Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Power of YA

A Disturbing Trend.

What's your immediate thought upon seeing this picture. Do you scoff? Roll your eyes? Turn around and tell the person next to you how terrible Twilight is? Maybe we all need to examine our behavior a little bit.

I'll be the first to admit I've complained about Twilight. My problem is mainly the unhealthy relationship it portrays. But lately I've had to stop and think about this a little more. Am I just jumping on the "hate" band wagon here? Is it really my responsibility to tell people they shouldn't read it?

I'm noticed a disturbing trend lately, and it doesn't stop at Twilight. 

Why does the world insist on belittling anything that teenage girls like? All you have to do is look at anything to do with One Direction. There will inevitably be someone in the comments telling everyone how terrible the band is, and how stupid teenage girls are for liking them.

Come on, admit they're adorable.

Really? We're going to tell teenage girls they're stupid just for liking a certain type of music?

The Hate Runs Rampant.

No post on this subject would be complete without addressing the Bieber issue. There has been so much over-the-top hate and vitriol directed at Justin Bieber that I fully believe it's pushed him over the edge. And if you go check comments on any picture or article on him, it's mainly a lot of people saying horrible things about Bieber, and finishing off with a snarky crack at the teenage girls that make up his audience. 

Bieber and his audience have apparently inspired everything from death threats (a common occurrence for him) and actual attempts on his life. 

I have no doubt the constant hateful attacks have caused him to throw up walls. Those walls just happen to be an aggressive attitude and a gold grill.  I'm not denying a lot of this may come from fame going to his head, but you can't tell me all the hate wasn't a part of it.

The bizarre metamorphosis:



Obsession is Okay.

When I was thirteen, I was obsessed with Star Wars. I'm not kidding, totally and completely obsessed. I watched the movies over and over until the VHS wore out. I wrote Star Wars fanfic and read every book I could get my hands on. I knew every detail of every insignificant character that ever was. I even had action figures I played with for hours. (What, they were cool! If you turned Jabba's head his tail moved!) 

Instead of One Direction and Edward Cullen, I was dreaming of Harrison Ford in those tight blue pants of his. I was every bit as obsessed as One Directioners, just about something different. 

I don't think people understand that as a teenage girl, obsession is practically a rite of passage. We all go through it, we all grow out of it for the most part. There might be some lingering feelings afterwords, but we do grow up. I still love Star Wars, but my action figures are collecting dust somewhere. It's too bad actually, I wonder if they're worth anything now...

The point is, obsession isn't  forever, but it's a time in a teenage girl's life where everything seems more exciting, more fragile and just...more. Our emotions are all over the place, the last thing we need is some self-righteous, self-satisfied wiener telling us that we're stupid for liking something. 

Looking for love in Alderaan places.

The Energy is Incredible.

I experienced this type of passion myself when I went to the City of Bones movie last week. The movie theater was full of teenage girls. The atmosphere was electric, almost enough to make you feel high. The girls next to us were so excited, they began talking to us about the movie. You could feel their excitement, they were vibrating with it.

There were a couple of men ahead of us, grumbling about how this was a chick flick. I wanted to ask them, so what?

Why is that a bad thing?

Later, looking at reviews,  I see The City of Bones blasted by critics as a "teenage girl's fantasy" and "wish-fulfillment", among other unflattering descriptions. And again, all I can say to that is,


What is the world's problem with teenage girls? Why can't we leave them alone to like things without putting our unwanted two cents into the picture? Better to dismiss this movie as "not for you" and move on, instead of going out of your way to insult an entire age group of already sensitive, already impressionable young girls.

Dedicated fans wait for hours to see Stephanie Meyers

Writer's Dismissing Teenage Girls are Idiots.

What do Twilight, Harry Potter, Hunger Games and The Mortal Instruments all have in common?

They were propelled to fame and fortune by teenage girls. 

Teenage girls are your biggest allies. They are your most loyal, passionate fans. They are super-fans. They will make up fanfics about your character, they will buy every single book you put out, they will refuse to shut up about it until all of their friends read your books too. They will paint their bodies with "runes" in the case of Mortal Instruments, or take archery lessons, if they're Hunger Games fans. They will draw lightening scars on their foreheads and show up to every reading and book launch.

That is how dedicated they are. What writer wouldn't want this type of passion for their book series? What writer wouldn't want fans that exited over the worlds they've created?

Try to remember that next time you scoff at someone for loving One Direction.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think  this is something that's only just started to get worse? Or has this been a problem for a long time? Are you guilty of rolling your eyes every time you hear someone talk about Twilight? 

I love to chat about all things YA on twitter: https://twitter.com/ErinLatimer2 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Query Time: Interview With Literary Agent, Jason Yarn

Today we have awesome agent, Jason Yarn of Paradigm Talent Agency here for an interview!

So Jason, What's the number one mistake that query writers make? What makes you hit the "delete" key after the first line?

It’s difficult to answer these two questions together, as I don’t know that there’s a constant common mistake I see, whereas there are a number of things that a writer can do that make me pass quickly, like:

·       Start with a joke. (99% of the time it’s never funny)

·       Write the letter like its coming from one of their characters.

·       Tell me how it is going to be the next world-wide bestseller and I’m a fool if I pass. (More common on adult thriller and non-fiction political queries, I think)

·       Just writing to ask if I’m accepting queries.

·       Querying me in an area I’m not looking for. (There’s an old interview with me on Writer’s Digest, I believe, which has a lot more categories than I look for now – people need to keep in mind that an agent might change what they are looking for later on.)

·       Writing a massive query letter – it needs to be as tight as you can make it. (That’s before getting to sample pages or a synopsis)

That’s just a few things that are easily fixable. As for #1 mistake/instant pass, I guess it has to be the people who just write blanket letters, without even addressing each agent by their name, or, worse, leaving all the agents in the email so we can see each other. I get more of these than you’d think and they are always bad news.

On the whole, people querying with YA novels usually have the best, most polished queries, so I am rarely rejecting those because there is something wrong at first sight with the query.

Woohoo! Go YA writers! We must be awesome.

What would you love to see in your inbox right now?

Some more epic, genre stuff – any level – I get a lot of genre queries, but they have been quieter, smaller lately. I like them, but they have been harder to sell I've found.

What story line/character type/cliche do you wish would die and stay dead? (I promise, no vampire jokes).

Cliché: No doubt, the “looking in the mirror so the writer has an excuse to have the character describe themselves” cliché. That’s a pet peeve for me, and I know for others. Don’t do it.

Story line: I guess deserted wasteland dystopias. I like dystopias in general, but I don’t like the “empty world” ones a whole lot. I think I was scarred by Z is for Zachariah as a child.

We all want to be special, shiny and unique in our query letters, but does trying something "quirky" or different really work? Should writers stick to the basic query formula? Any examples of a unique hook that has caught your eye, or failed miserably?

You’ll see some of my thoughts on this in Question 1. The unique hook you are looking for has to come naturally out of your story. The easy way to do this “it’s X meets Y” with some combo of other books or movies, or “my character is Z plus A” in the same fashion. It’s an effective short-hand – I know some people look at it as a cheesy Hollywoodization of everything, but remember that you’re just looking at a way to grab someone’s attention and get them to read further in where you’ll get beyond the surface. Also, make sure your X’s and Y’s are not both classic novels – got to have something in there that worked in the last 5-10 years. A better approach of course is if you can build your opening line, your hook, directly from your book.

Erin, I went back and checked, and you actually did something I don’t see that much of, starting your letter off with text from the book (after first introducing what it was, of course). This may be an effective tactic, if you can find a short passage from the opening that is really grabbing (no pun intended for your query). I think most writers are wary of this, and it is not a no brainer. But it could be one to think about.

 Aw, shucks. If you guys are curious about the query letter Jason is referring to, you can read it HERE.

Let's say an author gets to phrase two. Their writing is good, the first pages pull you in...but once you have the full manuscript you decide it's not for you. What usually motivates that decision?

If it becomes a slog to read it – if I don’t want to keep picking it up. The interesting thing here is that the writer has to make my work not be work anymore. It should be a joy to keep reading, and if there are any problems, I’m excited to tackle them with an author, not trepidatious that they will be too hard to fix.

Sadly, there’s no easy fix for this, though you might be able to control for it with beta readers. You might want to ask people to read the book as fast as they can. Bug them about it. If they start and are not getting into it, that might be a sign. It’s a purely commercial form of quality testing – is this a beach read, is this a page-turner? Not every book falls into that kind of category, but then, maybe your question is “Did it make you cry?” If it’s supposed to make people cry, and there’s nothing but dry eyes, you know you have an issue.

Do you prefer reading queries, or being pitched to in person? Will you be attending any conferences or workshops this year?

I like doing conferences, but it's more for the workshops. Pitching in person is interesting, and I know how hard it is on the pitchers, but ultimately it is no substitute for reading someone’s writing. I like the workshops on query letters and opening pages because I find authors can get a lot of quick, good info on how to hone their work there.

I did some earlier this year and some last year, but probably not many for the rest of the year, I’m just too busy. Sadly, the nice one put on by BackSpace here in NYC has come to an end. I did a couple of online contests, and those were fun and easier since I didn't have to get off my butt.

Is there anything you've sold that is coming out soon (or just come out) that you're excited to tell us about?

Apropos to the last question, I had a book come out that I picked as a winner in a contest a while back, The Glass Wives by Amy Sue Nathan. It’s women’s fiction, not a category I really do, so it’s a bit of a fluke, but I think it’s a good example of finding new clients and books in unexpected places. I got into Amy’s book because the contest exposed me to more of her writing than I might have if I’d seen a query from her that was tagged in this genre, because I would have quickly passed by. But because it spoke to me personally, I kept on going with it.

Also, because I do a lot of work in the comics world, I’d encourage people to check out the trade paperbacks for Peter Panzerfaust by Kurtis Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins – it’s good stuff, and Kurtis’s next comic, Rat Queens, is going to be loved by any Joss Whedon fans and fans of funny, butt-kicking women in general.

Thanks, Jason!

Stay tuned for more Query Tips. Also, be sure to check out my new query "Dos and Don'ts" video HERE, in which I issue a fellow writer (and YOU) A CHALLENGE. Ooooh.

Questions? Comments? Be sure to leave them below!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Query Time: Sample Query Letter

Welcome to Query Time part 2!

While struggling with query letters, especially when I was first learning to write them, I often found myself wishing there was a website full of REAL query letter samples that had won requests or landed an agent for the writer. It would have been so much easier to simply use examples, than to slowly teach myself how to cobble together a proper query.

There are a few samples on the internet that I found helpful, so I figure I would throw mine out into cyberspace and hope it helps someone.

Below is a sample of the query letter that got multiple full and partial requests, as well as an offer from my agent. I haven't altered the actual letter in any way, it's copied and pasted directly from the email.

Dear Mr. "Agent Name", 
I hope you will take a look at my dark YA steampunk novel, LORD MACHINA.

Hazel took a step backward. “Mrs. Henshaw? Are you alright?” When the woman moved toward her Hazel gasped. Clearly Mrs. Henshaw was not alright. She moved strangely, stiffly. And Hazel was reminded of the clockwork doll her father had given her for Christmas years ago, how it had lurched stiffly along until Hazel had touched it, and it had died.  Mrs. Henshaw continued to move forward, and Hazel stepped back again, frightened.  Her foot caught on the corner of the raised flower bed and she fell backwards into the rose bushes with a shriek.   Thorns scratched the skin of her arms and poked through her dress, but she barely noticed. Mrs. Henshaw was still coming at her, arms outstretched, her lips pulled back in a hideous smile.

Hazel Cogswell breaks everything she touches. When she sets her very last suitor on fire, she prepares for the life of an old maid, a life of needlepoint, knitting and the ownership of eighteen cats. But when she goes for a late night stroll in the park she is attacked by one of her mother’s friends, who appears to have been turned into some kind of steam powered monster.
If that isn’t dreadful enough, she is saved by Cyrus, a boy who claims to be a telepath, and Annie, an outspoken redhead with a fondness for explosions. They explain to her that London’s elite are being targeted, their houses burned to the ground. The victims are turning up later…dead, but reanimated by clockwork.

Hazel quickly learns that all of the monsters are bent on one thing, finding her.

Who is the man causing the fires and what does he want with her? And why on earth does he call himself Lord Machina? LORD MACHINA is a darkly humorous story set in the gas-lit streets of Whitechapel.

 I have been a freelance writer for six years, concentrating mainly on urban fantasy and short stories. Most recently I won the Silverland Press short story contest for my short story, THE LOCKSMITH.  LORD MACHINA is complete at 50,000 words, (although scenes may be added if necessary.) I have included the first ten pages below. I can be reached at the telephone number above, or at (email here).
Thank you very much for your time and consideration,

Erin Latimer

There you have it. It's a pretty basic animal, this letter. A quote from the story, a brief description and a bio that isn't particularly impressive. The beautiful thing about your bio is that you don't have to have won tons of prizes and have graduated with a Bachelor's degree in English Lit. Heck, you don't have to have graduated high school. If your bio isn't relevant, leave it out. There is only one thing the agent really cares about...is it a good book?

How is the query quest going for you? If you have further questions about this particular letter, or just anything at all, please ask in the comments below. I'll do my best to answer.

Tune in on Monday for an interview with awesome literary agent, Jason Yarn!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Query Time: 7 Things I Wish I'd Known While Querying

It's Query Time here at the Muse's Library! Over the next two weeks I'll be doing a series of posts about the query process, ending with an interview with literary agent, Jason Yarn. Buckle your seat belts! For the first post in the Query Time series, I'm going to be giving you a list of Things I Wish I'd Known.

It's going to be a bit random, but these are all the mistakes I made (before I knew they were mistakes). They're common things that people do without realizing it, and they can get you rejected faster than you can say "rhetorical question".

Without further adieu, here are the 7 things I wish I'd known before sending out those first few query letters.

1) Get the agent's name. Get it right.

Think you have the name right at the top of the query letter? Check it again. Now check it once more. Before you hit send, check it one more time. Are you sure this person is a woman? Sure, the picture was fuzzy and the name says "Sue", but don't you remember that Johnny Cash song? You never know.

Did you spell the last name right? Maybe it's a German name and you can't pronounce it without spitting all over your keyboard, but you darn well better spell it right.

Maybe you're copying and pasting your query letter. That's okay, but be careful, you'll cringe with horror after you hit that "send" key and realize only after, that you've sent it to agent number two, with agent number one's name still on it.

And if you ever think of addressing your query with "dear agent", I suggest you bang your forehead vigorously on the desk until the urge passes.

2) Pay attention to guidelines

Go to the agent's website and read the guidelines. Read them again as you write the query and put together your manuscript pages/synopsis. Now read them a third time before you hit "send".

"Wait!" you say, "I don't need guidelines. I'm a special, shiny sequin and I live by my own rules!"

Get in line behind the other special shiny sequins. Doing "cute" things like phoning an agent, or showing up at the building will get you a reputation. And no, not a reputation for creativity.

No crayon drawings, no glitter bombs inside envelopes (surprise!), no pictures of you with your dog, Muffin, no mysterious packages.

Just follow the guidelines.

3) Don't sweat the rejections

You will send out lots and lots of query letters. In return, you will get lots and lots of rejections. Sometimes they'll be nice, sometimes they'll have feedback, occasionally it will be soul-crushing. Mostly it will be form letters, and sometimes....nothing.

Don't sweat it. Fire off those query missiles like you're running a "launch and forget" program. Don't analyze the vague feedback (this voice is far too turgid and plain) and if the same feedback starts to pile it up, use it to edit your manuscript.

Remember, this is totally subjective. One agent hates your plot line, another one loves it. One says the tone is too serious, another one says it's too light. Each time you get one rejection, send out two more query letters.

Most importantly, don't take it personally. That's a great way to end up spending a Saturday night on the kitchen floor with a bottle of wine and an entire french baguette.

What? No, that's not personal experience...

4) Ignore the "Haters"

As much as I dislike the term "haters" it accurately describes some people. Distance yourself from these people. They will tell you you're wasting your time. They'll say writing is a "hobby", they'll tell you that your query woes are "no big deal". The thing is, when you do find success, these people don't get any better. They won't celebrate with you, they'll snort and shrug and act like you crossing one of the biggest hurdles of your writing life isn't that impressive.

There will always be people like that out there. It's because they gave up their dreams, or because they're jealous of you, or because they're having a really rotten year and they don't think anyone else should be allowed to find happiness.

Sometimes these people are your friends, or your family. Sometimes it's other writers, sadly enough.

Push these people away. Find new friends who support you, who will cheer for you. Find a "query buddy" and help each other out. You can lean on one another when the rejections get rough, keep one another accountable (did you send three query letters out today? Get to it!) and best of all, you know who to call as soon as you get "the call".

5) Your first book isn't good enough

I should rephrase that to "might not be good enough". But there is no denying that mine wasn't. It wasn't ready for publication. It wasn't ready to be read by agents. It wasn't particularly marketable.

This might be you as well. How do we learn to write a book? By writing a book.

Your first book is going to have flat characters, sloppy pacing, crazy plot holes and inconsistencies, tons of passive voice and so many other flaws I could stand around and name them all day. But it's your practice book.

Would you record yourself learning to play the violin and send it to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in hopes they'll hire you? No, of course not. So why do people think their first book is going to be good enough to get the attention of agents?

It might not be your second book that gets picked up either. It might be your third, or your fourth. Maybe your fifth. Writing a novel is different to everything else, it's not like writing a play or a short story, or an essay.

Your first one is going to suck. It's inevitable.

6) Pace Yourself

To me, querying was like playing the lottery. I got addicted. I would sit there and send out ten queries per day, and when I got a request back for a full or a partial, it fed the addiction. The thing is, that's all I did. For a period of two or three months, I queried without writing anything else.

Dumb idea. 

Why was it dumb? Because I was querying my first book. It got rejected again and again, and finally I realized it wasn't good enough. I had to write another book and query that one instead.

But guess what... I hadn't written anything else. I hadn't even started an idea for my next book.

If I had just had a little more balance in my writing life, if I had been writing my next book while I was querying the first one, I would have had another book ready to go as soon as I realized my first wasn't going to cut it. 

Always have another book going. It's a habit you should develop early in your writing life. The same goes for when you're waiting to hear back from your agent, or when you're on submission. It's the only thing that keeps you from going insane.

Right now, I'm writing another book. If my first book doesn't sell and every editor on the face of the planet earth decides they hate it, I'll have another one ready to go.

7) The answer to your rhetorical question is NO.

Dear agent, what would you do if a gang of break-dancing clowns kidnapped you and took you to their secret hideout at Chuck E Cheese's?

No. No. NO. Stop it. Don't ever do that again.

I'm ashamed to admit I had a rhetorical question at the start of a few of my early queries. The best thing you can do to avoid query no no's like this is google "literary agent pet peeves". Study. Learn. Memorize.

There's a long list of things us writers seem to think is particularly clever, and we use them over and over and over, until the agent wants to poke her eyes out with a number two pencil, just so she never has to see another rhetorical question again.

So that's a total of 7 things I wish I'd known. I'm sure there are more, so there may be another post about this in the future. Tune in to Query Time on Saturday, where I'll be posting about how to write a query letter, and posting the actual query letter that got a full request, and eventually an offer.

Questions, comments, complaints about something I didn't cover? Leave 'em in the comments!

Friday, 14 June 2013

How Much Are We Willing to Forgive?

I have a confession to make...I'm a "Spuffy" fan. While I was watching Buffy I found myself cheering for the passionate, volatile relationship between Buffy and her Vampire lover, Spike. So when I reached season six I was blind-sided. No one had warned me about the dreaded "Seeing Red" episode.
For anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about, "Seeing Red" is the episode where Spike tries to rape Buffy. She's badly injured, and drawing a bath (standing in a towel) and Spike comes in and tries his usual stuff, but this time she's not up for it. But he continues. And as I was watching my mouth dropped open in horror.
After the episode was over I was in denial. "Well," I said to myself. "He wasn't himself. Plus Buffy has been stringing him along for ages and being a total jerk to him. It wasn't his fault..."
Then I had to stop and really think about the things I was thinking. Here I was, blaming Buffy for the attempted rape. Why?
Because I like Spike. That's why.
That's a terrible excuse. So I had to rethink things and change my perspective. Okay, this was to show that the character of Spike really is a monster, and that sets him on the path to get his soul back and ultimately leads to the ultimate self sacrifice that plays a major roll in the finale. But from that episode onward, I wasn't cheering for Buffy and Spike anymore. For me, that was over. There could be no going back to that because there are some things you just can't make excuses for.
I know, I know. It's fictional, so what? But here's the thing, if we're glorifying this type of relationship, and we're willing to forgive any type of behavior, what does that say about us? How are we portraying our characters and how does that influence YA readers?

 I'm also a big Eric/Sookie fan. Or...I was. I'm not talking about the TV series, which seems to have made him a softer, more charitable version of Eric. I'm talking about the books. I know there was a big uproar (and some very bad behavior) in response to the last book. I haven't read it yet, but people throwing tantrums online have already given the ending away for me.
Am I disappointed? No, the ending makes sense. Not to mention, I stopped liking Eric nearly as much starting with Dead Reckoning. Here's one of the scenes that did it for me:
"You are being a hypocrite and I will take your blood," he said, and he struck.
It hurt. He didn't make it feel good, an action almost automatic for a vampire. Tears ran down my face without my wanting them to. In an odd way, I felt the pain was merited, justified - but I also understood this was a turning point in our relationship.
This made me flinch. No Sookie, the pain isn't warranted. Eric is being a straight up butt-head. There's no excuse for that. And he doesn't get better in the next book either. He's clearly willing to let Sookie give up everything for him (the Cluviel Dor) as long as he himself doesn't have to make any sacrifices (like ignoring his creator's orders). Bill isn't much better, having cheated on her (personally, I don't take "I couldn't help it" as an excuse). And yet, fans seem perfectly content with rooting for either of the vampires.
Are we willing to excuse any kind of disgusting behavior as long as the guy has washboard abs?

How about one of the most famous examples of douchebag behavior in a book character? Edward. He climbs in her bedroom window at night and watches her sleep. He tries to control who she hangs out with. In short, he's a complete control freak with major stalker tendencies. But because he rescues her a couple times and has smouldering eyeballs and pointy cheekbones, we eat it up? What's the message here?
He only controls you because he loves you.
He's aggressive and controlling, and it's HOT.
Crawling into someone's bedroom window at night is SEXY.
Does none of this bother us as readers? Are we willing to forgive this as long as he's hot? What to take away from this: Maybe as YA writers, it's our responsibility to portray relationships in a realistic fashion? Maybe our characters are fictional, but this is a very real problem. Do we give people a pass to date rape just because they seem "nice"? Maybe they're a popular football player, so everyone attempts to sweep it under the rug. Is it art imitating life, or the other way around? We need to axe this mentality somehow, because it's seeping into everything, including our writing.
What's your take on it? Do you still love Spike and Eric? Do you think Edward is just a little too enthusiastic? 

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Religions of Publishing: What Works For You

Everyone just chill out, seriously.

Picture this: You're watching a Hare Krishna and a Buddhist monk. They circle one another, faces red. They yell at one another, each telling the other that their religion is false. Each one growing angrier as they pick at every little detail of the other's beliefs, tearing them apart. They even go so far as to make fun of one another's robes.
Finally you can stand it no longer, and you step forward. "Stop it," you say. "This is ridiculous! You both stand for peace, love and tolerance. You even sort of look the same. Why are you fighting? You're on the same side."

Now re-imagine that scene, except this time you're looking at writers. A self published writer, and a traditionally published writer. They both love reading, they're both passionate about writing. They both want to bring words to life and encourage other people to read. So why are they fighting?

There are few subjects that get people as impassioned as religion. One of them for writers, is the subject of publishing. Some authors are so passionate about their career path, that it borders on a religious belief. Twice now, such people have told me that my chosen path is foolish.

These people basically told me that if I wasn't interested in self publishing, I must be an idiot. They demanded to know why I would want to be traditionally published? Why would I want to give my money to the greedy publishers? Why did I want to give an agent a cut? Why wouldn't I want full control over my books?

I didn't answer. Because if someone showed up at my door and demanded to know why I was a Christian, and not a Jehovah's Witness, I wouldn't feel the need to explain myself either. Because that is the path I've chosen. If you want to discuss it in a rational way, I'm game. But if you're just here to preach to me and tell me that your way is the one true way, try to the next house.

I have nothing against self publishing. In fact, I review self published books, because I want to help the authors.And so far, every interaction with the authors I've reviewed has been wonderful. But the thing is, the path I have chosen to attempt, is the traditional one. I might not make it, but my mind is made up. I'm going to try.

There's a salon article up right now that has a lot of people up in arms. It basically calls self publishing a "cult". Personally I think this is a bit far fetched. It's a little unfair, actually. Because I've come across traditionally published authors who are every bit as vocal about "the right way to go". I'm not making this a rant about self published author's behavior. I think there's too much of that out there already, and I don't think it's very fair. There has been just as many incidents with traditionally published authors acting rude or crazy. So this is about author behavior in general.

Everyone has to choose a path that works best for them. You research traditional and you research self publishing, and you decide which will work best for you. Nobody should be able to tell you you're making a mistake, or that your path isn't good enough.

If I do end up getting traditionally published, I have no right to tell my friend he shouldn't self publish. Just because I chose a different path, does it make mine superior to his? No.

Which path works best for you?

I lurk on a certain set of writer's forums, where I always see the same lady giving the same publishing advice when people ask. "Don't try to get an agent" she tells people, "you're wasting your time. Get published with a small publisher first, then you'll get picked up by someone bigger." I objected to that, because that wasn't my experience at all. I queried for a long time, and then I got an offer, and that's basically what I told her. But she dismissed this and she continues to preach her advice like it's the gospel truth. Because that was her experience.

Now, if you ask me for publishing advice, I'll say "Query agents! Don't give up! You can do it, it just takes patience". Because that was my experience. Everyone has a different path, a different way of doing it that works for them, and if you ask their advice, they're going to give it to you. And they're going to preach it like it's the one true way. Not because they're stuck up, or because they want to mislead you in any way. It's because that's what worked for them.

Take every bit of publishing advice with a grain of salt, and whatever you do (no matter what you're experience was, or what worked for you) don't scoff at another person's chosen path. Remember, we're all in it for the same thing. We love writing, and we want to share our words with the world.

What path have you chosen? Have you experienced persecution or preaching because of it? I'd love to hear your thoughts/stories in the comments.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

12 Signs You May Be a Writer

Afraid you might be a writer? You are not alone, there are many others with this difficult condition. Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for:

1) Frequent Daydreaming.
You may drift away in the middle of an important lecture at work, or phase out in the middle of a boring conversation. You can't help but dream up fantastic, twisting plots and heroic protagonists whenever you get a spare second. People may accuse you of not listening, or having your head in the clouds.

2) Everyone is a Potential Character.
You stare for too long at that old bag lady walking by with her shopping cart, and your knobby-kneed neighbor makes you jerk your little notepad out of your pocket and start scribbling. Strange people fascinate you, and every word out of their mouths is whisked away into your memory bank for future dialogue.

3) You Spend More on Books Than on Essential Items.
You don't need food that badly, and that sweater is hanging on by its last threads, but it will be fine. That new book is coming out on Monday, and you can survive on Mr.Noodles for a few more days.

4) Office Supplies Make You Strangely Excited.
You spend too long in the aisle at Staples, and the clerk is starting to eyeball you. But you're not causing trouble, you just want to run your fingers over the blank pages of that beautiful white notebook, and test out the new ball point pens they got in yesterday. You'll just sign your name a couple times on the sample page. The clerk can sell it later when you get famous. He'll be grateful then, won't he?

5) Neil Gaiman is Your Brad Pitt.
Wait, who is Brad Pitt?

6) You Would Rather See a Book Signing Than a Rock Concert
Because writers are your rock stars.

7)You Don't Sleep
Your brain is too stuffed full of brilliant ideas, and you have to keep getting up to write them down.

8) You're Slightly Mad
From lack of sleep, food and obsessing over a single thing for 90% of your life. For a complete list of WHY you are mad, click HERE.

10) You Both Love and Hate the Internet
Because it's a time-sucking vortex. It allows you to interact with fans, helps with questions and provides hours of entertainment when you SHOULD be writing.

11) You'll use ANYTHING For a Bookmark
Bills, money, pencils, other books...if your cat would sit still long enough you'd shove him in there. As long as it marks your place while you make lunch. Occasionally an actual bookmark will be put to use.

12) You Narrate Things Occasionally
This dinner is burnt, I say angrily, as I throw the pot roast in the sink. I'm not eating it. Oh look, my husband comes in the door and looks at me strangely. Why am I talking to myself? he asks.

If you feel that you match one or more of these symptoms, you can report to any bookstore or library for treatment. You cannot be cured of writing, but you can manage the symptoms over your lifetime so you remain sane, healthy and happy.

Mostly sane, anyways.

If you have any symptoms that are not listed, please report them in the comments below.