Why the Fever series ruined my honeymoon

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Since it’s summer, and I read at lot more during this wonderful season, I want to review a few of my all-time favorite books. All of them are perfect for a nice afternoon under the sun while sipping on iced tea or a tasty sangria.

First one up: The Fever series

Genre: Paranormal Romance. (No, it’s not like Twilight.)

So, why did I claim the Fever series ruined my honeymoon?

It didn’t, but there were a few times when my husband asked why I hadn’t lifted my eyes from the pages in hours. I spent countless hours trapped in the Fever world, so I’ll be billing Ms. Moning for my hotel room in Oahu, and I hope she understands.

But seriously, the Fever series had me hooked by the first chapter. Maybe because I was sunbathing like the main character, or because I have lost someone close too, in the not so distant past. The story got me hook, line and sinker. After I was done with the first book, I thought, this is great, it’s probably a trilogy, I can finish it in no time

WRONG.

The main series is five books long. Five books is usually more than I care to read about the same set of characters, unless it’s as epic as Harry Potter or Star Wars, and I’m happy to add the Fever series to this list.

I got hooked on Barrons.

The sexual tension throughout the books is to die for, so much in fact that at some point, I didn’t care about V’lane or anyone else. Barrons was my new God, and I wanted to beat Mac over the head with a club for not trusting him. I heard people say Mac is a Mary Sue, or annoying, or shallow, but I disagree. Her character arc is one of the most impressive thing about the series, and I love that she messes up. The resolution of the murder mystery plot was also incredible and not cliché at all.

Now I’m not saying these books are 100% perfect, but they were as perfect as can be. If I nitpick, I’d say I found Mac’s distrust of Barrons hard to swallow sometimes, and I didn’t enjoy the POV switching to Dani. I SO wanted to know who’d killed Alina and read a MAC-Barron sex scene that I became impatient with the sub-plots, but, when I re-read the series, these things didn’t bother me anymore.

It’s a wonderful thing when you find a series of book that speaks to you this much. It’s even more impressive when a series retains the magic for so many books.

My husband bought me the entire series in paperback, with the new Feverborn, so he forgave my obsession and is even feeding it. Can’t wait to re-read the entire series on paper this summer.

What about you? Which sexy character derailed your daily life?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Barrons is waiting…


10 steps to a better query letter

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I have spent months editing my manuscript… what now? Now is query time!

For some (most?) of us, the prospect of querying is stressful and nerve-wracking. We have spent months, if not years, pouring our hearts out in a manuscript, and we don’t want all that hard work to go to waste. For those of us crazy enough to pursue traditional publishing, we know the first step is to get an agent. But that’s no small step. The agents are the gatekeepers of the publishing industry, and it’s no small feat to find one.

Even before I finished my first manuscript, I was curious about the querying process. I was a newbie, and I knew virtually nothing. As I researched how to write a good query, I learned a terrifying truth: a great manuscript will never be read if the submission package sucks.

In query-world, there are no do-overs. If you query an agent for manuscript X, and you get a rejection, then that’s that. Not only is your manuscript never going to be read by that agent, but many agencies demand that you only query one agent, and a rejection from one means a rejection from all. That’s scary.

No, scratch that. It’s fucking terrifying!!!

I spent many, many hours learning, writing, revising, rewriting my first manuscript’s query. I started from scratch a few times, I had it my favorite critiqued, I struggled with the whole “hook” situation for more hours than I care to count, and I hope my research can help you on your quest for the ever-elusive perfect query.

And the super-annoying fact is that there is no such thing as a perfect query. Agents have different tastes and preferences, and one will tell you to do one thing another will hate. That’s why the process is so maddening. There is no flawless recipe to appeal to all agents.

All we can hope to do it try. I summed up the best advice I read into 10 steps.

  1. Learn

There is no shortcut for this step. You must put in the time.

           Books: I read the entire chapter on fiction queries in The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters. It shows what to do and what not to do. It has all the basics as well as great examples. https://www.amazon.com/Writers-Digest-Guide-Query-Letters/dp/1582975663

           Blogs: I love Jane Friedman resources on querying. Check out her website. https://janefriedman.com/query-letters/

            Seminars/conferences/presentations: I did 2 Writer’s Digest webinars, and they were eyes openers on how an agent think when he/she opens a query. You can wait for a discount on a set of conferences if it’s too expensive up-front. http://www.writersdigestshop.com/browse-by-product/seminars/live-webinars

  1. Write a first draft and sit on it for a few days
  2. Revise and come up with a few alternates
  3. Send the two you like best to your writer friends/writing group/beta

Brainstorm a few different hooks. Try to let your voice shine through. Tweak it again. Make sure you highlight the best things about your plot and characters. Entice.

  1. Get someone in the business to critique it

Many editors/authors/agents offer query critiques for a price. Personally, I wanted an agent in my genre to look it over, so I signed up for a Writer’s Digest webinar and critique. It took a long time (about 2 months), but I got incredible feedback and a request for more material. That’s a great bonus!

  1. Revise again

You did it! You have a great query in your hands, and you want to use it. But first, make sure your synopsis and your manuscript is ready for scrutiny.

  1. Make sure to follow the agent’s submission guidelines

Stay professional. Agents don’t want to read about how your family and friends loved your story.

  1. Personalize your query for each agent

Write the correct name and add maybe one thing that shows you have done your research without going on for entire paragraphs on how you stalked them on social media.

  1. Don’t query everyone at once

Even if you do everything right, and you got people to critique your work, don’t put all the weight of your dreams on that one query. I’m a firm believer in testing out your query letter with a few agents to test the waters. If you have a well-researched list of agents who are actively looking for your genre (I could do an entire blog post on how to make that list), you might want to try querying to 4-6 agents and see if they ask for more. If you have a genre that sells well (and that a lot of agents are looking for), maybe you could do 10 agents.

  1. Analyze your rejections (because unless you’re a prodigy, you well get rejected, it’s a part of the normal process)

Now, it’s a tricky analysis, especially if the agents ask for the first ten pages and synopsis as well. If they only ask for query, you know the rejections reflect the query only, so it’s easier to judge its efficiency. If not, then you must look at the entire submission package for the weakest link.

I have an excel spreadsheet in which I note the name of the agent, the agency, the date, and what I sent the agent. I mark the rejections in red, the requests for more in green and the unanswered in yellow. That way, I can track the responses I get.

What struggles did you have when you wrote your query, and how did you overcome it?

How do you judge the success of your query letter? I heard in some genre if 10% of the agents request more, it’s a win. I like to aim for 20% since my genre is less attractive right now and not many agents request it. What do you think?

 

Also, I’m doing a giveaway for The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letter.

Guide to Query Letters giveaway


Breaking up with Microsoft word. The pros and cons of Scrivener.

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About a year ago, I broke up with Microsoft Word. We had been writing together for over ten years, so it was hard to admit the magic was gone.

I had finally committed to writing a novel-length project, and I had all these scenes (about 20K worth) in order on a .docx. But I wanted to get an aerial view of my unfinished manuscript. I needed to know how much meat I needed to add in between scenes, and I wanted to follow the three-act structure. I went looking for a software that would allow me more freedom and give me more options.

I found Scrivener. It would take hours to go over all the pros and cons, but here are the ones that really stood out for me, so you can know what to expect.

Pros

  • Removes any “formatting” editing from the writing process. When you’re writing your first draft, you don’t want to waste time indenting paragraphs and dealing with page breaks.
  • You can back up and “compile” to .mobi or .epub, or even .docx quickly.
  • You can switch up scenes and drag them wherever you want in the manuscript with just one click. I always keep a “Next book” folder, and a “Might cut” folder for scenes that do not fit in the book. If I cut a scene, I don’t have to erase anything or copy it in case I change my mind. I drag it in the “Might cut” folder and recompile to see the book without the scene. All of which takes about 5 seconds.
  • You can choose any scenes or chapters to be included or not in your word count and set up a word goal and statistic for a writing session and for the whole book.

 

 

  • The full-screen writing page looks like Word.
  • You can try it for free.
  • It’s not expensive.

Cons

  • It’s new, it’s unfamiliar. Like any new software, there’s a learning curve and you can’t expect to understand it all in just one day. Work with it, explore it at your own pace and ask for help when you need it.
  • Formatting is automatic. This is both a pro and a con. Don’t indent any of your lines, the software will do it for you when you compile. Here’s a screen cap of how it should look in Scrivener. Some people hate it, but I say, give it a chance.

 

I really love Scrivener. Its look is familiar, but it has better options. It’s the perfect match for me.

Word still has its place in my life. I came back to it mainly for late edits such has checking commas, spaces, and overall polishing of the manuscript. But I wouldn’t give up Scrivener. Now that I’m familiar with it and have ironed out the kinks, it’s a wonderful asset.

I hope this post helps you make the plunge if you are considering Scrivener. It might not be for everybody, but I’m convinced it’s the better software. The thing holding most of us back is we are all creatures of habit, and Word is like an old but comfortable pair of pants.

I might do another post about how to set up Scrivener and transfer your work-in-progress without too much hassle. If some of you are interested, let me know. Happy writing!

 


Fight your crutch words and edit without an headache.

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Today, I’m going to share my love/hate relationship with writing software. ProWritingAid in particular, though I did try Autocrit, Ginger, the Hemingway editor and a few others.

Whatever you do, don’t revise after midnight. First drafts yes, but don’t feed your writer’s obsession for revisions too late in the evening, or your mind — and your revised work — will look like this:

I bought ProWritingAid one calm evening, ready to revise the hell out of my first chapter. I had edited it to the best of my abilities, and I was desperate to develop a process, to find the secret formula that would make my writing better. I loved the idea of a software, because it was inexpensive, easy to use, and my scientific mind loves numbers.

I’d used the free version at length, so I was familiar with the “Style” and “Grammar” tabs.

“Style” is my favorite tab. It addresses adverbs, passive voice, emotion tells and provides readability enhancements, but don’t accept all the changes blindly. You wouldn’t go into a ditch because your GPS said so, right?

The “Overused words” section is my second favorite, and it allows you to get rid of crutch words.

My crutch words, to name a few, are:

  1. Just
  2. Even
  3. Something
  4. Maybe
  5. Very
  6. Every verb that means look/glance/glare, my characters love to look at stuff

The “Repeats” option helps spot repetitions. You can change redundant nouns and verbs for better ones, or cut them altogether.

I spent hours perfecting the first chapter of my novel, doing the tabs in order, when I finally arrived at “Pronouns.”

Here’s a screen capture of what I got:

Oh no! No! No! NO!

Remember, I had devoted hours into revising a mere 2000 words. There are a lot of compromises to be made when you argue with a writing software, but 60% was a no brainer. It was official…

I sucked.

I’d never realized so many of my Chapter One sentences started with pronouns, so I had to start all over again.

My husband came to see me around 1:00 am. “Honey, you should go to bed, you work tomorrow,” he said.

Passionate as a warrior on a campaign, I replied, “I can’t, I need to kill my pronouns.”

And kill my pronouns I did, until the wee hours of the night.

I woke up the next day and re-read the chapter. Sure, it was better in a sense, and I had discovered one of my writer’s sin, but I’d axed pronouns for the sake of axing them, and ended up with convoluted sentences and awkward phrasing.

I love ProWritingAid. In fact, I used it on this blog entry, but I no longer use it after midnight.

AND… I use the pronouns tab first.

How do you revise? Do you use a software, and, if so, which one?

What is your worst sin in writing, and how do you cope with it?


Author platform, or torture device?

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This post summarizes the best advice I read on creating an author’s platform.

When you’re an aspiring writer as untrained in social media as I was, the two words you dread the most are “author platform”. Everyone is talking about it. Online, at conferences, in books on how to get published, but it feels like the Holy Grail. How do you create something from nothing? How do you start from scratch?

The books, the articles, they all recommend to start yesterday, so I looked for a DeLorean on eBay… But I couldn’t afford it.

Instead, I read a lot of advice on the web, and I noted three important suggestions.

  • Pick two social media to start (overstretching yourself is a bad idea).
  • Have a website
  • Start a blog

 

Social media

Me, I chose Facebook and Twitter. You can link them together, which is useful, but Hootsuite is a better way to manage your accounts.

Why?

  1. You can chose when and where to post. Scheduling allows you to post every day even if you can’t afford the time to go on the web.
  2. You can also take advantage of the best time of day to post. For example, it’s best to tweet around 4 pm to get traffic from both coasts.
  3. The posts aren’t just a link to the original on the other site; they are all original, and they look less out of place.
  4. The dashboard allows you to see everything going on in all your accounts on one page. You can create “Streams” that show all the mentions you get, or the likes, or set them to display only the posts from certain people. It makes life a lot easier when you’re trying to juggle writing a book, working a full-time job, and setting up a platform.

Create a website.

You should really buy your domain name, it’s not that expensive, and it looks more professional.

WordPress is a good place to start. If you’re not that tech savvy and you feel overwhelmed, hire someone! A ton of people are ready to help you, for a reasonable amount of money. Include a tag line and a quick bio.

If you’re like me, and you aren’t published yet, you’ll ask yourself, “What the hell am I going to talk about on my website, I have nothing to promote.” WRONG! At this stage, you have no other choice but to market yourself! It’s scary, it’s overwhelming, but your brand is you, and we all have to learn how to sell ourselves.

Launch a blog

Once you have a working website and the social media accounts, you can write a blog. Don’t over-think it, just write. Sticks to a schedule as much as you can, be regular. It’s not something that can be achieved in a day, so don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t get discouraged.

That sums up the best advice I’ve received on how to create an author’s platform.

What is the best advice you’ve received?


Launching a blog? Scary!

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Here it is; my first blog post! Takes off screaming in terror into the night.

But seriously…

Today is my blog launch, and I feel like I’ve been strapped to a huge rocket about to take off into space. I’m aiming for the moon, but I’ve got no idea where I’ll end up, or how wild and bumpy the ride will be.

As I drew this piece, I asked myself, “Am I in the rocket?” But I didn’t feel protected, I felt exposed, so I chose to leave the owl on the outside.

Writing is baring. To put ourselves out there for the world to judge is scary.

What if people hate what I write? What if they don’t like my characters, what if I’m not ready? What if I fail?

As we grew into adulthood, we learned to hate that word, fail, with a passion. We’re not as inclined to try new things, just so we don’t deal with failure. We too often forget how mistakes are an intricate part of the learning experience, and as debut writers we have to remind ourselves of it every day.

One of my favorite quotes ever is Samuel’s Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

The scandalous idea that there are different degrees of failure was entirely new and helped me tremendously. But inspiring quotes don’t suffice when you’re going through a rough patch. We need a support system because bad days are bound to come around, and no one can do this alone.

Bad days come in many shapes and forms:

  • The obvious, “I got a rejection letter/tweet/text/email/pigeon…”
  • The almost worst, “I got no response, they must hate it.” Hits refresh until my fingers bleed.
  • The treacherous, “I spent my day lying on the sofa (or doing XYZ), and guilt is tearing me apart.”
  • The heart-breaking, “I’m missing XYZ because I spent the day writing, and I’m not good enough.”
  • Don’t get me started on illnesses, or trouble at home/work.

We all have good and bad days; it’s normal. I discovered even published writers (the cool kids club we’re desperate to get into) have off-days.

My support system includes family, friends, and writers on a similar journey. The writing community is generous and kind to beginners. (Ever played online games? Those guys will chop your head off for being a newbie, ah ah.)

Chasing a dream is stressful, but remember to have fun.

This blog aims to be a confessional as I navigate the deep and treacherous waters of the publishing journey. If it helps you; good. If it makes you laugh; even better.

I hope we can share the good and the bad together and push each other through the bad days.

What do you do when you need to brighten up? How do you deal with the guilt when you skip a week or don’t attain your goals?