing. Oftentimes when you get sucked into your story and you can’t seem to break away from your laptop, remember it’s important to stay connected—with family, with friends, with other writers, with your pets—whoever makes you happy.

6) Don’t follow trends. In other words, don’t just write a werewolf book because werewolves are the cat’s meow at the moment. Write what’s in your heart. Trends come and go. Maybe you’ll write something new and exciting that’ll start the next trend! Be bold.

7) Pay it forward. The publishing world is small and karma is very real. Be kind. Be a human being. Get to know your fellow writers and others who work in the publishing community—editors, agents, bloggers. Help where/when you can. You’ll be glad that you did.

8) Social media, it’s here whether you like it or not. Establish yourself in all of the usual places but, for the love of god, do not spam people. Do not talk to people as “followers.” You’re not building a cult. You’re trying to foster relationships. If you can’t have fun at it, don’t do it.

9) Have at least one critique partner. And, no, I do not advise that the one person is your mother. She’ll love everything you write. You need someone who can give you honest and constructive feedback.

10) If you don’t love writing stories, choose another profession. You’ve got to love what you do, particularly in this field. Whoever said that you needed thick skin to survive wasn’t kidding.



About the Author
Liz Fichera was born and raised in Park Ridge, Illinois. She moved to Phoenix, Arizona, after college, never expecting to live more than one year among cactus and people who’d never seen snow. She was wrong. It certainly didn't hurt that she met her future husband in Phoenix too.

Most of her stories are set in the American Southwest because she thinks the desert is a cool place. Living in Phoenix, she's surrounded by Native American culture and influences, not to mention intriguing Hohokam petroglyphs and centuries-old canals. There are over 20 tribes in Arizona and she's lucky to be neighbors to the Gila River and the Salt River Indian Communities.

When she's not busy writing her next novel, she likes to travel, visit museums, support local theater productions, hike, and pretend that she's training for a triathlon. She posts a lot of photos from her desert and mountain hikes on her Facebook and Twitter pages. In no particular order, she's been chased by javalinas, rattlesnakes, coyotes, and even one curious black bear.

Visit Liz's website
Check out Liz's blog




About the Book

Get hooked on a girl named Fred…

HE said: Fred Oday is a girl? Puh-leeze. Why is a girl taking my best friend's spot on the boys' varsity golf team?

SHE said: Can I seriously do this? Can I join the boys' team? Everyone will hate me—especially Ryan Berenger.

HE said: Coach expects me to partner with Fred on the green? That is crazy bad. Fred's got to go—especially now that I can't get her out of my head. So not happening.

SHE said: Ryan can be nice, when he's not being a jerk. Like the time he carried my golf bag. But the girl from the rez and the spoiled rich boy from the suburbs? So not happening.

But there's no denying that things are happening as the girl with the killer swing takes on the boy with the killer smile…

Buy Hooked on Amazon
Find Hooked on Goodreads

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

4 Six Tips for Bursting through a Creative Block by Katie Sise

Today's Craft Tuesday guest is Katie Sise, author, jewelry designer, TV personality, and run-of-the-mill over-acheiver. (She doesn't include that last part in her bio, but clearly it's true anyway.) Sit up and pay attention now, because she is about to share some fantastic tips.

Six Tips for Bursting through a Creative Block

by Katie Sise

These are tips to stop procrastinating and bust through writer’s block (or any kind of creative block) that I wrote about in my first nonfiction book, CREATIVE GIRL: The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career. I applied them while writing THE BOYFRIEND APP, and I hope they’re helpful to you wherever you are in your writing process!

1) Take it Piece by Piece.
When you break down large creative tasks into smaller, more manageable ones, your work won’t seem as daunting. (Even when faced with the task of writing an entire novel.) There’s a great E.L. Doctorow quote about writing that’s applicable to all sorts of creative work. “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

If writing a novel by the seat of your pants sounds too scary, outlining is a great way to break down a novel into “smaller tasks.” A chapter-by-chapter outline is your roadmap in the fog. Sure, you’ll stray from it many times. But a general sense of where you’re going will keep you moving forward. I try to start every book with a 35-chapter outline. I’ll write about 3-4 sentences per chapter. I read that out loud and make sure there’s enough story there. If the outline itself doesn’t sound interesting enough, I’m back to the drawing board.

2) The Ten-Minute Rule
The next time you find yourself procrastinating, tell yourself you’ll work on the task you’ve been avoiding for just ten minutes. This little trick works for two reasons: First, almost anyone can do almost anything for ten minutes. You’ll often find that once you get started, the task isn’t so bad after all, and you’ll find yourself continuing your work past the allotted time. The second reason is the more significant of the two; starting a task is almost always the hardest part, so by continually doing this, you’re training yourself to get good at simply starting. Within a few weeks, it will become routine.

3) Enlist a Fellow Creative Type or Take a Class
If writing starts to feel too lonely (which can make it easier to procrastinate) grab a workmate. Having a partner in crime to collaborate with and answer to will automatically make you more accountable. Anyone you know who is also responsible for scheduling her own creative time may want to partner up at a table in your local coffee shop on weekday afternoons. The moral support will keep you buoyed when you’re tempted to ditch your writing and watch soap operas.
The best thing I ever did for my writing career was to take classes. I enrolled in several MediaBistro courses, and I swear those courses are the reason I’m published. I learned so much. And I had to be accountable each week to my teachers and my classmates: I had to turn pages in. Plus, it was a great way to learn both writing craft and about publishing as a business.

4) Get Out of the House and Get Inspired
If the home office is feeling claustrophobic, change your scenery. Sometimes, just going to grab coffee first thing in the morning and bringing your laptop to a coffee shop—which involves getting out of your pajamas, usually—can set you in the right frame of mind to write. There are creative, social work environments found at www.workatjelly.com.
And it’s okay to take a break for an afternoon movie every once in awhile, or visit an art museum, or do anything else that gets you inspired if you’re feeling blocked. For me, seeing a movie always jogs my brain and just makes me grateful that my job is to entertain people.


5) Keep to a Schedule and Protect Your Work Hours
Pay attention to when you feel the most energetic during the day and schedule your toughest work for those hours. Become protective of those hours. Turn off the internet—it’s a black hole for productivity. Don’t answer the phone calls you don’t urgently need to take. If your writing time is during a certain time each day, you can even ask the people you love (and are tempted to talk to) not to call for those few hours each day. Catch up later!

6) Volunteer: Get Out of Your Head and Put Your Writing in Perspective
It’s pretty hard to lose sight of what’s important in life when you make what’s important in life part of your life. There’s a creative side effect, too. Every time you switch up your surroundings, you creativity is stimulated. So leave your ego at the door and get out there and volunteer. There’s no better way in the world to remind yourself that it’s only a book, only a show, only a job, than to help people in need.
Bonus points if you can use your creativity while volunteering. Mentoring someone who benefits from your gifts reminds you of the innate goodness of your artistic pursuit.

Check out www.volunteermatch.org to find service work in your area.

About the Author


Katie Sise is a New York City based author, jewelry designer, and television host. Her jewelry line has appeared in magazines like Vogue, W, Elle, Lucky, InStyle, People, Marie Claire, Allure, Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Us Weekly and Glamour, and has been worn by celebrities like Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway, Cameron Diaz, and Beyonce Knowles. Katie has done design collaboration with outlets like Target, and has appeared as a style consultant on networks like HSN, Oxygen and Discovery. She can usually be found drinking coffee and spending time with her family while wearing Old Navy leggings. THE BOYFRIEND APP is her first novel.

Catch Katie at her website: http://www.katharinesise.com or on Twitter: @KatieSise. You can also find her and lots more about the book at Harper Teen.

About the Book


Computer whiz Audrey McCarthy feels most at home in a tech lab, surrounded by her fellow geeks. Once popular and fearless, she hasn't been the same since her dad died. And her ex–best friend, gorgeous queen bee Blake Dawkins, has turned into her worst nightmare. Audrey is counting the minutes until high school is over and she can get the hell out of Dodge and go to college—that is, if she can find a scholarship.

So when Public Corporation, a giant tech company, announces a contest for the best app developed by a high schooler—with $200,000 in prize money—Audrey is spurred into action. She comes up with an idea so simple, yet so brilliant, she can't believe it hasn't been done: the Boyfriend App.

With a simple touch of the screen, romance blooms among the unlikeliest couples at school, and people start to take notice. But it's not quite enough.

To beat out the competition, Audrey will have to dig deeper. And she does—right into a scandal that would rock Public to its core. Suddenly the Boyfriend App lands Audrey where she never expected to be: in the middle of the limelight, passionately kissed by the hottest guys in school, causing complete and utter mayhem. But can it bring her true love?

Monday, June 24, 2013

9 Raising Questions with Your First Line by Emma Trevayne

Today's guest is Emma Trevayne. Her first novel, Coda, released in May 2013 and will be followed by Chorus in Spring 2014. She is represented by Brooks Sherman of FinePrint Literary Management.


******

I think it probably says something that I'm here to talk about great first lines in novels, and I've changed the first line of this post three times.

First lines of anything are pretty tough. You want to deliver an emotional kick, but say something readers can immediately relate to, or picture, or at the very least understand with absolutely no context. You want to make people read all the sentences that come after the first one, and first impressions count. It's no wonder that this is something writers agonize over. I definitely did.

And in the end, all of my rewriting and tweaking of that first sentence didn't matter, because almost all of the first chapter got cut once my book had an editor. What is now the first line of Coda was a line I originally barely even thought about. They were just the words that needed to happen in that moment.

They are: I’m drawn toward the door.

That’s it. But what door? Who is speaking? What’s on the other side? I hope readers will want to find out. To read the next line: I can’t hear it yet, but I can feel it. Hear what? Feel what?

First lines need to raise questions.

Since I became part of the publishing world, I have often heard people say that writers should, as a matter of course, cut the first sentence, or paragraph, or even up to the first few chapters, because they tend to be full of things the reader doesn’t need to know yet. I’m not sure I agree with that completely--that it should be routine to do so--but I do kind of agree with the sentiment. So much fiddling with a first sentence can overcook it and turn it into something that is trying to sound like A First Sentence instead of the beginning of a story.

So that's probably the most important thing I've learned, and the best advice I can give: Your first sentence should be the words that need to happen right there, right where the story starts. They should feel right. Sometimes, this means that they're the words you don't think about at all, don't agonize over because you don't need to. And those right words should ask more questions than they answer.

Coda was my first book and the one that got me published. Did I apply the above to the opening line of my second? Well, kind of. I actually wrote the first sentence months before I knew what book it would belong to. In bed, half asleep, a sentence came to me and I wrote it in the notepad on my phone. Four months later, it became the first line of another book, and then I added a prologue, so it’s no longer the very first line of the story, but it is still the first line of chapter one. It is, again, a line I didn’t stress about too much. It was a lightning bolt of inspiration and one I didn’t question. That’s what seems to work for me.

Now, I get to talk about other books that I think have amazing openings, which I have to say is going to be my favorite part of this whole post. Two of them are fairly recent favorites, a third is one of my oldest favorites and arguably one of the reasons Coda exists as a book at all.

1. My father was a king and the son of kings. ~ The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I love the evocative simplicity of this. You know the narrator is a prince, but not of where or what. There is grandness in those ten words. The language is a perfect match to the subject matter and I want to read on in the hope that every sentence that follows is as beautiful. (Spoiler, they were. That book is stunning.)

2. Feathers fell from the sky. Like black snow, they drifted onto an old city called Bath. They whirled down the roofs, gathered in the corners of the alleys, and turned everything dark and silent, like a winter’s day. ~ The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann. This might be cheating a little, because Stefan is both a friend and a co-author on a book, but he was neither of those things when I read this opening and nearly decided to go be an alpaca farmer instead of a writer.

3. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. ~ Neuromancer by William Gibson. You know where you are--a port, or near one--and you can picture that sky. You can taste it, that dull grayness that tastes like static. You’re wondering about the strange juxtaposition between nature and technology, which makes it an absolutely perfect opening to possibly the most famous work of cyberpunk fiction ever written.



About the Author

Emma Trevayne is the author of Coda (Running Press Teens, out now), Chorus (Running Press Teens, Spring 2014), Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Summer 2014), and ¼ of The Cabinet of Curiosities (Harper/Greenwillow, Summer 2014), an anthology of short, dark fiction for middle grade readers. On the rare occasions when she’s not writing, she’s listening to music, traveling, or hunting for her next pair of shoes.

Check out Emma's blog
Follow Emma on Twitter






About the Book

Ever since he was a young boy, music has coursed through the veins of eighteen-year-old Anthem—the Corp has certainly seen to that. By encoding music with addictive and mind-altering elements, the Corp holds control over all citizens, particularly conduits like Anthem, whose life energy feeds the main power in the Grid.

Anthem finds hope and comfort in the twin siblings he cares for, even as he watches the life drain slowly and painfully from his father. Escape is found in his underground rock band, where music sounds free, clear, and unencoded deep in an abandoned basement. But when a band member dies suspiciously from a tracking overdose, Anthem knows that his time has suddenly become limited. Revolution all but sings in the air, and Anthem cannot help but answer the call with the chords of choice and free will. But will the girl he loves help or hinder him?

Emma Trevayne's dystopian debut novel is a little punk, a little rock, and plenty page-turning.

Buy Coda on Amazon
Find Coda on Goodreads

Sunday, June 23, 2013

17 YA Literary Agents Talk About the Most Common Submission Errors

Many thanks to the amazing young adult literary agents who answered our Roundup question this month! We asked them to tell us about the most common mistakes they see in their inbox.

What are the top five mistakes you see in queries, synopses, and first pages?



Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary

Top of the chart has to be not reading submission guidelines. Or getting them from outdated sources. Always go to an agency’s website for up to date info.

Forgetting to attach the requested sample pages of your manuscript. Such a basic mistake, but it can be easier for a hard-pressed agent to reject you rather than to email back and ask for them to be sent.

Calling the agent by the wrong name. This happens quite often, and always makes me giggle.

Sending a query with either no information (I often get just a line or two, which tell me nothing) or far too much (there’s no need to send a paragraph of outline and then repeat that in a much longer way later on in your query). If we don’t ask for a full synopsis, please don’t send one. What’s important is a tightly written pitch, target market, and a few concise lines of bio. Your query letter/email should be the equivalent of a page, but no more than that.

Being unfocused in what you want to say in your query. We see a lot of waffle sometimes! Writers telling us they are pretty hopeless and have no track record; or telling us they are wonderful and we’d be fools to pass them by. And then we have the ones who tell us at great length about their families and children and husbands, whom they love dearly. Delighted though we are to see happy families, your query isn’t the place to go into that detail.

In opening pages, the most common problem is starting in a way we see all the time – particularly, characters getting out of bed and eating breakfast, or crossing the country by car, or flying to a new destination. Also car crashes. Remember that beginnings don’t literally have to be beginnings.



Carlie Webber, CK Webber Associates

Queries, synopses, and opening pages each come with their own set of issues to be tackled, so I'll address one or two major problems for each one. All your query has to do is make me want to read your book, and one of the best ways to do that is to show me what the main character has at stake. Too often, I see queries that don't tell me what's at the crux of the book. Whether or not I find that crux interesting is another question entirely, but I at least want to have the opportunity to decide on it. With a synopsis, the biggest mistake is not telling me enough about the book for fear of spoiling me on the ending. I am hereby granting everyone who queries me from now on permission to spoil me on the ending of their books. Agenting is a business of time, and by reading a full synopsis that describes at least the primary and secondary character arcs and plots, I'll know if I want to invest time in a book beyond the opening pages. The other major sin I see with synopses involves their length. Ideally, a synopsis comes out to around 500 words, or about 2 double-spaced pages of twelve-point Times New Roman. In the opening pages, I want to see a fresh, unique voice. Often, I see opening pages that focus on backstory or talk more about the universe than what's immediately in front of the main character. Voice and characterization are what make or break a book, so I want to see an author who can use that prime real estate of the opening pages to make me want to know more about the main character.



Jennifer Mishler, Literary Counsel

When I receive a query, the top mistake I notice is usually info dumps-everything that should be in a synopsis is in a query. To Literary Counsel, queries should be enticing, and unforgettable. Tease us without giving away everything and your query will be read by us. Synopses are for the info,for all major plot lines and should be 1-2 pages. Not 8, not 12 and definitely not 16. Why read your manuscript if the synopses sums it all up for you? And when we open your first few pages, please for the love of books, do not use a mirror in the opening pages to have your character describe what they look like. I cannot tell you how many times I have read that in the first few pages of a manuscript. When writing your first few pages, a writer really should focus on how to keep a reader reading without overloading them with detail! Info dumps are a pet peeve at Literary Counsel, and that is a mistake we wish writers to avoid.





Eric Ruben, Ruben Agency

For queries, it's not doing your research: sending me things I'm not interested in or misspelling my name. Also, I'm not really a stickler for query or synopsis rules. I don't sell queries or synopses. So for me it's about the first pages. If you're not ready, if the book isn't in great shape, you shouldn't send it. Too many times I've gotten pages that needed more edits.













Katie Grimm, Don Congdon Associates

1. Is ill-suited for the intended audience or for me. Do your research in the genre you are writing within as well as the agent you are contacting. I automatically reject so many projects because they’re unsuitable for their intended audience in terms of content, word count or topic. This is especially the case in kid’s publishing. If you know you’re outside the box, tell me why it’s necessary – I’m open to new things, but maybe not 200k word MG or memoir trilogies.

2. Isn’t following the rules. You can still be a publishing maverick and send out a properly formatted query letter. Inattention to detail or guidelines can reveal laziness or a big ego, and it’s not the right way to start a business relationship.

3. Makes you sound mentally unstable. Maybe you think you sound quirky or that you’ve really done your research, or you’re just that enthusiastic, but show your feet are on the ground and you haven’t been stalking us! Remember that all your materials (not just your bio) should show your commitment to the craft of writing and your ability to communicate professionally.

4. Is too long. Your query shouldn’t be more than a page, your synopses doesn’t need every confusing plot twist (though do spoil the ending!), and most first pages contain a lot of redundancies so please don’t be afraid of cut, cut, cut!

5. Is inconsistent in voice. Your query and synopsis should convey the tone of your manuscript. I appreciate this is not an easy task, but try writing your query or synopsis in your main character’s voice and changing it back to 3rd person – this can help a lot towards bringing everything together.



Christa Heschke, McIntosh & Otis Agency

-They’re addressed to the wrong person (an Agent who left the Agency, an Agent who doesn’t handle that material or even an Agent at another Agency), “Dear Editor/Agent”, or “To Whom it May Concern.”

-They are too long. Generally a page is a good length for a query letter. This same mistake comes up with synopses as well (try to keep them to a couple pages). A synopsis should spell out all the major plot points in the story while introducing main characters, but does not need to include every minor plot point (they get very long this way).

-The query is informal/too personal. We want to know about you and your writing, but be careful about getting too conversational. This is a business letter in business letter format.

-The query letter or synopsis is not focused and “jumps around” too much or does not paint a clear picture of the story. Remember: You know your story but the person reading your letter does not. So try to be as concise and clear as possible.

-With first pages, you have to draw in your reader. If they are too slow or expository, meander or don’t set up your narrator/protagonist well you may lose readers’ interest---so these are top mistakes I see here.



Evan Gregory, The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency

Queries

1. TMI
…or, to be specific, too much of the wrong information. Queries should be brief, punchy, and dense with information about the project you’re pitching. Often times I get queries where an author is more interested in telling me their story, than about their story. You should always start a query by providing info about your project. Give me the pertinent details first. Those details are, word count, genre, title, characters, plot kernel, in that order. Don’t begin a query by telling me you searched for my agency online, or that you’ve read two books of my clients, or that you’ve always dreamed of becoming a writer since you were six and how you hope this query is the fruition of those dreams. Query letters aren’t supposed to be personal, they’re not diary entries, or love letters. They’re book blurbs with an address. So keep your thoughts and feelings out of them. If you describe yourself at all, it should be in the third person, and it should be in the last paragraph, and it should only be to share your credentials as an author. Always assume (and usually it will be true) that I’ve read a hundred queries before yours, and I’ve got a hundred more queries to read after. I don’t have the patience to read about your life, and about your story too. Later, once you’re a client, I’ll be glad to hear about how you began this novel as an homage to your recently deceased grandmother who loved to read books about horses, and fields of lilies. For now, I just want to read about a story about horses.

2. Omission
On the flip side of the coin, it is possible to provide not enough information. If I have to re-read your query to figure out what you’re book is about, then you’ve probably skipped steps. If your book is about Steven, who is in love with Petunia, but the two can never be together because their apartments, despite being right across from each other, are separated by a fifteen foot gap, then it would be good to know that both Steven and Petunia are cats. I shouldn’t have to find out they’re cats by reading your sample chapters.

3. Overcomplication.
Congratulations! You’ve just written a sprawling multi-perspective epic with twelve perspective characters. Now tell me about the plot of your book in three sentences or less without spontaneously combusting. Even with simple books, sometimes authors can have a difficult time differentiating between pertinent and non-pertinent information when it comes to summarizing the plot of their book. Aside from advising you not to write sprawling multi-perspective epics (which is excellent advice), I would advise you at least to stick to describing succinctly the central conflict of your book as experienced by whomever you may consider to be your main characters. Save the tertiary characters, and their fascinating sub-plots for your synopsis. If your book has lots of great details, and moments, and characters, that’s great, but I don’t have time for you to parade them past me in several paragraphs of explication.

4. Genre Splicing
Have you written a YA Horror Romance Women’s Fiction Thriller? No, you haven’t, because that’s impossible. In these post-modern times it’s also kind of impossible to write a story that doesn’t have a teensy bit of genre bleed. Genre can be difficult to pin down sometimes, and some books skirt the edges of several genres. For the sake of description, however, you ought to pick one genre and stick with it. That means doing research into other comparable works to yours, and trying to pin down which genre they are sold as. It also means identifying which readers you think would be most likely to read your book, and choosing the genre you think they might most identify with. It also means evaluating which elements of your story are most prevalent. If your book is 90% horror with a love story sub-plot, it is not a Romance/Horror (nor is there such a thing), it’s just Horror.

5. Comparable Works
Comparable works are a great way of providing indirect information about your book to the agent or editor. However, you ought to be careful when choosing these works. For one, the comparable works should all be books (preferably ones you’ve actually read), not films. Films may be adapted from books on occasion, but they are not books, and they may have drastically different audiences. I want to know if your book is going to appeal to people who read the book, not people who saw the movie. Also comparable works should actually be comparable. That means choosing a book that was released recently, in a similar genre, and which has similar themes to your book. You shouldn’t compare your book about the roaring 20’s to THE GREAT GATSBY, or your book about whaling to MOBY DICK. Not only is it a facile comparison that tells me nothing about your book, but it sets the expectations for your book unrealistically high.

Synopses

1. Trying Too Hard
If you can write an entertaining synopsis that gives an impression of the mood of the book while describing the plot details of the book, then more power to you. If you can’t, then don’t attempt it. Synopses are hard even for seasoned professionals, so don’t set expectations too high for what you need to achieve. The main objective of the synopsis is to summarize the plot. So long as you can do that, you’ve met the mandatory minimum threshold. You can do more if you like, but you certainly shouldn’t sacrifice clarity for style.

2. Sense
Trying to condense a lot of information into a synopsis can be a difficult task. Often they just don’t make any sense. When you were writing them you were doing so in dribs and drabs, and your subjective experience of your own work caused you to peer at some aspects through a microscope at one moment, and gloss over an important plot element another. My advice is to write a synopsis all in one (exhausting, nerve wracking) sitting. Also, have your synopsis read by a 3rd party that has no foreknowledge of the plot of your book, then talk through what made sense and what didn’t.

3. Length
Sometimes you need to write a long summary in order to write a short one. You needn’t, however, show your work. Some works may require both a long (5 page) synopsis, and a short (1 or 2 page) synopsis. Write both, but only use the short version for submissions. If needs be, write a chapter by chapter summary, and use that to further condense the pertinent plot information into a shorter synopsis. Your synopsis shouldn’t exceed 1,000 words, regardless of the length of your book. I once got a query for a 800K Word epic fantasy, and the synopsis was 40 pages long. That is not a nice thing to do to an agent.

4. Spoilers
There is no such thing as a spoiler in a synopsis. The purpose of the synopsis is to faithfully represent the plot. So, if you have a secret twist ending, it should be faithfully represented in the synopsis. If you’re synopsizing THE SIXTH SENSE, for example, I want to know that Bruce Willis is a ghost by the end of it. If I didn’t want to know, I wouldn’t read until the end of the synopsis. You will not spoil the book for me, it’s my job to evaluate works of art for their effectiveness as works of art. Even if I know that Bruce Willis is a ghost the whole time I’m reading, I’m still going to be able to tell whether you pulled off the twist or you didn’t. However, if Bruce Willis being a ghost is the most important aspect of your story, and it doesn’t appear in your synopsis, chances are I’m never going to know, because after reading your synopsis I’m going to think your book has no resolution.

5. Consistency
Names of places, characters, objects should remain consistent throughout the synopsis, especially if you have a lot of different characters to keep track of. Using a character’s name and nickname interchangeably is going to make it difficult to figure out who they are.

First pages

1. No Prologue Necessary
Your submission should require no prologue. Also, no quotes, acknowledgments, or other front matter. The first pages should be exactly that. You should start on page 1, because that’s the first page I’m going to read anyway. Save me the carpal tunnel surgery from scrolling.

2. Start With a Bang
If your character starts out the story by waking up, if your first paragraph is a description of scenery, if you describe your characters “normal day” first before getting to any sort of potential conflict, then you’re going to lose me, often after the first sentence, of the first paragraph of the first page. If you are concerned that the first pages don’t represent the “good part” of your novel, then you are probably correct. The truth is, there should be no “good part” it should all be the “good part”. Start your first page off with something that is going to engage your expected reader. You need to get them involved from the first sentence of the first paragraph of the first page. That first sentence is the most important sentence in your book. Make it count, and carry that momentum forward.

3. Info Dumps
Info dumps are equivalent to a movie pausing in the midst of the action for a voice-over monologue about the character’s background and motives. Your character should do things, and say things, and think things, and feel things, and through those actions, utterances, thoughts, and feelings reveal themselves. You need to tell their story, not explain it away.

4. Heavy Dialogue
This is a book, not a screenplay. Two characters jawing at each other for pages on end is often times info-dumping by other means. Other times it can just become tiresome. Use dialogue sparingly, especially in the first few pages, where it’s important to show your character doing things.

5. No Direction
Your first pages should be leading somewhere. Even if you haven’t gotten to the central conflict, there should be some indication of it on the horizon. All it takes is a hint of foreshadowing to keep a reader engaged, curious, and hungry for more. You don’t have to be a great poet, or a great philosopher in order to be a great author, all you need to do is keep the reader hungry. If I finish your first pages, and I don’t care what happens next, then chances are I’m not going to request a full. The job of first pages is to make me care what happens next.