Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tips for New Writers

Are you a teenager aspiring to be a published author? Or perhaps you're someone who wants to pursue publishing, but don't have much experience in the writing department. I was where you were once, and after five years of actively pursuing publishing, I've learned some tricks of the trade.

Publishing is a big, daunting business, and if you want to become a published author of anything-- fiction, nonfiction, children's books, genre, whatever-- you need to know a) how publishing works and b) your market.

After five years, I'm still learning. Learning is good, and if you really want this, you need to do a LOT of research.

So where do you start?

1) General questions/Query writing. One of the best websites for learning about writing, publishing, and how the business works is Set up an account, and check it out. It is a massive website filled with writers, both published and aspiring. There are often agents and editors on that forum to answer your questions. They also have a Share Your Work forum which is password protected. There other writers, and sometimes agents, will help you craft your queries. They have step-by-step breakdowns of how to construct queries and synopsis's, as well as examples of those that have succeeded. (Also: Use google to find other writers forums. Find people who know what they're talking about, and ask them questions. Remember: there are no such things as stupid questions.)

2) Research agents. My best advice for researching agents (how to contact them, dos and don'ts, what they like, ect.) is to go to You can filter agents based on what they represent. Find agents who sell books similar to what you write, and look for any blogs they might have. Not every agent has a blog, but many do, and they have a lot of seriously valuable information. Reading blog posts will help keep you from making simple (but embarrassing!) mistakes.

3) Bookstores are your friend. Read, read, read books from the market you intend to sell in. Before you start sending out query letters, try to read 50-100 books in the same category you want to write. Get a feel for what others are putting out there, and what editors are buying.

4) How-to books. How-to write books are great. I'd highly suggest On Writing by Stephen King, The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, and if you're interested in indie publishing, the book How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead by Ariel Gore is WONDERFUL. Unfortunately I gave away my copy, but she has a lot of great ideas about self-promotion, and the voice all the way through is really wonderful.

5) Write, write, write. Constantly teach yourself about the English language. Learn how to properly use things like punctuation, increase your vocabulary (this can be achieved by reading more) and always try to invent new and better ways to phrase your sentences. This may seem like really elementary stuff, but you should always try to improve your basic skills. I've been writing novel-length stories since I was 12-13 years old, and I'm still searching for new ways to describe things, or find words that sound well together and invoke the senses. Words are the building blocks of stories. They are your tools, my author friends, so learn how to use them properly.

If you follow these steps (and be polite to people!) then I assure you, you'll have agents and editors knocking at your door in no time. :)

So get to it!



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dear Teen Me

16-year-old Katie, and the certain someone at my side.
Dear Teen Me:

This is not the end.

Life does not end at 18. I wish I could convey to you how magical life has gotten in the years since high school, but I know you won’t believe me. You think you’re worth nothing, that you’re less than dirt, that soon you’ll be swept out with the rest of the garbage. You’ll try to kill yourself many times, and thank God each attempt will fail.

High school will be a nightmare for you. Every day in those halls only tightens the anxiety’s grip on you. By the time your senior year comes around, you’ll be a spiraling mess, but somehow you’ll hold it together. Because not only do you live to see graduation, but you’ll do it with honors, proving you are as smart as you hope you are. All your insecurities are products of your anxiety, which is not your fault. You’d find some way to blame yourself if the sun went out, and honey, it just ain’t worth it. Let go of the guilt and fear and uncertainty. No, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Yes, you can do it.

High school may seem like a new opportunity for you. After all, as you step into your new school, you’ve left behind your old enemies and the pain of your last suicide attempt. It’s a fresh start, and I wish I could tell you it’ll be that simple. But the fact is, the worst is just beginning.

You’ll learn that demons wear friendly faces, that abuse isn’t just fists and screaming. The boy you’re about to befriend will completely absorb your life. You won’t realize it at first. You’re lonely, you’re depressed, and you want to make a fresh start, but this boy will only drag you back into everything you want to escape. He will pull you back down into depression. He will undermine your confidence. He will convince you that you are worthless, that you need him, that the two of you are soul mates. You won’t realize what he’s done until it’s too late.

After the first few months, you will become his prisoner. You won’t realize it, of course—after all, if he keeps telling you how much he cares for you, it’s difficult to see the negative side of things. But he will eventually hit you. And strangle you until you black out. And leap across the room to attack you. He may not leave bruises, you may think you deserve it, but it’s still wrong.
 Don’t be fooled by his crocodile tears. He will say anything to convince you to forgive him. He will lie and cheat and steal from you. He will publicly humiliate you. He will turn your friends against you. Don’t ignore that anger you feel. It’s justified. Give into it, and start fighting back. It will be difficult, but slowly you will wedge a distance between you two. Don’t feel guilty for it; you’re doing what you need to for your emotional and mental well-being. Your other friends will understand, and they will support you, once they too realize what’s been happening.

When you finally free yourself from his control, it will be difficult to get back on your feet. You will try to hurt yourself in serious ways. You will face a crippling depression and anxiety. You may doubt your capability to do anything right. You will hit the lowest of lows, but you will climb back up afterwards.

I may only be a few years older than you, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s this: Nothing is forever. Not the good, and not the bad.

Someday, this pain will be useful to you. You’ll use it to help kids who are in similar situations. You’ll learn how to handle your worries and insecurities (Mostly.)  You’ll gain back confidence. You will be happy again.

But please, don’t give up hope. It does get better. Trust me.


20-year-old Katie.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review: Anna Dressed In Blood

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood

Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story...

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

So when I sat down to read Anna Dressed in Blood, I was expecting an easy romance with some ghost killing on the side. What I got was an easy romance with some kick-ass ghosts on the side, some voodoo hoodoo, and secrets hidden under the surface of the plot, something I absolutely adore.

On the character side, Cas is an easy, likeable MC, with a decent voice. I was rooting for him from page one, because although he has the task of killing the dead, he does show some sympathy for these spirits (who were often wrongfully killed). What struck me about Cas was his growth over the course of the story-- how he went from certain in his convictions to questioning himself, his knife and his father. Along the same lines, Anna was a wonderfully constructed character. I adored that she could go from a gentle, sympathetic girl one moment to a raging monster the next.

Blake uses a very easy writing style, but as I mentioned, there's much more going on beneath the surface. Tying in the backstory with Cas's dad, the creature who killed him and the knife bound to their blood-tie, Blake brought everything together at the end, proving a great twist that made my stomach clench a few times. That's something to be said for Blake-- though nothing was too grotesquely described, there were still a couple of points where my heart did that little fearful flip-flop. (Especially for Tybalt. Oh, Tybalt!)

And it's set in Canada! Woot! *waves Canadian flag*

All in  all, the book was an easy read, with likeable characters and a very interesting backstory. She only gave the reader enough information to get them through the story, leaving many questions unanswered. I don't want to give too much away, because trust me, the second half of this book totally flips itself onto its head.

If you're a fan of Holly Black's BLACK CAT series, or enjoy watching shows such as Supernatural, or Secret Circle, then I highly suggest picking up ANNA. You won't be disappointed.

Overall rating: 4/5.



Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's Not Rocket Science

So, I know I mostly blog about writing, but I have a lot of FEELS and they won't fit on twitter.

So, I've been at my job in social services for about 9 months now. It's been like coming home, and there's nothing I love more than going to work. Seeing the kids is the best part of my day, especially because a lot of them are only a few years younger than me.

It's been a great learning experience, and it's put a lot of things into perspective.

When I was 15, I met one of my best friends. She came from the North end of the city (The only people who get that reference will probably be my fellow Calgarians, sadly...) She was raised in an abusive home, with two younger half-siblings, her step-father and her mother. She suffered from numerous forms of abuse, including verbal, emotional, and physical. By the time I met her, she'd been through the child care system,  had been to foster care for periods of time, and her life was starting to settle back to normal. She had a bright future, excelled in school, spoke two languages-- and this girl could sing.

And now? Well, let's just say she still sings. Sometimes.

I love her to death, but over the years I've watched the toll the abuse has taken on her. Because that's just it-- when you abuse a child, it sets the tone for their life. Can they break out of it? Yes, but it is extremely difficult. These children only know violence, abuse, and neglect. That is their way of life. Does that make them bad people? No. But their decision making skills are sometimes questionable. For example, a wife continually returning to her abusive husband is sometimes known as Battered Wives Syndrome, and indeed, her decision making skills are impaired. The wife continues to place herself in a dangerous situation, despite so many opportunities to escape pain. This holds true with children who've grown up in an abusive home. When you've never been taught something, how can you know to do, or not to do it?

That's what gets me so angry about this whole situation. It's not fair. As a person, as a human being, what gives you the right to warp a child's life like that? What difference is this from brainwashing, really?

Maybe I'm too optimistic for this world. But if you as me, we live in a first world country. We're educated, have access to health care, and have the freedom to go to school, go to work, and believe whatever we want. So WHY is it so hard for people NOT TO BEAT THEIR KIDS. Honestly, people, this isn't rocket science.



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Nest

So recently I undertook PHASE TWO of my editing process. This is where I translate paper edits like "Rework this sentence" and "add more tension here" to actually inputting those changes. It is a LONG and TEDIOUS process, and so to make it a little easier on me (and lower my chances of procrastinating) I have constructed The Nest!

The Nest, day one.

Why does The Nest work? Why does this little setup of my hard drive on my coffee table, with the basket from a chair, work so well? Over the years, my muse and I have come to an understanding. She doesn't like me, I don't like her, but we need to work together. All's well during the first draft, but edits for me are a little different.

When I write, I can write anywhere, anytime, so long as I have a computer and can focus. But when I edit, I create things like The Nest to help boost my productivity. Because let's face it, edits suck, especially PHASE TWO edits. They make the book so much more awesome and I love them for that, but in the end it's a lot of trudging through badly constructed sentences.

The Nest, two chapters in.

The Nest works for me for some very simple reasons:

--> Right in front of the TV. I can switch channels, mute, put in DVDs-- whatever, and I don't have to crane my neck, like I do at my computer desk. (This is purposeful. TV = not helpful for writing.)

--> Sitting low to the floor is not only comfortable, but INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT TO GET OUT OF. Trust me, when my butt is in that chair, getting out is the last thing I want to do. This cuts down on my wandering.

--> Internet and music are within arm's reach, along with things like cell phone, which I ignore for the duration of my edits.


The Nest, ten chapters in.

Do I HAVE to construct my massive nest to do my edits? No, but it makes them a hell of a lot easier. I appease the procrastination demons in my head while still getting my work done, and this way is much more fun. Not only do I have fun constructing it, but I get a sense of accomplishment every time another piece of paper hits the floor. Is it a bitch to clean up? Oh yeah. But it's fun, and if I can't enjoy what I do, why the hell do I even bother doing it?

I think a certain someone likes having the couch all to herself.

So there you have it! A whole bunch of crazy! Do you guys have any editing/writing habits? Not that we need these things to get the job done, but they're fun habits (sometimes.) How do you guys like to get down to work? Do you have your own work space? Send me pics!



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New Adult: A Call to Arms

Allright, blogsphere. I've got a problem. I don't normally rant, so you'll have to forgive me. And by forgive me, I mean sit your tushies down, because you're damn well going to listen to me. This post is for YA and MG writers, authors, agents, editors, and anyone interested in the new adult market.

Recently, I've seen a few agents on twitter commenting on the 'new adult  trend.' And though I agree somewhat-- writers, don't try to pitch new adult, as that's going to be a hard sell in the industry right now. However, the aforementioned agents had been remarking about how "new adult was never going to happen." And that, my dear friends, is where they're terribly, terribly wrong.

Before we start, I think you need a little background. I'm 20. I'm still living with my parents (In their basement, ha!) and I have a full time job. I graduated high school two years ago with honors. (To give you some perspective, I spent my three years in high school ruthlessly pursuing publication. Ask anyone in the English department.) I won my agent just before my 19th birthday. He was quite surprised to hear how young I was, as I didn't think to tell him until 2 months after we'd signed the contract.

 I went to university right after graduating, quickly learned that was the wrong place to be, and dropped out after my first semester. Afterwards, I spent a long time floundering, trying to figure out what the heck I was supposed to do with my life. Long story short, I ended up at a temp agency that placed me in a child and family services agency, where I'm very, very happy.

But it was a hard journey to go from a high school graduate to "Hey, I know what I want to do with the rest of my life." And in that time, and still, I'm encountering other kids who are, what I like to call "floundering." Right out of high school, I heard about those kids who immediately shot out of the nest to success, whether it be some school far away, or a round the world tour. Of course we heard about those kids. We never STOPPED hearing about those kids. And for those kids, like me, who ended up floundering, there was a lot of conflict, and a lot of drama, and a lot of questions. Suddenly, the pressures of high school are gone, and the pressures of life replaced them. It's very strange to adjust to, and I found I wasn't the only kid having trouble.

And yet, there are no books. Sure, if I search in the right places, I can find books that have similar "newly adult" issues. For example, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE takes place in Prague, in university-esque arts school. Moreso, the MC is 19. I was able to relate on that when I was in university for that brief span of time. But I have to look hard for these books, and some of my friends, who are readers but not OMG I HAVE TO READ EVERYTHING readers, wont be able to find them.

There is rife conflict in these ages, and people who could benefit reading about some characters who are going through similar issues. I don't just mean contemporary fiction, either. Sometimes they want to read about fantasy through the eyes of someone 21 and who just moved into their new apartment. I would love to write something like that, but alas, the market is a difficult place. Is it YA? Is it Adult? Right now, the market reflects reality. There's no place for these new adults, and so often they're left floundering.

Let's take a look then to the market we want to model after. The YA market. We have a huge market, which has proven to eat up fiction at insatiable rates. Don't you think these kids would love to read about getting a new apartment, or going to university? Yes, yes, editors, agents, I can hear you now. "But they can't relate to those issues." In a lot of cases, no. But so many teens fantasize about moving out on their own, having serious relationships, though a lot of the time, they can't imagine what that's like. Why don't we show them? It's been proven that people read up, so isn't it safe to assume our 16/17/18 year old readers would love to read about 20/21/22 year olds? It's the next stage of their lives, of course they're thinking about it!

Alrighty. We've got a solid market. And let's look at this realistically. The kids my age now grew up with MG fiction, then YA fiction, of COURSE they want their own market. And why shouldn't they get it, if so many writers like myself, would love to write about it?

YA (the trend) blew up about, hmm, 15 years ago? 20? Before that, yes, there were people writing YA fiction, Ender's Game, to name one, and The Catcher in the Rye, to name another. But the trend blew up when we worked together to build a market for this. Once major publishing houses started publishing it, that led the way for editors to buy it, which means agents requested it, which means us writers could crack out some good YA fiction with the hope that one day it may be published. Even movie studios have recognized the market with films like Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and the soon to be made Mortal Instruments movie (yay!) We've created something amazing, along with the writers and editors and agents of this business before us (some of which are still in the biz!) and we should be proud of that.

So let's seize the opportunity. Let's take advantage of this huge success. Let's open the doors for New Adult already. I don't expect agents and editors to turn around overnight and say "Give me New Adult!" (though that'd be nice.) What I'm asking for is just a little open-mindedness. There are those who still say "the YA trend will die out soon." Well, it's not. And it never will, because baby, we're timeless. Well, this new market won't die out either, because it's got the timeless appeal from all angles. It's an opportunity to grow, and everyone loves growth, even if business is a little afraid of it, sometimes.

Will New Adult sell? Yes. There will be lines of teens and young adults who want to look towards the future/relate, and just like YA, we'll have a crowd of adults wanting to relive their early 20s.  Don't dismiss those who are looking for an opportunity to sell it. In 15, 20 years, it could be the next biggest market, and it would be totally amazing to watch it happen from the front lines, in my opinion.

Peace, my friends,