Monday, March 17, 2014

Smackdown With Your Inner Editor

Do you have trouble keeping your analytical side quiet when it's time to write? Do you struggle to silence your creative side when it's time to edit?

Check out the tips I've gathered. I'm writing over at the Pikes Peak Writers blog today. And check out the spot where I'm actually sitting right now. I'm visiting an old ghost town in Arizona.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Purple Moon Blog Tour with Tessa Emily Hall

It's always fun to meet folks via their blogs. Tessa is one cyber friend that inspires me. She's a teen writer who has worked hard--and her novel, Purple Moon has just published! Don't forget to check out the giveaway at the bottom of the post.

First, here's the back cover copy:

Selena's life isn't turning out to be the fairy tale she imagined as a kid. That hope seemed to vanish long ago when her dad kicked her and her mom out of the house. This summer might finally hold the chance of a new beginning for Selena ... but having to live with her snobby cousin in Lake Lure, NC while waiting for her mom to get out of rehab wasn't how Selena was planning on spending her summer. She soon begins to wonder why she committed to give up her "bad habits" for this.

Things don't seem too bad, though. Especially when Selena gains the attention of the cute neighbor next door. But when her best friend back home in Brooklyn desperately needs her, a secret that's been hidden from Selena for years is revealed, and when she becomes a target for one of her cousin's nasty pranks, she finds herself having to face the scars from her past and the memories that come along with them. Will she follow her mom's example in running away, or trust that God still has a fairy tale life written just for her?

Tessa is stopping by today to answer some questions about her journey to publication. Listen in:

DMA: Can you give a brief overview of your path to publication?

Tessa: I’ve always loved writing, ever since I was in preschool. I never really had a doubt I would become published one day either—not necessarily because I thought I was talented, but because I really felt that writing was my calling in life. I didn’t have a desire to do anything else. So once I reached high school, I decided to take an online school so I could have more time to pursue writing. I wasn’t necessarily trying to seek publication—I started off mainly just studying the craft and trying to incorporate writing into my school schedule. I bought several books on the writing craft, took a creative writing class through my online school, and took a course through the Christian Writers Guild as well. I was fifteen when I began to write “Purple Moon”, and I completed it when I was sixteen. It was also during my sophomore year in high school when my parents agreed to let me attend a Christian writer’s conference, which wasn’t too far from where we lived (Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference). It was there that I met Eddie Jones, the acquisitions editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. After showing much interest in “Purple Moon”, Eddie asked for me to email him the rest of the story. Eventually—a few months later—he ended up offering me a contract. =)

DMA: What do you feel were some of the things you did 'right' as a pre-published author? (i.e. critique groups, conferences, contests, etc.)

Tessa: I’ll start off by saying what I did wrong, and that was the fact that I didn’t enter any contests or join a critique group. I did, however, attend Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. Obviously, that paid off very well. =) I’ve attended five more conferences since then, have learned so much at every single one of them, and have met some incredible people there as well. I’m also very glad that I decided to start studying the craft of writing when I was fifteen. I started my blog when I was sixteen which was great—because not only did I force myself to write on it three times a week, but I also met other writers from around the world (including you!). I was also able to build a following and a brand, both of which have paid off tremendously. 

DMA: Did your young age factor into publication in a negative or positive way? Or was it a non-issue?

Tessa: Oh, it definitely did! I’ve had a few people (professionals in the industry) who had advised that I waited until I was “more experienced” and in my late twenties before pursuing publication. One of them also said that she wouldn’t advise that I pursue writing at all, only because it involves so much work and is not as glamorous as it appears. I understand why people are so against teenagers pursuing publication—it’s because they believe that teens’ writing isn’t quite developed enough. They also don’t think it’s fair that a teenager might find publication way sooner than an adult would, simply because of their age. One author even told me that many teens who do find success in the publishing world eventually fade from the spotlight as they become older—therefore, being published as a teen eventually becomes negative for that person rather than positive. I don’t think a person’s age should be a factor at all, but instead the person’s talent and experience. Besides, there are many teens whose writing is actually far beyond their age.

My mom has attended every writing conference with me that I’ve been to. And at almost every one of them, I’ve been the only teenager there—so naturally, people would think that my mom was the writer and I was only with her for support. But when they realized that it was the other way around, almost all of them would treat me with respect rather than looking down on me. That has always been really nice to witness, especially since there are so many adults who try to discourage teens from pursuing publication.  

DMA: Give us an idea of what Purple Moon is about.

Tessa: “Purple Moon” is about a 16-year-old girl who is forced to stay at her snobby cousin’s lake house for the summer while her mom gets treatment in rehab. It’s a character-driven book, following Selena’s journey throughout that summer. I’m hoping it’ll become the first in a three book series.

DMA: How did you come up with your main character?

Tessa: Selena was sort of based on a combination of people that I know. I’m not saying that I wrote her with certain people in mind, but that I have witnessed so many people in my own life who have started out as a “good person”, but eventually started falling away from the Lord when they became a teenager. It’s always been difficult for me to witness these people start making bad decisions, only because I know how good of a person that they really are. They just might not know how to deal with the issues that they’re facing. I wanted Selena to represent those kind of people, and to show them that there is hope—that God still loves them, despite the mistakes that they’ve made, and that He has the power to turn things around. I’ve also given Selena many of my own qualities as well. For instance, she’s a dreamer, introvert, an artist, coffee-drinker, wears the same style of clothing as I do, etc.  

DMA: Describe your writing process, and how you balance writing and school.


Tessa: I am now a sophomore in college and am taking a semester off school in order to promote “Purple Moon”. But when I did an online school my first three years of high school, I would usually wake up early and get my writing done first, then begin my schooling. (I always feel most inspired in the mornings. Plus, I almost always have to drink coffee while I write. =) When I attended school my senior year of high school, I would wake up very early to write for an hour. I’ve been doing the same in college as well.

DMA: Thank you so much for coming by! It's so encouraging to see a writer achieving success.

If you'd like to check out Purple Moon, you can find the book through these links. I'd love to encourage this new young author! If you'd like to congratulate her, please leave a comment below.

Tessa Emily Hall is a 19-year-old author of Purple Moon, her YA Christian fiction novel to be published September 2013 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is also the editor over the faith department for Temperance Magazine, a column writer for Whole Magazine, a contributing writer for More To Be, as well as the PR for God of Moses Entertainment. Other than writing, Tessa enjoys acting, music, Starbucks, and her Teacup Shih Tzu—who is named Brewer after a character in her book, as well as her love for coffee.




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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Road to Publication: Backroads vs. Superhighway

Hi there! Summertime has invaded life, and kept me busy (plus a new job). But today I'm blogging over at Writing from the Peak. We're talking about whether it's a good thing to enjoy a rapid path to publication, or if there's some benefit to the process being dragged out (many times far longer than we'd like!). Stop by and say hi.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How to Road Trip a Novel Idea

I recently took a road trip. A long one.

2487 miles to be exact.

I spent four days in the driver's seat. Four days away from a keyboard. Four days without a pen in my hand.

But I got a lot done.

Turns out, driving (or riding) in a car is a great way to brainstorm a plot, construct a scene, or get to know a character.

Open Road, Open Imagination


It seems that a disengaged mind is often more creative than a "focused" one. I can't tell you how many times I've labored over a scene, only to have the solution play itself out as I weeded the garden or drove my kids to activities.

In the car, unless you're making conversation, your mind can wander. I select a scene, visualize it, and "watch" it like a movie. You may be completely surprised at the twists your plot takes, or what pops out of a character's mouth (if you struggle with natural-sounding dialogue, definitely give this a try).

If you're the drive, you'll need something other than  pen & paper to record these nuggets. You can get fancy, with a digital recorder, or just call yourself on you cell phone and leave a message. Gmail has a free service that transcribes all your cell phone messages and emails them to you.

Off-Road Creativity

What other places can you try some of this "open road" time? How about during the morning commute? While washing dishes, or sitting on a bench at the mall (any form of people-watching is great for making your characters more three-dimensional). Think of any task where it's fairly safe to let your mind wander.

But keep a notebook and pen handy. You never know just when inspiration may strike.

My best "off-road" thinking time comes as I fall asleep or wake up. My mind lets go, sliding into dreams, which is fertile ground for story writing.

But I need a little focus, or I'll end up with nonsense.

As I head to bed, I select a scene to mull over as I drift off. I watch the story play out, sometimes from different characters' points of view. In fact, I wrote part of this blog post last night in the pitch black of my bedroom at 11:42pm.  I've nearly perfected the art of writing in the dark, so as not to disturb my sleeping husband.

The bonus is that I'm often still thinking about the same scene as I wake up.

The most important thing is that I must write it down. Even if I remember the idea I had, I rarely remember exactly how I phrased something, or the descriptive words that came to me. Even the most fantastic idea can be lost to sleep.

So if you're stuck, or bogged down in a boring plot, try "tripping'" you novel. You never know where you'll end up. Have you ever tried it?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Nail that Query with Evil Editor

Queries are hard work. Lots of writers spend days and weeks trying to get it right. The good thing is that most agents I've spoken to won't hold an imperfect query against a writer--if the story premise catches their attention.

However, if you'd like some feedback on your query before you hit send, check out my guest post on the Pikes Peak Writers blog: Ready to Test-Drive Your Query Letter? Check Out Evil Editor.

Today is also graduation day for my son. This month has been chock-full of graduation events and busyness that have taken a toll on my writing. Hopefully, I'll be back in the groove next week. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Make Novel Timelines and More with Scapple

Yesterday we sat out in 75 degree weather. This is today.
For some time now, I've been searching for timeline software to help me visualize what happens before my novel begins. I've experimented with outlines and notecards, but I wanted to keep adding events without having my document look messy. Enter Scapple.

I've heard about Scapple for some time, but hadn't taken the time to try it out. Scapple comes from the same folks that make the amazing Scrivener writing software, so I knew the program was worth a look.

Since we're having a lovely snowstorm today (three inches so far on the first of May), I decided it was a great day for Scapple.

First, I watched the brief video that shows Scapple's features, and some of the shortcuts.

Then, I tested it with a writing problem I'd encountered. I wasn't satisfied with my current chapter,
and wanted to visualize what would happen if I changed some events. This is what I came up with. I think I solved my problem, though I only used the very basic Scapple options.

Next, I tackled my timeline issues. Some of the nice things about Scapple, are that you can:
  • write notes anywhere
  • move notes around
  • connect notes with dotted lines, arrows, or contain them in boxes
  • import photos, documents, etc.
  • use color and outlines to differentiate notes
  • export notes into documents (or into Scrivener, if you use that)
Here's a portion of my timeline, which is changing as I remember new details to add and connections to make. I'm using different colors for notes and borders of notes for different characters.

I'll definitely use Scapple to map out where new chapters are heading. It's also a great tool if you're writing a short story, and want to visualize what's happening. I can imagine using Scapple for non-writing projects, too.

Later today, I'll try Scapple for fine-tuning a query letter. I have a Word document with lots of query notes, and it's confusing to sort through which lines to keep, and which aren't strong enough. I'll import the document into Scapple, which will ask if I want to make individual notes from each paragraph. Once I've got that imported, I can slide the notes around, and link together the ones I plan to use.

Scapple is free to try for 30 days. That's 30 days of actual use, so if you only use it once a week, you'll have it for 30 weeks. Check it out and see if it might make sense for you.
What do you think Scapple might do for you?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What did I do last weekend?

What a weekend! I'm so sad the Pikes Peak Writers Conference is over, but I don't think I could have continued at that pace for one more day. I'm still recovering.

Workshops
The workshops I attended (between my volunteer responsibilities) were fantastic. Among them:
  • Hooking your readers in one paragraph--or less, with historical novelist David Liss. Liss covered famous and not-so-famous first lines and paragraphs, analyzing what makes them entice the reader, and which ones (surprisingly) don't do the job well.
  • Creating Dazzling Worlds, with YA author Laura Resau. Though I'd never heard of Resau, I was really impressed with her writing exercises to help bring freshness and dimension to both storyworlds and characters. Her excerpts from her books made me want to go read them.
  • How to avoid the sophomore slump, with Barry Eisler. He explained techniques to make your second novel as good as, or better than the first.
  • Ghostwriting Panel. This one was interesting, with three authors talking about their experiences both working for book packagers (and ghostwriting for some seriously famous people), and using your writing skills to barter for services. Something to think about.
  • The Neuroscience of Writing, with DeAnna Knippling. Such a fascinating workshop, helping writers understand exactly why they should avoid cliches, among many other topics.
  • Plot, structure, and pushing your characters, with agent Hannah Bowman. A seriously helpful and interactive workshop, with a plot diagram you've never seen before--but it makes so much sense!
Pitches & Critiques
I pitched both formally and informally--one of the best things about going to a conference!
  • Pat Van Wie, editor at Bell Bridge Books. Though Belle Bridge hasn't published YA historical fantasy, Pat was willing to take a look at my manuscript and see what she thought.
  • Barry Goldblatt, agent with Goldblatt Literary. Though Barry has represented both fairy tale retellings (Shannon Hale) and YA historical fantasy (his wife, Libba Bray), he felt that the market wouldn't support more books in the fairy tale genre.
  • Hannah Bowman, agent with Liza Dawson Associates. I caught her in the hall and asked her opinion, and she disagreed with Goldblatt's assessment. She recently sold a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and the publisher is marketing it specifically as a fairy tale. She'd like to see my pages.
  • Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, with Larsen Pomada Literary Agents. I spoke to her while driving her to the airport. Like Bowman, she feels there is still room for well-told fairy tales. She'd like pages, too. And while I was talking to Pam, I had author and actress Amber Benson (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) in the back seat. Such a crazy weekend!
Meals
Meals at conferences are a great way to network with other attendees, and spend time with faculty in a more relaxed setting.
  • Lunch with SourceBooks editor Deb Werksman was so much fun. Though she edits romance exclusively, she was so kind to genuinely engage the three male sci-fi writers who happened to sit at the table. I also had a great time going along on her Colorado tour and yarn shopping.
  • Nicole Resciniti, agent with The Seymour Agency, is so well-read and smart. I think I'll definitely query her.
  • Dinner with author Libba Bray was amazingly fun, as was her keynote speech the next night. She could easily make a living as a stand-up comic. And she was kind enough to sit down with my daughter and her friend and work through their story worlds.
  •  Barry Eisler (who went from traditional publishing to indie) gave a keynote that shared the different sides of publishing. Some industry professionals did not take it well. If you want to know more, read the recap on Joe Konrath's blog.
 All in all, it was a fantastic weekend. I can't say enough about how much fun it is to volunteer at a conference. Have you ever volunteered at a conference?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How To Pitch Your Book



I'm over at the Pikes Peak Writers blog today, talking about resources for pitching your project. Come on over and take a peek! Later this week I'll be doing some pitching of my own. I'll report back next week on how the conference (and my pitches) went.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Agent Friday: Barry Goldblatt

It's time for the annual, amazing Pikes Peak Writers Conference--one of the 10 best in the country (according to agent Donald Maass). This week I'm racing between volunteering for the conference, and pitching, too. Here's who I've been matched with for pitching. Hope my nerves can take it!
Barry Goldblatt began his career working for several large publishing companies in subsidiary rights. His dream was to work as an editor in science fiction, but along the way, he fell in love with children's books. In 2000, he opened his own literary agency, Barry Goldblatt Literary.


Though you may not write young adult, middle grade, or picture books, there is a lot you can learn from this publishing veteran. Consider this quote:


"Don't write because you want to be published, write because you have to. Not every writer is going to get published, and if that's the only measuring stick you have as a writer for success and satisfaction, you are going to be in for a world of disappointment." 


Most of Goldblatt's blog focuses on his clients' new books, but here are a few posts you won't want to miss:


The 4 things agents learn about your from your query, in Query This.


Goldblatt's take on an almost perfect day. I like this quote: "And another thing: all you writers out there, agented or unagented, struggling to find a home for that book you've slaved over, worried over, revised and refined...don't ever give up. Sometimes it just takes a little while."


An interesting fact: Goldblatt gathers all his authors for a yearly retreat. I've never heard of an agent doing this, but it sounds fascinating. 


Many writers dream not only of publication, but of getting their book optioned for film. Goldblatt, married to stellar author Libba Bray(who has one of the funniest author websites around), explains what film options really mean, and what authors can expect.


Find out more about Barry Goldblatt in his Writer's Digest interview, and this interview.


Thinking about Goldblatt's first quote, do you write because you have to?



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