Free Friday: Shall I Compare Thee…

Reading Song of the Day: “Nothing Compares To You” by Sinead O’Conner

It’s hard out there for a writer. No, I’m not just channeling the infamous rap lyrics from Terrence Howard’s critically acclaimed movie, Hustle and Flow. I’m talking about competitive book titles. Like Pam discussed last Wednesday, there are always books out there that seem similar to your idea…and when you’re trying to sell your book you need to know what your competition is.

And that’s where I’m at with my book, In Limbo, right now. My awesome agent, Jennie Goloboy, and I are trying to come up with books to compare to my 1918 interracial love story/adventure novel. Who knew that the search would be so hard? So far, I’ve come up with the following books as comparable titles:

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever, 1793 (for the epidemic element)

Karen Hesse’s A Time of Angels (it’s also about the Spanish Influenza in 1918)

Anna Godberson’s Bright Young Things (because it’s about two teenagers who leave home in search of something more)

But the major thing that these books are missing is a black female protagonist. Hmmm, isn’t this a problem that we’ve been hearing/talking about for a while now in the YA field? I have Pam to thank (my Alpha reader) for giving me this unique edge to my novel b/c, as I’ve said before, SJ was once white. Since I made that change, it has made it very hard to find a comparable book that is very close to the premise of In Limbo–which is a good thing, but when you’re trying to fill in the competition section of your Book Proposal, it’s a little frustrating.

With that being said, do you guys think you can help me out? Know of any YA historicals that have a black female protag who falls for a white boy??

What the BLEEP is a Book Proposal???

Writing Song of the Day: “One Step Closer” by Linkin Park

Hey! You guys remember this post? The one where I was so excited that I got an agent? I was ready to delve into the next step. Getting published! I  mean, that’s every writer’s goal, right? We want someone besides our family and friends to read our words and love them. And believe me, after you write the book, there’s so. Much. More. Work. To do.

Hence the title of this post. After I got my lovely agent, Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary, I was so excited to sit back and wait for her to sell my book. But then I asked, what do we do next? And I got this response: Well, now we get some historians to check the historical validity (okay, that makes perfect sense), and then you need to start working on the book proposal.

My response: HUH? What even GOES in a book proposal? And do I HAVE to write it??? I mean, that’s a nonfiction thing, right? RIGHT? Please say, right!

Well, it turns out–no, it is not just a nonfiction thing. And my agency prefers for their fiction writers to pen a book proposal, as well. They feel as if this will persuade the editor to want your book even more.

So, back to the question at hand. What IS a book proposal??? Jennie directed me to the book, Write the Perfect Book Proposal by Jeff Herman and Deborah Levine Herman,  to help me figure this out. From flipping through this book and visiting various sites, I found out there are a couple of key elements that need to go into a book proposal.

Elements:

Overview: I pretty much used my query letter–just spruced it up some.
Author Bio: Speaks for itself πŸ˜€
Competition: Find books that publishers may be able to compare your book to. Then tell why your book would fly off the shelves.
Promotion: How will you promote your novel? Editors like to know that you’re going to put in some leg work to sale your novel as well. So, what kind of print media can you use to your advantage? What about online media, giveaways/contests, conferences, and appearances. Think about all of the ways that you can help sale your book.
Synopsis: We all work on these at some point when we’re writing our novels, anyway. I used the same one that I worked on for a year and changed a bit of it.

I know, right? After I read that, I looked like this:

Then I figured. What the hell? I’ll just go for it and see where it takes me. After I finished the first draft and sent it off to Jennie, I got a revised version from Jennie and Dawn Frederick (owner of Red Sofa Literary Agency). And then I looked like this:

But then I sat down and spent two days working on revisions and I think it’s A LOT better. Now I feel like this:

And my draft is in the capable hands of my agent. Now, I wait and see if there’s anything else to change.
I have to say, after I finished two drafts of my book proposal, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but it’s also a good way to show that you know your novel like the back of your hand, and also that you are willing to work on the “business” side of the publishing world as well as the creative. Even if you do not have an agent yet, I’d say it wouldn’t hurt to do your own mini version of a book proposal. That way if you choose an agency that has their authors do book proposals– you’re already one step ahead!

A Writer’s Guide to A Day Off

Writing Song of the Day: “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars

Yesterday was MLK day and not only is it a day to celebrate the legacy of a wonderful man, but it was also time that we got to stay home from the day jobs. Which made us think: How SHOULD a writer spend an entire day off from their day job?

Notice the word “SHOULD“. We actually spent our day at the dentist, working on stuff for part time jobs, and driving around Virginia Beach/Norfolk, VA. If we had our way though, these are the top five things (in no particular order) that we would’ve done with our day off:

1.) Sleep: You can never get enough of this. And sometimes, writers get a lot of ideas from their dreams. *coughs* Wants *coughs*

2.) Play on Scrivener/Outline New WIP Ideas: Scrivener is full of amazing. And we’re getting a lot of outlining done on new WIPs with this program. All we need is the time to actually use it more.

3.) Revise previous manuscripts: The work doesn’t cease after getting an agent. We both have revisions to work on with In Limbo & Project J.


4.) Read: We’re pretty sure this doesn’t need an explanation.

5.) Watch TV/Listen to Music for Inspiration: Believe it or not, we get a lot of ideas from watching TV shows and movies. Also music helps us get into our characters’ heads and allows their voices to come out on the page. It may seem like we’re wasting time–but no matter what we’re doing, we’re always thinking like writers.

What do you think? Is there something else a writer should do when they have time off from the day job??


Psst…hey, you…yes, you. Make sure you stop by our blog Thursday January 19th. Susan Dennard is guest posting and you can enter for another chance to read her ARC of Something Strange and Deadly. Check out Holly’s post from yesterday for more details!

Our 2012 Writing Resolutions!!

Writing Song of the Day: “The New Year” by Death Cab for Cutie

Okay, we get it…we’re about 5 days late in making New Years Resolutions, but we figure better late than never, right?

This time last year, we created 2011 Writing Resolutions (check those out here). This year, we decided to see if we met those goals while including ones for this year. Make sense? Yeah, not really, but we’ll take a stab at it anyway.

Pam’s Writing Resolutions:

1. Last Year: Revise the ending of Wants.
This Year: Done and done. Well, for now anyhow. Unless an awesome editor believes it needs more work. πŸ˜‰

2. Last Year: Complete my 2nd YA manuscript and send to beta readers in the Spring.
This Year: Well, I did complete Project J, but it was a little later than usual. Either way, my lovely beta readers helped me get it all nice and pretty to send to my agent. Woo hoo!

3. Last Year: Revise my supernatural YA WIP (my 2010 NaNo project).
This Year: Yeah…that didn’t happen. HOWEVER, I did recently read it and it has way more potential than I initially thought. Since I won the Scrivener program, I think I may play around with this story a little this year and see if I can make it shine.

4. Last Year: Outline my 3rd contemporary YA novel.
This Year: Umm, I KILLED this goal. Not only did I write the first draft of another contemporary novel for NaNo 2011, but I also just started outlining my 4th idea. Boo yeah! This year, I’d like to revise the NaNo novel, and finish the 1st draft of the 4th idea. πŸ™‚

5. Last Year: Write at least 500 words a day.
This Year: Yeah…that didn’t happen. However, this year, I’d like to write at least 3 times a week…even if I’m just jotting down ideas or creating character worksheets. I usually kick writing-butt during my summer vacay, too.

6. Last Year: Read at least 2 YA novels a month.
This Year: Okay, that didn’t happen either. This year, I’d like to read all of the books I put on my 2012 Debut Author Challenge list, and a handful of sequels that I’m anticipating (I’m looking at you, Insurgent).

7. Last Year: Read 6 adult fiction novels.
This Year: Nah, I think I failed this one, too. This year, I’d like to read at least 3.

8. Last Year: Get a book deal.
This Year: Well, no announcements yet, but I have a great agent and some awesome beta readers in my corner. I’m WAY more optimistic this year compared to last year, so we’ll see. πŸ™‚

Quita’s Writing Resolutions:

1. Last Year: Complete my 1st contemporary YA WIP by February.
This Year: Boo yeah! I annihilated that one. I completed the novel around the spring of 2011–close enough to February, right?? This year I plan to finish the first draft of my new historical.

2. Last Year: Nab an agent with my historical YA, In Limbo.
This Year: Right before the year ended, I did just that!! And now we’re gonna work on the book proposal and see if we can get me one of them book deals!

3. Last Year: Revise my supernatural YA novel by April.
This Year: Nope–no such luck. BUT I do plan to revise this (it was my NaNo 2010 novel) by the end of spring this year. After reading through it, it’s not that bad actually.

4. Last Year: Complete me and Pam’s YA idea inspired by Inception.
This Year: Nope. That didn’t happen either. Neither one of us has had the time. BUT I hope we can revisit it at some point this year.

5. Last Year: Read more historical YA.
This Year: Hmmm, I think I read a total of three historical YA novels. Yeah, I need to work on that. Maybe I’ll give myself an actual goal this year…I will try and read at least 5 historical YAs before the end of 2012.

6. Last Year: Read more adult fiction.
This Year: Didn’t do this one, either. I will try and get more in this year, though–definitely. At least 2 or 3.

7. Last Year: Plot a new WIP by early June so that I can finish a draft over the summer.
This Year: This didn’t happen either. I was too busy revising my other novels in order to complete # 2 πŸ™‚ But I’m already outlining a new historical and I plan to revise my contemp NaNo from 2011.

8. Last Year: Write SOMETHING each day.
This Year: Yeah, right. With a full time job and two part time jobs–not gonna happen. But like Pam said, writing something at least 3 times a week will work. Even if it’s a quick short story or a scene for a new idea.

9. Last Year: A book deal.
This Year: Uh, no–but see # 2!

Whew, that was a lot! Have you all set any writing goals for this year yet?

Omigod…Quita has a FLIPPING Agent!!

Celebrating Song of the Day: “I Celebrate the Day” by Relient K

WOW–after two years of querying/revising/editing TWO manuscripts, I can FINALLY report that yes, the title of this post is correct. I HAVE AN AGENT!!! Over a year ago, Pam gave you this post on how she got her agent (the awesome Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown LTD), so I figured I’d do the same. If you’d like to hear my story…here it go!

I started writing at a young age. I gave you all a sneak peak of my first completed novel (that I wrote at age 15), but then I got practical. I realized if I wanted to make lots of  money, I needed to finish high school and go to college. So, I did…and then I got my degree and became a teacher. Yep, I thought I’d be rolling in the dough from that career. As my fellow educators know, no such luck. Anyway, I digress. Back to my writing journey. Me and Pam got serious about our childhood love of writing and applied for MFA programs. As Pam recounted on her post, we got in and she was told from a literary agent that she has a knack for teen voices…so why not write young adult? She told me and was like, “hey, you usually write in teen voices, too.” And from there we began our foray into the wonderful (and I mean, WONDERFUL) world of young adult. Then my first novel was born…

December of 2009: I finished writing a novel based on a screenplay that me and Pam wrote together. Said novel was not my best friend. I kept trying to stick to the screenplay. HOWEVER, I did get a full request from a literary agency with this novel. But, lit agency NEVER responded…

Jan/Feb. 2010: While waiting for news about other manuscript, I began to come up with ideas for a new novel. All I had was these few sentences: Syl Huston is a 15 year old living in Philadelphia in 1918. The year that the Great Influenza has hit the United States. His older brother 18 year old Ricky Huston has enlisted in the United States Army and is sent to fight in Germany- he sends home letters that open up each chapter.

Begins in September 1918- Syl is in school and is called to the principal’s office. There he learns that his aunt, who lives with him has just been taken to the hospital and is in severe condition.
April 2010: Finished my first draft of In Limbo (title was switched to Hysteria briefly). This draft consisted of just Syl–who gets sick and spends the second half of the novel in his bedroom while people visit him. In one word: LAME. Thanks to my alpha/beta reader, Pam, this was quickly changed.
August 2010: Finished second draft–still a little lame, but I felt it was ready to query. WRONG–nothing but rejections. I got a few partial requests, but NO fulls. Pam read again and suggested that I make the love interest black–something to change things up.
October 2010: New draft! And this time my love interest, SJ, is BLACK. And she and Syl have a goal. I also have another beta reader, Ann, read this draft. She loves it, but gives a few suggestions. I take them.
December 2010: Another new draft–this time Syl has religious issues (don’t ask where THAT came from…). I query again. I also began the first draft of my contemporary–convinced that agents do not sign debut authors with historical novels.
January 2011: I get my FIRST full request!!! And it’s from an agent who LOVES historical- woo hoo! Alas, she passes…
February 2011: I whine, whine, whine about not getting an agent. I do some work on the contemp and query that. I get a couple requests for the contemp and shelve In Limbo while my betas read and let me know WHY it continues to suck.
June 2011: Me and Pam attend our regional SCBWI Novel Retreat. There we get a moment of clarity–why not make In Limbo a dual POV novel??? That might up the tensions, the stakes etc. Pam also suggests that I have one of the couple really not like the other–after all they are interracial and it is the early 20th century. Sooo…I work hard on both of those ideas and send it off to my betas again.
July-September 2011: Feedback from betas and hardwork to get the manuscript JUST RIGHT.
Late September/Early October 2011: I re-query those agents who had slight interest in In Limbo, and I go to QueryTracker.net (QueryTracker, I HEART you) and search for all agents interested in historical YA novels. There’s quite a few…so I weed through them and find the ones who seem like they really, truly love historicals. That’s when I see the name…Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary Agency. Not only does she WRITE historical novels herself, she also has a freakin’ PhD in American Civilization from Harvard!! I queried her on September 27th, 2011–she answered a short six days later. She said she is intrigued and wanted to read the first three chapters. YES!
October 2011: I continued to query my contemp. and had a full & partial out for that, too. But Jennie got back to me on October 10th, saying she enjoyed it and wanted to read the full. OMIGOD!
Then on the 18th, Jennie wrote back and said she loved the manuscript overall, but had a few things she wanted me to look at and change. I agreed–so I worked on the revisions right away.
November 2011: On November 20th, 2011 I sent back the revised version of In Limbo. On the 30th, Jennie wrote back and said she really enjoyed the revise and resubmit…then asked if there was a time we could talk!!!
December 2011: WE TALKED! She offered–I wanted to accept right away. Jennie LOVES my novel, she loves history–what more can I ask for? But I had other material out. I had to give those agents a chance to read and decide if they loved my work enough. After all was said and done…I signed with Jennie on December 20th, 2011! 
AND NOW? NOW I have an agent!!! 
That was A LOT…and I don’t blame you if you skipped some parts. I can get a lil’ long winded sometimes. Sorry 😦 Anyway, I hope reading about my “journey” gives you all some insight into the work that it takes. In Limbo didn’t get agented until I wrote 10 (YES, TEN–granted some of the drafts had small changes, but still) various drafts of it. It takes work, people…lots of it.
Thanks for reading πŸ˜€

Countdown to NaNo: Choose Your Idea!

Brainstorming Song of the Day: “I Choose” by The Offspring

Happy Monday, lovelies! You may be asking why I’m so stoked at the start of the work week. Well, that’s because we’re just TWO WEEKS AWAY from NaNoWriMo! Can I get a woot woot?

Last week, Quita outlined what we were going to do to prepare for NaNo. And our job last week was to actually choose our idea. Simple enough, right? Well, not quite. Let’s break it down for you:

Pam’s Idea: Last year for NaNo, I wanted to get out of my contemporary YA comfort zone. So what did I do? I wrote about fairies. And you know what? I had a blast.

After writing Ins and Outs this year (AKA, the WIP formerly known as Project J), I wanted to return to my darker roots–and I’m not talking about my hair. Ins and Outs was more of a funny ha ha story about a possibly serious topic. I had fun writing it, but I felt like getting a little moody again.

I saw a Twitter conversation that my agent had about Bible retellings, and it hit me–I wanted to write a story featuring a teenaged Cain and Abel! But wait–there’s more. Since NaNo’s all about getting out of my comfort zone, I knew I just didn’t want to write straight up contemporary. So not only am I writing a Cain and Abel retelling, but I’m adding a magical realism twist. And that’s all I’m telling you guys about it right now–but just know I’m SO EXCITED to get started!

Quita’s Idea:

Like Pam, I tried to get out of my comfort zone last year, as well. I wrote about djinns or genies. And it’s the WIP I’ve hated the most. I don’t think fantasy or paranormal is my strong suit. Also, after revising the mess out of my historical, In Limbo, I knew I didn’t want to go there again–especially not for NaNo.

Then I read an article in my People magazine about a boy who was abducted and I realized, I haven’t read any YA books about boys who get kidnapped and what happens to them. Thus, my idea was born. But of course I want to do more than that, so my story is about a teenaged boy who was once abducted but is now free–only his family can’t deal with what happened so he’s sent to a boarding school. That’s all I’m gonna give for now. You can find out more next Monday when we talk baby plots!

So what about you all? Have you chosen your story ideas for NaNo yet? Please share with us below!

BTW, add us as a buddy when that function works again! Pam is pharris81 and Quita is mhockaday!

RTW: Our Writing Journeys…And Boy Are Our Hands Tired!

Writing Song of the Day: “Tie My Hands” by Lil Wayne ftg Robin Thicke

Can you believe that the ladies at YA Highway have hosted 100, count it, 100 Road Trip Wednesday posts?? Well, they have! And this week, in honor of reaching the 100 Mile Marker, the ladies want to know:

How has your writing journey gone so far?

You mean, we get to shed light on our successful (okay not always successful) writing stories thus far? Don’t mind if we do!

Pam’s Response:

Wow, where do I begin? I have definitely been on a journey since I participated in my first RTW. First of all, this blog began as a solo venture, but then I joined forces with my annoying/lovable/most-awesome-person-in-the-world cousin, Quita. Second, I’ve written three, count them, THREE YA novels: one is a hopefully funny contemporary that I’ll soon be revising, another is a supernatural modern tale about fairies that I wrote for NaNo 2010. And the third? Well, the third is my baby, Wants. And why is it my baby? Well, because it landed me the incredible Sarah LaPolla, who has just put my shiny new version of said baby back on submission (fingers crossed).

So what lies ahead? Well, I’m trying NaNo again this year, and I’m possibly delving back into my dark, contemporary roots this time around. I have a couple of ideas for future novels scrawled in my journal, so now I just have to find out which one is calling me next. Oh, and even though I graduated with my MFA in creative writing this past summer, I actually have to defend my thesis, gulp, TODAY. Wish me luck!

Quita’s Response:

Since I began to take my writing seriously (about two or so years ago now) I’ve completed three novels, and “graduated” from my MFA program (for which I wrote a collection of short stories). Two of my novels have been through the ringer numerous times. My historical, In Limbo, is completely different from its first draft (which I wrote over a year and a half ago). It’s moved from a single POV story about a white boy in love with a white girl, to a two person POV novel–and that white girl is now African American. Two agents have a full of this manuscript at the moment, one of which seems like she’s REALLY excited about it–we’ll see where that goes.

My other novel, The Blues, a contemporary mystery (I began writing this one a year and ten days ago), came close with three agents and finally one requested a revise and resubmit. I’m still working on the revise part. The final novel was a NaNo project–my foray into the world of paranormal/supernatural and I hated it. I think I’m just not good at telling those kinds of stories–at least not in one month. Maybe if I try and revise it, it might be okay…you never know. Now I’m on my way to taking another shot at NaNo–this time with a quiet story, and I’m gearing up to defend my MFA thesis next week. WHEW! I think that’s it.

Now that you know all of me and Pam’s bidness, how has your writing journey been so far?