What happens outside of your book?

Hey YABookcasers!

All of us pretty much know what we want to happen in our books (unless you’re in the new ideas or first draft stage – if so, I recommend you check this post out on YATopia).

Either way though, this post is for you, and it revolves around what happens outside of your book. You have this wonderful world between your pages, and characters that have lives and wonderful, awful, and strange things happening to them. But what would it be like if the plot wasn’t there. What would your universe and characters be up to now?


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#PitMad – for writers & readers (plus a giveaway!)


Hey YABookcasers,


I know #PitMad on Twitter is about to hit tomorrow, and that hundreds of new writers in search of agents and publishers are going to be pitching their novels in hopes of getting their books in bookstores. But not only is this a wonderful place for new writers to pitch their work, it’s a great place for readers to scan and see what trends in fiction seem to be on the rise, and what type of books to expect on the bookshelves in the coming years. Continue reading

Book Review (with audio) – How to Hang a Witch

Hello my wonderful YA Bookcasers!

I’ve made an upgrade to our posts: audio versions of the posts! Click on the link to hear if that’s your preference:


Recently, I finished a book called How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, and I must say, it inspired me to start off my first book review post on our new website! This is a *spoiler free* review.

Here’s the blurb: Continue reading

#PitchWars mentor – Twitter Pitch Advice

Hey YABookcasers!

It’s that time again. In just 8 days, #PitMad is going to strike and I’d like to give you some advice from a Pitch Wars mentor! It’s one of the most exciting times of the year, and everyone is revving up to go. For those of you who know the drill, you know there’s going to be a lot going on, and that you need to really stand out to be noticed. The same goes for people entering for the first time, but don’t let that dissuade you, because a great Twitter pitch is all it takes to get noticed – there’s no preferential treatment as everyone only has 140 characters to pitch their work. Check out the rules here on Brenda Drake’s site (the wonderful creator of all things #PitMad).

As a Pitch Wars mentor (on a year’s sabbatical this year though!), I know Continue reading

Grand opening – new website!

Hey fellow YA Bookcasers!

You might have noticed a change. The YA Bookcase blog has now been switched over to my shiny new website (what do you think of our new place? I think it’s rather spiffy, but I might be be a teeny bit biased!). I felt it was about time we upgraded, because as the famous hair shampoo commercial says, “We’re worth it”!

We’re all grown up, but Continue reading

Writing a great first chapter

Yup! It’s the wonderful, spectacular, absolutely dreaded and loved first chapter. This is perhaps one of the chapters you spend most of your time vacillating over – does the first line hook? Does the page have micro-tension? What about the scene setting? Do I have a hook? Do my characters jump off the page? What about the voice?

*cue voice screaming inside your head…*


Image result for screaming

This is something I’ve been working closely on with a wonderfully talented writer & also a fellow editor with. After much back and forth, talking, brainstorming, wrist slapping, laughing, deleting, and burning of pages, we boiled it down to what we think is needed. Now, here are a few of our quick tips to get that first chapter to hold up its end of the deal.

Have a tangible goal. Your character needs to want something from the get go. Something that they need to achieve and have an all burning desire for. For example: in my WiP, I have a main character whose goal is to enter a female elite warrior guard and clear her family’s sullied name so she can feel honorable again. Did you see what I did there? I have an exterior goal (become a warrior) and interior goal (clear her family’s name and become honorable). You need to make sure you have a tangible goal. What do they want to achieve in the novel and why? Sum it up in one sentence and make sure it has an exterior and interior drive to it. If you make this evident in your first chapter, you create agency in your character that readers will want to follow.

Have a chapter goal. In general, I’m a plantster (half/half). This means I don’t have a goal immediately going in on some chapters. However, you can bet your sweet cashew nuts that I do when I revise. Take your chapter and study it. What does your main character want to achieve here? Why? What stands in the way? What will the outcome be – success, failure, to be continued, etc.? This isn’t just your tangible goal (but it will be a step toward it) – it’s the goal to drive the chapter and plot forward.

Cut backstory. This is a biggie. Backstory is a lot less needed than you might think it is. Try cutting out all the backstory from your first chapter. Look and see what is 100% vital. I mean, the story won’t make any sense at all ever if it’s not in the first chapter. Only put that back in. The rest can be filtered in as you go through the book. This first chapter needs to be tight and compelling.

Think like your character. A lot of writers can write on autopilot. I know I can. I just tip-tap away on the keyboard and out comes my story. However, sometimes I read back and see my character looks a bit…generic on the page. That’s when I sit down and try to become my character. For me, it means closing my eyes, seeing the scene. It means reading my pages out loud in the accent of my characters (hey, don’t judge!). Do what works for you. Do what works for your character. Be them. Inhabit their very core.

Have fun! Don’t forget that this is your passion, your heart, your art, and your story. Keep your sparkle in there!

I hope these quick tips helped, and thank you to all of those who read my blog! Remember, these are just my suggestions, but I sincerely hope they work for you like they’re working for me!

Happy writing!

Writing Birthday Post – Love What You Do

Okay, so the clue is totally in the name! Today is my birthday…and do you know what I’m doing? Revising. Okay, so I can hear a collective groan. Hey, shoot me, I’m a reviser, not a drafter ;-). Some of you might think I’m on deadline, or I have nothing else to do, or I’m just a glutton for punishment. But do you know what? I’m none of the above. I’m actually doing the thing I love: writing (revising!).

I want you to take yourself back. Way back. Before you started thinking about literary agents, publishing deals, critiquing, editing, marketing, brand development, book tours… Scratch that all away for a minute… You know why? I want you to remember why you first started writing. If your aim was just monetary, then this blog might not be for you. I”m talking to the writers who wanted to explore a world they didn’t know, experience something outside of their own life, pass a message to other people, soak themselves in something that wasn’t in their every day humdrum (or you might have a super exciting life, and just wanted to try something new!). Whatever the reason, I’m pretty sure you started writing because you loved it.

Yup, there are times when you stare at your screen in horror – writer’s block, revision panic, deadlines looming – but those first days/weeks/months of writing because it’s your passion? Please don’t forget those. Today, I’m ditching the serious writing hat. Instead, I’m doing what I love, just because I love it! Go on and love what you do. Throw off your serious cap, and just have fun! Trust me, it’s worth it!

Persistence, Learning & Success – My Story

I’ve noticed all over the writing community that people are finding the current writing climate hard. This can be for a variety of reasons: writers are getting better and better so competition is hard, the world is in a strange political stance so attention can be divided, writers rush to get out there as quick as they can, and many more reasons.

However, there are two things that have never changed: Persistence and learning lead to success.

Hear me out. I know a lot of you have been pushing hard to get into a contest, land an agent, succeed at submissions, have a successful book launch. Whatever it is, you’ve been trying your heart out. You’ve read craft books. You’ve found your critique partners. You’ve read out of your own genres and dissected your own. Your fingers bleed from hitting that keyboard time after time.

And it drives you nuts that people tell you persistence and learning wins out (seriously at times that drove me crazy, and at times it still does). Because of that, I wanted to share my story with you. While my story certainly isn’t finished, it’s one I hope will show you that you really can move forward, as long as you keep going, keep loving writing, and keep building your social network. So for good or bad here’s what my tale is like, and I hope it will help you realize you’re not alone.

I wrote my first book when I was 16 (that’s 20 years ago). It was 120K and a crime thriller (I have no idea why I wrote that). I sent it out in hard copy to every major publisher I could find. Lovely notes were written in the margins saying to keep trying. This is because I was 16, and I’m sure not due to any writing talent!

I wrote a book nearly every year or so. A lot of those have never seen the light of day (thankfully). I wrote not just because I loved to write, but because I wanted to learn from my own mistakes, not just reading craft alone. One book I learned pacing, another plotting, another tone (and yes, I am still (and forever will be) working on all of these things, and much more).

I read every craft book in the world, I think, I devoured books of every genre, joined critique groups, connected to the writers’ community, wrote relentlessly. Ten years passed. Yup, ten. Then I got my first agent phone call. It wasn’t an offer. It was a lovely encouraging call from Curtis Brown. This little light persuaded me to keep going. I was 26 and still pushing. I freelance wrote for small companies, magazines, and websites. I wrote for little money in the hours between my day job. I started to build my resume. My fees started to increase. After two years, at the grand age of 28, I was selling regularly, had a long-term freelance contract with a children’s charity as a content and ghost-writer, and I was interning as a writer for a media company. I was still selling my freelance writing, too. Did I have an agent yet? Nope.

Then I took a two year break. Yup. Things got hard. Things got overwhelming. I had to breathe. So I did. Whether people agree or disagree with this break I took, I needed it. When I picked up my pen again, I was 30 years old and determined to get it right. I interned with a literary agency for a year, determined to understand more about the business. I connected with writers who were where I wanted to be. I started picking up editorial work alongside my freelance writing.

I wrote another book. I sent it into the publishing void…and I signed with an agency. I was ecstatic.
Then I went on submission…and nothing. I stayed on submission for 2 years, but no bites. So I made an impossibly hard decision and chose to leave the agency. During this two years, I had continued a different internship with an agency, and I had secured steady editorial work, as well as joining as a Pitch Wars mentor.

By the way, it was the scariest moment ever to enter the query trenches again. At this point, I’m 33.

I spent a year in the trenches and then I found my second agent. Again, I’m very excited to get going. I’m 34, with regular editorial work, have joined an editorial consultancy, and super keen to get on submission. We spend almost a year doing in depth editorial…and then my agency dropped my age category (sometimes the business world just works that way).

I’m 35. I’m still writing and working as an editor. Still hoping. I’ve gathered my knowledge. I’m determined. I write my new novel. I’m super excited. I send it out. And to my astonishment…multiple requests, and then some offers. I signed very recently with Maura Kye-Casella of Don Congdon Associates, and I’m absolutely thrilled. In my heart of hearts, I know she is the perfect match for me. It took a long, long time to get to a place where my feet are firmly on steady ground.

The next step? Editing and submission. Do I expect a smooth ride? No, but I hope so. I’m going to grit my teeth, give it my best, and keep pushing (wish me luck).

So, the moral of this long-winded story? Persistence and learning do work. Maybe not as quickly as you want, but they do get you there.

Some people might think I’ve shared a slow story that they find demotivating, but I think it shows that if you really, really want something bad enough, it can and will happen. Yes, mine took an exceptionally long time, and yes, I didn’t put 85% of my books into the query trenches, but I got there in the end.

But here’s to a much quicker journey for you, and if you ever need an ear to listen, you know I’m here!

Good luck!

Agent News!

I’ve been holding this news in for a whole, never-ending four days! Before you laugh at me, we all know how long that is for writers! In the challenging industry that is publishing, where you build your suit of armor against rejection day by day, when good news comes and you have to wait to tell it…well, it feels like forever!

So here it is: I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that I’m now represented by the wonderful Maura Kye-Casella of Don Congdon Associates, Inc.
I can’t wait to get started on the next step of this journey with my dream agent – here’s to many years of publishing to come!
Thank you Maura for taking a leap of faith on me and my strange little stories! 🙂
And for all the other writers out there – unpublished, published, querying, aspiring – if you ever want a writing buddy who appreciates where you are and where you’re going, you all know I’m here for you!

Building your writer’s circle

I promised I’d add in some posts here and there until I could get things leveled off on my end. With operations up coming, a new editorial job, the script due out at the end of the year after a bit of a delay, and all sorts of other fun stuff, there has been a little less air to breathe than normal!

So, as I always do when I want to say hi again, first I’ll get my horse to do it! (That way you’ll smile, and will forgive me for my hiatus! Sneaky, huh?). Well, Roger can do that…


Now come on, even if you’re not a horsey person, you can’t say that didn’t make you smile, can you?

Alright, but to the point. I wanted to make a quick post on how to build your writer’s circle. First off, you should visit places like https://www.critiquecircle.com/ or go on the #amwriting or #amediting tags on Twitter, or talk to your local librarian. Find an online writing group and ask to join (or a local one). Check out writing contests (sometimes you can buddy up with people there). Give something to the writing community (like help organize a blog tour, or offer a critique to someone without asking for something in return) and you’ll be surprised how many people will want to get to know you.

But I wanted to cover another aspect, also. Don’t be scared to reach out to people who are a step above you on the ladder. As a new writer, I was terrified of talking to published authors, or an agent, or an editor, or a writer who seemed to be doing so much better than me. Now, obviously, don’t bulldoze your way into their life, but don’t be afraid to reach out. Maybe ask a question on #askagent, or ask a published author a question on their craft, or chat to them about something you might have in common. God, you should have seen how shy I was to approach someone just to say “Hey, I saw you tweeted this and I thought it was really helpful/funny/etc.” However, you need to make sure it’s organic. Don’t just approach someone for the sake of climbing the ladder (it actually won’t help you, at all).

I’ve actually ended up talking to some of my writing heroes (like Tabitha Suzuma – if you haven’t read her books, then you should make sure you do that soon) just by commenting on something I genuinely found interesting on their FB or Twitter and leaving a post. I talked to authors who were already published before me, just because we connected on Facebook or Twitter, or met at a writing group.

Also, something that’s really important is to be respectful, be kind, sincere, helpful…not just in it for yourself. It’s a friendship you’re looking for, not a resource (even though some of my friends are agents, editors, and authors, it’s not why we got to know each other). Don’t go in asking for something like “can you put me in touch with your agent” or “can you read my work”.

My overall point is this: don’t  be afraid to reach out to people in a polite, respectful way. You’ll soon know if they don’t want to be approached (they’ll tell you or simply not answer), but they won’t blackball you because you were trying to be nice. But more often than not? They’ll be more than happy to engage with you. After all, they’re human, writing, and creating just like you.

As for me? You might be way ahead of me in the process, or on the first steps, but it doesn’t matter to me. If you want to strike up a genuine friendship, I’m always here. So go forth, be brave, be nice, be genuine, and don’t be afraid to say hi!