Archive | May 2013

Writer’s challenge week 3-educate yourself; and a book giveaway!

So how is everyone doing on the writer’s challenge? Is everyone keeping up with their word goals? Did anyone analyse a book? I’d love to receive some feedback. If no one is enjoying the challenge, I can go back to interviewing literary agents instead. 🙂 What do you guys think?

As far as my goals, I’m doing pretty good. My goal is to write 5,000 words a week, and last week I managed 4,500. What about you guys?

Our challenge this week is to educate yourself. What I want you to do is pick one writing reference book and read it. If it includes exercises, you should do those as well. I’m going to be reading Writing Irresistable Kidlit by Mary Kole (who’s a literary agent). She has a wonderful blog where she has tons of great advice for children’s book writers. I’ve been waiting for this book forever! I can’t wait to read it.

I’m going to include a list of some of my favorite writing references. Feel free to pick one or tell me about one I don’t have listed. I”m a junkie for new writing references!

1. Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Lyon

2. On Writing by Stephen King

3. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

4.  The entire Write Great Fiction Series by Writers Digest, specifically Plot & Structure, Conflict, Action and Suspense, and Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint.

5. Take Joy: A Writer’s Guide to Loving the Craft by Jane Yolen

6. Write Away by Elizabeth George

7. Thunder and Lightening: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft by Natalie Goldberg

8. Page After Page and Chapter After Chapter both by Heather Sellers

9. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

10. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

11. Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass

12. On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels

And now to the book giveaway! My awesome critique partner Aimee Duffy and her friend, Michelle Smart, have an awesome, sexy new book out. I’ve pasted the blurb below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (and you can comment up until June 5th) will be entered to win it!


Glass Slippers and Combat Boots

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, the creatures are coming…

In a land run by misogynists, where fair maidens are deemed liable to fall in a dead faint at the sight of blood, Prince Charming is worried – the creatures that have destroyed their neighboring kingdoms are coming for them. He judges it imperative to get all the females to safety, but first he needs to break the enchantment enslaving his One True Love to her hateful home. Oh, and there’s the small matter of the Ball to get through too.

But when the creatures reach them ahead of their expected time, all plans are foregone. Can Ella break her wicked stepmother’s enchantment? Can she save her handsome Prince and the kingdom before midnight strikes? And can she show his soldiers what it really means to kick a monster’s butt? The clock is ticking…

Reunited With Red

Many, many years later…

When Ruby visits her grandmother in the deep, dark forest, she stumbles into a nightmare. Her grandma’s been attacked by a wolf-like creature, and an ancient disease that turned people into monsters is back… and so is the cold-hearted ex she walked out on a year ago. 

Now she has to either accept Jeremy’s help or face becoming a monster herself. Fighting alongside the man she once loved isn’t easy, especially when she discovers there’s more to Jeremy than the cheating bastard she took him for. 

As they fight to survive the disease and save those they love, can they keep from falling for each other all over again?

Michelle’s Links:


Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads 


Aimee’s Links:

Writer’s challenge; week two- analyze.

First of all, I want to apologize for not getting the writer’s challenge up last week. My husband, myself, my three-year-old, and four-month-old all came down with a horrendous chest cold. Seriously, it was like the plague! 😉 In fact, nine days later, we’re STILL sick, although we’re starting to recover!

The winner of the ten-dollar gift card is Aimee Duffy! I put everyone’s name in a hat and made my husband pick one, so that it would be completely fair. Thanks to everyone for entering! Now, on to this week’s challenge!


Week two- analyze.

The first thing you need to do when you want to write well, is figure out what good writing is, or at least, what good writing means to you. I want you to pick a book that you have ALREADY read and that you fell in love with, but here’s the catch; it also has to be a book that is classified within the genre you write as well. So pick your book (At LEAST one. When I did this step, it was more like four or five.) and re-read it. As you read, make notes. Write a short synopsis of EVERY scene. Write down every major character development. Write down any themes and symbolism you notice. Write down anything that moves you, anything you love, and, conversely, anything you hate. If you hate it, make sure you don’t try to do it in your own book. I know that seems like commonsense, but I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve talked to who said, “Well, so-and-so (insert famous writer here) did it, so I’m doing it too, even though I don’t like it.” If you don’t like it, it probably won’t work for you, no matter how many copies so-and-so sold.

I know that this seems like a lot of work, but I promise you, it’s worth it, especially if you haven’t had a classic education in literature and creative writing. This is the best way to learn how to plot, how to make a character arc, how to weave the different threads of a novel together. You’ll learn the good stuff and the bad; what to do and what not to do. And yes, you really need to write everything down, at least for the first few books you analyze. After that, you’ll start to notice things like plot, character development, theme, pacing, and emotion without having to actively think about it.

When I first started writing, I wanted to write romance. The first book I ever analyzed was Jewels of the Sun by Nora Roberts. It was an education. I’m not sure I could have ever written a novel without doing this exercise. I’m willing to bet it will help you, too!

Feel free to comment. Let me know how you’re coming in your words-written goals (and yes, you still need to be writing!). Or let me know what book you’re going to analyze. Or let me know how you’re doing with the challenge! I’d love to hear from you! When you comment, if you’d like to be entered into the drawing to receive a critique (from me!) of your ONE PAGE query letter, please mention it. Everyone who asks to be entered in the drawing will be. The winner will be announced at the start of next week’s challenge. Good luck, everyone!

Delay in Writer’s Challenge (or, a sickness in the family).

Hi, everybody. I’m so sorry that I couldn’t get the post up today. My entire family (husband, me, three-year-old, four-month-old, and even my parents!) is super sick with some sort of chest cold. Nobody is sleeping (cough, cough, cough), everybody is running a fever, and everybody is cranky! Well, maybe not my parents. They have their own quiet, restful house. Sounds like paradise, huh?

But don’t  worry. I’m hoping to have the new post up, along with the winner of the gift card, early next week. We’ve all been sick since Monday  so it’s got to get better soon, right?

Thank you everybody for having a little patience! I appreciate it! 🙂

Amy’s writing challenge- week one.

It’s the official kick-off for my writing challenge today! I’m super excited! I hope you are too! So let’s get started!

Week One- write. This is the only task that will carry over from week to week. For the next 12 weeks, I want you to write.

This might seem super simple, so simple that you might be wondering, “Is she serious?” Well, folks, I’m as serious as 4 feet of snow melting around a house with a leaky basement!

I know you’ve probably heard it said before, but the number one thing that keeps a writer from being published is never finishing a project. Anyone can write. But it takes something special for a writer to actually finish something.

So today, I want you to commit to a writing goal. Make it ambitious but do-able. My goal is to write 5,000 words a week for the next twelve weeks (or until my current WIP is finished!). I know I might not make it every week, but I’m going to give it one heck of a try.

How about you? What’s your goal? Leave a comment below (you can comment until May 15th), stating your goal and you’ll be entered to win a $10 Amazon gift card, generously donated by Karen Cherry. Karen has a wonderful blog that you can check out here. And, you can read about how she just signed with a great agent! I love success stories, don’t you? Karen is a perfect example for this week because if she had never finished her book, she wouldn’t be happily celebrating signing with an agent!

So come on everybody! WRITE! Let’s hear some more success stories!

Reminder: the writer’s challenge starts on Thursday!

Okay, everybody! The official kick-off to the twelve week writer’s challenge is going to be Thursday. Each week we’ll have exercises, challenges etc. People who complete those tasks (either by commenting or participating in blog hops) will be entered to win super-duper prizes 😉 So far, we have books, Amazon gift cards, and writing critiques! I’d love more donations if anyone would like to donate! I’m going to re-post all the info below! Hope you all are getting excited!


Amy’s twelve-week writer’s challenge

I’ve been seeing a lot of challenges on blogs lately; parenting challenges, marriage challenges, faith challenges, etc. I started thinking about it and wondered, why aren’t there any challenges for writers? So I decided to create one!

My challenge is for writers who feel like they aren’t quite as enthusiastic about writing as they use to be. It’s for writers who want to improve their craft. It’s for writers who want to connect with other writers. It’s for people who want to explore whether or not they really want to commit to writing. I hope you’ll join us!

It’s going to be twelve weeks long with one post and assignment per week. I’d like for us to really build a community around these tasks, with people helping and encouraging each other and sharing their experiences as well. To that extent, if anyone would like to donate prizes that we’d randomly give to people who comment, I’d appreciate it. Nothing encourages a good comment like knowing that you’ll be entered into a drawing because of it! If you’d like to donate a prize, please use my contact form to, well, contact me! 😉

I’m planning the kick-off for the second week in May. If you’d like to officially commit yourself to the challenge,  leave a comment below. And if you want to make sure you receive the tasks, you can always sign up to follow my blog with your email address. That way they’ll be sent directly to your inbox.

I’m super excited about this, and I hope you all are as well! I’m pretty sure I’ve got the 12 topics selected, but if there is something you’d like to be included, you can always leave a comment!

Interview with literary agent Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Today we are interviewing Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Thank you so much for being here today, Lara!


Me: How did you become an agent?

Lara: Not in a very direct way! I was in graduate school studying architecture when I got my first job in publishing as an assistant to the wonderful B.J. Robbins of the B.J. Robbins Literary Agency. Architecture was not what I’d dreamed it would be, and I was so happy to be putting my English degree to use. But I wasn’t sure if publishing or academia would be a better fit for me long term, so I took a detour through academia, studying Victorian Brit Lit and teaching, before finding my home in children’s lit at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. The incomparable Laura Rennert brought me in as her assistant in 2010, and I’ve been so privileged to work closely with her ever since.


Me: What are three things that elicit automatic rejections from you when reading the first 50 pages of a manuscript?

Lara: I like to think that nothing merits an automatic rejection exactly, but there are some tells that a manuscript might not be right for me.

  1. A main character I don’t care about. I don’t have to like the main character, but I do need to find him or her interesting and engaging.
  2. A lack of tension and suspense, regardless of genre. If I don’t feel like I must keep reading beyond page 50 (if I can put the manuscript down at that point and walk away), then it’s usually a pass for me.
  3. An all-over-the-place voice or character arc. If it feels like the voice changes scene-to-scene for no reason, or if it seems like the main character is static or changes in ways that seem out of the author’s control, then it’s likely a pass for me.


Me: What are you looking for right now in fiction submissions and not getting? Are there any subjects or genres that are near and dear to your heart? And on the flip side, what are you getting too much of?

Lara: In terms of what I’m looking for and what’s near and dear to my heart, I’m a sucker for a great mystery in any category or genre, and I love a story with twists and turns that take me by surprise. I love unusual stories, with elements I wouldn’t expect to work well together, but which end up working brilliantly because of the author’s execution. I love a twisting, turning, action-driven plot, but ultimately, voice and character are the most important elements for me.

For YA, I would love to find an absolutely devastating or absolutely hilarious, voice-driven contemporary story. I’m also on the hunt for a page-turning psychological mystery, or an unusual science/medical thriller. I love smart and raw YA fiction, with strong characters, and my taste tends to run dark.

For whatever reason, middle grade tongue-in-cheek humor is my personal comedic sweet spot. Sweet-scary, hilarious, middle grade mysteries always slay me. I also love MG in any genre that deals honestly with ending/changing friendships or family shifts.

For picture books, I’m a big fan of quirky, deadpan, wry picture books, as well as sweeter fare. I’d love to find an author/illustrator who uses unexpected materials or textures or takes some narrative risk. I’m also drawn to books that take a small experience of childhood and draw out something beautiful or fun and universal in that experience.

In terms of what I’m getting too much of, I’d say by-the-book paranormal or science fiction for YA, historical fiction that doesn’t make use of the chosen time period (in other words, the story appears to be set in that time period only because that’s when the author was a kid), and picture books where the rhyme has taken over at the expense of story or character arc.


Me: What is one thing about you that a writer would be surprised to learn?

Lara: As a kid, I desperately wanted to learn French because I read a lot of British classics and they never translated the French words. I remember the word ennui in particular always showing up and baffling me. This was pre-internet (for me anyway) and my family didn’t have a French-English dictionary, so it was seriously annoying to my eleven-year-old self. I’m not sure studying French, when I have a Czech mom and live in California, was the smartest decision I ever made, but at least I know what ennui means now!


Me: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?

Lara: Read widely in your category and support other writers. By supporting other writers, you’ll pick up valuable tips on how to handle book signings and social media that will be very useful to you down the road, and you’ll make the kinds of connections that will be valuable throughout your career. It’s also just good karma!


Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?

Lara: Yes, definitely. I’m actively building my list. Our submission guidelines are posted on the ABLA website here: