Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thankful For My First Book Coming Out

Thankful is the theme for this month, and I would like to write about how I’m thankful for my YA LGBTQ Fantasy novel IN THE NAME OF MAGIC, which is forthcoming from NineStar Press with a tentative release date of June 11, 2018. Squealing for joy at the acceptance offer might not sound like a complicated idea. However, writing is a difficult profession because of subjectivity. For example, everyone has their own unique tastes, and it can therefore be challenging to get a literary agent/offer of publication.

I first got the idea for IN THE NAME OF MAGIC around this time last year. I had certain opinions about what was going on in the United States. But I didn’t want to write a strict allegory like 1984 or Animal Farm. Instead, I conceived of a country where people were discriminated against if they were born without magic, meaning gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and skin color weren’t the basis for discrimination in my novel. So, yes, the novel contains dystopian elements. But I wanted to have grounded character stakes/emotions. As a result, I have the main character (17-year-old Maximillian) hide his best friend Katherine. She was born without magic, and needs shelter after fleeing home when her parents are killed by the police and secret police wolves. Yes. They’re talking animals in my novel. Because something has always intrigued me about the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz. Anyway, Maximillian and his parents risk their lives since they could be killed for harboring a non-magical person. My point is, I wanted to create a character who wasn’t afraid to take big swings and do something. Because the question: (what would you do?) is the novel’s subtext. Feeling powerless is never good, and the novel is an attempt to have a character channel the idea that I’m not okay with what’s happening, and I’m going to do something about it.

Anyway, I spent the next two months or so writing and revising and then sent it out at the end of January 2017. Rejections piled into my inbox, but I got a Revise and Resubmit from NineStar Press at the end of April 2017. The novel had a creative premise, but needed more emotional depth as a result of the novel’s violent events. I then spent the next month revising, adding about 21,000 words (the novel went from around 74k words to 95k words). I submitted the R&R at the end of May before getting the acceptance offer in August 2017.

Ultimately, cliché sentiments are sometimes true. Having thanks about IN THE NAME OF MAGIC is necessary. The offer came at an important time. I’ve gotten short stories and creative nonfiction published. But I still wanted to get an actual book published, and was starting to get the normal annoyance that occurs when rejections pileup. IN THE NAME OF MAGIC is only one step. But it was almost like a wink from the universe to keep plugging away because I’m on the right path. And that is why I wanted to mention IN THE NAME OF MAGIC in my blog post today. It is a lesson to writers about never giving up, and how it only takes one yes to change things in addition to how there’s not just one path to publishing.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Welcome to November!

Welcome to November, the month containing Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving.
No surprise, this month’s theme is Thankful! I've already seen Facebook posts starting thirty days of thankfulness. Today, I’m sharing a short thankful list of what makes my life as a writer easier. This is personal, obviously, but maybe it will inspire you with ways to make your writer-life (or whatever your job is) easier or get you thinking about what you’re thankful for.
  1. Each of my kids cook dinner one day a week. I give this advice to anyone with kids: Teach them to cook independently! This has far-reaching effects, but the one that fits my purpose today is that I don’t have to worry about dinner five days a week. All I have to do is ask each child what they want to cook, add their ingredients to my grocery list, and my work is done until eating time. I can write until dinner is served—or skip it altogether—knowing the evening meal is taken care of. If your children are still very young (early elementary school or younger), this is a future dream. But start working toward it now. Invite your kids into the kitchen and cook with them. And one day, instead of living off pizza during a deadline, you’ll have multiple supporters (at least until they go to college).
  2. Coffee shops. I have a Mac desktop—my gift after signing my first publishing contract—and I really should spend more time at home writing on it. I did complete one manuscript at my desk about a year ago. But most of the time, I pack up my laptop and find inspiration in coffee shops. Or perhaps, I find relaxation when I’m in a coffee shop so I can create, instead of working a few feet away from the chaos that is five kids and three dogs. In fact, arriving at one I wrote in for several weeks, I would literally relax and feel my creative energy revive while standing in line to order! Whatever reason though, I’m thankful for a community containing so many coffee shops. 
  3. Brainstorming partners. Most often, my brainstorming partner is my husband. But I have writer friends I call on to fill the role as well. I’m so thankful for these people! When I’m stuck on an idea—or stuck without an idea—just talking about the story can be enough to unclog the creative pipes. I don’t think I would be as successful if I just talked to myself. Actually, I know I wouldn’t be, since I talk to myself regularly.
What makes your thankful list as a writer?

Sarah Tipton is a writer of Christian Young Adult Fiction. Her debut novel, Betrayal of the Band, released in August 2017.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

GUESTOPIA: Author Ewa Dodd


I'm back with another Guestopia interview to finish up October, and today my victim...guest is debut author Ewa Dodd whose first book is out next year!

The daughter of a bookseller, Ewa Dodd has been writing since she was young, starting small with short self-illustrated books for children. More recently, she has delved into novel-writing, and is particularly interested in literature based in Poland, where she is originally from. The Walls Came Down was shortlisted for the Virginia Prize for Fiction. Ewa lives in Highbury, north London with her husband.

Is this your first published book?

It is. I’m very excited about it.

What’s it called?

The Walls Came Down

Which genre?

Historical mystery

Which age group?

18-30 (New Adult), but I’m hoping it will also appeal to a broader audience.

Is it a series or standalone?

It’s a standalone story

Are you an agented author?


Which publisher snapped up your book?

Aurora Metro, an independent publisher based in Richmond.

How involved have you been in the whole publishing process of your book?

I’ve been predominantly involved in the editorial process, which has been very fascinating. It’s great to have an experienced editor asking questions about your book, which you may never have thought about. The book has definitely improved as a result of my editor Mary’s work on it. 

Do you have another job?

Yes, I’m a Marketing Manager in the education sector.

Did you receive many, if any, rejections prior?

Definitely. The road to publication is never an easy one, and I’ve received lots of rejections both from agents and publishers. The trick is always to persevere, and to get as much feedback as possible so that you can improve next time around. 

What created/what were you doing or watching when the first idea for this book sneaked up on you?

I was reading a newspaper article about a missing child, and it made me think about the long-term effect of that one moment of disappearance on the lives of those closest to them. This idea forms the premise of my book.

How long did you plot/plan until you started writing it?

I thought about it for a good few months before I started putting any words on paper. I tend not to create written plotlines. I have an idea, start writing, and see where it takes me.

Once you started, did the story flow naturally or did you have to step in and wrestle it into submission?

It seemed to come quite naturally, but I did end up making some significant changes to the structure later on.

How many drafts did you write before you let someone read it? Who was that someone?

I had a few close friends read it and received some really useful feedback from them, mainly to do with the characterisation of the three protagonists.

Did you employ an editor/proofreader or did you have a critique partner/beta readers before you started querying?

I didn’t employ a proof-reader, but I did ask my first readers to mark up any mistakes that they spotted as they read.

Roughly how many drafts did it take before you sent the manuscript off into the real world?

Three, but then I sent it off and felt that I hadn’t done enough!

How many drafts until it was published?

Another four.

Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?

Yes, quite significantly, as one of the three main protagonists has changed, and there were
also a number of important structural developments along the way.

Are there any parts you’d like to change even now?

Definitely. Particularly when I re-read certain bits of dialogue and wonder whether that character could have said what they meant a bit differently… I also feel I could have further enhanced some of the detail of the historical setting.

What part of writing do you find the easiest?

I definitely find getting the story down on paper the easiest.

What part do you find hardest?

Editing is by far the hardest for me. I find that leaving a few weeks’ gap in between each edit definitely helps.

Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?

I try to push through, but it’s not always easy!

How many projects do you have on the go at the same time?

Usually no more than two. Any more than that and I think you’ll get really muddled.

Do you think you’re born with the talent to write or do you think it can be learned?

I think it can definitely be learned – you just need to have a good story in you.

How many future novels do you have planned?

I definitely have plans for another one. Beyond that, we’ll have to see! I’d like to think that new stories will keep coming to me.

Do you write other things, such as short stories, articles, blogs, etc?

I used to write short stories, but then I felt very restricted by the word count and found that that ultimately they didn’t really work for me.

What’s the highlight of being published so far?

Having a copy of your book to hold is a great feeling.

Give me one writing tip that work for you.

Writing everywhere where an idea comes to you, even if you only have a few minutes – I usually do it in the ‘Notes’ app of my phone and then send it to myself in an email at the end of the week.

And one that doesn't.

Meticulously planning your plot. Sometimes your story takes an unexpected turn and you’ll feel annoyed at yourself for not sticking to the plan.

Can you give us a clue or secret about the next book?

I can’t yet as it’s too early days, but I’m looking into middle grade fiction!

What question have you always wanted to be asked but never have? What would the answer be?

I think it’s probably about routes to being published. One very good one is via entering competitions, and I would definitely encourage unpublished writers to do so. I entered the Virginia Prize and got shortlisted, which was a great route to meeting an interested publisher.

Absolutely fantastic that you were able to join us today, Ewa, and from all of us here at YAtopia, we wish you so much luck with this book and all those that follow. 

If you would like to find out more about Ewa and her books, these links might just help! 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

How to Choose Character Fears

With everyone's favorite spooky day upon us, let's talk fear. Your protagonist needs a fear. But not just any fear. You can't toss in the fear of clowns because it's hot on American Horror story. You can't use spiders just because they make your skin crawl. You have to choose a fear that works specifically against your character.

Think goal.

Whatever your character's goal is, wouldn't it be interesting if she had to face her fear to get to that goal? So what is she working toward? Breakfast? Riveting goal! Your protagonist wants to make breakfast, but first...she has to do the dishes, and she's afraid to reach her hand into the murky water. She doesn't know if she'll grab the blade of a knife or worse--a slimy piece of food. Her stomach churns. And then it rumbles. But she has to do it to make breakfast.

Now let's build on goals and fear and focus on character flaws.

A character flaw will take the reader deeper into your character and world than a fear because not everyone will relate to the same fears, but we do all relate to feeling of inadequacy thanks to our weaknesses. Let's say your protagonist is afraid to ask for help. You can take that deeper by giving him the character flaw that he doesn't let himself appear vulnerable to anyone. So wouldn't it be juicy if his goal were to clean his entire apartment so he could make dinner for his girlfriend? But uh-oh! She's coming in two hours and he hasn't cleaned in two weeks. He's going to have to call a friend and ask for help. But this makes him vulnerable because 1) he's going to have to ask for help, and his friend could say no, 2) if his friend comes over, he's going to see the mess AKA what a mess he is, and 3) he's going to have to tell his friend why it's so important to him to get the apartment clean--for love, man--and love makes us vulnerable.

Deepen it even more with history.

Of course we all know not to dump backstory, but you need to know what part of your character's history caused her specific fear and character flaw. And then if you sprinkle a hint to your readers, they'll gain a deeper understanding and appreciate it even more when your character jumps that fear hurdle to get to the goal. So back to our first example. She wants breakfast--needs it. It's the most important meal of the day! But the thought of dishes make her blood pressure rise. Why?

Because when she was little, her older brother played a cruel prank on her. It was her turn to do the dishes. The bits of slimy food floating in the water always made her squeamish, but she sucked it up because it's just food, after all. She plunged both hands into the bubbly water, pulling our saucers and spoons. Her shoulders relaxed a little. She washed a knife--she hated not knowing if she'd grab a knife. Always afraid to get cut. She reached back into the water with both hands. Her right hand brushed the ridged edge of another knife. She grabbed it gently. She sucked in a breath as something slimy brushed her other hand. It's just food. Grab it out. She fished around and felt the thick slimy texture again. Her heart thud-thudded against her chest. She pulled and out came a snake. The beady eyes looked right at her. The tongue flicked in and out faster than her heartbeat. She screamed, her body tensing in panic, and the dishwater turned red with blood as she still held the knife in her other hand.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Experiment with Something That Scares You

October is the perfect month to prepare yourself for NaNoWriMo (if you partake) or just another month of writing for those who don’t, so why not… scare yourself?

I don’t mean by saying Bloody Mary three times in front of a mirror – although if you do that, would you let me know if it works? - but by tackling something totally out of the ordinary for you, within your writing.

For us YA writers and readers, we tend to stick within our own preferred age-range (I know it’s a bad habit of mine anyway) so occasionally I’ll make myself read books aimed at younger or older markets than YA. It’s amazing what branching out with your reading and writing can do for your writing skills. This October, try your hand at a paragraph or too of writing for a different age-range. 

Even if it’s not your cup of tea, you’ll be able to identify what it is that makes YA, YA, and why you love writing it so much, and either stick to it, or invert it some way that puts a new spin on your writing.

Then we have genre – personally, I love anything fantasy, sci-fi or thriller, which means those are naturally the books I’m drawn to at the book shops/libraries, as well as the ones I’ll pick up first from my bookshelf. But this October, I plan to shock myself and pick up some literary fiction or cosy mysteries. Maybe I’ll even dabble in some horror on October 31st.

Because we all remember that amazing scene from “Bring it On” when the cheerleaders combine a range of dance styles to create a kick-ass dance routine (…. oh… only me then?) and I like to think experimenting with genres is a sort of the writing equivalent to creating that dance routine. As we read and write, we come to learn the expected tropes of a certain genre, which means we can use them, or invert them within the genre we prefer. You’re more likely to create that gobsmacking-ly original, cross-genre, industry-redefining novel if you’re well read in every genre there is out there, so get cracking!

Experimenting with tenses, POV, age-range, story-length, and genre means that you might discover a new style of writing that you absolutely love, but even if you don’t, you can combine all your new knowledge to make that sizzling dance routine. What makes that horror so scary? That thriller suspenseful? Romance swoon-worthy?

You’ll have fun finding out, discover new authors and genres that you love, and your writing will develop as a result. So, get out of your comfort zone and into that Halloween outfit! (and then do some reading and crazy writing.)