Saturday, June 18, 2011

How to Critique with Finese

One of my favorite things about my Writing Workshop class is reading the amazing work of my classmates. One of our directives is to note three things that we love and then we post three questions we have about the pages. I like this approach alot better than picking out something positive then picking out something negative, then ending with something positive.

I don't think it's our place as a critiquer to point out the negative. Is there really a negative? Isn't it really about helping the author produce the best manuscript possible? That's why I like the question approach. Maybe something isn't clear or it didn't come across as the author intended.

For my own critiques, I plan to focus on the similar comments that several people mentioned. Those are the areas that obvious aren't working.

It's interesting that I feel like I'm becoming a better writer by critiquing 70 pages a week. I also love reading the critiques that I'm getting from my classmates and an instructor. I'm always amazed that I have looked at my pages hundreds of times and have not seen something so obvious.

There's such a level of trust in handing over your literary babies and saying "Okay, tear them apart, so I can make them better." It's scary but it's so worth it.

So go out there and find a great critique group.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I'm in Grad School

I'm taking an 8 week Writer's Workshop through McDaniel College. I'm learning so much about receiving and giving critiques. It's amazing how I can read something a hundred times and still not see something that my classmates have point out.

Our instructor is the fabulous Jill Santopolo who is an author and and editor for Philomel.

On the SCBWI front, the Central and Southern Ohio is planning a fundraising Bookfair at Barnes & Noble on Saturday, June 25th from 11:00-4:00. Hope to see you there.

Friday, February 18, 2011

2010 Agatha Nominees

The 2010 Agatha nominees were announced today and I'm so glad to see two familar names on the list:
Amanda Flower, Maid of Murder , (Best First Novel Nominee)
Heather Webber, Truly, Madly ,(Best Novel Nominee)

I've had the pleasure of meeting both of these talented writers at my Sisters in Crime meetings. At our Fall event, I won a critique from Heather for my novel, Unraveled. I can't say enough good things about her.

Here is the complete list of nominees and it's always so exciting to see the Best Children's/Young Adult category. We need more mysteries for children which means I better get back to writing.

Congrats to the nominees, especially Amanda and Heather. I'll be cheering for you both.

Agatha Award Nominees


Best Novel:
Stork Raving Mad by Donna Andrews (Minotaur)
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard (Ballantine)
Drive Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Mira)
Truly, Madly by Heather Webber (St. Martin's Paperbacks)

Best First Novel:
The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames (Berkley)
Murder at the PTA by Laura Alden (Signet)
Maid of Murder by Amanda Flower (Five Star/Gale)
Full Mortality by Sasscer Hill (Wildside Press)
Diamonds for the Dead by Alan Orloff (Midnight Ink)

Best Non-fiction:
The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum (Penguin)
Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: 50 Years of Mysteries in the Making by John Curran (Harper)
Sherlock Holmes for Dummies by Stephen Doyle & David A. Crowder (For Dummies)
Have Faith in Your Kitchen by Katherine Hall Page (Orchises Press)
Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton & Co.)

Best Short Story:
"Swing Shift" by Dana Cameron, Crimes by Moonlight (Berkley)
"Size Matters" by Sheila Connolly, Thin Ice (Level Best Books)
"Volunteer of the Year" by Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes: They Had it Comin' (Wildside Press)
"So Much in Common" by Mary Jane Maffini, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - Sept./Oct. 2010
"The Green Cross" by Liz Zelvin, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - August 2010

Best Children's/Young Adult:
Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer by John Grisham (Dutton Children's)
Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus by R. L. LaFevers (Houghton Mifflin)
The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee (Candlewick)
Virals by Kathy Reichs (Razorbill)
The Other Side of Dark by Sarah Smith (Atheneum)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Do you have a Writing Career Strategy?

I attended a work meeting today where the topic was strategy. Our speaker noted that 9 out of 10 times, we write down and design a perfectly great strategy. But here's the kicker, 80% of those strategies will fail.

Why? Why? Why?

You spent all that time writing down your strategy on pretty paper then hanging it on the refrigerator or you've created some nifty spreadsheet in Excel to manage what you want to accomplish. How could it possibly not work?

So why do most of our strategies fail? Because we fail to execute what we planned.

This got me thinking. As writers, should we have a strategy for managing our writing career? These strategies could even be broken down into mini strategies such as Strategy for Writing Book 1, Strategy for Revising, Strategy for Querying, Strategy for Marketing your book,etc.

From personal experience, I know I had a 'plan' of sorts in my head. Did I execute that plan? Hell, no. Not even close. Why? Because I let my emotions and the heat of the moment get in my way. This is why it would have helped to have a well developed, thought out, and written plan in place before I took the next step in my writing.
I would have created the strategy when I wasn't so emotionally invested in the outcome so logic and reason would have a stronger voice.

Most of us plan our careers, have an idea on how we want to parent, have a strategy to buy our first home, get our of debt, etc.
It seems reasonable that since we should be treating our writing career as a business, we should have a written business plan or strategy.

Here's an example of one that I just made up off the top of my head to get the juices flowing.


*Research literary agents and create a list of agents that respresent what I write and that would be a good fit for me
*Create a spreadsheet so I can track my submissions (Yes, I love Excel)
*Decide on the 6 agents I want to query first.
*Find out more about those 6 agents, read their blog, interviews, tweets, etc.
*Submit to 6 of those agents and wait for feedback/response.
*Promise not to check e-mail every 5 minutes looking for a response
*If I get no requests for a partial or full, revise query. Get some query critiques.
*When I get the first rejection, I will treat myself to something pretty then use the rejection letter as kindling.
*When I get my first request for a full, I will jump, sing, and tell all my writer buddies
*If fulls and/or partials are requested and I get the same consistent feedback such as Plot doesn't work, characters don't keep me interested, take another look at the novel and possibly revise
*Lather, rinse, repeat

So back to the example, if you had create a strategy before you start querying, you'll have an idea on how you want to handle the query process and how to best leverage the responses or non responses. It provides a back-up plan to help you handle the feedback/rejections and move on to the next step. It can help keep you focused and on track toward your end goal.

We all know rejections are hard and painful. They can send your day into a tail spin and plants the seeds of doubt. By having a written strategy, you've given yourself a way to move forward and tackle the next challenge without acting like a crazed serial querier.

So what are you waiting for? Get our pen, your Excel spreadsheet, your iPad and start creating strategies that will lead you toward your writing goal.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Protecting Your Privacy Before You Get "The Call"

I read a discussion forum today about an author's struggle with privacy. We're not talking, "Hey I want to hide from my fans" but more of "Why are you showing up on my doorstep and how do you know where I live?".

For years we write. We query.We get rejected, defeated, and heartbroken because we haven't found an agent or publisher. We keep our eyes on the prize though. A gorgeous, solid, hardback book with a stunning, artistic cover and our name written in bold letters. Finally an author's Holy Grail has been achieved.

But now what? Hopefully, you'll sell the book, gather a few fans here and there. During this euphoric time in your life, the googling will start. People that love your work want to know more about YOU. So they search and with an overload of cyber information at their disposal, it should be easy to find out everything from your favorite meal to where your children go to school.

It's a scary, scary thought. Hell, it's scary even if your not famous. Stalking occurs for a variety of reasons and not just to famous people.

It's important to be savy now, before you get 'The Call' and before you're on the NYTimes bestseller list.

Some of the suggestions were:

*Have your personal information removed from
*Use a PO Box or have all fan mail come through your publisher
*Have an unlisted phone number
*Have multiple phone numbers. One for personal use and one you can give out and change easily if you need to.
*Have multiple e-mail addresss. One for personal relationships, another for fans, journalists, etc
*Don't post information or pictures of your children on the web
*Use a Facebook Fan Page rather than a personal page
*Have all your Facebook setting set to friends and family only
*Don't link to your family on Facebook and review your privacy settings or turn some information off like the city you live in
*Have home security
*When asked where you live for book jackets, press release, etc. give a vague geographic location or state like MidWest, Texas, New England

With all the info out there, it's important to protect our privacy and loved ones now and not wait until our name appears on a book cover.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Manuscript Edit Giveaway at

This is from her website

To celebrate the completion of her manuscript for Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies, the Editor is giving away a FREE Substantive Edit of one YA or MG fiction manuscript. Deadline: January 31, 2011. Read on for rules….

You can enter and view details at

New Year's Resolution to Be a Better Blogger

It seems like I have so much to say and I think of a ton of things I want to blog about but then something happens and I don't write.

So it's a promise to myself to be a better blogger because I really do enjoy it.

It's way too easy to let life get in the way and use it as an excuse to procrastinate. There's never enough time to write, to get fit, to do household chores, on and on. So one of my goals for 2011 is to be able to find time for the things that I'm passionate about and just stick to those.

My 3, which don't include spending time with my child because that's a given, are 1) Finish current WIP which is another YA mystery, 2) Continue on my Weight Watcher path because I love it and the results I'm seeing, and 3) be a terrific regional advisor to my SCBWI chapter.

They all make me happy and as fellow moms know, we never put ourselves on the list but I think a happy mom is a better mom.