Tag Archives: process

Turning 30 and Breaking Down the Numbers

I’m so glad to have you all here with me (well, long-distance—I’m even long-distance too, since I’m still fishing) to celebrate my 30th birthday (okay, and it’s actually this Sunday, the 13th, but who posts on Sundays?).

AHEM. Anyway. Turning 30 is such a milestone—I mean, this is only my third completed decade—such a “big” number, that it makes me think about what I’ve been doing with myself, and a few of the other numbers that have added up to a fledgling writing career. My dream career. So, while sometimes it feels like it has taken me a really long time to get to this point, at least I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing.

Now for the breakdown (non-emotional, I hope)…

30: years old

6: years writing seriously

3: manuscripts abandoned well on their way

6: fiction manuscripts completed (3 young adult novels, 2 adult novels, and 1 middle grade)

1: nonfiction manuscript completed

3: completed manuscripts trunked (2 adult novels and 1 young adult)

2: manuscripts sold

1: publisher

2: completed manuscripts with high hopes

2: novels in the works

1: debut book launching August 8th, 2014

As for how those numbers will change, it’s anyone’s guess. I have interesting projects in the works this next year: a sequel to WORDLESS called LIFELESS, which will come out a year after WORDLESS does—and WORDLESS comes out in only a month! I also have a middle grade project that I’ll soon announce… and prepare to be surprised (can one actually prepare to be surprised?), since it’s not a typical publishing deal. (Hint: I’m working with a company. A toy company.) Anyway, all of this is very exciting, and I’m just so thrilled to have you all along for the ride with me.

This is where I say something cheesy like:

Incalculable: My joy to be doing what I love, surrounded by people I love.

And so I did. Just, uh, ignore that if it triggers your gag reflex.

AHEM. ANYWAY… Cheers to 2014, to 30, and to the other awesome numbers yet to arrive!

adriannestricklandAdriAnne shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, but has spent two cumulative years living abroad in Africa, Asia, and Europe. While writing occupies most of her time, she commercial fishes every summer in Bristol Bay, because she can’t seem to stop. Her debut YA sci-fi/fantasy, WORDLESS, is coming August 8th, 2014 from Flux Books. You can follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.
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Writing Outside of Your Box

I’ve often preached to any new writer who will listen about writing more than a first book. Oftentimes people will put so much into that first book that they don’t want to let it go… even if it might, in fact, suck. I heard someone compare books to pancakes once—that first one is a complete mess and usually goes in the trash, or, in the case of books, the trunk. (Mine sure did.)

More pancakes!

The topic of this post is sort of an extension of that one: try something new. Not only should you write more than one book if you’re feeling stuck; write outside of your usual genre too. I’ve done this three times, and all have been invaluable experiences.

1.) Writing outside of my usual fiction genre

The first time, I used the great excuse of NaNoWriMo to write something fun. The challenge I read about on a blog and decided to try was this: anyone who hadn’t written a romance novel should, well… write a romance novel. My first (trunked) book was an adult paranormal, but not romance. My second (also trunked) book was a YA urban fantasy. So, I had some free time, and I figured, why not?

Except I said yes. Hey, it’s not always a bad idea!

It was a blast, writing full-bore romance. And while no one will ever see this book, it taught me how to write way sexier romance scenes. While writing an entire book of them isn’t, I discovered, my cup of tea, it helped me be able to inject more romance and tension into those few scenes I do write to spice up my non-romance books.

2) Writing nonfiction

This was a big step for me, and less fun, but in a really challenging, enriching sort of way. I had an interesting experience in high school, and decided to write about that year of my life in the form of a YA memoir. The jury is still out on whether or not you’ll see this, but even if you don’t, the experience was still hugely valuable.

If you need a quick way to learn how to write dynamic characters, just try writing a real person as a character. You instantaneously have a three dimensional picture of this “character” in your mind since, you know… this person actually exists in three dimensions. Writing real people is excellent training for writing complex, interesting fictional characters since you can remember the steps you took to get that real person down on the page and apply it to your fiction later.

Also, writing nonfiction really made me think about story structure and appreciate the freedom I have when writing fiction. Trying to cram real events into a strong story ARC is soooo much harder than when you can make those events up. After writing the memoir, the story ARC for my next work of fiction and the events that comprised it came together with surprising ease.

3) Writing for a different age

I’d already written adult and YA fiction, so when I got the opportunity (more on this soon) to write for the middle grade age-range, I was excited—this was something new! I couldn’t rely on the relationship dynamics I was used to in order to craft my older characters, which involved more adult themes (even in YA) and oftentimes some type of sexual tension, however subtle. I had to tap into my inner 10-year-old, and write a story based on friendship and family.

How one DOESN’T want to write MG…

But whether or not you’re writing for a 10-year-old audience or 50-year-old, those types of relationships are crucial. To go back to the basics, and build something in a new way, was a wonderful exercise in writing relationships of all types.

Now, I bid you–go write something new and wild! Something you never would write, normally. You might be surprised by the benefits.

adriannestricklandAdriAnne shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, but has spent two cumulative years living abroad in Africa, Asia, and Europe. While writing occupies most of her time, she commercial fishes every summer in Bristol Bay, because she can’t seem to stop. Her debut YA sci-fi/fantasy, WORDLESS, is coming August 8th, 2014 from Flux Books. You can follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.

How to Write a Pitch for your Novel

This is probably the second thing most writers hate to do, right after a novel synopsis. Like it or not though, a lot of agents are going to want to hear what your pitch is – after all, they go through a billion query letters a day, and they want the meat of your novel in just a couple of sentences or three so they’d have the time to do other things. Like, you know, eat or sleep or breathe.

But that’s impossible! How could my awesomely complex, masterfully layered novel be distilled down to just a few flippant sentences. How can I convey nuances of character? The stunning execution of plot? The vivid descriptions of my hot anti-hero brimming with the wit and the snarkiness and the abs and the arms and things?


Like it or not, you will have to. Pitches can also be a way that agents assess how well you know your own book, and how well you are able to summarize, pick out the important elements of your novel and convey it in the simplest, easiest, and in the most comprehensible way possible. If you can’t do this, then they may have doubts regarding just how succinct or organized the rest of your novel is – because if you can’t even explain the plot of your novel in a few short sentences, how is the rest of your novel going to sound like?

the worst reaction agents can get while reading your novel

the second worst thing

If you’re new to pitches, or just pretty stumped, here’s a handy dandy formula to remember:

Character + Obstacle + Possible Solution to overcome Obstacle + Surprise Twist Hindering Them even More from Accomplishing said Obstacle = Pitch

I’ll use a sample pitch of my book for reference:

Character = female ghost and a boy with tattoos
Obstacle = an evil spirit wants to harm the boy
Solution to Overcome Obstacle = dolls and a possible exorcism can rid them of this
Surprise Twist = the strange presence appears to come from inside the boy

Detailed Pitch : A female ghost meets a boy with strange tattoos haunted by the presence of a masked woman in black. Together, their search will take them from dolls and exorcisms to remote valleys in Aomori, Japan where they will make a terrible discovery: there is something inside the boy, and it would absolutely kill to get out.

But! The number one thing most people forget when it comes to writing pitches is that the agents don’t need to know everything about the book yet. You need to figure out the essential parts of your novel that makes it unique or compelling, then disregard the rest for now.

The Getting-there Pitch: A dead girl who kills child murderers discovers that a new boy in her neighborhood with strange tattoos harbors a strange secret inside him- one that would absolutely kill to get out.

Still too wordy? Preen it down more!

Final Pitch = A vengeful spirit who kills child murderers discovers that when a boy with strange tattoos moves into the neighborhood, so had something else.

Take note of some of the things I decided weren’t actually necessary to the pitch. I decided to forgo some of the elements, such as the Possible Solution to Overcome Obstacle because my novel is horror / suspense in nature, which means a solution isn’t necessarily what an agent might want to know upfront. It’s a really good way of breaking down the important bits, if only to find out which parts are important and which parts aren’t technically necessary, and then summarizing where you can.

How do you know when you’re done? Try reading the pitch aloud to yourself. Does it sound awkward or overlong? Are there too many details that lessens the impact of the surprise twist at the end? Does it make sense?

Then congratulations, you’ve got a pitch!

Plot twist: Hot Fuzz’s ‘Yarp’ = GoT’s the Hound.

 

The Anatomy of a Book Cover – dissecting THE GIRL FROM THE WELL

January 2014 is a big thing for a lot of us here at the BookYArds – what better way to start out the year with a sudden influx of happy, pretty, sparkly book covers for our debuts? But what most people don’t know are the things that goes on behind the scenes. How are book covers born? What kind of planning is involved, from initial conception down to the final reveal?

I can’t speak for every author who’s had a book out, but here’s been my experience so far with my debut, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL.

I’ve been very happy to have the awesome people over at Sourcebooks helming my book – I’ve never seen an ugly Sourcebooks cover, and their final treatment of mine was practically perfect, in my opinion.  Here’s the step-by-step process:

1. I knew early on that I won’t have as much say on the book cover at the start, though I was definitely invited to offer my own input if I didn’t like how it looked, or offer suggestions that would be taken into account, but would have no real guarantee  on the final product. This is pretty normal, as most authors signed onto traditional publishing would tell you.

However, if a book cover makes you feel like you want to go out and punch a tree, then you can be very vocal about your dislike, and they will listen.  I’ve known writers who’d been violently opposed to their book covers because of a lot of misleading information it depicts (wrong model for their MC, supporting characters emphasized over MCs, just plain horrible graphics, and more)

2. This is the first book cover treatment I’d ever received for my debut:

girlfromthewell01

Pros: That background! Those birds!

Cons: I wasn’t feeling that font, and not liking the font made the cover look off somehow – like it’s getting there, but there’s something   completely incomplete about the whole look. I was told at this stage that they weren’t satisfied with how my name was featured in, as well.

I’d told my editor and agent at this point that something felt odd about the cover. I was hoping for more subtlety, and I was very thrilled that the designer didn’t choose to go for the girl-looking-mysterious-or-beautifully-dead route, because there were a lot of those  kinds of covers already out on the market that didn’t actually have dead girls in their novels, and I was worried it would no longer stand out. (Also: my protagonist is dead, but not beautifully so.)

3. The second treatment for my cover:

girlfromthewell02

As soon as I saw that beautiful typeface, I knew this was it. See what a difference the right kind of font makes? I was thrilled, my agent was thrilled, and everyone was thrilled that we were thrilled.

4. The final cover:

girlfromthewell

Some very minor tweaks, and here’s the result!

I think I’ve been lucky in a lot of ways. A lot of other authors have to go through a lot more revisions with their respective publishers before settling on the one they really like, but I was rather pleased with mine!