Sunday, September 30, 2012

YAtopia: My New Playground

I'm really excited to announce I was invited to join the team of contributors at YAtopia! It's a writer's blog that focuses on teens and books written for them - but there's more. The YAtopia gang is also AWESOME at running competitions.

If you're a YA writer and you haven't followed us yet, get over there and do it! Just last week we've announced a pitch competition that's direct to an Egmont editor - and there's more to come!

So, about once a month (starting in two days) you'll see me linking Seeking the Write Life to my contribution at YAtopia. I'll also be tweeting links to their competitions, writer advice and so forth.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Today I'm Guest Posting at Rachelle Gardner's Blog!

What do you think about the  "Us vs. Them" attitudes from writers in both traditional and independent publishing? I say, enough! Time to realize we're all on the same team...

Join the conversation here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

International Pitch Comp - GET YOUR PITCH ON for a Real Live Editor!

My online buddy and author S. M.Johnston has a fabulous opportunity for you:

Commissioning and Managing Editor of Hardie Grant Egmont, Marisa Pintado, will be poised and ready to take your pitches on Sharon's blogs Down Under Wonderings and YAtopia on October 15th.

Marisa is looking for YA in any genre and is accepting submissions from any where in the world. It's your chance to skip the slush pile and put your pitch right under the nose of a fantastic editor. There's even better news - there is no limit on how many requests Marisa will make from the contest.

Here's the rules:
  • Your manuscript must be complete, polished and ready to query - this means no first drafts or almost finished manuscripts.
  • It must be YA.
  • When the contest goes live on October 15th, post your entry details in the comments section of either YAtopia or Down Under Wonderings - each blog is accepting 100 entries only.
  • Your entry details need to include a 50 - 70 word pitch.
  • You can enter more than once if you have more than one complete, polished, ready to query manuscript.
Go here to find out exactly how your pitch should be formatted, and where to send it.


Just as it's important to get someone else to look over your manuscript before you query, it's a good idea to get feedback on your pitch before you post. Sharon has organized about twenty blogs who are ready to help you hone your pitch. These workshops start on October 1 and you can find the list of the participating blogs here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Holy Smoke!

It's my very great pleasure to be a part of my dear cyber-buddy, Cally Jackson's cover reveal.

So, please join me in a standing ovation for Cally's debut: The Big Smoke. I hope you'll agree, it's a stunning cover. I can't wait to read it!

Ceara’s desperate for love; Seb’s desperate to get laid. Ceara adores reading novels; Seb hasn’t finished a book in years. Two strangers, both moving from small country towns to Brisbane – the big smoke. As they prepare to attend the same university, their paths seem set to collide, but they keep missing each other. Maybe fate is keeping them apart, or maybe it’s just chance.

When the semester starts, things get complicated. Ceara’s best friend withdraws from her, Seb’s closest mate turns into a sleazebag, and the relentless demands of university make their stress levels soar. Before their first semester is over, both Seb and Ceara will be forced to question who they are and what they want from their lives. Will they have the courage to find the answers, or will they crumble under the pressure? And when they finally meet, will it be love at first sight or a collision of headstrong personalities?

You can find Cally at her blog, on twitter or Goodreads. Don't forget to add The Big Smoke to your to-read list!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Show Other Writers Your Best Blog Content

Hey guys, I'm really excited about this blog-hop Katherine is running over at Beyond The Hourglass Bridge.

All you have to do is decide which of your blog posts contains your best content and enter it in the linky list! That's it! And then you can scan the list for other great writer blogs - and only follow the ones that catch your interest.

I think this is a fun idea - and a great way to spotlight your best work.

I'm in. Are you?

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Nine Rules of Effective Writing - How Many Do You Break?

1. Do not put statements in the negative form.

2. And don't start sentences with a conjunction.

3. If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.

4. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

5. Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.

6. De-accession euphemisms.

7. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

8. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

9. Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wherein I Get An Agent (AKA Thank you, GOD!)

That headline says it all, doesn't it?

CUE: Beaming Smile

The reality is, there's a really long story behind all this spanning three years, hundreds of queries, a false-start and a recent independent publishing contract offer... but the really important point is this:

Yesterday I spent an hour and a half on skype with Brittany Howard of the Corvisiero Literary Agency and, despite the fact I still had a couple agents waiting to finish the manuscript, I finished that call with a virtual handshake and promptly emailed the other potential takers to tell them I'd found my girl.

As I told Brittany at the time, listening to her talk about my book, her approach to agenting, relationships, writing, and editing, was like having my wish-list read back to me (and I hadn't even asked her the pointed questions!).

I am, quite literally, overjoyed. I am also, quite literally, struggling to believe it's actually happening O_o

So, please forgive the brief post, but I'm off to do some housework via interpretive dance and remind myself this is real.



 There's an announcement on the way...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Do You Understand Motivating Stimulus and its Importance to Your Novel?

I was recently interviewed about common mistakes I see in manuscripts I critique. It got me thinking about a lot of the mistakes I used to make and how I learned to identify them.
One of the most common problems I had in my first few manuscripts was the lack of foundational structure:

Tying Together Motivation and Response to Create Realism

This is crucial regardless of whether you're in the first two, middle five, or last page of your manuscript: The way to keep a reader reading, and convinced your world is real, is to tie their actions, thoughts, feelings and words to motivating stimulus.

It's how our lives work for real (the phone rings, so I answer it; a friend cries, so I offer her a tissue; my husband says he wants a divorce, and I go into shock, etc). Using it makes any world believable.

What is a motivating stimulus? I'll leave it to my swami Swain to explain since I think he does it best:

"A motivating stimulus is anything outside your focual character to which he reacts. For a motivating stimulus to do its job well, it must have:

a. Significance to your character.
b. Pertinence to your story.
c. Motivity to your reader."

And I'll add one point that Swain makes later in the book in much greater detail:

Plausibility is key. If a stimulus appears "trumped up" by the author -- a vehicle to move the character that doesn't occur organically -- it doesn't matter how well the character reacts. You'll lose your reader.

So, what does this look like? It looks like something that isn't happenstance, and requires immediate reaction:

- Rather than a character randomly deciding to pick up the newspaper that morning (which is going to tell them their estranged father has been indicted), have the character receive a phone call for comment on the story.

- If your teenage protagonist wants to be Prom Queen. Instead of just steeling themselves to ask that gorgeous guy out, have them witness the most beautiful (and annoying) girl in class sauntering up the to the object of their attention and flirt with him.

In short - give the character a launching point.

Then take it down to the detail: When one character speaks to another, make sure the response is both logical and timely. Don't let your characters give three paragraphs of internal narration before responding to a line of dialogue from someone else -- not unless you've established a great deal of emotion attached to that dialogue and hte reader already knows the answer, but it's more important to hear how the protagonist feels.

In general, give the motivating stimulus, then the response. Keep the momentum flowing by making sure that when event occurs it makes your character feel something. Give the reader the character's response right away - in thought, action and / or speech.

Your character should always be doing something to move your story forward. It's up to you to give them a plausible reason to do it.

That's what makes a story realistic and helps the reader suspend disbelief long enough to fall for your fallen angels, superhero teens, cool-guy-falling-for-nerd-girl, etc, etc, etc.

Your Turn: Any questions about motivating stimulus? Or comments on how it's used?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Opening Page MUST HAVE(S)

I dare you to pick up any book released as a major publication and check out the first page or two. I can guarantee you they'll include the following.

Does yours?

The 5 W's: Who, Where, When, What and Why

Obviously there's a limit to exactly how much ground you can cover in 500 words. But don't underestimate the power of that first page. Pick up any novel that 'hooked' you from very beginning and you'll find at least three of those W's present probably as early as the first paragraph. Maybe even the first sentence.

They're fairly self-explanatory, so I won't spend a lot of time:

WHO: Whose skin am I in?

WHERE: Physical location and setting.

WHEN: World-building is a HUGE component in those first words, so consider at least giving the time of day and a hint at the time / space continuem. Maybe you can offer the season by painting a picture of the leaves (or lack thereof). Whatever. Just keep in mind, the more information your reader absorbs without realizing it, the more fixed in the world they'll feel.

WHAT: Could be as simple as whether they're driving, walking, talking, etc, or it could be (and hopefully will be) as engaging as placing the focal character on the frontline of a war, or engaged in making out with their hot boyfriend / girlfriend. Wherever they are, make sure they're DOING something.

WHY: This won't always be clear in the first pages, but make sure you don't leave the reader hanging completely. If you can't offer the story question on the first page, then at least give the character a goal or intent. Have them aiming for something the reader can shoot for too (even if they don't know exactly why at this early stage).

Simple? Great. Let's move on.

TROUBLE: Creating Danger and / or Presenting a Problem

This one sounds simple, but in my experience its one of those blind-spots for us novice authors. We feel the tension, trouble or implications of a situation for our focal characters because we KNOW the story.

Fresh eyes though? Sometimes it's not as clear to them.

I'm not suggesting you should spell out t-r-o-u-b-l-e, but find a way to introduce change that threatens the life, livelihood or eternal happiness of your character and your reader will read on to find out whether they're going to overcome this terrible problem.

There's more, but those are the most important, I think. Now, go forth and write!

Your Turn: What else is crucial for those first 500 words, in your opinion?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Won't Forget.

Eleven years ago I was in my living room in Ulan Bataar, the capital city of Mongolia (long story) watching CNN when a plane "accidentally" ran into one of the twin towers.

I was watching a live feed when the second hit and I knew the thing I'd been trying to ignore for the previous minutes was right: It was no accident.

I returned home five days later, to a version of the United States I didn't recognize.

Everyone I knew, though most were thousands of miles from the site of the attack, was changed. Irreperrably and undeniably, inherently altered.

I will never forget.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

THANK YOU! Here's a Deal For You

There are still a couple normal-rate critique spots open before Christmas, but they're closing fast. Email me asap if you want one. 
Thanks again for your support, guys!

Remember last week's pity-party I threw? Thank you all so much for your support!

I received encouraging texts, emails, and comments on this blog - not to mention some awesome inspirational quotes and online resources. Thanks, everyone! You made me realize how much of a community we're building here. It really lifted my heart and touched me. Not joking. Thank you!


As it turns out things are looking up on the writing front. But I'm still a couple weeks away from discussing details. So in the meantime, I'm feeling perky and motivated and raring to go. (Insert: *cheering*).

It so happens this coincides with some space on my upcoming critique calendar. So, while I don't usually believe in discounting, I've decided to try and use some of my excess energy to kill two birds with one stone:

If you book a Read and Respond critique before the end of September, I'll give you a cheap price and a five day turnaround!**

That means within five days you'll get a full manuscript (or manuscript portion) read-through with a substantial summary report offering thoughts on everything from what parts of your book work and which don't, advice on character development, plot points, and pacing. Notes on the technical writing and examples / techniques for self-editing, reader-responses (i.e. which parts of the book felt satisfying as a reader, and which didn't), and more! Your detailed summary report will be a guide-book for revisions, and offer any advice or expertise I have to help you move your manuscript to the next level (or progress your manuscript if you prefer to send an unfinished portion).

Note: The critique does not include notes in text or a chapter-by-chapter reader response, however chapter references will be made in the summary notes if needed.

** Critiques will be booked at a first come, first served basis, beginning in the last week of September. Payment must be made in full before the five-day time-slot you booked, otherwise your space will be given to someone else.

10,000-50,000 words = $65
50,001-65,000 words = $75
65,001-80,000 words = $85
80,001-100,000 words = $95

23-28 September  Now booked, sorry!
30 September - 5 October  Now booked, sorry!
7-12 October  Now booked, sorry!
14-19 October Now booked, sorry!
21-26 October  Now booked, sorry!
28 October-2 November Now booked, sorry!

(After this my schedule is already booked, so the discounted packages will end).

If you want some help moving your book along, email me on aimeelsalter (at) for a quote and to book your time. If you're not sure, see these previous critiques for a sample of the kind of analysis you'll get (note, it's the summary / overview notes that apply to a read and respond critique).

Thanks again for all your support, guys. It really meant a lot to me. Stay tuned for more updates on my personal journey in a couple weeks!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Someone Give Me Permission...Please?

There's been a lot going on in my writing life lately. A lot of excitement. And a lot of doubt. And very, very little progress. On anything.

I find myself in one of those ruts where I can't settle to anything. One day I'm waiting out the submission windows of the agents / editors that have requested my manuscript. The next I'm giving up and self-publishing NOW. One day I'm a brilliant writer. The next I have zero talent.

This all adds up to a crisis of confidence, both in myself and my writing.

The thing is, I know this is totally normal. It isn't the first time I've been riding this roller coaster. Nor, I'm sure, will it be the last. And all my writing besties can totally relate. Despite the fact that they're way more talented than me, they all feel the same. So, clearly, this isn't the frame of mind to be making decisions. This is the time to just hunker down and write. Right?

Except... I hate everything. When I write a sentence it's nothing but clunk and amateurish attempts at simile. When I outline something it's YAWN-worthy. God forbid I actually finish a scene - there's clearly nothing worth keeping.

All I see are endless hours of writing that I'll flush down the toilet in a few months when I realize how useless I was during this time. And that means I write a few paragraphs here, and the odd scene there. I switch between manuscripts ("Maybe this one will inspire me more?") and shelve projects I was in love with... You get the picture.

It occured to me today that I need to take my own advice: I need to stop expecting myself to get the book right first time. I need to remember that I have amazingly talented writer-friends who will gently and efficiently help me find the flaws, as well as uncover the diamonds in the rough.

But that time isn't now. Now is first-draft time. It's the time for stilted dialogue, stupid plot turns, fluffy love scenes and TOO MANY WORDS.

In short, I need to give myself permission to suck.

But I'm having a hard time doing it. So maybe you can help? Maybe you can give me permission to bite the big one?


Your Turn: Do you enjoy writing first drafts, or do you get stuck? How do you get past the block?

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Meh Factor & YOUR Writing

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you write a scene and you think "THAT was AWESOME!" *Happy Dance*.

Then you read it a month later and decide it's utter... meh?

Or what about the scene you just.Can't.Write. You push through, teeth bared, to keep yourself moving. You avoid it on re-reads because you're certain is just so much refuse. But when the time comes that you can't avoid it anymore you discover, actually, it ain't half bad? Not nearly as meh as you thought?

I've heard these kinds of stories from every writer I know. It's nice to know that I'm not alone. But then I read this facebook status update from NYT Bestselling author Lauren Destefano.
 And even though I wanted to hug the 2009 Lauren and tell her how awesome she was, I'm even more encouraged to know that there was a time she felt this way. Because I admire what she's achieved since then. And maybe, just maybe, my meh will get there too...

Your Turn: What have you seen or read that's encouraged you to keep going in pursuit of publication?