Sunday, August 28, 2011


So did any of you attend WriteOnCon? If so, do you remember an article about promoting yourself in which the author mentioned a blog post that contains suggestions as to how to self-promote during the 10 years before your book releases?

I thought I read this post at WriteOnCon, but I could be mistaken. I planned to go back later and follow the link to the blog post mentioned (it was a post by some author...Lisa? Laura? Something like that) but I couldn't find it. If any of you have come across such information, would you please let me know? It's been bugging the hell out of me for the past week.

Thanks in advance!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Five stages of revision

Denial - My critique partners just don't get it. They don't understand what I'm trying to do. This story is obviously perfect, and if they can't see my brilliance then that's their problem. Who cares if it's exactly the same as Twilight?

Anger - Why did they have to be so harsh? They're wrong! They suck! I'm never working with them again! My vampire is sexy and that's all that matters!

Bargaining - Okay....I'll cut the vampire-human-hybrid-baby out of the story, but there's no way I'm removing her sparkly vampire boyfriend. No. Just no.

Depression - I'm an awful writer. My critique partners hate everything about my story. I'll never be any good and I'll never get published.

Acceptance - Fine. I guess I really should cut out the vampire-human-hybrid-baby and the sparkly vampire boyfriend. Back to the (metaphorical) drawing board.

Hopefully I'll get back to regular first page critiques next's been crazy lately, what with moving into my new house, so I haven't had time yet. Sorry to everyone who has been waiting!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Want to learn more about Teen Eyes?

If you're interested in learning more about me, Taryn, and Teen Eyes, hop on over to Melodie's blog where she interviewed us Thursday and Friday. Thanks so much, Melodie!

On a different note, I'm moving into my dorm this week, and thus I haven't had much time for blogging. But I'll be back in a few days with my regular (or not) posts!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Querying Mistakes

So first of all I wanted to start off this post by announcing that my critique partner, Liesl Shurtliff, has signed a deal with Knopf/Random House for her debut novel RUMP!!! I've known about the deal for almost a month but she hasn't been allowed to release it publicly until today. I'm sooo excited for her, and RUMP is the most adorable MG story I've ever read (also, it's perfect for both boys and girls). Head on over to her blog to check it out!

Today I'm posting about querying mistakes. I queried two books at the same time (it's a long story) and made a few mistakes, although I researched extensively before sending them out so most damage was kept to a minimum. That said, I have a lot of writer friends who have made querying mistakes, and I've talked to agents about them as well.

Here are some things to avoid:

1. Never query prematurely. I know it's tempting to send out emails the moment you finish your book, but don't. Wait a while. Revise. Rewrite. Do this a few times at least before querying.

2. This may be my personal opinion, but I prefer to send out a bunch of queries at one time rather than doing small batches like many writers. Why? Because sometimes agents offer quickly. I know writers who sent out a "test batch" of queries before querying the agents they actually wanted. What if someone from your test batch offers, and you still haven't queried the agents you really want? What if an agent from your first batch offers when the agents from your third batch have just barely received your manuscript? The third batch agents are going to feel like they weren't given a fair chance to review your work.

3. Don't obsess over the query. You should to some extent, but I have writer friends who've spent weeks writing draft after draft of their query letter. These days, most agents ask for sample pages along with a query letter, and if anything you should focus on your first few chapters. Even if your query isn't stellar, odds are an agent will request more based off awesome sample pages (after all, it's the actual writing that counts).

4. Never compare your book to a bestseller.

5. No opinions. For instance, never describe your book as "heartwarming."

6. MAKE SURE you've addressed your query to the right agent. I made this mistake once (I copied and pasted a query into an email but forgot to change the name). Believe me, agents don't like emails titled "Dear Agent."

7. While you're querying, keep writing. Try not to focus on the rejections/requests because there's no way to tell how things will turn out. Just keep working, and if your book doesn't garner an agent you'll have a second project to send out.

8. Never respond to rejections. If you get a personalized letter with editorial suggestions (I got two of these), feel free to send a polite (albeit brief) thank you.

So there you have it. Is anybody out there querying at the moment? If you have tips/tricks to share, feel free to post them in the comments!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

YA Romance

So the other day I skimmed through Breaking Dawn. I've never been much for paranormal romance, and thus I'm not a huge fan of Stephenie Meyer, although I appreciate how she's expanded the YA genre and paved the road for other authors. For those of you who live under a rock, Bella and Edward get married in the fourth book.

One of my close friends is a hopeless romantic. She says I'm cynical, but honestly, I have a hard time buying teenaged romances in which seventeen and eighteen-year-olds are portrayed as soulmates. The human brain continues to develop into a person's early twenties. Teenagers change a great deal from one year to the next, both in terms of intellect and emotional maturity, and I think you would be hard pressed to find an eighteen-year-old who's ready to consider marriage. Even living in Utah, where many people get married at a young age, I don't know a single person my age who plans on marrying in the near future.

I've been told I'm mature for an eighteen-year-old. I get along with adults, I have older friends, and my adolescence passed with relatively little drama. Most of my friends have boyfriends, and I would consider them above average when it comes to emotional maturity and intelligence (for the most part). But the reality is, teens don't really think about marriage all that much. It's far in the future. Lightyears away. We think about college and boys and parties and sex (even if we aren't having it), but an informal poll of PIKOF (People I Know On Facebook) shows that marriage is the last thing on our minds. Perhaps this is a recent change; after all, thirty years ago women didn't go to college nearly as often, so once out of high school they settled down and started families. But our culture has shifted in recent years and people are getting married later and later. Again, this may sound cynical, but (generally) I don't think kids my age have the necessary level of self-awareness and maturity to experience "true love." We're still growing, learning, and trying to figure out who we are.

When writing romance in YA, you have to be careful with how far you go. Most people enjoy a good love story, but keep in mind your characters' ages, and try to write from the perspective of a teenager rather than an adult.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


The Teen Eyes manuscript critique contest ended last week, and Taryn and I are happy to announce the winner! I will be reading Heidi's manuscript. Heidi, expect an email from me personally, and I will give you instructions as to how to submit your manuscript.

Also, my GIANT CONTEST involving five YA/MG books (one of which is an ARC of the next Carrie Jones novel) will be going on until August 22. Click here to enter!

That's all for now! I'll be doing another first page critique tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

To outline or not to outline?

So while I was in New York a few weeks ago, my BFF Kita and I spent a day wandering through Central Park. For those of you who haven't been there, Central Park is HUGE. That, coupled with my directionally challenged-ness (yes, I did just invent a word), made for a rather interesting adventure involving a fountain, iced strawberry lemonade, and random dancing roller-skaters.

(A photograph, in which we appear deceptively calm and un-lost)

My inner-control freak started spazzing out when I realized we didn't know how to get where we wanted to go. I'm the kind of person who needs a map. Directions. Something reliable, so I know I won't be stuck wandering around in Manhattan for the next forty years. Kita, on the other hand, seemed content to just start walking. She placated my anxiety-induced freakout (she's used to them by now), and we ended up finding our way back to the hotel without dying/falling in the lake/peeing in the bushes due to lack of proper facilities.

Our brief period of Central Park shenanigans got me thinking about outlines. Kita writes her own stories, and she works entirely by the seat of her pants (pantsers, as they are commonly referred to). I, on the other hand, am an outliner. Unlike Kita, I need to know where I'm going and exactly how to get there. I usually write out a chapter-by-chapter summary of the entire story before I even start the first sentence.

In all honesty I think most writers are outliners. Some of us outline more extensively, while others map out basic plot points/character arcs. Many writers object to the use of outlines because they feel it inhibits their creative abilities. Therefore, I've compiled a few tips for outlining, which have helped me personally when writing books.

~Go chapter-by-chapter. Make sure every chapter and scene has a purpose, whether it's furthering the plot or developing character traits.
~Map out each individual character arc, noting key transformative points.
~Identify your book's beginning, climax, and end, then work from there.
~Try to merge plot with character development....create a plot that provides an organic vehicle for character growth.
~Don't be afraid to make changes! This is why I don't outline too extensively....a paragraph describing each chapter provides the backbone of the story, but gives me leeway to make changes as the story develops. An outline is a guide, not a completed product. Just as a book changes from rough draft to final draft, it will most likely change from outline to manuscript.
~Take a few weeks to let the story stew in your head before writing it all down. This can help you work out plot kinks before you even put pen to (metaphorical, if you're using a computer) paper.
~If you run into problems, brainstorm with trusted writer friends.
~Outlines are great for preventing writer's block. I used to work without them, and my stories meandered in random directions with dropped subplots and characters. I'm not saying you can't write without an outline (I know people who can), but for many writers, outlines provide much-needed support when your muse takes an unexpected vacation.

So what about all of you? Do you outline? Are your summaries extensive, or are they merely brief descriptions of major plot points?

Hope everyone's having a wonderful week!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Critique Groups

Critique groups are one of the best resources a writer can utilize. I myself have a critique group, as well as a pool of trusted beta readers who look over my manuscripts once they're complete. With critique groups I definitely prefer to meet in person, because once suggestions have been made about a particular manuscript we can all sit around and brainstorm possible solutions and ways to improve. I find dialogue, the back and forth between writers discussing a particular piece, is the best way to get out of your comfort zone and come up with an original way to make a story the best it can be.

That said, accepting criticism is difficult for the best of us. I myself have a very hard time with it. Of course I recognize that my manuscripts need work, but when you've put so much effort into one project, hearing other people tear it to (metaphorical) pieces is a lot to handle. My critique partners are wonderful; they hit the perfect balance between critical and appreciative. They list the things they liked, the things they didn't like, and how improvements might be made.

Some tips for critiquing:

~Be honest, but not harsh. Start out by talking about the things you did like, then list some negative aspects, then finish with your favorite part of the manuscript.
~Offer up suggestions to fix the problems you identified. Even if the person you're critiquing goes in a different direction, having suggestions can help get their creative juices flowing.
~Brainstorm! Talk about the problems in each person's manuscript, and try to get to the root of the issue. Is a character acting strangely or in contradiction to their previous actions? Is there a pacing problem?
~Don't go with your immediate reaction. When someone critiques your work, take a few minutes to think about it. I objected to the idea of changing my manuscript to first person when my editor initially suggested it. However, after a few hours of considering the story and my own notes, I realized changing it to first person would make the story much better.
~Don't argue.
~Just remember, even if critique sucks now, you'll be grateful in a few weeks when your manuscript is a million times better.

Now go out and find yourself a critique group!

Friday, August 5, 2011

First Page Critique - David

Just a short reminder that my giveaway of Fablehaven, Eyes Like Stars, Graceling, Skin Hunger, and an ARC of After Obsession is still going on! Click here.

Today's first page submission comes from David, who happens to be one of my favorite writers on the Internet! He became my first follower (true story) after we met at LTUE in 2010.

The Excerpt:

The skirt of Celesia’s nightdress curled with the midnight breeze. It was dark outside her bedchamber, alone on her balcony, with only the stars and faint moonlight to guide her steps. Waking up in the middle of the night was not uncommon for her, but this was a little different.

She did not remember climbing out of bed.


It came from the courtyard below, a sound that made her sick.


Startled, Celesia leaned over the balustrade. There was a shattered lute on the ground, and a young man, holding his calve with both hands. When her eyes adjusted, her breath was lost.

It was Prince Owen, her latest suitor.

“My leg!” He glanced straight into her eyes. “YOU BROKE MY LEG!”

Celesia held a hand over her mouth. What have I done?

The chamber door flew open. Below the frame stood her father, King Lýnivad the Third, dressed in a silken nightshirt. His peppery hair looked a bit frazzled. “Was that you screaming?”

“It’s Owen!” Celesia pointed outside. “I think he tried to invade my room!”

Lýnivad dashed to the balcony, his gray eyes widening at the injured prince. A few guards arrived, knelt by Owen’s side, and assessed the situation.

“Tend to him!” Lýnivad shouted, “and be quick about it!”

The king turned and glared at Celesia from the corner of his eye. She pressed her back against the wall, wanting to slip inside the cracks. This was not the first accident to befall a prince within their castle, nor was it the second—but it was certainly the worst.

“How did he fall?”

What I liked:

First of all, I think your writing is very strong. Your descriptions are lovely ("curled with the midnight breeze") and technically speaking your grammar/punctuation is spot on. In addition, you have wonderful sentence variation and syntax (one of my pet peeves is when writing doesn't flow well due to syntax). Obviously I haven't read more than a page of this, but I feel like you started the story in the perfect place. I was hooked by the second paragraph, and the last few lines about princes being involved in accidents also drew my attention. I already have a sense of who your main character is and I would definitely read more based on this excerpt. Most of my comments are nitty-gritty details, because overall I feel this first page is quite strong.

My critique:

~"It came from the courtyard below, a sound that made her sick." I don't know enough about the sound she heard to understand why it would make her sick. For instance, a thud could be the sound of someone dropping a book or a box, which wouldn't cause her to feel nauseous. Obviously it's meant to be a falling body, but I think you could make this clearer by adding a line of description to clarify the sound or by giving us insight into Celesia's thoughts the moment she hears it.

~“ARRGH!” Did Celesia shout or did Owen?

~"There was a shattered lute on the ground." Try to avoid using "to be" verbs as much as possible, as they're weaker than other verbs. I would suggest changing this to "A shattered lute lay on the ground" to eliminate the "was."

~"When her eyes adjusted, her breath was lost." Avoid passive voice by rewriting the second half of this sentence.

~"Celesia held a hand over her mouth. What have I done?" This part confused me a little imply that Celesia pushed Owen or somehow caused him to fall, but this is never mentioned earlier in the page when she's walking along the balcony. I know she doesn't remember getting out of bed, but she seems lucid enough at the beginning of the page, so I don't see how she wouldn't notice if she accidentally bumped or pushed Owen over the edge of the balcony.

~"Lýnivad dashed to the balcony, his gray eyes widening at the injured prince." I'd change this to "his gray eyes widening at the sight of the injured prince."

~"The king turned and glared at Celesia from the corner of his eye." I'd cut out "from the corner of his eye" since he addresses Celesia in the next paragraph. If he's speaking to her, he's most likely looking her full in the face. Also, it's very difficult to produce an adequate glare when you're looking at someone out of the corner of your eye.

Overall I really loved this. Again, most of my comments are small details, and structurally I think it's a very strong beginning. I'd read on!

For those of you interested in a first page critique, you can email your submission to Thanks David!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

GIANT CONTEST!!!! Five books including an ARC....

That's right, I'm holding a GIANT CONTEST!!!! You have the opportunity to win one of five YA/MG books. The contest closes August 10, at which time I will draw five names and the winners will be able to pick which book they want. Here are the choices:

ARC of After Obsession by Carrie Jones and Steven Wedel

Aimee and Alan have secrets. Both teens have unusual pasts, and abilities they prefer to keep hidden. But when they meet each other for the first time, in a cold Maine town, they can’t stop their secrets from spilling out. Strange things have been happening lately, and they both feel strongly that something, or someone, is haunting them. They’re wrong. Despite their unusual history and powers, it’s neither Aimee nor Alan who is truly haunted. It’s Alan’s cousin Courtney who, in a desperate plea to find her missing father, has invited a demon into her life—and into her body. Only together can Aimee and Alan exorcise the ghost. And they have to move quickly, before it devours not just Courtney, but everything around her…. Filled with heart-pounding romance, paranormal activity, and rich teen characters to love—and introducing an exciting new YA voice in Steven Wedel—this novel is exactly what Carrie Jones fans have been waiting for. Meet your next obsession.

Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey (signed!)

Sadima lives in a world where magic has been banned, leaving poor villagers prey to fakes and charlatans. A "magician" stole her family's few valuables and left Sadima's mother to die on the day Sadima was born. But vestiges of magic are hidden in old rhymes and hearth tales and in people like Sadima, who conceals her silent communication with animals for fear of rejection and ridicule. When rumors of her gift reach Somiss, a young nobleman obsessed with restoring magic, he sends Franklin, his lifelong servant, to find her. Sadima's joy at sharing her secret becomes love for the man she shares it with. But Franklin's irrevocable bond to the brilliant and dangerous Somiss traps her, too, and she faces a heartbreaking decision.

Centuries later magic has been restored, but it is available only to the wealthy and is strictly controlled by wizards within a sequestered academy of magic. Hahp, the expendable second son of a rich merchant, is forced into the academy and finds himself paired with Gerrard, a peasant boy inexplicably admitted with nine sons of privilege and wealth. Only one of the ten students will graduate — and the first academic requirement is survival.

Sadima's and Hahp's worlds are separated by generations, but their lives are connected in surprising and powerful ways in this brilliant first book of Kathleen Duey's dark, complex, and completely compelling trilogy.

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

For centuries mystical creatures of all description were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite.

Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken — Seth is a bit too curious and reckless for his own good — powerful forces of evil are unleashed, and Kendra and her brother face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world, Kendra and Seth must find the courage to do what they fear most.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

All her world’s a stage.

Bertie Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.

She’s not an orphan, but she has no parents.

She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.

That is, until now.

Enter Stage Right

NATE. Dashing pirate. Will do anything to protect Bertie.

COBWEB, MOTH, MUSTARD SEED, and PEASEBLOSSOM. Four tiny and incredibly annoying fairies. BERTIE’S sidekicks.

ARIEL. Seductive air spirit and Bertie’s weakness. The symbol of impending doom.

BERTIE. Our heroine.

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the actors of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

Lisa Mantchev has written a debut novel that is dramatic, romantic, and witty, with an irresistible and irreverent cast of characters who are sure to enchant the audience.

Here are the rules:

+1 You must be a follower

+1 Commenting with your email address

+4 Tweeting this contest

+5 Blogging/Facebooking this contest

+1 Adding up your points in the comments section

I will choose five winners. The first name drawn will get to pick the book they want, and each subsequent winner can choose from the remaining books. This contest closes August 10. Sorry, only entries from the USA will be accepted!

Note: Since I spent all of Tuesday on airplanes (flying from NYC to California), this week's first page critique has been moved to Thursday.