As promised, here's the summary of WriteOnCon's second day! I'm coming to you from college Orientation, which is driving me crazy, because there is TOO MUCH BEING SOCIAL. Grrr. I just want to go to class
But life and writing go on as usual. You all appear to have chosen #MermaidPlayStory for my new NaNoNovel, which is funny. That's probably what I least expected. I've put it off twice already! But I guess I'm going for it.
Now it's time for the second day of WriteOnCon, originally presented on 8/15:
HOW TO KNOW WHEN YOUR MS IS READY TO BE SENT OUT
Literary agent Laura Perkins wrote a great article on this. Here are her questions to ask yourself.
1. Is my manuscript finished?
2. No, really, is my manuscript finished?
“Finished” means that you’ve completed your first draft, spent some time away from it, and gone back and revised it to the best of your ability, probably multiple times.
3. Have I shown my manuscript to at least three people and seriously considered their feedback?
4. Does my story have a hook? Will it make an agent sit up and take notice?
If I reach page fifty and I don’t need to keep reading, it’s usually a “no”. But some minor inconsistencies won't throw me off.
5. Does my manuscript work on a high level?
An agent-ready manuscript does not have to be perfect, but the story, the voice, and the characters need to be very strong and compelling. So what I mean by “working on a high level” is that all of the important, big-picture elements are there and are developed, unique, and gripping.
6. Have I asked myself the following questions about my manuscript, and revised if the answer is no?
Does my story have a clear beginning, middle, and end? Do my characters have interesting and relatable goals in which a reader can invest? Are the stakes high? Are my characters unique and differentiated from one another in the way they speak, in the way they act, in the choices they make, in their goals/hopes/dreams? Do my characters change throughout the story? Do they have character arcs, with definite beginnings, middles, and endings? Are the obstacles that keep my characters from achieving their goals believable and interesting? Are all the scenes and characters necessary to the story? Is the action moving at a page-turning pace? Do my chapter endings and beginnings fit together in a way that propels the reader into the next part of the story? Am I the only person who can tell this story and is that reflected in the voice? Is the voice consistent and well-matched for this story? Is my story different from what’s out there?
COOL QUOTE: On Your Muse
YA author Lamar “L.R.” Giles – "Abuse your muse. If it takes electric shocks, thumb screws, waterboarding, then so be it. The muse works when you say, not the other way around."
SOME ARTICLES I LIKED
With my earlier agent experience, I relate to YA author Joy Preble’s article on what to do when your editor abandons you. YA author Jessica Martinez’s video on romantic/sexual tension was pretty good. Editor Leah Hultenschmidt summarized everything that I’ve learned about query letters.
COOL QUOTE: Taking Risks
YA author Ryan Graudin – "Great art comes out of great risk."
ON AGE CATEGORIES
So there's picture books, chapter books, MG (middle grade, age 9-12), YA (young adult, age 14-18), and adult. But at the conference, a few new labels were brought up.
The first, which I found to be surprisingly prevalent in the forums, is New Adult (NA). These are books about college students like me! Some editors are getting into this fad, but it's a recent thing that's come up. No one's quite sure if it's going to take off. My best writing friend juliathewritergirl is anti-NA. I'm so caught off-guard by it, I don't know what to think. Maybe it's a cool idea. Maybe college students should just stick to YA or adult novels. Who knows?
The second was just a brief mention by some editors in a live chat, this being that they wish there was a "tween" label, because the line between MG and YA can be difficult at times. For example, 13 is a no-no age for writers right now. Sad days.
COOL QUOTE: On Characters
MG author Claire Caterer - "Don’t go easy on your characters. Make them suffer."
SIX PET PEEVES IN NOVELS
by picture book author Lenore Appelhans and YA author Phoebe North
2) Slut Shaming
3) Too Stupid to Live Characters
4) The Mary Sue
5) Watch the Eyes (Yeah, I talk about eyes too much.)
6) Info Dumping
COOL QUOTE: Traditional Publishing and Being Stubborn
YA author Nicole McInnes – "If your goal for your writing is traditional publication, never give up on making your writing stronger and sending out the best quality queries possible to agents and editors--even when (especially when) the odds seem to be impossibly stacked against you."
SOMETHING I LEARNED ABOUT EDITING
You can actually use your word processor to your advantage! On Microsoft Word, through the spell check, you can set it up to show you readability stats, which count your passive voice issues, look at the age level, etc. I don't have Word right now because it, uh, costs money, but other processors do the same thing in different ways. Microsoft Works doesn't have cool stats, but you can use style check to locate passive voice and change it. Since passive voice is my killing blow, this is an awesome thing to know.
COOL QUOTE: An Amusing Editor Argument
Sara Sargent: "I love a good kissing scene. People don't kiss in MG."
Alison Weiss: "They kiss their dogs, Sara. isn't that good enough? Okay. I'll be good now."
Sara Sargent: "Oh, Alison, I want them to kiss boys."
COMPARING MIDDLE GRADE AND YOUNG ADULT LIT
by YA author Claire Legrand
Age: Tweens or Teens?
Romance: Kissy-Kissy or Kissy-Kissy?
Swearing: Darn or D*mn?
Violence: PG or PG-13?
Experience: Internal or External?
Journey: Only Just Begun or Finally Getting Somewhere?
Awareness: Observing or Analyzing?
Language: Simple or Complex?
Voice: 3rd Person or 1st Person (Or Does It Really Matter)?
COOL QUOTE: On the Confusingness of Recent Literature
Literary agent Katie Grimm: "Also, can everyone just hold the reader's hand just a little bit more?"
OTHER WRITEONCON THOUGHTS
Writing 140-character novel pitches is so annoying. Also known as "Twitter pitches", the purpose of these is apparently to drive writers insane by making them turn their 50,000+ word masterpiece into 140 characters. My pitch got picked to be looked at by some editors, who didn't select it for further interest, mostly because they were a romance publisher, I think. Anyway, here's my glorious pitch:
"High school freshman Cassie’s life changes abruptly when she becomes telepathic and is forced to face mental illness and an unseen enemy.”
Bow before the awesomeness.
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