Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Southern Magicians Rock!

A really short post just to say "Congratulations, again!" to all the Southern Magicians for the contest entries, finals, places, requests, wins, and sales that we've been blessed with during the past months. Although mostly a lurker with just an occasional "at a girl!" thrown in, I love reading each and every post telling of the calls/emails each of you has received imparting your good news. I'm inspired daily by the hard work and dedication shown by all of you, and especially by your never faltering readiness to reach out with help and advice for any question or problem, no matter what or when. Maybe all other chapters are the same. I can't speak for them. But I believe there's a reason we are recognized by a black top hat, a magic wand, and a sprinkling of stars. Southern Magic has something special. Southern Magic is something special.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

When Is Enough Enough?

When is enough enough? I’ve thought about this a lot the last couple years. My first submission was sent out in 1992 and I didn’t send anything else out for ten years. Partly because I had no self-confidence and partly because life got in the way. In 2002, I decided I wasn’t getting any younger and if I really wanted this, I had to find out what I was doing wrong. Nothing has been as important to me to accomplish since I wanted a second child. (She was born eight years and 12 hours of labor after the first one.) And this delivery was a hell of lot longer.

I worked on improving my grammar, bringing out my voice, learning how to pitch, write query letters, talk to an editor and agent at conferences, and being the best I could be as a writer. For the next nine years, I drank, ate and slept writing. Am I perfect? Oh, goodness no! But I have ten books to prove my perseverance. (And being at my RWA chapter meetings helped me to keep trying.)

One evening at a conference, I had the pleasure to relax with Sherrilyn Kenyon in her hotel room and we were talking about what it takes to be a published author. Sherrilyn’s road to publication and staying published was a hard one. If you ever get a chance to hear her talk about that road, do so. It’s scary but also an uplifting story. Anyway, she mentioned how sad it was that a friend of hers had given up on writing. She’d read her work and hadn’t understood why an editor hadn’t snatched it up. She encouraged me to keep trying.

Since I couldn’t quit my day job, I gave up watching television, having floors I could eat off of, and reading one book after another. All my spare time was dedicated to what I wanted most. To be published. But my rejections continued to come in.

So the question is still how to know when enough is enough?

I believe it is when you can say, I quit it all. When you no longer have a story nagging at the back of your mind, or you read a book and say I can write better than that or I wish I can write a good story like that. When you don’t imagine dogs and dragons in the clouds or hear words of mystery and intrigue whispered in your ears by the wind. When you can close your eyes at night and don’t feel the presence of someone looking over you (good or bad). When you can ignore the wide-eyed pleads of your children or nieces and nephews to repeat the stories of your childhood. Then that's enough.

I came close, but thanks to the Good Lord, I wanted more.

Published (we know the next contract can be the last) or pre-published, promise me that enough isn't enough - that you want and deserve more!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Our Writing Imitates Our Life

This post is the one month anniversary of the tragic tornados that ripped across Alabama. Before you read on please take a moment to reflect?

Now as I write this blog my mind travels back to the time I met a distant cousin in Louisiana roughly 15 years ago. J.C. told us about our families long lost plantation house and the only artifact that survived the flooding of the plantation lands and the houses's destruction when the Bonnet Carrie Spillway was openned in 1927.

My most recent novel "MIRRORED" has a cursed family by an old Voo Doo woman's ancestor. This caused the destruction of the cursed family's house and the only things that survived were a few artifacts owned by the plantation family.

Somehow each writer of fiction places characters, friends, or events from the author's life into their stories. Tell me what you have written into your novels that have come from your real life?

Its only fair. I told you mine so you can tell me yours.

Author: Fred Arceneaux

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Poker Face

While I am loathe to admit it, when I go to court, I am usually humming Lady Gaga's Poker Face.  I know how to maintain a stoic expression in the craziest of circumstances (I didn't flinch when I had a client rip off her wig during a deposition and shake her tresses at opposing counsel; I continued to sip my Pumpkin Spice Latte and look bored). While this mad skill helps me tremendously in the legal profession, it has worked against me in my writing.

I have a quest; I must find a better way to show the emotions my characters are experiencing. Trust me, as a Southerner, my first inclination is not to tell you how the characters feel. Southerners tend to bury emotions in a deep dark pit that makes the abyss look homey, but that is an entirely different blog post. So, my professional experience leaves me void of ways to show emotion, as does my upbringing. I need to find a muse to help with this, because my current efforts are, well . . . lacking in style.

My current techniques involve a lot of things going on with the eyes. They squint, glare, and avoid glances. I've also invited appendages to the party.  I have shoulders slouching, hands balling into fists, and feet shuffling. But none of this seems to express the sentiment my characters are feeling. I would love new ways to show emotion for my characters.

Maybe Lady Gaga can help (but in case she can't, I'd love to hear your suggestions).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

July All Day Workshop

Coming this July 23, we will have MARGIE LAWSON, psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter and she will present her psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques. They're used by everyone, from new writers to multi-award winning authors. She teaches writers how to add psychological power to create page turners. Click here for more information.

It will be held at the Homewood Public Library's (Birmingham, AL) round auditorium on the main floor. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Waiting For the No

I sent out my first ever set of queries to agents back on March 7th. And while at times I feel like I'm waiting for nothing, I have learned a couple things in the past few months.

1-There is a such thing as a good rejection: I've had lots and lots of those form rejections (who hasn't?), but I've also had a handful of rejections that gave me just enough feedback to confirm that my writing is good enough to be publishable, even if maybe this particular story wasn't their cup of tea. And while a rejection is still a no, there are those that make you want to keep going.

2- There isn't really any such thing as a bad rejection: Like I said, a rejection is a no. It doesn't move your career along any further. It leaves you right where you started. But it also doesn't put you in a worse position that you were in before. Don't get me wrong, the first couple were hard. They evoked that lovely punch-to-the-gut feeling that's usually reserved for deaths and large roller coasters. I still get that sinking feeling when there's an email in my inbox from one agency or another, but it doesn't bother me so much anymore. Because the truth is, the rejections don't hurt anything but your pride. There's no limit to the number you can get before someone says 'yes.' I'm not using up chances. Even the most ridiculously vague ones that leave you doubting everything about your story--they don't actually do anything but leave you right where you were before.

3-When an agent says they will read your full "this weekend" or "soon" or "right away," what they really mean is "sometime this year, maybe, if I get around to it. Or maybe that's what they just mean when they tell me that. All I know is that they seem to have their own special version of time.

4- Patience is a virtue I do not posses. Oh, wait. I knew that one already.

5-The thing that makes the wait for rejection bearable is writing: People tell you this, but you don't really realize how true it is until you're on your second month of waiting (like I said, no patience) and you realize that no one is ever going to take your manuscript, and what are you going to do now? You come up with another one, so you can start the whole thing again.

How about you? Are you waiting for The Call? What do you do to keep your sanity when the email dings? What has rejection taught you?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why your fiction should transcend life? Author Jody Hedlund explains

I "met" author Jody Hedlund on Twitter where she posts writing tips and links to posts full of common sense, quiet encouragement and insight. Then one day I saw a #WriteTip from her: "Fiction shouldn't imitate life, but transcend it."

A total light-bulb moment.

I'd heard the idea before, but never quite put like that. And I loved it. I wanted her to expound on it. Fortunately for us, she agreed to do a guest post at Romance Magicians. It's my pleasure to present Jody.

3 Tips For Making Fiction Transcend Real Life

Many fiction writers like to base their stories to some degree on real life—things that personally happened to them, news articles, crime stories, real people, or past events. We draw inspiration from many sources and pull them together for our stories. That’s only natural.

In fact, my first two published books are based on real heroic women of the past. The Preacher’s Bride (2010 Bethany House Publisher) is set in 1650’s England and is inspired by Elizabeth Bunyan, the wife of the prolific writer John Bunyan who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress.

My second book, The Doctor’s Lady (2011 Bethany House Publisher), is set in 1830’s America and is inspired by Narcissa Whitman, the first white woman to travel overland across the United States to reach Oregon. If you were to travel to South Pass Wyoming today, you’d find a monument there in her honor.

I’m the queen of using real people and events. I love it. I thrive on it.
But there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years of reading and writing . . . fiction cannot imitate real life; it must transcend it.

That means while we can draw inspiration for our stories from real life, we have to make them bigger, better, more entertaining, more alive, and more vibrant than everyday occurrences.

Let’s face it, most of life is pretty ordinary, even dull. If we were to translate exactly what happens into our stories, we’d likely end up with a boring book. Even the most fascinating and bizarre real life events are often drawn out, too detailed (or too simple), lacking enough fiber and force, or just not exciting enough.

We can use the true details as a springboard, but then we need to push them off the ground into a new realm. Here are three tips I use in taking my fiction to a level above real life:

1. Use what’s true as a framework, then let our imagination fill in the rest.

Since I’m basing my stories on real people, I like to stick as closely as possibly to the true events and details of their lives. But I can’t possibly create an entertaining story if I stick ONLY with what’s known. Real life just doesn’t provide all of the necessary ingredients for a page-turning novel.

So while we can start with a foundation of truth and build a framework around some of the events that happened, we’ll usually have to invent greater conflict, more tension, and bigger than life characters.

In my books, I have to create more problems and obstacles than the real characters had. I leave out some of the dull, inconsequential parts of their lives. And other times I have to manipulate events to fit the story I’m creating. Because of that, I change the names of the characters within my books and in the author’s note explain that my story is “inspired by” real people. I fill readers in on what really happened and also what I invented.

2. Don’t overlook the believability factor.

In taking stories to the “entertainment” level, motivations must also still be grounded on a logical, progressive, “this-could-really-happen” foundation, even if it’s in a galaxy far-far away.

Usually we can keep heaping problem after problem upon our characters, and our readers won’t stop and question the believability of it. Readers expect bad things to happen. They look forward to the conflict and tension escalating until we finally bring everything to a climax.

But . . . readers won’t accept one good thing after another happening to our characters (the same way they accept the negative). Our stories will feel contrived if we include too many miracles, too many escapes, too much good luck. Readers don’t want our stories to be tied up too neatly.

3. How far is too far in embellishing a story?

There are many writers who adamantly advocate accuracy of detail in our books, especially when we’re basing our stories on real life people or events.

Yes, we should all strive to be accurate with terminology, historical details, etc. For example, as a historical writer I should know that the term “okay” wasn’t used in the 1600’s and therefore should exclude it from my dialog. That’s why all of us, no matter our genre, can benefit from doing thorough research.

However, I don’t think there are very many real life stories (including memoirs) that can be told strictly as happened. Hollywood has already figured that out. They always have to change things to make the story more riveting and entertaining. And if we want readers to enjoy our stories, we will too.

My Summary: Remember, a story isn’t so much about WHAT you tell, but HOW you tell it.

What do you think? Have you been keeping your stories too close to real life? Or are you working on making them transcend reality?
©Jody Hedlund, 2011


Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling book, The Preacher's Bride, 2010. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Her next book, The Doctor’s Lady releases in September 2011.

You can find more of her two-cent writerly-wisdom on her blog.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Let's Celebrate!

First, click on the video below and let it play while you read my post.

Okay. Music going?  Now read...

If you haven't heard or figured it out from some of the comments on the blog recently, I've gotten THE CALL! That means HarperCollins wants one of my manuscripts to publish for their Avon Impulse imprint. Well, not only do they want the one they read but another one too! Yes, siree! Count'em, folks.  TWO.  UNO. DOS. Do a peace sign and you got the number. AND (you can't believe it can get any better? I couldn't either) they're tentatively scheduled for the Fall and Winter of THIS freaky year!

So to celebrate, I will be giving away TWO Amazon gift cards ($25 each/1 per commenter) to TWO commenters. Hopefully, they can be used overseas too.  If not, I'll try to think of some surprise if you win.

There are only two rules. You must comment on this post and you must tell me about something good that happened to you this year. Don't cheat and say, "Carla getting THE CALL was the best thing that happened to me." That's sweet, but I want to hear about you. It can be anything, not just about writing. We're thinking positive here.

Oh, the more you comment, the more chances you have at winning! They must be comments, not just happy faces or symbols.  :-)  No cheating remember!

Be sure to comment and come back on the 21st. I'll have the winner's name posted under the video. My youngest will draw a name from folded up names printed on slips of paper.

If you want to know more about THE CALL, go to my blog click here.  Yes. I'm an overachiever and write on two blogs.

[Announcement of Winners: It is with much pleasure I announce that JoAnn and Marilyn (Playground Monitor) are the winners of the two Amazon gift cards. Email me at carlaswafford@charter.net and I'll arrange to have the cards/certificates sent to you. CONGRATULATIONS and thank you for participating!]

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Finish the Darn Book: When a manuscript won't cooperate

Every writer, whether new or experienced, reaches a point where the manuscript she's writing simply will not cooperate. The characters go mute. Or they go off in tangents (not to be confused with characters going in unexpected but welcome directions). The plot get so tangled up you don't know which is up and which is down.

When I was a new writer, long before I sold my first book, my usual reaction to this point in a manuscript's life was to set it aside and start something new. Needless to say, that's how I ended up with several dozen first chapters of books but almost nothing finished.

When you're unpublished, it's okay to set aside a book and start something new. It's part of the process, in some ways. It's a lot easier to start over than to spin your wheels in the muck of your recalcitrant story, getting nowhere but slinging mud everywhere, right?

Well, yeah. Of course it's easier. But is it smarter?

When you sell on proposal (and folks, that ought to be your goal--to get paid BEFORE you write the book), you don't have the option of setting the book aside and starting something new. You have to make this story work, whatever it takes.

That doesn't mean you don't sometimes start a new book. But that new book has to be the same book you've sold. So how do you do it?

1. Change a character

But you sold the book on the basis of the characters in your proposal, right? Well, sure. But your editor wants the book to be good. She wants it to work. So if you recreate a character, or give him new facets that make the book better, your editor will be happy. YOU are the writer. YOU control the story.

Let me add one caveat: if you're writing a series, and you've already introduced the character, you can't change him or her out. But you CAN change his character, even if you've established it in some way in a previous book. For instance, in my first book, the heroine's younger sister, Rose, was a seer gifted with the ability to see what she called "true love veils"--the face of one lover superimposed over the face of the lover's soul mate. She turned this paranormal gift into a matchmaking/wedding planning business. I established this ability in Rose Browning quite strongly in the first book of the series.

So when the second book came along, and I needed to change Rose's gift to something far darker--the ability to see "death veils" predicting a person's impending death, how did I do it? I created a circumstance in which the "true love veils" created a terrible consequence, when soul mates earned not a happy but a tragic ending. This allowed me to change her gift--and in the process, change her entire outlook on life. The Rose Browning of Forbidden Temptation was not the happy girl she was in her sister's story.

Motivate the change in your character and you can make it work.

2. Change the pacing

I wrote 26 pages on my most recent WIP before I realized it was completely wrong. It wasn't as simple a problem as starting in the wrong place in the book. I started at the wrong pace. For 26 pages, there wasn't even a real hint of danger or suspense, and believe me, if you're writing a romantic suspense, those elements should be there almost from page one. Or maybe you're writing a contemporary romance that's full of sexual tension. Have you established some sort of attraction between your main characters from the beginning?

You need to start out with a bang, whether it's a literal bang like a gunshot or a metaphorical one like eyes locking and hearts pounding with unexpected desire. Or maybe, if the book you're writing is slower paced altogether, you need to make sure SOMETHING happens at the start, something that changes the circumstances of your character.

Perhaps your problem comes later in the book. Maybe you've been moving at a breakneck pace and suddenly realize that your characters, the ones who should be falling madly in love, just aren't? Go back and find a place to slow down. Maybe it's as simple as a couple of extra paragraphs when the character reveal something new and intriguing about themselves to each other, something that helps them see each other in new ways. This can often provide the foundation for the romance you're trying to build.

3. Change the setting.

I'm not talking about the setting of the story, necessarily, although sometimes that can work as well. I'm talking about changing where--or how--you write.

We can get in ruts just as easily as our characters do. And sometimes the simplest of changes--writing longhand instead of on the computer, writing without formatting, writing on the laptop outside in the garden instead of on the desktop in your office--can help shift your mind out of the rut that's keeping you from seeing the solutions for the story problems that prevent you from moving forward.

4. Change the rules

I've spoken of this before, but something I've started doing recently has helped me get past my procrastinating ways. It's a simple hashtag on Twitter: #1k1hr. But it's a powerful motivation to sit down for a hour and write with no rules. Production is king. You're going for those 1000 words in an hour. You may think it can't be done. But I promise you, it can. I've written as much as 1700 words in an hour once I'm deep into the story.

It's not that I'm that fast a writer--it's that I commit to write for an hour and I let myself write crap if that what it takes to make that word goal. It's okay to write dreck--dreck can be edited into something readable. Blank pages can't.

We all desire to write the very best story we can. I do. I know you do, too. But sometimes, that desire gets in the way of writing at all. It can paralyze you--it can make your manuscript rebel. Sometimes what we think of as a writing block is really just that self-paralysis that comes from fearing failure. It's okay to fail in the first draft. That's why it's called the FIRST draft.

Don't sweat the spelling. Don't worry about the research. Don't get your knickers in a twist over grammar. Just write the story in your head. You can edit all of it when it's done. Change the rules. Change your ways.

Change is the key to dealing with an uncooperative manuscript. This time, when the story just isn't coming together, instead of setting the story aside and starting something new, change something. Anything.

Move around the obstacle. Then move forward.

So, what about y'all? How do you deal with manuscripts that just aren't playing along?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Space and time

What do Einstein and writing guru Dwight V. Swain have in common? The theory of relativity. Einstein once famously said, "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity."

Dwight V. Swain, in his epic tome on writing, TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER, said, “In writing, you translate tension into space: The more tense the situation as your focal character experiences it, the more words you give it.”

I don’t know why, but that one short passage in Swain’s book stopped me short with its brilliance.

Have you ever heard Captain Sullenberger talk about his experience landing flight 1549 on the Hudson River? When he listens to the flight recorder playback, the whole event takes place in mere minutes. And yet while he was going through it, time seemed to slow down. The volume of information and emotions he processed in that short period of time made it seem many times longer than the reality.

So if we follow Swain’s advice, we can give our readers an easy clue about how momentous an event is by how much space (i.e. relative time) we allot to it in our story.

To some degree, I’m sure we all do this instinctively. But I’m wondering if maybe some of my scenes that fell a little flat did so because I didn’t give them their due. Maybe I let too much of the experience happen “off screen”, thus shortchanging the reader and my story.

Next time I can’t figure out why an important scene isn’t working, I’ll check to see if I gave it enough space and time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Better Late than Never

My dad had a saying he used whenever we drove somewhere--"Better late than never." He was referring to our arrival to our destination. But sometimes I think the phrase can apply to our own lives. I'd rather be late than never arrive at the following destinations:

1) love
2) happiness
3) dreams
4) hopes
5) ambitions

It is better to arrive than to have never tried to find these things. It is better to keep pushing through despair, sorrow, pain, loss, and unhappiness by clinging to the belief that one day you will arrive at your destination.

What do you cling to and hope to arrive to one day? Do you believe it is better to be late than to have never tried at all? What drives you forward during the dark days when the engine seems to be stalling no matter how much gas you put into it? What carries you to pursue your dreams when the wind no longer lifts your wings?

We all have dark days. We all have low gas days. We all lose our steam. But the difference between those who never succeed and those who do is that the ones who do NEVER GIVE UP. There is an example of that kind of perseverance in our own midst. I am sending a HUGE shout out to Southern Magic's very own Carla Swafford!! If she can drive through the dark days of despair and disillusionment to reach her ultimate goal, then you can to!!

Share your stories of fortitude with me today.

Monday, May 09, 2011

What words keep you going?

"Never, ever give up."

"A writer writes."

"What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?"

These are some sayings that I have posted in my workspace. They inspire me, and keep me writing.

What are some of your favorite inspirational sayings?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Writing Routines

As you know, I have declared 2011 to be "The Year" I write a complete novel. I've previously blogged about trying to find my writer's space and style. And, though I have discovered that the only "magic system" is simply writing daily, I am now in the process of finding my routine. I've found some interesting articles on the routines of various authors here, here, and here.

So tell me, what's your routine? Morning, lunch, nighttime, or something in between?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Life Lessons From Dogs

Anyone who knows me knows I have dogs. Several dogs. Just one short of too many dogs. I have big dogs, little dogs, shy dogs, and one very mean dog. I'm channeling Dr. Seuss here. Sheesh! Okay, so you get the picture. I have dogs.

People who don't like dogs often ask why I have dogs and why so many. They ask what purpose they serve. (As if everything in life has to have a purpose. My pictures of Hugh Jackman (shirtless as Wolverine) or Gerard Butler (300 anyone) serve no useful purpose, but I LIKE them. So there.

My dogs are actually quite useful. They serve as burglar alarm, door bell, foot warmer, entertainment, exercise equipment and reality check. Hard to get too full of yourself when you are scooping dog poop or wrestling a sixty-five pound basset hound into a tub for his bath.

And I have learned some valuable life lessons from my dogs, lessons easily applicable to our lives as writers. Here are just a few.

Lesson One : Jump the fence.

The road to publication is full of all sorts of fences set up by other
writers, our own heads, editors, agents, contest judges, and just
every day life. You can't let that stop you. Each time you come to a
fence climb it, chew through the wire, tunnel under it, brace yourself
into a corner and crab walk up it (my 85 pound Golden Retriever crossed
with a Clydesdale did this!) but do not let that fence get in the way
of where you want to go.

Lesson Two : Cause some mayhem. It gets people's attention.
(Sometimes too much attention, but hey, life is too short to be dull
and predictable!)

Lots of people write. The only ones who make it in this business are
the ones who aren't afraid to cause a little mayhem. Of course there
are rules in writing. And there are some genres that are going to sell
more easily than others. But don't be afraid to listen to your inner
dog who says "Dig through the garbage you're writing to find that
delicious, unique, one of a kind story you are writing and run with
it!" Don't run with the pack, lead it. If that means the dog catcher
nails you because you are out in front, see lesson one.

Lesson Three : Mayhem is more fun if you bring along a friend (or six.)

There are people who write and then there are writers. Writers are
the ones who jump fences and cause mayhem and stick with it. It's
a tough gig if you are the lone wolf all the time. Sure some of the
work is done sitting in your dog house, contemplating the mayhem
you intend to unleash, mapping it out, researching it, writing it.
But, if you can find one or more like-minded renegades who get
what you are doing, who are on the same road you are and who will
warn you about the dog catchers and bad garbage of life run with
them. It's more fun, less lonely and will improve your game in
every way.

Lesson Four : See everything as an adventure.

Sitting at a computer for hours at a time trying to wrestle words
onto a page when the muse is a big hairy female dog who only wants
to crawl under the bed and chew on a shoe can end up being a real
drag. So much so that you might want to become Doug (SQUIRREL!) the
Dog from the movie Up! When you are a writer there are LOTS of
SQUIRRELS! out there just waiting for you to give chase. At times
like that, remember what it is you love the most about writing -
the adventure! Sniff every flower, run to every tree, go to every
page with the idea you are going to find out something completely
new and amazing! Then wag your tail, get a goofy grin on your face
and move on to the next page of your adventure!

Lesson Five : Put your whole heart into whatever you do no matter how long it

My dog, Clyde, is digging the ultimate hole. He works on it every
day, sometimes for fifteen minutes, sometimes for hours. He puts
his entire being into the digging of his hole. I have no idea where
he's going, but he does. Sometimes he works delicately, sometimes he
just gets in there and digs. And one day he will just lay down, look
at it and wag his tail as if to say "Now THAT is a hole." And he'll
be happy with it. Until he starts the next one. Writing should be
like that. Put your whole self into it, work on it every day and
when a book is done don't be afraid to lay down, wag your tail and
say "Now THAT is a book!"

So there you have it. I have dogs and I'm not afraid to learn from them. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a hole to dig!

Who are some of the teachers of truth in your life and what have they taught you that you apply to your writing?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Young Adult Authors

Be sure to get the word out about our June 25 meeting. FIVE authors of young adult novels.

Jennifer Echols has written six young adult novels for Simon & Schuster, including Major Crush, which won the National Reader's Choice Award, and Going Too Far, which was a finalist in the RITA, the National Reader's Choice Award, and the Book Buyer's Best, and was nominated by the American Library Association as a Best Book for Young Adults. Currently she works as a freelance copyeditor and lives in Birmingham with her husband and her son.
R.A. Nelson was chosen as a Horn Book Newcomer and his novels have been nominated to the YALSA Best Books for Young Adults list, as well as recognized by the Parents’ Choice Awards, the New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age list, Booksense Kid Picks, the Miami Herald Best Books of the Year, teenreads.com Best Books of the year, and the Michigan Library Thumbs Up! Nelson lives with his family in North Alabama and works at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
Chandra Sparks Taylor is the author of Spin It Like That and The Pledge and the owner of Taylor Editorial Service, which specializes in line editing and ghostwriting manuscripts by both aspiring and established authors.

Rachel Hawkins quit teaching English to pursue writing full time. When not writing, Rachel enjoys spending time with her husband and son.

Rosemary Clement-Moore is the author of award-winning supernatural mystery novels for young (and not so young) adults. Her books range from snarky and funny (the Maggie Quinn: Girl versus Evil series) to spooky and romantic (The Splendor Falls). A recovering thespian, she loves dogs, history, Jane Austen, archeology, Rock Band, Gilbert and Sullivan, BBC America, Science Fiction movies, and working in her pajamas.
The authors will talk about their writing processes and upcoming books.

June 25, 2011, 1:30 p.m.
Homewood Public Library, Room 101
Birmingham, AL USA
Admittance free!

Presented by Southern Magic Romance Writers,
the Birmingham chapter of the Romance Writers of America
Books will be available for purchase
A question and answer session will follow.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Jennifer Echols, Young Adult Author

It's with great pleasure I introduce the funny and talented Jennifer Echols. Southern Magic is proud to call her one of our own!  Jennifer will be dropping by to answer any questions you have about writing Young Adult books or about the wonderful job she does in writing humor. Personally, I believe people who write romantic comedy are super intelligent. Yes. I'm green with envy.

When did you start writing fiction?

Grade school. My grandmother was an unpublished writer. I had her as an example, so it never occurred to me that writing was something I couldn’t do.

Why did you join RWA?

I joined in 1998 or so because I was so frustrated trying to get published, but I was too defensive about my writing to go to a local chapter meeting, and there wasn’t much activity online. In 2004 I made a renewed effort to publish a new manuscript. This time I decided that since what I had done before didn’t work, I would change what I was doing. I rejoined RWA, participated lots online, and actually went to meetings. And voila, I got a new agent in February 2005 and sold in July.

What was the most important thing you learned from being in a RWA chapter?

Other writers go through the same emotions I do and are just as frustrated and just as elated. Nobody else really understands, and to me, going to Southern Magic meetings each month is an invaluable rejuvenation and renewal.

Who influenced you the most?

My critique partners, Victoria Dahl and Catherine Chant. Even people who don’t want critique partners need go-to writing friends to whom they can spill their guts.

What reference book or website can you not live without?

The dictionary. You would be surprised how many writers don’t seem to open it, but I just sent back the second pass of my July release, LOVE STORY, and I made good use of it!

If you were to give advice to a newbie romance writer, what would be the most important thing?

Make sure you are writing every day, not just talking about writing or reading about writing or thinking about writing.

The least?

The little stuff like formatting, minutiae of grammar, that sort of thing. Your manuscript needs to be correct and presentable in general. But an agent will represent your work and an editor will buy it because they love the story, not because you did or didn’t use “whom” correctly.

If you had anything you could do over, pertaining to writing romance, what would it be?

I would have joined RWA and become an active member sooner, and I am not just sucking up on an RWA blog, I swear.

What is your favorite type of book to write?

As long as romance is the focus, it has a happy ending, and it’s funny, I’m there. So I write YA romantic comedies, YA romantic dramas with a lot of humor in them, and adult romantic comedies that don’t get published. Someday...

Now for the most important question - what do you believe makes a man sexy?

I am a sucker for a sense of humor--obviously!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

YA-YA Sisterhood by Jennifer Echols

Jennifer posted this on 3/27/06 and I thought it was worth repeating.

Some of you may be curious about making the jump from adult to YA romance (YA = young adult = teen). I have been writing both for quite a few years. I was writing YA when YA wasn’t cool, when the market was severely depressed. But to say it has picked up in the past few years would be an understatement. So, even though my agent signed me on the basis of an adult romantic comedy, it didn’t really surprise me that my YA romantic comedy sold first. My friend Marley Gibson, a native of Troy, AL, also has been writing adult and YA, and her first sale 10 days ago was a series of four YA novels. Even some who have already made it in the adult genre are giving YA a spin.

So you think YA might be your ticket into publication too? Here are some things you need and don’t need, imho, to make it as a YA author.

You need to like YA books. If you haven’t read YA ever, or since you were 15, give it a try. You might start with an author who also writes adult books you enjoy, like Alesia Holliday/Jax Abbott or Nicole/Niki Burnham. Or you might try the YA version of the adult genre you like best, like romantic comedy, chick lit, or paranormal.

You need to like teenagers. You don’t necessarily need a close relationship with a teenager currently. They think you are old and weird, and unless you can withhold their allowance, they probably are not going to tell you what you want to know anyway. But you need to *wish* they would tell you about their lives, because you think they are so cool. You should find their relationships interesting, their contributions valuable, and their problems heartbreaking, even though you think you could solve their problems in a second if they would only listen to you, which they won’t, because they are teenagers, and you are old and weird. In short, you should be able to empathize with them.

You need to remember being a teenager. Strangely, the people who tell me they don’t remember this part of their lives are all twenty-six. I am not twenty-six, but I remember in excruciating detail how I felt sitting next to Jeremy Ledbetter† in band in the oboe section (all two of us). Me, a little ninth grader, pining away the entire year for this super-cool, cute, smart guy who played Satan in the senior play. Every day Holly Pemberton, the last-chair flute who sat next to us, hid a new Harlequin romance behind her music stand. Every day, Jeremy stole it and read me the sex scene. *fans self* I probably will never write a YA novel about an oboe player, because I would put myself and everyone else to sleep. But I have already written a YA novel about having a crush, and believe me, I drew from experience.

You do not need an up-to-the-minute understanding of teen culture. Yes, it would help if you turned on MTV once in a while, but I have found that fashion and slang are largely regional. Besides, your up-to-the-minute understanding is going to be old news by the time your book gets published.

Most of all, you need a great story, well-told. My YA novels run about 55,000 words, and my adult novels are about 100,000. The YA hero and heroine obviously are younger, and I trade in sex scenes for make-out scenes. Other than these differences, I treat my YA and adult novels exactly the same. I plot them using the same methods (1. write; 2. freak out; 3. whine to critique partner; 4. write), and I craft them with the same care. YA novels may be a good bet for publication nowadays, but they are not a shortcut.

†Names have been changed to protect the guilty.