Hi! Bye!

 

Ok, fastest blog update ever. I’ve missed blogging the last few days. Really, I have! But I’m in the home stretch. My first law school final is Friday. *eek!* So I’m trying to focus.

Honestly, I can’t tell you how excited I am for this summer due to the fact that I’ll be able to get in a ton of much needed and much desired writing (slash-reading). 

There is still a lot I want to share about Agent/Editor Day and I plan to. But, as I realized, those posts require (a) brain power and (b) time, both of which are in short supply. 

The one break I did take this weekend, I filled not blogging, but doing something I think y’all can all appreciate–meeting Melissa Marr. 

The author of Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange and now Fragile Eternity was signing  books and doing a Q&A session at Book People this weekend in Austin. How cool is that? I bought Fragile Eternity and had it signed and now have it waiting for me as a reward for when I finish with school. 

In addition to continuing to share Agent and Editor insights I’ll blog a bit about what I learned at the Q&A session regarding the writing process. 

In 2 weekends I’ve met the coolest writing-related people and I’m discovering just listening opens up whole new worlds of thought for me. I know these experiences will help me develop as a writer and I’m glad I’ve been able to seek them out offline now as well. 

The plan for now, though, will be an updated blog–but with shorter blog posts. I’ll have some interesting discussion questions that I’ve been pondering and hopefully y’all will keep stopping in.

Post Halloween Special: A Writer’s Nightmare

Halloween’s over. No more candy corn until next year. No more haunted houses and, thankfully, no more what-to-dress-up-as-stress. As you might have expected, being an eskimo in Austin was hot. Like one million degrees. But that’s ok. I still had a great time at the party. See?

 

 

 

 

Anyhow, Halloween always gets me thinking about things that scare me…which is pretty much everything because I’m a big weenie…I’m scared of serial killers, “Law and Order” if I’m home alone, ghosts, car accidents, sometimes under my bed if it’s dark in my room, someone hiding in my closet, and getting into my car by myself.

But there are particular fears that come with being a writer. So, here’s what scares my writer pants clean off me:

 

1. Form letters that start with “Dear Author”–thankfully, a thing of the past, but still frightening

2. Blank screens

3. Bad reviews

4. Rejections

5. Writers Block

6. Coming up with  that “next idea”–always seems to come but until it does, it sure is scary!

7. Messy desks

8. Beautifully written books–yanno, the kind that make you think, how will I ever be that good?

9. Friends thinking I’m silly for trying to be a writer

10. Book signings where no one shows up–haven’t had the occasion of having one yet, but the mere thought of it gives me the heebies

 

So that’s what gets me. What scares the pants off of you?

 

Status: Is this submissions week? I think so!! And therefore, you have some homework. Let’s all wish for a quick sale together. Ready? 1, 2, 3…Go!

 

But, in all seriousness, I’m a big believer in the power of positive energy, so I would appreciate your keeping me in your thoughts and prayers as I embark on this next step in the publishing process!

Topical Tuesday: Have You Completed Your Prerequisites?

 

Does this ever happen to you? You mention you’re a writer–or perhaps more often your boyfriend Nate mentions for you, causing you to turn a lovely shade of purple, which is fortunately a very “in” color this season anyway–and the person you’re speaking with says, “Oh! A Writer!” After which you kind of grin and nod not knowing quite what to say. Then they’re like, “So you read a lot.” Or some variation thereof.

To that, you can more enthusiastically reply, “You bet!” And then give a cheesy thumbs up to emphasize your point.

Anywho, the person continues by asserting, “Oh! Well you must have read __________.”

And you’re thinking to yourself, I really should have read that. But I sure as heck never have. But you respond simply, “No, never have checked that out.”

“But you said you were an avid reader.” They cock their head.

Alright, so the conversation doesn’t always follow that verbatim, but that really does happen to me and I go away feeling like an idiot. It’s even worse when you say you’re a huge scifi fan or something and then haven’t read anything by Ursula LeGuin.

 

Ok, so here’s the thing: Are there books that you absolutely have to read in order to be able to call yourself a writer or avid reader with your chin held high? What are they?

 

Status: Busy. Busy. Busy. Script should be done by the end of this week! Correction: HAS to be done by the end of this week. Fortunately, I think I’m on track.

Guess what? I have a new artist working on SCOUT and new artwork up. Hop on over to the SCOUT page to check it out.

Topical Tuesday: Email Snafus Can Happen to You

“One of the most embarrassing moments for me is an email flub. I met an agent at a conference and queried her soon after we met. Several months later, I had signed with my agent, then six months later, on New Year’s Day I got an email from the conference agent. She loved the samples I had sent her and was requesting fulls of two of my manuscripts. I then quickly emailed my friend and said can you believe this agent took one year to get back to me! Ah, except I sent the email back to the agent and realized a second after hitting send. I felt so awful, but she was very nice and actually wrote back apologizing for taking so long and wished me best of luck with my agent. So the moral of the story is, always check the address before hitting send.”

 

 

“I once wrote an author I admired, raving about her latest book.  Which wasn’t out yet.  She was lovely about it and told me it wasn’t out yet, not even in ARC form and that I could buy it when it came out.  I realized in a major Dolt Moment that I had written the wrong title when I was emailing her.  I’d read one of her other books (and loved it), but written the title of the one that hadn’t been released yet.
 
Of course, I couldn’t write back and say, *embarrassed giggle* “The book I meant I read was . . . ” without it sounding totally lame.
 
That was only one of my horrible experiences with email.  It is an amazing medium and yet, potentially very dangerous.”
 

 

“I have my basic query letter that I keep in a word document and copy and paste into the body of an email before sending it off to agents. I always personalize from there. But one time, while I remembered to personalize the body, I left the heading for a previous agent in. It said Dear X, then under it Dear Y. Needless to say it was an instant rejection!”

 

We’ve all done it. It’s so easy. That itchy, little pointer finger ready and rearing to hit “Send.” I’ve done it. Don’t lie, you’ve done it, too.

So I’d like to prescribe the “Don’t Screw Up” Method:

Step 1: Compose your email in a word document.

Step 2: Check for red squigglies and green squigglies, too. Sure, spell check and grammar check aren’t right 100% of the time, but do make sure you understand why you are disregarding your trusty computer’s sage advice.

Step 3: Paste the text into the body of an email. Check formatting.

Step 4: Re-read your email. I know, it’s perfect, of course, and you don’t want to re-read it because it takes a whole one minute, and you could have done something important like chugged a glass of milk, but do it anyway. For me.

Step 5: Double check your greeting. Don’t say Mr. if it’s Miss (unless you are writing to me because I’m used to it so I don’t care anymore.) Don’t use the wrong name or spell it incorrectly. Also, make sure your greeting makes sense. “Yo” might not be the wording of choice when writing to Dream Agent #1. Just sayin’.

Step 6: Sit on your hands for 10 Mississippi. I know, I know. You’ve spent like two extra minutes on an important email. I’m so strict. But it’s ok. You’ll make it up on the apology email you’ll inevitably have to write afterward.

Step 7: Make your finger happy; hit send!

 

Now…to get myself to follow my own method….

 

Any personal anecdotes???

Keep on Fumbling!

 

Status: Stressed. The end.

Pencil Skirts, Pumps, and Pens–How to See Writing As Business

So I was thinking about the discussion from yesterday…being a young author and all…and I think everyone is right that there is no inherent disadvantage in being young…or old…or in between. However, I do think that as a young person I want to come off as extra professional. I want to be taken seriously, I want to convey that, for me, writing is a career path not just a whim, and I want to lay the foundation for that course of action.  But treating writing as a business should not only affect the way I present myself, I think for all writers, whether they wear braces or win bingo, ought to try to see writing as a series of business decisions.

Here are some of the ways I came up with:

1. Finish what you start. We were talking about this a little over at AW, but yanno that little twinge you get when you’re in the midst of working hard on a project that needs to get done? And smack in the middle of crunch time you get an idea for a book that you want to write right then and there. But what should you do? Take time to write it for a few days or finish the task at hand?

I’m gonna say finish the task at hand. Because, at least for me, I’ve found that it’s my writerly means of procrastination. It would sort of be like giving away your beloved dog Fido for a wobbly-legged puppy. If you don’t finish what you start, you’ll have nothing to sell.

2. Network. I know from the outside writing can seem about as “team” oriented as figure skating, but creating a support network is as important in your career as in any other field. Take the time to walk amongst the living. If you can’t attend conferences, then keep up with your correspondence. Email other authors. Ask how their work is coming. Provide support for them. You can’t just be a taker. Business relationships are based on mutual trust and understanding.  

3. Diversify Your Assets. Ok, you know what I said about finishing the task at hand? Well, that’s still true. But, as every serious writer knows, you’ve got to always be working on something. If you’re in between revisions, get going on the next project. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. This means experimenting, too. Maybe you’d write adult fiction, but you have a great voice for teens. If you never explore, never diversify your assets, you’ll never know. Try different things. Look what it did for me? Did I start out writing graphic novels? No way. But I gave myself license to try and that’s when I landed an agent.

4. Build a Resume. Write articles. Take on work for hire. Volunteer for SCBWI or Friends of Lulu. Do something that will increase your knowledge of the business and build experience. However, “build” is the operative word. Don’t take projects just to take them. Wait for the right projects. I was sad this summer when I turned down a job writing for a video game. But you know what? It wasn’t enough of a step up from where I was for it to be worth my time. Had I taken it, I would not have had the time to devote to SCOUT once I landed an agent.

5. Know business ettiquette. Publishing is a “small” industry. People do know each other. And if you’re querying more than one project before you get an agent or editor, chances are you are going to be querying the same ones more than once. I’m sure you know that you don’t want to burn bridges, but you also don’t want to leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth due to your lack of know-how. Wouldn’t you rather your aftertaste be minty fresh? Therefore, know beforehand what to do in case of multiple offers from agents. Know how to properly address agents and editors in queries. Know to whom to address your questions. And, before embarking on any career (not just writing), understand “what’s normal” in the industry. It’d be pretty frustrating for an agent to send you the agent-author agreement, have you read it, and then be railed against for asking 20% for foreign sales. (“How dare you up your percentage!”) No, research upfront even if you think you might be jumping the gun.

6. Seek counsel from those who know. Would you act as your own doctor? No. You go consult someone because they know better than you. I hear about this a lot from writers with their agents. And I am absolutely not saying that there are not legitimate reasons to disagree with your agent. However, I sometimes hear of the same writers disagreeing with “the industry professionals” or agents in general or their agent in particular. Agents are there to give you advice. For instance, I asked my agent about doing work for hire and he gave me his honest opinion of the value in that. Maybe not what I wanted to hear, but yanno, I don’t have the inside experience. That’s what he does for a living. But beyond that, there are always writers more experienced or more knowledgable. If you’re hearing the same advice over and over again, then there might be something to it. Like say, if your book is 150,000 words for a debut novel and you are getting no bites. Hmmmm….folks who “know” just might be onto something when they advise to pare it down.

 

Alright! Now if that doesn’t make you want to put on your power suit and stuff in a couple of shoulder pads I don’t know what will. Let’s go do business!

 

Status: I am a busy bee. But my project for today is to continue working on SCOUT’s synopsis. I am expanding it from 5 pages to between 10 and 12. This synopsis is a challenge because I’m supposed to incorporate dialogue and really flesh it out. It’s a fun new twist on the typical this happened, then this happened synop though.

Also, an editor at a fabulous publishing house read Fumbling with Fiction and emailed my agent asking to see SCOUT. How cool is that? I’m happy SCOUT seems to be generating some interest. Hope that keeps up through the submission process. It does motivate me, though!

Interview: Cyn Balog, Author of Fairy Lust

Today, I’m so pleased to have Cyn Balog chat with us. She’s the author of the forthcoming Fairy Lust (Delacorte, 2009). She’s a fellow frequenter of both the Blue Boards and Absolute Write, so be sure to support her win her book hits the shelves. To whet your appetite, here’s a bit about her novel:

               Morgan Sparks has always known that she and her boyfriend, Cam, are made for each other. They’re next-door neighbors and have been friends practically since birth. They tell each other everything, and are totally hot for each other.
            But suddenly, a week before their joint Sweet Sixteen party, Cam starts acting distant. His mysterious and awkward cousin, Pip, comes to stay with the family. Finally Pip confesses to Morgan what’s going on: Cam is a fairy. No, seriously, a fairy. Because Cam was a sickly baby, the fairies came to Earth the night he was born and switched him with Pip, a healthy human boy. Nobody expected Cam to live, and nobody expected his biological brother, raised in the fairy world and heir to the fairy throne, to die. But now the fairies want Cam back to take his rightful place as Fairy King.
            There’s no way Morgan is going to let this happen. As Cam begins to physically change, Morgan becomes determined to fool the fairies so that she and Cam can stay together forever. Soon she has to decide once and for all whether their love can weather an uncertain future.

Can’t wait to get my hands on this one!

And without further ado…

Hi Cyn! Thanks for doing this. This is such an exciting time for you and I’m excited to get to have you on Fumbling with Fiction! As I understand it, Fairy Lust is your debut novel, can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?

I knew I wanted to be a writer very young– almost from the moment I learned to write.  However when I got to college I was really daunted by the statistics about how improbable it is to make a living off of writing fiction, so I actually attempted to give it up to have a “real” career in marketing– and succeeded for almost 15 years.  But after awhile I couldn’t ignore it anymore, so I wrote my first book, which landed me an agent fairly easily.  It didn’t sell, but eventually I began to work on another idea– Fairy Lust, which sold.  So I guess you can say the journey has been pretty long– it’s been decades since I first decided I wanted to be a writer!
 
 
Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? Can you describe to us what it felt like?

Definitely the call where I got my book deal!  It came completely out of the blue!  My book had been on submission for six weeks, and I was under the impression that if my book was going to sell well, the second my agent unleashed it upon the publishing world, offers were going to come in.  Didn’t happen.  I had just resigned myself to picking up a new idea and starting over, as painful as that was, because ANOTHER one of my books was going to be shelved.  And then suddenly, I got a call from my agent.  She told me that Delacorte loved it.  I thought, “Well, that’s good news, so now they need to go through meetings and a bunch of other hoops, and then maybe it will sell . . .” and that’s when she told me they’d offered a pre-empt.  I was at work and started screaming and crying, which is, of course, a very professional thing to do.
 
 
 
I love seeing authors succeed like that! Throughout your journey as a writer, what resources have you found most valuable to your success? Websites? Books? Conferences?

Since I started writing, I don’t think I have made it through a day without checking Verla’s boards, the Absolute Write Boards, and my LiveJournal.  I have so many writer friends on all those sites that “get it”, more than any of my family or friends, who still seem to think that since I write YA, I must be best friends with the only other YA writers out there, J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer.  The writers I have met online are so supportive and encouraging, I love sharing my problems and successes with all of them because they know what I’m going through.  Two of my best friends, Mandy Hubbard (Prada & Prejudice, Razorbill, 2009), and Brooke Taylor (Undone, Walker, 2008), were met online years ago, before any of us had agents or book contracts . . . I honestly don’t think FAIRY LUST would exist without them and the online community of writers. 
 

I love how you talk about making your “writer friends” online and elsewhere. I’m just starting to make some similar bonds and I think it would be so neat to see some of these aspiring writers succeed and I value their support already. Thanks for reminding us how important those relationships are. On your blog, you have something called the “ABCs of Writing.” Can you tell us a little bit about what that entails?

Mandy Hubbard lives on the West Coast and I live on the East Coast, and so we email back and forth constantly.  We both love the Greens’ Brotherhood vlog series, and wanted to learn how to vlog.  So we decided that we would do a really goofy vlog series, all about our experiences as writers.  We started with a topic beginning with the letter A, and we alternate every couple of weeks.  Mandy did a really cute one for the letter “C” because it was right after she got “The Call” that Prada & Prejudice was going to be published.  We don’t do anything flashy because we’re complete amateurs, we’re just acting goofy, trying to have fun.  But maybe somewhere, buried in there, might be some helpful advice for aspiring writers.
 

Too funny! Can you tell us a little about your writing schedule and where you do most of your writing?

I have a full-time job which requires me to be active (I manage the events for fitness magazines) so in between dealing with my job schedule, working out, and my family (I have a toddler) . . . I get maybe 19 minutes during my lunch hour?  And sometimes my very supportive family will leave me alone for a few hours on the weekends.  When you have such a rigid schedule, you really start to value and make the most of your writing time.  I used to have a lot more time for writing, and I wasted it!
 

We all know that writers go through hard times on their way to success. How have you handled rejection in the past?

I mope.  Seriously, it’s okay to mope for a day or two, eat a pint of ice-cream, whatever.  But then you pick yourself up and get moving again.  I think I hit one of my biggest lows after my first novel didn’t sell, and I wrote a second novel, which I excitedly sent to my agent and got a “meh” response.  I had shelves of novels, months and years of blood, sweat, and tears, and nobody in NYC wanted them!  I was so frustrated, and I contemplated giving up writing.  And then I remembered that I had tried that, so many years ago, and it didn’t work.  Writing– not to sell, but just for fun– is like my salvation.  Writing gives me a high unlike anything I’ve every experienced before– my fingers itch to be at the keyboard when I’m away.  So I told myself that I would just keep writing, and not worry about selling.   And then, of course, I sold.  It was like that old adage they tell you about finding a relationship…. when you’re not looking, THAT’s when you find it.
 

I like your honesty and think you are right on the mark. On a happier note, now that you are a soon-to-be-published author, seeing the view from the other side, what has most surprised you about the publishing process?

I was floored to learn how much work manuscripts go through, even after they’ve been bought.  I thought editors only bought manuscripts that were just about perfect.  If it needed more than a little work, they’d pass.  Not true.  Some of my friends had dozens of pages of changes to make on their manuscripts, and multiple rounds of revisions. Editors don’t just sit there, reading stacks for manuscripts and saying “yes” or “no.”  They, and the copyeditors, are pretty much geniuses.    
 

I always ask this question of interviewees, so I hope you’ve been thinking on it. If you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?

Actually, there are many books out there that I wish I could have written, anything by M.T. Anderson because I have no idea how he manages to get in his character’s heads so completely and so convincingly.  And it’s funny, a year or two ago, I’d written four or five chapters of a book about the zombie apocalypse, based on a dream I’d had, since I am a huge fan of zombies.  Then, I gave it up to write FAIRY LUST.  And I am so glad that I never attempted to finish it because it would have paled drastically in comparison to Carrie Ryan’s THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH.  

 

Oh! I have so been wanting to read Carrie Ryan’s book. Thanks for reminding me.

Cyn, you gave fantastic, thoughtful answers. Thank you so much. It is helpful and inspiring to see a writer going through all of this with fresh eyes. Thanks for taking the time to give us your insight and a BIG congratulations!

 

You can find out more about Cyn Balog at http://cyn2write.livejournal.com .

 

 

Status: First day of law school orientation complete! I read The Appeal by John Grisham for today and had a book discussion, so I will be reviewing that on Saturday if y’all are interested. Other than that I’m still playing the waiting game, but will be working on taking my own advice from yesterday and not wasting time that I could be writing!

Topical Tuesday: Move Over Miss Snark

If I were a literary agent I’d wear six inch stilettos, don a sexy pair of designer glasses, and keep my Amazon Kindle peeking out of my hot pink Kate Spade at all times.

I’d keep a blog that kept thousands of writers hanging on my every last word, even if just mentioning the song playing on my iPod right now.

My form rejection would be at least two paragraphs because that’s how long it takes to explain what subjective means to a writer. I’d use the greeting, “Dear Author.”

The submission guidelines on my website–if I decided to have one–would be cryptic and would involve a riddle.

And I’d represent juvenile fiction. Whether that included picture books and children’s literature, you’d have to figure out yourself. But it wouldn’t.

It would include only YA and middle grade and, more specifically, only urban fantasy, high fantasy, science fiction, and dark, edgy contemporary. If you thought Wicked Lovely was dark and edgy, you’d be wrong and I’d send you a rejection stating that I just wasn’t  “enthusiastic” enough about your project. Because, you see, if I were a literary agent, I wouldn’t have a lot of enthusiasm to throw around.

 

So, what would YOU represent if you were a literary agent?

 

To read Jay’s take on this week’s Topical Tuesday, click here.

For more of my Topical Tuesday posts try Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda–The Book I Wish I Wrote and Back That Thang Up.

 

Also, don’t forget to check out yesterday’s post so that you can participate in the blog scavenger hunt for a chance to win Andrew Davidson’s The Gargoyle!

 

Status: I got a real life writing job! A job, I tell you! Writing for a role playing video game. They’d pay me and everything. But guess what? I don’t think I can take it. With law school fast approaching I need to save myself for opportunities that I can’t live without. And if something else unbelievable came up, I wouldn’t be able to take it if I wrote for the video game.

Also, if SCOUT found a home, I’d be in big trouble. Anyway, it’s nice to feel wanted.

I finished Chosen, the third book in the House of Night series. It was sooo good! But now I’m stuck waiting for the next installment, which comes out later this fall. Oh well. I’ll get more writing done!

On today’s agenda? Writing and submissions.