Yellow Bird Editors and Self-Editing

Yellow Bird EditorsFor those of you who don’t know, I’m one of the editors at the new editing service Yellow Bird Editors. The company’s moto is “Stand Out. Get Published.” And in today’s market, writers need to stand out more if they’re going to rise to the top and get published. As Foreward Literary agent and founder Laurie McLean said in a 2011 interview, ” The bar has been placed so high for writers,  it’s made it nearly impossible for even the strong writers to break in.” And that’s what editors such as those of us at Yellow Bird can help.

Yellow Bird Editors is founded by editor extraordinaire Sara Kocek, whose novel Promise Me Something will be on shelves Sept. 1. Sara holds an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University, where she taught fiction and poetry. She also earned a BA in English from Yale.

The Yellow Bird team also includes Jan Baumer, a former acquisitions and substantive editor for HarperOne; Stephanie Land, who has 16 years experiences in publishing including a period at Random House; Bethany Hegedus, writing mentor and author of Between Us Baxters, Truth with a Capital T and the upcoming Grandfather Gandhi; Jennifer Ziegler, author of more than 20 books, including How Not to Be Popular and Sass & Serendipity; Jo Whitemore, author of tween humor novels D Is for Drama and others; and E. Kristin Anderson, co-editor of the anthology Dear Teen Me and assistant editor of Vermont College of Fine Arts literary magazine Hunger Mountain.

Together the Yellow Bird Editors edit and coach writers, in all stages of their careers. We also try to teach our clients how to take our guidance and use it in their future writing. I wrote a post on self-editing for the Yellow Bird Editors blog last week. And this week, a few of us YB’ers will be on a panel at the Writers League of Texas monthly Third Thursday event at BookPeople.

In “The Agony of Delete! Tips and Coping Strategies for Revising Your Draft,” E. Kristin Anderson, Bethany Hegedus, Sara Kocek and myself will be giving tips on how to take off your writer hat and switching to hard-nosed editor mode.

If you’re in the Austin area, come and ask question at 7pm on Thursday. See you there!

Reasons and excuses

First a bit apology for not writing for so long, but I hope you enjoyed the interview with author Valerie Hobbs.

So, you might be wondering, why has Day By Day Writer not been writing? Good question, and I have reasons and excuses.

My reasons are:

  • At the beginning of June, my dad had surgery (he’s doing great, thanks for asking) and I went to be with him for the week.
  • The week after I got back, my husband and I visited Austin (three hours drive away) for a couple days as he had a job interview. The day after the interview, he was offered the job and our life got a bit turned over.
  • Cut a long story short, the job is a great opportunity, and within a week after arriving home from my dad’s surgery, I was trying to sort out us moving to Austin.

So, those are my reasons, and as the fellow writers in my writing group told me when I said last week Saturday would be my last meeting, they’re pretty good ones. Sometimes, the rest of our lives do get so busy that it’s tough to make time to write.

But I’ll be honest here, these are also excuses. It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t make the time to write — I could have dragged myself out of bed at 4am every morning and still got an hour or so in — but with everything else in my head, I felt too distracted. My story has been on my mind, my characters have been playing around in there, but every time I thought about facing the page, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I felt that I’d let down those characters, because my mind was more on the packing I had to do, and finding a place to live in Austin. I just didn’t feel creative at all.

The thing is, though, that writers need to write, and now that I’ve been away from my novel for a month, I’m really looking forward to getting back to it. I miss it. I miss my characters and the world they live in.

Sometimes it’s ok to take a break when everything around us gets crazy, but sometimes, when everything else is crazy, that’s when our writing can help us the most.

How do you deal with writing when your life gets a bit too overwhelming?

Write On!

P.S. I’ll write again much sooner this time.

I'm a winner, and 15 great blogs

One Lovely Blog Award logoI was thrilled this morning to discover that fellow blogger Beverley BevenFlores had given me the One Lovely Blog award. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

I enjoy writing this blog for so many reasons, but mostly for having conversations with others. The blog keeps me accountable to my writing, and helps me share what I learn, my triumphs and my challenges. I love writing it, but it’s especially great when I hear from others that they like it too.

The best part of this award is that I now get to bestow it on 15 more blogs. I’d love to award Beverley BevenFlores again, because she has a great blog. But I think the idea is to pass it forward.

For the bloggers below, congratulations! Please write about the award on your blog, award 15 more, and let them know in an email or comment on their blog.

1. Elana Johnson, a young adult author with great insight into the writing world.

2. Writer Unboxed, a collection of published authors who offer great advice and encouragement.

3. Anita Nolan, a children’s book writer who is in touch with the latest news in the publishing industry.

4. Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent with great advice for all writers.

5. Pub Rants, another great literary agent blog filled with industry insights and advice on query letters.

6. Literary Rambles, writer Casey McCormick has a not-to-be-missed set of agent spotlights that are indispensible to anyone doing agent searches.

7. Kidlit.com, another agent blog for Andrea Brown Literary’s Mary Kole.

8. Storyfix.com, great articles on the craft of writing from author Larry Brooks.

9. Cec Murphey’s Writer to Writer, great tips on the nitty or gritty of writing, like grammar.

10. Paperback Writer, fun articles about the writing life from author Lynn Viehl.

11. Guide to Literary Agents, a blog guide for writers.

12. Writer’s First Aid, a blog by author Kristi Holl about easing the pains of the writing life.

13. Market My Words, a blog by author Shelli Johannes about marketing children’s books.

14. Jordan McCollum, a romance writer on her writing journey.

15. Write to Done, a blog by Leo Babauta about motivation, inspiration and all the other things writers need.

Check out all these great blogs. They’re all in my Google Reader and I read them often.

Great blogging, and Write On!

Book promotion tips

Here’s my fourth and last blog post with notes from the North Texas SCBWI conference. (See why I rave about conferences? If nothing else, they give you lots of fodder to write about on your blog. 🙂 )

Illustrator Melonie Hope Greenberg gave a presentation on marketing with some very useful tips. Melonie has illustrated a number of picture books, and had a circuitous journey to get there, as she reinvented herself time and again.

The biggest take away I got from Melonie’s presentation is how much work it can take to promote your book and make it a success. Melonie showed her boxes of index cards filled with contacts from the media, bookstores, editors, etc. No only is she constantly promoting her books, but also herself as an illustrator to get future work.

To promote both her artwork and picture books, Melonie regularly sends postcards to contacts to keep her top of mind. And a lot of work goes into keeping her contact lists up to date, especially with people moving jobs.

One of Melonie’s best tips, in my opinion, was Google Alerts. (If you haven’t heard of these, Google allows you to set up alerts for specific keywords then will email you links to the top 20 web pages that have those keywords. The top 20 changes constantly as new pages are uploaded or old pages get more traffic, so you can keep the alert going for a while.) I had heard of using Google Alerts to keep track of reviews and other mentions of your name or book. But Melonie said she sets up Google Alerts for her book’s subject matter, and when she’s sent notices about other websites writing about that topic, she sends them a postcard about the book. For example, if she had a book about lighthouses, she would set up a Google Alert for lighthouses, and if, say, she gets an alert about a lighthouse club in Maine, she can send them a postcard about the book to spread the word.

And spreading the word is what it’s all about. Melonie showed that it can be a lot of work, but the pay-off — a successful career as an illustrator or writer — is worth it.

Write On!

It's Blog Action Day!

Done today: First half of Chapter 2 (two pages)

Revision remaining: 163 pages

Daily pages needed to be finished by end of November: 3.5

Today I’m blogging as part of Blog Action Day, along with more than 5,000 bloggers around the world. How fun! The topic is climate change.

Now, I’m no scientist, and there are plenty of studies floating around that say the world’s climate is changing because of our negligence and plenty of others that say the climate change we’re seeing is just part of the ups and downs that have brought ice ages to the planet long before we got here. So, what to believe? Are our smoggy cars, polluting factories, etc., slowly destroying our planet?

Well, here’s the way I see it: Does it make a difference? Climates are changing, but whether it’s from pollution or not, there is something we know for sure that pollution gives us — lung problems. Too much bad stuff in the air causes more asthma and other diseases, and we don’t need any more of that — especially with the cost of health care. 🙂

Now, this is a writing blog, so here’s the writing part. In most books, the nice parts of stories take place in areas with lots of trees, green grass, clean air and the people are happy and smiling. (Look at all those allergy commercials.) Horror stories happen in drab, rundown factories or buildings with rain pouring outside. Ok, this is a generalization, but I hope you’re getting my point. Nice = green and clean, bad = polluted and rundown.

That’s not to say I think we should all sells our cars and not use electricity. My husband’s a Mustang fan, and I don’t think they’ll be selling them as hybrids any time soon. But that’s ok. The important thing is that we do what we can to reduce our impact. And, I think it’s very important for corporations to do EVERYTHING they can. Per capita, they have a lot more of an impact then us individuals.

Anyway, I for one, will be looking forward to more blue skies and clean air in books and real life.

Write On!

Blog Action Day

I was going to do something writer-related this morning, I really was. Then I glanced at my Google Reader and saw a cool post on A Writer’s Edge about the blog participating in Blog Action Day. I watched the YouTube video (see below) and thought, Cool! I want to do that.

Next I went to the Blog Action Day website to register my participation and they asked a simple question that took me about two hours to finally figure out I couldn’t answer: How many RSS subscribers does your blog have?

I figured WordPress would have this information. I mean, it’s good information for blog owners to be able to access even if you’re not signing up for Blog Action Day. But it turns out that — if my two hours of research is right — WordPress used to have this information, then switched it off and eventually replaced it with what WordPress has now: subscriber stats for each blog post, but not total subscriber stats for the blog as a whole. Cool, huh? Uh, no.

Isn’t subscriber stats for the blog as a whole much more useful than stats for just one post? Or maybe having both would be best. At least for those of us who want to participate in Blog Action Day. (By the way, I ended up putting “don’t know” in that field when I registered.)

I don’t mean to criticize the people who keep WordPress going. I’m using the free service and I love it. It’s easy to post, easy to maintain, a little clunky here and there, but hey, it’s free. And one of the things I like best about WordPress is that my readers don’t have to login to anything to comment, which I find frustrating with some other blog tools. And for all of this, I am grateful and say a hearty Thank You to the WordPress team. However, if the WordPress people are reading this, if you can bring back the Feed Stats I saw in my research that I think you had in 2006, that would be sooo awesome, and I don’t think I’m the only WordPress user who thinks this.

In my research, I did find out that I have a number of readers who subscribe to this blog, judging by the single-post stats I looked at. And, for those of you who do, thanks! I’m glad you found me and I hope you’re continuing to get something good out of Day By Day Writer.

Now, onto what started all this: Blog Action Day. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it sounds awesome. Basically, on Oct. 15, all the blogs that have registrated will talk about one subject, this year, climate change. Whether you believe we’re killing the world or it’s just nature moving along her course, I think there are things we can do to clean up our act. I don’t know if we’ll save the world with it; I’m no scientist, and the data we have seems to go both ways. But it seems to me that if steroids in our food is hurting us and pollutions in our air is giving our kids asthma, that’s a good enough reason to clean up. Hey, what does it hurt?

So, on Oct. 15, I’ll blog about that with a bunch of other blogs around the world. (Might even cheat and write it early and set it to post on Oct. 15 so I don’t forget.)

If you’d like to join in or just learn more, check out the video:

Sleep, energy for the writer's soul

Current word count: 20,893

New words written: 992

Words til goal: 19,107 / 434 words a day til the end of September

I got passed the 20K mark this weekend, which means my current word count will now always be larger than my words til goal. How fun! It’s the little things, you know?

This weekend, I added some new earlier chapters and reworked some of those already written to take into account the new things I have discovered about one of the main characters. Then this morning, I got back onto continuing the story, with the better character information I now have.

I also found some interesting articles about energy and sleep this weekend and wanted to share. I think sleep and energy can both be difficult sometimes for us writers who are also working a day-job and taking care of families. Even for writers who are already established, working on multiple projects can be stressful and make sleep a challenge.

This article came through in an enewsletter I routinely get in my inbox, and I thought it had some useful ideas on ways to combat the things that keep us awake at night. I find my biggest problem is lying down and my mind going wild with thoughts about things I have to do, my books, query letters, even songs. I haven’t tried the getting up and walking around suggestion given in the article for thinking too much, but here’s one solution that I have tried that can work well sometimes:

Think of what you did today. I read about this years ago and have used it to lull myself to sleep a few times. The idea is that your mind is active when you’re thinking about things that are new, that haven’t been processed yet, like the items on your to do list. However, you mind will relax if you think about things the mind has already processed, like what you did that day. So, what I do is force my brain to list everything I did today in a monotone list: Got up, brushed my teeth, washed my face, showered, made breakfast, ate breakfast, wrote, etc. etc. Sometimes, my mind is too active and just wanders away from the list, but sometimes this works to relax me enough that I’m asleep before I’ve gotten through my morning’s activities.

List names in alphabetical order. This used to work for me a lot better, but can still help sometimes. It’s going from A to Z in your mind list one name for each letter, like, Anabelle, Brian, Christine, Denise… Sometimes I make it all girls names, or all boys names, but the point is actually to not think too much. It should be something you do monotonously so your brain can calm down.

Stay clear of the computer at bedtime. I know some people write at night, and you should do whatever works for you, but a doctor told me once that doing computer work or something so brain-active is bad just before you go to bed because it keeps your brain awake. Watching TV is better because you don’t have to think — what does that say about the state of TV shows? 🙂

Now onto the energy part. I found this article, 8 Tips for All Day Energy, in the same enewsletter and I thought it had some interesting suggestions I hadn’t heard of before.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time. This one I’ve heard before. A doctor told me to do this a while ago, but after reading this article, I’m trying to get better at it. I think it’s definitely true that we all have an internal clock that we go by. If I want to sleep in, my body still wakes up when the alarm clock usually goes off, no matter what time I went to bed.

Wake up to light. This was a new one to me, but I think it works well. I write in the mornings, getting up between 5 and 6, depending on how many times I hit the snooze button (thank God my husband is a heavy sleeper 🙂 ), so it’s dark when I get up. I used to say my morning prayers, then drag myself to my computer and type away with only the moonlight shining in. But since reading this article, I turn on the light, and I find I wake up much quicker and easier. I still fall into a tired zone a few hours later, but I think it helps a lot with my writing hours.

When do you write? Got any more energy tips?

Write On!

Writers are never alone

Check-in: Another chapter and a half done on the rework of my first novel.

Now, here’s a great author article to read. I loved this Washington Post article about author Elizabeth Strout, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge. Strout, the article says, lives in a “modest apartment near the East River features a view to the north of 72nd Street and an air conditioner that starts spitting smoke the moment it’s turned on.” (Remember what I said about best-selling writers’ earnings yesterday?)

What’s wonderful about this article is that I can see so much of my writing experience in what Elizabeth says, like the epiphany she had while struggling with one story and finding the answer in another (bottom of the first page). That has happened to me, and I credit a lot of the changes I’m making in my first novel with the fact that I moved on to novel number two. That experience gave me the ability to look at my first novel in a different way.

The fun thing about reading about other writers is seeing yourself in them. Because no matter whether they’re best-selling authors or writers working to sell their first book, all writers share certain experiences, like those days when inspiration is nowhere to be found, feeling of insecurity and those epiphanies when everything comes together and you wonder whether you it came from you or something devine, because it’s so perfect. We all have these times, but it’s always good to be reminded that we’re not alone.

How’s your writing experience going?

Write On!

Author website page

Current word count: 17,995

Words written today: 647

Words til goal: 22,005 / 360 words a day til the end of September

Additional writing: revised chaper 21 and figured out that chapter 22 should really be folded into 23. That’s next.

The new Author’s Website page is up, and you can see it through that link or in the nav bar.

I started this after yesterday’s post about Gwen Cooper’s new website, which looks awesome. And the new page includes her site as well as the websites of those writers who posted their site addresses in the comments. If you’d like yours included, post a comment here or on the Authors Website page and I’ll add them to the list. I’ll also add other author websites as I find them. I think it’s useful to be able to check out websites for authors.

The list has two unpublished writers, and I think it’s great to include them too.

I don’t have a website for myself as yet, although I do have one for my Sir Newton Books, www.sirnewtonbooks.com, and I have a brief bio on there.

I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to set up a website for yourself before you’re published, but I’m not sure where I stand on that. It can’t hurt, I don’t think. But is it necessary? I’m not sure. I have this blog, and I think that’s enough promotion for me for now.

But what do you guys think?

Write On!

More on putting rejections in perspective

Current word count: 14,322

Words written today: 1,183

Words to goal: 25,678 / 347 words a day til end of September

After two days off, I got in a good couple hours on my new book this morning, and it feels so good. The story is there, but the writing’s not great. But that’s what revisions are for.

On Monday, I wrote about things to consider when we get rejections from agents. Rejections can sting, and can make us feel insecure about our writing. Of course, we would love it if every person in the world thought every sentence we write is the best thing since slice bread, but we have to be realistic. Art — and writing is art — is subjective, after all.

So it’s really important to keep rejections in perspective. Mystery and thriller writers’ blog The Kill Zone has a great post from agent Anne Hawkins, of John Hawkins & Associates, in which she talks about why good agents turn down good books. Anne reinforces what I said on Monday about personal taste and an agent’s need to really love a book to take it on. She also adds a few more: saleability of a book, because, of course, publishing is a business; length; author; timing; and conflicts of interest with current clients’ work. It’s a great look into the considerations an agent must give every project they’re offered.

For the writer getting the rejection, we often won’t know what the reason is. Most of the time we’ll get the standard “it’s not for me” form letter. Sure this can be frustrating, but as agent Janet Reid pointed out this week in a post called A Reminder That No Means No, it’s not an agent’s job to tell writers why their work isn’t right for them. And when they’re reading hundreds of query letters a week, plus requested manuscripts, clients’ manuscripts and contracts as well as selling and negotiating for their current clients, it’s understandable that they don’t have the time to give personal feedback to every query they receive. Think of how you would feel if your agent delayed getting your book out because she was writing personalized emails to every query she received.

So what’s a writer to do when we get rejections: First, don’t let it get us down. Keep things in perspective.

Have you sent out 10 queries and gotten no requests for the material? If so, rework your query letter. Are agents asking for fulls or partials but not offering representation? If so, consider your work. Is your opening the best it can be? Is your book the best it can be? Does it need another revision? If you can look at your work and say you’re truly happy with it, then you’ve just not yet found the right agent. Continue to research agents and send out your work. If you persevere, you’ll find the right match eventually.

But most important of all, don’t let a rejection stop you from writing. The best thing you can do to combat a rejection is to write something else. Agent Rachelle Gardner suggests this in her recent post entitled Write Another Book!

If you don’t attract an agent with your first project, you will with your second, or third. Nowadays, agents don’t have the time they once did to take on books that need a lot of work. So your manuscript has to be at a higher standard. The more you write, the better your work will get. And once your writing has secured that agent, there’s nothing to say those earlier works might look better now.

So, keep rejections in perspective, and remember author J.A. Konrath’s quote: There’s a word for a writer who never gives up — published.