Discussion: When Do You Send Your WIP to CPs?

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr
So as I’m revising my latest WIP, I’ve been thinking a lot about when I think I’ll have this new project ready for my critique partners, partially because I’m kind of psyched to see what they think, and partially because I’ve maybe been torturing them on Twitter with teasers, but that’s neither here nor there.

I’ve noticed over the years, however, that many writers have hugely different processes as far as what they share with their critique partners and when, which I find pretty fascinating.

For example: I don’t usually share any book ideas with anyone before I’ve started working on a project, largely because I don’t know if a book idea is going to work out until I’ve written at least 10k—my marker for this will actually be a full manuscript and not just an experiment (and even then it’s not really a guarantee). Ideas that I love are hard for me to come by. Even after I’ve plotted something out, and I really like the potential of the story, I never feel confident enough to share it until I’m sure I’m going to finish the manuscript, because I have a history of deciding after a few thousand words that this idea isn’t going to work out.

On the flip side, I know many writers who have many book ideas at a time, and often share them with their critique partners (or even their agents) to get early feedback.

After I’ve written the first draft, I put it away for (at least) a month before diving back into it for revisions. My critique partners never see my first drafts. This is for a couple reasons. Firstly, because I always fast-draft my first drafts, I usually finish with a list (mental, or physical) of things I already know I need to fix or expand upon. This list is usually grows when I do my first read-through, and as I tend not to like to send my critique partners a project I already know has tons of problems, I don't. Maybe it’s just the practical part of me, but if I can tackle and fix a problem before my critique partners know it exists, all the better.

Secondly, because I fast-draft all my first drafts, my first drafts are…er, let’s say not my best writing. Which is totally to be expected with first drafts, but again, I personally prefer to send my critique partners work that I’ve at least attempted to polish.

On the other hand, I know many writers who send their critique partners the first draft basically they day they finish writing. Or maybe a few days later, after doing a super-quick round of tweaks here and there. And that works for them, and that’s awesome.

Lately, my process has been to send my first round of critique partners draft two-point-something. The last one was two point one (meaning I went through two rounds of revision before sending the manuscript to my first round of CPs), and judging by the way this revision is going, it’ll probably be the same for this latest project. And then I basically go back and forth with different rounds of CPs and betas until I’m satisfied and send it off to my agent.

But for me, the only person to lay eyes on the first draft is me, myself, and I. And though I can’t assume that’ll never change, for now, I intend to keep it that way.

Now I want to hear from you: when do you send your WIP to your CPs? And do you share unwritten book ideas with them? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
When do you send your MS to CPs? And do you share your unwritten WIP ideas? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet
Unsure when to send your MS to CPs? @Ava_Jae shares her CP-trading process. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #7

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All right! So as these things go, I’m going to start by posting the full first 250 excerpt, after which I’ll share my overall thoughts, then my redline critique. As per usual, I encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques in the comments (because, as I will continue to say, I’m only one person with one opinion!), as long as it’s polite, thoughtful, and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be deleted.

Here we go!

Title: CLAN FEIDHELM (working title)  
Genre/Category: NA Fantasy 
First 250: 
“Caera barely managed to duck in time. Had she hesitated for even a split second, the spear’s iron tip would have sliced open her face from cheek to ear.

She jabbed her own spear at her opponent, but Danu was ready for it. She caught Caera’s strike on her shield and knocked it aside. Caera backpedaled. Always move to the right, she reminded herself. That movement will give you the natural advantage nine times out of ten. She circled in that direction, wary. Danu did the same, her eyes narrowed in a predatory stare.

Caera swallowed and shifted her double-handed grip on her weapon. She feinted left but before she could spin away, Danu kicked her in the knee. An involuntary gasp escaped Caera’s lips as her knee twisted at an awkward angle, sending a sharp shot of pain up her leg as it crumpled beneath her.

Before she could regain her footing, Danu lowered her shield and slammed it against Caera’s shoulder, sending her sprawling into the tight-packed dirt. She lost her grip on her spear as her back slammed against the ground, knocking the breath from her body. Then Danu’s foot was on her chest, pinning her down. Her spearhead pricked the exposed skin of Caera’s throat.

‘Dead yet again,’ Danu said. ‘That’s what, the fourth time today I would’ve killed you?’ She pulled back her spear and grinned.

‘Third,’ Caera corrected. She sat up and smiled wryly at her cousin. ‘Only the third, thank you very much.’”

Cute! Okay, so overall I think this is a fun start. I don’t see anything glaringly obvious that would make me immediately put this down (yay!), though my main caution with openings like this that start in medias res is to make sure that start to care about your protagonist quickly or the danger (real or not) won’t matter to the readers. How you do that is up to you (and might take more than a page to establish, which is okay).

Now the redline critique:

Caera barely managed to duck in time. Had she hesitated for even a split second, the spear’s iron tip would have sliced open her face from cheek to ear. This isn’t a bad opening, but it’s a little wordy. I’d condense to: “Had Caera hesitated for even a second, the spear’s iron tip would’ve sliced open her face from cheek to ear.” 

She jabbed her own spear at her opponent, but Danu was ready for it. She caught Caera’s strike on her shield, and knocked knocking it aside. Caera backpedaled. Always move to the right, she reminded herself. That movement will It’ll give you the natural advantage nine times out of ten. She circled in that direction right, wary. Danu did the same, her eyes narrowed in a predatory stare.

Caera swallowed and shifted her double-handed grip on her weapon. She feinted left but before she could spin away, Danu kicked her in the knee. An involuntary gasp escaped Caera’s lips Caera gasped as her knee twisted at an awkwardly. angle, sending a sharp shot of Sharp pain shot up her leg as it crumpled beneath her.

Before she could regain her footing, Danu lowered her shield and slammed it her shield against Caera’s shoulder, sending her sprawling into the tight-packed dirt. She lost her grip on dropped her spear as her back slammed against the ground, knocking the breath from her body. Then Danu’s foot was on her chest, pinning her down. Her spearhead pricked the exposed skin of Caera’s throat.

‘Dead yet again,’ Danu said. ‘That’s what, the fourth time today I would’ve killed you?’ (First super nitpicky comment: this “I’ve killed you x-times today” thing is used a lot. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use it (in fact, I’ve used it) but it’s good to be aware that it’s relatively common. You may want to consider using a different line of dialogue, or maybe not. Up to you, but it’s good to think about.) She pulled back her spear and grinned.

‘Third,’ Caera corrected. She sat up and smiled wryly at her cousin. (Second super nitpicky comment: Caera just got her knee twisted pretty badly, which sounded like a serious injury. If it’s not a serious injury, then okay, but in my experience, twisting your knee, even if it’s not super bad, hurts for a while, so I’m not totally convinced on how smiley she’d be right now.) ‘Only the third, thank you very much.’”

So, right, you’ll notice that I only have two in-line comments because overall, I think this was done pretty well. The biggest thing I noticed, which I suspect is going to be a manuscript-wide issue, is there’s a lot of wordiness. This, like my comments, is a nitpicky observation, but I recommend you go through your manuscript and try to condense wherever you can, using one powerful word instead of three, if that makes sense.

That being said, if I saw this in the slush, I’d keep reading. I’m curious, and wordiness isn’t enough to totally set me off from a submission if the story is interesting. :)

Very nice job! Thanks for sharing your first 250, Meghan!

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 wordiness and condensing your writing in the 7th Fixing the First Page crit. (Click to tweet

Vlog: How to Query: The Query Letter

So you've set up your list of agents and your manuscript is ready to go, which means you need a query letter. Here's how to get started and a few things to remember while writing your query.



What tips do you have for query letter writing? 

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Struggling to write your query letter or don't know where to start? @Ava_Jae vlogs about what goes into a query. (Click to tweet)

How to Build an Online Platform: tumblr

Photo credit: Scott Beale on Flickr
Continuing with my somewhat sporadic How to Build series, it’s time to talk about one of my favorite social media sites—tumblr!

tumblr is a surprise favorite, because when I first created an account, I had no idea what I was doing. It took me several weeks of seeing what other people were doing and playing around for me to really get it. But I’m glad I stuck with it, because it’s now a pretty fabulous traffic source, and also I find inspirational and/or funny things on there all the time.

  • tumblr birthday: July 9, 2011 (roughly 3.5 years, as of this writing…at least, that’s when I reblogged my first post)
  • Followers: 840 (as of this writing)
  • Time spent weekly: Honestly? No idea. I check it daily and sometimes spend two minutes and sometimes…considerably longer. 


  • Follow a bunch of blogs that interest you. This is the quickest (and most enjoyable) way to get the most out of tumblr, while also learning how tumblr interactions work. I follow writing blogs, art blogs, author blogs, and loads of blogs about books. Right now, my most liked and reblogged blogs (according to tumblr) are Beth Revis’s tumblr, YA Highway, Corinne Duyvis’s tumblr, RenĂ©e Ahdieh’s tumblr, Nita Tyndall’s tumblr, The Writing Cafe, The Art of Fiction, Disability in Kidlit, and It’s a Writer Thing

  • Add tags when you reblog. If you’re familiar with Twitter hashtags, these work fairly similarly. I’ll admit I’ve been a little lazy with this lately, but this actually really helps other people stumble across your posts, even if they don’t follow you.

  • Create your own posts, when possible. Reblogging is great, and probably will be 80% of your tumblr interactions (which is fine, because a large part of tumblr is about sharing each other’s posts). But I also recommend you try to share your own content whenever possible. I cross-post all of my Writability posts and bookishpixie vlogs on tumblr, and occasionally cross-post Instagram pics or create something just for tumblr. It’s a great way to show your follows a little more about you (not just what you like to reblog) and can be a nice way to inject extra personality.

  • Add commentary when you reblog. You don’t have to do this every time, of course (I definitely don’t), but when you see something that you can comment on, go for it. The great thing about tumblr is you can see what other people have commented, and sometimes the comments end up being more interesting than the original post (or make the original post more interesting). This is also another great way to inject personality and give the original poster extra feedback. 

So those are my tumblr tips! Now I want to hear from you: are you on tumblr? What tips (or questions) do you have?

Twitter-sized bites: 

Looking to build a platform on tumblr? @Ava_Jae shares her experience and a few tips. (Click to tweet
"Follow a bunch of blogs that interest you," and other tumblr platform building tips from @Ava_Jae. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Giveaway Winner #7!

Photo credit: ~Morgin~ on Flickr
Quick off-schedule Saturday post to announce the winner of the seventh fixing the first page feature giveaway! Are you ready?

The winner is…


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

Thanks to all who entered! There will be another next month, so keep an eye out! :)

How to Prepare for a Pitch Contest

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So it’s the beginning of a new year, which means the beginning of a new season of pitch contests! This is a time I used to always look forward to in my unagented days, largely because I was slightly addicted to pitch contests. I can’t tell you how many I entered, because I’ve honestly lost count, but for me at least, it paid off.

Pitch contests, unsurprisingly, work most in your favor when you don’t jump into them blindly. So after you’ve decided you do want to enter that pitch contest, here are a few steps to take:

  1. Look carefully at the contest guidelines. This is really important because every contest is different. Some pitch contests are Twitter fests, which have rules about how many times you should post, and what’s required in your Twitter pitch, and whether or not you’re eligible (some are more narrow than others about what genres/categories are acceptable). Some pitch contests run on blogs and require pseudo-queries, or the first 250 words of your manuscript, or a few answered questions, or a sentence-long pitch, or a combination thereof. Every contest has their own rules about when to submit, how to submit, and how to participate before, during and after the event. Read the guidelines and make sure you follow the rules—the last thing you want is to be automatically disqualified because you didn’t take the time to read the guidelines. 

  2. Prepare your pitches and/or sample. Oftentimes (but not always) for a pitch contest, you’ll need a query-length pitch, the polished first 250 words of your MS, and a logline/Twitter pitch. Even if you don’t need all of those components, I highly recommend you get them together anyway, because you’ll inevitably need them.

    I’ve already written a few posts on how to write a great Twitter pitch (which can be used for any pitch, minus the character limit) as well as the importance of details in queries and pitches, and some common Twitter pitch mistakesso I recommend you check those out for help with the actual pitch-writing part.

  3. Get your pitches critiqued (a lot). To me, the most important part of writing your pitches and sample is getting them critiqued.

    There are usually loads of places to get pitches critiqued before a pitch contest, sometimes hosted on the contest blog, sometimes set up by fellow writers and announced on the hashtag on Twitter (so make sure you check it!). But the important thing is that you show your pitch to people who haven’t read your book and see what they think. Do they understand what your book is about? Are they intrigued? If the answer isn’t a clear yes to both, you know you’ve got some work to do. 

And that’s really all there is to it. Once you’ve polished your pitches to perfection, the only thing left to do is wait for those submission dates to arrive, cross your fingers and hope for the best. Good luck!

Upcoming pitch contest submission dates:

Have you ever entered a pitch contest? Do you have any tips for preparing?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Want to enter an upcoming pitch contest? Here are a few steps to take in preparation. (Click to tweet)

On Writing in Multiple Genres

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As many of you know, my debut Beyond the Red is a YA Sci-Fi. What less of you know, is the book I just recently sent off to my agent is a NA Paranormal, and the book I’m revising now is a YA Fantasy. I also have a YA Paranormal in the drawer that I hope to one day revive, though whether or not that’ll happen remains to be seen. 

Basically, what I’m trying to say is I write in several categories and genres.

Oftentimes, I’ve come across posts about creating an author brand. The examples given usually involve authors who specialize in a single genre, and I’ve seen some (but definitely not all) insinuate that it’s in an author’s best interests to focus on a single, cohesive audience.

I totally get that, and I’m not trashing that strategy. I think it can be a totally viable, and strong strategy for genre authors, like Sarah Dessen, Gayle FormanJodi Picoult and John Green, for example. You know exactly what kind of book to expect from those authors, and their fans are indisputably loyal.

All of this talk of branding, however, sometimes gets interpreted to mean that authors can’t (or shouldn’t) write in multiple genres. And I don’t think that’s quite true.

While I think the strategy for an author who writes in multiple genres is naturally going to be different than an author who focuses on one (including the fact that not all fans of author genre A will read author genre B), that doesn’t mean that an author can’t be successful writing in multiple genres and categories.

Of course, I’m a little biased, so let me give some examples:

All of these authors have published (or have book deals) in multiple genres and/or categories, and I’m sure there are loads more—these are just the ones I was able to think of quickly.

It’s not often discussed, but I think especially today, writing in multiple categories and genres is becoming increasingly more common. Which, for writers who love writing in different genres and categories, is possibly the best news ever.

So whether you write in one genre or five, I encourage you to write whatever your heart desires. After all, ultimately, it’s not the genre or the category that sells a book—it’s the passion behind the story itself.

What do you think? Is it smart for writers to write in multiple genres or categories?  

Twitter-sized bites: 
Is it smart for authors to write in multiple categories or genres? Writer @Ava_Jae weighs in her thoughts. (Click to tweet
Do you think writers should write in multiple categories or genres? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How to Query: Research

So your WIP is fully revised and ready to go, which means it's time for querying! Sort of. Time for query prep. Here's how to get started.


What tips or resources do you have for writers researching agents? 

Twitter-size bite: 
Getting ready to query but don't know where to start? @Ava_Jae vlogs about the first step: researching agents. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Giveaway #7

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Guess what, my lovelies? The time has come for the first Fixing the First Page giveaway of 2015! Yay!

For those who’ve missed it in the past, 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.


  • 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'm 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 Friday, January 23 at 11:59 EST to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Secret to Building Any Social Media Platform

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Any of you who follow me on any of my many social media channels know that I’ve sort of embraced the whole social media thing to an extreme.

What I mean isn’t so much that what I post is extreme in any way (it’s not, at least, I don’t think so), but that now, in 2015, I am everywhere. Maybe not literally, but as far as the internet is concerned, I am in all the places.

Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, this blog, if it’s been moderately popular, I’ve at least looked at it. The only two I haven’t really connected with are Pinterest and Google + (though Google + seems to have made an account for me, in a creepy, mandatory I see you have gmail way, but that’s another matter entirely…).

I’ve been running this blog and Twitter the longest, so naturally my biggest followings come from those two sources. But over the course of a few years, my tumblr and Facebook have grown, and while my YouTube and Instagram accounts are both new (especially the latter), things seem to be chugging along pretty nicely there, too.

The thing is, every social media platform requires different ways of interacting with people. Every strategy that’ll get you Twitter followers, for example, won’t really work on YouTube, or the strategies you use to get more hits on your blog won’t really apply to Instagram.

There is, however, one thing you need across all platforms if you’re trying to build a following: consistency.

Whenever I start a new social media venture, I try to set out right at the beginning how often I intend to post and when. To give you an example, this is what I generally aim for:

  • Blog: post on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, check comments daily (when possible).
  • Twitter: check daily (mostly because I’m addicted…)
  • Tumblr: check daily (usually only a few minutes at a time), re-post blog posts and vlogs here, reblog anything interesting I see.
  • Facebook: re-post blog posts and vlogs, and browse through FB feed for a few minutes afterward
  • YouTube: upload on Tuesdays, answer comments as they come in (when possible).
  • Instagram: still working out a schedule. Try to check daily and post at least once a week.

I don’t spend equal amounts of time on each platform every day (or even overall). But what I do try to aim for is some sort of consistent presence.

For YouTube, that consistency means a vlog a week and checking comments. For Twitter, it means something entirely different—somewhat unending retweeting, tweeting and feedstalking (but again, that’s mostly because Twitter is my favorite, so…). So on and so forth.

Consistency doesn’t mean that you can’t ever take a break, or that if you fall behind one day it’s the end of the world. What it does mean, however, is that you give your viewers/followers/whatever a sense of when they should expect to see content from you. Because, after all, the more you show up, the more they will.

What tips do you have for building a social media presence? 

Twitter-sized bites:
Trying to build your social media platform? @Ava_Jae shares one key tip to growing your online presence. (Click to tweet)  
"One thing you need across all platforms if you're trying to build a following: consistency." (Click to tweet)

Some Thoughts on Writing and Fear

Photo credit: Send me adrift. on Flickr
So I did this thing on Sunday night where I sent my second manuscript to my agent. And even as I think about it now, more than twelve hours later when writing this post, I still get a little quiver of anxiety.

There are a couple reasons why.

Firstly, this is the first manuscript my agent will see that she didn’t read before offering to represent me. It’s kind of a weird situation, because with the first manuscript, you know your agent will love it because they chose you based off of that manuscript (so they’ve already told you they love it). Any manuscripts after that? You kind of just do your best and hope everything works out. Judging by what I’ve seen other agented writers talk about online, this not an uncommon anxiety amongst writers.

Second, the manuscript. This MS, and the next one I’ll be revising, and the one after that all terrify me for various reasons. For the MS sitting in my agent’s inbox, it’s mostly the extremely personal nature of the manuscript, which I won’t really get into today, but I will say writing it was the most terrifying experience I’ve ever had with a book.

To give you an idea, when I finished first drafting it, I immediately put it away and declared it was awful and I’d never look at it again. Partially because I rushed through the ending and writing the whole thing was ridiculously difficult, and partially because the idea of taking that manuscript seriously and actually showing people really really scared me.

Even now, after seven people have read it and given me (largely positive) feedback, it still scares me. And to be honest, I’m not sure if I’m more terrified that my agent will read it and tell me to scrap it (or that it needs a bajillion years of work) or if she’ll read it and love it. If I’m being totally transparent here, I think the latter, right now, sounds scarier than the former.

Just writing this post is freaking me out a little.

There’s this quote on writing going around that I’ve even shared myself that basically says to write what scares you. The implication is that’s where your most powerful, raw writing will come from, and in my experience, that’s pretty true.

I’d also say, however, that writing what scares you doesn’t stop being scary after you’ve written it. If anything, it’s more terrifying, because you’ve written it, it’s out there, and now other people will see it. Potentially.

It’s no wonder so many writers struggle with anxiety.

I don’t know if this book will ever go on submission. I don’t know if it does go on submission if it’ll ever sell. I don’t know if any of you will ever see it.

What I do know, is despite the terror, I’m proud of this book.

I know that whatever happens, I love writing, and I’m excited to dive into my next project.

I know that even though my next book scares me, as does the book after that, I’m going to revise them anyway and make them as good as they can be.

Writing what scares you, as it turns out, is scary. But usually it’s because the stories that come out of it are really extra special.

Have you written a MS that scares you?

Twitter-sized bites: 
"Writing what scares you doesn't stop being scary after you've written it." (Click to tweet)  
Have you written a MS that scares you? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How to Edit: The CP Trade

So your second draft is revised and shiny and you're ready for the next step...which is what? Today I'm talking about one more essential editing step: the critique partner trade.


What tips would you add for writers just starting the CP trade? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Ready to start trading w/ CPs but don't know where to start? @Ava_Jae vlogs about this essential revision step. (Click to tweet)

How I Became a Morning Person

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Once upon a time, I was a night owl. Sort of. I got up at 8AM and went to bed a midnight (which I'm fully aware isn’t late to many people), and repeated the process the next day. I’d get work done in the morning and be really proud of myself when I finished much of my to-do list before noon.

After a while, however, I noticed a few things about myself:

  • I worked really well in the morning. Something about starting the day off with a streak of productivity put me in a good mood for the rest of the day. 

  • As the day went on, I got progressively lazier. Well, maybe lazy isn’t quite the right word, but as my energy levels drained, so did my motivation to do anything. 

  • If I had to go out for any reason, especially for work or school, I absolutely did not want to do anything when I returned. I just didn’t have the energy to even try. So, basically, if I got up at 8AM and went to school at 9, the rest of the day was shot as far as productivity was concerned. 

So while this 8-midnight schedule worked okay for several years, after taking a year off from school and then later gearing up for a back to full-time school schedule, I realized if I really wanted to continue to get writing work done, I was going to need to get up earlier.

I mean, hypothetically I could try to work after classes, but I already knew from past experience that I wouldn’t want to. And trying to write when you’re exhausted and unmotivated? It sucks.

So despite the fact that the mere thought of getting up before dawn made me cringe, I changed my sleep schedule. I started going to bed between 9-10 and getting up between 5-5:30. After a few days of trying out my new schedule, something weird happened.

I realized I liked it.

Getting up between 5 and 5:30 gives me roughly three hours of free time before I have to leave for classes on my earliest days, and gives me plenty of time to get loads of things done before noon on the weekends. It’s now pretty common for me to check off everything I need to get done in a day before 11AM and have the rest of the day to write or edit or whatever else my heart desires. I’ve kept to this schedule during breaks and weekends and I plan do continue it over the summer because quite frankly? I work so much better in the morning than I ever did at 8 or 9 PM.

That being said, not everyone is like me. I have many writer friends who do their best writing between 10-2AM. I’m not going to say being a morning person is the only way to be a productive writer, but I do think that paying attention to yourself and figuring out when is the most productive time for you is important.

Maybe for you that time will be after midnight, or maybe, like me, it’ll be before the sun rises. But whatever it is, I encourage you to listen to your body and figure out what your zone is, because once you start hitting it consistently, you’ll be surprised just how much you can get done.

Do you know what your most productive writing time is?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Do you know what your most productive writing time is? @Ava_Jae discusses how she discovered hers. (Click to tweet

Why Representation is Important (to Me)

Photo credit: scribbletaylor on Flickr
So I’m finally reading OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu thanks to some eager online recommendations and a family member who wisely chose from my long Christmas book wishlist, and the more I read, the more I wish I’d had a book like this when I was a teenager. 

I think I had my first mini panic attack when I was maybe eight or so, but it wasn’t until I was sixteen that anxiety became a constant thing. But as my anxiety manifested so often as (ridiculously unnecessary) guilt, I didn’t recognize it for what it was until four years later, at which point it was totally out of hand and became much harder, if not impossible, to hide.

Now between a no-sugar diet and OTC stuff, I’ve been able to handle the anxiety pretty well on my own, but I can’t help but wonder if I would’ve saved myself four years of internal torment if I’d had a book like OCD Love Story to help me recognize it for what it obviously is—a disorder. 

When I was sixteen, all I knew about OCD was hand washing, counting, and obsessions with neatness. I didn’t know it was also terrifying, intrusive thoughts (or ones considered morally reprehensible, which of course lead to more guilt), or being terrified you’d accidentally poison dinner by not washing utensils enough, or feeling guilty/obsessively worrying over your friends’ actions, or driving twice around a parking lot to make sure you backed into the curb and not a person. I didn’t know OCD was not being able to lie, or having a mini panic attack wondering if what you just said was 100% true (because you didn’t arrive at 3:30, you arrived at 3:27). 

I still hesitate to say I’m definitely OCD because I’ve never been officially diagnosed. But I wonder if reading a book with OCD or some other anxiety disorder representation would have made me realize four years earlier that what I was dealing with wasn’t just me, or just something I had to deal with. Maybe if I’d recognized myself in the pages of a book I would’ve talked to someone about it. Maybe I would’ve asked for help much sooner than I did. 

Representation is important to me because the combination of stereotypes and the lack of true representation made me ignore my symptoms for years. 

Representation is important to me because I can’t begin to explain how gratifying it is to find a protagonist in a book with anxiety issues, to see a character who thinks the same way I did (and sometimes still do), to see that there are others like me who understand exactly what I mean when I say, “I’ve dealt with a lot of anxiety.” 

Representation is powerful. Knowing you’re not alone and your story deserves to be told is essential. 

And that’s just one reason why representation is important to me. 

What do you think? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Writer @Ava_Jae shares one reason why representation in media is important to her. What do you think? (Click to tweet
"Representation is powerful. Knowing you're not alone & your story deserves to be told is essential." (Click to tweet)

On Being On Submission

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I’ve decided the best time for me to talk about being on submission is when I’m not on submission,
so here we go.

I’ve heard a lot of writers say that being on submission is like the Fight Club–the first rule about being on submission is not to talk about being on submission. That’s very true, mostly because you don’t want to accidentally sabotage your agent’s efforts to get interest from amazing editors.

That being said, without going into specifics about my particular submission experience, I’m more than happy to share some general things you can expect while you’re on submission.


Pre-submission starts when your agent says, “yay! Your MS is ready to go on submission!” and a wave of relief/excitement/anxiety floods your brain and basically doesn’t stop until the submission process is over.

Before (or right at the beginning) of the submission process, your agent will probably talk to you about where they’ll be submitting and give you some sort of list. (Probably. My agent did this and I’ve seen a lot of writers say their agent did this, but everyone is different.)

Eventually, your agent will let you know that the submission process has started. And so begins the next stage…

During submission

Being on submission, as it turns out, is a lot like being in the query trenches. Except this time, you have an awesome agent who is championing your work, which, believe me, can be a huge help emotionally.

Chances are likely it’ll be a while before you hear anything at first. While I have heard of books selling within a couple days (or, most recently, an agent mentioned selling a book overnight, um???), that’s definitely not the norm.

I don’t remember, exactly, how long it took for me to get my first response back, but most of the responses came in well after a month (I think it may have even been closer to two months). Again, not unlike querying. But what was different this time, was I got feedback semi-frequently (versus mostly form rejections) and had my fabulous agent encouraging me even when I received rejections, which was super nice.

How long you’re on submission will vary greatly. Some ridiculously lucky writers will only be on submission for a few days or weeks. Others are on submission for over a year before getting a deal. Still more put away unsold manuscripts and move on to a new project. I was on submission for roughly three to four months before I got an offer, which, let me tell you, felt like forever. But many writers are on submission for much longer, so I’m grateful it didn’t take too long for me.

Why does it take so long? 

There are a few answers to this. The most important one, really, is you aren’t selling your manuscript to one person.

I don’t know the full nitty gritty details, but my understanding is that on the other side of the desk, the (successful) submission process looks a little like this:

  1. Agent submits manuscript to editor. 
  2. Editor will have interns/assistants/readers read it and possibly they will read it, too…when they get to it. Remember, you aren’t the only person submitting to that editor. (When or if they read/how much they read depends 100% on that particular editor’s process.) 
  3. Interns/assistants/readers will tell editor how much they like it and editor will read if they haven’t already. 
  4. Editor loves the book! Yay! Now they have to make other people love it, too. Depending on the editor/publishing house, editor will either get support from other readers/coworkers (which is called getting second reads) or take it straight to the acquisitions/editorial board. 
  5. Editor and others who read and love manuscript will try to convince editorial board to buy the book. If they get the thumbs up, editor then has to work out with other people how much to offer/details of the offer, etc. 
  6. Editor will contact agent with an offer. 

This is a really oversimplified overview and I’m probably missing some steps in there, but you get the idea. There’s a lot that goes into making an offer on a manuscript, which is why generally, it takes quite a bit of time.

The offer! 

Once the editor has contacted your agent with an offer, your agent will contact you. Some agents cold call clients with good news, some send frantic e-mails to their clients, some totally blindside their clients and act all cool and casual and schedule a call without mentioning their excitement, then when their clients are late and are still walking home when the agent calls they’re like, “oh, it’s okay, we’ll call back,” and then when the client is finally back home, the agent is all, "well...WE HAVE AN OFFER" (I’m looking at you, Agent of Awesome).

Ehem. Anyway.

From there, very much like what happens when you get an offer from an agent, your agent will contact other editors who are still considering your manuscript. If another editor (or more than one, for that matter) also expresses interest, then there will be an auction! If not, it doesn’t matter because you have an offer (that hopefully you’re happy with!) and you’re going to be published. :)

Or, the not offer.

Natalie Whipple wrote a really great post about what happens when you don’t sell your book. This wasn’t my experience, so I can’t really say much about it besides that I know it must suck, but it’s also not uncommon. A lot of writers debut with the second or third book they went on submission with, and that’s totally okay.

It doesn’t make you a failure. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be published. It doesn’t mean your agent hates you.

Being a writer is hard and trying to get published is harder. But in the end, everyone’s journey is different, and I absolutely believe that the key to seeing your dreams come true is to keep writing, and improving, and doing everything you can to write the best books possible. The rest is out of our control, but that will always remain within our reach.

Some other really great submission posts:

Twitter-sized bite: 
What's it like to be on submission? Writer @Ava_Jae breaks down the process step by step. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How to Edit: The Second Draft

So you've finished your first read-through and you've got a list of notes to fix. But where do you even begin? Today I'm talking about tackling the second draft.


Twitter-sized bite: 
Ready to edit, but don't know where to start? Writer @Ava_Jae vlogs about two strategies for tackling the 2nd draft. (Click to tweet)

Top 10 Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2015

2015 is an incredible year for books. My TBR list has all but exploded and every post like this one puts new amazing reads on my Goodreads’s shelf. 

There are a ridiculous amount of incredible books coming out this year that I'm looking forward to, but I've narrowed it down to my top ten. It wasn't easy. But here they are with their Goodreads summaries (in chronological order by release date):

Photo credit: Goodreads
  1. Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson (March 17)

    “With his college graduation gown expertly pitched into the trash, Justin Akron is ready for the road trip he planned with his best friend Landry— and ready for one last summer of escape from his mother’s controlling grip. Climbing into the Winnebago his father left him, they set out across America in search of the sites his father had captured through the lens of his Nikon.

    As an aspiring photographer, Justin can think of no better way to honor his father’s memory than to scatter his father’s ashes at the sites he held sacred. And there’s no one he’d rather share the experience with more than Landry.

    But Justin knows he can’t escape forever. Eventually he’ll have to return home and join his mother’s Senate campaign. Nor can he escape the truth of who he is, and fact that he’s in love with his out-and-proud travel companion.

    Admitting what he wants could hurt his mother’s conservative political career. But with every click of his shutter and every sprinkle of ash, Justin can’t resist Landry’s pull. And when the truth comes into focus, neither is prepared for the secrets the other is hiding.”

    Why I’m excited: Firstly, I love Megan because her voice is just so fun and so NA perfect. Secondly, m/m NA. Do I need to say more? (I don’t need to say more.)

  2. Photo credit: Goodreads

  3. Half Wild (Half Bad Trilogy, #2) by Sally Green (March 24)

    ‘You will have a powerful Gift, but it’s how you use it that will show you to be good or bad.’

    In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, seventeen-year-old Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world's most powerful and violent witch. Nathan is hunted from all sides: nowhere is safe and no one can be trusted. Now, Nathan has come into his own unique magical Gift, and he's on the run--but the Hunters are close behind, and they will stop at nothing until they have captured Nathan and destroyed his father.”

    Why I’m excited: Half Bad, the first in the trilogy, was my favorite read of 2014 and my favorite book about wizards since Harry Potter. I’ve never loved a book as quickly as I did Half Bad and I can’t wait to see what happens in the sequel. Plus there’s a ship I really want to see sail…

  4. Photo credit: Goodreads

  5. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (April 7)

    “Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

    With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.”

    Why I’m excited: I’ve been making a point to read more diverse books, and this one just sounds really excellent. Plus I keep hearing from people who have read it how amazing it is, which is a bonus.

  6. Photo credit: Goodreads

  7. The Death Code (The Murder Complex, #2) by Lindsay Cummings (April 21)

    “With short, fast-paced, alternating point-of-view chapters, The Death Code starts several weeks after The Murder Complex ended. Zephyr keeps the secret about Meadow close—that if she dies, The Murder Complex will be destroyed, too. Meadow, desperate to find her brother, father, and little sister, is determined to fearlessly fight to the end, even if it means sacrificing herself and her friends, new and old. The Death Code introduces a memorable cast of secondary characters and delivers a vivid and scary thrill ride read.”

    Why I’m excited: The Murder Complex was a really fast-paced, exciting, bloody read, and the cliffhanger definitely has me looking forward to this sequel.

  8. Photo credit: Goodreads

  9. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (April 28)

    “LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

    ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

    When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.”

    Why I’m excited: Besides the stunning cover, this fantasy sounds super exciting and I have a sneaking suspicion the worldbuilding is going to be excellent.

  10. Photo credit: Goodreads

  11. Made You Up by Francesca Zappia (May 19)

    “Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn't she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.”

    Why I’m excited: Basically I’ve wanted to read this since Chessie’s book sold forever ago, and since then I’ve had no less than a million people rave about its amazingness, and I really just need it in my hands right now okay? (Also: mental illness representation! In YA! GIVE IT TO ME.)

  12. Photo credit: Goodreads

  13. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (June 16)

    Happiness shouldn't be this hard…

    The Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto -- miracle cure-alls don't tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can't forget how he's grown up poor or how his friends aren't always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it's not enough.

    Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn't mind Aaron's obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn't mind talking about Aaron's past. But Aaron's newfound happiness isn't welcome on his block. Since he's can't stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.

    Adam Silvera's extraordinary debut novel offers a unique confrontation of race, class and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.”

    Why I’m excited: This is another one I’ve heard a lot of good things about, plus the premise sounds excellent, plus I’m always happy to diversify my bookshelf.

  14. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (October 6)

    (No cover yet.)

    “Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.”

    Why I’m excited: Once upon a time I finished reading Fangirl and tweeted that if Rainbow Rowell ever wrote a gay vampire/wizard book, I would buy it in a heartbeat. Less than a month later, Carry On was announced and I nearly died of excitement.

  15. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (October 8)

    (No cover yet.)

    “Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

    A convict with a thirst for revenge.

    A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.

    A runaway with a privileged past.

    A spy known as the Wraith.

    A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

    A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

    Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.”

    Why I’m excited: More Bardugo + more Grisha = INSTAYES. (Also, this sounds pretty darn awesome.)

  16. Prom Bitch by Ami Allen-Vath (November)

    (No cover yet.)

    “A high school senior navigating prom season amidst panic attacks, a new boyfriend, & a suicide letter from the class outcast.”

    Why I’m excited:
    With a title like that, how could I not be excited? In all seriousness, this sounds great and I’m particularly curious about the mental illness representation.

Others (because the list was getting too long!): Heartsick by Caitlin Sinead, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas, None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, What We Left Behind by Robin Talley, and Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout.

What 2015 releases are you looking forward to? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
.@Ava_Jae shares ten books she's looking forward to in 2015. Are these excellent 2015 releases on your TBR list? (Click to tweet

New Year, New Resolutions

Photo credit: varun suresh on Flickr
So it’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m writing Friday’s post, and in less than 24 hours it’ll be 2015. 

Well. By the time this is posted, it will be 2015. On one hand, it's kind of hard to believe because it seems like yesterday when Snowpocalypse and the Polar Vortex was happening, and yet we’re in January again. I feel like I’m lapping myself.

On the other hand, I’m actually really excited for this year. For one, I can now officially say that my book will be published next year (eeep!), and maybe I’m just giddy from the really excellent 2014 I had, but I just feel like 2015 is going to be even more exciting. 

Because it’s the new year, I have writerly resolutions, which are really more goals than resolutions, but anyway. Here’s what I’m aiming to do this year: 

  1. Read 50 books. A few years ago, I would have laughed at this goal, but last year I read 44 (published) books, so this seems like a reasonable goal. Also, required reading for school totally counts. 

  2. Revise 2 WIPs. In 2014, I did this thing where I fast-drafting two manuscripts back to back even though I already had a manuscript I needed to revise. Now I have three manuscripts in need of revisions, one of which is in it’s final revision stages (until it goes to my agent, anyway), the other two which I haven’t even started. Those are the ones I’m aiming to revise this year, but if another manuscript takes priority, that’s okay, too. I just want to revise at least two. 

  3. Write a new MS. I’ve written at least one manuscript a year every year since 2006. I have zero idea what new (as in, not yet drafted) WIP I’ll work on this year, but I’m aiming to write at least one new one and keep the momentum going. 

  4. Sell another book. They say not to make goals that are out of your control, and this sort of is, because writing a book and working really hard on it and revising it until my agent loves it is wonderful, but there are still no guarantees it’ll sell. That being said, I’m making it a goal anyway. Because I’m stubborn like that. 

  5. Do something new. This is super vague because I’m not really sure what it’ll be. But I want to do something I’ve never done before, and maybe it’ll be writing related and maybe not, but either way, it’s a goal. 

Now I want to hear from you: what are you resolving (or aiming) to do this year? 

Twitter-sized bite: 

Writer @Ava_Jae shares her writerly 2015 resolutions. What are you aiming to do this year? (Click to tweet)
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