May 29, 2010

Crafting Voice and Building Tension

For me, the biggest draw into a book is the voice. If I don't connect with the narrator or care about what he/she is saying, I'm not going to finish the book. I'm too slow of a reader to go through a whole book about a character I don't particularly care for. (By the way, how many pages do you read in a book before deciding whether or not to finish it?)

So, I thought I'd share one of my favorite posts on voice. Nathan Bransford is, well... amazing when it comes to helping writers understand what agents are looking for and this is no exception. How to Craft a Great Voice is a must-read for authors, especially if you keep getting rejections that say "the writing didn't grab me" or your query letter gets you partial requests, but you never get past that point.

A lot of young writers struggle with building the right mood in their scenes. Sometimes, in a fit of frustration, we'll just write some inner dialogue like, "Wow, this was tense." (And when we go back to revise it, we wonder what we were thinking.)

So, to help us all out, author Janice Hardy posted Setting Up the Tension where she gives a list of ideas to give your scene that extra tension you may be looking for.

And finally, where would we be without the Bookshelf Muse and Angela Ackerman's encyclopedia-esque lists for writers? As always, she came through with her Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Instability & Turmoil.

By the way, a friend of mine is encouraging his fellow writers to start posting short stories for the public to read online. I'm considering adding a tab at the top of this blog for that kind of thing. Is this something that would interest you?

May 27, 2010

Getting Your Novel Pitch-Ready: What I Learned at Pennwriters

I mentioned in an earlier post that CJ Lyons gave an amazing seminar on pitches. Basically, she told us to whittle our books down to as few words as possible. This helps us to understand what our book is really about.
There are different kinds of pitches. I gave a ten-minute pitch at the conference to an agent. That's a pretty long time. With those, it's important to let the agent ask questions and let it be more like a conversation. Otherwise, the agent will probably lose interest. (I'm not sure I would want to listen to myself for ten minutes straight.)
But you may have also heard about elevator pitches. These are pitches that are so short, you could give them to an agent if you were caught in an elevator with them--maybe 15 seconds. The goal is to give them just enough that they want to know more. CJ said,
The trick with elevator pitches is to use something universally known (like Indiana Jones) or something current and trendy. You need to use comparisons your audience will understand, nod their heads and say, oh yeah, that sounds like something I'd read
Start with your tag line/log line/hook. This is one sentence, as few words as possible, while evoking as much emotion and imagery as possible. If you're familiar with archetypes, this would be perfect. For example, we had one guy give his pitch, which included "creationism" in it. CJ said "God exists" is more powerful. Everyone has some idea of what God is, where creationism takes thought. Many don't know what it means. Keep it simple.

The hook that CJ helped me make for Shadow Bound is:
A ghost comes back from the dead to save the girl he loves.

Okay, so you have a hook line. Sometimes that's all you need, the conversation will evolve naturally from there. [It did for me.] Other times you use it simply to attract attention and move into a more detailed description. This is where that 15-25 word story summary mentioned above comes in handy. The hook line hooks the reader into wanting (or asking to hear) the short summary.

CJ Lyons loves to help writers, so she gave us a handout with a ton of useful resources. First, she listed some books (the comments in parentheses are from me):
Noah Lukeman THE FIRST FIVE PAGES (read it. loved it.)
Stephen King ON WRITING (a must-read)
Christopher Vogler THE WRITER'S JOURNEY
James Frey THE KEY
Donald Maas WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL (another must-read)
Dwight Swain TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER (this, for me personally, is my all-time favorite, most helpful book.)

Next, she gave some great websites:
Association of Author Representatives (check out the FAQ for great questions to ask potential agents)
Publisher's Lunch (industry news)
Buzz, Balls, and Hype (book marketing advice)
Backspace (writers forums and articles)
Publishers Weekly: news, blogs, features, deals, reviews
QueryTracker (an absolute must for anyone submitting to agents and now publishers!)
Nathan Bransford (an agent at Curtis Brown, great blog, wonderful links to everything!)

About CJ:
As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her award-winning, critically acclaimed Angels of Mercy series (LIFELINES, WARNING SIGNS, and URGENT CARE) is available in stores now with the fourth, CRITICAL CONDITION, due out December, 2010. Her newest project is as co-author of a new suspense series with Erin Brockovich. Contact her at

May 25, 2010

Show vs. Tell: What I Learned at Pennwriters

YA author Maria V. Snyder gave a great seminar on Show vs. Tell. I asked if I could post her handout and she said yes! So, here it is:

A common writing mistake is to tell the reader the events of a story or tell the reader how a character is feeling. Journalism is an acceptable method of telling, of presenting the facts, but fiction creates the illusion of being there in the story, seeing events happen without the writer telling you.

For example:

Valek was angry. (Telling)

"Valek took a gray rock off his desk and hurled it toward me. Stunned, I froze as the stone whizzed past and exploded on the wall behind me." (Showing)

 There are five techniques a fiction writer can use to avoid telling the reader:

 1.Using Point of View (POV)

2.Using dialogue

3.Using all the senses

4.Using picture nouns and action verbs

5.Writing in scenes


POV is the character who is relating the story. The readers see your fictional world through this character's eyes. Usually the POV character is the main protagonist, but not always (The Sherlock Holmes mysteries are told from Dr. Watson's viewpoint).

There are many different POVs:

1. First person - The POV character tells the story as "I." Strong reader identification with POV character. Readers discover story events as character does. Remember - POV character must be present at all main story events. Example:

 "I averted my eyes from the flickering light as they led me down the main corridor of the dungeon. Thick, rancid air puffed in my face. My bare feet shuffled through puddles of unidentifiable muck."

 --POISON STUDY, Maria V. Snyder

 2. Second person - The POV character is referred to as "You." Demands reader identification, technically challenging. Example:

"You avert your eyes from the flickering light as you are led down the main corridor of the dungeon. Thick, rancid air puffs in your face. Your bare feet shuffle through puddles of unidentifiable muck."

 3. Limited third person - A single POV character is referred to as "he" or "she." Allows writer to get out of the POV character's head and tell the story. Provides some distance from POV character while still fostering strong identification.

Example: "Yelena averted her eyes from the flickering light as she was led down the main corridor of the dungeon. Thick, rancid air puffed in her face. Her bare feet shuffled through puddles of unidentifiable muck."

 4. Multiple third person - Multiple POV characters, each referred to as "he" or "she." Flexibility in covering spatial and temporal events. Less reader confusion when one POV character is used per chapter. Same writing style as limited third, but the writer is not restricted to one character's thoughts and actions.

 5. Omniscient - No single character, jumps from POV to POV, with authorial comment. Freedom to make major points without too much reader identification with primary characters. Example:

"Sam had a very sharp sense of clothes style - quite as sharp as a "mod" of the 1960's; and he spent most of his wages on keeping in fashion. And he showed another mark of this new class in his struggle to command the language.

 By 1870 Sam Weller's famous inability to pronounce v except as w, the centuries-old mark of the common Londoner, was as much despised by the "snobs" as by the bourgeois novelists who continued for some time, and quite inaccurately, to put it into the dialogue of their cockney characters."

--The French Lieutenant's Woman, by John Fowles


  Dialogue is fast paced, it's easy and entertaining to read, it advances the plot and shows characterization, and it involves the reader. We all like to eavesdrop on conversations (if you're a writer it's practically a job requirement!). Dialogue is also a great way to "show" what is happening in your story.


Valek poisoned Yelena's drink with Butterfly's Dust. (Telling)

 "While we're waiting, I though maybe you could use a drink." Valek handed me a tall pewter goblet filled with an amber liquid. Raising his own goblet, he made a toast. "To Yelena, our newest food taster. May you last longer that your predecessor."
 My goblet stopped short of my lips. 

"Relax," he said, "it's a standard toast."

I took a long swig. For a moment, I thought my stomach was going to rebel. This was the first time I drank something other than water.

"What does it taste like?" Valek asked.

"Peaches sweetened with honey."

"Good. Take another sip. This time roll the liquid around your tongue."

I complied and was surprised by the faint citrus flavor. "Orange?"

"That's right. Now gargle it."

"Gargle?" I asked. He nodded. Feeling foolish, I gargled the rest of my drink and almost spat it out. "Rotten oranges!"

He laughed. "Correct." He opened my folder and picked up his pen. "You just had your first lesson in food tasting. Your drink was laced with a poison called Butterfly's Dust. The only way to detect Butterfly's Dust in a liquid is to gargle it. That rotten orange flavor you tasted was the poison." (Showing)

--POISON STUDY, Maria V. Snyder


Don't just use visual imagery for description. In addition to colors, sizes, and shapes, use smells, sounds, tastes, and textures. Smells can be very effective in provoking a response in your reader. Example:

"I selected four squares. They were each about the size of my thumbnail. If I hadn't been told they were a dessert, I probably would have guessed they were pieces of brown candle wax. My fingernail left an impression on the top, and my fingertips felt slightly greasy after handling them.

I bit into the hard cube, expecting it to turn to powder between my teeth. Thinking wax, I anticipated tasting wax. Instead of crumbling, the dessert melted and coated my tongue was a cascade of flavor. Sweet, bitter, nutty and fruity tastes followed each other. Just when I though I could say it was one of them, I would taste them all again."

--POISON STUDY, Maria V. Snyder


 Use specific, concrete nouns instead of vague ones like happiness, kindness, arrogance, and courage. Instead show characters being happy, kind, arrogant, and courageous. Also use the most vivid, active verbs, and avoid the passive or linking verbs. Limit modifiers. Examples:

  • There was a robot working behind the counter. (Telling)  
  • A glittering, magnificent, and spectacular robot was working behind the vast, shiny, smooth counter. (Modifier overload! and passive voice)
  • An X-14 Postal Robot sorted envelopes behind the customer service desk. (Showing)

Passive Voice: The car was speeding down the road.
Active Voice: The car raced down the road.
Passive: The report was read by Karen.
Active: Karen read the report.

Passive: The crash was witnessed by a pedestrian.
Active: A pedestrian witnessed the crash.


For any story length, scenes are the building blocks of the story. The word "scene" is a theater term. It describes action that occurs in a single place or setting. It can be as short as a paragraph or as long as a chapter. Focus defines a scene not length. Each scene in a novel has a specific focus or reason that the author chooses to show the reader what's going on at that time.

Here are some reasons to use the scene:

  • to give information to further the plot of story
  • to show conflict between characters by using dialogue and action
  • to show a particular character by focusing on how he/she deals with a situation
  • to create suspense.

 The beginning of a scene should hook the reader and make him/her want to keep reading. The ending should create some type of suspense - emotional or physical so the reader will want to continue reading.

 There are seven ways to begin a scene:

  • In media res (beginning in the middle) -- start with action or at a point in the protagonist's life where there is change or conflict
  • Dialogue -- starting with dialogue is another form of in media res, but this method starts in the middle of a conversation. This is an interesting and fast-paced way to open a scene. Dialogue also shows characterization, background information, and plot conflict all without the reader noticing the technique.
  • The Jump Cut -- starting with an action or dialogue that has nothing to do with prior scene. This creates suspense as the reader has to read on to find out what happened after the last scene ended.
  • The "Big Promise" Opening -- start the scene by making a big promise to the reader about what the scene will entail. Example: "When I stepped onto the commuter train that afternoon, I had no idea that it would be my last train ride."
  • Setting -- only begin with setting if it is a crucial part of the story. By starting with setting, the reader knows this aspect of the story is very important.
  • Time -- Begin the scene with the time of day. Waking up in the morning is a popular place to start -- although this can be weak if nothing significant happens. Avoid the waking to the screaming alarm clock and pounding door cliches.
  • Character Description -- opening a scene with a description of a character. Not a dry list of physical features, but rather a sense of the character's personality, focusing on some trait that will influence the plot.
Ms. Snyder left us with some writing exercises that should help with show vs. tell. I thought it might be fun to leave our answers in the comments section.

Using all the senses, describe one of the following three scenarios:
A. Waiting in line for the Drop of Death rollercoaster
B. Riding on the Drop of Death rollercoaster
C. Getting off the Drop of Death rollercoaster after having ridden it.

Correct these three sentences to show rather than tell (can expand into a paragraph):
A. The hotel was crowded.

B. Doug was handsome.

C. He wore a suit and thought he looked good.

D. Mary hated working for Frannie.

E. The little boy was afraid of the dark.

F. Kari was angry at Tom.

A special thanks to Maria V. Snyder for giving a great seminar, a thorough handout, and for letting us share it!
She has a lot of great sources for writers in her Publishing Labyrinth, but I think this post is long enough! :)

May 21, 2010

Contest: Win A Signed Copy of Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog

Cyn Balog was kind enough to sign two copies of her book--one for me, and one for one of my blog readers!

I'm in the middle of Fairy Tale and it's amazing. I'm totally hooked. (And don't think I'm not mining it for tips on YA craft!)

Amazon's Product Description of Fairy Tale:
Morgan Sparks has always known that she and her boyfriend, Cam, are made for each other. But when Cam’s cousin Pip comes to stay with the family, Cam seems depressed. Finally Cam confesses to Morgan what’s going on: Cam is a fairy. The night he was born, fairies came down and switched him with a healthy human boy. Nobody expected Cam to live, and nobody expected his biological brother, heir to the fairy throne, to die. But both things happened, and now the fairies want Cam back to take his rightful place as Fairy King.

Even as Cam physically changes, becoming more miserable each day, he and Morgan pledge to fool the fairies and stay together forever. But by the time Cam has to decide once and for all what to do, Morgan’s no longer sure what’s best for everyone, or whether her and Cam’s love can weather an uncertain future.

(This is a hardback, by the way. The paperback version of Fairy Tale will be released in a few months. If you've already read Fairy Tale and loved it, Cyn's book Sleepless is coming out July 13.)

Okay... the contest rules...

To win this signed copy of Fairy Tale, you have to be a follower of this blog.You automatically get 5 entries. To enter, fill out the form below. (Comments don't count as entries.) You have to fill in the form to be counted.

You get extra entries for...

Tweeting about the contest (+2)

Posting about the contest on Facebook (+2)

Blogging about the contest (+3)

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

For being referred (+2)

Each person who says you referred them (+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.

May 20, 2010

The Skinny on Agents at Pennwriters Conference (plus some other little tidbits)

On Tuesday, I got home from the Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster, PA. This was my first conference and it. Was. Amazing. And guess what? You get to read all about it.

We had several seminars a day (three days) where I learned a TON. I asked permission to post the handout from Maria V. Snyder's seminar: Showing vs. Telling. Amazing stuff in there. I can't wait to share it. (And I think I may have to buy her books now.) I'll also post a little about what editor David Pomerico said about the fantasy/sci-fi markets and whatever notes I can scrape together. Mostly, I just wanted to sit and absorb.

The food was pretty good, the hotel was beautiful, and the people were some of the nicest you'll ever meet. I couldn't believe how easy it was to talk to everyone. I heard a couple of agents say this was one of the most prepared, educated groups of writers they'd ever met at a conference. The price was reasonable, too. So overall, the conference was an epic win. There were about 250 people there and over 50 of them were from outside the state of Pennsylvania.

I got to meet some interesting people and I know you all want to know what they're like in person. So here it is: the dish on the agents. I'm hoping I can give you some insight into these people so you can make a more informed decision about whom to query.

Janet Reid: way funny, brutally honest. She cracked jokes left and right during her seminar on social media. Unfortunately, it was late in the conference and I think her audience was a little too tired to keep up with her. But seriously, she's hilarious and is interested in helping writers to get better. I didn't go to her read-and-critique, but from what I heard, she's like the Simon Cowell of the literary world. She gave some very helpful advice, but if she didn't like something, she told you. (I like that.) Unfortunately, she doesn't represent my genre.

Emmanuelle Alspaugh: very nice, professional, direct and honest. (Don't worry about getting false hope from her. If she requests pages, she's really interested.) I hear she didn't ask for many partials. She was perfectly polite and seemed interested in my book, even after declining representation. (She doesn't take on very much YA.) I didn't see much of her around the conference.

Jennifer Jackson: down-to-earth, genuine, dry sense of humor, personable. I really liked her. She wasn't larger than life like some of the other agents. She was... normal. She was funny and her presentation on queries was very entertaining. She spent time with the writers and shared what she knew.

Jenny Bent: I only met her briefly. She's really cute and has a sense of humor. From what I heard she's sweet and very nice. Most of the writers who pitched to her told me they were nervous going in, but she put them at ease right away.

I also met author Cyn Balog. She writes young adult urban fantasy, so I was especially interested in what she had to say. She is so cute and very approachable. I really enjoyed talking to her. I bought an extra copy of her book Fairy Tale, which she signed. I'll be giving it away in a contest soon, so keep an eye out for that. (I'm reading my own copy now. It's fantastic.)

Author CJ Lyons is apparently a regular at Pennwriters. She's spunky, funny, confident, and she knows her stuff. I can't believe how helpful she was. My first seminar was her class on pitching. She challenged us to boil our books down to 25 words. Then 15 words. Then 5. Seriously, give it a try. The goal is to use words that immediately bring up an image and/or emotional response.
So, though my book's main character is Rachel, I used the word "ghost" in my short-short pitch: A ghost comes back from the dead to save the girl he loves.
CJ also led our general read-and-critique, so she helped me with the first page of my manuscript (along with author Jonathan Maberry).

Jonathan Maberry was also incredible. He knew so much about craft and is obviously well-read. He seemed to know something about every genre. He was the perfect choice for the general read-and-critique. (By the way, he'll be the keynote speaker for next year's conference, so mark your calendars!)

The keynote speaker this year was adventure thriller writer James Rollins. (He's also dabbled in YA and Fantasy.) This guy is so funny. I don't think he had any prepared material for his speech, he just talked to us about his career, how he got his start, and how anyone can be published if they keep at it. He actually was a veterinarian for 15 years before officially pursuing writing as a career.
When asked if he still does veterinary work, he said he does some volunteer stuff and mentioned that he traps, neuters, and immunizes feral cats. "So basically," he says, "On weekends, I remove genitals. It's a hobby." Great guy and so inspiring!

That's all I can think of without delving into my notes. Feel free to ask questions. (And if you were at the conference, I'd appreciate your commments.)

Like I said, look for future posts on what I learned at these seminars, my own personal experience at the conference, and the contest where I'll be giving away a signed copy of Cyn Balog's Fairy Tale!

May 18, 2010

Writing Technique: Wrapping Up

Here's everything I have left under the category. Sorry it's so disorganized.

Sari Mathes talks about Writing with Rhythm. This is something I  think a lot of novelists overlook. Rhythm is just for poets, isn't it? But your novel's words still ring in the heads of your readers, as if they were reading it out loud. Rhythm and flow is important. If you're getting a lot of rejections that say the writing or the voice wasn't what they were looking for, this may be the answer.

You probably knew a little about words and how they sound in your head when you read them. You ever read a book where the same word is used over and over again and it seems to echo in your brain? The Blood-Red Pencil addresses Word Redundancy here.

They also touch on Writing Effectively from a structural, bare-bones stance.

I touched on word choice last week, but It's All About the Editing does a great job of outlining several editing techniques here at The Business of Writing.

And finally, Darcy Pattison has done it again with Scene Dissection. A must-read.

May 15, 2010

Writing Technique: Lists of Helpful Tips and Word Usage

Continuing on with Writing Technique. Most of these links are self explanatory so we'll get right into it... ready? Okay.

30 One-minute Tips for Strengthening Your Novel, courtesy of Darcy Pattison.
51 Over-Used Adverbs, Nouns, and Cliches in Writing by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen
And a list of Plague Words to avoid
Joanna Young tells writers How to Write Like Hemmingway (hint: cut out all the useless parts)
And Anita Nolan lists Ways to End a Scene (which works hand-in-hand with Thursday's post) :)
Why You Shouldn't Use Adverbs and Adjectives (Often)

I'll have to give everything else on Tuesday. It covers editing, scenes, and getting down to the bare bones.

May 13, 2010

Writing Technique: HTRYN lessons 18-21

Thursdays are my How to Revise Your Novel lesson reviews, but since this is Writing Technique week, I decided to skip around a little. The last few lessons of this course (minus the very last one) are all about "cosmetic surgery". This is after you've cut and pasted the crap out of your manuscript and you're doing little things to improve the overall flow and readability. Stuff that makes your book look nice. :)

Holly says you need to open every scene and close every scene so that the reader CANNOT put your book down. I'm struggling with this. Especially with beginning each and every scene with a hook. I like to shock my reader a little further into the scene with a big twist. Right when they least expect it ;)

I'm pretty good about ending a scene on a hook, though. That I can do, especially if it's the end of a chapter. Anyway, something to think about.

Another tip I've heard a million times over: Read your book aloud. It takes forever. You look like and idiot. And you catch problems with work usage, flow, and voice. I haven't tried this yet, but I will. I think it's just what my book needs. I learn more by hearing anyway, so the problems in my book should ring in my ears a little better than if I just read through it.

And another thing I have a problem with is telling my readers what to feel. Not in an obvious way, but more like: Rachel banged her fists down in anger.

Um.... duh. If she's banging her fists down, the reader can probably pick up on the fact that she's angry without me spelling it out.

Little things like that can make a huge difference.

Hope this helps!

May 11, 2010

Writing Technique: The Kitchen Sink

This week (and maybe next week, depending on how this goes) I'll cover a slew of stuff having to do with the craft of writing. Today's going to be a hodge-podge of craft-related links.

I'll start with an article on Point of Veiw and Motivation-Reaction Units. If you're not familiar with MRU's, I suggest you look into it. Using these has improved my writing by leaps and bounds, bringing the reader closer to the charcater and making the sequence of events make more sense.

On a similar note, Plot to Punctuation addresses a common issue: dismemberment of your characters. You may be putting your character's parts and feelings ahead of the characters themselves. This is something that can really throw a reader out of your story, but it isn't addressed very often. Since I'm bad at explaining it, here's a quote:
Every time you put one or more of a character’s composite parts in the subject position of the sentence, you rob the character of just a little bit of power. You take the whole character out of control, in favor of a mere portion of the character.
Ever wonder about internal monologue? C. Patrick Shultz gives some fantastic guidelines here.

A scene has to be tight. You need to clear away all the garbage in order for the gems to shine. Here's something on the Glory of the Garbageman from Imperfect Clarity. Roz Morris says, yes it's important to get rid of the clutter, but don't get rid of the gems, too! She tells writers how to Control Your Text.

May 8, 2010

I think I May Be a Little Too Focused

I've been working like a madwoman trying to get ready for the conference. I'm finding I get a lot done if I work in 2-hour spurts. Any more than that, and I burn out and I'm no good when it comes time for another writing session.

So, I haven't done much of anything else. I'm planning a series of posts for next week that will cover various aspects of writing technique. Basically, a bunch of really good posts that didn't really get categorized anywhere else ;) Seriously, I have stuff on crafting, editing, rhythm, style. Should be a good week. Until then, I'll focus on getting this draft done and printed out.

May 6, 2010

The Dread Monastery

Oooh... Lesson 10... sounds ominous. Okay, maybe not to you, but it does to me. Lesson 10 means the Monastery.

(To read more about my HTRYN lessons, click here. To get to the course page, click here.)

Okay, so let me explain what the Monastery is. Basically, you shut yourself up in a cave. Seriously. No writing, no reading, no writing blogs, no forums, no tv, no contact with anything that might give you feedback or inspiration. Because the Monastery is all about what's already in your head--your story.

So you shut off everything around you and find a quiet place. (Fortunately, I can schedule my blog posts ahead of time, so you were unaffected. Lucky you.) And then you write, scene-by-scene your entire book. From memory and whatever else may pop into your head and catch your fancy.

Sounds basic.

It's not.

My story took shape during this lesson. It changed my book completely. More conflict, more tension. My characters are acting for themselves, instead of relying on others or circumstance. The book is now character-driven. I can't express it.

Also, my book got longer. I think this exercise helps you to get your book closer to its perfect length because some students were saying their book got shorter. But I write short. Sometimes very short. I think my current draft of Shadow Bound is just over 50,000 words. It was 68 scenes if I remember correctly.

After the Monastery, I had 112 scenes**. It's absolutely amazing.

Have I mentioned how much I love this course? I thought I was a thorough reviser. Ha. This course could cut the time it takes for me to get published in half. I feel like I've learned things that would have taken a decade to learn on my own. I really hope these lesson reviews are helpful.

I'm not allowed to post much more than this on a public website, otherwise I would.

**Note: I did go back later and combine some scenes, cleaned up a few threads, etc.. Now it looks like Shadow Bound will be closer to 100 scenes.

May 4, 2010

Why Your Email Account May Be Getting You Rejected

Short and sweet today, but very important. This article on the Swivet gives some vital advice to anyone who is querying or who may be planning on sending out queries.

Nearly all agents have a "no attachments, please" policy. If you've ever queried before, you know this. Agents open hundred of emails a week and aren't going to risk their computer files (or waste their time) opening attachments from complete strangers. So the policy is: paste everything in the body of an email until I ask you specifically to send an attachment.

And if you don't? Nine out of ten, the agent will delete your query without giving it a second thought.

BUT apparently, so email clients and signatures could contain unsolicited attachments without you even knowing about it. Read the article and DOUBLE CHECK your email before querying!

May 1, 2010

Morning Pages: Results

Before I report on my Morning Pages, I want to let you all know that I plan to attend the Pennwriters Conference May 14-16. It looks like a great writer's conference that covers a wide range of genres (including Fantasy, YA, mystery, horror, sci-fi, thrillers, etc...) and it fits in with my schedule. (Or I'll make it fit!) Plus, some top agents will be there. It'd be great to see some of you there, if you can make it.

Now. The Morning Pages. Two weeks ago, I blogged about a technique that could cure writers block called Morning Pages. I tried it.

For 14 days, the very first thing I did when I woke up was write three pages of whatever popped into my head. I'll admit, some days were hard. If my little girl woke up early, I had to fight her while I wrote. But most days, I woke up (on my own!) early enough to get my pages done before anyone else woke up. (Let me tell you, for me, that's a miracle.)

The result: Wow.

Writing those pages relieved so much stress. Anything that was on my mind, all those little oh-no-I-have-to-do-this things floating around in my head suddenly seemed like nothing to worry about. I remembered to do them. And I didn't worry about them. So pluses for memory and stress reduction.

As for getting up early, I'm not sure how I did it. I think the memory pages must have helped. I'm wondering if maybe the morning pages helped me to wake up 15-30 minutes earlier than usual without an alarm. And I haven't been as tired during the day. There are a number of factors that could have helped with this, but it all began when I started morning pages, so I thought I'd mention it.

I got more creative work done. I was less stressed, less tired, and so I was more motivated to get work done. And the quality of work wasn't too bad, if I may say so. I wrote out some new scenes for my book (by hand) and I was impressed. Setting, character development, and voice improved without me giving much thought to it.

Cons?? 3 pages seemed to take a long time on some days. It never took more than 15 minutes, but sometimes if felt like a lot longer. And then the thing with my daughter. That was a little difficult. But it only happened twice. There was one day when I had to take care of her first and then write my pages, but I still got them done before 8am. Overall, not too bad.

I'll definitely keep this habit going. :)

Rachelle Gardner had a recent guest post on journaling and unlocking creative thinking.
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