Thursday, February 28, 2013

How Do I Become An Editor?

by Roseanna White, editor for WhiteFire Publishing

Several of you have expressed interest in someday getting into editing, and after answering questions privately a few times on how I got into it, I thought it would be fun to chat with some of the Christian market's top editors and see how they got these sweet gigs!

So I sought out editors I know from houses both big and small and asked them all the same four questions. I think you'll be surprised by the variety of answers! Drum roll please.



KAREN SCHURRER


BETHANY HOUSE


1.) How did you get started editing? How did you become an acquisitions editor?

I got started editing by being in the right place at the right time. I worked as the assistant to a VP at Bethany House, and because of my input regarding manuscripts that were being considered for contract, they were willing to give me a chance in the editorial department. And I have been working there for almost 15 years. I am not an acquisitions editor for Bethany House--I am a line (also known as substantive) editor. I work with authors to revise and polish their manuscript after the first draft is submitted, and I do the first edit of the book.

2.) What's your favorite (or conversely, most challenging) part of the job?

I love reworking stories and characters with authors. I am a logical person, so it is often easy for me to notice plot issues--logic, timing, etc. I am sure this is sometimes frustrating for authors, but I believe, in the long run, the revisions make it a better story.

3.) What's one thing you wish all writers knew or did before submitting?

In my opinion, characters are key. If readers are not intrigued by, attracted to, rooting for the story's characters (main of course, but even the secondary characters are important), they are not going to connect to the plot the way you hope they will or care about how well the story is written.

4.) Funniest moment? Pet peeve?

Pet peeve--manuscripts that feel as if the author wrote with a thesaurus in hand. Even if an author has an incredible vocabulary, I suggest they avoid using the big guns. Obscure words that are difficult to easily figure out in context undermine the effectiveness of the story. Stories told beautifully, with simple descriptive words, are much more  effective.

KIM MOORE


HARVEST HOUSE

1.) How did you get started editing?
 My journey to editing was a bit roundabout. I didn't start out planning to be an editor. I wanted to be a translator. I have a bachelor's degree in Japanese from the University of Oregon. I minored in linguistics because I love language mechanics. I studied French and Spanish as well. A lot of editors I know have English or journalism degrees, but at our house we also have editors with degrees in philosophy, Russian, and music. A thorough understanding of English grammar and a good ear for words are the two most important things for a person to have if they want to be an editor.

For me, the pursuit of a career as a Japanese translator would have meant having to move away from my hometown, and my sister had a baby just as I graduated college, so I decided to stick around for a while. I started proofing manuscripts for Harvest House to supplement my regular salary as a legal assistant. It wasn't long before I began to notice problems in the stories, and I would point those out to the managing editor. She realized I was seeing things in the manuscripts beyond just the proofing, and when one novelist, grateful to have an issue corrected before her book was published, asked Betty to have me involved in her next project, Betty gave me the opportunity to edit it. I never looked back. After two and a half years of part-time work at my dining room table, a full-time position opened up in-house and she offered me the job. And there I was, an editor in my hometown. Only God could have made that happen.

After six years as a project editor, I was promoted to senior editor. At our house this job description includes acquiring books. I attend writers conferences and connect with agents and other publishing professionals to find the best projects I can. An acquiring editor needs to have a good understanding of the house he or she works for as well as the market that publisher is trying to reach. I always say that if we were all the eye, where would the hearing be? Each person involved in CBA publishing has a role to play. The most important thing we can do is to find out what that is and do our best in it, trusting God to fill other roles as He sees fit.

Today I acquire fiction and nonfiction, and I edit, which includes the substantive edit, line edit, and copyedit for each project I'm assigned. It's a full and truly lovely career. I've been at it now for 17 years, and I hope for at least that many more.


2.) What's your favorite (or conversely, most challenging) part of the job?
  My absolute favorite part of the job is interacting with the authors. What a hardworking, creative, fun, and talented group of people they are. Nothing makes me happier that when I'm communicating with one about a story. I'm also here for whatever they need from the house. If I can't provide an answer to a question, I find out who can. It's all about the authors for me, and I love that.

The most challenging--and sad--thing about my job is saying no to proposals. I hate that. I wish we could publish everything, but it's such an incredibly expensive endeavor these days. Even when the writing is not at a level we are looking for, the heart behind it is precious. And, unfortunately, I have to say no more than I get to say yes to things. It's a hard part of my job that never gets easier.


3.) What's one thing you wish all writers knew or did before submitting?
 I wish all writers knew that they will probably only get one shot at a review with a particular editor, and so their proposal has to be as good as it can be. We don't require a specific formula at our house, but when I see writing that is full of errors and sloppy, I am surprised and sorry for the wasted opportunity. They won't get a second chance.


4.) Funniest moment? Pet peeve?
  Editors live for moments like this in a manuscript. This unintended but funny error was in a recent Amish novel.

        “I certainly don’t know anything about engines,” said Sol, indignantly. “And this car is one of the matters we need to discuss, if I can have your full attention.”

        Elam straightened his spine and laid down the wench. His pleasant expression faded rapidly as he wiped his hands on a rag. “I’m on rumschpringe. I haven’t joined the district yet.”

Of course, Elam laid down his wrench, but it's an example of why good editing is so essential to the meaning of the moment.

DINA SLEIMAN


WHITEFIRE PUBLISHING

1.) How did you get started editing?
I started editing because I believed in the WhiteFire mission, and I volunteered to help. When Roseanna asked how I wanted to contribute, I told her I'd always been interested in acquisitions. Over time I've also become the lead content editor. Probably because when I started writing I had no concept of plot or scenes, and so I had to thoroughly learn how to do those things well and now can pass the knowledge along to others.

2.) What's your favorite (or conversely, most challenging) part of the job?
I love finding wonderful books and giving authors the good news. Conversely, ugh! I hate having to tell people no. I especially hate when they come back and argue with me. And while I love meeting people at conferences, sometimes I get a little glassy-eyed by the end. If you ever see me wandering the halls of a conference saying "Ba, ba, ba, ba," you'll know why. Please see me safely returned to said conference director. LOL.

3.) What's one thing you wish all writers knew or did before submitting?
 I wish writers learned to write a good proposal. It makes a huge difference in helping me evaluate their work, and I need a good proposal to convince the committee to buy the book. Of course, I also wish they'd learn to write good books with vibrant characters, strong active scenes, and well-balanced plots.

4.) Funniest moment? Pet peeve?
Oh fun! I had a guy trap me into having dinner with him at a conference, and then select a booth for two, so he could regale me with his wonderfulness and convince me he knew more about writing fiction than I did for nearly an hour. About thirty minutes in the fire alarm went off. Did that stop him, nooooo! He continued his diatribe as it blared, "Beep, beep, beep," in the background. By this time I was getting a headache and annoyed and started cutting him off and asking him important questions about his manuscript. He kept changing the subject and returning to his lecture. I started yelling stuff like, "Plot, characters, scenes, active moments! I need to see them! Can you give me that?" Did it phase him? No again. After trying several times to excuse myself because I was dancing for chapel that night, I finally had to just get up and walk away while he was still talking. And he actually had the audacity to submit to me after that. I found the restraint to say, "No thank you. I don't think you fit our line."

KAREN BALL


(Has worked as executive editor at Tyndale, Multnomah, Zondervan, and B&H Publishing Group, now freelance)

1.) How did you get started editing?
 I had a friend who told me about an editing job that was opening up at the magazine where she worked. I was hired as an assistant editor, then became the editor. From there I went into book editing.
 How did you become an acquisitions editor?
Through a combination of passion and hard work. I'd been an avid reader all my life, so had a strong sense of what did and didn't work with fiction. Also, my boss could tell how much I loved authors, loved working with them, and loved story. Within a few years of taking the job as a book editor, I was working in acquisitions.
2.) What's your favorite (or conversely, most challenging) part of the job? 
Favorite part: coming alongside authors and working with them to bring their craft to a whole new level, and walking through a bookstore and knowing I had a hand in hundreds of books sitting on the shelves!
Most challenging: working with tight deadlines or authors who aren't teachable. Either one is difficult and frustrating.
3.) What's one thing you wish all writers knew or did before submitting? 
You have to work hard to refine your craft and to understand the market. Too many people submit proposals to agents and editors long before they--or their writing--are ready. You don't just suddenly decide you're going to be a doctor. You study and learn how to do it well. Same thing for career writers: take the time--and invest the money--to do the job well.
4.) Funniest moment? Pet peeve?
Funniest: when I was working on a nonfiction book about different religions, and discovered that Spellcheck had changed every Mormon to Moron and Mormonism to Moronism. Thankfully, I caught it before it went back to the author!

Pet Peeve? People who think they can write or edit without any training. And people who catch typos in a published book and complain, "Where was the editor?" If they knew all the things the editor DID catch, they'd understand that no one can spot all the mistakes. Just because a typo shows up in a published book doesn't mean the editor didn't do his or her job. 

SANDI ROG

 DeWARD


1.) How did you get started editing?
 I never wanted to be an editor. I wanted to be a writer. When I hooked up with someone to edit my manuscript, I discovered I couldn't afford her prices. She'd already edited some short pieces for me, so she made the suggestion that I "critique" her story, and she would edit mine as an even trade. After that, she was impressed enough with my editing, she hired me to work for her. I didn’t want to, but I ended up doing it anyway. I became an acquisitions editor with DeWard Publishing because of the success of my own books with them. They knew I was also an editor, so they asked me to take over their fiction department.

2.) What's your favorite (or conversely, most challenging) part of the job?
The most difficult part of the job is reading through a genre that I have very little interest in.

3.) What's one thing you wish all writers knew or did before submitting?
 I wish writers would study the craft before submitting.

4.) Funniest moment? Pet peeve?
 My pet peeve is how little writers can make, and out of desperation a writer takes the lowest bid just to be published.
~*~
So there we go! As many different answers as people you ask, but some common themes too. What do you find most surprising from these stories? Most encouraging? I can't guarantee all these editors will be by today, but I suspect a few will drop in, so don't be shy. ;-)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When You Doubt Your Writing

by Stephanie Morrill

Last Friday, on the Go Teen Writers Facebook Group, the topic came up of doubting one's story, of being hypercritical of our work. How do you know when a story is good? How do you know you can stop editing and declare it done? Do the fears of the book sucking go away after a certain number of edits? Or will it always feel like a leap of faith when you send your manuscript to someone?

Connor, age 2, is all about the crazy leaps.
I know every writer is different in how they handle their insecurities, so I doubt everything on this list will be helpful to you, but hopefully something is:

Remember, all writers have doubts.

Occasionally I meet writers who are rather cocky about their book idea, but most of the writers I meet feel nervous about their story. They like the idea, and it's meaningful to them, but will anybody else like it? I've often wondered if when Suzanne Collins was writing The Hunger Games, she ever thought things like, "I can't believe I'm writing about a bunch of teens trying to kill each other! No one will want to read this!"

We all have doubts about what we're writing. You're not alone!

Try writing the first draft, then going back and editing. 

I've shared on here before that I embrace the "write bad first drafts" strategy for writing novels. It helps me write quicker, and the time I spend editing is more effective.

Something else bad first drafts help with is silencing the, "This book is terrible," voices. I already know my first draft is bad, so when the voices kick up, I can say to them, "Yeah, I know it's bad. But it's just a first draft. I'll fix it later."

So if you haven't given bad first drafts a try yet, it might be time!

Don't read other books in your genre while you're writing the first draft.

I'm currently working on the first draft for the second Ellie book, but I had really wanted to read a YA contemporary romance,  Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, for a while now. So I broke my rule and read it.

Bad. Idea. 

Because I no longer wanted to spend time with my character in her storyworld when it was so much easier to hang out with Lola. Lola was so quirky and fleshed out, the storyworld so easy to visualize, the dialogue so snappy.... I would sit at my computer to work and just pout at my screen. 

This only happens to me when I'm reading a book that's in the same genre as the one I'm writing, so I've reinstated my rule of no contemporary YAs until I'm done with this first draft!


Experience matters

When I was a new writer, I had a lot of trouble knowing which story ideas were big enough to sustain a full-length novel and which weren't. It's a skill I've been able to improve over the years. While I still have lots of doubts during the writing process, I feel like my judgment of what works and what doesn't has been honed in the last decade.

But I wouldn't have improved if I hadn't had all those story ideas that went nowhere, so it was definitely worth it to try them out!

Give Yourself Time Between Edits

I try to take six weeks off from a story after I've finished a first draft. It's pretty easy for me now (unless I have a deadline pressing!) but it wasn't always. I wrote right before Me, Just Different that I was WAY excited about. I loved the story, and I was dying to get it back out and start on edits.

To distract myself, I decided to go to the bookstore and find a few YA books to read. This is when I discovered This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen, which became one of my all-time favorites. I basically did nothing but read for a day and a half. (Ah, the days before kids...)

Reading her book made me panic about mine. After a day or so, I caved and pulled out my manuscript. Oh, it was horrible! Sarah's book was so funny and sarcastic and bursting with voice. Mine had none of that! I started rewriting mine, which led to me dissolving in tears within an hour. I was never going to be published!

My best friend (who wasn't a writer) happened to call in the middle of this. When I told her what was going on, she said, "Stephanie! You're supposed to put it away for six weeks! What are you doing with it out? You put that book away right now and don't look at it until your calendar says."

That was the last time I ever did that! It can be  tempting to pull the draft back out, but I've found it's rarely fruitful and that edits go much better when I've gotten some distance from the story.

Find writers who can help you along the way.

My first attempt at The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (which releases this May) was a few years ago, right after I finished the Skylar Hoyt series. During the writing of Ellie, I had never felt so insecure about a story. I spent most the draft saying things like, "I just don't know about this book," to my critique partner, Roseanna White. When I sent her the edited draft, it was with a note that said something like, "Will you please read this and tell me what's wrong with this book?"

Roseanna read it in a day and told me it was the best thing I had ever written.

I thought at first she was being sarcastic, but no. She really did love it. I couldn't believe it. And then my agent loved it too. While I still had work to do on the story, it wasn't nearly as bad as I had convinced myself it was.

Sometimes it's tough to see our own writing clearly, which is why writing friends are so valuable. (Also, I've noticed that when my main character is similar to me, the way Ellie is, my insecurity about the story skyrockets!)

Don't discount fatigue.

When you're on rewrite number seven and you've been working on the same story off-and-on for the last couple years, it's normal for the story to feel boring and predictable. The phrases that once seemed fresh now seem to just die there on the page. So if you've been working on the same story for a while now, it might be the fatigue speaking. It's possibly a good time to put your book away for a month or so, to work on something fun and new, and then come back to it.

Consider a paid critique and/or attending a conference

If you've decided to get really serious about your writing, it might be time to invest in a professional edit or in attending a conference. They don't come cheap, but this is a great way to get an idea of where your writing is.

And remember, you may never feel ready.

You likely won't wake up one day thinking, "Man, I feel ready for some really harsh criticism!" If you're tender-hearted (like I am) you may have to make yourself send your book out. I was crazy scared, but I knew that I had to do it if I ever wanted to be published. Eventually you must decide if you want it enough to risk the pain involved.

Anybody have advice to add about dealing with doubts?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Creating Your Own Language

by Jill Williamson


I’m sure you've heard me caution you against creating a language for your spec fiction novel. But if you insist, it is kind of fun. Just make sure that your language doesn't take over your story.

I created a language for my Blood of Kings trilogy. I didn't create very much of it. (My notes for the language are on one sheet of paper in my series notebook.) It was the Eben language, and it was first spoken in book one when Vrell, Jax, and Khai entered the Nahar Forest and come across some Eben giants. Here's an excerpt:

Vrell peeked around the tree to see a man as tall as Jax, but pale as a lily. His long blond hair hung around his face like a curtain. Animal skins were draped over one shoulder, across his white chest, and down around his hips like a skirt. He clutched a spear in one hand and a curved axe in the other. Both weapons were chiseled out of obsidian and lashed to wooden handles with leather. He stood on the road facing Jax.
Jax bowed to the giant. “We seek passage through Nahar Forest.”
The giant pointed down the road, back toward Walden’s Watch. “Wee ahlawa men teeah!”
Jax shook his head. “We will not go back. We must take this road to Xulon.”
The pale giant tipped his head back and bellowed a trilling cry into the treetops.

Since Vrell doesn't speak Eben—or even know what an Eben is at this point in the story, she can’t translate. Jax can, but he doesn't  The reader picks up on the translation based on Jax’s response to the giant. Here's another section of Eben dialogue I used in book two:

“Who sent you?” Sir Gavin yelled.
The raspy breathing of a dying Eben was the only answer. Achan inched over the lichen until the men came into view. Sir Gavin crouched on the giant’s right, blade held to the pale throat. Sir Caleb and Inko stood panting on the giant’s left side.
Sir Gavin pressed a knee on the giant’s chest. “Who?”
The giant’s ragged breath seemed to consume all his effort, but he blinked slowly and turned his dark eyes to Achan, his voice a raspy growl. “Tee saplaway sen katla sar.”
The intensity in that gaze shook Achan’s knees. The man had a black insignia inked onto his forehead, three lines, each thicker than the first.
“I know why you’ve come,” Sir Gavin said, “I want to know who sent you.”
“Faluk san.”

In this scene, I used Sir Gavin in the same way that I used Jax. Sir Gavin speaks Eben. Achan does not. But there's no need for me to put in a translation. That would mess up the intensity of the scene. But I do have a translation in my notes. Here’s how the Eben language works.

Verbs phrases I made up
to take: finla
to go: ahla
to come: sapla
to do: katla
to be: badla

Other words
there: men
here: sen
prince: sar
you: wee
I/we: tee
away: teeah

Grammatical particle
In Eben, particles modify nouns to indicate tense. (I got the idea for this from the Japanese language, though my language works differently.)  For example, “wa” indicates the present tense of a verb, and “way” indicates past tense. Therefore, the first example above, “Wee ahlawa men teeah!” is translated: “Go back where you came from.” But literally, here’s how it works:

Wee            ahla-               wa                men            teeah!
You            to go        present tense        back            away

And the second example sentence:

Tee         sapla-                 way                  sen             katla          sar.
I/we       to come         present tense           here           to take      prince

The whole thing is really such nerdly fun, isn’t it?

Things to consider when creating your own language
1. What do you need? If you only need a few sentences like I did with Eben (remember: all my language notes are on one sheet of paper), you don’t need to create a full translation of English to your language.

2. Choose some base words like nouns and pronouns. I started with writing the dialogue I needed translated and thought up the words I needed for that. But you might think those beginning reading books with sentences like: "I am Jane," or "See Spot run." And you’ll definitely want words for: he, she, we, I, you. You might also want to create numbers one-ten.

3. Make up some verbs and decide how you'll conjugate them in your language. Look at other languages you might use as a model. You might create prefixes or suffixes to alter tense.

4. Create suffixes or prefixes for other things like: plurals and endings like –ly, –ful, –er, –ed, –ent, –able, –ing, –ness, etc.

5. Look for ways to add consistency and sound patterns that will set your language apart from other languages. Think of how distinctive the French language sounds or Asian languages sound. For my Eben, all of my verbs ended in “la.” And I made certain words similar: here (sen) and there (men). And I/we (tee) and you (wee). English has the “–ing” that makes verbs active and sound similar and the “–ed” for past tense. 

6. Write some sentences in different forms and tenses to brainstorm how they will be different. Use that same format for all verbs. For example: I walked to the house. She walked to the house. We ran to the house. They walked away from the house.

7. Simple is best. Most English words aren't difficult to pronounce, at least not for pronouns and verbs. Don’t make your words so hard to pronounce that your reader can’t even read them.

You can also:
-Create an alphabet
-Create a pronunciation guide for certain letter combinations
-Create symbols for your alphabet
-Use a dictionary to help you know what words you might need to create translations for.
-Name your language
-Practice speaking it to other people.

But most of that is really going overboard.

Have you ever thought about creating a language? If you have created one, give us one sentence and a translation.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Taking a sick day...

Stephanie here. Over the last couple weeks, I've taken care of my son, my daughter, and my husband while they were sick with something flu-like ... and now I'm sick too. I should really start charting how often I get sick right before a book release, because it seems like it happens a lot.

All that to say, no new blog post today. I tried to write one, but my foggy brain just wasn't producing anything worth reading. Jill will be here tomorrow, though, and I hope to be back to normal by Wednesday.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Free Ways to Support Authors

by Jill Williamson

Last week I shared with you all Stephanie and my plan to support authors by purchasing books new when we are able. Several of you asked if there were any FREE ways to support authors, so I thought I'd share some free ways you can support the authors you love.

How to Help Online

“Like” Facebook author pages.
-Here is the link to Stephanie's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Stephanie-Morrill/96655061611
-Roseanna's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/roseanna.white
-Rachel Coker's page: www.facebook.com/pages/Rachel-Coker/259036884190460
-And my (Jill's) author page: www.facebook.com/jwilliamsonwrites

Some authors also have Facebook pages for their books, series, or characters.
-Here is the link to my Blood of Kings trilogy page: www.facebook.com/pages/Blood-of-Kings-Trilogy/302083583183258
-And here is a link to a page I made for Spencer, though I haven't had much time to pretend to be him lately: www.facebook.com/pages/Spencer-Garmond/254361318000507  


“Like” Amazon.com author pages.
When you're looking at a book page on Amazon, if you scroll down, you usually will see MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR, and an author picture and bio with a link to the author's official Author Page. If you click on it, you should see a list of all the books that author has published. In the top, right-hand corner is a "like" button. Click on it. The more "likes" an author has, the more Amazon will recommend that author to customers who are browsing. Here's what one looks like:


And here are our links.
Steph: www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Morrill/e/B001U7OP94/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Roseanna: www.amazon.com/Roseanna-M.-White/e/B002XQ60MQ/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1361208219&sr=1-1
Jill: www.amazon.com/Jill-Williamson/e/B002BM9I08/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1361208265&sr=1-2-ent


“Like” book pages.
The same is true for book pages on Amazon.com, B&N, CBD, and other online sites. Each book has at least a paperback and an ebook version. You can click "like" on each page to help that book get better search traffic. Here are some examples:





Goodreads
If you're on Goodreads, it's super easy to support the authors you love. The easiest way is to give a book a star rating. All you have to do is click on the number of stars. The more people who click, the more Goodreads users see the author or book cover show up, which helps spread word of mouth about the book.

You can also post book reviews on Goodreads. Book reviews don't have to be complicated. Just say why you liked the book and that will help.


Goodreads also has author pages that allow you to become a fan. It's also as easy as one click.



Pinterest
If you're on Pinterest, create a board for books you love and pin covers from Goodreads or Amazon.com or the author's website.



Write book reviews
-Write a quick and honest book review and post it online. You don’t have to give a professional analysis of the book, just write what you thought about the story. You can post the book review on your blog, if you have one. Amazon.com is the most helpful online place to post a book review because so many people use Amazon just to learn about books. Some other helpful places to post a review would be:

          www.BarnesandNoble.com         www.Shelfari.com            www.GoodReads.com    
            www.LibraryThing.com          www.Facebook.com         www.ChristianBook.com

Start a discussion
-Start a discussion about books on your blog, Facebook page, or on e-mail loops that you are a part of. Simply pasting a link to the Amazon or Goodreads page and saying, "Just read a great book!" or "Have you read this yet?" is a great way to help authors.

Also on Amazon…
-Tag the book on Amazon.com with search tags. You pick them or click on those people have already picked.
-Create a Listmania list on Amazon.com that includes the books you like.

Other ways to help online
-Nominate a book for contests.
-Feature the author on your blog.
-Follow the author's blog, Twitter, or subscribe to his or her ezine.
-Send the author an email telling him how much you like his books.

How to help in your community

-Word of mouth is still the number one way books hit bestseller lists. So simply tell people what books you like and why they should read it.
-Loan your books to friends and family, give copies as gifts.
-Recommend a book to a book club.
-Request that your local library (or school library) order the book. Most libraries honor patron’s requests.
-If you know the author is local, ask your English teacher or librarian if she might be willing to have the author come and visit.
-Tell your local bookstore why you liked a certain book and suggest that they order copies.

So, go look up your favorite authors in some of these places and click your support.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What's it Like to Be A Teen Author?

by Rachel Coker

Rachel Coker resides in Lanexa, Virginia with her parents, who’ve homeschooled her since she was a child, and two sisters. She is the author of 2012’s Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words. Coker has a passion for great books and has been surrounded by them all her life. Her gift for writing became apparent at the age of eleven, at which time her parents, who owned a Christian bookstore, signed her up for a year of lessons with a professional writing coach. www.rachelcoker.wordpress.com

I swear I racked my brain for some kind of advice to give you all this month. I was planning on writing something about setting up scenes or developing plots or editing dialogs, but then it all just seemed kind of boring. And since I am a rather sporadic person (hello--I am a teenager, after all), I decided to do something kind of fun and out of the box instead!

This incredible site is filled with so many amazing articles and suggestions every month, all of which are directed to teen writers. And I'm guessing that at least ninety-nine percent of you writers dream of one day being a published author. And that's when I figured--hey, since I already am a published author at age seventeen, why not give you a peek into what my life looks like?

ALA (3)

It might be fun, and for those of you who don't follow my blog, you might learn a few interesting things about what it's like to be a teen author. ;) Um, okay... So what does being a teen author look like?

I write a lot.

Duh. But these was the first thing that came to my mind! I don't just write fiction, either. I'm constantly updating my blog, drafting guest posts for other blogs, and filling out paperwork and questionnaires from my publishers. But really, I do feel like I'm almost always working on first drafts, editing second drafts, or analyzing third drafts for the millionth time! It's all part of being a fiction writer.

I try to keep up with social media.

Which is really, really hard for me! Probably because I am an unsocialized homeschooler and didn't even have a Facebook until I was seventeen. But I try to maintain a funny, engaging blog with new content two to three times a week as well as a fan page on Facebook, a Twitter account, and a Youtube page where I can upload vlog videos of me talking about writing, my life, my books, and, occasionally, pie. ;) Videos take up a huge amount of my time, actually, so I sometimes have entire afternoons where I just do nothing but shoot video after video.

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I run to my room and change my outfit and fix up my hair so that no one will be able to tell that I'm cheating, but it still ends up taking several hours to shoot just four or five videos.

I interact with my "fans".

I sometimes just call them my "readers", but hey, if you can get away with calling someone your fan, you should totally take advantage of that situation. ;) But seriously, I love hearing from the young people (and occasionally adults) who have read my books or blog and are just superexcited to share their hearts with me. I usually get two to three "fan" emails or messages a day, so I try to respond as promptly as possible. Because I have authors that I admire too, and I will be the first to admit that I have fangirled over them from time to time. (a.k.a. tweeting Shannon Hale or writing a two-page long letter to Katherine Paterson...)

I conduct interviews.

I have a fantastic publicist named Candice who sets up ninety percent of my interviews for me! Which means that just about every day I'm answering a dozen questions for some blog/magazine/radio show/newspaper/whatever. This actually used to be my favorite part of being an author, but I think that after a year or so the novelty has worn off and now I tend to take a bit longer to respond with my answers... A lot of the questions tend to be the same, and I hate for my answers to seem monotonous. That's why I love it when I get an off-the-wall question like, "Do you eat snacks while you write?" or "Who would you have play you in a movie version of your life?" My heart rate literally quickens when I read new questions. They are the fuel that keeps my fire going, day by day... (Obviously I'm being dramatic, you guys)

Sometimes, I even get to be on TV. Which is pretty cool. 

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I hold book signings.

I still love book signings. Because that's when I get to meet the majority of my readers face-to-face! And I can think of few things that thrill me more than getting to shake hands with a reader and hear her talk about how much she enjoyed my book. It just makes me smile ear-to-ear! In fact, by the time I'm finished with a book signing, my cheeks are usually more sore than my hand because I just smile so. much. Some are crazier than others, but if it's a small venue I can sometimes get a chance to talk to someone for several minutes and learn a little about their life! And then some have long lines and lots of people cramming around and it's just an adrenaline rush of signing, signing, signing. Which is fun, too, I must admit. ;)  

I speak to groups of people.

Usually young people in schools or libraries, although I have done a few events that included adults too! Public speaking used to make me absolutely weak in the knees, but I've grown to love it. In fact, I've done so many speaking engagements now that I feel almost as comfortable in the front of a room or stage that I do one-on-one!

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It's a great opportunity to share what God has done in my life, offer some writing advice, and try to entertain people the best I can with little snippets of humor from my everyday life.

I travel to cool places.

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Like Philadelphia. Or Seattle. Or Cincinnati and New Jersey, where I'll be going this spring. Being an author allows for some amazing opportunites to speak and sign books at conventions all over the country! And this girl has seriously got a case of travel fever, so I go wherever I can! (And I always get to take my mom with me, so I have a buddy!)

I nerd out and goof around and always have fun with my job.

Chasing Jupiter1

This is the most important thing. I try to stay under as little pressure as possible. I'm not the president, I'm just a writer, and my life reflects that! I still go to Barnes and Noble and take funny pictures in the YA Fiction section.

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I carry huge boxes of books around and complain about how much my arms hurt. I poke fun at myself for being an author and pretend to guess the endings to cheesy Hallmark movies, shouting, "Oh my gosh, I should be a writer!!!" if I get the ending right.

At the end of the day, being an author is a huge part of my life, but it's just a small portion of who I am. I'm so happy with the life God has given me, and I realize that I am beyond blessed to be a teen author. But, honestly, it barely feels like a job at all. It's just an amazingly cool rollercoaster that I've been put on right now, and I'm just trying to enjoy the ride! :)

I'd love to answer any questions you might have about what it's like to be a teen author. Is there anything I've forgotten? Is there something you dream of doing if you become an author one day? I'd love to hear it! As always, you can check out my blog, like me on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @RachelCoker3!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Identifying Your Characters' Weaknesses

by Stephanie Morrill

Last Thursday, I posted a list of character strengths, which launched a very interesting discussion in the comments section about our main characters' personalities. I had a request to make a list for character weaknesses as well, which I did, but as many writers pointed out last Thursday, strengths can sometimes become weaknesses.

You can add "to a fault" to the end of most of the character strength's that I listed. A character can be forgiving to a fault, loyal to a fault, or easygoing to a fault. And many strengths can morph if not kept in check - hardworking can turn into obsessive. Courageous can turn to reckless. Protective can turn to overbearing.

Here is a list of other character weaknesses I've come up with:


Absent-minded
Antisocial
Bossy
Careless
Childish
Cocky
Cold
Controlling
Cutthroat
Dumb
Fake
Indecisive
Irresponsible
Lazy
Liar/dishonest/flatterer
Naïve
Nosy
Oblivious
Obsessive
Overbearing
Push-over
Pushy
Reckless
Rigid
Self-involved
Showy
Skittish
Stubborn
Timid
Too concerned with the opinions of others
Weak

What three characteristics apply to your main character? And do you have a time in your story where their weaknesses somehow save them from something?

I shared last Thursday that my main character, Ellie, is hardworking, intelligent, and reflective. She's also too concerned with the opinions of others, dishonest, and timid.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Stories I Wrote When I Was Little

by Jill Williamson

Last time I went home to visit my parents, my mother had a gift for me. A folder filled with stories she'd found while cleaning. (My mom keeps everything.)

This was a delight for me, now that I've become a writer. I remembered none of these stories, but it was so much fun to see what my creative child brain had creative. First, please note, I was an early self-publisher. My first book, The Haunted House (click to see a larger image), a six-page paranormal adventure, was bound with bows. I think it was a nice touch. I also like my spelling of "goblin" on page two.



I went much bigger on my second self-published title. And I had greatly improved my craft. Casey Finds a Friend (click to see a larger image) was a 53-page coming-of-age story, all handwritten and hand illustrated. I did still have issues with spelling. But I'd like to praise my young self for my correct dialogue punctuation. I had antagonists in this story, though they were a little cliché. Here is my favorite line of this story:

"Casey and Micky Anderson were great friends just like tar, that know one could break apart."

That's deep, don't you think?



And finally, I produced an actual typed manuscript! My parents had a typewriter, so I guess I thought it was time to do things right. This was a (very) short story called The Case of the Missing Children (click here to see a larger image). What this story lacked in length, it totally made up for in suspense.



How about you? Do you have any treasures like these tucked away in a file? Maybe your mom does. Maybe you should ask her and find out.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Stick-to-it-iveness and a Giveaway!

by Roseanna White

(Who's appearing today wearing her writing hat rather than the editing one we typically see her wearing. This is Roseanna in her writing hat)


Roseanna M. White pens her novels under the Betsy Ross flag hanging above her desk, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When she isn’t writing fiction, she’s editing it for WhiteFire Publishing or reviewing it for the Christian Review of Books, both of which she co-founded with her husband.

On her website, you can learn how to create your own spy name, and don't forget to enter in her massive Box of Secrets giveaway!
I'm what my agent fondly refers to as "an idea gal." I've got enough of them filed away in my IDEAS folder to keep me busy for a long, long time. And yet...so often after I finished one project, I would flounder around, wondering what in the world I should work on next.

Frankly, it got even worse after I learned I had a contract on my first big-press book, the colonial-set (or rather, just-after-the-American-Revolution-set) Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland. For the first time, I had deadlines and release dates that someone other than me set. And from learning of contract to release date was only 9 months apart. Once the emotional high wore off, the panic set in. And it took the form of a very simple question:

What in the world am I going to do next?

That, you see, is always the big question for a writer. It's never about getting that one contract. It's about building a whole career from it. So where could I go from there? I tossed out a few other ideas to Summerside, Annapolis's publisher, but they could only offer me vague "that might be nice someday" sentiments. So I sat down, I stared at my IDEAS folder. And I realized that none of it--absolutely none of it--worked as a follow-up to Annapolis. None had similar settings. None would require a similar voice. And that was kinda depressing.

But I'm the idea gal! I knew I could come up with something! So I trotted my little self down the stairs and said, "Hey, honey! You remember that episode of Decoded we watched, with that spy ring thingy-mabob during the Revolution? What was that called?"

My hubby: "The Culper Ring."

Me: "Thanks!"

Daughter: "Moooommmmmmyyyyyyy!"

Me, two hours later when I get to my computer: "Um....honey! What was that again??"


LOL, yes, my husband had to remind me about five times what the ring was called before I finally got around to looking them up and bookmarking the page. ;-) I figured another book set within 5 years of Annapolis would be a perfect follow-up. A perfect way to build a following. It wouldn't work for the Love Finds You line, probably, but I really liked the idea. I read some articles online and liked them even more.

Excited, I emailed an editor I'd been chatting with. "What would you think," I wrote, "about a Revolutionary spy romance?"

She emailed promptly back. "Oo, sorry! Siri Mitchell has one of those coming out next year!"

It was like somebody punched me. My great idea...and a bestselling, award-winning author had already beaten me to it. Le sigh. Le double sigh. Le boo-hoo-hoo. That was when I emailed Stephanie, totally down, with the bad news that those hours of brainstorming we had just put in were useless. I believe her response was something like, "Aw, seriously? Do you have to give it up entirely?" (Stephanie here: Note to self - be more eloquent when talking to Roseanna. My words might show up in a guest post...)

Given that I had no one else to pitch it to, I figured I did. At the time, my agent was mostly retired, she wasn't pursuing anything new for me, but I was afraid to cut totally loose from her. Which meant I was on my own in making connections. And they'd pretty much all tapered off.

Until, a month or so later - a rejection came in.

Yep. A rejection on a contemporary manuscript I'd submitted a year and a half earlier (a year and a half!)...and followed up on a year afterward...with an editor who also had six other proposals of mine that she hadn't looked at...she emailed to say she'd taken my contemporary to committee but gotten a "no" because of genre. I wasn't terribly surprised by the rejection. While I'd clicked nicely with the editor at a conference in 2009, she'd said up front that Harvest House wasn't really doing this type of contemporary. And honestly, I wasn't sure Harvest House would like my stories anyway--their stuff tends toward the sweet, and mine...doesn't always.

But, well, nothing ventured...I replied with, "Hey, I have this idea for a historical, following a spy ring during the Revolution. Would you be interested?"

She replied with an enthusiastic yes and invited me to submit when I had a proposal finished. I was still a good ways out from that, though. I had a manuscript to turn in to Summerside, and then I had to do some serious research. So I did. I wrote the proposal. I sent it to my critique group. Their responses were mostly positive, but with concerns about the amount of suspense...and the amount of backstory...and the way the heroine came off...

At this point, I was beginning to feel a bit discouraged. I had one book coming out aside from my small-press biblicals, but would that be it? Was I going to totally ruin my one shot at this story? Unsure how it would go, I made the changes I could to the proposal based on my critters' feedback, and I composed a new email to the editor.

I remember hovering with my mouse over the SEND button, thinking, "Is it good enough? Or is it awful? Should I wait? No, there's nothing more I can do to it. And she won't read it for months anyway, so if I come up with something else, I'll just send her an updated file." I clicked.

An hour later, I got an email from Kim at Harvest House. I opened it up, expecting it to say, "Got it, thanks." It didn't. It said, "Read the proposal. Can we chat? Our toll free number is..."

That would be when my hands started shaking. When my pulse skyrocketed. When my palms went damp. Because I knew well an editor wouldn't ask me to call just to tell me she hated my proposal. I called Kim, listened to her gush about how much she loved the story...I called my agent to share, and got a quick response of, "Roseanna, dear, it's time to find a new agent. I'll put in a few calls for you." In the next two weeks, I talked on the phone with three of the top agents in the CBA and ended up signing with the legendary Karen Ball, who had just gone from editing to agenting (she's the one who discovered Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury--just sayin'). And I kept writing. 

I sent it in several chunks to an ever-more-excited Kim. And learned that she, for the second time in her 15 years at Harvest House, was taking it to committee without having read the full book. So in the fall of 2011, I got the email--they had bought the series. My first series!

And you just can't believe how many times I almost gave up on this--the idea that had already been done (though very differently), the idea that my critique group wasn't totally sold on, the idea that had only one shot. The idea I loved, and which ended up getting better responses from agents and editors than anything I'd ever tried to pitch before. And to think I sold it to an editor I'd met a year and a half earlier, and who rejected my first project...

Well, in this business, you just never know. ;-) But now the Culper Ring Series is well under way. Ring of Secrets is available, Whispers from the Shadows (book 2) has been turned in, and I'm working on the final installment now.

Which leads to the fun giveaway! I'm offering a copy of Ring of Secrets to one commenter, of course, but we have a secondary giveaway too. The winner will get to name a character in the third Culper Ring book, and will have their name mentioned in the acknowledgments for it!

The character is my heroine's brother, who died fighting for the Union at Gettysburg. Though he isn't actually in the story, he's mentioned over and over again, as he was my heroine's best friend--and the promises he made her and another character make are a major plot point. My only condition is that it be a name appropriate to 1865, and that it not be one I've already used elsewhere in the series. ;-)

For your chance at the book or the name, just leave a comment below answering the question, do you find story ideas an easy or difficult part of writing?

(The book is available to U.S. residents only due to the unfortunate realities of expensive international shipping. This giveaway closes on Friday the 22nd.)


Friday, February 15, 2013

Supporting Authors


by Jill Williamson
We're starting something new at Go Teen Writers. It's called, Support an Author.
I've been a published author since 2009. And while I am finally starting to make a little money off this job, “little” is the key word. If my husband didn't have a job that could pay our bills, I wouldn't be able to write.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there that authors are rich. This is not true. As you all can probably imagine, authors work very hard for years for nothing in hopes that they will one day be published and start to earn a living. But most authors are discouraged to learn that it takes years to start earning that living. That few authors become as successful as J.K. Rowling, John Grisham, James Patterson, or Stephen King. Few become half so successful. The same is true of all the arts whether you paint, do photography, or write music and sing. You work hard at your craft, you put yourself out there, and you hope that something might take off someday, but you love it so much you just keep on creating.
I guess that why they call them “starving artists.”
I say all this not to gain your sympathy, but to motivate you. You are one of these authors, after all. This is your industry. And while there are lots of ways to get books free these days, whether you get review copies, win contests, or check books out at your local library, free books don't keep authors in print.
So, if you have a favorite author, I encourage you to buy at least one new copy of his or her books a year. Buy one new book a month, if you can. We're only talking ten to twenty dollars. Show your support for the industry you have decided to be a part of. Sadly, it’s not enough that readers like an author’s books. If no one will buy them, that author might not get to keep writing. It's happening right now to friends of mine.
And used books don’t help an author. The stores need to know which authors sell.
We're doing this here at Go Teen Writers. As part of the new Support an Author plan, whenever we do a giveaway, Stephanie or I will purchase the book for that prize new from Barnes & Noble or Amazon and mail it to the winner. And when I give mine away, Steph will buy it. And when she gives hers away, I'll pay for the book. We're tired of hearing about authors struggling, and we want to do what we can to support each other and our industry. So, spread the work. Encourage people to buy a new book every once in a while. You just might be helping a guy feed his family. And that's pretty sweet.
Let’s support the authors we love.
Go team! 
If you've bought a new book in the past couple months, share what book it was in the comments. And, anytime you buy a new book, feel free to post on the GTW Facebook page what you bought so we can see what people are reading. I'll start. I recently bought:
Hurt by Travis Thrasher
The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Identifying Your Characters' Strengths

by Stephanie Morrill

I feel like I should have planned some sort of love post for today ... but I didn't. The Go Teen Writers newsletter this month, however, was about falling in love with writing, so I did do something holiday related. Just not on the actual holiday.

Instead I want to talk about character strengths. Here's a fun list of strengths that you can use for helping to deepen current characters, create new characters, or to flesh out the rest of the cast. Like, wouldn't it be interesting if your main character and the villain had the same strengths?

Adventurous
Athletic
Brave
Calm
Capable
Caring
Cheerful
Considerate
Courageous
Creative
Dedicated
Determined
Devoted
Easygoing
Efficient
Encouraging
Energetic
Fair
Flexible
Forgiving
Friendly
Frugal
Funny
Gentle
Gracious
Hardworking
Helpful
Honest
Hospitable
Imaginative
Intelligent
Kind
Loving
Loyal
Mature
Organized
Positive
Protective
Reflective
Reliable
Resilient
Resourceful
Responsible
Sensitive
Servant-hearted
Spontaneous
Supportive
Talented
Thoughtful
Trustworthy
Warm
Wise

If you're working on a book now, what are three strengths of your main character? For my current project, Ellie is hardworking, intelligent, and reflective.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What Makes A Good Ending?

by Stephanie Morrill

Since last week, I've been talking about what I feel are elements that create successful beginnings and middles to stories. While it seems necessary to illustrate good endings, I don't feel comfortable giving away the great endings of books and movies.

I'm going to primarily use two Disney movies - Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. Not only have I watched them a lot recently (princesses are a rather hot topic in our house at this time) but I can illustrate my point easily, and I'm guessing many of us have already seen them or are at least familiar with the stories.

My 5-year-old, McKenna. She's most definitely a girl.
The ending of a story is made up of two big parts, the final battle and a wrap-up scene that I often see referred to as denoument. 
The Final Battle

A final battle varies in its needs depending on the genre, and it's up to you to determine what the final battle should look like. If you're writing a spy novel like The New Recruit, that will suggest a different type of battle than if you're writing, say, a historical romance like The Tutor's Daughter.



The final battle is best when it's your main character versus the main antagonist (or villain) in a face-to-face situation. You likely have many characters that work against your main character. In Jill's The New Recruit, the main character, Spencer, has several characters who he views as antagonists, but the sneaky terrorist Anya is who he working against and who is working agains thim.. Same with Harry Potter. Yeah, Draco gets in Harry's way from time to time, but he's not worthy of a final battle scene. Harry's final battle(s) require Voldemort's presence.

For Cinderella, her final battle is against her stepmother. The stepsisters are annoying for sure, but the stepmother is the one who's been actively opposing and oppressing her for years. And while the final battle involves her sitting there waiting for the Grand Duke to put a shoe on her, it's a battle nonetheless.

For Belle in Beauty and the Beast the final battle is a literal battle, and, unlike the stories mentioned above, there are three characters who need to be present. The scene would lack oomph for sure if Belle, the Beast, and Gaston were not all there. I think this is because in a romance, the bond between the couple is what's at stake, and it's represented best by both parties being present.

And while you can make the argument that Cinderella is a romance, the love story is more of a B storyline (at least in the Disney version) so we don't need Prince Charming at the final battle. Though you'll notice in many adaptations of Cinderella, like Ever After with Drew Barrymore and Anjelica Huston, the love story gets much more screen time and Prince Charming is written into the climax.

I think final battles are best when they come with a story twist. This can come from a character's crazy plan to best the bad guys (like The Hunger Games with the berries), the main character discovering something they didn't already know (like Belle not realizing the Beast is really a prince),  or an unexpected ray of hope when it seemed all was lost (like Cinderella pulling the glass slipper from her apron pocket).

While your reader may have had a general idea all along what the final battle would involve, throwing something unexpected at them in the midst of it will make them feel like your book was worth reading.

Denoument

After your amazing final battle, your readers need a scene that wraps up the major story lines and leaves them with a sense of ... something. A sense of hope, happiness, justice, dread, or whatever else you want.

In Beauty and the Beast, we have Belle and the Prince waltzing (are they waltzing?) around a ballroom. We catch a glimpse of the enchanted objects transformed into their human selves, and we get a nice sense of "happily ever after."

If you're writing a series, you also want to leave your readers with a sense of, "But..." Things are looking up but the bad guys are still out there. But there's still a lot of work to be done. But this peace is unstable, and it won't take much to rock it.

Another thing to keep in mind about writing a series is you'll want your final battles to keep getting bigger. The Harry Potter series does this so well. With each book, the stakes of the final battle climb higher and higher. To the extent that I was almost scared to read book seven because I was afraid of who might get killed off.

Now that we've summed up what all three parts of the story involve, which one is your favorite to write? Beginnings? Endings? Or are you that rare breed of writer who loves writing middles?

Other articles in this series:
7 Things You Need in the Beginning of Your Story
What Makes A Good Middle? Part 1
What Makes A Good Middle? Part 2