Fixing the First Page Giveaway 4!

Photo credit: Simply Bike on Flickr
It’s time! For another first page giveaway! Woot! *confetti*

The first page critiques have been fairly popular, so I’ll keep doing them as long as people keep entering. :)

For those who missed it the first time and second and third 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).

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 fourth public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Saturday, September 20 at 11:59 EST to enter!

Yay!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Vlog: Do You Need Connections to Get Published?

It's Tuesday! And today's vlog answers a question asked all too often: do you need connections to get published?

   

What do you think?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Do you need connections to get published? Writer @Ava_Jae responds to this frequent misconception in today's vlog. (Click to tweet)  
Writer @Ava_Jae vlogs about why the "you need connections to get published" myth is so damaging. (Click to tweet)

5 Hard Writing Truths

Photo credit: Victoria Nevland on Flickr
It’s been a while since I’ve done a writing truths post, so I figured now, as I eek out the last couple scenes of my latest WIP, would be as good a time as ever.

I’ve written about general writing truths and truths I wish I knew before I began writing. Now here are five hard writing truths, that may not be the most enjoyable to consider, but are true nevertheless (and thus, worth knowing, I think).

  1. Writing isn’t always fun. Recent example: I decided it’d be a good idea to draft two first drafts back to back, during a time that I’ve basically been busier than ever. (Spoiler alert: I was wrong). It usually takes me a month (or less) to get through a draft, and with both drafts combined I’ve been first drafting since…oh…beginning of June? Something like that.

    Anyway, I finally finished yesterday (after writing this post), but it felt like forever for me. And I was tired. And there were many many days where the writing dragged, probably because I was a little burnt out, but the book wasn’t going to write itself and so I kept showing up. And sometimes (a lot of times, really) it wasn’t fun. But if your goal is to make a career out of your writing, then you need to learn to show up even when you don’t feel like it, even when you aren’t particularly inspired, even when you’re tired and would rather…not.

    And you know what? Sometimes it starts off not fun, but as you get into the zone, it becomes fun. And even if it doesn’t, at least you’re progressing, which is always a pretty big plus. 

  2. Sometimes you won’t do anything wrong and your MS still won’t sell. Whether sell to you means getting an agent, getting a publishing contract or selling reasonably well in the self-publishing market, this still applies.

    Sometimes, writers write really awesome books and they revise and revise and revise and the book is totally not the least bit bad but…it ends up trunked anyway. It happens. It happens a lot, unfortunately, whether because it wasn’t the right time, or the market just didn’t like it, or whatever the case may be, but it’s a reality of publishing.  

  3. A second job is (often) necessary. This applies to both self-pubbers and traditionally published authors. Most writers have to wait years after publishing their debut before they get enough steady income to be able to support themselves on just their writing. It often takes several published books and a lot of time to be able to establish yourself and get some consistent sales in. It’s not an easy thing to accept, particularly if your dream is to make a living just writing (which is the case for many many writers), but it’s the truth.

  4. So. Much. Stigma. If you write YA, you will face book snobbishness stigma. If you write NA, you will face book snobbishness stigma. If you write romance, you will face book snobbishness stigma (especially if you’re a woman). If you self-publish in any genre, or publish with a small press in any genre, you will face publishing snobbishness stigma. If you’re a woman who writes in a traditionally male genre (or a genre viewed as traditionally male) you will face sexist book snobbishness stigma.

    It’s irritating. And infuriating. And completely unfair and needs to change. But it is, unfortunately, a very prevalent (and mostly unavoidable) issue.

  5. It never really gets any easier. A lot of times new writers have a tendency of thinking that once they get published, life will be sugar rainbows and rose petals. You’ll get into the swing of things, make some money, start publishing book after book like a dream come true.

    I’m not yet published, but judging from the experience of authors way more experienced than myself (like, say, Sarah Dessen), this is pretty far from the truth. (By the way, that Dessen link? You should read it. It’s a post written by Dessen about recovering after trunking a novel, because even multi-published authors face writing struggles).

    The kind of great thing about writing (and also difficult thing) is there’s always more to learn. Writers never really reach a point of mastery where the words come permanently easier and they can confidently proceed into every book with full confidence that it’ll be awesome and published. There’s always self-doubt, there’s always a struggle, there’s always more to learn and while writers do eventually learn what routines and tools and strategies work for them, writing itself doesn’t really ever get any easier.

    And you know? I think it’s kind of okay. Because yes, it’s hard, and yes, it’ll continue to be hard, but to me, the struggle makes the end result that much more rewarding. 

What hard writing truths would you add to the list?

Twitter-sized bites: 
"Writing isn't always fun" & "it never really gets any easier" are 2/5 writing truths @Ava_Jae shares. Do you agree? (Click to tweet)  
Writer @Ava_Jae shares five hard writing truths in today's post. What would you add to the list? (Click to tweet

5 Things You Don’t Need in Your Query

Photo credit: smlp.co.uk on Flickr
Querying is a tough, sometimes soul-crushing business—and writing a query letter can in many ways be the most difficult part. After all, being asked to condense your 60-100k (or more?) manuscript into a page-long letter that makes your book sound intriguing and also personalizes to that specific agent with the teeny tiny stakes of  the agent reading your manuscript (or not)? It’s ridiculously tough.

I’ve read my fair share of query letters over the years, and with the WriteOnCon query critique forums still fresh in my mind, I thought now as good a time as ever to write about five things you don’t need in your query.

  1. Explanation of the lessons the reader/your characters will learn. I understand the impulse to include this, I do—English teachers have told us for years that a book isn’t really literary gold unless it has some grand, over-arching, bigger than thyself message. But here’s the thing—even if your book does have that kind of message (and, um, you know what it is?), it’s best to leave it out of your query letter.

    Now, I can already hear what you’re thinking (apparently my online self is a telepath)—but Ava, I worked so hard to get those messages into my book—why wouldn’t I talk about them? The why is pretty simple actually: 99% of the time writers include the message or lesson the characters or readers (or both) are going to learn when reading their book in their query letter, it sounds preachy—and worse, it sounds like your manuscript is preachy (or teacher-y, which isn’t any better), which leads to a ginormous no thank you.

    I know that seems a little unfair. It’s totally possible that you have messages in your book that aren’t preachy at all and are woven really nicely into the story, and if that’s the case, that’s great, it really is. But don’t mention it in your query if you don’t want someone to assume your book is going to be preachy/teachy. 

  2. Vague phrases. I actually wrote a whole post about why details are so important in queries and pitches, so I won’t rehash the whole thing, but in queries, vague phrases are you enemy. Mentioning your protagonist's dark secret or life-changing quest or how they meet a mysterious stranger or will have to make a life-altering choice whose consequences will affect all of humanity? Yeah, it’s not helpful.

    The thing is, agents and editors read thousands of queries a year. They have books getting pitched to them all the time and the only way you’re going to pique their interest is if you show them how your book is unique. If your query is full of vague phrases, not only can I guarantee they’ve seen someone else (or many many many someone elses) describe their manuscript the same exact way, but you’re completely missing out on a vital opportunity to show them how your book stands out from the crowd. 

  3. Quotes from your manuscript. I did this in my first ever query (spoiler: it so didn’t work), and it’s something I’ve seen especially amongst new writers.

    Again, I get the temptation: you’ve worked so very hard on your manuscript and you want to share some gems with the agent/editor in the hopes that it’ll pique their interest. But the query is not the place to show off your writing (or at least, not the writing of your manuscript)—the query is the place to explain your manuscript in a condensed, interesting way to make the reader want to learn more (and hopefully read) your book.

    But Ava, you’re thinking (boy, telepathy is fun), this super amazing quote isn’t in the first sample that I’m attaching to the query letter. What if they don’t see my really awesome quote because they don’t read enough? Well, my friend, I’m going to share a little tough love: if they don’t read far enough to get to your super awesome quote it’s because a) it wasn’t for them b) your query wasn’t strong enough to represent your manuscript or c) your manuscript wasn’t ready.

    Leave the quotes for the actual manuscript. Your query is not the place for them. 

  4. A huge bio. Let me start off by saying that bios are definitely important—and a vital part of the query. However, the focus of the query letter should absolutely be on your manuscript. Not you.

    Your bio should be a few sentences to a paragraph long. That’s it. And that paragraph, quite frankly, really doesn’t need to take up all that much space.

    Agents don’t need to know that you worked on this book for four years. They don’t need to know that your mom thought it was the best book she ever read, or that you won that online poetry award, or that you’ve known since kindergarten that you were meant to be a writer. All that should be in your bio are publishing or manuscript-related credentials (i.e.: you’re writing a medical drama and you’re a surgeon, or you’ve published short stories in The Glimmer Train, etc.). If you don’t have publishing credentials, that’s totally okay! Just say it’s your first book (or, you know, don’t? There’s some debate on this point) and let your manuscript do the talking (no debate on that one). 

  5. Anything in either of these two posts. Self-explanatory, really. For your sake, (and the agents’ sakes) don’t do anything in those posts. Please. 

What would you add to the list?

Twitter-sized bites:
Working on a query letter? Writer @Ava_Jae shares 5 things you DON'T need in your query. (Click to tweet)  
MS quotes & vague phrases are 2/5 things writer @Ava_Jae says you don't need in your query. What do you think? (Click to tweet)

Manuscript Wish List (MSWL): A Hugely Valuable Resource for Writers

Photo credit: Julie Edgley on Flickr
So just recently, the amazing Jessica Sinsheimer (Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency) and K.K. Hendin (author extraordinaire whose book I’ve raved about in the past) announced the launch of their new Manuscript Wish List site. 

For those who haven’t already seen it’s incredible hashtag version #MSWL on Twitter on tumblr,  MSWL is a site where agents and editors share what projects they wish they had in their inbox. That’s right—it’s a peek directly into what agents and editors are hoping to find right now.

For more information about how this supremely awesome idea came to be and what it’s all about, check out MSWL’s About page.

So while I’m no longer in query mode, I did find the MSWL Twitter event extremely helpful (and exciting!) while I was querying, and I know without a doubt that had this site existed a year ago, I would’ve been living on it.

You see, the tough thing about the MSWL Twitter event is it’s much harder to filter (not impossible, mind you, just takes some Twitter savviness and anyway, digression). There also tend to be a lot of tweets and it’s so very easy to miss something in the fray and well, this website? It’s basically genius.

The extra bonus fantabulousness of the MSWL site is you can filter the results by genre (Fantasy, LGBTQ, YA, NA, whatever) or tag (Crossover, Literary Style, Boarding School, Dual POV,  TV/Book/Movie comp, time periods, etc.). From there, you can see the entries, which vary from a couple sentences to a full paragraph all about what that particular agent or editor would love to see.

I mean, c’mon you guys, HOW AMAZING IS THAT? (Rhetorical question: it’s obviously the bomb).

Querying is tough, and doing your query research can be excruciatingly difficult at times, but I suspect this will really help a lot of writers in their search for an agent or editor who will love their work. So if you’re a querying writer, make sure you take some time to browse this amazing site, and don’t forget to thank Jessica Sinsheimer and K.K. Hendin for their awesomeness!

Will you be using this incredible resource? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Like #MSWL? Don't miss out on @jsinsheimer & @kkhendin's new MSWL website for your query research! (Click to tweet)  
Getting ready to query? Make sure you check out the new MSWL site for agent and editor wish lists. (Click to tweet

Vlog: Why Writers Must Read

Are you a writer who doesn't have time to read? Here's why you may want to seriously consider making it a priority: 


Also, here's the blog post version from several years ago. 

What do you think? Is reading really a top priority for writers?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Writer @Ava_Jae vlogs about reading and why it's not optional for writers. #writetip (Click to tweet)  
Is reading really a top priority for writers? @Ava_Jae weighs in her thoughts. (Click to tweet)  
"Just about everything you need to know to write your book is available in other people's books." (Click to tweet)

Discussion: Are You a Re-Reader?

Photo credit: jamelah on Flickr
I’ve been thinking about re-reading, lately.

Largely because of my never-ending TBR list (and not-so-infinite allotted time), I don’t re-read quite as much as I used to. And yet, I’ve recently met some people who frequently re-read novels five or six times (sometimes in a row!) and it got me thinking about why we re-read and re-watch and re-consume our favorite media.

I mean, from an outsider perspective, one might think it’d be a little boring to re-read something—after all, don’t you already know what’s going to happen? But as anyone who’s ever re-read a favorite book can tell you, you come out of every reading with something a little different. You notice things on the second and third and fourth readings that you hadn’t picked up on the first time. The nuances become more clear, the foreshadowing obvious, the character development easier to understand.

That, and re-living a favorite book, quite frankly, can be a lot of fun.

Nowadays, the main reason I re-read books is to remember what happened before I dive into the sequel, so I can pick up on the nuances and references from the previous book without pausing to try to wrack my brain to remember what happened. This, of course, really only applies to when there’s been a decent amount of time between the reading of book one and book two, but I find that it really does help me fully understand the sequel.

That being said, I don’t re-read every book before picking up the sequel, especially if it’s a particularly long book (City of Lost Souls, for example? Probably not going to get a re-read before I pick up City of Heavenly Fire, even if I did enjoy it. Which I did). Mostly because of the aforementioned time constraints and mountainous TBR list.

But I’m curious. Do you re-read books? Often? Sometimes? Three or five times? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Do you re-read books? Often? At all? Several times over?  Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)
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