Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Critiques: How Do You Take Them?

I was posed the following question by a friend: At what point do you take writing advice and start completely over or just leave it be?

I sent her this email in reply:

Your question today hit my I'm-passionate-about-this button: Critiques. Ugh! They are horrible, huh? A necessary evil just like editing. I cried after my first three or four crits. Now, I've built up tough skin and crits aren't as bad anymore. Not like the dagger twisting in my heart.

There's a fine line with critiques.

Meaning, they are ABSOLUTELY important to have and to feast upon there wisdom.

But!!!! BUT BUT BUT! Did I emphasize that well enough?

You have to remember that it's YOUR book. Not theirs!!! You are the one who is passionate about the story. Therefore, you can take what they say with a grain of salt or devour it like its the most delicious bowl of ice cream. Ever!

For the most part, my critique partners/betas have been amazing, even if what they told me was hard to take. Ie: One of them told me I had to take out one scene in my book. I fought it. Hard! But in the end, I knew I had to cut it cuz it didn't push the plot forward at all. Yet, some things my most trusted CP's have told me, I didn't use because it didn't fit in with the vision of my book.

Like I said, my books are MY BOOKS. I hone them in through having others read them, but if I don't like their SUGGESTIONS, I don't have to use them.

And having lots of different crits is IMPORTANT BEYOND IMPORTANT. It gives you an idea of what your story really lacks or does well. As in if two, three, four people say you need to work on imagery or showing, not telling then you can be assured it is a good idea to revamp those things. One persons crit isn't the end of the world. If you want to brush thier SUGGESTIONS off your shoulder than DO! That's your right as the author. Although, if you feel they are valid points, then maybe you should go back through the book ONCE YOU ARE DONE and fix it.

That brings me to my next point: If you feel this person's SUGGESTIONS are valid then from the point you're writing now start putting them into action. Does that make sense? Then go back. The first draft of a book is supposed to be rough. It's not supposed to be perfect. Yet! That's what revisions and edits are for. The important thing is to get it on paper in its entirety. If you keep going back, then you are never going to finish it.

Have you noticed, I've been capitalizing suggestions a lot. Why? Because crits are not the god-of-all-knowledge-and-this-is-how-it-HAS-to-be type thing. They are ideas that others feel may make it better. Sometimes they hurt, sometimes they don't. All I can say is my book wouldn't almost be in the hands of publishers if I hadn't bit the bullet and embraced them. And even with an agent, I've had to take her advice--even had to write a new ending (of which I LOVE LOVE LOVE).

The End.

So what are your thoughts or advice about critiques?

Writing. Jewels.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Querying Made Easy 101

So, I was tweeting back and forth with a fellow writer/CP, offering her things to make sure she did while querying. For sure the process is tedious and awful, but I'd like to share some tips that can make it easier/faster.

The Query Letter: Make sure you have a few set of eyes critique your letter. You'll most likely go through 3 maybe 10 versions before you nail it. After that, send out maybe 10 queries a week to gauge how it is accepted. You may need to re-evalaute the letter at the beginning. Unfortunately, it isn't an exact science. 

Finding THE Agent: Don't randomly query to Agent X or Agent Y. Make sure they represent what you write. It's wasted time and effort to send off your letter to an agent who doesn't even work with your genre. Here are some sites I used to research:
  • Agency Websites (Google a list)
  • Agent Blogs/Website (Google a list)
  • Look into agents who represent your favorite authors, especially if what they write falls under the category of what you write
Agency Websites: If there is a certain agent you'd like to query, check out their agency's website. Perhaps, one of their co-agents will be a better fit for your book. These websites can give you an idea of what the agent may be like and what they're looking for.

Agent Preferred Query Method: Make sure you send agents your query letter EXACTLY as they accept it. If you don't, you might have your query deleted or thrown away. I thoroughly researched them out through their blogs, query websites, agency websites, etc. On agency websites they typically list their submission requirements. Follow them to the "T." If they ask you to email the query letter, synopsis, etc. in the body of the email, DO IT! If they ask for the first 10 pages of your MS, DO IT! If they ask you to title the subject of your email with the word "Query," DO IT. If they ask for you to mail in your query, DO IT!  Enough said about that.

Submission Requirments Made Easy: Querying can take a while with research and all that jazz. But with some pre-query work, you can make it faster. Ok, agents may ask for a synopsis, sample pages, etc. To make it easier to put all that in the email, do the following:
  • Save your query where you can easily paste it into the body of the email or attach to the email (if they ask for attachments ONLY)
  • Save your MS as 5, 10 , 20 , 25 , and 50 page documents. Yes, five different files. Take it from me, you'll be happy you did. Open the file with the number of pages required for the query email. Copy and paste will become your BFF.
  • Also, save your MS as a .doc and .docx. Some agents require it in a certain format. Doing this will save you time. It is important to send agents your MS, synopsis or sample pages in the formate they deal with.
Important FYI: DO NOT query two agents from the same agency at the same time! Sometimes agents will hand off a query to one of their co-agents if it would suit them better. Assume that your query has been sent to the agency as a whole.

Excel Spreadsheet: I developed a spreadsheet of the agents I queried. It consisted of the following columns:
  • Agent Name
  • Agency the agent works for
  • Genre they represent
  • Why you like them
  • Their submission email
  • Agent's response time
  • Date I queried them
  • Agent's response to your query and date of response
I color coded my spreadsheet according to if the agent sent a rejection, or if they asked for a partial/full MS. In addition, I kept an eye on the agents response time. If an agent said they would get back to me in 4 weeks and its been 6, I assumed their answer was "no." I classified them as a rejection, so I could stop worrying about them.

Additional Tips: The first 25 or 30 query letters you send out will be nervous-making (as Scott Westerfeld would say). Know this is normal. There will be a time when you will push the send button without thinking about it. You'll get the hang of it. For example, when I was researching an agent or agency website, I scanned it for specific things like genre's, what the agents typically requested, and their personality. It can become a quick jump from one agent to the next. Have fun with it. I did with the Excel spreadsheet. And laughing off rejection emails.

Need to Know Item: You WILL receive rejections. It DOES NOT mean you suck as a writer. Remember this industry is super subjective. One agent may be looking for what you've written while another may be in the market for other stories. It's ok to get rejections. They are normal. You can cry and eat chocolate while veging on the couch for a while. But pick yourself up and query some more.

You can do it! If I can, anyone can.

What are your query tips?

Writing. Jewels.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Author Interviews. Crazy, Huh?

I'm sort of tripped out. Why? I've had two people over the past couple weeks ask me to do author interviews. I never really thought I'd be in the position where people would be asking me to do interviews. Crazy, huh?

When I was a kid, I dreamed about being an actress because I wanted to be in the movie Twister (I wouldn't have been very good at that--I stink at acting). I also wanted to be an astronaut (that aspiration came about cause I loved loved loved the movie Apollo 13). Those were careers that could have offered interviews. But they would have definitely never panned out to anything for me, though.

Anyway, now I'm actually doing interviews. Feels so odd to me. Well, today on my writing friend's blog I've done my second interview. Her name is Kristin L. Thetford. She is super amazing. Click on her name to read the interview. I tried to make it entertaining, not bland but laced with my personality.

If you want to check out my first interview, it's on my writing friend/CP's blog (the lovely Jamie Corrigan). She has been so supportive, and I appreciate her a lot. Likewise, click on her name to read it.

I do feel pretty sheepish sharing these with you but hopefully there will be more to follow. That will mean I'm becoming an established author. Although, I hope they don't all come all at once. I don't have enough time for that. 

If you've done interviews before, how did you feel doing your first few? Or what was your favorite question you've ever answered? Do you answer with silly answers or serious or a mixture of both? 

Or, ya know? I just shared two things I wanted to be when I was a kid. What did you want to be when you were a little kid?

Writing. Jewels.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I'm Good. You're Good. We're All Good.

I've never felt particularly good at anything. Ok, that's a really bad way to start a blog post, huh? Well, it's true. Throughout school I sucked at math. How about we not even talk about school--I disliked the whole experience. Eight years of piano lessons were cool, but I never thought counting was super important. Ummm, it is! When I had to learn Chinese to live in Taiwan for 18 months, I tried my hardest to speak the language, but in the end my tones didn't quite ring true. Trying to learn French made Chinese feel like a walk in the park, though. I am pretty good at cleaning so at least I can say I'm good at that.


It wasn't until I started writing that I realized I'm good at something. The thing is I've stuck with this dream. That one point is why I feel like I'm talented at this skill. As for my piano lessons, if I would have been more dedicated to it, I may have excelled further. Did I? Nope.

That's when I feel becoming good, great, amazing at something happens--when you stick with it! Regardless of the struggles that go along with acquiring a skill, punching through them is where true excellence can occur. Over two years of writing, rewriting, revising, and throwing whole chapters away, I've realized I'm good at something. Also, I have a huge desire to continue to become better.

That's the thing, friends. In the past, I wasn't super dedicated to the things I participated in. For example, sports classes in school were hard because my coordination skills were (are) terrible. However, if I'd have put in a bit more effort, I may have been good at it. Oh, and yes, if my head wasn't a target for soccer, dodge, foot, basket, or baseballs, it could have been easier, too!

Getting to the point! I like, love, adore writing. It's something I never thought would be my career path. One in which I wouldn't change any of the challenges I've gone through along the way.

In short, I'm good at writing (at least I think so). :D

What are you good at? And what have you done to get there?

Writing. Jewels.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Light Bulb

Get this: I sluggishly entered my bedroom. Flicking off the light, my feet felt their way to bed, then I flopped down on the mattress. I snuggled up into my chilled blankets, hoping they'd warm up super fast. Finding a comfortable position, my mind started its usual jumping from one thing to the next. Then...


One word popped into my head. I'm not gonna tell you which one, though. Yeah, yeah. I'm mean. But a writer has to be secretive. Anyway, this one single word sparked an idea for a book that made my mind start exploring all of the different ways I could develop a story upon it. One vein of thought led to the next until I was writing down what was spewing rapidly from my mind. 

Afterward, my heart raced fast and my brain felt like it wanted to pop right out of my skull to figure where this book could take its journey. With such intensity filling my chest to all four of my limbs, I got up to write a post about my experience. 

This leads me to share some wisdom which I found incredibly important during this whole creative process. 

That being: Write out your thoughts the moment (yes, the very second) you have an idea. Yes, even if it's only ONE word that triggers something you get so excited about you could run a marathon. Ok, that's taking it a little too far. But, you know what I mean.

Writing out your thoughts may help you develop that simple word into something miraculous. Of course, the next step is to actually draft out a plot, world, and characters to fill up the lines of the page. But folks, the brilliant IDEA is alive.

Gah! This has been such an exhilarating and creative opportunity I just couldn't pass up writing a post about. I hope my meager advice is helpful.

Now, what is your advice to find ideas to build a story upon?

Writing. Jewels.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Writing Support System: A Must Have

Being a writer is not easy at all. It requires a lot of time sitting at your computer, plotting out scenes, being on a high, and being in the dumps. It's always nice to have those wonderful people you can rely on every step of the way, even when you think you're taking 500 steps backwards at times.

I was tweeting back and forth with someone a while ago. She was struggling to find the support needed during her writing journey. I gave her some suggestions on how to find the support. By golly, it's what I had to do. But it's not easy at all to obtain the people you rely on through the ups and downs.

Here are my ideas:
  1. Use your family or friends as a support system. My very first critiques of my book, FÉLICITÉ FOUND, were my good friend and my sister-in-law.
  2. Actively use Twitter - Start up conversations. Find people you get a long with and have the same interests. Be their friend and they will be yours.
  3. Join Facebook writing chats groups.
  4. Go to writing events - Book tours, writing groups, book/writing conferences, etc... You will definitely find people who are looking for support just as you are.
  5. Comment on people's blogs. It'll get your name out there.
  6. Start your own blog. Likewise, it'll get your name out there.
  7. Become a beta for other writers.
  8. Ask people if they want to be CP's. It never hurts to ask. I'd suggest you have already built rapport with the person before you ask.
  9. Eat lots of chocolate. You'll need it.
  10. And most of all, be patient. These things won't happen over night. But your outside support system with writers WILL come.
Today, I want to thank one of those many people I count as my supporters!

My Dad!!!

It's his birthday today, so I thought it only right to share my love and gratitude to him for all of his support, not only with my being an author but EVERYTHING he's ever done for me. I love you, Pops!

What are your suggestions to find your writing support system?

Writing. Jewels.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Once Upon A Time: Are You Sucked In?

Have you ever watched an episode (yes, one episode) of a TV show and couldn't stop watching it. You think about it for days afterward. Then you start dreaming about it. That has happened to me with a few TV shows. IE: 24 and Stargate SG1. I'm a dork, I know. It's happened to me with many a book, too!

Anyway, my sister suggested me check out the new show Once Upon A Time. I ended up watching one episode and was trapped in the story (no pun intended--you'll understand that if you've seen the show).

Basically, the premise of it is fairytale characters like Snow White, Cinderella, Prince Charming, etc... have been banished into the real world. It all happened because of the Evil Queens rage against Snow White. She casts a wicked spell that sends all of the characters to a city called Storybrook, a place in the New England area. The catch is they don't remember who they were before, only the Evil Queen does.

Awesome, huh?

Possibly Once Upon A Time has me wrapped around its finger because I'm a writer and fancy stories. Or maybe because its a freaking awesome way to weave Grimm Tales into a sitcom. Pretty clever if you ask me.

This shows that stories can come from anywhere. You can very well use something already in existence to form a solid writing idea. Re-imagine it with your own twist. You never know, it may suck someone or many people into the thick of your story.

Have you ever re-imagined a well-known story or Grimm Tale for a book? What TV shows are inspiring to you? Do you have certain shows you watch every week? 

The shows I love are NCIS, NCIS:LA, The Closer, Unforgettable, & Rizzolli and Isles.

Writing. Jewels.

Friday, January 6, 2012

I’m Excited to Read Books: 2012 Edition

With 2012 here and kicking, I’m getting super excited for this year’s book releases.

Here's my list o' books I can't wait to read:

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Endlessly by Kiersten White

Arise by Tara Hudson

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Third book in the Matched series by Ally Condie

And Bad Hair Day by Carrie Harris (no cover yet)

I'm salivating here. Can't wait to devour these books!

Which books being released this year are you dying to read?

Writing. Jewels.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Are You Backing Up?

I don’t mean are you backing up while driving? I mean are you backing up what you write?

A couple weeks ago, my thumb drive kicked the deathly can. Yep, there was no going back. It was gone, taking up the grave. I didn’t worry too much. All I’ve written is backed up in multiple locations. I’ve even printed out a hardcopy.

Phew! No worries here.

Yet, soon after I started writing my first book, I had a super scare. Something happened while I was writing it. I don’t remember what, but I thought I’d lost everything I’d written so far. I can still feel the lump that formed in my throat, and my heart stop beating for a brief moment. It was terrifying.

At that point, I knew I had to start backing up my words.

My fried thumb drive would have been worse if I didn’t have copies of my stories in other places. By golly, I would have died if I lost it all. I would have definitely cried non-stop for weeks. The waterworks would have swollen my eyes to puffy reddened slits.

I bring this all up to encourage you to save your writing in multiple computers, thumb drives, email them to yourself, or even Dropbox.

Have you ever had an I-lost-everything scare? How did you deal with it? Are you obsessed with saving your works in tons of places? What is your advice with backing up? 

Writing. Jewels.