Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Let's Start At The Very Beginning

(A very good place to start)
If that Sound of Music song isn't going through your head right now, you are just not a normal person. Or, you know, you watched The Sound of Music less often than I did when I was younger. Either one.

Today's blog post is about the beginning of your novel (or my novel as the case may be). I haven't been querying Dragon Bait because I got some feedback that the beginning didn't clearly set up my world. So I wrote about four different first chapters, changed the age of the protagonist and trimmed the book down. I did actually make improvements each time, and I used bits and pieces from all four first chapters, so my efforts weren't totally wasted.

So, now, after going through that painful process, I am going to make a list of things that a beginning should be and what it should do.

  • Engage the reader. You gotta start with something that catches your reader's attention. After all, I've heard that most people will judge a book not just by its cover but also by its first page. If they aren't interested, they're not reading on.
  • Make your main character (MC) sympathetic. Your MC doesn't have to be a great person, but the reader has to identify with your MC and care about the MC's story. So even if the MC's a rotten person, it helps to give him/her at least one redeeming quality. There are a few exceptions to this, but not too many.
  • Introduce your world. I struggle with this. Within the first few pages, you've got to immerse your reader in a believable world with defined parameters. This doesn't mean spewing every last detail of the world in the first few pages, but you've got to give the reader enough that they understand exactly where they are and who they're rooting for and why. The details can change if, for example, the MC learns more as he/she goes on, but within the first few pages you've got to show what this world is and what that means to your MC.
  • Set the tone of the novel. People judge your book by the first few pages. You can't fall into the trap of saying (as I do sometimes), "The story gets better later on." By that point you've already lost your readers. You've got to start as you mean to go on: strong. Set up an interesting Voice (typically involving word choice, vernacular, and point of view) and make sure the cool stuff that's going to make the middle and end of your book exciting is around at the beginning too (that's far easier said than done, by the way.)
  • Foreshadow the ending. You don't have to do this, of course. But it is pretty exciting to get to the end of the book and be able to go back to the very first page and be able to see how you got there. I'm not even certain I did this well, but the main point here is that everything's got to tie together. It all happens for a reason. And if it doesn't, it doesn't belong in your book.

Good luck, writers. And for you non-writers out there, now you have some idea of what I've been struggling with!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Very Own Dragon

The book I'm almost ready to start querying again is set in a 1950s where dragons rule the skies.

I've tried to do things a little different. One thing I changed up was what dragons look like. They breath fire, but they're more closely related to dinosaurs and birds in the way they're put together. (In case you didn't know, it's pretty well accepted that birds are the most direct descendants of the dinosaurs alive today. Here's an article on it.)

I spent this weekend putting together my very own imagined dragon, complete with feathers, talons, and bat-like wings (somewhat similar to the wings of flying dinosaurs). I'm rather proud of it.

The one thing I'm not entirely happy with is the dragon's nose.

I intended to make it a lizard nose (like this cute lizard's) and not a beak, but I couldn't get the lizard nose to look right, and I liked the idea of a beak like a turtle's. So I went with the beak, but I'm still wondering if the lizard nose wouldn't look better.

So that's my dragon.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

And I forgot . . .

Did I mention I took a whole series of photos with a glove on my head?
Because I did.
I'm still not sure why.

Wednesday came and went and I completely forgot to post. I'd like to pretend I had a good reason, but let's be honest: I didn't.

So instead of some beautifully well thought out and impassioned dissertation on, uh, something, you're going to get a haphazard list of things I've been up to:

Reading Until Tuesday

This book follows the unspoken rule: If it has a dog on the cover, you will cry at some point while reading it. However (so far as I know, although I haven't finished the book yet) the dog does not die. He had better not!

I had this book recommended to me by a Afghanistan vetran. The book follows Tuesday, the service dog of Iraqi vet Luis Montalván and, of course, Luis. There is a portion of the book that takes place in the depths of Iraq, but Tuesday really is the focus. And after that, the focus is on how much Tuesday has helped his owner. It is a well-written and beautiful book, and I really think it's expanding my horizons in a way that I never would have thought about expanding them without that book recommendation.

In general, I've been trying to read more autobiographies lately just because there have been some really interesting people in this world, and sometimes learning about them is far more interesting than learning about made up people (of course, sometimes its boring as hell, but you gotta take the bad with the good).

This is not to say autobiographies are anywhere close to the majority of books that I read. I've been sucking down fun YA romancy type books, and they are a wonderful break from real life. For example: Going Vintage, Girlfriend Material (here is the link to my review), and The Art of Falling.

Writing a New Intro Chapter

Have I mentioned that writing the first chapter of your novel is hard? Because it is. I think I've written about four different Chapter 1's for my work in progress (WIP). So much relies upon that first chapter. It's the chapter that either sucks the reader in or lets the reader put the book down. (And sometimes that reader is actually a literary agent deciding whether or not he/she wants to represent your book.)

In short, Chapter 1 is a pain in the rear end. And that is all I'll say about that. (Although I do like my current Chapter 1, which makes me happy).

Scoping out Car Possibilities

I'm in the market for a new car. I'm not yet convinced I will actually buy a new car, but I do intend to. We'll see.

Isn't the new Mazda3 a pretty, pretty car? Soooooo shiny.

Raking Leaves

Yep. We're Those People. The ones who did not rake their leaves during the autumn. What can I say, I'm a terrible neighbor.

I took a short walk around the neighborhood and felt so guilty that I spent 2 hours raking and earned myself a blister on my left thumb. But I did feel like less of a terrible neighbor, so there's that.

And there ends my list. A very happy Thursday to you!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


This has been a crazy busy month for me, so I'm afraid this week's post will just be short and to the point:

Congratulations, Brandi D. You've won a copy of Sabriel (which is only the greatest book ever; well, one of them).