Thursday, May 28, 2015

Writing Routine Experiment Results

If you missed my last post, for the past month, I’ve experimented with having a writing routine.

Results are in!

The first discovery I made is that I’m a terrible scientist. I went from my old ways to the new without first collecting data from the old. So how could I compare? Based off feelings? You bet. (Not very scientific, right?)

Here’s a recap of my experiment at the point where you saw it last:

Step one: Ask a question. Will sticking to a writing routine help me be a better writer or am I destined to live a wild existence of unpredictability for all of time?
Step two: Do background research. The old saying is that is takes 21 days to create a habit. But actually it takes 18-200-and-something days with an average of 66 days being the golden number. Basically, I could fall anywhere on this spectrum. We’ll see if 30 days is enough for me. 
Step three: Construct a hypothesis. By the end of these 30 days, the trial will either prove routine works for even the likes of me or that I’m a wild jungle babe of writing. 
Step four: Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment. For the next 30 days, I will write in my glorified closet office–and only in that room. (I thought about doing it at a certain time, but then I started twitching and dry heaving and breaking out in hives, so I decided against that.)

And now, onto the rest of the scientific method...

Step five: Analyze your data and draw a conclusion. Blarg! What good is new data without old data? This is why I’m a writer and not a scientist. But I did make observations (based on feelings), at least. A few of those are:

Day One
Me: I’m going to write now.
Me: Better do that writing in your office.
Me: No, I’m sick. I’ll write cuddled on the couch.
Me: You can’t slack on day one of your experiment.
Me: Yes, I can. Because of the pressure in my head.
Me: ...
Me: Fine, but I’m hugging Oskimo (my stuffed bear) while I write in there.

Day Two
Hey, this aint even half bad. As long as I bring food.

Day Seven
Once again, I wanted to edit not in my office, but here I am. Coming in here does feel like a step toward productivity now.

After the first week, writing in my office felt natural. Week two went amazingly well.

And then somewhere in the middle of week three, I ended up writing in my living room because that’s where the window is and it was sunny. IT WAS SUNNY, OKAY? And then I always wrote by the window or out on the balcony. So...there was habit, just not the habit I set out to keep.

Step six: Communicate your results. I didn’t notice a difference in productivity in my office or in the sunshine. I got a ton done in both places. I went over my manuscript to apply final edits, handed it off to my critique partner, got notes for final final edits, and now I’m almost done with those. The only noticeable difference was that I was happier writing in the sun, and happiness is hella important.

Like Veronica Roth said, “Sometimes you do have to force yourself to do something, but it doesn't have to be in the same way as other people force themselves to do something.”

Moral of the story: Experiment and go with what feels right to you. As long as your writing is getting done and you’re moving forward, do what you do.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Guestopia: Laura Huntley

This month's Guestopia victim is Laura Huntley, a super talented author I met through the online writing group, Women Writers, Women's Books.

Hi Laura, let's waste no time whatsoever and get straight to the questions!

Is this your first published book?
It is! I am still in the nipping myself phase just to make sure this is real.

What’s it called?
Black Eyed Boy.

Which genre?
YA Contemporary Romance (with a big juicy, dark, gothic secret at the centre)

Which age group?
I would say 14-18, but the book is actually being read by all age groups.

Is it a series or standalone?
It is the first of a planned trilogy. I have written the sequel. It just needs a little more tinkering and polishing and it will soon be with the publisher. Next, to write the third and final instalment. I can’t wait!

Are you an agented author?
No. I’m in this all on my own, but I have been incredibly fortunate so far and I really haven’t felt the need for an agent.

Which publisher snapped up your book?
The fabulous Crooked Cat Publishing, my first choice. They publish such a diverse range of interesting literature. I am an extremely lucky crooked kitten.

How involved have you been in the whole publishing process of your book?
Massively. I wasn’t sure what to expect, this being my first novel and all, but I have been impressed and pleasantly surprised. Other than having an editor (THE best one actually, thank you Sue Barnard), I haven’t had to lose any of my ideas or any control over my work at all. Crooked Cat wanted my input when it came to choosing the cover artwork too. It has been a fascinating experience.

Do you have another job?
I organise local community events and I run a writing group at the library. I also make a range of handmade items such as cushions, jewellery, hair accessories and cards.

Did you receive many, if any, rejections prior?
Not for the novel. Crooked Cat were my first choice and they liked it enough to sign me up. I have had many short stories and pieces of flash-fiction published in anthologies too. I have had rejections sometimes, but I try not to dwell on them.

What created/what were you doing or watching when the first idea for this book sneaked up on you?
I heard the song by Texas ‘Black Eyed Boy’ and I thought that would be an excellent book title. Then, I started thinking … what would that be about? Once the idea (I think it must have fallen from the sky and landed on my head) arrived, I knew that I had something unusual and rather unique.

How long did you plot/plan until you started writing it?
For a few months. I had to do a fair amount of research initially, until I felt confident and knowledgeable enough to sit and write the story.

One you started, did the story flow naturally or did you have to step in and wrestle it into submission?
It was a dream come true, actually. It seemed to write itself. Every day was a joy and a pleasure. I’m certain that’s because I set the book in my most favourite seaside location though (Whitby, North Yorkshire, England). I felt as though I could hear the gulls and smell the fish and chips.

How many drafts did you write before you let someone read it? Who was that someone?
I never let a soul read it. I kept it entirely to myself until I submitted the first three chapters to my publisher. There is a huge secret within the story and I was determined to keep it that way.

Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?
It has barely changed at all. It is certainly a million times tighter now though.

Are there any parts you’d like to change even now?
Ooh, good question! I was worried that I had left too many things dangling and unanswered but I wouldn’t change that. That’s what a sequel is for!

What part of writing do you find the easiest?
The beginning when it’s all fresh and exciting. And the end, that is so thrilling, particularly the final sentences. It’s such a shame about that huge pesky middle bit. Haha!

What part do you find hardest?
I struggle with the synopsis and the blurb. You have to be so succinct and I am frequently such a waffler!

Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?
Push, push, push. There were moments of writing Black Eyed Boy where I would be in floods of tears. It isn’t a fluffy book. There is a beautiful love story, but there are dark moments, full of grief and fear and that was quite hard to do. But you have to keep going.

How many projects do you have on the go at the same time?
One, ideally. I am better if I can give the project my undivided attention.

Do you think you’re born with the talent to write or do you think it can be learned?
Another fantastic question. I think, perhaps, I was born with the desire to write. Perhaps, if you’re truly dedicated and determined, talent will follow? You can certainly learn tricks and tips to make your writing better, but you have to have the love for it.

How many future novels do you have planned?
I have finished the sequel and I am currently editing that. There will be one final instalment in this trilogy and then I fully expect to return to horror. I haven’t written anything scary or grotesque for ages. And I miss it. Nasty things in shadows are calling my name, I can’t help it.

Do you write other things, such as short stories, articles, blogs, etc?
I like to try and keep my hand in. I write for my writing group and take part in daily haiku and poem challenges over on Twitter. I don’t blog as often as I feel I ought to, but I will occasionally scribble a post. I miss writing flash-fiction, sometimes, and the instant satisfaction that comes with that. But I feel I should concentrate on the novels for now.

Give me five writing tips that work for you.
Write down every single idea you have.
Try and write every day, even if it’s just a few words.
If you’re stuck, try a random words exercise to get you going again. The first five words you turn to in the dictionary will do.
Don’t let rejections get to you too much. Move on. Someone else will see your potential.
Do it because you love it.

And one that doesn't.
Staring at the blank page. If it’s really not happening, go and do something else. You might be prolific tomorrow.

Can you give us a clue or secret about your next book?
It’s called Green Eyed Girl, the sequel to Black Eyed Boy. And you will absolutely have to read it in one sitting because the story becomes incredibly tense. Like dangling off the edge off a cliff stuff / you will chew your nails.

What question have you always wanted to be asked but never have? What would the answer be?
Q: If Dylan (the Black Eyed Boy) was a real person, would you fall for him?
A: YES! (Insert dreamy sigh)

Wow, I'm in! Thank you so much for joining us today, Laura. We, at YAtopia, wish you mountains of luck with the Black Eyed Boy trilogy. Book one is already on my Kindle calling to be read. And for any readers who want to get their grubby mitts on it too, you can buy your copy here!

If you'd like to keep up to date with what's happening in the world of Laura Huntley, here are some places she might be!


That's it for this month, but make sure to come back in June when I chat with Australian middle grade author Angela Sunde.

Friday, May 22, 2015

My One Month Birthday!

I’m being a little selfish today, sorry – actually, no I’m not – as I’m going to talk about me and my book. My lovely little book. Mmm.

The ebook version of Winell Road was published on the penultimate day of April, so we’re coming up to its one month birthday. And it’s been a pretty positive start to my writing career. I haven’t asked about sales figures – other than saying to my editor in an almost apologetic tone, ‘I hope sales haven’t been too bad,’ and to which he replied, 'Yes, there have been some sales' – and I’ve tried not to go too crazy with mentioning it in every tweet, FB post and blog.

I've been invited to do a few interviews and have written a couple of promotional blogs, but as the paperback is due out shortly, I’ve scheduled more, plus some Goodreads giveaways, for the coming months to help celebrate this next milestone. I'm setting up my author profile here and there, and SCBWI and WWWB have given me wonderful FB shout outs, too. Thank you guys!

I’ve received six 4 and 5* ratings and three reviews on Goodreads – so much more than I was expecting at this early stage. The beautiful people that are book reviewers have been so kind in agreeing to read the book, I couldn’t be any more grateful to them for their support.

My author website, although very much a construction site, is up and running and I'm working, when time allows, on improving this. I have a list of some gorgeous kiddlies lined up to read and review the paperback, and will be posting, with every child and parent’s approval of course, these on to the Reviews Page. I plan to run some little giveaways in the future for all the kids eager enough to take part, regardless of whether their review is positive or not.

Winell Road is only available to buy via the publisher’s website at the moment, but actually this is a really good thing as a massive 20% of all sales are donated to the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation. So even when wider distribution of Winell Road opens up, it would be much more beneficial to purchase the ebook direct from Jet Black Publishing. Cue link!

There are lots of exciting things still in the pipeline for the book. First, this is just the first in a series, so hopefully book number two will follow soon. Second, there is the possibility of collector cards to accompany the series coming in the near future!

So yay! Thank you to everyone who has helped me celebrate and who have supported me during my first month as a published author. It sounds so cliché and cheesy, but I really don’t think I’d have made it this far without the kindness of the virtual writing and reading community. If you’d like to help me continue spreading the word, then I would love to hear from you, too. Or, if you have or know a child who might like a fun sci-fi adventure and who might also be willing to write a little review, then let me know. I have a bottomless pot of invitations to the ongoing Winell Road party.

On a final note, this weekend is also exactly one year since I waved goodbye to England, boarded a plane for a tremendously long and arduous flight to Australia. One year! It has absolutely flown. I have achieved more than I dreamed of in this time and I haven’t looked back once. I miss my family and friends still living in the cold wetness that is England, but Australia is now my home; in fact, it has felt like home since the day I arrived.

My local beach! That's Surfers Paradise in the distance.
All in all, I'm pretty happy right now!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Never Be Younger: Blog Tour Sign-up

The fabulous E.L. Wicker and I co-wrote two stories for an upcoming anthology: Never Be Younger - a YA Shakespeare retelling anthology. Our two stories are:

A Gargoyle on Prom Night - a retelling of a Midsummer Night's Dream from Puck's POV.

Star Crossed Lovers - a retelling of Romeo & Juliet set featuring the intergalactic space station, Verona, and space pirates.

All proceeds from the anthology are going towards United Through Reading, a charity that aims to connect military personnel with their families with video contact and reading aloud.

To be part of the blog tour to promote this amazing anthology, please sign up here.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Author Interview with KP Smith

Today I'd like to welcome KP Smith to Yatopia for a chat about her Growing Pains series.

About KP Smith

I love to read and it was my love for reading that ignited my passion to write. I am currently penning the Growing Pains Series. The First Book Kendra’s Diaries is available for purchase. The Second Book New Beginnings will be available soon. The Third Book Decisions is currently being penned. When I am not reading and writing I have lots of other hobbies to occupy my time. I love Sports football, basketball, tennis, golf yeah basically all of them.

I’m also a big TV watcher (maybe too big? Nah no such thing). I love my soaps; soaper for life love my night time dramas. These are enjoyable and a perk also helps with my creative thinking/writing process. The only thing better than watching my favorite shows is watching it with millions of others via twitter!! I’m a major tweeter!

I also love a good movie. I am a Social Media junkie but it can’t replace some good old fashion talking…love good conversation.

I work in the insurance company by day. I have a wonderful family life including two wonderful sons.
I live in NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) home of Mardi Gras, Jazz, great food and Southern Hospitality. WHO DAT!!

1. Welcome KP Smith! We know you're an author? What else would you like to tell us about yourself?
I’m a mom and have two sons 15 and 13. I live with two teenagers so I’m never ever bored. By day I’m an insurance adjuster. I love to read, go to the movies and sports events. I’m also a big social media stan with my favorite medium being twitter.
I try and take life as it comes and enjoy each day as much as possible!
2. Growing up, what did you want to be?
I had absolutely no idea. I knew I didn’t like Science so being a doctor, nurse, and pharmacy was out. From there it was more of a process of elimination than an actual desire to be something honestly. I kind of stumbled upon the insurance industry. And 18 years later I’m still there.
3. How did The Growing Pains Series come about?
I said when I was growing up I wanted to write a book loosely based on my life. When I became an adult I wanted to give the youth the benefit of my experiences, challenges and triumphs. I’m confident as they join me in Kendra Foster’s journey it will help them navigate the often tricky waters of growing up.
4. What’s next for KP Smith?
I’m currently writing the third book in the series tentatively titled Decisions. My plan is to take Kendra through high school. I have no plans to go further. But as we all know you should never say never.
I’ve been thinking especially in the last month of delving into Adult Fiction and maybe non-fiction too. It’s exciting not to have everything planned out. Looking forward to seeing where this path takes me.
5. Give me three words your best friend would use to describe you?
Engaging, witty and intelligent.
6. Do you have to have a certain environment in which to write?
I don’t when I write the first draft of each chapter. I write each chapter on paper initially so I write everywhere. I write when I’m a passenger in a car, sitting on the sofa, waiting for an appointment. I keep pen and paper in my purse. When it’s time to type, I type on my laptop in my living room. Sometimes I have music on, sometimes the tv, and sometimes I type in quiet. It depends on my mood.
7. If you could move anywhere in the world where would it be?
Sydney, Australia
8. How do you find the time to balance your budding career as a writer with the rest of your life?
I told myself a few years ago as long as you live you have to work out. Things will happen where you might take a few days off maybe even a week off (hopefully not more than that) but understand you can’t stop no matter what don’t stop.
Recently I told myself the same thing about me writing/being an author. I’m going to do this for the rest of my life. Every day is different I might have 3 hours to invest the next day only 30 minutes. I’ll do what I can as I can but I will not stop.

About the Growing Pains series

Meet Kendra Foster. She’s right in the middle of the roller coaster ride of growing up. Her family seems to be in a permanent state of disarray. High school is right around the corner and there is only one school she wants to attend but it is going to take a miracle for her to go. She finally made the cheerleading team which is the best thing that has happened since forever. But much to her dismay this wreaks havoc in a completely unexpected way. Then she has one year left to capture Jamie’s attention yet she hasn’t been able to do that since fourth grade. And with the new girl everyone is going crazy over she doesn’t have much of a chance does she? Life is coming at her from all sides and she is determined to keep it all together. Kendra’s Diaries is the first installment in the Growing Pains series. During all the twists, turns, ups and downs Kendra will develop courage, faith and perseverance. She will learn no matter what happens in life always remain positive and never give up. Life has a way of working itself out.

Amazon    B&N


     The sounds of birds chirping caused me to leave my last moments of sleep and forced my mind into consciousness. I closed my eyes and laid on the bed. This was my favorite part of the day. Those first few precious moments when my mind was blank: no problems, no worries, just moments of peace. I needed to lie there. I needed to mentally prepare for the day—it was an important one. The peace and quiet continued for a little while longer, but just when I thought maybe I had gotten lucky—maybe the impossible had happened—I heard them. Ring, ring, sound the bell, Take a ring side seat, the morning fight is on.
It started low at first, but that wouldn’t last. The voices got louder and louder. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but I knew the script by heart. I had seen this film far too many times.
“It’s the middle of another month and we haven’t paid the bills,” my mom said.
“Valerie, there you go again, always about money. Is that all you think about?” my daddy shot back.
“No, Robert, all I think about is how we never have enough money.”
“And I’m sure it’s my fault. It is always my fault.”
“Well, who is the one who can’t keep a job? I have been working at the same job for the past five years. What is the longest time you’ve ever stayed at a job?”
“There you go, always putting me down. Talking about what I don’t do.”
“‘Cause you don’t do nothing.
“Nothing! Huh? What about the fact that every dime I make goes into this house.”
My mom laughed as if mocking my daddy. “Won’t you stop bringing me dimes and bring some dollars? Then you might be doing something.”
“How much I make is not the problem. You don’t know how to manage the money. That’s the problem!”
My mom laughed again. “Manage? There is not enough money to ‘mismanage.’ These kids have to go to school, they have to eat, they need clothes, a home, transportation, they need activities, they need—”
“You know what I need? I need some peace and quiet. I don’t need to be nagged all the time. All I get is your whining and complaining and asking for more, more, more, more. I am so sick and tired of all of this. Not happy? Then I’ll leave. Then we can all be happy. I am sure your parents would love that.”
“Leave my parents out of this. They have nothing to do with this.”
“There you go, sticking up for them.”
The next thing I knew, someone, it had to have been my daddy, pounded his fist on the wall. In the quiet of the morning, the sound was so forceful that it felt like the whole house shook.
I laid and waited for the knock I knew was coming. After a few seconds, there it was, a knock on the door. “Come in,” I responded.
My only sibling, my younger sister, Patrice, peeked through the crack she made when she opened the door and asked, “Can I lie with you?”
I moved over to make room for her on the bed. She hopped onto the bed and laid next to me. I took one of my pillows and gave it to her. In unison, and showing our years of practice, we put the pillows over our heads and tried to drown out the screaming voices. They were so loud that I could no longer hear the birds chirping right outside my window.
Then, I heard my sister, speaking to me through the pillow. I lifted it to hear what she was saying.
“Why do Mommy and Daddy fight so much?” she asked, for what seemed like the millionth time.
I didn’t have a clue, myself. But, since I was the big sister, I guessed it was my job to come up with something. “Adults have a lot of things to deal with, and they don’t always agree on things, so, sometimes they argue. It’s no big deal,” I said, trying to sound mature and confident, trying to reassure her.
“Do you think Mommy and Daddy love each other?”
That was a new question, and it kinda took me off guard. I hesitated for a second and gave the only response I could think of, “Of course.”
That seemed to satisfy her. She put the pillow back over her head. Patrice had been subjected to the fights between my parents for most of her life. Things weren’t always that way, though. There were better times—times without all this fussing and fighting—but those times seemed far, far away.
After a while, my sister’s breathing became softer and softer, letting me know she had fallen asleep. I lifted the pillow off of her head and looked around my room, since there was nothing much else to do while waiting for the argument to stop.
I had a full-size bed with a matching chest of drawers set. When I looked down at my sister, asleep on the full bed, I thought, Thank God I was finally able to get out of the twin bed I’d had since I got out of my baby bed. My bedroom set was a hand-me-down from one of my mother’s friends, whose daughter left for college this past summer. But since I was 13 and still in a twin, I was grateful for anything.
My bed was not decked out with a comforter set, the kind with all the fancy trimmings—no decorative pillows, no bed skirt. Instead, it was modestly covered with a spread. At least it’s my favorite color, dark green,I thought. And my curtains are a nice, lighter shade of green, close to the color of green grapes. They match my bedspread nicely.
My room was not horrible, but it was far from the beautiful rooms I had seen in magazines with the sparkling Princess bedroom furniture and everything decorated in pink. The highlight of my room, by far, was my brand new television—which I got for my birthday. My grandparents bought it for me. The downside was that my sister didn’t have her own TV, so she often watched mine with me. At least she knows the rules. She can watch television with me, but we only watch what I want to watch. A girl has to have something of her own, right?
I stopped surveying my room, sat up, and listened to my sister’s breathing. She was okay. She felt safe. Then I wondered, who is supposed to make me feel safe?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Taking a breath...


This is my first post at YAtopia, and I sort of wanted to introduce myself.

I'm K.T. Hanna. I write mostly science fiction, but also some fantasy and horror. And I always write what I want to read, because I'm just not that good at writing for a market. By day I'm a mom to a toddler, and a wife to an awesome husband - as well as a freelance editor. I'm also an intern at a NYC Agency in my copious amounts of spare time. I live on twitter, and sometimes Facebook.

I'm also a huge Buffy, Supernatural, Labyrinth, and Star Trek fan. Just a warning for future references.

I plan to do a series of blog posts here - perhaps on (self-)editing? Or fast drafting? Or even plotting in great detail... I'm open to suggestions of what people might want to see. Writing is a massive chunk of my life, and one I can't live without.

On August 4th this year, 2015, my debut will be released by... me.

And this is where I take a breath.

Because it's overwhelming - all of this self publishing stuff. When you choose to do it, you take on the role of writer, publisher, and marketer. The amount of work involved in every level from writing, editing, re-editing, editing again... through to cover design, blurbs, reviews, street teams, launch dates...

It's all so much. If we're not careful, we can get lost in the sheer magnitude of things that are not writing.

I don't believe anyone who, like me, has been chasing the traditional publishing dream takes it on lightly at all. Because self publishing your book leaves everything in your hands. It doesn't mean you've given up on your dream, but sometimes you just have to breathe and realize - a story is a story.

So, I'm here to say, that no matter where you are in your publishing journey. If you've finished a first novel, are hard at editing for the fiftieth time, are querying, or even on sub - always remember it's important to take a step back and ask yourself why you do what you do.

For me? I want to tell stories, and so that's what I'll keep doing.

And I won't forget to breathe.

Sunday, May 10, 2015


First off, apologies for missing last month's slot - life whirlwind-ed around me! Suffice to say, with a lead job as a scriptwriter, freelance contracts, and an upcoming in city job as a copywriter, three full time jobs can make one a little absent-minded!

This month, I wanted to talk about favorite YA books - and why. Hopefully, this will be interactive and you'll tell me all about your favorite YA books in the comments and our TBR lists will exponentially grow!

So here's the low down on my top three YA books (in no particular order though, as I love them all for very different reasons!).


Why do I love this so? Because it is daring, breathless, with a setting that grabs you with its teeth and pulls you into a living, breathing world full of adventure and heartbreak. The writing is GORGEOUS and characters feel real. Oh...and it has horses from the sea...sure they might tear an arm off, but what's a limb compared to galloping high speed across the sand?



This gets on my list as it's one of the most emotionally true books I've ever read. Is the content hard going sometimes? Sure. After all, it's about teens Maya and Lochan falling in love despite them being siblings. But don't judge a book by its bravery in tackling such a raw topic...this is beautifully written and Suzuma has a master's skill in getting the reader to care about her characters' heart-wrenching lives.


Well...because. If you don't know, you either a) HATE fantasy, or b) do not read. Otherwise, I accept no excuses. The literary master at his best. To die for writing, sweeping, epic stakes, a world to rival any other, and daemons.

Now here's a question....what would YOUR daemon be?

Mine? Hands down a dog. :-)

Let me know in the comments and let me know your top YA choices!!


Friday, May 8, 2015

No, No, NA. New Adult: Setting it Straight

I often get asked to explain the New Adult genre. After my explanation, nine times out of ten the next question will be: “It’s just sexed up YA, right?”


I won’t deny that a huge amount of New Adult books have sex scenes in them, but that is not what NA is. In my previous post I explained that the characters in NA are usually aged between nineteen and twenty-five, often in college, dipping their toes in the independence pool and settling down to begin a family. But not all of these books involve sex.

It’s this transition in life that New Adult focuses on. The important rites of passage associated with leaving home.

It’s not just about becoming independent, but adapting to being out in the big world alone. There are no parents in the next room to run to, no dinner ready and waiting, no one providing all the things taken for granted when living at home. 

The next question I get asked is, “Doesn’t it have stronger language?”

Once again, no. 

The use of profanity does not define a genre. I’ve read plenty of adult books without swear words, and the same can be said for New Adult.

As the genre grows, the diversity of the content grows too. Christian, thriller, horror and urban fantasy to name but a few, are all available as New Adult books. Many are clean, many are not. All are New Adult.

E.L. Wicker


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Agentopia: Rebecca Podos

Welcome to the May edition of Agentopia! For more information and to see other Agentopia posts, click here.

This month Rebecca Podos from the Rees Literary Agency is in the spotlight.

Rebecca Podos is a graduate of the MFA Writing, Literature and Publishing program at Emerson College, whose debut YA novel THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES is forthcoming from Balzer + Bray. Rebecca is interested in Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction of all kinds. She's looking for projects with compelling characters whose journeys feel human, whether they're high school students, were-dragons or space travelers. She is thrilled to represent books like Rin Chupeco's THE GIRL FROM THE WELL (Sourcebooks), Ryan Bradford's HORROR BUSINESS (Month9Books), Mackenzi Lee's THIS MONSTROUS THING (Katherine Tegen Books, 2015), Sarah Nicolas' DRAGONS ARE PEOPLE, TOO (Entangled, 2015), Ashley Herring Blake's SUFFER LOVE (HMH Children's, 2016) Kenneth Logan's THE SLOW THAW (HarperCollins Children's, 2016), and Emily Ross's HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH (Merit Press, 2016.)
Rebecca prefers email submissions, and unfortunately is only able to respond to queries she is interested in pursuing. 
To query, please submit a query letter and your first three chapters in the body of the email to
What are you looking for in YA submissions right now?

I’m always looking for complex and complicated female relationships in YA, be they familial, friendly, antagonistic or romantic. Romance in general is fine, as long as “will they/ won’t they” isn’t the highest stake in the novel. I love books that play with genres – literary horror, magic realism, gothic mystery, soft sci-fi with a strong focus on character. I’m always looking for beautifully written contemporary. Right now, I’m especially looking for more LGBTQ books; contemporary, yes, but also across sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, etc.

What's an immediate turn-off in a query, something guaranteed to get the author rejected?

One turn-off would simply be a query letter that doesn’t focus on the story. I know queries are tough, and you want to stand out amongst the dozens of letters an agent receives each day, show personality. But a lot of authors start out by talking about their childhood inspirations, or when they decided to become a writer, or setbacks they faced along their journey toward publication, or how the book came to them on a long drive across the country. That’s a conversation best left until an agent requests more of your book, or better yet, offers you representation. Trust your story, and use your limited space and an agent’s limited attention span to sell it.

My general advice, when structuring a query letter, is to look at the back of a published YA/ MG novel for inspiration (with a few obvious additions, like word count and genre.) You’ll usually find 2-3 brief paragraphs that introduce us to the main character, let us know enough about his/her journey that we want to find out what happens, and communicate the stakes of that journey; what is the main character trying to accomplish, and what will happen if she succeeds? If she fails? Then at the end, you can include your (brief!) author bio with credentials and vital information.

What's the story got to have to make you want to represent it?

There are a lot of ingredients that go into a wonderful YA or MG – a unique and relatable voice, complex character development, great tension and pacing, etc. All are important, and they all need to be present. But then there has to be something else. That phenomenon when a manuscript is more than the sum of its parts, and as you turn the last page, you just know: this is a book. I think for me, it happens when a character’s internal arc is working perfectly with their external plot. When there’s a deeply human core inside a character’s quest, whatever the genre. So your MC has to retrieve a magic amulet in order stop the apocalypse and save the hot young swamp monster with a chip on his shoulder; what are the emotional stakes of the story? If she succeeds, will she learn how best to love herself and others? If she fails, will she never have the chance to figure it out?

I guess what I’m saying is, that magic amulet better MEAN something.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Essential 10: The Synopsis

Before I begin, I have to take a very quick moment to say: MY BOOK IS OUT!

This is my first post since the release of Becoming Jinn on April 21, and I want to thank everyone for their support! It's been a long, two-year road, to get to this point. Along the way I've met so many amazing writers and readers who have helped pass the time, including everyone writing for and reading this blog. So thank you! I'm thrilled that Azra is finally in readers' hands and it's been an incredible couple of weeks!

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming!

For the past two months, I’ve focused on two key elements of a query submission package: the query and the first page. This month, I tackle arguably the hardest element: the synopsis.

Truth time: I am not expert on any of this, but especially not on the synopsis. It’s hard for me and it’s hard for most writers, even ones with multiple books under their belts. It’s a necessary evil, and the best we can all do is minimize our complaining (minimize, not end) and just dive in. 

So here we go: top 10 tips for writing a synopsis.

1. Third person, present tense. Regardless of how your novel is written, write the synopsis in third person, present tense.

2. Names in all caps. Character’s names are written in all caps on first mention so they can be easily picked out.

3. Include the ending. Unlike a query pitch, you must include the ending in a synopsis. The purpose is for the agent to see if you have completed the story and character arcs, and the only way to do that is to spill it all.

4. Just the highlights. Pretend you are telling friends this story over dinner. Pick a movie and describe it in this way. You’ll find yourself easily skipping over parts and embellishing others. You need to do the same with your novel, which is hard because you are so close to it. But that means you have to…

5. Cut, cut, cut. There is not room to tell every thread and every subplot. There may not be room to tell every twist, to include every character. Be brutal. Pick the main plot and ensure you tell it from start to end in a clear, focused manner but don’t leave out the...

6. Emotion, emotion, emotion. Synopses, by design, focus on plot. This runs the risk of leaving out how your character feels about everything that’s happening. Use the character’s emotions as a way to advance the plot that you are telling.

7. Tell the full character arc. The conflict, the stakes, and how the conflict is resolved much be clear.

8. Length. Advice varies. The best I can recommend is always having a one-page synopsis. That way if the agent specifies such length, you are prepared. If you feel you need a longer one, and it is better than the one-pager (which it may not be…often shorter is better), then have one that’s no longer than three pages. You should be adequately prepared by having both in your query arsenal.

9. Don’t forget the writing. Make it energetic and lively. It may not be the place to showcase your fabulous prose, but ensure it’s good, active, and as engaging as possible.

10. Expert advice. Follow the steps written by my Feiwel and Friends editorial sister, Marissa, Meyer, author of the Lunar Chronicles, who sums it up much better than I could!  

With that, you should now have all the tips you need to write a successful query, first page, and synopsis. The only thing you have to do is remember to enjoy it—at least a little!

Lori Goldstein is the author of Becoming Jinn (Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, now available!!, sequel, Spring 2016). With a degree in journalism and more than 10 years of experience, Lori is a freelance copyeditor and manuscript consultant for all genres. She focuses on the nitty-gritty, letting writers focus on the writing.