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As a reader, I love a good story and I know that you do too! That’s why I’ve attached a link for a free ebook copy of Maybe This Time as a thank you for your ongoing support, enthusiasm and, well, just because you are you! The novella comes out this Friday, but you’re getting it first and for free!

Use this link before May 19 to download your free copy:  

The Jameson sisters are at the center of my Begin Again series. You’ve met Monica Morgan in A Corner of Her Heart. I’m hoping you’ll enjoy this prequel about Kate, the youngest of the three. Her novel, Promises To Keep, is coming soon.

And I haven’t forgotten about Julie Rafferty, the oldest sister. Her story, Playing Games, is coming in the fall.

I’d love to hear from you. Email me at claire@clairefadden.com.

Maybe This Time
​Architect Kate Jameson has sworn off men. That is until she meets Eric, the handsome son of her current client. Fresh out of a messy relationship with a coworker, Kate’s not ready to trust her judgement where men are concerned. She dodges Eric’s advances, but can’t deny the attraction growing between them. Everything–especially his soul-searing brown eyes–makes her want to throw caution to the wind and try again. At her sister’s prodding, Kate finally agrees to date Eric, surprised at the joy he brings into her life. But when their budding romance is threatened, Kate is forced to make hard decisions and fight for her true happiness.

​Undercover CIA agent Eric Wiley has survived enough loss in his life to ever want to risk being hurt again. He has long since given up on true love. Still, he’s drawn to Kate in a way he can’t rationalize. Avoiding her isn’t working and for the first time in a relationship, he wants to be truthful about his past and his career. Before their romance can bloom, however, Kate goes missing. Recognizing the danger, Eric stops at nothing to rescue the woman who has captured his heart.

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The goal of every novelist is to keep the reader reading. But before you can achieve that goal, you must keep the agent reading.

Boring hooks. Misspelled words. Info dumps. One-dimensional characters.

You’ll be enlightened, surprised, maybe even shocked in this Adventures in YA blog post “Five Agents Share What Makes Them Stop Reading Sample Pages.”

Hoping that some day (soon), I will join the ranks of published novelists, I was excited to read Catherine McKenzie’s post on Writer Unboxed. I knew she would unravel some publishing mysteries for me and other hopefuls.

The headline to her post, “5 Things I Wished I Knew Before I Published My First Book,” reeled me in. If l learned one thing from her experiences, I would be a little better armed for what the future may bring.

“…publishing does have its rules and regulations and complications—again, just like any industry—and there are a few things I wish I knew before I started along the path.”

Catherine McKenzie

All of Catherine’s Top Five Things were need-to-knows . If you’re a would-be, like me – or even if you’ve been to the dance a time or two – check out Catherine’s words of wisdom, caution and inspiration.

Ready, set . . .

 

“Your opening is probably not your opening” and other great advice for writers from Sharon Short, author of ” My One Square Inch of Alaska, Sanity Check: A Collection of Columns,”

http://humorwriters.org/2013/05/31/above-all-breathe/

“Can you eliminate people and things that suck the creative energy out of you?”

“Are you ready to delete phrasing that feels comfortably familiar to you? Can you live afraid of clichés?”

“Can you survive for long stretches of time with no income?”

Advice-seeking, wanna-be novelists search for the answer to becoming a novelist. A clue. A key. Some formula that will unlock the magic of publishing.

At various literary workshops, author Kaye Gibbons is often asked by attendees to provide them with the one, true answer. Hopefuls want to know about her writing process in an effort to propel their own writing aspirations.

In Don’t Try This at Home, a post from 2005, Gibbons shares her insights and offers many questions that potential writers might consider asking themselves.

Perhaps an answer is in there for us to uncover.

May 8 – What made you laugh

Many writers and want-to-be writers struggle to pursue their writing goals. Judy Reeves knows each one of us. Perhaps not by name, but by our writer’s soul.

I was lucky enough to meet Judy during a session at the Southern California Writers Conference. In a workshop called “20 Ways to Make It Better,” she strung together dozens of hands-on tips on how to take your writing deeper, employ all the senses and embrace language. It didn’t take long to realize that she spoke from experience, from her heart. Judy knew.

I’m working my way through her book, “A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life.” So far, I’ve been encouraged, challenged and understood. I’m not alone.

Today I’m pondering all the things that make me laugh–everything from my husband’s quirky smile to reruns of “I Love Lucy” have made the list. The writing prompts are the book’s backbone, but every page holds other treasures in the form of advice, inspiration and some literary tidbits.

Musicians practice. Athletes practice. Writers should too. The daily writing prompts make practicing seamless. Writing from a prompt, Judy says, is like having someone provide the music when you want to dance.

A Writer’s Book of Days is $16.95 — less on sites like Amazon.

Me, Trish Wilkinson and Ondine Kuraoka, excited and worn out on the final day of the conference.

If you ask a published novelist how to get published, he’ll share his secret–Write. “Keep your butt in the chair,” he says.

There is no magic to it. No coveted shortcut to crossing the street from under-published to in-print. Writing is the only true passage. But it’s a solitary journey. Fortunately, we loners can join others who share our writer’s path at conferences.

Along with some members from my writers’ group–Pageaday Writers–I attended the Southern California Writer’s Conference (& Retreat) this past weekend. I love the retreat part. From Friday afternoon through Sunday evening, I learned, learned, learned. Not just writing skills, techniques and tips, I learned about myself as a writer.

Throughout the weekend–as authors, editors, agents and friends offered valuable information–I discovered, rediscovered, understood and re-committed myself.

My brain, fired up with promise and challenge, was on overload by the end of the conference. I couldn’t possibly write about all the inspiration I found, but here are a few gems to give you a sense of the weekend…

Author Judy Reeves encouraged us to write from the senses. When you wake up, before you start your day, take note of sensory detail – how the blanket feels, the sounds outside your window, the smell of coffee coming from the kitchen.

To make your work more powerful, Maralys Wills, author of “Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead” instructed us “to end your sentences with the strongest word.”

Author Frederick Ramsay reminded us to approach each writing day expecting to be surprised.

Best-selling novelist T. Jefferson Parker cautioned us to notlet others steal your writing hours.

Editor Jean Jenkins turned a light on for me when, in her “Rewriting Novels” workshop, she simply said: “When going into flashbacks – one had to get in; one had to get out.”

Jean also offered the most truthful moment of the weekend for me, during a one-on-one critique. In response to my waves of self-doubt, she asked: “If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?” Her candid question hit me between the eyes with a truthfulness I hadn’t allowed myself. Writing is what I do. It is the core of who I am. Whether there’s a paycheck attached to the end of my project or not, I write. I see the world through words.

Thank you SCWC and Jean Jenkins, for helping me reaffirm my writing commitment. For sharing a roadmap, and adding a few more shades of color to my writing basket.

“Any number of how-to books combined may not give a writer the one priceless bit of clarity that can make the difference between being published or not. Rejection by an editor or agent seldom yields the reason as to why a manuscript doesn’t grab them, and almost never reveals how it can be fixed to ensure that it ever will.

Founded and run by professional writers the SCWC provides veteran and emerging talent with authoritative guidance to help distinguish those manuscripts that are ready for market consideration, having facilitated nearly $4 million worth of first-time authors’ book and screen deals. With extended one-on-one evaluation of advance submissions and dozens of read & critique and practical information workshops to choose from, the SCWC is among the only conferences specifically tailored to empower writers of every level with the vital tools, networking and industry prowess needed to sell their work.”

–Southern California Writers’ Conference

Cara Lockwood

Representing the Page A Day Writers Group, I asked author Cara Lockwood to share some advice, insight and reality about writing and publishing your book. Lockwood has written nine novels in several different genres from chick lit and romance to fantasy and teen fiction. “I Do (But I Don’t)” was her first book to reach the USA Today bestseller list.

She grew up in Mesquite, Texas and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in English. After college, Lockwood spent four years as a newspaper reporter, working insane hours for next to no pay. “My overly excitable editor sent me running anytime the police scanner went off,” she recalls. After being sent to cover a grass fire on her 25th birthday, Lockwood realized journalism probably wasn’t for her.

Lockwood started working for marketing firm and took advantage of her evenings to write fiction. “That’s when I started writing ‘I Do (But I Don’t).’ A year later, I finished it, thanks to the help of my friend, Shannon, who wouldn’t let me slack off and kept asking me for chapters,” says Lockwood. And that’s how I became a writer. Except that it still feels weird to say, ‘I’m a writer.’ I keep expecting to wake up tomorrow and have to go cover another grass fire.”

Claire Yezbak Fadden

Why do you love writing fiction? Hate it?
I love writing fiction because I get to make everything up as I go along. This is also why I hate writing fiction, because I’m flying by the seat of my pants nearly all the time. I do write an outline when I start a project, but inevitably, I end up straying from it. It always seems like a good idea at the time and then a bad idea later when I’m trying to write my ending! 
 
What authors have influenced your writing style?
I have many authors I admire. But, in terms of the ones who have really influenced how I write, I’d have to say Jane Green,  Marian Keyes and Christopher Moore.  They write with humor and heart.
 
What’s an average writing day like for you?
I make myself write at least a page every day. Some days, I feel like I’m banging my head against the keyboard just to finish the one page. Other days, I can write fifteen or twenty pages easily. It really just depends on how inspired and how focused I’m feeling. It’s also depends on how close my deadline is. Deadlines are great motivators.

You credit your friend Shannon for not letting you slack off when you were writing your first novel. How are read-and-critique partners so important to ultimately getting published?
I call read-and-critique partners “writing cheerleaders” because in many ways they are. I think it’s essential to have a writing cheerleader to help you finish. Whether that’s a friend or a professional editor or a workshop teacher, it’s so important to have someone inspire you to keep going during those times when you lose confidence and are thinking about quitting . Writing is a solitary pursuit for the most part, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need some connections to help us keep going.
 
Please share the most valuable writing advice you’ve ever received.
I think William Faulkner was the one who said “Read everything.” I think the way you learn about writing is by reading. I truly believe that. You can learn something from every book you read – even if it’s a bad one. Even now, I find myself inspired by writers I read. Writing is a process and I am always learning new things about voice and character development and just turns of phrase. 

“The publishing industry runs on trends and what’s “hot” and sometimes your story might fall into this category and sometimes not. You just have to keep trying. You never know when luck will be on your side.”

 
What is the best way for an unpublished writer to find an agent?
Well, I found my agent back in the pre-Twitter/Facebook days.  I think dinosaurs were literally roaming the earth (and hardly any of them had cell phones). This was before the invention of the iPhone (or iPod, for that matter). In terms of finding an agent today, many of them are online.  It’s easier than ever to connect with them. Unfortunately, this also gives them new venues from which to ignore you. It used to be that you could just send a query letter and wait and wait to hear back. Now, you can send tweets and emails and letters and still not hear back!

But, I think the best thing to do is compile a list of agents you’d like to approach. You can find them online or in directories (once upon a time, they used to publish lists in big paper directories, but I believe you can that online these days) or at writing conferences. Find out how they accept queries. The vast majority do not want to see your whole manuscript unless they ask for it. Remember, agents are literally inundated with submissions of up to hundreds a day. That’s what we call the slush pile. Most agents want the “elevator pitch,” which is basically how you would tell someone during the course of an elevator ride the summary of your novel. If the agent likes the pitch, they might then ask to see the next few chapters or the whole thing.

When you go in search of an agent be prepared for rejection – both actual “no’s” and just silence. Do not take this personally. Sometimes, it’s a matter of luck. The publishing industry runs on trends and what’s “hot” and sometimes your story might fall into this category and sometimes not. You just have to keep trying. You never know when luck will be on your side.

How many queries did you send out before you landed your agent?
I sent out nearly a 100 queries before I found an agent to represent me.  Of all those query letters, I mostly received silence back. I had two interested in reading some sample chapters and three others who wanted to read the whole thing. Of the last three, two offered to represent me.

Many writers turn to books like Steven King’s “On Writing” for advice. What “how to write” books have you found valuable?
You know, I don’t read as much about writing as I do talk about it. I have a group of writer friends and we discuss writing regularly.  I also just read everything I can get my hands on, paying special attention to bestsellers. I’m always trying to analyze why a book has been successful. I think reading prose is the best way to learn about writing prose.

What’s the biggest mistake new writers make in preparing their manuscripts?
I think the biggest mistake new writers make is lack of editing and copy-proofing. Nothing turns off an agent or editor more than a messy manuscript with typos. These days, both agents and editors expected a perfectly polished, ready-to-publish novel to land on their desks. Most agents and editors simply don’t have the time to edit first-time novelists. They want something that’s literally press ready. That’s why it’s more important than ever to make sure your manuscript is in the best possible shape before you pitch it to anyone.
 
What are the benefits of hiring a professional editor to review their manuscript?
I think today it’s more important than ever. Agents and editors expect to see a polished product, and if they decide to take a pass on your story, then having an edited manuscript puts you in the perfect position to self-publish.
I also am a firm believer that every writer needs a good editor. In my career, every single one of my novels has been made better by a good editor. The fact is that every writer loses perspective when writing a novel. An editor helps you gain new insight and new perspective into your work and can really help you take it to the next level. The editing process isn’t always painless, but in the end, it helps make for a much stronger story.

What type of editing services do you offer at Edit My Novel?
I offer several editing packages from editing the first few chapters to intensive line-editing of an entire manuscript. With every edit, I will send an editorial letter outlining big-picture issues like character development, plot pacing and marketability. My services are about more than just copyediting. I offer a complete editing experience. For those writers who aren’t sure about how the editing process would work, I also offer a free sample edit. Your first page (or 500 words) are on me.  To find out more, head to http://www.edit-my-novel.com/Services.html.
 
 

Guest blog by Cara Lockwood

Every writer I know hopes their book lands on a bestseller list. Not only do you reap financial rewards for all your hard work, but you may also find you’ve gained new clout and respect among publishers. That “bestselling” title is a valuable consumer stamp of approval.

But how do you get there?

It’s a question I get quite a lot.

I was fortunate enough to land on the USA Today Bestseller list and was a top-three seller at Target retail stores. I know from experience that there’s no one way to get to a bestseller list. It’s a combination of hard work, perseverance and a little bit of luck.

But, after publishing nine novels, I do know there are many things you can do to help improve your chances of writing a bestseller.

Write what you want to read.

It’s always important to keep your audience in mind when you write. All writers hope to find a large audience for their work, but how do you write something that appeals to a great number of people?

I suggest starting with the story that you and your friends or relatives would buy and read. What story would you pick up off the shelf or download to your Kindle? Chances are if you would buy your book, someone else would, too.

Know the current publishing trends, but don’t be a slave to them.

The publishing world runs on trends. Editors are always looking for the next big thing. It’s a difficult game to try to predict what might be the next bestseller, especially since publishers buy novels well in advance of their release. Sometimes by the time you know a trend is happening (vampires or young adult post-apocalyptic fiction, for instance), the trend might already be over.

That said, it’s always a good idea to be aware of what’s selling. Keep an eye on the major bestseller lists, like those compiled by The New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon. Read a few bestsellers. Try to analyze why you think it resonated with so many people. What do you think made this book stand out?

Trend spotting is always difficult, but understanding and researching bestselling authors just means you’ve done your homework.

Finish what you start.

Before I wrote my first novel, I Do (But I Don’t), I’d started and stopped a half dozen manuscripts. I would start a novel, then I’d put it down for a while, and later when I picked it up again, I was usually so discouraged by what I’d written that I’d just give up on that project . When I got the idea for I Do (But I Don’t), a romantic comedy about a divorced wedding planner, I enlisted the help of one of my avid reader friends.

I asked her to be my “writing cheerleader” and help me stay on course. She was a great writing partner. She bugged me for new chapters and didn’t stop until she got them. It was just the inspiration I needed to keep going.

Remember, no one ever made a bestseller list with a half-finished manuscript. First, you’ve got to finish your manuscript.

Get feedback from an experienced editor.

Writing is a solitary pursuit and sometimes you can easily lose perspective on your own work. Enlisting am experienced editor can not only help you break through writer’s block, but it can also take your novel to the next level. I’ve been really blessed in having great editors in my career, and I really think they have made the difference for me with several novels I had thought couldn’t be saved.

It’s a big reason why I do freelance editing work. I’m hoping to help others as my editors have helped me.

Don’t give up and don’t be discouraged if other people tell you it won’t happen.

The only way to ensure you never hit a bestseller list is to give up on your book. Did you know The Help was rejected dozens of times by all the major publishers? But, Kathryn Stockett didn’t give up. This was the book she wanted to write, even though everyone in the publishing world was telling her that nobody wanted to read it. She really thought that a story that was so powerful for her would also resonate with other people. And she was right. She kept refining her work and making it better and eventually it became the bestselling novel that’s now a major motion picture.

I, too, have had my share of rejections. Before I found my agent, I sent out close to a hundred query letters. Most of the time, I never heard a single word back from any of them. I called it the silent rejection – and those were often far worse than the form letters I’d get every so often. But, I believed in my novel and I didn’t give up.

You have to be your own best advocate. If you give up on yourself, there’s nobody else who will step in to save the day.

Remember, there’s no magic formula.

Take a look at the bestseller lists and you’ll see traditional agent-represented books published by major publishing houses. Look closer and you’ll also find books that may have started out being self-published or for-digital-release-only. You’ll find fiction and nonfiction and books from all kinds of genres.

Write the story that speaks to you, that you feel passionate about, and with a little bit of luck, success will follow.

Questions? Comments? Editing questions? Email Cara at cara@caralockwood.com.

—-

Cara Lockwood is the USA Today bestselling author of nine novels, including I Do (But I Don’t), which was made into a Lifetime Original Movie starring Denise Richards and Dean Cain. Her books have been translated into several languages and are sold all around the world. She’s written in many genres and also created the Bard Academy series for young adults. Recently, she’s begun offering freelance editing through http://www.edit-my-novel.com. You can also read more about her work at http://www.caralockwood.com or http://www.bardacademy.com.

Every author (published and underpublished) knows — in order to drum up interest  — you need to have a short, catchy description of your novel. One you can spurt out in the time it takes to ride an elevator from the first to the fifth floor. It’s a struggle to condense a gripping 100,000-word novel into one sentence that will hook agents, editors and readers.

Writers like words, lots of words. And we don’t like leaving anything out. That makes for a constant battle between  succinct and complete.

While I scanned USA Today’s Best-Selling Books List recently, I discovered that there are many authors who have mastered this drill — in 12 words or less.

A white woman tells the story of black maids in 1960s Mississippi. (The Help, Kathryn Stockett)

A poor art student stumbles upon a duffel bag filled with diamonds. (Kill Me If You Can, James Patterson & Marshall Karp)

Trouble and coldness descent on a kingdom. (A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin)

I was impressed by how they boiled down three-, four-, five-hundred page novels into one concise sentence. So I checked out other best sellers that have appeared on the list during the past five years – just to help me focus.

Thought you might want some help too. So here are 12 more “book list loglines.” This time, though, you’re gonna have to match them with their title.

The answers are at the bottom, so don’t peek!

TITLES

A. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

B. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

C. The Art of Racing in the Rain

D. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

E. Love in the Time of Cholera

F. Water for Elephants

G. Playing Games

H. For One More Day

I. To Kill a Mockingbird

J. Nineteen Minutes

K. The Alchemist

L. The Lovely Bones

LOGLINES

1. Journalist is hired to investigate the disappearance of an heir to a wealthy family.

2. Post-World War II epistolary novel set on English Island.

3. 1960 coming-of-age classic about racism.

4. Murdered girl peers down from heaven to narrate this story.

5. A novel that reflects on what it is to be human, told from the family dog’s point of view.

6. Shepherd boy searches for buried treasure.

7. Mother and her baby are separated.

8. Love, drama in a circus in the 1930s.

9. Troubled man spends a day with his dead mother.

10. Aging man and woman renew their youthful romance.

11. Act of violence shatters small New Hampshire town.

12. Female toymaker rescues her daughter from heartless kidnappers.

SCROLL DOWN FOR ANSWERS 

ANSWERS

1. Journalist is hired to investigate the disappearance of an heir to a wealthy family. — D. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

2. Post-World War II epistolary novel set on English Island. — B. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

3. 1960 coming-of-age classic about racism. — I. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

4. Murdered girl peers down from heaven to narrate this story. — L. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold

5. A novel that reflects on what it is to be human, told from the family dog’s point of view. — C. The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

6. Shepherd boy searches for buried treasure. — K. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

7. Mother and her baby are separated. — A. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards

8. Love, drama in a circus in the 1930s. — F. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen

9. Troubled man spends a day with his dead mother. — H. For One More Day, Mitch Albom

10. Aging man and woman renew their youthful romance. — E. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

11. Act of violence shatters small New Hampshire town. — J. Nineteen Minutes, Jodi Picoult

12. Female toymaker rescues her daughter from heartless kidnappers. — G . Playing Games, Claire Yezbak Fadden (caught you on that one!)

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