DEAR AUTHOR DEAREST:
Do your stories grow organically or do you know the certain capstone events and develop stories around them? OR Do you write more character-centric or plot/event-centric?
I consider myself an organic/character-centric writer for sure. Story usually starts with a ‘what if’ for me. Pretty Dark Nothing, for example, started with the question – What if a teenage girl’s inner demons came to life and nobody else could see them? From there, I move on to character. Everything grows from there as I ask question after question. What would this girl be like? What is her personality? What kind of friends would she have? What kind of background/family/house would they live in? What are her flaws? What does she want out of life? Why is she being haunted by demons nobody else can see? How does this affect her decision making, her relationships, her life? The story develops from these answers as the answers spark ideas for scenes. I do this for all the characters, even minor ones, and use a character interview and personality tests to help me make them real to me. I consider all of this pre-work. Some writers outline as pre-work, but I prefer this kind of brainstorming to a hard outline. I love discovering what happens along with my characters. It’s exciting to me and tends to create more chances for the unexpected to happen. That being said, before I ever put words to page, I usually have at least some idea of the ending and maybe one or two high moments, but not much. The story flows out of action and reaction for me. Throw my character in a situation and see what happens.
DEAR AUTHOR DEAREST,
Any chance you would be willing to share your winning query with readers?
Yes! Here is the query that got me several full requests, and ultimately, a two book deal for Pretty Dark Nothing. Best advice I can give is to try to get the maximum impact possible out of every sentence. Find the absolute best words to communicate the essence of your story without going into too much detail. It’s a hard balance, but focusing on what happens rather than who it happens to, helps. Also, don’t put in info about sub plots or secondary characters. Another thing that really helps is to tailor each and every query you send out. It’s a lot of work, but I promise it’s worth it in the end. And without further ado, here’s my example.
Your wish list states you are currently looking for paranormal romance in a high-school setting with something other than vampires or demon love interests. My completed 60,000 word YA paranormal romance, Touched by Darkness, does have demons in it, but not the sexy bad boy kind. Quinn’s demons are shadowy beasts and not the least bit loveable.
Seventeen-year-old Quinn hasn’t slept in twenty three days. Not since the demons killed her Sentinel. Without his protection they freely enter her dreams, whisper of her death and feed on her fears and self-doubt. Now, she’s on academic probation, benched from cheerleading, and popping caffeine pills to keep them away. The demons are ruining her life until Aaron, an amnesiac with a psychic ability, accidentally enters her thoughts. He’s the light in her darkness and she’s the key to his past, but the last thing the demons want is for them to be together. If Aaron remembers his life as Kaemon, Quinn’s dead Sentinel now living inside the stolen body of the boy known as Aaron Collier, their combined power could tip the scales for good. To keep them apart, the demons must convince Quinn that Aaron will turn his back on her, that he’ll confirm her worst fear; that she’s crazy. Quinn must learn to trust her heart before the demons lead her to her death. In the end, it’s her choice: Love or lies, faith or fear, darkness or destiny.
I’m a member of SCBWI and a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature. I’ve been a guest blogger for the award winning Writer Unboxed website, am founder of the newly launched Hugs and Chocolate blog for YA writers. I also frequent twitter @HeatherLReid, Facebook and my own website.
I hope you enjoy Touched by Darkness. I would be happy to send partials or the completed manuscript if you should like to see them. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Heather L. Reid
DEAR AUTHOR DEAREST,
What has been the most challenging part of getting your book from draft zero to published for you?
Great question! There were so many challenges getting from draft zero to published writer, including throwing out half the novel and starting over, that it’s hard to pick one in particular. I guess, looking back, the hardest thing was deciding when to start querying. On one hand, I worried I would query before the book was perfect, on the other; I feared I was holding on so tight that I would squeeze all the heart from my story. There had been so many revisions already. So many tweaks, input, critiques, ideas, and changes had gone into the quest to make it publishing perfect, that I wasn’t sure if the story was better or worse for it. But at some point you have to let go, take a leap of faith, and see what happens, right? For me, that moment came when I realized I was playing with sentences and word choice and no longer working on the big picture. The major issues, as far as I could see, had been dealt with. Now I was nit-picking my novel to death to make it perfect and I couldn’t see any significant changes. At this point, I had done all I could do with the skills I had. It was time to take a deep breath, and leap. I got a lot of rejections, and made a few more little tweaks before I got the deal, but in the end, I’m glad I listened to my gut and took that chance.
Thank you to all of my followers who took the time to ask me your burning questions. It was hard choosing three, but I’m happy to respond to any other questions here in the comments, so ask away! If you have something you don’t want to ask on a public forum. You can also find me online on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or My Website. Feel free to private message me and I’ll do my best to answer your question.
Heather L. Reid is both American and British and has called six different cities in three different countries, home. Her strong sense of wanderlust and craving for a new adventure mean you might find her wandering the moors of her beloved Scotland, exploring haunted castles, or hiking through a magical forest in search of fairies and sprites. When she’s not venturing into the unknown in her real life, she loves getting lost in the worlds of video games or curling up by the fire with good story. For now, this native Texan is back in the Lone Star State, settling down with her Scottish husband and working on the sequel to her Young Adult paranormal debut, PRETTY DARK NOTHING.