Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What's Next? How an Author Chooses Her Next Project

My second book, Keeping Her Secret, came out in August and since then I haven't written a single word on a new book. Not because I don't have any new ideas, but because I have too many.

My first book (Dragons are People, Too) was a fast-paced, high-stakes urban fantasy and the latest was a light-hearted summer f/f romance, so I'm not really hemmed in by genre expectations. My current ideas include a fun contemporary, an other-world fantasy, a heavy contemporary, and even an epistolary historical. I love reading in all genres and want to write most of them.

My love and passion for writing hasn't diminished; I feel the pull as strongly as ever. I just can't decide what to start. We're talking about beginnings this month on YAtopia and it's got me thinking a lot about the next book.

A conversation with my agent helped me rule out one of the books, as editors aren't interested in that certain sub-genre, so I'm starting to make progress. But when you have several potential projects that excite you for different reasons, how do you choose?

One of the projects requires significantly less research than the others, so I could go the easy route and write that one. But I'm not the kind of person who takes the easy way and I actually really enjoy research. Then again, just because it doesn't require as much research doesn't make it easy.

One of the projects resolves around an issue near and dear to my heart, but it is not an easy one to discuss and every bit of it would require careful consideration. I could do my absolute best and still mess up and that is terrifying for many reasons.

I've never been so torn between projects before, so here's my plan: I'm going to take the three most promising projects and write a scene or two from each and see if anything catches. For an ENTJ and an engineer, this loosey-goosey plan makes me anxious. I wish I could develop an equation, assign values, do some excel analysis, and come out with a clear answer, but writing just doesn't work that way. But it's been too long since I put pen to page and my analytical mind is paralyzed, so I have to push it back and let the creative brain take over, if only for a little while.

Unless anyone else has a better method? I'm all ears over here.

Sarah Nicolas is a recovering mechanical engineer, library event planner, and the author of Dragons are People, Too and Keeping Her Secret. She is a contributor for Book Riot and also writes romance as Aria Kane. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing volleyball or drinking wine. Find her on Twitter @sarah_nicolas.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Getting Swept Away by New Beginnings

Hi fabulous readers of YAtopia! I’m Rosanne, a YA author and scriptwriter who loves writing about new worlds or unfathomable situations. I’m really excited to be contributing to YAtopia, and you can expect posts about querying, editing and staying in love with your writing from me for the next year.

Since Jan 1st, I’ve been excited about all the new beginnings I promised for myself back in 2016: New gym routine; revised writing routine; creating time for ‘me’; hitting my day-job goals, etc., which is ace. But with all this concentration on new beginnings, I started losing love for the writing projects I had already started.

Getting swept away with new writing ideas isn’t a bad thing, but it can be damaging if, like me, you do it all the time. Stored away in my mental WIP folder I currently have 60k words of a YA historical, 20k words of a YA sci-fi, and 0 words for a sparkly new idea… guess which one I want to write about?

The new one.

Yet that only makes me happy for so long, because in the back of my mind I have those other MSs staring at me, sulking that they haven’t been chosen to come out and play. So, in the face of all these beginnings, here’s some tips on how to fall back in love with your (older) beginnings…

  •  Re-read the opening, concentrating on the way you felt when you first started writing the MS.
  •  Look over your notes and think about how far you’ve come since you started with just a grain of an idea.
  •  List all the reasons you wanted to write that story in the first place. Cross off any ones that no longer apply, add new ones, and see if what you have left is enough to carry you through to the end.
  •  Make an aesthetics board to reflect the mood/characters/theme of your novel - there are lots of collage apps that let you do this, just make sure your images are copyright free if you want to share them on social media.
  •  Ask yourself: will your characters ever leave you alone if you don’t finish their story? WILL YOU HEAR THEIR VOICES BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP?! (Really hoping this last one isn’t just me…)
  •  Research agents or publishers who you think would be a good fit for you and your story – this always gets me excited about finishing and submitting something.
  •  In a similar vein to above: research any competitions you’d like to compete in once you’ve finished – I’d recommend Brenda Drake’s website for this.
  •  Set yourself writing rewards: do another 10k words on your old WIP, then allow yourself to start your new idea! After this, even if you haven’t fallen back in love with your old WIP, at least you know you gave it a go.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using a WIP as a stepping stone to the story you are REALLY meant to write, so if it’s not working, break up with it and move on to your true heart’s desire (until something shinier takes its place!)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Research is your friend

This month on YAtopia we're looking at new beginnings as the way to kick off the New Year. And I thought I'd discuss starting anew - starting a new writing project o. And my best advice to people is research.

Research in stories is becoming more and more important. The reality is that it always should have been, but there seemed to be a perception that 'hey, we're authors, we can make shit up.'

And don't get me wrong, we can. In fact, I've often said that phrase in jest when talking to friends. If we want to decide there are flying monsters that live in outer space that attack a space shuttle then we can make that shit up.

Research is important for making sure you make the real world elements of your story believable. And it's especially important for ensuring good representation of people, no matter what cultural group they belong to, or how they identify sexually or gender-wise, or any other identifiers such as mental health, etc. But today, I'm not going down that rabbit hole as it's a separate topic on it's own.

What I've found is how great research is for generating story ideas, whether it's for a brand new story, or if you've started a story and you're experiencing some writer's block. Jumping on google and exploring elements of your storyline can give you amazing ideas.

I'll give some examples from a couple of my stories. I've got one with a far-future setting, so I explored some technologies and advancements that could exist in the future, such as data storage on crystals. This became a really important element of my world building. In another series I needed to have elements of mind control, so I researched the topic and discovered some brain-washing techniques that were used on prisoners of war. That technique formed the basis of a major plot element in my story.

And nowadays you don't have to simply pop in a search on google and read webpages on the topic. You'll likely find videos as well where you can listen to tutorials on topics, and vlogs/interviews on people's experiences.

But, of course, you don't have to do all the research virtually. In a recent YAtopia post, Chris talked about the importance of imagery. One of my stories is set in Brisbane and features a sandstone building. I don't get to Brisbane very often, and when I do, I don't always get to go to areas that have those types of buildings. So I got my mum to go and get a bit handsy with the building and report back to me. Luckily I am getting to go to that area of Brisbane next week, and I'm going to try to subtly sniff a building and lay some hands on it.

Research can help expand your story ideas, flesh out your stories, and become a way better writer. It will help you add authenticity to your work. It can help you take the seed of an idea, and grow it into an oak. Never underestimate the power of research.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

From the Ashes

Being an author is hard. The publishing industry is tricky to navigate at the best of times, and with the current climate in small publishing, it can feel utterly impossible to succeed.

I check in with my author groups, and another friend has lost their publisher. A small press has closed, and their whole catalogue of books needs new homes. Less than a month ago, an online book distributor closed and offered to settle all their accounts for ten cents on the dollar.

Those heartbreaks and setbacks can seem insurmountable. Great writers pack it in and choose not to publish anymore because they can’t stand the heartache and seemingly futile struggle. And honestly I can’t blame them. One of my books will soon have been through three publishers. Three times I’ve gleefully accepted a contract; three times I’ve had my heart broken. Part of me wishes I had the temperament to be able to quit. But I don’t. I’m too stubborn. So I’ll push forward and find another way to have that series out there and be grateful I have other projects with other publishers available to keep me from feeling like a complete imposter.

The theme on the blog this month is meant to be “new beginnings.” And I am starting right back from the beginning. I’m not trying to be depressing or to discourage anyone from following her dream of publishing, because it’s not depressing. It’s just the reality in which we find ourselves. It’s culling the herd. Those of us who are left—the ones who have fought through publishers closing, missing royalties, and a seemingly impenetrable market—are phoenixes. We rise from the ashes again and again. Fighting for the next contract and even the next sale with everything we have. And when the world caves in and our dreams again crumble to ash, we rebuild, hoping for something bigger, hoping for something more lasting and productive.

I wish I could say that I think the days of authors being shirked of their royalties and of publishers closing with little more than a Facebook post are over. That I won’t find anymore author friends heartbroken over their newly-homeless books, but I doubt that’s true. Give it a month, and someone else will be fighting their way back up from the bottom.  Some will quit, some will press on, starting from the beginning. Rewriting their blurbs and sending them out with nothing more than hope to keep them moving forward.

The new beginning has been forced upon us, but from the ashes we will continue to rise. Chasing a dream we can’t help but to follow.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Incorporating More Imagery

Hi! My name is Chris Bedell. I’m a YA writer and am thankful for the opportunity to be a blog contributor for YAtopia.

Thinking about new beginnings is inevitable because it’s January. The concept ultimately applies to my writing. I’ve been using a new approach when writing by trying to include the sensory details I want in a chapter in my outline. Doing so has proved beneficial since sensory details are easy to overlook in writing.

But that’s because a misconception can sometimes exist since they might seem impossible to include. Sensory details don’t have to be some super complicated thing, though. For instance, writing, “the wind whistled in the background,” “an owl hooted,” “streaks of sunlight snuck into the house, waking me up,” “the cold air nipped my face,” “steam seeped out of the teakettle after it started howling,” and “the waxiness of the full moon glowed in the night sky, providing a little extra light” are all examples of varying degrees of sensory details. And I’m sure I could come up with more sensory details if I gave the point further consideration.

However, my point remains clear. Writers shouldn’t fear evocative writing because it shouldn’t be synonymous with boring. It’s possible for something to be both well-written and entertaining. Incorporating imagery/description and showing the five senses enriches writing by making it come alive on the page.

The real problem is the writing cliché, “show, don’t tell.” Writers are too often bombarded with the expression. It’s an unfair generalization despite having merit. The problem is the mantra doesn’t go deep enough (in addition to how absolutes can sometimes be troubling) because some people might not understand what it means. All people have to do is think about what their characters see, taste, smell, hear, touch in each scene. That’s it. There’s no elaborate secret to descriptive writing-even if it feels like there is. Because trust me. I used to think there was some sort of secret to having evocative writing. But nope. That isn’t the case.

Giving imagery prior thought also makes it less daunting, which is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong. Outlining isn’t for everyone, but it helps my writing by grounding it. Because I’ve been a fan of general plot outlines even before I started attempting to add the sensory detail notes in my outlines.

So, to all my fellow writers out there, don’t be afraid about trying to add more imagery to your writing. Because it really isn’t as scary as it seems.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Creativity and Resolutions

Hi everyone! My name is Jennifer Galasso. I'm a YA writer and fantasy artist/illustrator who pens mostly Gothic and horror fiction with a touch of magic and the supernatural. I live in Rhode Island with my husband, Richard, and fourteen-year-old daughter, Samantha, and am SO excited to be a new blog contributor in 2017. What a way to start the year!

Most of us will agree, 2016 was a difficult year for many reasons. Despite the horrors of the previous twelve months, most try to stay optimistic and set goals to make improvements personally and professionally. Some common resolutions: eat healthier, write two novels, get more sleep, start a workout routine, sell a million books and leave the crappy day job, etc.

One of my resolutions this year was to become more involved in a writing community. As most writers know, art in any formespecially writingcan be very isolating. I tend to shut myself away just to get work done. But it’s also important to interact, especially with other writers. Rejection is a big part of the craft and it helps to have support and people who understand your pain who are more than happy to applaud your victories, and who you can cheer on through career highs and lows, as well.

Within a couple days of making my resolution, I saw Sharon’s post about becoming a YAtopia blog contributor on my Twitter feed. Oddly enough, I had just been thinking about Sharon and how I hadn’t seen many Twitter posts from her lately. Seeing her post that day seemed like divine intervention, fate, destiny … in a nutshell, meant to be.

Ironically, a few years ago I made a similar promise to break out of my hermit tendencies and get more active on Twitter. The first step was entering pitch contests, and Sharon was the host of one of the first ones I entered! She taught me that putting myself, and my work, out into the world wasn’t so scary and that there are MANY supportive people in the writing community. She was right and I have never forgotten her for that.

Even more than fate, the key, I think, is opening up to possibility, and in doing so many amazing opportunities arise. The same goes for creativity. A lot of people ask artists and writers where they get their inspiration and we all know what a hard question that is to answer. I don’t think it matters where we get inspiration, just that we open our minds to the possibility of becoming inspired. It’s like shutting off your cell phone—people may try to reach you, but you won’t get any of the calls! The same goes for creativity. Sometimes you have to shout at your muse to wake the heck up and then take whatever small idea you get and cultivate it into something … anything! (Even if it sucks.)

So again, thanks to Sharon who, like my first pitch contest, gave me this amazing opportunity, and thank you to all who helped build YAtopia into a fantastic blog and awesome writer’s communityI’m so excited to be here! Here’s to 2017 being a year to inspire and grow and cheers to resolutions—hoping you achieve ALL your dreams and goals! 


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What is a New Beginning?

There are many ways people can describe a New Beginning. Some think of it as shrugging off the past and starting completely afresh. Some think of it as totting up their information from the year before and finding a new point to build off it. Others look at new ways to tackle writing and life problems - they experiment and try new things. For me, New Beginnings are all of those things.

As writers, I believe we can sometimes fall into the trap of getting to a New Beginning with a promise of writing more, harder, querying until our fingers bleed, getting our blood pumping. And while those are all great things, I think that some things are sadly left behind. One of those is reading. We can forget to read for the pure pleasure of the written word, so focused on the achievements we want in our own writing. Forgetting to sit down and read something that's not for editing and not for studying can actually make our New Beginning not so new after all.

I also believe that many of use forget about our writer's life. I'm not just talking about our new goals or our shiny new desk space. These are certainly awesome parts of our writer's life, and I wouldn't give them up for the work (well, I could negotiate on the desk page if I really needed to). What I'm talking about is diving into the rest of our life. Have we put into our New Beginnings something to try outside of writing our book? What about a new class? Pottery? Dancing? Wine tasting? Something totally unrelated to your book. Ah, but Fiona, it's not that easy. I don't have the time for that. Agreed, time can be hard to find. But how about all that time you waste on the internet, chatting on social media. How about that time when your kids are doing their homework without you for once? How about that commute to work - audio book if you need to on a new hobby or interest. At the moment, mine is learning more Greek. For me, to those who can, putting life into your writer's life is just as important as putting in the writer.

So there you have it. Those are my thoughts on New Beginnings, and I have many more that are my passions. Books I want to read just for fun this month - The Peculiar & The What Not, Cress & Winter, How to Hang a Witch - all of which sit on my bookshelf waiting for me. And there are a whole lot of books waiting on Amazon for me to order. And then there's the life I want to include into my writer's life - learning more Greek (an eternal process!), improving my horse riding, swimming in the summer in the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, planning my wedding, travelling to Rome, trying another creative art...will I achieve all of these? Maybe, maybe not, but I'm going to try my damn best to!

What are you going to read? What are you going to live? What will be your New Beginning in your writer's life?