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March 25th, 2008
You Had Me At Halo…

You Had Me At Halo My guest today is Amanda Ashby. Amanda lives in New Zealand, or rather she’s just returned to New Zealand from the UK, and we’re happy to claim her back. You Had Me At Halo is Amanda’s first book. It’s a funny paranormal with a unique slant and has garnered great reviews, including a nomination for the RT Reviewer’s Choice award in the contemporary paranormal romance category. It had me grinning. Amanda is currently immersed in the world of zombies as she works on a young adult novel. She has an interesting life. :grin:

CONTEST: see the details below to enter. We’ll draw the winner’s name on Thursday so don’t forget to check back in the comments section to see if you’re the winner.

When Shelley asked me to do a blog post, I just assumed that closer to the time some appropriate topic would suddenly come to me – most likely with flashing lights around it. Unfortunately, as is often the way, I completely overestimated myself.

Anyway, since I’m stuck on a deadline and also getting the house ready for visitors, I thought I’d talk about a discussion that’s been going on, one of my loops. It’s about whether you would continue to write a book if your agent wasn’t keen on it. Of course this doesn’t just apply to an agent, it could also be if you’ve written something your critique partners don’t like, or perhaps you’ve got a half-completed manuscript that has done the competition rounds and not got the response you’d hoped for. What do you do? Keep writing it or pop it under the bed along with all the other half-finished things?

Personally, I have so many ideas (and I’m the first to admit I don’t always treat them as well as I should) that the minute I get negative comments about a story, I normally move onto fresh pastures. Sometimes this makes me feel guilty that I don’t fight hard enough for my stories, but I’m starting to understand it’s just the way I am. Actually, I think one of the problems is that when it comes to my own writing, my radar just doesn’t work as well I’d like. Also, on the plus side, when I know that my agent and critique partners love an idea, it works like a firecracker under my butt and I normally finish the project pretty quickly (apart obviously from my standard mid-book freak out).

So what does everyone else do? Has anyone left an agent over a project, or written something despite receiving negative comments? I’d love to hear your stories and I’ll randomly select someone to win a copy of my debut novel, YOU HAD ME AT HALO.

Note from Shelley: I know there are quite a few readers that pop by to visit my guests as well as writers. We’re not leaving you out of the fun. What I’d like you to do is hop over to Amanda’s website and explore a little, then come back here, say hello to Amanda and tell us something you’ve learned about her from her website. It can be anything about her books, her writing…anything that you found interesting, and we’ll put you in the draw as well.

34 comments to “You Had Me At Halo…”

  1. If everyone I trusted panned the story, I’d take the concensus of their opinions and see if they matched up on any points. Then I’d *seriously* loook at the document again to see if I agreed with those points.

    If I did, I’d look for ways to rewrite it – sometimes constructive crits can give you a whole new lead or three.

    If I didn’t, and the storyline and characters as written still felt right to me, I’d stay with it and finish the book. Then I’d set it aside for a few months, go back to it and reread with fresh eyes, and make a decision then.

    Working on and finishing a story that might not go anywhere is *never* a waste of time. At the least it’s still honing writing skills. At best, a while down the line it could be a best seller.

  2. If I loved the idea and the characters I’d keep going, although I’d probably put the whole thing on back burner for a while just to get a fresh perspective.

    I think it would be hard to abandon it completely, I’d always be wondering “what if” … and think how galling it would be if someone came along in a year or so with the same idea and it sold in the millions.

  3. I’ve completed three novels that I was told would never sell, because of the unpopular time period (WWII). I finished all three and of course, everyone was right, they didn’t sell. Still, I’m glad I finished them, because I learned a lot from writing those novels, and I’m the kind of person who hates to leave anything unfinished. I might not be a winner, but I’m not a quitter, either.

  4. As one of Amanda’s cps, I can testify that she certainly does have heaps of amazing ideas for stories!!!

    I’m not sure what I’d do if I had an idea I absolutely loved and my agent (if I had one!) didn’t. I really don’t like having unfinished novels sitting on my hard drive. Having said that, I want a career in writing and if my agent (whose judgement I trusted – otherwise I wouldn’t have signed with him/her) said something was unmarketable or whatever – I would certainly take that into consideration.

    So far I haven’t presented my cps with anything they’ve hated. At least, nothing they’ve admitted to me they hated! :lol:

  5. Writing is in my blood. I love it have always loved it and will always do it. If everyone hated something I wrote, I will admit that I would be bummed about it, but it would NEVER quell the literary muse inside me dying to get out and run amuck.
    People’s opinions (and while I value them) are as subjective as two people reading the same thing but thinking something totally different. It is what it is an
    O P I N I O N. having said that, I would remiss in lunacy if I didn’t say that if positively EVERYONE hated it, then it would serve the author better to go back and revisit the manuscript. But quit writing? NEVEH!!!!!


  6. Personally, if my crit partners don’t like something I ask a million questions about why? What would make them like it better? If we can’t meet in the middle I might shelve it for a few weeks but I always come back to it. Sorta like a stray dog, but my books are my babies and I treat them as such. I wouldn’t leave my son laying around because someone didn’t like him…not going to do it to my books.

    Besides, opinions are just that…opinions. And I’ve never written about a subject I haven’t been enthused about!

  7. I don’t have an agent yet, but I would take that person’s advice seriously, since he or she would be the one having to sell it. At the moment, I have several MS’s that would be a hard sell, but I’m still hopeful that the one I’m currently working on would be easier. I’m not sure why all the story ideas that come to me are never in the current market trend – but hey, you can’t quibble with your Muse.

  8. I’m popping in to say “Hi Amanda” This is a great post, it’s good to know that us readers need to send you positive vibe.

    I loved You Had Me At Halo, write more about them hot geeks,more I say. :mrgreen:

    Hugs, Danette

  9. Hi Amanda,

    I’d want to know “why”. It depends on their answer but mostly when I start to write something it’s because I really love the idea, the characters and the possibilities. I might incorporate the feedback if I agreed because writers do get too close to their work at times.

    With an agent if they didn’t love I’d definitely listen. If it’s a one-off “no” I’d probably put the idea aside. If I kept getting “no” I’d look closer at my agent/writer relationship. Do we want/expect different things from the relationship? I guess that’s almost a topic for a different post. :grin:

  10. Wow, it’s great hearing everyone’s thoughts!

    Chris – you are so right – no writing is every wasted and I pillage from old manuscripts all the time. Infact my cps will attest I have a pair of hippy parents who I am determined to find a home for one day. So far they’ve been in 3 manuscripts and counting!!!

    Tricia – your comment is soo true. I’ve had this happen quite a few times and I try and use it as a reminder to trust myself more!

    Lucina – one of my cps loves writing ww2 stories as well and sometimes you’ve just go to write what draws you in!

    Christina, I’ve been meaning to tell you…haha, not really! As long as you keep writing about hot, hot, hot guys then you have no complaints from me!

    Patt – can you come around to my place and sit on my shoulder to remind of this – you rock!!

    Patricia – I think you can come around to my house as well, cos that’s such a great attitude (and I’m writing it down to remind myself!!!)

    Julia – your muse sounds a lot like mine! I long for sensible ideas but they never quite arrive!

    Danette B – waves from NZ and yes, you can never have enough hot geeky guys!

    Shelley – such a valid point about the author/agent relationship. I have an agent that I totally trust and I ‘know’ that she gets my writing which makes the whole thing a whole lot easier!

  11. When I first started writing, I was happy to show a WIP to anyone who was silly enough to volunteer, wasting valuable feedback and annoying my friends and family.
    Now, I may discuss the general trend of a story, but rarely its details until the work is finished and my partner proof reads it. That first impression is critical and I’m loath to waste it.
    I dabbled with critique groups and partners without being impressed by their usefulness. Professionally, I was a loner because of my position. I guess it has carried over into my writing.
    An agent, on the other hand, is a technical resource that you are foolish to waste–you are paying good money out of your royalties for their services. I always listen carefully and analyse their feedback, evaluating it on my assessment of their particular expertise and usefulness.
    It hasn’t happened yet, but if they didn’t like a story, I’d probably finish it anyway and then do my own evaluation of its worth a month or so later.
    If I thought it was worth it, I’d present it to them again, or market it independently.

  12. what i learned from amanda’s website is that she writes books i think would love to read!

  13. I’ve always envied people who can move on and leave the negativity behind. I tend to dwell on the bad things. I will start overanalyzing everything I’ve ever said or done and try to figure out what I did wrong. Definitely not a fun way to live and I’m getting better at letting things roll off my back.

  14. Woo we like a lot of the same shows! I also love your halo pictures, so cute lol

  15. Hi Amanda!
    I love the fact that you learned to accept that everything happens for a reason.

  16. If I really loved the story, I would not give up. I would use constructive criticism to edit my story and make it stronger – but only if I agreed with the comments.

    I think it’s much more important to write a book that you love and tell a story that you are passionate about than selling out to try and market your book.

  17. Well I’m currently working on my first novel Flying In. Which actually started off as an idea for a screenplay for the best writing class I’ve taken to date. The critique partners pretty much ripped it to shreds. However since I have a tendency not to abandon a story till I’m completely happy with it. Which is why I couldn’t just let it go. It helped that I could see that they were right about some of the problems with it. More than that it helped me see that the story didn’t like being confined in the screenplay format, and that the problems they were having with it could be better addressed and even fixed if I took it out of that format.

    So that’s what I’m doing right now and the feedback I’ve been getting so far has been a lot more positive further giving me the encouragement to keep on going with the story.

    You see I’m my own worst critic and I tend to get really invested in my ideas. So I tend to keep on working on a project over and over till I think it’s right. The downside to my method is that I lose a lot of ideas that pop into my head in the process because my mind is only on one track. The plus side I guess is the end all the hard work and energy seem to pay off.

  18. Hey Amanda!

    I LOVED reading You Had Me at Halo. It was great! I cannot wait to read your new books next year!

  19. I tend to be stubborn and keep going with a project until I don’t like it. If I lose interest I shelve it pretty quickly :smile: I had a couple bad experiences with CPs so I’ve had to learn to trust myself.

  20. Hi Amanda,
    Your Halo pictures on your website are awesome! :)

  21. I would look at the following things before I finished the book:

    1) Why didn’t they like it? Was it just an absolutely horrible idea?
    For example, are you trying to write a romance where the heroine is a mega-substance abuser? That would be a hard sell. However, depending upon the answers here, if you feel really strongly about it, you might want to finish it. It might not be a work for another genre, such as literary fiction. Or it might have to sit in a drawer for a while.

    2) If it was a horrible idea, is there a way to change it to make it
    more acceptable? It may just need the right spin.

    3) How strongly do you feel about the work? If you feel very strongly,
    then write it. Everything else doesn’t matter. Just be aware that you may not be able to sell it. (I have several of these.)

    4) Do you have enough time to write it and meet your other commitments,
    or have a slowdown in your publishing schedule? If so, then go ahead.
    Otherwise, put it off until you have time to write something that won’t sell without it impacting upon your writing career.

    Ultimately, the answer is: if you feel strongly enough and have time to write something that won’t sell, then write it. It may sell in the future—or never—but at least it’s off your chest. J

  22. I heard about Amanda’s book through another author’s blog and I absolutely loved it! It’s in my top three favorite books of all time. Can’t wait for her next one to come out!

    As for writing, I hate to share my ideas because it doesn’t take much to discourage me.

  23. well, i am not a writer for one. (at least not yet). i just wanna say that i love the title of the novel (so creative). i didnt get it at first, and then i was like OOHHHHHH. yeah. and i totally wanna visit new zealand some day.

  24. Right now I have the luxury of just writing for my own pleasure. I don’t think I’d completely stop a project if it wasn’t getting positive feedback. I would probably go have a good scream by myself and then with a clearer head listen to the critiques and see if I could work with any of the suggestions.

    BTW, I love the cheery cover art on the book.

  25. Wow, you guys sure are great!!!

    Amy G – half of my writing friends don’t use cps and half do, it’s definitely an individual thing and it sounds like you’ve got a great system of evaluating feedback!

    Marlayne (love that name!) thank you so much!!!!!

    Jane – snap, I’m exactly the same. I tend to dwell on the bad and brush over the good. Something i’m working on!

    Brooke – oh, yay, another tv girl!!! And glad you like the Halo. I actually need to update it for my zombie book which is a bit scary!!!

    Estella – yeah, it was a hard lesson to learn but worth it!!

    Amber G – yes, it’s so crazy to try and chase the market because it seems to change ALL the time!

    Hey Samantha – great last name!!! I love it when an idea is soooo strong that it forces you to write and rewrite and keep on chipping away until you find the story within. Those are the most satisfying books to write!

    Meredith – wow, thank you so much (especially since I’m ploughing through revisions and am struggling to remember how to finish a book!!!)

    Lis – they often say it’s better to have no agent than a bad one and I think this extends to cps as well. A bad one can really scar you and it’s so important to try and protect your work!

    RR – thanks. When I saw those halos I knew I had to have one (well, actually I bought about 120 at the time!!!!)

    Amy – I really love your take on it because it seems to keep the creative/business sides balanced!

    Laura – you’re an angel! And I’m like that as well, I get easily turned off my own ideas (apart from when really stubborn heroines come along and bug me!!)

    Book Muncher – Hehehe – I love my title as well, though my agent must take the credit! And NZ is soooo gorgeous!!

  26. As another of Amanda’s CPs I can vouch for her Mary Poppins bag of ideas………….

    I will also shelve a project if my agent doesn’t like it. Or if my CPs don’t like it either. Because I too have no idea if what I’m writing is going to be the next million dollar book (I wish…) or something to never see the light of day for fear of monumental embarrassment.

  27. My current WIP has gotten some mixed feedback – people either love it or hate it, LOL. I’ve kept at it though because I myself love the story and have to see it through.

    But, like others have said, if everyone uniformly hated it I’d want to know specifically why. In the case of my current WIP, a few people have said they just don’t like first person narrative. For me, that is not a compelling enough reason to stop since plenty of people out there do like first person, myself included :)

    Critique partners can be valuable for feedback – if you have the right ones. And if I had an agent I suppose I would take their opinion very seriously. In the absence of either, I say just trust yourself and write what feels right to you.

  28. I would shelve it without a second thought. I may love the characters or plot or whatever, but if an agent or editor doesn’t like it, it’s pretty much out. I’d save it in a file in case there are parts of it that can be used later.

    But if my critique partners hate it, it goes in the trash. I look at my cp’s as friends, co-workers, and the voice of my readers. If they don’t like my story, I know other readers won’t either. Of course, I’d depend on them to tell me why they didn’t like it first so if it’s something that can be fixed, I can determine if it’s worth the time.
    And that’s really what it all boils down to.

    When I hit a rough wip like that, I have to justify whether it’s worth the time invested over the long haul to repair it or start fresh. More often than not, it’s better to just ditch the project and start a new document.

    BTW, the cover for “Halo” is gorgeous!

  29. You know, I think it depends on how much I believed in the story myself. If it was just something I was playing around with and everyone hated it, I probably wouldn’t continue writing it. I wouldn’t dump it either, I never do. But I would put it aside and think about it in a year or two.

    If it was a story that was close to my heart and that I really believed in then I would probably write it anyway with the expectation that it would be hard to publish. But the hope would be that there’s a home for every good piece of fiction out there somewhere.

  30. The title made me smile. :grin: I’m definitely going to keep it in mind when I go book shopping!

  31. Sara – whoops, I think you might’ve caught that off me!

    jenyfer – I think when the story makes you continue, is the best sign you can have to keep going!

    Cora – you’re a girl after my own heart!!! I think having cps and or an agent you trust makes it easier to put things aside if they don’t like them!

    AJ – I think you’re right – when a story is close to you it demands more attention. I have a bad habit of sending off half-cooked ideas which is probably not so clever!

    Jennifer – oh, thank you! I love my title as well – my clever agent came up with it!

  32. Kia ora Amanda! (actually I don’t know what that means, but i sure hope it means hello!) I love Eoin Colfer, especially his Artemis fowl series- I was obesessed w/ them when i was younger and i still read those books now!

    Congrats on your nomination for the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award!

    PS. those halos are adorable!

  33. Thanks so much for visiting, Amanda, and for the great post.


    Congratulations to Julia who wins a copy pf You Had Me At Halo. I’m sure you’ll love this book. :grin:

    Julia – just email me your address and details and I’ll forward them on to Amanda.

    shelleymunro @ gmail.com (no spaces)


  34. Woo! Yay! Woo!

    OK, I’ve calmed down a smidgeon. I’ll email you pronto.