Monday, December 13, 2010

Nailing That First Chapter Part One

Two days ago I attended this nifty little webinar, which you can attend again, I believe, January 8th. I would have blogged sooner, but fever took me, and so I was down for two days. But now I'm better and back with a little advice on nailing your first chapter.

First chapters, for many writers, are probably the hardest chapters to write. Mark McVeigh even says a lot of writers write the first chapter last. You can argue that's the case for me, because the first chapter is the only chapter I had to DRAMATICALLY change, but in reality, that's the first chapter I re-wrote and nailed--according to my independent editor.

In any case, first chapters are crucial to nail because this is the chapter agents are going to first lay eyes on, the chapter that's going to make or break your chances for a partial, and the chapter that gives them an indication of your writing skills. I could go on and on about its importance, but I'm praying a lot of you reading this already know why it's so crucial.

So what makes a successful first chapter? What is the anatomy of a successful first chapter? For starters, you have your hook. Here's the hook of my first chapter: "Rivulets of blood stream down my back, splashing red dots on the parquet floor that look like cherry spatter." What does my hook establish? Voice, for one. Perhaps a little bit of setting, as well. The only time I see the word 'parquet' used is books taking place in the 19th century. There's also a little bit of conflict, too, because there's a reason blood's sliding down my MC's back.

Your hook needs to establish your character and some conflict. A hook involving description setting isn't going to do it, because your character is not involved, the setting is not your character, and while you may be trying to establish mood, you can do this after you've established your character. There are tons of examples of hooks you can find scattered all over the internet, but one thing most hooks have in common is change: something is about to happen that often causes change in the character. Those are the best hooks, in my opinion.

After the hook, you have your first 150, which is another chance to lose the attention of a literary agent. You have a lot to establish in 150, but you also don't want to put too much in the first 150. You need to establish setting, character, voice, and conflict (the reason why you're opening up with this particular scene in the first place), and while these are only four things, they can in fact be a lot if you haven't properly established these in the first 150, and I can tell you a lot of writers don't. My best advice for the first 150: don't even think about the rules, because if you think about them too hard, think about what you still have left to establish, you might end up with a convoluted mess. That's what I did when I re-wrote my first chapter, which took about two and a half hours, probably, and I did my best to ignore all the "rules" out there while unconsciously bringing them out in my writing. But, according to my IE, it's a successful first chapter, and while a writer just starting may not be able to manage that, it takes practice. Lots and lots of practice. And being able to handle criticism and realizing when that criticism is going to change your chapter from diamond in the rough to a polished gem.

Even after your first 150 you're not safe. An agent can still choose to drop out of your first chapter if you can't hold his or her attention with tension, voice, conflict, characterization, and so on and so forth. And those are seriously hard to manage. Next blog post, I'll tell you what successful first chapters do and how you can possibly write one.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


So, after requesting an iTunes gift card to use for myself, I realized at the last minute that my iPod had crapped out, so an iTunes gift card is essentially useless to me. :( But...this does give me an opportunity to give it up as a contest prize!

What do you have to do to win this? Essentially, you have to read chapter one of Witch Tourniquet, which you can find at Amber Skye F. Then, you have to answer one question so I can make certain you actually read it and didn't just say you read it for the points.


Who steps into the room just as Alice is about to attempt suicide? (This can actually have two answers depending on interpretation). This will be worth a lovely 10 pts.

After you've answered my question in the comments box, you have chances to earn more points, so start social networking away. 1 pt. for each post on facebook, tweet on twitter, whatever, and post the links to these things so I know you're not lying. :P Do all this in the comments box and please post your REAL name.

Here's what you need to post:

Contest at Amber's Editorial Dream. Prize for the person with the most points!

There, that shouldn't be too much for those Twitter users.

Get networking!

Also, the winner will be posted under the supporter's tab on my website. If you're already under there, then you've just gotta work for the gift card.

Well, have at it!

Contest will run until December 31st.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Differences between Writing Tutors and Editors

Okay, so the title is misleading, because, let's be real, there isn't much of a difference between us. If you've ever tutored at a Writing Center before with the policies my Writing Center has, then you'll know that, as a tutor, you're not supposed to provide an editing service. This is a misnomer, because this is essentially what tutors do. Let me explain.

First, I want to mention what is basically the only difference between a tutor and an editor are. A tutor actively engages his or her client in the editing of his or her own paper. An editor passively engages his or her client in the editing of his or her own paper. That's really it. Oh, and tutors who work at a university are usually limited to 30 minutes or an hour and we can't touch client papers, but that's besides the point.

What I mean when I say actively engaged is the client usually reads his or her paper aloud to the tutor, since reading a paper aloud can help spot mistakes. The tutor will then engage the client in dialogue about potential problem areas, whether or not the paper needs to be restructured, if the thesis is strong or not, and other issues. The tutor will right then and there, while the client is editing his or her own paper, help come up with a solution to fix any problem areas.

An editor passively engages clients by pointing out problem areas while the client is not around, and then usually e-mailing these corrections to the client. The editor and client can then choose to engage in dialogue after corrections have been submitted, but the editor usually works alone without active client input.

I've been tutoring for about a semester, and I feel a semester is long enough to conclude that what we do as tutors is provide an editing service, despite what Writing Center ethics may claim. It might be politically incorrect to say we provide editing serves, but we nonetheless do.

Editing, as defined by the English Oxford Dictionary on-line, "[is to] prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it."

What we tutors do is help clients modify, correct, and sometimes condense their papers so they can prepare them to be turned into their professors for a grade (and some do come in for publication or portfolio help). We might not be writing on their papers, but we are still providing them the sort of feedback an editor would provide.

How do I know this? I have an independent editor. Many Writing Centers claim they don't provide editorial services because providing an editorial service would mean (and this is just my interpretation) writing the paper for the client. Editors don't even do this. In fact, my independent editor will tell me about her other clients, and sometimes she'll say to me, "I'm not writing the books for them. That's their job." I'm going to assume this is the same for an editor of a publishing house as well.

I have received feedback on three chapters of my novel thus far, and the criticism I have received is the sort of criticism I dish out in the Writing Center. She will suggest changes I should make, and I do the same thing with clients at the Writing Center. She won't make the changes for me. She will point out a few grammar errors, and if they are consistent, she will let me know and not point out the rest of them. I do the same thing with clients at the Writing Center. I'll point out a few errors, tell them why they're errors and how to properly use this piece of punctuation, but I will not point out all their errors, particularly if they are consistent throughout the paper. She'll also help me restructure if need be, and I do the same thing with clients at the writing center.

While I as a tutor can't provide as in-depth feedback as she can as an independent editor, this is only due to time limitations. Otherwise, writing tutors and editors provide roughly the same feedback. So to claim tutors don't provide editorial services is a misnomer. We might not be writing suggested changes on their papers, but we are verbally suggesting changes for their papers, and this is still helping the student prep his or her paper to be graded. We aren't prepping their papers to make a guaranteed A, but independent editors cannot also guarantee that a client's manuscript is going to be published.

Of course, tutors do function as teachers more than editors do because we are teaching our clients, but a good independent editor will also function like a teacher as well--just in a different way.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Praise to the Independent Editor

I used to greatly discourage independent editors, even just last year. I used to claim they were a waste of money because an independent editor doesn't guarantee your novel's going to get published. Instead I recommended wonderful beta readers, because if you can find the right one, they can be just as good as an independent editor.

Now here I am writing a blog post on praising independent editors and what an extremely useful asset they are to the world of publishing. Perhaps I'm being biased because I get my IE for free in exchange for my intern services (no monetary payment involved. Good. Because I only work 20 hours for every paycheck I earn twice a month). But seriously, the critique I received on my first chapter was something beta readers never ever pointed out.

First, I want to clarify that my beta readers aren't bad at all. In fact, they were excellent and I am EXTREMELY grateful for what they've done for me. Beta readers are wonderful when it comes to finding out just what type of audience you can target for your novel, and whether or not you have the interest of the average person. However, they don't always have the knowledge of what's actually going on in the publishing industry and what's going to sell versus what's not.

My IE actually does, and so her critique stemmed mostly from what agents are looking for (and a little of her personal tastes). Beta reader critiques generally stem from their personal tastes. 90% personal and 10% by the book. Heck, as an aspiring IE myself (or editor of a pub house), my critiques are still 90% personal and 10% by the book, but the feedback my IE is giving me is slowly changing that. See? She's even useful for my dream career. Not only am I learning to improve as a writer, I'm using her feedback to improve as an editor. A little job shadowing, I suppose.

Okay, so I'm super glorifying IEs when I know people out there who have been accepted by agents merely through beta reader feedback alone. Everyone has a different view. Most of my beta readers seemed to have enjoyed my original chapter one, but I took my IE's feedback to heart because she had a point. My chapter one, though it may appeal to a certain group of people, had no marketability, no reason for an agent to want to keep reading. I mean, there might be an agent out there who'd enjoy it, but I want to attempt to appeal to as many as possible and not just receive a partial/full or two here and there. I want partial/full requests from a variety of agents.

So this is where we get into some serious gray area. As I've said before, I know people who have landed agents with just beta reader feedback alone. However, I don't think I can be one of those people. It might be because my story, as my most recent beta reader pointed out, is radically different from anything she's ever read, and she's years older than I am. So because this story is different, it's probably safer for me to receive the feedback of a professional rather than the feedback of someone who doesn't always have that leg into what's going on.

All in all, use your judgment when choosing whether or not to go on beta reader feedback alone, or to choose an IE. IEs can get pricy, but a good one is invaluable, as my IE is.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Zombie Photo Shoot

Yesterday I did a zombie photo shoot for Sorean: A Gothic Magazine, and these are all the rejects. I originally wanted to include three, but decided on only one of them, as it was the strongest of the three and does a lot better standing alone than in conjunction with the other two I wanted to include. I'm not posting the one that's going to be published, but here are the many edits I experimented with on the rejects:

Friday, September 10, 2010

New Adult

So I totally should have blogged about this a lot sooner, but I have a million other things I have to do, and blogging non-profit is not at the top of that list.

In any case, last Wednesday's YALITCHAT was also its anniversary, so Happy Late Anniversary, YALITCHAT! Although we were supposed to be primarily talking about YALITCHAT itself, somehow a lot of us got wrangled up in the topic of New Adult, a term used strictly by St. Martin's Press, but not really an official genre or anything.

New Adult, as I've gathered, is about college-age students, kids, people, adults, what have you. It revolves around college lives, with other plot elements, like maybe fighting off an evil dragon while trying to earn a law degree at Harvard.

Our biggest argument revolved around whether or not teens would buy "New Adult" fiction. There were several assumptions they wouldn't because they can't really relate to the college crowd. There were also several assumptions they would because of their curiosity about college. Then, there was the final verdict from someone in the publishing business that it would neither appeal nor sell to them.

Truth is, this is all a bunch of assumption, including the final verdict. We don't really know what teens want. We can only guess and throw caution to the wind. The YA genre itself was probably a chance publishers took back when it was still new. I think New Adult (or whatever) will be the same.

All in all, what do I think? I think New Adult would sell to a teenage crowd. And maybe it's because of my own high school experiences, but I was genuinely afraid to start college. I know I wasn't the only one either. It's scary stuff when your teachers are constantly drilling into your head how much harder college is going to be, how strict the professors are going to be, and how SO VERY important it is to get a college education. Some high school students just feel like they can't live up to these expectations, and so this fear of college is genuine.

In fact, the high school I graduated from has dropped tech prep altogether and is forcing everyone on a college prep track. This can't possibly be the only high school that has had this insane idea. I'm sure there are thousands of high school students all across America with this ridiculous pressure to get into college.

And this pressure, I'm going to assume, is new. I'm assuming this based on what my parents have told me. My parents have told me that standardized tests didn't exist at the schools they went to, that the pressure of getting into college was almost non-existent, and no students were ever pressured into taking high-level classes like AP or dual enrollment or gifted. Dual enrollment, from what my parents have told me, didn't even exist in their day!

So because of all this, wouldn't a high school student want to read a book that shows college isn't as crazy as everyone makes it seem? Sure, the experience differs for every individual, but that's the same with a high school experience. My high school experience wasn't bad at all, and was quite bland compared to the high school experiences I've read about in YA novels. My different experience didn't make the novel any less likable or relatable: it just gave me a different perspective.

Okay, so maybe back then so-called New Adult would have been a hard sell. But it's unbelievable how, even in one's freshman year, college is being stressed to such an extent that I believe it's increasing drop-out rates (perhaps I'm exaggerating and going insane, but I seriously think this pressure increases them). Freshman are no longer told to enjoy their high school experiences and make the best of them. They're told to start thinking about their careers now, what college they want to go into, and so on and so forth.

Because of all this pressure, I sincerely believe teens would be interested in reading about a freshman's experience in college. Maybe not sophomore, but definitely freshman, because college is so new and that teen mindset is still present.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Quick Note

I just want to note the reason I deleted my literary posts is because I recently started taking a Literary Criticism class, and for the whole first day we spent talking about what literature was. We inevitably came to the conclusion there is no easy way to define it, and my awesome PhD-wielding professor said she would find someone calling commercial fiction literature totally acceptable.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I Have a Dark Secret

So if you don't know yet, I intern for Georgia McBride's fabulous YALITCHAT: YALITCHAT as its Editorial and Communications Intern, but primarily editorial.

Several weeks ago she asked me to edit the entire website, and I did. Well, yesterday, she sent an e-mail back reporting that people were saying there were still typos. I just went O_o to the whole thing, because I panned each page about three times AND used MS Word to boot. She then told me she was having two other people, plus herself, I believe, check the pages as well.

This got me thinking about editing in general, both novels and magazines and anything that's ever needed editing. Self-editing is included in this as well.

Have you, as a writer, ever sent anything out to a beta reader, only to have it returned with the beta reader pointing out things that look like they should have been obvious (blatant typos) before you sent it off? That's happened to me on several occasions. It's crazy how the human eye, even if you are being as careful as possible, can still gloss over things that should seem obvious.

When I went back into editing the YALITCHAT pages, I did find several typos that I couldn't even believe I glossed over! This makes me grateful that Georgia did employ others to look as well.

And novels: we all know it takes an entire editorial staff to spruce up a novel, and some novels still get published with typos. Crazy right?

As for me, when I'm editing a piece for Sorean, I'll go over it about six times, or however many times it takes me to stop finding errors. (Believe me, I do reach that limit, unlike with my own stories.)

But all of this just has me thinking how even the most simplest thing, whether it's a one-page report or a memo, can still have typos because of how careless the human eye can be, whether or not you're trying to be careful.

In conclusion, my dark secret is that editors are far from perfect. Some people out there get absolutely annoyed when they find typos in published novels and believe it's some sort of amateurism on the editor's part. But these people have absolutely no indication of what the editorial process is like, or even understand their own eyes, for that matter.

Those tricky, deceitful eyes!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Why Can't They?

A lot of my blog posts revolve around random discussions I happen to find on various writing boards and what not. This discussion revolved around teen fiction versus adult fiction (silly, discussion, in my opinion), and a lot of people said they enjoyed adult fiction more because you can write about a broad range of experiences that you can't with teen fiction. My only answer to this is why? Sure, I'd find it hard to read a novel about a teen doctor (there are teen geniuses, but I don't think the average teen wants to read about those, because teen geniuses can be perceived as arrogant), or even a teen lawyer. But as far as emotional possibilities, there are just as many emotional possibilities, if not more, for teens as there are for adults.

People seem to forget that there are teens in the world who have experienced more than some adults will ever experience, and have seen more of the world than some adults ever will. Just because they're young doesn't mean they lack experience. Experience can be gained through age, but if you're forty years old and have never moved from where you were born and haven't really traveled, then I'm not going to trust you as a voice of authority on life experience. I'm going to trust the sixteen-year-old army brat who has moved around with his or her parents and has visited exotic places, like Italy, Africa, or Japan.

Continuing on, someone replied that it's ridiculous to write a story about a teen who goes to war and makes enemies. Said person also used an example that adult fiction is more complex because a 40 year old can get arthritis while loading a gun (a teen can have an epileptic attack while loading a gun. *gasp!* Teens and epilepsy? That's preposterous!). In any case, why can't a teen go to war over the summer and make enemies, especially if it's a fantasy novel, an alternate universe of sorts, that requires teens to join the military once they turn sixteen? It's very possible. Hundreds of years ago, that would have been the case with teen males.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is an excellent example of some of the things teens are capable of. The Hunger Games is the story of Katniss Everdeen in a place called Panem where, to show the power of the Capitol, names are drawn from different districts, and these children are forced to fight in what are called The Hunger Games. They essentially fight to the death, and the last one standing wins. This is analogous to a war veteran. So, if Katniss Everdeen can win The Hunger Games (and I loved The Hunger Games because it seemed so real), then why can't Katniss go off and fight in a war? Granted, she's female, and there are problems with that, and yada, yada, yada, but why can't an author put her in that situation? Suzanne Collins is very realistic with Katniss' skills, and I never once found her a haughty character for all the things she can do that I can't, because her skills are portrayed realistically.

Teens are so much more than the ditsy, hormone-infested, love sick teens that some YA novels portray them as. Teens throughout history have been kings and queens, authors and poets, martyrs, fighters, parents, and a multitude of things adults are or have been.

So why can't YA fiction touch upon the broad range of emotional experiences that adult fiction touches upon?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Book's Success

[I'd like to make a note that I am not at all an expert on what sells a book or anything of the sorts. This is merely my opinion on a matter I've found troubling for quite a while. ]

We all know about the insanely popular series called Twilight that has sold millions. There are a lot of people out there who question why it's so popular, and then there are others who blame it on advertising, these said advertisers marketing to the "dumb" the "weak" the "beyond stupid."

I find this offensive, not because I'm a fan of Twilight, but because, although marketing helps get word of a book out there, I do not believe it fully helps the sales of a book. Advertising is an amazing tool to use to get the word of a book out there, since word of mouth can only take a product so far. That's all it does. It doesn't force people to buy books.

And you know what the great thing about books are? You can try them out before you buy them. You can read the entire thing in the bookstore if you want, the first five pages, the blurb, the plot summary, all while never having to pay for it. If you want the book after all that, you can choose to buy it. Of course, some people make the mistake of buying a book they find out they don't like, but I know for me that's rare. Most books I buy are books I end up loving because I know how to look through a book and see if it's something I know I'm going to enjoy.

With this in mind, why do people believe advertising contributed to the insane success of Twilight? Sure, without advertising, Twilight may not have sold as much as it did, but those same people who bought it and loved it could also be the same people who bought it and hated it. Advertising didn't tell them to love Twilight. The people who bought the book chose to love it.

Of course, I know there exist sheeple out there who love something just because it's popular, but for the most part, I think Twilight sold itself. There's something in it people love, and I hate it when elitists debate why it's so popular (negatively, mind you). People love it for their own reasons, and to whine about its popularity is just plain arrogant.

Do I wish some of the books that I love could be more popular than Twilight? Well, yes, but I think that's the case with anyone who loves a book he or she feels is underrated.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Those Dang Characters

Currently I am still working on Witch Tourniquet. This is due in part to my beta reader being slow with reading the last three chapters because she doesn't have the time she once did. But she still gets the job done, and I am extremely grateful for her. She'll make a fine literary agent one day--or even editor.

In any case, not only do I have to re-write the last three chapters because I haven't realistically developed Alice near the end, but I have to completely re-do her co-star, Nathaniel Gareth. Originally I was trying to portray him as bi-polar, because in the 19th century, nobody knew that it existed, so it wasn't like I could have him come out and tell Alice about his disorder. I did this so unsuccessfully, it's not even funny. Bi-polar disorder is one of those complex disease that you have to do extensive research on to fully get, not just know what it is. You can say bi-polar disorder involves rapid mood swings, but to actually write it is difficult, because sometimes a mood swing just doesn't fit for situations where death is involved. That, and it made him weak, though that isn't to say people who are bi-polar in general are weak. It's to say I don't know how to write a bi-polar character.

Now I'm making Nathaniel the strong, cheerful one, with a dark past to boot. Since Alice herself has a hard time finding strength, I figured I'd have Nathaniel be her strength, her hope. And I love him much better this way. I'm not done with him, as I still have several more scenes to re-write with him in it, but I'm hoping to start querying in no time at all. I'm going to make the goal to start querying by the time issue 5 of Sorean comes out.

Readers, what characters in your WIPs have been impossible for you to write? How have you managed to solve the problems with those dang characters?

Friday, June 18, 2010

First Blog Award!

The awesome Caitlin R. O'connell gave me this one, and you can find her blog here:
(One day I'll hyperlink.)

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.

Seven things about me:

1. I recently fell in love with painting, Jackson Pollock style.
2. I am a passionate photographer who wants to try her hand at Goth photography.
3. I used to ride and jump horses, and I still want to, but the horse I used to ride is now a dressage horse. :(
4. I aspire to graduate college with honors.
5. I've been working on Witch Tourniquet since I was 14 (yeah, LONG time).
6. I started dreaming of being an editor when I was 13 (that's come true!).
7. I want to live in New York!

And I'll choose people to give this blog award to later, because I've actually got to think. Don't want to choose random people and have it not mean anything.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Goosebumps or Gut

#YALITCHAT offered a lot of interesting insights today into what various authors do to make their first five pages keep someone's attention. But that isn't what this post is about. I think it'd be pointless for me to blog about that, because everyone has a different way of doing it, and not all techniques are going to work for every kind of story. Sometimes stories work best when they start out with action, sometimes they don't. Continuing on...

One chatter pointed out that he/she knows when something's good when goosebumps occur. I pointed out that I once got goosebumps reading the first draft of Witch Tourniquet, and it was, in fact, awful. There was no subjectivity to the awfulness of the manuscript. It was awful by fact, plain and simple, but I still got goosebumps for some reason when I read it. I can't for the life of my figure out why, because my gut begged to differ.

What, you ask? My goosebumps and gut conflicted? Pray tell? Frankly, I have no idea myself. But I've learned in my experience as a writer to not listen to those traitorous goosebumps. I've learned to listen to my gut, and it took me a few hard lessons to finally listen to it for good. My gut would go off, but it's such an easy thing to avoid, so I'd shut it from my mind. But later my beta reader would point out something my gut told me, and it took several critiques from my beta reader for me to finally give into my gut, despite how much extra work that makes for me.

Reader, what do you listen to? Goosebumps or your gut? Which do you think is better and why?

(By the way, let me specify that this is AFTER you've written the entire first draft)

Victoria's Asylum of Maggots

Well, I won't be using my weebly website anymore, as I am getting my own website that's going to be linked through the Sorean domain. I've decided to just use this blog, and so this blog will be linked to my website. Working two separate blogs is tiring and pointless and silly. I don't know why I did that.

In any case, I'm basically re-writing (with much more info) a blog post that's on my weebly account, because 1) I need something to blog about and 2) I want more followers for this blog, and in order to get more, I'm going to have to continuously keep my content updated.

As you all know, I've been hard at work, along with the rest of the staff, on issue 4 of Sorean: A Gothic Magazine. It came out several days ago, and you can find it at, go to the issues tab, and then download issue 4. I did not give the direct link because some people may have problems going directly to the .pdf. In it are two pieces of my writing, one being "Victoria's Asylum of Maggots" and another talking about Gothic Literature. Hopefully the Gothic Literature one will help those aspiring writers of Gothic fiction.

In one blog post that I deleted off my weebly website, I said I was going to blab about "Victoria's Asylum of Maggots", and I still am. A lot of you have probably already read the weebly blog post, but I'd like to go into more detail about the process of this thing.

I am extremely happy with the way my first part came out. I believe it demonstrates my best writing as of today, and I did my best to make it both about the words and the plot. Thus far people have thought it dark, scary, and uncomfortable, all wonderful compliments to me, since that's what I'm aiming for with this piece. I hope the rest of the parts will be just as good, and I hope I do not disappoint.

Now, if you have not read it, you need to, because this post won't mean anything to you unless you have.

Continuing on, when I first started editing for Sorean, and after issue 3 came out, I knew that I really wanted to start writing fiction bites for them. But I was unable to because there were enough. Well, things happen, life gets in the way, and I finally was able to swoop in and contribute something.

Before all that, and while I was still dreaming of writing fiction bites for them, I was dabbling around with several fic pieces, trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to write for them. I wrote a prelude to my novel Witch Tourniquet, but due to legal reasons, such a prelude could ruin my chances of querying Witch Tourniquet. So I scrapped that.

I started listening to Emilie Autumn, I believe, around the time I was writing that prelude. If you haven't listened to her, you need to give her a chance, especially if you, and I dread saying this, enjoy listening to Lady Gaga. Just so you know, their music styles are in no way alike, but for some reason people who love Emilie Autumn also enjoy Lady Gaga, and the two are always being compared. Generally when I listen to a certain artist a lot, particularly a specific song(s), I get ideas for a story. Nightwish's The Poet and the Pendulum inspired Dead Poet's Pendulum, just as Marry Me and Thank God I'm Pretty inspired Victoria's Asylum of Maggots (among other things).

Originally I was going to write a series of ficlets titled Twisted Children that told the story of different children with dysfunctional lives. My first one was going to be about a boy who had a twisted, incestuous relationship with his mother. The second one was going to be Victoria's Asylum of Maggots. However, when I found out Emilie Autumn had written a book called The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, and I listened to a snippet of it, I began to realize that Victoria's story couldn't be told in a few thousand words. I needed to draw it out. I scrapped the Twisted Children idea and just went straight into Victoria's Asylum of Maggots. I began research on asylums, particularly Bedlam, even though I couldn't find much about said asylum. But I'm going to do much more research with future installments, so no worries there. I did just enough to draw an eerie picture of a broken girl locked in an asylum cell for the first part.

I at first wanted to use a boy for an asylum, because it seems like girls receive all the torture in YA stories and boys don't get enough recognition. Using a boy, however, wouldn't have shown the true horrors of an olden day asylum, because women were the ones who faced the worst torture. A woman could be put in an asylum for any number of reasons, including being an unwanted wife, as in the case of Victoria Wilson.

Although Emilie Autumn has already written a book showing that asylums haven't changed much, her book is sadly sold out and was limited, so no one else will get to know what beautiful story she's told until--and it's rumor, far as I know--a second edition is released. But I wanted to write VAoM, not because I wanted to tell a story or show my best writing, but because I want people to face the uncomfortable, the darker side of life that Goth is supposed to be about. We ignore the uncomfortable because it makes us, well, uncomfortable. Doing this, however, is doing a disservice to those who are forced to live in the darker side of life, because it makes us ignorant. When we are faced with a person who seems out of sorts, we automatically judge that person, believing he/she to be a lunatic or some other creature that certainly isn't human. We only judge because we know nothing about what this person faces or has faced.

It's my belief that the general population is still ignorant about mental illnesses, and I'm not talking about the advertised ones like depression and PTSD. I'm talking about the silent ones, like bi-polar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and panic disorder. Nobody talks about these disorders. Anyone with a disorder that isn't advertised on television seems to be insane in the eyes of the mainstream world.

As a YA writer, I recognize that there are YA books that deal with really dark issues, like drug abuse, anorexia, and mental illnesses. There are also YA books that have the characters thrust in asylums. What I've noticed, however, is that although the psyche of the character is being delved into, the mental hospital itself doesn't seem to be delved into enough, save for maybe Girl, Interrupted. The mental hospital acts as just a catalyst for helping the MC get better, but there are no books that talk about the abuse that still goes on in asylums. The characters are always in the "safe" part of the asylum, but I haven't seen a YA book yet that puts a young adult in the "loony" part of an asylum. I want my asylum to function almost like it a character, where I reveal a darkness so sick, it might make you angry, because some of what's going to happen in Victoria's Asylum of Maggots still happens in present-day asylums. The patients are just sometimes helpless to stop it, because who's going to believe a nutter? Who's going to believe the girl with hallucinations when she says her psychiatrist raped her? No one's going to, because that very same psychiatrist can just say it was a hallucination.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Quick Post

I see I have 12 followers now. Well, I don't want to stop here. I want to keep getting more and more and more and more, but for now, I just want to get up to 30 so I can reveal a little surprise for everyone following this blog. More than 30 would be great, too, because that would mean a greater chance of participation in this prize. So, help me promote my blog and get 18 more followers.

The countdown begins...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Accepting Rejection

There are probably tons of agent and editor blogs out there about rejection and how to deal with it, but I don't think it hurts for me to write one about accepting rejection and moving on.

Everyone reading this blog should know that everyone gets rejected at some point in his or her life. I don't think I need to list any examples of great writers who have been rejected tons of times before going into print. Also, just because someone rejects you and you get accepted by someone else doesn't make the former person an idiot, okay? Everyone has different tastes in everything. Personally, I go for both a great story and beautiful writing. I want both, I crave both. I don't want a great story with decent writing. I also go for stories that have a deeper meaning beyond the surface. So, when and if we start accepting fiction bite contributions and your story doesn't have anything beyond the surface, it'll likely be a rejection from me. Of course, you've got two other editors to go through, so don't sweat it. And yes, you can write something that is accessible to everyone, but still has a deeper meaning. Wintergirls, anyone?

You've been slaving away at your story for months, or your novel for years, or even a flash fiction for weeks. It's your baby, your prize, your child. Like a child, you don't want to hear it criticized. You want to know that you've been a wonderful parent and raised it well. Well, I believe any experienced parent will tell you there is no such thing as a perfect mother or father. Once kids reach a certain age, parents have little influence. It's the same with your story. Once you've edited it to death, you have little influence on what happens to it thereafter. The best thing you can do is submit that baby and wait. And wait. And wait. Oh! Inbox! Aw...a rejection.

How do you deal with that? Realize that's one rejection. There are hundreds of agents and magazines and what not for you to submit to. Each one has unique tastes; thus, not all of them are going to like what you've written. And just because you've been rejected does not mean your story was bad or poorly written. Sometimes it just may mean the magazine couldn't fit you, you submitted at the wrong time, caught an editor on a bad day, or just submitted your Gothic story to a magazine that only accepts stories about ducks (please don't be a moron and do this).

I've been rejected plenty of times. Okay, I'll admit the short story I got published last year was accepted on the first try. I attribute that to half luck and half skill. The first magazine I sent to just so happened to like the oddness of it. And when I became a slush pile reader for that magazine, I discovered that one of the editors actually DID NOT like my story. The other editors, however, luckily did. So you can see what a close call accepting a story for a magazine can be.

There's a flash fiction I'm currently subbing right now. It's been rejected by every magazine I've sent out to on the first round. But you know what? Each rejection I've received doesn't miff me one bit, because I realize there are tons of other magazines out there, and I know one of them is going to want it. Plus, several of my rejections have been personal, mostly saying it was a well-written piece, but wasn't the right fit. Another rejection letter also said they were so close to publishing my piece, but I suppose it was a tight choice between my story and another. Rejection letters like that should actually encourage you to keep submitting. I know it did for me, and it boosted my confidence as a writer. I know I belong in the big leagues now. All the magazines I've been currently submitting to have a 2% acceptance rate.

So you say you're not getting personal rejection letters? There are a number of reasons for this: the magazine just doesn't have time to do all that, or maybe your piece isn't that good, or whatever. If I received impersonal rejections on my first round, I'd consider giving that story a second look. Send it out to beta readers and have others critique it like crazy for you. But I wouldn't bring myself to that point. For me, I have others critique it to death until I know it can't be critiqued anymore before I send things out.

Believe me, the first rejection I ever received did sting a little, but I wasn't depressed. I also wasn't bitchy because I had done my research to death about the publishing industry ahead of time to know that rejection was inevitable. I ended up scrapping that first story, but it didn't hurt me at all to do that.

While you're submitting query letters, novels, short stories, whatever, you absolutely need to be working on other things. Because I do have other things to work on, I often forget I have stories out on sub, and the only reason I remember is when I either open up my excel document that keeps track of all the things I submit to, or I get a rejection letter, or some form of newsletter from the magazine I've submitted to. Do this, and I can guarantee you getting a rejection letter is not going to kill you.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Various Writerly Activities

She's excited.

Photo by Moi

There are various things going on in the writerly world that are awesome and fun. For one thing, check this out: Steena and Stina's OMG Contest

Also, Key Publication's Network, a new publishing company, is adding more novels to their repertoire. Check out the soon-to-be released: Key Publications Network

Although Sorean's issues are undergoing maintenance, you can still contribute art and writing: Sorean: A Gothic Magazine

The Oddville Press is always looking for submissions as well. Check us out here:

The Oddville Press

YA Highway is giving out an advanced reader copy of The Duff by Kody Keplinger. Here:

The Duff

The Facebook fanpage for Sorean hasn't been that active lately, but I'm going to try and start it up again, so fan us here:
Sorean Fanpage

Lastly, when I get enough followers (30's a good number, right?), I will do a first five pages critique. I'll tell you what I like and what I don't like. Rest assured, every writer will hear a little of both sides. One side may have more comments than another; regardless, don't be offended if the negative has more comments than the positive. Really, I am just here to help, not destroy. Hopefully I'll be putting up a Vlog soon to blab about who I really am and how I stumbled upon Sorean and The Oddville Press, both amazing magazines with sweet potential.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Importance of Proofreading

Before I truly begin, I want to clarify that I'm an editor of two different things. The Oddville Press offers me the opportunity to edit pieces that are close to perfect, meaning they generally require light editing. Sorean Magazine is staffed, so if a journalist hands me a piece that needs to be re-written, I have to go at it like a college professor advising a student on how to make something better. And just because I ask a staff member to re-write something does not mean he or she is a bad writer. I used to write for The Xtreme section where the editor told me that she's had occasions where she sent in pieces to her editor, who later told her that piece needed to be re-done. I also help to edit the fiction pieces, which are probably my favorite since I aspire to be a novel editor--that, and I am a passionate fiction writer.

In any case, what I'm about to talk about not only applies to people who are writers on magazines with staffs, but to all of us.

Regardless of how many people have beta read your stuff, you yourself need to proofread before sending your writing off to anyone to be read--beta reader, editor, it doesn't matter. You would be amazed at what a good proofread could do. A good proofread can take care of a lot of problems and make your beta reader's (or editor's or agent's) life a lot easier. They can then concentrate on what they need to be concentrating on, and that is the soul of your story or article. They shouldn't have to drown in a sea of typos or blatant grammar errors.

Let me stress that editors are not here to write your things for you. We are here to aid in the process of writing and make suggestions. That is all. We do not expect you to be flawless, but we want you to understand grammar. All writers need to know grammar, and if you think you don't, you're sorely mistaken. I will and do reject stories on the basis of grammar, because grammar can make a story unreadable if the flaws are so blatant they pull you out of the story.

So, please, please, please, please, please proofread anything before sending if off to anyone.