Query letters that work with Adrienne Kerr

Adrienne_KerrAdrienne Kerr is the senior editor for commercial fiction at Penguin Canada.  She’s worked in various book-oriented occupations for seventeen years (gosh, she must have started as a kid).

Adrienne ran the session alone and we had a fabulous time.

Here are my notes:

  • Everyone has to hustle.
  • Harness your enthusiasm.
  • Craft your query as carefully as you craft your novel.
  • Find out what your target agent or editor has sold or acquired recently.

Research

  • Writers have the power.  Act like it.
  • Start with your bookshelves.  Pick out your favourite books.  Look at the acknowledgements.  Authors always thank their agents and editors.
  • Next, go to your library or bookstore and do the same thing.
  • Then go on line.  Look at the agencies.  Look at the submission guidelines.  Anything less than 100% compliance is a waste of everyone’s time.
  • Be open to the process; be delightful to work with.
  • Editors are hidden.  They’re not on-line.  Traditionally, they don’t take unsolicited submissions.  Now, they’re taking a more active role in ferreting out new talent.
  • Check out Publishers’ Marketplace.  Search through 14 years worth of deals.  Each entry has a logline attached.

Loglines – you need one

  • What if – so what formula
    25 words or less.  Convey major conflict.
    Answers so what.
  • Hollywood style
    It’s X meets Y.
    Mash-up of famous books and/or movies.
  • Save the Cat method
    A sentence or two, ironic, compelling, genre/audience-targeted, killer title.
  • Blurb-based
    Who/what the hero wants and why.
    Focus on conflict.
  • Comps must be realistic.  Consider the sales numbers and the social media imprint.
  • Indicate your job only if pertinent (e.g. a lawyer who writes legal thrillers).
  • Agents will use your query/logline/synopsis to sell.
  • Editors will use your query/logline/synopsis for marketing.
  • You will use it when someone asks what your book is about.

The rest of the session was spent critiquing loglines and queries volunteered from the attendees.  I was still working on mine and didn’t speak up, but there were some pretty interesting projects pitched and some effective improvements were crowd-sourced.

I will be finishing off my SiWC posts one per day.

Until tomorrow, mes amis!

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Behind the curtain: How mainstream publishing works

This was a fun panel with an author, an agent, and two editors.  They took us through the publication process at each stage, author, agent, and editor explaining how their part of the puzzle looks.  Then they fielded questions.

I’ve attended panels before that featured all publishers, or all editors, or all agents.  While informative, how everything dove-tailed was missing.  Occasionally, panelists might say that they couldn’t comment or speculate on what others in the process might do or experience.

‘Twas excellent.

The behind the curtain panelists

The behind the curtain panelists

Panelists: Emily Ohanjanians, editor with Mira Books, the commercial fiction imprint of Harlequin; Eileen Cook, author of YA novels with Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins; Rachel Coyne, agent with Fine Print Literary; Sara Sargent, associate editor with HarperCollins’s children’s imprint, Balzer & Bray.

EC: We’ll start with the author’s search for an agent.  First you have to understand what an agent does.  Most are busy with their current authors and are not actively looking for new authors.  Do your research to find the best fit.  Newer agents will be more available.  Ultimately, it comes down to personal taste.  One agent may not like your voice or style, but another might love it.

RC: I receive 150 to 300 queries per week.  It’s impossible to respond individually.  When I started, that was my intention, but it just can’t be done.  Agents get rejected too, by editors.  There’s a certain disappointment when another agent snags an author from you, especially one that receives an award or does really well.  After I’ve agreed to take on an author, we have a one on one call to discuss next steps.  There is a two page author agreement.  It’s not a contract per se.  Standard percentage is 15% for domestic sales and 20% for foreign, TV, film, and other rights.  Most houses have one agent who is dedicated to subsidiary rights.  Once an author has signed on, the editing begins.  This could mean several rounds, back and forth.  Then the agent will submit to her first round editors.  Usually these are people the agent has an established relationship with.  Sometimes, if several editors are interested, an auction takes place.

SS: At HarperCollins, there are several meetings, one with the acquisitions team during which a profit/loss statement is generated.  The agent is advised of the proposed deal, and negotiation begins.  At the acquisition meeting, everyone sees the property.

EO: It’s the same at Mira, the meeting with the editorial director is followed by the acquisition board meeting, the agent is informed of the proposed deal, and negotiation follows.

Q: Once the book is sold, what happens?

RC: I would make recommendations to the author based on what they hope to achieve.  Usually there is a year between the deal and the publication date, so there is time to implement an author web site or blog, develop social media following, or begin on the next book.  The contract can take anywhere from two weeks to nine months to hammer out.  An advance might be $10,000.  Royalties could be 10%.  First you earn back your advance, then you begin to receive regular cheques.

Q: How does the editor work with the writer on further revisions?

EO: When the launch date is decided upon, it might be a year, or a year and a half, we work backwards, get our endorsements in place, schedule substantial, line, and copy edits, proofing, typesetting, cover art, blurbs, back cover copy, determine the meta data for online sale.

Q: So what happens when you write an editorial letter for the writer, and the writer refuses to budge?

SS: Usually I’ll read and mark up the copy, then prepare a three to ten page editorial letter for the author.  The author will usually sit with it for a few days, then I’ll meet with the author by phone and the author will indicate what they are willing to do and what they are not.  The biggest issue that comes up is characters that are not received as the author intended.  The next is the market: similar books may have tanked for specific reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the writing.

EC: We work together to reach a solution.  e.g. I hate the character!  My character is brilliant!  How do I show it?

RC: The biggest asset a writer can have is the willingness to be edited.  I like to meet annually with my authors to find out what their plans are for the coming year.

Q: Describe your ideal author.

EO: An insecure author can become overwhelming.  20 emails a day can be draining.  An author coming out of another house might cause me to do some research.  Were there reasons for this?

EC: You have to own your neuroses as an author.  You must be open to communicate.

Q: If your author had to choose between a Canadian and American publisher, which would you recommend?

EC: Commission can be less with a Canadian publisher.  Most American publishers will include Canadian distribution.  The deal is for North American rights, not Canadian or American.  Canada is not considered a foreign market.  Really, your agent is a match-maker, trying to find the best possible home.  It used to be that agents had to be in New York, now they can be anywhere.

RC: There is a right agent and a right publisher for every author/project.

Q: What about e-rights?

SS: They are considered subsidiary rights.

Q: How often do you have to meet in person?

RC: Never if you don’t want to or can’t afford it.

Q: What is your education/experience?

SS: Placement with Disney/Hyperion, BA in English, then an MA in Journalism.

RC: Writer’s Digest Books, Donald Maass Agency, Forward Literary, then Fine Print Literary.

EO: BA in English literature/linguistics, job in finance, but I always wanted to be an editor.  I started working for magazines, then got on with Harlequin, took some courses from EAC and Ryerson in editing, and at every stage, working up through the ranks.

Q: What’s the difference for non-fiction?

EO: It’s based entirely on platform.  Not voice.  Not skill.  Who’s the audience for the book?

RC: Blog-books have been happening recently as well.  Narrative non-fiction works the same as fiction.

EC:  With a novel, you have to have the novel completed before you can query.

RC: With non-fiction, a proposal and platform is often enough.

Q: What should your word count be, and do you talk about series?

SS: Word count isn’t critical.  I’ve never rejected a book on the basis of length.  You should concentrate on one novel per query and treat it as a stand-alone.  It’s important to have a vision, though of how your writing future will look.

RC: We’re not looking so much at the concept, but the creativity of the author.

SS: With children’s literature, you have to be aware of the market.

EC: Not many YA novels are 300,000 words long, but submitting a 20,000 word novel would be too short.

Q: Can an author ever go direct to editor?

EO: If I have the time, I’ll always look.  Why not?  I could find a gem.

Q: When do you know when to stop editing and query?

EC: Write the best book you can.  No matter what you write, you can find an association (RWA, SFWA, etc.). These associations will often offer editing services, or members can serve as critique partners and beta readers.  When you do query, send out five at a time.

Q: Is a rejection a burned bridge?

RC: Not necessarily.  If you revise and resend, there’s a chance that the agent will not remember, but if they do, they are not likely to give you a second chance.  It’s better to try a new project.

Q: How long is it for an editor to respond to an agent?

RC: Between three months to a year sometimes, but the average is three to four weeks.  If there is a closing date or an auction, all interested parties are called.

Q: Do agents want to have input into the author’s platform?

RC: It’s more a matter of making suggestions, showing examples.

SS: In concert with publicity and marketing, publishers may advise.  But if you’re not comfortable on Twitter, you don’t have to use Twitter.

EC: Some agents will advise you with regard to your career in general.  Some agents will never go there.

Q: Have there been books you just couldn’t sell?

RC: Every agent has a book that they felt passionate about, but just couldn’t move.  I make every effort to sell every project, but between 60% and 90% of books signed actually sell.

EC: Hopefully you have more than one book in you.

EO: It’s often the second submission that sells.

RC: Some projects are bought on voice alone.

Q: If you’ve self-published, is it a deal-breaker?

RC: Only if it’s the self-published effort and it’s not sold well.  If it’s a different effort, no problem.

EC: They call us hybrid authors now.

Q: How about posting your work in progress on the internet?

RC: It depends on how much of your novel is out there, and at what stage.  If most of the novel is already “published,” I probably wouldn’t take it.  Do not blog your book.

Q: Can you self-publish one book and e-publish another?  Specifically, the rights on my first novel are reverting to me and I’d like to self-publish.  Meanwhile, I’m in negotiations for my second book.

EC: If your first book is erotica and your second is YA, then they’re not likely to get in each other’s way.

EO: If both books are comparable, you could offer the self-published book at a deep discount.

RC: It would be wise to check with the publisher about to put out your second novel if self-publishing your first is okay.

EO: Be up front with all interested parties.

This brings us to the end of Friday’s sessions.  I’ll have the Friday night and Saturday morning keynotes before moving on to Saturday’s sessions.  We’ll see how far I get tonight.  I’ll be travelling home tomorrow and won’t finish off whatever remains until Tuesday.

CanWrite! 2013: Day 1 publicity and marketing sessions

As promised yesterday, I’m going to talk about the good, bad, and downright ugly.

To start with …

The Good

I’ll start with Vikki Vansickle’s Mapping your Market presentation.

Vikki was enthusiastic, energetic, and clearly loves what she does, on both sides of the board.  Vikki is an author and a marketer, recently moving to Penguin Books (congratulations!).

Vikki has published four middle-grade (MG) novels since 2010.

  • So what do you do when you get published?
  • Celebrate!  Tell EVERYONE.  You never know who your champion will be.  Word of mouth is still king.
  • Do some research (yes, it’s important in marketing too).  How do you find the books you like?  Work outward: How does someone like you in Houston, Whitehorse, or Harrison Hot Springs find the books she likes to read?  That’s where you want to go, to get in front of the wave.
  • Who wants to read your book?  Who needs to read your book?
  • Comparative novels (comps) are critical.  It doesn’t even need to be a novel, as long as it’s in popular culture.  “If you like X, you’ll love XXX!”  “It’s Dirty Dancing without the dirty :)”  “It’s Looking at the Moon meets The Summer I Turned Pretty.”
  • Who is your ideal reader?  Define her in every detail.  Who are your potential readers (again work outward)?
  • Your elevator pitch should be about the length of a Tweet.  You have to tell people what your novel is about in pithy, taut, engaging sentences.
  • Be prepared to wear different hats.
  • Instagram is big with kids.  Facebook’s where their parents are (ew!).
  • Goodreads is great for more mature readers.
  • Writers Cafe (dot) org can help you with critique, beta readers, contests, conferences, etc.
  • Find your niche and identify specialized groups that will help you reach your readers.
  • The Ontario Blog Squad will set up blog tours.  6 blogs.  You create the content.
  • Twitter giveaways.  People love free stuff!  Specify Canada only.  Make sure they enter using a Retweet (RT) and including a hashtag specific to you, your book, or blog.  This helps to spread the word to all of your participant’s followers (and so on, and so on).

The Bad

I won’t tell you the guy’s name, or who he works for, but he’s a publicist.  I thought a publicist would be better spoken, honestly.

His session had some good information, but he was almost too relaxed, too casual.  At times I thought he was bored with the topic.  At times he went off on tangents or mumbled.  He decided to wing it.  He didn’t have a plan.

  • Print ads are not an effective use of funds.
  • Look for web magazines that have “up fronts” (= previews) especially if they have a print tie in.
  • A platform is not essential for fiction writers, but is absolutely key for non-fiction.
  • In fiction, the publisher may work with the writer to build the platform.
  • Build your relationship with your publisher.
  • A P/L or profit /loss sheet may determine what will be expected.  Analysis determines what the most appropriate action or angle may be.
  • Do you have a business or profession related to your book?
  • Books = cultural entertainment product.
  • You have to engage your readership on social media (SoMe).
  • Some publishers spend more $$ on authors than others.  This will be different in the States.
  • If a publicist is assigned, it’s usually for 3 months.  On-shelf promotion (during the initial sales period of the book).
  • Marketing is different for every book.
  • Book trailers are too expensive to be effective.
  • Applications (apps) are even more inefficient and more expensive.

The Downright Ugly

One thing that emerged early on in the session and coloured the remainder of it was that this publicist works for a small imprint of a larger publisher and in non-fiction (politics, sports, world events).  His clients are men and of the imprints authors only a third were women.

He made an off-hand remark about the ladies liking their beach reads.  Fatal mistake when speaking to an audience of 90% women.

To be fair, I have to say that I don’t think the young man realized that he’d just insulted his audience unforgivably.  Even after several women from the audience spoke up and made some very salient points, I’m not sure our publicist got it, or if he did, he was so scared, he didn’t know how to save himself with any grace.

I think it has to do with the publishing environment he works in every day, his mentors, his colleagues.  I think the sexism is so ingrained, so rampant in his sector of the industry, that he wasn’t fully conscious of the prejudices he promoted.

For the remainder of the conference, our publicist was the topic of conversation, and not in a good way.

It immediately brought to mind Chuck Wendig’s posts on sexism and misogyny in publishing.

It’s not a problem that has an easy answer.

Tomorrow: I’ll be moving onto the Day 2 panel and session.

CanWrite! 2013: Day 1 Publishing Panel

For the most part, for the panels and sessions, I’m just going to be transcribing my notes, as written.  I’ll attempt to offer some context, however.

After the morning writing circle and some networking time at lunch, it was onto the Publishing Panel.  On the panel were Halli Villegas, publisher of Tightrope Books, Christie Harkin, children’s book publisher and editor at Fitzhenry & Whiteside, and Anita Chong, senior editor at McClelland & Stewart.

In later panels, I noted the speakers, but for this first one, I didn’t have the presence of mind to think of it.  My apologies to the publishers.

The panel was called Changes in the Publishing Landscape.

  • Larger publishers are finding that their biggest book-buyers are going to non-traditional (not brick and mortar bookstores) sellers to get their books (Costco, Walmart). Books are now competing with groceries (!)
  • Smaller presses are going back to events, launches, readings, etc.
  • Fewer stand-alone poetry books being published.
  • LGBT is gaining in popularity.  More mindful of the community they write for and have to market to.
  • Everyone feels like they have to dance to Amazon’s tune, though that may not be accurate.
  • Chapters/Indigo has a very short return policy now.  Books are being returned before they have a chance to get any traction.
  • Inventory control is important to the big booksellers.
  • Chapters/Indigo may buy 5000 copies of a book for all their chains.  Most come back (about 2/3).
  • Some publishers have to increase a print run, or go into a second printing to meet these orders.  This puts them further behind the eight ball.  They’ve suffered a loss before they’ve even got their books in stores.
  • All the indies order books too, increasing the pressure for a large print run.  Smaller publishers are suffering.
  • There is increasing specialization in publishing.  No more generalists.
  • What authors need to know most: DO YOUR RESEARCH!  All the information you need is on the websites of the publishers.
  • Go to the bookstore. Who’s publishing books like yours?  Look at the acknowledgements of these books: agents and editors are often among those thanked.
  • Don’t follow the trends. Erotic zombies?  (LOL)  Stick to your guns.  It’s not either/or but how far are you willing to go and how much are you willing to do?
  • Children’s books are not marketed to children, but to those who buy books for their children: parents, teachers, etc.
  • Print on demand (POD) doesn’t work in most cases.  There are restrictions.  Minimum print runs may still be required to break even.  POD kiosks offer poor quality product.  POD is not viable even at larger publishers.
  • Still on POD.  Short run = 250.  Medium run = 250-1000.  Watch how POD affects your contracts.  It has an impact on what’s considered to be in print.  If your rights don’t revert to you until after the book is out of print and POD technically means that the book never truly goes out of print, you may not get your rights back (!)
  • Electronic publishing is better, regardless of the venue chosen.
  • Publishers generally give 50% of their profits to distributors, booksellers, etc.  Publishing is not as lucrative as you think.  Ebooks lose only 30% (or less).
  • Publishers are looking for new talent all the time.
  • Unsolicited submissions can result in publication, but rarely.  Same with the slush pile.  DO. YOUR. RESEARCH.
  • Writers Reserve from the Ontario Arts Council.  $$ for writers.  Publishers apply for it and use the $$ to pay their authors.
  • Ask agents and publishers what they are looking for.  Write to order (if you can).

It was great to see three fabulous and articulate women take the stage.

Tomorrow: Publicity and marketing sessions: Good, bad, and downright ugly.

Six questions with JL Madore

JL MadoreJL Madore is the writer of fast paced, sexy fantasy and paranormal romance series with heat levels ranging from sizzle to erotic. She is the winner of the Writing Fairy Scholarship for New Writers 2012, a board member of WCDR – the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (a 300+ member writers group focused on developing authors in all aspects of writing), a member of two writing critique groups and a two time student of ‘A Novel Approach’, a yearlong workshop to study the craft of writing novels and hone ideas into working manuscripts.

You can find her at www.jlmadore.ca and on Twitter @jlmadore

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Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Jenny 🙂

After working together for a short time on an online critique group, I lost touch with Jenny.  I’m so happy that the publication of her novel, Blaze Ignites, was what connected us again.  Congratulations!

WG: When did you first start writing, and when did you know that writing was what you wanted to do, long term?

JLM: Writing actually snuck up on me. I often read about authors who say they ‘knew since they were a kid’ or ‘have been jotting down stories since they could hold a crayon’, but that wasn’t me. My interest actually came about when my husband and I got fed up with the day-to-day and moved our family to Central America for a year. From September 2008 to August 2009 we lived in Llano Grande, Panama. No jobs. No school. Nothing but the four of us on a stunning tropical rainforest property for a solid 12 months. It was during those quiet afternoons, lying in a hammock, reading the one and only novel we brought with us–my daughter’s copy of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight–that I started to imagine different ways the story could have gone. That lit the fire.

WG: How did Jade’s story first occur to you, and how long did it take you to write your first draft?

JLM: Well, I’ve always been a huge lover of Elves. As a pre-teen I devoured the Elf Quest graphic novels and who isn’t in love with Legolas Greenleaf from Lord of the Rings? I mean, really. When we returned to Ontario in the fall of 2009, I decided to get the story out of my head. Casting Galan was easy and I knew I wanted the protagonist to be a kick-ass female, so Jade had to be able to hold her own. The first draft was written in six months, the only problem was I didn’t know how to write well. I recognized that if I wanted the novel to be any good, I needed to study the craft of writing. After three years of courses, critiques and revisions, Blaze Ignites is ready to hit the public eye.

WG: Are you a pantser, or plotter?  How does that play into your revision and editing process?

JLM: Most definitely a plotter, but not too tightly bound. I write linearly with a general story and loose outline and let the characters adjust things as they go. The funny thing for me was that I saw the big picture story arc for the Survivor Series and kept writing. Before I went back to finalize Blaze, and while I was learning the craft, I’d written the first drafts of the following three books. After that, the editing and revisions just seemed to fall in place.

WG: You’ve gone the self-publishing route.  Were you always set on self-publishing, or did you try for a traditional deal first?  Why did you ultimately choose Lulu?

JLM: I queried traditional agents and publishers over 2012 and although it sounds funny, during that year I received some genuinely supportive rejections. It seemed the industry opinion was that though they liked the story and many commented positively on the voice and humour, ‘Elves won’t sell. The market won’t support a fantasy love story with Elves’.  I disagree. And if I’m wrong, so be it. Galan is an Elf. Decision made, self-publishing it is.

Lulu seemed the most user friendly for a launching platform for me and where I am right now. I’m currently working on uploading to Createspace and others, as well as talking to a printer, but life gets in the way sometimes and it is slow going at the moment.

WG: When did you start building an online platform and how is that supporting your work as a writer?

JLM: My online presence is definitely a work-in-progress. I’m not technically inclined in the slightest, so that side of my writing career is a struggle. I think I probably did everything backwards, but my website, www.jlmadore.ca is only recently up and I tweet when I think I have something worth saying. It’s too early in the game to say how it’s working, but I’m on board for the long haul.

WG: What’s coming up for JL Madore and Jade Glaster?

JLM: The survivors at Haven have many sexy adventures ahead of them: Book 2 – Bruin’s story and Book 3 – Lexi’s story, are being reviewed by critique groups and beta readers, Blaze full page coverwhile Book 4 – Lia’s story is almost finished and waiting in the wings. Currently I have a paranormal erotic/romance series that’s been getting interest from the traditional publishing world, so I’m working on that. I’d love to have a hybrid publishing approach and span both worlds. Fingers crossed.

Thank you for sharing your time and experience with us, Jenny!  Break a pencil with your future writing endeavours 🙂

My pleasure, thank you so much for the opportunity and my best to all your readers.

Six questions with Hally Willmott

Hally WillmottHally was born in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. She is a Police Officer with the Greater Sudbury Police Service. Hally enjoys reading both fiction and non-fiction. She is a self-proclaimed writer of all things imaginative (both poetry and novels). She also believes that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything!

She met her forever partner Jerry, and married him thirteen years ago. Together, they have accomplished the greatest feat, being blessed with two gifts from God, their sons Jacob and Jordan.

Between working full time, being a wife and mother, Hally finds the time to write when her kids go to bed, when Jerry’s at work or when their new puppy Jersey decides to wake her up every morning around five a.m.

She and her family enjoy long summer nights by the campfire and cold winter nights snuggled up watching movies in their home.

In 2009, Hally had an idea to write a novel. The idea for Awakenings came to her in a dream, the first in a series of four.

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I was amazed, and I have to say, a little freaked out when Hally reached out to me last week through my blog.  I had no idea that Writerly Goodness had that kind of influence or good will.  Ultimately, I’m flattered and grateful and very pleased to have made the acquaintance of another local writer of fantasy fiction.  A soon-to-be-published writer at that (yay)!

I think that’s what I’m most thankful for: that Writerly Goodness is creating a community and communicating to it in a meaningful way.

Since we live in the same city, I was able to meet with Hally this past weekend and we shared some of our writing ups and downs.

Now I feel privileged to share some of that with you.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions for me (and my readers).  Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Hally 🙂

HW:  Thank you for having me 🙂

WG: You mention in your bio (above) that the idea for Awakenings came to you in a dream.  Was it a single scene, or the story writ large, and how did you hang onto it long enough to get Jacey’s story down?

HW:   The actual part which outlined my main character Jacey Adison was only a flash.  Once I started telling Jacey’s story she pretty much took over and to this day is still writing it.

WG: For those who may not be aware, what is Awakenings about?

HW:  No matter how many times sixteen-year old Jacey Adison’s parents tell her they must move, she has never questioned their lifestyle. Until now. When Jacey was two, her parents fled the protection of their birthplace, the mystical dimension of Nemele. Leaving was the only solution her parents believed might allow them to keep their family together and alive.

The Adisons have been running from a sect of iniquitous beings from Nemele who covet Jacey. Her parents have repressed their adversaries’ relentless tracking efforts by not utilizing their own mystical powers. They have chosen to conceal themselves within the only realm they knew they’d be able to survive. They are living under their self-imposed powerless sanctions on Earth, which constitutes the nineteenth nation of Nemele.

Her parents have never revealed their true identities to Jacey, consequently keeping her true lineage and unique birthright from her. Jacey’s family has pretended to be non-magical humans as a ploy to prevent an ancient omnipotent entity from killing more innocent beings in its relentless quest to possess Jacey.

Born as an anomaly, Jacey possesses rare abilities that both virtuous and corrupt entities seek to use as their own. Should either side prevail, Jacey may be the saviour or downfall of every world within Nemele’s domains. Blindly thrust into life and death situations, Jacey learns of her true powers within her dreaming and conscious states.

WG: How long did it take you to write Awakenings?  Now the unpleasant second half of that question: how long has it taken you to edit?

HW:  Awakenings took me just under a year to write from start to finish.   ‘Awakenings’ is now in its final stage of edit through Limitless Publishing.

WG: You went through quite a journey to find your publisher.  Would you mind sharing some of that adventure?

HW:  Initially when I wrote it, I had only planned on writing a novel and saying hey I finished it!  It wasn’t until I received positive feedback from some ghost readers that I even thought of having it published.  Because I was green when it came to the publishing world, I thought hey – why not?  Can’t be that hard…can it?  Well, after at least one hundred rejections from both publishing houses and agents I finally got one YES – And that’s all it takes 😉

WG: Now for the introspective question: how do you keep everything balanced and find time for work, family, and writing?

HW:  I’ve never been one to do something half heartedly.  So, sometimes others facets of my life may take a back burner while I focus on something else.  I have to say I have an EXTREMELY supportive family.  Without them and God I would have never been able to get to where I am today.

WG: What’s coming up next for Hally Willmott, Author?

HW:  The cover reveal for my first novel is on Wednesday the 20th of March 2013, and ‘Awakenings’ is set to be released in late May early June 2013.  I’m excited about the release of my debut novel and I will be actively promoting its success over the next while.

Thanks again, Hally, and the best of luck with your future writing endeavours!  Knock our readerly socks off 🙂

Some of my favourite books on the craft

Several months ago, I read a post called “Confessions of a Craft Book Junkie.”  I had no choice but to comment, because reading books on the craft of writing is an addiction for me.  I’m always buying more!

I have no idea what brought this issue up for me again, but having thought of it, I’ve decided to share some of my favourite craft books with you, and may you reap their myriad benefits! I don’t care if you get them as ebooks, or from a used book shop.  Just get ‘em 🙂

In the beginning …

There was Natalie GoldbergWriting Down the Bones and Wild Mind were the first two books I read about writing, and they’ve stuck with me through the years.  Goldberg espouses a philosophy of “first thoughts.”  Writing in your journal first thing when you wake up.  Sound like morning pages to you?

Goldberg introduced me to free-writing, and weaves in wonderful exercises for journal writing with Buddhist philosophy.  Monkey mind and wild mind is a concept I come back to again and again.  Monkey mind is the nattering, distracted place in our heads we occupy most of the time. 

Wild mind … well, draw as big a circle as you can on a piece of paper.  Put a wee speck of a dot in the middle of it.  The dot is monkey mind.  The rest of the circle—you guessed it—that’s wild mind, the cosmic consciousness that will endow your writing with greatness.

The key is to let go.  Don’t worry.  Don’t pin all your hopes on the greatness you might achieve.  Just be in the moment and do it.

Word after word

Heather Sellers two books: Page After Page and Chapter After Chapter really changed my writing game.  It was time for some tough love, and Sellers delivered.  She was the first author I read who asked the question: do you want to be a writer, or are you a writer?  She made the distinction very clear.

Wanting to be a writer means that you’re letting things get in the way, making excuses, because the phrase is always followed by the word “but.”

If you are a writer, you write.  You write every day.  You’re dedicated to your craft and you don’t let excuses get in the way.

Sellers also writes about her struggles, how the disapproval of peers and professors affected her, how relationships, good and bad, can influence your work, and how serious life incidents like car crashes and disease can change things forever.

In the end, you can only keep writing, word after word, page after page, and chapter after chapter 🙂

The Maass Oeuvre

Donald Maass is an industry expert and he turned his expertise into several wonderful books.

His first, The Career Novelist, delved into the changing face of the publishing industry.  No longer the land of monster advances, runaway auctions, and multi-book contracts, Maass discussed the kinds of writers, the kinds of agents, the kinds of editors, and publishers that were emerging, how they might survive the new era, and he offered a lot of practical advice about the mathematics of publishing (what do the numbers mean and why should I care?).

In the current market, this book has lost some of its relevance, but I would argue that it is still an important read.  Understanding the changes that led to the current state of publishing offers the reading writer insight.  Learning from history, we hope not to repeat it.

Writing the Breakout Novel gets more into the mechanics of how to write a damn good novel.  Using his personal experience and that of some of his well-known clients, Maass explains what agents and publishers are looking for, and gives the reader tools to achieve their goals.

The Fire in Fiction is more of the same, but deeper.  Maass really asks the writer to dig deep in this one and offers exercises to deepen your understanding of exactly what it is you’re doing.  Analysis.  Critical thinking.  If you’re willing to work for it, Maass tells you how to write a novel that will WOW.

Finally, The Breakout Novelist, Maass’s most recent publication, is more of a workbook and reference than some of his other books.  It combines the best of Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction with extra exercises.  If you’re having trouble with a particular aspect of your novel, flip to that section and start working through the exercises.

Obviously, I’m a fan.

I’ll have more of these coming in future months.  I just thought I’d start with what I think are the best of the best 🙂

What are some of the craft books that you value and why?  How did they speak to you?  And as always, like, comment, share, subscribe!