Tracy Banghart

Tracy Banghart's books on Goodreads

Rebel Wing Rebel Wing (Rebel Wing #1)
reviews: 118
ratings: 199 (avg rating 4.18)

By Blood By Blood (By Blood, #1)
reviews: 50
ratings: 88 (avg rating 3.97)

Moon Child Moon Child (Prequel to By Blood)
reviews: 27
ratings: 49 (avg rating 3.86)

Storm Fall Storm Fall (Rebel Wing, #2)
reviews: 27
ratings: 41 (avg rating 4.22)

What the Sea Wants What the Sea Wants
reviews: 5
ratings: 20 (avg rating 3.10)

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    Entries in writing (28)

    Monday
    Feb282011

    Birthday Magic

    So, today is my sort-of birthday, my almost day, the day before the day after my birthday. It’s a bit of a mind-bender isn’t it? Yes, I was born on February 29, Leap Day, that day that only comes once every four years.

    And it’s really weird not having a birthday every year, let me just say.  The most common question I get is “which day do you celebrate?”, followed by, “so how old are you?”. To answer the first, whenever’s most convenient, and to answer the second…I’ll never tell. ;-)

    I was thinking today about the fact that next year I’ll have a “real” birthday – hooray! -  and it occurred to me, not for the first time, how much I define myself by my weird birthday. It’s something that set me apart from my friends when I was a kid, an instant conversation starter when meeting new people, and it’s an anomaly many people have a hard time wrapping their heads around. It’s also a fact about my history that’s always made me feel special. I don’t just have any birthday…I am a LEAP YEAR BABY. And, to boot, I’m left handed!

    As a teenager navigating the scary waters of puberty, making the first tentative steps towards establishing an identity, I found my unique birthday an easy place to start.

    And, thinking about it, it makes me wonder…what would I have done if I didn’t have that little thing – a thing I had no control over, I might add – setting me apart? Would I have found another quirk to hold on to? Without it, would I have felt just like everyone else? (A good thing or a bad thing, depending on the day.) Or would I always have felt a little off-kilter, a little isolated, a little different? Because maybe that’s what being a teenager is all about.

    In writing for YA, it can be difficult to get your characters to stand out. Sometimes there’s an impulse to give them unique names or funny birthdays – something that sets them apart from the beginning, something that indicates, right away, that they’re special.

    But is this really necessary? Would a character born on Leap Day be as interesting, if she were defined by that, as, say, a character who – at sixteen – is still deathly afraid of the dark? Or is really good at softball? Is basically, in short, defined by things SHE’S established for herself, not what the world she was born into established for her? Then again, maybe that's what teenagers DO define themselves by at that age. Maybe I wasn't weird or special at all, but just chose the thing - for me - that was unique. Did you define yourself in high school by your funny name, or your birthday, or some other truth about yourself that you had no control over, like your parents' ages or the town where you were born? 

    How do you decide what makes your YA characters special? Do they just appear on the page with all their quirks and idiosyncrasies fully realized, or do you consciously choose their defining characteristics?

    I’ve never written a book where I’ve even known the birthday of my main character. But I do wonder sometimes…would someone want to read about a quirky sixteen-year-old who’s really only four? (Yeah, probably not. But it’ll still be cool to say I’m only 10 when I hit my forties. ;-))

    Saturday
    Feb192011

    SFWC Day One: Thoughts on Publishing Models

    This weekend I’m attending the San Francisco Writer’s Conference and spending a little quality time with BETA ONE. I would say it’s sad she lives so far away, but if she didn’t I wouldn’t have an excuse to visit California so much!

    But, as much as I love BETA ONE, she’s not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about a panel I attended yesterday. It was a group of YA agents who spoke about what they were looking for and answered questions about the YA market, and an agent’s role. The agents who spoke were very nice and encouraging, and I believe it was quite helpful for the agent hunters out there.

    For me, it was a little concerning. I’d been told by other writer friends that conferences were fun, but could be discouraging. That agents and editors talked a lot about how hard the business is, how difficult it can be to break in, get an agent, get the book deal. That generally the conferences could be a bit depressing.

    In this panel I saw a different, and a little alarming trend. Rather than tell the audience that it was hard to get an agent, that the business was difficult, the panel was actually quite encouraging. But they also pushed self-publishing and e-publishing as an alternative. Which of course it is, but it’s also really, really hard work in and of itself. Everyone I’ve heard talk about e-publishing have made it sound easy…you just throw up a manuscript on Amazon and the sales start rolling in! But it really isn’t that simple. There’s the basic stuff, like formatting, cover art…making it look professional. And the marketing. No one will find your book if you don’t market the hell out of it – and yourself. But the biggest issue – once they find your book, is it really book ready? When they take a chance on it, will it present you as an author and a brand at the level you want?

    One of these days I’ll write about my own self-publishing experience…but for now I’ll just say this. I got a great review on my self-published book, in a prestigious journal. I had to reprint, sold almost 900 copies. And I didn’t make a dime. But that review? Someone who really got my work? THAT made it worth it. And that kind of experience is a lot easier to come by if you go the traditional route.

    There are so many editorial steps in traditional publishing, even after the book is written and revised. An agent will give editorial notes, an editor will give notes…and after several rounds of that, there’s copyediting, proofreading, typesetting. There are so many different sets of eyes that look at a traditionally published book. I believe it’s almost impossible to achieve that level of polish for a book without that traditional process.

    Which is why I have no interest in following the self-publishing route again. I want my work to be the absolute best it can be. And I know that I can’t achieve that alone. I know there’s a lot of “us versus them” and “editors are evil gatekeepers” out there…but truth be told, I’ve never felt that way. And not because I’ve had success. In fact, I’ve wracked up an impressive collection of rejections. But the way I see it? Those projects weren’t ready. As much as it pains me to admit it, my first novel was concept and not a whole lot else. Looking back, I understand why it was rejected. And I’d like to think I learned from the experience and made the second book better.

    There are definitely days when I don’t feel quite this positive or philosophical about rejection – those days when all I want to do is eat chocolate and cry. Oh yeah. But, AFTER I read that “no”, when I have a chance to step back and really think about it, I realize I see the rejection as a challenge. Rather than throw up my ego and my novel and say “they just didn’t understand” or “they made a mistake”, I feel challenged to write an even BETTER book next time. To take the feedback and my own thoughts about my work and learn from it. Get a little closer next time. NEXT TIME I’ll knock their socks off. Next time the novel won’t just be a concept or a character. It’ll be the whole shebang.

    So yeah. I’m okay with the gatekeepers. I’m okay with quality control. Because I LIKE that it’s hard. I like that getting a book deal is really ACCOMPLISHING something. Because challenging myself to get to that level makes me a better writer. Trying to do something really hard, often painful, and seemingly impossible makes it feel worth doing.

    If I were to give advice to aspiring authors who were looking for an agent, or to someone thinking about self-publishing, I would say, no matter what you do, start with the book. Write the best damn book you can, and if that one doesn’t find the agent or audience you’d hoped, write another even better one.

    Friday
    Feb182011

    The More You Know, The More You Don't

    I love writing. It’s my favorite job of all the jobs I’ve had, and it’s something that I feel exceedingly, sometimes embarrassingly, passionate about. Sadly, that doesn’t make it easy. At. All.

    Since last November I’ve written three novels. Revised ‘em too, to a point. And with each manuscript I’ve learned so, so much. Among all that learning? The realization that the more I know, the more there IS to know.

    With the first novel, I was so excited that I had an actual plot and concept that would accommodate a novel-length collection of words that I didn’t even think to pay attention to the little things. You know, like character development, theme, tone. Oh, and voice.

    With the second novel, I had a CHARACTER. Like, a real, messy, interesting character. And she had a VOICE. Oh, and there were some themes in there, a little sentence variety, even some nice setting and atmosphere. But pacing? Minor character development? A recognizable emotional arc? Umm…

    And then WHAM. I got hit by this crazy idea for the third book. This crazy GOOD idea. With a whole cast of real, interesting characters. And a plot. And THEMES. And a setting. Oh crap, and a whole world to create. And I realized, as I began to revise, HOW MUCH there was to think about, to pay attention to, to consider. All of a sudden, instead of easier, writing got even HARDER. Because I had this pile of words with potential!! That needed layers, complexity…SUBTEXT! Eesh.

    So yeah, I’m a little bit terrified of the WIP. But I’m also over the moon excited because I’m learning. I’m getting better at this crazy, awesome job, little by little. And I wonder…will it always feel like this? The more I accomplish, the more potential a story has, will I find MORE I don’t know, MORE things to think about? Or will the learning level off? I sort of hope it doesn’t, actually. There’s something scary and challenging and exciting about going into a new project blind, feeling my way through the process, the characters, the words and discovering new depths to the story and to myself each time.

    Tuesday
    Feb012011

    Absence Makes Me Crazy

    I realized something about myself last night. Of all the stages of writing a book….forming the idea, character sketching, plotting, outlining, writing an actual draft, revising, receiving feedback…there is one single step out of the whole process that is – by far – the most difficult for me.

    It’s the NOT working part.

    Most writers will tell you to let a manuscript breathe. Let it rest, put it away, forget about it, so you can return to it with a fresh eye. This is supposed to make “killing your darlings” easier. Stephen King, in his book On Writing, recommends giving it at least six weeks. I’m sure many writers wait even longer.

    This is a little embarrassing, but the longest I’ve held out is two.

    I HATE waiting. When I’m in the throws of writing, revising, I want to eat, sleep, breathe my manuscript. I want to think about it in the car, pick it up during commercial breaks while watching Chuck. Tweak a sentence here, add a line of dialogue there. The actual writing of the first draft feels the most like work – sometimes I find opportunities to procrastinate at that stage. But revising? Oh, I want to revise all day, all night.

    On Sunday, I finished the latest round of revisions on my manuscript. It’s off to the next round of betas, and I said I’d let it sit for a week, maybe two…try to wait until I get their feedback.

    It’s been one day and I’m desperate to open the document, reread a sentence or two, tweak that part near the end that I know isn’t quite right yet.

    Makes me feel a little crazy!

    I’ve put together a list of things I do - or should do - to distract myself during this “resting” time…feel free to add your own or just commiserate in the comments!

    1)   Start a new project – I find this works best if it’s a project that has NOTHING to do with novel writing. Like finishing that wedding scrapbook I started almost two years ago. Or finally finishing all the critiquing I’ve had piling up for my partners because I was in the throes of revisions. Other good options: pick up a new sport, learn to knit, take dancing lessons, bake cookies.

    2)   Cleanse your brain – When I'm working, I don't like to read so much...pulls me out of my own story. But I LOVE to read. So this is my opportunity! rRead some great books in your genre, read some great books outside of your genre. Get into a new TV show. Go to the movies. I’ve been obsessed with catching up on Vampire Diaries (hey! I write YA) and have a stack of books I’ve been dying to read that I’m about to dive into. (First on the list, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare)

    3)   Exercise – This is one I’m absolutely worst at. I HATE to exercise. But I’ve found watching Vampire Diaries episodes while on the treadmill (and doing CrossFit workouts MAJOR HOTSAUCE has prescribed) is super motivating. I’ve worked out for almost a month consistently because of that little trick!

    4)   Go on vacation – not an option for me, but if you go somewhere without your computer, you can’t touch your manuscript, right? Doesn’t have to be expensive or far away, or even more than a day…it's good to just get out of the house, away from the computer and the manuscript that’s burning a hole in it.

    5)   Last but not least…rejoin the world! Make a lunch date with an old friend, go to your nephew’s birthday party. Walk through the mall. See people, interact with them…talk to someone who isn’t furry and walks on four legs. Oh wait…maybe that’s just me. I tend to cut myself off from the world a little when I’m in the throes of a novel…this is my chance to remind my friends and family that I’m still breathing. With the added benefit of meals that don’t come from a microwave. Score!

    How long do you let a manuscript “rest” before tackling revisions? Between rounds? What tricks do YOU use to distract yourself? And do they work? ::slinks off to open manuscript file:: ;-)

    Tuesday
    Jan182011

    I'd Like My Brain Back, Please

    So today I was going to be productive. I had a list! I was going to critique, revise, shower…

    ...And aside from showering, I’ve done NOTHING.

    Nothing, that is, beyond obsess about my WIP’s title. Since I began writing the novel I’ve had a working title that I felt pretty comfortable with. It really encompassed the overarching theme of the book, was “active”…in other words, it seemed to fit.

    But.

    Isn’t there always a but?

    But it just didn’t go with the vibe of the story. Or the genre. The story is a YA scifi/fantasy, and the title…more weepy contemporary. Or, possibly, romance novel. Worse, though appropriate, it was also kind of boring.

    So, after a chat with Agent Extraordinaire today, I decided I’d try to come up with some alternatives. Yes, I thought about it that casually.

    HA!

    Trying to come up with a new title is no casual endeavor. It has, in fact, completely taken over my brain. COMPLETELY. I have done nothing today but try to distill the major themes of my WIP into a one- to six-word conglomerate of awesomeness. Without success, I might add. Despite the patient brainstorming help of MAJOR HOTSAUCE and my lovely BETAS. (Truly, they are awesome. And awesomely patient with me.)

    It’s funny…with most of the novels I’ve written, the titles have come quite easily. With the first, I had the title before I wrote one word of text. With two other WIPs (that are STILL works in progress), I came up with great titles on the spot. But with two other projects (the current one and the previous one), titles were harder. And I’m not sure why.

    This one – this has been the worst of all. I don’t know if it’s because it’s my first scifi/fantasy, or my first book 1 in a trilogy (hopefully), or if it’s just that this book is about a lot MORE than the others. This book is about ideas and themes that are really, REALLY important to me. Does that add pressure to finding the perfect title? Or is it just that I’m over-thinking it, not letting the book give up its own name when it’s ready?

    I don’t know. But I do hope something breaks soon, because I’d really like to have my brain back. I’ve got stuff to do!

    How do you come up with titles? Is it an easy process, or a soul-sucking, brain-crushing one?