Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In the News: Revisions & Releases

I love to revise pinEveryone yearns for that day when they type the last word of their manuscript and then stamp it with a big THE END! But sadly, we know the last word is usually the start of an even harder process.. REVISION!

We may take a few weeks off, come back and review. It's always great to look at a manuscript with fresh eyes.  But it's important to get different perspectives as well.  Whether it be from a writing group or other peers, the opinions of others are important.  

I am a big fan of the independent editor. Mostly because I've been lucky enough to know a few great ones.  From Lorin Oberweger at Free Expressions to Emma Dryden.  Yes, there is a cost to their services but the benefit of professional fresh eyes is invaluable.  

Novel BOUNCE by Noelle August Cover PageIt doesn't matter if you're fifteen or fifty, revision is an important part of the writing process.  The blog Two Teachers Writing does a great job of providing an outline of the importance of revision and how to entice kids to go through the process in their own writing.  It's an article that I think is still relevant for those of us well beyond the high school years. 

It's during this phase of revision that we also go through the crazy neurotic process of comparing ourselves to others.  "OMG, I can't believe I wrote that crap." seems to be something I hear myself saying often.  Especially with all the Facebook groups and industry communities that we tend to be a part of, another person's success is often taken as our own personal failure.  Emma Dryden's post is a nice reminder that we don't have to play that game. 

Finally, a little bit of release news. I'm so proud of editor and friend Lorin Oberweger and the release of the third book in her BOOMERANG series BOUNCE!   Written under the pen name Noelle August with New York Times Best Selling Author Veronica Rossi, new adult novel BOUNCE follows Skylar and Grey who's budding relationship is anything but another girl goes gaga and drools over boy kind of book.  Check it out here

Monday, August 24, 2015

Writing Advice From INTO THE DARK Author Caroline T. Patti + Giveaway!

I'm excited to have author Caroline T. Patti guest post today, sharing advice from her path to publication. Her newest novel, INTO THE DARK, is out now. Make sure to enter for a chance to win a copy at the end of the post!

Guest Post: Advice for writers from author Caroline T. Patti

My advice to aspiring writers is: write. Write every day. Every word that touches the page doesn’t have to brilliant; that comes later. It’s also important to read. Get to know your market. Read the good stuff, read the bad stuff, read everything in between. Become familiar with what’s on the shelves, what holes need to be filled, and how you can make a contribution. Write because you love it, and you feel compelled to tell a story, not because you think you’re going to be rich and famous. Socialize as much as you can with other writers. Build a network. Con someone into reading your work, someone you trust will tell you if it sucks, but will say it with love and affection. Make sure you thank that person in your acknowledgements. Lastly, don’t give up. Every no is just one person’s opinion. Eventually, someone might say yes.

So many, many lessons are learned on the way to publishing. The biggest lesson for me is that there is a huge difference between being able to tell a story and crafting a novel. I knew how to tell a story. I had no idea how to craft a novel. I had to learn about perspective, pacing, tension, how to deliver information, how to make sure what was on the page matched what was in my head. I had to learn that in order for a character to sip a drink, they have to pick it up first.

Very often publishing can feel like trying to crack into a secret society. Sometimes it even feels like high school. There are the popular kids, the geniuses and the geeks. I wish I’d known not to worry about all that. If I never meet John Green or sit on a panel with Sarah Dessen, that doesn’t mean I’m not an author. When I first started I felt intimidated by all the greats out there, and I often worried that I would never be as good as them. Now I realize, that’s okay. Every journey is different. Different doesn’t mean less than.

My general process goes a little something like this: First, I meet a character. They introduce themselves to me in snapshots and snippets. Sometimes, I feel like I walk in mid conversation, and I struggle to keep up. I don’t always know everyone’s name, or how they’re all connected. Some characters are shyer than others. Much like in my Italian family, those who are loudest are heard, and those are the characters whose stories I write. Basically this makes me a crazy person with lots of voices in my head. When a character introduces himself/herself to me I start writing things down in a notebook. Once I have enough notes, I start fleshing out scenes. First novels in a series rarely get written in order. In fact, I usually get the ending relatively quickly. No promises that the story always ends up where I imagined, but I’m usually pretty close. When I’m writing I have complete tunnel vision so I can do it pretty much anywhere. For the revision and editing process, I like a quiet place and will usually lock myself away, put on some music and try to remember to eat. Luckily, I have my husband to rescue me from the editing cave.

Twitter changed my life. If not for the connections I’ve made through Twitter I would not be where I am today. It is through Twitter that I first met Georgia McBride, owner of Month9Books. It is also how I met my editors and cover designers for my self-published work. Writing is solitary, but publishing takes a village.


A girl’s sweet sixteen party is supposed to be among the most memorable events of her life. But on the night of hers, Mercy Clare wakes in the waiting room of a hospital with no memory of how she got there. To make matters worse, she’s wearing something she’d never be caught dead in: her best friend Lyla’s clothes.

Mercy’s nightmare is just beginning. The doctor arrives to tell her that it’s she who lies in the hospital bed waiting to die. A trip to the bathroom confirms Mercy’s fears, as Lyla’s face stares back at her and Lyla’s curvy figure pokes through her tight clothes.

But finding out what’s really going on won’t be easy. Because if Mercy wants her body back, it might just cost her Lyla’s life.



Caroline T Patti is the author of The World Spins Madly On and Too Late To Apologize. When she’s not writing,she’s a school librarian, mother of two, wife, avid reader and Green Bay Packer fan. You can chat with her on Twitter:@carepatti or find her onFacebook.

Connect with the Author:  Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

Giveaway Information: Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Into the Dark by Caroline T. Patti (INT)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What is in a name?

Good question Shakespeare.  As writers we often struggle over choosing the right name for our characters, but how much thought have we put into our own names? Writer Catherine Nichols explores this issue in her own article  In this article, she writes about her experiment to see if male writers were more successful in landing a book deal than female writers.  The results were shocking - a person's name is important. 

So if the publishing world is truly a business, then why this favoritism toward male writers?  Why exclude females?  And does this mean publishers only want adult males?  Surely, that can't be right.  Recently, I've seen  a growing number of teen writers such as Jake Marcionette and Maya Van Wagenen get publishing deals.  Looks like teen writers can be marketable and even profitable.

To test whether or not teens could get a publishing offer, I conducted my own experiment and even entered the results in the Google Science Fair this summer.  For my experiment, I wrote a query letter and my mom wrote a query letter (both for the same manuscript). We then sent the queries out to agents.  The results were fairly similar for us both.  My mom received only one more request than me.  Thus, our results indicated that age wasn't a deterring factor in the publishing world.  That's good news for young writers.  The publishing world may be a business, but if you write a good, sellable book, then agents will consider your book regardless of your age.  So even though I didn't win the science fair, I did learn something about the publishing industry.  Write a good book and regardless of your age and gender, you might get noticed.

  So two experiments, both with different results. Once again I must wonder what is in a name? And how important is your name when selling a book?  I would say very.  Celebs after all get publishing deals all the time based on their names.  So where does that leave the rest of us?  Um . . . write a good book, network, and hope to get lucky?  But still, is our writing alone good enough or do we need a mask? Since publishing is a business, I would say that it is best to keep it real and be yourself (even if you have to use just initials).  Best of luck and I hope to see your name in print one day soon.           

Monday, August 17, 2015

YA Book Pick: The Wee Free Men

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 THE WEE FREE MEN by Terry Pratchett, the first in the Tiffany Aching series.

I'm cheating a little with this one, because it's not a recent book (it published in 2004), but there are now four books in the series and the fifth one comes out next week in the UK (September 15th in the US). I thought it would be nice to spotlight the first book to introduce some new readers to the series.

This upcoming release is particularly bittersweet for me. Terry Pratchett, who has long been my favorite author, passed away a few months ago. This will be the last new book I ever get to read from him. I'm re-reading the rest of the series in preparation for the new one and am amazed all over again at how good it is.

Synopsis (from Goodreads): "Another world is colliding with this one," said the toad. "All the monsters are coming back."

"Why?" said Tiffany.

"There's no one to stop them."

There was silence for a moment.

Then Tiffany said, "There's me."

Armed only with a frying pan and her common sense, Tiffany Aching, a young witch-to-be, is all that stands between the monsters of Fairyland and the warm, green Chalk country that is her home. Forced into Fairyland to seek her kidnapped brother, Tiffany allies herself with the Chalk's local Nac Mac Feegle - aka the Wee Free Men - a clan of sheep-stealing, sword-wielding, six-inch-high blue men who are as fierce as they are funny. Together they battle through an eerie and ever-shifting landscape, fighting brutal flying fairies, dream-spinning dromes, and grimhounds - black dogs with eyes of fire and teeth of razors - before ultimately confronting the Queen of the Elves, absolute ruler of a world in which reality intertwines with nightmare. And in the final showdown, Tiffany must face her cruel power alone....

In a riveting narrative that is equal parts suspense and humor, Carnegie Medalist Terry Pratchett returns to his internationally popular Discworld with a breathtaking tale certain to leave fans, new and old, enthralled.

First Lines: "Some things start before other things. It was a summer shower but didn't appear to know it, and it was pouring rain as fast as a winter storm."

Highlights: Gosh, where to start? Terry Pratchett's writing is gorgeous in this book, as usual. Tiffany is the exact kind of practical, no-nonsense girl I identified with when I was younger—not always an easy type of character to find in YA books.

Incidentally, this book also includes one of my favorite lines from any book anywhere:

“If you trust in yourself. . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy.”

Notes for writers: One of the more interesting things about this book for writers to note is that although this series is considered young adult, the protagonist of the book is nine years old in the first one. (As the series goes on, she becomes a teenager.) A nine-year-old main character would usually indicate a book that's intended for middle grade readers, but this is an exception.

I think the main reason for considering this book YA is the way the protagonist is relating to the world around her. While MG books are usually about the protagonist finding out who they are and how to fit in with the world around them, Tiffany is already an independent, competent young lady when the book begins. The problems she's facing are more adult problems—how to get her kidnapped brother back, how to save her world from the evil Queen—so it's easy to forget how young she is.

If you're writing a book with a protagonist who's not the "right" age for the genre, I'd definitely suggest giving this book a read!

A good read for: Anyone who likes adventure stories or great writing. This is also an excellent "gateway book" for anyone who wants to try out a Terry Pratchett book before diving into the rest of his long-running Discworld fantasy series (the last book will be #41!).

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Life Lessons From Alice in Wonderland

I recently returned from London and while there went to a cool underground (literally) moving play/ experience to celebrate the classic. While there, I realized that the work had shaped the way I live my life and thought I'd jot down some of the things I learned from the work. In doing so, it was a nice reminder for how important symbolism is in writing.

*I, too, fell down a tunnel into a very strange world.

*Sometimes I can consume things (metaphorically) that make me feel too tall or two small when trying to maintain balance.

*Time is unrelenting.

*The queen of hearts can be a bitch.

*Most of life is wandering around chatting with archetypes.

*Any day can be a celebration, but if every day is a party you might go "mad," or maybe it's the manufacturing of too many hats to wear that will drive you crazy.

Those are some of my interpretations. Which symbols from Alice in Wonderland resonate with you?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Let's Talk About...Talk

Two silhouettes with talking bubbles
I work in the film and television industry, so I read a lot of scripts. And scripts are all about dialogue so it's important to get it right. Problem is, it's damn hard. Even the best screenwriters have drafts that are too wordy or don't have the right voice. 

So here are a few tips that may get you thinking or your characters talking:

1) Dialogue is not like speaking in real life

Take an afternoon and visit your local coffee shop. Order your favourite drink and have a seat. Eavesdrop on the conversations around you. You'll get a sense soon enough that normal conversations are not like dialogue in a novel. There are ums and ahs, and for the most part, it's rather boring. 

Dialogue is never a faithful rendering of how people truly speak.  It's shaped and concentrated.  When you're writing dialogue always keep these two questions in mind: i) What is it doing to reveal character? and ii) What is it doing to move the story forward?

2) Make sure your characters speak to the times 

This is particularly important if you're writing a historical novel. Your characters need to speak the way your readers perceive characters to speak during that time period. However, be weary of being too verbose or you may lose your reader's interest fast. 

3) Too much, too little

There are ebbs and flows to conversations. If you notice that a particular character's dialogue has taken up half a page (and it's not a soliloquy), review the passage and ask yourself how you can break it up to make it more interactive. 

If the conversation looks like sixteen one line sentences (back and forth between two characters), see how you can slow it down. What are the characters thinking as they speak? How are they acting? This will help make the dialogue feel rich and full to the reader. 

4) Don't worry about slang

This is particularly true in writing for YA. Sometimes we focus too much on trying to emulate how kids talk these days. But by doing this, we may actually be dating our writing or risk alienating kids. Using words that some kids in one region use may not resonate with other kids in different communities. It's important to be authentic to the story but that doesn't mean we need to use the latest teen buzzword to make things seem real. 

Calvin & Hobbs
Do you have tips or experiences writing dialogue?  Feel free to share them here!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Wonderful World of Boys

Writing a story that has little boys as background characters?  Here's this month's Top Ten List of how to Keep It Real when writing about the Wonderful World of Boys.

 1. Dig holes in the backyard just for fun.
 2. Can't keep socks on.
 3. Don't mind strange smells.                                                           
 4. Love pranks!!!
 5. Bath is a four letter word.
 6. Lick spoons and put them back in the drawer.
 7. Anything is a weapon - even scrambled eggs.  
 8. Ignore mom, but comes running when the doorbell rings.
 9.  Will fight to the death not to have to clean.
10.  Must have nitro!!!