Five Things to do While You Wait

Before I begin, it should be noted that KJ, who won the Flash Fiction contest a few weeks ago, has not replied to my electronic letter. KJ, if you are reading this, please do reply. I await your response.

Greetings, friends.

Today, I would like to offer a few things to take up your time in the intervening space between sending a manuscript out to alpha or beta readers, and receiving their feedback. Upon receiving the feedback, there is a completely different list of things to keep in mind. But for now, we will discuss the so-called "dead time" where we wait to hear back.

Most writers with experience will tell you, at the very least, to keep working. This is important, but keep in mind there are many ways we, as writers, can work on our craft. Here are my top five ideas.

1. Write Another Book

Note that the Man of Iron always has a backup suit. Likewise, you should have a backup manuscript or some other work-in-progress. Depending on the speed at which you draft, an entire new manuscript could be a possibility. For those of you who draft slower, consider having a side project you can write in during these times, which you will set aside when you are ready to revise the former.

*lots of suits*

2. Catch Up on Your Reading

The good Doctor Banner is often seen reading in his field of expertise. (When he is not tearing pages from said books.) As writers, we love to read. This is usually what attracts us to writing in the first place. I, like many of you, have a stack of books on my shelf. Some I will read for pleasure, some for education or craft. Either way, reading with a critical eye can help us grow as writers.

3. Expand Your Range

As you all know, the Hawk Man has an array of arrows in his specialized quiver. Because of this, he is always prepared for whatever comes his way. If you do not have to focus on one large project, consider doing many small ones. As we had our flash fiction contest this month, you can search the internet for beautiful photography or art, and use it to spark a short story. Write a different story every day. Write in a genre you never considered writing in. Write from a different point of view. Write a story using only description. Another using only dialog. All of these can stretch your muscles as a writer and help you learn skills to utilize in your larger projects.

4. Listen to Writing Podcasts/Videos

Just as the Captain can teach us lessons of past wars and battles, we can learn much from the writers who have gone before us. There are many writing podcasts out there if you search for them. As mentioned in the past, my alter-ego is a fan of Writing eXcuses. Also, for SciFi/Fantasy writers, there are a number of lectures on YouTube you might find interesting. (Click here. Start at #1 and work your way through them.) Related to this is playing video games or watching movies with an eye toward storytelling. Watch what the writers do with the characters, whether the dialog is fast or slow, and see if you can apply it to your own writing.

5. Clean Your House

Not necessarily related to writing, at least not directly. But your family/roommates will be glad you did. As an additional bonus, you can listen to podcasts or lectures WHILE cleaning house. I do this often, since Loki never cleans up after himself.

I hope these ideas are useful for you. I do suggest making sure you do not touch your story while others are reading it to give feedback. The reason for this is that distance helps. You will receive the critique, and at first it might be hard to accept that your story needs improvement. But give it a few days and you will start to see which comments ring true to the story you are trying to tell and which do not. For more tips on how to handle critique, read this post.

Good luck, fellow writers.


5 Ways To Procrastinate Productively

Wow, okay, so I sat here for ages trying to think of a topic. I say ‘sat’. I might have gone flying for a bit. And saved the world. And invented a couple of things. Oh, and I made a few modifications to the suit, and then Pepper insisted that I do the washing up for once, because apparently it’s not the same when a robot does it. But I was thinking really hard about this one. Honest.

It’s mainly because my alter-ego’s brain is totally fried right now (she released a poetry collection while procrastinating on revising for exams, I mean, that’s some pretty extreme procrastination that puts me to shame), but also because I’m going through one of those patches where I’m so deep into the writing process that I’ve lost the ability to be objective about it, y’know?

There comes a point when you’re halfway through a novel and if someone asks you a single thing about writing you’ll only be able to explain it via that novel. They’ll ask me about characterisation, I’ll start talking about my protagonist, ignoring everything else I’ve ever read or written. So I can’t talk to you guys about writing without just rambling about characters you don’t know and plot points you won’t understand. No offence or anything, but you’re not smart enough to grasp all that without all the backstory.

So. I figured I’d do something a little different and talk about ways to take a break from writing. We’ve talked before on the blog about how that’s a good thing to do, but not really gone into details. Without further ado: five recommended forms of procrastination that will inspire you to write, therefore actually solving problems and making them way too productive to be procrastination so you should probably spend a few hours on Tumblr too.

1) Watch a film

But not just any film.* The best kind of film to watch when you’re in a writing slump is something that inspires you. Maybe it’s a great example of the genre you’re writing. You could be tackling a story about a teenager who gains powers and needs to fight enemies while trying to maintain some semblance of a normal life, so you might want to watch The Amazing Spider-Man. (Kid’s cute. Smart, too. Shame he’s not eligible to be in the Avengers.)

Or you could watch a film about writing. Like poetry and classic literature and having your emotions destroyed unexpectedly in a film that otherwise seemed pretty ‘safe’? Try Dead Poets Society. You’ll want to read or write poems afterwards, but you’ll also want to curl up with a blanket and stuff your face with chocolate.

2) Watch TV

This one’s dangerous. Unlike a film, if you get yourself hooked on a new TV show, you might never write again. So use it as a reward system. An episode per chapter you complete, plot hole you resolve, 2000 words you write, that kind of thing. But TV can teach you so much about writing and looking at it from a different perspective.

For a really intelligently written show with great characters and storylines, why not check out Hannibal? Though not if you’re squeamish. Sometimes it’s kinda gross. Pepper made me put a sign on the door so she knows not to come in when I’m watching it.

you're guilt tripping me aren't you

3) Read a book

Again, like films, try and make this something that inspires you. It’s usually pretty easy to find something in the same genre, but if you’re stuck, try going to Amazon, finding the category your book would be in, and looking at the bestsellers. Or, choose a book that inspires you to write regardless of genre. I recommend The Dream Life of Sukhanov: the protagonist, an artist who gave up painting and became an art critic, has such a longing to create, and his desire to embrace his creative sense thrums through as the undercurrent of the entire book until you get to the end and think, “Okay, that’s it, I’m gonna write a masterpiece.” (Even though you know that nothing will ever match up to Olga Grushin’s prose.)

4) Make playlists

More simple than just ‘listen to music’, pick out a character you’re struggling with or a plot point that’s difficult or a scene that just won’t gel, and make a playlist for it. All the music that character would listen to as well as all the songs that describe them. Find the characters who are Green Day characters and the characters better suited to Queen. Find the characters whose playlists make you cry. Make playlists for relationships. Put every sad song you ever listened to in the rain after a bad day and fit them in somewhere. Put happy songs in.


They’ll inspire you to keep going. They’re also a brilliant way to procrastinate and you can spend hours on them. Highly recommended. Play them loudly while Pepper talks to you about responsibility and timekeeping.

5) Delve into … THE PAST

Choose a period of history and read about it. Preferably one you never studied at school and which hasn’t been the central part of a TV show, film or book you love. Read about it until you feel like those people were your actual friends, get engrossed in, reenact it, go and join a living history community. Become the past.

Or you could just take ideas from things that really happened, like George RR Martin basing the Red Wedding on badly behaving Scottish nobles and stuff. But living history is awesome too. Whatever. Do not reenact the events that inspired the Red Wedding. That would be a bad plan.

Bonus) Go outside

Hahahahah. We know you’re not going to do that.

So, now that you know how to procrastinate productively on writing your novel, go forth and do so! But don’t tell Pepper I told you to, or I’ll never hear the last of it.

-- Iron Man

*Although I hear there’s a good one out at the moment. Something about a very cold soldier. Or something. I don’t know, Steve mentioned it in passing a couple of weeks back.

Querying: You're doing it wrong

I'm going to start with a very famous adage that backs up what I'm going to say:

“Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.”

Don Kardong

Oh...hang on, that's not right...

Okay! Try this one!

"If you aren't receiving any requests, it might be time to pull back your query for some feedback and possible tweaking." 
Nathan Bransford | past literary agent, author

I hear writers say this a lot, "I'm not stopping querying until I have 100 rejections!" or "I won't stop querying until I get an agent!"

I shudder inside when I hear those.

This is a fact (I know only too well)no matter how much you tweak and polish your query, if you're getting ONLY rejections and never requests, there's something wrong with your query.

Honestly, just because all your critique partners and writing friends have helped you with your query doesn't mean it's "perfect". I'm pretty sure, actually, that every query sucks to some degree.

why you shouldn't aim for "100 rejections"
I think this is a bad idea on multiple levels. For one, what if query-letter-one-hundred-and-one is The One Where You'll Get an Agent?

For two, it could very well be your query that sucks. Your manuscript could be awesome! You could be flunking your chance with a hundred really cool agents because they're reading a dodgy query letter.

Revise. Revise. Revise.

I, personally, think you should only stop querying when it's no longer your passion to be an author (because you've moved onto other things, not because you're piling up the rejections and you don't believe in yourself. Never give up if that's the case).

I "gave up" querying multiple times (in, um...just the one year). But you know what I did when I had "quit"? I wrote a new book. I rewrote my query. I entered pitch contests (a totally different way to get an agent). I wrote 4 new books. I was willing to acknowledge that maybe that book I was querying wouldn't get published. BUT I wasn't going to quit my dream of Being An Author.

ways to help you revise your query
Obviously your critique partners and writing friends are invaluable! Keep hanging out with them and getting them to look at your revisions. Take their advice, too. They'll probably get sick of you after 20 different versions of your query...but, hey. Tell them you'll thank them in the back of your awesome book when you're a bestseller.

Query Shark: This is a great site for revisions. Even if you don't submit, the archives are busting with queries that have been edited. You can learn a lot from it!
Miss Snark's First VictimThis blog often does query critiques and agent contests. Totally an invaluable blog to follow if you're querying.
- Follow author and agent blogs: I landed a query critique from author J.R. Johansson's Forging Fridays. (She's no longer doing them, though.) Author Susan Dennard talks about querying and agents on her blog. And Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner has archives STUFFED with query advice.

And for the curious ones... I queried about 30 agencies before I signed. Most of them didn't even send rejections! Also a fun fact (well, think it's fun): the agent I queried actually forwarded my query onto another agent in the agency...who then went on to sign me.

All right! Off you pop! Go keep querying. But remember to revise your query. After every batch of agents you query, revise your little letter again.

-- Hulk

Flash Fiction Winner

Greetings, fellow writers.

I wish to extend my great appreciation to those who entered my flash fiction contest. My fellow Avengers and I have read through the entries, and have chosen our favorite.

By common consent, and based on personal opinion, the winner is...




Congratulations! An email has been sent to you, so we can work out the details of your prize. For those interested, here is KJ's entry once again.

She yanked both boys into the hallway by the ear.

“But Mom, he started it.”

“I care not who started it!” She yelled. “I care that you clean it up before your father returns.”

“It’s not fair, Mother. Without his lightning there would be no fire. Therefore no damage. I don’t see why...?”

“Enough from both of you. You destroyed it together, you’ll fix it together.”

As she left, the blonde boy said to his brother, “You always get us into trouble.”

“I get us into mischief, Thor. You get us into trouble.”

Thank you all, again, for your support of YAvengers. We do our best to provide you with meaningful and useful information, along with a bit of entertainment, and hope you will continue to return to our blog in the future.


Thor's Flash Fiction Contest

Greetings, friends.

Today, I would like to extend an offer to you. My alter-ego and I greatly enjoy Flash Fiction, which is a story of one hundred words or less. Since (I would assume) our readers are also writers, I offer you the following contest.

You are to write a Flash Fiction piece based upon the prompt and post it in the comments below. My fellow Avengers and I will choose a winner.

Your entry must be one hundred words or less. No going over.

Your deadline is TONIGHT, midnight, Pacific Daylight Time.

The winner will receive their choice of either a query critique or the opportunity to guest post on the YAvengers blog.

I wish you luck.

Your story can take place in this setting, be about it, or be related in any other way.
This is only the prompt to get you thinking, not an instruction.
Take it away!