Thursday, June 18, 2009

Spark, Spark

It seems I've neglected blogger for a long time now. Hmmm... updates: I'm querying Angel Undercover. I finally wrote a query letter with some spark to it. Kristen Nelson has some great advice on that. Head on over to her website / blog for more on that.

On another note, I'm starting out on a new project! I "pitched" my idea (i.e. read the 300 word preface) to a few friends and they are super excited about it, as am I. It's still YA fantasy, but leans more toward slipstream, whereas AUC was more high fantasy. I don't want to say much more than that just yet for fear of jinxing it. Once it's all plotted out and I'm well into the draft, I'll give more details (though no spoilers!). Super excited. With everything I've learned from editing AUC, I feel like I'm going into this project with a much better head on my shoulders.

Ah, and before you go for the day, I suggest you check out the querytracker blog post up for yesterday. Top ten writer mistakes, uncensored. Very detailed.

Happy writing / living!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Seven Basic Plots

Holy Moly, gone for all of May, then two posts in one day! I assure you, that rhyming was unintentional. :)

From Christopher Booker's The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, the seven storylines are:

Overcoming the Monster - A terrifying, all-powerful, life-threatening monster whom the hero must confront in a fight to the death. An example of this plot is seen in Beowulf, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Dracula.

Rags to Riches - Someone who has seemed to the world quite commonplace is shown to have been hiding a second, more exceptional self within. Think the ugly duckling, Jane Eyre and Clark Kent.

The Quest - From the moment the hero learns of the priceless goal, he sets out on a hazardous journey to reach it. Examples are seen in The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Voyage and Return - The hero or heroine and a few companions travel out of the familiar surroundings into another world completely cut off from the first. While it is at first marvellous, there is a sense of increasing peril. After a dramatic escape, they return to the familiar world where they began. Alice in Wonderland and The Time Machine are obvious examples; but Brideshead Revisited and Gone with the Wind also embody this basic plotline.

Comedy - Following a general chaos of misunderstanding, the characters tie themselves and each other into a knot that seems almost unbearable; however, to universal relief, everyone and everything gets sorted out, bringing about the happy ending. Shakespeare’s comedies come to mind, as do Jane Austen’s perfect novels.

Tragedy - A character through some flaw or lack of self-understanding is increasingly drawn into a fatal course of action which leads inexorably to disaster. King Lear, Madame Bovary, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bonnie and Clyde—all flagrantly tragic.

Rebirth - There is a mounting sense of threat as a dark force approaches the hero until it emerges completely, holding the hero in its deadly grip. Only after a time, when it seems that the dark force has triumphed, does the reversal take place. The hero is redeemed, usually through the life-giving power of love. Many fairy tales take this shape; also, works like Silas Marner and It’s a Wonderful Life.

This post comes to you from pure curiousity. I believe my novel AUC is a Voyage and Return story. Since so many of you are fellow writers, I'm curious... where does your story fall?

Secondarily, does anyone refute the notion of seven basic, all encompassing, never ending plots? If so, please share your reasoning. :)

P.S. Don't miss the first post of today, below. Or miss it if you like. :) So long as it's intentional missing rather than accidental.


This is a short post and it comes from a discussion I had on CC. But I figure it's been a good month since my last post here (AA anyone?), so you might like to hear from me. :)

I'm thinking that my main priority is to make sure AUC remains an interesting read throughout. Discovering a whole new world, with hints of underlying conflict involving your beloved big sister, could be conflict enough for the first four chapters as long as readers are still interested in Paige's story.

I've been rereading a bunch of classics and greats, from Ender's Game to Harry Potter, and realizing that they break tons of the "rules" we all endeavor to follow.

From this, I take that the number one goal of any novel should be to entertain the mind. If it's doing that, keeping interest, keeping the pages turning, then it succeeds.

I think that there are a lot of ways to do this and that it might not be as formulaic as many of us treat it. Heck, if it was formulaic, everyone could write a great novel. I think it really comes down to whether we can write a great story or not.

I, for one, sure hope we can!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hey, A Girl’s Gotta Do Her Research

I keep telling my grandmother (who’s dying to be a children’s book author) that she needs to do her research.

“Go in a bookstore or library and READ children’s books,” I tell her.

Over and over. I cross my fingers that it’s sinking in, but I’m not holding my breath.

But all these talks got me thinking about my own “research.” Now, I’ll readily admit that no one had to twist my arm to get me to do this. I’ve always loved reading, so if writing is my field then research feels like an afternoon at the park for me.

I sat down and put together a list of books I’ve read. It’s probably incomplete, but hey, I tried.

I tried to limit it to books relevant to my writing, so while I’ve read books like Summer of the Monkeys and Island of Blue Dolphins, they won’t appear on this list, nor will Hawthorne, Poe, or The Da Vinci Code, for that matter.

Some are YA fantasy. Some are just YA. Some are just fantasy. Some just influenced me.

2007 and prior

Christopher Paolini - Eragon and Eldest
John Flanagan - Ranger Apprentice, books 1,2,&3
Erin Hunter - Warriors, first 13 books
JK Rowling - Harry Potter series
Elaine Cunningham - Songs and Swords quintet
Elaine Cunningham - Starlight and Shadows trilogy
Orson Scott Card - Ender’s Game
Ray Bradbury - Fahrenheit 451
HG Wells - The Time Traveler
Margaret Atwood - A Handmade’s Tale
CS Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia
KA Applegate - Animorphs, first 43 books
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – The Soulforge
RA Salvatore – The Silent Blade
Marjorie B Kellogg - The Book of Earth
Anne McCaffrey - Dragonflight

Scott Westerfeld - Uglies trilogy and Extras
Tamora Pierce - Lioness quartet & Immortals quartet
Tamora Pierce - Terrier
Stephanie Meyer - Twilight saga
Jonathan Stroud - The Amulet of Samarkand
Patricia Briggs - Steal the Dragon and Masques
Patricia Briggs - Mercy Thompson, books 1-3
James Patterson - Maximum Ride
Orson Scott Card - Ender’s Shadow
Jenny Nimmo - Charlie Bone
Angie Sage - Magyk
Cornelia Funke - Inkheart
Shannon Hale - Princess Academy
Jeanne DuPrau - City of Ember
Kristin & PC Cast - Marked
John Levitt - Dog Days
Jocelynn Drake - Nightwalker
Christopher Pike - Alosha
Eoin Colfer - Artemis Fowl
Donna Jo Napoli - Sirena

Charlaine Harris - Dead Until Dark
Jim Butcher - Codex Alera, books 1-4
Rachel Vincent – Werecats 1 (Stray)
Scott Westerfeld - Peeps and The Last Days
Richelle Mead - Vampire Academy, books 1-3
Ed Decter - The One
Randa Abdel-Fattah - Does My Head Look Big In This?
Delia Sherman - Changeling
LJ Smith - Night World, book 1

TBR List
Micheal Grant - Gone
Patricia Briggs - Bone Crossed
Tamora Pierce - Bloodhound
Rachel Vincent – Werecats 2&3 (Rogue & Pride)
Jim Butcher - Codex Alera book 5
Richelle Mead - Vampire Academy book 4

So, for those of you who are either YA fantasy readers or YA fantasy writers, what books have I not read that I absolutely MUST? After all, a girl’s gotta stay on top of her research. ;)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Great "Ready For Submission" Checklist from Fellow Writer

Miss Jennifer has posted a checklist to help us understand when our manuscripts are ready for querying. I think it's appropriate and by-and-far correct. It mentions several things I hadn't though of before. Let me know if it helps you too!

I Heart CC (or, Beta Readers Rock!)

So, last week my prologue went up at CC. I actually liked this version, so I was super excited when I got lots of feedback from critiquers. I feel like I must have done something right since eight people took the time to read it and half of that came in the first day. But on to the subject of this post...

Critiquers, or Beta Readers, simply rock.

This is why: I loved my prologue because I'd finally squeezed all the necessary information in while keeping character focus and interest, BUT I couldn't see that it was just a little bit confusing.

How could I? I wrote it. I understood it.

But my reviewers helped me see where the trouble spots were and I figured out where the focus needed to lie. I also realized that taking a more direct approach would help clarity a ton.

So I completely rewrote it.

And you know how I said I liked the old version? I love this one! It's not going to win any prizes (it's rough draft phase again) but I love it.

It's not even the same scene anymore. For that matter, it's not technically a prologue anymore. It's a preface. A long one (for prefaces) at around 1000 words.

The one thing I managed to keep through all three versions was my duck metaphor.
Draft 1 - Alexander FEELS like a duck.
Draft 3 - Alexander WATCHES the duck and relates to it.
Draft 4 - Alexander IS the duck and relates to it.
haha... I love it.

Anyway, I get super excited whenever something in my novel starts working for me, so I'm on cloud nine now. How often does that happen to you all?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I Have This Idea...

… of how I want my novel to look. And by look, I mean read. I mean Feel. I know exactly what I want out of it. The work is the process of getting it there. The work is training myself to think, speak, and write in the verve I expect out of my novel. And I can tell you, with draft 3 complete and 4 in the process, I’m not even close. That sounds totally depressing, doesn’t it? Well it’s not. Because I know what I want, I have every confidence that I’ll eventually get there – and by extension, so will my novel.

The process of this is really rather cool, because for every one thing I learn, that’s one mistake I won’t make as often in the future. Once I learn how to create the kind of book I want to produce, I’ll be able to do it again. Or so I imagine. And hope.

In the process, I have to keep reminding myself of the things people have said along the way to cheer me on. All the way back to creative writing in college, when my classmates were enthralled by a short story that I now think is terrible. I have to keep telling myself that if my then-good-work is now bad, that means I’m moving toward great. Just the direction, not the proximity. But I will get there. And I will remain hopeful and not depressed along the way.

So to all my fellow blogging writers, cheers to optimism. Whether we ever get published or not, we’re always improving. I know most of you love your craft as much as I love mine, so becoming better writers should be enough. Publication would be the icing. The sweet, sweet icing.

Oh, and if you don’t follow How Publishing Really Works then click that link for today’s blog about what editors want. It cheered me up, because what they want is exactly what I want to produce in ms form.
“What editors want, more than ANYTHING else in the world, is for someone to delight them.” -Osiander


Agent for a Day

Leave it to me to wait until the last minute to do my day of being an agent. Nathan Bransford does his big reveal later today, so keep an eye out for it.

My five picks (requested manuscripts) are:

10 – On One Hand
15 – The 15 Date Rule
17 – Inugami
28 – Long Shot Lost
35 – Losers

These are the ones that leaped off the page so to speak. I really want to know more about these stories.

And I really learned a lot about what makes a effective query.

I'd finally gotten a query that I was truly satisfied (version 21). With what I learned from Agent for a Day, I'm going to... wait. Yep. Wait. I'm going take my treasured v21 and put it in a special file and not touch it until I'm truly satisfied with my manuscript. THEN I'll pull it out and work again. But not until.

I've got a million ideas running around my head for my ms anyway. Can't wait to get started on draft 4 and 5 and 6...

How was your Day of being an Agent?


Friday, April 17, 2009

It's Okay to Make Them Wait

Curiosity in a reader is a good thing, right? As long as it’s curiosity and not confusion. Like most other lines we writers ride, it’s a fine one.

For example, I was reading a book that was fast losing my interest. The characters weren’t doing much to reel me in and the plot was moving pretty slow. But there was this dog that traveled with the two main characters and the author had already given several hints that the dog was not really just a dog. So I’m compelled to read further, to find out about this blasted not-dog if nothing else. Perhaps by the time I figure out what it actually is, the characters and storyline will have hooked me again.

How does this apply to my own writing? Well, hopefully I don’t lose my readers with plot and character problems to begin with, but there are certain elements in my story that I WANT the reader to be curious about and wait for – mostly dealing with the angels of the world.

My prologue gives the reader a glimpse into the angels’ world and introduces you to a main character in the story. Then I jump into chapter 1 with Paige, my protagonist, who knows nothing about angels. A couple chapters in, she meets the angel character, but he goes by a different name and she has no idea he’s an angel, but I’m hoping I’ve dropped enough hints for the reader to realize who he is. This angel then accompanies her through the rest of the story, guiding her a bit, and near the end she learns the truth. He explains more about the angels at that time, information that was hinted at all the way back in the prologue.

Now, the angels stuff isn’t really key to the flow of the novel. It’s from Paige’s POV and she doesn’t even know of them, so how could it? But I want the READER to be curious. What I don’t want is for them to feel overwhelmed by the need to know information that I only hint at in the beginning.

Essentially I need the reader to trust me, the writer. I need to somehow show them that I’m not going to leave them hanging and that it will be explained, but that it’s just not the right time at the beginning. My CC reviewers are all getting stuck on details and want me to slow down and explain them, but I want to move into the action of the story. How do I convey that they should be interested, but not obsessed?

To my fellow writers: How do you get your readers to trust you? What do you make your readers wait for?

Because I, for one, am convinced that it’s okay to make them wait. Curiosity is a good thing.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Twentieth Time Is A Charm

I think I've got it. My query letter. You tell me if I'm right.

It's 149 words long and has everything Nathan Bransford says a good query letter needs. Best of all, it's almost identical to my "five sentences' from the Snowflake Method. Here we go:

Fourteen year old Paige Moss is a bleeding-heart humanitarian optimist held captive by her own timid nature. But when she is kidnapped by a deranged visionary, Paige must get past her shyness in order to save her sister’s integrity, her friend’s happiness, and her city’s existence from his manipulating grip. A much bolder Paige exposes the visionary’s ruthless game, follows him into exile to retrieve a precious belonging, and leads a team of allies to save her city from his vengeance. Through her oft-dangerous, yet light-hearted adventures, Paige is accompanied by a diverse cast of unforgettable friends. She learns that shyness is not a state of existence, but a choice – that her character is really the sum of her actions – and becomes the hero she never expected she could be.

Angel Undercover is an 84,000 word YA fantasy. It is my first novel and it sets up for sequels.

By the way... did you see that? 84,000 words! I'm in the middle of chapter 17 (of 25), so it'll go down more. I'm shooting for 80K.

This is my "fluff" layer of edits. You know, all the extra words and sentences. You should check out Lady Glam's series of posts about layers. She explains it exactly how I do it.

Next I'll be going through combing for content, then tension, then nit-picks. It's such a long process, and my word count might go up again, but it will improve my novel. I know it will. You know it will.

Oh, and on the side, I'm filling doing the Snowflake Method on AUC and it's first sequel. It really gives great insight into a novel, in addition to clarity the query process has given. You really have to dig to find what's key. It's hard, but totally worth it.

For comparison, here is my "five sentences" from the snowflake method: (You know, setup, three major disasters/plot points, and conclusion.)

Fourteen year old Paige Moss, a bleeding-heart humanitarian optimist held captive by her own timid nature, gets kidnapped by a deranged visionary. Paige must get past her shyness in order to save her sister’s integrity, by exposing the visionary’s ruthless game. When he steals the source of her friend’s happiness, Paige must follow him into exile to retrieve it. Then her city is threatened by yet another of the visionary’s plans and Paige must lead a team of allies to protect it from destruction. Through her oft-dangerous, yet light-hearted adventures, Paige learns that shyness is not a state of existence, but a choice – that her character is really the sum of her actions – and becomes the hero she never expected she could be.

The revised Sentence:

When Paige gets kidnapped, she must get past her shyness in order to save her sister’s integrity, her friend’s happiness, and her city’s existence from the manipulating grip of a deranged visionary.

And the revised 15 word summary sentence: (yeah, mine is 21 words)

A girl must part with her timid nature to save her sister, her friend, and her city from a deranged visionary.

For those of you who've seen the earlier versions of all these things, isn't this much clearer?

How many of you find that some or all of these methods help you understand your novel?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Nineteen and Counting

Quick update: edits on AUC are going well. Word count is down to 85K, with a long way to go.

So I've now created nineteen versions of my query letter. NINETEEN! Yikes. I'm really hoping that's a reflection of my query writing skills rather than my novel writing skills.

Out of the nineteen, there are five distinct versions:

Queries 1-6: mainly synopsis, protag vs physical antagonist.
Queries 7-9: little plot detail, a lot protags growth process
Queries 10-14: an attempt to combine plot and purpose, with a better hook
Queries 15-17: protag vs internal (main) antagonist, with key plot details
Queries 18-19: bare bones based on Nathan Bransford's Query MadLib

I'm really hoping v17 or v19 will work out. This is a long process that I'm hoping will be done soon. Does anyone else have this much trouble with query writing?


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cutting a Tenth of Your Novel

This will be a quick post. It's been two weeks since my last one (doesn't that sound like an AA line?), but I've just been editing, which isn't hugely exciting to hear about. :) The process is teaching me so much about writing well though, so I count it as time very well spent.

Anywho, we've already established that I'm something of a numbers freak, so I'll give you some more here. Numbers tell us nothing about the quality of a story, but it does show the quantity of things I've removed from the earlier draft because they were unneccessary or just plain bad writing.

This recent round of edits was the "I was ly-ing" edits. That is getting rid of excess pronouns, passive voice, adjective/adverbage, and present tense verbs. None of these are bad when used in the right places and in reasonable quantities, but let's face it... my first drafts of my first novel were bound to come out really rough. I hope that I can write cleaner in future novels to avoid some of this work.

Anyway, without further ado, the numbers.

Data displayed in a quantity before --> quantity after format. These cuts didn't remove content, only excess wordage.

I (pronoun) – 4146 --> 3377
Was (passive voice) – 1345 --> 610
Were (passive voice) – 442 --> 307
Ly (adjectives/adverbs) – 2150 --> 716
Ing (present tense verbs) – 4000 --> 3225
Word Count – 100K --> 89K

Amazing that a tenth of my novel was just unneccessary words.

Anyone else had that kind of experience?

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Little Boost

Yesterday I had a query writing crisis. I have 9 versions of my book's query, from two completely different angles (each with several revisions, totalling 9). Yet I'm still not anywhere near the right hook or "advertisement" that I need to be at. It was crushing that both ways didn't work, when I thought I was on the right track.

So when I saw this on How Publishing Really Works it brightened my day:

"To paraphrase James D Macdonald: if you can write something that’s grammatically correct, which doesn’t contradict itself too many times and which shows a reasonable understanding of both spelling and punctuation then you’re already in the top ten per cent of the slush-pile, with a good-to-excellent chance of getting read—and getting published."

Hope it brightens your day too!

(I recommend reading the whole post)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Long Road of Revision (Query)

I’ve said it before, but I’ve got to repeat:

You can’t know what you didn’t know until you know it.

You might have seen Query v1, v2, and v3 in earlier posts. The latest is v9. Be thankful I didn’t bore you with the interim versions. :) It’s been a long road and I have many thanks to give, but mainly to Glam for asking “why should I care about Paige?” and “why does her story need to be told?”

Her questions made me step back and throw the first six versions (all pretty similar) out the window and start fresh. In previous versions I worked on boiling the story down to the main conflicts, the main characters, and the main plot. But I never got to the Why Should You Care part. :) Seems important in hindsight. How could I miss it? Well, I couldn’t know what I didn’t know until I knew it.

So, to all of you who have struggled with your query letter like I have, high fives all around for stickin’ with it when you wanted to tear your hair out.

Without further ado, here is v9 (surely not to be the last, but likely the best so far):

[redacted. v9 was one of the best bad ones, so I considered leaving it up, but it still had to go]

Does it reel you in? Does it make you care about Paige or her story? Any and all suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Where Would You Like Your Splash of Genre?

Today's post comes from the middle of a short story I'm working on. Well, from the first third really. See, it's a horror, but I've decided to open it up with normal occurances to ground it in reality before dabbling into the more supernatural elements. Makes good sense, right? But my concern is that an avid horror reader will open it up and wonder why the first five hundred words are a flirtatious conversation between a woman and her fiance. Insert question...

Where would you like your splash of genre?

What I mean by that is this... Everything you read has a prime element that causes it fit into a genre. Westerns, sci fi, mystery, horror, romance, you name it. But how far into the story (any story, from flash fic to full blown novel) can you go without introducing that element before the reader goes "Well, what the crap?"

When you open a book or magazine, do you want the element of your interest to jump out at you from line one or can you wait?

From the other side of the fence, do you write safely (genre strong from the get go) or daringly (make 'em wait and bet it all on your brilliant narrative)?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Short Story Contests

Well, I'm still editing, so not a lot to report on the writing front. AUC is down into the 95K range, so a quarter of the way to my goal (80K) and I'm 73 pages into 317 (about a quarter!) I'd say that's right on track, though it's really strange to think of my goal as shrinking wordcount after all the time spent increasing wordcount.

Anywhoozle, on to the point of this post. I have been searching for reputable short story contests and have turned up very little. Perhaps I'm not searching in the right places, so I beseech you. If you know to where I may turn, let a girl know, all right? Please note: I write popular fiction (horror, fantasy, YA), not literary fiction so that will have some effects on what contests my work would work for.

And while you're here, feel free to share your short story successes or troubles.


Friday, February 27, 2009

From Gimmick to Substance

Based on the advise I’ve gotten from several blogging writers (*coughInkyGlam&Davincough*), I updated my query letter once again (v3.0). Glam said I need to be more specific, Inky taught me about “the sentence,” and Davin suggested I try to summarize the novel in five sentences.

Well, I don’t know if I succeeded on all three fronts, but I certainly tried. Oh, and almost everyone said to shorten it. (was 360 words, now 215) When I finished v3.0 I reread the old one for comparison and noticed something in particular.

The original query (the one that got sent to EE) read like a gimmick. Like I was trying to get an agent to read my ms as if he or she were browsing through a store reading back covers. It contained little actual substance, but lots of catchy lines:

“kidnapped by a supposed myth that turns out to be all too real”
“complete with magic, myth, and a cast of characters that act so human, they’re actually related”
“must wade through the layers of intrigue and outright lies”


I think the new one tells the story better, without the gimmick. I felt like I was on the right track with v1.0 and now I’m on a whole different track. You don’t know what you didn’t know until you know it. (Follow?) Well, I learned some things and I have my fellow bloggers to thank for it. I don’t know whether I’ll stay on this track or if I have more to learn to get to another track, but it was a positive step forward in any case.

Here’s the new version:

[redacted for your sanity and my eyes. it did improve from earlier versions, but still... ugh]

Better, no? It still feels a bit synopsis-y but I think it gets the point across. My big problem with it now is that while it certainly gets all the main points across, it feels dry and doesn’t hook me very well.

I think this is largely because the story is ABOUT Paige's growth from the events that happen, but the query doesn't express this. She IS the angel undercover, even though the story contains an actual angel who is undercover. What I mean by angel undercover is that she is an amazing, good person in a surprise package. No one, leastwise herself, expects her to do the things she does and be the person she becomes. Make sense?

Suggestions? Good, bad, and ugly, I want to hear it all. :)

Editing update: Chs 2 and 3 are done, with 2K shaved off between the two of them. I cannot thank my CC and blogging partners enough. Without what I’ve learned from these people, I wouldn’t know what to focus on when editing AUC. So thank you all!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Just Can’t Win

The tree was easy to spot. (breaks the passive “was” rule)
It was easy to spot the tree. (breaks the passive “was” rule)
I spotted the tree easily. (breaks the adverb “ly” rule)
I spotted the tree with ease. (sounds funky, especially from my 14 y.o. protag.)
I spotted the tree. (blah… see Spot run.)
Found tree. (even simpler)
Tree. There. Good. (caveman)

No, this one sentence isn’t enough to blog about, except as an example of my revising frustration. I’ve found that short sentences are harder to fix up than longer ones because I have fewer words to work with. In the example above, what’s your pick? Have any better suggestions?

Yes, it’s just one sentence and rules can be bent and broken – “I was ly-ing”s can be used in healthy moderation – but it’s good exercise, no?

Sidenote: I finished going over chapter two and ultimately (haha! I can use adverbs in my blog to my heart’s content) shaved off 917 words. Yowzah! I read through it and vastly prefer the shorter version. The tree sentence comes from chapter 3, my current project (originally 6K!) Too long to be reasonable on CC even. 650 words shaved so far…

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Good Frustrations

Wow… using the “I was ly-ing” edits, I cut nearly 500 words off of chapter two of AUC. It went from 4,600 words to 4,137 without losing content. And if my estimation serves me, it gained a whole lot of clarity from cutting all those unnecessary words. At that rate, it’ll be easy to whittle this beasty down to 80K.

I’m rewriting chapter one (it needed it!) and then using “I was ly-ing” on the rest of the novel before posting any of AUC on CC again. And even then, I’ll probably start with Ch 1 again just because it has changed so much.

That’s not to say “I was ly-ing” isn’t frustrating, particularly the “was” part. There are places where critiquers suggest I change from passive to active voice and if I do it doesn’t make sense or mean what I meant it to. I think it’ll be a task in and of itself just figuring out where it’s okay and where it’s not.

My next post on CC will either be Ch 1 of Snatch or my short story “Foolish Nonsense.” Can’t wait!

“I was ly-ing” Round of Edits

Today’s post comes to you from a technical standpoint. In the most recent round of crits on my story over at CC, some technical points were made that I decidedly wasn’t aware of before.

I – overuse of the pronoun in first person POV
Was – was, were, be, being, been… overuse of passive verb choice
Ly – overuse of adverbs and adjectives that end in “ly”
Ing – overuse of present tense clauses. “I sat on the rock, thinking…”

It wasn’t until my third posting up on CC, that anyone suggested to fix these things. Now, I know all of them are fine in moderation. Apparently the reading flows smoother when they are few and far between though, so as I bring draft 3 up to draft 4, I’ll be working on these four items to see how much I like playing by the rules.

So tell me, how much has playing by the rules affected your writing? Good or bad, frustrating or pleasant…

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Stab at The Sentence

Miss Inky had a great post up last week about The Sentence, so I decided to try writing a few sentences myself.

The Sentence is "a protagonist with a compelling need, set against an antagonist with a compelling need, doing interesting things in interesting places, with something slightly askew." (Holly Lisle) See Inky's blog for futher details.

So, applying this method to three of my novels and two short stories, this is what I came up with.

Angel Undercover:
When amoral idealist Maisen uses her sister as a tool in his world-altering plan, Paige Moss must intervene, which leads to a self-discovery and confidence-gathering experience like no other.

(updated version 4/9/09: When Paige gets kidnapped, she must get past her shyness in order to save her sister’s integrity, her friend’s happiness, and her city’s existence from the manipulating grip of a deranged visionary.

The Snatch:
Xindlepete Henderson, a sort of Robin Hood figure, struggles to make his atypical idealism work amidst the much harsher realities of the crime world in Iphesia.

Foolish Nonsense: (short story)
Janice Martin doesn’t believe in superstition – at least not until the day she dies for it.

Tonight I Hunt: (short story)
Estranged from her people, Pearl, a predator by nature, adopts an abandoned prey whelp and holds onto this unnatural relationship, despite that it may starve them both to death.

Of The Sea:
As a selk born without a pelt, and thus no way to join the world of her kin, Colleen struggles to learn of her heritage and reconcile the possibility that she may never be able to call the sea her home.

For those of you familiar with The Sentence, did I do a fair job?
For anyone, do these sentences hook you? Which work and which need work?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Updates to the 'ol Query Letter

Post-EE discussion. Yes, I realize I said I'd wait a couple days 'till the comments stopped rolling in, but I got all itchy and impatient. Here goes.

Old Query (the one that went up at EE)


And now the new, revamped version. I've focused it down to just the main conflict, which removed a lot of words, but then I had to add details to explain the conflict, thus it's only marginally shorter than before. I think it's too long even though it does fit on one page. If any of you see a way to make it smaller, please comment! :)


EDIT: Trust me, you don't want to see the old versions. I'm trying to forget them, personally. :)

Evil Editor's Turkey Ogres

Well it’s up!

Watch out, there are Turkey Ogres ahead. EE is a riot. :)

He and the other commentators left me quite a bit to work on. If any of you leave a comment on EE’s post, I’ll see it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Query Quivering

I have returned from my weekend out of town. Naturally, one of the first things I did was check blogger, critique circle, and of course email. And I noticed that my query is on the top of Evil Editor's list AND it's absent from the "guess the plot" section.

By my estimation that means it's due to go up any time now. *shiver* I wasn't really nervous until now. I find myself suddenly second guessing everything I wrote, even the plot of my novel. Is it too convoluted? Too rambling? Ugh...

Well I guess the only thing to do is wait. I'll post a linky up here when it does go up. For now I sleep. Have a wonderful day all you day people!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Writing - To Create Art

Warning: the following post is a little more emotional and a little less cerebral than is typical of me. Feel free to skip if that's not your style.

I get rare moments of lucidity after viewing some art forms – whether it be dance, musical, or the written word – that are brought on by either the emotional depth or a sense of carpe diem in the piece. I feel as though this is one of those times…

Every day, we writers are thinking about our work – how to make the plot flow or the character feel alive, how to mold our language to support the scenes we create, how to captivate and enthrall the reader and make them want to know more… to read more. To care. But in this routine, I find that sometimes I forget what I’m really doing. Why it’s a passion. I sometimes get lost in the technicalities – word choice, punctuation, phrasing, use of tense or point of view.

And then it’s nice to sit back and remember, or realize, that what we as writers are truly doing… is creating art. Sure we all know that writing is a creative art, but have you ever just thought about what that means. We are making something out of nothing and we are attempting to do it in such a fashion that it appeals to our fellow people. To their minds. To their emotions. To whatever is in us that makes us human.

Of course within the plethora of stories that have been written, there are varying degrees to which this is accomplished. How many novels out there contain that spark of humanity? If the world were a warehouse, containing barrels of rocks and gems as stories, how many would be diamonds?

Some of you may disagree with me on this point, but I judge the quality of the books I read based on how much I care about the people in them. Did I laugh at their antics, their flaws, their quirks? Did I cry when their world crumbled or hearts broke? Did I get so mad that I wanted to reach into that world and act? The stories that do this to me are what I view as diamonds.

I’d say the same thing about movies and plays. The ones that amuse me are great, but the ones that touch my spirit… those are the ones I love. The ones I watch again and again. Those are the kind of stories that I want to write. They don’t have to be serious or dark. They can be playful or vibrant. But the characters have to matter. And as an artist, I want to create characters that matter. Fictional people with which real people feel some connection. Sympathy. Empathy.

I suppose a lot of this could go without saying, but as I mentioned, in the day-to-day world of pursuing our passions, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the details and forget what exactly we’re doing. Whether we write mysteries, horrors, science fiction, romance, westerns, thrillers, or fantasies, we are all commenting on the human experience.

The only real questions are: to what extent and what impressions are we leaving?

Writing is a solitary, quiet art, mostly devoid of the fanfare that comes from dancing or singing, from acting or playing an instrument. But it is indeed an art. An art of creation.

So my new question to myself is – how can I get readers to connect with every character I create? (a question which deserves its own blog post to answer). Later gators!

Friday, February 13, 2009

New Blog - My Novel

I've finally decided to take a leaf out of Miss Glam's book and create a blog for my first novel. It's completed and in draft 2.5 stage, and I would LOVE to get some feedback and advice on it. If you would like an invite to read, just leave a comment on this post or shoot me an email (

For those of you who havn't been with my blog long enough to know what Book 1 (AUC, aka Angel Undercover) is all about, you can check out this post to see my sample back cover and hook page. It is a YA fantasy and is currently at 100K, though I'd really like to whittle that down to 80K or less.

I've stared at the thing for so long that I'm not sure what needs cut and what needs expanded on, so I come to you, my fellow writers/bloggers for advice. I sincerely appreciate any imput you may have, strongly dislike sugarcoating, and will reciprocate if let me know what you want looked at.

Thanks and here goes nothing!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Thursday Three

1. I feel like I don't blog often enough. In the past couple months, it's only been about once a week. The reason? My blogging is almost directly proportional to how much I'm writing. To those of you who like to read this blog, I'm sorry! I prefer to post only when I have something insightful to say. Sadly, today is not one of those days.

2. Lately I've been on Critique Circle a lot, mostly working on helping other people with their stories. And the comments that have been left on my posted work have helped me immensely. I love it! Whoever thought up that site is genius. I recommend it to any aspiring author. You have to have thick skin though and be ready to sort out the good advice from the less useful tidbits. (Aren't I tactful today)

3. I've been working on several new story ideas. At some point though I'm going to have to pick one and stick with it long enough to write it. I'm plotting and outlining on a slipstream, a thriller, and a fairy tale. Plus I have a horror short story on the side. All of which means that I'm working, but have very little to actually show for it. I've pretty much put Snatch (Book B, my NaNo project) on hold indefinately. I'm just not feeling inspired even though I think there are only six chapters (20K) left to write. It makes me feel extremely down that I can't seem to kick myself into gear on that. I hate leaving a project unfinished...

Be back, hopefully soon, hopefully with something more insightful to share.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

For Better or For Worse

I'll admit I havn't been writing much lately. Shame on me, I know. As it stands:

-I'm updating AUC to a draft 3
-3 complete copies of draft 2 are floating amongst friends and family reviewers
-I'm at a stalemate with Snatch (book B, my NaNo project) I need a swift kick in the toosh with that one
-My muse continues to visit me with ideas, which I write down
-I have started my first horror short story
-I'm plotting out OTS (book C)
-I've spent hours of enjoyable time reading (Jim Butcher and Rachel Vincent recently)
-Chapter 1 of AUC went up on Critique Circle this week and based on the critiques I recieved, I've updated it. Most notably the first 250 words have changed a lot. So I've decided to post up both the draft 2 version and draft 3 for your comparison. I'd love to hear your thoughts on if its improved as much as I think it has or if it still needs a lot of work.

Draft 2

School was the peace in my life.
Once inside the schoolyard each morning, I was able to relax. In here, there were limits to how bad kids could be. Teachers wouldn’t think twice about sending someone home for misbehaving and all of us, no matter how tough, would rather be in here than out there.
Sadly, we were just three short days away from autumn break and the end of my second to last semester here. I wished I wasn’t so close to turning fifteen. I wasn’t ready to graduate. I reveled in all the blissful moments of calm I could get.
But as I left Crossroads Fundamental School each afternoon, I felt like a target walking.
I hurried from the very heart of the city up the gentle slope toward my home in the upper east quarter. My heart fluttered nervously whenever anyone walked too near.
Rose Creek Bridge. I was halfway there.
A man sat in the middle of the bridge, playing a lively tune on a strange amber flute. He seemed completely unafraid, steadily meeting the eyes of each person that passed him. His boldness was unheard of in these present times. It made me wary.
I slowed down, not sure I really wanted to cross within arm’s reach of the man. He didn’t look scary, I reasoned. Unsettled as I was by his confidence, I stepped forward, muscles tightened, ready to run at any moment.
As soon as my foot touched the bridge, everything changed.

Draft 3

“See you tomorrow, Paige!”
I ducked my head and waved to my classmate shyly, berating myself for lack of backbone. Then I neared the school’s iron gates and more important matters required my attention.
School was the peace in my life. Within these fences, I reveled in a blissful calm that only came from enforced limits. Our instructors dealt with rabble-rousers by sending them home. And all of us, no matter how tough, would rather be in here than out there.
I hurried from Crossroads Fundamental School up the gentle slope. The fire pit was near my home, deep within the upper east quarter. My heart fluttered off-beat whenever anyone passed by too close. In the open streets, I felt very much like a walking target.
Halfway there, a man sat in my path on Rose Creek Bridge. He was playing a lively tune on an amber flute. I slowed my pace as he steadily met my gaze. I really didn’t want to cross within arm’s reach of the strange man. His boldness was unheard of in these fearful times and his music seemed to belong to some other, happier, place.
He didn’t look scary, I reasoned. And there was no safe place for me to go if I turned back. Unsettled as I was by his confidence, I smoothed the skirts of my school uniform and stepped forward, prepared to run at any moment.
As soon as my foot touched the stonework of the bridge, everything changed.

So let's have it... is it for better... or for worse? Does it hook you? I'd love to hear your feedback.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ode To Voice

At the end of my commenting on this month’s Are You Hooked I realized I had:
30 Not Hooked(s)
13 Hooked(s)
and 8 On The Fence(s)
so I went back through and picked out my top favorites and I realized that all of them I picked for the same reason: voice.

Top Pick
11: The Biggest Weirdo in the Whole Eighth Grade***** If I were an agent, I would snatch this one up to read.

Runner Ups (in no particular order)
37: However
36: The-Not-So-Beauty-Pageant Queen
15: Panic
25: Stop the Presses

Honorable Mentions (picked for originality, not voice)
19: Prisoners of the Throne
27: Forest for the Trees
45: Pandora

Now I’ve heard agents talking about how much voice matters to them, but I never realized until now just how much it matters to me. I should have though, because in my reading I tend toward the authors with more voice than others. It’s the reason I love Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson and Scott Westerfeld’s Tally Youngblood. They have voice.

Now I want voice. In my writing that is.
Maybe it’s something I can work on more.

There is, in fact, a project that I believe could be great, but I refuse to start in earnest until I feel like I have a solid unique voice for my main character.

How’s your voice?

Are You Hooked?

Last night I read and responded to all of the Are You Hooked entries at Miss Snark’s First Victim and I feel that I need a disclaimer or at least to talk about it.

Let me preface this blog by saying that very few of the entries hooked me and that I was honest in my comments. Though I tried not to say anything that could be taken as rude, I also did not sugar coat my feedback.

Now, the reason I’m blogging about the experience is that I do feel bad for not being able to give many positive reviews. As I am a writer as well, I feel I need this disclaimer. Here it is:

-No, I do not think the writers who didn’t hook me are terrible writers.
-No, I didn’t enter anything to this one, because I was late (3 hours and it was full up!)
-No, I don’t think my openings are better than other people’s

Yes, I DO think that good, solid, reel-you-in openings are the hardest, let me repeat, hardest, part of writing a good novel. It’s what I struggle with the most and I’m sure what many other writers feel likewise. It is for this reason that I am completely honest when I read others’ openings.

Think about it… We’re each trying to write a opening that gets the reader into the world of the novel, makes them care about at least one character, and includes or at least hints at the coming conflict… all without info dumping or putting in anything unnecessary that will slow the reader down or cause them to lose interest.

We want to write fantasmic, stupendous, knock-your-socks-off and make you buy this book openings. Not okay, not good, not so-so… In a market as tough as the publishing industry, we need to create literary miracles with our openings. They are the first think a potential agent, a potential editor, a potential publisher, and (most importantly) a potential reader is going to see. I am firmly convinced that writing a great opener is the hardest part of producing a great book.

Now some authors might have this down to a science, or “in the bag” if you will, but how many of you have rewritten your prologue or chapter one? How many have rewritten it five times? Ten times? Twenty?

So yes, I may have been bluntly honest with my comments (and no, no one has attacked me for it, this is just my own nagging conscience), but I do that because I would want the same done to mine. In the hardest of tasks, I want the most truthful, hold-nothing-back criticism you can give me. Because that’s what it’ll take to get my ‘script into an agents hands, into a spine, and into the hands of a fellow lover-of-words. Hopefully thousands of them.

Whew, I got a little worked up over this. Didn’t expect to, but I did. There you have it. My disclaimer. Are you hooked?


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saturday Six

Haha... I won't be doing this every week, but in the good-spirit of mimicry, I'll update this way this week.

1. I revisited my interest in Dark Angel, watching both seasons last week and decided to order the three DA books that came out after the third season didn't get picked up by FOX. The end of the second season left so many open holes. The books have mixed reviews, so I'll decide for myself. I'm thinking the cause for some of the negativity is in the transistion between TV show and literary medium. Fans of the show likely have expectations that couldn't be met in book form. We'll see. I'll have to update my impressions after reading.

2. I'm taking down Page Me Choice. It's a fun activity, but between Critique Circle, this blog, my main writing, and life, I'm not finding the drive to keep Choice running smoothly. I may use the premise I had for Choice in a later story/novel idea.

3. I'm about halfway through Jim Butcher's Furies of Calderon and so far it's great. In the field of epic fantasy, he's already earned a gold star from me. Mainly, I think this is because Butcher's writing style balances the focus on multiple characters, so much so that I can't surely say which are main characters and which are secondary. I care about many characters equally, which is rare. I love it.

4. Tonight I indent do return to the writing of Snatch. More on that later.

5. Washington was hit with furious winds, rain, and warm temps, all of which contributed to the removal of the precious snow I need to go boarding. *cry* Oh well, next weekend I'm headed to Oregon on a snowboarding trip with my fam. Yay!

6. I see why most people stick with five. ;) Actually, life is generally going well. That should work... How goes it for you?