Category Archives: Wisdom

Author Mentor Match

I’m so excited to share that I’ll be joining the
Author Mentor Match as a Round Two Mentor! 

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What is Author Mentor Match? 

Author Mentor Match pairs unagented, aspiring YA & MG writers with mentors who will help them with their manuscripts and guide them through the publishing process. There’s no contest aspect – AMM focuses on building lasting relationships. Mentors will help writers revise their manuscript before querying, give advice and tips on agents, and offer support through the process. Author Mentor Match was created by Heather Kaczynski and Alexa Donne in Fall 2016, who comprise of 2/3 of the current moderating team. Kat Cho has joined the team for Round 2.

How does Author Mentor Match work?

Mentees can apply to up to four possible mentors, submitting general information about themselves and their book via a submission form, then emailing their query and first ten pages to a specified address. Mentors will consider all mentee submissions carefully, potentially asking for more pages, before selecting someone to work with.

What kinds of stories will YOU be looking for?

Simply, I’m hoping to find a manuscript that moves me. I gravitate toward character driven stories, and I love books with strong voice. If I can get behind the chemistry between characters, I can overlook a multitude of technical flaws. Specifically, I love books that are full of romance, atmospheric, “angsty”, and/or have a chill-inducing twist. For my more detailed wish list, click on the MSWL tab of my mentor profile.

*** The Round Two submissions will be April 13th – April 23rd. ***

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Author Mentor Match Links of Interest

Round Two Mentors

My Mentor Profile

Stats, Trends and Tips from Round One

Submission Guidelines

FAQ

Twitter Hashtags: #AuthorMentorMatch & #AskAMM

Social Share_AskAMM Chat

If you’re interested in learning more,
then I’ll look forward to “seeing” you at Wednesday’s Twitter chat! 

How to Win NaNoWriMo

There are only two short weeks until November 1st, the start of National Novel Writing Month. Never heard of it? Here’s the gist…

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

Cool, right? I’ve NaNo-ed twice, in 2012 and in 2014, and I “won” both times. I never touched the 2012 project again, but my 2014 project went on to become The Impossibility of Us, which will be published in 2018 by Swoon Reads/Macmillan — yay! Point is, I’ve figured out how to NaNo pretty successfully, and I’d love to share a few of my favorite practices so that you, too, can write 50K words in thirty days.

Research ahead of time — like, now.
Is your NaNo project set on Mars? Awesome. Spend the next two weeks reading books about the Red Planet. Are you writing about a person who’s obsessed with riding horses? Great. Reach out to a real-life equestrian today. Are you planning a story about teen counselors at a sleep-away camp? Start cataloguing images of actual camps right away. Trust me — you don’t want to waste your November lost in a black hole of research.

Know your characters, especially the leads.
If character worksheets are your thing, I suggest filling them out before November 1st. Or, do some free-writing. Or, type up a mock interview for your protagonist. Or, print off some photos of what s/he might look like. At the very least, make sure you’ve nailed down strong external and internal goals, motivations, and conflicts for your main character(s) and your antagonist.

Prepare your family and friends.
Talk to your partner/children/parents/friends about National Novel Writing Month. Let them know exactly what you hope to accomplish, and why it’s important to you. If you’ve got a set do-not-disturb writing block in mind, tell them when it will be. That way you’re not fielding visitors and phone calls when you should be banking words. And don’t be afraid to enlist help. If you need your spouse to put the kiddos to bed every night in November so you can write uninterrupted, cement that plan ahead of time.

Incentivize — whatever it takes.
The first time I participated in NaNo, I wanted the Scrivener discount offered to winners. It was enough to drag me through 50K words of an awful (yet unfinished) manuscript. The second time, I wanted a book ready for submission by the following spring, which meant I needed a complete first draft quick. These were the “prizes” that pushed me to win in both instances, but you do you. Dangle a pair of boots, or banana split, or vacation in front of your writerly self. That way when you lose motivation mid-November, you’ve got something other than 50K words to work for.

Front load your word count.
The first week or so of NaNo, you’re going to be excited and fresh and full of energy. This is when you should be writing your ass off. Forget about the daily 1,667 words needed to total 50K at the end of the month; you should be writing at least 2K words in those early days of November. That way, when Thanksgiving rolls around you can take time off without guilt or worry.  

Related: Don’t let yourself fall behind.
Guys, it’s going to be such a struggle to catch up if you slack. That nifty graph they show you on the NaNoWriMo website each time you log your words? You don’t want it to flatline for more than one or two days. Because ugh. Those are days with zero words — zero progress — and there’s no greater hit to your writer psyche than stagnation. It’s hard to climb out of a hole, so do yourself a favor and don’t fall in.

Don’t be derailed by Thanksgiving (or anything else).
The first November I NaNo-ed, I also threw a friend a baby shower, which required hours and hours of preparation. The second November I NaNo-ed, I welcomed my husband home from a trip to Afghanistan, which required (for me, at least) lots of extra cooking and cleaning and poster-making and balloon buying. And then there’s Thanksgiving, which is so totally inconvenient to a writer’s routine. But! When I’m NaNo-ing, I refuse to let additional commitments impact my word count. I plan head, get up early, stay up late, put my writing first. If you’re going to NaNo successfully, you’ll have to do the same.

Hold yourself accountable.
Log your daily words on the NaNoWriMo site religiously. Watch the line on your graph climb. Tweet about your successes. Instagram your increasing word count. Blog about your experiences — the good and the bad. Celebrate (and commiserate) with other NaNo-ers. Whatever you can do to share your progress publicly, the better. When lots of people are rooting you on, it’s harder to be lackadaisical about your goals. You don’t want to disappoint them!

Stay active in the NaNo community.
This one goes hand-in-hand with holding yourself accountable; the NaNo community is exactly the tool you need to stay on track. Seeing others pumped about their manuscripts, hearing success stories about NaNo projects gone on to become published books, participating in this amazing month of writing with thousands of like-minded people… It’s so inspiring.

Skip around.
Generally, I write linearly, but not during NaNoWriMo. I give myself permission to skip ahead, to jump around, to write the fun stuff first. During NaNo 2014, I wrote my characters’ first kiss within the first few days of November, even though I knew it wasn’t going to actually happen until about halfway through the story. If you’re hung up on a scene or dreading a relatively boring transition, move on. You’ll come back to fill-in later, or you’ll discover the scene that was giving you headaches was unnecessary after all.

It’s okay to write crap.
What matters during NaNo is words. They don’t have to be pretty. They don’t have to make sense. They don’t even have to be relevant, really, because sometimes a brain dump, a page of drivel, is exactly what you need to spark your imagination, thus helping you move the story forward. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I’ll just write a super detailed description of the setting or a character’s outfit, knowing I’ll cut most (or even all) of it later. Doesn’t matter, though, because that warm-up often propels me toward the good stuff. The point is forward progress. Do whatever it takes. You’ll revise later.

Tell me: Have you NaNo-ed?
What are your best tips for success?

On Patience, Perseverance, & the Elusive Book Deal

In case you missed it, Kissing Max Holden sold to Swoon Reads/Macmillan!

What a whirlwind these last few weeks have been! I’m thrilled, grateful, overwhelmed (in the best way), and just really, really relieved.

You see, I was starting to think this publishing thing might not happen for me. I’ve been at it a long time. I’ve had a lot of almosts and not-quites and so many incidents of um, maybe… wait, actually… no, thanks I’d need a bazillion blog posts to cover them all.

Real talk: It’s been a challenge to press on, to keep at it through years of polite declines. It’s been tough to keep writing through persistent disappointment. I’ve considered giving up more times than I can count.

Some backstory…

I began writing with the goal of publication when my daughter was a year old. We lived in a rainy Washington town, then moved to beautiful Monterey, then to the steamy Florida panhandle, then to bustling Virginia – moves during which I continued to draft stories. As I’ve meandered around the country and along the rutted road to publication, my husband has left for and returned from four separate deployments and earned a master’s degree, and my daughter has become a confident, story-loving third grader. I’ve written through tons of change and loads of personal challenges, along with countless revisions, hundreds of rejections, and dozens of Katy’s a wonderful writer, but

Kissing Max Holden‘s sale hasn’t come easy.

When I started my first manuscript in 2008, I was convinced it would be The One. I would field multiple offers from agents, and then my tome (let’s call it what it was) would sell at auction and be loved be all, the end.

That manuscript didn’t sell, or even score me an agent. It was really, really bad.

I wrote a second manuscript, the plotless, melodramatic story that, after many years and many rewrites, would become Kissing Max Holden. Even then, messy and flawed, I loved it. I queried it, and while it was received with more enthusiasm than my first effort, it didn’t go anywhere.

It was around this time that a lot of my writer friends were starting to sign with literary agents and (seemingly quickly and with very few hurdles) began to sell their books. I was thrilled for them. Truly. But I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t a little jealous, too.

I wrote a third manuscript — a ghost story, my strongest yet — and signed with an agent. She submitted the manuscript to editors. It didn’t sell, but that was okay because it’s not uncommon for first-books-on-sub to go unsold. I started working on that plotless, melodramatic manuscript again, the future Kissing Max Holden, because Jillian and Max were still in my head. But then I had to set it aside because things went awry with my then-agent, who I ultimately left.

I was discouraged – I felt like I’d taken a huge step backward – so I worked harder. I signed with a new agent, Victoria Marini, who is awesome. I wrote a new manuscript, a bleak tale with three 3rd-person points of view and a tragic ending. Drafting it was difficult but fulfilling, and editors generally liked the story, but not enough to buy it.

I was really disappointed.

So, I went back to my previous manuscripts; I was looking for familiarity, for comfort. I worked on the ghost story I’d first been signed for, and the manuscript that’s now Kissing Max Holden. I developed characters. I raised stakes. I intensified relationships. I improved pacing. I rewrote, and rewrote, and rewrote. My work improved and, in the meantime, I experienced some submission close-calls. But no successes.

Years had passed since I started writing and, honestly, I felt like I’d done my time in the trenches. I’d congratulated my more triumphant friends with sincere smiles and undeniable pings of envy. I’d waded through some serious BS and a lot of rejection. Surely it would be my turn soon.

I wrote on, because what else was I supposed to do?

I branched out; I drafted a story about an epic road trip, and worked on a NaNoWriMo project with bits of verse. I read a lot. I revised a lot. I went on a writing retreat. I traded manuscripts with my talented CPs, and learned from their writing. I tried to focus more on the craft, the art, the experience, and less on the business.

Still, Jillian and Max and their complicated romance lingered. Kissing Max Holden was my second attempt at a novel, and the first time I felt like I might be able to make it at this writing thing. Authors often talk about the “book of their heart” – a story that is personal and particularly significant. To borrow from Beth Revis, a project that is “ripped from their soul” and means more than any other. For me, that book has always been Kissing Max Holden. Even as I wrote new stories, lovely stories that made me proud, I couldn’t let this story go.

And then I happened upon Swoon Reads

See, the Swoon Reads model is different. Instead of manuscripts languishing in slush piles or on editors’ desks while writers wait and wonder and stress, Swoon Reads puts power into the hands of real readers. It works like this: Writers upload their manuscripts, promote them as they see fit, and hope Swoon Reads members will read, rate, and comment. Manuscripts that are highly rated are read and considered for publication by the Swoon Reads staff.

To me, Kissing Max Holden felt like the perfect Swoon Reads story – it’s about falling in love, after all. And so, after several months of research and consideration, I uploaded my story to the site. Then I (anxiously) waited for the November 15th deadline – the date after which the Swoon Reads staff would start considering manuscripts.

While I waited, I did two things: I started a new story (it’s currently sitting pretty at 30K words) and applied to be a substitute teacher in my daughter’s school district, mostly because I was tired of piling all my eggs in the book deal basket.

Seriously. What if it never happened?

Between drafting my new story and obsessively checking Swoon Reads ratings, I accepted a one-month substitute teaching position. I figured Swoon Reads would need weeks (at the very least) to read manuscripts and come to a decision about which stories to pursue. I figured I’d be done with my long-term sub job by the time I heard anything, good or bad. I figured I’d keep busy while I waited…

Wouldn’t you know it — I got an email from Swoon Reads just as I was leaving school after my very first day of substitute teaching.

They wanted to talk about Kissing Max Holden.

I had a delightful chat with Swoon Reads staffers Lauren and Holly — about my story, its strengths and weaknesses, revision ideas, and an actual publishing contract. My heart was pounding and my head was spinning, but there was never a question in my mind as to whether I would choose to work with Swoon Reads; I couldn’t wait to work with Swoon Reads!

Lots has happened between then and now: emails with my agent, emails with Swoon Reads, phone calls with my husband and my family, a celebratory pizza-and-Bud-Light dinner, revision brainstorming sessions, and a mock-up book cover drawn by my daughter.

Honestly, it still doesn’t feel real. But it is, and I’m over the moon. I have been since the day I got that first Swoon Reads email…

I’ve been at this writing thing long enough to learn some stuff, and since I’m being all reflective and candid, I thought I’d share the nuggets of wisdom I’ve collected over the years…

  1. Everyone’s journey is different. There is no right or wrong road to publication. Don’t be afraid to try knew things – to take chances!
  2. Positivity is crucial. Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed as badly as you want to succeed yourself.
  3. Timing is very much a factor. So is luck.
  4. Nobody is judging you for how long you’ve been at it — except for, maybe, you. Keep your eyes on your own paper is very good advice.
  5. If you seek representation, sign with a competent, encouraging, savvy agent. Trust your intuition.
  6. Be kind. Be gracious. Return favors. Say thank you. People will remember you and the way you’ve behaved.
  7. Write the sort of book you want to read. Your story has to interest you before it’ll interest anyone else.
  8. Related: Write the sort of book that’ll stretch your skills and your creativity. Learn. Grow.
  9. Find smart, supportive CPs. When in doubt (or in need of a boost), turn to those CPs.
  10. Always have your next project(s) in mind.
  11. Don’t. Give. Up.

Finally, all the gratitude to my husband and my daughter, my parents and my in-laws – thank you for believing this would happen. Victoria – thank you for sticking with me, for your savviness and positivity. Alison, Temre, Riley, Elodie – thank you for years of friendship, emails of commiseration, and words of encouragement. You (and your writing) inspire me. Tracey, Amie, Jessica, Liz, Erin, Amanda, Jolene, Jaime, Kate, Taryn, and Christa, thank you for your support and feedback and enthusiasm. My writing is better because of you. And to everyone who read, rated, and commented on Kissing Max Holden over at Swoon Reads… I owe you oodles of cookies!

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

My New York & Company 7th Avenue Design Studio Knit Pants, which look like dress slacks and fit like yoga pants, currently buy one, get one free. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, which I bought because my writing descriptions are starting to feel quite stagnant; I’m loving how this craft book gives me fresh perspective. Shenandoah National Park, which we’ve now hiked twice — so beautiful. The YA Buccaneers, who invited me to guest post about my experience submitting to Swoon Reads. And my new Erin Condren notebook, which I’m using to compile family recipes and my go-to Pinterest favorites; it’s mostly filling up with desserts.

Reading

I finally finished Grave Mercy by Robin LeFevers. It took me for-freaking-ever to get through, but that is in no way a reflection of my feelings about the book — I loved it! Ismae is a badass, and her story transported me to 15th century Brittany completely; I was totally caught up in the political intrigue and, of course, the most excellent romance. Now, I’m reading Shattered Blue by Lauren Bird Horowitz, a romance involving a girl and a Fae — not usually my thing. But this recent release is set at a Monterey boarding school, which is so totally my thing. Plus, the writing is gorgeous. I’m really liking it so far!

Watching

My new favorite You-Tuber, Ashley at That is All. I discovered her a few months ago while pouring over planner reviews (her review was a big part of the reason I bought an InkWELL Press planner for 2016), though the main focus of her channel is makeup. She’s delightful and she has cute kitties and I’ve picked up a few excellent skin care products on her recommendation.

Listening To

Am I the only gal who ends up with an anthem for each manuscript she drafts? For my current WiP, I’m listening to Matt Nathanson’s Faster on repeat, all the time. It’s inspiring all the romance. ❤

Thinking About

The tragic terrorist attacks that occurred in France and Beirut last week. My heart is broken for everyone affected.

Anticipating

The holidays. My husband and daughter love the many foods associated with Turkey Day (I love the pie) and my parents are coming for a visit during Christmastime. Looking forward to getting started on my seasonal decorating and shopping. Our Elf on the Shelf will be here before we know it. 🙂

Wishing

That she will always fall asleep with a book in reach.

Making Me Happy

I have a job! Well, sort of. I recently joined the pool of substitutes in Fairfax County, hoping to work two or three days a week at my daughter’s elementary school. But on my first day of eligibility, I was offered a multiple-week position as an instructional assistant in one of the resource rooms. So, I get to visit various classrooms and work with kids on various subjects, including reading and writing, which is awesome. The only downside is that my daily drafting time has all but disappeared. Who wants to do nighttime sprints with me?

What’s currently making YOU happy?

YA Buccaneers Guest Post

Friends, today I’m guest posting at one of my favorite group blogs: YA Buccaneers. I’m sharing what I learned from posting my contemporary YA romance Kissing Max Holden at Swoon Reads.

Come say hello! 😘

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: Last week I read Isla Bick’s Drowning Instinct, a very intense, very dark contemporary. I love that there are no real heroes or heroines — just a bunch of broken people making messes of each others’ lives. It’s really well done. I’m currently making my way through Victoria Aveyard’s fantasy debut, Red Queen so I can participate in YA Book Club next week.

  

What I’m Writing: NOTHING. I sent Stars Like Dust to my agent yesterday. Phew! Now, I wait (and stress about whether she likes it). In the meantime, I’m reading a most excellent manuscript by my CP, Alison Miller. This one’s super smart, heartfelt, and truly funny — like, legitimately laugh-out-loud funny. And, it’s so unique, I refuse to tell you any more about it. 🙂

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Last week I skipped out on WUW because we took an impromptu journey across the U.S. to Washington. My husband’s grandmother passed away, and we wanted to be at her funeral. She was a fun and fiesty French lady, and we loved her lots.


While there were some sad moments during our trip, there were some good times, too. We saw family and reveled in the Pacific Northwest’s (rainy) spring.

 
Now, it’s spring break and I’ve been spending quality time with my girl. Over the weekend we saw Cinderella (say what you will about its lack of fierceness/ingenuity, but I loved it!), on Monday we treated ourselves to fro yo, and yesterday we went strawberry picking. Today, we’re off to the beach!

What Works For Me: I’ve been feeling the writerly blues lately. Not really sure why, but this happens to me from time to time, and usually the best cure is a step back — time away to freshen my perspective. I recently reread a pretty fabulous blog post by writer Robin Lafevers titled Surviving Almost There. If you’re feeling stuck or stagnant or like it’s NEVER going to happen, I highly recommend checking it out. 

Tell me… What’s up with you today?

What’s Up Wednesday

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“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios last week and absolutely loved it. More about why in Friday’s February Reading Wrap-Up post, but for now I’ll just say that it’s totally a Katy Book. Now, I’m reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and I’m digging it. It was a bit of a slow start because it took me awhile to figure out what the hell was going on, but now I’m completely hooked.

   

What I’m Writing: I ~think~ I’m going to finish my first draft of Stars Like Dust (the contemporary YA romance I started for National Novel Writing Month) today. Send some positive writing vibes my way, would you please? More on my writing (plus an excerpt) in Monday’s #WriterRecharge post.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: It’s been awhile since I’ve done a What’s Up Wednesday post, so I’ll backtrack a bit…


My girlie and I had mama/daughter pedicures on Valentine’s Day, courtesy of my incredibly thoughtful husband. He made the appointment in secret, took us out to lunch, then dropped us off at the salon. Best part? He remembered to bring flip-flop so our pretty toes wouldn’t get smudged on the way home. ❤

 
I celebrated my 34th birthday with my husband and my daughter. They got me an antique French blanket chest (above) because I’ve been wanting a new coffee table for ages. I adore it! Speaking of birthdays, I posted a Thirty Before 35 Progress Report last week. One year to accomplish the rest of my goals!


The other night, my daughter played her last basketball game of the season. She knew nothing about the sport when she started back in November, and I’m so proud of the progress she’s made. She’s even starting to throw a few elbows. 😉

What Works For Me: So, I got a new planner. (It’s Erin Condren, and I love it. Thanks for recommending them, Sara and Donna! If you’re interested, check them out HERE!) I’ve been writing everything down in it — chores, to-dos, meal plans, workout goals, errands, water intake — and my OCD absolutely refuses to allow me to skip out on my plans once they’re on paper. Like, yesterday I woke up feeling tired and kind of sick, but I’d already written down that I was going to hit the elliptical, and there was no way I was going to cross that item off without achieving it first. So, I hauled myself out of bed and did the damn elliptical. I’ve also been using my planner to track writing progress. I give myself a literal gold star for every hour of dedicated revising I manage, and every 500 new words I write. I know that sounds kind of juvenile and silly (I thought so too, at first), but seeing my progress has helped so much. Totally recommend this motivational method if you’ve yet to try it.

 

Tell me… What’s up with you today?