It is that time of year again where I tell the voting community which of my titles qualify for which awards in the literary community.
Hugo Awards – Best Novel
DECOHERENCE (September 2016/HarperVoyager)
It is that time of year again where I tell the voting community which of my titles qualify for which awards in the literary community.
Hugo Awards – Best Novel
DECOHERENCE (September 2016/HarperVoyager)
If 2016 was the year I was busy behind-the-scene, 2017 is the year you get to finally see all those stories I’ve been teasing for the last twelve months. Big things are coming and I’m excited.
THE DARKNESS AND GOOD ANTHOLOGY – a collection short stories written by Amy Laurens and myself. Most of these stories were first published on the Darkness & Good blog. The stories in the anthology have been edited, and in some cases expanded.
BODIES IN MOTION – In war, Selena Caryll and Titan Sciarra were bitter enemies. Now that the fleet is grounded and fighting for survival these two find that the best future is the one the build together (if they don’t kill each other first). This is a SFR novella that kicks off the new Newton’s Law universe.
FOUNDATION STONES – Captain Kamara of the King’s Guard would rather see the king’s nephews hang than consider any of them as a replacement for her aging, childless liege, but when one of them frames her for the murder of the king… well, the enemy of her enemy is a man she’ll at least plan a prison break with. This is a fantasy novel that will be serialized on the blog over the summer.
FALL RELEASES TBA
FOUNDATION STONES – After being serialized on the blog I’ll collect the chapters, run through one more edit taking into account any comments left by readers, and publish the ebook in winter 2017.
Where am I moving this summer??? I still have no clue. My husband’s contract up here is ending and the people we’re renting from want to sell the house in July, so one way or another, we need to move in June. We have applications in across the country (and a few overseas) but I honestly have no idea where I’ll be at the end of 2017.
When are you going to write that one book? From Even Villains 4 to questions about Prime Sensations (will Kaleb’s brother get his own story?) there have been a lot of questions about adding to existing series. EV4 is on the schedule for writing after the move, but a lot of what get published in the fall and early 2018 depends on things in the background that I’m not supposed to talk about yet. The sooner a book sale announcement is made, the sooner I have to go edit that hush-hush novel. Take that as you will.
The other major factor here is that, this fall, my youngest starts kindergarten (you have no idea how weepy and old I feel saying that). I won’t just be in a new city, but I’ll have a whole new schedule to work with, one that allows me to have interruption-free writing time (theoretically… we all know how Murphy’s Law works in these situations). I’m keeping my fall schedule open to possibility. We’ll see what happens, where I am, and what deadline have magically appeared before I make any promises.
January 1, 2017, marked my two-year anniversary in Alaska. I spent 2016 learning to drive on ice (and not die), dodging moose (without dying), and chasing whales (while avoiding death). There was a bit of a theme in 2016.
I only had one book published in 2016, DECOHERENCE, but there was a lot going on behind the scenes. Let’s look at the writing stats.
Total Words Written In 2016: 364,000
Total Words Edited In 2016: 1,266,000
Best Writing Month: April
Best Editing Month: September
Worst Writing Month: July
Worst Editing Month: October
Projects Finished: 1 (Decoherence)
Projects That Will Be Finished Q1 2017 – 2 (Free Fall, Bodies in Motion)
Conclusion: I survived the winter slump that crushed me in 2015, yay! But October is consistently bad for me. There’s always a crush of business things to do, and a lot going on with school and family. But, my word count is improving and if I wasn’t writing daily, I was writing consistently. Honestly, even though it wasn’t my most productive publishing year, I think it went well. My writing improved a lot over the year. I finally figured out how to write a High Concept Pitch. And I think I’ve set myself up for a very successful 2017!
So… how was 2016 for you? Did you survive, or are you only reading this post because your crypt has wifi?
Originally this was written for Savvy Authors in 2013, and then Leslie brought it back November 16th because she was struggling with NaNo. Reading through it, I saw a few places where I could expand on ideas better, so here is the revised edition of Breaking Through Writer’s Block!
I’ll never blame a magic fairy’s disappearance for why I can’t get my writing done each day. But I do believe in writer’s block.
Sometimes it’s very obvious why you can’t write: there’s a cat in your lap, a kid sitting on the keyboard trying to color on your face, or the power’s gone out. In these cases, you feed the cat, distract the kid, and grab pen and paper to plot out your next scene. These are easy to see problems with equally easy fixes. Other forms of Writer’s Block aren’t as easy to identify or cure. Writer’s Block comes in three basic forms: Physical, Emotional, and Logical.
This doesn’t mean the keyboard is missing, it means there is something physically wrong with the author or the environment. Fatigue, hunger, and illness all make it hard to write.
Signs you have physical writer’s block:
When you hit a stumbling point where you can’t work, do a quick self-diagnostic and try to remember when you last ate a healthy meal. A real, all-five-food-groups meal that provides the brain with energy.
If it’s been more than four hours it’s probably time to hit save and grab some food. If you’re yawning and rubbing your eyes take a nap or go to sleep. Tired writing is bad writing.
Shivering, sweating, or distracted? Adjust the temperature or location.
Loop on cough meds? Call it a night and go watch a movie while you eat an orange for the delicious vitamin C!
Physical writer’s block is something you can walk away from. Get up, move, address your physical needs, and the words will come back. Your brain is not a machine, it can’t work at 100% for 24 hours straight. Giving your body a break is the quickest way to fix this form of writer’s block. Food and good nap will solve 90% of your problems, trust me, it’s been scientifically tested by millions of authors.
Self-care is not selfish. Beating your body up, or neglecting it, isn’t good for you in the long term. Or for your career. Authors joke about living off coffee and alcohol, but at the end of the day it is a joke. Your brain is a delicate organ that needs certain things to do its job correctly. Stay hydrated. Get the sleep you need. Take regular breaks to stretch, walk, and get some sunlight. Give your hands a nice massage after a long day of typing. And make sure wherever you write is comfortable and supports a healthy posture.
You have a bright future in front of you; you should be doing everything you can to make sure the body you’re traveling in is as healthy as it can be. (That sounded less creepy t
When everything is right with the author and the environment sometimes the story creates the stumbling block.
Signs you have logical writer’s block:
Don’t fret, plotter or punster this happens to the best of us. Everyone will one day write themselves into a corner and not know what to do. Save your work, close the manuscript, and take a deep breath. Now is the time to do a triage.
Start with the most basic question: Why do you love this book and need to write it? If you don’t love it, put the book in the retired book folder on your computer and move on. There is no time for you to spend months writing and editing a book you don’t love.
What scenes are you excited to write in this book and why? Even if you’re pantsing this thing and making it up as you go along there are scenes you know you’re looking forward to writing. Analyze why you love those scenes. Susan Dennard calls these Magic Cookie Scenes. Every chapter should be built around a scene that you really, really want to write. The more fun it is for you to imagine, the more likely you are to write the scene. If you’re not feeling it… cut the scene and find another way to write that information.
Is the outline holding you back? This is a common problem for new authors and die hard plotters. Outlines are great but sometimes books outgrow them. Outlines can remove the element of surprise and prevent plot twists. If the book has outgrown the outline, trash the outline. Make a new one. Or don’t. Some books are better off written as spontaneous acts of creation.
Do you not have an outline at all? Grab the pen and paper. Write down the worst things that could happen to the character (make a list of about 20 – go wild!) and then decide what absolutely must happen so you can get the ending you want. Plot as least as far as your next plot twist. If you don’t like outlines try a plot box, an Excel sheet, or post-it notes on the wall. Do whatever you need to do to visualize the story.
Are your villains doing their work? Poorly written villains are a death sentence for a manuscript. Take a good hard look at your villains. Are they the heroes of their own story? Do they have good motivations? Do they have a cunning and intelligent plan? Are they doing their work or do you have a cardboard cut out and a hero punching at shadows.
Do you have all four plot twists? Plot twists should come at irregular intervals throughout the book. In a 90,000 word manuscript the plot twists would come at 10k, 35k, 60k, and 88k. That last twist at the end is the satisfying closure and the lead to the next book in the series. If everything is going according to the hero’s plan than you need to shake things up a bit. Let the hero lose a battle. Kill the beloved family pet. Burn the safe place to the ground.
If you get through all of this and are still having problems you need to consider that you may have a dead book on your hands. It’s a sad truth that 90% of what all authors write will never hit the shelves. One in ten started manuscripts becomes a finished book. One in ten finished books becomes a published work. Don’t fall into the trap of letting a dead novel keep you from moving forward with your writing. And, remember, even if you trunk this book for a year or ten you can always come back to it at a later date.
The number one cause of writer’s block is fear.
Signs you have emotional writer’s block:
Fear of the unknown is the leading cause of writer’s block. You get so tangled in the What Ifs and Maybes that you can’t focus on the story.
Perfectionism insists the book will never be perfect. And, I’ll be honest, no book ever is. No author alive looks at their published novel and doesn’t see something they want to change. I know, I’ve asked around, we’re all like that.
Concerns that you’ll fail, that you’ll never be as popular as That Big Name Author, or never make a living off writing make you question if you should spend so much time with fictional people. We’ve all been there. Most authors visit this place at least once a book, even the Big Name Authors who you think sip champagne as bestsellers magically appear on their hard drive. Doubt is part of art.
All forms of creation involve a stage where the creator questions themselves, their art, their intentions, their future. The trick is to not let this moment of self-reflection keep you from creating something beautiful.
Look at the facts: rough drafts are ugly buggers and they always will be, no one makes a living off of writing until they have at least 5 books on the shelf (and even then it’s a stretch), no one else is going to write the book you are thinking of, you can’t be anyone else, no one else can be you, and if you love this book you should keep writing.
Sure, there are reasons to quit. There’s a time and a season for everything in life and sometimes you had to admit this isn’t a writing season for you. Most authors having taken a year or ten off for everything from dabbling in other careers to going to college to just not wanting to write. If that’s where you’re at, embrace it!
But if writing is what you love – if sitting down to write each day makes you a better, happier, healthier person – than toss your doubts in the trash can and keep writing. The world wants to read your story.
Query #2 was one I picked out because I love UF and I haven’t seen Norse mythology done well recently (maybe I missed a book?).
The original query is in black, my notes are in red, and my rewrite is at the bottom.
MARK OF THE VALKYRIE is a 75,000 word contemporary fantasy novel that should appeal to fans of the October Daye books by Seannan McGuire and the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. This paragraph should be at the bottom. Start with a sentence that demands attention.
Erin Hawke is the daughter of a Valkyrie, but prefers Scrabble to spear practice, and running her pub to heroic adventuring. Her mother, Sigrun, is intent on forging Erin into her image of a Valkyrie, despite Erin’s longstanding belieif belief that Choosing the Slain is the furthest thing from what she wants to do for eternity. Fed up with having a disappointment for a daughter, Sigrun gives Erin a test with her life on the line Cut this (. Erin must) find the source of an interdimensional disturbance that is drawing the Nine Worlds dangerously close together. Erin has to remember her much ignored lessons to complete this task.
Her challenge will take her through the turbulence between the Nine Worlds, where she’ll face problems bartending never prepared her for. Fighting rock wyrms and Dark Elves will be the least of her worries. Combine those two sentences for more snap and clarity. Erin will need to learn what secrets Sigrun has been keeping from her. Secrets that could lead to destruction that makes Ragnarok look like a nice day at the park. Failing this test means losing the life she’s worked to build, but success means leaving her home to join the ranks of the Valkyrie. It’s up to Erin to find an outcome more to her liking. I’d like a punchier ending. All the details of a good query are here, but it’s lacking a Voice. I want to hear you in the story. I want to hear the author’s confidence and humor and emotion in a query. This sounds very sterile. It’s clean, but it’s needs the author’s final touch to make it perfect.
MARK OF THE VALKYRIE is the first in a series. Say instead, “has series potential” … you will need to be able to sell this as a stand alone. The market is volatile and a series can be a tough sell. Not that it can’t happen, but the rule of thumb is that the first book should always be able to stand alone. My urban fantasy short story “Daybreak” was published in Salt Lake Community College’s Folio magazine.
This is a very clean query so there isn’t much to rewrite. This is what I came up with…
Erin Hawke loves Scrabble, watching Animal Planet, and running the Bastard’s Brew, her beloved Irish pub in Ohio. It’s a perfect life, except it’s not exactly hers. Erin was born as a Valkyrie, one of the Choosers of Slain meant to bring worthy souls to Valhalla, and her mother is p****ed she’s not practicing with a spear or riding into battle reaping souls.
Her mother, Sigrun, decides there’s only one reasonable way to solve their impasse: send Erin to find the source of an interdimensional disturbance between the Nine Worlds or die trying. If Erin returns victorious she’ll be swept up with the rest of the Norse pantheon. If she fails, Sigrun has arranged a tasteful funeral. Either way, there is no Scrabble in her future.
Bartending didn’t prepare Erin to fight rock wyrms or Dark Elves, but she’s bright enough to know that Sigrun isn’t telling the whole truth. There are secrets in Valhalla that could make Ragnarok look like a nice day at the park. Maybe, if she can unravel the lies spun around her, Erin can save the day and get back to mixing cocktails before happy hour. Or maybe she’ll find out of Hel is any good at Scrabble.
MARK OF THE VALKYRIE is a 75,000 word contemporary fantasy novel with series potential that should appeal to fans of the October Daye books by Seannan McGuire and the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. My urban fantasy short story “Daybreak” was published in Salt Lake Community College’s Folio magazine.
Readers, what do you think? Leave feedback in the comments below and don’t forget to check out the Romantic Suspense query HERE.
The query is one of the hardest parts of writing a book. Even if you aren’t looking for an agent or a publisher you will write something similar. The query is, essentially, the back-of-book blurb with an additional paragraph containing personal details (previous publications, relevant platform, word count, ect). I picked this one to critique because it is written by an author who has a disability (something I can relate to because of Ehlers-Danlos), and because it’s romantic suspense, which is one of my favorite things to read.
The original query is in black, my notes are in red, and my rewrite is at the bottom.
Dear [Agent Name],
Christine was born with only three fingers on her left hand, a minor issue in most people’s eyes but to Christine it’s huge. Ever since a mean girl This reference feels dated and I recommend cutting it unless this person becomes a reoccurring character. Remember, it can take several years for a book to hit the shelves and On Trend today is dated in a few years. told her, “Christine, don’t deceive The word GIRL implies young, and deceive isn’t a word I associate with kids yourself. No man will ever want to put a ring on that hand,” she has believed she is disqualified This strikes me as an odd word choice, but if it’s in keeping with the tone of the book, it’s fine. from being loved. She had one serious relationship in her life, but it ended badly. She has accepted that she will never be loved. What is Christine’s motivation? What is she doing with her life while she isn’t falling in love? I’d like to see that.
Then she meets Paul. White space is our friend! This is not normally a trick I use for queries, but this is a sentence that needs the space to have impact.
Paul does not This isn’t a formal letter, go ahead and use contractions. care about her hand. Christine begins to hope that she has a chance at love. When a beautiful woman makes a very forward pass at Paul, all of Christine’s insecurities resurface and she walks out on Paul, fearing that he would wake up one day and regret being with her. She had already been betrayed once. She refused to let it happen again. Her heart could not take it. If their relationship was going to end, it would be by her choice, in her timing. I don’t love the fact that you’re describing her running away without stopping to figure out what is happening. If I read this on the back of a book, I’d pass, even if it is well-written. I recommend giving her a stronger reason for leaving.She accepts a job out of state and starts packing to move.
Heartbroken and believing that Christine is gone, Paul is without hope until he discovers that the out of state job Christine was heading to had fallen through. With hope renewed, he buys an engagement ring for Christine even while she still refuses to speak to him. Paul has a secretive national security job that sometimes puts him in danger. See, this is a big deal. Unpack this! His secrets can be the reason Christine doubted him. He is accustomed to taking chances and succeeding even when the odds are stacked against him.
While many forces, including Christine’s stubbornness and a violent drug cartel that wants Paul dead, seem determined to keep them apart, Paul is determined that they will be together. This is promising! 🙂
WITH THIS RING, a romance, is 66,000 HUGE PROBLEM!!! For an adult romance novel you need a minimum of 70,000 words. Very few agents or editors will even give this manuscript a chance because the word count is too low (the high end is 100,000 words for romance and 120,000 for epic fantasy/SF – just FYI). You need to go through your manuscript and find places where you glossed over the action or skipped some details and get those words in there. words long. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
THE REWRITE – I didn’t have a copy of the novel so I made up as many facts as I had to…
Successful lawyer Christine SURNAME is on a partnership track at a prestigious law firm and she doesn’t plan on little things like love, or being born missing two fingers, hold her back. This presents Christine’s circumstances and driving motivation. Not that there aren’t a few offers on the table, it’s just that she’s been burned before and she doesn’t need another heartbreak. Her incredibly hunky neighbor, Paul SURNAME, hasn’t let her cold shoulder stop him from trying to win her heart. From homemade sushi to fried plantains, Paul’s been dipping into his family cookbook trying to find the way to Christine’s heart, and it’s working. This introduces the love interest and the interpersonal conflict as of Page 1.
In between stories about his Jamaican grandmother feuding with his Vietnamese aunts over the proper way to cure a cold sore Paul has left out one, very important, personal detail There was a note in the original query and Paul being Black/Asian and I tried to work it into the query. He’s an undercover CIA agent on the verge of breaking open the biggest case in agency history. Senators, cartel leaders, and a Canadian ambassador… it’s going to make headlines. But when Christine walks in on him talking to his handler, things go south, fast. Here the big conflict is introduced.
When a job offer from a dirty judge puts Christine in the center of his case, Paul decides it’s time to tell Christine the truth. He’s madly in love with her, he wants their honeymoon to be in Italy, and if she isn’t careful her career-making case is going to end with her in a shallow grave. Paul has the ring all picked out, now all he needs is for Christine to give him a second chance. And here the stakes are set. The reader knows it will only be True Love that keeps the couple alive, and we’re excited to see how it all plays out
WITH THIS RING, a romance, is 75,000 words long. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Well, Readers, would you pick up this book?
Leave your responses, suggestions, and encouragements for the author in the comments below!
Among so much bad news, we are all in need of a ray of light. I figured the least I could do is put together a short critique workshop to raise spirits and maybe help some writers.
So a small group of five published authors has come together to offer query critiques for the next two weeks to culminate in a twitter chat about querying, publishing, and just any questions we might be able to help you with.
We will do a query critique every day starting on November 21st and plan to give first priority to marginalized writers, “own voices” stories, and stories with diverse characters, worlds, and challenges.
Your manuscript does not have to be completed. You just need a completed query letter. A large group of winners will be randomly drawn from the rafflecopter and their query letters requested. Then each of our participating authors will choose from the available entries and post their critique on their blog or on mine along with their feedback.
Hopefully we can all learn more about the writing process from the breakdowns of these query letters.
Our twitter chat will be December 2nd at 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm EST under the hashtag #FFChat and will last an hour. We’d love you to post some questions ahead of time down in the comment section.
There’s not much time so enter the rafflecopter quickly. And please help us spread the word under #FFChat. Links to the finished critiques will be given under that hashtag also.
Here is who we are:
Park ranger by summer, stay-at-home mom the rest of the year, Emily B. Martin is also a freelance artist and illustrator. An avid hiker and explorer, her experiences as a ranger helped inform the character of Mae and the world of Woodwalker. When not patrolling places like Yellowstone, the Great Smoky Mountains, or Philmont Scout Ranch, she lives in South Carolina with her husband, Will, and two daughters, Lucy and Amelia.
Her Birth of Saints trilogy from Harper Voyager starts with Grudging and Faithful. She’s repped by Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary.
I realized I haven’t done a Catch Up! post in a while and there are people starting to email me about when the next book is out. So, so you can budget out your book buying plans for 2017, here’s what I’m up to.
BODIES IN MOTION
The first book in this new SFR novella series follows the life of fighter pilot Selena Caryll after the war. She’s an outsider, lost and alone in a hostile world where her only friend may be the man she once tried to kill. It’s enemies-to-lovers in a world of tech implants, resource wars, and betrayal.
Right now BODIES IN MOTION is on track for a late spring release (March – May 2-17). If you liked Prime Sensations from the SFR BRIGADE ANTHOLOGY, you’ll love this series. And, no, that isn’t the cover for Book 1, that’s the cover for Book 3. There will be a call for early readers and reviewers in February or March 2017, so keep your eyes open!
My current NaNo novel is a space heist in the style of Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Leverage (because who doesn’t love Leverage?). The crew of the Free Fall have one job: steal the Crescent Diamond for a warlord before the warlord uses them for target practice. But when another thief gets there first, the crew turns to the mercenary Kila Tyler for help. The galaxy’s fastest talkers just met the galaxy’s best shot.
The first draft of this will be going to betas December 15th, and then it’s getting shopped. When I have news of a sale, I’ll let you know, but until then… *shrug* Just hope the little book makes waves!
Next summer I’ll be moving, and at this point we’re planning to drive through Canada. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to look at a map, but that’s a long drive and I’ll probably be way too distracted by Tim Horton’s donuts to blog. The solution is putting up a free story on the blog that will be published as an ebook in November of 2017. FOUNDATION STONES is an epic fantasy set in a world of gods, dragons, and flying ships. Captain Kamara of the Moslyon guard must save the city from the king’s murderer, and her goddess orders her to protect a grumpy warrior named Tariq as she goes on the run.
FOUNDATION STONES is going to betas in March and may still be a little rough when it hits the blog. There will be an email address for you to send notes about typos, plot development, ect, and then it will be released in Winter 2017 after a final edit. On that note, if you spot a fabulous fantasy cover with a pair of black, sword-wielding warriors on it, let me know ASAP because I am having trouble finding an artist for this project. It isn’t Earth-based, but it also isn’t a predominantly white cast (because why should every fantasy in some made-up country have only white people?). I have several epic rants about finding black models for cover art, and the problem with all-white epic fantasy, and if you follow me on Twitter you’ve already seen those.
EVEN VILLAINS DANCE IN THE RAIN
Heroes & Villains 4… you have been so patient. Various set backs, from Breathless Press closing to tight production schedules for DECOHERENCE, have kept this one on the back burner. The trick here is bringing this series back without losing anything the fans loved, but keeping it relevant and in line with all the writing I’ve done since the series started. There are three more books to finish this series, and I want to finish it. Right now, the plan is to write this next summer while FREE FALL is being shopped and between BODIES IN MOTION and Book 2 in that series.
I’ll be looking for early readers, sensitivity readers, and reviewers in September or October. If that sounds like something you want to do, make sure you’re signed up for the monthly newsletter so you can hear about these opportunities early.
This is the master post for everything I recommend to get you prepped for NaNoWriMo or a Fast Draft.
Remember, each author is unique and so is each book, so be sure to play with this and make it work for you. The way I think and the steps I follow might work for you, but it’s okay if they don’t.
ALL ABOUT FAST DRAFTING
How to Write 10k A Day by Rachel Bach
Magical Cookies Scenes by Susan Dennard
25 Ways To **** With Your Characters by Chuck Wendig (language is PG-13)
25 Ways To Write A Real Page Turner by Chuck Wendig
How To Write a Book In Three Days by Michael Morecock (a short book but still…)
The Master Fiction Plot by Lester Dent
5 Things Your Book Needs by Joss Whedon
A Deep POV by Wendy Sparrow
Can We Be Honest (Why do a fast draft at all?) by Liana Brooks
THE EPIC PLOTTING SESSIONS (for fixing lost or broken plots and not letting them break in the first place)
Plotting Session 1: Structure
Plotting Session 2: Beat Sheets
Plotting Session 3: The Epic Plotting Video
GENRE TIPS AND TRICKS (Romance)
Stages of Love: Lost and Rough-Hewn Spears
Stages of Love: Attraction and Rejection
Stages of Love: Commitment and Happily Ever After
Writing Realistic Relationships (the basics)
WHEN YOU FINALLY FINISH
Grande Finales by C.S. Lakin
Writing a Killer Logline by Graeme Shimmin
What To Do Before You Hire An Editor Or Write A Query
*I will add to the list as time goes by because just looking at this I can see what’s missing: world building, high concept pitches, queries… this barely scratches the surface! But it’s enough to get you started!