Want to be on my street team?

Hello, readers! This is a super exciting post for me. I’m starting to build my street team, and you are invited to join. :)

In case you aren’t familiar with the concept, they can work a few different ways, depending on the author, the book, and the publishing house, but basically it’s a team of people who sign up to help promote and support a book through word of mouth. You don’t have to have a large social media platform– it’s just as helpful to suggest the book to your friends and family and do on-the-ground support. The power of fans is huge, and I’d love to have anyone involved who either has read and loves How We Fall or supports my writing. (Click the image to see the book description.)

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All street team activities will be flexible and optional, but of course I want people who are enthusiastic and genuinely want to help my book succeed. I’d especially love anyone who regularly reads my blog or interacts with me on Twitter, and anyone who thinks How We Fall sounds awesome. A lot of you have been around since I first started writing on this blog and have seen me query, write new manuscripts, query again, and sign with my agent, and I’d love to have anyone who has stuck with me that long!

What kind of things might you be doing? Asking your library and bookstores to stock How We Fall, telling family and friends about it, placing preorders, adding the book on Goodreads, hosting the cover reveal, sharing teasers on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, etc.

What are the perks of being on my street team? Sneak peaks, a chance to have a character in a later book named after you, a chance to win an annotated ARC, awesome swag like bookmarks and buttons, updates about what’s going on behind the scenes, and of course, my sincere gratitude and appreciation. I’ll have a few surprises in the works, too!

Thank you to every one of you who has been reading my blog, following me on Twitter, and making a space for me to talk about my books and hear about yours. The community of writers and readers is a wonderful place to be.

How can you join? Contact me below!

 

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Good morning! I was tagged by the brilliant Elizabeth Holloway (check out her site and her blog) in the “my writing process” blog tour. The blog tour works like this: I have four questions I have to answer about my writing process, then I nominate other writers to join the tour. They will answer the same four questions one to two weeks later. So here we go

1) What am I working on?

I’m drafting a companion novel to HOW WE FALL, about a high school dropout and an older college girl. Will’s mother disappeared after his parents’ divorce when he was eight, and he hasn’t heard from her since.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I suppose you could call it new adult, since the characters are that age range. It’s not a college book, though– it’s very much a mother-son story. Also, it’s not a story about Will and Claire getting together; they start out pretty much together and the story follows the trajectory of their relationship, which is not a smooth one.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I like complicated relationships, I guess. Really complex situations with a lot of built-in conflict where no one is entirely right and no one is clearly in the wrong. It feels more true to real life to me, and when conflict and resolution happens, I can make it more genuine. I write YA (and NA) of course, but adults and children feature heavily in all my stories so far, probably because it makes things messier to be dealing with a true-to-life set of age groups. I love having teens as main characters, though, because it’s such a volatile stage in life, and when people with few resources who are just starting to deal with their major firsts are pushed into high stakes situations, it’s fascinating to see what they’re capable of doing.

4) How does my writing process work?

It depends on the book how much I outline, but I always make myself live in the story first. I get out my markers and write a giant web of nonsense on my markerboard wall. I add possible conflicts and organic problems and conflicts for secondary characters, and all kinds of ideas for the main characters. I mull it over, erase and replace half of it. I fill out the (incredible, insightful, you must use them) worksheets in Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. I erase and replace the whole mess on my markerboard with something that looks a little bit more like lists and a plot arc. Then I figure out which scenes happen in what order for the first third, and start writing. I like to fast-draft and save revisions for after I’m done drafting, but if the beginning feels weak or thin to me, I usually take the time to revise those first few chapters over and over until I get grounded in how the characters express themselves and what their goals are. Once I have a few solid opening chapters, I pick up speed and try to write every day or at least every other day. Before writing new material, I read what I wrote the day before and layer it a little more– boost the tension, cut lines, add in reactions and physical cues. Once I’m doing drafting, I send it off to critique partners and then ignore it while they have it. Then I compile notes once I’ve heard back from them, ask questions, cry/mope/run around excitedly while figuring out how to solve the issues, and then dig into revisions. A few rounds of this and maybe a few beta readers, and I send it off to my agent! At which point, the revision process repeats.That’s pretty much how I work!

And now to tag some other great writers–

Alex Yuschik

Alex is a graduate student and a writer. She does math during the day and writes at night. She pretty much likes anything you can put on paper, whether it’s letters, numbers, drawings, music, weird scribbly things and/or souls. Right now her writing interests run the gamut in YA fiction: she’s always been a fantasy and magical realism girl, though recently she’s gotten into contemporary. You can find her on Twitter or on her website.

Kelly Youngblood

Kelly graduated from the University of New Mexico cum laude with a BA in English Literature and a minor in Religious Studies. She has worked in the restaurant industry, as a legal assistant for a civil rights lawyer, in churches as a young adult coordinator and as a church secretary, as an operations coordinator for a non-profit volunteer organization, and most recently in campus ministry. She is now a stay-at-home mom who is in the process of discovering the next call of God upon her life. You can find her on Twitter or on her website.

What’s your writing process? Is it anything like mine?

Release Day for The Bone Church!

I’m thrilled to welcome my wickedly talented client, Victoria Dougherty, to the blog today to talk about The Bone Church. Victoria’s writing turns everyday things on their heads in such a ghostly, atmospheric way, and her ability to craft a line is stunning. Welcome, Victoria, and happy release day!

Kate, thank you so much for having me on your blog. You always inspire me to do my best work and I’ll endeavor to keep up those expectations here :).

In addition to what I write, you’ve asked me to tell you all a little bit about why I write what I write. That’s a sit up for half the night with a bottle of wine kind of conversation, and I wish we could do this in front of a fire, with a plate of fancy cheeses, but I’ll give it my best shot with you there and me here:

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Having grown up with a lot of drinking and smoking and storytelling at my dinner table, I guess I was predisposed to continue that tradition somehow. And these were crazy stories – dangerous, true-to-life James Bond-style epics told by the eccentric, high-wire act people that made up my family. Women who’d fled across armed borders, hid Jews, learned they were Jews, had guns held to their heads, knew how to double-cross and how to cross their legs to get you to notice. Men with deep wrinkles around their eyes, a wry smile and a code they lived by, except when they didn’t. I loved their stories – their Cold War stories. Ones that played out like an Escher drawing and were filled with all manner of subterfuge. Tales with real emotional stakes that forced life and death decisions. The kinds of decisions that can never be neat or clean and affect generations. Given that kind of background, I don’t see how I could have become a writer of, say, navel-gazing post-modern novels.

So, like most writers, I write what I like and what I know.man

My work is atmospheric and often blurs the line between illusion and reality. In my novel, The Bone Church, for instance, my Jesuit protagonist suffers from a series of extraordinary visions. Otherwise, I strive for a pretty straightforward Daniel Silva meets Alan Furst style thriller. I don’t stray too far off the reservation. I like my thrillers to be, well…thrillers.

One of the many reasons to read The Bone Church is that it’s such a unique, captivating story. Check out the blurb:

BoneChurch_border-1In the surreal and paranoid underworld of wartime Prague, fugitive lovers Felix Andel and Magdalena Ruza make some dubious alliances – with a mysterious Roman Catholic cardinal, a reckless sculptor intent on making a big political statement, and a gypsy with a risky sex life. As one by one their chances for fleeing the country collapse, the two join a plot to assassinate Hitler’s nefarious Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Josef Goebbels. But the assassination attempt goes wildly wrong, propelling the lovers in separate directions.

Felix’s destiny is sealed at the Bone Church, a mystical pilgrimage site on the outskirts of Prague, while Magdalena is thrust even deeper into the bowels of a city that betrayed her and a homeland soon to be swallowed by the Soviets. As they emerge from the shadowy fog of World War II, and stagger into the foul haze of the Cold War, Felix and Magdalena must confront the past, and a dangerous, uncertain future.

And what a gorgeous cover, right?

Victoria

Victoria Dougherty writes fiction, drama, and essays that often revolve around spies, killers, curses and destinies. Her work has been published or profiled in The New York Times, USA Today, International Herald Tribune and elsewhere. Earlier in her career, while living in Prague, she co-founded Black Box Theater, translating, producing and acting in several Czech plays. She lives with her husband and children in Charlottesville, Virginia. Follow Victoria on her blog, Cold. Click here to purchase The Bone Church, and click here to add it on Goodreads.

 

 

 

 

 

#Subtips–Consent in YA Relationships

 

Even if you don’t write about young adult relationships, consent and non-consent in fiction needs to be handled intentionally and fairly. Most of us try really hard in our writing to not promote slut-shaming and rape culture and victim-blaming, but writing about healthy, considerate relationships requires more than that.

So what shouldn’t we be doing?

Showing force and manipulation as sexy– sometimes we think hey, isn’t it sexy if he/she wants him/her that badly? And I hope you know the answer there. Selfishness is never sexy.

Allowing our characters to react as if being pressured isn’t a big deal. Power and influence are incredibly strong forces on people, especially young adults, and being pressured for something you’re not ready for is traumatic and frightening. Enough people blow it off already; we shouldn’t let our characters do that, too.

Implying that “no” doesn’t really mean “no.” Playing hard to get can be a fun part of a relationship story, and teasing/flirting can be great. But when you’re building a healthy relationship between your characters and one says no to a date, a call, a text, a kiss, anything– the other one had better respect that. Sometimes we think it’s charming to have the guy take being turned down as an invitation to try harder, and when everyone is well-intentioned and our characters have no ulterior motives, it can be. But in real life, what does that look like? What does that feel like to the person who said no, to know they’re not being taken seriously, that their current wishes aren’t being respected? It’s scary. It’s offensive. We shouldn’t be modeling that as charming. It’s not charming; it’s dangerous.

So what should we be doing?

Calling out the flaws in our characters’ relationships– sometimes we write certain characters who do need to learn respect and boundaries, and relationships don’t always start off as healthy ones. If that’s the case, awesome job for writing realistic people. But call it out in the story. Make it an issue. Don’t let it just resolve itself (hint: that’s not resolving it) because they decided they loved each other. It’s a big deal; make it a big deal in your story. In addition to promoting a culture of consent and respect, those can be great turning points for your characters that will add depth and complexity.

Actively showing consent moments. It doesn’t have to be the super formal and sometimes awkward “can I kiss you?” (But hey, we all love awkwardness because it’s cute!) Work the consent into the flirting. Through hesitation and eye contact and body language. Use words and distance and time to show respect and permission. And if it’s more than just a brief kiss, have your characters check in with each other. Permission for one thing is not permission for all things.

Bringing consent into the relationship itself, not just the physical intimacy. Getting a girl’s number from a friend and calling her when she didn’t know you had her contact info? That’s invasive. In most situations, that’s not okay. Showing up at his house when he didn’t give you his address? Creepy. Invasive. Sometimes we show it as okay, as something that’s charming. For example, in the Vampire Diaries pilot– Stefan showing up on Elena’s doorstep. He’d met her outside the bathroom at school, then scared her in a graveyard– and now he’s at her home, at night? She really shouldn’t be charmed there. Not okay, Stefan.

Consent should be showing up all over the place when you’re writing a healthy relationship. And it doesn’t have to be super serious– it’s fine to keep it light-hearted. But work it in. Yes, you can call me. Come over some time. Can I meet your family? Would you like to go out again?

Home, contact information, being introduced to parents and siblings (especially younger siblings), and even friends mean your character is handing out some measure of trust and vulnerability. Don’t let those things be taken from them– let your characters give them to the other person. And if one (or more) of those things is taken away from them, make it a big deal. Address it. Your readers and your characters deserve a culture of consent and respect.

My First Author Event!

Hello, readers! Guess what?

For my first event as an author, I’m appearing on a panel at the Sioux Center Library in Iowa. I’m thrilled to be at such a wonderful library to talk about HOW WE FALL. If you live in the area (Sioux Falls, Sioux City, Omaha, Canton, etc), come say hello!

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Common Publishing Terms and Abbreviations

Below is a list of common terms and abbreviations you might see as you read my posts or other publishing blogs. About a year ago I wrote a similar list, and it has turned out to be one of my most popular posts, so here it is, revised and updated!

  • Agent: Literary agents are professionals who represent an author’s career. The most well-known task an agent performs is selling the writer’s manuscript to a publishing house and negotiating the contract. Agents do much more than this, however, and function pretty much like career managers.
  • Beta reader: Usually beta readers are people that an author asks to read his/her manuscript and give critiques and respond to the story. This is not the same thing as a critique partner.
  • Big 5: Previously the “Big 6,” these are the major New York publishing houses: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster. Many other significant, international publishing houses exist, though, such as Bloomsbury, Scholastic, and Harlequin.
  • Category: a broader term than genre that addresses the age range the book is written for or about. All books fit into one of these categories: picture book, middle grade, young adult, new adult, or adult. Some people separate the younger categories into more divisions than that, but those are the basics. Young adult and new adult categories are a bit different than the others, because while they are written about characters of a certain age, they aren’t written just for readers of that age group–adults make up a huge percentage of their readership.
  • Crit/Critique. An evaluation (usually from another writer) that aims for showing both the strong and weak elements of a MS. Critiques from other writers, especially authors and agents, can be a great way for writers to improve their writing.
  • CP/Critique Partner. Writers who critique each other’s work in an on-going relationship. The critiques CPs give can be tougher than a beta reader’s feedback, and CPs often know each other’s writing strengths and weaknesses, and can push each other more. These can be great relationships to establish because of the encouragement, resources, and support writers receive from each other.
  • Editor: Depending on the type of editor, editors acquire books for their house to publish and guide the book through the editorial process for publication. Like agents, they do much more than this, too.
  • Form rejection: A copy-pasted rejection from an agent to a writer who queried. Most of the time this is what writers will receive. Most agents receive 100+ queries a week (I’ve seen some agents report 800+), so personal responses are often impossible
  • Genre: A term to describe the kind of story a book is. When writers are asked what kind of books they write, they often respond with the category and genre– young adult fantasy, for example, or adult romance. Science fiction, contemporary, mystery, thriller, magical realism, and historical are all genres.
  • MG: middle grade. Writing written for middle grade readers and adhering to certain age group conventions.
  • MS: manuscript. An unpublished work of fiction or nonfiction. Plural: MSs.
  • NA: new adult. Characters and plotlines that revolve around situations common to the 19 to mid-twenties age group. Some say this is a subset of adult fiction, and others maintain it’s its own category.
  • Personalized rejection: A rejection from an agent to a writer who queried, but some element of the letter is personal. A line or two complimenting the work but explaining why it’s not right for the agent may be included. This is an encouraging sign and a compliment from the agent, and is actually a good thing to receive. If a writer is excited about receiving a rejection, this is likely why.
  • Pitch: A brief description of a manuscript highlighting the main elements in a way that makes others want to read more. Contests sometimes ask for a 1, 2, or 3-sentence pitch. Writers should have one ready for contests and conferences, and many writers create the pitch while they are plotting the manuscript to help keep them focused on the story’s core.
  • Query letter: A letter, often a professional email, that writers send to agents asking them to consider them for representation. The letter includes specific details about the manuscript the author has written and relevant credentials the writer may have. Some agents want 5 or 10 pages and/or a synopsis included as well. Conventions for queries are very particular.
  • R&R(or R/R): Revise and resubmit. The request from an agent or editor to have the writer make certain changes to the manuscript and then resubmit the work for consideration. These happen frequently, and are an excellent sign of the story’s potential. The agent’s current list of titles, market trends, and the writing itself may be reasons the agent asked for an R&R, to see how well they can work with the author and how open to feedback the writer is.
  • Request: An agent (or sometimes editor) requests to see a certain number of pages of a writer’s manuscript. These can be “partials”–generally 30, 50, or 100 pages– or else “fulls”– the entire manuscript. Usually agents request a partial first and then request a full if they are considering representing the writer. A request is a BIG deal, particularly if it’s a full.
  • Slush/ slush pile: the queries and submissions waiting in the query inbox of an agent or editor.
  • Small Press: A publisher with annual sales below a certain level, or else one who publishes a small list of titles per year. There can be significant benefits to publishing with a small press, such as increased attention from your publishing team.
  • Submission: Usually this refers to when an agent takes an author’s manuscript on submission– actively submitting it to editors, hoping to receive an offer of publication. It can also mean the submission materials writers send to agents or contests.
  • Synopsis: A 1-2 page summary that reveals the main elements of the MS in a cause-and-effect style. Agents and editors often ask for these to see how (and if) an author can wrap up the story.
  • Twitter pitch: A pitch designed for Twitter contests designed to quickly hook the reader. 140 characters or less. Twitter contests can be a good way to reach agents who may be closed to submissions (if they are participating) or get a request that may move you up in the agent’s slush pile.
  • WIP: work in progress. The manuscript an author is currently writing.
  • YA: young adult. Writing intended for a teenage audience, but with tremendous crossover appeal to adults. Publishers Weekly reported that 55% of all YA books are purchased by adult buyers, and 78% of the time, those books are for themselves. Basically, YA is written about teens, but written for both teen and adult readers.

Have you heard any other terms you’d like to know more about or have added to the list? Let me know in the comments!

Revisions, and making the most of them

by Alex Yuschik

One of the cooler things I did in college was take a poetry workshop class. I did it for fun, because I was majoring in math and needed a class not to drive me crazy, but it ended up being one of the best decisions I made for my writing career.

The workshop was led by an American poet, Jim Daniels. (Look him up, one of his poems is actually on the roof of a race car, which is a pretty damn cool benchmark for anyone interested in publishing to achieve.) We did the usual, here’s my weekly poem read-a-loud-and-critique, everyone writes what they think of everyone else’s poems down and hands their thoughts back to the author, and then one of our assignments was to revise.

Not just change a few words, fix up the stanzas, or correct the typoes we’d missed, and make sure we took all our classmates’ comments into account, whether we chose to follow them or not. We were warned that we would not get much credit for doing a revision like that. He wanted us to re-imagine the poem, go back to the seed of the idea and try to reinvent it, change everything to make the poem work smoother, better, and experiment with it.

This was more or less alien and by the time the first revision came around, most people kinda balked at it. I wasn’t sure what to think. I mean, I liked my first draft. It wasn’t as strong as I thought it could be, but I didn’t want to rip it up and have to start over. I changed some things, reworked a middle section, but kept most things the same. When I started looking at what other people did, then I realized where the strength in this approach lay.

My bestie had completely restructured her poem, writing something almost entirely new, and it was awesome. The class knew what she’d been trying to go for in the last draft, and she used some feedback as a springboard to do cool things with it, things that no one had told her to do or suggested, but that she just thought of while she was going through it again. The most shocking thing during this round of first revisions, though, came from a guy who changed two words in his page and a half monster epic. Two. Not two stanzas. Two adjectives. He just shrugged and said that he didn’t think the comments “got” his poem and that he’d changed all he thought he needed to.

When I looked at whose revisions had seen them grow more as a writer, I was really envious of my friend. And then the next time this assignment came around, I made sure that I experimented and re-worked all my stuff, too.

But it’s not like keeping things the same is wrong (it is so not). Sometimes you fight for what you like. But other times, you have to remember that you can just hit “Save As” and let yourself go wild. No one says that you have to keep every revision.

What worries me when I see people being so defensive about their work that they’re becoming afraid to try something new. Don’t be. Never be. Being creative means trying new things. It’s scary, but you have to go for it. That’s why you got into this writing thing, right? You want to create, and creating means taking risks.

After the class ended, my friend and I started referring to revisions in two forms: normal revisions, where you changed what people told you was wrong and corrected obvious things but kept the second draft about the same, and then Jim Daniels revisions, wherein you got crazy and experimented and rewrote the whole thing differently, but in a way that got your idea better than the first. It became an in-joke while we were critiquing each other’s poems to send to literary journals: do you think this needs a revision or like, a Jim Daniels revision?

Working in publishing has given me a sweet opportunity to see this happen in prose, too. I’ve seen an agent suggest edits and seen revisions come back lukewarm and only changing what the edits wanted. And then I’ve seen edits go out that an author nails and then makes the story exponentially better by fixing or improving something that I didn’t even notice before and it blows me out of the water.

This is why people ask you to take your time on revisions– it’s not because they don’t want to read your work again, it’s because thinking all this stuff out, re-imagining and re-inventing stuff takes time.

As always, as the creator, it’s up to you what you want to do. If you think this is the kind of revision where you only need to change a few things, then awesome! it’s great to be that close to being done. But more often than not, I think that it’s important to look at the distance between where the work is and where it needs to be and try to lessen that with a grander gesture. Because when someone gives you a chance for an R&R, or you get edit notes back from an editor you’re stoked to work with, you want to blow them out of the water, right?

Push yourself. Take chances, and see where the revisions take you.

Alex Yuschik has interned for Mary Kole at Movable Type Management and Theresa Cole at Entangled Publishing. Currently, she writes, studies, blogs at letters & numbers and the Secret Life of Writers, and is really liking the cello part in this song. 

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