Monday, April 4, 2011

DARA Agent Panel - What Are They Looking For? (And What Not to Submit!)

I spent Friday night and Saturday at the Dreaming in Dallas conference sponsored by the Dallas Area Romance Authors. It was WONDERFUL!! I made a few friends and learned quite a bit along the way.
I met Richelle Mead. Yea! (And I got her autograph!) I also had a nice conversation with Lucienne Diver. (I also got her autograph! I had a pic taken with her, but I don't think I've ever had such a bad picture of myself as this one so I'm not posting it!)

One of the sessions Saturday was an agent panel featuring Suzie Townsend, Beth Miller, and Lucienne Diver. A question was asked about character age. How old is too old for YA, and where does it cross over?
Their answer? College age characters (early twenties, basically) are a DEAD ZONE. Don't even think about it if you want to sell. It won't happen. If you can rewrite then do it and send those darlings to boarding school. (All three agents agreed on this.)

Ouch. (Will open file for rewrite as soon as this post goes up.)

Of course another question asked the agents what they were tired of, and what they were looking for. Here's the breakdown:
They are tired of YA angel/demon stories, vampires, and dystopians. Of course there are always exceptions, but unless yours is exceptionally fresh and original it's time to move on.
What are they looking for?
Ms. Townsend would like to find a YA thriller.
Ms. Miller is looking for YA fantasy and adult romance (but not romantic suspense).
Ms. Diver wants fresh stories that can cross genres. She wants a story with a great voice.
All three agents want stories with great characters that come off the page and stay with the reader.

If you're writing a YA, can it be developed into a series? (This is a good thing!) Keep this in mind and be sure to mention it in your query. Some editors are asking this when agents submit.

There you have it. Later, I'll share a few writing/editing tips I picked up.

(Oh, and the business cards were a good idea. I was very glad to have them!)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Work Faster. Work Harder. Keep Going.

I'm currently outlining my third novel. My first novel is still in need of serious revisions. My second novel stalled around 25,000 words (which I did not outline).

There is still SO much to learn. Sometimes I ask myself why I bother, when there are so many other worthwhile things I could use my time on. (my husband, kids, parents, home, school, church) I could fulfill my other obligations more thoroughly and with more peace if I would just quit this head game called writing.

The guilt comes from knowing that what I'm writing isn't good enough for publication.
The guilt comes from knowing that what I'm writing isn't good enough for publication yet.

See what I did there? Reread those two sentences. After the first I could easily say, "So why bother? Quit wasting time." After the second I need to say, "So keep going. Work faster. Work harder."

I need to work faster and harder. If I quit now then writing becomes yet another hobby I discarded when it got too tough. I know I have a lot to learn. I need to learn it faster. I need to discipline myself to do more in less time, not just with writing but with my life.

Today I was looking for motivational quotes for the students at school who are about to take the state tests. I think I may have helped myself more than them.

"If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right." Henry Ford
"Even experts were beginners at some thing." Unknown
"Never, never, never give up." Winston Churchill

I'll keep going. I'll work faster. I'll work harder, because I KNOW I can do this. It just takes time.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I'm a Nerd with Conference Questions

This Friday and Saturday I get to attend the Dreamin' in Dallas conference. It's sponsored by the Dallas Area Romance Authors, and will be my first writing conference. I can't tell you how excited I am!

But maybe this will give you an idea: I just bought a MATCHING notebook and folder (and new pens, but they don't match). Yep, I'm a nerd. So if you're there and you see a giddy woman with matching office supplies be sure to come over and introduce yourself. Or not.

I'm also a little nervous about this weekend. What if I "fan girl" when I see Suzie Townsend? Or Richelle Mead? It could happen. I could end up a puddle in the floor. Okay, I'm not really worried about that (even though it IS a possibility). I want to be as prepared as possible. I've read that it's a good idea to have business cards to trade with other conference attendees. Having cards ready saves time digging in a purse for a pen and paper. I get that, but what do I need on it? Email address? Blog site? Catchy phrase? Picture? What???

Besides business cards and spiffy office supplies, what else do I need? I must be prepared!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Distractions, and Opening Lines

Last week I made my way to Borders (again). It's wasn't my usual store, but one that is scheduled to close. I hate to see any bookstore close, but I couldn't pass up the savings.

And this is what I came home with:





How will I ever manage to read all of these AND write, too? I just finished the Vampire Academy series a couple of days ago. I'm still a little breathless from it. And have I mentioned how this series put the brakes on my writing? I haven't? Well, let's just say I haven't written anything in several weeks. I may have to have a few words with Richelle Mead when I meet her in Dallas next weekend. (What? I haven't mentioned that, either? Well, I'm going to the Dreamin' in Dallas conference. It's my first conference and I'm so excited!)

I'm forcing myself to stay away from the new books, at least until I finish this outline. But they're just sitting there, taunting me. It's almost as bad as having to stare at my favorite chocolate cake and not eat it.

I think I may have found a compromise, though. I've been thinking a lot about openings lately, particularly first sentences. I let myself read the first line of each new book, and they are exactly what first lines should be. They grab the reader, set the mood, and give a hint of what's to come.

Here's a little challenge for you. Below are the first lines from each book in the picture. Can you guess which opening goes with which book?

1. The day begins in the middle of the night.

2. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single girl of high school standing at Longbourn Academy must be in want of a prom date.

3. Someday you will beg for the honor of licking my feet. (I loved this one!)

4. This whole enormous deal wouldn't have happened, none of it, if Dad hadn't messed up his hip moving the manure spreader.

5. I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves.

6. You're either someone or you're not.

7. "Just be yourself," my mother said, as if that were easy.

8. Janie Hannagan's math book slips from her fingers.

9. Everyone knows I'm perfect.

10. I used to be someone.


Some are easier to guess than others, but when you consider what each book is about you realize that the first line really does its job.

And now I'm off to agonize over my first lines. Again.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Amazing Reading Technology!

I just finished reading Kathleen Ortiz's post over at Neverending Page Turner. She shared a clip demonstrating Text 2.0.

It is AMAZING. The possibilities seem endless. As a former teacher my mind immediately began to think of all the ways this could be used in a classroom.

I don't know if this is available yet, but if/when it is I know I will be begging my hubby for an iPad.



Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Character Development, Facebook Style

A couple of nights ago I was wasting time on Facebook. (No surprise there!) I was looking through a friend’s friend list, and realized he had a pretty eclectic group of people on there.


And that got me to thinking. (No smart comments, please.) It could be somewhat useful to click through a few lists, land on a random profile, and just look at what that stranger likes. It’s amazing what a few tidbits of information (pictures, music, books, movies, quotations) can say about a person.

Why could this be useful? For me, it broadened the possibilities as I am fleshing out new characters. It also took me to places where real people are living right now: New York, Maine, Hawaii, Texas, and South Africa to name a few.

I have no idea how I landed on these pages, but I found a large group of young friends that are from the same province in South Africa. I wondered about them and the area they call home. Why are they there? What did their parents do for a living? What kind of life do they live? Do they dream of living somewhere else, or do they love it there?

If you find your creativity has gone missing, try this. I started with my friends list. I clicked on one friend and glanced at her friend list. I clicked on one of her friends and then picked someone off his friend list. I did this until I found something that caught my eye. (I just tried it again and found a Samoan metalhead, a guy that hunts mushrooms, an announcer for a pro basketball team, and another that enjoys rebuilding antique airplanes.)

Would you ever think to create a character that loves The Zombie Survival Guide AND Tuesdays with Morrie?? I didn’t think so.

Have fun!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Slice of Pie (or Two)

I might not be a great writer (yet), but I can bake a great pie. At least, that’s what this trophy says:



Of course, it could also say there needs to be more than one entry, but I hope that’s not it.


When I lived in this small town as a child, being in 4-H and FFA were a big part of my life. I grew up in the ag industry. So when our local livestock show was held a couple of weeks ago I wanted to support it and the families involved with it now even though my own children aren’t old enough to participate yet. Along with the stock show, the ag boosters hosted a bake show. After the baked goods were judged they were auctioned to raise money for the stock show premiums. I entered a chocolate pie that Saturday morning and went on my merry little way, hoping the pie tasted okay.

I guess it tasted better than just okay. (Yea! I didn't mess it up!)

For some people, making a good homemade pie isn’t a big deal. For most of us, though, it takes a lot of practice and (sometimes) luck. I won’t bore you with the details of the neurotic steps I take to make sure my pie turns out, but I will tell you that more than once I’ve made two pies just in case one is a disaster.


There are so many variables in making a pie, sometimes I’m amazed it doesn’t end up a sloppy mess more often.

And isn’t it that way with writing? We know what goes into a story to make it good. We know the steps we have to take. We know what to avoid. (How many of us have been told “show, don’t tell” but do it anyway?) With practice we get better, but sometimes it’s still a sloppy mess.


Hopefully we’ll reach the point that our writing will be even better than that pie, and someone will award us something even better than a pie trophy – publication.