Monday, July 30, 2012

Hourglass - A fast summer read

One of the things I love about YA fiction is that it can be powerful, gripping, and meaningful all at the same time, without taking itself too seriously.  Does anyone else feel that some adult fiction tries too hard to be "literary" and just comes across as boring or pretentious?  Not young adult fiction.  The characters' voices are real, even when the genre is science fiction.  It has heart and soul.  But don't get me wrong, it can be equally - if not more - vivid, descriptive, prosaic than many of the adult fiction novels are.  It just feels more seamless and less showy.  And no offense to adult fiction authors.  I definitely don't feel that way about all of them.  I have many favorite adult authors as well.

One of the YA books that I've read this summer was fantastical, but set in the modern time which gives it the right amount of believability.  I love to imagine the possibility that these supernatural or magical elements could actually exist in our mundane world.

This book, which I couldn't put down (Hurray!  Since getting pregnant, anything that keeps me awake past ten pages is WONDERFUL!) - was Hourglass by Myra McEntire.  I thought it would be a ghost story since the main character, Emerson Cole, seems to have visions of the past.  It turns out, she's a time traveller.  Cool concept, right?  Her dark past and emotional baggage kept me interested in her and the characters she meets in her journey to understand herself and her abilities are mysterious and interesting as well.

These other characters, who also happen to have "powers," find Emerson and ask for her help in saving the life of their beloved scholar and friend.  He was murdered in a fire months before.  Emerson agrees to help them return to the past to pull him out before it's too late.  There is a bit of a love triangle to spice up her personal life - although it is pretty obvious from the start who her top choice is.  Also, there is the obligatory villain (fire-starter) to complicate her life.  However, things are not exactly as they seem, which adds a nice twist to the plot.

I did have trouble at times wrapping my mind around the time travel technicalities - I always have gotten a bit confused with this topic, so it's probably just me.  But this novel was worth reading for simple enjoyment - nothing too taxing or deep or emotional, which is exactly what I needed at the time.

If you get the chance, read this book.  It goes by quickly and is a nice break from real life.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The BEST advice I've received on the Query Letter YET!

This advice wasn't given to me personally.  It is actually on an agent's blog that I follow, Pub Rants, by Kristin Nelson.  I came across it during my research on agents and agencies and I have to pass it along because it has helped me SO MUCH!

I have been working on my query letter obsessively for the past few days.  I am not exaggerating when I say "obsessively."

In fact, I was in such a mind fog yesterday afternoon that when my husband called me on his way home for work, I think drool might have been oozing from my mouth as I stared at the computer screen.  By then words were running together and all sentences had lost their meaning.  I hadn't even realized until he called that I had spent the ENTIRE DAY working on ONE letter.

Garrett came to my rescue, though.  (My night in shining armor!)  Instead of heading straight to the gym, he came home to drag me away from the computer (I resisted, even in my zombie-like state) and force me to go to the gym with him.  After an apple, a solid workout, and a visit to Babies R Us (4 1/2 weeks until she makes her debut!), I was finally able to carry on a coherent conversation.

This query stuff is tough.

I knew last night that my letter was still a long way from where it should be, but I didn't know how to fix it until I read Kristin's pitch workshop blog entries today.  She is a lifesaver!  (Garrett will be so grateful!)

Without further ado, here are the links to the posts specifically about YA query letters (which can also be found on her agency's website, Nelson Literary Agency):

1.  Pitching and all that jazz:  Introduction
2.  Blog Pitch Workshop (Part 1)
3.  Blog Pitch Workshop (Part 2)
4.  Blog Pitch Workshop (Part 3)

I hope her advice helps you as much as it has helped me.  Hopefully, I will have a decent letter by the end of the day!  (Fingers crossed!)

Good luck!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Time to Query

I've reached the point where I'm ready to write my query letter.  It is a daunting task and one that I've heard many established authors even dread.  How is it that we can write an entire novel, but the thought of one letter makes us quiver?

In my search for guidance on this topic, I've located some helpful resources, which I thought that I'd share.

1.  Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Chuck Sambuchino and the editors of Writer's Digest Books
2.  QueryShark - blog which critiques fiction query letters, detailing what needs to be revised in order to have a successful query; very informative!
3.  "Marcus Sakey on Successful Query Letters" - a post from the Murderati: A Writer's Life blog; advice from the published author on how to get a 75% success rate on your query letter.
4.  AgentQuery - website dedicated researching agents and agencies.  It even offers advice on how to write a query letter.
5.  "How to Write a Query Letter" - blog post by Nathan Bradford
6.  Predators & Editors - informative website on the credibility of specific agents and agencies.  Check out your researched agents here before sending your queries to them.  Make sure they are legitimate!

I hope these links help you (and me) to write effective queries!  Good luck!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Check out this FANTASTIC Giveaway

The blog YA Highway is celebrating three years of blogging success with an extremely generous giveaway of books/arcs and/or critiques.

Check out their site:
YA Highway

I am definitely registering!  How about you?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Home Stretch (Kind of)

To Do List

One of my personal goals is to have my novel ready and out for submission before my little girl makes her debut on or around August 24th.  I know that my life is about to get a whole lot more complicated which will leave me little time for myself.  But the task has seemed daunting, especially since I had barely looked at my manuscript in six months.  So, how do I handle this monumental undertaking?

Luckily, I have a wonderful friend and fellow writer that I spent time with on Friday.  It had been way too long since I'd seen her due to both of our hectic jobs and hopefully, we'll not let so much time pass between visits in the future.

Besides being a fantastic person to hang out with, she always provides sound, rational writing advice that clears my head and sends me in the right direction.  It also gives me confidence and calms my fears.  For that, I am so grateful!  Thank you, Carly!

Her advice:  create a schedule of deadlines for myself.  I have just over 7 weeks until my due date and have broken each week down into what needs to be accomplished to attain my overall goal of submission.  I have actually made my plan based on six weeks to give me (and Baby Wilson) a little leeway.

Suddenly a task that seemed overwhelming seems achievable - but not without the help of Carly, who has also kindly offered to help with final revisions along with my attendance at two more writing group meetings through my SCBWI chapter.

Can I do this?  Absolutely!

Will I get an agent and eventually sell my novel?  Who knows!  But I will not give up this dream of mine.  I have to try.  And if not this book, then maybe my next one (which I will finally be able to start once this novel gets sent off!)

*On a side note, I have revised most of the novel and have only the ending to finish revising at this point.*

Here's my schedule:

Week 1 – ending 7/13:
Finish revisions and send to Carly

Week 2 – ending 7/21:
1st Draft of query letter
Send to Carly for feedback
Synopsis revisions for feedback

Week 3 – ending 7/28:
Revisions based on Carly’s feedback
2nd Draft query letter
Bring synopsis and query to critique group for feedback

Week 4 – ending 8/3
Novel Revisions
Query Revision
Synopsis Revision
Research agents
Compile list of agents (already started, but continue to build)

Week 5 – ending 8/10
Novel Revisions
Finish revisions and put in submission form
List of 5 to 10 agents and criteria for 1st round of submissions
Attend critique group for final feedback

Week 6 – ending 8/17
Send out submissions

Let me know, am I missing a step?  

*Oh, and another "thank you" to Carly for lending me Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Chuck Sambuchino and the editors of Writer's Digest.  It's invaluable!*