Quick update before the Big Announcement tomorrow (have you signed up for the newsletter, followed us on Twitter, and liked us on Facebook?? Good! You'll be first to know.) that's both good news and sad news.
First, the sad news. One of our Teen Team has decided, for personal reasons, to call it quits. Let's all give Mad, who's been in this with us from the very beginning, a huge thank-you for all she's done for the group! From formatting contest/crit entries to writing From The Trenches posts, Mad's carved her name in the history of the blog, and we'll be forever grateful for her time and awesomeness. Thank you, Mad!
As we're waving one Team member off, we're excited to usher in someone new. The good news: Constance is joining the Team as a Chat Hostess! Look forward to her chats on Friday evenings. (Speaking of which, she's hosting one tonight! Be there. 7pm EST.) Welcome to the Team, Constance! We can't wait to see even more of your awesomeness around here.
That being said, we're looking to the future. Specifically tomorrow.
You may have noticed our newsletter's just a couple days late this month. That's because there are a lot of changes going on right now behind-the-scenes. Just hang tight! You'll get your shiny all-in-one-place email SOON. We promise!
We’ve all heard the saying that if you love what you
do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
I’m not going to mince words.
Whatever you do guys, please, make sure it makes you
happy. Money is fine and all, but if you’re miserable, the job will be another
job and nothing more. It won’t bring you joy and it won’t bring you peace.
Since I think it’s safe to say that everyone here
loves writing to the point of insanity, I’m going to gear this towards that,
and say that writing is sometimes just plain hard.
It’s not always easy, but if you really love it, you’ll
push through that. You’ll keep going even when it’s hard, because there is a
light at the end of that tunnel.
Don’t believe me?
Ask a published author. I’m sure they’ll tell you
that when they were just starting out, they didn’t think they’d make it either.
But you know what?
I’m going to end this post now, before I say something
really stupid. :)
1. Decide to write a book.
2. Tell everyone about this book you're gonna write.
2b. Tell them they need to wait, like, maybe a year before they get to read it.
3. Open up your word processor.
4. Stare at blank page.
5. Write something.
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5. Repeatedly.
7. Repeat step 6. Repeatedly.
8. Search the internet for critique partners.
9. Don't click with those CPs.
10. Repeat step 8.
11. Send manuscript to CPs.
13. Eat chocolate.
14. Receive by CP notes.
16. Eat more chocolate.
17. Incorporate notes.
18. Repeat steps 11-17.
19. Write query letter.
20. Get query letter critiqued.
21. Revise query letter.
22. Repeat steps 20+21.
23. Research agents.
24. Query agents.
25. Eat chocolate.
26. Receive rejections.
27. Receive partial request!
28. Receive rejections.
29. Receive full request!
30. Receive partial rejection.
31. Receive rejections.
32. Receive full request!
33. Receive full rejection.
34. Receive OFFER OF REPRESENTATION.
35. Sign with AWESOME agent.
36. Blog about it.
37. Get agent notes for revisions.
39. Eat chocolate.
41. Send revisions to agent.
42. Eat chocolate.
43. Agent returns manuscript with smaller line edits.
44. Eat chocolate.
46. Send revisions to agent.
47. Get email saying "Looks good, we're going on sub next week."
50. Eat chocolate.
51. Repeat steps 48-50.
52. See pitch letter.
52b. See pitch list.
53. Organize your bookshelf by publishing imprint.
54. Dream of auctions and dollar signs.
55. Realize you'd be happy with ANYONE wanting your book.
55b. Even if it's only a $1000 advance.
55c. A $100 advance?
55d. FOR FREE, PLEEEEEASE!!!
56. Go on sub.
57. Surgically attach phone and computer to your body.
58. Eat chocolate.
59. Frantically call agent every hour, wondering if you were forgotten about.
60. Get rejection.
61. Get "editor interest."
63. Eat celebratory chocolate.
64. Get told there wasn't enough support from the house.
66. Eat chocolate.
67. Get more "editor interest."
68. Hold your breath, because you're an old hat now.
69. GET AN OFFER OMG OMG OMG.
71. Eat celebratory chocolate.
73. Finalize details.
74. Write a blog post about it.
75. Get editorial letter.
77. Eat chocolate.
79. Send off revisions.
80. Get more revisions.
81. Repeat steps 76-79.
82. Get line edits.
83. Repeat steps 76-79.
84. Get copy edits.
85. Repeat steps 76-79.
86. Get first pass page.
88. Get ARCs.
90. Start thinking about marketing.
91. Do interviews.
92. Plan author tours.
92b. Plan blog tours.
93. See finished copy of book.
95. Freak out at typo on page 82.
96. Eat chocolate
97. Release day party!
98. See book on shelves at bookstores.
99. Pinch self--this must be a dream.
100. Realize you are published.
I've been mulling over this for a few days now, and since I'm late to post my From The Trenches, I figured now's a good time to get it out.
So, character descriptions. They're what let us know what a character looks like. (Duh!) I'm a visual person, so to me, they're extremely important. I like to know what to imagine when I'm seeing the scenes play out in my head. Who's throwing that axe? What do they look like? Who's saying that while waving their arms? How does this group of people look together?
While I think you shouldn't over-describe your characters (just like everything else, too much is too much!), I actually need the details. Height, weight, skin color, eye color, hair color. All those things are really helpful to me when I'm reading.
I've read a few books now that have gone quite a few chapters before they mentioned what their protagonist looked like. When they finally did, it was jarring, because I'd had to fill that blank, visual-less space with an invention of my own. Particularly when the novel's first person, we're right in our MC's head, it's SO easy to avoid how hard it is to describe them without the use of a mirror. But for me, I really need it to happen, within the first few chapters, if at all possible.
I need that visual.
Some of you may disagree. And that's what I'd like to know. How much should characters be described? Which parts do you think should be left to the imagination? How soon in a novel should a writer mention physical appearances?
As promised in the newsletter, we have another Author Interview for you! This time, it's with newly-published author Jodi Meadows. Write On!, meet Jodi!
Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut.
*A Kippy is a cat.
MAGGIE: Your debut novel, "INCARNATE", was just released this year! How exciting! Tell us a little bit about it-- the premise, the story behind writing it, and how it ultimately landed in book stores.
JODI: Hah, this question is totally cheating. There are like five questions in one! But okay. I've actually gone over the publication process with Authoress Anonymous recently, HERE*.
So, the short version is this: many years ago, I had an idea to write a story set in a world where everyone was perpetually reincarnated, except one new person. But that idea sounded hard, so I put it aside and worked on other projects. Then, when I was coming off a really low point in my writing life, I decided to write a story for me, rather than for publication. I wrote INCARNATE. It ended up getting published anyway.
MAGGIE: Maybe just a little. ;) Perfect answer! Which brings us to: Querying can be a long and wearying process, and I'm sure you've had your fair share. What is the best advice you can give to those of us who plan to query in the (near) future, or who already are querying now and may be a little discouraged?
JODI: Hmm. Keep querying. Query more. Query until you run out of agents to query, and then start querying the next book. (You have been writing the next book, haven't you?)
But also, pay attention to what kind of responses you're getting. If your first ten or fifteen responses are all form letters and no requests, then you probably need to work on your query letter. Compare it to successful queries. (Many authors post theirs online somewhere.) Figure out what their queries are doing right and what you can learn from them. Make sure you're sending out the absolute best query possible.
And if you're getting lots of requests but no offers, it's time to start looking critically at your first pages or entire manuscript. If they give you feedback, don't ignore it. Consider their comments and decide if they're in line with your story. Believe in your manuscript, but don't be afraid to see its flaws and fix them.
MAGGIE: Excellent advice! Semi-related, I've heard tell that you're wickedly fast when it comes to drafting novels. What's your trick?
JODI: There's no trick. When I'm drafting a novel, I write every day for hours and hours. My average wordcount per hour isn't much different than most people's. The only difference is that I can write all day because I don't have another job.
MAGGIE: Ahh. Makes sense! On that note, how many novels, in total, have you written?
JODI: Oh goodness!
Finished manuscripts . . . twenty-one. INCARNATE was number seventeen.
MAGGIE: Wow! Just out of curiosity, do you hope to publish all or some or a few of those twenty-one stories?
JODI: There are a few of those manuscripts I'd like to see published, but a lot of them . . . no. They were good practice. I'm glad I wrote them. They helped me figure out my strengths and weaknesses, and they taught me a lot. But some just don't need to leave the house. Ever.
MAGGIE: Let's talk CHARACTERS. They're so important to a story. How do you, personally, bring characters to life?
JODI: For me, my characters appear in my head fully formed, but transferring them to paper can be tricky. Even though they're all there already, I still have to get to know them. Some people do character interviews and take lots of notes on how their characters might react to different situations. Though I've tried that, it wasn't for me. The best thing for me has been to drop them in a scene (even if it doesn't make it into the story) and see what they do. I try to listen to their voice, consider their past and motivations, and learn their deepest fears.
MAGGIE: When it comes to editing novels, a lot of us feel daunted or buried alive in our own mistakes and failings. How do you tackle edits and revisions? What mindsets have you found help to carry you through?
JODI: The first thing I do when I get back edits is walk away from the computer. Alarmingly, I tend to go on cleaning binges while I let ideas tumble in my head. It's important for me to think about things before accepting or disregarding them, that way I don't ignore something because they're WRONG or accept something because I'M SUCH A TERRIBLE WRITER I WILL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH WOE. Neither extreme is good for the story or me, so thinking about it while I do something productive -- that works best for me.
Once I've come to terms with my perfect story not being so perfect, I try to make a plan. If I'm still feeling good about it after a couple days, I get to work.
MAGGIE: Excellent advice. You're famous for your epic kisses (and I do agree, INCARNATE has one of the best I've ever read.) What is your view on romance in novels, and what you've found works or doesn't?
JODI: I love romance in novels! Obviously. :)
Writing a good romance isn't easy, but a well-written romance just stays and stays and stays with you. They make me happy.
Since you mentioned my kissing scenes, I'll also add that while I like it when they kiss . . . I also try to focus more on the emotions that come with the physical. Those emotional responses are just as (often more) important than whose hand is where and what someone's tongue is doing.
MAGGIE: So true! At the end of the day, published or unpublished, most of us reading this are writers. Because it's always uplifting to read, what are your dreams as a writer? Where do you want your stories to take you?
JODI: The thing about writing dreams is that no matter what goals you accomplish, there are always more just beyond that. If your dream is to write a book, well, what about getting that published? What about writing more books? What about hitting a bestseller list, or award nomination, or reaching a certain audience, or selling a certain number of copies . . .
I played the goals game for a long time before INCARNATE sold. I still do, to an extent (because I want to be able to sell more books and feed my cat and ferret in the future), but I've also learned a lot about how focusing solely on goals affects one's happiness.
So for me, the best thing has been to have a few goals, sure, because they can drive me to do better than I am, but my biggest focus needs to be writing the best story possible. I need to write a story that moves me, first. I need to write for myself, rather than everyone else, and trust that someone else out there (hopefully lots of someones) is going to love the end result as much as I do.
My biggest dream as a writer? To never forget what's truly important when I'm writing a story.
MAGGIE: Beautifully said. Are you writing anything now? If so, describe it in three words.
JODI: Incarnate number three. ;)
MAGGIE: Woohoo! I can't wait. If you could have only one super power, what would it be and why?
JODI: Supergenius. Because who doesn't want to be ridiculously smart? Maybe I would finally be able to achieve Perfect First Drafts.
MAGGIE: Love it. We'll end with a fun one. Favorite ice cream flavor?
JODI: Chocolate chip cookie dough. Ice cream AND cookies together in one bowl. Yum.
MAGGIE: Excellent choice. Now I want some.
Thank you so much for participating! You've given some AWESOME answers.
JODI: Thank you for having me!
*Link not working? Copy & paste: http://www.misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/2012/01/release-day-interview-with-jodi-meadows.html
As we wrap up the St. Patrick's Day Critique (didn't leave leave a comment yet? It's not too late!), HUGE thank-you's go to our special guest critter, Alison Weiss, who took the time to leave super awesome feedback on all the entries! You rock, Alison!
Critique can be hard, so during this time it's important to make the choice not to let the faults of your work override how much you love it. Take a deep breath, step back, and tackle those problems when you're ready!
Thanks for participating, and hope everyone enjoyed.