Monday, March 31, 2014

Getting the Call: Stacey Trombley

So happy to have a new dose of inspiration for those half-way spring days. We're hanging on the edge of winter and not always in the best of weather. It can be a down time so here's some good news to share and spread.

We all know publishing moves slowly and it's nice to see manuscripts from last year making good! And it couldn't happen to a better gal. Please leave Stacey some congrats on her exciting news! (I want you back with a cover release, Stacey!)

I started writing in 2009 when I was a twenty year old newlywed. The learning curve for a new, young, writer is STEEP! I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But soon I was so deep into my stories that I didn’t care about the hard work or how long it would take. I wanted it too badly. 

It’s funny because every step of the way I’d look back and think about how much I’d learned and how much better I was than before. And those moments kept happening (they’re STILL happening). I kept growing and learning and every time I thought I was REALLY ready, I learned I wasn’t even close. 

I was completely convinced that my first book, a YA fantasy, was going to make it. I fought for it. For years, I fought for it. I didn’t even know if I could love another story that much. 

But one day I came up with a new idea. One that was VERY different from the first. An emotional story about a teenaged prostitute. That story actually sat in my head, stewing, for over a year before I finally sat down to write it. I knew it was a story that needed to be told. 

And something interesting happened. 

I fell in love. Not even really with the story, but with the character. Anna is so incredible, I can’t even begin to describe how she jumped off the page for me. 

I wrote the first draft of Naked in November 2012 and started querying in March. I still hadn’t given up on my fantasy but this was my new shiney. I entered all the contests I could because I’m obsessed with them! 

Contests for me are so much less about what they give you and more about the experience. Each one I learn more, I learn something new. I meet writers, I see some amazing stories (and I’ve had the opportunity to read a few of them!) I watched as others succeed and knew my time would come. I believed it.  
Most of all, contests pushed me to be better. 

I entered Query Kombat with my YA contemporary (nicknamed Tricks Aren’t For Kids for the contest) and even though I only made it past the first round, I learned a TON! I got some fantastic feedback and met some seriously amazing people. It was just another step on my way to my own success. 

The step after Query Kombat for me was Pitchmas, another contest. Ironically, I wasn’t chosen for the main event, but I still decided to pitch during the twitter pitch party and that’s where things changed for me. 

Here was my pitch: “Anna's busted for prostitution + sent back to the suburbs to be "normal" again. A geeky boy named Arney becomes her only friend #pitchmas YA” 

And, I got a request…. from Stephen Morgan of Entangled. 

Entangled is a publisher I’ve honestly admired for a while. The only reason I hadn’t already submitted to them before was because I was focusing on my agent search. But once he requested my manuscript I came up with all kinds of excuses as to why I should send. It might not be following perfect etiquette, since I still had my work out with agents, but I’m very glad I did it. (I took a whole lot into consideration, including the fact that if I send and he offers, I might be walking away from the opportunity to try for a bigger publisher. I was okay with that. I felt Entangled could give me everything I wanted.) 

It took about 2 months for him to email me asking to talk on the phone. He wanted to work with me to revise my novel. He loved the writing, the voice, the concept, but thought the plot/structure needed some work. So I spent months emailing him back and forth, talking on the phone (more than once) until we got to a point that he felt he could take it to acquisitions. 

Another 2 months went by before I got another call from him. “Are you sitting down? It’s good news!” 

They offered and I accepted! 

This road was long and hard but totally worth it. I’m so excited to say that my debut novel will be published with Entangled Teen! 

Hundreds of people have helped me along the way, including the amazing folks who run Query Kombat, and I’m sure there will be hundreds more in the future. Thank you! Thank you for all your hard work, thank you for taking the time to help others. It really makes a difference. 

And to those writer’s still looking for their success story: You’ll find it. Just keep looking. It might not come how you expect it, but the only way to get there is to keep moving forward. 

Read my full success story here: 


Stacey Trombley writes YA and MG of all shapes and sizes. Her debut novel will release from Entangled in 2015.Find her at, and on twitter @Trombolii.

My Writing Process--Blog Hop

I'd like to thank Susan Keogh author of the Jack Mallory series for inviting me to join this blog hop. Susan has two excellent books of historical fiction in The Prodigal and the sequel The Alliance. Check out her post here.

And here are my answers about my writing process:

1) What am I working on?

I'm working on a YA fantasy titled Grudging

To follow his brother into the pelotón and earn his beard as a fighting man is all seventeen-year-old Ramiro ever wanted. Until Ramiro's home is surrounded by the innumerable armies and siege machines of the Northerners. Cut off from allies and outnumbered behind their walls, their lone chance at help lies to the west in the acre after acre of swamp inhabited by their ancient enemies the witches. To win a witch over, he must speak with her, but the girl's voice could prove to be the last thing Ramiro hears.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to fill my stories with twists and the unexpected so I can catch my reader off guard. Characters who may not be what they seem and the event you didn't expect to happen. And though I write about civilizations that are far from modern, I do like to make my characters speak and act as if they were from 2014. 

3) Why do I write what I do?

I guess I write what I prefer to read. Fantasy has been my favorite read for as long as I can remember. I've always been drawn to worlds unlike our own and problems involving magic, sword play, and heroes in shining armor finding their way to win over all. Escapism from the realities of the everyday world is what interests me. 

4) How does your writing process work?

I'm a slow writer (pantser, not a planner) and I usually take about a week to punch out a chapter. I may but no good for NaNoMoWri, but that chapter is usually pretty clean with little editing required. I take my time and my first draft is quite close the final draft. Trying to push myself to achieve a certain word count doesn't work for me. It has to be all there in my head, waiting to go on the page before I can write.

Morning is my favorite time to write just because my brain seems more awake then. I get my best ideas when cleaning or taking a walk. Activities where my brain can go someplace else and plot and plan. 

I usually exchange chapters as I finish them with my CP Carla and send the whole thing off when it's finished to the rest of my wonderful CPs. Then I mope and take a long lazy break from writing because a single book can take me a year to finish and I get so invested that it's hard to move on to something new. 

Now I get to invite three others to join the hop and share their writing process:

SC Author:  SC is a huge Harry Potter fan who is currently writing an Adult Contemporary. He hosts fun contests on his blog, scwrite and can be found on Twitter @SC_Author.

Heather Murphy Capps: Heather is a teacher, writer and former tv reporter. She blogs at Cue My Muse and is on Twitter @HeatherMC66.

Jamie Adams: Jamie is a book writing eater of pizza and lover of all things magical. When she's not spinning stories, she's finishing grad school, buying new shoes, taking awesome naps, and interning for Month9Books. If you send her Parks and Rec gifs, she'll be your best friend. Check out her blog at Jamie Adams Writing.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Couple of April Contests

April Showers brings ... Pitch Contests!!  Here's a couple of cool pitch contests coming up in April that you'll want to get involved in.

Pitch Slam! Battle of the Bands!

Submission for this music-themed pitch contest starts on April 20th. You'll need a 35 word pitch, the first 250 of your manuscript, and the song you associate with the theme of your story. There will be managers, talent scouts, and executives from Literary Records to help you along the way. All the information is here. This contest is being put together by the sweetheart Leatrice McKinney, or EL. You might see me around this one somewhere!

 The Writer's Tank!

This contest is based on the tv show Shark Tank. Again you need a 35 word pitch and the first 250 of you manuscript, along with a query letter. Agents will select from pitches to see the query letter and first 250. Submission is April 10th and 11th. It sounds like fun! This contest is run by my good friend SC_Author. You can find out more here.

Like A Virgin 2014

This contest wants only manuscripts that are fresh to the querying/contest scene. This one is for NA and YA only. You'll need a query and your first 250. Hurry and get ready! Submission is April 4th! This contest is run by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez. Hashtag #LV14.  Find out more here.

There's nothing like contests for meeting other writers, forming connections, and having a good time during the rejection spree that can be querying. Don't be afraid to try your luck. You might not get chosen but you just might meet some great people and learn something about pitching and querying. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Sixteen-year-old Andi is tired of being a second-class sibling to perfect sister Laina. The only thing Andi’s sure she has going for her is her awesome hair. And even that is eclipsed by Laina's perfect everything else.

When Andi’s crush asks her to fix him up with Laina, Andi decides enough is enough, and devises a twelve-step program to wrangle the spotlight away from Laina and get the guy. 

Step 1: Admit she’s powerless to change her perfect sister, and accept that her life really, really sucks. 

Step 4: Make a list of her good qualities. She MUST have more than just great hair, right?

Step 7: Demand attention for more than just the way she screws things up. 

When a stolen kiss from her crush ends in disaster, Andi realizes that her twelve-step program isn’t working. Her prince isn’t as charming as she'd hoped, and the spotlight she’s been trying to steal isn’t the one she wants.

As Laina’s flawless façade begins to crumble, the sisters work together to find a spotlight big enough for both to shine.


Having a sister myself, I was immediately drawn to the blurb for Twelve Steps. Sibling rivalry is a powerful motivator, throw in guys and all heck can break lose.

When I dived into this the fear existed that Andi would be the kind of main character that is focused entirely on other people. That all she would think about would be the evilness of her sister and the hotness of the guy. That Andi would be a cliché.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. The relationship between the sisters is rich and complex and full of more love than hate! Andi really has her own life and strong friends; she’s not a tag-along to her perfect sister. 

Andi may manipulate and spy (even peeking at sis’s diary) but she does it in a good-hearted way, without a spiteful attitude. She cares about her sister and not in buried, deep-down way.

And sister Laina is not exactly a model of perfection. Like Andi, she’s a very real person too, not a cardboard cutout. Behind the good looks, Laina battles esteem issues which face so many girls.

The progression of the plot as Andi comes to realize her own value and her sister’s humanity is also very well handled. It’s done in a gradual and natural way, allowed to evolve at its own pace and with setbacks along the way.

The romance is sweet without being full of sickening syrup. Guys swirl around Andi, but she sorts through the confusion inside herself to find the one suited for her. And even gives Liana the needed push to settle her own love life.

Plus you gotta love a girl who eats like Andi! Oreos with milk and tons of chili cheese fries. TWELVE STEPS is a fun read! 

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About the Author:

As the second of eight children and the mother of four, Veronica Bartles is no stranger to the ups and downs of sibling relationships. (She was sandwiched between the gorgeous-and-insanely-popular older sister and the too-adorable-for-words younger sister.) She uses this insight to write stories about siblings who mostly love each other, even while they’re driving one another crazy.   When she isn’t writing or getting lost in the pages of her newest favorite book, Veronica enjoys knitting fabulous bags and jewelry out of recycled plastic bags and old VHS tapes, sky diving (though she hasn’t actually tried that yet), and inventing the world’s most delectable cookie recipes.  TWELVE STEPS is Veronica Bartles's first novel.

Author Links: 
Blog tour schedule

Buy Links:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Query Questions with Taylor Haggerty

Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.


Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a new series of posts called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!

If you have your own specific query question, please leave it in the comments and it might show up in future editions of Query Questions as I plan to rotate the questions. It's that time again. I need suggestions of fresh questions! Please leave a comment with new ideas or questions you want kept. 

A happy, shiny welcome to Taylor Haggerty for sharing her query slush procedure. EDIT: Taylor Haggerty is now with Root Literary. 

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
No, I'm always looking for new projects! 

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
Not for me. Multiple typos or grammatical errors would be a red flag, though.
Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
I always take a look, but how far I read depends on the strength of the writing and my interest in the premise.

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
I read and respond to everything myself. 
If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
Yes, please. I like to see the first 10 pages of the manuscript, whatever that includes. 

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
The manuscript is the important part, but a brief personalized touch can be nice. (It reminds me that I am not, in fact, a query-reading robot!)
Most agents have said they don’t care whether the word count/genre sentence comes first or last. But is it a red flag if one component is not included?
Both elements should appear somewhere in the query, but I agree that the placement doesn't really matter.

Writers hear a lot about limiting the number of named characters in a query. Do you feel keeping named characters to a certain number makes for a clearer query?
I don't know that there's necessarily a magic number, but you're aiming for a clear and concise introduction to the storykeeping character names to a minimum certainly helps achieve that. 

Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?
Titles are often changed, so the one you query with doesn't necessarily have to be The One. That said, I do get pretty excited when I come across a brilliant title, so it can certainly be a way to stand out. 

How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?
The number of queries varies greatly from week to week, as does the number of manuscripts I request. Sometimes I'll go a week or two without requesting a single one, and other times I'll request several in a day. 

Many agents say they don't care if writers are active online. Could a twitter account or blog presence by a writer tip the scales in getting a request or offer? And do you require writers you sign to start one?
No, it wouldn't tip the scales. A great book trumps an online presence every time, so that's my focus when I'm looking for new clients.

Some writers have asked about including links to their blogs or manuscript-related artwork. I’m sure it’s not appropriate to add those links in a query, but are links in an email signature offensive?
Not at all! 

If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested?
I'd say it's fine to requery if the revised ms is substantially different; otherwise, it's probably not the best use of anyone's time. 

What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?
Something short and sweeteven a single line about your job or education, or just the fact that this is your first novel, is sufficient. Don't worry too much about it, the pitch is the important part!

What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you?
Usually it means that I wasn't invested in the characters, or that something about the voice or the way the story developed didn't resonate with me. And sometimes I come across a perfectly lovely project that just doesn't have that certain spark for me. The very next agent to read might fall head-over-heels for the story, but if I'm not excited I'm not going to be the best advocate for it.

Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
YesI enjoy the editorial process, and work with my clients to ensure a manuscript is as strong as possible before it goes out to editors.

What’s the strangest/funniest thing you’ve seen in a query?
Sometimes people will complain about the querying process in their query. (Fair enough, but I'm also probably not the best person to complain to...)

What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
1) Historical fantasy and historical fiction (especially stories with great female characters, dual contemporary/historical narratives, family secrets, or anything with a unique perspective on a major historical figure or event), 2) YA fantasy, and smart, funny, contemporary realistic YAs, and 3) unique settings (I love anything with a gothic feel, and am a sucker for gorgeous international settings). I also have a soft spot for unreliable narrators and books with interesting, non-linear structures. That's actually more than three, but there you have it!

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes? 
Good Will Hunting and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are the first two movies that come to mind (okay, okay, and also Mean Girls), and Sherlock and House of Cards are currently my favorite TV shows. For books, Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind is one of my long-standing favorites (and I would love to find something like this), and I most recently read Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. For YA, some of my favorites include Code Name Verity, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Girl of Fire and Thorns, Grave Mercy, and Love and Other Perishable Items. 

I love books that surprise me: the ones that are just a little unexpected, a little more clever, or funny, or twisty than I’d anticipated going in. Across the board, I’m looking for high-concept premises and manuscripts that demand to be read in a single sitting. I tend to connect with a strong sense of place, beautiful writing, and a voice that jumps off the page, and love books that blend genres or try new and interesting modes of storytelling, whether that means playing around with format, or putting a new spin on a tried-and-true trope.

Here are a few things that are particularly high on my wishlist right now:

YA & MG:
In YA, I'm especially eager to find fast-paced, high-stakes fantasy with incredible and unique worldbuilding, magical realism, and accessible, character-driven SF. On the contemporary side of things, I'm looking for a smart, funny, romcom (bring on the banter!) and would love to find a romance that feels larger-than-life. Across the board, I love sibling and found-family stories, swoony romance, and anything centering on friendship. Some of my all-time favorite reads include Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Robin LaFevers's Grave Assassins trilogy, Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity, and Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun. I'm also on the lookout for MG projects that strike that perfect balance of heart and humor. I'm particularly drawn to friendship stories, and books featuring kids who are passionate about their interests, whether that means space, art, magic, monsters, or cupcakes. I welcome authors from all backgrounds and am particularly excited to boost underrepresented voices.

Romance & women's fiction:
Send me books that are perfect for the beach! I'm always looking for smart, funny, voice-driven projects to add to my list --- the more fun and escapist, the better --- and have a tendency to fall for books that blur the lines between romance and women’s/general commercial fiction. (My client Sally Thorne's The Hating Game is a great example of my taste here.) High-concept is key! For romance, I'm primarily looking for contemporary, or a big, hooky historical series (moreso than paranormal or romantic suspense right now, but never say never!). In women’s fiction, I’m partial to multi-generational stories, and anything with a historical element that still feels relevant and important today. I want the book that you can recommend to your mom, best friend, neighbor, and yoga instructor all in one go, as well as books that are just plain fun – and extremely well executed.

I’m actively building my client list, and would love to hear from you if you think we might be a fit!

Friday, March 21, 2014


Ellis Rogers is an ordinary man who is about to embark on an extraordinary journey. All his life he has played it safe and done the right thing, but when faced with a terminal illness, he’s willing to take an insane gamble. He’s built a time machine in his garage, and if it works, he’ll face a world that challenges his understanding of what it means to be human, what it takes to love, and the cost of paradise. He could find more than a cure for his illness; he might find what everyone has been searching for since time began…but only if he can survive Hollow World. 

I'm a big fan of this writer's fantasy books and thought I'd step out of my comfort zone and read Michael Sullivan's science fiction. Besides I haven't read any science fiction for a dog's age.

Hollow World kept up a fascinating plot while at the same time posing tough questions.—What is important in life? Does individuality matter? Does gender matter? What is the nature of love?—Yet the book asked those questions without veering outside the margins and preaching the answers to the reader.

I really appreciated how this book made me look deeper inside myself. That’s what a great book should do.

As far as plot goes, the main character is a very ordinary guy, not your normal main character. After discovering a terminal illness, Ellis Rogers leaves his disappointing life behind and takes a risk on time travel. He goes not 200 year into the future but 2000. What he finds there will be a surprise to the reader and is sure to entertain. 

As always with Michael Sullivan the world-building is superb, the characters sure to be sympathetic, and the pace speeds to a satisfying conclusion. His fantasy books number among my favorites and now his science fiction story has joined them.

I received this book from Net Galley in return for an honest review. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Query Questions with Sara Megibow

Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.


Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a new series of posts called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!

If you have your own specific query question, please leave it in the comments and it might show up in future editions of Query Questions as I plan to rotate the questions.

Sara Megibow moved to KT Literary. Thanks to her for taking the time to answer some questions. 

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
Thanks for having me here today! This is a great question and one I get asked frequently. The short answer is no - we receive queries 365 days a year and I am very good at reading them carefully. So no - there is not a better or worse time of year to query.

The long answer is - what I’m really looking for in a query is superior writing and a unique concept. Unfortunately, due to the high volume of queries (we received 40,000 in 2013), we don’t personalize our response. Every query is read carefully regardless of the time of year it was submitted. Queries that catch my attention receive a response asking for the first 30 pages and queries that aren’t quite what I’m looking for receive a standard rejection letter via email. Sometimes (like in December) my response might take 2-4 weeks and sometimes (like in February) my response might be as quick as two days. But, everything that comes in is read carefully and with an eye toward acquisition. Writers don’t need to worry that they received a rejection due to the time of year and they don’t need to worry that their queries aren’t being read carefully. 

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?

Nope, but great question and another one that I am asked frequently.

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
Each agency is different in this. At Nelson Literary Agency we ask for a query letter only - no sample pages attached. When a query demonstrates superior writing and a unique concept, then I ask for sample pages. In 2013, we read 40,000 queries, 1,200 sample pages and 98 full manuscripts. From there, we offered representation to 7 clients and 6 of them have book deals so far. So, the short answer to this question is - we only read sample pages when the query is strong. My slush pile has many, many, many good queries - I think it’s inaccurate to say that the slush pile is filled with crap - it’s not. However, I’m not looking for good - I’m looking for truly superior because that’s how tight the competition is in publishing. 

 Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
I read them all myself.

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
Yes, we ask for the first 30 pages regardless of what those 30 pages include. Page 1 to page 30, period. Great question!

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
Here are three examples of query letters that resulted in an offer of representation and a book deal. This is exactly what I’m looking for:

Tiffany Reisz for THE SIREN

Michael J. Martinez for THE DAEDALUS INCIDENT

Miranda Kenneally for CATCHING JORDAN (Originally called SCORE):

Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?
Most of my clients have had the titles of their books changed, so don’t sweat that too much. Conversely, I’ve never been asked to change names of characters so the writer should feel confident in their choice there. Just to reassure everyone - I’m not rejecting queries due to titles or character names, so go forth and write with no worries on that angle.
What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?
I think it’s fine to say, “this is my first novel” and leave it at that. Most of my clients are debut writers - I actually prefer to work with the newbies, so in this case saying “I’m new” is a benefit to you.

Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
No I don’t and this is an excellent question to ask an agent when she/he offers representation. I’m excellent at selling books and I identify works in the slush pile that are ready to go. Certainly I read and help shape my clients’ second, third, fourth, etc books, but in general I am not an editorial agent. There are some wonderful agents out there who are also great editors and if that’s what you are looking for in a partnership, you will find it!

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes? 
Some (non-client) books I’ve loved recently include: THE THOUSAND NAMES by Django Wexler, ABOVE by Leah Bobet, A SNICKER OF MAGIC by Natalie Lloyd, LET’S GET LOST by Adi Alsaid and FAR FROM YOU by Tess Sharpe and NO PROPER LADY by Isabel Cooper.

Some upcoming client books set to release this spring (of course, I’m ridiculously excited about all these books):

HIGH & DRY by Sarah Skilton - an edgy Veronica Mars-esque adventure
THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY by Jaleigh Johnson - fantasy middle grade about two girls who evade dangerous warlords by running away on a magical train
BOYS LIKE YOU by Juliana Stone - a beautiful, heart-warming book about two shattered teens who find love

Thanks again and happy writing!


Sara has been with Nelson Literary Agency since early 2006. Her first responsibilities included reading query letters, sample pages, and full manuscripts, and she was promoted to Associate Literary Agent in 2009. From sexy romance to epic fantasy, Sara has loved reading since picking up her first copy of The Hobbit. Sara earned a B.A. in Women’s Studies and a B.A. in American History from Northwestern University. She loves to ski, hike, kayak, and hang out with her beat-boxing husband, adorable son, and fuzzy cat.
Read about Sara’s submissions, clients, and sales at Publishers Marketplace.
Follow Sara on twitter @SaraMegibow.
LGBTQ friendly!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Valuable Links: Getting all the Hot News

So you use twitter to get all the latest gossip and news about contests. You follow agents and see what they're talking about. But guess what--you're following more and more people and it's hard to sort out what you want to see from what you don't need.

Fear not. I have the answer (if you don't know about it already).  TWEETDECK!  

Yes, Tweetdeck will let you separate people into clear and easy to read columns. (Isn't that where people belong?) Simply classify tweeters into Lists on twitter and arrange those Lists into their own columns.

Now you can see agents here, contest runners next to them, and friends in their own space. You can lump together such greats as Bunny Buddha with Jerry Seinfeld and POTUS, maybe throw in weather guru Al Roker. 

Never miss another important tweet thanks to Tweetdeck.  (No animals have been harmed in the making of this post.)  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mini-Contest Winners

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

My first newsletter went out this morning, and I think the experiment is a success so far. Over one hundred wonderful people signed up for early notice of contests, writing news, and offers. 

Of course you can still sign up using the contact form in the right sidebar. The more the merrier! In April the newsletter will have the call for mentor and judge volunteers to help out with Query Kombat. And I expect it will also hold some sneak peaks at that contest and some agents involved.

As for the mini-contest:

Bess Cozby won the query critique from Sarah Negovetich! And Kathleen Allen won the query critique from me!

I want to thank everyone who entered and signed up for the newsletter. Your support has been wonderful! The writing community is just the best.

I'm happy to give to you guys with this blog and contests. You give such heartwarming support to me in return.  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Short Cuts- When Are They Okay?

In writing you can't take short cuts. You have to learn the rules. Have to spend the time on the research. Have to read your writing again and again to perfect it with edits.

But there is one area where short cuts aren't frowned upon, but encouraged. I'm talking about dialogue!

When creating dialogue to put in the mouths of your characters, you need short cuts. You want your conversations to feel like they could actually be spoken by real people.

You don't want characters to sound unnatural or even worse stiff. (Exception if you're showing the character is stiff and awkward.) There are a couple of obvious tricks to accomplish the natural feel.

Experts recommend doing a little eavesdropping. Listen in on stranger's conversations. Pay attention to your own. What will you notice?

First off, you'll hear that people take short cuts when they speak. People are lazy. Why spell everything out when you can shorten? They leave out words. They use contractions. 

Next you'll learn people use slang to make conversations even shorter. Why say a whole phrase when one word covers it all? 

And if something is understood between the parties speaking, they're not going to mention it all. 

For example these people use reasonably correct grammar:

"Hello. How are you doing?" he asked. 
"I am good," she said.
"Do you want to come to the basketball game at our high school this Friday night with me?"
She blushed. "That would be fun."

It's very stiff. Very unnatural.

Now here it is again with shortcuts:

"Hey. How's  it?" he asked.
"Good." she said.
"Wanna go to the game Friday?"
She blushed. "Awesome!"

The better people/characters know each other, obviously, the more shortcuts they will take when speaking with each other. Shortcuts can clue the reader in to the depth of a relationship, showing how well characters know each other. You want it to be more formal with strangers, more informal with friends and family.

What kind of game and where it takes place is something understood between them. For it to actually be included in the conversation is to lead or clue the reader. Sometimes it's necessary to throw out clues for the reader. In this case, it might be better to add 'basketball' back into the equation.

"Hey. How's  it?" he asked.
"Good." she said.
"Wanna go to the basketball game Friday?"
She blushed. "Awesome!"

An exaggerated example of leading the reader:

Mom says, "Do not forget to pick up the paper and get the mail while we leave you alone and go to Niagara Falls in New York for the whole weekend."
I roll my eyes. "Yes, Mom."

Would Mom really have to mention where they are going and for how long? Wouldn't daughter know this fact already? Putting this information in dialogue is a clumsy way to clue the reader.

Here's a different option:

Mom says, "Don't forget to get the mail and the paper while we're gone."
I roll my eyes. Did Mom think thieves were going to break in while her parents went to Niagara Falls for one weekend? "Yes, Mom."

Leading in dialogue rarely comes across as natural. It just feels hokey and forced. But if you can manage the same thing by using internal thoughts you can also add voice and attitude to your character. Letting the reader get to know the character and her opinions is a bonus.

So to be short ('cause I feel I know ya'). Take shortcuts in dialogue. Drop words. Use contractions. Use slang. Don't lead. 

Have fun.