Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Announcement: Contest to Win a Teen Beta-Reader (No. You Don't Get to Keep Him)


Coming soon (submissions will be due in about a month), Thinking to Inking is bringing you a contest. More specific details (dates, procedures)to follow, but here is the premise:
Un-agented writers, agented writers, and published writers all have the opportunity to “win” a beta reader. These beta readers aren’t just any readers, though. They are, perhaps, even more terrifying than Simon Cowell. They are some of the toughest critics around: a fantastic group of sophomores in the reading intervention class at the high school where I teach (not my students).

The teens will be sifting through your synopses and sample pages to pick a book to read in class. Winners of the book selection game will be posted on the site for all to see who can lure in a very reluctant reader with their enticing premise and voice. Writers will then submit a “full” to the student to read. Students will read and  privately provide feedback to writers on what feels inauthentic, and quite possibly where the reader gave up (these are incredibly reluctant readers – no guarantees that they will finish reading your book).

At the end, students will advocate for/debate which book they think needs to be published most, and we will post the winner on the site so the whole world will know that the winner has reached some of the most unreachable readers.

Put your brave-boots on, writers, and get prepared to wow those who fill these desks…

PS Happy Holidays! I wrote a post a few years back on career histories of some of my favorite poets/authors along the lines of Jen’s inspirational “keep going” post earlier. If you’ve never heard the legend surrounding Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy  Evening”, or how David Sedaris got his break you may want to check it out. Oh, and it’s all holiday-themed for your snow-falling pleasure.

PPS If you’re in the holiday spirit and want a cool way to help the world, head over to Nathan Bransford’s blog to learn how to help Heifer International help the world.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Industry Month In Review: Triumph & Perseverance

In light of the events of this past Friday, we at Thinking to Inking want to express our sincerest condolences to those affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy.  As children's writers, whose goal and joy it is to see kids grow, imagine and explore through words, it's inconceivable to think that someone would want to take not just that experience but any experience away from ones so innocent.  Not only did the families and community of Newton lose on Friday, we all lost. 

I'd drafted this post prior to Friday and entitled it Triumph & Perseverance.  The news is celebratory and focused on hard work and determination.  I think that as writers, that's what we're about.  We embrace the challenge of story and express ourselves through words. Wouldn't it be grand if everyone did the same?

Kim Liggett-PeplowskiIf ever there was a writer whose manuscript flowed like a sweet song, it would be Kim Liggett-Peplowski.  But I should correct myself by saying manuscript no more as Arianne Lewin at Putnam just announced she has acquired Kim's debut YA romantic thriller "Blood and Salt", in a two-book deal at auction.  I had the pleasure of meeting Kim in October at Your Best Books.  As a member of my critique group at the week long workshop (shout outs to fellow members Halli and Carol), we'd meet every afternoon with faculty (including her soon to be agent Josh Adams) and read pages from each others manuscripts.  Both lyrical in words and beautiful in story, Kim's manuscript stood out even then.  

So why is this so exciting?  To me, it's not because Kim is a wonderful human being (she is) or that she got a two book deal (amazing), it's because I got the opportunity to witness if just for a few days, the Kim before the storm (of success).  I got to see the effort that she put into everything that was her manuscript, the sacrifices she made, the anxieties and the uncertainty but most importantly the determination not to give up.  That is what I think is inspiring to writers.  The knowledge that it's not an overnight success but a cumulation of time, energy and love of the project. 

So for all you hard working aspiring writers, here are a few good news stories for the month of December to help us triumph and persevere.

New York Times Logo
The New York Times creates separate middle grade and YA bestsellers lists - now you have more opportunities to be a part of this esteemed group.

Writer L.B. Schulman blogs about writing for the long haul - inspiration for those cold winter days when you just want to throw your manuscript in the fireplace.

Author Lee Child gives us the answer to the question "How Do You Create Suspense?" - which has a lot to do with patience and perseverance because as writers we have a penchant to want to give our readers a lot of information all at once.  But by slowly unravelling the story, revealing small answers before big ones we create the suspense our readers thrive on.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Writing Lessons from Knitting

The QueryTracker blog had this neat post a few weeks ago comparing writing to knitting. As you may or may not know, I design and sell knitting patterns when I'm not writing, so this was right up my alley!

Sarah Pinneo, the author, makes the point that knitted sweaters begin by looking terrible, just like first drafts. I totally agree. Most of my knitted projects look like this when they're first started:

Yucky knitting

But I would even take it a step further. Yes, the sweater starts to look like an actual sweater once you're up to the sleeves. Yes, people stop asking you if you're making mittens for giants. If you're lucky, people even stop telling you sweaters can be bought at Wal-Mart for fifteen dollars, in a tone of voice that clearly says they are wondering why you do not know this already.

But the truth is, until you finish the whole thing, sew in the ends, soak it in water, and pat it into shape to dry, it looks pretty much like crap.

See where I'm going with this?

revised text

Yep, I'm harping on about revision again. The importance of revising your work can't be overstated (especially in the aftermath of NaNoWriMo!). I have been going through old manuscripts recently, and realizing each one should have been put aside and revised several more times before I sent it out. The draft needs to be patted into shape just like the sweater does.

When I design sweaters, there's a lot of revision involved. Sometimes my basic concept doesn't work at all. Sometimes I have to take out parts of the design and completely redo them--and it's just as painful as  highlighting that chapter or scene and hitting delete.

BUT... the product is always better, just like it is with knitting. The end goal is what's important. I always want to send my manuscript out right NOW, but I'm going to take a cue from my knitting design and remind myself that no one wants to see my lumpy, misshapen, fresh-off-the-needles draft. It's worth the time to make it as good as I know it can be.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Curious Lives of Teenagers: Secret Wish


When asked "If I could grant you one wish, what would it be?" subjects responded as follows:
  • adventure
  • a hot air balloon
  • to be completely comfortable with myself
  • confidence in myself
  • to fly in a wingsuit
  • to lose weight
  • to be successful
  • a boyfriend
  • Vandy or Northwestern
  • to be healed of my anger and hurt
  • Atwin
  • to make my dad proud of my accomplishments in life now and in the future
  • to travel to enchanting places all over the world
  • to be confident in myself and my decisions
  • to be successful, so I can take care of my parents when they are older like they took care of me
  • a boyfriend & a kitten that never turns into a cat
  • to just be done with high school
  • that someone will find a cure for cancer
  • mo' money!
  • to be content with the things that make up my life. I want to be happy.
  • to be good at something
  • to travel the world, under the sea, and travel space. I want to see the future and undiscovered places
  • to bake a cake full of rainbows and smiles so we all can be happy
  • for cancer to not exist
  • that my family wasn't broken
  • to live a life I'm happy with. I want to be rich in life rather than rich in money
  • to do what I want and not worry about the money I would earn
  • to make a difference; to live not just exist
  • an A+ on the Crime and Punishment essay
  • ***(name of female student in class)
  • ***(name of male student in class)
  • world peace
  • my parents to trust and support my actions
  • my family to stop stressing and to finally call somewhere home...
  • stay in my home town
  • a 70 inch TV that replays Paquiao getting knocked out by Marquez over my bed
  • snow on Christmas
  • to go to the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympics
  • everyone to be happy
  • to live on a private island with all of my friends and family
  • to be able to look back on my life and know that I made a positive and lasting impact on the world around me

*Subjects are honors and AP English students (many of them avid pleasure readers) at a public high school in coastal north county San Diego.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Independent Editor: My Not-So-Secret Weapon

Editing Paper With Red Pen

You've passed on dinner with friends, avoided the gym and skipped out on family events but it's all been worth it cause now you're finally done! You type those two little words "the end" and sit back to admire your pièce de ré least for a minute.  Then you press send and forward it to your beta readers and writing group for feedback.
A few weeks later, the responses trickle in. 

Mother's friend's daughter: "Fantastic! Wouldn't change a word!"

Your bestie Director of HR: "I think chapter four should be chapter one and chapter six should be chapter twelve and chapter two should be at the end."

Writing group friend extraordinaire: Love your protagonist but I'm having trouble believing your antagonist and losing interest in the second third of your manuscript.
Woman at computer
You scan the replies and scratch your head (maybe even pull out a hair or ten).  What does this all mean? Where do you start? Who do you listen to?

At times like this, you wish you had someone to lean on, someone who really knew the business and the minds of the editors and agents alike.  Someone who's like an editor but will give you the detailed feedback you need to make your book that much better.

Well, there is, and you do.

Cue *angels singing from heaven*

These fine folks are known as independent editors.  Individuals who are not publishers or agents but who've worked in the business for years as publishers, editors and/or writers and who are in tune with the ins and outs of the industry.  Be it a synopsis, outline or full manuscript, you can hire these editors to review your work and provide feedback.

Wait...hold on.  I know what you're thinking.  You want me to shell out my hard earned money to get another person to read my book and give me notes? 

The answer: yes, and here's why.

Your manuscript is your baby and you've spent countless hours caring for and nurturing your story.  If time is money, then you've already invested at least the equivalent of a down payment on a country home.  An indie editor will help you take your manuscript to the next level.  They will identify those areas that don't work not because they "feel" it doesn't work but because they know the reasons why it doesn't work.  They will ask the hard questions (you know, the ones that your husband/child/sister wouldn't dare ask) and provide the guidance you need to improve not just your manuscript but also your writing skills.

Jackie Garlick-Pynaert of Blah Blah Blah Blogger provides a great analogy.  Behind every great athlete is a fantastic coach.  Athletes don't become great without someone pushing them to be better.  Think of your indie-editor as your coach, helping you to hone your craft and make your manuscript the best that it can be for the markets of today.

Over the past year, I've had the pleasure of working with Free Expression's Lorin Oberweger on my manuscript. Since I am one who outlines, Lorin's feedback has helped guide my story development and steer me away from storylines and tangents that may have resulted in many wasted hours (something I definitely can't afford).   
Glasses on Book

But how do you know the good editors from the bad?  The best thing to do is research.  Check out your editor's background.  What have they done in the industry, whom have they worked for and who are their clients?  Conferences and workshops are great places to meet indie editors where they often provide their services specific to the event at rates that are very affordable for attendees.  This is a cost effective way for you to test out potential indie editors and see if they are a right fit for you. 

While hiring an indie editor won't guarantee a publisher will present you with a six figure book deal, it will help you to create a better manuscript.  After all, your manuscript is a reflection of you and wouldn't you want an agent or publisher to see you at your best?  

For more information on independent editors, check out:

Lorin Oberweger and Brenda Windberg at Free Expressions
Emma Dryden at Drydenbks 

Monday, December 3, 2012

YA Book Pick: STRUCK

On the second Monday of every month, we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors!

This month's Book Pick is STRUCK by Jennifer Bosworth.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

First Line: "I don’t sleep much."

The first line is nice enough, but it’s really only setting us up for a few quick sentences down the road that end in “…it’s one of my more tolerable lightening strike aftereffects.” If we count all of that as a first line, we’re set up for a pretty darned intriguing premise. Casual, off-handed, confessional, and original.

Highlights: Having lived most of my life in Southern California, I loved the way she depicted the iconic city of Los Angeles in ruins. The book also had one of my favorite characterization lines in recent reading history: “her lips were painted a shade of red that made me think of stop signs.” 

I was also interested in the religious component of the work. The cover and blurbs emphasize the lightening part, but the lightening addiction turned out to be secondary as it served primarily as a characterizing piece (I confess that I did crave more of it). The core of the work centered more around a dominant religion gaining traction and its false Prophet. Having lived in Utah for a while, some of it reminded me of op eds in Salt Lake City papers and blogs; pieces even used some of the same colloquial phrases I’d heard there.

The book read very quickly. 

Notes for Writers:

Bosworth employed a count down to the final storm and ever few chapters let us know that it was x number of days before the storm which assisted in creating anticipation and helped the pacing. She also used shorter chapters and paragraphs to keep things moving along quite rapidly, and she made great use of action verbs. All of these techniques made this book read more quickly for me than any in a while.

While a very fun read,  I also selected this book because I saw Bosworth speak at SCBWI Los Angeles about gaining publicity – even as an introvert. She stated that she believed that being sincere, kind, and oneself is the best way to market (I’m inclined to agree!). I will note that she was all of the above there, and she continued to be the same at YA in the Sun, an event I attended last month in San Diego. Her dedication to kindly and persistently promoting her book got me to buy it. In her SCBWI presentation, she also said that she has learned that the personal touches have great power and said that a quick video of her opening the hardcover of Struck has gotten as much positive response as her amazing expensive and cinematic trailer did, reminding authors that being human and real is great marketing.

at YA Under the Sun -- so many stars!
Mat Raney (Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves) , Jennifer Bosworth (Struck), and Marie Lu (Legend)

A Good Read For: Anyone interested in fast-paced dystopian and/or religious culture clash themes.