Friday, September 28, 2007

Finally Friday...

This weekend I head to the mountains. Those of you who are regular readers will know that I love the mountains and that they're a great place for writing. This time around, I think I'll sit down with WIP and try to read it. First of all, I haven't read this most recent version. Sure I've read the parts that I was revising before sending subs out to agents, but I've never really just sat down and read it like a reader. Second, a lot of the feedback I've been getting is from people who read the book in one sitting. So I'm curious to see what that experience is like. I'm sure I'll find edits to make as I go through -- I'm not sure I could ever read a book I wrote and not find something to change. But I want to try to not let that editing urge dominate :)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm constantly impressed by the other writers in this industry. Of course I hear the horror stories of back-stabbing authors, but I've never met one. In all of my dealings with other authors during my agent hunt, everyone has been amazingly helpful and honest. I had people just randomly emailing me to say that they heard I had an offer from their agent and was there anything they could do to help make my decision easier.

So I've met some fabulous people over the past month! Especially three fellow writers who are represented by my agent, Jim McCarthy: Mark Henry, Richelle Mead, and Michelle Rowen. Read their blogs, buy their books -- these are awesome people!! I've been taking a peruse through Michelle's archives on her blog and let me tell you: totally inspirational! Y'all know how much I love archives, how much I love the excitement of them. These rock!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


One of the best feelings I had finishing WIP (or at least typing "The End") was that I finally knew where the story was going. Sure, I had a lot of revising to do to pull it all together, to smooth out the path my characters took, but I knew where everyone would end up. It was a huge relief to me, suddenly I no longer had to carry everything in my head. I no longer had to walk around with the characters banging against my skull.

Literally, while writing WIP I was like a zombie. I was obsessed. WIP was all I could think about. Poor JP -- we'd be walking or at dinner or just living life and I'd say "what if..." or "what about..." or "what do you think if...."

There was a lot of whingeing too. Thankfully JP is also a writer and understands the constant attention your characters and plot demand!

For the last few months, my mind has been focused on other things. Revisions, agent searching, query letter structure. And that was a different kind of stress, one I could lock away when I had other things to do. I have to admit, it was kinda nice :)

So it's strange to be starting on the next project, the new WIP. Not only was there a little bit of "First WIP came out of nowhere, it was so easy to write!" (which are pretty much all lies and myths that have grown in my head over the past year), but there's also been a lot of "How am I ever going to follow that up? Where do I even start?"

I've known for a while what I want the general plot of New WIP to be, but that doesn't mean much. I still needed a place to start, a place to go. Actual words to put on the paper.

And then the other night the first line popped into my head, much in the same way that the first line to WIP popped into my head. I'm a first line kinda girl -- once I have that it's off to the races.

Now I'm 4k in. Already I can feel the characters starting to crawl in from the corners of my mind. Soon enough, they'll be my constant companions and I'll be back to where I was before -- always thinking about the plot, trying to figure out where everything goes and how it will end.

But for now, I'm just enjoying the excitement of starting something new. Of all the possibilities that come with the beginning of a story -- all the avenues to explore.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Other Side...

When I started this blog, one of my main goals was to have a real-time recording of my thoughts and process as I worked towards my ten year plan.* Part of my reasoning was that I really enjoy going back and reading author blogs from before they were published/agented. As I've said before, it is so inspiring to read about their process, their doubts, their lives from before. Especially knowing what the after is like.

Another part of the reasoning is that I have a terrible memory and I thought it might be fun to walk down memory lane. And in fact, the other night I did just that. I went back to reminisce about when I got the idea for WIP and what it was like to work on it. I'm so happy with the end result of WIP that it's easy to forget about the doubts along the way (they were there, folks) and that's what I wanted a memory of.

I also went back and reminisced about the stress of my agent hunt -- the over thinking, the agony. It makes me laugh now, and it's hard to remember just how stressful that whole thing was. How much trouble and time it took to put together every submission package -- hours!! And in the end it all worked!!

It's so strange and awesome to suddenly be on the other side of all of that. Just the other day, a guest agent came to one of the loops I subscribe to. I was thrilled and eagerly read all of her posts, sopping up all the information. I was half-way through before I realized "I have an agent (!!). I'm past this stage of 'what are you looking for in a query letter.'" Oh my God I have an agent!!

I think that's when it really hit home what getting an agent really meant. That I'd hit this goal, accomplished this milestone. All of the sudden, whether to personalize your query letters is no longer a worry of mine. Now I can look back at some of my random fears (incorrectly formatting sample pages in an email) and realize that most of those worries are useless. That it really does come down to the story -- to the pages themselves and not how they're formatted. But that's so much easier said from the comfort of being represented :)

And the best and funniest part of all, is that I was on a message board recently when someone came on and stressed "how do I format an email query?!" and I was able to respond the same way so many people responded to me. "Relax, here's how I did it, relax some more, it will all be ok."

The thing is, that's useful advice for every step of your career. So now, instead of stressing about what's next, I'm leaving that in my wonderful and accomplished agent's hands and I'm starting in on my next book. That is, after all, what this is all about :)

* JP and I have a ten year plan to be able to support ourselves with our writing in 10 years, which would be by the beginning of 2016. Wow, that's the first time I've ever figured out the exact year and that feels like SO FAR away!!

Friday, September 21, 2007

What happens when an agent likes your work...

Hey Y'all! Thanks for the congrats! Today I'm the guest blogger at the Manuscript Mavens. They've been blogging about agents this week and it's been awesome reading. I was so excited to be able to contribute what I did once I got "the call."

Maybe this weekend I'll actually share with y'all some details about the book!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It's Official -- I'm now agented!!!

Yes, that's right, I just signed with an agent!!! Wahoooooo!!! I'm now represented by Jim McCarthy with Dystel & Goderich Literary Management!!! It's still all so surreal! Gosh, there's so much to write about! The process, the decision making, what my book is about :) I don't even know where to begin!

I'm sure I'll be posting about all of that over the next few days, but for now I just wanted to share my fabulous news. I couldn't be more over the moon! Jim is fantastic and I can't wait to work with him -- plus he has tons of fun clients that I've loved getting to know.

I promise to write more soon!

Big News!

Yes, big news coming soon. I should have posted last night, but with the champagne and all... :)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Agent research -- what do you really know?

Sorry for the blog silence as of late -- new job, following up on agent submissions, all of that fun stuff. But trust me I've been thinking about y'all and wondering just how much I should post about my agent search. Originally I was going to have a query tracker (sans agent names) where I would list every query, request, rejections, etc. But then a friend pointed out that you generally don't go into a job interview shouting out how many rejections you've gotten.

So that's left me a little gun shy on posting. After all, this blog is out there for all to see, maybe even a potential agent (yes, I know they have much much better things to do).

While I contemplate how much of the details of my search to post (feel free to chime in the comments with your thoughts), let me talk about something else I've been pondering and that is agent research.

Now, when I first started the query process, I was committed to personalizing every query letter and really knowing the agents I was submitting to. I didn't want to take a scattershot approach; rather, I wanted to take a measured and educated approach. And so in my research I set out to find those agents that I thought would like my book and want to offer representation. After all, that was my goal: find an agent who wanted to represent my book.

I started my research with the agents I already "knew," and then moved on to the agents whose blogs I read regularly. I then looked at the hot selling YA books and figured out who their agents were and wrapped everything up with a few recomendations from friends. In the end, my list contained about 13 agents to query first.

As part of this research I read their clients' books, I looked up their recent sales, checked out their websites/blogs, and agent-query. I created a large index card for each agent with their contact information, their preferences, and any other tidbits. On the back of each card I kept a log of what I'd sent out and when and any responses (this was in addition to a spreadsheet with the same information).

I was really really proud of my approach. I knew a lot about these agents, enough that when people posted on loops about them asking questions, I was able to answer them. I felt great about the way things were going.

But now I question my approach. Because when I started to look past all the stats I'd compiled, what did I really know about these agents? What did I know about Agent A other than the fact she had some hot YA sales? What did I know about her style, her history, what she's like to work with? The same with all the agents -- what did I really know?

When I started this whole process, a friend asked who my top choices were and I had to shrug. I felt like I was back in 9th grade when someone asked me who I wanted to go out with and my answer was "whoever wants to go out with me." Or when I was in law school during job hunt season and people asked what firm I wanted to work for and my answer was "whichever firm hires me."

And you know what happened in law school? A bunch of firms gave me offers and I had to choose and suddenly I realized that I'd positioned myself to get the offer, but hadn't prepared myself for what happens after that. How do you choose which firm to go to when they all pay the same, are all located in the same place, all have lots of attorneys, etc? I didn't even know what questions to ask to differentiate one firm from another -- honestly, to a 1L or 2L they were all pretty much fungible.

I would never intimate that agents are fungible, but sometimes when all you're looking at are the basic stats, it can get overwhelming. You can have a list of agents who all charge standard rates, who all work at well-known agencies, who all have a good solid track record with some phenomenal sales. You can have a list of "essentials" and it's pretty likely you'll find a lot of agents who fit your criteria.

And so how do you look past the initial research in order to figure the best match?

I guess what I'm saying is that, while I'm proud of the research that I did, I feel I fell short and was short-sighted. I think I should have looked beyond just "will this agent want me," and perhaps looked a lot deeper into "if this agent wanted me, woud I want this agent and would we make the best match?" In looking over my list, I can equivocally say that I would be honored to work with every agent on it. But is that because they are great agents, or because they would be a great agent for me?

Like interviewing for jobs in lawschool, it's hard to be picky when all the power rests in the employer hands. I'm just saying, sometimes you have to be prepared to figure out what's what if that power ever shifts to your hands.

What do you think? What sort of agent research do you think is necessary before querying? How did you approach these things?

JP's stories

Hey y'all! Just wanted to do a drive-by post to let y'all know that two of JP's stories are available online now! They're both short (flash pieces) and are both fantastic! So go read Another Side of the Park up at and The Pirate, Landlocked (one of my favorites!) up on Then go post your thoughts on his blog!

JP really is a super-talented writer -- I just love all of his work! I'm a lucky lucky girl.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Sex in Romance Novels

I have a confession to make: I skim through the sex scenes.* Sometimes I down-right skip them all together. I didn’t used to. For years I read every word, and then I started to get a little antsy that the sex was slowing down the action, the plot of the story. And so I started skimming over them, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. But just recently I’ve started whole-sale skipping the scenes. I wish I could explain why. I think a big part of it is that they’re boring to me. I don’t really care about the sex, I find some of the scenes generic and often those scenes throw off the pace of the entire book.

When I first started writing romance and doing research, I learned that every sex scene needs to have a purpose (other than just sex). And I’ve definitely read sex scenes that did have a purpose: they exposed parts of the character we may not have seen before, we learned some important details. But more and more these days, I feel like the sex scene is just there because some readers expect it; I don’t feel like I learn anything or that it adds to the development of the plot or the characters.

I think I’ve become more aware of my change-of-heart because I don’t read as many romance novels any more. These days, I tend to read books that have romance, but in which romance is not the sole plot. So I’m not as used to the traditional romance conventions.

But I also feel like the trend towards erotica has played into my sex-scene-skipping state of mind. I really feel like in some books the sex is there just to have the sex because that’s what is selling. As I said before, it doesn’t feel like the sex is there to deepen any kind of developments in the book. I also feel like sex scenes have grown really really long, and to me 20 pages of sex in the middle of a plot intense book just throws me off. I just don’t need the level of detail that is required to have such a long sex scene.

I read one book this year* that had 4-5 sex scenes, each about 20 pages long. That’s almost 100 pages of sex interspersed throughout a 300-400 page book! I’m not prudish, I don’t care that so much of the book is dedicated to sex, I just didn’t feel that the sex in the book played any real purpose. This was literally the first time that I just skipped -- wholesale -- entire scenes.

And I didn’t miss anything by skipping those scenes! That’s how I know that they weren’t there to deepen the characters, plot, etc, because I missed nothing by skipping them. It’s just so hard to reconcile this with the maxim that every scene in a book must count, must pull its weight. I’d always thought that if you can skip a scene in a book and it makes no difference, then that scene shouldn’t be there in the first place.

So what role do these skippable sex scenes play then? Are they there because of convention? Because readers like to read about sex? Because I’m somehow missing something even though I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of romance novels over the years? I mean, it really could just be that I don’t get it -- which is fine.

But the other thing that’s frustrated me recently with the more erotic books I’ve been reading is that there is so much focus on body and sexual attraction. It used to be that a man might fall for a woman because of her wit, the way she carries herself in a ballroom, etc. Now I feel like it is always the hero imagining the heroine with her clothes off. Every time he sees her -- that is all he thinks about. I know this is supposed to make things steamy and sexually tense, but it honestly grosses me out a bit. Perhaps it is the feminist in me that wants to yell out “Hey! That chick is more than just a body under some clothes!”

One of the things that I have always loved about romance novels is that the love isn’t just about looks or how hot the heroine is. Julia Quinn was a master at this -- men falling for women not because of their looks but because the heroine is so much more than looks (remember poor Penelope?). I guess I feel cheated when everything -- every look, every aside, every thought -- is about mentally undressing the H/h and wanting to get each other in bed. Because I wonder what kind of relationship that couple can possibly sustain if its basis is just in sex.

Now, I have no problem with sexual tension -- yum! But I feel like even the tension has gone by the wayside. I mean, if you have to pack in 4-5 sex scenes, how much tension can you have before they fall into bed together? And then you often end up with stupid miscommunications being the reason they’re apart because once you’ve thrown the H/h in bed together you’ve erased a lot of obstacles to their jumping into bed together again in the future.

Of course, thinking back on some of my favorite books, it’s unfair of me to say that it’s the number of sex scenes that troubles me. But rather, I think it’s the overwhelming focus on sex that some of the books I’ve read recently have. Like I said, when the relationship between the H/h is so based on sex and nothing else I feel cheated. I like to watch the relationship develop. And sure, sex can be part of that relationship, but shouldn’t be a disproportionate part. Don’t misunderstand me, I have no problem with sex in any books; I’m just trying to figure out why some books I’ve read recently have left me feeling a little frustrated.

Am I over analyzing this? We all know I’m prone to that. But this whole issue has really been weighing heavily on my mind. It makes me wonder if I’m just done with romance novels, which was once the staple of my reading diet. Maybe I just had a bad run of books -- it happens. What do y'all think?


* To the extent that any books I discuss could be recognizable, I’ve removed them from my list of books I’ve read this year. So don’t be looking at my list of books I’ve read and wondering which of them spurred this rant, you aren’t going to find it/them listed there.