End of Year Countdown: 5 Top Fives of 2014

Photo credit: Amodiovalerio Verde on Flickr
It’s the last post of 2014, which means, as is tradition here on Writability, it’s time to share Writability’s annual five top fives of the year! Woot!

These tend to be longish posts, so I’m going to jump right into it. Here is the summary of 2014’s amazingness in terms of writerly awesome.

Top 5 Most Popular Posts (On Writability)

As per usual, these are calculated with blogger’s page view counts. Interestingly, the list is the same as the year before, with a little rearranging.

Top 5 Most Active Commenters

As explained every year, I use Disqus’s handy widget on my sidebar to keep track of how many comments every lovely commenter makes. The system isn’t perfect and only keeps track of accounts, so if you comment on multiple accounts, it thinks you’re more than one person, but anyway, these five fabulous readers are the most active commenters of the Writability community—thank you!

Note: Those with asterisks were on the top five list last year, too. And those with two asterisks were on the top five list the year before that! Double and triple thank yous!

  1. Robin Red*
  2. RoweMatthew**
  3. Daniel Swensen**
  4. Jen Donohue*
  5. S.E. Dee

Top 5 Favorite Tumblr Blogs of the Year

Over the years, tumblr has become one of my favorite social media sites. I’ve learned a ridiculous amount from the gems posted there, and I’ve also really enjoyed the nerdy randomness that frequently appears on my feed.

These are my top five favorite tumblr blogs, as calculated by tumblr based off which blogs get the most reblogs and likes from me.

Top 5 Favorite Writing Blogs of the Year

I’ll openly admit I haven’t been able to keep up with other blogs lately, mostly because of time constraints. That being said, those that I do try to check in with or browse over are pretty great, and here are some of my favorites of the year (in no particular order):

Note: Those listed together are somewhat similar, which is why they’re listed together.

  1. For really excellent (and honest) posts about the publishing industry/getting published: The Daily Dahlia (Dahlia Adler’s blog).

  2. For wonderful weekly round-ups and writerly posts: YA Highway.

  3. For excellent book reviews and cover reveals: IceyBooks & The Midnight Garden.

  4. For agent and writer interviews as well as awesome writerly posts: chasingthecrazies (Amy Trueblood’s blog).

  5. For great pub opportunities, including contests, giveaways and agent information: Miss Snark’s First Victim & Literary Rambles.

Top 5 Favorite Twitter Accounts

Twitter remains my favorite favorite. And these Twitter peoples are amazing (again, in no particular order):

  1. @LucasMight

    Not only is Lucas a ridiculously nice person, but his tweets are sometimes quirky, sometimes insightful, sometimes hilarious, and always interesting. Also, he’s an excellent writer.

  2. @gildedspine & @mariekeyn
    I’m listing these ladies together, because they’re both super wonderfully kind people who are also really amazing advocates. They speak their minds, talk about important issues, and I’ve learned so very much from them both.

  3. @_DiversifYA

    I’m assuming most people already know about WeNeedDiverseBooks, but DiversifYA is another excellent proponent of diversity. They host semi-frequent Twitter chats discussing various aspects of diversity, and they also have great diverse profiles on their corresponding blog that they share on their Twitter. I definitely recommend them.

  4. @MissDahlELama

    Not only is Dahlia yet another uber-nice writerly type, but she’s super insightful as far as publishing things go, and she’s a ridiculously good recommender of books. Seriously, if you ever want a book recommendation, see Dahlia ASAP.

  5. @_Snape_

    I always list Snape in these round-ups because it’s one of my favorite hilarious follows.

    I mean, case and point:


So those are my top fives of 2014—do you have any favorites of the year you’d like to share? 

Also, Happy New Year, everyone! 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Writer @Ava_Jae shares her top fives of 2014—what are some of your favorite writing resources of the year? (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How to Edit: The First Read Through

So you've finished your first draft and let it cool–now you're ready to edit. But where to begin? Today I'm talking about the first read through of your manuscript.


RELATED LINKS/VLOGS:

Twitter-sized bites: 
Ready to start editing? Writer @Ava_Jae vlogs about how to tackle the 1st read through of your WIP. (Click to tweet)  
How do you tackle the first read through of your WIP? Writer @Ava_Jae vlogs about her process. (Click to tweet

2014 Year In Review

Photo credit: dordirk on Flickr
2014 has been a really incredible year for me.

In the first week of February, I officially signed with my agent Louise Fury and became part of The Bent Agency family.  It’s a decision that, nearly a year later, I honestly could not be happier with. That same month, I also completely changed my diet, which involved a lot of adjusting, including a world without sugar. While that sounded horrible at the time, the difference it has made to my anxiety levels alone has made it all very worth it, to me.

In March, I unexpectedly nabbed an editorial internship with Entangled Publishing—which was an internship I’d been eying since I first started looking for pub job opportunities in 2013.

May was a pretty huge month.

I finally took the plunge and got the pixie cut I’d been lusting after for several months. I also changed my online avatar for the first time since I’d started my online platform, and switched out the stack of books for my actual face (something that would not have been possible without said adjusted anxiety levels). That same month I was also accepted into a new school, and I started a vlog, and I went to RT14, where I met loads of my lovely writer friends as well as my agent and many other wonderful TBA people. I also gave Beth Revis and Tammara Webber a hug, and met Leigh Bardugo, Sarah Maas, Tamora Pierce, Cora Carmack and many other superstars. I kept a really calm and cool persona (riiiiiight) while completely freaking out on the inside.

In June I started up school again (yes, in the summer) and also went on submission with my now-titled novel Beyond the Red.

In July I finished first drafting a NA novel that I immediately put away and declared no one would look at it ever. Immediately thereafter, I began drafting another novel, which I fell in love with instantly.

In September, I finished first drafting said novel and started a full-time school schedule again (summer classes were not full time), while also interning and writing. I also re-read that NA novel I said I wouldn’t look at again, and decided I loved the characters too much to give up on it.

In October, I accepted an offer from Sky Pony Press to publish my YA Sci-Fi debut, Beyond the Red, in hardcover, Spring 2016. That same month, I was also promoted from intern to Assistant Editor at Entangled, and my family moved out of the state I was born in for the first time.

In November, Writability hit 1,000,000 page views and had its biggest giveaway ever.

Now it’s December, and I’m kind of taking a break, at least, for the moment. I have betas looking at that NA, and once I get their feedback, it’ll be one last round of revisions before it goes to my agent. From there, I have two more MSs that have been drafted and are ready for revisions, and plenty of other work to think about.

But for now? I’m letting my brain relax, binge-watching Game of Thrones, and catching up on my TBR pile (or making a teensie dent, at least). And as I look to 2015, I could not be more grateful for this truly amazing year, nor more excited for all the things to come in the next twelve months.

How did 2014 treat you? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
.@Ava_Jae shares her 2014 year in review. Did you make any big changes in 2014? (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #6

Photo credit: lauren rushing on Flickr
Okay! So as per usual, I’ll start by posting the full first 250 excerpt, after which I’ll share my overall thoughts, then my redline critique. As always, I totally encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques in the comments (because I’m only one person with one opinion!), as long as it’s polite, thoughtful, and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be removed.

Let’s get started!

Title: THREE GHOSTS FOR ANASTASIA 
Category/Genre: YA Paranormal Romance 
Excerpt:  
“The little girl entered the bedroom, following her parents. Her little face was red and she tried to hold her tears when she saw her grandma lying in the bed, sleeping peacefully, while the color had already left her face. 
‘Grandma…’ she whispered with broken voice and her mother brought a chair, making her sit near her grandmother’s side; she asked her to remain quiet and wait here, as patted her head. 
‘Ok mommy, I will wait here.’ And she blew her nose. 
‘That’s my girl, we will be right back.’ She said kissing her on the cheek, and she left the room. 
It was quiet, really quiet, as if the sound had disappeared and the girl looked at her grandmother. She always smiled every time she and her parents visited her as also she used to tell the best stories and making cookies. In that thought new tears started to flow and the girl whipped them away. 
‘No!’ the girl screamed but she realized that, on the spot he had cut, a faint glow, and then, a shining silver light appeared creating a small ball which was now floating above the dead woman’s body. 
Suddenly the temperature fell drastically and the girl started to feel the chill down to her spine. Looking around her she realized that everything had become darker until she turned her eyes across the other side of the bed. A man dressed in black, tall with black hair and eyes stood above her grandmother’s body.”

Okay, interesting start. I’m curious about the spontaneously appearing man (grim reaper-type character, perhaps?). Writing-wise, there are a couple grammatical errors that I’ll adjust, but you may want to be careful because generally, when there are a lot of grammatical errors on the first page, it’s a sign that there are a lot of grammatical errors throughout (if this is a weakness of yours, critique partners can definitely help weed them out!). I was also a little confused about what happened between paragraph three and four—I felt like I was missing a paragraph, because there’s reference to “he” and a “cut” that seemed to come out of nowhere (maybe I am missing a paragraph?).

Plot-wise, I’m getting the sense that this is probably a prologue (deaths with mysterious figures on first pages are a pretty common prologue trope). You may want to be careful with this, if only because as I said before, this kind of opening/prologue is common, especially among YA Paranormals.

Finally, I’d also like to see more about the setting. We know about the bed, and the room is dark, but that’s about it. What kind of room is she in? Is it a small bedroom? A large hospital room? Are there any clues you can give us so we know where we are in time? Is it winter with little heating in the room, or winter with the heat blasting, or in the middle of summer with the room stifling? There’s a lot we don’t know, and I’d like to be able to have at least a little bit of a sense for where we are in place and time.

Now for the in-line critique:

The little girl entered the bedroom, following her parents. Rather than starting with “the little girl,” which is really generic, I’d rather know our protagonist’s name (assuming she is our protagonist). Her little face was red (If you get rid of “the little girl” in the first sentence, then this is okay. If not, I’d reword to avoid the repetition of “little.”) and she tried to hold her tears when she saw her grandma lying in the bed, (“She saw” is an example of a filter phrase/“thought” verb. If you haven’t read Chuck Palahniuk’s article on “Thought” verbs, I highly recommend it (my CPs can attest to the fact that I throw this article at absolutely everyone, often more than once). The short version is this: filter phrases distance the reader from the narrative by placing an extra layer into the writing (with the “filter”), and thus, you can make your writing more immediate by removing them.) sleeping peacefully, while the color had already left her face. Whose face? The little girl’s, or the grandmother’s?  
‘Grandma…’ she whispered with a broken voice and her mother brought a chair, making her sit near her grandmother’s side; she asked her to remain quiet and wait here, as she patted her head. This sentence is really long. I recommend breaking it up to make it easier to read.  
‘Okay mommy, I will wait here.’ I don’t think you need the part I bolded. Most kids don’t repeat verbatim anyway, and the addition makes the dialogue sound a little stiff, to me. And she blew her nose. I don’t think you need the “and,” either.  
‘That’s my girl, we will be right back.’ I recommend changing “we will” to “we’ll” to help the dialogue flow a little better. She said kissing her on the cheek, and she left the room. 
It was quiet, really quiet, as if the sound had disappeared (As is, this description is a little redundant. I recommend choosing a stronger word or analogy for the quiet, instead.) and the girl looked at her grandmother. She (Who? The girl? Or her grandmother?) always smiled every time she and her parents visited her as also she used to tell the best stories and making cookies. I’m not convinced we really need to know this information. Most people have nice memories of their grandmother, and these memories aren’t really especially specific. If it’s not essential to the story, I would cut it. In that thought (You don’t need this, IMO) new tears started to (You don’t need that phrase, either) flowed and the girl whipped them away. 
‘No!’ the girl screamed but she realized (This is also a filter phrase—see above note about filter phrases) that, on the spot he (he? Who is he? Is this a typo?) had cut (What cut? Who cut what? Am I missing a section?), a faint glow, and then, a shining silver light appeared creating a small ball (This could easily be condensed into “a glowing silver ball of light” or something of the like) which was now floating above the dead woman’s body. 
Suddenly (The word “suddenly” always removes the suddenness of whatever follows, because by saying “suddenly,” you’re warning the reader that something is about to happen. See the first point in this post for more details) the temperature fell drastically (Can you show us how this feels rather than telling us that the temperature dropped?) and the girl started to (You don’t need this) feel (This is a filter phrase again) the chill down to her spine. Looking around her she realized (Also a filter phrase) that everything had become darker (Can you describe this, rather than telling us?) until she turned her eyes across the other side of the bed. A man dressed in black, tall with black hair (I’d reword to avoid the repetition of “black”) and eyes stood above her grandmother’s body.” I’m not sure how to picture this. Is he floating above her? Standing on something that’s somehow above her body? Standing next to her, but towering over her? It’s a little unclear. 

This has the potential to be really intriguing, but as is, I think it needs some work. If I saw this in the slush, I’d pass.

In the end, remember that this is your story and it’s 100% up to you to decide what changes you do or don’t want to make. But these are my recommendations, and I hope they help!

Thanks for sharing your first 250, Alexandra!

Would you like to be featured in a Fixing the First Page Feature? Keep an eye out for the next giveaway!

Twitter-sized bite: 
.@Ava_Jae talks about filter phrases, show vs. tell & essential (or not) info in the 6th Fixing the First Page crit. (Click to tweet

'Twas the Night Before Christmas (For Writers)

A fun yearly (re-)post for Christmas, with apologies to Clement C. Moore, written by yours truly.

Photo credit: Joe Buckingham on Flickr

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the night
Not a writer was writing, not word was in sight.
Blank pages were scattered on desks and on floors,
In hopes that the manuscripts would leap from their drawers.

The radio was humming a song of good cheer,
Yet I, tortured writer, wished a muse would appear.
And I with my coffee and family asleep
Did stare at the page trying hard not to weep.

When out in the snow there came such a noise,
I fell from my chair, disregarding all poise.
I ran to the door, my heart in my throat,
And did throw it open, forgetting my coat.

And Christmas lights glowing on glittering snow
Seemed just for a moment to put on a show.
When to my astonishment—I’ll admit I did shout,
Came a sleigh from the sky led by reindeers on route.

A driver with eyes spilling over with laughter,
His face I did know I’d remember thereafter.
With a beard so white and his cheeks set aglow,
He waved and he smiled, “It’s me, don’t you know!”

I gaped for a moment and stuttered and said,
“This cannot be real—it’s all in my head!”
But Santa, he snickered and said with delight,
“I hear, my dear child, that you love to write.”

“It’s true,” I said, looking down at my feet,
“But a writer I’m not—I’ve admitted defeat.”
And Santa, he frowned—looked me straight in the eye,
And he said, “You’re a writer, don’t let your dream die.”

So I told him my troubles, how the words wouldn’t come,
And he said, “It’s a gift—it won’t always be fun.
It won’t always be easy or simple or kind,
But for writing, my girl, is what you were designed.”

And he lifted my chin with his finger and said,
“These troubles you’re having—they’re all in your head!
So go back inside and rest for the night,
But know that tomorrow, you’ll write at first light!”

He climbed back on his sleigh and took off in the air,
The reindeers—they trampled the stars with their flair.
So inside I went and turned off the TV,
And sat by the fire with a hot cup of tea.

Asleep, there I fell, and I dreamt of the page
And when I awoke—my mind a golden age!
I rushed to my computer and typed until dawn,
His words, I soon realized—they were right all along!

In hindsight I suppose, I shouldn’t have been surprised,
For that day it was Christmas, true and undisguised.
And that man that I saw, whether he was Santa or not,
He brought to my mind things that I had forgot.

A writer’s a writer every day of the week,
On good days, on bad days, on nights that seem bleak.
But I do what I can and what I can is to write,
As Santa reminded me to my delight.

So next time your writing refuses to flow,
Remember what Santa said to me and know,
You’re a writer tonight and always will be,

For writing is truly what makes you feel free.

Merry Christmas everyone! 

Twitter-sized bites: 
"‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the night/ Not a writer was writing, not word..." (Click to tweet 
Writer @Ava_Jae shares a special version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas for writers. Enjoy! (Click to tweet

Vlog: How to Love Editing

It's vlog Tuesday, and today I'm talking about how to learn to love editing (yes, it's possible!). Enjoy!


Do you love (or hate) editing? Why? 

RELATED LINKS/VLOGS: 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Writer @Ava_Jae vlogs about how she learned to love editing. What do you think? (Click to tweet)  
Do you dread revising your MS? @Ava_Jae vlogs about how to love editing. (Click to tweet

In Publishing, Subjectivity is Real

Photo credit: Mat Simpson on Flickr
“Sorry, but this isn’t for me” are probably every writer’s least favorite words.

Writers hear it all the time: writing is subjective. And I think, even after you’ve heard it three dozen times and have kind of come to terms with it, it’s still frustrating when you get a rejection with the words “just isn’t right for me” in it.

I know that. And yet, the longer I work on the other side of the desk, looking at submissions rather than submitting them myself, the more I’ve come to realize that everyone who ever told me writing is subjective was painfully right.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across something that was written well that just didn’t grab me—and that goes for published works, as well. Books that some people rave about I’ve put down after a couple pages—and on the flip side, books that I’m obsessed with, I’ve had friends put down halfway through, or say it was just “okay.”

As is the case with just about any art, subjectivity is a very real thing. And something I had to frequently remind myself while I was on submission was every “not for me” rejection was okay, because it meant that editor wasn’t the right editor for my book. And yeah, it still sucked, and yeah, it was still disappointing, but as long as I focused on finding the editor who fell in love with my book, it was okay.

Because that’s what you want. You don’t want someone whose underwhelmed by your story—you want someone obsessed with your world, and your characters, and the writing, and everything about that manuscript. You want someone who will champion your work to the ends of the Earth. You’re not looking for someone whose apathetic about your work, or even likes your work—you're looking for someone who loves it.

Writing, as it turns out, really is subjective. And while that can be really hard to accept, especially when your inbox is filling up with “not for me” rejections, know that in the end, it’s okay, because it only takes one yes.

What do you think? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Tired of hearing "sorry, but this isn't for me"? @Ava_Jae shares her thoughts on subjectivity and publishing. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #6 Giveaway Winner!

Photo credit: hyekab25 on Flickr
Super short off-schedule Sunday post to announce the winner of the sixth fixing the first page feature giveaway! Are you ready?

The winner is…

ALEXANDRA PERCHANIDOU!

Yay! Congratulations, Alexandra! Expect to see an e-mail from me very shortly.

Thanks to all who entered! I'll have more of these next year, so keep an eye out! :)

How the Internet Has Made Me a Better Person

Photo credit: Peter Ras on Flickr
It’s no secret that news-type sources have been less than kind to those who spend any significant amount of time online. Those who spend a lot of time online are often labelled anti-social, even if whatever they’re distracted with online is inherently social, but I digress.

The point is, the internet kind of gets a bad rap. And I want to do my part to help change that, because to be honest? The internet has made me a better person.

The internet has exposed me to viewpoints and voices I may have never heard on my own. The internet has introduced me to some really incredible, passionate people who speak up online about issues I may not have otherwise even thought about. The internet has brought me We Need Diverse Books, DiversifYA, Diversity in YA, Disability in Kidlit, and The Gay YA. The internet has raved to me about books and authors who I’m not sure I would have found on my own.

The internet brought me YA and NA—categories that have absolutely framed my writing journey. The internet gave me an internship, which led to another internship, which led to my Assistant Editor position. The internet showed me the wonders of pitch fests and blog contests—one of which lead to signing with my incredible agent, which absolutely would not have happened on my own, because she isn’t open to queries.

The internet gave me a place to talk and learn about writing. The internet inspired me to start a blog of my own, which has turned into this amazing, beautiful place where I can help other writers in ways I never imagined when I first started out. The internet introduced me to so many absolutely wonderful people, many of whom I consider my friends. The internet encouraged me to open up, to accept who I am, to do what I can to help others, to be passionate and geeky and brave.

I’ve come a long way since I first dove into the online community on April 10, 2011. But the person I am today is a more confident, happier, better version of myself, and for that, in no small part, I thank the internet.

Has the internet made you a better person? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Writer @Ava_Jae says the internet has made her a better person. What do you think? (Click to tweet

Fixing the First Page Giveaway #6

Photo credit: Vivian Viola on Flickr
It’s time for the final Fixing the First Page giveaway of 2014! Woot!

For those who missed it the first time and second and third and fourth and fifth time, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a PUBLIC (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post (and the one before that and the one before that and the one before that and before that).

Rules!

  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I am most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(

So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the sixth public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Saturday, December 20 at 11:59 EST to enter!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Vlog: Social Media Book Tag

I participated in the social media book tag! And so I've got all sorts of book recommendations for you all. :)

Enjoy!




THE BOOKS:


What books would you nominate for the tag? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
.Writer @Ava_Jae participates in the social media book vlog tag. Have you read these awesome books? (Click to tweet)

Top 5 Twitter Pitch Mistakes

Photo credit: Jexweber.fotos on Flickr
So as some of you who follow me on Twitter know, I participated in this season’s #pitmad and #PitchMAS Twitter pitch events—except I wasn’t pitching this time.

No, for the first time ever, I got to participate as someone making requests (in this case for my editorboss). And you know? It was really fun and interesting to see the other side of these pitch events. I’d frequently participated as a pitcher, but handing out shiny gold favorites was fun.

That said, out of the hundreds of pitches I read, I requested maybe 1%. (I did the math with an estimate.) Many times it had less to do with the pitch and more to do with the fact that it wasn’t what I was specifically looking for, but I did notice several common mistakes that I think are important to take note of.

So without further ado, here are the top five twitter pitch mistakes I observed:

  1. Stakes and/or conflict are unclear. This is huge. HUGE. If the stakes and conflict aren’t crystal clear in your pitch, then it’s very difficult to know enough about the book to make a request. Why? Because stories are rooted in conflict (and the conflict isn’t clear if we don’t know what’s at stake). Without conflict, there isn’t a story, and so pitches without stakes or conflict don’t show why the events in the story are important. 

  2. Vagueness. I’ve written a post already on why details are so important in queries and pitchesso I won’t rehash the whole thing here. The short version is this: if your pitch has a phrase that could apply to anyone else’s pitch (i.e.: “dark secret,” “overcome great odds,” etc.), then chances are likely you could do better. In a pitch or query setting where the important thing is to stand out from the hundreds of other queries and pitches, you’re not going to do it with a vague phrase that a hundred other people have used. Instead, your goal should be to make your pitch so specific that it wouldn’t fit for anyone else’s manuscript. 

  3. Quotes. I understand the temptation to use a quote, I do. But the problem is, quotes never ever address point one—the stakes and conflict. Not only that, they don’t tell us what the book is about, which is the point of the pitch to begin with. Quotes are fun, and I get that, but save them for another setting. Chances are likely they aren’t going to help you in a pitch fest. 

  4. Summarization (instead of pitch). Pitches, unlike a synopsis, should not tell us the ending. A pitch should intrigue and make me want to read the book—but I don’t want to know how it ends before I’ve even taken a look at it. Save the full plot summary for the synopsis. 

  5. Not using all 140 characters wisely. By this, I mostly mean I saw a lot of people twisting their pitch around to try to make their title fit. And quite frankly? It’s unnecessary—you’d be much better off using those characters to get extra information in about your manuscript. Cool titles are fun, but most of the time, they’re not going to get you requests—an interesting premise with clear stakes and conflict, will. 

  6. Bonus: didn’t specify genre or category. I can’t speak for everyone browsing through the Twitter pitch feeds, but if a pitch didn’t have the category or genre specified, I skipped it. Why? The truth is, there are just way too many pitches to go through to spend time reading one that might not be a category or genre that I’m looking for. The genre/category tags are important for a reason. 

  7. Extra bonus: For more on the essential aspects of a Twitter pitch, check out this post.

So those are my top five Twitter pitch mistakes. What recommendations do you have for Twitter pitchers? 

Twitter-sized bites:
Assistant Editor @Ava_Jae shares the top 5 pitch mistakes she observed during #pitmad & #pitchMAS. (Click to tweet
Thinking about participating in a Twitter pitch event? Here are 5 common pitch mistakes to avoid. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: What Do You Hope to Achieve With Your Writing?

Photo credit: slightly everything on Flickr
I want to write books that make readers feel.

I want to write books that make my readers swoon, and cry, and laugh. I want to write books that keeps readers flipping pages long past their bedtimes, and has them daydreaming about what might happen after they have to stop reading.

I want to write books with characters, stories, and worlds that stay with my readers after they’ve read the final words. I want to write books that make people think, and empathize, and maybe look at the world and the people in it a little differently.

I know not everyone will like my books. That’s okay.

I know there are some people who will probably hate my books. That’s also okay.

But if I can achieve at least one of the goals I mentioned above with my writing, if I can make someone swoon, or laugh, or fall in love with my characters using tens of thousands of combinations of twenty-six letters? That alone is incredible enough to make the rest worth it.

What do you hope to achieve with your writing? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
.@Ava_Jae shares what she'd like to achieve with her writing. What items are on your list? (Click to tweet)  
What do you hope to achieve with your writing? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: What Books Will You Be Asking for This Holiday Season?

Photo credit: me (maybe I went Christmas shopping early, okay?)
It’s no secret by now to my family and friends that if there’s a gift-giving occasion coming, I’m going to want books. Or gift cards so I can buy books. Because books.

For fun, and because I obviously don’t have enough books on my TBR shelf (you know, only 185 and counting), I thought it might be fun to share the books I’ll be hoping for this Christmas and see some of the books you guys want to get. 

Here are (some) of the books I’ll be crossing my fingers for this season! 


How about you? What books will you be asking for this holiday season?

Twitter-sized bite: 
.@Ava_Jae shares her Christmas book wish list for this holiday season. What books will you be hoping for this year? (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Trunking Novels

While I've talked about false starts before, I thought it important to focus on what happens when you put away a manuscript you've written, possibly for good.


RELATED LINK:


What do you think? Have you ever trunked a manuscript?

Twitter-sized bites: 
"I stopped looking at trunked MSs as failures...[&] started looking at them as learning experiences." (Click to tweet
"Sometimes manuscripts need to be written just for you: the writer." #writetip (Click to tweet)  
Have you ever trunked a MS? @Ava_Jae vlogs about her experience with putting (many) MSs in the drawer. (Click to tweet)

So You Want to Write NA Contemporary Romance?

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Note: The inevitable has happened, my friends. After 600+ posts, I've accidentally re-written a post. The original is here, and this one is slightly different (since, you know, I wrote it thinking I hadn't written it yet). Think of it as having 1.5x the resources if you want to write NA Contemporary Romance. :) 

What is it? 

College (or college-age, at least), swoony book boyfriends (and girlfriends), awesome voices, awkward moments, stepping into adulthood, there are so many components of NA Contemporary Romances.

What do they have in common? They all feature college-age protagonists, are in a modern day setting, and the plot largely revolves around a romance.

Pros/Cons of Writing NA Contemporary Romance: 

Pros: 

  • Wonderful voices. Like YA, one of my favorite things about NA are the incredibly diverse and powerful voices. There’s a very distinct sound to NA and some really wonderful voices that set them apart and absolutely fit the age range of their protagonists. 

  • Adorable (or heart-wrenching) romances. The tone in NA novels varies greatly, but in the end, the romances are really great. From the light, fluffy and adorable to the darker, emotionally-ridden conflicts, the romances stick with you long after the book has ended. 

  • Very popular (right now). Which means there’s so much to choose from! And it’s pretty good from a marketing standpoint, because books in popular categories and genres generally have a better chance of selling well. 

Cons: 

  • Stigma/common misconceptions. There are a lot of people out there who still believe (and say) that New Adult is Young Adult with sex. Or that New Adult is the same as erotica. Neither of which are true, but it is an assumption a lot of people make about the category, particularly NA Contemporary Romance. 

  • Mostly digital. I mean, this is really only a con if your dream is to be traditionally published in print. NA is actually doing really well in the digital marketplace, and some NA authors have gone on to be traditionally published after their digitally published books took off (see Tammara Webber, Cora Carmack and Jennifer Armentrout, for example). But at the moment at least, NA is mostly a digital phenomena, and while it’s (painfully) slowly breaking in the traditional print sphere, it’s not quite there yet. 

  • Very popular (right now). Which means it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Being part of a popular movement definitely has it’s pros and cons. 

Recommended Reading: 


As I’ve said in every other So You Want To Write post, reading in the genre (and category) you’re writing in is mandatory. Lucky for you, there are loads of awesome books out there to enjoy and learn from.

Note: I’ve read (and enjoyed) all of these except for Unteachable, which is on my TBR list because I’ve heard great things about it.


For more, check out Goodreads’s New Adult page (which includes more than just Contemporary Romance) and their Popular New Adult books books shelf (which are mostly, but possibly not all Contemporary Romance).

Helpful Links:



Do you enjoy reading or writing NA Contemporary Romance? Share your experience! 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Thinking about writing NA Contemporary Romance? Writer @Ava_Jae shares some tips, recommendations and more. (Click to tweet)  
Do you write NA Contemporary Romance? Share your experience at @Ava_Jae’s So You Want to Write series. (Click to tweet

First Drafting: You Don’t Have to Know Everything

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Over the years, I’ve become more and more firmly entrenched in the plotter camp. This is something I definitely didn’t see coming when I first started writing, considering when I wrote my first manuscript, the thought of writing an outline was one that let’s just say didn’t make me happy. 

As I’ve started consistently fast drafting, however, I’ve found that I work best with loose outlines. (Loose, being the operative word.)

When I first started writing, a large part of the reason I was so against outlining was because the thought of figuring out every little detail about what will happen in the book before you’ve written a word not only seemed like it’d be a lot of extra work, but I also worried it would kill the joy of writing. After all, one of my favorite parts about writing is the discovery, so if you already know everything, what’s left to discover?

As it turns out, however, most of the time when writers talk about outlining, they don’t mean J.R.R. Tolkien-type book-on-its-own-outline.

For me, outlining means opening up Scrivener and using the cork board feature to plot out what’s going to happen in the novel from beginning to end. I’ve also taken to writing the rough draft of a logline (and sometimes a query-length summary, depending on the MS) to help me stay on track while I draft.

By the time I’ve finished outlining, I know:

  • Who the protagonist, antagonist, love interest and other important characters are. 
  • What all of the major plot points (inciting incident, point of no return, etc.) are. 
  • What the main conflict is.
  • What my protagonist's goal is.
  • How the book will end. 
  • The (general) setting (which can be as specific as “x building in x city” or as vague as “a college up north”).
  • What POV(s) I’ll use.

When I’ve finished outlining, I usually don’t know:

  • How much of the outline I’ll actually stick to. 
  • What my characters’ personalities are like. 
  • What the voice of the manuscript/protagonist(s) will be like. 
  • How my characters will get from scene 1 to scene 2, etc. 
  • Whether or not the romantic part will go as planned (spoiler alert: it usually doesn’t). 
  • Whether or not the book is going to suck.

The point I’m trying to make is this: even after I finish outlining, there’s a lot I don’t know about the book I’m about to write. Hell, half the time I don’t even know if I’m going to like the book (as a rule, I don’t usually declare a WIP an actual WIP until I’ve reached 10,000 words. Before that, it’s an experiment. I’ve abandoned many ideas before (and some after) 10,000 words).

I tend to look at my outline as more of a guide. I frequently make changes to scenes or find that characters aren’t behaving the way I’d originally planned, and that’s totally okay—in fact, I love when that happens because it means the story has taken a life of its own, and usually, the ideas I get while writing are even better than I’d originally planned anyway.

Despite that, I do continue to outline, because that guide? It’s ridiculously helpful, and when I’m fast-drafting, it absolutely helps me avoid getting stuck because I don’t know where the story is going (something that happened to me frequently in my pre-outlining days).

And sure, I don’t know everything when I start first drafting, even after I’ve finished outlining, but the fun thing is you don’t have to know every detail. And that just makes the ride all that more exciting.

Do you do any pre-outlining before your first draft? Why or why not? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
.@Ava_Jae says you don't have to know everything about your WIP pre-1st draft, even if you're a plotter. Thoughts? (Click to tweet
"Even after I finish outlining, there's a lot I don't know about the book I'm about to write." (Click to tweet)

Holiday Book Recommendations of 2014


So I came across Victoria Schwab’s holiday book recommendation post on tumblr the other day, and I immediately knew I wanted to do something similar, because what mixes better than books and Christmas gifts? (Rhetorical question. The answer is nothing).

The books listed below are the ten best books I’ve read (thus far) this year. Not all of them were released this year, but they’re all amazing and definitely recommended.

In the order I read them (from beginning of the year to end)!


What are some of the best books you’ve read this year? 

Twitter-sized bites: 

.@Ava_Jae shares her top ten favorite reads of the year. Have you read any of these excellent books? (Click to tweet)  
What are some of the best books you've read this year? Writer @Ava_Jae shares her top ten list. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Post-NaNoWriMo: Now What?

NaNoWriMo is over! Which means...what, exactly? In today's vlog, I talk about some things you should (and shouldn't) be doing in the Post-NaNo haze.


RELATED LINKS:

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year (and/or get anything writing-related done in November)?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Now that NaNoWriMo is over, writer @Ava_Jae vlogs about what you should & shouldn't be doing in the post-NaNo haze. (Click to tweet)

Guest Post: Why Building Relationships Before Your Book’s Launch is Important

Today I've got a special guest post from YA author Vicki Leigh, whose debut CATCH ME WHEN I FALL was released this past October! Take it away, Vicki! 

A lot of time is invested in making a book launch successful, especially when it’s your debut. No one knows you yet, and you've only just begun to network with authors, librarians, the media, and other publishing professionals. And while a lot of energy should be put into marketing your book on social medias (hello, Age of the E-book), it’s those people you network with that can make or break your launch. Here’s just one example why:

About three months prior to Catch Me When I Fall’s debut, I contacted my local Books-a-Million about hosting my launch party signing; it was important this was solidified with ample time for the store to order copies of my books. I met with the store manager, and they had an opening the Saturday after my book released. They seemed legitimately excited about hosting me, so when I left the store, my launch party was a go!

Or so I thought.

I knew my book was going to appear in Ingram’s system one month prior to release. The moment I knew Catch Me When I Fall was in Ingram’s database, I contacted the store and let them know we were all set to order books. But little did I know, Books-a-Million cannot order through any other system than their own, store-specific warehouse. And there was at least a four-week processing time on book submissions—and they could still decide not to stock my book. Which meant my book would never be at their store in time for my book launch signing.


(You’d think that piece of info was something the store manager would’ve told me right from the start—when we had three months leeway. Or he could’ve at least corrected me when I repeatedly mentioned Ingram. But I digress…).

Yeah, I crashed and burned. After bawling for a good thirty minutes—which, for someone who rarely cries, is a lot of tears—I frantically called around to other bookstores to see if they could accommodate me within a month while my publisher contacted Books-a-Million’s corporate office and tried to convince them to bend the rules about Ingram just this once. (Obviously, they said no). When it seemed like I wasn’t going to have a launch party at all, my poor CPs listened to me vent and patted my shoulders and talked me off ledges. This was my debut, and I’d worked so hard to make it a success. Seeing it fall apart was like watching a beloved pet die.

Then my agent asked me, “What about the library?” And that’s when the light bulb clicked on.

See, in the three months leading up to my book launch, I’d also made a point to contact my old high school about stopping by for an author visit, and the week before everything fell apart with Books-a-Million, I’d spent the day with my high school’s book club—which was run by my town’s teen librarian.

Having already built a relationship with her, I called the teen librarian at my public library and shared what had happened. With open arms, she welcomed me to reschedule my launch signing and helped me promote it in newspapers and through word-of-mouth around town and at the high school.

And everything turned out to be a success, after all.

This is why it’s so important to build relationships with book lovers of all professions before your novel’s even on shelves—because you never know what will happen, and it’s the people in the writing community who can help reroute your plans when they take an unexpected detour.

So, next time you stop by your local library and bookstores, make sure you buddy up with the librarians and store clerks. You never know when those relationships might be the most important ones.



Adopted at three-days-old by a construction worker and a stay-at-home mom, Vicki Leigh grew up in a small suburb of Akron, Ohio where she learned to read by the age of four and considered being sent to her room for punishment as an opportunity to dive into another book. By the sixth grade, Vicki penned her first, full-length screenplay. If she couldn’t be a writer, Vicki would be a Hunter (think Dean and Sam Winchester) or a Jedi. Her favorite place on earth is Hogwarts (she refuses to believe it doesn’t exist), and her favorite dreams include solving cases alongside Sherlock Holmes. Her YA debut, Catch Me When I Fall. You can find her at her website or on TwitterFacebookGoodreadsYouTubePinterest, Google+, and Instagram.






Twitter-sized bite: 
YA author @vleighwrites talks about the importance of relationships with local bookstores & libraries. (Click to tweet

1 Million Pageview Giveaway Winners!

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First and foremost! Thank you to everyone for entering—this was a really exciting giveaway and I had so much fun watching everyone else get excited about it.

There are a lot of winners, so I’m just going to get to it!

Writer critiques!

  • Query critique from Jennifer Blackwood: Kailey
  • Query critique from Vicki Leigh (five winners!): Tiffany Dailey, Erin Beaty, Kimberly VanderHost, Sam Taylor, and Chris Owens
  • First page critique from Riki Cleveland: Chris Owens
  • Query and first chapter critique from Rae Chang: MVB
  • Query and first ten pages critique from KT Hanna: Julia Essenburg 
  • First three chapters critique from Cait Spivey: Kelsey Simon
  • Query and first three chapters critique from Kate Brauning: Ruth Mitchell
  • Query and first fifty pages critique from me: JC
  • Full MS critique (edit letter only) from Naomi Hughes: Annie Nilson
  • Reader report from Kisa Whipkey: Fiona
  • Full MS critique from Nicole Tone: Mel Stephenson


Reader prizes! 

  • UNETHICAL by Jennifer Blackwood (e-book): Heather DiAngelis
  • THE SIGHT SEER by Melissa Giorgio (e-book): Anne Rose Becker
  • UNLEASHED by Rachel Lacey (signed paperback or e-book): Jean Marie Brennan
  • BEHIND THE SCENES by Dahlia Adler (signed paperback): Jamie
  • KINDAR’S CURE by Michelle Hauck (paperback or e-book): Gwen Burke 
  • DARKNESS WATCHING by Emma Adams (e-book): Renée Price
  • EVERLY AFTER by Becka Paul (e-book): Brenda Keller
  • A IS FOR ANGELICA by Iain Broome (signed paperback): Carly Bates
  • HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS by Ann M. Noser (e-books): Kat Helgeson & Lihn Guyenng
  • COME BACK TO TEXAS by KK Hendin (print or e-book): Gabryelle Konn
  • THE PAPER MAGICIAN (signed paperback + bookmarks): Paige
  • I SEE THE WEB & A SINGLE THREAD by Cait Spivey: Aimee Hyndman
  • THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE by Sarah Harian (e-book): Michelle Domenici
  • THE SOUND OF US by Ashley Poston (e-book): Jessica Harvey
  • MAKE IT COUNT by Megan Erickson (e-book): Heather DiAngelis
  • CATCH ME WHEN I FALL (signed paperback or e-book): Nicole Zoltack

So that’s it! Thanks again to everyone who entered—and to those who see their names here, you should be receiving an e-mail very shortly (if it’s not already in your inboxes!). Keep an eye out today. :)

For Writers, Some Things Don’t Get Easier

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So after wrestling my WIP through another round of revisions, I’ve been thinking about how this latest WIP has been one of the toughest books for me to write yet.

I think there are probably a lot of reasons for that, but I found it interesting, because this is far from my first book. This WIP is, in fact, the twelfth MS I’ve written, and so you’d think that I’d have the whole book-writing thing down pat by down.

Except, you know, I don’t.

I mean, sure, I know my process now. I know I do my best first drafts when I fast draft and I need some air between first drafting and editing. I know my general cycle is first drafting, revising, CPing, revising, CPing, revising, maybe more CP/betaing, and maybe more revising before sending it off.

But the actual writing part? And the actual revising part? It is so tough sometimes, you guys, and I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I sat back and wondered if I was wasting my time with this MS.

Because the truth is, writing doesn’t get easier. And neither does having confidence in your work, at least, not all the time. And even after you’ve written WIP after WIP, you’ll still have some days (or even some entire MSs!) that spew out words ridiculously easy, then you’ll still have some days (or, again, even entire WIPs) where you have to fight for every single word. And it’s not because you’re a bad writer, or haven’t learned anything, or you’re doomed to never getting published—it’s just the way it is. And it’s something I’m about 99% sure every writer deals with, regardless of how many books they’ve written or published or not.

Pressing send doesn’t get easier, either. Whether that send is to your CP, or your agent, or the thirtieth query or whatever, sending your work out is scary every single time. And I mean, it helps that I’ve learned that the best thing for me to do is immediately distract myself after pressing send, and absolutely not looking at the manuscript or the e-mail (because, invariably, I will find a typo, or misplaced comma, or something equally horrifying). But it’s still nerve-wracking and I still glance at my e-mail more than I should wondering if today will be the day my CPs nicely tell me this WIP sucks.

So here’s the hard truth: some parts of the writing process really don’t get easier or less terrifying. But being a writer means buckling up and riding the emotional rollercoaster that is known as our careers. And it’s true that some things don’t get easier, but to me? Creating new worlds and characters and stories and sharing them with readers makes it all so very very worth it.

What parts of the writing/revision process do you find difficult? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
.@Ava_Jae says, "some parts of the writing process really don’t get easier or less terrifying." What do you think? (Click to tweet)  
What parts of the writing/revision process do you find difficult? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How to Survive NaNoWriMo Week 4

It's the FINAL WEEK of NaNoWriMo! And I've got some encouragement and tips to help you make it to your NaNo goal. Enjoy!



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Twitter-sized bite: 
It's NaNoWriMo week 4 & @Ava_Jae has vlogged some tips to help you reach your goal! (Click to tweet)

From Probably Not to Potentially Yes

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It’s November 24, 2014, and a year ago today I did not have an agent or a book deal.

A year ago today I was a writer with a bunch of queries out, and one agent with my full manuscript, and I was jumping at every e-mail, and resting after finishing NaNoWriMo early, and I had absolutely no idea that I was weeks away from getting The Call.

So much has changed in a year.

After writing (and trunking) manuscript after manuscript, I’ve kind of had to adjust to a new method of thinking. It used to be, when I wrote, that most of the time I assumed chances were likely no one would ever see it (while not the case for everyone, this kind of thinking is somewhat inevitable when you trunk as many manuscripts as I did). And in a way, that was safe. It meant it didn’t matter how good or bad the manuscript was, how much work it would potentially need, whether the idea was overdone or the characters were weak or what-have-you, none of that mattered. It was freeing, in a way, to write thinking that nothing mattered because chances were likely no one would see it.

Things are different now. And I love that they’re different—really, honestly and truly, I do—but it’s been a weird shift.

Now I’ve gone from probably no one will see this to any one of these could potentially be published. And I mean, that’s not to say I can’t trunk a manuscript if I don’t like it or don’t think it’ll work (I definitely can), but going from probably not to potentially yes has been so so strange.

After trunking nine manuscripts in a row, I’ve got one on its way to you guys (yay!) and three more in my revising queue. And I obviously don’t know for sure that any of the ones I’m working on are going to get published (or even go on submission, for that matter), but each one of them is a potentially yes and that just totally blows my mind.

And you know? Weird as it is, I'm so thankful for the shift. While it’s sometimes terrifying, it’s also ridiculously exciting, and I’m so psyched to share my stories with my CPs and incredible agent and hopefully, eventually, you.

Probably not was a safe place to grow and learn and develop my writing, and I’m absolutely thankful for that stage in my writing journey.

But now that potentially yes is here? I couldn’t be more grateful.

What are you grateful for this year? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Post agent and book deal, @Ava_Jae shares a shift in the way she sees her WIPs. (Click to tweet
Writer @Ava_Jae shares one big thing she's grateful for this year. What are you grateful for this year? (Click to tweet)
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