End of Watch: The Buddy Story

Soundtrack Song of the Day: “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen

We love writing and reading YA more than most things in life, but one of the things that comes close to our love for all things YA is watching movies and TV. Sooo, we’ve decided to combine those loves on this blog. Every Monday we are going to share a recent movie that we’ve viewed and what we learned about writing from said film.** 


Picture Taken From IMDB


End of Watch


Logistics: Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, and America Ferrera

IMDB Says: Two young officers are marked for death after confiscating a small cache of money and firearms from the members of a notorious cartel, during a routine traffic stop.

We Say: End of Watch is about two young officers and their friendship. The viewer gets to see their relationship play out as they deal with life, the trials of being a cop, and the joys of having someone you can rely on.



Writing Connection

The Buddy Story = Giving your novel heart. This is especially true for middle grade novels (which we are getting more and more into lately). In MG novels, the buddy connection is like the romance/love connection in a YA novel. Think back to when you were in 6th grade. Friends were EVERYTHING! And as much as we like to think we grow up and stop caring about what others think about us, we all still want to feel that buddy/friendship connection with someone. That’s the heart of End of Watch. Yes, there’s action, romance, a kickass plot–but underneath it all, it’s about the friendship between two guys. Adding this connection in your novel will kick up the emotional factor that much more and keep your readers hooked.
Links:

End of Watch- Official Site
End of Watch-IMDB
End of Watch- Facebook

Now Watch This:

Have you seen End of Watch? How often do you place close attention to the friendships and how they grow/falter in your MG or YA novels?

**This blog is not limited to ONLY discussing the relationships of movies and writing, however this will be the weekly feature that you can ALWAYS expect.

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Contest Winners AND An Interview with My Agent: Jennie Goloboy

Winning Song of the Day: “Jenny From the Block” by Jennifer Lopez

First off, thanks to all of you who entered the contest and who took the time to follow us on Tumblr and subscribe to our YouTube channel. We hope more of you will take part in our social media take-over later. In the mean time, we have some winners to announce!

So, that’s grammatically incorrect, because we have more than one, but you get the idea!!!

1. Leslie Wright!!!!
2. Melanie Conklin!!!!
3. Rachel Searles!!!!

Contact us at cuzwewrite@gmail.com and rank the prizes from one to three. Here are the prizes once more: Jennie’s query critique, Dawn Frederick’s query critique, or the ten dollar gift card. We will reward you all in the order that receive the e-mails.

In the mean time, why not learn a little more about my agent, Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary?

You are a newer agent, when did you start and what made you want to become a literary agent? (How many clients would you consider your “max” and where are you on that list right now?)

People who’ve known me for a long time say I’m a natural matchmaker, and that is what drew me to being an agent– the idea that this writer and that editor should know each other, and I can help by introducing
them! Currently, I am growing my client list, but I do know I plan to keep the list small so each of my authors gets special attention.

What kind of projects do you usually look for/gravitate toward?
Right now my practice centers on YA and MG novels and science fiction and fantasy for adults. Beyond that, first of all, I have to love your protagonist and care what happens to him or her. I love funny books (Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore, and Fay Weldon are current favorites). I love fantasy with a realistic feel– either because it’s set in the real world, or because the world and its characters are fully imagined and credible. Romance is always a plus, as long as the romance doesn’t solve all the protagonist’s problems (especially in YA). And as a historian, I appreciate historical settings!

I also love it when my authors already have an audience ready and eager to read their books when they are published– for example, by starting a popular blog and running exciting contests…

(Tee hee, Oh Jennie :D) 

When do you usually stop reading a query or sample pages?
I stop reading queries if I can tell that the book is not something I’d represent (like a thriller or a memoir). I skim queries if I think I’ve seen the idea before, in case the author has promising credentials or an unusual twist on the idea. Currently I’m seeing a lot of novels about girls who have prophetic dreams and girls who
either are or are dating the grim reaper.

If I like the query, I generally let it sit for a while, and if it still looks good at a second glance, I will request the first three chapters. (I don’t ask for a synopsis– I like to be surprised.) I always read all three chapters. If I like them, I will ask for the full manuscript, which I will also read in full.

In general, if I’ve asked for it, I’ll read it.

How do you network with editors and other industry professionals with your office being located in Minnesota?

I have the benefit of Dawn’s years of experience in the industry and great track record. Beyond that, I love conferences! I’ll be speaking at three this year, one at the Loft Literary Center in late April (https://www.loft.org/classes-at-the-loft-literary-center/writing-conferences), one at the DFW Writer’s Conference (www.dfwwritersconference.org), and one at the Florida Writers Association
(http://www.floridawriters.net/Home_Page.html). I also plan to be at Worldcon again this year, as well as a couple of history conferences.

You are a writer as well. How do you balance your time between writing your own material and helping your clients get published?

Coffee. I also try to keep a daily schedule: Monday is for sorting through the mail, Tuesday and Thursday are for client needs, Wednesday and Friday for my own writing. Of course, if there’s an urgent issue
from one of my clients, I get to it right away!

As a writer, what advice would you give to others still working to get published?
This shouldn’t be a lonely business! Once you’ve written that book, you’ll need beta readers. You’ll need people to show you the next steps, and you’ll need people to help you commiserate and celebrate.
Go out and find some writer buddies!

Do you have any recommendations for writers on how to build their platform?
It’s not enough to write a great book, you also have to know the kind of book you’re writing, so it can find its proper audience. At Red Sofa, we’re big fans of Christina Katz’s Get Known Before the Book Deal, which has some great exercises to help you define yourself as a writer, and to publicize your work using social media.

What is your favorite book/author right now? What is your favorite book/author of all time?
Wow, that’s a hard question! The best book I read recently– the most creative, immersive, moving and satisfying– was Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City. Probably the book I think about most frequently is actually a
history book: Richard Bushman’s The Refinement of America. But when I want to reread a book, it’s usually one of Terry Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork books, of which Thud! is my very favorite.

Random Questions!

Me and Pam are scared-y cats. We’re scared of clowns, mermaids, centaurs, and people on stilts… What freaks you out the most?

Mayonnaise. And yet, oddly enough, I love chicken salad, and I’m willing to make some to get it.

If it’s your last day on earth, what would you eat (all we think about is food)?

I’d head down to the North End in Boston and get pizza and an arancine from Galleria Umberto, followed by Italian rum cake from Modern Pastry (all I think about is food, too!).

“The Voice” or “American Idol”?
I’ve run out of time for most TV, but I always watch Mad Men, to see how Don’s messed up his life this week.

What would you do for a klondike bar?
For a Klondike bar? Not much. For a Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake bar? I’m embarrassed to say…

Thanks so much, Jennie!

And again, thanks to all of you who entered the contest (and even those of you who were THINKING about entering). If you want to query Jennie, find out more about her here:

Jennie’s Facebook
Jennie’s Twitter
Jennie on Querytracker.net

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??

Changing My Revision to a Re-Vision

Revising Song of the Day: “When Can I See You Again” by Babyface

So last June, Quita and I had the pleasure of attending a novel revision retreat with none other than editor extraordinaire, Cheryl Klein–which we blogged about here. You see, I was there to primarily focus on Wants, but Project J wouldn’t stop nagging me. Psst, it kept saying to me, remember how much awesome potential I had?
Remember I did–so now I’m taking a stab at another round of revisions to make it the humorous, yet heartfelt, novel that I know it can be. Not that these revisions are easy (but are ANY revisions?). Sure, I love revisiting the story and characters, but I’m putting WAY too much pressure on myself to make it awesome and shiny and perfect…so much so that I’ve cried out in despair to both Quita and my lovely agent just like this:
Okay, maybe I wasn’t that dramatic, but I was pretty close. So, when we’re this overwhelmed with revisions, what can we do to take the proverbial chill pill and just get ’em done? Well, I take to heart something the awesome Cheryl Klein said at the aforementioned retreat:
Try not to think of it as a revision, but a re-vision.
I may not remember the exact wording, but the message still resonates with me. Now I’m asking myself: How else do I see this story? What else can I do to help it reach its full potential?
1. Reread the story (duh). But this time while I was reading, I made notes of the scenes I HAD to keep, and the ones that I could probably do without. The same can be done for characters.
2. Write scenes out of order. I have been a tried and true plotter, starting from Point A to Point B. But for this revision, I’m starting to think of scenes that I would have liked to include in the previous drafts. You know how most DVDs have deleted scenes? And you know how sometimes you’re like: why didn’t they keep that scene? It kicks ass! Well, that’s what I’m doing for Project J–and hopefully these outtakes will find a home in the actual manuscript.
3. Just let the protagonist lead the way. A few weeks ago, I posted about taking personality tests for your characters. After doing so, I “found” Jonah again, and just started letting him speak to me. Sure, that may sound crazy to some, but I’m amongst my brethren here. Hopefully, you all understand what I mean. What he tells me to write may hit the cutting room floor, but get it down on paper first, weed it out later. That’s how a re-vision should be.
So, despite the initial panic, I think I’m slowly but surely finding my groove with this revision. I’ve come to terms that while the overall story may stay the same, the way I get there may be different. And I’m okay with that.
So, do you all have any revision tips you’d be willing to share?

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 😀
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!

Free Friday: Personality Tests for Your Characters!

Revising Song of the Day: “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour
You know that feeling you get when you bump into an old crush? A part of you is excited to see him–to check him out, see how he’s aged, get those butterflies all in your stomach. However, there’s also the chance you’ll be a bit terrified: Oh my God, why did I EVER check him out? Look how he’s aged! I shouldn’t have had that omelet for breakfast…
Yeah. That’s kind of how I feel about revisions. I’m either going to open up the manuscript and get all giddy like a middle school girl…or I’m going to want to puke all over my keyboard (thankfully, the latter has never happened. Yet.).

As you probably can tell, I’m strapping on the fingerless gloves and diving back into revisions for Project J. I’ve always struggled with plot–so during my first few rounds of revisions, I focused on climaxes and conflicts and resolutions, oh my!

But then I lost my character.
That’s right–I struggled with my main character. I NEVER thought I’d have trouble with character, but when I zoned in on plot, I forgot about letting my protagonist guide the story.
So what did I do? I popped open an issue of Writer’s Digest and read a great article by Mike Nappa, “Skill-Builders for Fiction Writers.” One of his suggestions was to complete personality tests for your characters. I thought: hey, I’m a writer. I’m a counselor. This should be fun!
And it was. I knocked a couple of those babies out, and soon I remembered what it was that I loved about my main character, Jonah. I remembered who he was and what he wanted and how he thought–and the butterflies were still there! So, I thought I’d share some of my faves:
Personality Type: This quiz only has 4 questions, but it reveals if your character is an introvert or extrovert. A thinker or a feeler. A scheduler or a freestyler. Pretty cool.
The Stress Test: Allow your character to pick 3 pictures. The one he/she does NOT choose reveals what he/she is stressing about. Great way to figure out potential conflict.
Driving in a New City: Your character gets lost with his/her partner. How does he react? This is awesome in seeing how your character interacts with others.
I could go on and on and on with all the cool quizzes that can help figure out your character, but instead I’ll direct you here so you can choose more of you own.
So what do you think? Can personality tests help you with revisions?

Guest Post: Susan Dennard Gets Messy

Writing Song of the Day: “A Beautiful Mess” by Jason Mraz

Today we welcome Susan Dennard, author of the 2012 debut,  Something Strange & Deadly.  This week the WOA girls are all promoting this awesome debut novel. And of course, giving YOU a chance to read the novel before it’s release date. So, read on and find out about Susan’s writing process!


My writing process is…well…messy.

Initially, I spew out complete and utter drivel, my fingers flying over the keyboard faster than my brain can even process. And then, after about 3-4 weeks of this, I crash. I’m usually halfway or three quarters of the way finished with the first draft when I  hit this metldown-point, and I’ve usually just reached the notorious MY-BOOK-IS-TOTAL-CRAP stage.

Yep. Sounds silly, but it’s true. I spend the next few days alternating between despair (This book is so, so, so bad needs a complete rewrite. WAAAAAH!) and determination (A rewrite never killed anyone, right? You can do it, Sooz! YOU CAN DO IT.).

Ultimately, determination wins (helped along iby its close frenemy: The Deadline). I print out the whole book, get my writing tools out, and then read the ENTIRE thing in one sitting. Actually, if you want a detailed look at how I revise, you can head here.

This reading/planning stage usually takes a few days. Once I’ve got the Book I Actually Wrote solidly analyzed and thePerfect Book (a.k.a. the Story I Actually Want To Tell) all figured out, I dig into rewriting.

Rewriting is a HUGE part of my process. As I talk about here, I don’t always know the whole story. I know the main plot, but I uncover all those delicious subplots and side threads while I’m writing the first draft (or second…or third…). I know the ending (roughly), but I have NO CLUE how all the subplots and side threads will weave together into a SMASH-BANG ending packed full of resonance.

For example, when I was writing the sequel to Something Strange & Deadly (titled A Darkness Strange & Lovely), I wrote the first two thirds of the book in 3 weeks. I spent the next few weeks revising (and researching in Paris!)…and then I reached the end of my revised two thirds and stopped again. I revised those first two thirds AGAIN…only to peter out and stop AGAIN.

My problem was that I had no idea how to get my character from Point A to Point B. I’d sold the book based on a synopsis, and it was easy enough to say, “Eleanor goes with the Spirit-Hunters into the Parisian catacombs.” But actually GETTING her there? Actually giving her a plausible reason to take that as the next step–and more importantly, to have her do so while keeping the tension and excitement high?

As I said here, I rewrote the beginning a few times…then revised it…then attempted an ending (that was TERRIBLE)…and then re-wrote said ending two more times.
Finally–FINALLY–I settled on an ending that was The One. It came out in a flurry of words that were mostly usable since I finally KNEW what needed to happen –since I was finally writing the Perfect Book.

I turned in A Darkness Strange & Lovely on December 15–a little less than 5 months after starting.  It went through two critique partners and my agent before I handed it over to my editor, and by golly, I’m PROUD of what I wrote!

The moral of the story is that ultimately, my “writing” process involves a heck of a lot of “rewriting” because I’m not a particularly good writer…but boy am I one helluva a good REwriter. 😉

So don’t despair when your own writing seems bad–you can always, ALWAYS revise it to perfection. DREAM BIG AND NEVER GIVE UP!


Susan’s Bio:


Susan is a reader, writer, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She used to be a marine biologist, but now she writes novels. And not novels about fish either, but novels about kick-butt heroines and swoon-worthy rogues (she really likes swoon-worthy rogues). She lives in Germany with her French husband and Irish setter, and you can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on twitterfacebook, or Goodreads. Her debut, Something Strange and Deadly, will be available from HarperCollins in July of 2012, and you will never believe how happy this makes her!



Check out Holly’s review.


Here’s Erinn’s review.


AND here’s an interview Kat had with Susan about what happens AFTER you get published.


Tomorrow’s your last chance! Be sure to check out Alicia’s blog for her post and to enter for your turn with this amazing ARC 😀 AND of course, don’t forget to sign up below!!! 


P.S.: If you can’t see the sign up thingy, click on Read More and then it pops up 🙂 Thanks!


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