Advice

Perseverance

I used to think all I had to do was sell a book, and then I’d be set. If I could just get a publisher to offer me a publishing deal, everything else would work out on its own. I have a publishing deal now. My first book is scheduled to release February 21, 2017—

And I find myself more stressed out than ever.

I’m contracted for a duology. I have to turn my second book into my editor by August first. I used to think it would be easier writing a book with the knowledge that it will be published (rather than writing a book, hoping to pick up an agent, and hoping that agent could sell my manuscript). But I’ve already sold the book I’m writing. That should make it easier.

Instead, it’s a hundred times harder. I stress over every word, worrying that those who read and enjoy the first book will be disappointed with the sequel. I worry my editor will wonder how my writing managed to start sucking majorly. I worry my agent will question why she signed me on in the first place.

And because I can’t seem to focus on the here and now, I worry about problems far into the future. Will anyone buy my first book? Will I earn out my advance? Will the book flop and the publisher decide it’s not worth the cost of printing the second?

And after I’ve finished this series, will I be able to sell another? Will I have to write four more books before one sells, just like the first time around? Will my ideas get increasingly worse?

With all these thoughts swimming for dominance in my head, it’s easy to question why I do this whole writing thing at all. But a wise man by the name of Rick Walton once said, “If you had the knowledge that none of your books would ever be published, would you still write them? If the answer is yes, then publishing is for you.”

That is what it feels like most of the time. Nothing will ever come of it, but it would be even more painful to stop writing altogether. And the truth is I need writing in my life. I can’t remember who I was before it. Publishing is beyond rewarding, and I’ve barely begun to reap the rewards.

Think of how it will feel to see a cover with your name on it. Imagine holding a hardbound book that you wrote. Imagine inspiring and touching others through the words you’ve written. Think of the book events you will attend. The signings!

I can’t speak to these yet. I’m still in the early stages. But I can share how wonderful it has been being a part of a debut group (the Swanky Seventeens are a vastly entertaining bunch). How the friendships I’ve made with other authors have already touched my life. Finding an agent and editor who are as enthusiastic about my work as I am has been magical. Connecting with eager, would-be readers and bloggers has been a blast. Receiving items as simple as copyedits and an ISBN have made more than one of my days.

And I’m not even to the really good part, where I can walk into a bookstore and see my book on the shelves. It’s so important to try and remember to be happy where we’re at. To remember how much we’ve achieved, whether we’ve just finished drafting our first ever novel, finally been offered representation after our 100th query rejection, or recently published our fifth novel. Be proud of the work you’ve done. Take your future goals at whatever pace necessary to stay sane and happy. And remember that there are so many writers out there like you. We’re here to uplift and help each other out.

Perserverance Quote

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Writer’s Block

There are often days when I don’t want to write. The scene I put into my outline months ago is too complicated. It’s smarter than I am. I can’t possibly write it.

And so the writing comes to a halt because I don’t know what happens next. I mean, I have a general idea of what happens, but I don’t know the specifics. I’m not a detailed outliner. I jot down a small paragraph of what’s going to happen in each chapter. Then I get to a particular chapter, read my outline, and think, I’m too stupid. How can I possibly pull this off?

Inevitably, the chapter will get written, but I have to remind myself what to do. You see, I’ve had to practice motivating myself for…all my life now. And I still forget what to do when I’m stuck. So now I’m making myself write it down.

First I ask myself what would make the scene fun to write. An epic battle, more kissing, something funny, more kissing, something dangerous, more kissing—whatever. Don’t forget what it is about writing that you love and work it into the scene. But sometimes you can’t do that. You have to write a serious scene or a death scene or something that prevents you from putting in what you love right away. Then what?

Often I run into the problem of forgetting to let my characters behave like themselves. I’m putting them through the motions of what needs to happen without coloring their actions with their personalities. Two characters are angry at each other. Let that get in the way of what they need to do. Another one is terrified. Let that hinder the process. A fourth needs to usher everyone on because she’s the responsible one. A fifth is the thrill seeker who is loving every moment of this difficult, complex scene I thought I could write. If a scene is painful to write, color it more with your characters. Let them help you push on. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in what needs to happen that I forget who’s involved in making it happen—and how they feel about the whole thing.

And then, if I’m still stuck, it’s important to get the creative juices flowing. If you don’t know what’s going to happen next, make a list of what could happen next. List all the ways you can think of for your characters to do what needs doing, no matter how clichéd. Put every idea onto the list. The more your mind comes up with, the more unique your ideas will get. Eventually the right one will come to you. Even if it takes days. Your mind is a muscle. It needs to be stretched. When you start forcing it to think a certain way, it will get stronger until you get the results you need.

And then when the answer finally comes to you and you get to move on to the next scene, you can be like Kermit.

Kermit Typing

Until the next difficult scene comes…

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Bad Guy Motivations

A few years ago I compiled a list of bad guy motivations. I’m now posting it here. Hope this helps others looking to write three dimensional villains!

Remember, writers, villains need to be just as well-rounded as protagonists. They need their own backstories and motivations. They cannot do bad things just for the sake of being bad.

1. Power

Jafar

Jafar from Aladdin

—For his third wish, Jafar wishes to be “an all-powerful genie!”

2. World Domination

Sauron from Lord of the Rings

—One ring to rule them all.

3. Immortality

Voldemort from Harry Potter

—Not one, but seven horcruxes. He Who Must Not Be Named took extraordinary measures.

4. Revenge

Regina/Evil Queen from ABC’s Once upon a Time

—Regina wants revenge against Snow White.

5. Money

 

 

 

 

 

Guy of Gisborne from BBC’s Robin Hood

—Poor Guy can’t stand the idea of being poor.

6. Get the girl

Imhotep from The Mummy

—Imhotep killed the Pharaoh because he had the hots for his wife.

7. Prove themselves/A desire to be the best at something

James Moriarty from BBC’s Sherlock

—It’s about winning the game and proving that he’s better than Sherlock.

8. True belief that what they’re doing is right/will make the world a better place

Valentine

Valentine from City of Bones

—For Valentine, the ends justify the means, even if he has to kill those in his path.

9. Mentally Insane

The Joker from The Dark Knight

—I miss Heath Ledger. Also, this is the trickiest kind of villain to do, so use sparingly.

10. Jealousy

Loki

Loki from Thor

—Loki is jealous of his older brother, Thor.

11. Hatred/Prejudice

Magneto from X-Men

—Magneto believes that mutants are better than humans, so he persecutes the poor humans.

12. Greed/Wanting something so badly that you’re willing to do anything to get it

Lamia from Stardust

—In this case, the object of her desire is the heart of a star. Another example is Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians, her motivation being a puppy fur coat.

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Query Letter for DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING

I’ve received some requests to see my query letter lately, so I thought I’d post it here. After one round of querying and not getting any bites, the fabulous Elana Johnson took a look and gave me some wonderful advice. “What are the consequences, Tricia?” she asked. “What will happen if Alosa fails?” Right, tension. That’s important. After including her feedback (see the last sentence of paragraph 3), I received 9 full manuscript requests before signing on with my wonderful agent, Rachel Brooks. So I have two brief pieces of advice for querying authors: (1) Include what’s at stake, and (2) Make sure it’s clear what makes your book stand out from all the others in its genre.

“Eighteen-year-old Alosa Kalligan is probably the only girl foolish enough to get herself kidnapped by pirates. Intentionally.

Two plots coincide when Alosa discovers that the pirate lord Draxen not only has a map that the wealthy pirate king, her father, wants, but also has plans to kidnap Alosa and hold her for ransom. Alosa finds it only logical, then, for her to orchestrate her own kidnapping. By day she is questioned for information regarding her father’s hideaway, but at night, Alosa searches the ship for the map, which supposedly leads to the legendary Isla de Canta, an island heaped with untold treasure and protected by its magical occupants, the sirens.

The task becomes difficult when her devious and attractive interrogator begins to suspect Alosa’s true reason for being on the ship. She must resort to faking escape attempts to make her imprisonment believable or risk him unraveling her entire plot. Torture and exile await Alosa if she tries to return to her father empty-handed, yet death is a real possibility if Draxen and his crew learn what she’s really doing on their ship.

Complete at 76,000 words, DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING is a young adult fantasy romance. Fans of Robin LaFevers’s GRAVE MERCY and Rae Carson’s THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS will enjoy similar fantasy tropes and fast pacing.

I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a minor in editing. In the last four years, I have written four YA novels, worked for Shadow Mountain Publishing as a content editor, interned with A+B Works Literary Management, and taken several creative writing classes. I have seen publishing from many different angles, but writing is by far my favorite.

The full manuscript of DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Tricia Levenseller”

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