Current WIP: Play It Again

When I re-released Playing Hurt, I got some incredible, fresh feedback on the book–so much so, it gave me all sorts of ideas for tightening up Play It Again. I’m really excited about this new chapter of Chelsea and Clint’s story.

I’ve got the book formatted, and I’m now doing line edits! It’s always so exciting to see a book laid out in InDesign.

More to come on this project soon…

Do Writers Need Agents?

At the end of the year, I asked readers what they’d like to see more of here at the blog. I got quite a few requests for posts about the business end of publishing.

Specifically, I was asked about agents.

I’m currently sans-agent, because I’m focused at the moment on further developing my indie career. The agent I had got me some lovely deals–a two-book and one-book deal, each at a Big-5 publishing house.

But it probably didn’t happen the way you’re envisioning.

I think most writers who have never had an agent imagine that it’s the answer to everything. That once you sign, a book deal is imminent and inevitable. To be sure, an agent can open doors. But neither one of my deals came quickly. They both required more than a year of submitting and getting editorial feedback and resubmitting. I was really lucky that my agent was willing to stick the process out with me, and to continue to submit rewrites with the same amount of enthusiasm as she did the first round.

Without it, those projects would have been dead in the water.

If you’re looking to snag an agent, it’s clearly not going to happen during a face-to-face meeting at a conference. At least, not for the foreseeable future. It’s probably going to depend to some extent on a good query. I’ve written about query letters before, but I’ll rerun my own format for queries here:

  1. A third of the page devoted to the book itself—and no more than a third. I know you have a ton to say about your story, but it really needs to be brief. Think in terms of jacket copy. It often helps to start with a one-sentence tagline. If you can boil your book down to one sentence first, then writing a couple of paragraphs feels far less daunting.
  2. A third of the page devoted to the importance of the book—how it fits into the market, how you believe it fills a hole. If it’s children’s literature, you might indicate how the book would be useful in a classroom, etc.
  3. A third of the page devoted to your credentials (I’m including any platforms or followings you might have). If you’re a first-time author, you’ll take up less space here.

That being said, have I sold a book without an agent? Yes. I’ll talk about that more next week.

Got a question of your own? One about the writing process or the business of writing? Feel free to hit me up: hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

Working Through Writer’s Block

The thing is, I don’t get writer’s block. At least, not in the way you usually think of it. I am never without new ideas for new books. And I actually love revision. (I’ve never felt I couldn’t work my way through a revision.)

BUT: throughout the past few years, I have hit periods in which I have a hard time focusing. It happens during periods of social uprising or political maelstroms.

I have to admit, lately, I’ve had a hard time focusing on my WIP, Play It Again (the Playing Hurt sequel). And it has everything to do with the images on my nightly news, the papers I read.

It’s tough–and because it’s ongoing, I don’t have any real solidified thoughts about it. I just wanted to let everyone who’s feeling the same way to know they’re not alone. I’m slogging through it, too.

I’m taking lots of walks.

I’m outside with my dog.

I’m trying new recipes.

I’m reading new books.

I’m doing my best to introduce the feeling of play in my work.

I’m sending out good writing vibes to all my fellow writers…

New Picture Book – A Small Kindness

I was lucky to get this sweet ARC just before Christmas. The conceit is simple: kindness is like a game of tag. The smallest gestures–a smile, a compliment, a bit of encouragement, writing someone a note–can make someone’s day. They’ll then want to spread that good feeling on to someone else, offering their own bit of kindness. Here, being kind isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s fun! The end of the text implies the reader is now it.

The children in this book are multi-ethnic and differently abled. (One child has a walker, and another wears glasses.) But that doesn’t matter in Ms. Jones’s class!

Young readers will love the bright, vibrant illustrations. A great classroom read to encourage students to play and work together.

Pre-order here.

Happy, Happy Holidays!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Casa Schindler–the tree is glowing, the presents are wrapped, and the Christmas movies are in constant rotation. It’s been such a rough year for us all, but I hope the last few days of 2020 have the power to lift your spirits and warm your heart. I have great hope for 2021.

As I look toward blogging content in the next year, I’d really love to hear from you. What would you like to see more of at the blog next year? A few in-depth series like the one that recently ran on outlining? Writing articles? Publishing articles? Any specific questions you have that you’d like turned into posts or series? Feel free to comment or, as always, reach out directly at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

Happy holidays!

Outlining Your Novel: Hitting the Beats

So far, in the Outlining Your Novel series, we’ve explored character arcs, the three act structure, death, and the turning point in the middle. As I said when the series started, outlining is not about creating a chronological order of events. Outlining is about taking a large project and breaking it into small chunks.

Now that we can see the novel as a big picture (the character arc is maybe the biggest part of that), we can begin breaking it down. We do that by hitting important beats, or moments of change, for that main character of ours.

Here, it helps to think of your story as a linear timeline. At the 10% mark, the status quo is interrupted in some way. This is a small disturbance. At the 25% mark, your main character encounters the big problem that makes up the primary conflict of the story. At the 50% mark, we have the change in the main character that we brainstormed during the discussion on the turning point. At 75%, we have the dark moment of the soul–the point in which all seems lost for the main character. At the 90% mark, we have the ultimate climax, where good triumphs over evil, and for the remaining 10%, the loose ends are all tied up.

That’s it!

Well, okay, it’s not it. But you’ve done the hard part. All that’s left is to brainstorm chapters that fill in the spaces in-between the beats, remembering your three-act structure. I find Scrivener to be one of the best writing tools out there for breaking a story down into chapters before actually writing. I also highly recommend Googling and reading about the beats and plot points that should be included in the genre you’re writing. That’s not to say you have to include every single turning point. But it provides a great framework to start with.

So go on–get outlining!

Smack Dab in the Middle – A Blog for All Things MG

I’ll get back to the series on outlining your book next week. For now, I wanted to highlight my MG blog, Smack Dab in the Middle.

I’ve been the administrator of the blog for years–since The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky was in development (and that book released in ’14)! To begin with, the site was a group of MG authors blogging about our work and the writing life. Bloggers have come and gone over the years; recently, we’ve been adding teachers, librarians, and even an aspiring (rather than already-published) writer. In one case, we’ve got three generations of the same family blogging at the site, all writers and teachers. The love of literature runs deep, as many of us know–often, it’s in our roots!

Please do head on over to Smack Dab and get involved in the discussion. The aim is to hear from MG nuts who have a wide variety of points of view–I’d love to hear yours as well!

PS: If you are a teacher, librarian, or an author yourself–especially one who is about to see the release of a book–please do get in touch: hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com. We’ve still got some open spots left!

Thankful for Readers – A Play It Again Cover Reveal!

This Thanksgiving weekend, I’m so incredibly thankful for my readers. It’s been such a rough year for all of us, and I can’t tell you how truly amazing it is to hear from you. I have so enjoyed receiving your messages about the Ruby’s Place Christmas Collection. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your reaching out to shoot me a message. And, I am thoroughly enjoying hearing from some of you about Play It Again!

I don’t have an exact date of release yet, but since I’m getting a few questions, I did want to share a bit of the book with you…the cover art!

It’s so much fun to spend time with these characters. I can’t wait to share this new installment with you!

Outlining Your Novel: The Turning Point in the Middle

In my ongoing series on plotting your novel, I’ve addressed character arcs, the three act structure, and death. This week, we’re looking at the center of the book.

That might sound a bit odd. We’ve done plenty of brainstorming, but now, we’re jumping right into the middle? Without addressing the beginning of the book?

As I said before, the idea of outlining is to take a big project (writing a novel) and break it into manageable chunks. That doesn’t mean meticulously plotting from beginning to end. For me, it means gathering all the pieces of the novel and then sliding them into the appropriate place.

So. The turning point.

I find this beat in any novel particularly interesting, and have ever since I encountered James Scott Bell’s WRITE YOUR NOVEL FROM THE MIDDLE.

The idea is that every main character encounters a turning point in the center of the book, after which their attitude and behavior begins to change. They have a mid-point epiphany. Or something life-changing happens. They may realize something about their enemy (perhaps they realize they’ve been chasing or blaming the wrong person). At the mid-point, they change direction.

What I really love about this strategy is that it plays right into creation of the character arc. Writers always use the term “character arc.” Not character line. Character arc. Picture an arc in your mind. Has the same shape as a rainbow, doesn’t it? Right in the center, it has a…

turning point.


In order for the full character arc to be believable, something drastic needs to happen to your main character in the center of the book. Remember, no one ever changes their mind on a whim. Something has to happen to a person to change their mind. They have to have some sort of experience that changes them.

Here, you want to brainstorm an event that can happen right at the center of your book, one that will change your main character for the better. The change won’t happen in its entirety in this moment–it will continue to take place for the rest of the book. But the trigger for the change to occur happens here.

Go on–get to brainstorming!

Free Book Alert: Christmas at Ruby’s

I love me some Christmas movies…Christmas books…Christmas stories…

I’m definitely in the Christmas mood this year. I’m already looking for my ugly sweaters and digging through the attic for the decorations.

To celebrate, my book Christmas at Ruby’s (the first in The Ruby’s Place Christmas Collection) is free at all outlets!