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7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Kate Maddison

2. Don’t start writing until you love the premise. Whenever I find myself playing the avoiding game with my writing, I ask myself why. The answer always seems to be that there’s something about where this story is headed that I don’t like. Sometimes this happens with the very first page. When I rework the premise – either going deeper with the characters, or changing some element of the plotline that isn’t working – I find I can’t wait to get back to the scene. GIVEAWAY: Kate is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Katie won.)

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Kate Maddison, author of THE INCREDIBLE CHARLOTTE SYCAMORE) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent -- by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

GIVEAWAY: Kate is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Katie won.)

kate-maddison-author-writer
the-incredible-charlotte-sycamore-book

When Kate Maddison wrote the YA steampunk mystery,
The Incredible Charlotte Sycamore published by Holiday House,
her research included a trip to London for a behind-the-scenes tour of
Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Although this is her debut YA,
she’s written nineteen other award-winning historical romance novels
under a different pen name. When Kate is not battling mechanical dogs
in her imagination, you might find her with her family, hiking the
escarpment near her hometown in Toronto or taking photos of
the sunrise. Learn more on her website and connect with her
on Facebook or Twitter.

1. Do it your way first. When I first began writing, I made the mistake of showing my writing to well-meaning others too early. I incorrectly assumed that because other writers had been in the business longer than me, even though they were also unpublished, they knew the ‘right’ way to approach my story. What I’ve learned is that as writers, we know our characters best and only we know what excites us about telling this particular story. There’s plenty of time to get feedback after the first draft. That first draft is always mine.

2. Don’t start writing until you love the premise. Whenever I find myself playing the avoiding game with my writing, I ask myself why. The answer always seems to be that there’s something about where this story is headed that I don’t like. Sometimes this happens with the very first page. When I rework the premise – either going deeper with the characters, or changing some element of the plotline that isn’t working – I find I can’t wait to get back to the scene.

(How successful should a blog be before agents/editors will take notice?)

3. It’s the conflict that keeps readers turning the pages. Whether readers are five or ninety-five, everyone loves to read about ‘friends’ who are in big trouble.

4. Writing can be physically stressful. Who knew that sitting in the same position, staring at the same monitor, fingers flexed in the same manner for hours on end could be harmful? It can cause tension in the neck, shoulders, and hands. Writers are especially stressed when deadlines loom and they’re at the computer every waking moment for days at a time. My solution was to get a family dog – a cute little Bichon Frise named Amy – who’s a great companion and doesn’t let me forget she needs walking. I also joined a gym.

5. A great pitch can sell the story. I usually develop several different ways of wording my pitch, then pick the one that’s the most dramatic, exciting, or evokes the most emotion. There’s nothing like a one or two sentence pitch – a high concept – that gets the attention of editors and agents. It’s something brief and sharp about the story that not only you can easily describe, but so can your agent to an editor, and an editor in an acquisition meeting to other members of the publishing team.

6. Nothing beats face-to-face contact. After I signed with my new agent, Erica Spellman Silverman of the Trident Media Group, I flew from my hometown of Toronto to New York to meet her in person. It was a great way to get to know each other as people and how we would relate on a business level. It allowed for a longer conversation with immediate feedback and the opportunity to pick up on nuances that are impossible to convey through email. The meeting also gave me the chance to pitch several other story ideas beyond the proposal I initially submitted. One was the pitch that eventually became The Incredible Charlotte Sycamore, the book my agent first sold.

(Which writers' conference is the BEST to attend?)

7. Believe in your talent. There’s magic in the assembly of words, just as there is magic in guitar strings when a seasoned musician strums. Talent doesn’t disappear just because a performer has the flu, a writer hasn’t written for three months, or the artist is scared. You will always be you.

GIVEAWAY: Kate is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Katie won.)

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