Category Archives: Stephanie

3

Summer swan song

It’s one of those harsh realizations to know that, with Labor Day fast approaching, summer is just about over.  I hope that for our writer/readers out there, the summer was a relaxing and productive time. Without a doubt, the summer is often the perfect time to recharge, and refill that mental gas tank.  Because just as writing is an all-encompassing endeavor, writer’s block can be an equally frustrating and uncomfortable feeling, and more importantly a reminder that the proverbial tank is low on creativity.

Since it is, unfortunately, impossible to simply refill in an instant, there are ways to replenish creative resources.  Sometimes getting away from writing for a period of time can allow you to find inspiration in the little things.  Instead of paying attention to what’s in front of you—a computer screen—it can be very beneficial to take a step back and pay attention to what’s around you instead. Reading can also serve the same purpose. Taking even just a few minutes to read something completely different can often spark new ideas or a new approach to your topic. Sometimes we can also find inspiration in the littlest things—how often has a tiny snippet of one passing conversation between strangers spurred an entire storyline in your head?

I hope that the past few months have been a time of refueling our readers and that the turn of the season will bring renewed energy to your writing.  Have you used the summer months as a time for reenergizing and if so, how?

2

Move it!

Vacation can be a cruel thing. At this time last week, I was en route to a beachy locale and temporary reprieve from general adult responsibility. Now that I’m back at my desk and back to the routine, my energy levels are admittedly a bit weak. Depending on circumstance, motivation can sometimes be a hard thing to come by. When we have it, nothing can stop us—our accomplishments are the product of the effort and determination we put in, and when we are successful in something, we can almost always tie that success directly back to the motivation that got us going in the first place. Sure, things can get done without motivation, but I think it’s that sense of drive and passion that is really at the heart of true success.

So, this piece on CopyBlogger really made me think about motivation in everyday life—where it comes from, how to utilize it, and what to do when we feel it slipping away. I wonder how this might apply to our writer crowd. How do you keep yourself motivated?

12

Negative Nancy

The blog has been feeling a little angsty lately, no? Is it just me? Either way, today I figured I might as well touch upon that subject near and dear to my heart: negativity. It’s something we face each day, and Lord knows I’ve dealt with it in my time here. Rejections, bad reviews, and everyday blunders and bumps in the road leave us all open to negativity. It feels very familiar at times, and it’s pretty easy to be hard on ourselves and allow the things others say affect you. We’re all guilty of it.

So what’s my point? The point is that while I see the reason for your negativity, and while I get why you feel like being hard on yourself, try not to be. Everyone’s favorite agent/author/blogger Nathan Bransford said it best: Don’t complain about negativity.  Maybe you’ve received your millionth form rejection letter or some cutting criticism about your novel. But you know what? Just keep going. Don’t waste any time getting hung up on the harsh words or shoulda/woulda/coulda. Push through it, be strong, and things will become clear. Otherwise, why bother?

6

Genres

Recently, I’ve encountered some challenges with my clients regarding genre. Very often, an editor considering a manuscript will pass if they feel that it doesn’t fit neatly into a specific genre. This can be challenging for writers, but it’s something to seriously consider, as it can often make or break a deal. This piece in Writer’s Relief lays it all out very nicely.

Have you ever encountered difficulty with adhering to a genre?

3

Heat retreat

Between the surface-of-the-sun temperatures, 900% humidity, and stinging sunburn running down my back (thanks for nothing, SPF 15), we are no doubt in the full swing of summer. And with that, mercifully, comes the summer vacation. Having previously blogged about which books should top that summer reading list, I thought it was interesting to read this piece at Salon about where to dive into those summer reads. I love the concept of a reading retreat—being able to shut out all distractions for a certain amount of time and tackle that pile of books we’ve all been meaning to get to for however many months or years.

While my own personal reading retreat in the middle of August will be decidedly less fabulous than the ones mentioned in the piece (rural Italy, England, etc), I do look forward to the retreat aspect. I’ve already got a teetering stack of books to choose from, now I just need to decide where to park myself…

With that in mind, do you plan to take any time for some getaway reading? Or will you spend that time writing?

10

The pitch session

Every once in a while, when they let me out of my cage and into the general population, I get to attend conferences and meet some wonderful aspiring authors. One of my favorite things to do is attend agent pitch sessions—most recently at this year’s Thriller Fest—where authors have the opportunity to discuss their material, gain advice, and ask agents if they are willing to accept submissions. It’s always exciting and fast-paced, and even though the brain can feel somewhat mushy after two non-stop hours of pitches, I find it to be very rewarding in various ways.

With all this in mind, today I thought I’d give some recommendations on how to make the most of those precious few minutes a writer has with an agent:

  • Practice reciting a concise synopsis of your work. You shouldn’t (and shouldn’t need) to cover every single plot point or every detail about every character in your novel.
  • Do your research. It’s often a good idea to know a little bit about the agents you’ll be meeting with before the pitch session. It should go without saying that this is the easiest way to avoid pitching your young adult novel to the agent who only represents non-fiction.
  • Relax and enjoy! I have had to stop more than one author mid-sentence, hands and voices shaking, and ask them to take a deep breath and start over. Pitching to an agent is understandably petrifying, but at the end of the day, we’re people too. We aren’t going to criticize your work, or laugh in your face, or make you cry. I promise.

Have any of you out there attended pitch sessions? What have been your general opinions and experiences?

14

Word to the wise

Advice is everywhere, coming at us constantly from all directions—friends, family members; wanted, unwanted; sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes it’s not; very often it’s unavoidable. But it’s everywhere! And if there’s one thing we try to do on this blog—often and (we hope) well—it’s offering advice that will inform, educate, and encourage our readers in what they do. At the end of the day, it’s one of the main reasons we’re on here to begin with.

But, admittedly, not all advice is alike. Because honestly? You shouldn’t actually remove all the commas from your work; and you shouldn’t have to only “write what you know.” And frankly? it is okay to put a work-in-progress aside temporarily if the writing isn’t coming easily; and no.. there doesn’t have to be conflict on every single page.

So today I ask you: in your writing endeavors, have you been the victim of unwanted advice? And if so, what’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?

8

Slow summer

My inbox of unread queries is always in flux. It constantly ebbs and flows, the number of submissions on any given day ranging from only a handful to dozens. Either way, it’s something that I am continually immersed in, always reading and looking for the next great thing.

But lately, it seems things have hit a slump.  In most of the queries that I read, the writer isn’t giving me the most thrilling aspect of their book, the crucial element that should make me desperate to ask for more pages. In other cases, it’s unclear if that pivotal element is even there.

This is not to say that every query I’m reading is an automatic rejection, not even close. But I guess I wish that something would cross my computer screen that not only makes me instantly excited and interested, but also shows that the writer is doubly excited and practically tripping over themselves to tell me.

Maybe this is asking a lot, and I know that putting together the all-important query can be daunting, but if you want me, or any agent, to be interested in your book, be excited about it, let it show, and get us excited about it too.

9

The great divide

I recently had a thought and question that I decided I wanted to pose to our writer-followers out there. We’ve spent plenty of time on this blog discussing the merits of social networking and the positive effect they can have on a writer’s career—oftentimes that boost to promotion that many new releases need, both before and after they’re published. But there is, of course, the other half who just don’t get it. In many ways, social networking is just one of those things that can be difficult to explain, and unless you’re in the middle of it, you may not completely understand it.

So if someone is attempting to enumerate the values of social networking to another who might never fully comprehend, it feels like this parallels, in certain ways, to the dilemma of the writer.  Being so entrenched in your work, the nuances and method, and so absorbed in the process of getting published, it can be challenging to discuss with someone—a family member or friend—who is not a writer. Because, admittedly, they have no idea what it’s like. They probably don’t get it, and even if you try to explain, it may never completely click.

So I guess I’m curious to know: do you ever feel this kind of isolation when it comes to your writing and the rest of the world?

4

The lasting effect of literature

With each passing year comes a certain degree of increased life experience and maturity—we all gradually become a little less impressionable, a little more jaded.  I think that, in many ways, the same can be said for the reading experience.  When read by a grade school or high school student, the influence that a novel’s themes or imagery can have are understandably deeper and farther-reaching than when absorbed by an older, more well-read adult.  Unfortunate? Maybe. I can remember a few certain novels that I first read years ago that, upon rereading, felt somewhat less emotionally impactful than I remember.

Despite this, what I felt always remained, thankfully, was the same sense of enchantment that certain stories evoked, regardless of age.  Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, and yes, even the Harry Potter books still manage to provide for me the same thrill that they did years ago. And this article from the Wall Street Journal poses the same concept from a slightly different viewpoint.

Do you agree/disagree? Are there certain books from your youth that still manage to draw you in and give you the same sense of admiration that they did as a child?