Monday, July 25, 2016

How to Make Connections and Boost Your Writing Career

Times gone by snatch Rachelle close, so she reads and writes about years long ago--her passions include the Reformation, Revolutions, and romance. Rachelle wrote the Steadfast Love series during her college years. Five months after she graduated, she signed a three-book deal with her dream publisher, WhiteFire. She's a homeschool grad, Oreo addict, and plots her novels while driving around her dream car, a pick-up truck. In June 2016, she married a man with the same name as her fictional hero. Find out more about Rachelle at

Being a writer is all about bleeding words. But becoming an author requires more... business strategy.

That fact lies behind the reason I recommend the Go Teen Writers blog to everyone who asks me how I got published and how they can, too: here at GTW, we get that words are great and writing is what we do but, well, we need a little something more if we want to hold our book in our own hands someday soon--and see that book in others' hands, too!

How Authors are Made

“It occurs to me that our survival may depend upon our talking to one another.” ― Dan Simmons, Hyperion

As writers, we need (and dream!) of one day connecting with a publisher. Or an agent. Or a critique partner. Or, if we're self-pubbing, a cover designer, a formatter, an editor. Most importantly, readers!

And it doesn't stop there. We need to continually connect with readers, bloggers, influencers, bookstore employees and execs, newspaper reporters, librarians, television journalists...

The list goes on, of course. We need an ever-growing network in the industry, an expanding reader base, etc. So now that you get that we need connections, how do we make them?

The Easiest and Hardest Thing Authors Do

“Be persistent, be persistent, they say. But please, do not mistake being a pest for being persistent.” ― Nike Thaddeus

Making a connection can be as simple as sending one of your favorite authors a Facebook message telling them how much you appreciate their most recent release. This is how I found one of my endorsers.

Making a connection can be as difficult as calling a local coffeeshop that hosts local authors for book signings three times to confirm a book signing you scheduled two months ago. This is how my first book signing almost didn't happen. ;)

At the end of this post, I'll include five ways you can make connections with readers and industry professionals (publishers, agents, editors) and fellow writers, but the most important thing to understand about connecting with people is that it will most likely happen in unchoreographed ways.

In fact, people can usually tell when you've made them into a project. Which brings me to my next point:

Ditching Networking for truly Making Connections

When Stephanie asked me about guest-posting about networking and making connections in the writing industry, I was elbow-deep "networking" in an industry I had suddenly found myself immersed in: the wedding industry. You may have noticed the new name attached up there; that's right, I got married this summer!

I prepared myself for marriage by reading books and gleaning advice from married folk, but little prepared me for the adventure that was wedding planning, an adventure that required a lot of, you guessed it, connections! For example, our choice of venue revolved around a connection of my grandmother's. My grandmother had recently begun attending a church she had been a part of years before, the very church where my cousin got married. My cousin's wedding had been one of the first weddings I had ever been in.

I walked down the aisle of that church years ago as one of my cousin's flower girls.
When my husband and I were dating, I had never even thought of getting married in that same church, but when the opportunity presented itself, when the connection was made while we searched madly for venues that would hold our gargantuan guest list, the choice was simple.

Last month I walked down that aisle on my daddy's the bride.

As another example, my husband stood out to me before I even met him because of a connection he has to my fictional hero...his first name is the same as Dirk's Christian name.
So, put forth a little effort when it comes to making connections in this industry (see the ideas below!), but don't forget you're dealing with people. Not projects. Be kind. Courteous. Patient.

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” ― Herman Melville

5 Ideas for Making Connections
  • Leave blog comments. My goal is to visit one new blog every week. Visit the blogs of fellow writers, editors, and agents, as well as those of book review bloggers.
  • In fact, comment...everywhere! Wherever you are on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest), be social. Don't just Heart or Like. Leave comments
  • Share others' blog posts on social media. Even moreso than a blog comment, a simple share may endear a blogger/agent/editor to you. Don't simply click "share," either. Include the link and a quick caption in your own words.
  • Respond on Twitter. Nearly every publishing house, editor, and agent is active on Twitter. Respond to their tweets every once in a while.
  • Explore Goodreads. Until recently, I didn't know how interesting Goodreads can be. There are tons of ways to connect with fellow readers, writers, and all-around book-lovers: events, discussions, groups, asking questions, recommending books to others, etc. Have fun with it!

Stephanie here! I'm going to take Rachelle's advice by sending an email to the author of the book I'm currently reading, The Blue Tattoo, to tell her how much I've enjoyed it and how rare it is for me to feel this engaged by a nonfiction book. 

What are you going to do TODAY to build a connection?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mail Bag: Being an editor, choppy writing, and brand names.

Stephanie Morrill is the creator of and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street, which releases in February 2017. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

Normally Shannon posts on Fridays, but I'm stepping in for her this week. If you're missing Shannon, here's a post of hers from a few months ago that I'm particularly fond of: Write Stories That Excite You.

Today I'm doing another Mail Bag installment where I answer questions that have been sitting in my inbox for a really sad amount of time.

What's it like to be an editor?

This is something I was asked during a mentoring appointment last month. Jillian Manning with Blink YA Books wrote a post about "What Does An Editor Do All Day?" so you can check that out if editing is something you're interested in pursuing. (Though it's also valuable information for a writer too!)

Ciel said, "I've been noticing my writing is super choppy. It seems like all that happens is "I did this" and "I did that" and it prevents my story from moving forward. I've just started my 1st rewrite, and I don't know what to do."

I recognized this in my own writing when I was still getting the hang of writing complete drafts but still hadn't learned how to edit a manuscript. I felt like I handled dialogue pretty well, but the flow of everything else seemed off. Here are a few thoughts on how you can start to fix it:
  • Reevaluate your content. One of the reasons I used to struggle with prose was that I hadn't yet learned how to balance action and thought and description and weave them through paragraphs. That often left me with several sentences in a row that were action sentences, then a paragraph describing where we were, then a few lines for inner monologue, and so forth. As I learned to edit these different elements into better flowing sentences and paragraphs, I also learned to just write with a better flow as well.
  • Focus on sentence structure. Falling into a habit of writing our sentences with similar structures is a very easy thing to do. Something you could try is taking a page of your  manuscript and diagramming your sentences like you learned to do in elementary school. Seeing it laid out like that could help you see ways to rearrange sentences so that they mesh in a more interesting way.
  • Be kind to yourself. While it probably doesn't feel this way, just being able to look at a paragraph and think, "This is choppy" is a great step to fixing the issue. Learning how to edit your writing so that it reads smoothly takes time, so try to be patient with yourself as you learn.

Hosanna asked, "I am editing my first novella. But I have had some questions about copyright that I've had trouble finding answers to! Do you know if I would be allowed to reference "Google Earth" in my novella? I wouldn't be including anything else that might have copyright, just the words "Google Earth." And is it okay to mention Nancy Drew and a scene from one of her books?"

Absolutely. Brand names and characters from other stories are totally on the table. Your character can drive a Honda Odyssey (if she's cool like me, that is), wear Cover Girl, and enjoy taking pictures with her iPhone.  

What you wouldn't want to do is imply bad things about those brands. She should not, for example, think, "This Cover Girl makeup is really giving me a rash. Next time I'm going with L'Oreal." Not only does that just sound like it would be terrible and boring pacing for your story, but portraying a company in poor light like that could get you into some trouble.

Have a question? Leave it in the comments below or email me!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

#WeWriteBooks, Post 21: Description and a the Broken Trust Cover Reveal

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series. 

Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.

Hi, guys!

I missed you. Did you miss me?

Vacation was good, though. It's always important to take time off to rest your brain and your body. But like I said, I missed you guys. 

Welcome back! 

It's week twenty-one of the #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays series, where we are writing books together. How are you doing? I did not take much of a break from THIRST over the GTW vacation, so I'm a little further ahead. I posted Chapter 21 of THIRST yesterday over on my author website. Click here to read it.

Goal Check

So how is everyone doing? Are you hanging in there? What's your word count? Have you kept up? Or did you need to re-adjust your goals some?
I am almost done! I missed posting the week of OYAN. I just couldn't keep up. And then I started posting on Tuesdays rather than Mondays because I needed the extra day. But I've managed to keep this thing going. THIRST is currently at 79,075 words. I think I'm three chapters away from the end. 

So. Excited.

Let me confess, however, that the book is feeling a little meh. For those of you reading it, perhaps you've noticed this. It's unsurprising, really. This is a first draft, and while I try to clean it up as best I can so that you all can read it. It's still a first draft. And remember what I say about first drafts? 

I give myself permission to stink.

I'm trying to do better than stink with THIRST. But the story does have some issues that will need to be dealt with when I rewrite it. Can't worry about that now, however, if I'm going to keep on schedule. So I just keep writing and posting. 

I can fix it later. 



Week one was genre (THIRST is post-apocalyptic YA). Week two was premise. Here's my premise:

A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.

Week three was Storyworld.
Week four: maps and floorplans.
Week five: protagonists and main characters.
Week six: side characters.
Week seven: prewriting.
Week eight: plot structures. 
Week nine: Theme.
Week ten: creating a plot outline or list of key scenes.
Week eleven: point of view.
Week twelve: narrative modes.
Week thirteen: how to write a scene.
Week fourteen: Where to start.
Week fifteen: Prologues.
Week sixteen: Dividing Your Book Into Chapters and Scenes Week seventeen: Write Fast and Free
Week eighteen: Dialogue and Thought
Week nineteen: Character and Author Voice
Week twenty: Action

Today's Topic: Writing Description

Why bother describing things? Editors and writing instructors vary on whether or not setting and characters be fully described. Some say to leave it out so that readers can imagine everything. Others say you need to paint the scene for the reader because if you describe nothing, you have what's commonly referred to as "talking heads" floating in a black space, uttering strings of dialogue. On the other hand, if you describe too much you can pull the reader right out of the story.

I think somewhere in the middle is best. Give your reader enough details so that they know generally what the characters look like, where they are in each scene, and who is in the scene with them. Then let the reader fill in the other details however their imagination sees fit.

Tips for Writing Description

Last summer I wrote a post called 10 Tips for Tight Descriptions that says pretty much everything that I want to say today. So I decided to briefly recap that post, then add a couple more important tips.

1. Don’t describe in your first draft.
You're in first draft stage right now, so don't stress about description. I rarely describe anything in my first drafts because I'm trying to write fast and I don't care if it stinks. The goal is to get a first draft written, and description slows me down. So feel free to give yourself permission to ignore description while you're writing your first draft. You can fix it in rewrites.

2. Only describe what's necessary.
You don't have to describe every little detail in your book. Things that are important to the story, however, must be described. Important location? Describe it. Magical object of great importance? Describe, please. You, as the author, know what is important and what is not. Make sure you spend your valuable words on things that matter.

3. Description should serve at least two purposes.
If you can, make your description do more than one thing. Maybe your description describes and characterizes. Or describes and shows emotion. Or it describes and reveals a clue. Don't stress about doing this every time, but when you can, it will add depth to your story.

4. Description should be active and moving.
Pacing is important. And description tends to halt the story. Whenever possible, try to keep moving while you describe. Your character might be running or looking for something as he lets the reader know what he sees. Perhaps he is getting a tour of a building he hopes to break into later on. Whatever it is, try to match your description to the pacing and mood of the scene. Quick action should have short description. Longer descriptions fit better in a slow-paced scene.

5. Description should be memorable.
A room coated in dust that makes the character sneeze. An apartment that is filled with so much trash that your character's foot sticks to something on the floor. Look for simple ways to create images that will stick in the reader's memory.

6. Description should be specific.
Use specific words that tell the reader as much as possible. Like leather the color of cinnamon rather than brown. Slimy rags rather than merely wet ones.

7. Description should use the five senses.
To help you get into the habit of not forgetting the five senses, try to use one of each per chapter. Writers tend to overuse sight and forget to mention smell, sound, taste, and touch. Add these in when it feels natural.

8. Description should fit the POV character’s voice and personality.
Describe the scene through the eyes, voice, and personality of your point of view character. Focus on what interests him. Use words he would use, and avoid words he wouldn't know. Spencer from my Mission League books would say that a doctor "took his blood pressure," while Mason from my Safe Lands books would say "the doctor used the sphygmomanometer to measure his blood pressure." Spencer would NEVER IN HIS LIFE remember a word as long as sphygmomanometer. He just wouldn't care.

9. Description should convey emotion.
When it feels natural, try to work your point of view character's emotion into your descriptions. Is your POV character happy? Annoyed? Excited? Each feeling should affect the way he sees things as he moves through a scene and should have an impact on his word choice.

10. Description should leave room for the imagination.
As I said at the beginning, don't describe everything. Leave some room for your reader's imagination to paint images of the characters and places. That's part of the fun of reading. 

Description Must Haves

Here are a couple must haves for your description writing.
1. Time of day and location
When the time of day or the location changes, let us know! Give a quick time of day and location reminder at the start of a new scene. Something simple is all the reader needs to keep from getting lost. Something like: I reached the library just before six. Or: We walked until the sun came up and painted the rolling hills in sunshine. If time passes in your book and you forget to tell the reader, the reader will not know that time has passed. So don't forget!
2. Introducing new places
When your characters arrive at a new place, give us a quick description. Again, short and sweet is perfect, unless this is going to be something major like the haunted house in a story about a haunted house. Something like: We entered a muddy alley. Or: Her bedroom was so pink it gave me a headache. 

3. Introducing new people
If an important new character enters the story, you need to give a quick description. It doesn't always have to be what they look like. You could describe them the first time in dialogue ("See that guy who looks like David Tennant?") or narrative (He had a face like a cabbage). This is also a great place to plant hints as to their character. What are they like? What do they mean to the protag or main characters? Where do they hang out? What is their job? What are they good at/bad at? Then describe them the first time they come on screen with at least one or two memorable, descriptive tags. (He had a face like a cabbage and was currently stuffing it with chips, holding the container of dip in his hand like it belonged to him and wasn't part of the buffet.) 

4. How many people are present?
When scenes change, early on list the important characters who are present, especially any who will have dialogue so that they don't seem to magically appear from out of nowhere.

5. Temperature/weather? 
You don't have to share this unless it's abnormal or important to the scene. But remember, if you don't tell them differently, people will assume that the temperature is average and the weather is nice.

Here are some more posts that might help you:


Assignment time

Description is a fine balance that takes a lot of hard work and tweaking during edits to get just right. Any questions about how to describe things? What comes easiest to you when describing things? What is hardest? If you have a description you're particularly proud of, share it in the comments. This can be a description of a person or a place. And if you have one that could use some help, feel free to post it and we can give each other ideas.

Broken Trust Cover Reveal

For you Spencer fans out there, I know you've been waiting patiently for the third full novel in the Mission League series to come out. I had planned for Broken Trust (book three) to release last spring. That was over a year ago! Then life happened. Big time. Life doesn't really care about our plans. It does what it wants. So life did what it wanted to me, and Spencer suffered. He waited patiently at first. Then he started to get mad. "My story must be told," he said. "You promised to tell it. What gives?"

"Life happened," I told him.

He was not sympathetic.

But I worked on Broken Trust little by little and finally managed to finish the book. It is now with the editor, who will send it back as soon as she can. And then I will publish it! Readers who have been waiting for Spencer's next tale will not be disappointed. I hope.

Spencer says you won't be. He promises action and adventure. In Alaska.

So, without any more babbling by me, here is the cover for Broken Trust, coming in September 2016.


Scroll down to see it.

Down a little more.

Almost there!

Hooray! Long time no see, Spencer. Welcome back.
If you've never read a Spencer book, you can read book one, The New Recruit, for FREE on Kindle or iTunes.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Announcing future blog contributors!

Stephanie Morrill is the creator of and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street, which releases in February 2017. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

Several weeks ago, Shannon Dittemore said to Jill and me, "What do you guys think about seeing if some of the writers who hang around Go Teen Writers want to contribute articles?" We thought this sounded pretty cool, and so she opened up a form where people could submit topics.

As I read through the article ideas you guys submitted, I kept thinking, "Man, Shannon Dittemore is brilliant to have thought of this!" There is so much wisdom in the Go Teen Writers community, and I'm jazzed to have a chance to read and learn from these!

Here's the list of writers who will soon be sharing their unique knowledge on the Go Teen Writers blog:

Alicyn Newman
Abi Wiley
Alexandria "Alexa" Mintah
Alyson Schroll
Alyssa Hollingsworth
Amanda Fischer
Lexi Nolletti
Brooklynn Gross
Emily Krivan 
Verity Grace
Victoria Grace Howell
Cindy M. Jones
Katymarie Frost
Rebekah Gyger
Olivia Farnsworth
Olivia Michelle
Olivia Bennett
Rebecca Skuban
Elizabeth Hartmann
Savannah Perran 
Abigail Mouring
Linea Marshall

If your name is on this list, I'll be emailing you later today or tomorrow about what your next step will be.

There were a bunch of writers who had great suggestions, but they were too similar to posts we'd done recently or their suggestion was the same as someone else's. We will definitely do this again, so when you think of ideas, save them!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sorry, we're closed!

Stephanie, Jill, and Shannon are on a blogging break for a couple weeks. We will see you back here on Monday, July 18th!