Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The "N" Word

New Sign

I know what you're all thinking.  "Sacre Bleu! What is she talking about?"  But I guarantee you that if you haven't already, you're going to experience it at one point or another....I did.

That's right, *breath*, I can do it.  Someone asked me recently:

"Hey, how's your manuscript going?" 

To which I replied:

"Well, actually, I'm working on a "NEW" project...."

Short and sweet right? 

But what I was really thinking was:

Baby "Oh No!"
"Oh god, I can't believe I just admitted to working on a new project when the one I've been working on for the past year is still only half way done and sitting in a drawer at the back of my closet.  I'm never going to get anything done!  I give up! Freak of nature!  Zero talent!  And run on sentences!  And sentences that begin with "and".....and...."

You get the picture.

It's easy to get down on yourself.  I admit, I've been guilty of equating "starting something new" to "failure".  How many times have I told myself "that's not going to be me".  But here I am, in the throws of a brand spanking new project.

The good news is that the "N" word doesn't have to be a bad word.  

Was it manuscript fatigue? 

Something not working in the current story?

Something exciting about the new one?

Focusing on the positive is hard, but I can honestly say (after much introspection) that my early endeavour was not for naught.  I learned SO MUCH from my first manuscript.  I learned about what makes a good story, what my strengths are and what I need to improve on (not to mention, a lot about myself in the process).  I went to workshops with the material and worked on it with agents and editors.  I understand better where the market is now and where it's going and also what I want to present as my first book (should it get *fingers crossed* published). 

All that helped me to develop my "new" idea.  One that feeds off the knowledge that I gained and that fits my wants and needs and excites me all at the same time.  

It's not to say I won't finish my first manuscript, maybe I'll come back to it later.  But I've gained a new appreciation for writing, which really is like a relationship.  You've got to nurture and work on it through the good times and the bad, but sometimes, a new boyfriend may be just what you need. 


Monday, May 27, 2013

Writer's Resource: Character Names

I was really happy to receive a compliment recently on the character names in my WIP. I spent quite a bit of time on those names, so it was great to hear someone thought they worked well for the story.

I spent a LOT of time on the names.

cat working hard
It's not easy to come up with names, especially if you have a large cast of characters. Here are a few resources for character names you may not have considered:
  • Random Name Generator. Sometimes you don't realize a name works perfectly until you see it written down. Try Behind the Name, which lets you specify ethnicity, gender, and number of names; the Fantasy Name Generator, which leans toward unique names and has options like "vowel heavy" names and "names with apostrophes"; and the Fake Name Generator, which not only comes up with a name--it gives your fictional character a whole identity, complete with a birthdate, blood type, and mother's maiden name!
most popular baby boy names wordle

  • The US Social Security Office's Baby Name Popularity List. You can input a year (back to the 1880s!) and it will give you a list of the most popular names in the US from that year. Don't forget, if you're naming an adult character, you'll want to look at the names that were popular during the year of his or her birth, not currently popular names.
It's worth taking the time to get your characters' names exactly right. The best names are unique and fit the characters well. Would Atticus Finch, Scarlett O'Hara, Sherlock Holmes, or Blanche DuBois be as memorable with different names?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Second Book in a Trilogy Doesn't Have to Suck

Huge, huge, huge congratulations to fellow Inker Stacy on her book deal!!!

confetti cannon

If you missed her post, go check it out (don't worry, I'll wait).

My post today is about something that's been on my mind of late: second books in a trilogy. It seems like there's been a spate of second books published recently.

For example:
Asunder by Jodi Meadows
Prodigy by Marie Lu
Insurgent by Veronica Roth

While I enjoyed all of these books and feel like each author did a great job of maintaining the momentum from their first book, reading them pointed out one simple fact to me.

Second books are hard to write.

Thank you Captain Obvious

Yeah, okay, so that's not really news to anyone. All books are hard to write! But second books suffer from their own set of challenges. Some of them include:
  • Usually it has been a year or more since the reader read the first book in the trilogy. This means the writer must remind the reader what happened in the first book, but subtly enough so it doesn't feel like a rehash for those jumping straight from last book.
  • Often the first book of a trilogy will end with a (more or less) satisfying ending, but the second book tends to end on a cliffhanger. The writer must try to give the second book its own arc, separate and distinct from the overarching journey tying the series together. It can't just feel like the author is just marking time until the big showdown in the third book.
  • If the second book isn't as compelling or readable as the first, readers are likely to put it down unfinished (or, at best, not bother picking up the third book). It's vital for authors to have good third book sales to show their publisher that their next submissions are worthy of consideration--especially if they've invested a lot of money in that author already.
So it's pretty obvious that a trilogy writer must be careful to give the readers more of what they loved about the first book in the second book.

I love the advice in this article on second books by author Juliet Marillier via Writer Unboxed. Among other things, she suggests shifting the focus from the main character of book one a little. Maybe we can see the emotional journey of a secondary character who didn't get as much "airtime" in book one.

Have you seen any examples of second books in trilogies done particularly well?

Monday, May 20, 2013

How I Got My Publishing Deal (Did I really just write that? Is this actually happening??)

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to share the news that I've joined the Month9Books family! WHERE THE STAIRCASE ENDS is scheduled for publication in Spring of 2015.  Squuueeeee!!!!!!

Crazy, right? I've basically been jumping up and down ever since I found out. (Seriously, my legs hurt.)

The ironic thing is that my last post was about inspiration author success stories. I wrote it just as much for me as I did for you guys, because (let's be honest) we all need some writer motivation from time to time. But I never in a million years thought I would be writing my own publishing story less than a month later. That's crazy talk!

So I hope you will indulge me while I share a bit about my path to publication.

WHERE THE STAIRCASE ENDS is my first completed novel. I've written other things throughout the years, but always abandoned them at some point because they just didn't feel like they had that something special. But Stairs felt different. From the moment I dreamed up the idea, I couldn't stop thinking about it, and I ended up finishing my first draft in just under 3 months. Of course the current version looks nothing like that first draft thanks to the amazing input I had from beta readers and critique partners, but it was a start.

I queried Stairs in small batches on and off for the last year and half, taking breaks to make revisions based on input from Betas. When I received responses they were generally positive, but my overall response rate was lower than I expected.  I couldn't figure out why until an agent gave it to me straight.  It wasn't my query that was the problem - it was my genre. The market was too saturated with paranormal stories, and agents were hesitant to take on yet another paranormal project.

I didn't think I'd written a traditional paranormal story, but because there are paranormal elements I was lumped into that category. It was a heartbreaking notion, because it meant the story I loved so much might get passed over simply because of the genre.

I anguished over what to do. Keep querying, or shelve the story for a few years in the hopes that the market might change?

It was around this time that I met the wonderfully amazing Kristy Shen. We were both working the contest circuits and I thought her entries looked fantastic, so we decided to become crit partners. We started swapping chapters on our latest WIPs. I was hesitant to get any more crits on Stairs because I wanted to focus on my latest and greatest project, but Kristy offered to read it anyway.

After reading it, she asked if I'd considered submitting directly to publishers open to queries. It was something I'd thought about, but nothing I'd actively pursued, and after some encouragement from Kristy I decided to submit to two houses. Couldn't hurt, right?

One day later, I received a full request from the first publisher.

A few days after that, I received a full request from the second publisher, and an offer of publication from the first.

Then the next day, I received ANOTHER offer of publication from the second press.

Wait, what??

In less than a week I'd wrangled two offers of publication, when only a month before I'd seriously considered shelving Stairs. To say I was reeling is the understatement of the universe.

Both opportunities were incredible, but my gut kept pointing me to Month9Books. It felt like the perfect home for WHERE THE STAIRCASE ENDS, and after a chat with Georgia McBride I knew that was the family I would join.

It's been a long journey, but an incredible one. Of course I would never have gotten here if it wasn't for the unbelievable support from the writing community. A huge thanks to the lovely ladies of Thinking to Inking - Jenn, Triona and Lauren - as well as all the amazing beta readers who gave the early drafts of Stairs a read (Margie, Suzi, and Tamara, to name a few.) And of course a huge shout out to Kristy Shen for encouraging me to submit to Month9Books in the first place. *reaches across the computer to give her an enormous hug*

The moral of this story is to keep writing and never give up. There will be bumps along the way, but that just makes the victory that much sweeter. And of course make sure you have a good crew of writer friends in your corner - they're what makes the journey worthwhile. :-)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

BEA 2013: A List of Links to Help You Prepare



Confession: One of my life’s goals is to understand every element of books I can so that I can devote my life to promoting them. As an English teacher, aspiring writer, and purveyor of mini libraries around the world, I knew I had to experience BEA, but the timing has never been right. Until now. I’m going this year.  So, in my usual obsessive manner, I had to spend hours researching the BEST way to experience the Expo. Here are some highlights:

Hilarious classic guide to identifying the flora and fauna of book expo from important editors to swagaholics and the like:http://www.doctorsyntax.net/2011/05/field-guide-to-flora-and-fauna-of.html

The Book Bliss team is interviewing BEA 2013 authors in their homes and posting videos. Pretty cool to get a preview of who will be there/ get more excited to meet them/ feel like you’re there even if you don’t get to attend. There are also videos with cupcake recipes to go along with favorite book titles: http://bookbliss.com/

A great template schedule of library-oriented/of librarian interest events: http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/05/shows-events/bea/librarians-guide-to-bookexpo-america-2013/

Wendy Watson writes about donating pieces of her art to the Maurice Sendak memorial auction for ABFFE.http://thewendywatsonblog.blogspot.com/2013/04/book-expo-america.html

Want to know what happened last year? I like the notes from 2012 here, and wonder will Harlequin still have the most traffic? Will Dreamspinner press be giving out Chapstick? Will the ebook and independent publisher sections continue to grow? I’ll find out soon, and I like having the questions to ask ahead of time. J http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-finkle/book-expo-america_b_1583440.html

Love Rick Riordan? He’ll be there, but you’ll have to be strategic to see him. Unfortunately he will not be giving out ARCs so you boo-you won’t get one, but yay-no spoilers out there. Here are hints for die-hard fans: http://rickriordan.blogspot.com/2013/05/book-expo-america.html

A fascinating look at BEA from a marketer’s perspective. It’s not as recent as the other posts, but still worth the read to understand how to avoid looking unprofessional, and the importance of studying the market/knowing the business of books. http://www.amarketingexpert.com/how-to-maximize-book-expo-america/

Want to know who will be the speakers at the author breakfasts/tea? A fun way to find out: the 2013 Author breakfast Harlem Shake video?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7zRLGvVd-o Hint: last I checked they still had some tickets for sale, but hurry.. http://www.bookexpoamerica.com/Show-Info/Authors-and-Books/#page=page-1  

I hear that the Editor’s Buzz panels are not to be missed. But if you can’t make it, it’s still cool to know which books have been selected for the hype. http://www.bookexpoamerica.com/Press-and-News/Press-Releases/Authors-and-Books-are-Announced-for-Beas-Editors-Buzz-Forums/

Some great tips on navigating the convention, and the link to the previous post on past BEA controversies and ettiquite??? Priceless. Hint: Please don’t bite anyone no matter how hungry you are for that ARC. http://www.wordforteens.com/2013/05/nicoles-five-bookexpo-america-tips.html

And if you want a specific list of clothing to pack along with your tips: http://www.katiesbookblog.com/2013/05/book-expo-america-tips-and-tricks.html

More tips, and these focus more on how to escape with either your arm or your leg (NYC is expensive!) Glad I now know to bring a phone charger, and suitcase and/or money to mail books home. http://ceceliabedelia.blogspot.com/2013/05/book-expo-america-2013-version.html

That said, you might want to plan out which galleys most excite you so you don’t have to mull over your choices there. Here’s a dizzyingly exciting list of what will be given away this year: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bea/article/57002-bea-2013-children-s-galleys-to-grab.html

A side note: The Perseus group is sponsoring a hackathon this year for techie types to compete for new innovative ways to get books into the hands of people: http://www.publishinghackathon.com/

Whew. I’m feeling ready. Thank you to everyone who put online their tips and notes. I can’t wait to share author anecdotes/pictures and stories about how books are made/distributed with my students when I return. And if you're going as well, please say "hi!" or hit me up on Twitter so we can get excited together! @laurenlori

Monday, May 13, 2013

Curious Lives of Teenagers: Mom

With my cute mom! Love her.

In Honor of Mother's Day, the subjects were provided the prompt "Mom." Here is how they responded:
  • Multi-tasking master, seems to have an answer for everything, puts up with your crap and still loves you.
  • If you can't find it, ask mom.
  • The person who will stand by you and support you no matter what. They will always be there for you.
  • My mom is my whole world to me. I couldn't live without her. My mom is extremely comforting and she can make some bomb food. Love you mom!
  • Kind, caring, and sweet, they are always there when you need them and no matter how many times you disappoint them they will still be there for you, moms always have a special place for their kids in their heart.
  • The only person who walks into your room, farts, and then walks away without a word. And you still love her.
  • A mother is just someone with a child. A mom is someone who loves their child unconditionally and would go to the ends of the world to see their child be as happy as they possibly could be.
  • A wonderful mixture of frustration and love. They are the people you love the most but sometimes forget to show it. That's why there's a day dedicated to tell them how much you care.
  • My mom wants nothing to do with me! Happy Mother's Day!
  • I love my mom's patience, compassion and the selflessness that she has for her family.
  • I have four moms. One of them legally became my mom two days ago and my pocket book is empty.
  • Marvelous. Optimistic. Maternal.
  • Every mom is seriously insane.
  • Our moms have been our nurses, chefs, maids, chauffers, biggest fans, your teacher and your friend. We owe them the world.
  • A mom is someone you ask for something when Dad says no.
  • My mom is hotter than me.
  • My mom loves me. :)
  • For Mother's Day, I gave my mom a framed picture of me. She said "ew" and walked away. I still love her.
  • My mother is psychotic, mad and horribly antisocial but she's also the most beautiful woman I know, not to mention intelligent and her light guides me through my life.
  • Homemade pies during the holidays. That is all.
  • I wish I didn't have to make my mom go through my teen years. For my kids I want to be able to skip  ages 13-17.
  • It's not just a birth-DAY with her, it's a birth-MONTH.
  • Loving, giving, bickering, nagging, helpful
  • Moms are people who love their children regardless of what they do. Moms are always there for their children and never leave their side. Moms are the hope in the world.
So what is your mom to you? What was she back when you were in high school? Do you remember?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Industry Review: It's A Small World

Group of clay figures hugging


Writing can be a very solitary activity.  Typing away on our keyboards as we stare endlessly at our computer screens.  From time to time we stand up and stretch, go for a walk or grab a coffee break, but interaction with others (especially during the work day) can be few and far between. 

Which is why I feel so blessed to have such a great writing community that I can turn to whenever I need a little nudge or a big guiding light. This past weekend I attended the Niagara Writers Retreat and Conference for YA and Children's Writers.  Organized by conference organizer extraordinaire Jackie Pynaert, I had the chance to spend three days with an intimate group of top notch writers, brainstorm with an incredible critique group (lead by indie editor Lorin Oberweger), have one-on-one time with Susan Rich (Editor-at-Large, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) and be inspired by the likes of Ellen Hopkins, Sara Zarr and Kimberley Griffiths Little.  

It was a great event and I learned a lot, but more importantly, I came away with new friends who are all welcome additions to my writing family.  Through emails and Facebook, we keep in touch, spread important industry news and cheer each other on when we've finished writing a chapter or signed with a new agent. 

There are many ways to build your own network of cool industry peeps, from message boards to meet and greets at the local library. Below, I've listed a few of my support groups who all help to give me that extra kick in the writer pants (and a hug) when I need it.

1) Thinking to Inking

We started off as four strangers - most at our first writers conference (the Big Sur Writing Workshop) and came away bosom blogging buddies. 

2)  Torkidlit 

Where Toronto YA and Middle grade writers catch up online and off. 

3) The Conference Crew

Workshops aren't just weekend events, they set the stage to build long lasting friendships.  My "Your Best Book" class of 2012 is still going strong and keeping everyone informed and motivated through our Facebook group page.

Where do you go for your writer support and inspiration?  Feel free to post your replies here and spread the word on community

Monday, May 6, 2013

YA Book Pick: Mind Games

Once a 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 MIND GAMES by Kiersten White


Synopsis (from Goodreads)Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways…or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.

First Line: My dress is black and itchy and I hate it.

I love how White utilizes the sense of touch right from the get-go. It’s far easier to rely on sight and sound, but much better to get a visceral reaction by focusing on a lesser-used sense like touch, taste, or smell as she has done here. It’s a simple line, but also relatable, and gives us a sense of who the mc is. Reminds me that sometimes simple and elegant works better than the overwrought sentences I’m sometimes tempted to concoct.  

Highlights:  This book moves. Fast. White spins us through a world of hard choices for a couple of sisters who are trapped in a cruel game. The tenderness between the sisters is palpable and the heart of the book. The love relationships feel more real and complex and broken than I’m used to in YA. I really liked it. I’d gone to hear a lecture on the complex darkness of covert wars the night before reading it and had a similar ache reading this book as I did hearing about the brutality of war the night before.

Notes for Writers:  White doesn’t tell the story chronologically. She begins in the present, but then provides flashbacks from various time periods throughout to fill in the backstory. She also tells the story from two perspectives. This structure is difficult to pull off, but since it’s done well here, it adds a tone of a sense of loss of control over memories, or even time itself. That tone really enhances the theme of how broken one may get when she loses of control the basic structures of her life.

White keeps command of the story through all the time jumps by anchoring us in the present, and titles each chapter with the name of the girl who is telling the story as well as how long ago the story occurred for clarity.

Be on the lookout for the poetic ending, too, it’s more beautifully broken and insightful than I was expecting from such an action-heavy work.

A Good Read For: Fans of dystopian who’d like a female Jason Bourne twist on the genre, as well as fans of White’s Paranormalacy series, which I also enjoyed (personally, I think White has really come into her own in this series, though, and knocked it out of the park here.)

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