Carrie Harris | Young Adult Author

Thursday, February 25, 2010

More See-Ree-Us-Ness About Post-Offer Editing

Alright. So yesterday, I did the long-winded thing when answering Kristi's see-ree-us question about writey things. Frankly, I'm still astounded that I can b.s. that much--I mean, that I know so much about writing. Because I do. Know things. Like the average airspeed of a laden swallow. African AND European.

Yowza.

But the one drawback to my infinite knowledge is that it's, well, infinite. I can't shut up. I MUST SHARE MY KNOWLEDGE WITH THE WORLD! Unfortunately, I was so busy sharing ad nauseum that I didn't get to Masonian's question, which is also see-ree-us and writerly. So let's do that now, shall we?

Masonian was crazy enough to ask me the following: "And, how many drafts/rounds of serious editing did you go through of NP/NB before submitting to agent? What about since agent accepted? And since publisher accepted?" He also asked a question about frothy toe paste, but we're going to pretend we didn't notice that one.

You may not have known this, but Masonian owns the letter Z. He's also in an awesomesauce band, which is linked above. As far as I know, they don't sing about the letter Z, but they should.

But on to editing. See, this is kind of a difficult question for me to answer because I'm an obsessive editor. Every time I sit down to write a couple of pages, I end up editing the previous chapter. It helps me get back into the voice, especially if I've been away from the mannie for a couple of days. It has the unfortunate side effect of making the beginning of my books so tight you can bounce a quarter off them, but the endings not so much. I'm learning how to deal with this. I have a twelve step group. Steps three through twelve are exactly the same, but I've got twelve, damnit!

All in all, I think I edited the book around eight times before sending it to Fabulous Agent Kate. After she accepted, I did three in-depth edits, and by "in-depth," I really mean I completely rewrote the last quarter of the book. (See above twelve step program. Rewriting the ending is steps three through twelve. The first two steps are sitting down at the computer and turning it on.)

But here's the part I really wanted to talk about. Sadly, it took me this long to get here, but that's okay. I want to talk about the pre-offer edit. See, I was thrilled when Super Agent Kate emailed me to say we had interest in No Pain. Thrilled doesn't even begin to describe it; I quite literally ran around the house making this EEEEEEEEE! sound, called Slayer and left a completely incomprehensible message, talked to him, and then finally realized that I should write Kate back. By this time, my poor agent was wondering if I was still conscious and should she call 911.

But this was NOT an offer. This was an expression of interest IF I could cut some words. A lot of words. Like, over 10,000 words.

Now, there's one of two ways to look at this. Either you get discouraged that it's not an offer, and probably you'll spend all this time making these cuts, and she's going to hate it, and you'll be so ashamed that you'll go to the tattoo parlor and get "LOSER" put on your forehead so people are instantly aware of your shortcomings. Or you could think, "OMG! A real live editor has given me ideas on how to make my book better!" and realize that no matter what happens with this situation, you've won because you'll come out with an awesomesauce-squared book and maybe a publisher too.

I chose the latter. Partly because I don't want a forehead tattoo, but mostly because it seemed like the right way to go.

And I started cutting. I rallied my uber-seriously-beyond-fabulous critique group for suggestions and support. It took me a week to cut 15,000 words, reread the manuscript twice, and send it off to the lovely and astoundingly talented Kiersten for a fresh read. It all happened so fast that I quite literally forgot she'd read it and asked her again a few weeks later.

By this time, I barely recognized my own book. It had a brand new ending (again). One character and about a thousand high schoolers were cut from the manuscript entirely. It felt twenty times better than before. Funnier. More suspenseful. Less sucky. Less overpopulated with high schoolers. I sent it back to my agent asking her to thank Rock Star Wendy for her suggestions, and I really meant it.

The offer came within a week.

Sure, I would have loved to get the offer outright, but in a way, I'm ahead of the game going into editorial revisions. I've already tackled the biggest problem with the manuscript. There's still plenty left to do, but it feels doable now that I've gotten that first round over with.

The moral of this story is simple: Every revision is an opportunity.

Wow. That was deep.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Time to Get See-Ree-Us

So yesterday, I asked for questions. And I am reassured that most of you apply to me for your supernatural ninja information needs. But, lo and behold, some of you want to know WRITEY THINGS! I'm an expert at writey things, if by "expert," you mean person who does it on a regular basis and pretends to know what she's doing. Because really? I think that's true of a large number of people in this business.

Except YOU, of course. YOU are in the know, unlike the rest of us nubs.

Anyway, let me take a stab at these serious questions. Did you catch that plural? Yeah. There are TWO.

Kristi wants to know: "Alas, I feel all my questions about ninja superheroes have been answered to my satisfaction. I do have a writing-related question though. I know, I'm so boring. In the next month or two (assuming I ever finish revisions), I plan to start the query process. Aside from consuming large amounts of chocolate and wine, which I fully intend to do, any advice for those in that stage of the game?"

Darling Kristi, you're not boring. You are AWESOMESAUCE. I know there are a lot of non-nubs who have weighed in on query advice, and you're probably better served listening to them, but here are my "words of wisdom." I put that in quotes because the wisdom part is debatable.

Carrie's Tips on Entering Queryland
  1. Your best weapon in Queryland is your book, although I don't recommend trying to bludgeon a prospective agent with it. (It's not received well. Trust me.) Your book should take up more space in your letter than your background. Yes, agents want to know you're not a blazing psycho, but ultimately you're selling your BOOK. Once you're to the phone call/email offer/carrier pigeon conversation stage, you can astound them with your happy personality.
  2. Show, don't tell. It's true of queries too. Anyone can call their book a "edge of your seat page turner." Instead, integrate one of those tension-laden, seat-edged moments into the query. Show us a cliff hanger and we'll get the picture.
  3. The rhetorical question is risky. Yes, you could start off by asking, "Have you ever wondered what would happen if supernatural ninjas took over the world?" But then, the agent could say, "Nope." End of query. Instead of asking if they're interested in your subject, make them interested!
  4. Don't stretch to position your book. Yes, if there's a great book out there that is a natural comparison, feel free to use it. My query compared my book to one of Super Agent Kate's other clients, so it worked well for me. But don't stretch for a comparison (in which case the agent may think you're delusional), claim you've written a best seller (in which case the agent will KNOW you're delusional), or label your book as a "mystery-fantasy-romance-paranormal-biography" (in which case the agent will be forced to put down your query and go look for some aspirin). You're the writer. Write. Let the agent and editor figure out how to position you.
  5. Voice is good, as it relates to your book. My books are silly, so the paragraphs describing my book were as snarfalicious as I could make them. (I followed Rule 2! Go me!) But the introductory and closing paragraphs were professional. Writing comedy does not excuse starting your query with "Yo, homey." (Nor does writing romance excuse "My darling." I could do this all day.) You may be lucky enough to have a more personal relationship with your agent once you sign, but keep it appropriate until then.
  6. Be prepared to query widely. You may be one of the lucky few who don't need to deal with loads of rejection (in which case, most of us preemptively hate you). If not, I suggest you read these words of wisdom from Neil Gaiman. "Reject THIS" indeed!
  7. In the same vein, query carefully. There's nothing worse than realizing that you spelled the agent's name wrong/spelled YOUR name wrong/sent your excited email announcing your first full request back to the agent instead of your friends/requeried someone three times by mistake. A system is a helpful thing. I had a master query that I customized for each agent, a query database, and a rule never to enter the email address until everything was done and proofed. It saved me a lot of accidental emailage.
  8. Enlist a support system. Yes, it's good to have family and friends, but it's even more important to have other WRITERS. A journey through Queryland is a lesson in insanity, during which you obsessively check email every five seconds, and your heart races Every. Single. Time. The only people who will really understand this are people who have gone through it. THEY are the people you should cry to/complain to/celebrate with/et cetera. Do not do this with agents! You're still pretending to be sane at this point. They'll discover your true neurotic tendencies later.

So there you go. What essential query tips do you think I've missed?

This ended up a little long, so I think I'll save the other writey question for tomorrow! OoOoOoh!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Question-tastic!

It's been a long time since I took some questions, so bring 'em on! In other words, I'm running really late and didn't have time to write anything else. I ADMIT it, okay? Slayer's leaving town today, and there's a lot to do. Okay? OKAY?

Ahem. Sorry. I'm a little sensitive. I ought to get me some ointment.

What questions do you have for me? I'm particularly good with ridiculous questions about supernatural creatures and ninjas. Or writing questions. Or ridiculous questions about writing supernatural creatures and ninjas. Or supernatural questions about writing ridiculous creatures and ninjas.

I've about beaten that one to death, huh?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Things That Make Me Snarf - Stupid Game Shows

My personal favorite is the turkey turkey turkey guy. Which means nothing to you yet, but I like to be cryptic.



Now that I've buttered you up with snarfy things, you should head over to fellow Elevensie Randy Russell's blog to read my guest post on Writing Teen Voice. I manage to b.s. so well that I actually convinced MYSELF that I knew what I was talking about. I have mad skilz, people. Mad. Skilz.

Friday, February 19, 2010

WTF Friday - Now with More Blatant Lying!

I have no ideas what to write about today. Unfortunately, I have no idea what to put in my author bio, either. I am ridiculously boring in real life. I mean, sure, I'm Tom Brokaw's bestie, Richard Simmons' talent agent, and Carrie Fisher in disguise, but other than THAT, I'm boring. I'm thinking I may need to make something up, like I'm really the daughter of two infamous wizards, and the funky scar on my forehead isn't just a birthmark, it was inflicted by The Evil Wizard, Gooberpuss. Only you can't say his name out loud. It's not like he'll hear, but it'll make you laugh until milk comes out your nose.

Which is pretty impressive if you don't drink milk.

Don't you think that would make a good biography? Wouldn't you want to buy the book written by the girl with a Gooberpuss inflicted scar on her face? Doesn't that just scream "bestseller"?

Or maybe I could be an average girl with a secret obsession with boys who serve as alternate light sources, and then I meet a killer supernatural who shines light out his ears when he hiccups. It doesn't bother me that he wants to eat me. I'm in love with the ear lights.

Actually, that sounds creepy. Never mind that.

I'm running out of ideas. Help, people! Help!

(Oh, and did you see that Storyqueen wrote me a limerick yesterday? How kewl is THAT? I told my son that the Good Knight lady wrote a poem about me, and now my kewlness quotient has increased exponentially. Her books are some of my son's favorites, and I'm not just saying that because she wrote a poem about me.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Books! Books, I Tell You!

I have been uber remiss in posting updates on the Read 75 Books So You Can Be As Kewl As PJ Hoover Challenge. Apparently, I'm not as kewl as PJ Hoover. No surprise there. Trust me. I'm writing my author bio, and it has become quite clear to me that I am Not. Kewl. At. All.

Oh well.

Anyway, my new challenge tally is 9. (EDIT: Durr. I can't count. Make that 10.) Woo! Go me! (And can I take a moment to remind you to read Cracked Up To Be, by Courtney Summers, which we chose as the Cybil's YA award winner this year? Good, because I just did.)

Now, for the longest time, I reviewed everything in haiku. And while I may do some more haiku in the future, I'm going to try something different. After all, it's tough to go wrong with a limerick.

Skinned, by Robin Wasserman
There once was a girl who car crashed.
Her life front her eyes, it all flashed.
She got all robotted,
'gainst a baddie she plotted,
His evil designs, she all dashed.

Powerless, by Matthew Cody
There once was a boy with no powers,
In a book I devoured in hours,
Had to read til the end,
See if he'd save his friend,
Amidst dangerous meteor showers.

Srsly. Read Powerless. I'm not just saying that because Matthew Cody and I are agent-siblings.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Carrie's Guide to Casting Your Movie

The other day, I was talking to my best friend about how strange it is to think that other people will be reading No Pain, No Brain next year. People I don't know, even. And they won't see my characters the way I do. I don't think that's a bad thing, but it sure feels surreal.

So she says, "Yeah, but think about how it would feel if they made a movie or tv show or something, and they cast someone who looks completely different from your mental picture?"

I've decided that the best way to avoid this problem is to pre-cast the movie, so any future casting directors will know exactly who I have in mind. I know they won't be able to get the exact people, but maybe by that time these people will have procreated...

Actually, that's never going to happen, for reasons you will soon begin to understand. So if anyone wants to make a movie of my book, you better do it fast.

First, I've got to cast Kate Grable. Kate is a classic science geek, famous for her braid and her ever-present glasses. I think it's only natural to select someone who's famous for her glasses too. Lady Gaga is the perfect choice.

Science geeks of the world, unite! And dress like freaks!


Then, there's Kate's best friend, Roxanne "Rocky" Micucci. Rocky is everything Kate isn't. Cute. Has long, beautiful hair. Knows how to flirt without a Dummies Guide. I have the perfect person to play her. He's got the Rocky thing down pat.

I have long, beautiful hair too. Yo.


The last essential character that I feel must be pre-cast is the love interest. Aaron Kingsman is made of awesome. He's the quarterback of the football team and the only person who's ever managed to outscore Kate on a biology test. I'm looking for the perfect blend of sporty, charming, and smart as a whip. There's only one natural choice.

Kiss me, Kate! Kiss me!


I feel much better about my book's film prospects now. Anyone else feel like casting their movie? You'll feel better too, especially if you cast Richard.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lolzombie of the Day - Flashdance

The book is done! Done, I tell you!

Let's celebrate with a lolzombie. Today's lolzombie of the day is inspired by Flashdance, because lolzombies and dance movies go together like peanut butter and telephones.

Don't try to understand. Just nod and smile, and it will go easier for you.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Things That Make Me Snarf - Pants

I'm late today, but better late than never. Besides, I've got a good reason for being late. It's called "The Last 10 Pages of my Edit."

So while I approach the ending of my book in slow motion with "Eye of the Tiger" playing in the background, look at THIS. Rated PG-13 for some language and some pants on the ground.

EDIT: Le sigh. The imbed code leads to the wrong video. Guess you'll have to click the link. But it's worth it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

February Winner (and Stuff)

Whee! This weekend is a four day marathon of no-schoolery, so I'm going to keep this short. This month's winner of the Two Hours of Awesomesauce giveaway, the person upon whom the gods of Random.org have smiled upon is...

Mariah Irvin!

You'll have to start thinking about what you want help with, Mariah. Critiques? Queries? Synopses? Something else? We already KNOW that ninjas are infinitely superior to pirates, so I think that debate is probably off the list.

Stay tuned for the March Give Backery event. It'll come in March. I'm creative that way. Didn't win? Watch some zombies do aerobics. It'll help you feel better.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

2010 Debut Author Challenge: The Iron King

Have you heard of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge? Everyone's always asking how they can support the publishing industry (at least in my little reality), and this is a great way to do it. All you need to do is commit to reading a book a month by a debut author and post a review. And you can win ARCs. ARCs!

Noah ain't got nothing on these ARCs, bay-bee.

My second book is Julie Kagawa's The Iron King. Julie has a very pretty website. You should click it. And she has a very pretty cover. It's all pretty, all the time around here.

I feel pretty! Oh so pretty! And... uh... kingly?


And here's the thing about The Iron King: if you don't want to become completely obsessed, if you don't feel like staying up to 2 AM to finish just... one... more... chapter, if you don't enjoy a nice helping of awesomesauce, DON'T READ THIS BOOK. Most of the recent YA faerie books are urban fantasies, and don't get me wrong; I love those. But The Iron King is a classic faerie tale for modern times. There's a quest through exotic faerie lands, beasties galore, and a hot faerie guy.

I can't stress that enough. Hot. Faerie. Guy. Did I say "hot"? Did I say it with sufficient emphasis?

Anyway, the only way you're getting this book away from me is by prying it out of my cold, dead hands. Or if you're a hot faerie guy, I might be persuaded to give it to you. Maybe.

Did I mention that I liked this?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Carrie's Guide to Author Photos

I've started working on some massive awesomeness, aka my author picture and bio for the inside of my book. My BOOK! Have I mentioned that I have a book? Okay, so I've mentioned it, but have I mentioned it today? In the last five minutes? I have a book. A BOOK!

Scuse me while I do the dance of joy.

I'm back.

But I've learned a lot of things about author photos since I started working on mine, and I'd like to share that knowledge with you. Remember that Give Backery thing? Of course you do. You should enter the contest if you haven't already.

Here are my tips to awesome author photo-ry.

1. Silver sparkles are slimming. Let's face it; business attire is so yesterday. Catsuits are the author photo trend of the future.



2. Speaking of catsuits... pick your pose carefully. Personally, I'm not a fan of the resting-chin-on-hand pose. It's so much more visually exciting if you top your fingers with metal claws and waggle them at the camera.



3. When all else fails, bare a little skin. No one can resist a metal bikini.



4. Before exposing that skin, please perform an essential public service. Make sure to shave your chest hair. Assuming that you WANT people to buy your books, that is. I'm talking to YOU, David Hasselhoff.



I hope these tips are as helpful to you as they are to me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Things That Make Me Snarf - Ninja Parade

You've probably already seen this, but it's too funny to pass up. I could watch it all day long, but that wouldn't bode particularly well for my edits now, would it?

Me: Sorry, Fabulous Agent Kate and Rock Star Wendy, the book isn't done.

FAK and RSW: NOT DONE!?!?

Me: Blame it on the ninja. Kind of like that old Milli Vanilli song, only different.



And just in case you missed it, please stop by my February Giveaway! You can win two hours of my time to help you with your current writing projects. So long as the ninja don't interfere, that is.

Monday, February 8, 2010

February Giveaway

For those of you who missed it, I've declared 2010 the Year of Give Backery. The Reader's Digest version is pretty, well, short. 2009 was such a good year for me, so I'm going to give something away every month. Last month, I gave a 10 page critique to the uber awesome Marybeth Poppins.

A 10 page critique! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!


EEEEEEEEEEEEE is right, Richard. I second your EEEEEEE! But a few people mentioned that *le gasp* they don't have anything to be critiqued. So that's why this month's Give Backery is a little more open. It's the Two Hours of Awesomesauce giveaway. I will give you two hours of my time. Here are a few things I can do in two hours:
  • Critique 10 pages of your work.
  • Help you write a query letter.
  • Critique a synopsis.
  • Help you brainstorm your next project or get through a plot snag.
  • Debate the relative merits of pirates versus ninjas.
  • Send you about 50 ridiculous YouTube videos.

And the rules are simple:

Leave a comment: +1 entry
Current follower: +2 entries
New follower: +1 entry
Tweet/blog about the contest: +1 entry each

Please let me know how many entries you have total, because otherwise I might miss something, and that would suck. The contest will be open until Thursday, Feb 11 at noon EST. I'll choose the winner by random number generator and post their name on Friday.

You know you want 50 ridiculous YouTube videos. Admit it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Things That Make Me Snarf - Understanding Teenage Boys

Slayer is so lucky he's no longer a teenage boy, because otherwise he'd be a victim of a hit-and-run buttering.



Have good weekendage, peeps. And stop back on Monday to learn about February's Give Backery. It's even better than last month's! Whee!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Conference Wrap-Up

The SCBWI conference was sooo awesome. I'm not a huge taker of notes, but here are my big takeaways:

Libba Bray is hilarious. One of my favorite bits of hers was to not chase the hot pterodactyl boyfriend. In other words, don't chase trends; let your book be what it is. After all, by the time it hits the shelves, that trend will be over anyway. A lot of people said the same thing. During the agent's panel, they kept saying they don't like chasing trends, they like MAKING trends. Ben Schrank from Razorbill said the same. You should know the market but not write FOR it. But that doesn't mean that you can't follow a trend if that's the story you need to tell. A lot of people were flipping because their *insert brilliant idea here* was uber similar to something else out there, but the consensus was that if the book is good, the book is good. Period.

I went to a section on Writing Fantasy, where I met the lovely Lee Wind, who is a fellow Cybils judge (and did I mention how lovely he is?). The general perception is that traditional high fantasy is getting softer. Paranormal romance is in its heyday, although some people think it will soon be over and others think it's here to stay. Dystopian is huge, probably because of Hunger Games. And steampunk is on an upswing. Of course, after they said that, they reminded us not to chase trends. :)

I went to the Blueboarder dinner on Saturday night with about 30-40 other people, along with a herd of Elevensies AND Stephanie Ruble, AND other kewl people. I actually took pictures. Sometime in the next millenium, I will go downstairs and upload them.

Then, there was the trip to Random House. I think my kewlness quotient went up about 40% just walking in the door. Rock Star Wendy, my editor, is remarkably nice (and lucid, considering her rock star status). We got to talk covers and blurbs and future projects, and ever since that meeting, I've been walking around making a constant "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! sound in my head.

I'm sure the people around me are thankful I'm not externalizing that.

Then we went to a fancy restaurant down the street. Apparently, Tom Brokaw eats there all the time, although we didn't see him. That's right. Now I run in the same circles as Tom. Actually, we're besties now.

I think MY kewlness quotient is up 40% now too.


My only regret is that there were a few people I really wanted to run into that I didn't get to see. You know who you are. :(

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New York, Spaceships, and Time Machines

I'm back from the best New York trip in the history of the known universe. Seriously. After I flew in, Slayer took me out to dinner, and I jabbered on and on about how awesome it was. So he said, "I think the only way it could have been better is if they gave you a million dollars."

"Or my own spaceship," I replied.

Because excitement is not excitement without a Strongbad reference.



I think I've posted that video before, but that was then and this is now, and if I could make now then, I'd be rich on time machine technology. Which I'm not.

Anyway, I'm much calmer after jabbering at Slayer and sending the world's longest email to Super Agent Kate. I'll share little tidbits throughout the next week or so, and there's more Give Backery coming, so I hope you'll stick around.

But I probably won't give you your own spaceship. Sorry to disappoint.
 


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