Saturday, July 30, 2011

Post #999!

Monday, guys, will be my 1000th post! Ack. That sounds so ridiculous. That is a lot of rambling to the internets. And I will celebrate that rambling somehow. Probably with prizes. Maybe a video. Definitely some references to old posts. WE SHALL SEE.

Anyway, today is Post-All-Those-Drawings-I've-Been-Too-Lazy-To-Scan Day! YAY. And I didn't even scan them—I took pictures. See? I'm the perfect picture of lazy. (And my scanner is evil, but that's a different story.) The quality is kind of pathetic, sorry, but you get the idea. I promise if you ever run into me, you can see my sketchbook in REAL LIFE if you want. I really don't mind if people ask to look through it, and I most always have it with me.

So, pictures!

This is a Dungeons & Dragons character I drew up when we were playing. She's a bard with an attitude.

This is an attempt to draw my MC from SIDEKICK, Russ. Not that it's bad, I just don't think it looks as much like him as I want it to. He's always been a little hard for me to capture on paper, but this is closer than I've gotten previously.

This is Izzy, Russ' sister, also from SIDEKICK. She's an...eccentric dresser and rabid Otaku (anime fan).

Coco Slater is from my current WIP, BLACK SHEEP, a companion (and totally for fun, self-indulgent novel) to SIDEKICK. She's a musician, and she might be a wee bit obsessed with virtual pet games.

I was in the mood to draw a close up, with big eyes. So this is Worried Big Eye Girl! She has big eyes. And she's worried. I like her. See? I'm not always drawing characters.

Well, that was fun. Off to contemplate the 1000th Post extravaganza thing...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy Writers: Steal Like A Pro

This was supposed to go up last week while I was gone, but of course Blogger didn't put it up. What is that about? I swear that scheduled posting thing has a 50% success rate.

Anywho, today Adam Heine has the HWS podium. Don't mind if I sneak to the clubhouse offices. I, uh, have a lot of planning to do for my 1000th Post on Monday!


They say great artists steal. Here's how.

Inspired by Ocean's Eleven, you want to write a heist story.
Unfortunately, everything you know about heists you learned in that
movie, so your first draft has a team of 11 con artists robbing an
underground casino vault in Vegas. A little obvious, right?

When you steal a story you love, you have to obscure your source.
Figure out what you like about it. Use that, and change the

Say they're not robbing a casino, but a museum. Heck, THE VATICAN
(they did a museum in Ocean's Twelve anyway). Instead of the head
thief trying to get his girl back, maybe the Cardinal is an old friend
who betrayed him (heh, maybe the Cardinal used to be a thief, too).
Now you've got a heist story with the elements you loved from the
movie, combined with your own take on things.

But is it enough to hide your source?

In writing terms, this means read books (and watch movies) of all
kinds and every genre
. The Vatican heist is a good start, but it's
still open to accusations of being derivative. What if we added a
romance? A gov't conspiracy? An ancient cabal of vampires? Any (all!)
of these can be twisted into our semi-derivative story to make it less
a clone and more like an original piece of art.

Should they all be used? That's up to you (the risk of a
kitchen-sink story is another
post entirely
). But if you can make it work, you will not only
have a unique story, but you will have hidden many of your sources as

Wait, isn't this plagiarism? Shouldn't we be trying to come up with
our own original ideas instead of stealing from others?

To the first question, no, it's not plagiarism (unless you're stealing
actual text from your sources, in which case I don't know you).

To the second question, two things. First, there are no original
(if you disagree, read
this first
). This is a good thing. Presenting the familiar in a
new and interesting way is a lot easier than thinking of something
that has never occurred to the hundred billion people who came before

Second, the fact there are no original ideas means every idea you
think is original happened to you at some point
. It might
have been a story you read or something that happened in real life
(which is more common than you think). Either way, you experienced it,
assimilated it, and it's now coming back as an idea. That's why it's
so important to live life and read widely, so you have as much
material to draw from as possible.

The point is don't worry about it. Don't feel bad about
stealing ideas. Don't be afraid that your ideas are "unoriginal." IT'S
OKAY. This is what artists do. Keep reading. Keep learning the
craft. And keep trying to find your own unique spin on your favorite

Because there is one thing that's original in this world: YOU.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Winner! And Retreat Pictures.

First things first, the winner of the SUPERNATURALLY Prize Pack of Awesome is:

My Life With Books - Jennifer K Jovus!

Congrats, Jennifer! Please email me at natalie(at)nataliewhipple(dot)com to discuss your prizes and such. If you don't reach me within a week, I will draw another name.

Alrighty, on to the retreat! I hate to rub it in, but there really is nothing like a writers retreat. This one in particular wasn't put together by any fancy host or anything—it was just me and a bunch of my friends, one of which happens to have access to a cabin. We planned the food and travel, everything. Basically, it was just a bunch of friends getting together.

The Friends: Michelle Argyle, Renee Collins, Candice Kennington, Jenn Johannson, Kasie West, Sara Raasch, and me.

Though we've known each other for a couple years if not more, the internet is what originally brought us all together (well, except for Candi and Kasie, but they're special). People say you don't necessarily need a blog (which is true), but if it weren't for mine I would have never met some of the best friends I've ever had in my life. Maybe blogging won't affect my sales in the long run, but it has affected my writing—it has improved my writing by connecting me with information and crit partners and a venue in which to practice.

We had another retreat like this two years ago, and it is amazing to see how far we've come. At the first retreat, there were two writers with agents, and one close to signing with an agent. This year? Three writers had book deals, three were on submission, and one was querying. It felt like we've come so far in two years. In truth, we have, and I can't imagine what the next year or two will hold for us. Probably a lot of struggling AND fun, like the last two years. Funny, how those go together.

So what do writers do on a retreat?

We eat at old school drive-ins on the way down to the cabin (okay, and on the way home), because that's what makes for a good road trip and we're all about authentic experiences.

And of course we take pictures of us eating, because it's FUN and the memories must be captured.

And we cook a lot. Michelle, Renee, and I did a lot of cooking, and everyone else did a lot of dish washing (It was the best set up ever!). I think I enjoyed the cooking almost as much as the writing!

We also talk A LOT.

Most of the time, we talked about books and stories and all that good stuff. There is nothing like that face-to-face discussion of writing. It's kind of magical, how things come together in a group like that. We read our stories aloud. We discussed the business. We spent time brainstorming and troubleshooting and, yes, marveling at how much everyone has grown as writers.

Seriously, my friends are amazing writers! There is truth to that whole "you grow together" thing. We may write alone, but having partners in that journey makes it not only easier, but richer and more productive. I am so blessed to have so many friends who've watched out for me.

On writers retreats, there's also a large consumption of caffeine, so we can stay up and talk MORE. Sleeping is for after the retreat.

Let's not forget the considerable amount of non-writing fun, such a four-wheeling and swimming in desert rivers amongst red rocks and sucker fish. There's also campfires and, of course, stories around them, both funny and scary ones.

There may even be the occasional quiet moment, when we're working on those creative things we tend to gravitate to. I think Sara pwned the writing count, but there was also drawing and game playing and reading between the louder moments.

And there was plenty of "Oh holy crap, that's pretty."

Some "Whoa, Utah doesn't get enough credit for its beauty."

Even just plain O_O.

And the best part? Right here:
I got to spend the entire weekend with my little sister, who I love so much I get a little teary every time I see this picture. I was fifteen when she was born—how in the world did she grow up so fast? She reminded me every moment why I write. For her. For the smart, amazing, vibrant youth of this world. (Love you, Pika!)

Best. Retreat. Ever.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I'm Back! With A Contest!

Hi, guys! So I'm back from a wonderful weekend full of stories and friends, food and fun, bugs and deep discussions. Writing retreats? I highly recommend them. Thank you, Candi and family, for welcoming us once again to your beautiful cabin.

But I will get to the retreat fun tomorrow, because today is an Important Day. My dear friend and crit partner, Kiersten White, officially has another book out in the world! That's right, people, SUPERNATURALLY is out! And it is fabulous. And funny. And heartbreaking. And the cover is pretty.

So pretty. *pets*

In honor of this momentous day, I'm doing a little contest. I would do a bigger one, but we are FOUR DAYS away from my 1000th Post! But though it's small, I promise you want the prize.

To Enter: Tell someone NOT online about PARANORMALCY or SUPERNATURALLY. It can be your best friend, your boyfriend, your husband, wife, sister, or even the cashier at Starbucks. Whatever. Tell someone you love these books. It's not that scary, promise, I do it all the time.

When you've done that (And I expect you to be honorable and actually do it, because seriously, NOT HARD—don't be all lazy and untruthful with me), leave a comment here telling me who you told. That's it.

The Winner/Prizes: The contest IS open internationally. The winner will be drawn at random. There will ONE winner, and they will receive the following:

1. A signed copy of SUPERNATURALLY (I will have Kiersten sign it when she's in Utah in August.)

2. A 30-page manuscript critique.

3. A query crit OR custom black-and-white sketch.

Deadline: It's QUICK. Leave a comment by Wednesday, July 27th. All comments after tomorrow midnight won't count.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


The view from the cabin I will be staying at later this week. Utah? It's actually pretty amazing.

So let's face it. I'm distracted. I have the privilege of going on a lovely writers retreat this weekend with some of my very closest writing friends. I'm excited. It's going to be awesome. I hate to shove that in your faces, but there it is. There's not much else on my mind at this point. (I promise not to talk about it anymore after this post.)

I'm just gonna call it quits on attempting to write intelligent, meaningful posts this week. Not only am I busy preparing my house and kids, but I'm packing and planning food and all that jazz. Plus, I'm still trying to write and cook and exercise and crap. Busy stuff.

There will still be a Happy Writers post scheduled with my friend Adam Heine on Friday, but other than that you probably won't see me until next Tuesday. Well, I'm sure I'll still troll Twitter, but I mean on the blog.

Hope you all have a lovely week!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Self-Promotion Freaks Me Out

Today (and Friday, too, really) Nathan Bransford has been talking about self-promotion, and I found this particularly interesting because it's one of those new things I have to honestly think about now that my book deal news is out there on the internets.

I know it might sound strange, having a blog and all, but I never thought of all this as self-promotion. I started the blog for accountability purposes, and then it became a great way to connect with other writers, and I got so caught up with being part of this community and giving to this community that it really slipped my mind that if I sold a book I'd actually have to, like, SELL that book. (Does that even make sense? I hope so...)

The whole self-promotion realization hit about a week or two after the offer, when it seemed pretty clear that it was, indeed, not a joke that my book would be published. At that point I had this huge, terrifying revelation:

"Holy. Crap. How am I supposed to keep people interested in me and my book for the two years before it debuts without being completely and utterly obnoxious? AND, worse, how am I supposed to go out there to conferences or bookstores or signings and tell people to buy my book? How freaking presumptuous is THAT?"

I am a horrible salesperson. I've never been good at it. I always think, "If someone wants to buy something, they'll buy it. Leave them alone!" In fact, most sales tactics make me NOT want to buy something. I'm stubborn like that.

But the fact of the matter is, Nathan is right. Self-promotion sucks, and we have to do it anyway. Because while it's true that people will buy what they want to buy, they can't buy something they'd like if they don't know about it. I think that might even be where the line is drawn between tolerable self-promotion and annoying self-promotion—information vs. flagrant "I am awesome buy my book!" I think it is possible to be visible without being bothersome, and I think people respond to that.

Now, how do you do that? Uh, I'll get back to you if I ever figure it out.

Of all the potentially scary things about becoming a published author, this is number one for me right now, and it'll probably be like that for quite a long time. It feels so...out of my comfort zone. I just hope I can find that balance between getting the information to those who want it and becoming an annoyance.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Happy Writers: Finding Confidence In Yourself

As a writer, you have to be both your biggest fan and your worst critic. You have to love what you're writing. Not to say that you must enjoy every second of it, but you have to believe that the story you're telling is a good one, a worthwhile one. At the same time, you have to tear that story apart and find every flaw in need of purging. You have to criticize what you supposedly believe to be a good story.

It's not easy. We all know that. The balance can be hard to maintain. When I was a greener writer, I tended to lean more to the This Is The Most Awesome Story Ever It's Perfect side. Now I tend to lean towards All My Books Suck I Am An Idiot For Trying To Write. And it seems like it's very easy for a writer to focus all on the Critic and not on the Fan.

You really do need both.

It might sound strange, but it's okay to be confident in your work. I mean, even if you would never say it out loud, you secretly are, right? Deep down, you believe that the story you are telling is special and worth it and you want to share it. Maybe you even think it'll be BIG. Those thoughts aren't bad, cocky, whatever—they are necessary. Again, having confidence is NOT wrong. Now, if it turns into laurel-resting, bragging, and pride, it can be just as bad as going all critic on yourself, but confidence alone is good and essential to your progress as a writer.

Confidence keeps you going, keeps you trying, keeps you enjoying. And when tempered with that inner critic, it becomes a beautiful partnership that produces good work.

It can be hard to stay confident in yourself and you work. There are so many things out there waiting to tear it down—comparison being the most prevalent. But we have to remember that another's skill (or lack thereof) has no bearing on our work. There is room for everyone, and one person's success does not mean your failure.

The other heavy hitter would be criticism, especially when your own critic takes over. It's easy, for some reason, to translate one bad remark as meaning everything you write is bad and will never be good and you should give up now.

This is where the confidence needs to come in—to fight this stuff. The confident part of yourself can tell you that your work has merit, even when others are "more" amazing. The confident part of yourself can bring you back from criticism, tell you that the problems are fixable and it doesn't mean you aren't talented.

If you've been in self-critical mode for too long, it can be hard to find that confidence again. You may have to dig down deep and pull it out. Honestly? When I'm getting all doubtful I ask my friends straight up to compliment me, because sometimes I just need to hear someone else say it, even if it's at request. I also try to go back to the roots of my stories, my love list, and remember why I believed in this story and my ability to tell it in the first place.

So own that confidence, and be proud of your work.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Writing Deprivation

First, only TWO of my winners have emailed me their book choices. Please check to see if you won! And if so, email me. If I don't hear from the others in a week or so, I may have to redraw new winners.

Also, I am participating in a live chat tonight! It's at 9 PM EST, and we'd love to have you there. I've not done many of these, but I'll be talking with these ladies once a month. Should be fun!

And now I should, like, post a real post or something...

I haven't written for almost two weeks, and all I can think about is how I HAVE NOT WRITTEN FOR ALMOST TWO WEEKS. And not just writing, but editing, too. Heck, even reading! I've been so busy with other stuff that by the time I sit down I'm too exhausted to think.

This is bad for me, personally. I'm an habitual writer. I like and even need to write on a consistent basis. I know not all writers are like that, but it's important for me to keep working.

If I don't? In short, I go crazy.

I get really tense, first of all. Right now my mind just keeps going "I haven't written. I haven't written. Holy crap, I probably won't be able to write today either I AM GOING TO DIE." Add to that a considerable amount of frustration, because I start to get really mad at my life for not letting me write. I hate that part—I am so embarrassed about that part. But it's the truth. I get MEAN when I don't have time to write.

Then there's the other issue: Doubt. Now that I've been away from my project for 2 weeks, I worry it sucks. I worry I'm wasting my time. I wonder if I should work on something else. And maybe all this doubt is a sign that the project really does lack merit. Of course, those feelings cycle on each other, because then I end up not writing for longer and longer because I doubt the project but I'm not sure what else to work on either.'s bad when I stop writing.

I need to start up again. Why is starting so hard?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Genre Busting Contest Winners!

Hi! I'm BUSY! It's weird, because I am very rarely busy, but these days it feels like I'm working, running somewhere, cleaning, parenting all day everyday to the point that I can barely breathe.

And I haven't written for a week and a half. That feels like forever.

But! Contest winners! I have them for you. We have five of them, and each winner is entitled to ONE book of their choosing. Winners may choose any of the following: WHITE CAT, INCARCERON, IF I STAY, MY FAIR GODMOTHER, BLEEDING VIOLET, or any sequels to the preceding.

The five are:
1. linda
2. Chen Yan Chang
3. jpetroroy
4. Gina
5. Taryn

Yay, winners! Please email me ( your choice of book and the address you'd like me to send it to.

And thanks again, everyone, for all your comments and kind words about my book deal! It's truly appreciated, so very appreciated. Thank you times infinity.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What I've Been Doing All Day

I don't know about you, but I make silly promises to myself for when I reach certain goals. Like back when I was querying, I promised myself I could splurge and get an orange purse if I got an agent. It wasn't something I needed, per se, but it was definitely something I wanted. And it was so fun to go out and get it after I signed with my agent, still love that purse almost two years later.

Well, I made a similar promise for if I ever sold a book. It had to do with this little baby:

That would be my "desk." It's a card table, actually, and it's the only desk I've ever really had. Weird, huh. As an artist and writer, you'd think I'd have gotten one of those at one point, but I've always used a folding table of some sort, putting off the day when I'd get a "big girl" desk.

Well, the day has come, my friends, because I told myself I'd get a real live desk when I sold a book! I feel all legit or something. Actually, I just feel like I have SPACE. I can spread out on this new desk. It's freaking awesome. I'm so in love. Are you ready?

My card table used to be in the corner where the laptop is, so you can get an idea of the expanded space. *squee*

Awesome, no? I can't wait to get all cozy with this new desk. It's so fun to have a real place to work, and to know that it came after such a life-changing journey. I can't wait for what the new road has in store for me. And I suppose I better cook up some other hair-brained goals/presents-to-myself!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Weekend Sketch

This feature will likely become more frequent as I work on the current WIP. My MC (above) is an artist, thus he'll demand I go all method and draw stuff. It's funny, I tend to stay away from making my characters artists, probably because I feel like people will think I'm "writing myself." But, well, here we are. Trent's an artist, and it works. So there.

I decided to draw him at work, since his sketchbook is practically sewn to his arm. It's his way of understanding the world, to draw it and the people who inhabit it.

*sigh* I kind of love him.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Happy Writers: The Rest Of The Story

Wow, so yesterday was fun! Can I admit I was a little nervous to announce that I sold a book? I know how hard it can be to read announcements, having read so many as a writer on submission, and I didn't want to do that to anyone else. But at the same time, I had to share! I mean, it's news you have to share at some point.

Thank you, thank you SO much for all of your congratulations and kind words. It means so much to know that I'm part of such an amazing community.

I gotta tell you, going out on submission this second time was one of the scariest things ever. If you've been around here for awhile, you know that my first time on sub didn't go so well. As the time for subbing TRANSPARENT approached, I was, honestly, a mess. If you look at my blog in February and March, you can probably tell I was stressed. At one point, I even stopped blogging altogether.

Why? Fear, basically. I'd put absolutely everything I had into TRANSPARENT. Twice, since I completely rewrote it. Two years have already passed since I started writing that book. I spent the first one writing and revising; I spent the second RE-writing and RE-revising. By the time I sent it to my agent, I had no idea if it was even good anymore. You know how that is, when you've been with a book so long you're blind to its merit. It just IS. That was TRANSPARENT.

So as I waited for Anna to weigh in, all I could think was:

What if it happens again?

What if she hates it? Can I seriously rewrite it again?

What if I've put in all this work for another disappointing run at submissions?

What if this is what breaks me?

Will I be able to pick myself up again? How many times can I put myself through this without seriously hurting my sanity?

I'm really good at the What If game. Too good. It's one of those special gifts anxiety gives you. Which is GREAT for writing stories...not so much for trying to get those stories published.

Well, lucky for me, my worries didn't pan out this time. Anna loved the book, which gave me a much needed boost of confidence. Of course there were yet more revisions to be done, but after a long, long time of despising every minute of work, I started to enjoy the story again. A little bud of hope sprung up.

Maybe, maybe this time would be different.

And then we went on sub. Hope is a dangerous, scary, necessity when you're out with editors. It's awful because it makes things hurt more if you're rejected. It's scary because you have it even when you try not to. And it's necessary because it's really the only thing that will keep you going. Oh, hope, you plucky, obnoxious thing. When I felt that hope still there, even after all the stuff I've been through, I knew that I'd keep trying whether or not TRANSPARENT went the way of my first sub experience.

The silence was longer this time than the last. Instead of getting rejections like I expected, I just got...nothing. Nothing is hard! When you get rejections, at least you know stuff is moving, and somehow that makes you move, too. You work on the "fall back" project. You think about revisions. Stuff like that. Nothing leaves you in a state of panic: Is it good? Do they hate it? Are they so indifferent they haven't bothered to pick it up? Or are they just busy? Maybe they're busy. Of course they're busy! NO THEY HATE IT. Stop, shut up, self, you're losing it.

Man, it's tough. I'd like to take a moment to console all those still on sub. *consoles*

After about a month, we heard our first bits of feedback. A couple rejections. A couple going to acquisitions! Cue pins and needles, hiding from my blog, etc.

A week or so later, I was running late to drop Dino Boy off at school, which was particularly bad because I had to be at a dentist appointment directly after and my dentist is not close by. My car clock said one time, but I pulled out my phone to check and see if that one gave me a few more minutes. You know, because then I'd feel better. I don't really like being late (read: I loathe it).

There was a message. From Anna.

I missed her call in my mad dash for the door! I called her back, only staying calm because I had to drive and talk. (Yes, I know, I'm horrible.) So on my way to the dentist, Anna told me we had an offer. And I had no choice but to believe it because I've had a lot of daydreams about how and when I'd get that call, and NONE of them ever involved going to the dentist. Talk about dreams and reality colliding.

And it was Erica who offered. That was the most surreal of all. I can't tell the whole story there, but let's just say it was totally a full circle, poetic kind of thing. Sometimes I still don't believe it worked out like that—it's too perfect, you know?

So of course I freaked out a little. You guys are LUCKY you didn't have to see that. It was like my brain was so used to rejection that it took a while for it to adjust to good news. It was really weird. Like, I knew I was being completely irrational but there I was doing it anyway. Really, really glad to be past that phase.

Now I'm here. I like here. It's certainly not like I imagined, but it's better because it's real. I can finally say, after having this goal for so long, that I did it! It was so, so much harder than I thought it would be, and so, so much more rewarding because of that.

Hard work. It really does pay off. Who knew?

Thursday, July 7, 2011


How I love that orange logo. So pretty. *pets*

I got a present in the mail on Tuesday. I've been waiting for this particular present for, oh, five years (or my whole life, if I'm being super dramatic). It was supposed to come last week, and let's just say I've never camped the mailbox quite like I did for this bundle of papers.

That would be my book contract.

Yup, my book contract. Because I sold some books in April! I was under strict orders not to announce until I had this lovely contract, so now I can tell you all that TRANSPARENT sold!

And here's the Publisher's Marketplace announcement for further proof (which is mostly for me because even after almost three months it still doesn't feel real sometimes):

Natalie Whipple’s debut novel TRANSPARENT, pitched as X-Men meets The Godfather, in which an invisible girl has to stop her dad—an infamous crime lord—from ruining her life, to Erica Sussman at HarperTeen, in a two-book deal, by Anna Webman at Curtis Brown.

Crazy, right? It's so amazing to watch your dreams become reality, and sometimes scary, but mostly amazing and surreal and a bunch of other descriptions that don't quite capture the emotion. Basically, the title of this post says it best: O_O. That's how it feels. Like, wow, is this actually happening? Are you sure? Because I've had this dream before and woken up, so I'm gonna need some substantial proof here but that's really cool if it's actually real.

Or something like that. (Wow, am I eloquent today or what?)

I wasn't going to take a picture of me signing the contract, and then like three or four of my friends yelled at me. So I took the picture. And here it is. (I'll probably be glad they yelled at me later, like usual.)

Of course, there's a lot more to say about this journey, but I'm thinking I'll save that for tomorrow and leave it at YAY I SOLD A BOOK!

Oh yeah, and I should have a giveaway, right? Share the love! Wee!

TRANSPARENT is what I like to call a "genre buster." It's an odd duck. I can't help but write books that are a little off the beaten path, and I also love reading books that bend genre. I think YA writers are especially lucky because they can play around with genre and still fit under the Young Adult umbrella. Where else could I get away with writing an alternate-present-based-on-alternate-history/scf-fi-ish-but-not/mob family book with strong contemporary elements? Yeah...that's why I call it X-Men meets The Godfather.

So in honor of my dear, slightly strange, book (that you will get to READ), I want to honor some of my favorite "genre busting" books by giving them to YOU!

To Enter:
Leave a comment on this post telling me what one of your favorite genre busting books is. That's it, plain and simple.

The Prizes:
FIVE books will be up for grabs—a single book sent to each of the five winners, who will be chosen at random. Winners may choose the book they want of the five (OR the sequel to that book, if they so desire). The choices will be as follows:

1. WHITE CAT by Holly Black (or RED GLOVE): It's noir meets magic meets mob meets con. What's not to like? I absolutely ADORE this series. I find myself constantly recommending it.

2. INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher (or SAPPHIQUE): Hello, you dystopian meets historical political intrigue meets rich fantasy, thing. Aren't you just lovely?

3. IF I STAY by Gayle Forman (or WHERE SHE WENT): Contemporary with magical elements? Yes, please. More, please. I love you.

4. MY FAIR GODMOTHER by Janette Rallison (or MY UNFAIR GODMOTHER): Talk about fairy tales gone awry! Add in awesome pitch perfect contemporary elements and you have quite the fun, wild ride.

5. BLEEDING VIOLET by Dia Reeves: Tired of "cliché" paranormal? BLEEDING VIOLET is certainly not that. Unexpected. Different. Dark. Awesome WTFness.

Tuesday, July 12 at Midnight MST. Winners will be announced July 13th.

Time to spread the genre busting love! I will now commence dancing and other book deal celebrating fare. Feel free to join me:)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Backstory Thing

There's a lot of advice out there about writing backstory. For the most part, I've seen stuff that tells you to not to use it, it is evil and boring and everyone will hate your book if you write it.

Which, well, isn't true.

It is true that backstory can be misused (and it can kill when used poorly), but it's much like any writer tool out there—it has to be done properly, with purpose, and in moderation.

In fact, I will go out on a limb here and say that there is a problem with your book if you have absolutely zero backstory. Why? Because backstory builds the foundation of the current story, of the characters who are part of it. Your story, if it emulates reality, does not happen in a vacuum. If a reader knows nothing of the character and their life pre-story, it's much harder to care about the things happening to them in the story.

Backstory—it's your bread and butter when it comes to characterization. And pitch perfect characterization? Essential to a compelling read.

The Right Form
Backstory isn't just flashbacks, right? There are many ways to get that info out—dialogue, action, memories, etc. It's important to use the entire arsenal, not just one trick. Look for ways to vary your backstory and make it work. It's totally possible.

The Right Balance
Like most things in writing, backstory can go wrong fast. Many would say the most common issue is having too much, but too much isn't the huge problem some make it out to be. You would be surprised how much backstory a book can handle when done right.

Example: The Hunger Games. In the second chapter, there is a six-page flashback. Yes, six whole pages of FLASHBACK. Collins stopped her tension-packed novel for six pages to tell us something about the past.

Was that a bad move? Oh, no. Not at all. It was the perfect move. The flashback I'm referring to is the one in which we learn the relationship between Katniss and Peeta, how him giving her that bread saved her family, how she has always felt indebted to him, and now she must enter the games with this person.

This flashback is the foundation for everything the reader feels about Katniss and Peeta through the rest of the novel. Would we have felt so strongly if we didn't know this about them? I'm gonna say no, probably not.

This flashback, while it seems counterintuitive, doesn't stop the forward action, it makes it mean something. It increases the tension. The book would not be the same without it.

The Right Placement
For me, placing backstory is the make or break, and it's often where writers make missteps. You can certainly have a six-page flashback, but it only works if it's relevant. In fact, backstory ONLY works when it's immediately relevant to your story.

Going back to The Hunger Games flashback, notice that it's placed at the exact moment it becomes important to the story—when Peeta is announced as the male tribute. There is no mention of it before that. No need. If that flashback came out of nowhere at the beginning? Though essential information to the book, maybe it would not be received as well because the reader would not have seen the connection immediately.

The Right Information
While backstory builds character, it's important to build the right things. At times, we can make the mistake of putting in the wrong bit of information. Does the reader need to know that your character never learned to ride a bike? If so, the reader will get on board with backstory about why. If not, the reader will be annoyed with backstory about why. It's that simple.

Basically, backstory has to feel essential to a reader. You get that and you're golden, no matter how much you put in (See If I Stay by Gayle Forman for another amazing use of flashbacks. Basically, over half the book is flashback and it ROCKS.). So don't feel like you have to chop out all your flashbacks and whatnot, just make sure they work. Don't avoid a tool because you can't use it—practice and study until you get it right, because it's a tool for a reason.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Writers: One Thing Never Changes

Happy Friday, everyone! Boy, has this been a topsy turvy week. I have been all over, but I wanted to quickly hold an HWS meeting.

Have I mentioned I'm writing yet another book?

Uh, yeah, I am. So what if I have, like, way too many books? Here I am writing more, because if there's one thing I've learned through all this publishing stuff is that it's always, always about the book. No matter where you're at on the authorial road, that does not change.

I know sometimes it may not seem like that. Sometimes it feels like it's about what sells and what's popular. Sometimes it feels like it's about who is "in" and who isn't, or like networking is the be all end all. Sometimes it feels like the book is the absolute last thing this is about.

Of course that's not true. As easy as it is to get sucked into everything, it always comes back to the book. Your book. That is the most important thing you can work on. It is the what will get you an agent. It is what will get you published. It is what people will read and love and hopefully want more of.

Your book is everything. And your next book, too.

Whenever I feel rotten, I go back to my books. Those stories—they're the reason I'm here in the first place, and when I put them first everything else falls into place, my mood included.