How to Kiss

8 Aug

Kicking off the Month of Kisses (which is going to be amazing btw) with something to get you all thinking.

You know at the end of this there’s a contest. You know the contest on my blog is #TeamKissy, but that’s about all we’ve shared so far (besides the hint about how FREAKING awesome the prize is… which is just, so much clearer now, right?) But you don’t know what the contest is.

With that in mind, I’m going to tell you all how to win while @valeriefm80 isn’t looking….

….just kidding.

But I am going to talk about kissing and writing and doing both at the same time… No, wait. That’s not quite right. I’m going to talk about writing kissing. Yes, that’s right.

The Set Up

Unless the point is to have no set up (like Nick & Nora (which I would argue there’s external set up)) then, you’ve got to have something to bring the kiss into focus before it happens. Do the characters spend all their time specifically not kissing because of attraction, dislike, a misunderstanding? Or, have they been slowly walking toward is? Maybe they’ve met and the sparks flew.

Whatever has happened, a kiss isn’t like walking into someone on the street. It’s not just a mistake with no build.

Your kissing scene may start pages before your kiss and your build may (and probably should) start on page one…even if they haven’t met yet. What is your protags personality, physical experience, ideas about love and attraction.

A kiss should be built up to, even if the kiss isn’t “planned” or anything the characters see coming.

The Setting

Where and when a kiss happens is as important in storytelling as a kiss itself. How often have we all joked about those people who have stopped to have sex during a shootout. Yes, an exaggeration, but where and when a kiss happens says a lot — not just about the characters, but about how they feel about each other.

When I write a kiss, it typically is a mirror and a camera – It shows us each of them and the pair as a couple (even if just for that moment)…and it shows them the same thing.

If your kiss just happens because of heat and only because of heat, then you’re missing huge opportunities.

The Kiss

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately (and I think we’ll have several authors talk about it during Month of Kisses) but it feels like to me there’s two ways to attack a kiss scene: The emotional and the physical.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course a good kiss scene needs to have both, even if the emotional is — I don’t care. I’m just kissing him because he’s hot (oh, famous.last.words.) But for me, I like my kisses to be about they why — Why am I kissing him? Why is he kissing me? How do I feel about this? How do I feel about the kiss? How does this change anything/everything/omgoshpanicpanicpai… Ok, wait. *ponders kissing scenes* *comes up with one without panic* Okay. Okay. It’s going to be fine.

Backing up. especially first kisses (not just in YA) — They’re defining moments. Here is the chance to show not just the reader, but the characters as well how they’re feeling. Kind of a emotional trial-by-fire. I’m a big believer in tbf moments 🙂

Then there’s the physical. Every kissing scene needs to have the physical. Even if it’s as little as where his hands were and his lips touching hers. You need to physically choreograph the kiss. Then there’s the hotter kisses (the physically hotter kisses, because, let’s be honest — there are some sweetly written kisses that blow your socks off because of the emotions behind them).

The Fall Out

Dun Dun Da….. He pulls away, she jerks out of his arms, they make out all night. Fall out time number one.

The next time she sees him, when he doesn’t call, when she runs into an ex, they become joined at the hip. Fall out number two.

Where are we now? Fall out number three.

Yes, all those could be wrapped into one. but what I”m saying is, you can’t have a kiss without aftermath. If you did, then what was the point? Why did you have the kiss? If I was critting for you, and I went through and I marked your scenes as “Why is this here? How does it move the story forward?” Your kiss scene would get a big X through it.

But to win at kiss writing, to really make a memorable kissing scene, you need to roll those all together. The set up, the setting, the kiss and the fall out. Without them all, it’s just knocking lips when you walk into each other on the sidewalk. I see a lot of split lips in that equation.

So, let’s discuss! I’d love to hear about a couple of things actually:

  1. What makes a kissing scene work for you?
  2. What type of kissing scenes do you like to write or read (heavier physical description or emotional description)?
  3. If you’re a writer, what do you struggle with when writing kissing scenes?

Stick around this month – You can see the schedule of amazing writers and reviews who will be talking about kissing throughout August in the blog sticky.

You know what they say — August is all about the heat!



Month of Kisses

7 Aug

Welcome to August.

You may have noticed looking back over the summer that I basically took the time off blogging. I’m really pro-this. A writer needs to know when to shift focus and/or take a break. That’s one thing about us — No one is paying us vacation time, so we feel like we shouldn’t take it.

But, the truth of the matter is, vacation stops burnout.

So, here I am back and ready to get the blog going with an exciting new topic — KISSES!

If you go anywhere near my twitter stream, even walk by it without looking, you’ll have noticed the new challenge put out by me (@briaquinlan) and my agency sister Valerie (@valeriefm80) — Coming next month: KISS / KISS-OFF contest.

You heard me right! A contest! I’ve always had a ton of fun with the contests I’ve run here, but now — joining up with Valerie — we’re bringing you something crazy. While I run the Best Kiss contest, Valerie will be running the Best Kiss-Off contest and then we’ll go head to head.

In preparation of the contest, this month will be a Month of Kisses. Lots of folks from writers to reviewers will talk about kissing, kissing scenes and writing the Big Moment.

Stick around – It’s going to be fabulous 🙂


Getting a Job to Quit It

30 Jul

Since FWIS is on summer hiatus, I decided to write something focused on the business of writing.

If you follow the blog at all (even looked at it twice in the last few years) you may have realized I’m focused (obsessed) with goals and balance. It’s true. I am.

The difficult part of this is that my RL job seldom allows for any static focus time in my life.

I’ve been a contract consultant for years. I fell into it by accident but with the economy’s shift I went from “I love this, it’s great” to “This is killing me financially” to “Ok, I’m working steadily again, but I want out.”

Why do I want out?

Well, beyond the security and benefits I have a different concern – Emotionally, it’s a bigger concern.

Think about the last time you started a new job. Think about the upheaval and the new sleep pattern and the stress of figuring out your commute and worrying about setting things up and getting them going. Think about that first month where work leaks into home life.

Now do that 3 to 6 times a year.

Now try to maintain your writing schedule while you do it.

So, while everyone else there is hoping to quit their job to become a writer, my first step is to get a job and become a writer.

I have no problem with that. Sometimes, you have to see the steps between here and the dream. The steps that are going to make the dream easier to reach… and maintain.

So here I am, struggling to readjust to another new job and having four writing projects I’m trying to wrap up and send out. I struggle not to beat myself up when I don’t/can’t hit the goal for that day.  Step back, refocus, remember the balance and get moving again.

Yes, I get that all jobs have flux, that finding a job where I only have to “start” once doesn’t mean I’ve got the Employment Magic Bullet. Here’s the thing though, everyone needs to look at their own patterns and find the bottleneck. For me, this is it. I need to find the job that will allow me to quit it.

And so, as I do that, I push through another “first month” and pull every trick I know out of my hat to get the writing done in the mean time.

But, it also helps to remember we all have our bottlenecks. Do you know what yours is? Share it — and your trick for getting around it! Maybe someone can steal your brilliance.


FWIS ~> Writing Time, Keeping it Sacred

6 Jun

FWIS (From Where I Stand) is a monthly piece I’m collaborating on with Abby Mumford & Jessica Corra… all three of us are YA writers in different places in our journeys. Check out their links for this months FWIS from their point of view!


I’m not even looking at the other ladies’ posts. We’ve seem to have a run of “Pick topic then everyone writes about it one way and Bria writes about it another.” So, let’s see what happens today!

Anyone who knows me knows that this is a topic near and dear to my heart. I’ve blogged about writing and time management over and over again. I’ve spoken on it, lead online discussions on it, taught workshops, created several small forum-based groups and (occasionally) bullied people into time management (HINT: That never works.) I’ve been a career and management coach. I work with executives and do office reorgs.

So, when you sayWriting Timethat’s typically where I go.

But, today I’d like to go somewhere else.

Today I’d like to talk about keeping it sacred.

Yes, finding the time can be nearly impossible. Yes, it can be a ten-minutes here, two-minutes at a stoplight, scribbling notes while I cook kind of thing.  But, just like any relationship, you need to learn to give this one all of your attention when it’s time to be with it.

If you have time set aside, then focus — even if that means turning off Twitter (something I often have to do – I have no twelf-control.)

The thing I’ve learned this year (that I’d secretly known before) is that when you’re writing, that time needs to be a time apart. A time when the world in your head, becomes the actual world you’re living in. It is – in that moment – the present reality you make real so you can share it with others.

Because of this we need to learn to ask ourselves, what is better: Five minutes of extreme focus or and hour of scattered time?

Treat whatever time it is you get as a present. It should never be, I have to write. It should always be, I get to write. because, let’s be honest, being able to write any amount of time is a gift. Take that gift and make it into something you can share with others. Make it into something sacred.


Teaching an Online Class

7 May

I took a class a while ago and it’s really been bothering me. Let’s just say, it did not go smoothly. Or well. Nor do I think anyone learned anything. And so, in this world where online classes pop up everywhere, I have a few things to say. (I know, you’re shocked.)

First off:  There is more to teaching than dumb luck.

Just because you were successful at something, doesn’t mean you can teach it. I’m begging you. Please. Don’t.

That said, let’s look at some of the things that make a successful Online Class:

  1. Clear Description — The description of the class before students register should be clear enough that they know what they’re paying for… And what they’re not.
  2. Class Syllabus —  Cut down on worry and questions by having an outline of what’s covered when. Often people are anxious to get to their own questions. If they know the section they signed up for is coming, they can relax and wait…and not get the class off topic.
  3. Introduction— Introductions need to go both ways.
    1. Be clear during introductions who you are, what you bring to the table, and how you work
    2. If you’re doing group introductions (and I really think you should), be clear what you want them to tell you
  4. Schedule — Classes should happen on assigned days by a certain (pre-stated) time. Remember, if you’re on the west coast, east coast people are up waiting to get the class. Please be considerate. Also, when you miss the deadline, part of your credibility disappears.
  5. Ground Rules — You are the moderator as well as the teacher. In your first post (with the Syllabus and Introductions) set up ground rules of how the class will function, how/when input can be given, privacy rules and treatment –as well as consequences. Yes, most of these shouldn’t even need to be said, but say them.
  6. Posting the Classes –Most online classes are still being done on loops. There are a couple ways to make this work:
    1. Send the class in an email and post it in the files section
    2. Send a notice that the class is posted in the files section
    3. Yes, always post the class in the files section – You don’t know what it’s going to do in email AND the participants paid for the class. They should be able to download them.
  7. Numbering — Make sure the class & homework numbers match up. So, Class #1 and Homework #1 go together. If there’s not going to be homework for every class, think about coming up with titles instead of numbers.
  8. Number of Students — Limit this. Know how many people you can juggle, how much homework you can read, how many people giving input you can handle…and what’s best for the class. Be ready to say no. This class had over 60 people in it. The teacher regularly responded to 6. Others were out-and-out ignored. Questions went unanswered. When one person asked something, the teacher actually said, “I answered a similar question for (one of the blessed 6) yesterday. Please go find it and review”… The person’s question was actually a follow-up to that. Needless to say, participation plummeted after that.
  9. You’re available — For goodness sake, do not agree to do a class while you are on deadline, vacation, moving, changing jobs, or any other pre-calendared thing. Telling the class does not make it okay for you to be unavailable. These people paid money to learn from you.
  10. Listen to the Question — Don’t just give the answer to the question you want them to ask. Answer the question they actually asked. Yes, there might be follow-up. But you’re there to teach. Not to humor people…which brings us to #11
  11. Leveling — Understand people are at different levels, be prepared to talk about different levels of your topic.

Almost all of this can be planned and taken care of before the class even begins. If you’re writing the classes as you go (I don’t mean tweaking them for clarity. I mean writing them.) you’re already behind. Go in planning for success.

Remember, not only is your name on the class, but whichever group you’re giving it through. I know I’ll never take another class through this chapter — I don’t believe they have the discernment to pick good teachers. So, don’t be that teacher.



FWIS: How To Make A Hero

2 May

FWIS (From Where I Stand) is a monthly piece I’m collaborating on with Abby Mumford & Jessica Corra… all three of us are YA writers in different places in our journeys. Check out their links for this months FWIS from their point of view!


Everyone loves a hero. I mean, seriously – who doesn’t? Women love to swoon. Guys love to fist-bump over some hero’ish move. Kids plaster posters on their walls. Old men talk about the heroes who shaped them.

But, writing one? That’s another story.

You see, something I learned right away (well, right away from readers) was that, your hero can betooperfect. I think as women, we often go that route. We create what (to us) is the perfect man. Even the “flawed hero” is often times too perfect. His flaw even adds to that.

So, let’s take a look at a couple things you may need to consider to make your hero truer (that’s a word. seriously. it is.)

ONE: Perfection!

Come on. We’ve all done it. We’ve created the perfect guy to be our hero. Only, a hero who is perfect is not a perfect hero.

The perfect hero is someone we believe could be real. He’s wonderful because there’s a chance -not matter how slim- that he could walk through that door at any second.

*glances at the door*

Ok, well… Maybe tomorrow.

A real guy doesn’t do all the right things. He doesn’t show love in every way possible.

To break this (not so) vicious cycle, I implemented the TL3 (Two Love Languages Law). If you don’t have the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, you need to pick it up. At this point, there are so many copies out there in the world, you can grab it for a buck or two at most used bookstores.

And then, pick two. If you pick Gifts and Words of Affirmation, every time your hero does an Act of Service, delete it. If your hero is to perfect, don’t replace it with something else. Just delete it.

Trust me. I’m not kidding. It works.

Let’s just say, in my first book, the hero drugs and kidnaps and underage girl (he’s just of age, she’s just under) and all my readers thought this was acceptable because he was So Great. No. Don’t lose your powerful moments and chances for redemption because your heroes romantic actions outweigh his life actions.

TWO: What’s the Problem, Joe?

The hero needs a problem. (I mean, any protag needs a problem, but really. The hero needs one.)

How many times have you read a romance and the heroine was  a complete mess and the hero was perfect. No issues. No problems with her mess. Handled everything perfectly.

That’s not a good read. That’s annoying. At the end of those books I wonder why he’s with her. The problem has got to come out soon because no guy is going to put up with all that crap. I’ll admit, I’m sick to death of the heroine being unemployed, stupid, confused, lost in life, having family issues, in debt, living out of her car, etc and this wealthy, successful, handsome, kind, generous, funny, smart, rescues-kittens-from-trees on his way to a business meeting hero is like, OH! Yes! HER! The woman who can’t even drive to the grocery story without having an emotional breakdown. I’ll take her.

There needs to be some balance. Make sure both sides of the relationship have something to over come.

To me, the formula should be: (Hero + His issues) + (Heroine + Her Issues) + Something They Over Come collectively = Strong Romance.

THREE: He’s Hot

Some of my favorite heroes are hot in surprising ways. It’s not how they look, it’s how they are. You know that saying, “Beauty is skin deep” – well, make sure with your hero hot goes all the way through.

FOUR: Growth

All of those add up to a hero who comes out better ont he other side. If he doesn’t, you need to go back and look at the first two. He needs to grow. He needs to be more than just the prize.

Hey, women don’t want to be the prize, they want to be a partner. Don’t flip the stereotype. Keep your hero on an upward momentum of awesomeness. Keep the challenges coming (and him overcoming) and keep the heroine forcing him to stay on his toes.

There you go, you just deleted all the cookie-cutter stuff and made a hero who will win hearts.


10 Minute Mentor: Learning How to Write

23 Apr

I was a member of RWA since the second I decided to start writing. Ok, the day after the second I decided to start writing. It’s a funny story. It’s on the blog somewhere and one day I’ll dredge it up again.

But, not the point.

The point is, as soon as I decided to start writing again, I joined one of the most reputable writers’ groups out there.

RWA immediately started giving me the tools I need to get to the next level (and helped me define “the next level”) as well as the support to get me there. I did a fast list once on what I got from RWA HERE. That’s the off the top of my head list, but you get the point.

I just started listening to the RWA 2011 conference MP3s. I thought there’d be a lot there for me to skip. I mean, I’ve heard it all before, right? It’s stuff I’ve learned. Those first, entry-level talks that I thought I could skip? Well, they’ve been gems. Amazing.

I find myself saying, I knew that. I knew that, right? a lot. Some of it I’m already doing and hadn’t realized it had become second nature. Some of it I’d started doing and forgotten. Some of it had never penetrated this thick skull of mine.

And so, as you grow, do not forget that no level is behind you. When you climb that ladder to the next level, every wrung you climb is held together by the one below it as much as the one above it. By looking back, you’re making a stronger base. By looking forward, you’re making a stronger plan.

You can’t move up without both.

Writing Your Query

16 Apr

This is often the last step before your manuscript goes out the door.

Let’s be honest, by the last step of anything you’re typically ready to be done with it. Because of this, when you hear people talk about query (and synopsis) writing, the conversation typically sounds more barrier focused than marketing focus.

And that’s exactly what your query is: The first step in your book marketing.

With the whole re-boot of the 10 Minute Mentor, one of the suggestions was to discuss query letters.

Last year I did a blog on the similarities between reading cover letters/resumes and query letters/partials. If you ever follow my twitter #getthejob hashtag, you know I’ve got this down to a science. I trust that agents have their sourcing down to a science too. The secret is to getting past the first two glances (which studies on the resume end show are typically done in under 6 seconds. I assume it’s pretty darn close for agents as well) and into the third look.

Here are my suggestions:

ONE: Content

Just like the book, info dumps are bad. When people ask me to look at their query before they send it, that’s typically the first thing I notice. It’s also typically the first thing I do when writing my own.

That’s 1000005.7% okay for the first draft. You need to get it all out. But, it’s not going to fly for the final query.

After writing the info dump, I put each piece of information on an index card. Then I play the hierarchy game. Cards get weeded out as “secondary” or “important, but not a selling point” or “detail” — that’s my own personal demon. The Detail. And I see it in a lot of queries too.

If the detail isn’t going to sell the book, set it aside.

This might be something you do in reverse. Don’t know how to start the query? Grab those index cards (or if you’re a plotter, your summary/outline) and start highlighting!

TWO: Process

After working your content, set the query aside just like you would a manuscript. You need fresh eyes for this just as much as you need it for any other writing.

When you come back, you’re definitely going to tweak it. If you don’t, question that.

Then ask people who have read/discussed this project to read it. Incorporate any feedback.

This last step is one I think too many people skip: Have at least 2 people who have not read or discussed the project read the query. Remember, agents won’t have sat around sipping coffee and discussing your work with you. They come in blind.

Good questions to ask those blind readers:

    • What do you think the hook is?
    • What do you think the book is about?
    • Is there anything that was confusing or unclear?
    • Do you think I should play something up more?
    • Did it flow?

These are your most valuable readers. Listen to them

THREE: Set up (not the blind date kind)

LEVEL ONE, the open: Make sure you have your salutation correct. The name is correct. It’s spelled correctly. If you’re doing Mr./Ms. you have the right gender.

LEVEL ONE-A, the secondary open: In the opening paragraph, I’ve heard a lot of agents say “personalize it so I know why you’re querying me.” A note about this: Unless you really have a reason to personalize it, I’d jump right to the good stuff. Also, be careful how you personalize it. This can bite you in the bottom. If you never met the person, don’t claim you did.

Whatever you do, do not invoke one of their writer’s names (see #AgentRec). Trust me, if the writer gave you a recommendation, the agent knows before your query hits their in-box.

LEVEL TWO, The previously mentioned “good stuff”:  Dive directly into your query. Don’t ask a question, or soft step into it. Line one: Your Hook.

Agent’s know why they’re receiving your query. You don’t need to tell them. It’s like pulling up to the Wendy’s drive-thru speaker and saying, “I’m here because I know you make and sell cheeseburgers. I’d like to purchase a cheeseburger. Here is the cheeseburger I’d like to purchase” before telling them your order.

LEVEL THREE, the bio: Yes. Have a bio. Include any pertinent information, writing group memberships, previous writing experience (You’re querying a YA but you used to write for a newspaper? Still valid.) This should be one paragraph unless you a previously published author.

If you are previously published also include links to your listed books’ sales sites. Save them the google.

LEVEL FOUR, the sign off: Thank them for their time. Don’t make any assumptions you’ll hear from them. Make yourself easy to contact:

Real Name
Writing as: Pen Name (if applicable)
Phone Number

They have your email (they’re looking at it) and they’re most likely not going to snail mail you anything. Leave the sign off looking clean.

FOUR: Mailing it

Follow the directions. Follow the directions. Follow the directions.

If you set it up ahead of time and it’s been awhile, recheck the directions.

Then follow the directions.

Don’t attach anything unless your query is in response to a pitch request and they ask you too (or, if that’s what’s in the directions.)

Also, follow the directions.

Personally, I BCCd myself on all my queries and put them in a special folder. This allowed me to check things quickly if I was somewhere I couldn’t get to my tracking spreadsheet but needed to respond to a follow-up question. It helped twice.

FIVE: Forget about it

Work on the next thing. This will keep you from being Crazy Refresh Woman. It will also be awesome when an agent calls you and one of  the questions she asks is, “What else do you have” and you can honestly answer that you’re currently working on ABC.

Remember, querying is just the first step. You’re going to get a lot of No Thank Yous. I hear about people giving up all the time after a small number (like 7 or 8). Start preparing yourself to not care. Yup. Do Not Care. A no is someone saying you aren’t a good match. That means, she’s not a good match for you either.

Wanting one of those agents to sign you is like wanting to marry that guy you’re really, really glad broke up with you…but you only realized it a year later.

So, good luck and don’t panic.


Recommending a Writer to Your Agent

10 Apr

I’m not going to do the double work, but it was so popular on twitter that I thought I’d put a little post here too.

Today I tweeted about what it takes to have me recommend your work to The Laird. I’ll be honest, it almost never happens, but if you want to know what writers think about before taking that step, check out #AgentRec on twitter.

What started as 9 “quick tweets” turned into a little bit of a Q&A. I’ll take follow-up questions on twitter if anyone has them tonight.


Pen Name PSA

6 Apr

I’ve been to 7 writerly things in the last 1.5 months. At every event I’ve seen the same thing happen — and it shocked me every single time.

Sometimes it came from readers or bloggers, but sometimes it came from other writers *who should know better.* It’s a question that is not only rude but can put an author’s livelihood at jeopardy:

Is that a pen name?

First off, if I had a pen name, I’d have a REALLY good reason for it. Life is too complicated to balance multiple personalities. I never know how to introduce one of my friends. After those awkward, I’ll just let her introduce herself moments got out of hand, she finally said, “If the person is a friend, feel free to give them my real name.”

I hate having to make that call for something she feels strongly about. I finally just decided to introduce her to everyone as her pen name.

Beyond that, people have pen names for very real reasons. We’ve all seen it in the writing community and in the news: Writer’s who have lost jobs, their standing in their community, their place in their church, the respect of the peers because they write (typically Romance, Erotica or Fantasy)… all because people are nosy.

So it comes down to this: Everyone at these events claims to love books and writers. If you do, you won’t put them on the spot. You’ll respect them and their privacy. You won’t share if you overhear a name slip. You will be in on the secret and respectful of it.

Please, don’t make me stand next to a friend who is trying to keep her real life separate (typically for important reasons) and by utilizing a pen name and make her squirm. It’s uncomfortable, embarrassing and unfair.

If you love writers, protect them.

For the first time ever on the blog I’m going to ask you this: TELL OTHERS! Tell others how awkward, embarrassing and unfair that question is.


FWIS: How to be the In-Between Girl

4 Apr

FWIS (From Where I Stand) is a monthly piece I’m collaborating on with Abby Mumford & Jessica Corra… all three of us are YA writers in different places in our journeys. Check out their links for this months FWIS from their point of view! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This month we’re doing a What Do You Really Want To Tell People month.

There’s a lot I want to tell people. If you follow me on twitter, you’ll see that’s really true. I chit chat about a lot of diverse things. But, when I thought about FWIS and being the ‘in-between girl’ I figured maybe I should write a little bit about what it’s like here in the middle. To be the In Between Girl.

When you first start writing, the goals are really tangible. Finish the first book. Edit the first book. Find critique partners and beta readers. Polish. Polish. Polish. Query. Query. Query.

And then, if you stay focused, keep polishing your craft, and work hard, you’ll sign with an agent who will then work with you.

But, no one tells you that’s often a weird place.

You’ve signed and you’re doing more revisions on a book that had felt done (they never are) and learning to put aside your own thoughts to work with someone new and then…when that is all set… your agent will start pitching you to editors.

If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you’ve heard me say it: Always write like you’re going to sell tomorrow. You want as much of your work good-to-go as possible.

And that’s still (and always) right, but…

You knew there was a but, right?

For the first time, your work is out of your hands. You’re partnering with someone and part of the future rests on them. Sure, it’s someone you completely trust and have built a strong relationship with, but still.

It isn’t like when you’re writing and you can keep working on your ms until it’s just right.

It isn’t like when you’re getting feed back and implementing it until everything si smooth.

It isn’t like when you’re querying and ever rejection or R&R or request is something you have an action item for (send more, work out the notes, send the full).

There’s no action item during “waiting to hear” from your agent. Really. Trust me. As someone completely goal oriented, I’ve looked. There aren’t any.

But (of course, another but) there are things you should be doing.

You should be compartmentalizing or you’ll go crazy.

You should be writing the next thing or you’ll be dead in the water.

You should be building your brand and following the plan you built with your agent.

But most of all, you shouldn’t be waiting. Not only is waiting bad, bad, bad (and evil) it’s also exhausting.

You will never, ever find anything as exhausting as hitting the refresh button every five minutes and focusing on just one house or one editor or one plan.

It’s hard, but the In Between Girl needs to learn to put that all aside, trust her agent and forget she’s the IBG.  They say every step of the journey has it’s own struggles, but I’ll admit, this is my kryptonite. Not being able to act to move toward the goal right now is hard…. it’s more than hard.

And that’s why, all this waiting will have to be put in a box under the bed in the backroom of a deserted house on the other side of town. No matter where I am, I’ll keep working toward the next book, because that’s not only easier than waiting… It’s smarter.

So, don’t be the IBG… and ignore me if I occasionally cave and hit *refresh* when I go on submission.


UPDATE:  To everyone reading this and nodding along… I’m getting DMs and emails telling me they were surprised and happy to read this post. That they didn’t know anyone else was feeling this way. Let’s change this post to: YOU ARE NOT ALONE 🙂

Who You Write With – Reboot

2 Apr

In redoing the blog’s look, I had to create a new room for my writing group. It’s really obvious. It’s right there, the bottom page. But the problem is, this is for a specific group. Not just anyone — no matter how obvious the link is.

About a year ago, I had someone yell at me on twittet. Someone I didn’t even know asked where The Secret Room (TSR) was so she could come write with us. I’m not kidding when I said I had no idea who she was. Neither did any of the Roomers.

I tried to explain nicely that this was a writing circle and not an open room. <insert explosion here>

So, in response I wrote Who You Write With.

Since it was on my mind, I thought it could be our first Reboot. So, here it is, Who You Write With… My own commentary included in blue (how often do you get to do commentary on yourself!)


When I first started writing, everyone I met talked about their CPs (critique partner) and how they were so great and saved their writing and kept them sane and fixed the small things and held their hand and every other great thing you need when starting this crazy writing journey.

I looked everywhere for one of these groups or just that one person {{Even now I remember this. That desperate search to find someone to walk the writing-path with. Don’t give up! You’ll find not only partners, but friends and peers and magic.}}  A few horrible matches later, someone said, why don’t you try Romance Divas. There I met several other newer writers who wrote in a chat room. We were great together. Without telling you the long story, the group became known as the FlanTastics and everything was good in the world. {{Meeeemmmmorrriiiess}}

{{Deleted Backstory — Man, I was wordy that day!}}

We talk about the room. The Secret Room isn’t a … um, secret. We talk about it on twitter, we call each other out publicly if there’s been no writing lately, we make sure people are knowledgable about who comes in when to write.

I understand everyone wants to find a good group. I also understand that twitter makes everyone feel accessible.

We’re not. You’re not either (protect your writing too). The virtual world is the same as the real world. Unfortunately, we don’t get to go everywhere we want. {{This is true of a lot of online situations. Remember, at the end of those words is a real person. If you wouldn’t do/say/etc something in person, maybe you should think twice about doing it online.}}

Now, I can hear the “that’s not fairs” (which I got one of also) and the You’re being snobby and the Does this mean she doesn’t like me’s…

I’m going to say a couple harsh things here and I’m typically not a harsh speaker.

  1. It isn’t about you. It’s about me/us and our writing. We’ve been burnt, that’s why we went rogue.  {{To be more clear: We say no to everyone. It’s not a judgment. Most groups only function at a certain size. Once you find what works for you, keep it working.}}
  2. You can go rogue too. {{And you should! Every writer needs tofigure out what’s going to work for her. Worldbuilding doesn’t just happen in your writing. It happens in your writing life. Build the structure you need to get it done. Groups, friends, partners, etc are great! But they don’t get your words on your page – you do!}}
  3. There’s nothing wrong with asking for an invite to writer’s events:
    1. ASK being the operative word
    2. Graciously accepting whatever the answer is makes you look… um, gracious
    3. {{I’ve seen people get turned down for an opportunity and handle it with such grace that it made me want to work with them. Don’t burn bridges. I’ve had doors that were closed open up again later by having good relationships with people.}}
  4. Writing groups have zero to do with liking people. I have tons of people I adore that I wouldn’t let near my writing or writing group. {{This. So much this.}}
  5. If you’re pushy, that’s going to not be a good sign. See #3

So, basically, I felt horrible protecting the room. I thought “Oh, should I stop talking with my writing group publicly? Do I need to lock down my twitter account and unfollow people so I can have a friend-to-friend conversation? Am I just going to have to play the bad guy all the time?”

But then I realized — we all go through this. {{This is something that’s never going to change. Every new writer is going to struggle to look for her place in the world. And let me tell you something else, as your friends get published or stop writing or change genres or have anyone of a bazillion other shifts in their lives, you’re going to go through this again… That search for where you fit. But, remember: your writing isn’t about where you fit. Your writing is about the work you do. And you can do that anywhere.}}

PROTECT THE GROUP/PROTECT THE WRITING – all of us, every day, every time. Yes, that means you too.  Protect (find) your group/Protect your writing. {{Yes. Again. This.}}

Oh, and the other thing we learned, Yes, I do have the chutzpah to block someone. I didn’t think I did. BWAAHHHAAAA



30 Mar

Check out my new look! Cute, huh? Anything missing you wish I’d figure out how to get back on the page – let me know!

To go along with my new blog look, I’m doing a whole blog reboot!

Glancing through my old posts I realized they fell into three groups:

  • Wow, this is still viable!
  • Beginner thoughts, I’ve grown since then.
  • What was I thinking?

So, here we are -a couple years later- and I thought, “Why not take a look back.” There will be ah-ha’s and mocking and notes about growth.

But, let’s all see how far you can come in 4 years of writing.

Make sure to stop back by Monday to see the first flashback.

#WordFool – Last Challange Weekend

28 Mar

I hope everyone’s #wordfool writing challenge goals are going well. We’re 2/3rds of the way to our April Fools Day deadline!

This weekend, we still have the Up the Ante challenge, but instead of doubling your pages on ONE day, this weekend’s challenge is to double it on BOTH SATURDAY AND SUNDAY. Yes, I know the goals end on Saturday, but if you push thru, add one more day, and double up both BAM 3 more points.

If you manage this, you get 3 more points for you and your team.

So, this week, you have the opportunity to earn 4 points:

1 for hitting your goal
1 for making the weekend Up the Ante challenge
3 for doubling your pages one day

Not a bad opportunity!

Don’t forget, there are still tons of prizes. They’re listed on the #WordFool page.

Here’s to our last week of the Race to April Fools!

How To Final – Getting the GH Call

19 Mar

A week from today the Golden Heart Finalists for 2012 will be announced and, if they’re anything like me, they won’t be ready.

It is one of the biggest finals – and honors – an unpublished author who writes romance or books with a romance can achieve. 

For those of you who don’t know about the GH, it’s sponsored by RWA. The material judged is the first 50ish pages and your synopsis in specific categories (Young Adult, Historical, Paranormal, Romantic Elements, etc).

Every year roughtly 1,200 writers enter. Every year no more than 80 people final.

Last year, there were 68 finalist… and I was one of them.

Before I finalled in the GH, I had a lot of preconceived ideas about what it meant. I’d had very good friends who had finalled in several different categories over several years. I’d seen what it was like from the outside and thought I knew what that meant.

I had no idea.

First off, when you get the call you will have no idea how you’ll react. I’m not a crier. Not really. I started sobbing like a baby and had to ask the woman to repeat herself 3 times. Don’t worry. You’re not the only one. Peoples sob, scream, go dead silent. I heard about a woman who passed out and her husband had to take the call. Urban Legend? Maybe, but to be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me.

After I made the inner-circle-and-agent calls, I posted it on twitter.

The initial bombardment of incoming email is INSANE. You’ll hear from people who you hadn’t heard from in years. You’ll hear from people you would have thought didn’t know your name. Other writers will be extremely kind and supportive and excited for you. It’s totally overwhelming. Plan for that day to just be gone… in the best possible way.

Get on social media. Like, today. If you’re not on either facebook or twitter now, if you don’t have a blog – do it. People will want to follow you on this crazy ride.  Don’t waste this opportunity.

If you don’t know this, there’s a yahoo loop. Ours is 2011GHFinalists. Go look for the loop. The veterans will start one pretty quickly and you’ll want to be on it for info and support. It’s fun and exciting. Even if you’re just going to lurk, get on there.

Don’t underestimate how much time being a finalist will take. There’s a lot to learn and 80 women to get to know. You may or may not do a group blog or have a name. I recommend taking your time on both of those. Just like any group of women you need to get to know one another and see what works for you. On top of that, people will ask you to blog and do interviews.  Don’t feel like you have to say ‘yes’ to everything right away – make sure you have a reasonable timeline for everything you commit to.

Professionally, this is the biggest time consideration: Is your manuscript 10000% done? About a month after the finalist are announced, the Final Judges (editors in your genre) have the opportunity to request your manuscript.

No, you won’t know who they are.

No, you probably won’t find out later unless they’re interested.

The only thing you need to do is be ready.

Do you have an agent? If not, this is the time to query. Make sure to put in your subject line that you’re  Golden Heart finalist. Agents want the opportunity to sort these out and look at them to see if they’re interested. There’s going to be a rush on finalists before the conference. Don’t miss out on this. Don’t feel bad or like you’re jumping the cue. Here’s why: THE GH IS NOT A MAGIC BULLET. Agents aren’t going to blindly offer to rep you because that manuscript finalled. I watched GH sisters broken-heartedly get rejections every week.

It wasn’t that their manuscript wasn’t great… but agents know what they’re looking for, what they can sell, and how they want to grow their list. Those two little letters don’t mean that you fit their list.

Which brings me to the next point…. THE GH IS NOT A MAGIC BULLET. I know, that looks really similar to the last point, right? This doesn’t mean your book will sell.

Before you get annoyed or discouraged, let me say this… It’s not a magic bullet, but it is a great weapon. It’s a machete that will help cut you through slushpiles. It will be the extra stone that may weight on the “read or pass” scale. It may make the difference between requests and form rejections. If you are rejected, it may mean the difference between a form letter and some words of advice. It will probably get you on editor and agents internal lists.

I have several friends who didn’t sell their GH manuscript, but because their name was familiar, they did a second look… send us what you’ve got or maybe you’re next project.

Do not underestimate the power of moving forward.

For all those GH sisters I watched pulling in rejections every week there’d be a big success story. Agents signed. Books sold. Contacts made. It is amazingly exciting to watch it all happen and to get to be part of it.

Don’t miss it. Get involved. I treasure so many of the friendships I made and wouldn’t trade them for anything. (Dear Editors, I would totally trade them for a great book deal. Just kidding… maybe…um, yeah.)

Which brings me to my next one: While you’re balancing getting all this don’t forget to be working on the next thing. Not only in case you don’t sell, but because everyone will ask,what are you working on now.Be ready to tell them.

I highly recommend going to the conference. There are tons of opportunities to network and to introduce yourself to people who you otherwise wouldn’t have an excuse to approach. Do it! The worst that happens is they smile awkwardly and then you walk away. Because of the GH excuse (and often a brave GH sister) I got to meet several editors and some very, very famous YA writers. Consider the conference your party and don’t miss out on anything.

Also, have a plan. Know what you want to talk about when given the opportunity. If you have an agent, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to pitch. I did… over and over again. People will ask you constantly about what you write and what your GH book is about. Be a pro! Talk about your stuff with easy and confidence. If that takes practice, make every person you know listen to you for the months leading up to the conf. Leave a great impression with everyone you talk to.

Know what’s right for you.

What I mean is, I’ve watched a bunch of my GH sisters have great successes — but those successes aren’t the same for everyone. Some have sold, some have gotten agents and are working their business plan with them, some have self-published, some have put that book aside to work something else. Success means something different to everyone. Know what it means to you… be ready for that to change.

No matter where your GH Final Path takes you, it can only be good. It’s an exciting time so make sure to hold onto every second of it.

This is one of those times you have to stop and remember: Life has given me something good, I’m going to enjoy it for all it’s worth!