Monday, November 30, 2009

Free Query Crits!

Have I mentioned I love query letters?

Go ahead and post your query in the comments section, and next post I'll dissect all the ones I got and explain what I think works and what doesn't!

I'll cap the comments if I get an unprecedented amount, but until then, spread the word and keep them coming.

--Your critique (and query) WILL be published for all the world to see. I will not be cruel, but I may be a little candid. Be prepared.
--You may ask--Why should I take your advice? Uh, GOOD QUESTION. There is no real reason to take anything I say about query letters seriously. I am not an agent, I am not an editor, I am a barely-legal writer who likes her some letters. (That said, my queries did get ridiculously good request rates.)

Go go go!

EDIT: I'm going to aim to post the crits THIS THURSDAY, so make sure you submit before then!

EDIT AGAIN: It probably won't be 'til Friday, guys. Thanks for the subs, keep 'em coming!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

ho ho ho

So all this holiday cheer has me thinking that I write a lot of books that are centered around--or highlight--a holiday. For BREAK, it's Halloween, which worked metaphorically in retrospect; a lot of the book is about concealing true feelings (oh my god HANNAH YOU ARE SO ORIGINAL) and pretending to be something you're not (HANNAH YOU'RE BRINGING ME TO TEARS HERE--I know guys, I know, just try to keep it together.)

One of my manuscripts that I love but might never see the light of day centers around the Fourth of July, and it is, in large part, a book about pregnancy and independence and how those two coincide and contrast. INVINCIBLE SUMMER, about a boy growing over four summers, centers around that character's birthday each year, from his fifteenth to his eighteenth.

Not all of my manuscripts fit this model, but I thought it was interesting. Anything similar show up in your books, timing-wise?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm thankful for all you beautiful people.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

If You Think BREAK's Language is Inappropriate for Teenagers

As 90% of my teenage reviewers haven't mentioned the language and 90% of adult reviewers have, I'm going to say that if anything, the language is inappropriate for adults.

There should maybe be a warning on the back? WARNING: This book may not be suitable for readers over 21.

(Like, are you kidding me? What the fuck do you think they hear in high school?)

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Open Letter To Writers Looking For An Agent

Dear Writers,

Please never, never make the mistake of thinking you're having a different experience from anyone who's sold their book.

I queried four different books before I got an agent. I got form rejections and personalized rejections and partial requests and partial rejections and full requests and full rejections. I went through it all. It sucked.

I haven't forgotten it. I'm never going to forget it.

We're only different because we've had luck you haven't had. You could get an agent tomorrow. You don't know. Hell, I didn't wake up the morning I got my agent with some feeling that something big was going to happen.

When you work hard, success falls on you no matter if it's an up day or a down day or a Saturday or a Tuesday. You have to believe it will come. You have to not think I'm some level you're not.

You're the reason I blog. Because, Jesus, can we lift the veil and show you that published authors don't sparkle like vampires? We're just you, but lucky. And you NEVER KNOW when you'll be one of us.

Believe, believe believe. DON'T LET THE BASTARDS GET YOU DOWN. Especially when those bastards are us.

Love you.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Open Blog!

Feeling lazy. So the comments section is now your playground--any questions for me? Anything you'd like to say to me at all? Go go go.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fitting in/Standing Out

A NOTE: This post talks about writing as a craft and a business. It talks about the business of selling writing. If you're looking for praise of art for art's sake, look elsewhere. I'm a commercial writer, let's just put it out there--I have my literary moments, but I write for you and you and you, damn it, not for The Sake Of The Written Word--so advice from me (fuck what I'm giving advice??) is going to come from a commercial standpoint.

A lot of the problems new authors face, whether they're on their first manuscript or their tenth, base around the problem of fitting in vs. standing out.

Benefits to fitting in:
--Your audience is built right in. That's huge. You know where your book will go and who will pick it up.
--Easier to find an agent. Look at what they've sold until you find one that's sold a book like yours. Query them. Then query some more people. If you're good, you'll get lucky. And if your book fits into the current market easily, an agent shouldn't have much trouble placing you.
--You are instantly your own brand. Readers will know what to expect for your next book, and if your first was the type they liked, they'll be loyal.

Problems with fitting in:
--You're asleep
--Your readers are asleep

On the other hand...

Benefits to standing out:
--Bam pow zap! There's nothing like a shock to get people's interest.
--Books that stand out are the ones that become big deals. No one ever got famous overnight from a ho-hum book.
--This is how things get started, y'know?

But problems with standing out:
--Good luck selling. You're a risk, and that's going to make it a hard road.
--Unless you do something quirky really well, you risk looking like you're trying too hard.
--The WTF factor. Expect people to question your sanity.

So you want to do something innovative and original without doing something that can't blend into the current market.

My solution to this dichotomy is this--write to fill the holes.

Don't try to start a new genre your first time around. You do have time to be a revolutionary.

But don't write the same book everyone else is writing because you think it will sell. (No Wuthering Heights and Witches, in my friend's words)

Don't write what's already out there, but don't write something that doesn't have a place. Look at what books are in your genre (which you should be familiar with) and look what could easily fit in that isn't yet there.

BREAK (surprise!) is a pretty decent example of this. YA books about self-injury are not new. I knew there was an established market for them. What is new? Books about a self-injury from a male perspective. So I did it. And it made sense, but it still had a touch of that Bam Pow Zap, this is different.

In a larger sense, I write largely YA, and I use a lot of the genre conventions because I LOVE YA and I love the conventions and I love selling books, so I'm not going to write a book about, you know, a tadpole and try to say that's YA. (Someone is trying that now. Stop.) But while a lot of YA is friend/romantic relationship focused, I put a heavy emphasis on family life and the relationships my characters have with their parents and siblings.

Find your genre. Love your genre. Meet the expectations of your genre. And add something new.

Fill some holes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


In response to this video:

First of all, I'm in love with you.

Second of all:

Here is something I've learned about about writing.

Sometimes things take a lot of time.

Other times, things do not take a lot of time.

First draft of BREAK: 1 week
Subsequent revisions: 3 weeks
TOTAL TIME SPENT ON NOVEL BEFORE SALE: 1 month of work, 5 months of getting the agent/the editor/chewing my fingernails.

First draft of INVINCIBLE SUMMER: less than 1 week
Subsequent revisions: 8 months on and off.
TOTAL TIME SPENT ON NOVEL BEFORE SALE: about 8 months of work, 4 months of getting a different agent/the same editor/chewing the same fingernails.

First draft of ALL TOGETHER WITH FEELING: 4 months
Subsequent revisions: 2 months so far and a loooooong way to go.
TOTAL TIME SPENT ON NOVEL BEFORE SALE: bitch please no one wants this thing and no one will for a looooong time.

Sometimes, things take a lot of time.

Sometimes, other things take a lot of time.

Sometimes, things do not take a lot of time.

Also, there are no hard and fast rules.


p.s. John, if Sara ever leaves you, hit me up. Seriously had a period of mourning when you got engaged. You and Ned Vizzini. I'm still bitter about this, guys. My boyfriend barely knows how to read.


Everything bizarre in Chase McGill’s life can be blamed on his four siblings. Between screaming baby Lucy, perpetually naked Claudia, Deaf but ASL-impaired Gideon, and wanderlusty Noah, Chase has his hands full trying to hold everything together. But during the summers, everything is perfect. Every year, they return to beach to revive their passions for sand, salt, and Camus—everything that will keep them young and beautiful forever.

And they will stay innocent. Chase is their anchor.

But Chase is slowly cracking. Noah’s never around to hoist him up. His parents are divorcing. How’s Chase supposed to resist the pull of adulthood as his eighteenth birthday creeps up and his whole family’s succumbing to the adulthood disease? Claudia’s promiscuity explodes, Gideon’s learning to sign, Noah’s talking about college whenever he’s not on one of his escapes. Even Lucy’s using full sentences. Chase thought they’d be invincible as long as they were together. But they’re not invincible. And after one horrible night, they’re not even together.

INVINCIBLE SUMMER is a YA family saga complete at 40,000 words.