Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pantsing, and a NEW CONTEST.

I feel like we haven't talked about "pantsing" in at least two weeks, so I can't resist.


My sister-in-law was terrified of that movie as a kid, so in honor of my having just seen her last week, let's have a CONTEST about childhood fears. Tell me, in the comments, about something you were scared of as a child. I'll mail the winner a book, and you can read it under the covers at night with a flashlight for full effect. I'll give you a choice of a couple of books-- but it'll be something awesome, I promise.

Contest will be open until Monday the 4th, or whenever I get around to turning off comments on this post. Good luck!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Don't register your copyright before you query.

Here's a great post from Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware explaining why you don't need to register your copyright before querying agents or publishers: in short, your work is automatically legally protected as soon as you put the words on the page. 

Here's something she doesn't mention in the post: to include your copyright information in your query letter or on the manuscript itself looks amateurish. If you wrote it, of course it legally belongs to you; that's what copyright means. Amateurish, and maybe a little bit paranoid too; I admit it's a bit of a red flag for me, in a query letter, that the writer may prove difficult to work with. Good relationships are built on trust, and that's a poor way to begin.

(That whole thing about mailing the work to yourself and putting it in the freezer is a myth, too, of course.) 

Can you think of any other publishing- and writing-related urban legends? 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Winner, winner!

I'm going "not random" for once, in picking a winner from last week's "sell me on February" contest; I loved all of your entries, but Anne Shirley's comment made me laugh out loud:

For everyone who has survived February in the past (presumably anyone reading this), the knowledge that February was named after an ancient Roman purification ritual should surprise no one. After all, there is no month like February when it comes to testing one's character.

These tests take many forms, beginning with the screaming pile of bills from Christmas. Inanimate and yet still saying so much, these bills provide a wonderful excuse to ignore the income tax paperwork lying on your counter. The weather also offers many opportunities. Whether it's the snow plow who promptly re-fills your driveway after you've shoveled or the furnace repairman who can't come for another five days, the chances to embrace your inner Yogi are endless! (And hey, you DID just resolve to lose twenty pounds this year, so hop to it!)

Of course, the greatest challenges in February come from family. By the seventeenth snow-related school closing, when your daughter is bo-o-ored with her new 'Dora' videos (the ones you memorized the day after Christmas) and your son demands to 'go to Disneyworld like Bobby's family!', you can cheerfully improve your math by tallying the minutes until they'll be at college. And when your husband refuses to help carry in the groceries because 'Canadian men are genetically mandated to watch hockey', you not only get to test your patience, you get lots of extra exercise!

The survival of February is a celebration. It proves I am the master of my own domain, or at the very least the master of my own impulses (disproving what my mother said about me thirty Februaries ago back when I put my Barbies in the oven 'to see what would happen'). And in three days I will smile at my adoring family and hold my head high, serene in the knowledge that I'll almost certainly allow them all to live another year. Huzzah!

Congratulations, Anne Shirley! Send me an email to let me know which prize you'd like: a critique or a book. (Sorry to say I don't have any raspberry cordial.)

Thanks to all who entered-- we'll do another one soon. Tell me in the comments what would make a good contest. I'm loving the creative entries.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Longform Friday.

Here is Zadie Smith on joy, with perhaps the best description of parenting I've read in some time:

Occasionally the child, too, is a pleasure, though mostly she is a joy, which means in fact she gives us not much pleasure at all, but rather that strange admixture of terror, pain, and delight that I have come to recognize as joy, and now must find some way to live with daily.

The link to the piece is here.

What's giving you joy these days?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Tell me in the comments why February is the best month of the year. If you disagree with this statement (and I actually do), here's your chance to show your debate or fiction prowess and convince me otherwise.

Winner wins something, either a book or a two-page critique on the blog, your choice.

You can have TWO entries if you make your pitch for February in a comment and post about the contest on Twitter; put a link to your tweet in the comments section.

Contest is open till I close the comments, which will probably be on Monday the 25th.

So, whatcha got?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Three day weekends.

Do three day weekends feel like a good break to you? Or do you cram five days' worth of work into the four remaining days?

I'm traveling this week, so posting may be a little infrequent, but I'll be back to my regular schedule a week from today. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves in the comments...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Longform Friday.

There was a vampire panic in New England in the 1890s, it turns out. This folklorist's work sounds utterly fascinating:

The Great New England Vampire Panic

Also, Buffy fans, I'd be remiss if I didn't pass this along:

Buffy recaps in limerick form

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tell me a love story.

Or a no-love story, if you prefer.

This series at Narratively might get you started:

Tales from the dating scene

Happy Valentine's Day! If I could, I would send you each a box of those chalky conversation hearts.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why writing a novel is like running a marathon.

I started running not quite two years ago, and I'm actually kind of terrible at it: I'm not naturally athletic, I'm really slow (as in, I'd love to run a sub-30 minute 5k), and when my work or personal life gets busy, the running tends to be the first thing out the window. But I love it anyway, maybe in part because it does not come easily to me, and sometimes it's nice to work hard at something for the sake of the hard work, rather than for some extrinsic reward. (The cardiovascular health is nice, too, though.)

My big "someday soon" goal is a half marathon, not a full, but I could still identify with a lot of the points in this:

Marathon training to finish your book

Any "training techniques" you'd like to share in the comments?

See also Jessica Brockmole's terrific NaNoWriMo piece on running and writing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Privacy on the internet

I'm prepping a talk for a group I'm going to speak to this weekend, and my talk deals in part with authors' responsibilities in promoting their books, especially online via blogs and social networks.

I haven't been in publishing long enough (about eleven years) to remember a time when authors weren't expected to participate in publicity and promotional efforts, if indeed such a fabled time ever actually existed. But especially in working with romance authors (a genre where pseudonyms are the norm), I think a lot about how difficult it can be to promote your work and yet maintain some semblance of a private life.

I'm a rather private person by nature; I don't really write, as longtime readers know, but even in high school, when I dreamed of being a bestselling author, I was absolutely certain that I would use a pseudonym. I wanted to be famous, but I didn't want anyone to know it was me, I guess.

At any rate, this is something I think a lot about, and as a result, a lot of the points Stacey May Fowles makes in her article really resonated with me:

On not putting yourself out there

(Link via @sarahw, I think)

For those of you trying to make a name for yourselves, where do you draw the line? Do you have rules about what you do and do not "put out there?"

Monday, February 11, 2013

High school is forever.

This one's primarily for the YA authors reading this: a New York Magazine piece that argues that ages 15-25 are the most important and most poignant of our lives:

Why You Truly Never Leave High School

Do you still feel connected to your adolescent self? If so, does it benefit your writing?

Bonus question: if you're friends with your high school classmates on Facebook, does that ongoing connection affect your sense or your memories of that part of your life?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Longform Friday.

This was just excellent.

No Evidence of Disease

Nonfiction writers: do you try to incorporate the element of surprise into your work? How do you get the reader invested in your story?

Thursday, February 7, 2013


I'm in the mood to try something different, so here goes: have any random publishing-related questions you'd like me to (try to) answer? Ask in the comments, and I'll respond, either in the comments or in a future post!

Here's one from Jenny in the comments from a couple weeks back to get us started:

What the heck does it mean when you see a romance that says, "first time in print?" Like, did it have a life as a movie or something before? I've ALWAYS been confused about that. Unless it's meant to differentiate from a re-release of a backlist title? But how often does that happen?
I typically see "first time in print" on the covers of books from the big names in the romance industry: Madeline Hunter, Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber, and so on. What do all of these have in common? For one thing, they've been publishing for a while-- long enough that there's a good chance that their earlier works (say, with Harlequin series) are out-of-print.

Every publishing contract has, or should have, language that defines when a book is deemed officially out-of-print, but what's considered OOP varies from publisher to publisher. Moreover, the onus is typically on the author to ask for the rights to be reverted, and even if the author sends the requisite letter to the publisher, the publisher usually has six months to get the book back into print before they have to grant the reversion. So the publisher might re-publish the book to hang on to the rights, or they might let the author have the rights back so she can self-publish the work, or relicense it to another publisher if she chooses.

All this to say, yes, re-releases of backlist titles happen pretty frequently, especially for the "household names" of the romance genre. The "first time in print" is a way to flag to that author's fans that yes, this is indeed a new book you hold in your hands (or are preparing to download to your e-reader).

What else do you want to know?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Decoding query rejections.

Rachelle Gardner, as usual, has a lot of smart insights on what your query rejection might mean:

Decoding Query Rejections

I can concur with her anecdote about some queriers writing back to argue with a rejection, by the way. I've never understood why some people do this; trying to pick a fight with me is a poor way of demonstrating what a great working relationship we're likely to have.

Query etiquette wise, here's a bit of free advice I'm not sure I've given in this space before: please, please, please do not use your author website (the one linked in your query letter, or to your Google Plus account, if you use it) to blog about the query process. I tend not to look at queriers' sites unless I'm liking the pages you sent with the query, but if I see that you've been querying hundreds of agents for months, and you have a long post from a few weeks back about how your dream agent said no and you're on to Plan B, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

It also doesn't strike me as terribly professional; if you get in an argument with your publisher over the cover design, are you going to document that on the blog, too?

I know we live in a confessional age, but I think there are things you just don't want a permanent record of. Once it's on the Internet, it's no longer private-- and you can't take it back.

Have you Googled yourself recently? Do you like what you see?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Did you all already know about this and you didn't tell me?

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

(Happy 200th anniversary, Pride and Prejudice... last week)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Longform Friday

There's something incredibly moving about this piece-- an Esquire article from fall 2012 about Teller, the magician.

The Honor System