Writing From Your Strengths

As an editor, I truly wish more authors knew it was okay to focus on their strengths. So much craft advice encourages filling in the gaps in our writing skills. Learn how to avoid soggy middles! Craft a brilliant first line! Create dynamic characters, not static ones! And if you know my subtips, you know I am a huge supporter of learning great craft. But a really vibrant skill in one area can outshine an gap elsewhere.

Gaps in our writing skills can be book killers. But these days especially, the market is looking for strengths. What do you do that’s wild and knew and beautiful? Build a book around it. Plot a book around it. Maybe you’re a genius at describing guinea pigs. Lean into that! Plot around it!

If you’re so real and funny and nuanced with dialogue, take it to the max. Concept the book around the gutting things people say to each other. Plot me a magic system built on the power of words. Make the words visual, life-changing. Make us see words in a new way.

And completely aside from what the market wants, readers often care so much more about what a book does so well they can’t quit talking about it. They’ll often forgive so many weaknesses in a story if completely immerses them through a beautiful strength.

Unfortunately, the publishing industry often teaches writers that we aren’t as good as we think we are. We’re wrong about our gaps and our strengths. Maybe this breeds humility, but maybe it also breeds insecurity. We often end up not knowing ourselves as writers, partially because of that. If you not sure of your strengths, ask other writers. Ask a few readers and librarians. Get to know your own writing. Dig into what fills you with joy about it. Think of what your favorite writers are great at, and see if it’s a strength you share.

Usually, though, if we’ve been writing for a while, we DO come to know what we’re good at. We’re just nervous to claim it.

So please, friend, claim your strengths. Lean on them. Trust them. Write your strengths with bravery and confidence. That can make all the difference.

Revisions, #Subtips, and Tumblr

Happy Tuesday, readers! I’m back from my week in Colorado to visit my brand-new nephew (born 6 weeks early!) and help my sister out a bit. He’s great, she’s great, and it was so great to have some time with family.

I’m back to writing and editing now, and I have a few fun things for you today.

First, I posted a guide to handling revisions for Pen and Muse’s summer school, where I discuss everything from receiving an editorial letter to turning that advice into specific action items, and from writing your own editorial letter to handling opposite feedback from critique partners: A Guide to Handling Revisions

Second, I recently had several people ask me to storyify some of my #subtips. I’ve put up a few on pacing, character development, writing romance, and gender roles, so in case that’s of interest to you, here they are! #Subtips on Storify

Third, Jamie Adams interviewed me about the best and worst writing advice I’ve ever received, the hardest scene for me to write in HOW WE FALL, my favorite scene (oh my), and my life phrase, in which I quote Kingsley Shacklebolt. Interview with Kate Brauning

Finally, I’m on tumblr! I’ve been figuring out how I want to use it, and since this blog is so writer/publishing-focused, I wanted something more reader-focused. So, if you want awesome content for readers who might not necessarily be writers, follow me there! Here’s what the content looks like:

Music Mondays: Most writers love music, and I’m no exception. Mondays I post a music video that has inspired me or my work. It’s often something from my WIP playlist or one of those life songs that you feel like all your friends need to know.

Ted Talk Tuesday: Tuesdays I post a Ted Talk about creativity, intelligence, literacy, efficiency, or anything else related to life as a creative. They’re fun, challenging short videos from experts in their field and a great way to challenge yourself and learn something valuable.

Wednesday Word Love: I post awesome quotes from writers or their books, news stories about awesome things writers are doing, and awesome new cover reveals and releases. Basically, anything awesome. 🙂

Thursday Thought: On Thursdays I try to post either something I’ve been thinking myself, or something thought-provoking I’ve found elsewhere, usually about books or creativity or literacy or social justice issues.

Fangirl Friday: Posts on Fridays cover anything I’m fangirling over– Game of Thrones wedding cakes, Harry Potter GIFs, YA books-turned-int0-movies that I want to see, etc.

Weekend Reads: Either Saturday or Sunday, I tell you what I’m reading that week, and if I think you should read it too!

So, yeah, if any of that sounds fun to you, feel free to follow me on tumblr!

Thanks so much for reading, guys!

The Catharsis of Dark YA

I’ve sometimes used books as an escape, as a way to explore something new, as a way to be someone else for a while. I’ve used them as entertainment, as inspiration, as a challenge to my writing.

But something has always not quite encapsulated it for me when people talk about the power of words and why we read and why we must keep reading. We say we use books to escape our lives, for entertainment, for learning empathy, for all those things I just mentioned. And that’s true. But as I’ve been sorting through why I write the stories I do, and what draws me to the books that I really, really love, something occurred to me.

Everyone is grieving something. Life leaves us with scars, and wounds that don’t heal properly, and it’s almost impossible to learn how to grieve when you’re in the middle of it. As a child, I didn’t even realize the things I was grieving. But the books I read pulled at it– the support I was missing, the friends I needed to have, the simple fact that life hurts. As an adult, I can see now that I was choosing books that helped me sort through and process all these things. And what I read now often does similar things. It pulls out a fragment of something, and helps me process it, and brings me back to a place where I can see more than the damage. Prejudice, loneliness, poverty, alienation, loss– we carry these things around with us, and they get heavy, and we often don’t know what to do with them. One piece at a time, books can help us grieve and process and show us how to put things back together.

This is why I read and write dark YA. “Dark” doesn’t mean “depressing.” It just means it’s a story that tackles serious issues, and most of them tilt the characters toward healing. Books bring us catharsis, and we all need that. In feeling for a character, and through watching their own struggle, in many ways we’re sorting through pain of our own. And it’s a hopeful, wonderful, positive thing.

Amazon: Not Cheaper or Faster For Buying Books?

Popular myth can be a beast. I’ve been hearing from my social circles a lot lately that Amazon is faster, cheaper, more convenient: “I love Barnes and Noble, but you know. Amazon has everything and it’s cheaper.” I thought that, too, if I stopped long enough to process it. But I haven’t bought books from Amazon for a while, so with chasing down buy links for my novel releasing this year, and stalking my critique partners’ books online, I started to notice something.

So, I tracked down all three of our upcoming releases to compare purchase price, shipping cost, and shipping times. Take a look:

From Powell’s

(same price for Joseph-Beth Booksellers and Books Inc. for all 3 titles.)

The Hit List: $9.95, paperback.Hit List

Anomaly: $9.99, paperback.

How We Fall: $17.99, hardcover.

Shipping is $3.99 for economy mail, no matter how many books you buy. $50 order total or more, and shipping is free. Arrives in 4-9 business days for economy mail or 2-7 for standard mail.

From Barnes and Noble:

The Hit List: $8.25, paperback.

Anomaly: $9.99, paperback.Anomaly

How We Fall: $13.31, hardcover.

Free shipping on orders over $25 for qualifying items (most new books). Arrives in 2-6 business days. Great membership program that’s free for 2 months, then $25 a year after that. Free shipping and arrivals in 1-3 business days, 40% off hardcover bestsellers.


The Hit List: $8.25, paperback.

Anomaly: $9.99, paperback.HowWeFallCover

How We Fall: $13.31, hardcover.

Arrives in 3-7 business days. Free shipping for club members ($25 a year), or $3.00 plus $0.99 per item for non-members.

Book Depository:

The Hit List: $12.78, paperback.

Anomaly: $8.93, paperback.

How We Fall: $16.09, hardcover.

Free shipping worldwide, customer responsible for local shipping and taxes. Delivery times vary depending on country.


The Hit List: $8.42, paperback.

Anomaly: $8.99, paperback.

How We Fall: $13.31, hardcover.

Shipping is $4-5 for one book for non-members. Free shipping on orders over $35. Arrives in 4-5 days. Amazon Prime allows free 2-day shipping for eligible items, $99 a year.

Things to note:

THE HIT LIST is more expensive from Amazon than from B&N and BAM, and only about $1.50 more expensive from most indies. Varying shipping costs and a member program can easily make up that difference and even save you money, especially since Amazon’s prime membership is so much more expensive than B&N’s.

ANOMALY’s price varies by $1 no matter where you buy it. Amazon’s list price is $1 cheaper, but shipping is $4-5 if you aren’t a member. The cheapest option would be to have a B&N or BAM membership, or even cheaper, to bulk-order your books from Powell’s for 0 shipping costs and 0 membership costs.

HOW WE FALL’s price is more expensive from most indies, but B&N, BAM, and Amazon all have it for exactly the same price. Without memberships, the cheapest option is to buy it and another book or two in a $25 purchase from B&N. With memberships, the cheapest option is B&N. As a single-purchase item with no memberships, the cheapest option is Books-A-Million.

Amazon isn’t the cheapest option anymore. It isn’t the cheapest way to buy any of these books, once you count in shipping.

Amazon isn’t the fastest option, either, depending on your location. Barnes & Noble ships to nonmembers in 2-6 business days. Amazon’s nonmember shipping gets to me in 4-5 business days.

Amazon isn’t necessarily the most convenient, either. All these stores have fully functional websites and stock just about every book I could think to search. Amazon may not even have the book you want, given the issue with Hachette, and given that “shares are down sharply this year and analysts are cutting earnings forecasts” (see New York Times article linked before quote).

Even Amazon’s membership isn’t the best membership deal. B&N has a much cheaper per-year cost and greater discounts on books for members. Even for nonmembers, B&N’s “free shipping on $25” is a great deal. I almost never order one book and ship it by itself, so this is convenient, cheap, and quick for me. Powell’s offers a similar deal for $50 order total (just place bigger orders less frequently; same cost.) with similar shipping times. Amazon’s shipping times and “free shipping on $35” isn’t necessarily cheaper, faster, or more convenient.

No matter how you add it up, Amazon is operating within slim margins more or less expensive than any of these booksellers.

I didn’t calculate ebook costs, as ebooks for these 3 aren’t up yet at all of these locations and I don’t typically buy ebooks if it’s a book I really want to own.  Not having shipping and being able to click and have the ebook at a no-shipping price is great, and might tip the scales one way or the other, especially depending on what e-reader you have. (Though ANOMALY’s ebook is $5.99 at both B&N and Amazon.) And true, this is only based on three books.

I should also note that while you can buy writing/craft materials, games, books, music, and movies at many bookstores, especially the large ones, many more categories of products are available at Amazon. The wide variety available at Amazon does make their $99-a-year membership program more valuable overall, if you tend to order a lot of non-craft/media items online. I don’t. Clothes, food, furniture, gifts– I pick those out by hand. Even Christmas shopping, I tend to do in physical stores, because I make it a date with my husband and we get drinks and spend time discussing family members and what special item we could find for them while we browse. I wouldn’t give that up to buy most of my gifts online. So for me, Amazon’s membership is not cheaper, even given the variety of items available.

Basically, this boils down to Amazon not being a landslide better value. It just isn’t. The difference is small when it is a better value, and often it isn’t. And even when it does inch ahead in cost effectiveness, I’m going to vote with my dollars.

I have accounts at BAM, B&N, Books of Wonder, and Powells. I’m going to use them.

Review: CALL ME ZELDA by Erika Robuk

Review: CALL ME ZELDA by Erika Robuk

Review by Alison Doherty
Call Me Zelda
Erika Robuk
NAL Trade, 2013

Since I first read The Great Gatsby in high school, I’ve been fascinated by the Fitzgeralds – especially Zelda. In a lot of ways their story as a couple both eclipses and bolsters F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books. Lately with the resurgence of nostalgia for the 1920s, aided by Downton Abbey and Baz Luhrmann’s film, even more people are interested in Zelda. They are interested in Zelda, the southern belle who charmed all the officers, or Zelda, the flapper who drank champagne all night and danced in fountains. CALL ME ZELDA, by Erika Robuck doesn’t focus on that Zelda. Instead the book shows her in the 1930s, trying desperately to recover from a mental breakdown and trying to forge an identity separate from her famous husband.

The book succeeds in large part because it is told through the perspective of made-up character Nurse Anne Howard. Anne has a history and problems of her own, but as she gets more and more absorbed in the Fitzgeralds so does the reader. Anne eventually quits her job at the psychiatric hospital to move into the Fitzgerad’s home. She starts feeling more like a family friend than employee, but the ground in the Fitzgerald household is always shifting.

During this time, Zelda cathartically writes out memories from iconic periods of her life for Anne. While these times are fun to read about, I think it was a little too bold of Robuck to assume Zelda’s writing style. Anne joins Zelda in her obsession with finding the diaries, which F. Scott Fitzgerald stole for material for his novels and proceeded to lose. They both begin to think if the diaries can be recovered Zelda will be able to recover her identity from being mixed up with her roll as Scott’s muse and literary archetype.

Even though historical fiction hasn’t been my favorite thing to read lately, overall I really enjoyed this book. I became as absorbed in Anne’s personal story as I was in this interpretation of Zelda and Scott. It is hard to take on such iconic historical and literary figures, but I think setting the book after their success made this easier.

Both Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald created their own fictionalizations of this time period and Zelda’s breakdown. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote TENDER IS THE NIGHT about a famous psychiatrist who sacrifices his career to marry one of his patients. Zelda wrote the very autobiographical SAVE ME THE WALTZ, in which she portrays the couple’s whole relationship. In fact, CALL ME ZELDA shows both characters working on these books.

If you want to learn more about Zelda I would suggest starting with either of those or checking out the biography ZELDA, by Nancy Mitford. However, if you are looking for something easier to read or have already read those books, CALL ME ZELDA, is definitely a book I would recommend. Erika Robuck has also written novels about Edna St. Vincent Millay and Ernest Hemingway, if stories about those authors sound more interesting to you.

Alison Doherty

Want to be on my street team?

Hello, readers! This is a super exciting post for me. I’m starting to build my street team, and you are invited to join. 🙂

In case you aren’t familiar with the concept, they can work a few different ways, depending on the author, the book, and the publishing house, but basically it’s a team of people who sign up to help promote and support a book through word of mouth. You don’t have to have a large social media platform– it’s just as helpful to suggest the book to your friends and family and do on-the-ground support. The power of fans is huge, and I’d love to have anyone involved who either has read and loves How We Fall or supports my writing. (Click the image to see the book description.)


You can live anywhere and still be a part of my team, and the hourly commitment will likely be pretty low– the basic idea is just to have you aware and telling your friends! All street team activities will be flexible and optional, but of course I want people who are enthusiastic and genuinely want to help my book succeed. I’d especially love anyone who regularly reads my blog or interacts with me on Twitter, and anyone who thinks How We Fall sounds awesome. A lot of you have been around since I first started writing on this blog and have seen me query, write new manuscripts, query again, and sign with my agent, and I’d love to have anyone who has stuck with me that long!

What kind of things might you be doing? Asking your library and bookstores to stock How We Fall, telling family and friends about it, placing a preorder if you’re going to buy it, adding the book on Goodreads, hosting the cover reveal, sharing teasers on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, etc.

What are the perks of being on my street team? Sneak peaks, a chance to have a character in a later book named after you, a chance to win an annotated ARC and classic film collections, awesome swag like bookmarks and buttons, updates about what’s going on behind the scenes, and of course, my sincere gratitude and appreciation. It can also be pretty cool to be involved in launching a book, and I’ll have a few surprises in the works, too!

Thank you to every one of you who has been reading my blog, following me on Twitter, and making a space for me to talk about my books and hear about yours. The community of writers and readers is a wonderful place to be.

How can you join? Contact me below!


World Book Night & Amy Poehler

I was thrilled to read this first thing this morning:

Amy Poehler signs on for World Book Night

The USA Today article quotes the actress and now WBN honorary chairperson as saying, “I grew up loving books. In today’s digital world, it’s more important than ever to know how it feels to have a good book in your hands. I’m thrilled to be part of World Book Night. People who read are people who dream, and we connect through the stories we live and tell and read.”

Don’t know what World Book Night is? They’re a wonderful non-profit that enlists about 25,000 volunteers to give away about 500,000 books each year. Basically, you sign up, get a bunch of copies of an awesome book (for free!) and then everyone hands them out to non-readers and light readers. In the past, I’ve given away The Things They Carried, and Looking for Alaska, and this year I’m giving away Code Name Verity.

It’s a great chance to meet people in your community, share the love of books, and share a really awesome experience with people all over the US and the UK. And it works! The success stories are a great thing to see.

If you aren’t involved in World Book Night, you absolutely should be. Check out their website, follow them on Twitter, or like them on Facebook.

Follow Me Around

As I climb out from underneath the heap of writing/teaching/editing/freelancing that accumulated while I was in Costa Rica, I’ve been blogging more lately.

You all know I run the group author/agent/editor blog Publishing Hub, right? We’ve got a fantastic community over there, so check it out if you haven’t yet.

Here are a few of my recent posts from Pub Hub.

Editor’s Eyes: Fixing Flat Scenes

Editor’s Eyes: Fixing Stilted Prose

Editor’s Eyes: How to Get Started in the Writing/Publishing Community

Welcome New Publishing Hub Member, Agent Amy Boggs!

I will also be blogging once a month over at YAtopia, another great group blog. I love YA, and it’s a great way to keep in touch with YA writers and readers. Here’s my very first post for them that went up not too long ago:

Writing A Novel 101

I was also interviewed by writer Natasha Neagle, and if you go check it out, you can hear about my WIP, my writing style, what’s most challenging to me, and what books influenced me most!

Meet Kate Brauning

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I’ll leave you with a photo of my Husky, Charles, that my husband took during this recent snowfall we’ve had.


Look What Came Today!

Mondays are awesome when they start off with a box of books. Look what came! (If you read my post on the agony of waiting yesterday, you’ll recognize this as one of my coping strategies.)

2014-03-03 12.37.52

Three of these I’ve read. The Fault in Our Stars, The Fifth Wave, and What Alice Forgot are three of my all-time favorite novels, and if you haven’t read them yet, you must go do that as fast as you can. They’re sweeping, gripping stories that will change the way you see the world.

The Art of Wishing and The Infinite Moment of Us are next on my to-read list! I’ve heard fantastic things about both of them. Have you read either of them? Which one should I start with?

Cover Reveal for ANOMALY by Tonya Kuper from Entangled Teen


Today my wicked-talented friend Tonya Kuper is revealing her book cover! Entangled Teen is releasing ANOMALY in November 4, 2014! I couldn’t be more thrilled for Tonya, and you HAVE to to check out the awesome cover, and enter to win an eARC!

On to the reveal!












Isn’t it gorgeous? And I can tell you, the story lives up to the cover. Prepare for this to be a big one, guys.


About the Book 

Title: ANOMALY (Schrodinger’s Consortium #1)

Author: Tonya Kuper

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Pub. Date: November 4, 2014

Pages: 400

Find it: Goodreads, Amazon


What if the world isn’t what we think?

What if reality is only an illusion?

What if you were one of the few who could control it?

Yeah, Josie Harper didn’t believe it, either, until strange things started happening. And when this hot guy tried to kidnap her, shouting about ultimate observers and pushing and consortiums hell-bent on controlling the world… Well, that’s when things got real. Now Josie’s got it bad for a boy who weakens her every time he’s near and a world of enemies on her tail who want to control her gift, so yeah, she’s going to need more than just her wits if she hopes to survive much longer.

Einstein never saw this coming…


About Tonya:

YA scifi author of ANOMALY, out 11/14, Entangled Teen. Represented by Nicole Resciniti. Contributor at yastands.blogspot.com & allthewritenotes.com. Music freak. Chocolate addict.

Giveaway Details:

1 eARC of ANOMALY International

a Rafflecopter giveaway