Monday, October 28, 2013

The Revision Roadblock

I love revising. Call me a weirdo, but there’s something about picking apart my manuscript that makes me all giddy. But no matter how excited I am to rip that MS to shreds, I always hit a blockage at some point in the process. It happens to everyone, right? (RIGHT?!)
So, I’m here to give you guys four tips that got me through my recent revision roadblock.

1) Reacquaint yourself with your characters.
I can't take all the credit for this one. My first CP introduced me to a process known as The Snowflake Method. This is where I discovered the beauty of outlining not just the story itself, but its characters. I'll take a blank page, title it with my character's name, and write out every. little. thing I know about him/her.

Another way to go about this is a character interview. Ask your character questions. "What would you do if ___? How do you feel about ___?" Gaining insight into your character's psyche can help tons.


2) Remember what you want your character to achieve. 
Your characters need to grow.By the end of your story, your characters should have lived and learned, or else, what’s the point? This can go hand-in-hand with Step 1.

On that same sheet of paper (or a new one. Whatever floats your boat.), label three sections Beginning, Middle, and End. Then, describe your character at each point of your story. If your character hasn't changed at all by the end (for better OR worse), then you may need to reevaluate a few things.

Still not busting through that block? How about:

3) Reading.
   I know, I know. THERE’S NO TIME. Make time. I keep a few of my favorite books at my desk for quick grabbing. Certain books spark my creativity more than others (John Green is an absolute favorite for this). Reading just a few pages can get me back into the game.

When all else fails:

4 - When in doubt, write it out.
    Repeat this over, and over, and over until you're saying it in your sleep. I know how it is. The idea is in your head. It's right there for the taking, but you just can’t figure out how to express that kernel of genius. Here's what you do: open a blank doc (or grab a notebook, if you’re like me), and produce what I lovingly refer to as word vomit. Spill your guts all over that page. You may toss all of it later, or you may find a little sentence, or phrase, or even one word that gets your brain into gear. You have no idea what’s crap unless you write it first.

Drafting gets the words out. Revising turns the story into what you dreamed it would be.

Do you have any tips/tricks for pushing through that revision blockage? Let us know!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Create an Agent Bible with OneNote

There are so many amazing agents out there! 

Researching them, and determining who might be a good fit for my almost-ready-to-query manuscript, is one of my most favorite procrastination stations.

Something about gathering all this info, reading awesome agent interviews, and stalking Twitter feeds, (as one does) fills me with all the happy feels. One of these fabulous people may become the champion of my book. Squeeee! You know that feeling, right? That hand waving in the air feeling as you yell Pick me! Pick me! Which is totally writer code for please love my book.

When I'm in need of a break from revising, editing , and polishing the MS, I set about working on The Amazing Agent Bible of Awesomeness! (said in booming movie voiceover fashion)

I'm not gonna lie to you, researching agents properly takes time, but it is time well spent. So even though it may technically fall into the category of procrastination, if procrastinate you must, at least this project is of the useful variety. *flashes sideways glance at Pintrest*

There are tons of ways to keep track of all the agent info you garner, but I'm a visual person so I created an agent bible that's informative AND pretty to look at. It also negates having to bookmark all the info and then try to find it later, because there is a LOT of info I want to take into consideration as I narrow down my query list. So let's get started, shall we?

Here's how you can create your own fancy agent bible using OneNote. Tweet This!

In the past, OneNote came standard with the student and *I think* home editions of Microsoft Office Suite, but nowadays it is supplied with all editions, so there's a very good chance you have this program and didn't even know it. If you're not sure, check your Microsoft Office programs folder and see if it's there. If it is, open it up and click File, New and choose a name for your first notebook. Once that's done, click Create Notebook to get started.

*Note: I’m using OneNote 2013, so some features may look a little different depending on your software’s version.

You'll end up with a screen that looks like the one below. Your notebook's name is on the top left of the screen. Beside it is a tab titled New Section.

A section can have many pages associated with it. To the right, you can see one untitled page with a tab above it that says Add Page. You can create as many pages as you'd like within a section. 

The giant white space in the middle is your workspace for the selected page.

 Rename the untitled section with the name and agency of the first agent on your list. To do this,  right click on the untitled section and select rename. In this example, I've named the section Victoria Marini, Gelfman Schneider

Next, type a page title on the line provided in the workspace. Whatever you type here will show in the right column, where all of your pages for this section of your notebook will live. The title of my first page in this section is General Info, because I'm going to include all the basics about Victoria Marini.

Now comes the fun part! You can include whatever information you want by inserting, importing, typing or pasting. Everything you enter in the workspace appears in its own little box, allowing you the freedom to move it around without needing to mess with any formatting. This is one of the main reasons I like using OneNote instead of Word or Excel for my agent bible. Since I paste in so much information and pictures, it's a hassle to keep fussing with the formatting.

On the right side, I've included a picture of Victoria Marini from the agency's website and next to it, I've pasted in all of her contact info from QueryTracker. Note that all the links remain active.  Also, a source link is automatically included at the bottom when you paste from a website. This makes it super easy to revisit webpages without having to scroll through a thousand bookmarks.

I've also included Ms. Marini's bio and what she's currently seeking, which I pasted from her blog. Again, all the links are active and a handy link to the source info is included at the bottom.

Now that you have the hang of it, you can click the Add Page button on the right and add more pages to this section. Remember, when you type a title on the line provided in the workspace, it will automatically rename the pages shown on the right.

For each agent, I've included foue separate pages: general info, submission guidelines, interviews, and clients.

After you've added all the info you want to include for your first agent, it's time to create a new section.

Click the plus symbol beside the tab and rename it with your next agent/agency. You now have a new workspace and blank pages to work with.

Go ahead and add your next agent. I have Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency. Again, I start with General Info and then add pages to include the rest. I keep the arrangement of each page the same between agents. You'll see why in a minute.

Here's what it looks like once you've added several sections and pages. A notebook can have as many sections/agents as you like, and each section can have as many pages as you choose.

Submission Guidelines



Above, I said that I keep the arrangement in each section uniform. That's because OneNote allows you to export a page, a section, or even your entire notebook to a PDF, Word, or Excel file. I like exporting to Word where I can do more nitpicky formatting. You can do all this in OneNote, but I do find changing the font over the entire document easier in Word.

Here I add headings, change the font and style, and maybe add a picture or two to make it fun to look at. Below is a two page view in Word once I've done a bit of extras.

Once your agent bible is all sparkly and just the way you want it, you can save it from Word as a .pdf file. And voila! You have your very own fancy shamancy Agent Bible of Awesomeness, and you shall be the envy of all your writing buddies!

There are so many other ways to use OneNote as well, like The Story Bible of Awesomeness! But that’s another post for another day. In the meantime, here’s a OneNote 2013 quick start guide that Microsoft has made available for download if you want to explore all of OneNote's features. 

I’d also like to give a huge shout out to QueryTracker! This is an invaluable resource for finding agents that represent your genre, but it’s also so much more than that. If you haven’t checked out QueryTracker yet, please do. Almost everything on the site is FREE! And free is always good. There are some features that do require premium membership, however at $25 a year, it is well worth it.

Your turn! Have you created your own agent bible of awesomeness? How did you go about it? What types of information are must haves when you research agents for your own MS? I love learning about new tips and tools, so please share your own experiences in the comments.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo

 It's almost November and that means NaNoWriMo is almost here! After stalking the website for years, listening to the rumors of its awesomeness, I'm finally joining in the fun!

funny gifs  

Usually, I don't write 1,667 words a day, or 50,000 words in a month, but I'm up for the challenge. Bring on the crappy first draft! Here's what I'm doing to prepare:

  • I signed up!

    Not difficult at all. I just went to their website and did the normal do of username and password. Picked a photo of myself, entered the title of my book, its genre, and added a little ditty about me. And done! If you're doing NaNoWriMo, I'm "DiDiBo" if you want to be my writing buddy! :) We can cheer each other on!
  • I'm stocking up on goodies. 

    October is a great month to buy candy. When writing, I find I need stimulants. A little bowl of M&Ms is perfect! Caffeine also helps, though, my go-to is water. Comfy things like a nice pair of slippers or the softest-pj's-ever put me in the zone.
  • The beginning, middle, end.

    A book from my "list" screamed, "Pick me! Pick me!" Most of the characters have names and I know where they live, and what they're going to do. The bad guys have surfaced, and I figured out an ending. Now, to flush out some great scenes! Here's a super helpful blog post by Kristen Lamb about planning for NaNo.
  • Interviewing my characters. 

     I want to know their mommy issues! One of my favorite personality tests is Meyers-Briggs. Once I get a handle on their personalities, I'll be able to write them consistently throughout.
  • Told my husband he might have to do more laundry than usual.

    Hehehe. No, really. Preparing my people is a good thing. I'm telling my family, friends, and CPs that I'm "going NaNo" on them. I still plan on living everyday life instead of eating and breathing my keyboard because there's got to be balance. Besides writing there will be birthday parties, Thanksgiving, and Christmas shopping in November! But, it's nice if the people in my life understand I have a goal so they can be supportive.
  • Carving out time to sit my butt in my chair and write.

    The writing schedule I have is pretty nice. Baby girl's nap time gives me two hours during the day, and I can steal another two at night after the kids go down. Hopefully, that 's enough for 1,667 words a day!

Right now, I'm pretty much starry-eyed. I have total belief that I WILL complete 50,000 words, and early! I'll let you know by the end of November!

So what are you planning to do in November? Want to join me for NaNoWriMo? Have you participated before? What was your experience like? We want to know!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Revision Warriors: Reboot

Revision Warriors: Re-imagined. Re-invented. 

In the world of publishing, we know retellings are oh-so-popular today, so here we are, revamping the Revision Warriors of yesteryear.  

The mission is still the same: We write. We revise. We share the journey. But now we have fresh voices contributing to the saga, offering new perspectives on the path toward publication. 

We all know this can be a daunting journey, so we hope to cross paths with many readers, writers and lovers of words along the way. 

The Warriors:

Hi, I'm Rachel, and I write YA contemporary. I love stories that are dark and gritty and also ones that are sweet and romantic. Sometimes all at once. I'm represented by Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary Management.

I love books that make me cry, and I'll even admit to shedding happy tears for more than a few. Some of my favorite YA books are BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver, MY LIFE NEXT DOOR by Huntley Fitzpatrick and SOME GIRLS ARE by Courtney Summers. My all-time favorite author is J.D. Salinger, and I try to reread THE CATCHER IN THE RYE and FRANNY AND ZOOEY every year.

I'm fond of old movies, tap dancing, and pretending I can cook. I love connecting with other writers, and I'm on Twitter @rlynn_solomon


Cheryl A. Ham
Hi! I'm Cheryl. I write YA Fantasy and am in love with all things SpecFic. Stories that combine speculative elements with lyrical prose blow my mind. Hello, Maggie Stiefvater, Laini Taylor, and Leigh Bardugo, I’m looking at you.

Random facts: I'm a dog lover and have two fur babies, Zeke and Ollie. Coffee fuels my soul--chocolate soothes it. I hate the cold (read: New England winters), but holy crap do I love ALL THINGS Christmas. I love wine and martinis. I’m an audiobook addict, enthusiastic sleeper, and lover of warm weather, socks, and cozy blankets. 

I’ve been writing for about four years and am lucky to have made the most amazing friends, especially the lovely ladies of the RW blog! I’m always looking to connect with other writers and book lovers, so please introduce yourself in the comments and share what you’re writing or books that you love. 

You can also find me on Twitter. @CherylAHam


Diane Bohannan
Hi! I'm Diane and I absolutely love to write. I can't imagine not doing it. In the last two years, I've gotten serious about writing, rolled up my sleeves, joined critique groups, and visited conferences to hone my craft. I'm hoping to query my YA fantasy next year! Some of my favorite craft books are Plot versus Character, Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, and The First 50 Pages. Books that make me fall in love with words even more are: Cinder, Shadow and Bone, The Maze Runner, and Divergent. 

Catch up with me on Twitter @dianebohannan


Michelle Smith
Hi there! I'm Michelle. In a nutshell: I'm a YA writer, military wife, momma, and Nerdfighter. Crazy-stupid love makes my heart go pitter-patter, and country music makes me swoon like you wouldn't believe. Mash 'em together, and you'll have most of my books. John Green is my favorite author, with JK Rowling, Leigh Bardugo, and Tahereh Mafi all in a close race for second. 

If you like rambling thoughts, crazy kiddo stories, and the occasional writing-related tweet, you can find me on Twitter @msmithbooks.


Hello! I’m Marlana. My non-stop imagination concerned family and friends until I began jotting down my made-up worlds, added some pretend friends and called myself a writer. I read a vast variety of genres but for creating, I lean toward science fiction and fantasy for MG/YA

I’m a member of the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators aka ScaBeeWee. My writing heroes include JK Rowling, Dan Brown, Sidney Sheldon, Robin Cook, Beth Revis, James Patterson, Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins and Stephen King. I also find inspiration from movies and television. If you look up sci-fi geek, you just might see my picture.

Truthfully, I’m awkward on Twitter, but am trying to get better. If the occasional incoherent rambling doesn’t bother you, please follow me @MarlanaAntifit  

Rina Heisel
Hello! I'm Rina. I write middle grade novels, and more often than not, something furry or fantastical works its way into way into my pages.  I’ve been crazy for middle grade since those early reading years, when books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Julie of the Wolves delivered whole new worlds right to my cozy reading couch. Books like Ender's Game, Watership Down, and the ghost stories of Mary Downing Hahn and Betty Ren Wright were like rocket fuel to my imagination and made me want to write! I’m currently represented by the amazing Danielle M. Smith of Foreword Literary and trying to make my publishing dreams a reality. I’m also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. 

Chat with me on Twitter! @rinaheisel