Top 5 Wednesday

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: Books You’ve Removed From Your TBR

— Discuss the books that you wanted to read at one point, but don’t anymore

This is a difficult topic, mainly because I have the memory of a fish and therefore can’t remember what I put ON my tbr in the last hour.

I’ve done some clearing TBR posts before, so I might borrow from a few of those.

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I read the first one, NIGHT WATCH and it really annoyed me mainly because of the girlfriend and how she was portrayed as someone nitpicking and stupid. Also I read the author was a bit of a dickwand, so I decided not to bother with this.

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A dear friend recommended this to me after I came out of hospital with a crush on my surgeon, since the protagonist here also has the same issue. But I no longer have a crush on my surgeon (he’s probably still pretty hot to be fair) and I won’t ever read this, so.

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Ok so this cover does NOT reveal it’s about aliens and mind control. From this you’d think it was a nice, magical-realism or contemporary romance or something, but no. It’s aliens. And it’s about Special Characters Who Don’t Conform. So I decided early on that this wouldn’t be on my list.

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The consensus with this… as well as what I’ve actually heard from friends – is that the romance gets in the way of plot with this one. And that’s generally not what I’m in the mood for. The author is absolutely lovely but I’ll check out her other works instead.

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I WAS SO EXCITED to read this book, because it had so many great reviews… and then I read an excerpt of this and it was painful with its exposition dialogue and no.

PitchWars · Writing Advice

So. You wanna enter PitchWars, do ya?

(title is best imagined as me with one of those candy sticks as a fake cigarette in my mouth and a Columbo-esque brogue)

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PitchWars is one of the biggest writing contests on Twitter. I first read about it in 2015, since there were so many excited tweets, and I was lucky enough to be a mentee last year, but the contest is only a middle step for many of the writers picked to be mentees–and for those who aren’t.

For those of you gearing up to enter PitchWars 2018 this post will hopefully give you a glimpse into the whole kit and kaboodle and prepare you for what is to come, whether you’re picked or not.

MY PERSONAL PW TIMELINE: 

In 2015 I applied with the Adult Fantasy I’d written and finally completed after 10 years. I didn’t get in (and rightfully so).

2016, I applied with my YA sci-fi. I was picked as an unofficial mentee by M.K. England (her book is coming out in December!) and Jamie Pacton. Their advice was absolutely amazing, and while I got some agent interest with the MS I nevertheless didn’t get an offer. I took their advice on board when writing my next book.

2017, I applied with my third completed MS, a YA fantasy. I WAS PICKED! I was an official mentee, mentored by the wonderful Cat Scully. I was part of a grand community of talented and kind mentees, all going through the same thing. After intense revisions, I entered the agent round full of hope. I got 2 requests, but when querying it turned into rejections. I revised again, and sent out more queries, but it still wasn’t to be.

2018 – I’ve written my 4th MS – a YA speculative – and I’ve noticed how much easier it’s been to tackle this book with the knowledge I gained from the contest and, yes, the rejections I received. I am not planning on entering PitchWars this year (though don’t hold me to that, because it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of it) but I am getting involved with #PWPoePrompts and engaging on the feeds again!

With the recent shake up in the PW community I’ve watched / discussed the new format  which I LOVE. Yes, the contest might have fewer mentors this year, but it will not provide any less knowledge or gravitas when it comes to drawing in writers who want that mentorship. The #menteeshelpingmentees contest drew in over 700 entries — holy crap — for 200 critique places.

When you see it from that scale, the odds may seem stacked against you. But to be honest – that’s publishing. The key to rising out of the slush and getting an agent is hard work, and PitchWars will teach you the merits of that and more. But first–you want to get into the competition, right?

HANDY HINT FOR PITCHWARS PREP –  STEP 1

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The key to surviving the PitchWars experience (not to mention your entire writing career) is the community  you build. One of my dearest CP’s and I met during PW about 2 years ago, and she’s one of my best friends now. Even when I didn’t get in to PW those first few tries, I still managed to find and enjoy talking to a whole bunch of authors who connected on a very spiritual level (read: crying over words).

You MUST reach out to connect with other writers if you want to stay balanced on this journey. As the mentor bloghop comes around, then the windows open, and then the agonising wait happens, and THEN the mentees are picked – it can be exhausting on top of every other emotion you feel.

Writing is an isolating business before, and sometimes even after, you’re agented so it’s always best to get fellow potential PW contestants on the same path to talk to in order to survive the sheer volume of this competition!

HANDY HINT FOR PITCHWARS PREP – STEP 2

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RESEARCH. QUERIES.

Until recently I didn’t think I could write a query to save my life. I could edit one, the same as I could edit others’ stories, but my own novels were not able to be put in query format. All the “How to write a perfect query” posts I read didn’t seem to make sense until last month, when I sat down, wrote out the heart of my story, and had it critiqued by an incredibly-supportive agent who had only one note to give me (not gonna lie I almost fainted).

All of the research I’d done culminated in that one query, so it might have taken a while to sink in but researching WORKS. As I critique queries myself, I notice there’s always a few who omit their bios or word counts (both are important but word counts are essential), or just talk about the themes of the book rather than what it’s actually about or go into so much detail the truth of the story gets lost.

On average, agents can get over 300 queries every week. 300 people, per WEEK, asking an agent to love their book. You need it to be concise, effective and true to you and your story.

Query Shark is a notable source of querying nuggets, CPs should be able to tell you what works, you have various sites and YouTube videos giving tips on how to create an amazing query.

HANDY HINT FOR PITCHWARS PREP STEP 3

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Revise those open pages, darlings.

Your writing is the best way to snare both mentor and agent alike–they want to sip at the glorious cup of your carefully crafted words and enjoy the story you’re about to tell. The first chapter should be the insight into your book–character, tone, hints of themes, plot, motivation, and worldbuilding all have to be in some sort of evidence in that first chapter, if not even the first page.

I would say the first line, but that’s sometimes too much like a mountain to climb, so we’ll go safe with the first page.

If you can set the tone for the rest of your novel in that first page, and draw the reader in to want to stay there, you have it. But as before, first chapters can be tough. Share them with CPs, read them aloud to yourself (seriously!) or get a thing like naturalreaders.com to test how it sounds out loud.

HANDY HINT FOR PITCHWARS PREP STEP 4

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BE. KIND.

PitchWars is VERY PUBLIC. If you’re entering and you have Twitter, don’t be one of the hopefuls who complain or moan about how long it takes, or that you haven’t had requests–or, come to think of it, boasting that you HAVE. That shit is to discuss in private with your writer friends, who will understand what you’re going through and support you along the way.

Airing out your dirty laundry on social media isn’t a good look. Help those who need help, show support, be humble, stay calm, and be sure to take breaks to help keep your head in this experience.

You might think you have better writing than someone who you swapped chapters with–fine! Maybe they’re not at the same level as you. That doesn’t give you a reason to gloat about it or feed your ego.

You might think the contest is too unfairly stacked against you, since you must be the only one without requests: I promise you, you’re not, and it’s nothing personal against you. Do what you need to get your head sorted, walk away, and return with more experience when you feel ready.

Ever hear about being nice to people on the way up just in case you meet them on the way down? Yeah. That.

Be kind to yourself and to others. It’ll take you a LONG way.

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WITH ALL THAT BEING SAID – Still want to enter? You should!!! It’s an intense time but it gets you out there, connecting, excited about writing and engaging in a community full of heart.

The full list of mentors is live HERE!

If you want to know more about PitchWars, their website with full deets is here – but if you have any questions about my experience, leave them below! I’ll be happy to answer them.

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Preparing your query or just have an MS you need editing? I can help! I have spots open all summer for developmental edits, query critiques and proofreading. Email me – jadewritesbooks@gmail.com – or visit Cover to Cover Edits for more information on how to reserve your place!

 

 

Reviews

COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN – Review!

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Let me preface this by saying I haven’t read many vampire books in my lifetime. It’s a tragedy, I know, a heresy, how terrible – but given the overwhelming choice of not-very-appealing-to-me books for my beloved vampire genre, I chose instead to watch things like Buffy or reruns of Dracula.

Because to me, vampires have become pretty diluted – either sparkly or romantic, with none of the menace vampires were originally known for.

Enter HOLLY BLACK.

This was my first Holly Black book and I’m very eager to read another. Her protagonist was realistic, all of her choices were exactly the same as the ones I would do, she was not whining, she was incredibly mature and basically… I would be her friend, if I could. I really appreciated the time and effort that was taken into making sure she was a fleshed out and realistic character.

Another plus was the inclusion of bisexual characters without it being a Big Thing and also a trans character who I absolutely loved – she was so sweet, and (SPOILERS) she was able to get the boy, too, which was A+ in my book.

On to… Gavriel. Sweet Gavriel. Gorgeous Gavriel. I have another favourite oh dear. He was such an interesting character that I found myself looking for him on the page, and I adored him.

Holly’s writing is so… effortless in this book and I easily swept along with the world. I adored it. I understood every choice, every beat. I would have loved to spend more time in Gavriel’s past – the chapters where we slunk back into the 1800s felt lush as a chaise lounge, and incredibly rich. I’m waiting for Holly Black to write a historical fantasy, cause damn.

AND IT WAS GORY. It never shied away from the realistic truth that vampires are brutal, and turning changes you. I loved the modern inflections cause let’s face it, everyone would watch a vampire reality stream if the world turned out the way of this book, so yes. Adored. It.

A rare 5* to this one! Another favourite.

Going to try and find a hardback, since the copy I bought was ex-library.

HAVE YOU READ IT? WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT? LET ME KNOW!

Top 5 Wednesday

T5W: Best Books You’ve Read So Far in 2018

If you want to join in on Top 5 Wednesday this July, the link to the Goodreads group is here!

SO. What are the top 5 books I’ve spent this year reading? I’ve re-read Vicious, so I won’t include that because it’s technically not new, and I want to include new reads for this list.

 

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This book, man. This book SHIT ME UP. I was gripped, it was so tense, I was weirded out, I cried. I adored it in every sense. EASILY a new favourite.

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This book has my heart — Monty is such an arse but a loveable one, and I can’t wait for Petticoats to come out! Mackenzi has such a brilliant writing style and voice

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THORNS reignited my love of fairy tales and the Grisha world. Bardugo is my auto buy author, and the story about the sea witch stole it for me.

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I haven’t finished this yet, but I LOVE IT. This is my first Holly Black book, and her writing is so pristine – I don’t hate the main character, either, which is rare for YA novels these days, and there are QUEER PEOPLE IN HERE ❤ it’s not all about their sexuality they’re just queer. Love it.

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Oops…. the second book in the Illuminae files takes another spot. I was toying with the idea of others, and while this one wasn’t as amazing as the first (imo) I still enjoyed it far more than other books I’ve read so far this year that could have made the list.

 

 

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Top 5 Wednesday: Books I Want to Read Before 2018 Ends!

–Halfway through the year, and it’s time to evaluate our reading goals and take a look at our TBRs for the second half of the year!

You mean aside from the *counts* 19 (!!!) books I have in my TBR pile?

I have many. Many many MANY books I want to read before 2018 reaches its end.

1. UNDEAD GIRL GANG

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I pre-ordered this months ago but instead of May, it’s turning up at the first part of July and I AM READY FOR IT!!! Give me the wiccan latinx teen, who raises her mate from the dead and goes to find their killer YES

2. VENGEFUL

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Vicious is one of my favourite books, so of COURSE I want to read the sequel! Victor Vale and Sydney are two of my favourites and I have a feeling I will love some of the women she’s introducing in the next one.

3. DEVIL’S THIEF

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I read The Last Magician earlier this year and my friend got me an ARC from BookCon of this. Soon as I get it, I will devour it!

4. WHAT IF IT’S US

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Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli are two juggernauts of queer teen fiction and everyone I know is hype af for this. I will buy it as soon as it’s out.

5. THE POPPY WAR

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I recently listened to 88 Cups of Tea interview with RF Kuang and her book sounded so wonderful I want to read it as soon as I can. But I need to get to those 19 books first, so… maybe for my birthday?

PRIORITIES ON THE TBR LIST I WANT TO TACKLE:

Forest of A Thousand Lanterns, Invasion of the Tearling, Coldest Girl In Coldtown.

jadewritesbooks · On Writing

Writing Is Hard And Other Obvious Things

When I first say to people that I want to be a writer, it’s met with one of two reactions –

“Oh, cool!”

or

“Nice, you know my friend/my boyfriend/someone I met randomly on the tube one time wrote a book, it’s 270k words but it keeps getting rejected, publishing doesn’t recognize genius”.

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Granted there’s a few “I couldn’t write a book” responses or “I’ve always wanted to write a book” thrown in there, but it’s more the first two options that I experience.

(FYI If you want to be a nice, supportive person, go with the top option. “Oh, cool!” is a safe response to most writers, but if followed by the scariest question of all time — “What’s your book about?” — be prepared for the author to shrivel up and cry rather than actually be able to tell you cohesively what they are writing about.)

The second option is one that many writers get, and it’s often soul-destroying. It insinuates that writing a book is something many people are doing, and doing well, and clearly because they have not got ahead in publishing us poor souls must be wasting our time.

Second Option Responders rarely recognize the sheer amount of hard work that actually goes into a book. The amount of tweets that are out there with the up and down cycle of falling in and then out of love with what you’re writing multiply by the minute. There are gifs, painfully accurate in their portrayal of a writer’s suffering, because if writing books were easy —

* EVERYONE would write one.
* The market would NOT be as competitive as it is today
* We would have way more whinging observations about how Life Is Hard for straight white males with money
* There would be no need for contests like PitchWars or mentoring systems

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I’ve struggled with writing my 4th MS for the past year. I can’t remember when I first started writing it — probably around the time President Grump was inaugurated – but I’m only just finishing the first draft. During this first draft I was finishing up my 3rd MS, entering PitchWars 2017, being mentored in the contest, doing extensive edits, querying, going at it tooth and nail and forcing all thoughts of 4th Book out of my head until finally, around March of this year, I decided to go for it.

It wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped. Even with an outline I struggled to get past scenes I wasn’t interested in writing, or figuring out why I didn’t like this scene here, or switching chapters, or just making my writing not suck. I read books on craft, I watched YouTube videos, I shoved so many nuggets of information into my head I looked like a 20 box at McDonald’s.

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Life got in the way as life often does, with money issues, illnesses, and the pesky inconvenience of having to keep the house in a functioning condition. Distractions were at every turn, a devil when I was actually 100% committed to my writing hour.

I had writing sprints with my darling CP, I focused on getting a word count goal for the day, and then finally – FINALLY – today I reached my 70k word count. I may not be finished, but it is book-shaped, and it has enough words to be considered a novel.

The finish line is in sight – I can see it – and I’m striving towards it. But next time someone tells you writing isn’t hard, or they want to write a book in their spare time, when you’ve buried the instinct of throwing water in their face please ask them why they haven’t written one.

Their answer may be because they haven’t had an idea, but I bet you it’s because “they haven’t found the time”.

Books aren’t made overnight. Books take care, and time, and graft, and sweat, and their fair share of tears. Writing is not easy.

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Be proud of every word you write, because each one is one more than those who’ve never written that book in their head have managed to do, and it’s a step closer towards your goals ❤

 


 

Have an MS you need editing? I can help! I have spots open all summer for developmental edits, query critiques and proofreading. Email me – jadewritesbooks@gmail.com – or visit Cover to Cover Edits for more information on how to reserve your place!