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Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Maggie on Thu Feb 17, 2011 9:44 am

Ready? Set? Ask!


Last edited by Lizzy on Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:52 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Maggie on Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:30 pm

I'll start the questions (and I'll probably have more than one...)

How do you keep yourself from losing interest in a novel? Or do you even have that problem?

Often when I'm (trying to) write(ing) a novel I'll randomly lose interest and be unable to pick it back up again, so I move on. Especially when you're continuing a series or something, how do you keep that from happening?

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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Helene Boudreau on Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:31 pm

Lizzy wrote:Ready? Set? Ask!

Uh...who's 'Hélène Boudreau'? clown

Haha! Just kidding. Bookmarking thread and looking forward to answering questions. Thanks for the invitation!

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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Helene Boudreau on Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:39 pm

Lizzy wrote:
How do you keep yourself from losing interest in a novel? Or do you even have that problem?

Often when I'm (trying to) write(ing) a novel I'll randomly lose interest and be unable to pick it back up again, so I move on. Especially when you're continuing a series or something, how do you keep that from happening?

I put projects aside ALL THE TIME. This is particularly true of projects that are unsold. Sometimes, though, you just have to push through the yuckiness and see where it leads. Other times, I write the ending so that I know where I'm heading and try to fill in the holes. It's also very much OKAY to take a break from a project and come back to it later. Writing short stories in the meantime helps me with this. Shorter works help me see a project through from beginning, middle and end and often helps me with pacing problems in longer works.

Also, I'm a big believer in outlining. I describe my process HERE. [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

Outlining my project at various stages of development helps uncover story holes and gives me a sense of my story's pacing. That can sometimes help to get the story going again.

I'm writing this quickly because I need to go get the chicklets from school but GREAT question! Looking forward to more!
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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Maggie on Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:44 pm

SO helpful! Thank you bunches.

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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Sarah on Thu Feb 17, 2011 6:01 pm

I have one Smile Do you prefer to write a certain genre?
I've found that I can only write about paranormal/fantasy and can't write about just regular people that don't have cool abilities or don't find out that they have cool abilities. Do you have this problem?

Thanks for doing this Q/A, like Lizzy I will probably have tons more questions later on Smile
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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Maggie on Thu Feb 17, 2011 7:09 pm

I have another question! (Actually, I've had it, I just held off for a bit...)

When did you decide you wanted to be a published author and did you start writing until you had "The Novel" or did you pull out and fix up an old story?

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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Helene Boudreau on Thu Feb 17, 2011 11:16 pm

Sarah wrote:I have one Smile Do you prefer to write a certain genre?
I've found that I can only write about paranormal/fantasy and can't write about just regular people that don't have cool abilities or don't find out that they have cool abilities. Do you have this problem?

Thanks for doing this Q/A, like Lizzy I will probably have tons more questions later on Smile

Another great question! I've written contemporary, time travel and contemporary fantasy from both male and female perspectives and from picture books to young adult novels so I'm a bit of an omnivorous writer. I tend to write the kinds of books I like to read and I like to read all sorts of things so I guess that makes sense.

It's completely okay to stick with one genre in your writing, though I'd encourage everyone to read different genres. It's sometimes surprising what you can learn and discover when you broaden your scope. The idea for my middle grade novel REAL MERMAIDS, for instance, was partially inspired by a picture book called SCAREDY SQUIRREL. sunny
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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Mayaah on Thu Feb 17, 2011 11:34 pm

Hi Helene! First off, cute picture! Love the hat. Razz

Okay, my question is, was the road to publication a piece of cake, or a long bumpy road, or any other metaphor/simile analogy that isn't as cliched? Smile
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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Helene Boudreau on Fri Feb 18, 2011 8:02 am

Lizzy wrote:When did you decide you wanted to be a published author and did you start writing until you had "The Novel" or did you pull out and fix up an old story?

You guys are SO far ahead of where I was in high school, honestly. I was a big 'talker', always saying "Some day...I'll be a writer. Some day...I'll have a book published." But, I was all talk and no action. The fact that you are writing NOVELS in high school when there are so many other distractions at this age is AWESOME.

It wasn't until about 7 years ago before I started to take writing seriously. I had a three year-old and a baby at home and I was considering going back to work to a job I hated. Crying or Very sad My friend said 'But, what about your writing? How are you ever going to publish a book if you go back to a 60 hr/week job?'

That was the gut-check I needed to take the plunge and really apply myself to writing. I made A LOT of mistakes at first--writing very badly, submitting too early, I could go on...But I was really lucky to stumble upon a fantastic critique group, I joined a children's author and illustrator society and went to the meetings and trolled the internet for as much information as I could find to help improve my writing and learn the business of publishing.

My husband was mega-supportive and always has been but I made a deal with myself that I'd put in as much as effort as I had in my office job--but apply it to my writing. If I didn't reach my goal of being published by the time my youngest was in first grade (which is when kids start full-time school where I live), I'd consider returning to work.

My first published novel was NOT my first novel, though. I think it was my 4th or 5th, not counting the dozens of picture books I'd written. But finally in 2008, I got 'the call' and my novel was published that fall--just in time for my youngest to start first grade.

Thankfully, it all worked out. Wink
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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Sarah on Fri Feb 18, 2011 10:18 am

Helene Boudreau wrote:
Sarah wrote:I have one Smile Do you prefer to write a certain genre?
I've found that I can only write about paranormal/fantasy and can't write about just regular people that don't have cool abilities or don't find out that they have cool abilities. Do you have this problem?

Thanks for doing this Q/A, like Lizzy I will probably have tons more questions later on Smile

Another great question! I've written contemporary, time travel and contemporary fantasy from both male and female perspectives and from picture books to young adult novels so I'm a bit of an omnivorous writer. I tend to write the kinds of books I like to read and I like to read all sorts of things so I guess that makes sense.

It's completely okay to stick with one genre in your writing, though I'd encourage everyone to read different genres. It's sometimes surprising what you can learn and discover when you broaden your scope. The idea for my middle grade novel REAL MERMAIDS, for instance, was partially inspired by a picture book called SCAREDY SQUIRREL. sunny

Thank you for taking time to answer our questions!!! Smile
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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Helene Boudreau on Fri Feb 18, 2011 3:15 pm

Mayaah wrote:Hi Helene! First off, cute picture! Love the hat. Razz

Okay, my question is, was the road to publication a piece of cake, or a long bumpy road, or any other metaphor/simile analogy that isn't as cliched? Smile

Thanks! It's my little girl's hat--it looks way more adorable on her! I love you

My path to publication was, er, twisty. I started submitting in 2006 and got a verbal offer for a picture book, which then got cancelled because of the market. Then, I had interest for a chapter book adventure series (and a rejection for a novel) but that editor left the company. Then I had strong interest for that same chapter book series but they had layoffs at that company. Then I signed with an agent and things were looking GREAT...but then not really...finally I broke it off with that agent and was feeling REALLY down about my writing. This was about February 2008 by then. I'd dropped off my kids at school and had gone for a walk, really considering what I should do next because despite all my best efforts and many close calls, my dream of being published seemed farther away than ever.

Little did I know, there was a message waiting for me on my answering machine. THE CALL! From the new editor at publisher #1 for the manuscript that had already been rejected by the previous editor! That same editor also bought the chapter book series and the second volume is being published this spring. I eventually signed with a FANTASTIC agent in 2009 and she's sold 4 books for me so far.

It seemed like NOTHING was happening for the longest time but what I didn't realise was that things happen in their own time. Sometimes 'NOs' can mean 'NOT YET' or 'NOT WITH ME'. It's just hard to keep the faith sometimes but if you do, and you keep working and keep writing and improving you may be rewarded in ways you'd never anticipated.
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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Maggie on Fri Feb 18, 2011 11:33 pm

*loving your answers*

Another question! Do you plot your stories out first or kind of let them happen as you go?

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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Sarah on Sat Feb 19, 2011 12:46 am

I thought of another question Smile
How do you write your stories?
Like, Do you write the whole thing out, detail by detail, scene by scene and then edit like crazy to cut out unnecessary parts?
Do you sort of write parts of your story at different times and then peice them together?
Do you sort of just write the gist of the story and fill it out later?
Or do you just do something completely different than what I stated above?
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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Helene Boudreau on Sat Feb 19, 2011 11:21 am

Lizzy wrote:*loving your answers*

Another question! Do you plot your stories out first or kind of let them happen as you go?

It's hard to totally plan out a story from the get-go but I usually have a general idea of my character, the story question and a beginning, middle and end. My characters tend to surprise me along the way, though, so even though I might start with an outline, things invariably change and evolve. I love that, though! If I'm surprising myself with new twists and unexpected turns while I'm writing, I can only hope that it translates into my reader being surprised as well.

So, while I'm a bit of a planner--I'm open to going off course and seeing where it leads. Question
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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Helene Boudreau on Sat Feb 19, 2011 11:53 am

Sarah wrote:I thought of another question Smile
How do you write your stories?
Like, Do you write the whole thing out, detail by detail, scene by scene and then edit like crazy to cut out unnecessary parts?
Do you sort of write parts of your story at different times and then peice them together?
Do you sort of just write the gist of the story and fill it out later?
Or do you just do something completely different than what I stated above?

Haha! I do ALL of those things! Very Happy

Basically, though, I tend to rush through first drafts and write those really quickly. Well, quickly for me is around 3-5 months. Those drafts are very bare-bones and usually involve a lot of tangents, are light in character development and usually are lacking in subplots. Really, really rough stuff and entirely not publishable. But that's okay, that's only the beginning. It's like taking a hunk of clay and hacking out big chunks to get *kind of* the form you're going for. What I'm mainly concerned with is getting the gist of my story down. It definitely does not have to come out perfectly on the first go. Ack! The pressure!

The next pass through I focus on filling out storylines, cutting away extraneous stuff, rounding out characters, strengthening character motivations, tightening pacing, strengthening subplots etc.

Each time I revise, new issues get uncovered. A fix in one part of the manuscript may have a negative ripple effect on other parts of the manuscript so those things need to be dealt with on subsequent drafts.

What is IMMENSELY helpful is having critique buddies to do readthroughs at various stages of development. I tend to wait until I have the whole story down before sharing, though, because things can change SO much from writing 'chapter one' to 'the end'. Writing the end invariably changes my beginnings so, in my experience, it's no use getting critiques too early in the process.

Every book is different, though, so this is not a 'one size fits all' process.

pirat <---I I love you pirates
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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Maggie on Sat Feb 19, 2011 12:19 pm

Just a fun question..how did you react when you learned you were going to become a published author? What was that day like for you?

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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Helene Boudreau on Sat Feb 19, 2011 1:25 pm

Lizzy wrote:Just a fun question..how did you react when you learned you were going to become a published author? What was that day like for you?

Okay...I'll fess up...

Yes, I came home to a message on my answering machine that first day I got THE CALL but what I didn't mention was that the message got CUT OFF and I didn't get to hear the rest of it, LOL!

"Hello, this is XX from ZZ Publishing. I've been reviewing a few of your manuscripts and was wondering if they were still available. I'm particularly interested in...BEEP...BEEP...BEEP..."

So, there I was after years of submitting and hundreds of rejections and the machine TOTALLY conks out on me when I finally get THE CALL!

Needless to say I freaked out. Shocked Then, I listened to the message about 40 times to try and figure out WHO exactly had called (it was a new editor I'd never met). Then, I found her e-mail on the publisher's website and sent a crazy, incoherent message (I'm sure). Then, she e-mailed me back and we talked on the phone and I was completely incoherent and couldn't remember a thing she said. Then I freaked out some more and called my husband and my mom and my sisters and my dentist (I needed to reschedule an appointment. He really didn't seem to care that I'd just gotten THE CALL!). Sheesh.

And AMAZINGLY, everything ended up working out just fine. Wink

Then, I'm sure I had celebratory potato chips. I never need much of an excuse to have celebratory potato chips. cyclops
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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Maggie on Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:08 pm

Another question! Would you like to see your books turned into movies one day?

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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Helene Boudreau on Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:07 am

Lizzy wrote:Another question! Would you like to see your books turned into movies one day?

That would be SO cool. Smile I think the best kids' book to movie adaptation I've ever seen is HOLES by Louis Sachar, oh, and of course the HARRY POTTER movies. I think most authors visualise their characters in their heads, though, so it might be a little weird to see them on-screen, especially if they don't look or act the way you'd imagined.

REAL MERMAIDS was adapted into an audiobook, though, which is really special to me. When I first heard Jen Taylor narrate my main character, Jade's, voice--I'll admit I got a bit teary. It's been a pretty cool experience.
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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Maggie on Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:33 am

Helene Boudreau wrote:
That would be SO cool. Smile I think the best kids' book to movie adaptation I've ever seen is HOLES by Louis Sachar, oh, and of course the HARRY POTTER movies. I think most authors visualise their characters in their heads, though, so it might be a little weird to see them on-screen, especially if they don't look or act the way you'd imagined.

REAL MERMAIDS was adapted into an audiobook, though, which is really special to me. When I first heard Jen Taylor narrate my main character, Jade's, voice--I'll admit I got a bit teary. It's been a pretty cool experience.

Ahh, that's incredible!

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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Sarah on Wed Feb 23, 2011 10:33 pm

I thought of another question Smile did you ask your agent how many publishers she summited your novel too? If so how many? Did the agent tell you if it got rejected (if ever)? If she did, how did you deal with it? Or did you ask just to be told when someone made an offer on your novel?

Thank you again soo much for taking time and answering all our questions!!!!
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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Helene Boudreau on Thu Feb 24, 2011 1:20 pm

Sarah wrote:I thought of another question Smile did you ask your agent how many publishers she summited your novel too? If so how many? Did the agent tell you if it got rejected (if ever)? If she did, how did you deal with it? Or did you ask just to be told when someone made an offer on your novel?

Thank you again soo much for taking time and answering all our questions!!!!

One of the many things I absolutely love about my agent is her transparency throughout the editorial submission process. I'm not sure how many editors she ultimately submitted REAL MERMAIDS to but she kept me up to date every step of the way, gave me their names, let me know when she nudged them, forwarded their comments/rejections to me and was SO encouraging throughout the process, which really helped cushion the rejections. Rejections are tough but so many of the editors were complimentary and constructive with their comments so that really kept me going. Some people don't want to know anything re: the submission process except the outcome but I really liked being in the loop. Being involved in the process kept me from going bonkers! cyclops
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Re: Ask Hélène Boudreau! (Right in here)

Post  Maggie on Thu Feb 24, 2011 1:24 pm

A big THANK YOU to Helene for taking the time out of her week to answer our questions, and for not only answering them but giving such thorough, helpful answers!

Feel free to use this topic to refer back to anytime. There's loads of helpful advice in here!

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