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The Shit No One Tells You About Writing
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The Shit No One Tells You About Writing

Author: Bianca Marais, Carly Watters and CeCe Lyra

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This is a podcast for emerging writers, who are looking to improve their work with an aim to having it published, or anyone who would like a behind-the-scenes look at the publishing industry. Your host, Bianca Marais (the author of 'Hum If You Don't Know the Words' and 'If You Want to Make God Laugh') will be interviewing authors, agents, editors and just about anyone and everyone who's involved in bringing a book to market. She's joined by her cohosts, literary agents Carly Watters and CeCe Lyra, from P.S. Literary Agency who read and critique query letters and opening pages in their Books with Hooks segment. Expect good advice, honest insights, and a few laughs along the way.
75 Episodes
In today's Books with Hooks segment, we have Emmy Nordstrom Higdon from Westwood Creative Artists join us as a guest agent to review submissions not directed at Carly or CeCe. In this episode, Bianca and Emmy discuss authorial voice; jumping right into where the action is; how using appropriate comps can help cut down on a query's word count; including sample pages for more than one POV; and carefully choosing your story’s timeline/setting.After which, Bianca chats with PJ Vernon, author of Bath Haus about the value of art; changing publishers in between books; trusting your gut when it comes to writing a story you want to write; differentiating POV voices; playing around with interesting structures; starting your book with high stakes; and book club conversations you'll be having once you're published.Find us on our socials: Twitter: @SNOTYAW @BiancaM_author Instagram: @biancamarais_author @ the_shit_about_writingFacebook: @tsnotyawWebsite: www.biancamarais.comEmmy Nordstrom Higdon on Twitter: @emmy_of_spinesPJ Vernon on Twitter and Instagram: @pjvernonbooks
In today's BONUS episode, Bianca chats with Ami J. Sanghvi and Patrick Hogan of Gutslut Press about the top ten reasons why indie presses reject submissions even if the writing is really great. After which Bianca chats with author, Lee Matthew Goldberg, about sharing your drafts with other writers; the writing process when it comes to writing characters whose gender and age are different from your own; using sensitivity readers; muzzling the critical part of your brain, and giving yourself permission to draft; how crowdsourcing information can help generate interest in your book; authoring books in different genres; and using song lyrics in your book.Find us on our socials: Twitter: @SNOTYAW @BiancaM_author Instagram: @biancamarais_author @ the_shit_about_writingFacebook: @tsnotyawWebsite: www.biancamarais.comAmi Twitter and Instagram: @HotWraithBonesAmi Website: www.amijsanghvi.comTwitter and Instagram: @gutslutpressEmail: gutslutpress@gmail.comLee Twitter: @LeeMatthewGLee Instragram:@LeeMatthewGoldberg
In today's Books with Hooks segment, Liz and Jami join us to discuss their submissions. Carly and CeCe unpack when to put the stakes at the beginning of the query instead of at the end; the Pixar storytelling rules about coincidences; weaving in emotion with explanation to make it more showing than telling; writing a story in first person and then going back with a “you” lens to make it hybrid second person; and giving a character a small but important goal in the beginning of the book that’s tied to the larger arc. After which, Bianca chats with world-renowned bestselling author, Ken Follett, about what to do when what you write isn’t coming out the same way the idea played out in your head; having a solid research process including reaching out to experts to ensure authenticity in your story; how to give crucial background information without it sounding like an info dump; tips for stitching unrelated scenes together; and the empathy that’s required to be a historical novelist and a writer in general.Find us on our socials: Twitter: @SNOTYAW @BiancaM_author @carlywatters @@ceciliaclyra Instagram: @biancamarais_author @carlywatters @cece_lyra_agent @ the_shit_about_writingFacebook: @tsnotyawWebsite:
In today's Books with Hooks, Carly and CeCe discuss whether publishing is ready for Covid stories yet; using an inciting incident that is super specific, but doesn’t give away any spoilers; the importance of having a great, unique hook and a beautiful first line; why emotion needs to be on the page before description in a tense scene; and how a protagonist’s unconscious should also be on the page.After which, I chat with The Holiday Swap's Maggie Knox, the pen name for writing duo, Karma Brown and Marissa Stapley, about when two writer friends have a wild idea to write a book together; how they facilitated the process; how they seamlessly brought their writing voices and styles together; and what advice they have for writers looking to co-author a project.Find us on our socials: Twitter: @SNOTYAW @BiancaM_author @carlywatters @@ceciliaclyra @maggieknoxbooksInstagram: @biancamarais_author @carlywatters @cece_lyra_agent @ the_shit_about_writing @maggieknoxauthorFacebook: @tsnotyawWebsite:
In today's Books with Hooks segment, Melissa and Stephanie join us on the show to have their query letters and opening pages critiqued. Carly and CeCe discuss the importance of hitting current social and class elements; not missing opportunities to let readers know more about the MC by adding in descriptions and reasons behind their choices; when and why a prologue works; and anticipating readers' questions and answering them at just the right time.After which, Bianca chats with the author of My Sweet Girl, Amanda Jayatissa about submitting to POC agents/editors vs. non-POC agents/editors; structuring your novel in a linear vs. non-linear way; using old journals if you have them to put yourself in the mindset of a younger character; using Aeon 2.0 Timeline software; and why you shouldn't compare yourself to other writers. Find us on our socials: Twitter: @SNOTYAW @BiancaM_author @carlywatters @@ceciliaclyra @amandajayatissaInstagram: @biancamarais_author @carlywatters @cece_lyra_agent @ the_shit_about_writing @amandajayatissaFacebook: @tsnotyawWebsite:
In today's revamped Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe each tackle two queries that have been directed at them via the new submission process. They also discuss writing your first scene as if it were being filmed; trigger warnings vs. content notes; deciding what to include in the first five pages, and what to put elsewhere in the story.After which, Bianca chats with Jesse Q Sutanto, author of the hugely successful Dial A For Aunties about her journey to publication; participating in NaNoWriMo; using the Ginko app for story structure; how a previously small deal can make a big splash later on; and the secret to overnight success.
In today's Books with Hooks segment, Emma joins us on the show to discuss her query and opening pages. Carly and CeCe tackle sparking curiosity;  hooking the agent with keywords; repetition with dialogue tags and replacing them with action beats; writing in multiple POVs and making the reader question who’s doing the narrating; as well as homemade pasta!After which, Bianca chats with Leila Slimani, author of In The Country of Others, about sticking to what you’re good at;  how Moroccans can identify with American Western movies and Southern Lit; finding your distinctive voice; having confidence in your reader; when to break the rules of writing; and dealing with imposter syndrome.
In today's Books with Hooks, Carly and CeCe discuss putting a fresh twist on a popular trope; taking care not to use titles of novels that are already published; how the present tense offers tension and immediacy; not burying the hook in your query letter; not inadvertently dating your work; and stating specifically what obstacles are getting in your character’s way.After which Bianca chats with Ella Berman, author of The Comeback about writing a novel that gets swept up in a social or legal movement; moving on from rejection; staying authentic to the characters; having characters experience quiet reckonings; the process of querying agents; dealing with rejection at every stage of your career; going out on submission to publishers; allowing yourself to process your disappointment; developing complex secondary characters; incorporating subplots; and writing as social commentary.
In today's bonus episode, we have three romance/rom-com authors who join Bianca to discuss all things related to the genre. NYT bestselling Lana Harper discusses her queer rom-com, Payback's a Witch, as well as world-building, character development, her inspiration for the novel, and her change of genre. Sarah Echavarre Smith, author of On Location talks about writing those racy sex scenes and the conventions of the genre. Jane Igharo, author of The Sweetest Remedy chats about how romance can tackle serious issues, and her journey to publication. 
In today's Books with Hooks segment, we do a lot of brainstorming, which doesn’t necessarily align with the author’s vision for her novel, reminding us all that the author is the one who decides what their story is and isn’t. Carly and CeCe also chat about how editors like unlikely friendship stories; authors not having to give up on manuscripts, but persuing the ones that give you the best chance at publishing; taking care not to give resolutions in the query letter; aiming for a pressure cooker vibe; and how life-tense and story-tense differ.Bianca chats with Amy Einhorn, President and Publisher at Henry Holt & Company, and editor of Liane Moriarty, Sarah Blake, Jenny Lawson, Laurie Frankel, Min Jin Lee and many other award-winning and bestselling authors. Amy shares a wealth of information about publishing, editing, the qualities of a good story, what makes an author successful, and much more. 
In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss avoiding hypothetical questions; escalating baseline stakes and tension; how authors are the puppet masters of their own universes and need to justify all of their choices; giving the reader something familiar in the opening of a fantasy novel; the difference between head-hopping and omniscient POV; how to format dialogue; how you need to frame your memoir with a hook; and avoiding writing a character's struggles that are all internal.Bianca chats with award-winning author, Ruth Ozeki, about there being no age by which you need to publish; writing in your own time when you give yourself permission to write; people assuming the main character is based on yourself; how you need to work hard to find yourself in all of your characters and give them a part of you; how the antagonist is the hero of their own story; the creative process vs pathology; writing a book because you have questions you get to act out with your characters; how the author and reader co-create a different book every time a reader reads it; and taking your time and understanding the tension between the poles of patience and impatience.
In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss digging into trauma to reveal the root emotion; how even literary fiction needs a hook; readability and writing in italics in certain fonts; needing to connect with character; how a query letter must include details of a specific climax; always keeping the reader wondering about what’s going to happen next; and tackling certain themes responsibly. Carly also sings a time stamp jingle!After which, Bianca chats with Christina Clancy, author of Shoulder Season, about the research that goes into writing a novel; thinking about your book even when you’re not able to write; knowing when to stop researching and start writing; how close you need to stick to historical fact and how much can be invention; starting a whisper campaign; finding ancillary resources; when a story needs a prologue; being willing to cut things even during a third draft; figuring out where the beating heart of your story is; and why every writer has to despair at some point of the process.
On today's Books with Hooks segment, we have an author come onto the show to discuss her submission with us. In the segment, Carly and CeCe chat with Shari about linking multiple POV stories in a query letter; answering the 'why now?' question; establishing what’s at stake for each POV character; how an offer implies a transaction, and how all of life is about power; being careful who you comp as that creates expectations; explaining the thematic pressures that affect characters; how regret is a passive emotion; and nailing entry and exit points in each chapter.After which, Bianca chats with debut author of The Tiger Mom's Tale, Lyn Liao Butler, about how to find support as a debut novelist; debuting in a hostile climate; how much is out of your control as a debut author; revising a novel and changing POVs in the process; all the mistakes writers make with their first novels; the evolution of a rejected manuscript on its journey to publication; why reading is so important; how to use feedback and critique; and how to choose the right agent. 
In today's Books with Hooks, Carly and CeCe discuss thinking of your query letter as real estate with curb appeal; considering what you’re providing for the reader’s sake vs what you’re providing for the character’s sake; being clear with memoir with regards to what you’re working towards as a climax; memoir needing to have a sub-genre; immersing a reader in scene instead of giving a round-up of feelings; and the problem with presenting a character just to immediately kill them off.After which Bianca chats with award-winning novelist, Lauren Groff, about avoiding perfectionism; laying the groundwork for inspiration; how dialogue should complicate what’s happening on the page and deal with power structures; dealing with characters’ emotionality; how historical fiction has the past speak into the present day; how good art is trying to speak as truthfully as possible; how omniscient POV is the most fun you can have; and how fiction is the art of sculpting time through words.
In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss how paranormal stories are making a comeback; having YA characters sound like, and have the emotionality of,  teenagers; the difference between loud and quiet novels; always focusing on what’s happening in the present; who is allowed to tell which stories;  and avoiding starting stories that begin with surrender as that doesn't invoke curiosity. CeCe is also forced to eat her words of advice given in a previous episode! After which, Bianca chats with the award-winning author of China Room, Sunjeev Sahota, about finding your writing groove; coming up with your own process that works for you; the importance of staring into space; and why chasing a changing definition of success can be dangerous.  
In today's BONUS episode, CeCe chats with Katherine Miller Goldman, an intellectual property attorney, to answer all of your questions! They discuss what an intellectual property attorney does; what intellectual property is; what you can and can’t copyright and trademark; quoting song lyrics in your novel; what permissions you need when writing about real people in a memoir; if a therapist or doctor can write about their patients; what composite characters are; using pen names; offering teasers for free; filing a copyright application; setting up LLCs; writing true crime and getting permissions; considering derivatives; what fair use is; and getting out of contracts. www.creativelawcenter.comDisclaimer:Nothing on this episode is specific legal advice for any individual's situation. The information discussed on this episode is no substitute for speaking confidentially with a qualified lawyer about your concerns. What you’ll listen to here is intended to help you be more thoughtful about intellectual property and the law when you write your stories, create your art, and build your business. 
In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss leaning into specificity; concerns over white saviorism and teachable moments; dialogue needing to sound exactly like the character would speak; requiring drama outside of parallelism; starting with character and putting the reader in someone’s head right away; how multi-POV books should be pitched; and focusing on plot rather than feelings.After which, Bianca chats with author of The Family Plot, Megan Collins, about writing limited omniscient third person; getting approval from your publisher; the immediacy of present tense; how every story will tell you what it needs; bringing poetry into any genre of writing; how you should choose your POV character; and coming up with secondary characters based on the purpose you need them to serve. 
In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss focusing on trauma and conflict rather than the perfect life that came before; not taking up too much space for a set up in a query letter; starting with the inciting incident; the problem with objectivity in omniscient POV; how curiosity comes from active emotion; writing well on a line level; pitching plot rather than feelings; and the golden rule of dialogue. After which, Bianca chats with  Megan Abbott, author of The Turnout, about the themes writers return to; the research that goes into a novel; how you don’t need to just write what you know, but what you’re curious about; the struggle to write authentic movement and gestures as your characters make their way through the world; making the reader do the heavy-lifting; and writing an unreliable narrator.
In this BONUS episode, we have the author, Ruth N,  join us to chat about her query and first pages. Carly and CeCe discuss giving the characters more agency; describing the plot rather than the ingredients of a plot; and how a query should focus on your hook, inciting incident, and the escalating stakes. After which, Bianca chats with Sara Nicolas who gives some pro tips on how to navigate the upcoming #PitMad and Pitch Wars Blog Hop. 
In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss being careful with your verb choices so as not to create misunderstandings; the query letter question test; describing the tone of your book as one thing or the other; being careful not to have characters who just have unrelated drama happening to them; changing locations in opening scenes; what constitutes historical fiction; guarding against overwriting and too much mind wandering; getting to the hook faster, and not repeating what’s in the opening pages in the query letter. After which, Bianca chats with  Caitlin Wahrer, debut author of The Damage, about what needs to be in an opening chapter; hooking the reader with immediate questions; writing dual timelines as opposed to flashbacks in the present day; choosing past tense and then struggling with the tenses during flashbacks; structuring stories in a non linear timeline; writing multiple characters in third person close; working with an agent on a revise and resubmit; why writing a query letter for a novel with multiple POV characters is difficult; and the pros of third person close compared to first person.The query letter can be found on our Ko-fi page:  
Comments (1)

Michael Scott

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Nov 24th
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