Thursday, March 31, 2011

How Does Your Story Taste?

One of the most important things that I learned in honing my writing, especially when using first person, is to include sensory perceptions. It makes your characters leap off the page and plunges the reader into their world. Without them, its like watching a movie. You can see whats happening on the screen, but you're missing that extra element.

When I'm writing a scene, once I've got all the action and dialog down, I like to go back through it again and keep the five senses in mind. Sight, taste, touch, smell, sound. Now for every scene, you might not need all five senses, but two or three can help draw your reader in to help them experience the scene with you.

For example:

I ran across the beach, the wind whipping my hair across my face as I raced for the ocean. I waded out into the water, not caring about ruining my clothes. A wave knocked me back and filled my chest with water.

Not really very exciting...

So maybe something more like this:

Seagulls screamed overhead as I raced across the beach, my feet sinking into the hot sand. Salty ocean air whipped my hair across my face. The icy water crashed against my legs and soaked into my expensive cocktail dress. My skin numbed as the water rose over my stomach. The air punched from my chest as a wave knocked me back and filled my lungs with water. The saltiness was heavy on my tongue and burned my nose.

I don't know about you, but I prefer reading books where I can be swept away, where I completely forget about the world around me and get lost in the fictional world. What's important to remember, at least for me, is to not bog your readers down with too many details. pick one or two important ones, just enough to give the readers a taste, and then let the reader's imagination get to work.

What about you? Do you prefer bare-bones writing, where you, the reader, plug in all of the details? Or do you prefer reading novels with more description, more sensory details? Somewhere in-between?


On a side note, if you're interested, don't forget to enter my Twitter Pitch contest for a full manuscript request from Suzie Townsend going on on my blog! The critique portion starts tomorrow, and the final entries posted on April 3rd! Click here for details!


  Shelley Watters writes romance for young adults and adults. She lives in Arizona with her husband, two kids and two dogs. She loves listening to music, reading good books and letting her imagination go wild as she creates new worlds and torments her characters in delicious ways. She is an active member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is represented by Mark McVeigh of the McVeigh Agency.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Boys! How Do Those Authors Get Them So Sexy?

It’s no secret to anyone who follows me on Twitter that I love fictional boys (okay, and real ones). But just talking, again, about hot boys isn’t the purpose of this post (shocking, I know). Nope. The point of this is to talk about the why behind their hotness, because it takes more than dashing good looks and a six pack to make me swoon (but the six pack helps).

Because here’s the thing. Just because the writer thinks a boy character is Adonis or the epitome of all things sex and baked goods doesn’t mean the reader will. Just telling me he’s super hot doesn’t make it true for me as a reader. Whether it’s because their words don’t translate the same in my head from the actual description, or just because their physical appearance isn’t really my style, there’s a lot that can go wrong just basing it on physical description alone.

So where do you go from there, if it’s not just telling me he’s hot? Show me.

Does he have a smile that is just slightly higher on one side than the other, or one dimple that goes deeper than the other? Does his forehead wrinkle when he’s in thought or worried, or does he chew on even just the tiniest corner of his lip? What can I learn as a reader that tells and shows me the deeper sides of him? The telltale signs even when his face is otherwise a mask. Does he have long hair that can fall in his face, hiding him just a little? Or is he unable to hide, even when his face goes tomato red?

But beyond habits and quirks, I want to know his personality. I want to know how he comes off to others, and how he acts when it’s just him and someone close to him. I want to see that rough and not caring exterior that a lot of teen boys do have, while still seeing the potential and the good in him. I want to go from hating him to loving him, and eating up his angst that he works so hard to hide from everyone else.

I know everyone’s taste in boys is different, but the biggest thing for this girl is for the guy to be, well, not perfect. I don’t mean give him stereotypical boy habits. I mean give him some flaws, and let me know about them. Let him mess up. Let me see him hurting. Don’t put him on a pedestal and let some guy just sweep right in and suddenly, a girl’s whole world is just fantastic and amazing and nothing is ever wrong again.

But don’t make him all flaws. Don’t rely only on those flaws to pull him through and make him totally swoonworthy. Find that perfect mix of flawed and good, tender and rough. There isn’t some magical mix of 40% flawed and 60% good that guarantees a boy every girl who reads it will just fall right for him. It’s as specific to the character as it is to the world they live in and the other characters they interact with. Is there that one girl who just completely changes him, who makes him want to change, just because she’s around? Or is he damaging himself, trying to protect his family? What are the reasons for his behaviors? Show those to me, and chances are, once I empathize with him, I’ll start to fall for him.

And just in case you need a few examples, here are a few YA boys who have made me drool and stole my heart even after the book was finished:

Wesley Rush (The DUFF by Kody Keplinger): If you want to learn how to turn a total jerk into someone you’ll drool over, read this one. Chances are, your first impression of Wesley isn’t going to be a good one, but keep reading, because you’ll see what I mean about understanding then falling.

Will Rutledge (Firelight by Sophie Jordan): If you want to learn how to infuse such a deep amount of angst that girls will want nothing more than to hug your boy and make everything better, read this one. Because what makes that angst so real? The reasons behind it.

Seth McCoy (Freefall by Mindi Scott): This one’s your example of how to make a guy still completely swoonworthy even when he’s the protagonist and the reader has full access to his head. You want real and flawed, with just the right amount of angst? Read this one. Because even though you’re in Seth’s head, you can see him falling for you, and trust me, you’ll want him to.

Aiden Wilder (The Naughty List by Suzanne Young): Here’s your jock that has everything going for him, but is still a genuinely nice guy. He’s funny and sincere, and though he might be a little on the horny side, it’s out of love for his girlfriend instead of just hormones. Aiden is your example of how to break the stereotypes, while still staying realistic and something that any reader can see and relate to.

Will (Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton): Here’s your example of a guy that doesn’t give a great first impression, but has way more to offer than can be explained in just a page or two of introductions. This is a boy who has a darker side, hinted at around the edges, but pushed away by an internal desire that is so clear with every scene he walks into.

Kari is a querying YA writer and book blogger who currently works a day job with a radiologist group and lives in Dallas. She enjoys badgering her dog Toby, meandering around the internet, and reading lots and lots of books. Currently juggling three manuscripts, she’s dreaming for the day she can stay at home and write full time, preferably with a charming boy to cook and clean. You can find her at

Friday, March 25, 2011

Are You In-Love With Your Characters or Just In-Like?

Hi Everyone!!

I hope everyone had a great week! It's been a bit colder than I'd like, but I can smell Spring in the air and I will patiently wait for it to come.

Maybe, not so patiently, since I've been cursing the cold since the first day of winter. Okay, so I hate winter and I live in a state shaped like a mitten. I do see the irony in that.

On to more exciting things. AKA the actual point of this post. Ha.

So I've noticed something in my current WIP that I'm revising.

What might that be? Well, I will tell you.

I may not be in-love with my characters. You know how I know this? My own characters don't make me all tingly inside when they kiss, or when they almost kiss. When something exciting happens my heartbeat doesn't get all wonky.

You may be saying, "So does that mean I'm not in-love with my own characters? Erica, that's preposterous. *Have you been sniffing glue again?"

Um, no.

I don't know what's going to happen to other writer's characters, and I know what's going to happen with mine, well most of the time. Ha. It's hard to actually know how they're going to make me feel, because I'm writing what they say and feel. I know what happens and isn't it the unknown that makes us FEEL. When we don't know if someone is going to end up with who they love, or when we don't know if someone's going to die or make it out of a precarious situation (yes, I spelled precarious correctly on the first try. *fist bump*)

So, how do I really know if they are real, sincere, good characters? The answer is simple actually.

Let someone else read it.

I truly believe I'm not going to be able to tell if there is real tension with my characters. I don't really know if what they say is funny. I only know what I think, which - don't get me wrong - is VERY important, and in many ways the most important. But if you let say five, six people read it and they all agree that a character is flat, or *gasp* a dreaded Mary Sue, then you know.

I read books for the characters first. I LOVE a great story, plot, action. I'm a plotter at heart, but really... it's the characters, the VOICE that pulls me in and gets me to care.

So. How do you feel about your characters? Are you in-love or in-like with them? And what about the people who've read your story. What do they think?

Does this make sense to anyone else? Do you feel the tingles from your own characters? Am I just a rambling fool. Don't answer that ;o)

Have a wonderful week!!

<3 Er

* I have not and will not sniff glue, and don't try that at home. It's stupid.

erica m. chapman is a YA writer by night, workin' for the cause by day. Fan of football, especially Lions and Michigan. She loves alternative music, Foo Fighters, animals, reading, golf and playing her guitar. She resides in Michigan where she sits quietly typing her next story on her macbook in her Detroit Lions Snuggie. You can also find her at

Pic credit:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Celebrating Milestones

The other day, the ever fabulous Mandy Hubbard shared how she celebrates her successes by writing what she's celebrating on the cork from the wine and putting the corks in a vase on her shelf where she can see them.

How great of an idea is that?! Do go read her post, it's fantastic.

For me, I like to write up blog posts and used the milestones label for easy finding. Blogging also share my sucesses with my friends and readers, so that's great, but on days when I feel like a hack, it's easy to forget that that label is there. It's also easy to forget to blog about something and those happy days get "lost"

So what are some other ways to commemorate milestones? Here are a couple of other ideas:
  • Treat yourself to a movie, scrapbook the ticket stub
  • Get a honking coffee and write the success on a napkin to scrapbook or frame to hang on your wall
  • Buy yourself some flowers and press one of them to scrapbook/frame
  • Spend time with friends. Take a photo to frame/scrapbook
  • Walk the dog/go to a park. Gather leaves to frame/scrapbook. Build a tree of happy times.
  • Shop. Buy a charm for a "celebration bracelet" or something else you collect.
  • Keep a notebook of happy thoughts, celebrations, etc. Keep it nearby.
  • Tweet about it using a hashtag just for you. #HappyCassandra, anyone? :P
You can celebrate the big things like book deals and publication dates, or the small things like writing every day or finishing a chapter. You can also celebrate the happy times of your friends, too, to help you remember that you're not alone. Helping and inspiring others is definitely something to celebrate!

What do YOU do to celebrate success?

C.A. Marshall is a freelance editor, lit agent intern, YA writer, and loves to play with her dog Mollie. She dreams of one day owning a small house near the water, preferably in England, with a shelf full of books she has written and has helped others to write. She is currently single. And unagented. She can be found in Emmett, MI, at for writing, for editing, and on twitter @CA_Marshall.

Monday, March 21, 2011

WRITING JOURNEY TOURNIQUET - Kissing away the rejection

My last post was about querying a little at a time and not shooting yourself in the foot by sending queries to every single agent in the industry. Well, this post is about dealing with rejection. It's tough accepting the rejections that start streaming in without diving into that plate of brownies or drinking an entire bottle of wine. You obviously love your book. Your critique partners loved it. Random people you've shoved your manuscript in front of their faces loved it. So why aren't the agents loving it?

I've come to terms with the form rejection and you should too. This one isn't personal. There could be many reasons that the agent fired off that form rejection. It's not right for her list, she doesn't handle that kind of story, or your query needs serious work. 

The partial request rejections sting a bit more, but if you're lucky you'll get feedback and can rework your pages. The full request rejection is like ... um...sour lemons.

Most likely, if you get a rejection on a full request, the agent will give you feed back, and you can revise. I was getting rejections on one of my manuscripts, so I decided to stop querying, do an extensive revision, have betas read it, and then requery. It took many months to rework it, but I'm glad I did. Not only did I make it a better story, but also I learned a lot through the tough critiques I received.  

Then there are the conflicting rejections or revise and resubmits where agents feel differently about your work. One says it's moving too fast and another says it's going too slow. What do you do when you have conflicting suggestions? You take a step back, breathe, ask your betas their thoughts, and decide what's best for the story. The story you want to tell. That was a hard one for me, because I wanted to please the agents at the cost of possibly ruining what I loved about my story. Go with your gut. Only make the changes you know will benefit your story.

It's hard not to get upset when someone doesn't like your work, but try to remember this business is very subjective. And when you feel like giving up, read the success stories on Query Tracker. I love reading them because they give me hope. We have our own success story here at DNA Writers. Read Shelley Watters' post Don't You Dare Give Up

Everyone in this business goes through rejections before they get an agent. After they get an agent, some will go through being rejected by publishers. When your book finally gets on bookstore shelves, you'll have readers pass your book by and people who won't like it. So, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, kiss off the rejections, and start all over again. And stay grounded with the things in your life that make you smile. Here's two reasons that make me smile every day...

That's it until next time.

You can find Brenda on her blog
 or on twitter here!/brendadrake

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Research: Giving Your Novel Depth and Authenticity

A lot of writers hear, “research” and become excited-- agent research!! But there’s another kind of research, where a writer does research for the novel he or she is working on. Yeah... that kind of research. The kind that involves investigating a topic, a place, an event, even jobs and hobbies. Research isn’t strictly limited to those writers working on historical fiction. The truth is, research is crucial for nearly all novels.

Whether you’ve chosen a real place or are creating your own world, the more you know about your setting, the more real your world will be to your readers. But suppose your novel is set in another world altogether? You can still draw parallels from actual places, for example, if you’ve created a world set on a desert planet, and your characters live in caverns, you can do research on caves and deserts. And even if your novel is set in a small town or somewhere you’re familiar with, drawing from memory is only one part of research; taking a walk through a small town could trigger more memories, or reading about the place you’re already familiar with might bring your attention to something 
Plot Cafe had a good tip for those writers researching far-off locations: try renting travel documentaries about your novel’s setting. Often, these documentaries have a “walk-through” feel, and the visuals will enhance any book/internet research you’re doing. Fiction Factor also has a nice article devoted to setting.
Details bring a story to life. Unless you’ve worked in the same field your characters work in, research is important for authenticity. Whether your character is a teen who works weekends in her parents’ bicycle shop, a student nurse working nights as a phlebotomist, or a submarine captain during the Cold War, a person’s job is usually a big part of their life. Author K.M. Weiland has a great post on choosing your characters’ careers, and I agree with her on how a character's career says a lot about who that character is.
Although writers tend to be a reclusive lot, one great way to research a given career is to talk to people who work in that field. In an interview with AMC, Tom Clancy states that “most of his research involves talking endlessly to the types of people he wants to write about.” He’d never been in a submarine before writing THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, but he talked to submariners and obviously, it paid off. (Tom Clancy gave an excellent interview, and a motivating one as well).

Children’s author Sherryl Clark has a list of 10 Research Tips for Fiction Writers, and in it she mentions how one of her books about horses benefited from her taking a horseback riding lesson. Reading about-- or trying-- your characters’ interests is another way to add depth to your story. After all, I can assume what it feels like to ride a horse, or draw on that time I rode a pony when I was seven, but I bet a horse-lover would recognize the lack of authenticity if I didn't research properly.
Research can involve internet searches, reading books, interviewing people knowledgable in your subject matter, or a variety of other methods. The point is, taking the time to do the research not only makes your book a more fulfilling experience for your reader, it can also spare you the embarrassment of erroneous assumption... someone who does know might just shake their head in dismay at what you've written. There have definitely been times when I’ve read a book or watched a movie, only to roll my eyes at something I know for a fact is absolutely wrong. A little research might’ve kept me from thinking, “That’s so not true! San Jose, Costa Rica is nowhere near the beach!” *cough* Jurassic Park *cough* 

Before I go, I just want to urge you to consider giving to the Red Cross, or another disaster relief organization, for the victims in Japan. There are still 430,000 people in shelters, and although initial donations are incredibly important, sustained relief is crucial for helping victims get out of shelters and onto recovery. It's only been eight days, and the people of Japan have so far to go. If you haven't already, do think about making a donation!

~ ~ ~

Diana Paz is a web content writer and aspiring YA author. She grew up on Miami Beach, moved to Los Angeles in high school, and went to college in San Diego. Basically, she's a beach bum, but she did graduate from California State University, San Marcos with a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts. She loves old movies, epic fantasy, all kinds of music, and heading to the beach with a good book. Preferably sipping a caramel frappuccino. Find her at her blog: or on Twitter @dianapazwrites

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Don't You Dare Give Up!

Well it's finally my turn to post! I'm thrilled to finally be able to share this with all of you. I posted the news on my blog a few weeks ago, but was saving posting here until it was my day.  If you don't already know, I got an agent! Although while the shock has started to wear off, the euphoria of being able to use the term 'my agent' hasn't. I doubt it ever will.

So if you're interested in my 'How I Got My Agent' story, it's  on my blog here.  And if you're interested in reading an iterview I did about 'The Call' you can read that here.

I'm now represented by the amazing and wonderful Mark McVeigh at the McVeigh Agency.
It feels so good to type that.

So rather than recounting my agent story, I thought I would talk a little about perserverance in your writing journey. It's been said many times that the publishing industry moves at a glacial pace. I whole heartedly agree. Which is why I wince when I hear a writer say "I just wrote this book and am querying it." Whoa there buddy. Hold up. Did you revise? Did you let your crit partners rip it to shreds? Did you send it to betas? Did you let it sit for a week,  or even better,  a month and then go back and revise/edit again? If you said no to any of these questions, I would recommend taking a deep breath, and then do it. While some writers can write a perfect (or near-perfect) first draft, that doesn't happen for most of us.

Once your project is as perfect as you can make it, where you've revised until your eyes bleed and you can't stand looking at it anymore, not because it is a mess, but because you are changing words, making it different, but not better, then it's time to start querying. The query process can take a long time too. You need to do your homework, carefully select the agents you query. Don't expect to land an agent as soon as you start querying. While it could happen, chances are you're going to be querying for a while.

And after you've queried for a while (maybe you've queried them all and still no takers), DO NOT GIVE UP. If you are truly dedicated to becoming a published author, you can't give up. It is rare for an author's first book to land an agent, and sell at that. Keep writing. While you're querying, keep writing. Rather than obsessively hitting refresh every five minutes, give yourself a goal. For every X words you write, you can send out five targeted queries. This will help you use your time productively instead of sitting at your computer, staring at your in-box, willing it to populate with the ever elusive 'Yes'. Remember, it only takes one 'Yes'. Just one.  (And yes, I'm saying this from experience, and by the way - once you have an agent, you still obsessively stare at your inbox waiting for it to populate...)

Maybe it doesn't happen with the novel you're querying. Maybe not the next one either. But with each novel you write, your skill improves. You have learned more about writing with each novel you write. Each one is better than the last.

So don't give up. Please, please, don't give up!

And if that picture wasn't inspiring enough, I think the lyrics to Miley Cyrus' song The Climb remind me that there's always another mountain - even after I've climbed the first. :)


  Shelley Watters writes romance for young adults and adults. She lives in Arizona with her husband, two kids and two dogs. She loves listening to music, reading good books and letting her imagination go wild as she creates new worlds and torments her characters in delicious ways. She is an active member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is represented by Mark McVeigh of the McVeigh Agency.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Evolution of Love For My WIP, AKA The Torture of Being a Writer

Hi Everyone,
I wrote a much different intro to this post last night, but after the Earthquake/Tsunami in Japan it seemed a bit too... cheery. Out thoughts and prayers are with all the families in Japan. I can't even imagine. I will continue with the post as it was originally written, but I thought it was important to acknowledge this tragic event.

We now return to the regularly scheduled blog post...

Since it is Friday we're going to have a little fun, I'm going to take you on a journey of the emotion one can go through when writing a story. *ahem*

Behold, the evolution of love for my WIP

The idea! *ping* 
Hot boy martians come to earth and start killing off all the criminals with their laser cats.

Come here perfect idea! That's it. Be a good boy...

Hmm, so hot boy martians... what would be my character arc for them? Let's name one Flurg, that's sounds martiany. Is that even a word? Ugh. I'm gonna have to look it up. Ooo the enemies could have laser dogs. Would that work? Hells yeah it would. What if I make them hot, british guys. The martians, not the dogs. Yeah, an accent always makes a character better! 

I love you story <3 <3 <3

I can't take any more bloody hot, martian british boys. And the laser cats keep on malfunctioning which is really code for, I don't know $%^@ about lasers! Or martians. Or writing.
Texting is much more fun and-- oh, twitter! Oh, blogs!! Yes!
Crap, I haven't written a thing in days. 

Holy @#$% What am I doing? Why did I think I could write a book. Me? Really? 
Where's the chocolate...

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

I'm never going to make it. I just... it's hopeless. 
Martians with laser cats? Who would ever buy that?

I hate this sentence. #FML

I WILL do this. I WANT to be a writer. I WILL be a writer. 
I AM a writer! *fistpump*

YAY! I'm writing again!!!

I love you Martian Laser Cat story <3 <3 <3

Doh, how'd that get in there?

Watch out world. *EARTH BOUND is on the way!

So, yeah. How do YOU write? Is it similar? Anything to add?

Don't forget to stop by Cassandra's post on Wednesday! Are you a reader or a writer? And how does that affect your blog? Good discussion going on over there!

Have a fantabulous weekend everyone!

erica m. chapman is a YA writer by night, workin' for the cause by day. Fan of football, especially Lions and Michigan. She loves alternative music, animals, reading, golf and playing her guitar. She resides in Michigan, AKA the frozen tundra, where she sits quietly typing her next story on her macbook in her Detroit Lions Snuggie. You can also find her at 

*this is what I named my hypothetical story. For entertainment purposes only and should not be taken seriously in any way. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Are you a reader or a writer? And how does that affect your blog?

So I like reading books. I read at least three or four books a week. This is counting both published books, MS's from The Agent, and ARC's.

For published books, these are either borrowed from my local library, bought by me, or sent to me as wins from contests or the publisher.  I usually can only afford to buy books that I love and so I naturally want to share the lovely book with my blog readers.

MS's from The Agent are not shared with anyone, not reviewed anywhere, and the readers reports are only sent to The Agent and the person who keeps track of requested material. That will never change.

For ARC's, most of the time it's required that I review the books I get. Sometimes those books are awesome, like Hannah Moskowitz's INVINCIBLE SUMMER and Beth Revis' ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and I'm happy to contribute to the buzz that helps them to sell more copies when the book releases.

But sometimes those books just don't do it for me. Sometimes it's the writer's fault, sometimes it's mine. That's okay. Not every book is going to please every reader. 

But I'm not a reader. 

I'm a writer. I have chosen that as my ambition, and with that ambition comes specific obligations. One of those obligations is that I should never write negative reviews and post them in public places. 

They say that if you write unfavorable reviews, It's like taking a giant crap on the heads of the writer, the editor, the publishing house, and the agent who all worked to get that book published. You shouldn't say not nice things about people that you may want to have a working relationship in the future. Because, duh, if you say bad things about my friends I won't want to be friends with you either. 

So for me this means deleting my Goodreads account/reviews and removing book reviews from my website (or changing them to "book recommendations.") It means removing myself from ARC tours and waiting until books actually come out before I get to read them. It was a hard decision to come to as I enjoy sharing my opinions and I love Goodreads, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made.

I'm content to be a writer, and to leave the book reviewing up to those who make that their ambition. 

So, are you a writer or a reader? What will that choice mean for you?


C.A. Marshall is a freelance editor, lit agent intern, YA writer, and loves to play with her dog Mollie. She dreams of one day owning a small house near the water, preferably in England, with a shelf full of books she has written and has helped others to write. She is currently single. And unagented. She can be found in Emmett, MI, at for writing, for editing, and on twitter @CA_Marshall.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011



Brenda's $25 Amazon gift card:
Lindz Pagel

Cassandra's Free 10 pg MS critique or 4 pg synopsis critique:
Christine Arnold

Diana's $15 Starbucks eCard:
Steena Holmes

Erica's free book from the Book Depository under $15:
Clarissa Bulatao

Janelle's SIGNED copy of Lisa McMann's WAKE:
KT Simpson

Shelley's free book from the Book Depository under $15:
Erica Henry

Laura Howard

Congrats to the winners!! 

THANK YOU to everyone who participated! We made it to almost 200 followers. All because of YOU! <3

We will contact the winners to send prizes.
Have a wonderful day!