Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What's the Best Writerly Advice You'd Give Your Younger Self - Jessica Spotswood

Today is the second to last guest post in this fabulous series. And I'm so very pleased to bring you Jessica Spotswood who's debut book, Born Wicked, is the first of a trilogy that I guarantee will blow you all away when it comes out in February, 2012. Yes, I'm one of the lucky few who've read it, and yes, it is mind blowingly good! I love love love this book and I'm so excited to see it come out because I have a feeling it's going to be a huge hit. And when it does, I just want you all to remember that I said it here first! And just look at her gorgeous cover! It's absolutely swoon worthy! So please welcome Jess and enjoy her lovely post on what she would tell her younger self.

Advice to my young writing self:

Everyone has a story.

The skinny hipster girl with the layered necklaces at the coffee shop—she could be reading work emails, or she could be writing a novel of her own, or maybe she’s emailing her boyfriend who’s studying abroad in Prague. You don’t know. But isn’t it fun to imagine? To take strangers on the street, passengers on the train, fellow audience members at plays, and concoct wild stories about them? It’s good practice.

Everyone has a story, and you don’t know what it is.

It’s easy, sometimes, to look at other people and envy them. They have things you want. They are things you want—perfectly cool and confident and hipster-chic. But you don’t know their secret insecurities and tragedies. You don’t know their stories. It’s true for strangers on the street—and for authors whose careers you might envy. Envy is totally natural and it inspires you to work harder. But it’s important to keep in mind that when things happen faster or better for someone else, you don’t know what else is going on in their lives, or what happened before. Someone with a major deal that sold in a week might have written five other novels before hooking an agent, might have a first novel that never sold, might have struggled to write the book over the course of two years while juggling a full-time job and kids and dark nights of the soul. You don’t know. Not everyone makes their story public. But if you assume it’s there, even if you don’t know about it—it gives you an awful lot more compassion.

Everyone has a story, and you don’t know what it is. This includes you.

Every step in this writing journey feels all-important, like it could be your only chance, and coupled with your inherent perfectionism, it is often crazy-making. You would argue with fierce Taurus bullheadedness that you know what you want. You have wanted to be a writer since fourth grade when you wrote that story about your grandparents’ cabin in Mrs. Eisenhart’s class. But did you? In college you got swept up in the camaraderie and collaboration and razzle-dazzle of theatre, and you went to grad school for dramaturgy, and it wasn’t until you were miserable and unable to find a theatre job that you rediscovered writing. Even then, you never expected to be where you are now. The book that got you an agent never sold—but then your second book sold in a week, in a way that you didn’t even have the temerity to dream about. You never expected this. This is more amazing and more terrifying and closer to your heart than anything you ever dreamed of.

Stories have a way of doing that.

Jess hearts books, tea, cardamom cookies, the color pink, theatre, twirly dresses, and the sound of bells chiming the hour. She's frighteningly enthusiastic. Her first book, BORN WICKED, Book 1 of The Cahill Witch Chronicles, is coming out Feb 7. 2012 from Putnam. You can find out more at her website here

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What's the Best Writerly Advice You'd Give Your Younger Self - Marie Lu

Ok first of all, thanks to all who commented and publicized the book giveaway for Carrie Harris' book Bad Taste in Boys! And the winner is - Kelly! Congratulations Kelly!

So today's guest post is by a fabulous author buddy of mine, Marie Lu, who's amazing book Legend is coming out this November. Oh and not only is this a fantastic read, Legend already has a movie deal!! And yes, it will make a fabulous movie! I gotta tell you that I was really privileged to read the ARC of Legend and I really thought long and hard about having a contest for the ARC to continue to promote her book, but selfishness overrode my altruistic desire. I found myself unwilling and really unable to give up my ARC. However, I will have a big giveaway for her book in November when Legend officially comes out so you all will definitely have a chance to win her fabulous YA dystopian novel with a kickass heroine that I adore! In the meantime, here's Marie with some excellent advice:

Being Brave (or at least, less chicken):

To be honest, I've never felt entirely comfortable when giving out advice, largely because I still feel like I have no idea what the hell I'm doing. (It took me eleven tries before I even figured out how to open this guest post.) But even though I'm still learning every day how to grow as a writer, I've at least learned a few lessons along the way that my younger self could've benefited from knowing.

Of those lessons, here's what I think is the most important one: be brave. And by being brave, I mean you need to be brave enough to let go of a manuscript that isn't working. Some of us are so talented that
the very first novel we write will also be the one that sells, and even sells spectacularly. For me, though, I wrote four unpublished manuscripts before I wrote Legend.

It's easy for me to say this in hindsight, but I can still remember my 14-year old self, writing gamely on in the middle of the night, blissfully unaware of how long the journey to publication would be. When I finished that first novel in high school, I honestly thought it would be the one that would make it--even though every agent on the planet rejected my query letter. The problem? My premise was flawed. (To give you perspective, here's what it was about: a shy farm boy in a fantasy land gets a visit one day from a mysterious sorceress, who tells him he is the Chosen One. She then takes him on a quest along with a group of companions to help him find out who he is and how he can fulfill his prophecy to save his world. Um....sound familiar?)

A part of me always knew this premise was flawed even as I pitched it relentlessly, but I was too afraid to let it go. It took me another year to realize that this first novel was never going to go anywhere . . . and then it took me another four years to realize that my second novel wasn't going to be the one that makes it, either.

For me, this was always the scariest part of writing. How do you know when to let go, to put away something that you've worked so hard and so long on? It's not easy. At the moment, it will always feel like you'll never be able to write another one. Staring at a new, blank Word doc might be one of the most daunting things a writer will ever face, but sometimes it has to be done.

When your gut tells you the book is fundamentally flawed, let go of it. You will be able to write another book. And it will be better than the last.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What's the Best Writerly Advice You'd Give Your Younger Self - Carrie Harris

Today's guest post is with another one of my wonderful critique buddies, Carrie Harris, who's hysterically funny zombie novel is out in the world! Bad Taste in Boys is one of those books you don't want to read on a crowded train because you will be laughing so hard you will either cough up a lung or pee your pants. Either way, you want to avoid doing this in public.

Carrie also has one of the best author's websites out there and get a load of her eye-catching cover!

I'm so excited to bring you Carrie's guest post on the best writerly advice she'd give her younger self. And at the end of the post, I'll give you a chance to win a copy of her fabulous new book!

Carrie Harris:

If I had a time machine (and I want one really badly if you happen to know of one for sale), I’d definitely want to sit younger me down for a talk. And the thing I’d tell me is pretty plain and simple.

“Young Me,” I’d say, “JUST SAY NO.”

I think this advice is all-purpose. It can refer to dating the guy who got the cue ball stuck in his mouth and that time I cut my hair inadvisedly short. But it can also be something a little more serious too. Because way back in the pre-publication days, I’d hear about published authors turning down guest posts and promotional opportunities, and I’d wonder if they were certifiably insane. WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD TURN DOWN FREE PUBLICITY? From people who are really excited to help promote their book? Not me. I vowed that I’d be the one who said yes to every marketing request I got, because every little bit helps.

And it does. It’s fun and effective and makes you feel cool even if you aren’t. But there may come a point when the interviews take up so much time that you’re not writing books, and you’re not trying to break into the interview business, Young Me. You’re trying to break into the book business. And saying no to those people doesn’t mean that you don’t appreciate what they’re doing. Offer them bookmarks. Ask if you can visit their website another month. Be honest—tell them that you’re overextended and you really want to write them a guest post/visit their two-person book group/attend their live action performance of your book/whatever, but you’ve got to set some limits.

And if they can’t be flexible, it does not make you the bad guy to sometimes say NO. NO is a great word. It’s easy to pronounce. It’s not like you’ve got to say “kartoffelsalat,” unless you happen to be in Germany and jonesing for some potato salad.

Give it a try. Just say NO. And when you’re done, I need that time machine back.


Thanks Carrie for your fabulous advice! And now here's the chance to win a Bad Taste in Zombies book! Just link this post on facebook, twitter, google+, your blog and just let me know you did it here in the comments section! And if you don't have any of the above, just leave me a comment letting me know you really, really, really want this book, and I'll still include you because I know you'll go out and talk up this book to your friends verbally! I'm gonna trust you all because I know you want to win this hysterically funny book and I know you want to help spread the word about Carrie's fabulous debut! So start now! I'll pick a winner randomly from the comments section by next week! Contest is open internationally so good luck!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What's the Best Writerly Advice You'd Give Your Younger Self - Kiki Hamilton

This week I have the special pleasure of having my crit partner extraordinaire, Kiki Hamilton, on the blog today! I'm especially thrilled because Kiki's debut book, The Faerie Ring, will be published by Tor Teen this September (look at that beautiful cover)! Having had the excessively good fortune to read this book before it got published, I'm delighted to get to say.... HA HA! I read it first!! I mean, you guys are in for a huge treat! So here's Kiki with some words of wisdom...

Ello - thanks so much for inviting me over to your blog!

The best writerly advice that I have for my younger self or my older self or anybody, for that matter, is ‘don’t give up’. Let me repeat that: DON’T. GIVE. UP.

Write it down. Tape it to your computer, your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator, your candy drawer (what? No candy drawer?...not too late to start one… it does help with the stress of a stuck plot / seeking an agent / trying to sell your book…. but I digress…) We all have those moments when we doubt ourselves. But one thing is for sure – if you give up – then there will never be a book with your name on it on your library or bookstore shelf. No one will ever read the brilliant story that only you can create. So - DON’T. GIVE. UP.

This business is a rollercoaster, plain and simple. There should be a big sign on the outskirts of the publishing world that warns new writers: ‘here there be dragons’ , ‘here there be agents who won’t respond for half your lifetime’, ‘here there be editors who say you’re not right for their list’, BUT – if you persevere – if you work at learning the craft of writing, if you read books in the genre you’re writing in, if you study books that you love, if you join critique groups and practice, practice, practice, you will learn to navigate the treacherous waters of the publishing world and arrive safety at your destination, whatever that may be.

Writing is sort-of an ever-moving target. When you first start out you just want to finish your story. If I could write a novel, that would be so cool! And then you do! And then the voice in your head says, If I could just get an agent that would be cool! And then you do! And THEN the voice in your head says ,If I could just sell my book…. and so on and so on. Prepare yourself for a lot of If only’s. But you also have to celebrate every step of the way. LOTS of people talk about writing a book. Few actually ever do it. Even fewer still write a book, then revise it and revise it and revise it again, until they’ve created their best work possible.

And on those days when you’re doubting yourself – because we all have them – go back to the reason you began to write in the first place: Because you have a story you love SO MUCH that you have to tell it, otherwise your characters won’t let you sleep at night.

Once your story is sparkly and shining and the best you can do – then send it out. Maybe you’ll get an agent or an editor right off, maybe you’ll get a few rejections or 100 rejections. Maybe you’ll have to revise or write another story (it was my second novel that sold) but NEVER. GIVE. UP.

I’ll be looking for the news of your sale. Good luck!

Kiki Hamilton believe in faeries. And magic. Though she has a B.A. in business administration from Washington State University and has run a business with her husband for many years, her first love is writing young-adult stories of fantasy and adventure. Kiki lives near Seattle, Washington, where it only rains part of the time. She is a member of the Class of 2k11, the Elevensies and The Enchanted Inkpot. Visit Kiki’s website at

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

And the winner of the Near Witch ARC giveaway is....

Sierra Cullen

Congratulations Sierra! Please email me your address and I'll shoot it out to you this week!

To everyone else, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with friends and family and lots of food!

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