Discussion: Where Do You Find Books to Read?

Photo credit: Nomadic Lass on Flickr
Books! Glorious books! I currently have 130 novels in my TBR shelf on Goodreads, and even though I try to make sure I’m always in the middle of reading something, the list is ever-growing. I doubt it’ll ever stop (and I don’t want it to).

Which got me thinking! My method of finding books to read has changed pretty drastically over the years (which I’m pretty happy about, because it’s easier than ever to find good books to read). Nowadays, my book-discovery sources are pretty easy to pinpoint:

  • Twitter. This is easily the biggest one, in part because I follow loads of writers who coincidentally love reading (surprise!) and love recommending books they read (I know, shocking!) and also because I follow writers who get books deals and a few years later, voila! Book in my hands.

    But this is pretty easy proof of how important word of mouth is. I’d wager a guess that most of the books I buy nowadays were recommended to me by either a blog post or someone on Twitter. 

  • Goodreads. I like browsing on Goodreads, particularly a down-the-rabbit-hole-like search where I somehow end up looking for one thing and finding a whole host of new books to add to my list. Considering I keep my list of TBR books on Goodreads, I guess it’s not really a surprise that I also find books to read there. So there’s that. 

  • Bookstores. I do still go into bookstores! I actually love doing this, and I’m happy to report that I do still discover books while in an actual bookstore. This, to me, is the most exciting way to find books (and also most tempting because it’s in my hand and I want to read it and the register is just over there…). 

  • Giveaways. I mean, this isn’t a usual thing for me, but I came home from RT14 with a stack of books I got for free. And while many of them I was already interested in reading, some of them I didn’t really know much about—but now I’ll read them, and if I like them, I’ll buy the sequels. Yay!

So those are my primary book-discovery sources—now I want to hear from you. Where do you find books to add to your TBR list?

Twitter-sized bite:
Where do you find books to add to your TBR list? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog! (Click to tweet)

Vlog: My First Ever Manuscript (a Reading)

Apparently I'm cool with public humiliation because I've decided to share the first page of my first ever manuscript from nearly nine years ago! Yaaayyy.

It involves a super evil antagonist doing something super evil in a super cliché prologue and also a lot of me cracking up at myself.


Enjoy!

Twitter-sized bite: 
Writer @Ava_Jae reads the first page of her first ever MS & talks some first MS realities. #vlog (Click to tweet)

Why You Should Participate in WriteOnCon

@lattefarsan on Flickr
It’d be cool if I started off this post saying that WriteOnCon 2013 got me my agent, but it didn’t. Technically. And yet, if I hadn’t participated in the online conference last year, I might not have finally gotten The Call I’d been dreaming about for years. Maybe.

I know that sounds a little contradictory. Allow me to explain.

WriteOnCon2013 took place from August 13-14, 2013. For those who don’t know, WriteOnCon events are like online writers conferences. They include giveaways and excellent forums in which writers can critique each other and ninja agents and editors can make requests. It’s pretty fabulous, and this year it’ll be happening again on August 26-27, 2014.

Back to my point.

Last year when the conference started, I was in the middle of edits on my then-titled Sci-Fi SLAVE & SIRA. I wasn’t yet ready to query, but I’d edited enough that I felt comfortable sharing my first 250 and query-in-progress to the forums, where public critiques were going on.

And holy wow, you guys. The feedback I got? SO HELPFUL.

By the time WriteOnCon was over, I’d written over eight drafts of my query letter (I honestly lost count) based off the feedback. I changed things around in my first 250 and tweaked it until most of the problems were mostly resolved. And I critiqued more query letters and openings than I can count.

I’m not going to say when WriteOnCon was over, my query letter and first 250 were spotless. They weren’t, and I still revised my query so many times over after all was said and done. My opening has also had more than a couple minor tweaks since last year, too.

However! I can’t deny that my query and opening was absolutely better after the forums ripped them apart. And considering it was my first 250 that later piqued my now-agent’s interest (followed by the query shortly thereafter), I am super ridiculously grateful for my experience with WriteOnCon2013.

So if you’re querying, or will be querying soonish, I seriously recommend you make a point of checking out WriteOnCon2014. And even if you’re not querying, there’s so much to be learned from public critiques (even if you only critique and don’t share your work), that I still recommend you take some time to check it out.

It’s an absolutely wonderful opportunity for writers to meet other people (I also found a CP during WriteOnCon2013!), improve their skills, refine their work and maybe even get some requests (I didn’t, but I know of many writers who did). Don’t miss out!

Have you ever participated in a WriteOnCon event? Will you be participating this year? Why or why not? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
#Writers! Are you participating in this year's @WriteOnCon event? Here's why writer @Ava_Jae says you should. (Click to tweet)  
Debating whether or not to participate in @WriteOnCon 2014? Here's why you may want to consider it. (Click to tweet

Fixing the First Page Feature #2

Photo credit: bittermelon on Flickr
Okay! So as per usual, I’m going to start off by posting the full 250 excerpt, then I’ll share some overall thoughts, then my redline critique. As I said last time, I super awesomely encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques, as long ask it’s polite, thoughtful and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be deleted.

Let’s begin! 

Title: FATHERS AND FENDER GUITARS 
Genre/Category: YA Contemporary 
First 250:  
As I waited in the doorway of Rusty’s Dive Bar, Greg the bouncer, and I had become friends. I’d learned about his five cats, his next tattoo, and now, dating advice. “If he ain’t on time, you can’t trust him with a dime.” 
“Whitman’s running late. He’ll be here before the band starts.” I resumed twisting one of my red curls around a finger. Since I wasn’t old enough—or allowed to—drive at night, I’d gotten dropped off with plenty of extra time. “So, which of your cats is the nicest?” 
Before he could answer, the bar’s radio blasted a Union Juliet song. I winced. Greg apologized. “Sorry, dearie. They too rowdy for you?” 
“I don’t like punk rock.” 
“You’re missing out. Back in the day, Union J played the straight up truth.” 
The kids tagging one of Cleveland’s many abandoned buildings next to us must have been inspired by the song, because he started to spraypaint Union Juliet’s logo. IAO, FAA. Two sets of three letters, crossing at the letter A. 
As the tagger circled the A with red paint, changing it from a letter to a political sign, someone shouted my name—or rather the name I’d been using for the last eight months. 
“Elaine Nickels!” 
Bouncer Greg elbowed me. “He’s here!” 
“That’s not my boyfriend.” I said. 
The approaching voice shouted my name again. Logan. Seeing him was all I needed to bolt away from the bar, running until I could no longer hear the song.

Hmmm okay. So overall I think this is a solid start, but it could use a lot more detail and sensory imagery so the readers can really get a feel of the scene, the surroundings, etc. Rusty’s Dive Bar sounds like it could be a really interesting and unique setting, so I’d love to see more about it so I could really get into the character of the place. I like how at the end we start getting a sense of the tension that’s to come, and I’m definitely curious about Logan and why Elaine’s initial instinct is to run. I’m also curious about why Elaine changed her name. But overall, it’s definitely not a bad start—I just think it could use a little extra oomph added to it. 

Now the in-line edits: 

As I waited in the doorway of Rusty’s Dive Bar, Greg the bouncer, and I had become friends. Copyediting is not my area of expertise, but the commas are definitely tripping me up in this first sentence, particularly around “Rusty’s Dive Bar, Greg the bouncer, and I….” I’d learned about his five cats, his next tattoo, and now, dating advice. How does she feel about the dating advice (and cats and tattoo stories)? This would be a good opportunity to give us some of your protag’s personality. “If he ain’t on time, you can’t trust him with a dime.” 
“Whitman’s running late. He’ll be here before the band starts.” I resumed twisting one of my red curls around a finger. Since I wasn’t old enough—or allowed to—drive at night, I’d gotten dropped off with plenty of extra time. I’m not sure what you’re trying to imply with the "allowed to" aside. As for the second bolding in that sentence, does that mean she’s been waiting a long time? How does she feel about Whitman’s lateness? Again, if you give us some insight as to what’s going on in her head, we can really learn a lot about your protagonist’s personality. This is a huge part of voice, which is extremely important in YA (particularly Contemporary). “So, which of your cats is the nicest?” 
Before he could answer, the bar’s radio blasted a Union Juliet song. I winced. Greg apologized. “Sorry, dearie. They too rowdy for you?” 
“I don’t like punk rock.” 
“You’re missing out. Back in the day, Union J played the straight up truth.” 
The kids tagging one of Cleveland’s many abandoned buildings next to us must have been inspired by the song, because he started to spraypaint Union Juliet’s logo. Spray paint is two words. IAO, FAA. Two sets of three letters, crossing at the letter A. Is this two different logos? Or are all six letters layered over each other? I’m having a little trouble picturing this.  
As the tagger circled the A with red paint, changing it from a letter to a political sign, someone shouted my name—or rather the name I’d been using for the last eight months. Be specific—I assume you’re referring to the anarchy moniker with the political sign reference, so say so. “Elaine Nickels!”
Bouncer Greg elbowed me. “He’s here!” 
“That’s not my boyfriend.Comma, not period should be after “boyfriend.” I said. This would be a good place to start to give us a taste of how she’s feeling upon realizing the person who’s calling her is not someone she wanted to see. Give us some physical, visceral reactions so we can really feel her emotions.  
The approaching voice shouted my name again. A mini-description of the guy coming over would be helpful here, so we can picture him. Logan. Seeing him was all I needed to bolt away from the bar, running until I could no longer hear the song. Give us some description—does she have to push through a crowd to get away? Does she run past the taggers in the alley? Down the street? Is it hot? Cold? Rainy? Muggy? Some sensory images would be great here. 

Like I said above, this is a good start, but it needs some filling in. With some extra sensory details, we’ll really be able to get a better picture so we can experience what the protagonist is experiencing. If I saw this in the slush, I’d probably keep reading, though I’d already be thinking that if there isn’t much more description, it’s probably going to be a pass. In order for readers to connect to a story, they need to be able to become completely immersed in the writing, and that’s difficult to do without enough imagery. 

It doesn’t have to be a lot (and in fact, it shouldn’t be a lot). But a few sprinkles here and there of telling details will really help to make this shine. 

Thanks for sharing your first 250, Carrie Ann! 

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

Twitter-sized bite: 
Writer @Ava_Jae talks sensory details and imagery in openings in the second Fixing the First Page critique. (Click to tweet)

How to Build an Online Platform: Twitter

Photo credit: Scott Beale on Flickr
So I’ve been doing this social media thing for a little over three years now, and it semi-recently occurred to me, after a couple people commented at RT14, that I guess I’m semi-sort of okay at it?

I don’t know you guys, I hadn’t really given it much thought until recently.

Occasionally I’ve had people ask me how I got so many Twitter followers/blog views/etc., so I figured I’d share what I know in a couple convenient blog posts. And really, all I know is what worked for me. Your mileage may vary.

Okay? Okay.

So I was going to include all the social media sites I use in one post…but I quickly realized that’d be a ridiculously long post. So I’m splitting it up! Look for more of these in the future. :)

Today’s focus is Twitter!

  • Twitter birthday: April 10, 2011 (3.3 years, as of this writing). 
  • Followers: Roughly 2.2kish as of this writing. 
  • Time spent weekly: Way too much (read: all the time). (Can’t actually count because…yeah). 

So Twitter was the very first social media venture I started with, and thus the one I have the most experience with. In many ways, it was the scariest (because OMG I’m online now), but I quickly learned that Twitter is actually ridiculously fun and addictive.

Tips: 

  • Getting a ton of followers isn’t the point. What you want are followers who engage with you and genuinely pay attention to and like what you have to say, so that they share your content and remember you. I don’t automatically follow anyone who follows me, but I do follow anyone who fits into this criteria. And it’s how I’ve made some awesome Twitter friends.

  • Don’t spam. I wrote a whole post about what qualifies as spamming. It doesn’t work. Ever. Don’t do it. 

  • Be yourself. I follow some people who swear. I follow some people who talk politics and religion. I follow some people who scream in all caps about the next Sherlock episode and rage about whether or not Korra and Mako should be together.

    Guess what? You’re going to lose followers for being yourself, but it doesn’t matter. Again, you don’t want followers for the sake of having followers—you want people who genuinely like you and what you say. So say whatever you want to talk about and be yourself and you’ll get genuine connects with people who genuinely like you. And that’s pretty awesome.

  • Be professional. This may sound like the opposite of the last point, but it’s not—you can be yourself without being rude or burning bridges pretty easily. If you’re a writer, it means not raging about rejections or screaming about the evil publishing gods or badmouthing industry people (or people in general, really). Be nice. Be polite. And still be you. (TL;DR: Don’t be a jerk, okay?) 

  • Reciprocate. Eventually, the day will come where people share your stuff. I generally advise you pay attention to people who frequently share your tweets and see what content they share—you may very well find you like what they have to say, too.

    I try to make a point of saying thank you to people who share my tweets, but lately it’s become ridiculously difficult to thank everyone because…it adds up quickly and quite frankly, I don’t always have the time to catch up.

    But! Before you reach that point, I totally recommend you take the time to say thank you (and even after you reach that overwhelming point, do your best). It’s a great way to connect with people, and it’s a nice thing to do. Like I said before—be nice. 

So those are my Twitter tips! Now I want to hear from you: what tips do you have for building a platform on Twitter? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Looking to build a platform on Twitter? @Ava_Jae shares her experience and a few tips. (Click to tweet)
"Getting a ton of followers isn't the point," and other Twitter platform building tips from @Ava_Jae. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Writing Strong Secondary Love Interests

It's Tuesday vlog time! Today I'm talking about a lesson learned from the fantastic Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo: how to write strong secondary love interests featuring Nikolai Lantsov and the Darkling.


Enjoy!

What are some of your favorite secondary love interests from books, movies, etc.? 

Twitter-sized bites:
Do you have a love triangle in your MS? Writer @Ava_Jae vlogs about how to write strong secondary love interests. (Click to tweet)  
So you've written a love triangle—but is your secondary love interest a strong enough competitor? #vlog (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #2 Giveaway Winner!

Photo credit: The Wildwood Flower Girl on Flickr
Quick post before the vlog goes up! I have a winner for the second Fixing the First Page Giveaway and the winner is...

Carrie Ann Carpenter! 

Congratulations, Carrie! Expect to see an e-mail from me sometime today with the next steps. :)

Thank you to everyone who entered! This feature seems to be getting more popular, so I'm thinking I may very well make this a regular thing. Look out for the next one!


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