Bird Face Wendy

Things relevant to reading, writing, publishing or marketing teen fiction.

What would you advise your teenage self?

DrawingTeenCouple

A happy couple, drawn in high school.

Here is a pep talk I would give my 15-1/2-year-0ld self if I could. I borrowed the post from the group blog I also write for, The Scriblerians.

With the wisdom you’ve acquired, what would you say to your younger self?  (Even if you’re still in high school.) https://thescriblerians.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/pep-talk-to-my-15-%C2%BD-year-old-self/

 

Leave a comment »

The Other Good Stuff Inside Your Book—My Fave 5

readabook

Image courtesy of Morguefile free photos

A short discussion in a writers group I belong to prompted me to write this post. The question presented: What should an author say in the Dedication for a book?

First, I’m not sure an author needs to dedicate a book at all. I have a novel near my desk right now that doesn’t include one. But I gave my two cents worth in the discussion as to the individuals an author might mention.

That led me to think about all the other stuff, in addition to the manuscript, that an author writes or provides the publisher before the book is sent to press. Constructing or selecting them takes careful thought and precious time, so why not prepare them in advance?

Dedication:

This is usually short and poignant. I’ve seen a single name as well as one or two sentences, and sometimes they bring me to tears. The dedication mentions someone or something that inspired or supported you, your writing, or this particular book, but not necessarily took an active part in the writing or production. The dedication doesn’t have to mean anything to the reader. It indicates a close personal relationship with the author, and only the dedicatee needs to understand it. Yes, “dedicatee” is a real word.

Acknowledgments:

Now we get to the thanking, sort of like an acceptance speech at the Oscars. The big-name authors tend to keep it down to a single paragraph or page, if they provide one, and it usually appears near the back of the book. Most of the authors I read include one to three pages of acknowledgments, three being rather long. But I actually read them. Mostly to see if any of the individuals mentioned are also  in my acknowledgments. (I belong to a large network of writers that support one another.) Usually the acknowledgments start with thanking a spiritual influence, work through the publishing professionals that made the book possible, then the writing/critique partners, and end with family members or a spouse. Some authors give entire names, others only first names.

Select Quotations:

These sometimes appear right before the body of the work. I haven’t selected or included any in my books so far, but I often enjoy reading them in others. Sometimes authors choose biblical or other spiritual verses, or quotations from favorite authors or other notables. The quotations usually hint at themes or the author’s personal feelings.

List of Resources:

If a novel for middle grades or young adults addresses issues like mine do, such as coping with Alzheimer’s or adjusting to a blended family in 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status, the author or publisher may wish to include a list of resources in the back of the book. I appreciate such lists when I read fiction, as young readers, parents, and educators probably do.

Discussion Questions:

Discussion questions come in handy for book clubs, librarians, parents, and educators. I include these. When writing them, I find myself digging deeper into the themes of my stories, and that benefits me when I speak about them.

There are additional pages that an author or publisher may include in novels or anthologies, fiction or nonfiction, prose or poetry.

The five I’ve mentioned are the ones I encounter most often and enjoy.

What is the most memorable dedication, acknowledgment, or quotation you’ve seen in a book—or perhaps written? How do you feel about resource lists and discussion questions?

2 Comments »

Have You Heard? Bird Face is back, Bay-baaaay!

sw_Listening_sa209430-2  The first two books of the new Bird Face series have been released by Write Integrity Press! Look for 8 Notes to a Nobody and 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status in paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon. Please consider asking your school, public library, and local bookstore to carry them too. You are an important voice to spread the messages that Wendy’s stories have for young people: they are wonderful, valuable, powerful, and worthy of love.

8 Notes to a Nobody Cover Final Front10 Steps to Girlfriend Status FRONT COVER

I’m so grateful to you for sticking with me on this blog throughout the long process of finding a good home for Wendy and her friends. I will continue to share with you the joys and struggles of writing and getting published. I hope you’ll also share yours with me.

See you again soon!

Cynthia T. Toney

Leave a comment »

Decorating the Real and Fictional Worlds

Maybe it’s because I spent a number of years working as a decorator, but description of settings in a novel is important to me. I like to read enough detail about the location for any scene to get a clear mental image.

I would rather see too much description and skim over some details than receive too little information. When I can’t picture the setting from the author’s description or from my personal experience (as in contemporary realism), I feel like a blindfolded captive.

Where am I???

Image courtesy of Morguefile free photos

If a reader is more into action than ambiance, he may not appreciate the way I use home furnishing descriptions in my scenes. That’s okay. But I use them to help the reader understand not only the physical setting but also the scene’s tone and the characters’ personalities or emotional state. My decorating experience taught me to understand a client’s needs, desires, and fears when it came to creating an interior environment for him or her. That understanding is reflected in my writing, I hope.

If a character sits in a chair, he interacts with it. How does it look and feel to him? Does the color remind him of something pleasant or unpleasant? A writer can go overboard, but some outward detail can offer the reader inward details about the character.

Whether the fictional environment is a home, a public building, or the wild outdoors, the setting description is an opportunity for the writer to reveal more.

So why not decorate the space and make the most of it.

Do you enjoy reading many setting details or can you do without them? Does it make a difference whether the setting is historical, contemporary, and/or fantasy or science fiction?

6 Comments »

A Fork, a Turn, and aTermination

When I began this blog, I committed to sharing with you my experiences and thoughts about my novel Bird Face and “its journey to publication.”

eitherway

Recently that publication journey reached an unexpected fork in the road.

When my publisher made the decision to change direction away from novels for young people–and then later away from books altogether–and to publish literary magazines with a focus on poetry and nonfiction after 2016, I had to ask myself some hard questions.

Should Bird Face remain with this publisher for as long as possible and continue to earn royalties but receive no promotion? There was no chance of the sequel I’d written for Bird Face or a recently completed YA historical, The Other Side of Freedom, to be published there. Would I hurt my publication chances for those new books by staying put?

Should I begin to query other publishers for a new home for the original Bird Face as well as its sequel while still under contract with my original publisher? Should I query for the sequel only?

Should I provide an interested new publisher a concrete termination date for my current contract so that I can prove my intent?

I wasn’t able to find any information online either about my particular situation or about books in a series with two different publishers. A couple of friends in the writing and publishing world urged me to self-publish the Bird Face series, but I believed another publisher was out there somewhere that might be interested.

So I decided to discuss contract termination with my current publisher and to settle on a date we could agree upon.

Although other authors might not take the same course of action, I think I made the right choice. The decision would’ve been made for me in a year anyway. And now I am free to search for a new home for my books while retaining the right to self-publish any of them.

I don’t view this as a 180, or even a 90-degree turn as the image above implies, but rather a 45-degree turn. And one I hope to look back on a year from now as having been the best path to take.

Has your publishing journey taken an unexpected turn? How did it work out for you?

3 Comments »

To Sequel or Not to Sequel

Sbookshelf  I admire readers who are so dedicated to an author or a set of characters that they read every single book of a series, usually in order. My admiration for the author who creates such devoted readers knows no bounds.

Wendelin Van Draanen is one of my favorite authors of a series for tweens and teens. I’ll most likely complete her Sammy Keyes mysteries (18 books, I believe) because I thoroughly enjoyed the three I’ve read so far, though not in any order. In 2014, Ms. Van Draanen released her last book of the series, Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye. So maybe I’ll catch up before I die.

Perhaps you’re a fan of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone “alphabet” mystery series: A is for Alibi through W is for Wasted (23, with only X, Y, and Z left to go, I believe). I’ve read a couple of them and would like to read others.

Before you think all I read is mystery, I’ve gotten into some Amish romance lately (only in books), reading a couple of novels from a couple of series by different authors. I enjoyed them very much, but to read a long series of Amish romance? I don’t know.

Some of Sarah Dessen’s YA books captured my interest for a while: Keeping the Moon (my favorite), What Happened to Goodbye (that one I didn’t like so much), and a few others. Some of Ms. Dessen’s novels seem like a series when they have the same setting and perhaps one familiar character—and yet sometimes not.

As I complete the sequel to Bird Face, I wonder about a number of things:

  1. Whether it will find a publishing home—or agent representation and then a home.
  2. Because the publisher of the original Bird Face will discontinue the company’s book publishing arm soon, whether a new publisher will be willing to republish that book and accept the sequel.
  3. Whether most agents and publishers even want a series.
  4. Whether readers of my first book will care if there’s a sequel.
  5. Whether the sequel should be written so that it can be read independently without any knowledge of the first book or be read out of order.

Whether  you enjoy reading a series or not, what are your thoughts about sequels and series? If you have a favorite series, have you read it in order? Have you skipped one or two books in the series, and did it make any difference to you?

 

 

 

11 Comments »

Contest Tips–plus Enter to Win a Free Critique from Sara Ella

To celebrate the New Year, I’d like to introduce you to Sara Ella, a brand new author of a soon-to-be-published YA novel.

Sara has a lot of experience entering–and winning–fiction writing contests, so I thought you’d enjoy the advice she has to offer. Take it away, Sara!

SaraEllacropped

The last thing I ever wanted to do was become an author.

Actually, not really. I’ve always wanted to be an author. But if I began my post that way, it wouldn’t hook you, now would it? However, starting my post with a contradiction piques your interest, doesn’t it? You probably wondered how I ended up becoming an author if it was the last thing I ever wanted to do, and thus you continued reading to find out how it happened.

And that is what “contesting” is all about, my friends.

Contests rely on first impressions. You may have the most stellar fiftieth page ever in your unpublished manuscript, but no writing contest judge will ever know that (nor will an agent) if you don’t hook them from page one, sentence one, word one! Because this is what they see. So it really doesn’t matter if your ending rivals Gayle Foreman’s “What just happened?” last page or Mary Weber’s “Aha, I got you!” final sentence. What matters is opening strong and ending your entry at the perfect place to leave ’em wanting more.

When I entered my first contest, I had no idea what I was doing. The truth is, even now that I can say I won an ACFW Genesis Award, I’m still learning, still growing as an author (and boy, do I have a long way to go). However, I have learned a few things in my two years of entering writing contests and in my more recent excursion of querying agents. I’m no expert, but I am going to share some things I’ve discovered along the way.

  • Just because the entry limit is fifteen pages doesn’t mean you have to end it exactly at that point. Sure, you want to give the judges the biggest bite of your work as possible. After all, many contests cost money and you want as much feedback as you can get. But you also have to end your entry on a strong note. What if page fifteen ends with something like, Jack walked into the house? Now, if the fate of the world rests on Jack’s entrance into that house, go ahead and end it there. But, more often than not, this will not be the case. Always make sure to leave the judges wanting more. That may mean ending on page fourteen, thirteen, or twelve. Whatever the limit, there is no rule saying you have to enter the full amount. Go it?
  • Even if you happen to be the next John Green or Cassandra Clare, readers are still subjective. Your story will not be loved by everyone (sorry to break it to you). There are books I LOVED that other people hated. Judges are advised to be kind in their critiques, but there will be comments and scores that will sting (I know from experience). Just take it with a grain of salt and move on. It’s one person’s opinion, not the end of the world.
  • Which brings me to this next point—if you get the same feedback from more than one judge or contest, take it into consideration. Yes, it’s your story, but judges do know a thing or two about writing. They’re experienced authors, and, if you make it to a final round, agents and editors (as in the Genesis contest). After receiving similar feedback across the board on the original prologue for my YA fantasy BLEMISHED, I decided to chuck that opening and start in a different place. And I am so glad I did. My novel is stronger now. Thanks, Judges!!!
  • If at first you don’t succeed…I know, it’s so cliché, but it’s totally true. J.K. Rowling received tons of rejections for Harry Potter before landing an agent, and even more before getting a book deal. Don’t let a few low scores or silence from the agent gallery get you down. Keep studying the craft. Revise, revise, revise. And seek help from other authors you know personally. This is probably the biggest and best advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The worst they can say is no, right? And some might say no if they’re on deadline or have too much on their plate, but most (in my experience) are glad to help. If I hadn’t asked for help with my Genesis entry, there’s no way I would have won that award. So join organizations like ACFW, RWA, SCBWI, or others suited to your work and get involved in critique groups. Support and encourage other authors in their success. If you do, they’ll more than likely be happy to return the favor.

Thank you for the great advice, Sara. So happy you could join us today!

Thanks so much for hosting me, Cynthia! I’m glad I could share my experiences with your readers.

Fiction writers, don’t miss this opportunity to enter to win a critique from Sara. She is giving away a critique for the first 15 pages (or less, remember?) of one reader’s novel, novella, or short story. 

To enter, place a comment below telling Sara why you’d like a critique from her. Please provide a website, blog, twitter, or email address where she can contact you if you win. Deadline is January 31, 2015. 

Sara’s Bio: Sara Ella dreamed she would marry a prince (just call her Mrs. Charming) and live in a castle (aka The Plaza Hotel). Her fairy tale didn’t quite turn out as planned, but she did work for Disney—and her husband is far more swoony than any cartoon character could ever be. She now throws living room dance parties for her two princesses and conquers realms of her own imaginings. She is represented by Jim Hart of Hartline Literary. Visit her website at http://saraella.com, or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

 

 

 

13 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: