Welcome to Literary Rambles! While you’re rambling around and exploring the site enter for a chance to win:

THE YOUNG ELITES through November 29th

Gratitude Giveaway Hop through November 30th

THE DISAPPEARING through December 8th.

Why Is "Fiction Novel" Redundant?

Once upon a time, I was an aspiring author who didn't understand why "fiction novel" is considered an automatic "you shouldn't be querying if you don't know why this is wrong" thing. I read a lot of agent blogs and would see it listed as a "don't" but no one ever explained it. Rather, it was constantly referred to in a veiled way (see: "you shouldn't be querying") that questioned my intelligence. When it finally clicked, I felt pretty silly but it didn't seem worth weeks of feeling inadequate. I still see it frequently mentioned on blogs, and now twitter, and rarely do people stop to explain why it's a no-no. This post is for any aspiring author who hasn't made the connection yet.

Let's look at the definitions from Merriam-Webster.

Fiction:

"Something invented by the imagination or feigned; specifically : an invented story."

Novel:

"An invented prose narrative that is usually long and complex and deals especially with human experience through a usually connected sequence of events."

The problem with the phrase "fiction novel" is that novels are, by definition, fictitious. Following? So saying you have a fiction novel is redundant, like saying you're giving someone a "free gift." I think the reason people get confused is because they've come to interchange the word "novel" with "book" and forget that while a book can be any type of work, fiction, non-fiction, or otherwise, a novel is comprised of fictitious prose. Or expected to be, anyway.

When you specify what kind of novel you have in your query, you should use the genre and/or age category.

"My literary novel..."
"My middle-grade novel..."
"My contemporary young-adult novel..."

Agents will know your novel is a work of fiction.

Questions? Leave them in the comments and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Tip Tuesday #77

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where readers send in tips for fellow writers. I have a fun one from Katharina Gerlach to share today. Please visit her author site when you're done here. Thank you, Cat!

Recently, I realized that my novels are always short on description especially for the characters. Sometimes I even had glitches (MC brown haired at the beginning and blond at the end of the novel). With my latest novel, I decided to make visuals of my most important characters. I thought about making a collage (cutting different body-parts from different magazines), when I watched my youngest daughter play around with an online dressing doll.

Now, I use Candybar's dollmaker (http://elouai.com/doll-makers/new-dollmaker.php) to create the basic visuals of a character (no fancy background). Then, I save the doll to my PC, and whenever I need to remember what the character looks like, I just view the picture. If I have many characters, I put them into one big picture with a graphic-program (like MS-paint) for ease of use. That way, my descriptions are consistent AND I don't forget them when I write.

I do hope this helps,
Cat

A.W.'s Agent Success!

I get e-mails semi-frequently from writers who have just landed an agent and want to thank me for the info I provide on my blog. I LOVE these e-mails because they remind me I'm helping people, often people I don't even know, and I get to celebrate their success with them. I received one such e-mail earlier this week from A.W. Parson's at Words of a Feather and I wanted to send you over to read her agent story. It's in two parts and is just overall fun and inspiring, a great reminder that you could very well end up with the one agent on your list you thought was "un-gettable."

Manuscript Meets Agent: A Love Story - Part ONE, and Part TWO.

Good luck to everyone out there in the query trenches! And if you're entering THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE chains, my winner, Paula McLaughlin, already has her post up. Enter here!

Thursday Spotlight Update

Spotlights updated this week:

Dan Lazar




Kelly Sonnack


***

If you're following the giveaway chains for THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, there's yet another!

Give It Foward - The Sky Is Everywhere at Melissa Writes

Thanks Melissa!

Don't forget you can enter at Lisa and Laura Write and Jessica Love Writes.

Thanks LiLa and Jessica!

And the winner of my giveaway, Paula McLaughlin, is super excited to continue the original chain, so I'll let you know when hers is up!

Thanks Paula!

Give It Forward Giveaway Winner!

Good morning!! I'd like to say I got up early today because I'm so excited to announce the winner of the Give It Forward Giveaway, but it may have more to do with the fact that it's raining and I'm registering my daughter for kindergarten this morning. I mean, when did she become of kindergarten age, people?! How does this happen?! 0.0


ANYWAY. The giveaway, right. As you might imagine, the pool of entrants was considerably smaller than if I were to just give away the book, but I'd like to think the people entering respect the idea and are really serious about buying it forward. Also, as LiLa and Jessica and I were discussing on Twitter last night, most of the people who entered won't have read the book (because the people who have read it own it right, right?! I mean how could you NOT?) So, it's interesting. But awesome. And really, every chain stop only needs ONE entrant to continue, and it did get plenty more than one entrant.

So, ready for the winner? If you're are NOT the winner, please stick around and read below. More chances to win!

The WINNER of the SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson is....



Congrats, Paula!!! You can expect an e-mail from me shortly.

Everyone else, I'm really excited to announce that Lisa and Laura Roecker and Jessica Love are both starting new THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE chains today. So now there will be THREE chains going. I'm so excited!!! So if you didn't win, head on over to Lisa and Laura's blog and Jessica's blog and enter, and I'll let you know if/when Paula gets hers up as well. Beyond that, keep an eye on the Giveaway page where the linky is to see where the chain goes.

Thank you to everyone who entered and commented!! You rock.

Tip Tuesday #76

I have another great tip from Deren Hansen at The Laws of Making to share with you today. Read the tip, leave a comment, and then give Deren's blog a visit. He covers all sorts of interesting and awesome things and ties it to writing. You won't be sorry. But first, the tip!

I have a habit, perhaps a bad one, of using several computers when I write. In addition to my primary system, I have a netbook I use for "distraction-free writing." Even though I've become adept at juggling thumb drives it takes a lot of discipline to manage versions of files and keep the master copy up to date. I try to be careful but every so often I sit down to write only to find that the latest version of the file I need is on the other computer.

That's why I'm so taken by the Dropbox service. Dropbox creates a folder on each system that stays synchronized. That is, if you change a file in the Dropbox folder on one computer, those changes are automatically applied to the corresponding files on all your other systems. Dropbox also maintains password-protected copies of all the files from your folder on their web site. This means you have an automatic, evergreen backup.

A couple of notes:
  • If you're worried about the security of your files you can create and synchronize a TrueCrypt volume. For my part, I've decided to use Dropbox while I'm developing and drafting.
  • If you want to use Dropbox to satisfy your resolution to do a better job of backing-up your work you need to understand that while the service keeps old versions for 30 days it's purpose is to keep copies of your latest work. You'll have to look elsewhere if you need your entire revision history.
I recently posted a note about backups and my experience with Dropbox on my blog, The Laws of Making.

Oh, and the best part for us impecunious scribblers: Dropbox is free until you need to synchronize more than 2 GB of data.

-Deren Hansen

Laura Lascarso: Will You Be Mine?

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! To mark the day, I have a fabulous guest post by Laura Lascarso on creating a good critique group. Comments on the topic are welcome and encouraged. Enjoy!


Will You Be Mine? Tips for Wooing Other Writers

By Laura Lascarso

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever know and it is especially true in writing.

I wrote for five years in solitude before I finally joined up with a local writers’ group. There I met my mentor, Heather Whitaker, and grew as a writer exponentially. She taught me things like conflict, plot, protagonist (seriously) and also pointed me to some really great books on writing, which laid out all those tricky devices that I’d been experimenting with, but had never mastered.

After that group dissolved, Heather and I continued meeting once a week at a local coffee shop where we wrote side by side or traded good reads or gave feedback on whatever project we were working on. A year later, Angele McQuade moved to town, and with her background in writing nonfiction as well as her pub business savvy, we formed the power of the trinity, aka the Red Eye Writers.

Good groups are made, not necessarily found. Having been a part of various groups over the years--from college workshops where the writers were amateur and the criticism biting, to a mish-mash of writers of different genres--I’ve learned a few tricks to wooing and retaining your writing beloveds.

Genre: While it may not be necessary for everyone to be writing in the same genre, it certainly can’t hurt. For instance, if you are a YA writer in the midst of Adult fiction writers, they may question why it’s necessary to get to the conflict within the first chapter, why age and description of the protagonist are important, why slang is acceptable, why the entire story is staged in a few months rather than a few years, and on and on.

Respect: I cannot stress this one enough. Constructive criticism is asking questions of the writer, giving specific examples of what aspect of the story isn’t working, offering up suggestions of books that do this one aspect well. We all want to make our writing better and criticism paired with suggestions on how to improve is so much more valuable than blanket statements without specificity.

Praise: This one is sometimes forgotten. Never forget to mention to your fellow writers when they are doing something right. Writers are delicate creatures with fragile egos, or else they are fearsome giants with steel armor, sometimes both. But it’s important to let your critique partners know what they’re doing well. Because who hasn’t been in the throes of revision, wondering what should be cut and what should be saved. Knowing what is working is just as valuable as knowing what needs fixing.

Commitment: Our writer’s group meets one morning a week and I look forward to our meetings all week long. Sometimes we critique each others’ work or brainstorm plot ideas or talk about marketing, conferences and the various facets of the biz. We often trade good reads and discuss why a certain book worked for us or did not. We stay in contact throughout the week via email, forwarding articles, conference information, good blog posts, etc. Everyone is busy, everyone is stressed, but if you’ve already made the commitment to writing, than make a commitment to your group, because they are the ones you go to when you lose your way.

Outreach: Recently, our group has begun to reach out to our local community in giving talks on writing and hosting literary events. This, in addition to increasing our web presence, not only allows us to share what we’ve learned with other writers, but also lets us connect with readers and establish a base of support for when we ourselves get published.

But how can I find my truly beloveds? Writing conferences are great opportunities for networking with other writers. Also, many communities have local SCBWI chapters that meet regularly. There are several online author forums or simply putting up a flyer in your local library or bookstore can bring great results.

Love is fleeting, but a good writers’ group is a romance that can last a lifetime.


Thursday Spotlight Update

Updated this week:

(Full update)



(Full Update)



(Updated client list, sales, looking for)



I'll probably start posting new profiles again in March and try to continue the updates alongside. I have requests for the following agents:

Sarah LaPolla, Curtis Brown
Andrea Cascardi, Transatlantic Literary Agency
Anna Olswanger, Liza Dawson Associates
Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency
Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Literary Agency
Vickie Motter, Andrea Hurst Literary Management

Let me know if there are any other agents you'd like to see profiled!

Give It Forward Book Giveaway!

We need to talk about this book...

97808037349519780142417805

THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson blows. my. mind. Boom. Gone. Again and again. I just read it a third time, despite an elephant ton of other books I need to read, because it's just that good. It works for me in every way, on every level. So much so that if you try to tell me you don’t like it, I’m very likely to stick my fingers in my ears and go, LALALALALALALA WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU LALALALALALA.

It is absolutely, positively (absoposilutely!) my new favorite YA book and I cannot imagine it will be trumped anytime soon. If ever. Here’s the blurb:

Lennie plays second clarinet in the school orchestra and has always happily been second fiddle to her charismatic older sister, Bailey. Then Bailey dies suddenly, and Lennie is left at sea without her anchor. Overcome by emotion, Lennie soon finds herself torn between two boys: Bailey's boyfriend, Toby, and Joe, the charming and musically gifted new boy in town. While Toby can't see her without seeing Bailey and Joe sees her only for herself, each offers Lennie something she desperately needs. But ultimately, it's up to Lennie to find her own way toward what she really needs without Bailey. A remarkable debut novel perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block.

I have to admit, I have a fondness for stories that deal with death and grief. Weird as that sounds, I love the raw emotions, how they make me feel, and boy does this book make me FEEL. I don’t think a book has ever made me feel SO MUCH. So yes, I was already set to love this book, but I wasn’t expecting the romance, which is lovely and complicated and consuming, or the quirky characters I miss when I’m not spending time in their pages, or the poetry, or the writing… Oh my God, the writing…

Observe:

“It’s as if someone vacuumed up the horizon while we were looking the other way.” (13)

AND…

“Sadness pulses out of us as we walk. I almost expect the trees to lower their branches when we pass, the stars to hand down some light. I breathe in the horsy scent of eucalyptus, the thick sugary pine, aware of each breath I take, how each one keeps me in the world a few seconds longer. I taste the sweetness of the summer air on my tongue and want to just gulp and gulp and gulp it into my body—this living, breathing, heart-beating body of mine.” (85)

AND…

“I look into his sorrowless eyes and a door in my heart blows open. And when we kiss, I see that on the other side of that door is the sky.” (120)

*Dies*

I want to be Jandy Nelson when I grow up.

T.H. MAfi feels me. Read her post. Carrie Harris is DEAD because of this book. Read her post here.

BUT MOVING ON. I was trying to think of a way to support a book I love this much and other books I love terribly and I got an IDEA for a special giveaway.

Here’s the deal. I’m going to give away THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, order a brand new copy for someone. A hardcover, since the paperback isn’t out quite yet (unless you REALLY want a preorder of the paperback – your choice). You can enter below.

BUT (and this is a big BUT) here’s the catch, to enter my giveaway you have to be willing to do the SAME giveaway on your blog or Facebook. Meaning, you have to buy the book for someone else within TWO WEEKS of receiving the book from me. Your ONLY out is this: if you don’t love THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE enough to keep it and buy it for someone, you can give away the one you’ve received from me. But the giveaway has to continue. Meaning, whoever wins your giveaway has to buy it for their winner or give away the one they’ve received from you, depending on their feelings on it. However, it is my hope that this will create a chain of PURCHASES in order to support the title. Not a big pass-the-book-around fest. In fact, you might even consider starting your giveaway right after you win, just to support the author, particularly if you already planned to buy the book at some point. Because you won’t be out any more money than you would have been. Right? And because this book is SO, SO, SO good I think it’s the perfect candidate. I think you WILL want to keep this book and buy it for someone else. It’ll be beautiful. We’ll all be buying it for each other and spreading the word about a fantastic book and author.

I realize it will fizzle out somewhere. Someone will FAIL the chain. They’ll FAIL me or you or the next person. But imagine the possibilities for a minute.

*Taps foot*

AWESOME, RIGHT?

So let’s do this! RULES:

1. You MUST have a blog or Facebook or somewhere you can give the book away and be clear about the rules (Twitter can’t support it, for example).

2. You MUST be willing to hold this exact giveaway on your blog or Facebook in which you purchase this book for someone else (or give away the one you receive from me, IF you don’t love it) and require that YOUR winner do the same. Preferably within TWO WEEKS of receiving the book from me.

2. If you win, I ask that you PLEASE enter your giveaway into the linky widget below and have YOUR winner do the same on this post (not on your blog). So we can track how long the chain lasts and how many purchases we achieve.

3. U.S. entrants only.

4. Spreading the word will gain you extra entries. Stalking Jandy Nelson on the net (only on the net!) will also get you extra entries. See the form.

5. The contest will run February 9th to February 15th ‘til MIDNIGHT. I will announce the winner on February 16th and the chain will commence.

Additionally, if you love THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE as much as I do and you’d like to start your own giveaway chain, PLESE DO and add yourself to the linky widget below. If enough people jump in, I’ll do a giveaway just for YOU. Like, I’ll order one winner whatever book they want (with a normal paperback or hardcover price). Sound good? YES, I love this book THAT MUCH.

~CONTEST CLOSED / FORM REMOVED~ But please see the linky widget below for new giveaways in the chain.

If you are the WINNER of this giveaway or someone else’s giveaway for THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE chain, please enter thyself into the linky widget below when you post your giveaway. Or, If you are starting a new giveaway chain for THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE enter thyself into this linky as soon as your post is up.

I hope you guys love this idea as much as I do! It’ll be a bit of an experiment. Let’s see what happens!

Tip Tuesday #75

Hi everyone! I hope you're having a spiffy Tuesday. Today's tip was sent in by Alexandra Loewen. Alexandra doesn't blog yet, but you can find her on Twitter @alexandraloewen. Consider following so you'll be among the first to know when she DOES start blogging. I've gotten to know Alexandra through e-mail a bit and she's quite lovely! Here's her tip:

Writers know that finding the perfect names for their characters is critical. Personally, I have to find the right name for my characters at the start, as their name helps me drive their narrative. I like to start with names that were popular during the time period in which my story takes place. My favorite resource for finding the perfect name is the Social Security Administration's web site. Here, you can pull up lists of the most popular names for boys and girls by year (it goes back to the 1880's!). You can also search by state or by decade. There are other fun tools on this web site, including one that will show you the change in popularity of any given name.

Here is the link for the Social Security Administration's web site page on popular names:

http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/


-Alexandra Loewen

Great tip, Alexandra! I've used the SSA website for names a few times but never thought to share it here. Thank you!

Thursday Spotlight Update

I was slightly more successful in updating Spotlights this week. Here's the news:

Jill Grinberg's profile has been updated and reviewed.

I added a couple new interviews, quotes, and clients to Michelle Humphrey's profile.

Beth Fleisher has left BG Literary to found her own agency, Clear Sailing Creatives. Ms. Fleisher will be in touch with more details shortly.

As of Janurary, Michael Stearns is only accepting queries by conference submission and referral.

Louise Fury is closed to submissions until further notice.

Joe Veltre has closed The Veltre Company and joined The Gersh Agency as head of their book department (taking his clients with him). Update to follow. The Gersh Agency is generally closed to unsolicited submissions.

Marcia Wernick is leaving the Sheldon Fogleman Agency to launch Wernick and Pratt, a new children's agency, with Linda Pratt. Update to follow.

Tip Tuesday #74

Lisa Nowak sent me yet another great tip. Please visit her at her blog, The Tao of Webfoot, to see what she's been up to. She's co-founding an e-publishing company called Puddletown Publishing Group and joining the "dark side" to see her novels published. Exciting stuff. But before you head over, here's her tip!

Tricks for Characterization

1. Do an interview. Everyone says this, but what do they really mean? Well, one thing you can do is Google "character interview questions" to find a list. Look at several, pick and choose, and compile your own set of questions. Read through them and answer in first person from the character's perspective. If your character happens to be a smart ass, this can be fun. Be prepared for answers you don't expect. Sometimes the questions won't really apply, or won't get to the heart of that character's issues. In that case, do a history. Open up a document and ask the character to tell you about his life. I find this to be particularly useful for understanding the motivation of "bad guys." Nobody's completely evil, and you'll be able to present the character more realistically if you understand why he feels justified in acting the way he does.

I know what you're thinking. Yeah, but those character questions are boring. Isn't there an easier way? As a matter of fact, there is.

2. Sometimes you might know one basic trait a character has, but you can't think of much beyond that. Scan your memory banks for people you know with this trait. What other characteristics do they have? It's much easier to steal a whole character directly from the flesh than to sit around ticking off attributes from a list. Worried that Aunt Suzie will recognize all her flaws in your book and take offense? Don't be. People tend to see themselves in a positive light and are much more likely to think they're your hero than your villain. Besides, you can always change the details. If she has long blond hair, drives a Lexus, and chews on her nails, give her a curly red 'do, a Ford Focus, and an obnoxious laugh. If that won't work, find a person who isn't as close to you. An old teacher or childhood neighbor.

3. If that still sounds too risky, you can use astrology or a personality test to flesh out your character. Start with that one trait you came up with and read through the characteristics of the Zodiac signs or the different "types" of the Myers-Briggs or enneagram systems to find a match. Now you have a list of other traits that tend to go along with the one you picked. You also have a catalog of the ways this personality manifests itself in the best case or worst case.

Below you'll find some links to get you started.

http://zodiac-signs-astrology.com/

http://www.astrology-online.com/persn.htm

http://www.myersbriggs.org/index.asp

http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/intro.asp

http://www.9types.com/

- Lisa Nowak