December 31, 2009

New Year Resolutions for Writers

We're all determined to write THE book this year. THIS will be the one. (And I genuinely hope it is, for all of us!)

So this post is for all of you who need a little motivation or help setting goals.

Here are 7 Weekly tasks for Authors that I think is excellent ground work for setting your own personal goals.

And here's a post by author Devon Monk called Why I Write. It's more of a reflective piece, but I found it to be motivating.

And finally, posted Setting, Keeping, and Achieving Your Writing Goals in the New Year. A few basics, with the writer in mind :)

My goals for this next year:
edit Shadow Bound for the 569th time
Get a clean, polished copy of Song of the Muse out on submission
Write a book that is better than all my previous work
Read at least 5 books that I can learn from as a writer (and love as a reader)

What about you?

December 29, 2009

Wait! Don't Sign that Contract!

Most writers would do anything to get published. (Sometimes for the wrong reasons, but that's another post.) Aprilynne Pike, author of Wings, posted about her Firsts -- the book that got her an agent and the book that got her published. And no, they weren't the same book.

In this post, she discusses the importance of landing the right publisher, not just the first publisher who likes your book. Signing with a smaller publishing house can hurt your career.

So here are some Tips to Avoid a Publishing Dilemma that I thought might be equally helpful. :)

December 26, 2009

Masters of Storytelling

This is just plain fascinating, from a story-teller's point of veiw. The Secret of Pixar Storytelling. Of course, they have a whole team of people working on these stories ;)

December 24, 2009

I finished The Ruby Key and Wow!

If you haven't entered the contest to win a copy of The Ruby Key, do it now!

I finished it last night and it's amazing! The ending is just so beatifully crafted, everything fit together. The world building is fantastic, of course. And Holly Lisle has mastered the art of putting emotion on paper.

Seriously, even if you don't win the contest, this is a must-read for fantasy lovers (and fantasy writers).

Oh, and have a great holiday!

December 22, 2009

Revising a Rough Draft (Really Rough) Part 4

Okay, I found one more link to help with revising. It's actually ten links wrapped all into one. Ten authors give their tips for revising. Some say to start small and then do big revisions, others say the opposite. They're all good tips, if for different reasons. I think you just have to find what works for you.

Right now, I'm struggling with big stuff in Shadow Bound--reworking the voice mostly-- and EVERYTHING in Song of the Muse. Man, NaNo's are hard to edit!

December 19, 2009

Writing the Perfect Scene

A while back, I read one of the best articles on craft I have ever read. Seriously, you have no idea. I was absolutely blown away. The post is called Writing the Perfect Scene by Randy Ingermanson.
The post is based on Dwight Swain's book Techniques of the Selling Writer. I bought this book based on this post. The book is even more phenomenal than I expected. I'm going to add it to my reading list (bottom of the left sidebar) so you can have a direct link to the Amazon page.

As I read Techniques of the Selling Writer, I'm writing down some basic principles that I've found in other places. I'll make sure to post it when I finish the book.

Read this post. If you find it at all helpful, buy the book.

December 17, 2009

Deeper Character Insight

You know all those fun/annoying quizzes you see floating around Facebook and LiveJournal? Well, I found a fantastic post by KidLit an What Makes a Character. At first, I thought this was going to be like every other article you see about character development--basically, someone in the industry telling you that your character needs a "good personality" and "individual voice". Not super helpful.

She even went and posted a list of basic questions you should answer about your main character. Just for fun, I started answering the questions for my main characters for Shadow Bound (Rachel) and Song of the Muse (Gwen). I was amazed at how much insight came from these simple questions!

If you're interested, I've posted the questions below, along with the answers for both of these characters. I highly recommend you do the same for yours!

  • What is your character’s nature? Are they shy? Gregarious? A homebody? A great girlfriend? A backstabber? (Examples of personality and nature are endless…)

  • Rachel is a pretty private person. She's a good student, shy, a homebody, and has a few really close friends. She has an inner strength that she doesn't yet know about.

    Gwen is quick-witted, sarcastic, outgoing, strong-willed, and passionate. She has a bit of a temper.

  • What is your character’s physicality? Are they fat? Thin? Awkward? Do they have some kind of physical issue? Are they a slouch? (Also endless…)

  • Rachel has a soft but slim physique with red hair and pale skin.

    Gwen is a runner and is pretty fit with a pixie haircut. She's beautiful.

  • What is your character’s self-esteem? Is there something about themselves they want to change? Why?

  • Rachel second-guesses her decisions, but I don't think she feels down about herself because of them unless it causes someone else to suffer.

    Gwen knows she's not the best, but works her butt off to get better. She feels inadequate when she compares herself to the masters and worries that her ADHD will hold her back in life. Other than that, she's super confident and no one would know she has any insecurities.

  • What are your character’s secrets? Are there things they’ve never told anyone? Do they wish they can tell someone? Why?

  • Rachel can see ghosts. She helps the dead to move on to the next life. Also, she has a past that she keeps hidden. Only her mom knows about these secrets. She feels she needs to keep these secrets in order to stay safe and to be liked.

    Gwen is being coached in secret by a man she's never met. She wants to keep this secret because he obviously doesn't want anyone to know and she would hate to betray him.

  • What does everyone else know (or think they know) about your character? Is it true? What does your character wish everyone knew about them? Why?

  • Everyone sees Rachel as the smart, trustworthy, girl-next-door. They don't know that she communicates with the dead, which kind of taints that image.

    Everyone knows Gwen is obsessed with music, especially singing. What they don't know is that music is the only respite she gets from the nearly constant bombardment of thoughts (caused by ADHD).

  • What are your characters goals in life and moment to moment? Their wants in life and moment to moment? Their needs in life and moment to moment? Their frustrations in life and moment to moment? Why, for all of the above?

  • Rachel dreams of going to a good college where she plans to study social work. She wants to help battered women most of all. She wants to keep herself and her mom safe and protect her secrets. She also wants to be loved, since she's never really had a boyfriend.

    Gwen needs peace of mind. Not only immediately, through music, but long-term. She wants to have a career that allows her to be free of her disability. She wants to eliminate anything that keeps her from progressing in her music because it could steal away the peace and quiet that the music gives her.

  • What is their motivation in life and moment to moment? Why?

  • Rachel just wants a normal, quiet life. It's why she keeps her gifts a secret, why she wants to go to college, why she chooses her friends so carefully, and why she spends so much time making sure her life stays safe and quiet.

    Gwen's motivation comes from her ADHD. She struggles to keep it under control, and right now music provides the best escape from it.

  • What is their “normal” baseline? What is life usually like? (This usually gets disturbed pretty early on in the story.)

  • Rachel goes to school, gets good grades, and helps out the dead when she can.

    Gwen struggles in school, struggles with her music, and tries to progress as much as she can on her own.

  • What are your character’s relationships with other characters? What is the most important relationship? The best? The worst? The most fulfilling? The most frustrating? The one the character most wants to change? The one that will never change? Why?

  • Rachel's relationship with her mom is huge. Her mom is the only one that shares her secrets. They've been through a lot together. The worst part about her relationships is that, aside from her best friend Lisa and her mom, Rachel doesn't really have anyone to talk to. She has a very small circle.

    Gwen has a group of friends. Things are awkward with Dylan ever since he asked her out and she turned him down. His current girlfriend is cool toward her at best. Mark keeps distracting her from her rehearsals, so she gets pretty frustrated with him. Caroline, her roommate and best friend, is a fantastic listener. They share everything together.

  • What is the character’s unique perspective on life? (I will talk more about this when I talk about voice.)

  • Rachel sees the afterlife as a place of rest and comfort. She's not afraid of death, only of leaving her loved ones behind.

    Gwen sees the world through a performer's eyes. She feels a song when she walks on stage and is guided by an inner creativity that's only present when she works on performing arts.

  • What is the character’s past? What is their present? What is their future?

  • Rachel had a tough childhood and lives in fear because of it. Her gift gives her something to do. Hopefully one day she'll be a social worker and a boyfriend.

    Gwen had a dark period when her mom died, but seeing the way her dad pulled through gave her a personal relationship with God. Her future has to have something to do with music or she'll go insane.

    December 15, 2009

    Easy Revising - How to Fix a Novel Before Submission

    I've had a request to post about revision. As I progress in the editing process, I'm finding that I can't possibly remember all those tips and tricks at the same time. If I remember to show, I forget to build character. If I remember to use strong verbs, my dialogue fall apart. Anyone else having this problem?

    But I'll continue to post the most helpful advice I can, and just hope that the right words reach you at the right time.

    I'm not sure if I've posted this one or not, but it's pretty darn helpful. I use cliches all the time and cringe every time I spot one. It takes real thought to push past cliches and come up with something that 1) is original and 2) still conveys the message I want to send and 3) doesn't jerk the reader out of the story--all while maintaining voice and character! Anyway, here's an article on Cliches and Description.

    And I may have also shared this one too (Let me know if these look familiar.) but again, it's fantastic and I needed to be reminded. More on Show Don't Tell and how specificty is your greatest weapon.

    And finally, Holt Uncensored has put together a lovely post on the 10 Mistakes Writers Don't See (but Can Easily Fix When They Do). Like every author I know of, I have a few favorite words. They pop up all over my manuscript. For Shadow Bound, one of those words was "moment". I used it more than 20 times! Little things like this can ruin a story for a reader, and these are the kinds of mistakes covered in this article. This would be particularly good if you have finished a story, edited it, and you THINK it's ready for submission.

    December 12, 2009

    Contest: Book Give Away!

    I have a confession to make:

    I'm a really slow reader. A big problem is that I don't set aside large chunks of time to read, but even when I do, I'm lucky to finish a book in two weeks.

    As a result, I have a HUGE pile of books next to my bed. My immediate to-read pile. (Some of them are on the reading list scrolling in the bottom left corner of the blog.)

    So, to get my butt into gear, I'm going to hold a contest. I'm about to finish The Ruby Key by Holly Lisle.
    If you would like to have my copy, fill out the form below. COMMENTS DON'T COUNT. You have to fill in the form to be counted.

    You get points for...

    Twitting about the contest (+2)

    Posting about the contest on Facebook (+2)

    Blogging about the contest (+4)

    Follwing this blog (+2 for old followers, +1 if you join now)

    Putting this contest on blog roll/side bar of your blog (+5)

    For being referred (+1)

    Each person who says they referred you (+2)

    Remember, if you use twitter or facebook or a blog, please include the URL in the space provided. Otherwise, I can't verify and it won't be counted.

    Enter by January 21, 2010.
    I'd like to hold a lot of contests like these. We're planning on moving in the spring, so it would be nice to get rid of a bunch of books that I've already read.

    December 10, 2009

    Revising a Rough Draft (Really Rough) Part 3

    How do you know if your book has one of those dreaded sagging middles? A place where nothing seems to happen for pages and PAGES. Tons of NaNoers have this problem. Well, I found some advice from published author Scott Westerfeld. He says to make Pace Charts. (Brilliant! I'll definitely do this.)

    And to get some perspective on revising, here's a post by my favorite children's author, Gail Carson Levine, on how she revises. She has some things that are the same and a few things that are different from the way I do things.

    Here's a link back to Revising a Rough Draft Part 2 and Part 1.

    December 8, 2009

    Revising a Rough Draft (Really Rough) Part 2

    What's a common word that does little to enhance your story?


    So, Get Rid of It and replace it with something useful. Remember, every word in your book needs to pull double or even triple duty if you can manage it.

    For example, an easy way to do this is through dialogue. With good dialogue, you can 1) further the plot, 2) increase tension, and 3) show character. Here's an excerpt from a draft of Shadow Bound (you may have seen this before):

    "Rachel?" Lisa raised an eyebrow. "What are you staring at?" She turned, dragging one leg over so she straddled the bench. "Ooh, he’s cute."

    I braved another look. He was attractive, but his stare made me uncomfortable.

    "Too bad he’s taken," she added, twisting back around.

    "What do you mean?"

    She snorted and gave a sarcastic half-smile. "Well, I don’t think that’s his sister."

    I peeked at him again. There was no one with him. On the next bench though, a couple was making out. "No, not him."

    Lisa scanned the park again, this time pointing to a man walking his dog. "That old guy?" Her eyes narrowed. "Rachel, are you okay?"

    Here, we have dialogue. It pushes the plot forward by showing that Lisa isn't able to see what Rachel sees. (Trust me. It does.) This snippet is needed in order to move the story in the right direction. But what else does it do?

    We see that Lisa is curious (nosy), and we here her voice. We see her wry sense of humor. There's also conflict here for Rachel. She has to decide to either explain what she sees, lie, or come up with a way to change the subject. We also get a little bit of setting (which I hadn't intended, but hey, I'll take it.)

    See what I mean by double duty? Any time you can get two (or six) birds with one stone, do it. Look for opportunities like this. It makes for a page-turner.

    Here's a link back to Revising a Rough Draf Part 1 and Part 3.

    December 5, 2009

    Revising a Rough Draft (Really Rough) Part 1

    (Just a quick note: new followers may notice that my posts are a little longer. I tried to keep all my blog posts short and to the point, spending little time on my personal journal, caviats, or explanations. This was so you could procrastinate during November and not feel guilty. Now, we're back up to normal-sized posts.)

    I still haven't decided what to work on. I'm enjoying this break, even if the waiting can be a little mind-numbing. So, to distract myself, I've been searching for helpful tips which, of course I will share with you!

    Right now, I'm focusing on little things to be aware of as you go through revising a novel. We've been through a crazy first draft, not even looking back to check for spelling and grammar. There are bound to be mistakes. But what about craft? What about those little things that every young writer does wrong unless they're careful and meticulously trying NOT to? (And let's be honest: I don't think ANY of us were being meticulous in November!)

    A little tip that I picked up in a writing class was Eliminating Your Filter. I found a good article explaining what it is and how to get rid of it. Basically, you want to help the reader live the experiences, rather than tell your reader that the character was living the experience.

    Also, here's a fantastic article by author Caro Clark on Beginners' Four Faults. These are some really easy fixes, but they're things that we all do. Especially during NaNo when we're just trying to move forward.

    On Tuesday, I'll share some tips on giving each word the weight it deserves in Revising a Rough Draft Part 2 and then, on to Part 3.

    December 3, 2009

    Extra Post: My Swift Kick in the Pants

    Okay, I needed this. Olivia, my friend, thank you for your perspective. I think you're right. She wrote:

    seriously, you keep talking about Shadow Bound like it's dead! RIP THE THING APART! Every time you edit it will get better, I promise you. Having an agent say they'll look at it again if you edit it some more is a BIG DEAL, especially now. I don't understand why you haven't started editing it yet. Seriously, if an agent told me that, I'd chain myself to the computer until certain that every word was golden and ready for resubmission. Take your two weeks (or more) and get that first book ready and back out there. Give it a pass, then send it to two or three readers, then take that feedback and give it another pass, then send. That's my advise for you.

    My reply:

    I appreciate you getting onto me. I don't think Shadow Bound is dead, but it still feels... raw. I've torn it apart two or three times and part of me thinks it still needs some healing time before I dig in again. But you're right. I really need to get on that.

    I'm signed up for Holly's How to Revise Your Novel, so it'll be 5 months before I finish that. >:(

    But I don't think that should hold me back. You're right. I should go with Shadow Bound. I need to work on the voice, flesh out the scenes, build up realistic characters, and even out the tone. Shadow Bound deserves it. I'll do another edit, starting next week, then dig into Song of the Muse.

    Thanks Olivia!

    She's absolutely right. I've been too afraid to delve into Shadow Bound again. The little voice in the back of my head keeps telling me that I only have one more shot at making this book perfect. But there is no perfect. I need to make Shadow Bound the best I can make it. And then do it again.

    After the Frenzy

    Now that NaNoWriMo is over, we can get back into regular posts.

    I have a finished draft right now. I went back and wrote down everything I loved about my story and everything that went wrong, just to help keep things in perspective. I was surprised to find that what I had wasn't all that bad. In fact, with some tweaking, this could be a really great book!

    As usual, I'm taking a "two-week" break from my book (working title: Song of the Muse). I think last time I lasted a week before I started cheating. Maybe not even that long.

    Today I realized I had a choice. I could wait two weeks, catch up on my reading, and be bored for an hour or two a day, or I can start tearing apart Shadow Bound. Yes, I'm still determined to make something of that story. I love it too much to cast it aside (and usually I have no problem doing that, once a book has been finished, edited, and rejected my every agent in the country). I'm hoping that Shadow Bound will someday reach the shelves. It may not be the book that breaks me in, but I want it to be published.

    So, the question: Edit Shadow Bound now, or take a break and then work on Song of the Muse? (I'm not really the kind of person that likes to work on multiple things at once, so both isn't very appealing.)

    December 1, 2009

    END!: What to Do After NaNoWriMo

    Congratulations! You lived through November!

    So where are you now? Do you still have 10,000-50,000 words left to write in your first draft? If you've finished your first draft, are you moving on to revising? Or are you ready to collapse in a heap and breathe for the next few days?

    Once you finish your first draft, you should choose the latter. Seriously. The best thing you can do as a writer is put your completed first draft aside and not look at it--that's right, don't think, look, touch, or peek--for two weeks (give or take). Enjoy some time off and forget about your book. Like a good roast, it needs to settle before you start slicing into it.

    So, for the next two weeks, I'll be hunting for articles that help you 1) revise and 2) write beautifully. Because we all know first drafts are ugly.

    So let's start of with an article from this writer's life on getting the hook. A simple concept, but one you should keep in mind while you go through your manuscript in a couple weeks.

    By the way, if you haven't signed up to receive updates about Holly Lisle's How to Revise Your Novel class, now would be a good time for that. It's going to start soon.
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