Announcement Time!

If you follow me on any of my other social media accounts you’ve probably heard the news, but… I HAVE AN AGENT! My books and I are now represented by Jessica Watterson of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

It’s been four years since I started writing with publication in mind and two years since I started querying, so I’m THRILLED to announce this! I posted a video below that gives alllll the details of my agent-finding journey, including clips that I recorded throughout the querying process.

If you’re one of my real-life friends or family (hi guys!), I’ve got a section below the video all about what an agent is, why I wanted one, and what this means for my career now that I have one. ūüôā If you want, you can use these links to jump to any one of those questions now:

And to both my IRL friends/family and my online writing friends, THANK YOU SO MUCH. I couldn’t have gotten to this point without¬†any of you. Thank you for the google hangouts, for the beta reads, for the comments on my WordNerds videos and for the general encouragement. A special shout out to my Pitch Wars mentors, Lynnette Labelle and Destiny Cole, who helped me tear apart my novel and make it 10,000 times better than I ever imagined it could be. Special thanks also go out to Brenda Drake¬†and her helpers, for putting together Pitch Wars. It’s a life changing contest! ‚̧

What’s a literary agent, and why did you want one?

Agents have¬†connections to editors at major publishing houses, and also major publishing houses don’t accept unagented submissions. Additionally, agents¬†negotiate contracts for authors, and help make sure that our work isn’t taken advantage of. Some agents are editorial (like mine!) which means that they’ll help edit your books to make them as strong as they possibly can be before sending them to editors for consideration. Agents make money by getting a commission from sales of their clients’ books. So it’s a partnership — if my book sells and does well, then we’re both successful!

For more info about why literary agents are great, check out this post.

How do you get a literary agent?

The process of finding an agent is called querying. Basically I wrote¬†a cover letter for my finished project, something that looks a lot like the blurbs you find on the back cover of a book. Then I sent that — as well as the first five or ten pages, depending on agency guidelines — to individual agents who I thought might be interested. I researched what kinds of stories agents were looking for¬†though websites like Manuscript Wishlist, Publisher’s Marketplace, and Twitter. If an agent was interested in reading more, they asked for either a part of the book or the full manuscript.

There are also contests out there that can assist in finding an agent. I’ve been in two: Pitch Madness and Pitch Wars. It was through Pitch Wars that I found my agent — she commented on my entry, requested the full book, and the rest is history!

For more info about the querying process, check out this page.

So when can I buy your book?

HA. Ha. *sobs into coffee mug*

Really though, not yet. My agent and I will go on submission early next year. Jessica will basically query my book to editors, and if an editor is interested, then they’ll bring the book before an acquisitions team. The acquisitions team determines if my book would be good for the market and would fit well into their pre-existing release lineup. If everyone agrees it’s a good deal, then they make an offer. Once I get a book deal, it’ll be another year and a half to two years before my book is on shelves.

For more details about how getting a book deal works once you have an agent, check out this post.

There’s no guarantee that my book will sell. That’s why it’s important to always be working on the next project. If this one doesn’t sell, then my agent and I will have another book to send on sub.

It’s a slow-moving, competitive process, but it’s the best job in the world, so I can’t complain too much. ūüôā I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store!

HARRY POTTER WORLD DRINKS!

Sooo, I love Harry Potter World. Like, a lot. That’s probably not a surprise to you, though, right? ūüėČ

In honor of the release of The Cursed Child, for my WordNerds video today I shared my adaptations of two of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s best (alcohol free!) drinks: Otter’s Fizzy Orange Drink, and frozen butterbeer.

While the butterbeer was adapted from a recipe found elsewhere (link below, with the recipe), the Otter’s Fizzy Orange Drink didn’t seem to have any adaptations anywhere! So Jared and I took matters into our own hands–and probably only looked a little crazy while we wandered around Wal-Mart muttering things like, “SUNNY D!”… “Nutmeg? No, CLOVES!”… “MUGGLES!”

But we did it! So here are the recipes for our two favorite Harry Potter World drinks. Below is the video,  and beneath that are both recipes in full.

(Jump to Otter’s Fizzy Orange Drink. Or jump to¬†Frozen Butterbeer.)

Otter’s Fizzy Orange Drink

This is a tangy, orange-y drink that mixes perfectly with its brown sugar and cinnamon rim. It seems to be a favorite for almost anyone who goes to HP World, and can only be found in the Leaky Cauldron restaurant in Diagon Alley.

Serves: 2-3

  • 2 cups of Sunny Delight (orange drink)
  • 1 can ginger ale
  • 1 pinch of cloves
  • 4 drops of vanilla
  • 2-3 glasses with cinnamon and sugar-dipped rims*

Mix all four ingredients in a bowl (preferably one that will be easy to pour from–i.e. one with a handle). ¬†Use a funnel to pour your drink into cups with cinnamon and sugar-dipped rims. Enjoy! Then use all of your sugar-induced energy to defeat the Dark Lord.

*CINNAMON AND SUGAR DIPPED RIMS:

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnnamon

(To feel extra fancy, freeze your glasses for 15 minutes prior to dipping the rims.)

In one shallow bowl, mix the water and corn syrup. In a separate shallow bowl, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon. Dip glass into the corn syrup mixture, making sure to get the entire rim wet. Let any large drops drip off. Then, dip the rim into the brown sugar mixture and coat thoroughly.

 

Frozen Butterbeer

Butterbeer is one of the ultimate comfort foods for Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and is a staple of any Harry Potter World visit. It can be bought pretty much anywhere in the park. So enjoy this super-sweet, butterscotch-y drink when Umbridge has got you down. ūüôā

(adapted from Enchantingly Sweet‘s recipe)

Serves 2-4.

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar mixture*
  • 1/4 cup cream soda
  • 1 ice cube tray of frozen cream soda
  • Butterscotch Whipped Cream, to taste**

*BROWN SUGAR MIXTURE:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

In a skillet on medium heat, boil brown sugar and water until it begins to bubble. Stir constantly. Remove from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients, mixing well. Allow the mixture to cool completely before adding to the frozen butterbeer recipe.

**BUTTERSCOTCH WHIPPED CREAM:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon butterscotch ice cream topping

Mix whipping cream and butterscotch topping. Then, using a mixer, blend until the mixture turns fluffy and light, around 3-5 minutes. For a sweeter whipped cream, use 2 tablespoons of butterscotch ice cream topping (though I find that the drink itself is so sweet that the whipped cream doesn’t need any more sweetening).

(jump to top)

Beth Revis’s SPINAL TAP CHART

Long time no blog! This week on the WordNerds channel, I talked about the spinal tap method of plot analysis. Beth Revis created it and provided awesome details and charts to go along with it in her book, PAPER HEARTS: SOME THOUGHTS ON WRITING.

I love this method, though I do tweak it a super tiny bit to make it work for my process. You can see me talk about it in today’s video:

Like I mentioned in the vlog, I created my own chart to match the small changes that I make (and because I’ve been taking an Illustrator class and now I just want to design ALL THE THINGS). So below are those images, and if you click on them you can make them full size and save/print them however you want. ūüôā

Spinal-Tap-Chart-PRINT-VERSIONSpinal-Tap-INSTRUCTIONS-FOR-WEBJust remember, if you decide to share them somewhere, please make sure to leave the attributions on the bottom/side so that people know where it came from!

The WordNerds are looking for a new human* for our channel!

*talking dogs and sentient plants will also be considered

Join the WordNerds Banner

I am seriously so excited about this. We are holding auditions right now for a seventh member of the WordNerds guys!

It’s also a little nerve wracking–I’m sure those of you auditioning are giving me the stink eye right now, but it’s true! It feels a little weird to me because the wordNerds are so close and I know we are going to become besties with whoever the new vlogger is…so like you should totally audition to be our future bestie? WEIRD RIGHT?

There are already so many great videos and it’s only been one week. I WANT THEM ALL TO BE MY BESTIE. We received eight auditions in the first week, and I’m still anxiously awaiting auditions from those people in the comments who said they, too, are auditioning but haven’t sent us anything yet. ūüôā Like I said in yesterday’s live chat, if you commented that¬†you are considering auditioning, I have already YouTube and/or Twitter stalked you. So basically it has to happen now, yeah?

If you want to audition, you totally should! More info on how to do so can be found in this video.

Anniversary

As I write this, the insanity that is Pitch Madness is going on, which means that we are officially at the one year anniversary of my novel being introduced to the querying world. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long!

Unfortunately, Pitch Madness is where my novel has seen most of its success so far (you can read about the initial Pitch Madness¬†experience¬†here). ¬†Aside from that, it’s been a lot of rejections and even more waiting and hearing nothing. It was weird, because I wasn’t expecting to not hear back from some agents who had requested pages or the full MS from me–but it happens! And it happened a decent amount, even with nudging at appropriate times. I don’t blame the agents or anything; I interned at an agency, I know how crazy it is and how many MSs they request. But I didn’t know at the time that this was a possibility, and so it was pretty crushing for a while.

I am super grateful for the querying experience, though. I look back at some of my first WordNerds videos, where I was desperate to be ready for the querying phase and just not there yet. Now I’m desperate to be agented but¬†just not there yet. I’m sure once I’m through this phase I’ll look back at this part with some semblance of fondness as I desperately try to get a book deal (but not the kind of fondness that makes you want to go back to that time, haha).

I’m working on one final round of revisions based on some rejection feedback I got from a couple different agents, and then I’m going to blast out a final round of queries. And if it doesn’t garner any interest then, it’s okay because I’ll already have another manuscript ready to send out! I’m starting revisions on that project soon and I can’t wait. It’s another book¬†that I love so no matter what happens, I’m excited for the future!

Froback Friday

Back before I got hip and with it, I thought #fbf stood for Froback Friday, and if we’re being real, I still kind of like that better than Flashback Friday.

ANYWAY. In honor of #fbf (yes, it’s really late, but I still count it as Friday since I haven’t gone to sleep yet!), here’s one of my favorite videos from deep in the WordNerds vaults.

MAN, I love those prompts. And really, I should be writing right now and I am using my blog (and vlog) to procrastinate. Way to shame me, Past Me.

In case you, too are procrastinating right now… Go! Write! You are awesome and talented and the best writer of evarrrr!

Getting Back Into an Old Character’s Voice

It’s always a good idea to give yourself space in between finishing a draft and beginning revisions. That way when you get started, you can look at it with completely fresh eyes and notice problems you might otherwise gloss over because you’re in the end-of-draft-honeymoon-phase. For lots of people that kind of wait is as little as a few days or a week. Because it’s not infrequently that I take a few days off in the actual drafting phase, I tend to take a month or two away from an MS before tackling revisions.

I’m doing some pretty drastic revisions on the novel that I’m querying based on feedback I got from some agents, and it’s been a¬†long time since I seriously¬†looked at this book. Probably five or six months.

It can be hard to get back into the mindset of a character that you’ve been distanced from. Here’s a few things that I’m doing to help, though. Maybe they’ll work for you, too!

  1. Read through the manuscript–even if you just skim it, it’s amazing how much this part alone can help. Even though a lot of times revisions can be daunting, I always leave a read through feeling stoked to get started, because I notice the parts that I really loved about the book. My favorite lines, plot points, and characters fuel me and help me get back into that mindset.
  2. Listen to music you listened to while drafting–this can trigger the same emotions you were feeling when you wrote the book the first time around.
  3. Check out any idea boards you made for the book–I love making a pinterest board for my stories. Even though I don’t fancast my characters so much anymore, the images I pin always get me in a certain mood (usually dark and creepy, or in the case of this MS dark and creepy and colorful).
  4. Research agents you could send your MS to–this one you have to be careful with, because it can be a time suck and make you reeeeeally want to send out your book before it is ready. But having a list of agents who I know are looking for work like mine is so encouraging. It makes me want to get the work done so that I can send out more queries! And that enthusiasm bleeds over to the book itself, resulting in smoother¬†returns to the main character’s voice.
    • Just don’t send out any queries until you are completely finished with revisions! IT IS A TERRIBLE IDEA TO SEND OUT QUERIES BEFORE YOU ARE DONE. Agents can tell. When I read for a literary agency, it was super obvious when people’s novels had been sent out earlier than they should have been. They read like they’re stitched together with duct tape, rather than sewn so cleanly that you can’t see the stitching. And that sucks, because if you send your book too soon, you’ve officially thrown away your shot with those agents. You can’t query them again!

What do you do to get back into the voice of your past characters?

Ambitious Goals Are… Ambitious

What I’m learning from February so far:

  • I am good at being crazy productive for one month, but after that I need a break

…Yeah that’s about it. I set a lot of ambitious goals for this quarter, and they still aren’t out of reach. Since this¬†quarter is halfway done, it’s probably about time for a personal check-in. Overall I’m doing pretty well! I’ve kept up with work hours, done all of the dog walks and date nights and journal entries and vlogs.

But there’s those pesky revisions.

I’m¬†still procrastinating them. Two weeks is enough time to do the things I think I need to do, but if I let much more time pass I’m officially in the danger zone.

So I think I need a little more specific goal setting.

I am going to start revising my novel tomorrow. I’ve got to film and upload my WordNerds video and do some work for my day job, but other than that I’m pretty open. SO THIS IS HAPPENING. I’ll tweet/vlog about it, because that seems to be the best way for me to stay accountable.

Are you setting any goals for this week? Let me know in the comments so that we can help keep each other accountable!

Another First Draft Down

Welp, I’ve written another first draft!

It’s pretty exciting, but also a little weird feeling. Since I decided that I wanted to take writing seriously (summer of 2012), I have completed six first drafts. I have queried two of those novels–although if we’re being real here, it’s just one. I sent out five queries for the novel before that before coming to my senses and realizing that it was just not ready.

And I’ve done so many revisions. Revisions fo dayzzz.

I know there are people out there who sell their first completed manuscript ever, who work their butts off to get that first book into shape so that it can be¬†the one. Sometimes it’s hard not to compare myself to those people–like¬†it’s taken you six manuscripts and you still aren’t sure any of them are ready for an agent. What’s the problem?

But other days–like today–I’m grateful for all of those words. I’ve put a lot of hours into them, and every new book I write gets a little better, a little stronger, a little closer to that goal of getting an agent.¬†And as long as I get there, does it really matter how long it takes?

Okay, it does a little.

Like I’d rather it happen tomorrow, but I’m willing to wait. And while¬†I wait I’m going to work as hard as I can to improve my writing, to make my plots stronger and twistier and my characters more fleshed out and deeper.

There are a lot of revisions planned for 2016, and I am excited for them… But what I really can’t wait to do is start that shiny new idea. Here’s to first drafts! ūüôā

The #1 Reason We Turned Down Manuscripts When I Interned at a Literary Agency

It feels like forever ago that I interned at a literary agency, but those times were some of the most valuable for me when it came to learning the art of editing. I was almost exclusively reading requested pages, usually full manuscript requests. It was an eye opener! Reading can be so subjective, and sometimes the reason for a rejection really was, “This just isn’t for her.”

But more often than not, there was a bigger reason–the main character didn’t drive the plot enough.

This is a problem that, if you don’t catch it right from the beginning, can be a massive¬†pain to fix. You have to reevaluate your entire plot, analyzing each point to make sure that your main character played some part in the events that unfold.

A great example of things happening to a character can be found in basically any inciting incident. Hagrid hunts Harry down and tells him he is a wizard, then gives him everything he needs to go to Hogwarts. Tris takes the test she is supposed to take, they tell her her results were inconclusive, so she needs to pick one and pretend those were the results all along.

These are all fine for an inciting incident. But beyond that, your character has to make choices. Harry goes to school and decides to be friends with Ron rather than Draco. He tells the sorting hat to put him in Gryffindor, that one action defining everything else that happens in the series. Tris chooses Dauntless and then decides to jump into the pit first, thus earning her a reputation and putting her in the spotlight for the first time.

Let the plot happen to me? I DON'T THINK SO.

Let the plot happen to me? I DON’T THINK SO.

If you are still in the plotting phase, this can be an easier thing to look out for. You’ll need to spend some time getting to know your main character–really getting to know them. And then you start with your first scene. What would a person like your character do after that inciting incident? How would a person like your character get from point A to the point B that you’ve thought out for them? It’s important to keep an open mind, because there’s a chance your point B might need to be adjusted according to the character you’ve created.

If you are in the revisions phase and have noticed character inactivity issues, don’t fear! It’s a bit more difficult, but still completely possible to make your character a more active participant in the plot. There are a couple of different things you can do to make your already-written character a more active participant in the plot.

  1. See if there are aspects of your character’s personality/backstory that need to be changed.¬†Maybe your passive character wouldn’t normally head down that dark tunnel when they see a shifty character headed down there. But if you add a more intense backstory–like maybe your character’s best friend was attacked by a werewolf down that same alley and your character wants to make sure their BFF is never hurt again–now your character has more cause to go in the direction you want them to. Keep in mind, though, that changing one aspect of your character’s personality or backstory may change they way he/she reacts to future events.
  2. See if there are plot points that need to be adjusted. There’s pretty good chance that, now that you have spent 50k+ words getting to know your MC, they are a little different than you originally envisioned. And even though the thought of deleting a bunch of scenes is scary, the character you’ve created may need to take a different path than the one you wrote for them in draft one. If you’ve seen my series on revisions, then you know my favorite method for this–note cards. You can write down all of the scenes from your first draft, then lay them out, shuffle them around, try sketching out how the scenes would play out if you changed a plot point or two… the creative possibilities are endless. And even though implementing those changes will be rough at times, your story will be a thousand times better because of it.

How do you make sure your characters drive the plot, rather than the other way around?