Fixing the First Page Feature #37

Photo credit: gwen on Flickr
Somehow, August is nearly here—something I can't quite wrap my head around, in large part because August is a huge transitional month for me. But that said! The end of July is nigh which means it's time for the next Fixing the First Page critique!

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

Title: DIA DE MUERTOS (working title)

Genre/Category: YA Paranormal

First 250 words:

"The veil between the living and the dead has always fascinated me and is much thinner than you might think. My mother spoke often of this doorway, especially at the end of October during Dia de Muertos, the time of year when our deceased loved ones return to the world of the living for a short time. We welcome them back with altars filled with photos, marigolds, incense and their favorite foods and drink.

I always imagined the veil to be something I could feel, like fine silk slipping through my fingers. One day I told her this, and she laughed kindly.

'No, Lana, it isn’t an actual curtain. No one can see it or feel it.'
'Then how do we know it exists?'
'Faith,' was all she said.

But she turned out to be wrong because the time came when I could see the veil. Eventually I could also touch it with enough concentration. Far more beautiful than I had imagined, it was silvery, gossamer and soft with a pattern so intricate I don’t possess the words to describe it properly. I’ve often wondered what would happen if I tried to cross over. Would I be able to make it back since I’m still alive?

There’s no one to ask.

Neither of my parents know I have this gift. After what my mom told me, I don’t think she’d believe me. Then I might end up no longer believing and fear I’d lose this ability. So for now, it’s my secret."

Okay, interesting! I think this is the first First Page critique I've had with a Latinx protagonist, so yay. :)

Annnyway! First thing I noticed is actually the title, and the holiday name which you use in the sample—I'm not 100% sure (I will be the first to tell you my Spanish grammar is atrocious), but isn't it Dia de los Muertos? I'm pretty sure "Dia de Muertos" would translate to "Day of Dead" which is missing an article (the). When I looked it up online, Dia de los Muertos seemed to be the default. Just a minor note!

As for my overall thoughts, this is an interesting opening and sets up the mood well...but it's all exposition. And those last three paragraphs in particular involve the protagonist telling the reader what she can do, but it'd be much more effective to see it in action. Expository openings aren't necessarily an automatic no (I actually start Into the Black with some exposition ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) but it does require careful balancing and right now this feels too exposition-heavy to me. At the very least, I'd like to see her doing something while thinking about the other side—maybe they're actually having a Dia de los Muertos celebration? That could be interesting. Or maybe something else, but I want to see her in motion even as she thinks about these things. 

Okay, now on to the line edits! 

"The veil between the living and the dead has always fascinated me and is much thinner than you'd might think. Adjusted to cut down on wordiness and condense to the heart of the sentence. My mother spoke often of this doorway, especially at the end of October during Dia de los Muertos, the time of year when our deceased loved ones return to the world of the living for a short time. We welcome them back with altars filled with photos, marigolds, incense and their favorite foods and drink.

I always imagined the veil to be something I could feel, like fine silk slipping through my fingers. One day I told her this, and she laughed kindly.

'No, Lana, it isn’t an actual curtain. No one can see it or feel it.'
'Then how do we know it exists?'
'Faith,' was all she said.

But she turned out to be was wrong because the time came when after a while I could see the veil. Eventually I could also touch it with enough concentration. Far more beautiful than It had imagined, it was silvery, gossamer and soft with a beautifully pattern so intricate I don’t possess the words to describe it properly. I’ve often wondered wWhat would happen if I tried to cross over?. Most of the cuts I've suggested so far have been to decrease wordiness, but this one in particular was to remove filtering (wondered). Would I be able to make it back since I’m still alive?

There’s no one to ask.

Neither of my parents know I have this gift. After what my mom told me, I don’t think she’d believe me. Then I might end up no longer believing and fear I’d lose this ability. So for now, it’s my secret."

Cool! So as you can see, by far my largest line editing comment is to be careful with wordiness—I find it helps if you read your work aloud, because it's often easier to feel when a sentence is crowded with too many words when it's spoken. Just make sure you ask yourself with every sentence whether you're saying something in ten words that you could say in seven or five. :)

Suggestions aside, I am still intrigued so if I saw this in the slush, I'd keep reading. But I'd personally give it maybe a page or two more before I lost patience with the exposition sooo...just saying. ;)

I hope that helps! Thanks for sharing your first 250 with us, Jennifer!

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.@Ava_Jae talks wordiness, exposition and more in the 37th Fixing the First Page Feature. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: I Have a Patreon!

As I mentioned last week on Writability (but not yet on bookishpixie, until today) I have a Patreon! Today I'm talking about what that means and all the fun stuff you can get access to if you join. Hooray!


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.@Ava_Jae vlogs about their Patreon and all the cool insider rewards available. Check it out! (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Winner #37!

Photo credit: juliet_earth on Flickr
Quick off-schedule post post to announce the winner of the thirty-seventh fixing the first page feature giveaway!


And the thirty-seventh winner is…


Yay! Congratulations, Jennifer!

Thanks again to all you wonderful entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there will be another fixing the first page giveaway in August, so as always, keep an eye out!

Patreon Launch Day!

So last week I talked about some pretty big changes for Writability and hinted at new things on the horizon, including a new platform. And now, to my delight, it's time to talk about that new platform.

Starting today I have a Patreon! Yay!

For those who don't know, Patreon is a site where fans can monetarily support content creators (anywhere from $1/month or per creation and up!)—and in return get access to some pretty neat perks. My Patreon tiers look like this:

  • $1/month—TIP JAR: access to patron-only content and polls!

  • $2/month—PROMPTS ARE FUN: access to monthly sensory writing prompts, plus previous rewards!

  • $5/month—PROMPTS ARE REALLY FUN: access to monthly character development writing prompts, plus previous rewards!

  • $8/month—PROMPTS ARE THE MOST FUN THAT EVER FUNNED: access to monthly manuscript development writing prompts, plus previous rewards! 

  • $10/month—I WANT TO KNOW THE SEKRET THINGS FIRST: access to a monthly newsletter-like patron-only posts where I will share sekret things first, plus previous rewards!

  • $20/month—OOH SHINY VIDEOS: access to monthly patron-only Q&A videos that will answer all of the previous month's questions, even if it's more than 4 minutes long, provided there were questions the previous month! Plus previous rewards!

  • $25/month—I WANT TO SEE WHAT YOU'RE WORKING ON NOW: access to a monthly peek at a page of whatever I'm working on at the moment, both with to-be-published and not-yet-contracted work! Plus previous rewards!

  • $30/month—I WANT TO SEE YOUR TERRIBLE OLD WORK: access to a monthly peek at at least a page of my newly annotated old, trunked, never-meant-to-see-the-light-of-day work, plus 10% off my editing services, plus previous rewards!

  • $50/month—I WANT YOUR BOOKS EARLY: access to early signed copies of my published work, a couple weeks before publication (US only), 15% off my editing services, plus previous rewards! This is limited to 5 people because I get a limited amount of author copies. 

  • $100/month—I WANT TO TALK WRITING WITH YOU: access to a monthly 1-hour Google chat consultation with me where you can talk to me about your writing and I can give you immediate feedback! Plus 20% off my editing services and all previous rewards except the books! This is limited to 4 people for now because I can only commit to so many of these a month. 

I'm really psyched to get going with this—I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I've been looking forward to starting this new journey with everyone to see how it goes. And now the day is here and you can check out my page at this link. :)

So whether you think you'll be able to (or want to) join up or not, thank you all for your support over the years! I appreciate it more than you can know and will keep giving back as much as I can.


Twitter-sized bites:
.@Ava_Jae now has a Patreon! Try it out for writing prompts, sekret news, peeks at their work, consultations & more! (Click to tweet)

Vlog: The Secret to Writing

In which I talk about the secret to getting words on paper, to starting your book, to finishing your book—to writing.


What do you think?

Twitter-sized bite:
What's the secret to writing? @Ava_Jae vlogs their thoughts. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Giveaway #37!

Photo credit: Eldriva on Flickr
We're more than halfway through July! And I did say I'll only be posting on Tuesdays and Fridays but I also said giveaway posts wouldn't count, so enjoy this Monday giveaway post. Because it's time for the next Fixing the First Page feature! Huzzah!

For those who’ve missed before, 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 thirty-seventh public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Friday, July 21 at 11:59 PM EST to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

5 Favorite Reads of 2017 (So Far)

I'll openly admit I haven't read quite as much this year as I originally intended. This has been for a couple reasons, in part because I was flaring a lot at the beginning of the year and frequently found myself too exhausted to read (which is a thing, I learned), in part because I've been ridiculously busy and found myself with less reading time than usual, and in part because I also had an epic reading slump that really ate away at my reading motivation. 

But that said! I've still read some really amazing books this year so far and I'd like to share my favorites until now. In no particular order:

Photo credit: Goodreads

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
YA Contemporary

Goodreads summary:
"When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course. 
To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart. 
If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life."
Why I liked it: This book is a heartbreaker, and boy did it make me feel things from start to finish. I wrote a review talking about History in depth, but the short version is this story is raw, impactful, and just really beautifully written.

Photo credit: Goodreads

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
YA Historical Fiction

Goodreads summary:
"Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men. 
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy. 
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores."
Why I liked it: I'm actually still reading this one, but I'm about 90% done and I've been loving every step of the journey. It's hilarious, compelling, and I'll be honest, seeing a major chronically ill character on the page has meant a lot to me. As a bonus, the protagonist, Monty, is very clearly bi from the first page so the book is super queer and super awesome.

Photo credit: Goodreads

Adulthood is a Myth and Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen
Graphic Novel

Goodreads summary: 
"These casually drawn, perfectly on-point comics by the hugely popular young Brooklyn-based artist Sarah Andersen are for the rest of us. They document the wasting of entire beautiful weekends on the internet, the unbearable agony of holding hands on the street with a gorgeous guy, and dreaming all day of getting home and back into pajamas. In other words, the horrors and awkwardnesses of young modern life. Oh and they are totally not autobiographical. At all. 
Adulthood Is a Myth presents many fan favorites plus dozens of all-new comics exclusive to this book. Like the work of fellow Millennial authors Allie Brosh, Grace Helbig, and Gemma Correll, Sarah's frankness on personal issues like body image, self-consciousness, introversion, relationships, and the frequency of bra-washing makes her comics highly relatable and deeply hilarious."
Why I liked it: I'm lumping these together because they're both very quick reads and related—but I loved these graphic novels so much. They're incredibly funny to begin with, and also super relatable, full of sketches about anxiety, stumbling through adulthood, and relationships. I definitely recommend them both for a quick read that'll make you laugh.

Photo credit: Goodreads

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
YA Contemporary

Goodreads summary:
"Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. 
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. 
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life."
Why I liked it: I obviously couldn't do a first half of 2017 book post without including THUG. I already reviewed this book and talked about why I felt it's so excellent and poignant, but the short version is the voice and story are both incredibly compelling and I truly believe it deserves every ounce of buzz it's gotten so far.

Photo credit: Goodreads

Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living by Majula Martin
Writing Reference

Goodreads summary:
"A collection of essays from today’s most acclaimed authors—from Cheryl Strayed to Roxane Gay to Jennifer Weiner, Alexander Chee, Nick Hornby, and Jonathan Franzen—on the realities of making a living in the writing world. 
In the literary world, the debate around writing and commerce often begs us to take sides: either writers should be paid for everything they do or writers should just pay their dues and count themselves lucky to be published. You should never quit your day job, but your ultimate goal should be to quit your day job. It’s an endless, confusing, and often controversial conversation that, despite our bare-it-all culture, still remains taboo. In Scratch, Manjula Martin has gathered interviews and essays from established and rising authors to confront the age-old question: how do creative people make money? 
As contributors including Jonathan Franzen, Cheryl Strayed, Roxane Gay, Nick Hornby, Susan Orlean, Alexander Chee, Daniel Jose Older, Jennifer Weiner, and Yiyun Li candidly and emotionally discuss money, MFA programs, teaching fellowships, finally getting published, and what success really means to them, Scratch honestly addresses the tensions between writing and money, work and life, literature and commerce. The result is an entertaining and inspiring book that helps readers and writers understand what it’s really like to make art in a world that runs on money—and why it matters. Essential reading for aspiring and experienced writers, and for anyone interested in the future of literature, Scratch is the perfect bookshelf companion to On Writing, Never Can Say Goodbye, and MFA vs. NYC."
Why I liked it: Unsurprisingly, I wrote a review for this one too, so if you want in-depth details you can check that out. But the brief version is I largely found this book eye-opening, honest, and encouraging (though some who read it found it depressing, so YMMV).

So those cover my top five favorite reads so far. What are yours?

Twitter-sized bite:
What are your top five favorite reads of the year so far? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet


Photo credit: on Flickr
Writability has been going strong with three posts a week since 2011, which I'm pretty damn proud of. We're nearing the 1,200 post mark, which is more blog posts than I ever expect any one person to read, which means a pretty extensive archive of topics covered, often more than once.

Unsurprisingly, though, a lot has changed in six years.

When I started this blog, I was 19-year-old community college student reaching out on the internet, trying to connect with other writers, become more knowledgeable about publishing, and continue to improve my writing skills. I was a year away from being diagnosed with a degenerative autoimmune disease, studying film, unagented, and hadn't yet written the book that would be my debut.

I started Writability, not really sure anything would come of it, and definitely not imagining I would be here six years later with over 2,000,000 lifetime page views, a growing YouTube channel with nearly 15,000 subscribers, and imminent plans to move to a city to start grad school and get my MFA.

Yeah, a lot has changed in six years. And honestly, what I've listed here barely begins to cover it.

My life looks pretty different now from what it used to, and that divide from what was to what is is only going to widen in the fall. I'm now a published writer with deadlines to meet and projects to write, while juggling freelancing and a part time job to pay the bills, and I'll soon be adding school back into the mix. Which is a long way of saying my limited time is becoming more limited as the months pass.

So I've finally reached a point where I've realized something has to give. I need to be monetizing my time as much as I can—that means spending most of my time on things that will help me pay the bills. But I don't want to give up this wonderful blog, which I know has become such a big resource for so many, either.

As much as I hate to say it though, I do need to cut back. Because to be super transparent, this blog is quickly burning me out, and as I spend sometimes hours trying to figure out what to write about that I haven't already written about, it's increasingly cutting into time I need to be spending on my deadlines.

So starting today, I'm changing Writability's posting schedule. Instead of four days a week (including the vlogs), I'll be posting twice a week: vlogs on Tuesdays and blog posts on Fridays. There will be some exceptions to that—giveaway posts won't be a Friday post and guest posts may or may not be a Friday post depending on what I have going on that week. But for the most part, Tuesdays and Fridays will become Writability's new schedule.

But that's not the only change. I'll soon be announcing a new facet of Writability, on a new platform, that I'm very excited about. I hope you guise like it too. :)

Thank you all for your support over the years—it has, and continues to mean, so, so much. Here's to many more years of awesomeness all over the internet.

Vlog: Are Online Pitch Contests Worth It?

Another great question from another great viewer: are online pitch contests worth entering? Today I share my experience and thoughts.


Twitter-sized bite:
Are online pitch contests worth it? Author @Ava_Jae shares their thoughts and experience. #vlog (Click to tweet)

Cleaning House

Photo credit: distelfliege on Flickr
As I prepare for a pretty huge life change, I've been taking stock of a lot of things—from the books on my shelves, to the stuff that's been sitting in boxes for years, to papers I held on to for no discernible reason, to how I make use of my time.

This morning, for example, I spent two hours I could have been writing or editing staring at a blank screen trying to figure out what the hell to blog about.

I've gone through my read bookshelves and pulled books I won't re-read, books that I didn't really like that much, books that I mostly had just because I'd read them. I've gone through my to be read owned bookshelf and pulled books I lost interest in before I got around to reading them, books that are taking up space that—if I'm really being honest—I don't actually want to read anymore.

Yesterday I cleaned out my office and bedroom and tossed papers I had piling up that I didn't need, and boxes I'd never gotten around to tossing, and started digging through boxes full of stuff from prior moves—a project that still isn't finished. I also went through my closet and wardrobe and pulled clothes I'm not going to wear anymore to either toss or donate.

I've been thinking a lot about how I can adjust my weekly commitments to make more time for things with deadlines, things that pay my bills. I've been taking note of what I'm getting out of certain things I put time into and weighing what I want to change. And while I don't have any concrete answers yet, I do think there will be some changes in the near future.

It's a time of transition for me, which is exciting, and a little scary, but I'm moving toward positive things.

When's the last time you've taken stock of your things and commitments?

Twitter-sized bite:
When's the last time you've taken stock of your things and commitments? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: Manuscript Challenges

Photo credit: Nico Kaiser
Every manuscript has it's own challenges. That's a writing truthism that has remained true for me, even now, too many manuscripts later.

In Beyond the Red, my main challenge was getting Kora, one of my POV characters, to open up, and to set a strong world building foundation. In Into the Black it was balancing the plot arcs of my two POV characters. Now in The Rising Gold, with 45k words written and two-thirds of the plot left to go, I strongly suspect word count is going to be my biggest challenge especially given I usually add 10-20k in revisions, which is a new problem I haven't faced before.

It's a strange thing, to face completely new challenges after having written so many manuscripts. You'd be tempted to think that at a certain point, the challenges you'd face would be similar manuscript to manuscript, but thus far, at least, that largely hasn't been the case. Sure, I almost always have to add a bunch of world building to revisions because I don't usually cover nearly enough of it while first drafting, but even beyond that every manuscript tends to arrive with its own host of problems.

In a way, it's refreshing—the process of writing a book never gets old, because every book you write has a new set of challenges to face. And it's also a reminder of how we're continuously learning—or at least, should be.

So I'm curious: what manuscript challenges have you faced?

Twitter-sized bite:
What manuscript challenges have you faced? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

On Trusting Your Story Ideas

Photo credit: Pimthida on Flickr
I used to toss a lot of my story ideas.

Sometimes, they never made it past infancy, just a scribbled note I'd look at later, grimace, and say nah before moving on to something else. Sometimes I'd experiment and write a chapter or two before losing interest, or I'd plot the entire thing and write a chapter or two before realizing this wasn't going to work.

Because of that, I didn't trust my ideas, not really. I knew chances were more likely than not that they wouldn't work out, that I'd lose interest or the idea would fall flat on its face. It's why, to this day, I consider a WIP just an "experiment" until I've hit 10,000 words.

But it occurred to me recently, though I wrote three manuscripts last year, and I'm in the middle of one now and have another I want to write before the year is out, I haven't tossed an idea out in a while.

Part of that, surely, comes from the fact that three of those—one I wrote last year, the one I'm working on now, and the one I want to work on next—were born from proposals, one to my publisher and one to something else. Writing the proposal for Into the Black and The Rising Gold last year, I was pretty scared of what would happen if I began writing and things fell apart—but the proposal, and the commitment to the proposal when my publisher accepted the sequels, has forced me to trust those ideas from the onset in a way I never had before.

Luckily—or maybe because of this forced trust—Into the Black's first draft went off without a hitch. I had a blast writing that book and it was equally enjoyable revising it. I can honestly say it's probably my favorite thing I've ever written. And now as I draft The Rising Gold with that same sort of confidence, I haven't once doubted whether the story would hold up as I wrote, and while I have some other insecurities with that book, there's no question in my mind that I'll finish it (which is good, since not finishing it isn't really an option at this point).

Similarly, the other manuscript I wrote a proposal for went much the same way. Though I've only drafted a chapter of it, that chapter came so easily—it flowed beautifully and the voice just clicked and I know when I finally get back to it, I won't have a problem picking up where I left off. I'm confident in that toddler of an idea in a way I hadn't been before.

I think part of this may be that I know what I like to write now. The Rising Gold is my seventeenth manuscript, and at this point in my writing journey, I'm very clear about the things I want to be writing about, even if how those things fit into a story-shaped thing isn't always immediately obvious. But I know the things that excite me, and the types of characters I want to populate my worlds with. So maybe having that foundation clear, of knowing what I enjoy writing and what I want to do more of, has allowed me to avoid the ideas that I'll get bored with and mosey away from.

I'm not 100% sure when the shift happened, but I am, slowly, learning to trust my ideas more than I have in the past. And it's a journey I look forward to continuing, one step at a time.

Do you trust your story ideas? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Do you trust your story ideas? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Would You Try to Publish Old MSs?

Here's a question I get a lot: would I try to publish my old, trunked manuscripts? Today I answer.


Would you go back to a manuscript you've trunked?

Twitter-sized bites:
Author @Ava_Jae has many trunked manuscripts—but would they try to publish one? Ava answers and more. (Click to tweet
Have to trunk a manuscript? That's okay—author @Ava_Jae explains why writing is never a waste. (Click to tweet)

On Judging by the First Few Pages

Photo credit: on Flickr
I recently got a comment on my YouTube channel complaining about how unfair it was that literary agents don't read the full manuscript of every query they receive. The commenter felt agents were missing out on loads of great manuscripts that had a lackluster query or opening and thought it was up to the agent to read the whole manuscript before judging.

I schooled said commenter on an agent's role, but it did get me thinking about all the things you learn from just the first couple pages of a manuscript.

When I dive into a manuscript as a freelance editor, I find that more times than not, I can note what universal writing issues are present within the first five to ten pages. Voice, wordiness, dialogue issues, telling instead of showing, filtering, over reliance on backstory, etc. are all pretty easy to spot early in a manuscript. And whatever writing problems are present on page one or five 99.9% of the time are present throughout the entire manuscript.

Figuring out most story issues—that is, plot, character, or world building problems—often require digging a little deeper and reading more, but it's pretty easy to tell, based off the quality of someone's writing in the first few pages, whether the manuscript is written by a brand new writer who still needs honing, or whether it's written by someone skilled enough to move on to the next step.

In other words, no, agents really don't need to read that much to determine whether a manuscript isn't going to be a good fit for them.

Granted, if the writing is good but the story has problems, that's going to take a longer sample to figure out, more times than not. But the truth is, a lot of manuscripts can be easily eliminated off the first couple pages simply because the writer's skill level isn't there yet, which is easy to determine based off a short sample.

And think about it: when debating whether or not to read a book, readers often open the book up and sample the first couple pages. This tells them whether the voice works for them or whether the initial plot is intriguing enough to catch their eye. Readers don't read an entire book in the bookstore while deciding whether or not to get it—that would take too long and make it impossible to sample multiple books in one day.

Judging a book by the first few pages may sound a little harsh, but the truth is, there's so much you can glean from the first couple pages. Which is why writers often emphasize the importance of making those first couple pages really shine—after all, you don't want to give your reader a reason to say no.

Do you judge books by the first couple pages?

Twitter-sized bite:
Author & freelance editor @Ava_Jae talks why judging a book by the first few pages works. (Click to tweet)
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