Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Elana, Breaking Rules, and Contest

Elana Johnson’s official release of Possession is TODAY! YaY!

Remember when I had that "400 Followers Fiesta" and people had a chance to ask Elana’s question? And then I had a post called "Elana's Answer Awesomeness" when I posted her video answer? At the time, I also posted her answers to commenters’ questions. This is Part II of that interview.

Part I was all about Possession. Part II is about Elana’s writing process and publishing journey. Read and Learn.

Tara Tyler's question:

How did you know the Young Adult genre was your “perfect fit?"

I started writing during a troubled time in my life, and it became the way I got my emotions out. And what creature is better to pour your angst and heartache into than a teenager? YA became a natural fit for my sort of half-therapy, half-hobby of storytelling.

Erica and Christy's evil question:

We want to know about your first book. You know, the one you trunked that you wish no one knew about? Tell us about that one - what didn't work about it and how you knew it needed to go away.

Ah, the dreaded first book. When I read about author’s whose first books make it to print, I sort of hate them a little.

My first book was about an immortal boy who hated his immortality, and the girl who could turn him back into a human. I still think the premise is somewhat decent, but the actual writing is horrific.

I think it takes practice to learn how to craft a story from blank pages, from inside your head where no one else can see, from nothing. So I’m okay with my ten practice novels. (That’s right, TEN.)

There were many things that didn’t work in my first novel: the word count was too long, nothing happened, the reveals were all off, the characters weren’t well-developed, there were too many characters, too much going on, the list could be a mile long.

I knew my first book wasn’t “the one,” during the query process when I didn’t get any partials upgraded. The only fulls agents read were the ones that were requested straight from the query. Also, I always felt squeamish putting my first ten pages after the query. Looking back, that’s a huge indicator that I knew my book wasn’t good. I mean, I didn’t want anyone to read it! How lame is that?

Kulsuma's question:

Have you ever had writer's block and if so, how long did your longest bout of writer's block span? How do you get over it?

Absolutely. I spent most of one summer completely paralyzed, unable to write anything. I didn’t think I’d ever get another idea, and the novel I was working on was terrible. (It’s trunked now, and I do get ideas.)

I think the best way to get over writer’s block is to do something mindless. Read a book. Play a video game. Fold the laundry, wash the dishes, take a shower. When I don’t feel like writing, I don’t. It’s awesome.

Donna's question:

What is the most challenging part of the writing process for you?

Coming up with a premise that doesn’t fizzle out after 10,000 words.

Deniz Bevan's question:

What was the favourite part of your writing/publishing journey, Elana?

Selling the book. That was amazing. Like, for real? Someone’s going to pay me to publish this? Okay!

Janet Johnson's question:

Elana, you have helped so many people in this writing process in so many ways. What is the one thing that helped you the most?

SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder, a book that was recommended to me by my critique group. So, my critique group has been invaluable to me (in other ways too)!

VB Tremper's question:

What has been the biggest surprise on your journey to becoming a published author?

The biggest surprise? Depends on the leg of the journey we’re talking about. During querying, I was surprised the novel didn’t get represented sooner. (I thought it was good!) When I finally got an offer, I was shocked beyond belief. I mean, everyone else said no! How could this be?

I was floored when the book sold. Completely floored. Sometimes I still am.

Sometimes I’m surprised when people say they like it. When I look at Goodreads and see thousands of people have marked it to be read. When someone blogs about it and seems excited as I am. All of that is surprising. I think it would be sad if it weren’t.

Thank you commenters for the wonderful questions and thank you Elana for the honest answers.

Want to check out the Possession bloghop to find out when your fellow bloggers broke the rules? Then head to Nichole's Blog.

Want to win a copy of Possession? Leave a comment on my post telling me when you broke the rules! (Broken writing rules especially welcome.) You’ll earn an extra point for each way you advertise the contest. Oh, and please be a follower of my blog. (And, yeah, it’s international.)

Contest ends 06/14.


  1. I'd love to win a copy of Possession but I'm not sure I have an example of breaking the rules. Perhaps the closest I could come is that everyone says not to write stories in rhyme (we're talking picture book age here), that editors see too much of it and don't want it, but I wrote my first book in rhyme anyway and it sold. Congratulations on your publication, Elana, and I think I will be reading Save The Cat ASAP!

  2. Great interview. I'm so excited about Elana's debut. And I loved Save the Cat too.

    Don't enter me in the contest. I'm giving away 2-3 copies in a contest too at Literary Rambles.

  3. I love hearing her story. She leaves me inspired and allows me to keep pushing because this writing gig is certainly not easy. It takes patience and a whole lot of perserverance!!!

    I love that we all stick together and fight for one another. I've heard about Save the Cat but I ended up with Bird by Bird last night instead.... Guess the Cat didn't get the bird this time (hehe, I'm a dork)!

  4. I had to come back for part two and it was just as grand. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  5. Great interview! It is always so interesting to hear authors thoughts about the writing process. I would love to win a copy of Possessions, but I don't have an example of breaking the rules.

  6. So fun! I loved all the answers, especially the one about the first book. :)

  7. Oh, and breaking the rules? I wrote a book from 2 POVs which everyone told me was a no-no.

  8. Thanks for the answers, Elana, and for posting them, Theresa. Erica already won a copy of Possession, but Christy would love to be entered. We break the rules with every blog fest we do (word count, subject, etc.) - we don't mean to, it just ends up happening every time! (and yeah, christy has a multiple pov novel, too).

  9. I love all these broken writing rules. Here's mine:

    My current WIP goes from present tense (in the present) to past tense (flashbacks) almost chapter to chapter. I've never come across a rule NOT to do this, but I'm pretty sure theres a rule about not doing this somewhere.

  10. writing contest......My blog Amish Stories is having its first ever contest this week. The First prize winner will win 2 tickets to tour the farm where the 1985 move "Witness" staring Harrison Ford and Kelly Mcgillis was made in Strasburg,Pa . This farm is now Amish owned, and the family has given permission for folks to tour their farm. This may be the last time anyone will be able to walk and see the same things that Harrison Ford and the other actors saw during the making of "Witness". The Witness tour should last about 2.5 hours. In addition to the Witness farm tour tickets, 1st prize winner will also receive 2 tickets for Jacobs choice. There will also be a 2nd place prize, which will be 2 tickets for the Amish Homestead. Please go to My blog www.AmishStorys.com for contest details, and more information on the prizes. Richard from the Amish settlement of Lebanon county.

  11. OK, OK, I throw in some sentence fragments from time to time. I know it doesn't seem like a big deal but I am an English teacher so it's really like livin' on the edge for me.....

  12. Elana is awesome, just like this interview. Totally agree about doing something mindless to jumpstart your writing mind.

  13. Great interview! Hmmm...I have some flashback sections that don't change tense--instead they are in italics. It's not something I would have normally tried, but my CPs convinced me it make the pages read more fluidly.

  14. Yay for Elana Johnson! I love the answer to the "evil question" about her first book! I so agree - if you don't want anyone else to read your story because you know in your heart it's not right, then it's time to move on!!

    Take care

  15. Awesome interview. So excited for the release of Possession!

  16. I'm not entering because I've already read it and LOVED it and just hopping along to show support! I break the rules all the time with IRS! I never make the deadlines. You'd think I'd learn after all the fees, but it's just terrible. I need an IRS intervention service :)

  17. Congrats to Elana! I will get this on my Kindle for sure. So exciting!

  18. Don't enter me. I just wanted to stop by and say hello to my friend, Theresa!! And of course, CONGRATS to Elana!!!! :-)

  19. Love these questions! And love hearing more about Elana. So excited for her. :)

    Rule breaking...well, I do end sentences with a preposition sometimes. I'm wild, I know. :P

    Great contest, thanks!

  20. Loved reading the QnA. Possession popped up on my Kindle this morning. I can't wait to read it.

  21. Love Elana and her new book!

    I break writing rules all the time, which is not such a good thing. I love to end sentences with a preposition. See what I mean?

  22. When I was still in the dating pool I broke The Rules (you know, THOSE rules). I like my direct style better. :)

    And if you read Wittlinger's Harvard Square-set book, start with the original "Hard Love."

  23. I'm right there with Elena! What she's expressed is so much what I've experienced since starting to write for young adults. I'd love to read her book.

    As to rule breaking: I didn't get an agent. I went directly to the publishing houses. I don't know if that was a right move, but that's the move I made. I published my second book that way as well. Who knows what's next.

    Thanks btw for the link to the rebuttal of the WSJ article. It was great.

  24. Great interview!
    I have the ARC, so no need to include me in the drawing.
    (I know, lucky me, right? I got to read it months ago!)

  25. Thanks for answering our questions, Elana! Trunked, I like that :-) I've got quite a few of those...

  26. I love hearing that she had 10 practice novels - that gives me hope to go on if the one I'm querying now isn't "the one."

    I break writing rules way too often. I love starting sentences with the words "and" and "but." Is that even still a rule?

  27. Wow, the amazing (and humble) ElanaJ answered my question! I'm floored now.

    Hmm, how have I broken the rules? That's actually a really tough question. I tried writing in first person present in a section of my wip. Does that count? (Please say yes.)

  28. Once my teacher had us write stories to match pictures. My picture showed an animal (can't remember what) print wallpaper. I asked my teacher if I could change the animals to dragons and she told me no.

    In my story, they started out as that animal then flew off the wall and turned to dragons. XD

  29. Love Elana's answer. I love STC too.

    Don't enter me. I've already pre-ordered it. Unfortunately, I pre-ordered it with a book that's not due out for two more weeks. Grrrr. #whatwasIthinking?

  30. What an informative Q&A! Thank you, ladies and congrats to Elana!
    I have been meaning to get Save the Cat.

  31. One writing rule I've broken over and over again is to write every day. With my work schedule, writing every day is just not possible (though I really wish it was). But I figure as long as I get a certain number of pages done each week, it's okay.
    I included a note about your contest at the end of my June 7 (Tuesday) post, by the way.

  32. I love how she answers her questions. Disbelief that anyone would want to publish her novel. I hope that someday I have the same experience, disbelief my work has succeeded instead of of frustration that is hasn't.

  33. Great questions and answers, you two! Happy happy publication day to Elana -- wish her every success!

  34. Elana, yay for persevering! You've written one heck of a great book.

  35. Thanks for sharing the second half of the Q&A. She's such a great gal!

  36. Fun interview!
    I broke a writing rule. One time...I had TWO points of view going on in one scene.
    *cue scary music*
    It needed to be done! (And no one seemed to notice) :-)

  37. I'm hoping to read Possession before too long. It sounds wonderful.

    This was a delightful interview!

    I also stopped by to thank you for your comments on my posts and on others whose links I've posted. I appreciate your support!

  38. This is a great way to do an interview. I loved hearing about Elana's first book. Good to know we are all human. ;)

    I'm breaking rules all the time in writing. Um-ah. The trick is knowing when to break them ;) Apart from that I'm a good girl...angelic even (hahahahahaha).

  39. I wish I could write this long comment telling you all the rules I've broken, but I'm a bit boring. A bit? Ok, maybe really boring.

    I'm so excited for Elana!

  40. So excited for Elana!! I LOVED Possession - a really terrific book :)

    PS - don't enter me as I already have a copy!

  41. Awesome answers to some very good questions. Thanks for sharing Ealana!

    If something I write end up published then I'd know the rule I broke worked or not.

    I'm excited for Elana, Theresa, I've tweeted about the contest!

  42. Oh I didn't know you wrote another post after the Lenny Fest!

    Wow I'd like a copy of Possession! I cannot remember breaking any rules...hmmm, does breaking traffic rules count? Like crossing the road when it's RED for pedestrians. I get called many names because of this. LOL.

    I love the interview! Thanks Theresa and Elana! x

  43. Some good questions and excellent answers. Wishing Elana lots of success with her book.

    Tossing It Out

  44. I'm really glad this contest is international as I wan't to read the book.

    I found Deniz' question & Elana's answer interesting because it's amazing that no matter how much we believe in our stories, we're still amazed when they're sold to a publisher.

    How I broke the rules? I submitted a ms to a publishing house that was rejected because I wrote one scene from the perspective of hero and heroine. The editor told me I couldn't do that.

    I still believed and so I kept the scenes, did more work on the book and submitted elsewhere. I got a contract for that book and it's now scheduled for the second round of edits.

    Wishing Elana many sales and lots of success with Possession.