Ideas are easy. It’s making them into something that’s hard.

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If you’re ever thinking about telling an author about your great idea for a novel, please stop.

I’ve been warned that once I ‘come out’ as a writer, people will be throwing ideas at me of what they think I should write about.

I never realized just how true that is.

Ever since I announced my book deal, I’m being approached by others telling me of awesome ideas they have for a book I should definitely write. All I need is an idea, they say! Everything else will come. I’ve even gotten texts of witty dialogue I could ‘plug in somewhere!’ because it’s so easy to write a story around a great idea!

Well, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Ideas are easy.

I have an entire Word file of ideas for books. Ideas I have thought through thoroughly (I bet that’s a mouthful) and have plot outlines of. Ideas of main characters, calculated twists, and perfect endings.

Ideas that cannot, without taking months upon months of work, dedication, and more ideas, be made into something.

A book is not just one idea. It’s an entire world, a slice of time put down in words.

It’s circumstances that drive the plot forward. It is the growth and the change between the first chapter and the next. It’s never just x happens and y has to z. Each step has to mean something. Each decision should be carefully calculated on the writer’s part to seem real. The main idea accounts for less than .001% of what truly happens to make reading a book worthwhile.

It’s interactions between all the characters. The world does not consist of the protagonist and the antagonist. It’s full of people (or whatever constitutes as a people) and we have to create them out of nothing to make the reader care for them. They are not ‘extras’ in the background. Supporting characters do just that – support the book in a way the main characters cannot. That is never part of the main ‘idea’ but it’s a huge part of the writing process.

It’s endless amounts of research. I’ve never been to 1800s France or traveled by boat and yet somehow I have to make do with Google. I can’t just make it all up or it won’t feel real. How can you show in words something you’ve never seen? How can you describe a feeling you’ve never felt? Whether the fear of an air raid siren or a gunshot to the leg, it’s things like that that make writing seem impossible at times, and have nothing to do with the ‘idea’.

And lastly, it’s making it all work. Life is not simple. There is no one direction, no one path, no one door. While writing, we have to make the world work. We have to make sure that each part is seamless with the rest. Continuity is preserved. There are no plot errors or time jumps. It’s not just the spelling and grammar that we have to worry about, it’s everything.

 An idea cannot be made into a 50,000+ word manuscript. A collection of ideas woven together with blood, sweat, and tears can.

I still can’t believe I wrote even ONE such manuscript.

I have a lot of ideas. I want to do them all but I have to prioritize. I already write slow because English is my second language. It’s hard enough to write as is. Someone else’s idea won’t even make the backlog.

So yeah.

That’s my PSA for the day.

New Year Resolutions

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What are your 2016 resolutions?

For 2015, I only had one true resolution – finish my first novel, Rise of the Chosen.

It took me all the way until September, but I did it!

Not only that, but in addition I wrote another YA novel, a MG novel, and a children’s book series. I’m just playing the waiting game now.

Overall, I’d say I pretty much exceeded my expectations and I couldn’t be happier.

For 2016, my main goal, my one desire, the resolution of a lifetime – is to get published.

Not self publishing, though it is definitely not as harrowing as I expected, but get a real agent and sign a real publishing contract.

This is what I want and I will do whatever I can to make it happen.

I wish everyone here a Happy New Year and good luck on your resolutions!

Querying advice you won’t find anywhere else.

It’s finally that time – my manuscript is polished and ready to be sent out. I wrote my hooky query letter, synopsis, author bio, and thought I was ready.

Boy was I wrong.

So let me save you some time and show you what I’ve learned that I haven’t seen on other query advice sites.

1. It takes forever.

It took me over 4 hours to query 15 agents. That’s roughly 20 minutes per agent. I’m using QueryTracker so finding them isn’t the issue. It’s everything else.

2. Pay attention to detail.

Every agency has special submission policies you can find on their website. If you’re using QueryTracker do not just assume they don’t have guidelines if they didn’t post them in their info. Here are some examples:

  • Send only query letter with salutations to agent.
  • Send only query letter to agency but do not mention an agent.
  • Send query letter and 1-2 page synopsis in body of email.
  • Send query letter, 1-2 page synopsis, and first 5/10/50 pages of manuscript in body of email.
  • Send query letter, 1-2 page synopsis, and first 3 chapters of manuscript in body of email.
  • Send query letter, a chapter by chapter synopsis, and the entire manuscript as an attachment.

See what I mean?

3. Subject line matters.

Same thing with email subject. Some want QUERY, QUERY Title of Book, QUERY Name of Agent, etc. Make sure you find this info out before emailing or your query might get immediately trashed.

4. Pick one agent per agency.

Almost every agency has several agents who like different genres. You have to read every agent’s bio in order to find the right fit for your query and only query that person. They don’t like it if you email more than one agent in the same agency, so your best bet is to pick one and go for it (and make sure you keep track). Some agents and agencies specifically list genres they don’t represent. That’s kind of important.

5. You will probably get a heart attack.

Some agents take days while others take months to respond. Some have autoreplies while others have nothing. Basically, you’re in limbo. Every time your phone buzzes with an email for the next month it will make you jump. If you have anxiety, this is going to suck.

6. An agency is not always a publishing company.

There are many agents with individual agencies who sell your manuscript to a publishing company. You can tell because the name is usually the company name (Ex: Sue Moor with Moor Inc.). And that’s ok. Companies like Scholastic do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, so if your next Hunger Games gets an agent it can go anywhere. You don’t need a full representation and publishing company to be successful.

7. Don’t doubt yourself.

It will make you question your manuscript. Even if you’ve been working on it for five years. Stay strong!

8. Don’t forget!

And lastly, don’t forget your contact info! Every query I’ve seen requires three things: genre, word count, and contact info. If you have those, you’re on your way!

Oh boy I can’t wait for my first rejection!

Happy querying!

The first idea is the best one.

I’m reading Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle and this made me think.

It was my first idea; they say your first ideas are your best ones. I think it’s maybe dangerous to think that way all the time. But when I remember finally building [the game],  seeing how it was actually going to come together and really work, then I know what people mean about their first ideas being the best. There is something fierce and starved about first ideas.

I thought about first novels. The first novel is like a first child. You love it but somewhere deep down you’re afraid to show it to anyone in fear they’ll think it’s ugly. Because like it or not, most babies (as first novels) are, and as the parent we know it’s impossible for us to see. And that’s ok.

Was your first novel your first idea for one? Was it the best idea?

When Your Perfect Book Title is Taken

As I get toward the end of my novel, I’m thinking more and more about the contents of the query letter I will be sending out, the editing and formatting that I will have to do, and the big t – title.

I’ve had the title for this novel for years. Back when I began writing it, I checked if there was another by the same name, and there wasn’t!

Except now there is.

So what do I do?

I know that there are hundreds of books by the same name, that general names are rampant, and that names aren’t copyrighted unless they specifically refer to a popular brand or series. You can’t name your book Twilight: Breaking Dawn but you can name it Twilight. One infringes on rights and one doesn’t.

My title would be ok. It’s not too general but not specific enough, and the other book is a self-published fantasy about completely different things.

But I don’t want to. It’s going to be my first published work and I don’t want to already put it in competition on a Google or Goodreads search.

So now I’m trying to find a way to change the name just a little to make it unique. I’ve been calling it the name for so long, though, that I don’t know if that’s possible.

Basically, this sucks.

Has anyone else been in this situation? Did you choose a unique name or one already existing? Why?

Fight the Dead. Fear the Living.

We all know that The Walking Dead isn’t about the zombies – it’s about the people.

I started watching it with my husband right after season 4 ended, and it took us a good six months of an episode here and there to get caught up.

I can’t say it’s the best show out there, but it’s definitely nothing like I’ve ever seen before, and we’re pretty religious on our Sunday night showings when it’s on.

But this post isn’t a Walking Dead promo.

This post is about the dead and the living dying.

There was a scene when they were in the prison and I saw that instead of locking the prison doors when they slept, they put drapes over the entrances. The rationale was that they didn’t want to feel like prisoners.

But that didn’t make sense to me. When every living human being is a threat to the entire population, the most rational thing to do is monitor the living. You want to live, you lock the door. You die – you can’t hurt anyone. How is that not the utmost priority?

And thus the idea for my novel was born.

Tomorrow Never Comes.

If you keep telling yourself you’ll write “tomorrow”, it will never come. It will always be tomorrow.

I seriously need to stop doing that. I have a goal of finishing the first draft by September and that will never happen if I keep saying I’ll write tomorrow.

So, I’ll write this today, and then I’ll write tomorrow.