Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Fall Foliage: World's End State Park

I've been editing a bit, keeping busy. But the truly noteworthy event of the last week was my husband and I's trip to World's End State Park. And this photo:

autumn mountains, World's End State Park, PA

And that photo is quite enough for one week. I'll share more next week, but this was the best.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

In the Thick of Things

Banff National Park
I took this photo in Canada - somewhere in Banff Nat'l Park.
I don't quite remember where exactly.

My post this week will be short and sweet. Or just short.

I have yet another new query that I entered into a contest hosted by Michelle Hauck and others. I'm actually rather excited about this query. It's more lively than many of the others and helps point out what's unique about my book. I find out on Thursday if I got into the contest or not. (This contest is to help me polish my query and then put it in front of a few agents Michelle lined up.)

Banff National Park, Canadian Rockies, cold
My husband being cold on a Canadian hike.
I have the name of the place written down somewhere.
Not here, though.
This is from a few years ago.

I'm back into editing. I've set an ambitious goal of editing five chapters a week (which I failed to meet for the first week b/c I spent half of it rewriting my query letter). Now I'm in the midst of editing my YA scifi, which will keep me busy for quite a while.

So. That's what's up in my writing life. And that's about all I've got to say this week. Have a good one!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

YouTube: A Writing Education

bicycle and screen door
Photos for this post shall be random photos I took that I like.

Making Your Own Education

For those of us without a formal writing education, there are lots of amazing resources online (and elsewhere I'm sure). Lately I've been watching Brandon Sanderson's lectures at BYU (here's a link to the first one.)

cracked door frame
Actually, the photos aren't that random.
They're of a house my parents fixed up.

Sanderson's BYU Lectures

By this point I've read plenty of recommended books, blog posts, and listened to lectures on plotting, character development, etc. So it's not like all this stuff is new, but there are a few things I particularly like about Sanderson's lectures:

  • He's a NYT Bestselling writer, so he's got the credentials to be giving advice.
  • He acknowledges that his way isn't the only way. In fact, he tries to mention as many different methods of writing as he can because he knows different methods help different types of writers.
  • He writes SFF. I haven't gotten to the world building lecture yet, but I'm definitely looking forward to it.
  • These lectures are from a well-known writing school (BYU), and he has experience teaching this class, and I think it shows.
  • He seems like a nice, funny guy. This might not matter to everyone, but if you're going to listen to someone for hours out of your life, it helps if you're smiling rather than grimacing as you listen.

shadows, abandoned house
It's a pretty cool house. It looks way more liveable now.
But it looked kinda cool all beat up.

Other Resources: Podcasts, Books, and Blogs

In other posts, I've linked to this two minute clip from Trey Parker and Matt Stone. They talk about how they plot out South Park, and it's a fun insight.

Sanderson recommends one of his fellow writer's YouTube posts, Dan Wells on Story Structure.

Sanderson also has a podcast with several fellow writers called Writing Excuses. It's not as structured or pared down as his BYU lectures, but it's a fun listen, and eleven seasons (and counting) gives them way more time to delve into issues. I'll admit that podcasts just aren't my thing, so I've only listened to a few here or there.

Then, of course, there are the books I hear recommended over and over again. The three I think I hear mentioned most are: Story Engineering by Larry Brooks, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, and Stephen King's On Writing. The first two books are all about structure and tricks to improve your book. On Writing is more of an entertaining memoir with some solid writing advice thrown in (it's actually a really fun read whether you write or not).

There are a TON of great writing blogs out there. In fact, Writer's Digest puts out a list of the 101 best websites for writers every year. I personally like Jane Friedman, formerly of Writer's Digest, for some good all-round advice. Best selling author Chuck Wendig veers off track more often than not, but almost always in entertaining ways (if he's your style), and there are some nuggets of excellent writing advice thrown in. I still use Nathan Bransford as a reference when I want to remind myself, for example, how to write a pitch. I don't think he's posting as much any more, but he's a literary agent turned MG writer, so he knows his stuff. And I've personally found some good advice in C.S. Lakin's blog.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Writing from Two Main Character POVs

Nigel and I, several year ago
Badlands National Park (I think)

Well, it happened. I missed a week of blogging. This weekend I began to suspect what I'd done, but I wasn't quite sure until I just checked the dates of my posts because sometimes the weeks start to blur together.

Oh well. I'm back!

I picked a picture of both Nigel and I for my top photo because, first of all, we look super cool in this photo. And second because my draft that I finished back in August (mentioned here) has a dual point of view. So I picked a picture of the two of us!

Get it? Two people = two points of view.

Maybe I shouldn't take any more weeks off from writing these posts. I feel like this one's going poorly.

In an unusual YA twist of events, I haven't actually decided whether the two main characters (Zander and Mara) will be love interests or not. They're telling about a futuristic sci fi governmental collapse from two different perspectives.

One MC's plot, written out in detail.


Plotting this novel was really difficult. I have a lot of subplots and characters that needed to come together. I actually started off by plotting out the villains' perspectives because, as it turns out, villains are pretty good at keeping the plot moving.

Once I knew my major events, I started plotting out each individual MC's full story arc. I'd actually already written a draft of this book (which I don't quite consider my first draft, for some reason) or else I'd have had no idea what the full plot for each character would involve. Those early ideas gave me a lot to work with, but I did make a number of plot-related changes.

Each MC had approximately one page of plotting like the one you see in the image above.

Nigel's Magic cards were taking over our table, infringing on my outlining.
And apparently I've got my blanket on the floor.
What can I say? We're a mess.

Intertwining the Two Plots

Once I knew the plots for each MC, I typed the two different plots up with bullet points for each plot point (and I annotated if it was Zander's or Mara's on each bullet point).

Then I cut apart each bullet point and started weaving together the two stories. There were a few points at which the stories HAD to meet up. But sometimes a few bullet points got grouped together into one chapter. I think I may also have cut one bullet point up into two different chapters.

Then I copied and pasted the two word docs with the two MC's plots together to match up to my new, whole-book outline.

I'm sure other people write dual POV books in other (probably better) ways, but this was how I wrote mine so that the two stories wove together just right.

And now I have to start editing it all ....... ugh. It'd better not mess up my plot structure.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Social Media's Selling Teens Old Books

cute old couple reading
These two aren't in the age range I'm talking about below.
But they are quite adorable. And reading.
Photo by zorilla.

An Article From a Bookseller

This weekend, between learning far more than I ever wished to know about Days of Inventory and the cash-to-cash cycle, I read this article with the very click-batey title "I Liked Hurting Girls: A Bookseller on Diary of an Oxygen Thief, Milk and Honey, Young People and the Internet."

The woman who wrote this article owns a book shop, and she noticed a few unusual trends in teens coming in to ask about specific books that weren't actually new or popular at the time. One of those books happened to start with the line, "I liked hurting girls ..."

Juneau, Alaska, gorgeous mountains
Juneau, Alaska (see below for semi-relevance).
Really chosen for my obsession with mountains.
Photo by Ian D. Keating

This Just in: Teens Like Social Media

However, others books she mentions include Looking for Alaska, which become popular after John Green's YouTube channel took off, and Milk and Honey, which is apparently an illustrated book of poems that deals with topics ranging from abuse to survival to sex. She describes the book as "explicit, emotional and very social media friendly."

cool bookstore
Photo by Per Gosche.

In other Breaking News: Teens Won't Explain Themselves

It was also rather entertaining to me that every time this bookseller asked her teen customer what made them want to purchase this book, they'd answer, "I don't know. I it's really good," rather than actually explain to an adult where they'd heard about the book.

And it is really interesting how social media can help people rediscover books. We tend to think of books in two categories: new books and classic books, or at least that's how it seems to me. I'm glad that sometimes books that are neither of these two things get brought back into the light and "re-discovered" by a new audience.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Travel Wistfulness

new zealand mountains

Just like I predicted, these classes have me hopping. I forgot to post this morning.

new zealand, icy mountains
Photo by Mazzali

Have I mentioned that I really want to go back to New Zealand? Because I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I put it down to escapism, but boy was that place gorgeous.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Writing Update plus Cool Chapels

little Greek chapel
A chapel on Mykonos
Photo by Jaume Escofet

For today's images, I went to the Creative Commons and put in the word "chapel". I'm not particularly religious, but people do create some amazing, religious spaces. We all get our inspiration from somewhere, and sometimes its fun to appreciate others' artistic endeavors wherever they are.

chapel interior, Tower of London
Chapel at the Tower of London
Photo by Lachlan O'Dea

A Book Nearing Retirement

I got a little over thirty rejections on my MG fantasy The Storm Summoner. After I didn't make it into Pitch Wars, I was considering retiring the book and moving onto the next contender. I've been querying for almost a year, and I thought it might be time.

However, one of my critique partners read the latest version of my book and re-energized me. I re-wrote my second chapter, streamlined my third chapter and took yet another wack at revising my query letter. The funny thing is that I think the query is finally getting pretty good. . . if only it'd been this good when I actually started querying.

I'm also set to attend a small literary conference this upcoming Saturday where I might get a query critique.

Once I've got everything polished yet again, I am going to send out a few more query letters. I might retire the book soon, but I do want to give it another shot.

chapel, nunhead cemetery, London
Chapel at Nunhead Cemetery, London
Photo by Richard Fisher

A Book Coming Into Being

I always try to do it this way. When I'm getting incredibly sad that I need to give up on yet another book, I try to have something new to look forward to. A New Hope, if you will. I have a finished first draft of my YA sci fi. It needs some serious editing, so I won't be ready to query it for quite some time, but it's nice to get a break from querying.

And it's fun to be back into this stage - the stage where I'm still imagining a new world and big changes (re-writes) can happen. With my MG, I've been in the polishing phase for a while now. Some of those changes felt big, but the world's pretty solidly in place. In my new book, it's still a world in flux. (For example, I'm thinking about adding a mob undercurrent to the book.)

So, that's where I am right now.