When to Make the Leap to a New Series

fmd_cru6otk-cathryn-laveryHave you ever written a note from yourself to yourself?

I did.

It was back when I first started writing. I wasn’t convinced I could finish writing an entire book, much less beat the odds and get published.

So I wrote a note to myself promising my future self that I would not give up on writing until I’d received over a thousand rejections for my manuscript.

Fast forward to heavy rewrites, beta readers, countless vacations spent editing, and slashing my word count like a ruthless ninja, and my novel still isn’t where I want it to be. The second book in the trilogy is nearly written, the characters loveable and the plot thickening, and yet… the first book in the series is still not query ready.

Ever found yourself in this boat?

The pressures of new jobs, moves, injuries and more steal you away from your love of writing and you can’t quite seem to get where you need to be?

That’s where I was.

Then a major life event happened. I moved from Texas to Beijing!

I’d always wanted to write a book set in China and I figured this was the perfect time. When else would I have so much inspiration?

I shelved my first series and started a new one.

I’ve only been in Beijing for six months but I’ve already more than half way done with my first draft.

It’s crazy the amount of inspiration I had just from moving here. I started a file on all the interesting things I noticed about Beijing. I wasn’t sure if I’d necessarily use them all but I wanted to write them down before they became common place and I over looked their uniqueness.

Here are a few random snippets from that file:

  • I have to wear a giant mask most days to work due to the pollution. My friends all make fun of me and say I look like Baine from Batman. Great… just the look I was going for.
  • There’s a guy who’s pet dog is named Baozi (aka named after a breakfast food) because it was addicted to eating baozi
  • There’s this beautiful part of the city called the Hutongs which are a preserved cluster of ancient Beijing. It’s like stepping into a time warp.IMG_8448

[Pictured left: me on a nice summer day in my “Baine Mask”]

Simple notes like those can turn into significant parts of the plot.

For example, I was fascinated by the Hutongs. Walking through them was almost surreal. One second you’re walking in modern day Beijing with sky scrapers and cars, the next there’s nothing but three-wheel bicycles and ancient buildings. I wrote a short description of the Hutongs that ended up turning into a scene, which turned into a major part of the plot, which turned into one of the main themes of my book.

For my first series, what inspired me were the majestic Sichuan mountains. My plot developed on a tiny little black notebook on a two-week trip I took to those mountains.

For my newest book, the city of Beijing did the trick. Exploring The Great Wall, local markets, interesting restaurants, and people watching gave me so much inspiration.

Sometimes, its ok to put the series you’ve been writing down for a little while and go get fresh inspiration. Just don’t give up!

As for me, I haven’t forgotten my first labor of love. Once I finish my first draft of my new Chinese series, I’ll go back and finish editing. Hopefully, I’ll have fresh inspiration and clarity from taking a nice long break from it. For now, I’m enjoying the change of scenery and my new series.

Where are you at with your stories? Are you stuck on one? What will it take for you to finish your first love?

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Candace signing off from a coffee shop in Beijing.

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Pen Name or Not? What Authors Say…

Behind the scenes in my author circles there’s been an ongoing discussion:

Do I choose to have an ALIAS or not?

What are the pros and cons of a PEN NAME?

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So, I asked a group of authors to give me their opinions on pen names. Here are their responses.

Tobie Easton Ya Author of the Mer Chronicles

“I like that pen names give authors more chances to write in different genres and connect with readers who have a variety of interests. It’s also always fun when you find out an author you love has another pen name for you to check out!”

Katie Zhao, Author of The Dragon Warrior (Oct 2019)

“I used to want to have one, but that was mainly so others wouldn’t know that I’m an Asian author. Now I’m very proud of my identity and no longer want a pen name because I want readers to know that I’m a Chinese American author.”

Ashley MacKenzie

“I use a pen name for my romance projects, and my own name for YA. My agent essentially treats me as two different people — or tries to. The biggest issue I’ve had is trying to leverage my existing network under a new name, when the whole point of the new name was to keep my two “lives” separate.”

Lorie Langdon, YA author of Olivia Twist and the DOON series

“I have a pen name out of necessity. My real last name is Moeggenberg and no one can pronounce, spell, or remember it. Also might be hard to fit nicely on a book cover! ;)”

Kim Gabriel, YA Author of Every Stolen Breath

“Pen names can be advantageous for authors trying to keep their writing life and personal life separate, or for those authors with really terrible or embarrassing real names, they are equally worthwhile.”

Kit Grant, Author of upcoming debut, A Court of Miracles

“I have several pen-names. Firstly to separate my business (authoring) from my personal life. I prize privacy for myself and family, and whilst many creatives and celebrities have built a brand around themselves as a person, i personally have zero interest in my person, my face, my life, being the public face of my work. I want my creative work to speak for itself and be appreciated or rejected without who I am influencing that in any way.

Secondly to separate my endeavours/projects from one another. I’ve seperate pen-names for genre branding I’ll be Kester Grant for MG through Adult genre fiction (SFF, Mystery etc…), but Kit Grant for picture books. If I delve into lit fic, non fiction or romance (all of which I have plans to do) then i’d prob sprout another name for the same reasons. For industry-branding, I do some illustration work, and I’m planning on tackling a non fiction botanical illustration project, this along-side anything that’s not related either in tone (narrative, genre, quirky, storytelling) to my writing or childrens book illustration would be done under another pen-name. I have a small side-business repurposing global textiles into home goods – that’s under another name also. From watching other author, illustrator and artist friends, and studying the careers of authors who write prolifically across genres my personal feeling tis that if your audience won’t cross-over to the work you’re doing, then rebrand it under another name so that your brand is as clean, and easily comprehended as possible. on the other hand if your work (from fine art to books) was in the same brand & tone (i.e Carson Ellis) – then there’s no need to create a fresh brand each time. There’s also the damage control aspect of separate pen-names; if something befell one pen-name i’d hope it wouldn’t taint all my other endeavours.”

Laura Frances, YA author of the dystopian, Slave Series (book 1 is free right now on kindle!)

“There are probably so many things a person could say about pen names, but what comes to mind is fear. It’s not why I used a pen name…mine IS my name, just minus the last part. But, here’s an angle: Sharing written creations can be honestly terrifying for an author. Perhaps pen names serve as a buffer, separating work from personal life enough that the writer gains a bit more courage.”

Christina June, YA author, No Place Like Here:

“While pen names are certainly one way authors can protect their privacy and differentiate between the genres they write, they can also be used to to honor others. People ask me often if June is my middle name or the month I was born, but I chose it because it was my grandmother’s middle name and I wanted to share that with her.”

Evie Gaughan, author of the The Story Collector

“I’ve always thought that pen names create a wonderful sense of intrigue and can offer the author greater creative freedom. I did toy with the idea of a pen name, because I didn’t think ‘Gaughan’ was very catchy! But hopefully I’ll be proved wrong :)”

Rebecca Sky, author of Arrowheart and Heartstruck

“A pen name is just another avenue for the author to tell a story: it hints at the kind of person they are and the kinds of stories they write.”

Ernie Chiara, “I use a shortened version of my real last name. I’m not sure anyone even knew until I filled out my agency contract with “writing as Ernie Chiara”, and no one has mentioned it since.”

*Other thoughts from authors on pen names were:

Con: It was hard to manage two social medias/keeping things straight.

Pro: Fans with no boundaries don’t know who you really are.

Example: “I didn’t want to use a pen name and my agent strongly urged it because of what I write. Then, I got my first fan mail after my book went up on NetGalley. “Hi, hi, OMG, I love your book. Just loved it. Where do you live? I loved your character so, so much. Says you live in the North of the city? I live… Do you have any appearance scheduled? I’d love to meet you. Did I tell you how much I think your character and I could be best friends?”

Pro: Publishers are mostly good with pen names.

*There have been times where publishers wanted to keep the more exotic name instead of using an easier pen name.

*All contracts are signed under real last name, example. Real Name writing as Pen Name

Pro: Pen names can be used to sell novels (that haven’t sold to larger traditional publishers) to smaller publishing houses or self-publish. I have several pen names out there!

Con: People not knowing what to call you or you not knowing what to call yourself.

Pro: I chose a name that is easier to pronounce than my full name.

Pro: “Some authors have used a pen name for new projects as a way to start fresh if their old projects were not successful.”

 

YOU: What are your thoughts on pen names? Why would you choose to have one or not?

 

Books & Love,

Nova

 

Author Interview: Astrid Scholte

Pen Friends ~ As a 2016 PitchWars mentee, I’m giddy to tell you that my fellow 2016 PW tribe member, and YA debut author, Astrid Scholte‘s incredible, fast-paced, and highly anticipated fantasy, FOUR DEAD QUEENS will be out in the world in February! Her story of perseverance and hard work is inspiring. Enjoy the interview!

 

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SP: Hi Astrid! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE for you to share with our readers a bit of your inspiring (never-giving up) writing journey. Who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

AS: Thanks so much for having me! Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be an author, writing my first “novel” at age 5. Another love of mine was drawing so I thought a picture book illustrator would be the dream job. Back then, I thought I could illustrate my own books. It wasn’t until much later that I found out most authors don’t also illustrate their work.

While my passion for writing was there from a young age, I pursued a career in 3D animation and visual effects as I also had a love for the magic of movie making. I studied 3D animation at university and have worked (and still do!) in the film, TV and animation industry for the past 10+ years. Working in film production is a taxing job, with long hours, so my writing took a back-seat for a few years. It wasn’t until 2012 that I finally finished a novel. It was a YA paranormal romance and I thought for sure it would get published!

I attempted to be published here in Australia, where you can submit to publishers directly. After getting close with one publisher (or what felt like close at the time as they gave a detailed, positive rejection) I decided to query agents in the USA. Over 100 rejections later, with only one full request, I realized that like many of the characters in YA paranormal novels, the genre was also dead.

That year, I attempted Nanowrimo for the first time and wrote 50K words of what would become my second completed YA novel, an elemental YA fantasy. This time, I went straight to the USA, as I’d been told that speculative fiction was a difficult sell in Australia. I amassed around 80 rejections, but has 12 full requests and some positive feedback. The common feedback I kept hearing was that YA fantasy was over saturated and mine wouldn’t stand out in the market.

So I decided to try one more time. (In truth, I’m sure I would’ve kept going!) I wanted to combine all the things I loved about YA and fiction, including twists, morally gray characters, forbidden romance, secrets and murder mysteries. I also wanted to query as quickly as possible as I’d spent years on failed manuscripts. This book was Four Dead Queens and it ended up getting into PitchWars in 2016, landing me an agent a week after the competition ended, and a publishing deal less than two weeks after going on submission! Luckily I didn’t give up!

Overall, it took me 10 years of writing seriously and 5 years of attempting to get an agent and publisher before I got my offer.
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Guest Post: Championing Our Words

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My writing dream all began when an innocent teacher said the fateful words, “Wow! You’re a good writer!”

And a monster was born.

I’ve been writing since middle school, more seriously since high school, and first tried to get published over five years ago. (*I’m still not yet published.) Over that period of time, I’ve made a lot of  mistakes and learned many valuable lessons. But here I am still plugging away at my writing & publishing dream. Why do we writers torture ourselves this way?

We have words inside us that need to be heard.

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The Querying Show, Episode 1

peter-lewicki-411606-unsplash.jpgWelcome to The Querying Show’s First Episode!

Each week for the next six months you will witness every juicy (or completely stagnant) detail of our SP Staff Member’s querying life in the SLUSH PILE!

(Check out our rules and reasons in our intro post here!)

Will CR’s/Write_Or_Left achieve AGENT success? Will it result with a querying and MS reboot? Follow us to see how Write_Or_Left ‘s querying journey will end up!

Today is the beginning of his journey. Let’s check in our with brave querying fellow and see how he began.

SP: Greetings, CR/Write_Or_Left ! First, we want to know how you’re feeling with this whole OPEN, VULNERABLE, POTENTIALLY EMBARRASSING, JOURNEY you started with The Querying Show? Continue reading

Author Interview: Brittany Fichter

Pen Friends ~ Get ready for a long string of author interviews this month! We just love learning from other authors and hearing their stories from dreams to publication. We hope you do too!

Today’s interview is fantasy and fairytale-inspired author, Brittany Fichter! If you love fairytale spin-offs and heart throbbing arcs and characters, you have a list of books to choose from–See below for Brittany’s book pics!

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SP: Hi Brittany! Thanks for joining us. First, please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

 

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What To Do In That Post-Conference Glow

It’s Conference Season, Pen Friends! If you’ve ever been to a writer’s conference, you know the wonder and the crazy exhaustion and overwhelm that come as a result of being immersed in a gathering of a couple hundred (or more) writer friends.

I just got back from Realm Makers in St. Louis, and as I myself am feeling the end-of-conference feels, I thought I’d share this #throwback post for you in case anyone else is going to be conferencing soon (or if any of my fellow Realmies need a boost as they readjust to real life).

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How I Got My Agent, Guest Post by Ellen McGinty

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Lately, a lot of my friends are doing these “I got an agent” posts. I love hearing their stories. But if you haven’t got there. If your critique partners haven’t got there. It’s OKAY. Where is “there” anyway?

Go climb mountains.

Tear down lies.

Celebrate life NOW.

And yes, I can say that with two kids under five, hay fever stalking my house, and depression howling like the wind. This is a journey. It’s a loooong one and I need lembas bread, not just potatoes.

WRITING THE BOOK

It took me years to write my first book, THE WATER CHILD. I wrote chapter by chapter and revised the plot umpteenth times before it was right. SCWBI, critique partners and amazing sensitivity readers encouraged me, many urging me to query. Of course, there was also hard feedback, things I had to change and consider. Places I had to stand my ground. But I grew as a writer and as a person.

Along the way I learned one key thing: Self-pity and excuses waste a lot of time.

Truth is, I have enough time every day – but I have to choose what to do with it. I am responsible for my writing, no one else, and certainly not the ticking clock. At the same time, I’m not superwoman, so I’m learning to practice self-care and seek help when needed.

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QUERY

My First Conference.

My First Query (I think – I wasn’t keeping track at the beginning!)

Like any proper introvert, I tip-toed into my first writing conference. I hid myself in a corner during the session breaks to scribble story ideas instead of mingle. But, I’d signed up for a query and first chapter critique with an agent.

The agent didn’t smile. She leaned across the table with my precious pages in hand.

My back pressed against the conference chair, too-stiff, nervous. I think she hates it.

“Your query is crap,” she said.

Yep, she hates it.

“And I want to see the full manuscript. I’m getting drinks later, come and we can chat about your book.”

Shock – a lot of it. The agent bought my dinner, offered pointers on query and character, and introduced me to publishing friends. It was my first conference and I felt like a little peon accidentally invited to a ball. A not-so-conventional introduction to querying.

From there, I queried about 30 agents. In retrospect, I began querying my novel too early. It was my first completed manuscript and I didn’t know much. But about half of the queries resulted in requests for fulls or partials. I’ve heard those are good stats, but at the time I found it confusing. Why the interest? And what was missing?

I stepped back to revise with feedback and then tried again. But this time, with contests!

PitchWars: I didn’t get in, but I met the wonderful Jess Calla who encouraged me and believed in my story. She also introduced me to the Writer Twitter Sphere. Hurray!

PitchSlam: I revamped my query and found the true heart of my story. This resulted in an overwhelming number of requests but my story was still missing something…

Pitch2Publication: editor Lindsey Schlegel suggested I write a prologue. Something I’d always opposed but after I wrote it, I LOVED it! I met some of the most amazing writers and critique partners through this competition. I wish I could list them all by name, but a special thanks to Tara Lundmark, Anne Rowland Stubert, and Carolyne Topdjian for their insight and friendship! Critique partners are special people – cherish them!

Personally, Twitter contests helped me grow the most in the querying process. I found community and editors/agents who spoke into my book and believed it would find a home.

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THE AGENT

Then, on a twitter pitch contest, an agent requested the full and offered a Revise & Resubmit.

Her editorial letter brought tears to my eyes – in a good way! Never had I imagined finding an agent who not only loved my writing but also had a passion for Japan and had traveled to Tohoku during the 3/11 Tsunami aftermath. And her edits! Kaitlyn Johnson is a fantastic editor on so many levels. I knew, no matter what other offers I received, this was a match.

And I’m fairly certain that after “The Call” I entered Neverland. I did the usual, informing other agents of the offer, biting my fingernails, dancing, etc. And Voila!

I signed with Kaitlyn Johnson at Corvisiero Literary Agency.

And the journey continues…but not to get “there” wherever that is. Writing a book, getting an agent, publishing, hitting the best-seller list, we put these on a golden ladder and compare everyone accordingly. Don’t!

“There” is on the inside. It’s the YOU that makes you proud. And it can never be replaced by how successful you are on the outside.

Keep writing and living fully!

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Ellen McGinty

www.ellenmcginty.com

 

 

 

Photo Credit:

1st Photo by Smart on Unsplash

2nd Photo by Fab Lentz on Unsplash

3rd Photo by Seth Hays on Unsplash