Friday, April 30, 2010

What You Should Know re: Non-Writers

Okay, look, people. There are a few things you need to know about non-writers. Yeah, yeah. I've seen those posts where writers try to tell non-writers what They need to know about Us. This isn't that post.

Because let's face it. If you're a writer, you're not normal. I repeat, if you're a writer, you're not normal. Besides, there're way more non-writers than writers, so you need to conform to the whole, okay? Okay.

Some tips:

Know your pitch. Not only will this take you far in conferences and with writing a killer query letter, but you'll be able to keep the interest of your non-writer friends.

See, they don't really care about your book. They care about you, but you have about ten (maybe twenty) seconds to tell them about your book before their eyes glaze over. You need to be able to answer the question "What's your book about?" in under twenty seconds. That way, when your accountant, old boyfriend, or grocery store checker asks you, you can tell them. And they'll still think you're human afterward, which is a huge bonus.

Refrain from talking about your characters as if they were alive. Trust me on this, it doesn't work. And non-writers get this scary edge in their eyes, and their fingers twitch like they need to dial for medical help, stat! when you discuss people that aren't alive.

Keep these kinds of convos between you and your CP's or other writerly friends. We get it. They do not.

Don't rationalize. Number one, it's a tad pathetic that we writers can't keep up with the laundry or remember to take dinner out of the oven before the whole kitchen is filled with smoke. The last thing we need to do is blame our writing for our lack of Martha Stewartness. I mean, that just makes the whole industry suffer, don't you think?

Own your shortcomings, because non-writers don't see writing as a reason why your kids ate cold cereal for the third night in a row.

Take a minute to pretty yourself up. Have you seen that Seinfeld where Elaine stays up all night writing a cartoon for The New Yorker? And Jerry makes fun of her because she doesn't even run a comb through her hair before leaving the apartment.

Yeah, I know that most writers are part vampire, and we can't stand the sun and we don't sleep. But seriously, people. You belong to a non-writer population as a whole. Take some time to change your clothes and brush your hair and teeth before leaving the sanctuary of your writing cave. And certainly don't cite writing as the reason you look like death warmed over. Non-writers only forgive the homeless and those who run for pleasure for looking like that. Srsly.

Accept the fact that They don't get it. You may be a very talented Sith Lord, but you are not going to convert the non-writer to the writing side. Loved ones may support you because they know how important this writing thing is to you. But the vast majority of non-writers don't get it. If they did, we wouldn't hear things like, "I wish I could write a book."

Love them for who they are: a non-writer. I mean, it takes both to make the world spin, right? Right.

What else do we writers need to know about non-writers? What did I miss? Have you showered yet today? (lol!)

I'm off to my husband's graduation (Masters, baby!) so I'll be offline for most of the weekend. Writers unite!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

An Alluring Antag

Okay, so yesterday I said you needed to give your protag some kryptonite. They need weaknesses and shortcomings to go along with their perfectly toned bodies and killer girlfriend-smiles, right? Right.

But in the same little session on characters, Annette Lyon said something about antagonists too. Something I think I had needling around in the back of my mind, but not something I've done purposefully in my writing.

Again, lame-o that I am, I had no tape recorder, but here's what I remember.

The antag has to have redeeming qualities too. They must have something that is alluring about them as well. I suppose you could call it a weakness for them to have something they care about. And that makes us identify with them also.

The best books have both a main character who is flawed, yet fabulous. And an antagonist who is horrible, yet lovable. Or at least flawed to the point where we can see why they're making the choices they make.

For me, it all comes down to Voldemort. He is the ultimate antag for me.

Thoughts? Do you craft your antagonist as carefully as your protagonist? Do they have goals too? What makes them alluring? Does such a thing exist?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kryptonize Me

I didn't take a bunch of character classes at the conference. Not really sure why, but I think I was focused more on marketing and stuff this time around. But I did lead a group of five aspiring authors in a critique group setting. During this intense time, we received a mini-lesson on characters.

And I heard something that stuck with me. The presenter, Annette Lyon, gave a lesson on protags.

She said, "Even Superman had his Kryptonite."

*insert a-ha moment*

I've heard it before. Your protag can't be perfect, they need flaws, blah blah blah. But you know how you just hear the right words in the right order and suddenly everything clicks into place? That's what happened here.

So when you're developing your protag, remember that they need their own brand of Kryptonite.

What do you think? Have you given your protag some Kryptonite? Has it made them stronger? More believable? More relatable? How so?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Great Myth

Yeah, this week is going to be filled with wisdom I heard at the conference I attended over the weekend. I hope you read something inspiring.

Today's bit of wisdom happened in a casual conversation I had with Delacorte (Random House) editor Krista Marino (she worked on The Maze Runner and Forest of Hands and Teeth). Suzette Saxton and I were chatting with her about our agents and whatnot and Krista said something like this:

I think that's one of the biggest myths, that you have to have these amazing connections to make it in publishing, that you can't get out of the slush pile. But we see debut authors from the slush pile all the time.

That's not word for word, because I didn't have my tape recorder on me (I don't even own one yet!) and I heard a lot of great things. But that's the general gist.

So rid yourselves of the myth that you can't make it by writing a killer query and a strong story and then persevering.

What do you think? Can you go from no-one-in-small-town-wherever to published author? What do you think it takes to get there?

Monday, April 26, 2010


Dude, you guys, I just went to a fabu conference (thanks SO MUCH for the laughter. It helped so much!).

One of the conference coordinators made this wicked awesome slide show that made all these goosebumps rise up on my arms, and super-embarrassing tears to prick my eyes. I mean, who cries at a powerpoint presentation? Srsly.

I asked for the whole slide show, because it was just that awesome. I'm waiting to hear back and/or just provide a link to it if I have to.

But this video was in it. I know, I know. I'm not a huge fan of videos either, but this one is only a minute long and it's the best thing ever.

What do you think? I know it's a basketball commercial, but the concept is the same for writing. How many times have we read wicked-amazing books and just thought their authors pumped that out overnight? Or became legends without any hard work? Without any rejection, heartbreak, or tears? Without any despair?

Do we think that every book starts in the bookstore and not with sleepless nights and sore fingers, demoralizing critiques and a whole lotta freaking hard work?

What will it take to become a legendary author? And are you up to the challenge?

I am.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wanted: Laughter

Okay, so it's 4:13 AM as I write this. I wish that were a lie, but whatev.

I'm presenting at a conference today. I'm not gonna lie, I'm leaning toward "Holy-crap-what-was-I-thinking?" on the terror spectrum. My heart, at 4:13 AM, is doing this sort of slow thud, where it shakes my whole chest. It's weird. My heart's never pounded like that before, except for when I started walking on the treadmill after two years of sitting on the couch = exercise.

Anyway, so I have a request, cuz I know you guys are awesome like this. My presentation is at 3 PM (5 PM EST, 4 PM CST, 2 PM PST).

Can I get an LOL from you about that time? See, when people laugh at me, I actually relax. I'm sort of like a comedian, and the whole point of the things I say is to get people to laugh. And I'm very worried that my uh...quirky? Yeah, quirky sense of humor isn't going to go over so well today.

So just send a laugh into the universe around 3 PM MST, and I'll feel the vibes of the great blogosphere and maybe I won't freak out. Or maybe this feeling is normal for people who are awake at 4:13--now 4:15--AM. I have no idea, I've never actually been awake at this hour before. Well, I did work--omigosh, Elana, ramble much?

Okay, yeah. Nerves.

Wanted: laughter.

And jokes! If you have some jokes, I like reading those too. Then maybe I can use the material if my "quirky" sense of humor isn't winning over the crowd. *grins*

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Throwing Up That First Draft

I quite enjoy reading the writing process of other people. So today, I thought I'd give you a glimpse inside my head. Hold on tight, cuz it's sort of a wild ride.

I relate writing my first draft to vomiting. I know, I hope you haven't recently eaten or taken a drink of something.

For me, it's just word vomit. I don't outline. I don't have whiteboards with post-it's. There are no snowflakes going on at my house.

I'm pantsing my way through life. (Hey! I could totally change the words to the Wicked song. "Pantsing through life...")

In my defense, I usually think about my story/characters for a little while, but I have no character sheets done, no pictures in my head, sometimes not even names.

Some of you are spasming right now, I can tell. Sorry. If you're looking for "organization while writing" you won't find it here.

I decide that hey, it's time to do this thing and I sit down at the computer. I open a new Word document, and feel this tiny tremor of terror at the blank page. See, I'm not so good with blank pages.

I am a better rewriter than writer. But I can't rewrite what I don't have.

So I flex my fingers--no, really, I do--and I start typing.

And word vomit comes out.

At the end of my writing session, I type notes for what might come next. Usually my notes are longer than what I've got on the story. I do organize the notes into chapters and scenes, so that when I come back the next day to write, I'm ready.

My notes change constantly. I'm always deleting old ones and typing new ones, because my story evolves so much as I write. So, so much.

At about 10,000 words, I usually hit a wall I have to navigate around. Or over. Or through. Whatever. At about 20,000 words, I take a break and write the query letter and a loose synopsis. This helps focus my writing on the end goal. At this time, I identify the two "pinches" in my story, and align them with the end of part one and the end of part two. See, I write in sections--usually 3. So I position my "pinches" to come at the end of those sections to keep the reader moving along.

Once I have that, I'm ready to write again. Nothing is set in stone, and my pinches change, the notes change, the story changes as I actually sit down and vomit up the words.

I can usually pound out a 75,000-word first draft in 6-8 weeks. (Side note: I just wrote 37,000 words before I realized I couldn't use any of them. So I abandoned the project and have started it over. No, really. This is the writing-life of a pantser. Or maybe just me...Crap!) And it's so, so, so messy that I can't stand to open it again for a while. I mean, the stench alone keeps me away. So I usually re-visit my query and synopsis and shine them up.

Then I get to rewrite. But that's a story for another post.

What about you? How do you write your first draft? Are you an outliner or a pantser? What works for you? What doesn't? How long does it take?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

One-Sentence Pitching

Okay, so the contest with Chris Richman is coming up. I know putting together one sentence that pitches your book is hard. Terrifying. Chocolate-worthy. Here're some posts that will hopefully help.

Sisters in Scribe did a great post here.

Mary Lindsey gave us some wisdom on the QT blog about the "elevator pitch."

Literary agent, Joanna Volpe, weighed in on pitches here.

Author Michelle McLean gave some insight on writing a logline (repubbed on the QT blog).

I blogged about the high-concept hook here.

Randy Ingermanson analyzes pitches here and here. (Thanks to Nicole for the linkage!)

And what would my pitch be for my YA dystopian novel, CONTROL ISSUES?

In a world where Thinkers brainwash the population and Rules are not meant to be broken, fifteen-year-old Violet does a hell of a job shattering them to pieces in her search for answers about her “dead” sister and not-so-missing father.

Hope something helps! What do you think? Can you craft a single sentence that describes your book? What do you say when people ask you what your book is about? That's your pitch. Make it into one sentence and get ready for the contest!

And so much for only blogging 3 days this week! Sheesh. At least I have nothing planned for Thursday...yet. *grins*

Monday, April 19, 2010

Upcoming Agent-Judged Contest!

Howdy, people!

Okay, so over on the QueryTracker blog, we've got another agent-judged contest coming up.

WHEN: Tuesday, April 27 (not today! TUESDAY, APRIL 27. That's not even tomorrow.)

WHO: Chris Richman, from the fabulous Upstart Crow Literary Agency.

WHAT: One-sentence pitch of your YA/MG novel.

WHERE: On the QueryTracker blog (not here!). You must be a follower of the QT blog to enter, because Mr. Richman has NOT capped the entries!! That's right, people, no cap! The contest will remain open for 24 hours, and if we get 600 entries, so be it!

So get your novel distilled down to your best one-sentence pitch and join us on Tuesday, April 27.

Do we know how to throw a contest or what?? And do I use too many exclamation points or what?!? Whatever (or what?). Go get your pitch ready!

Friday, April 16, 2010

For Your Entertainment

I quite enjoy this song, and how can you not love anyone who does sign language? I mean, seriously. I rarely post videos, but this one is awesomesauce.

And I may or may not be out of things to blog about at this time. I'm fried from spring break--staying up late and swimming can really wear a person down. I'm going to a M/W/F posting schedule next week so I can finish my conference presentations and feel human and all that other jazz.

But for today, this is pure entertainment. I'm not even going to ask you any questions. (Ha!)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

More To Consider

Okay, I've gotten a lot of great emails from you guys re: blogging. Thank you! I love reading and responding to them. And you guys are like, writing my posts for me, so there's that too. *smiles*

So I thought I'd share a little bit more. Just things that personally annoy me (like the neonity of blogs) or that I think make blogging harder. And we all know that we don't want our blog to be hard to like or hard to read or hard to comment on.

So consider:

1. Music. Please, don't. I often (very often) have music on already, and I don't want to listen to yours. Rude? Probably. (Sorry!) It's okay to have a player, but set it so it doesn't start automatically. Then, if I'm interested in your music, I can have the freedom of choice to play it myself.

2. Comment verification. I know this can be a tricksy little bugger. If you feel like you MUST use it (I recently took mine off, and have less than 5 anonymous spam comments), please use the pop-up window that already has the word in it.

If you're opposed to pop-up windows for some reason, use the full-page form with the word already in it. Waiting for my verification word to load is annoying. Like, seriously annoying.

Here's how you do that:
1. From your dashboard, go to SETTINGS and then COMMENTS of the blog you want to alter (Hey, I have four).
2. In the COMMENT FORM PLACEMENT choose either "Full page" or "Pop-Up Window."
3. Scroll down.
4. In the COMMENT MODERATION area, choose "Older than [fill in blank] days." Then you can approve all comments on posts that are over a certain number of days old. Mine's set at 14 right now, just because that's the blogger default, I think. That way, if someone is commenting on posts older than 2 weeks, I must approve them.
5. Right below that, in SHOW WORD VERIFICATION FOR COMMENTS? choose "No." Of if you must, say yes, and if you've chosen full page or pop-up window, at least then I don't have to wait for your verification word to load before I can sub my comment.

Easy peasy. And this will make your blog an easier, happier place to leave comments. At least for me.

3. Follower widget. For the love, put it at the top of your blog. I don't want to scroll through a millionty awards to follow you.

What else? I feel like I've dispelled all my bloggy opinions/knowledge, so I think this might conclude this whole blogging series. Me = *panic face* What am I going to blog about now?? Guess I better put on my "What If?" hat.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blogging For You

I told you I was gonna come back to this. Well, I really am. Today. I've heard some people say they started blogging as a way for them to get what's inside of them, out.


So maybe I did too. Remember how I didn't tell anyone about my blog? Or that I was anonymous? Yeah. It was for me. I was terrified to have anyone else read my inner-most thoughts, mostly because I was afraid people would think I was lame or not smart enough to blog or whatever.

Let me just say that I do think you must enjoy blogging. Anything you do for an extended period of time must be enjoyed, or else you'll quit.

But that doesn't mean I'm still blogging the same way I was two years ago. Many things have changed. I've changed. So my blog does too.

Let me outline the ways my blog is for me:
1. I like doing it. A lot. I benefit from this.
2. It's an excellent promotional tool. I benefit from this.

So really, my blog is all about me. But I choose carefully what I say here, because I want you to feel welcome and comfortable and appreciated. And with MY attitude in THAT place, then what is enjoyable for me (hopefully) becomes enjoyable for you too.

Imagine you're at a big table, dining with your bloggy buddies. You don't hog the conversation do you? Read from your novel every second or anything like that. No. You laugh and joke, talk about real life a little, things you like a little. You ask questions about other people to get to know them. You share some of your life, some of your writing, some of yourself.

You invite them to do the same. And that's how you can enjoy yourself at dinner. That's also how you can enjoy yourself while blogging. It's all about you, but there has to be a place for others at the table.

What do you think? Are you enjoying it? Are you leaving room for other people to enjoy it too? I think that when we enjoy it, others will feel that and keep coming back. So if you're blogging for you -- keep it up! Just leave a little room at the table, okay? Okay.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

GLEE is on Tonight!

That is all.

Well, maybe not all.

Besides writing and family and all that, what makes you giddy with GLEE?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Now I Am The Voice

Having a down day? A down month? Wondering if this writing thing is for you? Got too many voices in your head--and I don't mean characters. I mean self-doubt--? Those stinging ones I talked about last week, saying "I can't." or "I'm not good enough." Or whatever.

Try this on for size. (And yes, I cry at this assembly. UVU--a local university--athletes come and present it to schools. I am a baby. Deal with it.)

Now I am the VOICE.
I will LEAD, not follow.
I will CREATE, not destroy.
I am a FORCE for GOOD
Step up

Step up

Step up!

(~Anthony Robbins)

So today, I invite you to silence the stinging voices, and take control. Today, YOU are the VOICE. What will you say?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pop Quiz! (Oh, Stop Bawling and Just Answer)

Okay, so I had something totally different planned for today. Wrote the post way last week and all that.

But I've been reading a lot of queries over the past four days (conference coming up -- yikes!) and I just have one question for you.

Question: What's the purpose of a query letter?

You tell me.

I know what I think it is. I want to repeat it over and over like one of those never-ending hashtags you see on twitter that no one can figure out.

But I won't. I want you to tell me. What's the purpose of the query letter?

If you don't know, maybe that's why writing the darn thing is so freaking hard. I mean, srsly.

Oh, and I may or may not use what you say in my presentation. Just so you know. *wink*

And yes, I'll tell you what I think later.

One more thing: If you have a second, head over to Lisa and Laura's blog. They have this amazing (anonymous) editor who's starting a blog (The Book Sniper) and WANTS your QUESTIONS! So YOU can be the POP QUIZZER over there! Go, go, go!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

How To Do It ALL

Dude, let it be known that I'm busy. I'm sure you are too, right? I mean, how many of us are just lazing around the house in our pj's while someone else cleans the toilets and pays the bills? (And if you are, just...yeah just.)

So here's how to do it all.

Listen to this song called "Breathe (2AM)" by Anna Nalick.

Here's my favorite part:
Life's like an hourglass glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button, girl
So cradle your head in your hands


Just breathe

And then later:
2 AM and I'm still awake writing a song (book/blog/whatev)
If I get it all down on paper
It's no longer inside of me
Threatening the life it belongs to

And I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd
Cause these words are my diary screaming out loud
And I know you'll use them however you want to


And breathe
Just breathe

So how do I do it all? I breathe.

How's your breathing going? Are you gasping for air right now? Or enjoying some time on the beach with one of those umbrella drinks? It's my spring break, that's what I should be doing. But no! It's been snowing here. SNOWING.

Just breathe.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Things To Think About re: Blogging

Okay, lean in a little closer. Closer... closer... Okay, that's a little too close. *grins* (And I should send you like, a dollar if you know that movie.)

More secrets today. Are you ready? Some of these are not really secrets. Maybe just things to think about. Things that might make your blog easier, faster and more entertaining to read.

Let's start with the basics.

1. Your blog layout.
  • Dude, consider carefully before you use a black background. I used to have a dark bluish one, and I loved it. But I realize it's hard on the eyes, and I like light backgrounds much better.
  • Absolutely no neon type, please. I'm begging.
  • How big is your font? Too small, and I'm skimming from second one. I won't squint to read your blog.
  • Look at your white space. Consider the principles of design found here. (Yeah, I teach these in the computer lab. So sue me.)
  • Look at the length of your paragraphs. Huge blocks of text intimidate me. They make me think I'll be stuck on your blog reading and re-reading that monster graf for the rest of my natural life. And that's never good.

2. Your blog content.

3. Your blog audience.
  • Be yourself. Share a bit of personal stuff without going overboard on the big 3: Religion, politics or sex. Right? Right. Remember your blog audience. 
  • Rants should be saved for private Skypes, chats or emails. Remember your blog audience.
  • Share about your book, successes and whatnot without shoving it down our throats. We all want to celebrate, but we don't want every giveaway to be your book. We don't want every post to be your book signing schedule, etc. Remember your blog audience.
  • Give your blog audience what they want. Don't know what they want? Figure it out. Then deliver. For this, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time. You can insert anything you want for "street sweeper." Writer. Blogger. Whatev.
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tell me what you like about blogs. What do you think of mine? How are you doing on your blog layout, your blog content and your blog audience? Do you consider all three of these things? If not, dude, maybe you should...

I'm going to address something entirely different next week (or whenever I feel like it): "But my blog is for me. I started it for me."

So feel free to leave me your OP on that too. You know I won't hold back!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

525,600 Minutes

I began querying my novel one year ago.

525,600 minutes ago.

From the musical Rent:

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights? In sunsets? In midnights? In cups of coffee? In inches? In miles? In laughter? In strife?

In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life?

I've done a lot in a year. I've tried to put those 525,600 minutes to good use. Sure, I farmed virtually. Who doesn't? I slept in too much on weekends. I taught 700 students for 180 days. I enjoyed 365 nature moments. I've probably listened to 525,600 minutes of Pandora.

I lived. Loved. Wrote. Laughed. Deleted. Cried. Breathed. Tried again and again and again.

What have you done in the last 525,600 minutes? Has it been a good year for you? Why or why not?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Breeding Authenticity

All right (ha! Switched it up on ya!), so we've been talking about how to build a better blog. I told you what I've done to attract more readers to my blog.

But really, it all comes down to one thing: authenticity. The ability to make your blog unlike the fifty thousand others that are out there--which I might point out, is something you must do with your writing too.

So let's go.

I've seen some people asking other people for what they'd like to see on Person A's blog. Yeah, that makes sense. Let me clarify. Person A blogs. Asks Persons B - Z what they'd like to see on Person A's blog.

Disclaimer: This is not bad. Remember that it's not all about you.

However, when I see this, little alarms start going off in my head.


A) YOU should know who your audience is.
B) Once you know who your audience is, YOU should be able to come up with content to please that audience. You shouldn't have to ask.

Disclaimer #2: That doesn't mean you can't, of course. If just means that maybe I think I already know what you want to read here, and so I just do it. Or I figure that if you don't like what you read here, you'll maybe stick around because of my fabulous hair and eventually find something you do like. *wink*

I also think you shouldn't have to ask because of:

1) Confidence. I am insanely confident, this I know (unless you've emailed with me recently, in which case, shutty). I don't have to ask what you guys want to see on my blog, because I'm confident I already know. (And I suppose that if I'm wrong--gasp!--I just figure maybe tomorrow will be the day I'm right. Who knows?)

2) Authenticity. I know who I am. There is no one else like me, and there is no way on this planet that someone could write their blog (or a novel) the way I do.

These two areas are where you need to focus to breed authenticity into your blog (and your writing).

Now before you start bowing down and proclaiming that I'm all that and a bag of chips (which I'm so not), let me relate a story.

About 16 months ago, me and a group of friends started writing for the QueryTracker blog. It was epic. Awesomesauce. But inside I had a swarm of bees stinging me with these words, "You're different. You're no expert. What do you know?"

*sting sting sting*

I'm sure I bored my blog co-authors (who are DOCTORS and LAWYERS) with my whiny emails about how I was nothing.

But really, it came down to this: I am different. And I do know stuff (boy, that sounds Ha!).

And the stinging faded into the distance. I can say, "I was nothing," in the past tense. Because I am something now.

I am Elana Johnson.

Who are you? Do you know who you are? Do you have confidence that what you say can NOT be said by someone else? If not, how do you think you gain that confidence? How do you find out who you are? And once you have these two things, does that influence the way you write? (I totally think so, by the way. But maybe that's another post...??)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Author Success Story: Lisa and Laura Roecker

Have you been dreaming big? Have you gone forth and queried? Conquered? Feeling inspired this week by those who've suffered, er, endured this long and twisty road toward publication?

Dude, you know you have.

Click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, Gretchen McNeil and Tiffany Schmidt.

I will be featured on Lisa and Laura Roecker's blog today! Please go check out mine--and all the posts--because you never know who's going to say exactly what you need to hear to keep moving forward.

Today I've got the sistahs Lisa and Laura Roecker.

LIAR SOCIETY in a tweet: When Kate gets an e-mail from her dead best friend she decides to channel Nancy Drew. A hotter, bitchier Nancy Drew, but you get the idea.

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn't you?

Our first attempt at a novel was pretty wretched, but there were a handful of agents who found our voice intriguing enough to give us real feedback. When we finally laid that craptastic manuscript to rest (RIP The North Shore) we were so, so tempted just to throw in the towel, but we loved writing together too much. So, we gave it another shot and finished our next project within a few months. That project turned into LIAR SOCIETY. [Elana interrupts to say they only had to query for like, a day--so not fair. And they got three offers, and are repped by Catherine Drayton at Inkwell Management.]

What has been the hardest part of your road to publication so far? And why?

The hardest by far was being on submission to editors. It was hell. We basically spent 5 months living on pins and needles. We suck at waiting and that’s pretty much all there is to do while you’re out on submission. That and obsessively check Stat Counter. [Elana interrupts--ooooh! Stat Counter! Shiny...]

What's your best advice to aspiring authors?

Keep writing, keep reading, spend time getting to know other writers, find an amazing beta reader and never say die.

Super Secret: If you could meet anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

This is such a hard question and we always over think it because let’s face it if you go with a famous author or historical figure or whatever, chances are it’s going to be totally awkward, you know? I mean what the hell would we have in common with Marie Antoinette aside from a shared love of cake?

So, you know what? We’re going to say Libba Bray because we’ve already met her and we think she’s AWESOME and maybe if we start stalking her, we’ll all magically become besties.

Find Lisa and Laura online:
Lisa & Laura's blog
Lisa & Laura's website
Lisa & Laura tweet!
Add LIAR SOCIETY to your Goodreads list! Forthcoming from Sourcebooks in Spring 2011.
Read Lisa & Laura's journey--and their query letter--on QT.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Author Success Story: Heather Petty

This week I'm bringing in the big guns: People who've traveled down this long and winding road toward publication. Some of them already have book deals. Some have agents. Some have both. They've "made" it. Join us this week for 75 (yes 75!) success stories! Then dream big. Go forth and query. Conquer.

Click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, Gretchen McNeil and Tiffany Schmidt.

I will be featured on Lisa and Laura Roecker's blog this Friday (and just so you know, Lisa and Laura are still beauty-queen geniuses). Please go check out all the posts this week, because you never know who's going to say exactly what you need to hear to keep moving forward.

Today I've got the girl-with-the-mojo Heather Petty.

CAMP WYLDE in a tweet: Drew Donovan always wanted Faeries to be real, until they started waking up in the forest surrounding the summer camp where she works.


Kelpies are creepy, Pixies are cute, Prophecies are inexplicable & Dark Elves are hot. LET ME SHOW YOU HOW! #CampWylde #noturmamazsummercamp

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn't you?

I’m not really the “giving up” type. I’m more the “I’ll do it until you SUBMIT TO MY WILL!!!” type. (With or without maniacal laughter, depending on my mood.)

So, really it was never a matter of giving up for me. I had only attempted to query one other project, and once I realized I had no idea what I was doing, I pulled back and did what writers do best… I researched the hell out of the industry.

By the time I was querying CAMP WYLDE, I knew enough about the process and the industry to know that it was going to take time and drive. And I inherited the Drive Gene from my dad, who is a musician and artist. And growing up in an artist’s house, I was told every day that I could do anything I wanted to do, as long as I was willing to put in the work. And I was willing. So I was going to keep going until I died or the Zombipocalypse overtook us all.

I may nor may not be overly stubborn. [Elana interrupts to say that Heather received multiple offers of representation and went with Eleanor Jackson at Markson Thoma Literary. Stubborn? Whatev. More like talented.]

What has been the hardest part of your road to publication so far? And why?

Did I mention I have waiting issues? Because I totally have waiting issues.

I think, though, that the hardest part is hanging onto that spark inside you that really believes in your own talent, no matter what happens or how many stories you read or rejections you receive.

Because really, the number of people who will instantly tell you “No” in this business far outnumber those who will even take a moment’s pause to consider your work. [Elana interrupts to say "Amen!"] You will hear over and over about people who come to the precipice of success only to plunge over the side. You will read of people whose agented books never sold, whose numbers weren’t high enough to sell their next big thing, who eked out a publishing presence over decades before finding any modicum of success. And those stories resonate in any writer’s mind as the agent rejections and editor pass letters pour in.

But you have to believe in your own work to survive it. You have to be able to read your own words and say, “Dear GOD that sucks,” and have that push you to work like you never have before to make it better. But at the same time, you also have to be able to read your own words and think, “My GOD that’s brilliant,” know deep down that others will feel that way too, and then work like you never have before to connect with those people.

Maybe there is a bit of narcissism in every artist. Or maybe the truly successful artist craves the act of their art over the praise of their admirers.

Either way, the hardest part is believing in your work when there’s silence or when the only sound you hear is the echo of a NO. And the best solution I’ve found is to seek out those who can relate and those who will cheerlead you no matter what. Keep equal parts around you at all times and lean on each other. Because as much as writing a book is a solitary act, becoming an author shouldn’t be.

Um… and here’s where the joke goes to lighten the mood. Cuz that was all kinds of serious.

What's your best advice to aspiring authors?

My *cough* 27 words of advice: Read voraciously. Write something every day. Be who you are in every word you put on the page, because kids sniff out fakers like it’s their job.

Super Secret: If you could meet anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

This is one of those questions like, ‘Who is your favorite musician?’ where I whine dramatically about “SOPHIE’S CHOICE!!” and beg off. I can never pick just one, and I’m sure it changes day to day. But if I’m selecting purely literary types, today my choices would be:

Agatha Christie, Terry Pratchett, and George MacDonald

In fact, I think a dinner party with those three will be part of my heaven.

Find Heather online:
Heather's LiveJournal
Heather tweets! And she's doing #yafrezy in the month of April. Click here to find out more and join this writing party on twitter with Heather (and me)!
Read Heather's journey--and her query letter--on QT.

See Elana's recent blog posts

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