Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Fricassee

Back when I was a fledgling novelist, Mr. A would read my chapters out loud and comment on them.  This was one of the best tools ever for winnowing out bad dialogue.

It also led to a lot of fighting.

As is true for pretty much all new writers, I became defensive if he questioned anything, or indignant if he didn't understand something.  And if he suggested I do something differently?  Heaven forbid.

It's embarrassing to think back on, really.  The guy invested a lot of time in me and my not-so-hot novels.  His "character voices" for my bad dialogue made me belly laugh.  As in, doubled over in pain because I couldn't stop laughing.  (He still quotes them.  It never goes away.)  Yet I gave him such a hard time if he started questioning me.

Then I grew up.

I learned that, if somebody doesn't understand something in your story, it's because you didn't write it clearly.  Or because your logic is flawed.  Or because you didn't take the time to flesh out your world properly.


Everybody has to start somewhere, right?  So we can give ourselves a little grace when we look back on our "formative years" (such a stuffy term).  In the beginning, our stories feel bigger than life--as in, LOOK WHAT I JUST DID! I WROTE A NOVEL!  IT'S THE BEST THING EVER!  Because we haven't learned how to build a world, much of our story exists in our head, and we assume that anyone who reads it will also "see" what we do.  Except, they don't.  And if they try to tell us?  Well, we might get upset.


Problems arise when we stay in that place--when time passes, we write another novel or two, and we're still not really listening to anyone who dares to question anything we've written.

Mind you, this doesn't always come off in the form of an argument.  Sometimes it doesn't even sound angry.

It might sound like, "Oh, well, you really can't see where her character arc is going yet, and right now she's in denial, so that's why that dialogue sounds so awkward."

Um, no.  The dialogue sounds awkward because you wrote it that way.  Awkwardly.

Or, "Nobody understands how the magic works yet, so it's confusing.  It's supposed to be."

No again.  It's okay if your characters are confused, but if your readers are confused, IT'S YOUR FAULT.

Or how about, "I'm leaving this in because it's funny!  Probably you just didn't get the joke."

Well, that might be true.  But it's more likely that I didn't laugh because it actually wasn't funny.  Mind you, the situation or comment or whatever it is that you think should produce laughter might actually be funny IF YOU WRITE IT WELL.  If you're just learning your craft, there's a high likelihood that something isn't funny just because you think it is.

And even if you're a more seasoned writer, there are still going to be times when things just don't gel.  They're confusing.  Or unbelievable.  Or just...not good.  At this point, if you're still trying to justify things instead of taking constructive criticism, YOU WILL NEVER GROW AS A WRITER.

Not ever.

Why am I saying all this today?  Partly it's an outgrowth of my experiences as a freelance editor.  And partly it's because of a wonderful experience I had the other day--an experience I never could have had when I was a fledgling author.

My beloved Jodi Meadows spent two and a half hours Facetiming with me about the first two chapters of my current project. (Okay, full disclaimer: I was a little terrified.  Always before, Jodi simply sent notes, like everyone else.  This time, she wanted to talk.  So of course that must mean EVERYTHING WAS REALLY BAD.)

Aside from the fact that I am overwhelmed by Jodi's kindness (though not surprised), I'm also keenly aware that, a few years ago, I would not have been able to have this kind of conversation with Jodi (or anyone).  I would have been fighting back tears.  I would have been drowning in a sea of "I can't write I can't write I can't write".  It would have been...challenging.  For both of us.

But wow!  Our conversation was so energizing--so helpful--that I came away from it even more inspired and committed to finishing these revisions.  Jodi GOT my story, GOT my characters, GOT my world.  And then she pointed out a thousand things that could be better.  Or more clarified.  Or approached differently.

She asked questions.  She made me think.  She told me what she liked (which is, yanno, important, too).  She affirmed my story while at the same time challenging it to go deeper. Farther.

And and and she pointed out this huge THEME that I didn't even see, and she was absolutely right.  And THAT is probably the most exciting thing of all.  (It was almost like a psychotherapy session for my novel.)

All that to say -- THESE are the dialogues that happen when we finally let go of our stranglehold on our work and put it out there with a completely open heart.  When we say, "SHOW ME ALL THE THINGS" and really mean it.  When we KNOW that it actually does take a village to create a novel.

So, that is my challenge to you this Friday.  Ask yourself, "How tightly am I holding onto my work?  How willing am I to actually take criticism into account?  How open am I to admitting that someone else might see something more clearly than I do?"

When you get to that place, you will begin to soar. And when you soar, all things are possible.

Love and hugs to you all!  Go forth and write, and have a fabulous weekend.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

On The Block -- MORE INFO!


Submissions for our first ON THE BLOCK are two weeks from tomorrow.  Final submission instructions will post on Thursday, September 3.  At that time, I will have a submission link for you.  Right now, that link doesn't exist, because the fearless Michael, the developer of our wonderful automated system, is hard at work creating an entirely new bot.  This is a labor of love for him--his way of continuing to give back to the writing community.  If you have a moment, find him on Twitter and thank him!

For now, though, here are the basics, so that you can continue to prepare your entry:


Submissions will be via web form only (we are retiring the email option).  Your entry will include a logline and the first 250 words of your completed manuscript.  Loglines should be no more than 50 words long (up to 75 is allowable, but discouraged).

The submission window will open at 8:00 am EDT and will close at 10:00 pm EDT.  (Note:  I have changed the start time from 6:00 to 8:00, due to requests from folks on the west coast.  So if you live in LA and you've already set an alarm on your phone for 3:00 am on September 10, you might want to change that!)

All categories (MG, YA, NA, Adult) and all genres except erotica and erotic romance will be included.  Unlike the Baker's Dozen Auction, there will not be separate submissions dates for children and adult entries.  It all goes into one big pot, and I will pick the 24 strongest entries from that pot.

The submission instruction post on September 3 will include the date that winners can be expected to be notified on, as well as any other needed information.  Please remember that there is a $21 entry fee.  It's set up via Paypal, but you do not have to have a Paypal account to enter.  Paypal will prompt you to choose the "use a card" option.  (Though, sometimes Paypal gets a little ornery.  Let's be very nice to Paypal so that it doesn't do that.)

Remember that we've got FIFTEEN AMAZING AGENTS ready to bid!  And three AWESOME EDITORS that will be lurking about.


A common question I get is:  "If I've queried some of these agents, can I still enter?"  The answer is YES!  It happens time and time again -- an agent who has rejected someone's query ends up requesting the material after reading the opening page here on the blog.  JUST ENTER.  You honestly never know what will happen.

If any new questions crop up, please post them below!  Submission day will be here before you know it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Fricassee

Sometimes it feels as though there weren't any other days between Friday and Friday.  Today definitely feels like that!

So, a couple things:

1.  K Callard's LOGLINE CRITIQUE SESSION is alive and well and on her blog.  The imitable Holly Bodger has been leaving her top-notch critique along with everyone else's, and you all know how good she is at dissecting loglines!  (Okay, maybe "dissecting" isn't quite the right word...)

Please stop by some time today or over the weekend to offer your critique!  Or just to read--because we can learn so much by reading feedback, as you all know.

2.  ON THE BLOCK submissions are on Thursday, September 10 from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm EDT.

PLEASE NOTE:  Because some folks on the west coast expressed some concern about my original start time of 6:00 am EDT, I've pushed the start time back a couple hours.  I did not push the end time back, though, because I REALLY NEED TO BE AWAKE until it closes, to be available for any issues that may arise.  And I'm not a midnight sort of gal.

That's it for today--short and sweet!  On a quick personal note--I have been in a state of euphoria with my revisions this week, to the point at which it feels almost surreal.  I know haven't gotten to the Big Messy Part yet, but even Mr. A said, "You keep saying that.".  Which is true.  I honestly thought the Big Messy Part would have started by now.  But I'm going to hit it any day now, and then my euphoria will be a bit tamped.

But, oh.  It feels good to have worked so hard on the WIP From Hell, gnashing my teeth and lamenting to anyone within hearing distance about my undying hatred for this torturous story.  Now?  I'm in utter love.  The revisions so far have felt nearly effortless, despite the fact that they include a tense change.  (I must be a glutton for that.)

Isn't it wonderful when hard work doesn't feel like hard work?

Anyway.  When I hit the Big Messy Part, I won't be smiling anymore.  But the key here--and this is huge--is that I'm not dreading the Big Messy Part!  I'm ready to dive in. It must be the euphoria.

Here's wishing you some euphoria in your writing this weekend!  We all deserves those moments of bliss--they keep us going.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another Indirect MSFV Success Story

Emails like this are like fresh flowers in my inbox.  Enjoy!

Hello Authoress!

I've been a reader of your blog for several years (at least 4!) and I wanted to let you know that my first YA novel will be released next week.

It's been a loooooooong road to get there and I owe a debt of gratitude to your website. I had participated in several contests over the years (Baker's Dozen and First words and Log line critiques). Here I will note that although I NEVER won a contest, the feedback and advice was invaluable. And the support helped keep me going as I faced another rejection. I stopped keeping count after a hundred or so....

I wrote a YA sci-fi novel in 2009. Then it got rejected by every agent I contacted. I revised in 2010 - still more rejections but also more advice and help. I drastically changed the book in 2011 and that got me an agent 5 days after submission.

Needless to say I was thrilled.

Thought I had arrived. You know how it goes.

We did revisions and edited and went on submission.

Nothing happened.


The book didn't sell (did come very close). So then I had to write something else. So I did. I wrote and wrote. I wrote almost two full books, but nothing was happening.

My agent found me some IP auditions, but I never was picked, although the editors had a lot of good things to say about my writing.

I thought, "This sucks. Or maybe it's just me. Maybe I suck." I felt bad, mainly because my agent was so supportive and I felt like I was wasting her time. Honestly, I felt like a fraud.

Then she heard about a new series Simon Pulse was developing and told me it sounded right up my alley. It was a survival genre story - I could write about whatever I wanted.

So I did. I wrote 30 pages and sent it on. I really liked it. I liked the characters, the setting, the idea of this type of story, which is not a type of story that I had ever considered writing before.

My agent sent it over to the editors.

I didn't hear boo. And so I forgot about it for a few weeks.

Turns out, they loved it. They wanted me to write a book! In 4 months!

I thought, "Crap! How do I do that?" It did help that I had written a synopsis.

So I just did it - I hunkered down and wrote a book, page by page. Four months is fast for me.

And now, finally, next week that book (STRANDED) will be released by Simon Pulse!

So my path to publication was definitely not standard, and the one thing I did learn through the process was to say yes. Yes to other possiblities, yes to other types of work and other ways of trying. The more you say yes to things, especially things that scare you a little, the more opportunities start opening up.

So thanks again for all you do and all the support you give!


Melinda Braun

Monday, August 17, 2015

Submissions for Logline Critique Are Now Open!

If you want to enter your logline in K. Callard's logline critique round in preparation for ON THE BLOCK, you're in luck!


Please follow the instructions posted on her blog.  And have fun!  These critique rounds are great learning experiences for everyone.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Fricassee

This is happening:  I'm heading out for a little overnight getaway with my sweetie to celebrate our wedding anniversary--and I AM NOT BRINGING MY LAPTOP.

Maybe that makes me sound a little horrible, as though I can't have a relationship without my technology.  But the truth is that my husband doesn't like to get up in the morning.  As in--I'm awake and dressed and ready for the day and HUNGRY...and he's asleep.  Which can be awkward and restrictive in a hotel room, right?

So if I have my laptop with me, I can WRITE.  It's a wonderful use of my time, and besides--there's something super-productive about writing in hotel rooms (am I right?).  But Mr. A and I are in dire need of technology-free time together.  So instead of bringing my writing, I am bringing THE ORPHAN QUEEN by Jodi Meadows...because it was supposed to be my vacation read, but I was too busy seeing all sorts of people, and my reading time sort of didn't exist.

PLUS, I've got the juicy ARC of THE MIRROR KING whispering at me from my bedside table, so I've got to finish this one so I can get to that, after which I will be GIVING IT AWAY.  (So definitely stay tuned for that!)

So, yes, I'll be sitting on a hotel balcony tomorrow morning with a steamy cup of coffee and THE ORPHAN QUEEN while my husband snoozes.  Probably I will have a few pangs for my work, but I'm fairly certain that immersing myself in Jodi's amazing world will cure me.


Remember that K. Callard is hosting a logline critique session on her blog!  The submission window is Monday, August 17 at 9:00 am EDT to Wednesday, August 19 at 5:00 pm EDT.   This is to help you prepare for your ON THE BLOCK submission, which will need to include a logline.

HERE ARE SOME MORE DETAILS.  I will post the link to her blog post on Monday.


All the itty-bitty details about ON THE BLOCK submissions and what to expect from the auction.  If you're new around here and haven't subscribed to the blog, I would encourage you to do so!  It's the best way to keep abreast.  That, and FOLLOWING ME ON TWITTER, where I always shout about things.

Oh, and if you have a burning question about ON THE BLOCK that you would like me to address next week, please leave it in the comments here.  I want to make sure you have all the information you need in plenty of time to prepare your submission.

Okay, I'm outta here!  Have a glorious weekend.

Monday, August 10, 2015

On The Block -- The Line-up!

Summer has flown like it always does, and submissions for our first ON THE BLOCK auction are ONE MONTH FROM TODAY!


1.  ON THE BLOCK will showcase 24 first pages.  All genres in all age levels (MG, YA, NA, adult) except erotica/erotic romance will be included.
2.  SUBMISSIONS will be held on Thursday, September 10 from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm EDT.  I will be reading the slush pile and will choose the 24 winners.
3.  There will be a $21 entry fee for this contest.  You may enter no more than 2 manuscripts.  A maximum of 250 entries will be accepted.
4.  The 24 winning entries will post on the blog on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6.
5.  Our PARTICIPATING AGENTS will then begin to read the entries and decide which ones they want to bid on.
6.  On TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 10, the bidding will begin! Each entry will be ON THE BLOCK for EXACTLY 10 MINUTES.  At the end of each 10-minute segment, bidding will close, and bidding on the next entry will commence.  THIS WILL BE FUN AND EASY, because everyone will only have to watch the bidding on ONE ITEM AT A TIME!
7.  Entries will go to the highest bidder (a full request).


Our 15 fabulous participating agents are:

Sally Apokedak (Sally Apokedak)
Danielle Burby (Hannigan Salky Getzler)
Danielle Chiotti (Upstart Crow)
Josh Getzler (Hannigan Salky Getzler)
Melissa Jeglinski (Knight)
Tricia Lawrence (Erin Murphy)
Lauren MacLeod (Strothman)
Victoria Marini (Gelfman Schneider)
Ammi-Joan Paquette (Erin Murphy)
Tamar Rydzinski (Laura Dail)
Jennifer Udden (Donald Maass)
Pam van Hylckama Vlieg (Larson Pomada)
Rena Rossner (Deborah Harris)
Caryn Wiseman (Andrea Brown)
Michelle Wolfson (Wolfson)


During the auction there will also be some LURKING EDITORS, who may or may not show their faces.

How does this work?

Simple!  The editors will be reading through the entries along with the agents.  If anything sparks their interest, they will leave a critique.  There will be no warning!  If your entry receives feedback from one of our Lurking Editors, consider that a "win" all by itself.

Our Lurking Editors:

Alison Weiss (Sky Pony Press)
Peter Senftleben (Kensington Books)
Lydia Sharp (Entangled)


Submissions will be via web form only (we are retiring the email option).  Your entry will include a logline and the first 250 words of your completed manuscript.  Loglines should be no more than 50 words long (up to 75 is allowable, but discouraged).  Specific submission instructions will post one week prior to the submission day.

Also remember that THIS LOGLINE CRITIQUE ROUND will be available to you next week!

Please post your questions below.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Fricassee

There is a distinct advantage to having to wait a long time for your writerly dreams to come true.

I never thought I'd say that.  I never thought I'd have to say that, because, let's face it--signing with an agent feels like an "I'm almost there!" moment.  And for many, that's exactly what it is.  But for me?  No.

So, what's the advantage to walking through four-and-a-half-years-and-counting with little to show for it?  One word:  balance.

There, I said it.  I am finally living a BALANCED writer-life.

For those first couple of years, I lived in perpetual freneticism over the State of Things with manuscripts-on-submission.  On Fridays, I felt like life was shutting down, because I knew there wouldn't be any word from NYC over the weekend.  On Mondays, I perked up, because, dad-gummit, there was a chance that an editor would fall in love with my story that day!

I found out everything I could about every editor who had my stuff.  I thrived on the adrenaline rushes from finding IPs from HarperCollins or Random House or Scholastic on my blog.  I kept running tabs on how long my manuscript had been with each editor.

I lived for receiving emails from my agent, even though they were often bad news.  Because, there was always the chance that the next email would be THE ONE.

After a few unsuccessful rounds, my crazy energy morphed into something a lot closer to cynicism.  Sure, I kept doing all the checking, but it was without the rush of hopeful enthusiasm I'd once had.  I was in a place of "Why am I wasting my time?" and "X-rated, plagiarized fan faction gets published while I sit here working my butt off for nothing."

Cynicism is ugly.  So are crushed dreams, when you sit there in the middle of them, watching them rot and breathing in their stench.

From that place, I came to a place of Almost Quitting.  Not the emotional, every-writer-goes-through-it-several-times-a-year angst of wanting to run away from it all, but seriously planning my exit strategy.

Resignation.  It's like being dead.

After that, though, when I finally realized that, no, I actually wasn't capable of quitting (which, fortunately, my husband reminded me of at an opportune time), I decided to press on--while also pressing on with Other Things In Life.

You all know about the job interview from hell, which ended up being the best thing that could have happened to me.  I would have hated that job.  The life and breath of my writing-ness would have been squashed.  I am so thankful to have been saved from doing something that would have, in the long run, stolen my joy.

Instead, it snapped me into focus.  What was I doing, considering doing any other type of writing than what I'm already doing?  Writing stories MAKES ME HAPPY.  Despite anything--despite everything--I AM A STORYTELLER.  I can't stop being that.

I can, however, stop being an "agented author who is waiting for things to fall in place".  It's freeing to just write my stuff, send it to Josh when it's ready, and then move on with my day.

You all had to listen to me bellyaching about the WIP-from-hell for months.  Well, guess what I'm doing today?  I'm starting revisions!  And the scary/wonderful/unexpected part?  I'M REALLY EXCITED ABOUT IT!

Who knew, right?

But I've got other things going on that carry equal weight.  I've got my ballet (2 times a week through the summer, 3 times a week starting in September).  Last weekend, I auditioned for--and was accepted into--a sort-of big deal chorus in our area.  That means, yanno, practicing my part in between weekly rehearsals.  (It also means an incredibly difficult vocal score, but that's a whole nuther story.)  I've got kombucha to brew, manuscripts to edit, piano lessons to teach, and friends to hang out with.

And all this life-stuff hangs in an equal balance with my writing.  Finally.  FINALLY.  It took me this long to find the balance.  Honestly, it was a question of survival.  I couldn't keep up the hand-wringing and the teeth-gnashing.  I had to stop trying to sync my entire life to the ebb and flow of the publishing week.

Oh, the freedom!

So, here I am.  Do I still feel frustrated sometimes?  Oh, absolutely.  Does the cynicism still rear its head on occasion?  Well, yeah.  But I'm not defined by any of this.  And it feels incredible.

Wherever you are in your journey--take heart!  You really never know what tomorrow may bring, whether an offer from an agent, the sale of your first book, a starred review--or simply some perspective to carry you through the day.  And, trust me--that perspective is worth its weight in gold.  Or, yanno, in truckloads of hardcovers.  Whichever makes your heart tingle.

Love you!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Logline Critiques!

As we head toward submissions for ON THE BLOCK (a little over a month from now!), it's prime time for sharpening your loglines and getting them ready for the contest.  I've opted not to offer logline critique rounds on the blog (like we used to have for the Baker's Dozen), but FEAR NOT!

K. Callard, fellow writer and blog reader, has graciously offered to host a logline critique round on her blog.

She will post the specific submission instructions next week (and I will post a link for you here), but here are the basics:

1.  Loglines should be no more than 75 words long (this is my general rule--but FEWER IS BETTER!).

2.  She will accept the first 50 loglines she receives from Monday, August 17 at 9:00 am EDT to Wednesday, August 19 at 5:00 pm EDT.

3.  She will accept all genres except erotica and erotic romance.  (Also no picture books.)

Thank you, K. Callard, for this selfless gift to your writing community!  And to me.

Coming up very soon:  A list of our 14 PARTICIPATING AGENTS, plus all the other GOOD STUFF about On the Block.  Stay tuned!  It'll be here before you know it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

COVER REVEAL: Frosh by Mónica B. Wagner

I'm pleased to be part of the cover reveal brouhaha for Mónica B. Wagner's NA debut, FROSH.

This lovely lady is not only a fellow author and one of MSFV's success stories, but she is also a friend.


During welcome week at Hillson University, the FROSH will hit the fan.

Type-A aspiring journalist Ellie plans to take freshman year by storm. But hell-bent on breaking a huge on-campus scandal, she risks becoming one herself—and getting the mysterious, heart-melting QB in serious trouble.

Grant, star quarterback and charismatic chick-magnet, is hiding a life-altering secret. The last thing he needs is an overeager (absolutely adorable) journalist asking questions. He’s got a reputation to protect.

High-society legacy student Devon is ready to catch the football hottie of her dreams. If the tabloids feature her with the “it” boy on her arm, her tainted past will be buried—or so she thinks.

Charlie, pre-med, is done being the sweet and funny geek that girls like Devon ignore. But if he tries to impress her with a new edgy, spontaneous attitude, will his heart end up in the emergency room?

FROSH intertwines the stories of Ellie, Grant, Devon, and Charlie in Mónica B. Wagner’s sexy NA debut series, about falling in love and falling apart.

Mónica was born in a Peruvian city by a snow-capped volcano. Growing up, books were her constant companion as she traveled with her family to places like India (where she became a vegetarian), Thailand (where she *almost* met Leonardo di Caprio), France (where she pretended to learn French), and countless other places that inspired her to write. Now, Mónica lives in Chile with her husband, three boys, eleven hens, and stray dog.

Find FROSH on Goodreads HERE!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Premiere Critique Slot Now Open

I'm opening a Premiere Critique Slot for August -- first come, first served.

  • Detailed line edit of your first 75 pages
  • Editorial letter
  • $260
  • Guaranteed 1-week turnaround
Please email me at authoress.edits(at) if you are interested in this critique slot!