Are You Ready to Find an Agent?

A friend of mine is currently querying agents, and after reading his blog post, I couldn’t help but wonder what made someone really sure, as a writer, that their work is ready. Really, it all boils down to you feeling like there’s not a single change you could make to your work that would make it better. Since that’s not realistic, in my opinion, I’ve come up with a few suggestions to help you determine whether you’re ready to query.

  1. You’ve said all you have to say. In this sense, you are writing with a specific point in mind, and your writing has achieved that point. You can’t make it any better and you feel as though your mind is at ease with the message you’ve delivered.
  2. You’ve edited your work. No one, not even J.K. Rowling, is above editing their work. For me, this is the worst stage of the process because it’s the hardest and most grueling. You may have to “kill your darlings” and cut entire sections that you were married to. In the editing stage, you can’t cling to anything. If it needs to go, it goes.
  3. Someone else has read it. I’m terrible at this. So many times I’ll send off short stories to contests without having someone read it first, and you know what happens? I don’t win. Why? Because I’m only taking into account my own interests and style. There are times where we are so hung up on the way our story has to go that we don’t consider the reader. Always consider the reader.
  4. You’re ready to hear the word “no”. Sorry to bring you down, but if you think you’re going to hear “yes” by every agent on your list on your first round of querying, you’re not ready. I don’t know if that’s ever happened in the history of querying, actually. Be prepared to be rejected, and be prepared for feedback. Once in a while you’ll find an agent who gives you a word of advice. Take it, ingest it, and try it. Even if you don’t agree, at least try it out. It may be the best thing you ever do for yourself.

Obviously I hope you’re ready to query, because I’m ready to read more amazing books! I have a huge lineup of books to tackle during my week break between classes, so come the beginning of March, be ready for a “Book a Day” marathon where I speed read through Monstrous (MarcyKate Connolly), Stardust (Neil Gaiman), The 5th Wave (Rick Yancey), and a few others I’m waiting on in the mail. (I’m looking at you, USPS, FIND MY MISSING BOOKS!)

Books to Read Before they Come Out on the Big Screen

One of my biggest pet peeves is going to see a movie when I know it’s based off a book I have yet to read. Whether the screenwriters are going for a word for word adaptation (not possible, by the way) or a loose interpretation, I can’t bear to watch it knowing there’s a book out there I should read first. It seems like book-to-movie adaptions are becoming more popular lately, so I wanted to see just how many there are in 2016, and I used wonderful Wikipedia to do it.

Below are a list of all the movies coming out in 2016 that are based off a book, as well as the author who wrote the book and the book title (if it’s different from the movie title). The website at the bottom of this post has the rest of the movies for 2016 and more information on the ones posted below if you care to take a gander.

  • 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi | 13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff
  • The 5th Wave | Rick Yancey (Just got this one at the bookstore and can’t wait to read it!)
  • The Finest Hours | The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman
  • The Choice | Nicholas Sparks
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies | Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
  • How to Be Single | Liz Tuccillo
  • Me Before You | Jojo Moyes
  • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot | The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker (Witty title and leading lady Tina Fey? Yes please!)
  • The Young Messiah | Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice
  • Allegiant | Veronica Roth (She’s in her 20s people, how cool!)
  • Miracles from Heaven | Christy Beam (If you’ve watched the trailer you’ve seen the movie and read the book.)
  • Ratchet and Clank | This one isn’t a book, but it’s based on a video game by Insomniac Games, and as a gamer I find this really cool. There are all types of writing jobs people. Maybe your calling is in the gaming industry!
  • Same Kind of Different as Me | Denver Moore, Ron Hall, and Lynn Vincent
  • Snowden | The Snowden Files by Lule Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass | Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol
  • TMNT: Out of the Shadows | TMNT by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird
  • The BFG | Roald Dahl (Swoon! SO excited for this one!)
  • The Legend of Tarzan | Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Genius | Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg
  • Ben-Hur | Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace
  • Pete’s Dragon | S.S. Field and Seton I. Miller
  • The Infiltrator | Robert Mazur
  • Sully | Highest Duty by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger with Jeffrey Zaslow
  • The Girl on the Train | Paula Hawkins
  • Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life | James Patterson
  • The Bye Bye Man | The Bridge to Body Island by Robert Damon Schneck
  • Inferno | Dan Brown
  • A Monster Calls | Patrick Ness
  • Jack Reacher: Never Go Back | Never Go Back by Lee Child
  • Bill Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk | Ben Fountain
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them | J.K. Rowling
  • Let it Snow | Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
  • Assassin’s Creed | video game by Ubisoft
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children | Ransom Riggs

You can find the full list here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_in_film

Which of these books do you plan on reading before the movie comes out?

Cleaning Out Your Closet (One More Time)

Eminem is onto something here. Sometimes it takes more than once to clean out the old to make room for the new (the new creations, innovations, inspirations, etc.). I’m a firm believer in a clean writing space equaling productivity. If not that, at least it offers less distraction.

Since it’s January, and January typically means everyone is trying to reinvent themselves, I figured a post on renovating your writing nook was in order.

If you don’t have a writing nook, I suggest you find one. This is the space you thrive best in, whether that’s a desk like me, outside under a tree, getting bit by ants, or sitting in a coffee shop with your hipster friends (or alone, whatever). Your space needs to have your necessities within arm’s reach, otherwise you’re going to spend half your writing time searching for a pen or running out of paper. Yes, believe it or not some people still use those.

So in your writing nook, here are the main must-haves:

  1. Writing utensils, including things to cut and repair with. I prefer to organize mine into jars so I don’t waste time searching for the appropriate utensil (here I have highlighters/sharpies, pens, pencil (I only have one, I hate pencils) and scissors, then misc.). Occasionally I keep everything in this basket, then I take it out and push it against the wall. It’s really up to my mood that day.

    IMG_8845

  2. Something to put your paper in. Here I have all things lined, computer, and colorful, for wherever my mood takes me. I have envelopes, stamps, sticky notes, and basically everything I don’t need right in front of me but still within easy reach.IMG_8846
  3. Inspiration, NOT distraction. If I could look out a window without staring at a tree for ten minutes I would. As it is I’m so easily distracted I need the bare minimum as far as decorations go. This picture I have was made by my talented sister and includes a quote by one of my favorite authors. A short glance up renews my vigor and I’m able to get back to work.IMG_8844.JPG

Other things to consider:
-a series of clipboards where you can hang your latest ideas, goals, steps toward those goals, etc. (currently working on this one myself, thanks Better Homes & Gardens magazine!)
-noise cancelling headphones if you’re like me and-SQUIRREL!
-oil diffuser for when the pressures of the written word are too much and you just need to inhale some lavender (I’m a big proponent of essential oils as they’ve curbed many a mental breakdown of mine)

Don’t let your space turn into a clutter pile. The more clutter you have that piles up, the more anxious and claustrophobic you will feel. Keep your writing space your own. It’s not where you pay bills, it’s not where you do homework, it’s where you write. Keeping these spaces separate will help you to mentally sort your work from your school from your passion. I’m guilty of this right now, and I can honestly feel a difference in my mental state when I follow this advice.

What does your writing space look like? If you write somewhere other than your home, how do you pack your essentials to take with you?

Shadowhunters: From Pages to the Big Screen Back to Pages Then to the Small Screen

It’s no secret that the Mortal Instruments big screen adaptation was a major fail. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even see it and I’m a huge fan of the books. The trailers didn’t make it seem right and the casting…well, the casting directors obviously never read the books. 

So naturally I was very interested when Freeform announced they would be creating a TV version called Shadowhunters. I was nervous, and still am, about this adaptation. Freeform (aka ABC Family) is basically the big brother of Disney Channel, which typically means exaggerated acting and somewhat cheesy graphics.

I eagerly tuned in last week and was pleasantly surprised. The characters aren’t quite the same, the plot is very mixed up but reasonable, and the acting wasn’t cringeworthy…yet. Flash forward to this week and I’ll be honest, the cheese factor increased a smidge and the acting was so-so. But as I’m not an actor, I won’t focus on that. What I’d like to do is give you an idea of what it takes to go from a book to a movie, or book to a TV show. 

I hate to break it to you, but it’s impossible to create on screen what you have in your head. Graphics just aren’t that good yet and writing word for word from the book is just crazy. Writers are constantly having the dialogue beaten out of them. Go back through the last book you read (the last three Harry Potter books don’t count) and see how much is dialogue and how much is narration. Emphasis in novel writing is placed on the latter, whereas with TV, it’s the former. So no matter what, the adaptation from one to the other will not be exact. 

Another non-issue I’ve had with the series is how out of order it is with the books, until I discovered season one alone is going to cover books 1-3, which I felt was a little ambitious, but if fear of cancellation is on their mind then I get their point. Be patient with the writers of TV shows and movies. Things like order often translate better one way in text and another on screen. Not to mention certain plot points have to hit at certain time stamps on screen. Let me put it to you this way, while books and movies and TV shows may all be entertainment, they are not written the same or produced the same.

I encourage you to test this out for yourself. Read at least the first three books of the Mortal Instruments series and then watch the TV show (I don’t recommend watching the movie). What differences do you see just in the first two episodes? Why do you think they made these changes going from one format to another?

Traditional Publishing vs. Self Publishing

Let’s pretend you’re at a frat party (nightmare, I know). You’ve got two groups of frat boys drinking their way across the dance floor: the Prints and the Digitals. You know how frat boys can be. My house is bigger than your house and all that. The Prints and the Digitals all play on the same team, the team of drunken frat boy parties, but they compete to have the better house, crazier party, shorter Chubbies…and it’s very serious.

These two frat boy groups are partying away, sometimes the Prints are louder, sometimes the Digitals. Lately, the Prints can’t get the Digitals to shut up. Like, come on dude, put away your Kindle and read this cool paperback, it’s so vintage.

The party is just getting started when the freshmen come waltzing in, the freshmen who have dubbed themselves the “Self Pubs.” Now, these Self Pubs may be veterans at partying (they began pre-gaming in high school) or they may be total noobs. Regardless, the Prints and the Digitals give them the cold shoulder, though the Digitals realize this is useless because the Self Pubs are pretty much all in digital format. So they become good buddies.

The Prints are now scratching their heads, downing shots, and trying to figure out what to do. Finally, King Print suggests a contest for Self Pubs only. The best Self Pubs out there are given the opportunity to become a Print, but the Prints will be picky. Many Prints jump on this chance, since it means they’ll be allowed into more parties and won’t have to make all their own invitations. Others say pass, and keep playing beer pong with the questionably overage Digital guy in a tank top and plastic sunglasses.

By the end of the party, everyone is totally smashed and they all realize, hey, we’re all here to party. They have a great night dancing and drinking and wake up in the morning to a roaring headache and a stranger in their bed. But who cares? They had a great party.

Here’s the deal: there are many ways to publish your novel. You can go the traditional route through a Literary Agent and Publisher or you can Self Publish through a plethora of different services (pros and cons of each route will be explored at a later date). No way is inherently right or wrong, you just need to find what works best for you. There are obvious perks to whichever route you take and both require a LOT of hard work on your part. But you knew that.

So here’s your homework: do some research. What route do you think would be best for you as a person? What route is best for your book? Don’t be fooled by instant success stories. For every success there are thousands who are still fighting for each and every sale they get. You NEVER stop working as a writer.