Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

Valora can end the nightmarish hallucinations plaguing the world, but to do so, she will have to join the enemy. Good hook, I'm rather interested. So the whole world is being plagued by scary visions? Awesome. I'm in. The only slight problem I have with this hook is that it doesn't allude much to what the genre is. This could be anything from SF to straight F to magical realism to dystopian. But - the hook is good enough that I (and other people who matter more) would keep reading anyway and figure it out on their own. Good job.

At seventeen, Valora remembers nothing of her past, but that doesn’t stop her from moving forward. After all, reality is a gift given to her by the Potesters who freed her from dark visions. I'm curious as to whether freeing her from her visions is why she can't remember her past. I want to know if there's a connection, or *why* she can't remember her past. Adjusting to society, Valora knows it is forbidden to provoke their enemies, the Spurons, who are to blame for the nightmares. Again, I'm still not clear where / when we are, and I feel like I should probably know that by now.

The only problem is that Valora would like nothing more than vengeance. She would do anything to repay the Potesters’ kindness of giving her freedom. Attacking the Spurons would be the perfect act of gratitude - laws be damned.

Haunted by her unknown past and a newly freed mind great phrase, she grows restless with her life and accidentally I need more detail here. "Accidentally" is what happens when you roll down a hill and land in dog crap. I don't need to know the details but give me a little more here - Does she go on long walks and meet a stranger? Something, just a little more, to illustrate that there's a good plot point behind the accidentuncovers secrets more powerful than the terrifying delusions themselves: the Spurons are not the enemy. The Potesters created the dreams to enslave the people, building a fully subjugated army of suppressed minds. OK cool - but why free a chosen few?

Now Valora has to warn the Spurons, who are preparing for a war to end the hallucinations. But it’s not easy, because she must sacrifice the impossible to win the war. Herself. Cool, but why? Is there some reason why she must die in order for the good guys to win? Right now it just seems like yes SHE MUST DIE because that's dramatic. But, no - why? 

Besides the big question of why she has to sacrifice herself (and why her, after all?) I think the plot sounds fun. The problem is that right now dystopian is kind of a bad word (think vampires two years ago), so you need to show why you can cut the mustard. Tell us more about these hallucinations - this is what makes you different from every other dystop query out there, so give that angle some meat.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bring on 2013! - A Guest Post by Tara Dairman

by Tara Dairman

Greetings, readers of Mindy’s blog!

By now, we all know that the world didn’t end on December 21. Not only does that mean that I had a pretty good birthday (I’m a solstice baby), but even more importantly, it means that there’s a pretty good chance that 2013 is really going to happen.

I’ve been looking forward to 2013 for most of 2012. There are plenty of reasons for this—not the least of which is that Not a Drop to Drink by our very own Mindy McGinnis gets published in the fall, hurrah!—but the biggest one is selfish and has to do with my own to-be-published novel. Starting on January 1, I get to switch from saying “My book is coming out in 2014” to “My book is coming out next year!”

This may not sound like a huge difference, but it feels pretty big to me. There are so many steps in the process of trying to publish a first book—writing and revising, querying agents, submitting your manuscript to publishers, waiting for editorial notes, etc.—and for most people, each step takes months, if not years. I started drafting The Delicious Double Life of Gladys Gatsby WAY back in 2005 (which, now that I think about it, was probably before most of the book’s target middle-grade audience was even born!).  When it’s published, the story will have been knocking around in my head for almost a decade. What’s one more year of waiting compared to that?

Also, one of the best things about being part of a community of writers (and having friends like Mindy who are going through the debut process ahead of me) is that I have some idea of the excitement that 2013 itself is likely to bring for my project. By this time next year, the hard work of editing will be done; my book will have a cover; there will probably even be some advance copies printed up. I’ll have something to show people, something to hold in my own hands. By that point, the once long-distant finishing line of publication will probably feel like it’s hurtling toward me quite fast.

So, yes, I’m looking forward to 2013 as a gateway to 2014, but I’m also pretty excited about 2013 itself. As Professor Trelawney teaches us, predicting the future is an inexact science…but now that this year’s fauxpocalypse has passed, I’m feeling confident about taking on whatever the world throws at me next.

What are you looking forward to in 2013? Happy holidays and new year!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Icy Waters of the Self-Publishing Pond - A Guest Post from Scott Seldon

by Scott Seldon

To slog it out with agents and publishers, or to go it alone? That was the question I was faced with over a year ago. What tipped the balance was the nearly half a million words I’d written.

I should introduce myself since I am intruding on Mindy’s blog on Christmas Eve. I’m Scott Seldon, a science fiction writer. I’ve been writing for a long time, but was only in 2001 that I tackled something that turned into a novel. I have written four publishable novels and amassed a sizable collection of short stories. I write in a sparse, character driven style and the stories I’ve written don’t involve large galaxy spanning conspiracies, wars, or other major conflicts. The main character of my four novels is Ven Zaran, a recovering drug addict and smuggler. Something about that has been a hard sell to agents which led to my dilemma. I took the leap into the icy waters of self-publishing with a collection of short stories at the end of January 2012.

There are a lot of things that can be scary about taking such a leap. For some it is the document formatting. With my background as a former monthly newsletter editor (I even won an award for it), that part was a piece of cake. What scared the you-know-what out of me, was selling. I couldn’t sell water to a thirsty man in a desert. And here I am trying to sell ebooks.

But the thing is that when you self-publish, you aren’t selling anything. You are looking to draw traffic to your books and then they have to sell themselves, reader by reader. So after writing/compiling good books, I had to craft book descriptions. Having spent endless hours drafting query letters to agents, that was surprisingly easy. It’s the same short summary format designed to peak the reader’s interest. Then they can preview the first part of the book. For those who have queried agents, it should sound like a very familiar process. I have my books sitting on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iTunes and a few others, just waiting to be found and go through that process.

I won’t say just when I figured it out, but marketing your self-published book does not involve selling. It is all about visibility. That’s why the most ridiculous of celebrities can put out a best seller. They have the visibility. That involves a great deal of not talking about your books in as many places as possible. My plan for 2012 was to learn how to self-publish and get my work out there. My plan for 2013 is to get me out there. That’s how the big guys are doing it. David Brin has a fascinating blog and pops up on TV from time to time. He doesn’t usually say a word about his books. I have plenty of things to say myself and other topics, I just need to start saying them.

That is the real secret to being a successful writer. You need to go places and do things, be they in the real world or online. It is perhaps even more vital if you want to be successful at self-publishing where you don’t have any publisher/bookseller support behind you. Even for those writers they give minimal attention to, it is still a boost up from the nothing most self-published authors start with.

This journey over the past year has been a learning experience. The four and five star reviews I’ve gotten so far have made it worth it. It justifies that decision a year ago to not to let the books I’d written go to waste.

Scott Seldon lives with his family in Colorado and works as an IT administrator. Visit his website for the latest updates and to find where his books are sold.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

Chloe Olivetti was just weeks away from her 18th birthday when she was struck by lightning on a clear summer day. Now her whole world has turned upside down. She has developed strange new powers – enhanced vision, the ability to move instantly through space and time, even astral projection. But as her powers grow, so do her problems. This is a pretty great hook. I think one of the most interesting points is right there in your first sentence - she was struck by lightning on a clear day? Hmm... that definitely raises all kinds of questions. Good job on the first para.

The lightning was actually an Army experiment gone wrong, an experiment echo here with "experiment," you can easily rephrase to eliminate it run by Colonel Rafael Garcia – why I think you mean "who" just I'm noticing you like to use "just," which technically is perfectly fine, but if you re-read most sentences w/out that word included, they still make sense. It's filler happens to be the father of Chloe's girlfriend, Vanessa.

Now Col. Garcia wants Chloe so he can study her, and he'll stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if it means kidnapping Chloe, her family, and his own daughter, whom he despises because of her romantic relationship with Chloe. But does he despise Chloe as well? If he has a problem with homosexuality I'd think it'd be reflected onto both of them.

But Chloe's abilities are still growing, still echo with "still" which again, technically is not a bad thing, but it does show a tendency to overuse unnecessary words and might make an agent wonder if you do this in the ms as well. I'd rephrase to eliminate changing, and Awkward here, I'd start a new sentence she escapes from Garcia's from Garcia's what? Army base? home? BBQ tent?, taking Vanessa and her family with her. Except their problems don't end there. They're on the run now, with no money and no place to go. So Chloe tries a desperate move, sending herself back in time so that she never got hit by the lightning. Everything goes wrong, however, and instead of returning her world to normal, she ends up injured and lost in a limbo where she can only watch as Garcia's men kill her parents and Vanessa. While this is all compelling and well-written, it's reading more like a synopsis than a query at this point, especially when you take the next para into consideration. Skip the details, focus on the idea that her family and Vanessa are killed, and she has the option of going back in time to fix that but at the expense of super-Army at Garcia's command.

Chloe recovers from her injuries, only now she's faced with a desperate echo with "desperate" from above para choice: save her family and Vanessa why not try "those she loves" instead of the echo again of family and Vanessa? by moving them all through time to a place where they'll be safe but Garcia will have created an Army of super-powered soldiers to take over the country, or risk all their lives by going back in time once more and destroying the experiment and killing Vanessa's father. Very long run on sentence here. Give each of these bad options their own sentence. 

Lightning From A Clear Sky is more than just a science fiction-adventure story, it is the story of a young girl forced to become a woman under the worst circumstances, a girl who finds out life is more than just clubs and school and going to the mall, and there are worse things than being made fun of by classmates or having to come out to your parents who can't understand your life choices.
As Chloe would say, the whole thing majorly sucks to the extreme. I like this para, as you're showing how the story has depth as well as adventure, I'd cut the last line, however. 

Overall this is a strong query for what sounds like an original story. You do slip into synopsis mode in the middle, and you need to cut down on the word count - but fixing the first will address the second. Make sure you're conveying the *idea* of the story, not the story itself in the query. You mostly did that very well right up until the last two paras. Boil down and rephrase, cut out your echoes (there are a few) and watch out for "just" - it's a killer.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately are baby-centric. No, I'm not pregnant. No, I don't want one. It's more about how I want to be one, but me-sized.

1) I want one of these adult sized. Dangle books above my head, put me on slow rock. I'm good.

2) I want one of these too. Think of the energy I'd save at work. I can roll around and spontaneously sit if I feel like it. I can also bounce exuberantly without injuring others. Put some easily digestibles on the tray in front of me for constant snack time. It's a win-win.

3) Admit it. You kind of think that eating off of rubber covered utensils would be awesome. No more teeth clacking, no more enamel getting knocked off with that one-second-too-soon bite down. And you get that satisfying give every time you bite a little too hard. Go ahead, don't be ashamed to want it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fake Cover Fun

In case you missed my post over on The Class of 2k13, I wanted to share my fake cover for NOT A DROP TO DRINK with everyone.

Every author knows that comp titles are a great way to get the idea of your book across, and I like saying that NOT A DROP TO DRINK is something like if HUNGER GAMES met LITTLE HOUSE ON THE ON THE PRAIRIE. Survival against the elements combined with the threat of other humans, all in a nice, tidy Midwestern mile.

Enjoy my fake cover, courtesy of Lynn Philips over at Femboost.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Insane Writing: Dig Deeper - A Guest Post from YA author Alexandra Tys O'Connor

by Alexandra Tys O'Connor

Shaun T, creator and driving force behind the Insanity exercise craze, is my new best friend and my biggest nemesis. He’s a slave driver, loudly encouraging peeps through their television sets to push themselves to their physical limits six days a week. His sixty-day program is guaranteed to give results.

If you push play, you will see results. Guaranteed.

“Dig deeper” is Shaun T’s motto—a motto that can be applied to the writing life in many ways.

If we dig beyond the surface of a story, we are guaranteed to find the unique slant. If we dig deeper into our lives with dedication and motivation, we will find the time to write—even in the midst of a busy week, month or year. If we plug away at our writing each and every day, we will hone our craft. If we push ourselves, we are guaranteed to see results.

But my question becomes, “What’s next?”

What happens AFTER we’ve sculpted insane abs or written that amazing manuscript/gotten a publishing deal/appeared on Oprah’s Book Club list? What happens when the goal has been reached? In essence, what is beyond deeper?

Insanity—the workout program, not the medical condition—is grueling. It’s forty-five minutes of intense physical activity. It’s a guaranteed sweat bath each day. It is sore muscles stretched to the limit and lung capacities taxed. Heck, I nearly vomited during the fit test, and I quiver to think of busting my behind six days a week for the rest of my natural life.

I suppose writing is much the same way.  If we want to mold our ideas into something marketable, we need to stick to a writing schedule that produces results. We need to dig beyond the writer’s block, beyond the rejection and beyond the success—because succeeding as a writer is grueling, too.

It is pressure to promote. It’s a need to sell-through the print run and put money back on the publisher’s bottom line. It’s a necessity to satisfy your readers each and every time your work comes out in print. It is insanity.

So you wrote a book. What comes next? What lies beyond deeper?

That, my writer friends, is a question only you can answer.


Alexandra Tys O’Connor has an insane desire to succeed in the writing world. She digs deep while raising her family and advocating for at-risk youth in the court systems, squeezing in time each day to work on her Young Adult novels. Her debut byline can be found in The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse. She also blogs at Whispering Minds and curses Shaun T with great regularity.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

Seventeen-year-old Tabitha Holt refuses to believe her sister was killed by wolves. I know from reading further that this is not a paranormal story, but the immediate jump my brain wants to make is to werewolf / paranormal. Lara trained dogs all her life, and was too wildlife-savvy to go anywhere near a hungry pack. Without any proof something or someone else ended Lara’s life, Alaska state troopers go after what they believe are rogue wolves, killing the animals unmercifully. To put a stop to it, Tabby has to prove Lara's killer was human. But it sounds like this book is actually a wildlife / environment-centric story. Mash the idea of the last two sentences here into the hook - this is what makes you original. It's a murder mystery wrapped up in a pro-wildlife setting. Tell me that right off. 

When a serious injury prevents Tabby’s dad from running because of the fact that it's *his* injury that prevents him from "running" gave me a logic jump before I got to the word "Iditarod." I know what the race is, but the words used before that injury / prevent / running / race immediately had me thinking Track and Field so the Iditarod threw me. Get the dogsled out front so we know what we're looking at. the 1100-mile Iditarod dog sled race, the family’s finances are stake. Wait - don't they only get money if they win? So technically their finances were already at stake and they were running the race to see if they could prevent that from worsening. Tabby's mom has no choice but to take her husband’s place in the world's most dangerous race. Tabby volunteers to help, intending to balance the demands of dog handling with her search for a killer whose stomping grounds eerily follow the race route. She soon discovers that tracking a murderer is much riskier than facing a pack of wolves. In her race for the truth, there is only the winner...and the dead.*

*Second option: But she soon realizes that pursuing justice will lead to a confrontation more deadly than a pack of wolves, and a finish line she may never cross.

You've got two good sinkers here, but I like the first one better!

RUNNING WITH WOLVES, an 80,000-word YA mystery, will appeal to fans of Gary Paulsen, Peter Abrahams and Gemma Halliday.

Good comp titles, too! You need to rearrange the ideas in the hook and get your originality front and center: a YA murder mystery set on the Iditarod? Cool. But... we kind of lost the point from the first para. I thought we were really worried about saving all those packs of dogs? But then we lost them when we started talking about the race. I understand that finding the human killer will absolve the dogs, but that train of thought is dropped abruptly. It needs tied back in, or not mentioned in the hook. If wildlife rights aren't a main focus of the plot, stick to the murder mystery and the dogsled race.

I think the biggest problem here is that I have no grasp on the MC from this query. I hear about dad, I hear about mom stepping up, I hear about how sister was smart enough to know better. But I don't know a lot about our MC other than she's.... the MC. She's got guts because she's out there tracking down a killer during a grueling race, but because of the prevalence of her family members in the query I can't say a whole lot about her. Take a look at the query and literally count the amount of words you've dedicated to each character and see where your MC ends up. She should be the one we're talking about - not the others.

Think about what's most important to the story here - the murder mystery and the race. Does it matter that Dad got hurt and now Mom is the one manning the sled? Does it matter that they are in financial trouble? Does it actually matter about the rogue wolves being killed? Sure, for the plot of the *novel* it does, but for the query do you want to give your word count over to subplots?

Get the MC out front. Get the murder out front. Get the grueling high-stakes race out front. You've got a great setting and original plot, figure out the absolute most important aspects of the book and give your word allotment to them, not the peripherals.

Friday, December 14, 2012

2013 Reading Goals & A Chance to Win a NOOK

Well, I managed to fail at something.

I know, you're all shocked, right? But I did. I failed like the way Polyphemus failed to eat Odysseus and his crew. So what's my crime? I set a goal and didn't hit it. The Dusty Bookshelf challenge of 2012 kicked my but like a stick sharpened in a cave fire, and yes, that is the residual goo of my eye trailing down my face while I weep my shame.

OK - none of that is actually true. I still have both my eyeballs and I haven't cried in like, a long time, but I DID fail my Dusty Bookshelf challenge of 2012. In a big way. I only read 5 of the 13 books on my Dusty Shelf.

Shame and shunning, I know.

So I'm going to go ahead and move those dusty books on over to the 2013 Dusty Bookshelf Challenge - and I highly advise you book-hoarders go ahead and do it, too. I'm registering as a Dust Bunny, which means I'll read 5 - 10 books on my dusty shelf.

But hey! I DID make my Debut Author Challenge of 2012. I think there may be a conflict of interest if I sign up for the 2013 Debut Author Challenge, but I advise you go ahead and do that. And if you feel like putting NOT A DROP TO DRINK on your list, it wouldn't hurt my feelings.

What were my Debut Author Challenges for 2012? Click on the Debut Author Challenge in the word cloud to see my picks and book talks!

And in case you do decide to join any sort of reading challenge next year, a NOOK just might help you accomplish that, right? Would you like a free one? I think you might. The Class of 2k13 is giving one away this month. Hop on. We're fun.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately:

1) Why do we say "Hey there?" to people? It makes no sense, as it's usually used when walking towards someone. Technically you're using the same area. Shouldn't it be, "Hey here?"

2) What about "Hey you?" I think they "you" is implied. No one ever says, "Hey me."

3) For that matter, why do we say "Hello" at all? Isn't that implied too? Yes, Hello. Can we move on now?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Goodreads Giveaway

So I have a short story in an anthology from Elephant's Bookshelf Press titled The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse. I kinda like it, and I think you might too.

The great news is that if you're not so sure, you might not have to pay any money to find out. There's a handy-dandy Goodreads giveaway going on until Jan. 1

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Fall by Matt Sinclair

The Fall

by Matt Sinclair

Giveaway ends January 01, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

And if you like free stuff, you might consider downloading the free Kindle version of the first offering from EBP, Spring Fevers. I'm in that one as well, and it's pretty okay, too. In my opinion.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

On Revision by Guest Poster Jenny Martin author of TRACKED

by Jenny Martin

I have a confession to make. I hate to admit this, but I’m a recovering, repentant reviser. I’ve always loved the clean start of a first draft, the fever joy laying down the bones of a novel. But until recently, I wasn’t so good a taking things apart and stitching them back together, and very often, I was in too in love with my own mistakes to recognize them on the page.  And for far too long, I let that hurt my work and hold me back. I was pretty much blind to the true nature of revision.

Sure, I’d listen to criticism and think about it and nod my head. I’d even internalize the feedback, admitting the truth in my heart. I just didn’t have the courage or the insight to take that feedback and run with it. Instead, I’d take the path of least resistance, trying to preserve as much of my old words as I could. Mostly, I cut a few things out and made other scenes longer. I tinkered. I asked the wrong questions. How can I minimize the changes? How can I do what they’re asking, but still keep this thread? I turned my books into Franken-drafts, and the crude scars and quick fixes were all too evident on every page. I was just too immature a writer to see them.

It may seem hard to believe, but all that changed in a moment. I was at TLA in Houston, and I heard Maggie Stiefvater speak on a panel about writing. When asked about revision, she said, “I’m not afraid to cut 15,000 words.” And then she told the story of her first published novel, and how much she completely rewrote, more than once, to make Lament a much stronger book. And then she talked about meandering drafts, and about finding the core of your story and how nothing else matters. Nothing.

It sounds really corny, but I actually got a little choked up. I didn’t cry, but I felt the lump in my throat and I’m surprised no heard the sound of the scales falling from my eyes and shattering on the floor. How much time had I wasted and how many chances had I thrown away because I was clinging to previous drafts like they were life rafts? How long had I been pretending to revise, asking all the wrong questions?

As crazy as it seems, that panel changed my writing life. After it, I was able to look back and see many of the mistakes I’d made. I was finally able to hear and appreciate some of the best advice I’d gotten in the past, but had subconsciously ignored. At the time, I was chest-deep into a draft of TRACKED, and at long last, I started asking myself the right questions:

What is the core of my book? What do I want my novel to say? 

I faltered at first. It was hard to break old habits, but I kept at it, risking bigger changes and rewrites. TRACKED began to evolve. It’s still evolving, but now I welcome the shift. I know that the next time I type ‘The End,’ I’ll be that much closer to making the book the best it can be. One that isn’t a Franken-draft, but something that truly, honestly, finally speaks for me.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Contest With Agents, Friends, And a Reminder to Go to the OB-GYN

I know what you're thinking.

Another contest? Seriously? But I absolutely despise all these chances to expose my work to agents!

Well, don't worry. Because I'm me, when I decided to do a contest I knew I had to make it Mindy-Style, which means it had to be different from everyone else and slightly offensive. I wracked my brain about how to do this, as there are a plethora of writing contests out there. And I came up with something that I think fulfills the Mindy-Style requirements.

Introducing the Pitch-A-Partner Festival! Yes, that's right, it's the PAPfest. Coming at you during the month of February 2013. Why February? Well, because you want to show your partner you love them, and also because I have a badly timed reoccurring annual exam that makes me think February = PAPfest.

When it comes to my writing I value my Critique Partners above all else. My CP's deserve a lot of credit for helping to improve my craft, and I'm sure there are a lot of aspiring authors out there who feel the same. So what better way to show them you love them than to pitch their project? Don't worry, there's something in it for both of you.

I dragged my CP's, MarcyKate Connolly and RC Lewis, into the PAPfest as co-hosts, because it's only fitting. In our model, writers will pitch their critique partner’s project, and our team will decide whose pitching abilities are so strong that we’re interested in seeing their own project. And of course, if the premise of the partner’s project is so enticing that we can’t help ourselves, we’re free to request material from them as well.

The blogging team will narrow the final hopefuls down to 30 entries, at which point we’ll ask our participating agents to cruise our blogs to bid on projects that catch their eye. We've got an excellent team of agents lined up, both established and brand-new hungry types.
  • The PAPfest is open to completed MG & YA projects of any genre
  • Be sure to have your CP's permission before pitching them
  • If CP-X successfully pitches CP-Y, we will ask for the query and first 5 pages of CP-X's ms to use in determining who moves on to agent judging
  • 100 initial entries accepted
  • 30 finalists move on to agent judging
  • Finalists will provide query & first 200 words for agent judging. Their partner CP-Y has the option of requesting a query critique from the PAP team of myself, MarcyKate and RC.
Are you confused? That's OK. We're planning on walking you through the process as February gets closer. All kinds of fun things are in store to clarify all your questions. I mean that. I intend to amuse the hell out of you while explaining this contest.

Why am I telling you this now? Because I want you to stress over the holidays.

Not really. I'm telling you this now because it's important that you have your CP's permission to pitch their project - they'll be getting a query crit out of the deal (and possibly a request for more if we're hooked by their concept, pitched by you). And of course in order for you to pitch something in the first place, you need to have read it. So polish off your WIPs or breathe new life into a trunked novel and get that ms in front of your CP!

Stay tuned to Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire for more details! And feel free to ask questions, always. Comments here are open, email me, or tweet me using the tag #PAPfest

And yes, I'd love to see that trending. :)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

Seventeen-year-old Fiona Archer has always found sanctuary deep in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest. Until the day it's invaded by a psychotic woman who attacks her, and uses magic to invade her thoughts, leaving Fiona temporarily blind. I like the hook here we get a good sense of isolation and genre, and also being temporarily blind is an interesting concept. However, it also raises questions - temporarily blind as in, she was blind for a little bit but is better now? Or is she blind for the remainder of the story? I also think it's bit wordy - does the woman have to be "psychotic"? Also, if she uses magic to invade Fiona's thoughts and blinds her, I think you can take out the phrase "attacks her." That's kind of assumed. Overall the hook just needs some cleanup.

In the wake of the vicious attack if the attack is "vicious" we don't need the "psychotic" in the hook, also eliminating "attack" above will get rid of the echo here, her family reveals that they know the woman responsible – only, she's no ordinary woman. Phaedra's an evil Queen, with a personal vendetta of her own. If it's a personal vendetta, it's assumed it's "her own." Fiona's family are Guardians to an ancient and unique breed of beings: A warrior race who bear swirling tattoos upon their skin as marks of their courage and bravery. Okay, that's cool - but why in the world to warriors with swirling tattoos for bravery and courage need people to guard them?

And now Fiona's expected to protect them. But Fiona is no ordinary Guardian. We're assuming here that Fiona never knew her family had any magical elements? I'd consider putting this element into the hook - something like, "Fiona never knew her family wasn't normal, until blah blah blah." Obviously don't write that, but you get the picture.

With the powers of the elements at her fingertips, Fiona's abilities as a Guardian soon surpass anything her family has ever encountered. But these new powers come with a price, and Fiona's sacrifices won't matter if the ancient war spills into the human world. So what can Fiona actually do? The powers of the elements are at her fingertips - ok great, but what does that mean? She can cause forest fires and then make it rain to put them out? What's the price that these powers come with? What are the sacrifices she's making? Why would the war spill over into the human world anyway?

Now, she's caught in the middle of a war between Phaedra, who wants to use her as a weapon - and the handsome warrior who holds her heart, and a powerful secret of his own. How is she caught in the middle if she has no ties to Phaedra? When someone is "caught in the middle" I assume it's b/c they have loyalties on both sides. But here I assume she hates Phaedra, so how is she in the middle? The handsome warrior is coming out of nowhere here, and I need to know more about this powerful secret rather than use it as a teaser.

The concept is definitely here but I feel like the stage isn't totally clear. We start very woodsy and isolationist, and we touch on the elements being important, but we don't really know what this war is about or how it could spill over into the human world in the first place. Tell me more about what they're fighting for, and what our MC's powers are. Also, I'm really intrigued by the temporarily blind issue, but it's dropped like a hot potato. How long is she blind? What's that all about? Why did Phaedra want to invade her thoughts in the first place and why does that matter enough to put it into the hook?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) I bought myself a nice, big HDTV to replace my old TV which was -
    A: Square shaped
    B: 200 lbs.
    C: If you walked into the room on your heels nice and hard (like I do) the picture went    

So I've entered the world of High Def and I have a complaint. It looks too real. Everything looks like a home video. I don't know *why* this is, but I'm not sure I like it. The Walking Dead looks like I know zombies personally.

2) I'm trying to eat better and am OK with spending a little more money to do so. I made the leap to Greek yogurt. It tastes like bile. I'm sorry, but it does. So what I've learned this week as a consumer is that the more money you spend, the more frightened you are of TV and you get to taste vomit without the inconvenience of actually vomiting.

3) I stepped on a rake this morning and hit myself in the face. Yes, really. I'm now on high-alert for discarded banana peels and ACME products.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Release Date!

And so I have a release date! Or rather, NOT A DROP TO DRINK has a release date. It has been decided that for the good of the public I shall never be released.

So, write it on your calendar, get a tattoo, shave it onto your dog's back. 

Also, make sure you know your month numbers so that you don't do what I did and say, "That's awesome! I love August!" and then have your editor say... "Um, that's great Mindy, but your release date is in September."

And remember, release dates are subject to change. So maybe skip the tatt.

Monday, December 3, 2012

When Three Wheels Are Better Than Two - Guest Post by A.G. Howard

by A.G. Howard

Today's post isn't really about the cute and peculiar little German car with its odd number of wheels. Although three can make for a much more interesting ride. Take love triangles, for example.

Yes, the dreaded TRIANGLE. Lately, a lot of readers (especially in YA) are down on love triangles. I’ve heard some say that authors need to quit using them, that anyone who does is just following the pack or trying to emulate Twilight’s success. Personally, I love *triangles* (when they’re well-done), and am baffled by how anyone who’s an avid reader can think Stephanie Meyers invented or trademarked a trope that’s been around for centuries.

Case in point, there's literature dating back as early as the 1500's that utilized this same technique before any of today's famous authors were ever even born. One of the most unique triangles of its time was in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, where a woman dressed as a man, falls in love with a man, who's in love with another woman who falls in love with the first woman (thinking she's a man).

Confusing? Yes. But who could turn away from such a hot mess of unrequited love and wire-taut tension?

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847) is a more traditional triangle, yet there's a paranormal slant. Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar were caught in a crossroads of passion that in the end transcended death itself. There was also The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (1909) with both the dark Phantom and the equitable Vicomte of Chagny vying for the lovely and innocent Christine DaaƩ's affections.

I'm not going to explore why love triangles work. It's obvious they do since they've been a literary staple in gothic romances and the like for as long as there have been stories (there are even examples in the Bible).

In my debut, SPLINTERED, I wove in my love triangle as symbolism for the yin and yang aspects of the story, and the choice that Alyssa has to make at the end of the book. In all honesty, without that inner conflict for Alyssa, my book would lose something. Each guy brings out and complements different qualities in Alyssa—not just her light and dark sides, but how she makes decisions, either cautiously or spontaneously; or how she views the world, either as a canvas or as a playground. And when the time comes for a choice, it’s more than just choosing a guy. It’s choosing which way she wants to live her life.

For me personally, the best love triangles are either when the heroine is attracted to both men for different reasons ... when somehow they are the two halves to her perfect soulmate's whole, in which case she'll always be questioning who she chooses for they only have half of what she's looking for; OR, when one of the heroes realizes who the heroine is truly better off with and sacrifices his own happiness for hers.

Mmm. Nothing hits the spot like a broken heart. ;)

Here's a short list of some my favorite literary love triangles to date, in no particular order, from classics to present bestsellers:

Katniss Everdeen, Gale Hawthorne, and Peeta Mellark - Hunger Games
James Potter, Lily Potter and Severus Snape - Harry Potter
Stefan, Elena, and Damon - The Vampire Diaries
Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar - Wuthering Heights
Jace, Clary, and Simon - Mortal Instrument series
The Phantom, Christine DaaƩ, and the Vicomte of Chagny - The Phantom of the Opera
Sidney Carton, Lucie Manette, and Charles Darnay - Tale of Two Cities
Sophie, Nathan, and Stingo - Sophie's Choice

Are some of your favorite third wheel love stories up there? Do you have some favorites in films? I'd love to hear of any that I've missed!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

Justin and his brother Tom share one life: They feel each other's physical pain and emotions. Are they twins? I feel like if they were that would be mentioned here. Also, I'm getting no indication of genre here, this could be anything from contemporary to hardcore SF. It's not *imperative* that we get the feel right off, but it helps. This is definitely something that makes your concept original, but the hook itself needs more spice.

At thirteen, Justin gets phrasing - "is shot" shot with a poisoned arrow. In a last attempt to save his life, a healer works dangerous magic to forever link him to Tom. OK - so this is a step backward in time from the hook, right? The hook is a statement of their linked status, but this is telling us how the link happened, so there's some confusion here. Also, the poisoned arrow, healer, and magic tells us more about genre, so get the "how" of the linking up with the fact of the linking with your hook. But living with the constant echo of someone else's feelings isn't easy, especially when Justin knows Tom can't stand him. Even better - forever linked and they hate each other? There's your hook.

As farm hands, the brothers both want more from life than hauling grain and shoveling manure. After Justin finds out his father has lied to him his whole life about what? The price of tea in China?, the brothers run off to join the military. When the brothers become soldiers in a global war, they must learn to work together because their bond makes them vulnerable. Oh, nice twist here. If one dies, the other will too. But it also makes them powerful. They can bend elements to their will, sending waves of scorching hot flames, shards of ice, and bolts of lightning upon their enemies, How does this bond give them special superhero powers? Is it residual magic at work? who counter with blurring speed and a taste for torture.

Years of war leave the brothers exhausted. Neither side is winning, people are starving, and the ground is covered in blood. Justin and Tom will do anything to stop the war, and they might just be their country's last hope, because of the one thing they never wanted. Their bond. Decent sinker here, but how does their bond and super powers make them so special? It sounds like magic is fairly common in this world, so what's so special about them? Exactly how can this bond make or break the war?

You've got an original concept here, and overall the query is pretty good. You need to address the timeline issues and get the idea of them not liking each other up into the hook. That's your hook - bonded to someone you hate, not just the bonding itself. Also, I need to know more about this war. I get that the main idea of the story isn't necessarily the war, but I think an idea of Who and Why are very important in the query. Otherwise, it just sounds like the war only serves as as backdrop for the brother's story. And yes, that might be the case, but right now the war doesn't sound fully fleshed out because of the wording of the query. Tell us who is fighting, and why, otherwise the reader has nothing riding on hoping that a war ends if they've got nothing invested in it, plotwise.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) Setting up a Christmas tree is just annoying as hell. If I *don't* set one up, I feel guilty and unsociable. If I *do* set one up it hangs out too long after the fact and I feel guilty for not putting it away sooner. My record for taking down tree late? Mid-March, 2004.

2) I'm sure Jesus loves that this is what I'm focusing on at Christmastime.

3) On the other hand, there's a lot of debate among biblical scholars about when Jesus was actually born. Some push for as late as April. Technically, Jesus might be totally thrilled with me for having that tree up in the spring.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Cover Reveal Talk with J.R. Johansson, author of INSOMNIA - and an ARC Giveaway!

Todays guest for the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) is my fellow Friday the Thirteener J.R. Johansson, author of INSOMNIA. Jenn is offering up an awesome prize pack to go along with her insomnia theme, as well as an ARC once they're available!

It’s been four years since I slept, and I suspect it is killing me.

Instead of sleeping, Parker Chipp enters the dream of the last person he’s had eye contact with. He spends his nights crushed by other people’s fear and pain, by their disturbing secrets—and Parker can never have dreams of his own. The severe exhaustion is crippling him. If nothing changes, Parker could soon be facing psychosis and even death.

Then he meets Mia. Her dreams, calm and beautifully uncomplicated, allow him blissful rest that is utterly addictive. Parker starts going to bizarre lengths to catch Mia’s eye every day. Everyone at school thinks he’s gone over the edge, even his best friend. And when Mia is threatened by a true stalker, everyone thinks it’s Parker.

Suffering blackouts, Parker begins to wonder if he is turning into someone dangerous. What if the monster stalking Mia is him after all?

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?

Not really. It was more of a feel that I wanted. I wanted it to look creepy, but still cool/compelling/interesting. I wanted something that would convey the feel of the book and draw people in at the same time. I think they did a great job with accomplishing that.

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

It was in July, so about 11 months before my pub date.

Did you have any input on your cover?

A little, but not much. On the first version, his face had much smoother skin and I asked for them to make him a little more masculine and rough. They did a great job with that.

How was your cover revealed to you?

Haha, my editor sent me an email with the subject line, “OK, brace yourself” I think the cover is a little shocking at first glance, so it was oddly appropriate.

Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?

No, my editor told me that once I had my final copy I could set up the reveal when/how I wanted. He doesn’t know yet that I can’t be trusted with that kind of freedom. ;-)

How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?

I just saw the first version of it near the end of October, so I guess almost eight and a half months.

Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?

Yes and no. It’s been fun to show family and close friends, but I kind of liked keeping it private for a bit. Now I’m really excited to have it out there for everyone to see. I love it and am happy to have it out there representing me and my book.

What surprised you most about the process?

How fast it went from the first version to the final product. I know it isn’t that way with every author/publisher, but for me it was super fast. The publisher had a meeting first. I guess they had a few different cover options to consider, but their vote was unanimous on this one so I never saw the others. Once they gave it to me, I gave some feedback, they made a couple of changes and got the final back to me less than a week later.

Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?

My advice is to realize that every cover has people who love it and people who hate it. Yours won’t be any different, so don’t expect it to be. It won’t (hopefully) be the last cover you have, so learn from the experience. The author doesn’t have a lot of control or power most of the time, so make sure your opinion is known, your voice is heard, and then sit back and try to enjoy the ride.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Heroes Have Always Been Anti-Heroes

If you've been following my tweets you know that I'm re-watching LOST and because of that I've now lost interest in the real world. LOST is one of those shows that is so well written, acted, paced, plotted and executed that it worms into your brain and eats away that part of you that allows you to be entertained by mediocrity. Now I want nothing except LOST.

That being said, The Walking Dead is on tonight, and you can bet your ass I'll be watching.

And those two things side by side brought me to a realization. As a writer, reader and overall storyaholic, I love the anti-heroes - those complex, warped fellows that find themselves unable to fit into social situations. They'd rather make up insulting nicknames for people or throw squirrels at them than actually participate in a helpful way.

The first thing we see Sawyer do in LOST is smoke a cigarette and glare at people. When he finally does get social it's to accuse Sayid of being a terrorist and get into a fistfight with him. And thank God Jack broke that up early because it would've been a shame if Sayid had to break Sawyer's neck with his ankles.

Our first exposure to Daryl is when he comes lunging out of the brush, completely filthy and armed to the teeth, pissed off that a zombie got the deer he's been tracking... and then he throws dead squirrels at people and makes racist comments.

Yes, these are my heroes. Aggressive rednecks.

So why are they so much more compelling than the real heroes?

Because Jack and Rick are good, clean-cut people thrown into bad situations where they begin to deteriorate. Rick is killing the living and getting phone calls from heaven, Jack ends up strung out and makes a pretty crappy husband / boyfriend. These transformations happen after they go down the rabbit hole and their personalities get a reality check. My anti-heroes grow after the world falls apart.

In "Two for the Road" (LOST S2 E20) after Libby dies, Kate is crouching on a bench in the hatch attempting to hide her tears. Sawyer more or less forces his comfort on her with a sweet man-friend chest-pillow hug and I'm like "DEAR GOD I WISH YOU REALLY EXISTED TAKE ME HOME." And Sawyer just gets better from there. He reads (YA, no less), he plays ping-pong, and he threatens people who threaten Kate. Also, he sports a half-ponytail every now and then and it's super hot.

And then he backslides. I've never been so upset as when Sawyer stockpiled weapons and declared there was a new sheriff in town. OK, I have been, but you know what I mean.

Daryl is like Sawyer (minus aggressive sexual manipulation of every attractive female he meets) in that the worst possible situation is bringing out the best in him. He's stopped throwing squirrels at people. Now he's feeding everyone with his bow. He's a team player and Rick's right hand man, (although I'd argue that Daryl is more important to their survival than Rick but *anyway*) he may even have feelings for Carol down under that filthy skin. And the equivalent of Sawyer's man-friend chest-pillow hug was the cuddling and christening of Baby Kickass. Yeah, even my tin can of a heart rattled around a little.

But I sense a backslide coming as his path converges with his brother's. I'm actually worried about this and have a feeling I'm going to be shouting obscenities at my TV sometime soon.

And these are the kind of characters that I love - the ones that you worry about. Creating a character that keeps people waiting for the next episode or forcing themselves to stay awake for just one more chapter because they need to know what's going to happen to him/her is a true art.

We're writers. Our job is to make readers care about things that never happened to people that don't exist. It's not easy, but it's doable.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to make characters as compelling and complex as Sawyer and Daryl, but I promise you I'll try.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately -

1) When I was little I used to think that the world ended when we ran out of space to bury people. Think about it - there's a lot of people and only so much soil. Surely there's a formula to mathematically figure out when the entire earth will be tombstones. And yes, I'm aware you can be cremated. But you can also be composted, if you live in Scandinavia. Yep.

2) But you can't be buried on your own property, that's illegal because of water tables and such. Gone are the good old days of being hauled out to the family plot. This is odd to me. It's my body, but I don't get to say where I want it to go when I'm done with it. I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to do the thing where you are stuck up on a plank in a tree and the birdies get you. Will check on that.

3) It makes me think about placentas. You don't get to keep yours. Yep - that's right. You grew it inside of yourself, you expelled it out of your vagina but it does not belong to you. Because there's a .0000001 chance I might take it home and do stem cell experiments.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An SAT with Laura Barnes & Querying Without Fear

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Laura Barnes, a great person who definitely deserves the light at the end of the slog tunnel. Laura's story is one of those that makes you say, "Yes, I can do this! Good stuff happens to regular people too, not just the insane ones like Mindy!"

I call this SAT "Querying Without Fear" because Laura queried an agent who only accepts new clients through referrals. She knew the odds, but she also knew she wanted this guy and that the worst he could tell her was "no." And we grow immune to that. So she did it... and boy is she glad she did.

Here's to no fear.

Writing Process:
Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I like to pretend I’m a Planster because I admire people who write on the fly and I think Planners are boring, but I’m really a Planner. I like to call it mulling. I mull and mull and mull – as I’m driving, as I’m falling asleep, in the shower – and then when I sit at the computer it’s ready to go. I also generally write an outline near the beginning of writing.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

About four months. I’m hoping to finish my current W.I.P. in three months though. Fingers crossed.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

One at a time. I have a feeling I’m going to have to learn to multi-task since I have a lot of material on submission/getting ready for submission. I’m not looking forward to it.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

Not really. I say that because I can’t remember the first time I sat down to write – I’ve always been a writer. I do have recurrent doubts though. Days when I think everything is shit, and not in a submission hell way, but in a why does everything I write make me want a puke kind of way.

How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?

When I got my agent, I had three complete books and had considered at least one of those to be trunked (my first one). However, it appears that all three of my books will be put out on submission after some revisions.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

I’ve started a few that are waiting for me to return. Does that count as quitting? The ms that I had considered trunked I gave up on because I had queried, like, 150 agents and though I had a lot of requests, no one took me up on it. I quit querying it when my next book was finished, mostly because I was more excited about the new one then the old one.

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?  

My agent is Bob Diforio at D4EO literary agency. He usually only accepts referrals, but I queried him anyway since I love his agency. He asked for the full the same day I queried him and offered representation the next morning. I’m also working with Kristin Miller, another agent at D4EO, for my MG novels.

How long did you query before landing your agent?

I’d queried my first two books for over a year, but I’d only been querying the book that landed me an agent for one week.

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Ha ha. I laugh because every bit of advice I read when querying made me bitter. But that’s probably just me. So I’ll say this: querying sucks. It sucks mostly because we let the results of querying tell us how good our writing is, which is total bull crap. A lot of getting an agent is being in the right place at the right time when whatever particular agent was in the right mood. Don’t let rejection tell you you’re not good.

Social Networking and Marketing:
How much of your own marketing do you?  

I have a blog that has been ignored a lot this last year. I was hard core blogging for a long time. Then more real life responsibilities (ie: working more) forced me to have to back down. I have a Twitter account but I really don’t use it much.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

Before! Before, before, before because after you get your agent you’re busy. If you’ve got things in place before, it will be much better to maintain.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

I do. I’m not sure if it’s enough to counter the amount of time spent on it, but I believe the relationships built through social media are valuable for other reasons as well.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Comfy Corner In My Brain

I know some writers who say that when the ideas are coming they come so hard and fast they can't type quick enough. I have those experiences at times, and I'm very grateful for them when they come - except for those 2 AM diatribes. My muse could stand some Lunesta.

But my experience when I'm actually writing, or even just daydreaming (I call that plotting) is that my brain actually feels s-l-o-w-e-d d-o-w-n. I'm sure that my eyes glaze over and a little white fade-out effect takes over whatever room I happen to be in at the time, as well.

There's a literal feeling of settling in a corner of my brain, like the WIP's ass just found an awesome chair with a perfect-fit buttmark and tossed itself down. It gets settled, curls up (don't quote me on this, but it might be purring) and that's when the real act of writing starts happening.

It's typically about two pages in to that day's work, those two pages will need a lot of assistance and a Crap Removal Team when the time comes. I feel like the idea is walking around my head, testing different areas while I toss out the requisite two pages of drivel, trying out chairs and dismissing them.

But once it finds that buttmark chair... we're in business.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

Seventeen-year-old Mason Greer wasn’t always stoked about becoming a Waker—a protector of those who can change the future with their dreams. This isn't quite working because you're trying to jam the information about what a Waker is in here. Plus, we've got the whole "he wasn't always stoked," which says that *now* he is, but we don't know what changed that feeling until the end of this para It was something he was born into. But six years ago Also, I feel like this change to being "stoked" should be relatively recent, the way you're phrasing it in your hook. But it was actually an event six years ago that changed his mind Mason received mysterious boxes random information: I read this as "mysterious boxers" which really had me wondering at his father’s work place. Inside Mason found things he will never forget—body parts of a Dreamer. Ba BA BUM - here's your hook. Down here. Get these body parts in the first sentence. Who? He’ll never know, but he’ll be damned if it happens again. Nice - these body parts gave him the conviction. Great! Get that up there. He used to be so-so on the topic? So what? That's not a hook. 

Now on assignment for the first time, Mason knows what he has to do: find the Dreamer wait - what Dreamer? Surely not the one whose body parts he got in a box six years ago? Because that wouldn't quite make sense..., save the world, become a hero. Easy, right? Sure, until he meets seventeen-year-old Avery Carmichael, who, according to his records, should be a boy. Nice -  I like the twist here.

Avery makes Mason’s job anything but simple. Haunted by her past, she lives in fear that the people who took her parents will come for her next. So the body parts were / was one of her parents? So when Mason shows up and tells her she’s not crazy I'd strike this , that her dreams really are coming to life, she’s not sure what to believe. But her inability to control her gift brings the Dream Catchers closer and the duo must learn to work together—despite their growing feeling why would that be a block? I would think growing feelings for each other would make it easier to work together—to avoid them. If this group catches a Dreamer like Avery, or as legends call her a Chavez—one who can completely control their dreams— I'd strike the information here after "Avery" it's making everything choppy. I like the idea of a "living nightmare," great sinker they’ll use her power to change the world into a living nightmare.

Narrated alternately by Mason and Avery, DREAM MAKER, a YA speculative fiction novel, is complete at 60,000 words and on multiple submission. I wouldn't worry about specifying multiple submission - they assume that.

Overall this is looking pretty good. You're trying overly hard to get your world building jammed into parenthetical phrases here and it's not absolutely necessary. Cut out some of your excess and get that body box into the first line and you're looking much better.