Writing a Book is Hard #amwriting

Writing a book is hard. Wait, let me clarify: writing a good book is hard. The thing to remember is that people do it. People actually publish books, good ones–even while working full-time, even while raising families. Publishing a good book is doable and worthwhile. But it takes

A

Lot

Of

Work.

Start Your Book

First you need to come up with a story, something unique that can grab readers (and agents) in an elevator pitch of 15 words or less. Yes, you’ll need to write that elevator pitch and synopsis, but first the book…

You must decide how to start.

If you’re a natural-born plotter and/or smart enough to learn how, you plot your story in great detail before beginning to write the actual book.

On the other hand, if you’re a pantser, your book-writing journey will be much longer. If, like me, the only way you can come up with story ideas is by letting them flow organically while writing, so be it.

In other words, pantsers:

  • write a lot of pages just to get an understanding of the story and characters.
  • Read through all that pre-writing, take notes, plot everything in a way that makes sense.
  • Then write the real first draft.

-You create characters, each with their own quirks, histories, fears, goals, and desires–and conflicts, especially conflicts, both external and internal.

-You write all three acts of your book, yes, all three, even when you reach act two and realize, whoah, a book is big, so super big, way bigger than the original story idea I had. At this point you remind yourself that you are not a bad writer, you are not a bad writer, you are not–that the first draft is always bad. Verify this by reading what all published authors say. (ALL writers say their first drafts are bad.)

-You write all the scenes for your book, all of them, around a hundred. You ensure that each scene has a dramatic arc and an emotional arc and that the pacing is right–not too slow, not too rushed.

-You make sure your book falls within the standard word count for your genre, aware that agents and publishers are more receptive to first books with word counts that fall into the lower range. You remain calm as you logically deduce that the reason publishers prefer shorter books from first-time authors is so they don’t waste as much money on you in case your book bombs.

Revise Your Book

  • You rearrange all the scenes in your novel until the narrative makes sense. You add scenes, delete scenes, and completely rewrite scenes.
  • You make sure dialogue for each and every character is distinctive and packs a punch.
  • You craft your story in such a way that it’s not too ambiguous but also not too on the nose because you’re aware readers like figuring out things on their own.
  • While editing your book, you take multiple passes through it, each time focusing on only one or two elements to avoid becoming mired in an overwhelming mass of details that will make you. . .

Losing mind - businesswoman

Maintain Sanity

Balance is everything. While writing and editing, you maintain your sanity through:

  • social interaction
  • commiserating with fellow writers
  •  physical exercise
  • spiritual whatever.

Work with a Critique Partner (CP)

After you’ve written, revised, and brought out the shine in all elements of your novel, you hand your manuscript over to another person, preferably a critique partner (CP). But first, you must find said CP. This means putting yourself out there on social media, websites, local writers’ groups, workshops, wherever you can find fellow writers/potential CPs who understand your genre and are willing to swap full novel critiques.

You must read other people’s works in progress (WIPs) so they will read yours. It’s a fair exchange, and the time is well spent. When critiquing someone else’s work, not only are you helping out another writer, you are learning a LOT about what makes a manuscript work.

You make more changes to your novel based on CP feedback. 🙂

Work with Beta Readers

You send your manuscript out to beta readers. Again, you need to do the legwork first. Interact with fellow book lovers on blogs, Goodreads, wherever readers of your genre dwell in the wild. When your book is ready, summon the courage to ask those people if they’d like to read and provide feedback on your novel.

Make further revisions to your novel based on beta reader feedback. 🙂

Read, Read, Read

All the while, you read as many published novels as you can, not only because you love to read, but also to gain an understanding of what’s being published in your genre, what the trends are, and to get ideas on what you’d like to strive for and avoid in your own writing.

Research Literary Agents

In between all the writing, editing, and networking, you also research potential literary agents. And they can’t be just any agents. They must be agents who: represent the kinds of books you write, are good at what they do, are open to queries. Which means:

  • Every time you pick up a novel, you read the acknowledgment page (often it’s the first page you turn to), keeping an eye out for agent shout-outs.
  • You visit promising literary agents’ Twitter accounts and blogs, agency websites, and check out their #MSWL (manuscript wish lists). And you do web searches for their interviews to ensure they’re looking for what you’re writing.
  • You create a free account on querytracker.net to check out what other querying writers are saying about agents you’re interested in.
  • You study agents’ submission guidelines and follow them to a T, fully aware (without letting it freak you out) that literary agents are so inundated they’ll look for any reason to reduce their submission load. This means that every detail of the query letter, email, manuscript format, synopsis, etc. that you send prospective agents must exactly conform to their specifications.

Network with Other Writers

You make friends in the writing community who will console you when you’re overwhelmed with how hard it is to write a book, especially when you need to write a synopsis, which means summing up your entire novel up in 1-5 pages. That is really hard.

Follow Your Favorite Authors (not required but, oh, so fun)

Another thing you’re probably doing—though not specifically required—is daydreaming and getting ideas for your own writing career by following your favorite authors; seeing what they’re up to on their blog and tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest,Vine, Goodreads, Facebook, maybe even meeting them at book signings (a thrill every writer and reader should experience).

Maintain an Online Presence

While writing, revising, networking, reading,and researching agents, you also maintain your own blog and social media accounts, hoping that by developing an online presence as an author you’ll look legit to future agents, publishers, and fans.

Whew, good luck. Write and publish that book!

–Eve Messenger

 

 

 

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YA Books – Recent, Current, and Upcoming Reads

Today I’m feeling especially aware of the BIG CRUSH I have on novels, and November is turning out to be a particularly good month–every read is like striking gold. For this, I am grateful to book bloggers and their excellent recommendations.

RECENTLY READ: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
This book. The first few chapters of Vanishing Girls did not at all prepare me for what was to come. Oh, me of little faith. This is Lauren Oliver, remember, Eve? Your possibly-new-favorite author.

 CURRENTLY READING: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
When researching literary agents and the kinds of YA manuscripts they’re looking for (in preparation for the day when one of my novels is FINALLY ready to query), I often read that agents are looking for “voice-y” novels. “Voice-y,” I get it, but then along comes Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and now I really get it. Simon has SUCH a voice. He is REAL. With his wry wit and honesty about himself, Simon is so relatable.

I’m only 55 pages in, but so far this story has a compelling premise. Simon is gay and has yet to come out of the closet, but he shares his secrets in email communications with a boy who goes by the alias Blue. Blue attends Simon’s same high school, but they’ve never revealed their true identities to one another, so with every male high school student that’s introduced, you (and Simon) wonder if he might be Blue. I also can’t help but wonder if maybe Blue isn’t really who he claims to be, and I love Simon so much already that I’m afraid he’s going to be disappointed.

ABOUT TO READ: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
At last, my first Patrick Ness novel!

Progress, Reflection, and Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee singing
Peggy Lee was at her most beautiful when she sang.

When chanteuse-poet-businesswoman Peggy Lee was still just little Norma Delores Egstrom from Nowhere, North Dakota, she carried around a piece of paper on which she’d written: “Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon . . . must inevitably come to pass.” She was maybe all of ten years old at the time. I’m much older, but that is also what I am doing: vividly imagining, ardently desiring, sincerely believing, and enthusiastically acting on my dream of being a successful published author of many bestselling novels.

This summer, while on break from my job as a music and language teacher, I’m throwing myself more into writing than ever, and I’m educating myself on how to break into the publishing world. In between bouts of plotting and writing novels and short stories, I’m “attending” Google University in earnest, blogging, tweeting, and happily connecting with other aspiring writers. I also purchased a Duotrope subscription to more easily find markets and track short story submissions, and I’ve been researching literary agents.

When I feel defeated, frustrated, worried, nervous, or especially when I compare myself unfavorably with great writers, I tell myself that there are all kinds of books, all kinds of writing, all kinds of writers, and I’m writing, writing, writing to improve and move myself forward.

Since starting summer break in late July, I’m proud to report that I’ve gotten a lot done. I wasn’t sure if I should include all this navel-gazing in my blog, but here goes.

  • Completed fourth draft of YA fantasy novel and sent to freelance editor for developmental editing suggestions. This was big, people; SO many hours went into completing that fourth draft.
  • Half finished researching and plotting new YA time travel novel, Firefly. 4,000 words written. Super excited to write this because it’s my first time travel story, but I’m nervous because I think it’s going to take me to some emotionally dark places (but in a good way?).
  • Recently submitted two short stories, Tilly of Lurra and The Girl I Choose to Write About, to print publications. I started with the most prestigious literary magazines, where competition is the stiffest, so I’ll let you know if I hear anything back.
  • Researched numerous literary agents, narrowing down to top 20, including three dream agents.
  • Thanks to shark/agent Janet Reid’s blog, I tried my hand at a couple of flash fiction pieces, one of which got an honorable mention in her blog.
  • Completed rough draft of a new short story, tentatively titled August Days, for eventual submission to “On the Premises” contest.
  • Outlined a new short story, We Were Vaudeville, to be submitted to Brilliant Flash Fiction Magazine.
  • Coming up: three short stories I wrote during last school year, Thorns, Hi-Fi in Eastern Kentucky, and 17 You-Me Reality Planes, will need a couple more revisions (and probably new titles – I’m titling impaired, unfortunately) before they’re ready to ship out to short story markets.

If you’ve read this far, thank you! I really appreciate being able to share my progress with you.

Eve

Yay!!! First Day of Summer VayKay!!!

joy

As of 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon, thirty-seven unfettered, glorious days of doing whatever I want popped up and smiled at me like a goofy toddler. For the whole month of August I get to read all the books I want, write whenever and for as long as I want, sleep in, exercise(?), spend time with family and friends, and catch up on. . . everything!

You don’t think my to-do list for the first day of summer break is that bookworm-ish…do you? 😉

  1. Make to-do list for first day of summer break.
  2. Play with dogs.
  3.  Brew tea, continue rewrite of YA fantasy, act III.
  4. Think about going for a walk.
  5. Figure out genre of the next book I’m planning.
  6. Research more literary agents who might be a good match for my YA fantasy.
  7. Finish reading Tahereh Mafi novel.
  8. Make a run to the library – whoop whoop.
  9. Hang with the fam.
  10. SUGGESTIONS??? _________________________