From Sarah, With Joy

Writer querying two novels and some other word babies. I tend to effervesce.

New posts every Monday and Thursday

Thursday, May 14, 2015

5 Non-Writing Things Writers Should Do Every Day

Writing can be a weird, lonely game, especially on the day to day. So here are ten things I'm trying to do every day to help my physical, emotional, and mental health as a writer.

1. Go outside. I know, I know, it's kind of scary out there, but there's also flowers and clouds and fresh air.

2. Talk to other writers. I always feel better and pumped up about writing after talking with other writers. And if you don't have IRL writer friends, there's us online too! Even just watching stuff like National Book Festival author talks perks me up a little bit.

3. Exercise. Pick your poison, whatever works for you. The point is to try and get moving, get your heart rate up, a little bit every day. I know I always feel better for it, and feel very bleh when I don't.

4. Read. Reading is what reminds us why we do what we do. Either it's brilliant and we think, man I want to be able to make readers feel this way one day. Or it's...not, and we think, hey, I can do better than that.

5. Do something new. Explore a new place in your city or try out a new restaurant. Just doing something new can help you feel less suck in your own head.

Hope these help! I'm going to try and do better at them myself.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Go To The Gym Happy


It's got to be a big deal for me to want to talk about working out.

I've been trying to get serious about health lately. I've been a casual gym goer for many years (I'm still pretty casual) but I'm trying to add some consistency. One of my biggest problems with working out is that I've probably got something like asthma, and when I run for extended periods I get wheezy and have some pretty bad chest pains.

Anyway, on Saturday I got to hang out with my awesome mom. She was in town before flying back home, so we went out for lunch and talked and it was just so great. After dropping her off at the airport, I headed over to the gym. Because I'd spent the morning with her I walked into the gym feeling super happy. And let me tell you, that made all the difference.

I was feeling pumped and excited, so I felt up for trying new things that ended up working for me so much better than before. I finally felt that runners high I've heard so much about, without hitting up against the wheezing chest pain block first. It was amazing!

Ok, so why am I even telling you this? Who cares? Right. I don't care about other peoples work outs either, believe me. But here's my point.

Sit down to your writing or editing feeling happy.

Maybe blast some happy music first and dance around in your underwear. Or maybe make yourself some chocolate chip cookies. Whatever it takes. Even if you're writing something really dramatic and emotional, I believe sitting down happy is sitting down ready to DO this thing.

You may end up feeling drained and stretched, but if you go to work happy, you may find you have more of yourself to give.

Sarah

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Blogging: Have We Heard This All Before?

I've been doing some thinking lately about the best functions and purposes of a blog in current social media trends. I think blogs are just as vital as ever, though perhaps for different reason's than they once were, and I'll get to that. But I can I just complain about it for a second? I could use your guys opinions.

First, blogs just aren't the "thing" anymore. At least that's the impression I'm getting in my web usage. It seems to me that so many users don't have the attention span for even a short blog post anymore, and the new social media sites are reflecting that. We have the quick and visual Instagram over Facebook, and six second Vine videos in addition to YouTube. People don't have the attention for a five paragraph blog essay. (But we do it anyway, right? :)

Mostly though, I'm starting to feel redundant again. I started this blog as a writing blog, and I LOVE talking about writing and hearing about writing and hearing from you guys about your writing projects, and I do want to continue providing as much useful information and tips for you guys about writing that I can. But the thing is, when you've got 600 posts about writing in your archive, you start feeling like you've got nothing new to say. And I know so many of you amazing bloggers have a big chunk even more then that. (Props. Serious props.)

And like I said, I think blogs are still very important. They may not be the go to "thing" anymore, but they still provide one of the best options for what is essentially your internet "home" address. They're the place you can point people. They're your gathering ground.

So now I want to ask you guys. What do you think is the solution? Is this just me being petulant? What other functions do you see for author blogs? 

Sarah Allen

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

What Poetry Does

So I submitted ten pages of poetry to a competition recently and had to include a 200-250 word introduction. So I thought I'd share it with you here, too. Wish me luck!

Introduction:

I have always been jealous of what good actors can do with their faces. I think of the episode of The Office when Jim and Pam are at the hospital. Jim comes out of the hospital room to call a friend at the company picnic to say they’re not coming back. He looks at the camera, wide, shocked eyes starting to tear up, and you know they’ve just figured out that Pam is pregnant. All of this without words. Just faces.

Maybe poetry is just that: language’s facial expression. Maybe poetry is important precisely because there is so much that can’t be put into words.

It is important to dig in to poetry, to put it under the microscope at every angle. This is how you discover poetry’s internal organs. But I think it is also important to skim across the surface of a poem and let it leave you feeling slightly breathless.

My poems are an attempt at leaving the reader with a glimpse of someone’s face, like catching someone looking in at the window. I’ve enjoyed trying this in a variety of forms, including prose poetry. I believe poetry should be, like the best fiction, accessible, and like the best creative non-fiction, vulnerable. Whether based on actual life or an idea of real life, I believe the best poetry leaves you gasping with familiarity.

With this in mind, breathe carefully, but don’t blink.

Sarah Allen

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Monday, April 27, 2015

An Agents Instruction on Query Letters

I learned SO many amazing things at this weekends Las Vegas Writer's Conference. I'll give you guys some of the best stuff I learned over the next few posts.

One workshop, taught by a New York agent, was about what she looks for in query letters. They get dozens a day, guys, and the majority of those they only need about four seconds before they move on. So here's how to get more than those four seconds, according to An Actual Agent.

Make SURE its the right genre. Every agent I've ever talked with says that far and away the number one reason they reject a query is that its for a genre they don't represent. This seems unfortunate to me, because it's such a simple fix. Don't send your YA novel to an agent that doesn't represent YA. Basically, it comes down to doing your homework. A quick trip to the agency website's submission guidelines page can take care of this in a snap. And if you use AgentQuery.com you can even search agents by genre. (Still check their website submission guidelines. Just to be safe.)

Keep it short and clean. Don't have egregious spelling errors in the first sentence. Spell the agent's name right. (And make sure it's addressed to a specific agent. That's an obvious one, right?). And it's best if they can see your entire query on one screen.

Quick particulars right off the bat. An agent has to get through query letters very quickly, and if you give them the right facts in the first paragraph, its easy for them to see that you've done your homework and this is a book that might fit their agency. So in the first paragraph (first sentence even) give them your books title, genre, and word count.

Keep your summary simple. It's almost painful how little information an agent needs about your book in a query. But you're not selling them the book, all you're doing is hooking them. All they need is your books hook, your main character, and the driving action/conflict. This agent suggested avoiding rhetorical questions and instead using a When/Then statement. So for example, "When 15 year old Romeo meets the love of his life at a ball, Then he knows he has to meet her again despite their families generation-long feud." Or, "When 11 year old Harry gets mysterious letters in the mail, then he discovers his odd quirks are actual magical powers that can be trained." Start your pitch that way and then give two to four more sentences about what the main character does and how the conflict resolves, and then sign out. I know it's hard, and I know it means missing out on the incredible sub plot you've written, but seriously. A busy agent will take notice when you respect their crazy schedule.

Why THIS agent? Sign off by giving one or two sentences about why you think THIS specific agent is a good fit. Maybe they represented a similar book you really enjoyed? Or maybe you read a Writers Digest interview about how they really like fairy-tale retellings, and you've got just that? Whatever it is, make it personal.

Minimal bio. Especially with fiction. Basically ALL you need are two things: previous publishing experience and writing awards. Seriously, that's it. Especially if you're writing fiction. The query isn't about you, it's about your book. If you're writing about a circus and you went to clown school, then you can quickly mention that, but the agent REALLY doesn't need to know that your best friend, or even your college creative writing professor, really liked your book.

See how efficiency and simplicity are the keys here? That was my take-away from this particular session. The agent doesn't need to know every aspect of your book, and especially not your life story, all they need is to know is that this is a book they represent, and a story that they might like. Then the book itself does the rest.

Sarah Allen

For more frequent updates, writing tips, and funnies, follow on FacebookTwitterGoogle+
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