Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wisdom from the Blood Red Pencil

Another amazing post I just had to share. Visit the BLOOD RED PENCIL blog at

Ten Affirmations to Bolster Optimism

Economy got you down? Try optimism. It can help you get published.

Doubt it? Read on: More than thirty years of research in high-rejection endeavors, from athletic competition to life insurance sales, suggests the statement is true. There is more to optimism, however, than The Little Engine’s “I think I can.” Optimism is the practice of framing what has already happened in a positive light.

To raise your optimism quotient, try the following ten affirmations. Meditate on them, speak them, and copy them down in your own hand until you are convinced of their truth. Once you own these concepts, your writing will be less about the absolutes of success and failure, and more about gleaning the benefits of every step on your path. And who knows—you may end up appreciating the process of getting published as much as you enjoy the writing.

1. Agents, editors, and authors all love to read and all have the same goal: to increase our country's wealth of good writing. Agents and editors need writers to keep them in business.

2. The book industry is super tough right now, but I am doing what I can to improve both my craft and my knowledge of the publishing industry.

3. I believe that being a published author is my destiny and I will start my journey down that road, but factors beyond my control will affect the timing of my arrival. I will get there when I get there.

4. While pride is the first of the seven deadly sins, optimism is a blessing for myself and for all of those around me. I love my work, so I will share my enthusiasm for it with others.

5. Rejection is the badge of honor I must sometimes wear to prove that I am boldly putting my work out into the world. No one ever got published by keeping her manuscript safely in her desk drawer.

6. Rejection may be a matter of personal preference—my work didn't connect with that reader—or it may simply mean "not yet." It is better to learn that I am not quite ready for publication by being rejected by an agent or editor than to get slammed publicly by critics, realize poor sales, and never be published again.

7. Every experience is a good experience for a writer. Victory, failure, acceptance, rejection—they are all part of the human experience, and stoke the creative fire within me.

8. If I am an optimistic fool, so be it. The real fool is the person who stops doing what he loves just because it is difficult.

9. Worst case scenario: it never happens for me. My epitaph: "She died pursuing her dream." What stronger, more beautiful statement could be made about my life, published or not?

10. I am committed to learning. Learning can be uncomfortable, but ignorance will not move me forward along my path. If writing is truly my passion, I must not give up. If we writers stop pursuing our dreams, who will write all the books?

Kathryn Craft is a free-lance editor at, partnering her clients through project development to line editing to honing marketing materials. She prefers "Advocate for Writing Excellence" to "Nit-Picking Perfectionist," thank you. She hosts writing retreats for women and blogs at Healing Through Writing.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Some more kernels of wisdom from Elana Johnson

First a disclaimer: No Elana is NOT paying me to post all this info from her and about her. Elana is just a font of information and I found this post on the Querytracker blog (tidbit: I am one of querytracker's earliest members, from back in 2007. Elana joined after me!) and it was SO useful and timely for me, I just had to share. Don't worry, I asked Elana first.

The Blog is part of Learn more About the QT Blog Team, check out Essential QT Blog Posts, or Subscribe to our Feed!

Editing: How To Avoid Staring Into The Great Black Abyss

Okay, so imagine you've finished the fifth draft of your amazing NYT bestseller. You've let some time go by. And now you're ready to edit the manuscript. Again. (*Note: for the purposes of this post, editing and revising are synonymous.)

You sit down, open the document, and...proceed to stare into the great black abyss like somehow your MS will edit itself. Oh, sure, maybe you're like me and you immediately click on gmail when something earth-shattering doesn't hit you about your novel. Or Farmville. Or Cafe World. Or a writing forum. Heck, maybe you even distract yourself with Hulu and Free Rice. And when you get really desperate, well, let's not go there.

I know (trust me, I KNOW) the thought of editing an entire manuscript is overwhelming. Daunting. Like climbing the mountain--again.

So today, I'm going to give you some pointers that have helped me tackle my 320-page manuscript, edit it, polish it, get it to betas and then out the door in less than 30 days. Strap yourselves in.

1. Set goals. Not only a "finish-by" goal date, but goals for what you want to accomplish in the edit. Does character A need more depth? Do you need to introduce the antag earlier so readers know who/what the MC is up against? Do you need stronger world-building? Faster pacing? A sub-plot that needs fleshing out? What are you trying to accomplish with the edit?

Know what these are. Don't freak out that there's SO MUCH that needs to be done. Just make a list.

2. Chunk your MS. It's much easier to wrap your mind around 100 pages rather than 350. So chunk your MS into manageable sections. I split mine into three distinct pieces and worked on them individually.

Okay, so you really haven't opened the document and started yet. This is all the "behind-the-scenes" stuff that you can do in a notebook or in your head. It usually takes me 2-3 days to make my list and chunk my MS. Take some time to do this. It helps things settle in your head before you actually start.

3. Read. That's right. Hopefully, it's been a while since you've read or worked on your MS. You'll be able to see things with fresh eyes this way. I printed the first chunk and sat down to read. Yes, I had a pen (it was black, not red) in my hand. During this reading phase, I was doing three things:
  • Line-edits (for awkward phrasing, repeated words, word choice, paragraphing, funky formatting, etc. Everything looks new and different on paper. I strongly encourage printing the chunk and editing on paper.)
  • Outlining (I don't outline before I write. So I create my outline as I edit a finished draft. I have a pad of small (2-inch by 2-inch) post-it notes next to me. After I finish reading a chapter, I write the main focus of that chapter on a post-it and place it neatly in my manila folder. Can't sum it up? Maybe you don't need that chapter. Every chapter must advance the plot. Even if you write from an outline, you can do this to see if you've really used every chapter, every scene to advance your plot. And hey, maybe your outline has changed.)
  • Making Notes (I know my goals for the edit, so as I'm reading, I draw a star and make myself a note. Like, "Insert a memory about character B here." Or "This would be a great place to reflect on plot point G." Or "Introduce antag here by way of video." Or "More world-building/setting here." I don't actually write the insertions. I simply make notes of places where they could go.)
4. Transfer from paper to computer. Remember, this is only for the first chunk. For me, it was about 115 pages, and it took me about 3 days to read, line edit and make notes for the section. Then I finally opened my Word document and started with page one. I entered the line edits, written changes and deletions. When I got to spots where I had a note for new material, I wrote it. Everything is done with the "Track Changes" feature on, so I can see what I've done. Actually transferring the changes is easy. And since you have something tangible to do, you don't waste any time staring at the screen, wondering what to do and where to do it. Transferring only takes 1 day. Maybe longer if you have large sections to add/rewrite.

5. Rinse and repeat. After section one is transferred into the computer, print section two. Read, pen in hand, post-it's nearby, computer off. Transfer to manuscript. Print section three. Read, transfer. Since I only had three sections, I edited my entire novel in about 12 days. With the goal-making, I finished a round of (major) edits in two weeks.

(*Note #2: Some of you might stop here. If this is say, the second draft, and you're not ready to send to readers yet, you're done! In only 2 weeks. Leave the MS for a while, write something else maybe. Then come back and start with #1 with new goals for another edit.)

6. Send to readers. Now, this could be an entire post by itself. But I don't have time for that, so I'll just say to choose people who you A) trust and B) love and C) will read FAST. I mean, you only have 16 more days. I recommend recruiting a few (meaning: 2 or 3) readers who will critique as you finish chunks. So really, you could have stuff out with Beta readers after you transfer the first chunk. When they finish, send them the second, and so on. This way, you're not stalled at this point in the process, waiting for reads. You've been getting them back on shorter sections. Which is how you want to work anyway.

7. Go over crits, make changes. Add stuff, delete stuff, etc. This is just a polish. You've already done the major reconstruction. Now you're just smoothing over the edges, based on what your readers have said. If you have fast readers, you can probably get this done in a week or so. I think I had my chunks back and crits incorporated in about 8 days.

8. Leave it alone. Which means, leave it alone. Don't open it. Don't read it. You can think about it if you want. I didn't. 2 days. I actually did this immediately following the final transfer (step 5), while waiting for reads to come back on chunks. It doesn't matter when you do it, but it's vital. Seriously, leave it alone.

9. Send entire, repolished MS to trusted readers. These are NOT the same people who read the chunks. Different people. I had 4. I sent them the "final" MS as well as a list of my goals so they knew what I was trying to accomplish with the edit. (*Note, I did this because with one exception, my readers had already read my book, so I wanted them to know specifically what I was trying to do this time around.) Again, they need to be A) trusted B) loved and C) fast.

10. Final edits based on final reads.

11. Done!

This system worked for me. I managed to edit my 83,000-word novel, get reads, and polish it up in under 30 days. Hopefully, you've seen something in this list that can help you focus your energy into accomplishing an edit (no matter if it's your third draft or your, um, eighth) of your manuscript without falling into the great black abyss. What do you do that helps you get the editing done?

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

So here's the lowdown

I do believe the online novel was launched as a fundraiser. Ms. Valente's work, both poetry and fiction has already been extensively published.

Here is her background. Either way, she is quite young and is an incredible and resourceful person. This little find fuels my interest in uncovering many more publishing gems, known and unknown. Everyone has a story to tell!

I think I'll move on now. If anyone digs up any more tidbits on CMV, please let me know! Maybe she'll find her way here and speak for herself.

HOW I learned to research my blog posts better...

After posting the last tidbit about Catherynne Valente, I implied and actually believed myself that Ms. Valente was a first-time novelist whom published her works online and was miraculously plucked from cyberspace and given a book deal. Further research reveals that Ms. Valente is an award-winning published author.

This still does not negate the fact that Ms. Valente did, indeed, first publish her work online before landing a book deal. However, I'm not sure how well her tactic would work for a lesser-known author. I am still impressed with her method and now I'd like to learn exactly why she did this and what her goal was. I was equally impressed with the writing. I'm going to see what I can find out, so stay tuned!

Monday, October 26, 2009


From Publisher's Marketplace, 10/26/09
Catherynne Valente's THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING, an Alice-in-Wonderland-like YA fantasy adventure, originally published chapter by chapter on the author's website, and THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE, to Liz Szabla at Feiwel and Friends, by Howard Morhaim at the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency (NA).

This is incredible! After publishing her entire book, chapter by chapter, online, Catherynne Valente landed a book deal with Feiwel and Friends. I don't know the particulars, but this is awesome! Here is the link to her website where you can read for yourself...

I think the writing is wonderful. Hats off to the talented and resourceful Catherynne Valentine.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

From the Query to the Call with Elana Johnson

Meet Elana Johnson, YA writer and Blogstress Extraordinaire. Elana also wears another hat: Query Ninja. Elana decided to sum up her knowledge in the new Ebook, From The Query to the Call, available at her website

Tell us about yourself, Elana.

I’ll be brief. Or at least I’ll try.

I am many things: A mom. A wife. A teacher. A US citizen who breaks the speed limit (shhh). A blog addict (I read at least 40 blogs a day. And I comment). A reader. A reality TV watcher. A friend.
And an author. I love to write. It provides a release from my real life. Not only do I write novels, but I love to write on my own blog. And I also co-author the QueryTracker blog. Oh! And the Query Ninja blog. I run that too, in conjunction with my ebook, From the Query to the Call.

How long have you been writing? What kind of fiction do you write?

I’ve been writing since December 2007, so coming up on two years now. I write YA, anything from science fiction to fantasy to paranormal to straight-up high school mayhem. There’s nothing better than YA. My current favorite genre is dystopian fiction, since that’s what I’m currently querying.

You have an ebook; what is this book about?

My ebook is called From the Query to the Call and it’s a guide for everything a writer needs to know after they finish their novel. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with the whole “query” side of writing. I researched for hours, attended conferences, read agent and publisher blogs.

And then I compiled it all into a handy guide that shares what I know and have learned. It’s basically got three sections:

1. How to write a query letter. And not just any query letter. A killer query letter. One that will set yours above the other slush the agents are getting.

2. Entering the query trenches. This covers everything from e-queries, cover letters, submitting partials and fulls, corresponding with agents, and of course, fielding “the call.”

3. Query letter samples. I take the reader through progressive queries during the letter writing section. In addition to that, I have a whole section devoted to letters that worked. I think studying something that is successful helps you develop something successful of your own.

And that’s the ebook. You can check out my website for more information.

What prompted you to write it?
I wrote this ebook because I wish wish wish I had something like this when I started. From the Query to the Call is 63 pages, and it contains everything a writer needs to know from the time they decide they want to query literary agents to the time they sign with said agent.
There’s so much conflicting information out there, and the sheer volume of it is enough to scare away Hercules! I remember feeling like I was treading water, barely keeping my head above the crashing waves, as I searched for the information I needed on how to find a literary agent. I literally spent hours and hours searching for a single piece of information. Thus, I wrote this book so authors could have the one guide that has everything they need in one convenient place.

What advice do you have for writers who seek publication?

I have a three-step process:
1. Work hard.
2. Don’t give up.
3. Finish strong.

Tell us something unexpected about yourself.

Oh, dear. I feel like I have no secrets from the blogging community! I attended four universities before I graduated, is that unexpected?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Love Triangle: Words, Images and Me

This is ground zero for where I direct my restless mind...

Should I write?
Should I draw?

or, maybe I should design something, like a website or a logo. (after all, I am a graphic design professor and dream in typography).

For most of my life it was all about art, (see Fairy-tale book, Exhibit A: early influences) with a random scattering of words thrown in for fun. But now my two loves, art and writing, have to share a room (or a bed) in my frenzied mind. It's not always pretty. Sometimes they fight, throw things around and compete for my attention. Art is kind of jealous of Words. But I feel I owe her some quality time. For the past years, Words were hogging all the face time. But that just didn't seem fair. Or natural. So I decided the best way to unite my two true loves is to write and illustrate a picture book.

This is the one illustration I've done so far for a book I'm calling BREATH, based on a dream I had as a very small kid. I'd like to self-publish. I'm thinking this is the best way to do them all; draw, write, and design. Will anyone want it? I don't really care, to be honest. At the very least I'll have a cool gift to give to my future grandkids.

So tell me what you think. I could use some encouragement.

This would be the half-title spread

Monday, October 12, 2009

Introducing the Adorable and Brilliant Lindsay Eland

Okay, so I'm a little biased. Linds, as I call her, and I have followed each other across the internet for about five years now. Back in the day when we were both newbie writers, we joined our first critique group which later broke up. But I dragged Lindsay with me on my online quest for editorial feedback. For the past three years, Linds and I have been members of a killer critique group (killer for our editorial savagery) that I moderate. We fondly call it The Cudas (for barracudas). Linds is undeniably the "nice Cuda." But don't let that perky smile fool you. Behind that smile is a mind that churns out original and comic works of middle grade fiction faster than you can say cutie-pie.

Lindsay's middle-grade humorous novel, SCONES AND SENSIBILITY, comes out this December from Egmont. I can tell you, having witnessed it's nearly fully-formed birth—it is a hoot! So I'm going to turn the mike over to Linds and let her speak for herself.

Tell us about yourself.

Let’s see. I’m a thirty-year-old mother of four. I love to laugh, drink iced mochas, and sing really loud in my car. I don’t like brownies with nuts and I’m extremely sentimental and will probably keep this interview just because it’s been given to me by a dear writing friend!

You have a book coming out this December, the middle-grade novel 
Scones and Sensibility. Can you tell us about it?

Sure! Scones and Sensibility is about an overdramatic and overromantic twelve-year-old girl who, using her heroines Elizabeth Bennet and Anne Shirley as her guides, sets to match-making in her small beach town with disastrous and hilarious results.

You have a great sense of humor and a brand of wit all your own. 
What is your inspiration ?

Life! I grew up with laughter all around me. Listening at my Grandparents table to the roaring laughter and the pee-in-your-pants stories my parents, my grandparents, and my aunts and uncles told. And really, life is full of funny mishaps, hilarious witticisms, and knee-slapping adventures.

What advice can you give aspiring authors?

Write and read. And then read and write. A writer is first and foremost a reader…so read! And don’t ever, ever, ever give up! No writer would have gotten to where he or she was if they had given up after the first or even the twentieth rejection.

What books inspired you growing up?

Matilda by Roald Dahl
Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Patterson
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

These were the books that first gave me the deep yearning to want to create stories that were filled with magic.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.

Let’s see…I hate the sound of someone eating a banana or stirring a bowl of macaroni and cheese…it’s extremely gross to me. I’m also probably one of the only women on earth that wishes her hair wouldn’t grow….yes, I like it short and I wish it would just stay like that.

Visit Lindsay at

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What to expect

The delightful Lindsay Eland, whose middle grade humorous novel, SCONES AND SENSIBILITY will be released this November, will be visiting here soon, so stay tuned. I'm hoping to have a few other interviews lined up in the weeks and months that follow.

Friday, October 9, 2009

OMG!!! I knew I loved Libba Bray.

Thank you, Libba Bray

I think it's high time I created a blog, something I have studiously avoided for quite some time. Everyone says aspiring authors should have one. I am part of Sharing the Brain, the blog my critique group, the Wordslingers share, but I have been pretty lame of late.

I've been toying with the idea of what I'd like to speak about in my blog. I can't imagine dispensing daily, or even weekly words of wisdom that anyone would want to read. I totally admire the noble efforts of my friends Mary Lindsey and Elana Johnson who spout consistently great bits of blog advice that I gobble up religiously. And then there is the amazing Heidi Ayarbe (Freeze Frame, 2008) who bubbles with humorous tidbits and has me laughing constantly.

And another thing I don't want to do is whine. Lords knows I could whine from sun-up till sundown. It's my birthright. But no. I don't want to do that(well, maybe just a little). So, I was left thinking I have nothing I want to say to the world until I can say...hey, I have an agent and my book is coming out...not. Not yet, anyway.

Another thing I refuse to do is post negative reviews of books I have read. I respect the work ALL authors put into their writing and who am I to dash their hopes when I am struggling myself?

So, this morning, while tearing through the pages of Going Bovine (while I should really be putting the final touches on a massive project for work with an ominously looming deadline) I had a revelation. I want to tell everyone how this book has me absolutely floored. How lately I've bought one YA book after another (no names, please) only to slam them shut after 50 pages, with the notable exception of all things Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire). Of course, Libba's previous series, The Gemma Doyle Trilogy, are my absolute favorites. How I've been on a quest for something to read that will remind me why I WRITE.

So THANK YOU, LIBBA BRAY, you funny, brilliant, poignant and wonderful woman for sharing your genius with me. For giving me something to blog about. For reviving my excitement for writing. I'm not nearly half way through and my only fear is that I will read it too fast.