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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: voice, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 172
26. What's My Style?

and the second question
And here's the thing - most of us already have a style. 
Writer's call it VOICE. 'What is our voice? Where does it come from? 
How do we capture it and nurture it and grow it?'  
As a writer VOICE is the choices we make, the words we use, the cadence, the point of view, 
the quality that makes the writing unique - and recognizable.
And emerging illustrators struggle with all the same issues, especially the 'recognizable' one. 

The one that will make us 
 Arthur Rackham


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27. The First Page

This past weekend, I attended a writer’s workshop where we had a first pages critique session. That’s when an author panel hears the first 200 to 300 words of a manuscript, and then gives feedback to attendees. Basically, what these published experts ask themselves is, “Would I keep reading after this first page?”

You don’t have to write for children to learn a lot from first page critiques. And you don’t have to write a novel, either. Because the point of a first page is always the same: you have to grab your reader right from the very beginning!

Two hundred and fifty words. That’s the average number of words in that first page. Geez, that’s not much. But that’s all that you, the writer, have to grab that editor or agent or publisher before he or she moves on to the next manuscript. So how do you make every word count?

Here are the top suggestions I heard during the critiques, and the discussion that followed:

“You don’t have to explain the whole plot on the first page, but you do have to give an idea of what the story is about.”

Don’t fill up your entire first page with lovely description of your setting. You can weave that lovely description into the plot (what the story is about). Whoever or whatever is mentioned in the first page should be important to your plot (what the story is about). Resist the temptation to throw in anything that doesn’t relate to…yeah, I think you know what’s coming: What the story is about. Which brings me to the next suggestion.

“The voice or the narrator captures the reader’s attention from the get-go. If we don’t know who the protagonist is, we won’t be interested enough to keep reading.”

Your voice must be strong right from the start! Your audience needs to care about what will happen next—and more importantly, who has something at stake in the story. Read a few of the first pages of your favorite novels, or short stories, memoirs or essays so you can see how the writer manages to invest the reader in the story, right from the very beginning.

That’s what you want in your first page. After that, the rest is easy. Well, easier.

4 Comments on The First Page, last added: 5/17/2012
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28. Voice in Girlchild - Beauty among the trailer trash

I think there are three reasons most people are drawn to novels. Plot. Characters. And voice.

I'm pretty good at characters and I'm really good at plot. Voice, for me, is nearly impossible to master. Sometimes it happens, most times it doesn't, and my prose is workman-like.

The first paragraph in Girlchild: A Novel is this:

Mama always hid her mouth when she laughed. Even when she spoke too gleefully, mouth stretched too wide by those happy muscles, teeth too visible. I can still recognize someone from my neighborhood by their teeth. Or lack of them. And whenever I do, I call these people family. I know immediately that I can trust them with my dog but not with the car keys and not to remember what time, exactly, they’re coming back for their kids. I know if we get into a fight and Johnny shows up, we'll agree that there has been "No problem, Officer, we'll keep it down.

I read that and thought: "I will follow that voice anywhere.

Girlchild is the story of Rory Dawn Hendrix lives with her mom in the Calle de las Flores Trailer Park outside of Reno. Rory's mom was 15 when she first got pregnant, as was Rory's grandmother. She comes from a long line of welfare moms, alcoholics and gamblers. Can she escape her fate?

Girlchild has the feel of a book written from personal pain. The characters are certainly memorable. The plot could have been stronger, but again this book has an inimitable voice. Read it for that.

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29. Journaling My Way to Voice and Story

Recently I blogged about Mari McCarthy’s e-book Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days.  Since then, I’ve used my journal to focus on my audience before I write.  Who are they? How are they different from me?  What are they going to demand from this piece?  How might  this differ from my expectations?

While that works for shorter nonfiction projects, I’ve been writing a longer piece of teen fiction, sending my editor an outline and then a draft.  I’d journaled about audience for the outline.  When it came time to write the story, I focused on what the story is all about – my characters.

I needed to do this because, based on my outline, my editor found my protagonist unsympathetic.  She gave me tips on how to change this, but I had trouble starting the story. Nothing sounded right.  I had to find my character’s voice while writing the story in 3rd person.  I turned to my journal.

When I sat down to journal that morning, I asked what my character would have to say about being called unsympathetic.   I decided to let him speak for himself and write the journal entry in his first person POV.  Let’s just say that this particular teen had plenty to say, starting with the fact the he didn’t ask for anyone’s sympathy.  He hadn’t created the story problem, but everyone expected him to fix it.  We should shut up and let him do it his way. He was freaked out and scared and we weren’t helping.

As the author, I knew most of this.  Laying it down in his own words helped me find his voice and get into the story. Soon I had a rough draft, but his brother, the antagonist, was flat.

His story had to come through as well.  Sure, he was messing up his younger brother’s life, but it isn’t something he planned to do. He hates needing help from his baby brother.  He hates what has happened to him.  He’s angry.  Who catches the brunt of this anger? His brother.  Deal with it.

Again, these were things I knew, but in journaling for him I found the character’s voice. His dialogue tightened to the point of being tense, terse and rude – nothing that would keep him up at night.

If you’re having problems nailing a piece of fiction, journal.

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30. Weaving Magic

Have you noticed how the voices of Southern writers weave a kind of magic spell over readers?You can feel that magic throughout the pages of Augusta Scattergood's first novel, Glory Be, as she weaves her spell with the sweet sounds of a Southern dialect, an unerring eye for details, and heartfelt compassion for her main character, Gloriana June Hemphill, who is struggling to learn how to be

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31. Voice Workshop with Agent Jill Corcoran

How to Improve Your Writing Voice and Characters’ Voices

Agent Jill Corcoran at the 2012 FL SCBWI Conference in Miami

Jill Corcoran talked about the difference between the author voice, which is in everything you write, and the manuscript voice, which changes according to things like tone, the target audience, and point of view.

She had us write a short scene with two characters from one point of view, then write it from the other.  It’s amazing how you can feel the difference.  Even better…this exercise can help with writer’s block! 

Character Voice

·       Make your characters distinct so you don’t always need to put in tags.   There’s a great way to test this—take the tags out of dialogue and see if you (or others) can tell who is talking.

·       Give each character something unique.  Weaving these little details in helps give dimension.

·       Readers fill in the gaps—you need to leave some white space.

Here are some other great suggestions from Jill:

·                       When you sit down and write, you don’t always have to write your book.  Just write anything.  It helps you find your voice, gives you space, and stops you from feeling pressured.  A bad day can affect your writing.  She said to strive for more than BIC…you want Butt In Quality Chair.

·       Read outside your genre.  This helps you see styles of writing that might be great for you.

·       Make dialogue count…especially when it’s up front.

·       Try to write three pages every morning before doing anything else.

·       Play around to find the right voic

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32. "Finding Your Voice"

"...I was searching for something outside myself-- some sound that did not belong to me, that was not a part of me and was never to be created by me. And all the time I could have spent investigating my own instrument was instead trying to imitate [the] 'perfect voice'... Remember your true voice can only be arrive at with a relaxed concentration and careful attention to individuality."

-Carolyn Sloan
"Finding Your Voice", page 46

**I believe I have posted this quote before. I was going through some papers of mine and came across it again. I read this book during a brief time of delusionment when I believed I could learn how to sing. I loved the quote so much that I wrote it down. Finding your voice is a powerful drive for writers. We cannot succeed when we are attempting to imitate someone's work. We must be true to ourselves and our own creativity ability. The world does not need another JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, or ___fill-in-the-blank___. The world is missing you and your work. You, uniquely, imperfectly, gifted, exactly, you.

What are you doing to find your own voice?

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33. Voice

How to craft a great voice. 


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34. Teen Voice: Vocabulary

By Julie Daines

"I hate you!"
"This is why I'm moving out when I'm eighteen!"
"I have no control over my life!"

Yes, those are all phrases I have heard from my own teen-age sons. Frequently. I have three.

So, I thought I'd do some posts on capturing that teen voice, starting with vocabulary. Here are a few do's and don'ts.

Be Extremely Careful of Overusing Slang
According to Agent George Nicholson, "Slang dates good fiction more easily than any other single thing." 

Slang varies by region, so too much slang makes your book non-universal. If you do use a lot of slang, make sure it reflects something about the character and adds to the depth of the story. Don't just use it to sound teen, teens are expert at picking out phony voice.

The best writing has a richness of language, not just a scramble of slang. Use vocabulary that reflects the time and place you're writing about.

Don't Dumb it Down
But at the same time, it has to sound like something a teen (specifically the one in your book) would actually say. Teens, in some ways, are smarter than we give them credit for. As long as the voice is authentic and rings true, teen readers are open to a wide range of voicing styles.

Mix it Up
Don't give all your characters a similar sounding voice. Vary vocabulary and rhythm to create contrast and interest. Some teens never stop talking, some are only one word anwerers. Some rely on humor, some on emotional extremes. (See examples above.)

Keep the Narrative in Voice
Make sure the narrative parts are in the voice of the POV character and not the author's. Maintain continuity.

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35. YA Voice

Two blog posts about perfecting your YA voice. 


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36. Some thoughts on middle grade voice

I’m going through a big stack of submissions that have been languishing for a while (and if you submitted a partial before Sept. 1 and don’t get a request for a full manuscript by the end of the week, you’ll know the answer is a no thanks). I’m on the lookout in particular for a book that will appeal to middle-grade girls, and I’m having a bit of a frustrating time of it. Mostly because humorous middle-grade voice seems to be a hard one to nail, and so many of the submissions in my pile seem to be going for a humorous bent.

Voice is the one thing that I don’t feel, as an editor, that I can fix. It’s too intrinsic to the art, too personal, something that has to be worked on before it comes across my desk. And a humorous voice? Even harder to shape as an editor. I completely appreciate how tough humor is just in general. It’s very subjective. So something that makes me giggle madly might not tickle someone else’s funny bone.

However, there is also a certain voice that I can only describe as “trying too hard.” The intended humor is super-goofy, overexplaining the jokes and losing the reader in the process. It feels too self-conscious, like the character is watching herself too closely instead of living her life. Humor should come, in my opinion, as a side effect of situations that happen to be a little goofy, rather than forced out of something the character finds funny, which is harder to translate into reader laughs. Thus, I personally think it’s really hilarious that Tyler Sato gets a killer asteroid named after him because, coincidentally, his cousins happened to name a star after him. But Tyler Sato himself doesn’t find it all that funny.

Part of the problem is that self-consciousness can sometimes work in YA, at least more than middle grade, because teens are more likely to notice things  comment on them in a snarky way. Middle graders aren’t expected to be jaded just yet. But it’s not just that. Have you ever noticed that whenever, say, Stephen Colbert loses his deadpan, the joke loses a little something? Part of the hilarity is in the deadpan delivery. And we also have to acknowledge that not everyone is a humor writer—and that’s okay. Sometimes a book can be better when it’s not trying so hard for the laughs.

If you are writing humor, my only suggestion for improving your craft is to read writers who make it work, like Lisa Yee, Michael Buckley, and Tu’s own Greg Fishbone.

What I’d really like to see in my submission pile, though, as far as middle-grade books are concerned, is not necessarily humor—after all, we’ve got the hilarious Galaxy Games coming out this month already; go buy it! or read an excerpt!—but rather straight-on fantasy, science fiction, and mystery for middle-grade readers of both genders, but particularly girls because I don’t have much on my list for middle-grade girls right now. I’d love to see something more along the lines of Shannon Hale’s books for middle grade readers (one of my favorite books of all time is her Book of a Thousand Days, set in a Mongolia-like world): adventure and coming-into-her-own (not necessarily coming-of-age, which is more of a YA thing; would love such YAs, but I’m talking MG here right now). I also wouldn’t mind something along the lines of Michael Buckley’s The Sisters Grimm, while noting that even though the book is

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37. Perfecting Your YA Voice (Part 2)

In Part 1, Editor Krista Marino explained how YA Voice is related to diction, perspective, dialog, interior monologue, and character. In this second section she explains what makes a young adult voice unique and different from an adult writing voice.

Let’s Talk about the Teen/YA Voice in Particular:

  • YA is specific in terms of voice.
  • YA is teen experience, outlook, and their limited life experiences.
  • YA is about teen beliefs, likes and dislikes, etc.
  • Think about how small your life was when you were a teenager. Remember when you believed in Santa? What did you believe when you were in high school? Did you think you were going to marry your high school boyfriend?
  • An adult looking back on the teen experience is an adult book.
  • “When you’re young everything feels like it’s the end of the world.” – movie quote. Teens have no reference to know that things will get better in their lives, where as adults bring life experiences with them.
  • Teens are not making stupid decisions. They are making their decisions because they have only been on the planet for 16 years and don’t have any life experience.
  • Teens have nothing else to compare their experiences to.
  • When you are writing you need to erase the worldliness you’ve experienced over the years.
  • Your protagonist can’t be simple.
  • Every teen is questioning how other teens view them.
  • Your character must evolve. Voice can change as a character grows and learns over the course of the book. Voice must change with the evolution and movement of the book.

Exercises to Get to Know Your Character:

  • Exercise: List three character traits about your protagonist (i.e. sassy, romantic, uptight) then push yourself to go deeper and find out who they really are under those traits.
  • Exercise: Write two pages that tell you something new about your character. These pages do not need to go into the manuscript. See what they will tell you.
  • Exercise: Go to a public place and eavesdrop on teens. Write down their conversations exactly as you hear them. Now try to use that conversation in a scene you are writing. Watch how your characters interact.

Telling about Character in the Writing:

  • Weave info about your character into the story, but make it invisible.
  • In the writing insinuate how a character looks without listing everything they are wearing. Pick a particular trait to embody a greater image of the character. Example: A character wearing skull rings.
  • You can’t assume the reader knows what is going on inside your character. You need to clue them in. Is the character tired? Excited?
  • Layer your characters actions. Stomping could mean a character is angry, but they could also be embarrassed. Sometimes more is more.
  • It’s better for someone to tell you to cut than add.
  • Beware of too much telling, it will sound like you (the author) are speaking to the reader rather than the character.

Krista Marino is a senior editor at Delacort Press where she edits and acquires young adult and middle grade novels. Books she has edited include King Dork, The Necromancer, The Maze Runner, and The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

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38. Character Voices

Make sure your character isn't speaking in your voice. 


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39. Middle Grade Voice

Stacy Whitman of Tu Books explains what makes middle grade, middle grade. 


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40. Last Minute Novel Revisions

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I am working on a novel revision for an editor and I expect to turn it in by Monday. But today, as I was reading through one last time to polish everything up–oh, my gosh!–there’s still so much work to do.

Last Minute Revisions

At this point, it’s not major structural changes or big plot changes. Instead, I am looking to tighten every scene and make as many connections as possible. And I am polishing language and voice.

Here are some thing that I’m working on:

Connections. I noticed that K gave A something. Now, K is a minor character, and while I like K, the connection here was weak. Instead, I wondered how the story would work if C gave A that same thing. Much nicer! It brought back in a sub-plot/theme with C that I thought would never work into this part of the story.

Conflict and Tension. Yes, the mainstay of fiction is conflict and tension and you’d think I would have that right by now. Instead, I realized that I was relying on the external conflict and ignoring the internal conflict. What I needed was conflict to be within my main character, while at the same time, she is facing external problems. I had to go back paragraph by paragraph and make sure that the internal conflict was present, was related to the external problem and that it grew over the course of the story.

Pacing. I separated one long chapter into two chapters, making sure the ending of the first chapter was a cliff-hanger and the beginning of the next chapter had a good hook.

Verbs. Yes, verbs. As we all know by now, strong verbs make for good story language and a strong voice. And I was doing pretty well. But I noticed in this chapter that I was slacking off some. For example, I replaced “They stared” with “They gaped”, and later with “They gawked.” Subtle differences, yes, but important.

Characterization. I am confident that A is a strong character. But what about B, C, D, E, F, G? As I read through, I am looking for places to characterize them better.

When is a Novel Revision Finished?

Um, never. I think I could endlessly revise a novel and my friends will attest to that. But at some point, I’ve done all I can do without more feedback. With this final pass through, I’ll be at that point. It will be time to send the novel out into the world for someone to read and evaluate. Does that mean I am finished with revisions on this particular novel? Doubtful. Bu until some fresh eyes catch weak areas, I can’t see anything else to do. Soon, very soon, it will be on its way.

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41. Sentences: Control of Voice

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Creating the voice you want for your story or novel begins with Word Choices. It continues with control of your sentences. I emphasize control because many writers–well, they just write. Without consideration of sentence structures.

Sentences, as the basic building block of the written word, need careful attention. You can write long, short, simple, complex, parallel, convoluted or fragmented. Yes. Fragments work.

When do you use which sentence structure. Here’s where it helps to read your work aloud, listening for a smooth flow. Does the writing disappear and let the story come forward, or does the writing force you to stop and read again for clarity? Are there frequent stutters as the rhythm of the piece breaks down?

Where do you want the emphasis?

In Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, Joseph Williams takes a scholarly look at sentences and how to manage them. Of course, there are lessons on omitting the passive voice, creating strong subjects of sentences and making sure there is clarity throughout. He also speaks of putting the emphasis where you want it to be. For example, I often ask people to look at a paragraph and identify the most important word/phrase in that paragraph. Williams says the ends of sentences are positions of emphasis or stress. So, I ask the writers to reword the sentence and put the most important word last.

Consider the differences between these two sentences.

  1. The Revolution has begun.
  2. It was the beginning of the Revolution.

#1 is shorter and emphasizes that something has started.
#2 is longer and emphasizes there is a Revolution. It uses the “It was. . .” construction to push the important information to the end of the sentence. A careful writer would weigh the disadvantage of the weaker to-be verb with the advantage of putting the word “Revolution” in the position of stress.

The choice depends on where you want the readers to focus. It’s a choice that affects style, clarity and, of course, voice.

Here are other posts on using great sentences to create voice.

42. Voice Begins with Word Choices

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Voice begins with the right choice of words

Word choices matter!

Each story or novel has its own diction, or the group of words that could be used for this story. For example, a historical fiction would have different word choices than a romantic comedy. Of course, there’s lots of overlap, but each story has certain words that you would say are inappropriate or are exactly right. In other words, the story is a context for making choices; and each choice will affect the overall context.

  1. Word origins can make a difference: fire is a strong Anglo-Saxon word, while inferno is a Latin-based word.
  2. Length or syllable count matter: fire is single syllable, while inferno has three syllables.
  3. The connotations of words matter. Does inferno carry connotations of hell? While fire makes you think of a cozy campfire? Connotations can be personal, but they also are cultural and these nuances matter.
  4. The formality of words, from formal to informal, can change voice.
  5. Progressions–for example, comparative to superlative–also affect voice.
  6. Jargon is the specialized vocabulary for a subject: for example, in baseball, you would talk about steals, earned runs and RBIs. Slang is contemporary language that means something to today’s audience only.

Words That Mean Something Else

Classic rhetoric discusses tropes, or the ways that words are used. Sometimes we call this figurative language, but it’s mostly how the word is used. Here are some common tropes.

  1. Metaphor/Simile: Two unlike things are said to be alike. The comparison is implied for a metaphor, but explicit for a simile.
    Ex. Eating, he was a pig.
    He ate like a pig.
  2. Synecdoche: Part stand for the whole.
    Ex. He’s in trouble with the law. (Law stands for police or legal system.)
  3. Syllepsis: Use of one verb that is understood differently in relation to two or more objects.
    Ex. His boat and his dreams sank.
  4. Anthimeria: One part of speech is exchanged for another.
    Ex. They enrolled in parenting class. (Parent is a noun used as an adjective.)
  5. Periphrasis: Substitution of one or more descriptive words for a proper name.
    Ex. Blue-Eyes can croon a great tune.
  6. Personification: Attribution of human qualities to inanimate objects or abstractions.
    Ex. No one, not even rain, has such small hands. (e.e. cummings)
  7. Litotes: Use of understatement to intensify an idea. It usually involves denying the contrary.
    Ex. It isn’t very serious. I have this tiny little tumor on the brain. —J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
  8. Oxymoron: Juxtaposition of two contradictory words.
    Ex. To win is to lose.

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43. Developing Your Writer’s Voice

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Design Star Finds Voice

Last night, I watched HGTV crown the new “Design Star,” Meg Caswell. I had watched some throughout the season and the judge’s commentary always made me think of the writer’s voice.

One of the challenges of the Design Star is to meld entertainment and solid interior design, making information fun. While they are at it, the designers must also find their “voice,” their online persona that will carry the show. Much like novelist, they must find a way to bring their personality to bear on the material.

At one point, the judges warned Karl that his “nervous laugh” was getting in the way of his performance. We have nervous laughs, too.

A common commentary–for the Design Star and the novelist–is to relax and be yourself. Yeah, right. With millions watching you expect Meg and Karl to “be themselves”? With readers flocking to your book, your story, editors expect you to be yourself? That advice is helpful? NOT!

In fact, most advice about finding your voice or improving your voice, fail me. I can’t “dig deep into myself and find things I want to express.” I can’t “let my personality flow out through the pen onto the paper.” It’s too vague. I need something solid, something to try.

The Writer’s Voice

Today, I’ll start a series about voice and how to manipulate voice. I approach it not as a mystical thing, but as a matter of practical manipulation of the elements that writers have at hand: words, sentences, passages. We will look at each of these in turn and how they fit together to create the voice of a piece of writing. Join me for the next few weeks to talk about voice.

So, really–did you want Meg or Karl to win?
And–how would you define a writer’s voice?

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44. Five Things to Make Your First Page Shine!

The first page is your chance to make a strong impression with your teen reader! Don’t blow it! New York Times bestselling young adult author Rachel Cohn spoke at the 2011 Southern California SCBWI Writer’s Day event, and shared her list of the top five things you need on page one!

The Five Things To Look For In Your Opening Page:

1)     Voice

  • This is often said to be indescribable. “I’ll know it when I read it.” Is what we hear over and over.
  • Voice is the way you speak on paper.
  • Write as if you are talking to a friend.
  • Write honestly.
  • Don’t write logically. Follow the emotion.
  • Imagine a teen in your living room and you are telling them your story. How would you tell it to keep them engaged?
  • Read other books! Hear other author’s voices.
  • Some of Cohn’s favorite author voices are: Libba Bray, David Levithan, and Patricia McCormick.

2)     Tone

  • This is similar to tone of voice.
  • It is not what is being said but how it is being said.
  • This is related to the adjectives you use.

3)     World

  • You need to show the world your characters find themselves in.
  • This doesn’t have to be epic world building like Lord of the Rings or high fantasy or dystopian.
  • Worlds are smaller. Think about the world created by author Sarah Dessen as an example.
  • Communicate how your world works to your reader.
  • Think about how your mundane and ordinary world can be seen as extraordinary to a teen.
  • Your world needs to feel like paradise before you make it feel like a prison.

4)     The Plot

  • Outlining is good! It’s really helpful.
  • Plot is what happens in the story and the order in which it happens.

5)     Conflict

  • What is in your character’s way?
  • What does your character want?
  • Do the situations your character gets into get in the way of what they want?

Rachel shared the first page of three young adult novels which (in her opinion) contain all five elements – Voice, Tone, World, Plot, and Conflict. Pick up these books at your library and see if you agree!

Example 1: The Hunger Games by Susan Collins

  • Mention of the Reaping = Tone and Plot
  • Story with the Cat = Illustrates (show not tell) the bleakness of the world.
  • Establishes the protagonist is a hunter who provides for the family and is loyal.
  • The line about love immediately shows tone and conflict.

Example 2: Bumped by Megan McCafferty

  • We get the voice from the first line.
  • We get the tone from the use of slang and the sense of darkness and mystery. Yet at the same time it’s funny.
  • The prosthetic belly tells us information about the world.
  • Immediate Conflict = She must get pregnant.

2 Comments on Five Things to Make Your First Page Shine!, last added: 5/26/2011

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45. Long and Short: Sentences

Importance of Sentence Variety

My niece was here this weekend and we talked about her college writing experience. She said they try to change her habitual writing of high school into something more sophisticated. For example, they eschew the five-paragraph essay, rightly so. Instead, they look for more sophisticated structures.

But when I teach writing, I focus on not just on structures, but on the craft of writing itself. It begins with sentences, especially with sentence variety: long, short, simple, complex, convoluted, straight forward, building with a series, stopping abruptly, or continuing forward to complete a thought.

One of the most helpful things I ever did was work through The Art of Styling Sentences: 20 Patterns for Success. It forces you to look at sentences in all their simplicity, complexity and glory.

For example, do you know how–it’s really easy–to interrupt a sentence with another sentence and correctly punctuate it? The patterns encourage writers to gain control of their language and punctuation, to throw fear of commas and semi-colons and colons out the window, and start writing what they want to write.

Summer Challenge

Summer is a challenging time for some writers because kids are home. So here’s a perfect challenge for you, a challenge that will improve your writing with very little effort!

Are you holding back because you don’t know how to punctuate something? Try this summer challenge with a partner: each week choose a new sentence pattern and use it somewhere at least five times. Have your partner check up and make sure it was used correctly. The first few patterns are simple, but the book builds in complexity. You’ll come out of the summer with a stronger control of the language you use in any context, but it will particularly help your fiction. Really. (Isn’t THAT a great sentence fragment, used correctly? You need to control even those rogues.)

After you’ve worked through the patterns in this book, there are two a final challenges.

  • Write at least a 100 word sentence, correctly punctuated.
  • Correctly use a sentence fragment. Really.

NonFiction BookBlast Sunday, June 26, 2011. 8-10 am. ALA Conference in NOLA.

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46. Where Did the Summer Go?

Where did July and August go?

Computer Woes. First, my server has been wonky for the last two weeks–apologies. If you have any difficulty getting to pages, please send me an email so I can straighten it out (darcy at darcypattison dot com).

Travel. For me, this summer included a great two-week trip to China. Our friend of ten years was getting engaged and invited us to the engagement party. Wow, what a great trip. So much to see and do–and we did all the usual things. Beijing in July was very smoggy. But we had a couple clear days to climb the Great Wall and see the Forbidden City. My favorite part was wandering the streets, as you’ll see in this video of a street vendor blowing a caramel-sugar pig:

Research (NOT!) After China, I did research (NOT!). My friend, Dori Butler won the Edgar award this year for the best children’s mystery for her series, The Buddy Files. (IF you haven’t read them, you need to!) She’s working on a new mystery–duh! And doing research: she’s recently shot a Taurus 380 and a Glock 22.40.

Why can’t I do cool research, I wondered? So, I went and had my throat slashed. Well, technically, they called it minor surgery as they took out my thyroid. But I now have the personal experience to go with Dori’s to write that mystery thriller. Hmmm. Maybe I don’t like research so much.

Back to Normal. But all it well here in the mid-South. And I’m back in the saddle with lots of plans for fall!

Plans for Fall.

Random Acts of Publicity: By Wednesday, I’ll have the complete info posted on this fun week when it’s “All About Your Friend’s Book.”

  • And I’m planning a September series on the Writer’s Voice.
  • So, how was YOUR summer? Any interesting trips, research, writing? Please share your good news!

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    47. Christie Craig: Three Why Questions; Three Writing Tips

    Christie Craig
    Don't Mess With Texas
    Publisher: Forever Books
    Pub date: August 2011
    Agent: Kim Lionetti

    (Click to Buy)

    I get a lot of questions tossed my way. For today’s guest blog, I decided to answer three of them, along with three connecting snippets of writing advice.

    Why do you set all your books in fictional Texas towns?

    Most people are surprised to learn that I’m not a native Texan. However, I was only here a few weeks when I knew this was where I’d hang my hat. Texas and Texans are just . . . well, unique. I mean, where else is it illegal to put graffiti on someone else's cow, shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel, or own more than six dildos? Yup, those are real laws in this fine state; I know because I checked when I decided to live here. (Not that I’m into graffitiing cows, shooting buffaloes, or stockpiling dildos. I just like to know the laws of the land, so I can poke fun at them in my books.) So I guess what drives me to base my books in Texas is that this place is one of a kind. And since I try to write one-of-a-kind books, it fits. And for what drives me to use fictional towns, that’s easy. I don’t want to worry about getting geographical facts incorrect. Okay, I’m lazy and hate research.

    Writing tip #1: Using fictional towns equals less research and less hassle. You won’t get readers emailing you notes like: There isn’t a fifty-foot-high bridge in Spring, Texas, like you used in your book.

    Why do you add suspense and humor to your romance novels?

    Years ago, I published a sweet Silhouette Romance. Unable to sell a second book, I focused on my freelance career. I wrote words to feed knowledge-hungry individuals. I wrote about China, calligraphy, window fashions, tomato horn worms, and ugly shoes.

    Basically, if an editor would pay for it, I wrote it. After an eight-year sabbatical from fiction, I was desperate to return to writing novels. I announced my intentions to my family, my friends, and to the innocent bystander at the post office: I, Christie Craig, was going to publish another book even if I had to kill somebody to accomplish it.

    What I didn’t realize was that’s exactly what it would take. When I whacked my first person, guilt sat on my shoulders like a fat gorilla. But as soon as I washed the imaginary blood off my hands and reread my deadly scene, I had an epiphany: Nothing can liven up a party or a plot like a dead body.

    Since then, mystery and murder are prevalent in my work. Yes, there’s other stuff like romance, but I’m not sure I can write a story without having one person kick the bucket. Or at least having someone try to kick someone else’s bucket. Death or someone facing death excites me, and that comes across in my writing.

    As for the humor? A writer needs to stay true to their writing voice, and my voice is humorous. When I first started writing my funny suspense novels someone warned me that murder wasn’t funny. They’re right, but how people respond to it under duress can be a real belly-roller.

    Take Nikki Hunt’s situation in Don’t Mess With Texas: Nikki thought her night couldn’t get worse when her no-good cheating ex ditched her at dinner, sticking her with the expensive bill. Furious,

    34 Comments on Christie Craig: Three Why Questions; Three Writing Tips, last added: 8/29/2011
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    48. Novel Revision: 4 Goals to Polish Your Story

    It seems like all I am doing is printing out my WIP right now. Of course. Revising a novel is always a circular process.

    Get it Right the First Time

    Some authors get it right the first time; others claim to get it right the first time. For experienced writers, who are used to editing, it may be possible for a first or an early draft to be near perfect. Lucky you!

    Creep up on Right

    I am fairly experienced at novel revision and editing a text. But editing my own work is a matter of circling back, round and round, in a seemingly endless circle. I make changes here or there, but it’s hard to keep track of the flow of the story. Do those changes really do what I hope they do? Have I gone too far or not far enough?

    The only way to know is to read the story again from the beginning. Or later in the novel, I can pick a chapter to read from, but it needs to be 2-3 chapter ahead of what I just edited.

    Consistency. I am looking for consistency in voice and tone, and those can only be assessed when you look at longer passages.

    Holes. I am also looking for holes in the story. If I indicate in Chapter 8 that a beggar is one-legged, does he suddenly grow a leg in Chapter 12. Again, I need to look at longer passages for these types of details.

    Tension. I am always checking to make sure the story’s tension is as high as possible. Maybe a stronger verb will evoke stronger emotion, or maybe slight rewording will help. I’m at a fairly late stage of revising (it’s gone through several major revisions already and I’m confident of the overall structure by now) so I doubt it will need major re-structuring. Instead, this is probably some early polishing.

    Pacing. I am also monitoring myself: do I get bored at any point? Where did I stop paying attention to the words? If I bore myself, then I will bore the reader. Yes, I realize that part of the boredom is that I’ve read this novel upteen times. But there are parts that I happily read multiple times; and there are parts where I struggle to read it again. It’s those places that I evaluate for pacing issues: can I omit something to speed up the story? Can I reword it to speed it up?

    These are not conscious, check-off-a-list things I do, just what I try to keep in mind as I endlessly print, read, edit, print, read, edit. . .

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    49. 3 Tips for Consistent Tone

    If you find yourself having a difficult time sustaining one tone over a long work, try these three tricks. Find a paragraph that sounds exactly the way you want to sound for … Read more

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    50. Write a How-to Article in 6 Easy Steps

    A how-to is written as a sequence—first you do this, and then you do this. The essential question the writer asks herself when writing a how-to is, “What happens next?” If you are about to embark on a how-to, start at what you consider the beginning, and just keep answering that question over and over again. Before you know it, you will have sketched out a draft of a how-to article. Read more

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