Friday, October 26, 2012

Tackling the Killer Manuscript

So you’ve written the story of your dreams. You’ve stamped your soul’s signature onto it. With all your heart, you believe it’s publishable, unique and marketable. It just has one itsy problem.

It’s a big fat mess.

Yep. That’s me with my latest WIP. It’s a new series that’s been rattling around in my brain for about five years. While GILDED was on submission I decided to write the impossibly complicated story.

It has earned the fond name of THE BEAST. You might have heard me refer to this in previous blog posts and on Twitter. Let me tell you, that book practically killed me. And I’m not finished with it. I don’t even know if it will sell. But I truly believe the story is stronger because of the process I put it through.

If you have a story like mine and you’re willing to not give up on it even though it’s a big fat mess, then here are some steps that might help you.
1.       Ask yourself if you’re committed to the story. Are you willing to do anything for it? This includes major rewrites, structural, plot, or overarching changes in the main character’s internal conflicts? If you can answer yes to all of these things, then keep reading. If not, forget your story and write a new one.

2.       Okay, so now that you’re committed, you need to write a query, synopsis, and a detailed outline. The query will tell you the central issue your story will face. The synopsis will give you an idea of flow of the story, and the outline will show where your plot holes are located, among other things.

3.       Study your query, synopsis, and outline. Personally, I like to also use a plotting grid. See the one attached that I made up using a traditional one with my own personal tweaks. (Don't worry, I plan on vlogging more on this plot grid later) Find where your weaknesses are. Number them from biggest issues to smallest issues. Tackle each one step at a time.

4.       Now send it to two or three critique partners who will tell you if it’s awful or not. When they send back their notes, take them seriously. If more than one person is saying the same thing, you should strongly consider changing what they say is the problem. I find that my critique partners are right 99.9% of the time.

5.       At this point I print out their suggestions and highlight them in various colors. An example is: character issues,  I highlighted in blue, plot is in green, internal conflict with main character in purple. I’m a visual person and right away I can see where the central problems are lying in.

6.       From there, I brainstorm ways to fix my problems using a flow map. Something like this.

7.       Don't be worried about trying multiple versions. In THE BEAST, all three of my crit partners didn’t like the opening. It was too slow, but they didn’t know how to solve it. They all gave me suggestion though.

What I found after looking at my color scheme of highlighting that most of my issues stemmed back to my main character’s internal conflict. It wasn’t strong enough and therefore those opening chapters reflected that. So I decided to write three different versions of chapters 1-3. It was hard work, but I think I got closer to solving the problem. Hopefully, you’ll be able to fix the problem without writing three different versions.  

8.       Mission accomplished! You’ve now finished another draft of your beloved manuscript. You read it and it’s all fixed. Yay! Go celebrate! But this was not the way it went with me. I felt I still had problems. I didn’t know what they were but something was still not right.

9.       Try, try again. So…. If this happens, write a new query, synopsis and outline (or plot grid). Then pull out your old versions and compare the two. What changes did you make? How did these changes improve your story? Can you take it to another level?

10.   Get More Feedback. If you’re like me, I decided I needed more feedback from my crit buddies. I resent it to two of the girls and they took another look at it. While they were looking at it, I didn’t even think about the manuscript. Instead, I took a break and started writing another book. I think sometimes, stepping away from a project helps you get a clearer picture of that project later on.

11.   Take a Break! After a few months break I took on the new suggestions that my crit partners gave me. I reread the manuscript with fresh eyes and made the changes I felt were needed.

12.   Send it off! A couple of weeks ago, I sent THE BEAST to my agent. Last week the two of us chatted. It's still not submission ready, but it's closer. He had great ideas of how to fix my biggest problems. I've been playing around with some different scenarios and seeing which angle will work best. I'll let you know what happens!

Ultimately, the key to revision is the ability to adapt and be open to change. If you can do those two things, you have a chance to slay THE BEAST before it kills you.

Any revision tips that you have?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Blog Tag- The Next Big Thing

I've been tagged by Justina Ireland, author of upcoming VENGEANCE BOUND, and Tara Gallina.

I'm supposed to answer all kinds of questions about the book I'm working on. I'm actually working on two other projects, one a sequel to GILDED, and another is a dystopic fantasy. Even though I'm over-the-moon excited about these two projects, they're still in the secret stages where only the Brilliant Ones (my crit partners) and my ninja agent know details.

I thought you might want to hear a little more about GILDED because this baby is coming out to the world next November (Yes! My editor gave me a release month). 

What's the working title of your book?

GILDED (Crossing fingers I get to keep the title)

Where did you come up with the idea for your book?

I love mythology. While living in Korea, I was teaching Greek mythology to my students. I thought it would be fun to learn more about mythology of the country I was living at. When I came across the myth of Hameosu and Princess Yuhwa, I was hooked. I knew I was going to write their story.

What genre does your book fall under?

Mythological paranormal

Which actors would you play the movie rendition?

For Jae, I'd choose Song Hye Kyo because of her look.

This is how Jae looks most of the time (ticked off, thanks to Haemosu)

But when she's around Marc, the world changes:

For Marc, it would have to be William Moseley.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

About a 16-year old Korean-American girl who discovers an ancient Korean god has been kidnapping the first-born daughters of her family for generations. And she's next. 

If you're interested in a pictorial idea of GILDED, you can check out my Pinterest page here.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Um.... there really isn't much out there in YA. The closest would be the Percy Jackson books. I'm anxiously waiting to read Amanda Sun's INK. From its blurb, it might be the closest YA out there in similarity.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Living in Korea absolutely inspired GILDED. I wrote what I saw, heard, smelled and lived. Most of the scenes were recreations of stuff that actually happened to me. Like the ski scene. So me.

What else about this book might pique a reader's interest?

If you like books with: tough fighter girls, romance, lots of action, dragons, portals, fantasy and mythology then you'll like GILDED.

Now who to torture next? *rubs hands deviously*

Andrea Mack!

Monday, October 22, 2012


The day has come to announce the winners of my EPIC book deal contest. First of all, thank you to everyone who tweeted, blogged and Facebooked the contest. You guys are so amazing. If I could give you a hug I would.

Thanks to Rafflecopter, it tallied up the totals and determined winners for me.

Here they are:

Writer's Pack: Joy McCullough

Reader's Pack: Jude Griffin

Traveler's Pack: Jaime Heller

Email me your address at farley dot christinaL at gmail dot com


Friday, October 19, 2012

Smart Ways to Sweat It Out

The other day, I was sitting on the sidelines watching my son's soccer practice. On the field behind me a football coach was yelling at his players, saying, "If you're not sweating, you're not working hard enough!"

My first thought was, “Man, I’m glad you’re not my boys’ coach.”

But that line bothered me for the rest of the day. Was he right? Will working hard make them better players? My thoughts turned to writing. If I worked harder, wrote more, would that make me a better writer?

The conclusion I came to was ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Yes, in that the more you do something, your craft is developed. But at the same time, if you’re doing it wrong, it’s like banging your head against the wall. It can hurt your craft and frustrate you.

How can we as writers be smart in our craft?
1.      Write as often as you can. I work a full time and part time job. I’m a mom and I’m taking classes. Time is more valuable than gold. But if I want to write, I just have to suck it up and sit down and write. That means I might only have an hour a day. But the reality is, the more I write, the better I get.

2.      Read. When you read, study the way the author has constructed the story. Pick one or two elements that you feel are lacking in your book such as plot, character arcs, or conflicts within a scene. Focus on those two elements as you read and see how that author has developed them. Write down notes in your journal at what worked and what didn’t. Read another book and do the same thing. I find I learn so much by reading other author’s books.

3. Find critique partners who know their stuff. These people don’t have to be writers. Sometimes your best critiquers are actually readers that have the eye for when a character isn’t being true to themselves or the plot is sagging. Trust them. Listen to them.
4. Attend writing conferences. Develop your craft by learning from experts. Your focus might change over the years, but there will always be new ways to develop yourself as a writer. You will never be too accomplished of a writer to not learn.

5.      Try something new. One of the best ways to stretch yourself at anything is to break out of your box. If you have this fabulous new idea of a book you’d love to write, but you think it will be too hard to accomplish, that means you need to write it. It may end up taking you many drafts and many years, but you’ll be a better writer by challenging yourself.

6.      Get online and know what’s going on in the market. If you’re reading this right now, you are already doing this point. I learn so much from other bloggers on what’s happening in the market as well as ideas to make myself a better writer.
What about you? What are smart ways that you make the most of your writing time?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My First Lucky13s Post!

After I announced my book deal, I joined The Lucky 13s which is a group of children and YA writers who are debuting in 2013. I'm really excited to be a part of a group of authors who are going through the same ups and downs as I am.

Today is my first post on The Lucky 13s blog. All week long on the Luckys we're interviewing members from the Class of 2012 as well as talking about characterization. My post is about Creating Three Dimensional Characters. I hope you'll stop by and say 'hi'!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

At the MiGs- After the Book Deal

Over at the MiGs, I wrote a post called After the Book Deal- The First 3 Months, which will end up being a series on things you can do after you get your book deal. The whole process can be daunting and you might wonder, where do I begin? Hopefully this series, After the Book Deal, can help you navigate your way through it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Facing Your Fears

Every day we as writers face fears.

Fear of rejection, fear of reviews, fear you'll never land an agent or editor, fear that your next book won't sell, fear your agent or editor won't approve those edits.

The list is endless. But the only way to overcome those fears is to face them. While I was in Europe this summer, I filmed this short vlog with tips on how to face those fears.

Do you have any tips that you'd like to share?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Epic Book Deal Contest!

This weekend has been overwhelming. I've been blown away by the well-wishes on Facebook and Twitter, the emails and blog posts. It's moments like these that all the years of late-night writing, tears over rejections and fighting self-doubt become worth it.

I'm so excited to celebrate my book deal with you that I'm giving away three prize packs. I know some of you are readers, some are writers and some are travelers, so I've created a pack for each of you.

Writer's Pack
  • Critique of your first 10 pages by me
  • $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card- your choice!
  • $10 Starbuck's gift card
  • Journal and writing pens
  • Query critique from my writing partner, Kate Fall, who has just opened her own editing business 

Reader's Pack
  • Copies of my writing partner's books: autographed copy of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis, I'M BORED illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, and a preordered copy of PROPHECY by Ellen Oh 
  • A Samjokgo amulet (or some spell it as Samjogo)- this represents strength and was considered the most powerful symbol in Korea during the Koguryo Kingdom. This amulet has a big role in my book!

Traveler's Pack
  • Traveler's journal and writing pens
  • "Woman On the Go" traveler kit
  • Kindle or Nook (your choice!) versions of these great YA books: TEN by Gretchen McNeil and DEFIANCE by C.J Redwine.

Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My Book Sold!

Finally, finally I can scream from my rooftop that I've got a book deal! I've been keeping this little secret for a hundred years now. (Okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration).

I am so pleased to announce that my young adult paranormal, GILDED, sold to Amazon Children's Publishing (formally Marshall Cavendish)!

Here's the blurb from Publisher's Marketplace:

Christina Farley's GILDED, in which a 16-year-old Korean-American girl with a black belt and a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows discovers an ancient Korean god has been kidnapping the first-born daughters of her family for generations, to Miriam Frank at Amazon Children's, in a nice deal, for publication in Fall 2013, by Jeff Ourvan at Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency (world).
I know you're waiting for all the gossip on how it happened. So...

Let's rewind back to January, when on Martin Luther King's birthday I got this stop-your-heart kind of email from Margery Cuyler, Publisher of Marshall Cavendish, saying she loved my book and was taking it to acquisitions. (Wow!!!!! She loved my book!!!!!!)

For the next week I was on pins and needles. Waiting, staring at my phone, waiting and staring at my phone some more. Then I got the call from Jeff, my agent. THE CALL. It was during my school day and I'm not allowed to answer my phone so he sent me a quick email first. Amazon Children's had offered to buy my book. Squeal!

Somehow I got through the school day. I have no idea what I told my students or if I even taught the math lesson correctly. All I know is that I had this huge smile plastered across my face. As soon as I herded my students out the door, I was dialing Jeff to talk about all the juicy details.

Signing my contract
I am just so thankful to my agent who knew how to navigate through the whole submitting maze because the next few months after that were a bit insane. And he put up with my bizarre emails that looked something like this:


(I know, who sends crazy emails like that?)

Yes, he's totally a black belt in agenting.

I am thrilled to be working with my editor, Miriam Frank, who said she fell head-over-heels in love with GILDED (I can't help but love her already).

Below you will find a short video I made that highlights my journey in writing this book. If you have read my blog over the years, these pictures will be familiar to you. Most of the pictures my husband or myself took while living in Korea.

Thanks as always to my crit buds who have endured emails and reading too many versions of this manuscript among others: Casey McCormick, Beth Revis, Larissa Hardesty, Ellen Oh and the amazing girls from the MiGs!

I hope you will stop by later this week to celebrate with me because I'm holding an EPIC contest giving away books, critiques, gift cards, and jewelry based on GILDED.