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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Birth Of An Idea

From the first spark of inspiration to the first words of a novel there is a bit of magic that happens. Whether you're an outliner (writer who works off an outline) or a pantser (writer who flies by the seat of their pants without an outline) there must first be an idea that comes from some type of inspiration. The idea can be based off something that amuses, entertains, frustrates, angers, or inspires you. Regardless of the motivation it must strike a cord within you. Keeping that in mind later as you write the novel will help keep it focused and strong. It will also help you write a one-sentence logline or pitch if that's something you'll need or want.

The next part is where the magic comes in, the discovery or creation of the story. I like to think of it as more of a discovery because the way I write is by letting the characters tell me their story. This keeps it organic and natural. If you write this way be careful not to let it distance you though. Telling someone else's story can start to feel that way. If you are a creation type of writer then you probably pour a lot of yourself into your writing. That can be very powerful but you have to be careful not to do the opposite. Remember the reader, your audience, and tell the story for them as well.

Once I have the idea I like to get to know my characters before I write a single word. It helps form the story for me. Some writers are the opposite, they like to get to know their characters during the process of writing. That's excellent as well, you have to do what works for you. Just don’t forget to get to know them because if you don't, neither will your readers. The magic is making the story come alive and for me that comes from my characters because without them the story is only an empty shell.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Twitter Tuesday~April 26th

I have an interesting round up of tweets from agents for you this week. The first one is from agent Vickie Motter and is really important for anyone who ever gets to submit their full or partial. Check it out: @Vickie_Motter Suuper boring Blog post today. But suuuper important. How to format your ms: http://www.urltwit.com//3j31

Agent Vickie Motter brings us this tweet from agent Rachelle Gardner about how NOT to get an agent. Be sure to read this for what not to do!
@Vickie_Motter RT Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent: How to Get an Agent (NOT!) http://bit.ly/hDW04V

Writer's Digest brings our attention to a new agent with Liza Dawson Literary:
@WritersDigest New Agent: Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson Assoc. seeks literary fiction, urban fantasy, thrillers, YA and MG http://tinyurl.com/3rmqnkp

Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest interviews agent Vickie Motter:
@WritersDigest Agent Advice: Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Management http://ow.ly/1chW6e

Melissa Frain, editor for Tor Teen shows her support for a post by agent Jill Corcoran on trends affecting who she chooses to represent:
@frain What she said. RT @JillCorcoran: DO TRENDS INFLUENCE WHAT/WHO I CHOOSE TO REPRESENT? http://j.mp/gx6EB6

Jane Friedman of Writer's Digest helps us add structure to our writing life:
@JaneFriedman Structure is essential to a happy writing life; I offer 3 ways to add more structure, plus worksheets/links: http://bit.ly/g0SYcB

There's a little something for all of us at each stage in the process among those so hopefully you found something that helped!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Monday's Muse~The Dawning

Now that the conference is behind me and I've joined the query wars with To Ride A Puca, I am turning my attention to my next novel. This is the exciting time that I like to think of as pre-dawn when the light is just breaking over the horizon and I'm starting to catch the first glimpse of what my new manuscript will be like. And I've got to tell you, I'm loving what I see. Excitement is already starting to build as I'm working on character development and the beginnings of an outline.

The outlining and character development stage does give me a lot of time to read though, which I love! I just finished The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell. Oh wow people, RUN out (or click on the title) and get this book quick! It is part historical, part paranormal/magical realism, and all awesome. Saundra makes me strive to write better and reminds me of why I love to read. The Vespertine is beautifully written and that is putting it mildly. Now I'm reading From Dark Places by E.J. Newman and it is filled with eerie, dark short stories that I'm devouring as I wait for her debut novel this July. Be sure to click on the title and check it out too!

As for music inspiration I bought the new Avril Lavigne CD Goodbye Lullaby and I'm sorry to say it doesn't have her usual spark. It's good, don't get me wrong, it just isn't as edgy I'm used to from her. What inspired you last week? Any new books you've read that you enjoyed? What about music?
 
This photo is one I took in Hawaii in 2009 while on a catamaran cruise. The sunrises and sunsets there are some of the most inspiring I have ever seen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Purpose Of A Critique Group

Last weekend I not only attended the Western Washington SCBWI regional conference, I also spent any and all free time in between with my Critique Sisters. In workshopping our novels I realized just how important they are to me and what being part of a critique group is all about. There is much more to it than just critiquing one another's work.

A good critique group acts as support when you need, helping to hold up the crushing weight of rejection by reminding you why you write and why you love it. They inspire you and push you to be better, guiding you on the path to accomplishment. On the other end of that spectrum they know when you need a kick in the rear to get you moving along or pull you out of a rut. When your work is not up to your capabilities they aren't afraid to tell you where you can improve it and help you achieve it.

Not every critique group works this way but I'm honored and thankful to say that mine does. These ladies aren't just my critique partners, they are my friends, supporters, cheerleaders, and my sisters. I'm honored to be a part of them and I hope each of you can find a critique group that serves as many purposes as mine does. To help you find the right critique group check out this Critique Group Questionaire.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Twitter Tuesday~Submitting Advice

Last week was a good week to catch some excellent advice on Twitter. Never fear if you missed it, I caught it for you! Writer's Digest brings us this tweet from an author who sold to a publisher without an agent:
@WritersDigest I Have a Publishing Deal But I Still Want an Agent. Here's Why... http://ow.ly/4xvks


Looking for great agent blogs? Look no further...
@WritersDigest Announcing the Best Agent Blogs of 2011... - Every year, Writer's Digest puts out its amazing brainbomb of informati... http://ow.ly/1c8YNx

If you're querying you need this book!
@ChuckSambuchino I am giving away a copy of the 2011 GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS (interview with Red Sofa Lit) http://wp.me/pyGAW-bZ

Agent Weronika Janczuk give us the inside scoop:
@WeronikaJanczuk New blog post! Manuscripts I Take On: 1. Is everyone following literary agent Jenny Bent's blog Bent on Books (a... http://bit.ly/gycJLm

Jane of Writer's Digest brings us a great list of tweets for writers:
@JaneFriedman Best Tweets for Writers Daily is out! http://bit.ly/grqzSh

The following are tweets from agent Laurie McClean from the conference she attended last week:
@agentsavant Avoid the 16-year-old whose powers activate when the hot new boy in her class shows up unless it is truly different and well-written #WLTYA
@agentsavant Make your characters relatable, especially with specific quirks and foibles. Multi-cultural traits are great too. #WLTYA
@agentsavant What about the age range for YA? 12-18 is the sweet spot. Write for this age group and if adults like it too, great. #WLTYA
@agentsavant Trends...Elena encourages everyone NOT to write to trends. Your book will last a lot longer when it does get published. #WLTYA
@agentsavant Mary says read enough of current YA to know the YA voice because it changes rapidly over time, but don't follow trends in subjects.#WLTYA
@agentsavant It seems like contemporary is coming back. Paranormal is still strong. Smaller publishers are good audiences for historical fiction. #WLTYA
@agentsavant Character-driven science fiction is starting to become popular. #WLTYA

Hopefully that gives you your weekly fix of agent advice and great tweets!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday's Muse~Critique Sisters

These wonderful ladies are what fed my muse last week. Without them it would have starved and likely died a horrible death. What would cause such a hardship on my muse you might wonder? The dreaded query letter. It is the price of completing the editing process. If you read my post on my Critique Sisters Corner then you know writing a query letter is like pulling teeth for me. Don't get me wrong, it does get easier, but I'm not sure it's something that will ever be easy for me.

Query letters are creative selling, not creative writing, which is why they're so hard for me. You have to dig deep and figure out what about your novel is going to appeal to agents, then bring it to the surface. With only one short page you must convince the agent your novel is worth their time and interest. My Critique Sisters helped me hone my query letter and inspired me to start submitting my new novel.

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to both visit my Sisters and attend the SCBWI Western Washington conference. I'll tell you all about it soon! What inspired you last week?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Writing Community Support

The writing community is the most supportive community I've ever come across. Many of you have heard me say this before but after last month I believe it warrants saying again. Each and every one of you has gone above and beyond for me or someone I care about in some way, shape, or form and for that I am truly thankful. Last month my friend, Carolina Valdez Miller, landed an agent and celebrated with all of us and you came together to congratulate her. My friend Brenda Drake celebrated her birthday month with all of us by doing amazing contests throughout the entire month, and you all came together to support her.

When I told you all about my novel, The Secret Of Spruce Knoll, being entered in the Gatekeeper's Discovery contest many of you clicked onto the link and voted for it. Thanks to you I had enough votes to make it to the first round where the Gatekeeper staff read the top 100 entries with the most votes. I was #9 and that was all thanks to you wonderful people. A few days ago I found out Spruce Knoll was selected to go to round two, the mind-blowing round where the entries are read by an impressive list of agents and editors! I'm still doing the happy dance over that! I cannot thank you all enough.

As a thank you I wanted to let you all know about another excellent giveaway going on. During April my good friend Jessica Subject is celebrating her blogoversary and she has put together an excellent group of authors and writerly people who will be giving away some excellent prizes. Check her blog each day to enter to win all the different prizes. My critique sisters from the Critique Sisters Corner are offering up a query letter critique as one of the prizes! You'll have to check Jessica's blog to enter though. Another blogging friend, Ebyss is hosting a pitch and 250 word contest. If you have a novel you would like to win a critique from a fabulous agent on, hurry and click on her name!

Also friend of mine featured my Friday Creature Feature~Zombie piece on Zombie Survival Crew. I'm honored to help out the crew. Check out their site when you get a chance, it's pretty awesome.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Twitter Tuesday~Contests, Conferences, & More

I took time out of my crazy editing week to drop in on Twitter and find you these excellent tweets. This first one if from agent Irene Goodman, a contest for historical fiction that you have until July 1st to enter!

@WritersDigest Agent Irene Goodman requesting HISTORICAL FICTION pitches - winners will be offered representation! http://tinyurl.com/494g6f6

If you have self-published a book (I'm giving my self-pubbed friends the eye right now) then you need to enter this contest from Writer's Digest!
@WritersDigest Less than 2 weeks left to enter WD Self-Pub Book Awards. Grand prize gets $3000 and a trip to NYC! http://ow.ly/4sywr

Agent Vickie Motter talks YA and MG topics from the Whidbey Conference! If you write either of those you won't want to miss her blog this week!
@Vickie_Motter On my blog this week I'll be talking about topics from the Whidbey Conference. Today, YA, MG, and children's. http://www.urltwit.com//0o4u

My friend Roni brings us a great link on reaching non-writer readers (a must to boost those book sales):
@RoniLoren How Can Authors Reach (Non-Writer) Readers Online? http://bit.ly/gzC5qw #amwriting #pubtip #writetip #writers

If you don't know who the Bookanistas are then you probably haven't been around my blogging circle enough. They are fabulous ladies who blog about the books they love. Bookanista Carolina let's us know about a great cause they're supporting:
@cvaldezmiller Bookanistas Give Back (HUGE Contest): We're teaming up, offering huge prizes to aid a cancer hospital. http://bit.ly/i3yLX1 @alchemission

If you're submitting then you need to know about the Literary Rambles blog in which fabuous agents are spotlighted all the time. Here is agent Sarah LaPolla's spotlight:
@sarahlapolla Hey everyone - I'm on Literary Rambles today! RT @Casey_McCormick Agent Spotlight on @SarahLaPolla of Curtis Brown, Ltd http://bit.ly/hYN03a

An editor of Egmont publishing brings us this link to agent Jennifer McLaughlin's inciteful post:
@EgmontGal As always, @literaticat puts it brilliantly. Finish the book before you query. http://tinyurl.com/3rfqauj

Hopefully more than a few of those were helpful to you in some way. If I missed any great tweets let me know in the comments!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Monday's Muse~Final Edits

One of the best parts about being a writer is what inspired me last week; seeing a project come together beautifully. The notes from my Critique Sisters arrived as well as the notes of my wonderfully supportive friend Carolina and I spent the week entering them then doing a final read through out loud to my ever helpful other half. It feels good, solid, and compelling, it feels done. Well, not done in the sense that I won't have to edit again once I get an agent (because one almost always has to edit upon signing with an agent), but highly polished and ready to submit. Yep, To Ride A Puca is out on submission! Whoo hoo!

Now that I've hit send on the very first submission I think I shall go throw up. Just kidding, the submission butterflies migrate after you've been doing this for a while. At least until the requests start coming in. Then it's nervousville all over again and the butterflies start hatching in my tummy. Speaking of querying, this Wednesday I'll be posting my query letter at the Critique Sisters Corner for feedback and to help others with the query refining process. Be sure to stop by! For an in depth discussion on querying join us tonight on the #WritersRoad chat on twitter at 6:00pm PT.

So what am I going to do next? This weekend I'm off to Washington for the SCBWI Western Washington conference and a much needed visit with my Critique Sisters. My sisters and I will raise a glass to celebrate then I'll crack down and get conferencing. After that I'll listen to whatever music strikes my fancy, read many of the great books that have been sitting patiently on my to be read pile, and allow the steampunk novel that's percolating in my head to start to take form. By the way, the picture is of a replica of Stonehenge in Washington.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April Feature Debut Author~Amy Holder

This month I have the pleasure of featuring a friend of mine, Amy Holder, who's book I've been looking forward to for a long time. Before we meet Amy though, here is a bit about The Lipstick Laws(don't you just love that title?!).

At Penford High School, Britney Taylor is queen bee. She dates whomever she likes, rules over her inner circle of friends like Genghis Khan, and can ruin anyone's life as easily as snapping her perfectly manicured fingers. Just ask the unfortunate few who have crossed her.

For April Bowers, Britney is also the answer to her prayers. With zero friends and nothing close to a boyfriend, April is so unpopular, kids don't know she exists. That is, until Britney notices her. One lunch spent at Britney's table, and April is basking in the glow of popularity.

But Britney's friendship comes with a price tag. How much is April willing to pay?
 
Welcome to Heather's Odyssey Amy! I love that you're a fan of silly comedies and that you have degree in psychology. I'm curious, did your degree help with character building and will we see any of your love of comedies reflected in this novel?
Amy: Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Heather!  I love that you appreciate my interest in silly comedies and psychology!  I think both of these interests definitely helped me while writing The Lipstick Laws.  I've always been fascinated by human behavior and am naturally a people watcher... don't be scared... I'm not talking about stalking people from treetops with high-power binoculars.  I've just always been interested in social psychology and observing interactions.  This naturally led to studying psychology in college, and I think it's also a key factor in helping me with my writing and character building.  I believe good writers have to be good observers.  As far as comedy goes, I love humor and always like to add it to my writing.  So yes, I believe you'll see my love of comedies and laughing reflected in the story.
 
I couldn't agree with you more! Though I don't use binoculars for research either. Nope, not at all (hides binoculars). So tell me, what was your favorite part of writing this novel?
Amy: I just had a lot of fun writing this novel!  I was able to let loose and have fun with the characters and their interactions, use humor as much as I wanted, and write the story that I think would be entertaining to read. At the time, I had no clue if it would be published or not, so I was able to write for myself without any pressure. And I was able to write a lot of it in my pajamas to boot! Pajamas always make everything more fun...and comfy.
 
It really shows in a good way when an author writes freely without thinking of the market. Is there anything juicy you can tell us about The Lipstick Laws that we may not know from your website?
Amy: One secret that I have not shared yet is that Britney originally had a different first name.  I’m not going to say what that name was because I have a relative with the same first name. Of course, I originally chose the name because I thought it was perfect for a pretty, popular teen girl…not because of my relative. Just to be safe and to avoid any familial hurt feelings, I changed her name to Britney during the editorial process. I would never want the relative in question (who is very sweet, I should add) to think I named such a vile character after her.
 
LOL! Yeah that wouldn't be good. Because I know my readers will love your writing so much, what do you have in store for us after The Lipstick Laws?
Amy: I hope I’ll have a lot in store!  Right now, I’m working on a few different projects.  The one closest to being finished is a YA contemporary novel with a bit of a paranormal twist.  I’m also contemplating a sequel to The Lipstick Laws.  Hopefully more stories in other genres and age groups will be in my future as well.
 
Both sound excellent! I do love a good paranormal read. Which character was the most fun, interesting, or challenging to write and why?
Amy: I have to confess that Britney was pretty fun to write in a slightly twisted way.  She’s so very mean and I like to think I’m the opposite of that… so I felt sort of like an actor getting to play the villain when I was writing her character.  April was very fun to write as well because we share a similar sense of humor.  April’s character was also one of the more challenging ones to write because it was tricky to balance her flaws and likable qualities at times.
 
Hey, no judging here. It's fun to be the bad chick once in a while, even if it is just in fiction. ;) Any closing thoughts to leave us with?
Amy: I just want to thank you so much for the interview, Heather!  Your support of new authors is really appreciated.  And thanks to everyone else who has been so enthusiastic and supportive about my debut!  It means the world to me.
 
You're very welcome Amy because great authors like you mean the world to me. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Okay readers click on over to Amy's site to learn more about her and her books and because it is far too clever and cute not to check out. Then be sure to order The Lipstick Laws here!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Twitter Tuesday~Writing Competitions, New Agents, Speed Dating Tips & More!

It was a light tweeting week for me since I've had my nose deeply embedded in my editing. But I couldn't leave you hanging so I caught a few great ones for you. If you haven't read this post by ex-agent Nathan Bransford about self-publishing vs. traditional then you have to!

@NathanBransford Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Which Way Will You Make More Money? http://bit.ly/gmhM6c

If you haven't entered the Writer's Digest annual writing competition or haven't heard about it be sure to click on this one!
@WritersDigest Just over a month left to enter the WD Annual Writing Comp. Win $3000 and a trip to NYC! http://ow.ly/4nIhZ

My friend Monica brings us this link to a new agent. Remember they're great opportunities for writers who are on the hunt!
@Monica_BW New AGENT, who repps YA! (Among other genres) http://tinyurl.com/462dujz

Agent Ginger Clark shares a few trends editors are seeing in submissions right now:
@Ginger_Clark Two trends I am hearing from editors in some markets: psychological YA thrillers; and fairytales retellings.

This post was so good that I had to feature my own tweet. Agent Vickie Motter shares a few excellent tips for Speed Dating with agents:
@HeatherMcCorkle From agent @Vickie_Motter Tips For Agent Speed Dating: http://tinyurl.com/4hqkot4  #WritersRoad #writing

Agent Jill Corcoran keeps it real and reminds us that it isn't always easy for agents to pass on a novel:
@JillCorcoran so hard turning down a ms that you know is good but you also know you are not the best agent for it. #keepingitreal=betteroutcomeforeveryone

Hopefully at least a few of those are helpful to you. I'm off to bury my nose back in my editing. Happy writing, reading, editing, or tweeting to all of you!

Monday's Muse~My Happy Place

I am in my happy place, the one I love above all others; editing! This was my go to picture throughout my young adult historical novel, To Ride A Puca. It only makes sense that is sustain me now as I work my way through the editing process. I don't know who painted it so please leave me a link if you do so I can give them credit and link back to them.

I’m so excited about this book because it feels special. From the research and outlining stage it spoke to me in a different way than any of my other novels have. I felt a deep connection to this one and now that I'm editing it I'm noticing that came through in the writing in a good way.

I'm finishing up reading The Clearing by Anne Riley and am loving it. It started out with a bang then slowed down for a few chapters but after that it picked up and swept me away. I would definitely recommend this novel. Next up is The Lipstick Laws by Amy Holder which I'm really looking forward to, and not just because she's my friend, but because it sounds awesome! Check back later this month for an author feature on that one!

My music tastes are very eclectic when I'm editing, which is the opposite of how focused they are when I'm writing. Right now the one CD I just can't get my MP3 player off of is Going Out In Style, the Dropkick Murphys. They are my favorite band, like ever, but they aren't for everyone. An Irish band out of Boston seems appropriate to listen to while I'm editing this book though! What inspired you last week? Have you ever written a novel that felt different from the others under your pen, special somehow?