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11/26/14 Lies I Told

Lies I Told

 

“What if the worst lies you told were the ones you told yourself?”

ON SALE NOW from HarperTeen

 

“Highly readable, gripping and touching.” – Kirkus (starred review)

“… searingly honest…” – School Library Journal

“… a gripping, edgy thriller…” – Publisher’s Weekly 

“An addictive read.” – Booklist

 

Order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

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04/20/15 Lies I Told , Life , Writing # , , , , , , , , , ,

Kirkus calls LIES I TOLD a “touching” Thriller!

It’s been such a whirlwind two weeks celebrating the release of LIES I TOLD that I’m just now getting to share this with you guys.

A few months ago I found out Kirkus had given LIES I TOLD a STARRED review. Most of you probably know this is a big deal; Kirkus is notoriously tough on writers, and they have a very, very high bar to star something. I was completely blown away and grateful, because the review really validated all the hard work I’ve done on craft these past couple of years.

Fast forward to release day and THIS pops up in my Twitter feed;

photo-20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, you’re reading that right. Kirkus actually tweeted about LIES I TOLD, calling it a “touching” thriller and making it clear that it’s an exception to the rule.

So… yeah. I’m just kind of bragging.

;)

And sharing! And reminding you that LIES I TOLD is out now, and I’d love if you’d give it a shot. And if you already HAVE given it a shot and enjoyed it, I’d love it if you’d post a review on Amazon/B&N/Goodreads, because it really helps bring the book up in the search algorithms.

For those of you who have done all these things and more, I continue to be grateful and overwhelmed by your support. I think I have the best readers in the whole world.

<3

 

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04/15/15 Uncategorized , Young Writers Series # , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Young Writers Series Week Six; Agents and Editors (What They Do and Why We Need Them)

Welcome back to the Young Writers series! I seem to be running at least a day late every week, but this week I have a great excuse; LIES I TOLD released last Tuesday!!! I’ve been super busy with interviews and blog tours and promotion. Things are starting to calm down a bit, which is a good thing. I love talking to readers, but my favorite part is still the writing. I’m happy to be back in my office working this week.

Last week on the Young Writers Series we talked about how to sell your book. I took you through the process step by step, from getting an agent to revising to “subbing” to editors. This week we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of agents and editors, namely what they do and why we need them.

Let’s talk about agents first.

If you read last week’s post, How Do I Sell My Book, you know that you really must have an agent if you want to sell to any of the big traditional publishing houses. They just don’t accept unagented manuscripts anymore. And even if your favorite aunt is the CEO at HarperCollins, you’ll STILL want an agent. Here’s why.

There are good agents and there are GREAT agents. A great agent (which I so happen to have, luck me!) will work through edits with you before submission. Not every agent wants to do this, and that’s okay. But very, very few never-before-published authors are going to hit it out of the park on their first try. Even after you’ve edited your book multiple times and hired an outside editor, odds are good that your book will still need some work if you want to put your best foot forward. I saw this firsthand when I tried to sell what was my second finished book. I had a different agent back then, and we did very, very little work on the book before sending it out to editors. Nine months later, it hadn’t sold and I made the decision to find an agent who was more hands-on with editorial feedback. Fast forward to Prophecy of the Sisters and the TEN MONTHS I spent in revisions with my current agent and you get a three-day pre-empt from Little Brown and a deal that was much bigger than anything I had expected. That just wouldn’t have happened if I’d gone out with my first version of the manuscript. It can be maddening to work through revisions on the front end, but it’s almost always worth it.

Once you begin to sub, a great agent will have street cred that will get your manuscript read faster, and they will also be able to negotiate terms that are favorable to you when it comes to royalty rates, bonuses, geographic rights (some books sell World rights, but if you sell World English instead, your agent may be able to sell your book’s subsidiary rights to a foreign market, and that money goes straight to you instead of toward your publisher’s advance). They will have a good handle on the personalities of various editors and what it might be like to work with them, and they will know which publishers are more likely to follow through on marketing promises (something that matters in a big way). They will continue to be a liaison between you and your editor if anything tricky arises, i.e. deadline related issues, marketing problems and questions, payment concerns, etc.

And none of this ends with your agent. Assuming your agent works for an established agency, you will have lots of legal counsel backing you up. In addition, publishers value their relationships with great agencies, and they will work hard to insure that both you AND your agency are happy with the way you’re treated.

Once your book is sold and settled in its new home, a great agent will guide your career and advise you about long-term strategy. The publishing industry is rapidly changing, and timing plays an important role in how well a book is received. I’ve often had two or more ideas in the queue at a time, and it’s been invaluable for me to pitch them all to my agent and get his feedback on which one has the best chance of selling in the current market.  Great agents also have film and TV connections that can be beneficial to you. In addition to writing books that have sold into traditional publishing, I’ve also written for ABC and have worked-for-hire on books with two other publishers. I’ve collaborated with a well-known adult writer on a YA project, something that was made possible because my agent heard the author was looking for a partner, and I’ve written for an app company. Even if you’re not interested in any of these avenues right now, the publishing process can be fickle and SLOW. You won’t always get paid on time, and sometimes you won’t sell a book, even after you’ve been published. Having an agent with widespread connections can gain you off-the-beaten track opportunities that will help pay your bills during the lean times.

In short, the 15% I pay my agent is MORE THAN WORTH IT. I have never begrudged him a cent, because he works incredibly hard for me. He brings game changing expertise and experience to the table, and I have made back that 15% a hundred time over because of his role in my career.

Once your book is sold, the majority of your communication about the project will be directly with your editor. He or she will send you revisions, introduce you to marketing and publicity at the publishing house, and be your main contact for everything related to the book they’ve acquired.

A great editor is one who both understands your vision for the project (hopefully this is a given if they’ve bought your book) and one who will push you to make it the best it can be within that framework. An editor isn’t going to give you all the answers. They’re going to tell you the problems and trust YOU to come up with the answers. This doesn’t mean you can’t run things by them, but you shouldn’t expect them to tell you how to do your job.

Their job is finding potential problems. Yours is to fix them.

A great editor makes all the difference in the finished product of your book, and a great finished product is the best insurance policy you can get in terms of your long term career. A great editor will bring out your manuscript’s potential by guiding you through more revisions with a flexible hand. This matter because once your book has sold, you can expect at least one more round of fairly significant revisions, and maybe more.

Beyond the actual editing, a great editor is someone who LOVES YOUR WORK. He or she believes in you as a writer and wants to see you succeed. They can be your fiercest advocate at the publishing house, fighting for marketing dollars, turning down covers that are less than stellar, and campaigning to buy more of your work. If they really want to keep working with you, they will often engage in a dialog about what they might like to see from you next, giving you a better chance of selling another book to that publishing house.

So as you can see, agents and editors provide a unique set of skills that will help you with both your writing and your long-term career. In my mind, the value they add isn’t even in question, at least not with traditional publishing.

But it’s a two way street. Here are some things you can do to be a good client (to your agent) and employee (to your editor);

1. Keep your communication concise and professional unless and until you know each other well enough to discuss personal matters.

2. Let feedback on your manuscript settle before responding. It’s easy to sound snippy in an email when you’re feeling defensive about your work. And snippy isn’t professional.

3. Be willing to hear your agent and editor out in matters where you might disagree. Remember that they have their area of expertise, and you have yours.

4. Be on time. Try not to take license with the fact that you’re in a creative field. Few employees can get away with being consistently late and plan to keep their job for any length of time. Treat your professional commitments like the promises they are (barring some kind of catastrophe, which does happen now and again) and you will gain the good will of your agent and editor, as well as a reputation for being easy to work with.

5. Never, ever badmouth your agent or editor. If you’re not happy and a friend asks for feedback, you can be honest privately about your experience, but it’s just not professional to badmouth a colleague in ANY business.

6. Know when it’s time to be a team player. Like all businesses, publishing requires that everyone work together. There will be times that you won’t like how things are going. You may be angry about the amount of marketing given to your book (especially if you were promised more), about your cover design, about the amount of conferences (or lack thereof) in which you’re asked to participate. There’s a time to push back on issues like these and others like them and a time to be a team player. Once your editor makes it clear THIS is your cover, for example, there is often NOTHING you can do to change it. You can ask, but if they say something like, “We feel strongly this is the right cover, so we’re going to go out with it and see how it goes,” that means the decision has been made, and the best thing you can do for your career AND your book is plug that book (and its cover) for all you’re worth, be gracious about it, and hope for the best. Being openly angry won’t help you once the decision is made (or before, for that matter, when a calm discussion is in order).

Join me next week for Keeping the Balls in the Air (How to Juggle School, Social Life, and Writing).

And I hope you’ll all pick up a copy of LIES I TOLD! I’ve spent the last couple of years really focusing on craft, and I’ve gotten so many emails and comments and reviews saying this is my best book yet. I’m excited to share it with you guys!

<3

 

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04/09/15 Funny , Lies I Told , Life # , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

LIES WE TOLD Video

I’m so excited to share the video Caroline and I put together to celebrate the launch of LIES I TOLD. This isn’t a book trailer. It’s a compilation of lies told by or to real life people, and their explanation of how the lie changed them and how they moved past it. Some of them are funny, some heartfelt, and one is even shocking, but one thing the video illustrates is something Grace Fonataine in LIES I TOLD knows firsthand; Sometimes the worst lies we tell, are the ones we tell ourselves.

And my lie is in here, too. Yikes!

Enjoy! And you’ll get extra entries on the massive $250 gift card giveaway if you share the link.

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04/07/15 Contests & Giveaway , Uncategorized # , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s LIES I TOLD Release Day!

It’s LIES I TOLD Release Day!

And YOUR chance to win tons of amazing goodies.

;)

This book is so important to me, and while I’m going to do a longer blog post tomorrow about the thematic elements and why I believe Grace is someone everyone can identify with (even if you haven’t been adopted by a “family” of scheming con artists), today I just want to say….

YAY! Yay for me and yay for all of you who have helped and supported me through the years. I’m lucky to feel like I “know” so many of my readers. When I sign into social media, it’s often like entering a giant coffee klatch where everyone is cheering each other on, celebrating the good times and propping each other up during the bad.

Writing has been a lifesaver for me in more ways than one. Aside from being the only source of income for my family (I’m a single mom), it also serves as a distraction from my often persistent inner demons. No matter how depressed or anxious or sad or sacred I get, writing is always there to get me out of my own head. And sometimes, that’s the only cure for what ails me.

Anyway, this is all just to say… thank you. Thank you for buying my books and spreading the word and sharing my posts online and propping me up when the going gets tough. In the coming days, I’ll be posting specific ways you can help this book succeed, this heartfelt book that has FOUR out of FOUR stellar trade reviews, including a star from Kirkus (hint for now; buy it, review it, tell your friends about it).

Now let’s talk swag.

;)

Those of you who have been with me awhile  know that I am (*cough*) kind of famous for giving good swag. And while change is usually a good thing, I kind of want to keep my swag creed, thank you very much.

With that in mind, I’m offering up THREE awesome prizes;

photo-29First Prize; a $250 Visa gift card or gift card to the bookstore of your choice (gift cards are not pictured since I don’t know which one the winner will want), Victoria’s Secret bath gel and body lotion, tropical inspired nail polish and candy, grapefruit lip balm, a bookmark, peacock pocket mirror, and an entire library of my signed, currently published books (Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy, A Temptation of Angels, This Wicked Game, and LIES I TOLD).

Second Prize; a $100 Visa gift card or gift card to the bookstore of your choice, Victoria’s Secret bath gel and body lotion, tropical inspired nail polish and candy, grapefruit lip balm, a bookmark, peacock pocket mirror, and an entire library of my signed, currently published books (Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy, A Temptation of Angels, This Wicked Game, and LIES I TOLD).

Third Prize; Tropical inspired nail polish and candy, grapefruit lip balm, a bookmark, peacock pocket mirror, an entire library of my signed, currently published books (Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy, A Temptation of Angels, This Wicked Game, and LIES I TOLD) PLUS a signed ARC of PROMISES I MADE, sequel to LIES and the final book in Grace Fontaine’s story (out in November of this year).

photo-30You can enter in so many ways, all of them centered around helping me spread the word about LIES I TOLD. You can do simple things like share the link to this giveaway or a link to the LIES WE TOLD video. You can change your Twitter picture to the cover or write a lie on a tiny piece of paper and hide it somewhere, then post the picture with the hashtag (see photo of mine), each  for FIVE entries. You can do some of the things once a day for the duration of the giveaway (earning up to 30 entries if you do them every day), and others will earn you as many as FIVE entries in one shot. Basically, you can do as much or as little as you want! You MUST use #LiesITold on all Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr entries for them to count. You also must be following me on those sites if you post there. Contest runs through May 7th at Midnight EST and is open to residents of the US and Canada. The Lies video mentioned as an entry option will be up later today.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, you guys! I can’t wait to see all your posts (and keep your eyes out for mine, because I plan to leave some lies around, too…)

<3

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04/06/15 Uncategorized , Writing , Young Writers Series # , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Young Writers Series Week Five; How Do I Sell My Book?

Welcome to this week’s installment of the Young Writer’s series. I missed last week completely! I was so slammed with launch stuff for LIES I TOLD (out tomorrow, you guys! Please pick up a copy!), plus a deadline on another book, that I kept meaning to catch up and just never did. So we’ll call this Week Five and get back on track.

:)

Last week we talked about outside advice; how to make it work for you and how to know if you should take it when offered.

This week we’re talking about the nitty-gritty of selling your book. For most writers, publication is the goal through all the late writing nights, crippling self-doubt, and endless revisions that make up the process of writing. If it’s not, that’s totally okay! There is a lot to be said for doing something just for the joy of it.

But if you want to see your book published, this post is for you.

The sales process in publishing is a lot longer and more involved than most people realize. Some of it is dependent on the type of publishing you choose (see Week Two in this series), but for our purposes here, we’re going to focus on selling your book to large traditional publishers like HarperCollins, RandomHouse, Scholastic, Little Brown, , Simon and Schuster, and Penguin.

First of all, you need a finished manuscript. Yes, finished. Unless you’re writing non-fiction or have published books before in your genre, a partial probably isn’t going to cut it. So before you do anything else, finish your book, revise it, give it to a beta reader or editor, and revise it some more. I know it’s tempting to cut corners on the editing side. You finished a whole book! You want to see it on the shelves of a bookstore! But you won’t usually have a chance to resubmit to an agent or editor once they reject a certain project, so you don’t want to go out with less than your best work. Polish it until you literally can’t go any further with it on your own.

Once you have a complete manuscript, you need to look for an agent. Some people don’t think you need an agent, and while there might be room for discussion in some areas, you DEFINITELY need an agent if you plan to sell to traditional publishing. None of the big publishers accept unaccented manuscripts, and neither do most of the small ones. And that’s just for starters. There are TONS of other reasons, which I’ll save for next week’s topic, Agents and Editors (What They Do and Why We Need Them). For now, let’s operate on the assumption that you trust me on this.

;)

The best way to look for an agent is to find out who represents your favorite books and/or subscribe to the Deal Report at Publisher’s Marketplace (it was $20/month when I sold Prophecy. It might be a bit more now). Through the deal report you can search recent deals in your genre to make sure the agent your interested in has a solid track record of selling books like yours. This is important, because anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves an agent. You want someone with a proven track record of selling consistently. Have you ever heard the saying, “A bad agent is worse than no agent?” No? Well, you have now, and it’s true. Hold out for someone great. If you query thirty agents with fantastic track records and none of them feel confident that they can sell your book, it might mean the book isn’t ready or the timing isn’t right. Go to work on another project, even if you choose to query less experienced agents. It will keep you sane and will give you something else to sell in the event your first book doesn’t. Plus, I think you’ll be surprised by how much you’ve learned and grown since your last book.

Before querying you’ll need the following (in addition to your finished manuscript);

1. A query letter – this is a one page letter (you can find examples online) explaining why you’re querying this particular agent (they want to know you’ve done your homework and querying them because you genuinely think they’d be a good fit for the project – not just because you’re querying every agent known to man or woman), a brief paragraph or two about your book, and a closing that provides the word count and an offer to send a partial or full. Most agents will request a partial before they request the full manuscript. This could be a ten page partial or a fifty page partial or anything in between. Sometimes they’ll just request a synopsis, which brings me to my next point. But first, here’s my query letter for Prophecy of the Sisters, aka Indigo Sky, and the book that started it all and got me the agent I still have today;

 

June 20, 2007

AGENT NAME
AGENT ADDRESS
CITY, STATE, ZIP CODE

ATTENTION: AGENT NAME

Dear NAME OF AGENT,

I came across your name while researching potential agents for my YA novel. Your interest in fantasy and work with a paranormal edge makes me believe you might be a good fit for my YA Gothic fantasy, INDIGO SKY

It’s 1890 and sixteen-year-old Lia Milthorpe is at war with the person she loves most – her twin sister.

Alice and Lia are orphans reeling from the mysterious death of their father in the forbidden chamber known as the Dark Room. Immediately after his death, Lia begins having dreams in which she travels the skies at will while her body lies sleeping. But the dreams are not nearly as strange as the symbol blooming on her wrist – that of a snake entwined circle known as the Jorgumand.

Lia soon discovers that Sonia, a young psychic, bears nearly the same Mark. When Sonia shares with Lia the biblical tale of the Watchers, they begin a quest to solve a series of riddles found in a primordial book called The Book of Chaos. If Lia cannot solve the puzzle before her sister, she will lose more than her sanity, she will lose her very life – and bring about the apocalypse foretold in mythological legend the world over. Her journey takes her to the shadowy Astral Plane, to the nether reaches of the spirit world, and to the face of evil itself.

INDIGO SKY is complete at 78,000 words. I welcome the opportunity to send it at your request.

Warmest regards,

Michelle Zink

EMAIL ADDRESS

CONTACT PHONE NUMBER

 

Simple, right?

2. A synopsis – I advise having that synopsis prepared, a basic one page synopsis that gives a high level explanation of the events in your book, and a four to five page synopsis that is much more detailed. Don’t be coy here. The agent wants to know what’s really going on in the book and more or less how it ends. I’m giving you guys the goods by also including my one-page Synopsis for Prophecy of the Sisters below;

 

Indigo Sky – Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Lia Milthorpe’s life is in danger from the person she loves most – her twin sister.

It’s 1890 and Lia and Alice Milthorpe are orphaned twins reeling from the mysterious death of their father and working to cheer their crippled younger brother, Henry. After their father’s sparsely attended funeral, they return two days a week to Wycliffe, a private school for wealthy girls, and attempt to settle into some kind of normalcy.

But Lia’s reality begins to unravel with sensory-rich dreams that occur more and more frequently, bringing with them a winged demon that chases her through the velvet sky of her nightmares. The dreams are followed by the discovery of an unusual mark on the inside of her wrist – that of a serpent devouring its own tail. The strange happenings make Lia long to confide in her sister, but Alice becomes more and more withdrawn, and Lia resolves to find the answers on her own.

But it is only when James discovers an ancient tome entitled “Librum Maleficii et Disordinae”, or “The Book of Chaos”, that Lia begins to understand the timeless battle of which she is a part – the battle between the demonic Lost Souls, fallen angels of the biblical Watchers, and those who try to shield the physical world from their reappearance.

The Prophecy outlined in the Book dictates that the battle continues through a long line of sisters. In each generation one sister is the Guardian, and one the Gate. The Guardian is tasked with shielding the physical world from the reappearance of the Souls. The Gate is the pathway back that will begin the Seven Plagues outlined in the biblical Book of Revelations.

Lia becomes certain she is the Guardian and her sister the Gate. When she discovers that a beautiful young psychic and an outcast from Wycliffe both bear the Mark, the three girls set out to unravel the Prophecy’s riddle and discover how they might guard the world from The Gate. The task is great enough – and is made greater still when Lia discovers the truth hidden in the Prophecy’s riddle.

A truth that will call into question everything she believed she knew about her sister – and herself.

And now there is so much more at stake, for if Lia cannot find before her sister the Keys foretold in the Prophecy, she may lose more than her sanity. She may lose her very life – sacrificing the lives of those she loves most in the process.  Her journey takes her to the shadowy Astral Plane of the Otherworlds, to the nether reaches of the Spirit World, and to the face of evil itself.

 

These are the query and synopsis’s that started my career. I hope they help you, young writers!

Now, once you have agent, that agent should take you through some revisions on your book. Even when we think our books are perfect, they’re rarely ready to sell the first time out the gate, even if you’ve revised with an editor or reader. A good agent has their finger on the marketplace and will know how to tweak your manuscript so it’s in the best position to sell. Once you’re through revisions with your agent, the book goes out “on sub” or on submission. This means your agent is sending it to editors he or she knows that are looking for your type of project. This is excruciatingly painful for the author. You’ve finally done it! You’re book is on sub! It could sell any minute!

Except it probably won’t. Most editors will take at least a month to get back to your agent, and some will take longer. You MIGHT get lucky and be in the very tiny percentage of authors whose books sells at auction (more than one house is bidding on the book at a time) or in a pre-empt (one publisher steps up and offers a lot to keep it from going to auction), but most of the time, the process is much slower and less exciting than that.

Work on something else.

Again, it will keep you sane, and it will give you something else to sell if this book doesn’t. Because yes, that’s right; just because you’re on sub doesn’t mean your book will sell. My second book VERY NEARLY sold, but it just didn’t quite make it. While it was on sub, I wrote the book that would become PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS, and the rest is history.

If your agent receives several rejections, he or she may feel it’s time to throw in the towel and start fresh with a new project. This is super devastating, no way around it. Assuming your agent IS a good one (see above), he or she will probably have submitted to somewhere around ten houses, so if someone hasn’t snapped it up by then, the odds are slim that you’re going to get a sell somewhere else, unless you’re willing to go to much smaller presses (which also have much smaller advances and a lot less to offer in terms of marketing – totally okay if you’re okay with it!). This is when it will be handy to have another project waiting in the wings. Most agents will be happy to look at your next project if your first one didn’t sell, assuming you want to stick it out with them. If you don’t, you start the process over with a different agent.

And that’s the process in a nutshell.

That’s quite a nutshell, eh?

;)

Next Week we’ll be back on track with Week Six; Agents and Editors (What They Do and Why We Need Them).

And please remember that LIES I TOLD releases TOMORROW! Ahhhh! It would mean so much to me if you would consider picking up the book and helping me spread the word online. I’m going to put up a giant giveaway tomorrow with tons of awesome stuff (gift cards! a whole signed MZ library! Victoria’s Secret bath products!), so please come back for a visit.

<3

 

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03/27/15 Lies I Told # , , , , , , ,

A FOURTH Glowing Review for LIES I TOLD

You guys… pinch me. I can’t believe this is real. Yesterday I found out LIES I TOLD has garnered another lovely, gushy review from Publisher’s Weekly. Trade reviewers are tough to please, and I think this might be the first time since the Prophecy series that I’ve had across the board awesome reviews for a book.

Here it is;

Seventeen-year-old Grace endured the foster care system for years until a pair of thieves adopted her, employing Grace and her older brother, Parker, for their cons. Ever since, Grace has spent four months in one place, five months in another, changing her name, personality, and friends in service of her parents’ schemes. Now the family has landed in Playa Hermosa, Calif., gearing up for their greatest con yet—snagging $20 million in gold bars, hidden in the house of a local family. Grace’s job is to get close to handsome Logan Fairchild to find out where they keep the gold, and Zink (the Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy) builds significant tension as Grace begins to fall for her mark and make real friends, throwing her loyalties and decision-making into flux. It’s a gripping, edgy thriller that’s driven as much by the internal conflicts of its sympathetic heroine as by the threats that the con will come crashing down around Grace and her family. A dramatic 11th-hour twist will leave readers eager for more. Ages 13–up. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Apr.)

I worked incredibly hard on this book and spent a lot of time fine-tuning my knowledge of craft. I couldn’t be more pleased that it’s is being received so favorably. If you haven’t preordered yet, would you consider doing so? First week sales (all preorders go to first week sales) are so important to a book’s success, and I would really appreciate it! Plus, if you order from Oblong Books and Music by April 1st, I can sign and personalize your copy, and you’ll get a pretty little peacock pocket mirror as well. If you order from Amazon or B&N, the price is significantly cheaper when you preorder, and they don’t actually bill you until the book ships.

Thanks so much for your support!

<3

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03/26/15 Contests & Giveaway , Lies I Told # , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blog Tour Stops for LIES I TOLD

Less than two weeks until the launch of LIES I TOLD, and I have so many fun things planned for you guys! Starting with a blog tour chock full of never-before-released excerpts, interviews with moi (don’t lie – you’ve always wanted to know what kind of milkshake LIES I TOLD is and what my favorite song is right now), tons of random things about me and the book (hint; there is one and only one game that I’m addicted to on my phone… ;) ), playlists, and almost twenty chances to win a LIES I TOLD prize pack.

Please join me in showing some love to the blogs hosting LIES I TOLD;

 

March 22nd   ReadingTeen   http://www.readingteen.net/

March 23rd   Reading Lark   http://readinglark.blogspot.com/

March 28th   MundieMoms   http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com/

March 29th   FictionFare   http://fictionfare.blogspot.com/

March 30th   Stories and Sweeties   http://www.storiesandsweeties.com/

April 1st   The Irish Banana   http://theirishbanana.blogspot.com

April 2nd   Dark Faerie Tales   http://darkfaerietales.com/

April 4th   Page Turners   http://www.pageturnersblog.com/

April 7th   Step Into Fiction   http://www.stepintofiction.com/

April 8th   Chapter by Chapter   http://www.chapter-by-chapter.com/

April 11th   Fictitious Delicious   http://www.fictitiousdelicious.com/

April 13th Neverending Stores Book Blog   http://www.neverendingstoriesbookblog.com/

April 15th   Curling Up with a Good Book   http://curling-up-with-a-good-book.blogspot.com/

April 22nd   Once Upon a Twilight   http://www.onceuponatwilight.com/

April 24th   Such a Novel Idea   http://suchanovelidea.com/

April 27th   NovelNovice   http://novelnovice.com/

April 30th   Me, My Shelf, and I   http://www.memyshelfandi.com

 

All of these bloggers put so much time and effort into hosting me, and I can’t thank them enough for all their support. But I CAN encourage you to pop in and visit them, and to read the LIES I TOLD tour stops along the way.

Nice people, awesome book talk, and secret info. What’s not to like? And who knows? Maybe you’ll win!

;)

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03/25/15 Uncategorized , Writing , Young Writers Series # , , , , , , , ,

Online Young Writers Series Week Four; A Word About Outside Advice

Whew! It’s been kind of crazy around here the last few days, which is why I’m late getting up this week’s installment in the Young Writers series.

Last week we talked about the different kinds of publishing, and the pros and cons of getting your book to readers via traditional publishing, boutique publishing, and self-publishing. You can reference that post here. And feel free to go back and look at the prior week’s entries as well.

This week we’re going to talk about outside advice, because frankly, it’s kind of a mine field.

If you read my post about self-editing you know that I’m a big believer in having an outside editor. Self-editing is meant to be a preliminary step on your way to the having someone else read and critique your work, not the end of the revision process.

But hiring an editor (or asking a friend, if you must go that route), can be tricky. For both of you.

Many times we ask someone to read our work, not with the desire to truly get better, but with the desire for an ego stroke, for someone to tell us our work is awesome except for that typo on page 23. We SAY we want outside criticism, but do we mean it? It’s a question each writer has to ask and answer themselves. And the truth is, if you don’t mean it, you really have no business asking someone else for feedback. It takes A LOT of time and effort to read for someone, and even more time and effort to give constructive feedback. If you’re looking for an ego stroke, you’re wasting everyone’s time (and your money, if you’re paying someone to edit for you). Your reader/editor will spend hours reading and compiling notes to help you make the book better, and you will spend days or weeks or months waiting for said notes. If you ignore everything they say anyway, what’s the point?

You might as well just ask your mom to read for you (providing she’s not a mom like me, who will tell you if it needs a lot of work, whether you like it or not).

Something I hear fairly often from people who hire me to edit for them is, “I like the book fine the way it is. Just give me feedback on the little stuff. I don’t want to change anything big.”

Here’s me when people say that; ………….

Don’t you truly want your book to be the best it can be? If so, you have to be willing to look at the whole picture, because as an experience for the reader, a book is the sum of it’s parts. True story. Do you think the reader is more concerned with a typo than with pacing so slow they can’t finish the book? Or with cliched character development? Or plot holes so big you can drive a semi through them?

I don’t know about you, but when I read a book, those are the things that make or break it. They are the things that make a reader think, “This is so boring” or “Oh, my god… I can’t finish this,” even if they don’t know why.

If you love your book the way it is and aren’t willing to consider feedback about the big and small issues, my advice is to skip the time and money of hiring an editor (and save said editor a lot of frustration) and just run with the book as is.

But I don’t advise it.

On the other side is your editor/reader/friend. I love editor/reader/friends. I’ve been fortunate to have some truly gifted ones, and it’s not an overstatement to say that they have shaped and improved my writing in HUGE ways, and often very, very quickly. In my opinion, nothing makes you better like a tough-love editor who really knows what they’re doing.

And therein lies the rub.

Not everyone who will read for you knows what they’re doing. Some will be willing to read because you’re a friend or relative. Some are readers themselves. But none of those things necessarily qualify someone to shape your project.

It is very, very important that you hire someone (or ask someone) to read/edit for you who has a solid knowledge of craft.

Let me just take a moment to let that sink in.

………….

Ready? Now listen, I understand that not everyone can hire an editor, especially if you’re in high school or college and money is tight, you may HAVE to rely on a friend or peer. But choose your readers carefully anyway. Make sure the friends or peers you ask to read for you have discerning taste in literature, or at the very least, have YOUR taste in literature. If you’ve written a book you would compare to Twilight, don’t ask your best friend to read for you when her favorite book is The Sun Also Rises. And if you’ve written another The Sun Also Rises, you probably shouldn’t ask the friend whose all-time favorite book is Twilight.

Once you’ve chosen someone to read for you, be honest about the type of feedback you’re willing to consider. Honestly, I don’t like editing for writers who aren’t interested in ALL feedback, because my mind automatically processes all the things that need work, and it’s almost impossible to turn parts of that off while leaving other parts on. This is why I prefer working on developmental edits to copyedits — people who hire me for copyedits sometimes get more than they bargained for.

;)

But if you genuinely DON’T WANT developmental feedback, be honest about that up front so your reader doesn’t spend a lot of time putting together notes that you intend to discard anyway.

After your reader is finished and gives you his/her notes, take some time to process everything before you start defending your work. This will be harder than you imagine it to be. Your instinct will likely be to explain all the reasons you did what you did, even though it didn’t work for the reader/editor, or to go into long-winded descriptions of what you were trying to do.

Operative word here? Trying.

If your reader/editor says it doesn’t work for them, it doesn’t work for them, and it may very well not work for others. If you want to have a discussion about what you were trying to do in the context of how you missed the mark and what you can do to ACTUALLY make your point, that’s okay. Sometimes it’s very helpful to brainstorm possible fixes with someone who has read your work.

But here is where you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself; Do you REALLY want to have the discussion to come up with ways to fix the problem? Or is that just a way to justify a discussion in which you defend the work as it is?

It’s an important distinction.

I’ve sold ten book and six novellas now, and I STILL have to fight a knee-jerk reaction against editorial notes. I read through my Ed Letter and think, “That’s not true. I say X right here” and “It’s OBVIOUS she’s scared because of X reason.” It’s a perfectly natural reaction to criticism against something to which you’ve given your heart and soul.

But I’ve learned to let the feedback simmer for a bit. There have been very, very few times in the span of my professional writing career when I’ve started out thinking the editor was wrong and still believed they were wrong three days later. Usually the cycle post-editorial letter goes like this;

Annoyance > Disbelief > Anger > Reflection > Inspiration

I start out annoyed that my editor thinks my project has big problems, move onto denial that they are right, slide into anger that they would dare think all this stuff is wrong, ease into reflection about the truth of their feedback, and then become inspired as ideas begin coming to make the book better.

I’ve learned to save a detailed response to editorial notes for after I’ve hit the Reflection phase. Instead, my initial email response is something like; Thanks so much for your feedback! I’ll give all this some thought and get back to you with any questions.

;)

And the truth is, edits are still terrifying after all these years. I liken it to pulling apart a giant puzzle and hoping you can make all the pieces fit back together again in a way that makes sense. There’s always a little part of me that wonders if I can really do it. But being scared isn’t a valid reason for NOT doing something that will make your book — and your writing — better. In fact (life lesson alert!), I’d say that’s true of everything in life.

What if you’re not sure about the suggested changes? What if they just don’t FEEL right in your writerly bones?

Well, ultimately the decision to change something or not to change it lies with you. Just make sure your desire to leave things as they are is TRULY rooted in the belief that the story is best served that way rather than ego or unwillingness to do the work. Questioning your editor’s credentials now is a little too convenient. You hired them/asked them to read for you because you thought they were the best person for the job (and if you didn’t, you SHOULD, see notes above). What has changed? Are they not the best person for the job because they had criticism for your work?

Hire the best person for the job, then really listen to what they have to say. That’s kind of the point, right? Because you want to be BETTER. In fact you want to get better with every book. I’m still learning, and it’s my favorite part of the process. You don’t WANT to be writing the same kind of book ten years from now that you’re writing now. You want them to get better and better and better.

Right?

The only way to make that happen is to read and write, listen and learn, and most of all, be willing to set your ego aside.

A quick checklist about the editing process;

 

1. Self-edit as much as possible before handing your project to someone else.

2. Choose someone who is somehow qualified to give you the best possible advice, then commit to listening to said advice.

3. Be clear about what you’re hoping to accomplish with your revision.

4. Take some time to process your editor/reader’s notes with an open mind before jumping to defend the way you’ve already done things.

5. Enter with an open mind into any project discussion with your editor/reader.

6. Be willing to do the hard work to make your book the best it can be.

 

Next week we’ll be covering How Do I Sell My Book? (A Step-by-Step Walk Through the Process). Hope to “see” you there!

<3

 

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03/23/15 Contests & Giveaway , Lies I Told # , , , , , , , , , , ,

Promises I Made Advance Copy Winner

Woo-hoo! We finally have a winner in the PROMISES I MADE Cover Reveal giveaway!

And the winner is…

*drum roll*

Stacee!

I’ve already sent you an email, Stacee, and I’m so excited for you to read PROMISES I MADE. Thanks to everyone who entered and helped me spread the word. I’ll be giving more of these away after the LIES I TOLD launch in TWO MORE WEEKS, so stay tuned.

<3

 

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03/20/15 Life , Uncategorized # , , , , , , ,

Andrew Zink is My Son

Andrew_WhiteHouseAnd today, I couldn’t be more proud.

Many of you have probably heard of the uproar in our town. It’s been covered by NBC News, the Washington Post, and the LA Times, among others. You can look it up online (or on my Facebook feed) if you want to see the news stories, watch the interviews, or listen to Andrew on the radio. Frankly I’m too tired too post links. But the short version of the story is this;

As part of National Foreign Language Week, Pine Bush High School decided they would enlist bi-lingual students to recite the pledge – a different language for every day of the week. This activity was approved by administration. Monday and Tuesday were supposed to be Spanish and Japanese, but the kids who volunteered for those recitations got nervous and decided not to take their turn. On the third day, a very brave young woman named Dana and a teacher met my son, Andrew Zink, in the office as he was preparing to do morning announcements. Andrew is Student Senate President and Senior Class President, and daily announcements are one of his responsibilities. The teacher and student asked Andrew if they could recite the pledge in Arabic instead of English for that day as part of Foreign Language Week. Andrew agreed without hesitation. Dana began reciting the pledge, and immediately students in class began booing and catcalling. At first, Andrew didn’t think it was a huge deal. He assumed some people would be angry – he knows the dynamic of our small rural town – but he didn’t think the backlash would be so great.

Following the Pledge, Dana was harassed at school, called a terrorist and told to “go back to the Middle East.” Andrew wasn’t vilified until he contacted a newspaper. This was seen as traitorous by many in the district, set in a town with deeply racist roots (it’s changing, but not quickly enough) and a history of silence about those issues (in 2012, the NY Times published an article describing systematic abuse of Jewish students and the administrator’s lack of action when confronted with that abuse, a situation that led to a lawsuit against the district and a subsequent public uproar). The anger immediately turned to Andrew for “creating an issue by telling the media” and “talking to the media to get attention.”

I guess if a tree falls and no one is there to hear it, it really DOESN’T make a sound. That was sarcasm.

Now to understand Andrew’s motives, you have to understand Andrew. This is a kid with a deep, deep passion for politics and for his country. He knows more about political history and modern politics than 99% of American adults. He has volunteered on local political campaigns and used to ask me to take him to the town’s Democratic Party (a very small minority, I might add) meetings before he could even drive. He wants to change the country, change the world. The highlight of turning eighteen for him – he could FINALLY vote. And he can’t WAIT. He has plans for a political website geared toward educating young people and making politics understandable and accessible to them. He CARES.

Because of the history in our town, and specifically the town’s tendency to shield problems from attention so that everything looks pretty from the outside, Andrew truly believed that this issue would not prompt change unless a spotlight was shone on it. Even at eighteen, he understood that to be overcome, ignorance and prejudice must first be brought into the light, and he knew from the Jewish discrimination suit that the tendency would be for everyone to pretend it hadn’t happened, to avoid talking about it and just move on.

To some degree, I understand this tendency. Unfortunately, the goals of the school district and people like Andrew, like US, are in some ways opposed. The district not only wants to keep things calm, they NEED to. Jobs depend on it, insurance depends on it. And that’s just for starters. But for students like Andrew, the goal isn’t calm. The goal is growth.

This is a complicated issue.

I don’t want to vilify the district here. I think they are in a very tough position, and I do believe the principal at Pine Bush High School cares, and that he wants to see this growth in the town. . He was damned if he did (“Why did you let a student read the Pledge in Arabic?!”) and damned if he didn’t (“Why WOUDLN’T you let a student read the Pledge in Arabic? What about diversity?!”). I understand why the principal apologized immediately following the Pledge, but I wish he hadn’t. In my view, when you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, you choose to be damned on the side of right. You COMMIT and let the chips fall where they may. My grandmother would have said, “Make yourself happy. At least then you know one person is.” I will translate that here into, “Do what’s right. Whatever happens, at least you know you did what’s right.” This is how I’ve taught my children. When you’re in doubt, distill everything to one question if at all possible; What is RIGHT?

Then you do THAT. Because it’s right.

In a district that has severe prejudice (and not just against Jewish people or Muslims, but against African Americans and other ethnicities as well), the right thing here is to say, “Look, we know this is going to painful for some of you, but we’re going to support diversity in every way we can. You may not like some of it, but it’s the way it has to be for our district to move into the 21st century, and for our students to be prepared for the global society they will be entering.”

And then you stick with it.

I understand how difficult this is, especially when so much of this deeply rooted prejudice comes from parents who themselves haven’t moved into the 21st century. It’s been interesting to read the tweets coming from former Pine Bush students in support of Andrew. Most of these kids have gone onto college and now have a broader view of the world. I’m not sure some of them would have stood up for Andrew in this situation back when they lived here. But the real world isn’t like this, and they know that now. We do our kids a disservice to let them think that it is.

The saddest part to me has been the hatred and vitriol directed at Andrew and at our family, many of it from adults across the country. Things like this;

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And this;

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That is difficult to see, and difficult for Andrew to see, but whatever he may say when he’s trying to act like it’s no big deal, the hardest part for him has been going to school and seeing former friends turn their backs on him. And while many of his peers support him, others have bombarded him with tweets like these that are well into cyber-bullying territory even after he tweeted that night, “To everyone who disagrees with my decisions, I respect your right to do so and hope we can have a productive conversation. Goodnight PB.”

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Although, for a little levity, I did appreciate this;

 

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Andrew is President of Debate Club. It’s not a bad strategy.

;)

Andrew’s younger sister has not been immune and has been subjected to shouts of, “Fuck Andrew Zink!” when she walks by people in the hall (sorry for the language, it’s ugly, but so is this). I guess it’s okay to shout things like that – as long as we don’t do it in Arabic.

Is this what we do? Turn our backs on people who have a different viewpoint than us? Turn our backs on people who bring light to a situation that needs to be addressed? Is this what we teach our children? I know they’re kids, but many of them are kids we’ve nurtured since childhood, kids who have been welcomed into our home and family. I’m not going to lie; it’s really, really hard to see them publicly bash Andrew for doing what he thought was RIGHT. Because while Andrew has been the subject of these vicious attacks, many of them from ADULTS from all over the country, he has not once attacked someone personally. Instead, he’s made a point of saying that he respects everyone’s opinions and hopes a productive dialog can be had on the issue.

I can only hope the parents in our community use this as a means to discuss the merit of respectful disagreement as opposed to personal, hate-filled rhetoric. Can we keep talking about this? Can we talk to our kids reasonably, without coloring their minds with our own opinions, about why they feel the way they do? About whether those feelings are a result of reason or emotion? About what to with the negative feelings when they have them?

I hope so. I KNOW there are others here who feel the way we do, but I have to admit it sometimes feels like we’re rowing the boat alone.

On the other side, many, many people have been lovely and supportive.

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How did this happen? The truth is, I think Andrew and this issue have become a symbol for a deep-seated prejudice in our country. It’s hit a nerve, and when you hit a nerve, it hurts for a reason.

Many who have questioned Andrew’s motives in going to the media have asked why he did it. The answer, straight from his mouth, is simple; “I’m really just hoping to start a discussion about what being an American is, and what defines being an American.”

That discussion is being had now. I’m receiving emails and tweets from people who are discussing this issue at work and at home, from teachers talking about it in class. This is how change happens, not by hiding the truth in the shadows, but by shining a spotlight on it. That isn’t always comfortable to people (it has not been comfortable for us), but only then can we begin to affect change.

In the end, I can only find comfort in the words of my amazing son.

“It’s not our language that makes us American, it’s our beliefs.”

Amen, son. Amen.

<3

 

 

 

 

0 likes 86 responses
03/16/15 Uncategorized , Writing , Young Writers Series # , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Online Young Writer’s Series Week Three; Publishing Options

Last week in the Young Writers series we talked about self-editing. Namely, what you should really be looking for when revising your work before passing it on to someone else. I got quite a few messages about the post and am glad it was helpful to so many of you.

This week we’re talking about the different kinds of publishing. Or SOME of them anyway. It used to be that you sent your book to an agent or editor at a traditional publishing house and left it in the hands of universe. There were big publishing houses and small publishing houses, but they all pretty much did the same thing. The big houses just had more money and more clout.

All that has changed over the last decade or so. With the advent of self-publishing, it’s become easier than ever to to see your words in print. But it’s also become more confusing than ever, because now you have OPTIONS, and all of those options come with inherent pros and cons. It can be tough to know what to do and how best to get your work to readers.

And I hate to say it, but there’s no easy answer. Plus, I’m not big on giving people answers. I like to give information instead. Then YOU can come up with your own answers.

;)

Let’s start with TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING. For the sake of this discussion, we’re going to call traditional publishers those that typically pay decent advances and have similar processes when it comes to acquiring new work, marketing, etc. We’re also going to stick with the bigger companies that have been around a while in this category, not because smaller houses don’t add value to the process, but because I’m giving them their own section in Boutique Publishing (below).

When you think of traditional publishers, you probably think of companies like HarperCollins, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Little Brown, and Penguin. But the are lots of companies that would be categorized as part of Trad Pub, and many of the smaller ones are divisions of the bigger ones (called IMPRINTS).

Traditional Publishing is the toughest way to get your work to the general population. This is because to many, it’s still the gold standard in publishing, and there are many layers to the process of being signed with them.

First of all, barring some personal connection to an editor, you MUST have an agent. Editors at traditional publishing houses stopped accepting unaccented manuscripts a long time ago. There are just too many of them, and an agent is one way editors can narrow their focus to work that has, on some level at least, already been vetted by a professional. Once an editor reads your book and likes it, they typically have to take it to Acquisitions, and that means getting a whole bunch more people on board with your book (more on that process in Week Five: How Do I Sell My Book?). By the time your book is actually bought by the publisher, LOTS of people have agreed that it’s a viable book, which means one that will make everyone money. And while it’s sometimes tempting to dismiss this part of the equation, remember that advances to authors cost money. Paying editors and marketing people and cover designers and accountants and legal people cost money. Having offices to do all of this stuff costs money. Marketing books costs money.

So… yeah. I have thoughts on the Trad Pub model of deciding where this money goes (because I don’t always agree), but I’ll save that for another time. For now, let’s just accept that big business costs big money to run, so they’re not going to buy books  they don’t think they can sell.

One note of clarification; just because THEY don’t think they can sell it doesn’t mean it WON’T sell. Keep reading.

;)

So it’s hard to break into Trad Pub, but the silver lining is that there is a certain amount of quality control involved with books that are traditionally published. At the very least, they’ve been edited and deemed good enough to buy by lots of people on the publishing team. That PROBABLY means the book doesn’t suck, and that is worth something to readers, most of whom view books that are trad pubbed as safer bets than books that are, say, self-pubbed (I’m not saying this is always true, just that this is a typical school of thought… keep reading!). Some of that street cred is passed onto you when you publish traditionally. Whatever happens to your book in terms of sales, you’ve SOLD BOOKS to big publishing houses, and that isn’t very easy to do.

Upsides to Trad Pub include more money to spend on advances and marketing. Not that this money will go to you – advances and marketing treatments vary wildly in publishing. But at least you know they HAVE it. It’s also easier to get placement for your book in bookstores, which have limited shelf space and are very picky about what they put on display. Lastly, you have access to a lot of expertise in all facets of publishing, so at the very least, it’s a tremendous learning experience, both on the editorial side (working with a great editor will make you a better writer like nothing else) and with regards to cover design, marketing, etc.

But I’m not going to lie; there are downsides. Remember all that money I told you about? Money for advances and marketing? Well, it’s far from even distribution. One book might get a $5,000 advance and another might get $500,000. One book might get a teeny-tiny marketing budget while another gets a massive campaign. And let me stop you before you say you don’t care about marketing.

You do. You SO do.

That’s because once you publish a book, those numbers follow you to the next book. And the next. If your book doesn’t sell well (which it’s much less inclined to do without significant marketing – there are just SO MANY BOOKS in the world now), your next contract, if you can get one, will likely be much less lucrative, setting you up for an endless cycle of low advance/low marketing that almost assures your authorial demise in Trad Pub. Publishers want to protect their investment, so they spend most of their marketing dollars on books that garner big advances. And those are a tiny minority of books that are bought by them, which means it’s tough for all the other books in the line up to get the kind of attention that makes Trad Pub an advantage over other methods of publishing.

Timing is also a factor with Trad Pub. Because they’re so big and have so many books, your book likely won’t be published until at least a year-and-a-half after the publishing house acquires it (I waited more than two full years for Prophecy of the Sisters).

Lastly, the amount of input you have in a traditional publishing house will likely be small. This is true when it comes to everything – marketing, cover design, even the title of your book. I’ve been lucky with LIES I TOLD, because HarperTeen has been very inclusive about title and design, but that hasn’t always been the case. And the bottom line is this; when you sell your book and accept an advance, you are no longer its sole proprietor.

In a perfect scenario, one where you get a good advance and a great marketing plan and have lots of talented people rooting for you at the publishing house, Trad Pub can be awesome. But that endorsement comes with the caveat that I’ve sold books to four major publishing houses now, and my experiences have been mixed.

Let’s move on!

I’m going to refer to BOUTIQUE PUBLISHING here as companies that are small and/or up and coming. Just a few years ago, these publishers were divided into camps; traditional boutique publishers (small companies who published print books) and digital boutique publishers (those starting to publish books on digital platforms for ereaders). Back then, many traditional boutique publishers didn’t really have a handle on the rise of digital publishing, and digital publishers didn’t have a mechanism for getting printed books into bookstores.

All of that has changed. Most small traditional publishers have become savvy about digital publishing and how to use it to their advantage, and new distributors have stepped up to provide brick-and-mortar placement for boutique houses that once specialized in ebooks. This is all awesome news for writers, so let’s start with the upsides!

Working with a boutique publisher can mean more hands-on input about cover, title, and marketing. This isn’t always the case, but most of the time you have fewer cooks in the kitchen with a small house, and that means you have direct access to the people collaborating on these decisions. Timing can also be accelerated with a small publisher (although not always), meaning your book may make it in front of readers much faster than it would with traditional publishing.

Small publishers tend to cater to niche markets. That means if you write romance or sci-fi or erotica, or any “genre” novel, you won’t be competing against all of those books PLUS books in every other category for a spot. And once the book is published, that publisher may have a loyal following of readers in that genre who trust them to publish the books they like. Translation; sometimes it’s an easier way in.

Most importantly, small publishers can be more accessible to writers both before and after publication. You don’t always need an agent to get your manuscript in front of an editor, and after your book is acquired, you’ll likely have direct access to many of the people on your team.

As with anything, there can be downsides. Easier access and acquisition isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes (not all the time!) a book isn’t picked up by Trad Pub because, well, it’s just not good enough. It could be that it needs more editing or it’s in a waning genre or any number of other things, but sometimes having your book rejected by Trad Pub is a blessing in disguise.

When I first got an agent, we tried to sell my second book. I loved that book. I thought it was absolutely perfect. But it didn’t sell, and while I was super disappointed, I’d spent the months it was on submission working on a Gothic fantasy called Indigo Sky. That book became Prophecy of the Sisters. The failure of my second book to sell prompted me to seek out a new agent, and I ended up with Steven Malk and Writer’s House, who have been amazing to me and amazing for my career. Prophecy sold for a much larger advance than that second book ever would have, insuring me more marketing and a better start in the business. I believe I would have been published either way (I wrote five books in two-and-a-half years – I was DETERMINED), but I think it would have been a rougher start with that second book, and there’s no telling where I’d be now.

The thing is, those editors knew my second book wasn’t ready, even if I didn’t. If I were trying to sell it now, maybe I’d sell it to a smaller publisher or self-pub it. But that wouldn’t magically render it ready. It wouldn’t magically render it GOOD. And do I want a book with my name on it floating around out there if it’s not, at the very least, GOOD?

No.

Small publishers also have less money to spend on marketing, although this is only an issue if we’re talking about the BIG money spent in traditional publishing compared to the small money spent in boutique publishing. If your book falls into the latter category, there might not be much of a difference between small money in Trad Pub and average money in Boutique Pub. Also, your advance with a small publisher will likely be small or even non-existent. Maybe you’ll make it up in royalties, maybe not.

Let’s move on to our last category; SELF-PUBLISHING.

Self-Publishing used to be a four-letter-word in publishing. It was only done (supposedly) by hacks; people who weren’t good enough to sell their books to a “real” publisher. And to be fair, this criticism wasn’t always unfounded. There are downsides to making it easy for anyone and everyone to upload their writing and call it a book. Because let’s face it; writing is harder than it looks, and just because you love to read and own a computer, well, that doesn’t mean you’re a great writer.

Which is not to say you shouldn’t write! I say if something brings you joy, do it! But as a reader, let’s be honest; it sucks to take a chance on a book, pay for it with your hard earned money, and then have it be downright bad.

Luckily, self-publishing no longer carries the stigma it once did, and there are endless resources available to make sure your work is as professional as possible before you show it to the world. You can hire editors and cover designers and even PR people to help you get the word out. And if you’re on a budget, there are countless resources online that will give you information about how to do these things yourself. You can collaborate with other self-published others on Twitter and Facebook, cross-promoting and learning the ropes from each other.

You also have complete control. Over your title, your cover, your release date. Everything. If your cover doesn’t play well with readers, you can change it and have the new one up in twenty-four hours. If you need to make edits after it’s been published, you can do that, too. Your book can be released within days, and your paychecks (if your book sells) will start arriving within a couple of months.

All of that control comes with a price, though, and it’s called RESPONSIBILITY. Your cover will only be as good as the cover designer you hire or the cover you design yourself. Do you have the expertise to do it? Does your cover designer REALLY know what makes for a cover that sells books? Your book will only be as good as  the editor you hire and the revisions you make. Nothing can destroy a book’s potential like a bad editor — or an author unwilling to make the changes necessary for the book to shine. Are you willing to do that? Do you have access to an editor that REALLY knows what he/she is doing? Marketing is a HUGE part of self-publishing. There is no publisher to send press releases or get your book up on Goodreads or give out advance copies to librarians and teachers at conferences. Do you have the time and knowledge to make all that happen?

If so, self-publishing may be for you, and many authors have made a name for themselves (and a good living) doing it.

Bottom line; there are more options than ever for writers. By taking a hard look at your work, your goals, and your resources, you can decide which route is best for you. The good news is, if it doesn’t work out, those other options are still out there, and there’s nothing saying you can’t switch gears later on. Many traditionally published authors are now “hybrid authors”, which means they traditionally publish some of the their work and use other methods as well.

I hope this helps! Please feel free to leave questions in the Comments section. And check back next Monday for Week Four; A Word About Outside Advice.

Because not all advice is good advice.

;)

Also, we’re doing an awesome video project for the LIES I TOLD launch and would love for you to participate! All you have to do is send a video via Skype to LIESITOLD detailing a lie you’ve told yourself or one someone else has told you, how that lie has impacted you or your self-esteem, and how you go about moving on from the lie. The first five people to submit videos win a personal Skype video from me plus a signed hardcover of LIES I TOLD. And I’m participating, too. Yikes!

Check out the details an my video message about the project here.

 

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03/11/15 Contests & Giveaway , Lies I Told # , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Send Us Your Lie!

I have a surprise for you guys! I made you a video message.

:)

As part of the LIES I TOLD launch, we’ll be putting together a video compilation about lies and we want YOU to participate. All you have to do is send a short video message to the Skype address LIESITOLD. Your message should explain a lie someone has told you or one you’ve told yourself, how that lie has impacted you, and how you go about forgiving or moving on from the lie. Once all the messages are received, we’ll put them together with some music and it will be really awesome. Plus, I’ll send personal video messages and a signed hardcover of LIES I TOLD to the first five people to send in their messages.

Oh, and one more thing. I’ll be participating, too, so you’ll get to here a lie of mine as well.

It’s only fair!

Deadline for entries is Tuesday March 24, Midnight EST.

Can’t wait to see your videos!

Also, my shadow and I need a haircut. It’s been a long winter.

;)

 

 

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03/10/15 Life # , , , , ,

The Unessential

Bruce_Lee_Unessential“Hack away at the unessential.”

This is what I’ve been working on the past couple of years. It isn’t easy. If you’re a Pleaser like me, you want to help out, you want to participate, not necessarily because you enjoy it, but because you want to make other people happy (Elizabeth Gilbert has a nice post on FB today about saying No, and that’s very much the same thing). But that’s no good. Then everyone else is happy but you are frazzled and UNhappy, and there is less room for your particular brand of joy because all the corners or your life are stuffed full of the unessential.

You know what happens when I don’t participate? Nothing. Eventually an event comes along in which I want to participate, and I enjoy those quite a lot.

You know what happens when I don’t help out? Someone else does.

There are plenty of things I enjoy participating in and LOTS of ways I enjoy helping out. I’m learning to make my contribution there and trust that there are others in the world who enjoy making theirs where I don’t. It’s left much more room for the essential – family, reading, writing, taking walks, going to the movies. I’m better for it, and I’ve come to believe that being as centered and at peace as possible is the very best thing we can all do for the world at large.

If you’re feeling frazzled, stretched too thin, or generally unhappy, take a few moments to ask yourself what you’d like more room for. What can you hack away at to make those things possible? Some of the things I’ve given up over the past few years include the PTA at my kids’s school, TV (I watch a little bit on Netflix, but streaming means that I’m never a slave to the TV line-up), social events that don’t excite me, and dating. That last one is a biggie! I’ve been single by choice for seven years, because frankly, a significant other just isn’t as essential to my happiness as all those other things I mentioned. Maybe someday that will change, but I’ll deal with that when the time comes.

Make your own list! And as the kids say; you do you.

;)

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03/09/15 Uncategorized , Writing # , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Online Young Writers Series Week Two; Self-Editing

Welcome back, young writers!

:)

Last week we talked about the things you can do now to give yourself a head start if you’d like to write as a career. This week we’re going to talk about self-editing, because while EVERY writer needs an editor other than themselves, it wouldn’t be nice to give your book to someone else without first doing some work on it. That’s because NO BOOK IS EVER “DONE” right after you finish writing it.

One more time for good measure.

NO BOOK IS EVER “DONE” RIGHT AFTER YOU FINISH WRITING IT.

It doesn’t matter how awesome it is or how much you love it. And that goes for every author everywhere.

Even if you circle back and edit as you go (I do this in 100 page increments), you won’t have an objective view on the book until you get some distance from it and then read it front to back. Even then, you will STILL need an outside reader/editor. But they will hate you less because you will have done at least some of the clean up ahead of time.

;)

When I first started editing my work, waaaaaaay back in 2005 when I started trying to get published, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, and to be honest, I didn’t even realize that I didn’t know what I was looking for. Of course, there was the obvious; typos, inconsistencies in the timeline, pieces I’d forgotten to take out when I’d cut other pieces with which they connected, etc.

But I wasn’t focused on the big picture at first. You know what made me start focusing on the big picture? Reading for OTHER people.

I belonged to a few online writer’s forums and began trading work with a couple of people I liked and admired (one of them is now also published, which was so fun and exciting to find out). It was only when I started reading for other writers that I saw the things that REALLY mattered. And it wasn’t typos (although I should say for the sake of clarification that your manuscript shouldn’t be riddled with them).

That was a turning point in my own self-editing evolution, because I was able to look for the things I knew readers would notice.

But before I get to the checklist, I want to stress one very important thing about self-editing; GIVE YOURSELF TIME AWAY FROM YOUR MANUSCRIPT BEFORE YOU BEGIN EDITING.

I know, I know. You’re DYING to read it! DYING to send it out to other people so they can read it! DYING to start querying agents! DYING to put it up on Amazon and Apple and B&N if you’re self-publishing.

But trust me on this; you will NOT see your work objectively until you give your mind time to breathe. Consider it a palette cleanser, like those little dishes of sorbet they give you between courses at super fancy restaurants. Work on something else, read, take walks, hang with friends, watch movies. Anything BUT start revising your manuscript. In a perfect world, you’d be able to give yourself at least a month away from it, but if you absolutely can’t wait that long, promise me you’ll wait at least two weeks.

Pinky promise?

Good.

Once you’ve had a break, go back and start reading your manuscript with these things in mind (this checklist pulls from a talk I give to schools and libraries about self-editing);

1) Setting

Setting is so important to that immersive quality you get in a good book. It’s the thing that makes you really feel like you’re in a different place, like you can taste the food and smell the air and see the trees and flowers and weather unique to that area. A well developed setting makes the reader feel like they are THERE. This was a very big part of Prophecy of the Sisters. The rural New York setting in the late 1800s allowed me to create a lot of the creepy, moody vibe that pervades the book, with fog hanging low over the fields and shrouding the mountains, rain battering the windows, and the wind making an old house creak. In A Temptation of Angels it was Victorian London, its nighttime air sooty with lamp smoke, the clatter of carriages a backdrop to everything outside. In This Wicked Game it was modern day New Orleans with sultry, humid weather, the sound of jazz bands, the smell of magnolias. And in LIES I TOLD it’s a California paradise on a cliff over the water where wild peacocks strut the streets and parrots flit through a thick canopy of trees, the sound of the surf breaking against the cliff like a lullaby to everyone who lives there.

See what I mean? It’s important! And even suburban America has a look, feel, and smell. Your job is to capture it so fully that it almost feels like another character in your book – without distracting from the story.

2) Character Development

This might seem obvious, but the nuances to creating well-rounded characters are many and sometimes difficult to quantify. In short, you want your characters to come on the scene fully developed, with a personality, likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams, habits and tics. And you want your protagonist to change somehow through the happenings of your story. To arc, if you will. The protagonist could start out strong and be broken by the end. He could be broken and grow strong. She could be rigid and unmoving and the grow to see that things aren’t so black and white. The important thing is that your character be so unique that he or she isn’t interchangeable with just anybody.

In Prophecy of the Sisters, Lia starts out the meeker of the two twins and must grow to own the responsibility that is hers, even if it means forsaking her twin. In A Temptation of Angels, Helen evolves from a sheltered, over-protected Victorian girl to someone willing to risk her life to save others. In This Wicked Game, Clare eventually begins to question her disbelief in voodoo, and her harsh judgement of those who practice it, when she realizes that life is a lot more mysterious than we think. In LIES I TOLD, Grace begins to question not only the things other people tell her about herself, but the things she’s believed to be true as well – all in an effort to become more fully HERSELF. Not the Grace everyone else says or believes she is, but the one she in in her heart, and the one she most wants to be.

A big part of the fun and challenge of reading about interesting characters is watching them grow and change. Make sure yours are fully developed from the beginning, and that the main characters make some kind of emotional, physical, or mental journey in the story.

3) Relationship development

This is very similar to Character Development. In real life, our relationships with others are sometimes complicated, full of love and dislike and competition and jealousy and admiration. And as people undergo change, so too, do our relationships with others. This should be reflected in your story. Relationships should be authentic, backed up by what you show or tell us about them. This is easiest to illustrate in a love story. In a good one, we see the gradual progression from first meeting to love through a series of (hopefully realistic) encounters and exchanges. But relationship development can be more complicated when it comes to other types of relationships. If two people have always been competitive, that should be evident, even subtly, in their interaction and/or the accompanying exposition, and that should be true of any relationship you build. If you show us that someone is protective of someone else, that dynamic should be evident throughout, until and if it isn’t anymore.

In Prophecy of the Sisters, Lia and Alice grow from having a slightly distant relationship to being actual enemies, and then find their way back to each other in a more honest way. In A Temptation of Angels, Helen has an adversarial relationship with Darius, Griffin’s older, cynical brother. But in the end, Darius comes to respect her, and she comes to see beneath his brittle facade. In This Wicked Game, Clare and her parents are at odds. Clare doesn’t want any part of voodoo, but it’s an important part of her parent’s history and current business. We see them clash in the beginning, but gradually Clare’s stance softens, and her mother thaws a bit, too. In Lies I told, Grace and Parker start out close, like the adopted siblings they are, then grow apart as their goals diverge.

Whatever the relationships in your story, make sure they are authentic and fully developed. Think about the complexities of your own relationships! Try to capture them on the page.

4) Pacing

Pacing is the speed with which a reader moves through your story, and it is largely dependent on the things you’ve included, the things you’ve omitted, and the way the story is structured.

When I’m preparing to write a book, I use a screenwriting “beat sheet” to outline the pivotal moments in the story (you can find sample beat sheets online). Then I write a 4-5 page summary of the story, laying out those pivotal moments within the narrative of the story. To keep things moving, you want to move between pivotal moments as quickly as possible.

When you read a book that feels slow, it’s often because the writer has rambled a bit in the space between pivotal events. It’s okay to mention what a character’s wearing from time to time, for example, or to show us what they order at a diner. But we don’t need to see what they’re wearing everyday (unless this is a book with a fashion component or it serves the plot somehow), and we don’t need to hear about every meal they eat.

When I was working on pacing it helped me to visually my book like a movie. In a movie if two people are going to a diner to eat, we don’t always see them in the car in the way there. And indeed we SHOULDN’T – unless something happens in the car that is material to the plot or some other important facet of the story. More often than not we’ll see two people agreeing to go to the diner, and then the director will cut immediately to the diner and the conversation that takes place there, because THAT is the next pivotal moment.

See what I mean?

Structure can play a part in this, too. Sometimes we can most easily see the things we need to see with POV shifts or flashbacks. Whatever it takes!

5) Voice

Voice is that intangible quality that makes you feel like you’re inside a character’s head. It’s a hard thing to learn, so I can’t really tell you how to do it. But I can say the best way to cultivate voice is to first look closely at the things I’ve laid out so far. If your setting is rich and atmospheric, if your characters are fully fleshed out, if their relationships with others are real and sincere, voice will often come naturally.

I heard Lia’s voice in my head before I ever started writing. It was somber and a little heavy. Helen’s voice was young and scared in the beginning and grew to be strong and even a little impetuous. Clare was difficult for me at first. She was just a normal, modern girl. How could I make her stand out? I waited for a long time to start This Wicked Game because I couldn’t hear Clare in my head. I thought about her when I drove or when I cooked, imagined what she would think of various things. Then one day, she was just there. Grace came easily to me and by the time I’d written the Prologue, I had her in my head. Her voice in LIES I TOLD is a little sad, a little weary. I had trouble with voice at first in my current WIP, so I wrote a stream of consciousness narrative for each of the two main characters until I felt like I “knew” them.

You can do this too!

Try writing something short from the first-person POV of someone you know. It could be someone from school, a sibling, a friend, your bus driver. Imagine what that person thinks about, what matters to them. There are no rules! Just choose something to write about and go. It can be about that lonely kid on the bus who never talks to anyone on the way home or the bus driver who always looks so tired. What is he/she thinking about? What matter to him/her? Just write a stream of consciousness something in this person’s POV. You can do this anytime you want as an exercise, and you can do it with the characters in your book if you’re having trouble nailing their voice. In the case of the latter, do it until it feels right, because it’s important that you have that down when you begin.

Voice is also YOUR voice. That is, the unique quality to your writing that will make a reader know they are reading a Michelle Zink book or a John Smith book or a Jane Doe book, even when those books seem wildly different on the surface. That isn’t something that can be taught, but it can be cultivated. How?

Simple. You have to write. A LOT.

6) Authenticity

Few things are as important as this. Have you ever read a book and groaned aloud because, well, people don’t TALK like that!?! Or you just know that character wouldn’t do that? In movies this is a big pet peeve of mine. I call it the “Running from an Explosion” effect. It’s like, really? The building explodes  and they just run and they’re okay? They don’t get hit with debris or anything? They don’t get cut or banged up?

But dialog and narrative can be tricky too. Try to hear your characters in your head (having their voice down will help with this) so you can imagine them talking. Remember that most real people use contractions. They do not say something like this. They’re much more likely to say it like this.

;)

I’ve been lucky to have teenagers and young people in my house for the last ten years, so I’m pretty much surrounded by youth speak at all times. The downside is that I probably sound like a sixteen year old sometimes, but the upside is that I’ve always gotten compliments on my dialog. Just remember that speech, like everything else, is affected by character development. A surfer from California probably won’t sound the same as a street-wise kid from New York City, and THEY will probably sound different from someone who’s grown up on a farm.

But one word of warning; don’t make caricatures out of your characters! Just because someone is from the Bronx doesn’t mean they Towk Like This. And just because they’re from California doesn’t mean they’re, like, soooo stupid! Think about your character, where and how they grew up, who they ARE, and let that inform your dialog and the story to make both authentic.

7) Plot

This is kind of a loaded bullet point for the sake of this online series. There are TONS of diagrams and graphs online to illustrate story arc. As I’ve said, I use a beat sheet when I plot out my books, but it doesn’t matter what you use; just make sure your books HAS a plot.

Most plots are made of up the following; Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, and Climax. You could go crazy looking up all the varying perspectives on plot. There are subcategories to the above, and sometimes subcategories to subcategories. But the main thing to remember is that a plot has CONFLICT, and pretty much everything in the book revolves around the resolution of that conflict. Sometimes it helps me to see Conflict as Goal. In Prophecy of the Sisters, the goal was to figure out the Prophecy (first book) and then bring it to an end (in the second and third books). In A Temptation of Angels, it was for Helen, Griffin, and Darius to figure out who was hunting them and why, and then eliminate that danger. In This Wicked Game, it was for Clare to figure out what the mysterious woman wanted and how she was connected to the Guild – and to Clare’s family. And in LIES I TOLD, it’s Grace’s internal conflict between staying on the grift with her family even if it means betraying someone she loves or finding a way to have a real life.

A plot isn’t wandering around in a made-up world seeing interesting things and it’s not just people talking. There has to be a conflict, and from that conflict a goal typically arises (goal=to resolve conflict). Make sure your story has these things, and it will also have the kind of order that makes a book readable and engaging.

Whew! That was quite a lesson. I hope it helps. Please feel free to leave any questions in the Comments section, and please pass this along to any other young writers.

Remember that you can go back and read last week’s lesson about how to prepare for a future writing career. There are lots of different ways to get your words to reader, and next week we’ll be talking about the different paths to publication and the pros and cons of each, including traditional publishing, boutique publishing, and self-publishing.

And you guys! Less than a month until LIES I TOLD releases. Then you can all read Grace’s story.

:)

 

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03/06/15 Contests & Giveaway , Lies I Told # , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

PROMISES I MADE Cover Reveal!

You guys! I honestly feel spoiled these last few days. I’m not sure anyone has a right to so many fun, exciting things in one week. I’ve shared another AH-mazing review for LIES I TOLD (that makes three out of three, including that starred review from Kirkus) plus the absolutely gorgeous beyond-my-wildest-dreams finished copy of the book. And while that may seem like a small thing, covers are SO IMPORTANT to a book’s success, and the amazing design team at HarperTeen really pulled out all the stops, surprising me with a treatment on the back cover that I can only describe as badass (follow me on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram for a look).

But wait! There’s more!

I also get to reveal the cover of PROMISES I MADE (FALL 2015), the sequel to LIES I TOLD. And those of you who have read an ARC of LIES know why getting your hot little hands on the PROMISES ARC is a big deal.

I’m zipping my lips now.

Nope. Not saying one word!

;)

Suffice it to say that after you read LIES, you’re going to want to get your hands on one of these babies.

So without further ado…

 

PromisesIMade HC C

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isn’t she a beauty? I love this cover because it really captures Grace’s fear and isolation in the second book. She looks hunted – and she is.

To celebrate the reveal of this amazing cover for PROMISES, I’m giving away one of my very first ARCs. It’s a precious commodity, guys! But I’m willing to part with it if you’ll help me spread the word. And with that in mind, I’ve set up an easy-peasy giveaway below.

There are tons of day ways to get entries, some of which you can do more than once a day, and some of which are as easy as tweeting or following me on one of my social media platforms (which I know a lot of you already do). Just pick the one(s) that suit you and you’re all set!

P.S. because of Rafflecopter’s rules, this giveaway won’t officially start until Midnight tonight. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you to come back and enter. I was just DYING to share the cover.

:)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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03/02/15 Lies I Told # , , , , , , , , ,

ANOTHER Awesome Review for LIES I TOLD!

You guys! This is crazy! I’m so excited to announce the THIRD (out of THREE!) awesome review for LIES I TOLD, this one from Booklist. “The sense of foreboding that pervades the novel explodes at the end, with irreparable damage to everyone. An addictive read.”

AN ADDICTIVE READ! Woo-hoo!

Full review follows. Thanks Booklist! heart emoticon

Lies I Told.
Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof
Zink, Michelle (Author)
Apr 2015. 352 p. HarperTeen, hardcover, $17.99. (9780062327123).

Grace and Parker were adopted by a couple of con artists. Their cobbled-together family moves from state to state, integrating themselves into wealthy communities, learning the habits of their marks, and then robbing them blind. But the strain of leading this duplicitous life begins to send fissures through the family, and as their double-dealing house of cards comes crashing down around them, Grace’s deepening feelings for the handsome Logan, her assigned mark, only make the situation more complicated and wrenching. Grace is a complex and compelling character. Her parents give her a true sense of belonging, something that was missing while she was in the foster system. But what she fails to recognize, and what causes increasing conflict between her and Parker, is that by making the teens complicit in a series of long cons, her adoptive parents are being psychologically abusive, ultimately destroying Grace’s ability to have any real friendships or relationships. The sense of foreboding that pervades the novel explodes at the end, with irreparable damage to everyone. An addictive read.
— Eve Gaus

:)

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03/02/15 Uncategorized , Writing # , , , , , ,

Online Young Writers Series Week One; Preparation

Welcome to Week One of the Online Series for Young Writers.

*throws confetti and hands you a pretty mocktail*

;)

If you were here last week, you know that I announced this eight-week series as a way to give writing advice for teenagers and other young people. You can find that post, which breaks down the topic for each week, here.

This week’s topic is What You Can do Now (Prepping for Your Future Writing Career). I chose this as a week one topic because it’s one of the questions I get most often at book events when talking to young writers. Sometimes it’s phrased differently.

“What is your best advice for young writers?”

“What’s the most important thing for a young writer to know?”

“Did you write when you were young?”

But these are all really asking the same thing. “What can I do NOW?” And I totally get it. If you’re fifteen or sixteen or seventeen and still in high school, your future as a writer can seem a world away, which can make anything you do now seem pointless anyway.

But it’s not. Trust me.

In fact, this is the BEST time to lay groundwork for your career as a writer. Why? Well, for one, you have more free time than you will ever have in your life (unless you’re training to be a ballerina or for the Olympics trials or something like that). I know it might not seem that way. You have school and friends and parents and chores and homework and school events and probably multiple sports and/or extra-curricular clubs. Maybe even a part time job. But you also have weekends and holidays and breaks. You have TV and social networking time you can trade for time to write or read or research.

And here’s what you DON’T have; kids, a house to run, groceries to shop for, a full time job (probably), a spouse who needs your attention, bills to pay, dry cleaning to take in or pick up, older parents who need you to help care for them, etc., etc.

The truth is, it will never be EASY. Making time for something you feel passionately about rarely is in the modern world. But there are times in life when it will be easier than others, and for 99% of you, this is one of those times.

The other good news is that LOTS of unexpected things fall under the category of preparing yourself to be a writer. Of course, writing is very important.

Writing is good! You should do it as much as you can!

:)

But reading is also part of being a great writer. Stephen King has famously said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

It’s THAT important, guys. So every hour you clock reading? That COUNTS as writing prep. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re reading fiction or non-fiction, whether you’re reading the newspaper or an essay for school. Something crazy happens when you read; your brain processes EVERYTHING, even when you don’t realize it. It’s making little notes about which sentences are pleasing to the ear, which phrases sound “right”. It’s leaving little bookmarks in your brain that your subconscious will go back to later, bookmarks that will tell you (when you’re writing), “That’s too long” or “That sentence sounds clunky” or “That’s not the word I’m looking for” . These bookmarks tell you when you’re bored, when you check out of a story, and when you sit up straighter in the moment a story gets your full attention.

And all that stuff STAYS WITH YOU. It stays with you even if you don’t know it’s there. The next time you sit down to write? Your writing will be informed by all the lessons you’ve learned, often unwittingly, while you’ve been reading.

All of this is why READING is #1 on my list of Things You Need to Make Time for if You Want to be a Writer.

Even before writing.

But of course, writing is next. If you want to be a writer, it’s probably because, well, you enjoy writing.

:)

So make some time for it on a regular basis. It can be every day before bed or every Saturday at 10am, but make time to write SOMETHING, even if it’s just a journal entry or a poem or a snippet of a story idea or a stream-of-consciouness rant about something that’s ticking you off. As with reading, you will learn while you write, even if you don’t realize it. I’ve found that earmarking a certain time of day or certain day of the week for writing makes it more likely that I’ll actually do it (more on this later in Week Seven; Keeping the Balls in the Air (How to Juggle School, Social Life, and Writing)). It can be five minutes before bed in your journal, an hour on Saturday morning to work on a short story, or twenty minutes in Study Hall every other day. But try to find time to write on some kind of regular basis. For me at least, the longer I go without writing, the harder it is to jump back in.

Reason enough to regularly put words on the page!

Now this next one is going to seem obvious. And maybe a little weird because it’s so obvious, but stay with me here.

To be a good writer, you have to THINK.

I’m not just talking about school thinking or studying or thinking about what outfit to wear (although all of those things will also inform your writing in unexpected ways). I’m talking about CHALLENGING yourself to see things in another way.

That kid at school that you can’t stand? What’s his story? What might have made him obnoxious/annoying/rude/disrespectful/ chauvinistic? That person who has a different political viewpoint? Where is she coming from? Does she have any valid points? Can you see why she might feel the way they do? That teacher who seems a little beaten down? What is going on behind the scenes? Has she had a rough morning? What might have happened on in the hours before school (an alarm that didn’t go off in time? A sick child who was up all night? A fender bender? Spilled coffee on a favorite shirt?)? You’ll be surprised by the paths you travel and the ideas you get for stories if you think beyond the obvious.

Which brings me to my next point.

OBSERVE. As writers, most of us do this anyway, but sometimes it’s nice to know all those little thoughts you have throughout the day aren’t for nothing. When you feel anxious before a test, note the physical response; are your hands clammy, is it harder to take a good, deep breath? What does school sound like? What does it smell like? That beautiful sunset? How would you describe it on the page? When you see your crush in the hall, do you feel your cheeks get warm? Do you want to run and hide or profess your undying love? Or maybe both.

;)

All of these things are the stuff of LIVING. And you can’t write about life if you’re not living it.

Lastly, I have a fun assignment for you! Seek out other kinds of stories. Plays! Movies! TV shows! All of these things are stories told in different formats. Not only will they keep your creative juices flowing, but you might just find your interest in writing extends beyond book writing.

Let’s recap! To give yourself the best head start possible for a future writing career;

1) Read as much as you can. Anything! Everything!

2) Pick a consistent time each day or week when you will sit down and write something. Anything!

3) Think. Go beyond the obvious to establish empathy for people who are different than you and to see things in a new way.

4) Observe. Pay attention to the little details that make a story – and life – interesting.

5) Broaden your story horizons.

And lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself. Adolescence is a busy time for most people. Keep your eye on the ball of what you want for your future, but recognize that all the living you’re doing now is setting you up to write about it later. Someday you’ll be surprised at all you did and learned when you didn’t even know you were doing it! And believe me when I say that you have lots of time for other writing-related stuff after high school (and even college).

Feel free to put your writing questions in Comments. And join me next Monday for Self-Editing, a Checklist.

<3

 

 

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02/24/15 Life # , ,

Making Time

Goethe_Things-That-MatterToday I finally thwarted my most used excuse (“I don’t have time”) for not getting yoga and/or meditation in, and I thought I’d share how I did it. It’s simple, too; I no longer allow myself to open my computer in the morning until I’ve done both.

“Attaching” something to an everyday task is the best way to make it a habit. For awhile, I was attaching meditation to my morning shower, i.e. meditation time was right before I took a shower in the morning. But 3-4 days a week I’d find that I got caught up answering emails, posting to my social networking sites (and YOURS! ;) ). I’d look at the time and think, “I need to hurry and shower! I guess I’ll try to get everything else in later.” Except “later” never actually materialized as a good time to meditate or do yoga.

Isn’t that always the case with “later”? He’s a tricky little bugger, isn’t he?

;)

Anyway, I thought about the source of my distraction (work) and decided to try putting yoga and meditation BEFORE it instead of after. And you know what? It worked! I’ve had four solid days on this schedule and I feel SO MUCH BETTER.

Is there something you’ve been wanting to make a daily habit? Try attaching it to something you MUST do every day (like brushing your teeth or eating dinner) – but make sure to attach it BEFORE the must-do event and not after. I hope it works as well for you as it’s working for me.

:)

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02/23/15 Uncategorized

Online Series for Young Writers

I am asked A LOT of interesting questions by readers. Sometimes they’re personal and sometimes they’re about my books, but I’d say at least half of all questions are asked by young writers seeking advice about, well, writing.

And I totally get it! The writing itself can seem like a pretty mysterious process. Add in editing and agents and beta readers and all the different kinds of publishing available now and parents and friends who might not take you seriously and juggling schoolwork and a social life with your writing, and I can see where it could be overwhelming.

Which is why I’ll be launching an eight-week series on this blog geared specifically to young writers. There is no fee and no specific participation required. I’m just going to impart what wisdom I can about this crazy process and its equally crazy business in the hopes that it might help and encourage all the young writers I here from on a daily basis. You can also ask questions in the Comments section, and I will do my best to answer every one. Consider it my gift to you!

;)

So starting next Monday March 2nd, you can visit this blog and check out topics ranging from what you can do now to prepare yourself for a writing career to the merit of agents and editors to what to do if your friends and family don’t support your passion for writing. I can’t promise to solve all your writing-related problems, but I can definitely give you some info that might help you along the way. Readers of any age are welcome, but I’ll be focusing on issues pertaining to teens and college-age writers. Topics will break down as follows;

Week One; What You Can Do Now (Prepping for a Writing Career)

Week Two; Self-Editing, a Checklist

Week Three; Paths to Publication (Traditional Publishing, Boutique Publishing, and Self-Publishing)

Week Four; A Word About Outside Advice

Week Five; How Do I Sell My Book? (A Step-by-Step Walk Through the Process)

Week Six; Agents and Editors (What They Do and Why We Need Them)

Week Seven; Keeping the Balls in the Air (How to Juggle School, Social Life, and Writing)

Week Eight; Rowing Your Own Boat (What To Do If the People Around You Don’t Take You Seriously)

Other than my family, writing is the love of my life. I’m super excited to talk with all my young readers about it, and equally excited to hear your thoughts.

I also want to point out the links to my other social networking sites on my sidebar. Feel free to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr (I don’t always post the same stuff on each site)!

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02/16/15 Life , Recipe of the Week , Recipes # , , , , , , , ,

The Paleo Vegetarian

Whole30Ha! I got you there, didn’t I? That’s because there’s no such thing.

Except there will be for the next thirty days, because today is the first day of Whole30 for me. As many of you know, I’ve been a vegetarian for the last three years (I guess I would technically be a Pescatarian, since I did sometimes eat fish). It wasn’t as difficult a transition as you might expect. I was ready to eat healthier and also wanted to do my part to contribute to a sustainable way of life for the planet (modern cattle and poultry farming techniques wreak havoc on the planet in more ways than one and require WAY more land and water than an equivalent amount of plant food).

To be honest, I was surprised when my teenagers all decided to go vegetarian, too. But they did, and we all went veggie cold turkey. Immediately we all felt better, more energetic, CLEANER.

Until I didn’t.

About a year ago I started feeling sluggish and tired. After an initial weight loss, I actually started to gain weight, something I didn’t understand because I was eating SO CLEAN. Not just vegetarian, but very little sugar or processed food and tons of whole food, veggies, etc. I didn’t notice it right away. It was more that one day I realized I just didn’t FEEL WELL, and when I looked back, I realized I hadn’t felt my best for quite some time.

So I started reading about body chemistry and metabolism and all kinds of other science-y type things, and I came to the conclusion that I am probably insulin resistant. It doesn’t really surprise me. Some of my family members on one side have diabetes, and I’ve always felt a little shaky when I eat too many carbs or too much sugar. My hope that it would be enough to eat clean and include lots if plant protein just didn’t prove true.

In my reading, I came across the Whole30 program, which is a kind of hard-core, 30-day Paleo regimen designed to help you determine which foods don’t work with your body by first eliminating them, then slowly reintroducing them one at a time. The plan relies heavily on animal flesh and veggies (plus smaller amounts of healthy fats and fruit). After reading the book, the science made perfect sense to me, and I definitely recognized some of the symptoms of insulin resistance in the way I’d been feeling. One of the things I like most about the program is it’s reliance on how YOU feel eating certain foods. The first thirty days is the same for everyone (no sugar, alcohol, carbs, dairy, or legumes of any kind), but after that, it’s up to you to decide which of the restricted foods make you feel healthy and which don’t. This makes perfect sense to me. I know lots of vegans and vegetarians who are super fit and healthy and who FEEL GREAT. I also know lots of people on Paleo-type plans who are equally fit and healthy and who also FEEL GREAT. I think the human body is more mysterious than we are willing to admit. A one-size-fits-all nutritional plan just doesn’t make sense to me. Instead, I think it’s wiser to focus on eating whole foods (processed food and sugar isn’t good for anyone) and then pay attention to our body’s cues to determine what’s best for us.

Today is Day One of the program for me, and while eating meat feels strange, I’m excited to see if this way of eating makes me feel better. I’m a big believer in listening to my own instincts – physical and otherwise. I trust myself to know when something isn’t working for me or my body, so I’m putting faith in myself to recognize when I need to make a change. I’m keeping an open mind and will re-evaluate based on the way I feel at the end of thirty days. The Whole30 plan recommends eating humanely raised, pasture fed meat, and I’ll be doing my best to purchase meat from those kinds of sources.

I don’t AT ALL regret going vegetarian three years ago. In many ways, it’s prepared me for this kind of eating plan. I already eat very little sugar, have flirted with veganism and so don’t rely on dairy, and have already all but eliminated processed food  (trust me, when you stop eating it for awhile it doesn’t even taste good anymore). The biggest change will be giving up brown rice and legumes, because they have been a major part of my diet for the past three years. I’m hoping the novelty of meat will take the sting out, at least for the first week or so.

;)

Anyway, I wouldn’t even be mentioning this here except I know many of you follow my vegetarian recipes (oddly, my Vegetarian Stroganoff recipe is one of my highest-ranking posts) and I didn’t want to confuse you. If you found me while looking for vegetarian recipes, I hope you’ll stick around! I share your commitment to a healthy lifestyle, whatever that may be for each of us, and I look forward to keeping you all posted about my progress.

<3

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Michelle Zink is the award-winning author of over seven novels. She lives in New York with too many teenagers and too many cats.
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