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Archive for August, 2011

Enough About Me

Whew! It looks like we’re going to make it through August without any major problems. If you’ve read last year’s post about Awful August, you’ll know what a relief that is. Of course, other parts of the country are having a truly awful August after Hurricane Irene.

Now, enough about me and what I’m doing. (If you’re interested, I’ve finished up revisions to SEVEN STARS and MAGE STORM. I’m about to make some final revisions to my Writers of the Future entry and send it off. Then I’m going to plunge back into MAGIC’S FOOL.)

But, I’m going to start doing something a little different on this blog. Occasionally, instead of talking about what I’m working on, I’m going to write about what I’ve been reading. Writers read. Maybe once a month, maybe more often, I’ll do a post about what I’ve been reading.

I just finished PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White and loved it. I’m going to have to get my hands on the sequel. I knew it was going to be a fun read as soon as the main character took out her hot pink, rhinestone-encrusted taser to deal with the menacing vampire. It didn’t let me down for a moment.

It has a very sweet romance, too, because you know every young adult novel has got to have some romance and I’m a sucker for the sweet ones. For some reason, almost every steamy (adult) romance I’ve ever cracked open has left me at some point with my head cocked to the side and my nose scrunched up thinking “Really?” That usually happens in the payoff scene, too. Sweet works just about every time, though.

Now I’m reading THE FLOATING ISLANDS by Rachel Neumeier. I’m only into Chapter 4, so it’s a little too early to say on this one. It’s definitely got a great premise. A young boy arriving at the islands that float above the ocean by dragon magic and instantly becoming obsessed with joining the elite corps of men who fly by dragon magic. And his cousin, who wants very badly to do things that girls simply aren’t allowed to do.

When you write mostly young adult and middle grade, you read a lot of it, too. Although I do take a break now and then for something aimed at a slightly older audience.

In that vein, I’ve also just finished BROTHERS IN ARMS by Lois McMaster Bujold. It’s Lieutenant Lord Miles Vorkosigan at his usual insubordinate, extemporizing best. Miles is the master of chaos, even when he discovers he has a clone he never knew he had–and the clone wants to take over his life. I came to the Vorkosigan Saga late, because it’s science fiction and I mostly read fantasy. But really, whatever your tastes, read something by Bujold. If I’ve ever been disappointed by one of her stories, it’s only because the others have set such a high standard.

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It’s not a secret. Things should get worse and worse for your characters until the climax, when, hopefully, the conflict is resolved, the protagonist having won, learned something, and grown or changed. In most, if not all, of my stories, that’s also going to put the protagonist in a position to finally get what he wants–which may or may not be what he thought he wanted at the beginning of the story.

I’m ashamed to say that in one of my current projects, I got that wrong. Not for the story as a whole. Just for the first try/fail cycle. Still, that’s bad enough.

How did that happen? Well, I was making revisions and I added some events to help make the central conflict clearer right from the beginning. So far so good. It’s just that I added them in the wrong order.

This is where a great critique group is the biggest help. It’s more than possible to be so close into the details yourself that you can’t see a screw up like this. But a critiquer will tell you that something is off.

So now I just have to go back and put things in the right order.

  1. Insignificant event that shows the problem, but doesn’t make it seem very bad.
  2. Public event that is largely benign, but upsets people.
  3. Overheard reaction of those people.
  4. Major event that scares the protagonist into taking more action.

Yeah, that’ll work much better than the other way around.

Edited to add:

Well, I thought that plan was going to work, but after playing with it all day, I’ve decided against it. Plan B is to just add some more tension and danger to the last incident. I need to see if I can make it as scary–or even scarier–than the first.

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We all know that the internet is a great research tool. We all use it to research agents, too.  But there are a lot of other resources out there for writers, too.

  1. Writers’ forums and critique groups. This is a great way to network and share with other writers and improve your own writing. I learn at least as much from critiquing another writer’s work as I do by having my own critiqued. Even if you are lucky enough to have an in-person writers group, you can still benefit from an online group, too. It opens up the possibility of so many more writers and a better chance of finding a group specific to your genre. It’s not that you can’t learn anything from a mystery writer’s critique of your YA fantasy. But there’s nothing like having people actually familiar with the genre comment on your work.
  2. Blogs. There are literally thousands of industry blogs out there by authors (published and unpublished), agents, editors. It’s a great way to learn more about the industry we’re all trying to break into. Sometimes, there are fun contests, too.
  3. Online events like the recent WriteOnCon. Let’s face it, what could be better than a writers’ conference you can attend in your pajamas. And if you missed WriteOnCon last week, don’t worry. It’s all archived on the site–vlogs, blogs, forum events, and live chats. Ok, so maybe you can’t participate in the live events, now. But you can still see what all the awesome participants had to say.
  4. Our own blogs. We blather on about our WIP and whatever else pops into our heads hoping to connect with other writers and maybe even, someday, a reader or two.
  5. Third Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign. And in furtherence of that, there’s this awesome campaign being run by a fellow writer. I’m joining.

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Gosh, I got so involved in revising the end of SEVEN STARS that I almost forgot to blog. (Well, that, and Mom’s birthday.)

I haven’t quite finished this round, yet. But I’m awfully close. I just might press on and finish it tonight. I’ll still want to do another read-through and I still have a couple of things I want to add or strengthen.

While I made revisions throughout the book, I think the beginning and the end changed the most.

The end is actually changing. But some of how the characters get there is. Some of the way things happened in the earlier drafts didn’t build tension the way it needs to. Plus I seem to have skipped some internal monologue towards the end. Actually, I think I was getting a bit fatigued when I wrote the original ending. But that’s what good critiquers will help you with–and keep you honest about.

I had to write two new fight scenes. Not the easiest thing for me to write, but I hope I’ve done a better job of it. That’s what readers will tell me, though.

I’m still really loving this story.

 

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If you write young adult or middle grade stories, what are you doing reaind my blog today? Get over to WriteOnCon. It’s free and you don’t have to travel–both of which make it right up my alley right now.

I didn’t even know about it until Monday.  But don’t worry about what you may have missed. It’s still there and, while you might not be able to participate live, you can still read it.

Go.

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It’s a topic in e-publishing right now, in a couple of different contexts.

I know a couple of writers who are either serializing stories for e-publication or thinking about it. Actually it’s a very attractive concept.

You take a 100,000-word novel and break it down into, say, five pieces. Hopefully, of course, each installment ends with some sort of hook that will make the reader want to purchase the next installment. Then you release installments a week to a month or so apart.

It’s something that e-publishing is very well suited for and something that wasn’t even remotely possible with traditional paper publishing. That is, unless you count the endless series that extend to a dozen or more books. But in those cases, readers had to wait years between installments. This is much less painful.

Another interesting thought that I read about earlier this week is the idea of e-publishing segments of your work in process. Not for free, but on some sort of arrangement where readers pay for the finished work, but get to read the story as it progresses. This potentially allows the writer to get feedback from a much wider audience than a writers’ group and lets the readers see some of their ideas or comments incorporated into the story.

Both are intriguing thoughts that I’m going to have to research more. I even know where I can find an online course on the subject.

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While researching agents to query, I came across this very interesting post. Very useful ideas for any kind of writing.

Meanwhile, I’m making good progress on my third draft of SEVEN STARS. Hopefully, I’ll find a way to incorporate at least some of these ideas as I go.

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