Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Monday, January 30, 2012

What the BLEEP is a Book Proposal???

Writing Song of the Day: "One Step Closer" by Linkin Park

Hey! You guys remember this post? The one where I was so excited that I got an agent? I was ready to delve into the next step. Getting published! I  mean, that's every writer's goal, right? We want someone besides our family and friends to read our words and love them. And believe me, after you write the book, there's so. Much. More. Work. To do.

Hence the title of this post. After I got my lovely agent, Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary, I was so excited to sit back and wait for her to sell my book. But then I asked, what do we do next? And I got this response: Well, now we get some historians to check the historical validity (okay, that makes perfect sense), and then you need to start working on the book proposal.

My response: HUH? What even GOES in a book proposal? And do I HAVE to write it??? I mean, that's a nonfiction thing, right? RIGHT? Please say, right!

Well, it turns out--no, it is not just a nonfiction thing. And my agency prefers for their fiction writers to pen a book proposal, as well. They feel as if this will persuade the editor to want your book even more.

So, back to the question at hand. What IS a book proposal??? Jennie directed me to the book, Write the Perfect Book Proposal by Jeff Herman and Deborah Levine Herman,  to help me figure this out. From flipping through this book and visiting various sites, I found out there are a couple of key elements that need to go into a book proposal.


Overview: I pretty much used my query letter--just spruced it up some.
Author Bio: Speaks for itself :D
Competition: Find books that publishers may be able to compare your book to. Then tell why your book would fly off the shelves.
Promotion: How will you promote your novel? Editors like to know that you're going to put in some leg work to sale your novel as well. So, what kind of print media can you use to your advantage? What about online media, giveaways/contests, conferences, and appearances. Think about all of the ways that you can help sale your book.
Synopsis: We all work on these at some point when we're writing our novels, anyway. I used the same one that I worked on for a year and changed a bit of it.

I know, right? After I read that, I looked like this:

Then I figured. What the hell? I'll just go for it and see where it takes me. After I finished the first draft and sent it off to Jennie, I got a revised version from Jennie and Dawn Frederick (owner of Red Sofa Literary Agency). And then I looked like this:

But then I sat down and spent two days working on revisions and I think it's A LOT better. Now I feel like this:

And my draft is in the capable hands of my agent. Now, I wait and see if there's anything else to change.
I have to say, after I finished two drafts of my book proposal, it's not as bad as it sounds. Sure, it's a lot of work, but it's also a good way to show that you know your novel like the back of your hand, and also that you are willing to work on the "business" side of the publishing world as well as the creative. Even if you do not have an agent yet, I'd say it wouldn't hurt to do your own mini version of a book proposal. That way if you choose an agency that has their authors do book proposals-- you're already one step ahead!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Free Friday: Personality Tests for Your Characters!

Revising Song of the Day: "Cult of Personality" by Living Colour
You know that feeling you get when you bump into an old crush? A part of you is excited to see him--to check him out, see how he's aged, get those butterflies all in your stomach. However, there's also the chance you'll be a bit terrified: Oh my God, why did I EVER check him out? Look how he's aged! I shouldn't have had that omelet for breakfast...
Yeah. That's kind of how I feel about revisions. I'm either going to open up the manuscript and get all giddy like a middle school girl...or I'm going to want to puke all over my keyboard (thankfully, the latter has never happened. Yet.).

As you probably can tell, I'm strapping on the fingerless gloves and diving back into revisions for Project J. I've always struggled with plot--so during my first few rounds of revisions, I focused on climaxes and conflicts and resolutions, oh my!

But then I lost my character.

That's right--I struggled with my main character. I NEVER thought I'd have trouble with character, but when I zoned in on plot, I forgot about letting my protagonist guide the story.

So what did I do? I popped open an issue of Writer's Digest and read a great article by Mike Nappa, "Skill-Builders for Fiction Writers." One of his suggestions was to complete personality tests for your characters. I thought: hey, I'm a writer. I'm a counselor. This should be fun!

And it was. I knocked a couple of those babies out, and soon I remembered what it was that I loved about my main character, Jonah. I remembered who he was and what he wanted and how he thought--and the butterflies were still there! So, I thought I'd share some of my faves:

Personality Type: This quiz only has 4 questions, but it reveals if your character is an introvert or extrovert. A thinker or a feeler. A scheduler or a freestyler. Pretty cool.

The Stress Test: Allow your character to pick 3 pictures. The one he/she does NOT choose reveals what he/she is stressing about. Great way to figure out potential conflict.

Driving in a New City: Your character gets lost with his/her partner. How does he react? This is awesome in seeing how your character interacts with others.

I could go on and on and on with all the cool quizzes that can help figure out your character, but instead I'll direct you here so you can choose more of you own.

So what do you think? Can personality tests help you with revisions?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Say What?

Reading Song of the Day: "Say It To Me Now" by Glen Hansard

Wednesday. Middle of the week. Road Trip Wednesday with the ladies of YA Highway. All the best things. Today they want us to:

Write a dialogue between two of your favorite YA characters.

So. Hard.

This would have been fun if we had the energy to come up with this post in more time than one day. We're running on fumes that are not quite creative...so, instead, we're gonna show you what most dialogue in YA novels consists of:

First: Conflict

Second: Conflict solved...people are happy for awhile. Alas, not for long...

Third: More conflict and we're left waiting for the next book OR dreaming up a happy ending. Unless, of course the book is by Stephanie Perkins or John Green AKA Masters of Delicious Dialogue!

 So, this is what happens when our brains can't function. We promise to be more creative next time! What do you guys think dialogue in YA novels is like?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Blog Remix

Blogging Song of the Day: "A Change Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke

This post is a lil' late today b/c we're kinda scrambling for time. You all know how that goes. Anyway...we wanted to let you know that our blog is going to get a re-do. Not the look of the blog, we know that's already pretty badass, instead we're changing our blogging schedule and what we talk about. Mainly because we've noticed a decline in comments/views of our book review posts. Because of that we're gonna blog only on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and our topics will fall under the following umbrellas:

Monday: Writing/Reading Tips and Thoughts: In which we share our latest thoughts on writing topics, trends, and tips. We will also discuss books that we're DYING to share with you, let you know how we're doing with our Debut Author Challenge goals, and we'll throw in any publishing news that we may want to share.

Wednesday: YA Highway Road Trip fun: We will participate with the ladies at YA Highway (as we have been) and go road tripping every Wednesday :D

Friday: FREE FRIDAY: It's a free for all, you guys! But not that free...here's an idea of what we might discuss--movies we're planning to see, books we're planning to read, writing ideas we're planning to try, music we're grooving to (we might even share a playlist or two), and anything that's on our minds.

What do you all think? Digging the new schedule? Can't tell the difference? Have something you think we should add to the schedule? We'd love your thoughts and input!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Guest Post: Susan Dennard Gets Messy

Writing Song of the Day: "A Beautiful Mess" by Jason Mraz

Today we welcome Susan Dennard, author of the 2012 debut,  Something Strange & Deadly.  This week the WOA girls are all promoting this awesome debut novel. And of course, giving YOU a chance to read the novel before it's release date. So, read on and find out about Susan's writing process!

My writing process is…well…messy.

Initially, I spew out complete and utter drivel, my fingers flying over the keyboard faster than my brain can even process. And then, after about 3-4 weeks of this, I crash. I’m usually halfway or three quarters of the way finished with the first draft when I  hit this metldown-point, and I’ve usually just reached the notorious MY-BOOK-IS-TOTAL-CRAP stage.

Yep. Sounds silly, but it’s true. I spend the next few days alternating between despair (This book is so, so, so bad needs a complete rewrite. WAAAAAH!) and determination (A rewrite never killed anyone, right? You can do it, Sooz! YOU CAN DO IT.).

Ultimately, determination wins (helped along iby its close frenemy: The Deadline). I print out the whole book, get my writing tools out, and then read the ENTIRE thing in one sitting. Actually, if you want a detailed look at how I revise, you can head here.

This reading/planning stage usually takes a few days. Once I’ve got the Book I Actually Wrote solidly analyzed and thePerfect Book (a.k.a. the Story I Actually Want To Tell) all figured out, I dig into rewriting.

Rewriting is a HUGE part of my process. As I talk about here, I don’t always know the whole story. I know the main plot, but I uncover all those delicious subplots and side threads while I’m writing the first draft (or second…or third…). I know the ending (roughly), but I have NO CLUE how all the subplots and side threads will weave together into a SMASH-BANG ending packed full of resonance.

For example, when I was writing the sequel to Something Strange & Deadly (titled A Darkness Strange & Lovely), I wrote the first two thirds of the book in 3 weeks. I spent the next few weeks revising (and researching in Paris!)...and then I reached the end of my revised two thirds and stopped again. I revised those first two thirds AGAIN...only to peter out and stop AGAIN.

My problem was that I had no idea how to get my character from Point A to Point B. I'd sold the book based on a synopsis, and it was easy enough to say, "Eleanor goes with the Spirit-Hunters into the Parisian catacombs." But actually GETTING her there? Actually giving her a plausible reason to take that as the next step--and more importantly, to have her do so while keeping the tension and excitement high?

As I said here, I rewrote the beginning a few times...then revised it...then attempted an ending (that was TERRIBLE)...and then re-wrote said ending two more times.
Finally--FINALLY--I settled on an ending that was The One. It came out in a flurry of words that were mostly usable since I finally KNEW what needed to happen --since I was finally writing the Perfect Book.

I turned in A Darkness Strange & Lovely on December 15--a little less than 5 months after starting.  It went through two critique partners and my agent before I handed it over to my editor, and by golly, I'm PROUD of what I wrote!

The moral of the story is that ultimately, my “writing” process involves a heck of a lot of “rewriting” because I'm not a particularly good writer...but boy am I one helluva a good REwriter. ;)

So don't despair when your own writing seems bad--you can always, ALWAYS revise it to perfection. DREAM BIG AND NEVER GIVE UP!

Susan's Bio:

Susan is a reader, writer, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She used to be a marine biologist, but now she writes novels. And not novels about fish either, but novels about kick-butt heroines and swoon-worthy rogues (she really likes swoon-worthy rogues). She lives in Germany with her French husband and Irish setter, and you can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on twitterfacebook, or Goodreads. Her debut, Something Strange and Deadly, will be available from HarperCollins in July of 2012, and you will never believe how happy this makes her!

Check out Holly's review.

Here's Erinn's review.

AND here's an interview Kat had with Susan about what happens AFTER you get published.

Tomorrow's your last chance! Be sure to check out Alicia's blog for her post and to enter for your turn with this amazing ARC :D AND of course, don't forget to sign up below!!! 

P.S.: If you can't see the sign up thingy, click on Read More and then it pops up :) Thanks!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Writer's Guide to A Day Off

Writing Song of the Day: "The Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars

Yesterday was MLK day and not only is it a day to celebrate the legacy of a wonderful man, but it was also time that we got to stay home from the day jobs. Which made us think: How SHOULD a writer spend an entire day off from their day job?

Notice the word "SHOULD". We actually spent our day at the dentist, working on stuff for part time jobs, and driving around Virginia Beach/Norfolk, VA. If we had our way though, these are the top five things (in no particular order) that we would've done with our day off:

1.) Sleep: You can never get enough of this. And sometimes, writers get a lot of ideas from their dreams. *coughs* Wants *coughs*

2.) Play on Scrivener/Outline New WIP Ideas: Scrivener is full of amazing. And we're getting a lot of outlining done on new WIPs with this program. All we need is the time to actually use it more.

3.) Revise previous manuscripts: The work doesn't cease after getting an agent. We both have revisions to work on with In Limbo & Project J.

4.) Read: We're pretty sure this doesn't need an explanation.

5.) Watch TV/Listen to Music for Inspiration: Believe it or not, we get a lot of ideas from watching TV shows and movies. Also music helps us get into our characters' heads and allows their voices to come out on the page. It may seem like we're wasting time--but no matter what we're doing, we're always thinking like writers.

What do you think? Is there something else a writer should do when they have time off from the day job??

Psst...hey, you...yes, you. Make sure you stop by our blog Thursday January 19th. Susan Dennard is guest posting and you can enter for another chance to read her ARC of Something Strange and Deadly. Check out Holly's post from yesterday for more details!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012 Debut Author Challenge: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Reading Song of the Day: "A Cinderella Story" by Mudvayne

Will you look at that? I've completed my first book of the New Year! Not only that, but it's the second book I've read for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge. And this is one that I'm sure many of you will enjoy. First, let's see what Goodreads has to say about Marissa Meyer's Cinder:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

In this thrilling debut young adult novel, the first of a quartet, Marissa Meyer introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine and a masterfully crafted new world that’s enthralling.

Interested yet? Well, let's see if this will do it for you:

The Top 3 Reasons You Should Read Cinder:

1. Not Your Average Fairy Tale Retelling: Let's be honest. Fairy tale retellings are pretty hot right now. I'm surprised that I've been so into ABC's Once Upon a Time. And the new Snow White and the Huntsman movie? Quita and I will be in theaters opening night (and not just so Quita can drool over Chris Hemsworth). But Cinder is MORE than just a retelling. Meyer creates new characters, new legends...hell, a new story. Sure, I saw traces of Cinderella a few times, but I'm impressed with how much Meyer didn't rely on the tale we all know and love. You better believe there is no fairy godmother to save the day.

2. Cinder is no Disney princess. Nothing against Disney. I mean, I still try to sing like Ariel in the shower. But Cinder isn't some damsel waiting for the prince to notice her. If anything, she has a goal beyond falling in love with the prince. In fact, the prince comes to her for help. How kick ass is that? As Destiny's Child would say: All the woman who are independent...

3. Likewise, there's no Disney ending. Now, I don't want to give anything away, but let's just say that I was relieved that no one was riding off into the sunset. Don't get me wrong, I love a good love story...but only when it fits with the story. Meyer created a layered character with Cinder. Sure, she's charmed by the prince, but there are bigger issues at hand...and I'm curious to see how she'll tackle them in the future.

If you like...

Book: Girl Parts by John M. Cusick, or

Movie: Ever After

then you'll like Cinder!!

Have you read Cinder yet? What kind of fairy tale retellings would you like to see or read?

Note: Ahem, a contest MAY occur at the end of the month...and commenting on this post can increase your chances to win. :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

RTW: What's in a Name?

Writing Song of the Day: "Say My Name" by Destiny's Child

Woo hoo! Once again it's Wednesday, which means once again we get to join the lovely ladies of YA Highway for their Road Trip Wednesday question. This week they want to know:

If you couldn't use your own name, what would your pseudonym or penname be?

Okay, is it weird that I thought of this answer before...like, A LOT? I would love to write in more than one genre, so I assumed that while I establish myself as Pamela Harris, I may want to try something else out under a new name. I have two choices: Nadine Hunter or Nadine Shelton. Nadine because, well, it's my middle name (I know--ugh). I chose Hunter because my mom's maiden name is "Hunt," and I chose Shelton because that's my dad's first name.

Quita used the same formula to pick a penname (sorry, I got too lazy to spell the other word again). She would use either Sherie Hunt or Sherie Levitt. Sherie is her middle name (pronounced like the French word cherie--her mother just tried to get all creative). She chose Hunt because, again, that's her mother's maiden name (our moms are sisters--get it?), and she chose Levitt because of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. She said, and I quote, "Out of all my celebrity boyfriends, his last name sounds the best with my middle name."

Don't worry--me and the rest of the fam are already fitting her for a straitjacket.

What about you all, peeps? Have a name you'd like to use? Which name do you think we should use if given the option?

Monday, January 9, 2012

When Opinion Crosses Into Bee-yatch Territory

Ranting Song of the Day: "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks

We've been hearing a lot around the interwebz about negative book reviews that are going too far. There are several cases on Goodreads.com that fall into this category. So, the question we wanna pose (and answer ourselves) is, how much of your opinion can you give about a book without feeling like you're being a bee-yatch?

So, let's say book X has just been released. You've been waiting and waiting for it to come on shelves. However, when you get it in your grubby lil' palms, you wanna throw it across the room. The characters lack personality, the story has no climax or rise and fall, the setting is barely described, and the entire thing is written in passive voice. You go to Goodreads, because you like to rate every book that you read. But you're stuck! How many stars do you give it??? Should you be honest and give it 1 (more like half a star if you could, and that half would just be because you liked the cover)? Or should you lie and give it 3 stars--just in case you're ever in a position where you become friends with this author and you want them to pimp your book? OR should you cross that line, give the book 0 stars and go on a five paragraph long rant of every. Single. Thing that was wrong with this book?

Our answer: Be honest, but not a bee-yatch. It's that simple.

That's not simple? Why not? Why do your friends on Goodreads have to know every single word of this book that you hated? You can just rate the book low and move on. A professional author should not take offense to low ratings, we all know reading is subjective. Not every person in the world is going to love our writing, and to be a writer, you have to have thick skin and accept this. BUT, a writer CAN take offense when the reader spends an hour of their day writing out details about why they hated the author's book. Why should the author take offense? Because, that reader's opinion may be different from John Doe. But John Doe reads that review and is put off from the book right away. Therefore, John Doe doesn't even have a chance to pick up the book and decide how he feels about it on his own.

And why else should you refrain from being a bee-yatch? Because no one likes a pissy person. Someone who CONSTANTLY writes long, ranty reviews online will never be the first person that a writer goes to when they are looking for book reviewers. And if you're a book blogger, well, you've just screwed yourself. If you're a fellow writer? You seem like a hater, and people will look even more closely at YOUR writing to make sure you're not doing the things you have so passionately dissed online.

Okay, so the moral to this long blog post? You can be honest without bringing out the claws. When you do, it makes  you look like an ass and people start to wonder: Don't you have other things in your life that are of a little more concern than author X's book with the awesome cover???

Your turn. We can be way off base here and we'd love to hear your opinion! Do you think bee-yatch-ness is EVER necessary when giving book reviews? How do you feel about giving negative reviews?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Our 2012 Writing Resolutions!!

Writing Song of the Day: "The New Year" by Death Cab for Cutie

Okay, we get it...we're about 5 days late in making New Years Resolutions, but we figure better late than never, right?

This time last year, we created 2011 Writing Resolutions (check those out here). This year, we decided to see if we met those goals while including ones for this year. Make sense? Yeah, not really, but we'll take a stab at it anyway.

Pam's Writing Resolutions:

1. Last Year: Revise the ending of Wants.
This Year: Done and done. Well, for now anyhow. Unless an awesome editor believes it needs more work. ;)

2. Last Year: Complete my 2nd YA manuscript and send to beta readers in the Spring.
This Year: Well, I did complete Project J, but it was a little later than usual. Either way, my lovely beta readers helped me get it all nice and pretty to send to my agent. Woo hoo!

3. Last Year: Revise my supernatural YA WIP (my 2010 NaNo project).
This Year: Yeah...that didn't happen. HOWEVER, I did recently read it and it has way more potential than I initially thought. Since I won the Scrivener program, I think I may play around with this story a little this year and see if I can make it shine.

4. Last Year: Outline my 3rd contemporary YA novel.
This Year: Umm, I KILLED this goal. Not only did I write the first draft of another contemporary novel for NaNo 2011, but I also just started outlining my 4th idea. Boo yeah! This year, I'd like to revise the NaNo novel, and finish the 1st draft of the 4th idea. :)

5. Last Year: Write at least 500 words a day.
This Year: Yeah...that didn't happen. However, this year, I'd like to write at least 3 times a week...even if I'm just jotting down ideas or creating character worksheets. I usually kick writing-butt during my summer vacay, too.

6. Last Year: Read at least 2 YA novels a month.
This Year: Okay, that didn't happen either. This year, I'd like to read all of the books I put on my 2012 Debut Author Challenge list, and a handful of sequels that I'm anticipating (I'm looking at you, Insurgent).

7. Last Year: Read 6 adult fiction novels.
This Year: Nah, I think I failed this one, too. This year, I'd like to read at least 3.

8. Last Year: Get a book deal.
This Year: Well, no announcements yet, but I have a great agent and some awesome beta readers in my corner. I'm WAY more optimistic this year compared to last year, so we'll see. :)

Quita's Writing Resolutions:

1. Last Year: Complete my 1st contemporary YA WIP by February.
This Year: Boo yeah! I annihilated that one. I completed the novel around the spring of 2011--close enough to February, right?? This year I plan to finish the first draft of my new historical.

2. Last Year: Nab an agent with my historical YA, In Limbo.
This Year: Right before the year ended, I did just that!! And now we're gonna work on the book proposal and see if we can get me one of them book deals!

3. Last Year: Revise my supernatural YA novel by April.
This Year: Nope--no such luck. BUT I do plan to revise this (it was my NaNo 2010 novel) by the end of spring this year. After reading through it, it's not that bad actually.

4. Last Year: Complete me and Pam's YA idea inspired by Inception.
This Year: Nope. That didn't happen either. Neither one of us has had the time. BUT I hope we can revisit it at some point this year.

5. Last Year: Read more historical YA.
This Year: Hmmm, I think I read a total of three historical YA novels. Yeah, I need to work on that. Maybe I'll give myself an actual goal this year...I will try and read at least 5 historical YAs before the end of 2012.

6. Last Year: Read more adult fiction.
This Year: Didn't do this one, either. I will try and get more in this year, though--definitely. At least 2 or 3.

7. Last Year: Plot a new WIP by early June so that I can finish a draft over the summer.
This Year: This didn't happen either. I was too busy revising my other novels in order to complete # 2 :) But I'm already outlining a new historical and I plan to revise my contemp NaNo from 2011.

8. Last Year: Write SOMETHING each day.
This Year: Yeah, right. With a full time job and two part time jobs--not gonna happen. But like Pam said, writing something at least 3 times a week will work. Even if it's a quick short story or a scene for a new idea.

9. Last Year: A book deal.
This Year: Uh, no--but see # 2!

Whew, that was a lot! Have you all set any writing goals for this year yet?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

RTW: Come Sail Away With Us

Daydreaming Song of the Day: "Daydreamer" by Adele

It's Wednesday, AKA the best day of the week for daydreaming and completing a Road Trip post from YA Highway. Okay, maybe not the best day for daydreaming, but the topic this week makes us do just that. This week, the ladies are asking us:

Describe your dream writing retreat. Where would you go? Who and what would you bring?

Funny that this question is coming up right when we're considering taking a writing retreat in the summer. If we had things our way and didn't have to worry about money, this is what we'd do.

Where We'd Go:

Beautiful St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands (Close runner up: A quiet area--not desolate--but quiet, somewhere in Italy).

Who We'd Bring:

We'd bring, each other- DUH, also our lil' sis Racquel, our Weekend of Awesome pals, Alicia, Erinn, Kat, and Holly (not pictured), and our buddy Megan (also, not pictured). Hmm, we need some pics with these girls...

Racquel, Pam, Quita

 Erinn, Kat, Quita, Pam, Alicia

What We'd Bring:

iPads:  'Cause we're kinda obsessed with them. And also because they will be full of musical inspiration, novels to read (for the times we're stuck on what to write), and hopefully (by that time) the Scrivener App.

Netbooks/Flash Drives: For writing. Nuff said.

Moleskin Notebooks: For those moments that we need to jot down something we might forget later.

Novels: Actual ones that we can hold in our hands--because some novels MUST be held.

Forms of Lubrication (get your minds out of the gutter!): Lotion for Pam & Chapstick for Quita. Also Sun Tan Lotion--'cause ya know, sometimes we'll have to go on the lovely St. Croix beaches to relax before getting more writing done.

Colored Pens: If we're revising a printed draft.

Candy and snacks: To refuel and whatever other excuses we can think of to eat all the bad things.

And,um,some adult beverages: Hopefully these will be provided by the wonderful people at our luxurious Virgin Islands resort...for free.

Oh and we also wouldn't mind bringing a nice, smart (and HOT) island boy back home with us :D
What about you? Where would you go and what would you bring with you??

Monday, January 2, 2012

Omigod...Quita has a FLIPPING Agent!!

Celebrating Song of the Day: "I Celebrate the Day" by Relient K

WOW--after two years of querying/revising/editing TWO manuscripts, I can FINALLY report that yes, the title of this post is correct. I HAVE AN AGENT!!! Over a year ago, Pam gave you this post on how she got her agent (the awesome Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown LTD), so I figured I'd do the same. If you'd like to hear my story...here it go!

I started writing at a young age. I gave you all a sneak peak of my first completed novel (that I wrote at age 15), but then I got practical. I realized if I wanted to make lots of  money, I needed to finish high school and go to college. So, I did...and then I got my degree and became a teacher. Yep, I thought I'd be rolling in the dough from that career. As my fellow educators know, no such luck. Anyway, I digress. Back to my writing journey. Me and Pam got serious about our childhood love of writing and applied for MFA programs. As Pam recounted on her post, we got in and she was told from a literary agent that she has a knack for teen voices...so why not write young adult? She told me and was like, "hey, you usually write in teen voices, too." And from there we began our foray into the wonderful (and I mean, WONDERFUL) world of young adult. Then my first novel was born...

December of 2009: I finished writing a novel based on a screenplay that me and Pam wrote together. Said novel was not my best friend. I kept trying to stick to the screenplay. HOWEVER, I did get a full request from a literary agency with this novel. But, lit agency NEVER responded...

Jan/Feb. 2010: While waiting for news about other manuscript, I began to come up with ideas for a new novel. All I had was these few sentences: Syl Huston is a 15 year old living in Philadelphia in 1918. The year that the Great Influenza has hit the United States. His older brother 18 year old Ricky Huston has enlisted in the United States Army and is sent to fight in Germany- he sends home letters that open up each chapter.
Begins in September 1918- Syl is in school and is called to the principal’s office. There he learns that his aunt, who lives with him has just been taken to the hospital and is in severe condition.

April 2010: Finished my first draft of In Limbo (title was switched to Hysteria briefly). This draft consisted of just Syl--who gets sick and spends the second half of the novel in his bedroom while people visit him. In one word: LAME. Thanks to my alpha/beta reader, Pam, this was quickly changed.

August 2010: Finished second draft--still a little lame, but I felt it was ready to query. WRONG--nothing but rejections. I got a few partial requests, but NO fulls. Pam read again and suggested that I make the love interest black--something to change things up.

October 2010: New draft! And this time my love interest, SJ, is BLACK. And she and Syl have a goal. I also have another beta reader, Ann, read this draft. She loves it, but gives a few suggestions. I take them.

December 2010: Another new draft--this time Syl has religious issues (don't ask where THAT came from...). I query again. I also began the first draft of my contemporary--convinced that agents do not sign debut authors with historical novels.

January 2011: I get my FIRST full request!!! And it's from an agent who LOVES historical- woo hoo! Alas, she passes...

February 2011: I whine, whine, whine about not getting an agent. I do some work on the contemp and query that. I get a couple requests for the contemp and shelve In Limbo while my betas read and let me know WHY it continues to suck.

June 2011: Me and Pam attend our regional SCBWI Novel Retreat. There we get a moment of clarity--why not make In Limbo a dual POV novel??? That might up the tensions, the stakes etc. Pam also suggests that I have one of the couple really not like the other--after all they are interracial and it is the early 20th century. Sooo...I work hard on both of those ideas and send it off to my betas again.

July-September 2011: Feedback from betas and hardwork to get the manuscript JUST RIGHT.

Late September/Early October 2011: I re-query those agents who had slight interest in In Limbo, and I go to QueryTracker.net (QueryTracker, I HEART you) and search for all agents interested in historical YA novels. There's quite a few...so I weed through them and find the ones who seem like they really, truly love historicals. That's when I see the name...Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary Agency. Not only does she WRITE historical novels herself, she also has a freakin' PhD in American Civilization from Harvard!! I queried her on September 27th, 2011--she answered a short six days later. She said she is intrigued and wanted to read the first three chapters. YES!

October 2011: I continued to query my contemp. and had a full & partial out for that, too. But Jennie got back to me on October 10th, saying she enjoyed it and wanted to read the full. OMIGOD!

Then on the 18th, Jennie wrote back and said she loved the manuscript overall, but had a few things she wanted me to look at and change. I agreed--so I worked on the revisions right away.

November 2011: On November 20th, 2011 I sent back the revised version of In Limbo. On the 30th, Jennie wrote back and said she really enjoyed the revise and resubmit...then asked if there was a time we could talk!!!

December 2011: WE TALKED! She offered--I wanted to accept right away. Jennie LOVES my novel, she loves history--what more can I ask for? But I had other material out. I had to give those agents a chance to read and decide if they loved my work enough. After all was said and done...I signed with Jennie on December 20th, 2011! 

AND NOW? NOW I have an agent!!! 

That was A LOT...and I don't blame you if you skipped some parts. I can get a lil' long winded sometimes. Sorry :( Anyway, I hope reading about my "journey" gives you all some insight into the work that it takes. In Limbo didn't get agented until I wrote 10 (YES, TEN--granted some of the drafts had small changes, but still) various drafts of it. It takes work, people...lots of it.

Thanks for reading :D