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1. Multiple Perspectives

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By

Biljana Likic

biljana new picWriting from multiple perspectives is often a very rewarding way to convey the complexity of a plot. In stories that involve a lot of world-building, like high fantasy, it’s a good way of expanding the world you’re creating. You can better develop concepts like the reality of social status if your story that includes slaves isn’t entirely written from the viewpoint of a princess. You can also mess with readers. You can have a blacksmith plan to manipulate a swordsman, but when the actual manipulation is happening, it’s told from the swordsman’s oblivious perspective. There are few better ways to create those exciting situations where the reader knows what will happen but the character does not. There are even fewer better ways to orchestrate an event in such a manner that even the reader is unsure if what they’re reading is true, which of course keeps them reading.

Platitudes aside, there’s a massive, massive trap that everybody can fall into (and I most certainly have in the past) concerning multiple perspectives: too many viewpoints.

Consider this. You’ve come up with a world, you have your map, you mostly know what you want to happen, and you start writing. The general gist is a classic “Let’s overthrow the Villain,” where a whole cast of characters is developed through the archetypes of Hero’s support, Villain’s support, collateral damage, etc.

First we meet the Hero. This is where you describe the Eastern Flatlands the Hero’s living in. Then we meet the Thief, who’s out picking pockets in the Central Capital. Then comes the Villain, scheming in a remote castle on the Northern Coast, then the Mercenary trudging through the Western Alps, the Hunter in the Ancient Forest in the south, the Peasant in the Bread Bowl that’s consuming said forest…

Well that’s a wonderful lesson in geography, but I can almost guarantee you that people reading won’t give a damn about a single person from whose perspective the story has been told so far. That means there will be no investment, and when bad things start happening, they won’t care.

Why? Because the story’s being spread too thin.

When people invest in something, they expect returns. The first thing introduced is the Hero. The Hero will obviously be important. Afterwards, we have the Thief, Villain, Mercenary, Hunter, and Peasant. That’s five people established in their own separate geographical locations. If each person gets around 1500 words, then that’s at least seven thousand words about random people we don’t care about in places we can’t relate to, because the places are all new and the people are not the Hero. Before you know it, nearly 10k of your story has already gone by and you still haven’t even gotten around to the point where the Hero’s mentor dies. Not that we’ll care, because the last time we met the hero was thirty pages ago. By now, we’re already in love with the idea of a romantically attractive killer-for-hire in the mountains and wondering why he was replaced so quickly by boring hunters and peasants trying to feed their families.

So what happened here? It could just be that kind of story: you have six or seven big players around the edges of the world symbolically traveling towards the centre where they will find each other, interact, and blow our minds with how masterfully their stories end up weaving together. After all, in the grand scheme of things, 10k isn’t that many words, and if you develop the other voices well enough and make us invest in all of them, we probably won’t care as long as it’s good.

Ooooooor you spent so much time coming up with your world that your plot fell by the wayside. Moving on to a different character is less of a conscious decision and more of a way to procrastinate. Less, “This is excellent! I know exactly what will happen when I come back to the Hero!” and more “Mmmmmlet’s see…what does the Hero want now…I wonder what the Thief is doing…”

Because you know your world better than the people in it, you’re taking more time exploring it than your characters, and you end up writing about what it’s like to live in the Flatlands, on the Coast, or near the Alps, instead of focusing on your Kill the Villain plot. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this, just that it results in you writing an exploration of a land instead of writing what you originally wanted: a gripping tale of adventure and intrigue.

The point isn’t to explore the world. …Well, it is. But the bigger point is to explore the plot, and then what you see of the world through that is the icing on the cake. Focus too much on your world and you risk making your plot stagnate.

Admittedly, what I’m saying heavily relies on all of those perspectives being disjointed travel diary entries by characters of various vocations. It’s difficult to explain this without actually showing you a piece of fiction, because the skeleton of the work still has potential. But in the event that the cause of all these perspectives is, in fact, the helpless floundering of a writer with a world too large for the plot, there are a few things you can do about it.

First, admit it. That’s always the toughest, because by this point, you probably like all the character’s you’ve come up with along the way.

Second, kill off those characters. Or at least tuck them away for now. Keep them alive in your notes, but cut them down for the moment.

Third, and most important. Choose one character that will be the theme of your story.

Say the Hero is your theme. Spend time establishing that character so that we have some understanding of their life and motivations. Give them dreams and goals, and then gradually, gradually, LIKE REALLY GRADUALLY, start introducing more and more characters. But only if their story can somehow relate back to the story of the theme character. For example, the Hero needs to find X, and the Mercenary needs to find X. However, the first hint we hear that the Hero needs to find X isn’t until 10k into the story, and then we don’t find out what that X is until 50k in. So when would you introduce the Mercenary? After 10k, when the Hero has discovered that X must be found.

The Mercenary, who was once just a random hot dude wandering the Alps, is suddenly the Hero’s direct competition for X. That’s what makes us care about him. Now, slotting him in from time to time to break up the voice of the Hero will not only be an effective way to develop the western part of your land, but also a way to tease the reader with what the hell X could be and how it relates to the Hero.

As your plot develops, do the same with the other perspectives. If the Hero’s reading a rare book 4k into the story, and the book is one the Thief, all the way in the Capital, desperately needs, there’s your in for introducing the Thief. Then 35k later when the Hero’s finally visiting the Capital with the book in hand, let the Thief be a Thief and have them make contact. This will also give you the fascinating opportunity to recreate the city from the eyes of the country bumpkin Hero after dozens of scenes of the city through the eyes of the savvy Thief.

The idea is that even though these characters are so far away from each other, even though they have no clue who the other is, they’re all connected to the theme character through their desires and ambitions. They all relate back to something about the Hero whose influence, like a catchy hook of a good piece of music, can be found even in the parts of the story focused on other characters.

Another thing this will do (just by virtue of it being done) is drastically improve the flow of your story.

Alternatively, if you don’t approve of the idea of a theme character, you scrap everything I’ve said above and do this instead: make it so that the multiple perspectives are from characters who know each other. This usually depends on them being in the same geographical location, but if you don’t want a theme character and you have the luxury of the characters being in the same place, here is a different way to write your multiple perspectives.

Pick up all your characters: Hero, Thief, Villain, Mercenary, Hunter, Peasant. Drop them all into one place. Create relationships between them: the Hero and the Thief are friends, the Thief buys meat from the Hunter, the Hunter also sells meat to the Mercenary, who works for the Villain, who owns the land the Peasant tills. This way, they all indirectly know each other. Which means that the first scene with the Hero can maybe include the Thief. The next scene with the Thief can include the Hunter, etc. If the Hero’s perspective includes a character who later contributes their own perspective, at best it’ll be freaking awesome to know what that character was thinking while you were in the mind of the Hero, and at worst it’ll be an interesting addition that adds depth to the complexity of your story. Also, in this way, you don’t have to worry about how people will remember who’s who since they’re ever-present within the perspectives of the others, not only within their own.

But, like I said, it depends on their geographical location. It also depends on if they know each other at all. It depends on the kind of story you want to write, and if you’re at all willing to bend to the idea of a theme character.

Moreover, it depends, as always, solely and entirely on your plot.

Biljana Likic is working on her fantasy WIPs and has nearly completed her MA in Medieval Studies, from which she can’t wait to graduate so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can follow her on Twitter.

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2. Novel Craft: Pottery Lessons

Hi folks, I'm writing a series about how certain artistic skills enhance other artistic skills. I am an artistic and crafty person. I buzz around art. I will dip my toe into most forms of expression. There are a few that I've focused on and have found that those experiences have informed my novel craft. This week I'm going to talk about pottery lessons.


Once upon a time back in my college days, I had the time learn how to throw pots. I have found that those long ago pottery lessons have always been with me as a writer.  At first, you need much support to even begin to throw a pot.  Someone else chooses your clay. She walks you through how to prepare it. You are give many hints on how condition the clay to make it suitable for throwing. Beginning writers need this same kind of support. I needed others to help me recognize my viable ideas versus my dead-in-the water ideas. I needed advice on how to approach ideas so that I could even get on the road to producing something that would engage readers. Seek out help in the beginning. 

Throwing a pot is about finding the center of the clay, and getting all the other clay to revolve around that center. At first it feels impossible. The clay bulges in weird ways. It will even go flying off the wheel. My hands and elbows would be scraped.  I practiced again and again.  Experience is everything. Finally the day came. I slapped the clay on the wheel and pressed it with my hands, and the clay instantly centered.  I had to have confidence and a steady hand. The first important step to writing is finding that story center.  Stories revolve around their centers.  It took much practice to throw the clay of an idea onto the wheel of my imagination and then center it with the force of my will.  I always feel that sense of knowing when I center a pot or center of a story. It is unimaginably satisfying. 

One more pottery lesson, once a pot is formed and hardened, it's time to fire it. A glaze is applied to the exterior of the greenware.  This glaze will harden into shiny coating when extreme temperature is applied.  All stories must go through a refiner's fire to come to elegant completion. This is a dangerous time for a pot and a story. I have worked hard to get it to this place, but the refiner's fire can destroy my work.   Pots crack, Glazes wonk. You may end up with something very different from your initial vision. You may end up with a muddy mess that has to be thrown into the scrap pile. Stories are the same. In writing, the fire is revision. Revision may lead to a new novel or it may lead to a worthless disaster. Regardless, it is the only way to success.  You may feel fear during revision time. You are right to be afraid. You will have to apply your hottest thought force to make your finished story emerge, and there is a good chance you will fail. Writing is not for the faint of heart. 

I hope these pottery lessons help you on your journey. One more week of lessons is ahead. Drop back by for it. 

Here is the doodle.



Here is a quote for your pocket: 

Beautiful forms and compositions are not made by chance, nor can they ever, in any material, be made at small expense. A composition for cheapness and not excellence of workmanship is the most frequent and certain cause of the rapid decay and entire destruction of arts and manufactures. Josiah Wedgwood.

0 Comments on Novel Craft: Pottery Lessons as of 1/24/2015 3:57:00 PM
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3. Who is Your Narrator Talking To?

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by

Janice Hardy

Janice Hardy RGB 72Every story has a narrator–some narrators are the protagonist, others tell the tale as a group, and some lurk in the shadows or hover above the story like an all-seeing-eye. Whichever point of view style a writer chooses, it’s pointing at someone.

In grand terms, it’s the reader, but it can be more subtle than that. Some novels break the fourth wall and address the reader directly, while others have their characters exist in a world that feels like we’re watching on closed circuit TV.

All of these point of view styles can work, and one isn’t preferable over the other. But if you’re struggling with your novel, or feeling like your point of view is off in some way and don’t know why, or just want to kick you novel up a notch, it might be worth identifying a few things:

  1. Who is your narrator?
  2. Who is he or she talking to?

Answering these two questions can help you pinpoint who is at the center of your story and the best way to convey that story to your readers.

Who is Your Narrator?

In most cases, this will be easy to answer. A first-person novel is clearly narrated by the first-person character. Same with a tight third person perspective. Third person omniscient has an outside narrator. But when you add more characters or write with a medium narrative distance, the narrator(s) can become less obvious or even get lost. If you’re unsure, ask yourself:

  • What point of view am I doing?
  • Who’s story is it?
  • Am I inside or outside of the point of view character’s head?
  • Do I share any information the point of view characters couldn’t know?
  • Once you know your narrator, think about who she’s narrating the story to.

Who is Your Narrator Talking To?

A common trope (especially with first person) is to treat the novel as if the protagonist was writing or had written down her story. These are the events that passed at a certain point in a certain life. The narrator is literally talking to the reader, intending the novel to be read by someone. But take a step back and think about what that means to the protagonist–the “reader” means something different to her than it does to us, because in her mind, it’s someone living in her world. If she’s writing about her struggles to overcome a natural disaster, she expects her readers to know about that disaster and understand it on a personal level. She’s probably not picturing people sitting in a comfy chair at Starbucks while they sip a latte, but assuming they’re either going through the same thing or are reading it after they survived it. She might even be writing this story to help them survive it.

If you keep that in mind, it can guide you in deciding what that narrator is going to share with that reader–what aspects of the world she might think are vital, what she wouldn’t bother explaining because it’s so well known to everyone, what secrets she might reveal or lessons learned she might pass on. There are things the intended recipient of this story is going to need to know.

Conversely, a third person omniscient narrator is often more like a camera recording the event, relaying the information with little or no judgment, and letting the reader decide what it means. The point of view characters aren’t specifically talking to anyone, and they might not know they’re being recorded at all. People act differently when they think no one is watching, and you can use that to your advantage with this kind of narrator. The narrator is putting the information out there for whoever wants to view it.

Of course, the narrator might have an agenda. Maybe the novel is one big propaganda piece designed to make the narrator look good or someone else look bad. The story could be trying to convince people of a lie. Maybe the narrator does convince readers, or maybe she doesn’t and readers can see through that lie to the real truth.

The novel might show just one side of a larger issue. The story is the narrator’s take on what she feels is the truth, even if it’s not accurate. The story (or her part of it) is what she thinks happened.

Or, the narrator is only talking to herself. It’s her internal monologue, a private peek at her world and her life, and she hopes no one else ever sees inside that life.

Even if narrators never expects anyone to hear or read their stories, they’re talking to someone. And knowing who that is can be a great tool when crafting or polishing a draft.

Taking some time to consider who your narrator is and who she’s talking to can add another layer to the story. It can color the details and bring out a richness just “telling” the story doesn’t achieve. That “person” never needs to be revealed, but having an idea of who it is can guide you to making the novel feel like it has a greater purpose. It’s not just a book, it was a story written to serve a larger goal.

Who is your narrator talking to?

Janice Hardy is the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now. She lives in Georgia with her husband, one yard zombie, three cats, and a very nervous freshwater eel. Find out more about writing at her site, Fiction University, or find her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound

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4. From Pantser to Plotter

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Kat Zhang

Kat ZhangThe more I write, the more of an outliner I become. I literally started the first draft of What’s Left of Me with nothing but a blank word document and Eva’s voice in my mind. The world-building, the other characters, the plot, all developed over the course of that first draft.

Of course, that meant the first draft wasn’t very good. Characters switched names halfway through. Plot lines were dropped, changed, or added. Settings morphed from scene to scene. The second, third, and fourth drafts were wobbly as well, as I slowly distilled all those rambling words into a coherent story.

For a long time,I figured that this was just how I wrote. I’d tried outlining, and it just didn’t seem to work for me—one attempt, in particular, had scared me away because it all but killed my enthusiasm for the story I’d been trying to write. I was definitely an exploratory writer, and watching a story fall into place was one of my favorite things.

But as I started writing more, and started needing to write faster, I began reconsidering things. Unlike a lot of writers, I’ve often enjoyed revision more than drafting, because it wasn’t until I started revising that the story started becoming clear. Not only that, but I was beginning to feel frustrated by how many words I’d always end up throwing away as I wrote draft after draft.

So I decided to give this outlining thing a second whirl. And while it’s a work in progress, I think it’s going pretty well. The trick is to find the right kind of outlining for you.

Here’s a collection of “beat sheets” (the term comes from screenwriting, I think, but as I’ve said before, there’s a lot novel-writers can learn from screenwriting craft) to get you started: http://jamigold.com/for-writers/worksheets-for-writers/

If you scroll through those, you’ll see that there are beat sheets for internal conflict, external conflict, romantic arcs, character-growth arcs, etc, etc. Personally, I don’t use any one exclusively, but it’s nice to keep a roadmap in your head while you outline, even if you end up going off that roadmap a bit (it’s okay to break rules, after all, as long as you know what you’re doing and why).

Nowadays, I’ve figured out that my old outlines were less than useful to me before I focused too much on external events. It was a lot of “And then they do this, and then this happens to them, and then this happens, and then they travel here…” rather than internal motivations. So when I started trying to draft based on these outlines, I felt frustrated because it felt like shoving my characters from one situation to another without any natural progression.

Now that I’ve changed my outlining to focus on not only external conflict, but internal conflict (and, even more importantly, how the two tie together), the whole process has become a lot more useful. Not only that, but I’ve come to enjoy drafting way more than I did before, because all the waffling and exploration (and resultant dead-ends) now happen during my outline process, when it’s a lot less heartbreaking to set aside 1000 words worth of outlining than 10,000 words worth of drafting!

What about you guys? Any more pantsers-turned-plotters? Anyone sure that they’ll never be tempted down this plotting path? :P

Kat Zhang loves traveling to places both real and fictional–the former allows for better souvenirs, but the latter allows for dragons, so it’s a tough pick. Her novel WHAT’S LEFT OF ME is about a girl struggling to survive in an alternate universe where people are born with two souls, and one is doomed to disappear. It is the first book in a trilogy and was published by HarperCollins in September of 2012.  Book 2, ONCE WE WERE, released September 2013, and Book 3, ECHOES OF US, released September 16, 2014. You can learn all about Kat at her site, or listen to her ramblings on twitter.

 

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5. What happens in the middle?

by

Jodi Meadows

I’ve talked about beginnings (here, too) and endings (and here’s one from Sooz), but recently someone mentioned they’d really like some thoughts on middles.

A lot of times, when people get stuck in the middle of their book, it’s because they’re not totally sure what the middle is supposed to do.. Obviously the beginning sets up conflicts and the ending resolves them, but the middle? The middle is all opportunity to make things worse.

Here’s a handy numbered list.

1. Build on established conflicts.

Take a look at what you’ve already done. Build on that by reinforcing something the characters already know, or the reader knows, and show something in action.

  • If there’s a monster marauding through the city in the first part of the story but we haven’t seen it yet, this is a great time to give us a peek. (Cue JAWS theme.)
  • If someone’s threatened war, let them announce the war is on.
  • If there’s a plague, start killing side characters right in front of your main characters.

Show the reader that these conflicts you’ve set up are that serious by giving everyone a hint of what’s to come. The middle is the perfect spot for making everything real

2. Complicate established conflicts.

Yep, I’m counting this as different than building, because by complicating conflicts, you can use twists and reveals and other things to make everything worse.

  • Someone betrays our main characters.
  • Another character appears to shake things up.
  • The characters attempt to solve the problem and they make it worse.
  • Information is revealed and suddenly everything we thought was true is an awful lie.

I always feel like the middle is my last chance to introduce new complications to the story, be it characters or events. For me, introducing those later starts to feel a bit contrived, unless there’s a sequel and something at the very end happens to complicate the situation for the next book.

3. Nudge your characters toward the end.

You’ve just made everything awful. Give them something useful.

  • Information that can help them later (even if they don’t know it yet).
  • A hint about how they might solve the big problems.
  • Even give the poor characters a chance to plan to take some kind of action.

This is your chance to line up those last few dominos so everything can just go horribly (violently!?) wrong in the ending. Godspeed.

So, that’s my basic thoughts on middles. Anyone have anything to add?

Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy and THE ORPHAN QUEEN Duology (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen).
*A Kippy is a cat.

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6. New Year’s Resolutions: How To Make Them Stick!

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amie165c-twitter

First up: As you read this, I’m heading out on tour in the US! If you’re in Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, Miami, New York, DC or Asheville, I’d love to meet you! If you’d like a signed book but can’t make a stop, the stores can arrange one for you. This is the only time I’ll be in the US in 2015, so come say hi, and make sure you tell me you’re a Pub Crawler! Now, on to today’s post…

It’s that time of year, and most of us jump in every January with a pile of new resolutions. Then, in December, most of us remember them with a guilty start, and wish we’d done better. It’s okay to admit it — you’re in a judgement free zone!

So, how do we do better? How do we make sure the resolutions we make in January actually impact our lives in 2015? At the bottom of this post I’m going to invite you to share yours, and I’d love to hear at the end of the year how you went!

To get us started, here are some of my writing-related resolutions for 2015:

1. Read 52 books — one for every week.

2. Complete drafts of two novels.

3. Yoga at least 5 days a week.

4. Do better at taking evenings off from writing.

5. Average 10,000 steps per day.

If you’re pondering what sort of resolutions to make, I recommend Marissa Meyer’s post on Business Plans for Writers, which I use every year to get myself thinking about my goals.

Goals and Aspirations

The main thing is to remember that there’s a difference between a goal and an aspiration. One you control, the other you don’t. Goals should be measurable, and they should be things you can personally do.

For example:

Goal: I’m going to be ready to query by March, and send out my first ten queries that month.

Aspiration: I’m going to sign with an agent in 2015.

Goal: I’m going to finish polishing my draft and send it to my agent by May.

Aspiration: I’m going to sell a novel this year.

See the difference? And the great thing about the goals is that they’re easily broken down into steps.

Mini-Goals

If you want to send out ten queries in March, you can set up mini-goals for January and February around researching agents, and finishing polishing up your query and your manuscript. Those mini-goals can make all the difference. Rather than getting to March and realising you’ve got a bazillion things to do if you want to make it (and really, either not making it, or not doing it as well as you could), you can make sure you’re on track by breaking down your goal and putting it in your diary.

For Example

Let’s take my goals. How will I achieve them?

1. Read 52 books — one for every week. I’ll achieve this by keeping a spreadsheet and tracking whether I’m up to date. I’ll have a goal of five books for each month, which gives me a little wriggle room. I’ll have a ready-to-go queue of books sitting on my mantlepiece so I can easily grab the next one, and I’ll make a folder on my e-reader of books I’m planning on reading next.

2. Complete drafts of two novels. I’d better do this one, since they’re both due to publishers this year! In consultation with my co-authors, I’ll set up mini-goals for where we want to be each month of the year, so we know we’re tracking on time.

3. Yoga at least 5 days a week. I’ll achieve this by pairing up with an accountability buddy (an accountabilibuddy, vital to resolutions!) and scheduling a class every week with her. I’ve got an app that has my favourite routines on it, and I’ll make sure I check in with my buddy to report on whether I’m doing it the rest of the time. I’ve also enlisted my husband to work out with me a couple of times a week. (By the way, if this doesn’t sound like a writing-related goal, just eavesdrop on a group of authors… the subject of back pain will come up soon enough!)

4. Do better at taking evenings off from writing. One of the disadvantages of loving your job to pieces is that you’re not always very good at stopping! I’m going to be achieving this one by setting a hard stop time each evening, and I’ve put notes in my diary to check in with myself on whether I’m achieving it. I’ve also enlisted a couple of friends to check regularly with me.

5. Average 10,000 steps per day. My biggest ally on this one will be my beloved treaddesk, but of course it takes more than that! I’ll be using my Fitbit to make sure I’m averaging 70,000 steps each week, and I’ve added a bunch of buddies on there who have promised to taunt me if I fall behind!

So, time to share! What are your goals, and how are you planning on breaking them down and achieving them this year? I’d love to hear!

Amie Kaufman is the co-author of THESE BROKEN STARS and THIS SHATTERED WORLD, out now from  from Disney-Hyperion (US) and Allen & Unwin (Australia). You can also grab a free short story set in the Starbound universe! Her new trilogy will start with ILLUMINAE, coming from Random House/Knopf in 2015. She is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr or Facebook, or sign up to her mailing list for exclusive sneak-peeks and giveaways. Amie lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and rescue dog.

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7. Parallelogram 4 Now Available for Pre-Order!

Parallelogram 4

Happy 2015! And here’s a new book for you!

Parallel universes. Time travel. And a race for teen amateur physicist Audie Masters to save her own life before it’s too late.

Enjoy the exciting, mind-bending conclusion to the PARALLELOGRAM series.

You’ll never look at your own life the same way again.

I am BEYOND ecstatic to be able to tell you that PARALLELOGRAM (Book 4: BEYOND THE PARALLEL) will be coming out January 20, 2015, and is available right now for pre-order! Yes! Finally!

This final book in the series took me a long, long time to write (as those of you who have been waiting for it can attest), but you’ll understand why once you read it. It’s full of adventure, mystery, love, some very cool science, and the return of what I hope are some of your favorite characters.

In celebration of the final book coming out, each of the first three books in the series will be a mere $2.99, and the new book will be only $4.99–but only until January 20. After that, all of them return to their regular prices.

So if you haven’t read the first three books in the series yet, now’s your chance. I’m your book nerd friend who’s saying, “Come on! Come on! Catch up so we can discuss it!”

Can’t wait to hear what you all think. I truly wrote this series for YOU!

You can pre-order Book 4 from:
Kindle
Nook
iTunes
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8. Last Day of 2014

The year is practically over so here I am again with my annual recap of the year that was as well as a squiz at what’s gunna happen in 2015.1

Books Out in 2014

This was my first year with a new solo novel since 2009. Five years in between solo novels!2 I was nervous but it seems to have gone quite well.

Razorhurst was published in July by Allen and Unwin in Australia and New Zealand. The reviews have been blush-making. Including being named a book of the week by the Sydney Morning Herald, of the month from Readings Books and making Readings’ top ten YA books of the year and top 50 books by Australian women in 2014 lists, as well being the Australian Independent Bookseller’s No. 1 Children’s Pick for July. Although Razorhurst isn’t out in the US until March it’s already received starred reviews from the School Library Journal as well as Kirkus.

Then, best of all, earlier this month I learned that Razorhurst has made the shortlist of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award (Young Adult), which is one of the biggest YA prizes in Australia.3

So, yeah, I’m more than happy with how Razorhurst has been received. Pinching myself, in fact.

Books Out in 2015 and 2016

I will have three books out in 2015. Two novels and a short story in a wonderful new anthology.

resized_9781743319789_224_297_FitSquareIn India this month my story, “Little Red Suit,” was published in Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean edited by Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar and Anita Roy, but I’m going to pretend that’s 2015, as it will be published in Australia and New Zealand by Allen and Unwin in February. Isn’t that cover divine?

The anthology is an Indian-Australian collaboration with half the contributors from each country. Some of them worked in collaboration with each other to produce comics as well as short stories. I was partnered with Anita Roy and we critiqued each other’s stories. Hers is a corker. I can’t wait to see the finished book.

“Little Red Suit,” is a post-apocalyptic retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Fairy tales were the first stories I ever told so it was lovely to return to the form. As I’ve mentioned, once or twice, I am not a natural short story writer. They are much more of a challenge for me than writing novels. So much so that I kind of want to turn this story into a novel. (Almost all of my short stories are secretly novels.) I hope you enjoy it.

RazorhurstUSIn March Soho Teen will publish the US edition of Razorhurst. I am very excited and will be over there in the US doing events in California and New York and Texas and possibly some other states. I will keep you posted. Yes, the Soho Teen edition will be available in Canada too.

Then in October I’ll have a brand new novel out with Allen and Unwin.

Let’s pause for a moment to digest that: in October there will be a brand new Justine Larbalestier novel, only a year later than my last one.

I know, brand new novels two years in a row! I’ve become a writing machine!

The new novel hasn’t been formally announced yet so I can’t tell you much about it other than it’s realism set in New York City, told from the point of view of a seventeen-year old Australian boy named Che.

The new novel will be published in the USA by Soho Press in March 2016.

What I wrote in 2014

I spent this year writing and rewriting the new novel. As well as rewrites, copyedits and etc. of Razorhurst. My novels, they go through many drafts.

And, me being me, I started a brand new novel out of nowhere, inspired by . . . you know what, it’s still a tiny whisper of a novel. I’ll wait until there’s a bit more before I start talking about it in public.

Then just a week or so ago I got the idea for yet another novel. So who knows which of those I’ll wind up finishing this year.

I continued blogging and managed to blog roughly once a week for most of the year. The most fun I had blogging this year was doing the Bestselling Women’s Fiction Book Club with Kate Elliott. I was very bummed when deadlines and travel forced us to call it quits. Here’s hoping we can get it started again some time in 2015.

I plan to blog even more next year. Er, tomorrow. Blogging, I love you no matter out of fashion you are. *hugs blogging*

Writing Plans for 2015

Well, obviously, there’ll be more rewrites and copyedits and etc for the new novel.

Then I plan to finish one of the novels that came out of nowhere. After that, well, who knows? Will I finally get back to the New York Depression-era novel(s)? The snow-boarding werewolves? The fairy godmother middle grade? Or one of the many other novels I’ve been working on for ages? Or something else that comes out of nowhere? Given that my last three novels came out of nowhere that would be the safest bet.

All of this writing is possible because I’m still managing my RSI as I described here. I’m continuing to be able to write as much as six hours a day. The few times I’ve written longer than that I have paid for it. It’s good to know my limits.

Travel in 2014

I was in the US briefly in June and then again in Sept-Nov, accompanying Scott on his Afterworlds tour. It felt like we went everywhere. Both coasts! Or all three if you count Texas as the third coast. Also Canada. It went fabulously well. Scott’s fans turned out in great numbers and many book sold and I met heaps of wonderful librarians and booksellers and readers and writers and some of them had already read Razorhurst thanks to my wonderful publicist at Soho Press, Meredith Barnes. It will be fun to go out on the road again in March.

Reading and Watching in 2014

My favourite new writers are Brandy Colbert and Courtney Summers, who both write realist contemporary YA, which I’ve gotta be honest is not my thing. That’s why I read a tonne of it this year: to learn and to grow. Both Colbert and Summers are dark and uncompromising almost bleak writers. Their books made me weep buckets. But there’s heart and hope in their novels too. I’m really looking forward to more from both of them. Courtney’s next book, All the Rage, will be out in early 2015.

I also read heaps of non-fiction this year. A Chosen Exile by Allyson Hobbs is a wonderful history of passing in the USA, which centres those who chose not to pass as much as those who did, and looks closely at the reason for deciding either way and how they changed over time. African-American family life is at the centre of this excellent history.

One of my fave new TV shows is Faking It because it’s silly and funny and kind of reminds me of my high school days at an alternative school though, you know, more scripted. I also love Cara Fi created and written by a dear friend, Sarah Dollard, who is a mighty talent. It’s set in Wales and is sweet and funny and feminist and touching and you should all watch it.

2014 was awful but there’s always hope

Although 2014 was a wonderful year for me professionally it was an awful year in both of my home countries, Australia and the USA, and in way too many other parts of the world. I would love to say that I’m full of hope for change in the future. I try to be. The movement that has grown out of the protests in Ferguson is inspiring and should fill us all with optimism. But then it happens all over again.

In Australia we have a government actively undoing what little progress had been made on climate change and stripping money from all the important institutions such as the ABC, CSIRO and SBS. This is the most anti-science, anti-culture and, well, anti-people government we’ve ever had. The already disgraceful policy on asylum seekers has gotten even worse and Aboriginal Australians continue to die in custody.

Argh. Make it stop!

May you have a wonderful 2014 full of whatever you love best and may the world become less unjust. Speaking out and creating art that truly reflects the world we live in goes part of the way to doing that. At least that’s what I hope.

  1. Yes, here in Sydney it is the 31st of December. I’m sorry that you live in the past.
  2. Yes, I had a co-edited anthology and a co-written novel in those five years but you would be amazed by how many people do not count collaborations as being a real novel by an author. I don’t get it either.
  3. If you’re from the US think Printz or National Book Award only plus money. That’s right in Australia if you win a literary award they give you money. Bizarre, I know.

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9. Please Nominate Fiction Notes!


MERRY CHRISTMAS!

PB&J: Picture Books and All That Jazz: A Highlights Foundation Workshop

Join Leslie Helakoski and Darcy Pattison in Honesdale PA for a spring workshop, April 23-26, 2015. It's a great Christmas present to yourself or a writer friend! Full info here.
COMMENTS FROM THE 2014 WORKSHOP:
  • "This conference was great! A perfect mix of learning and practicing our craft."Peggy Campbell-Rush, 2014 attendee, Washington, NJ
  • "Darcy and Leslie were extremely accessible for advice, critique and casual conversation."Perri Hogan, 2014 attendee, Syracuse,NY


The Write to Done blog has opened nominations for its 9th annual writing blog recognition. Readers, you were kind enough to nominate Fiction Notes and it was named a 2013 Top 10 Blog for Writers.

Fiction Notes is named a Top Writing Blog of 2013

Fiction Notes is named a Top Writing Blog of 2013

Please nominate Fiction Notes for the 2014 award!

Blogging has its own rewards, of course, but last year’s recognition for this blog, has kept me motivated to provide you with another year of posts. Thanks for the nomination last year. And thanks for all your friendships!

Deadline for nomination is December 24, 2014.

Here’s the guidelines:
To Nominate your favorite writing blog, you need to do 3 things in the comments section of this post:

1. Nominate only one writing blog. If you nominate many blogs, even in different comments, only your first vote will be counted.

2. Specify the correct web address of the blog you’ve nominated. (Fiction Notes at darcypattison.com)

3. Give reasons why you believe the blog you’ve nominated should win this year’s award.

Thanks so much! My motto is always, “I believe in YOUR story.”
I hope you also believe in Fiction Notes.


Darcy

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10. Gifts: Hope and a Future

Hi folks,

I'm continuing my series called Gifts.  In the Bible, in the book of Jeremiah, there is a startling prophesy that so resonates with me. A holy people have been sent into exile for seventy years, and they really need to know what is coming to put up with this long exile.

The Lord spoke to his people through Jeremiah.  He sent encouragement. I don't know if you have ever read something that you felt was speaking to your situation and your life.  I feel that about these words in Jeremiah.  This is what I hear.

Your writing life isn't where you want it to be right now, but I am the one who brought you to this place. Don't despair. I want you to keep writing and keep helping other writers. Enjoy any small success that comes your way. And also, the things you learned back you were in the thick of it, I want you to think about those things. Let your creative self prosper and don't complain that you don't have a place to share a voice, that you don't even know how to get there. That's a waste of your time.

Don't keep on taking on projects that aren't your vision. Those things are just wasting your time. You have to keep waiting and that might be for a very long time.  But I've got a plan and I'm going to put your writing life back together. I have plans for you, plans to help you write brilliant stories, plans to give you a hope and a future. Be patient. Wait for it. The good days are ahead. 

Hope this stirs you up like it does me. I hope that here words that speak to your situation and your life. I hope those words help you stay on the path. I am so glad we are journeying together. 


Here is the doodle. 


Here is a quote for your pocket. 

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves. William Shakespeare. 

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11. The Benefits of a Small Writers’ Conference

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by

Janice Hardy

Janice Hardy RGB 72Attending a writers’ conference can be both exhilarating and terrifying, but it’s almost always rewarding. There’s something wonderful about being in a room where everyone around you has the same passion, and no matter who you happen to sit next to, you know you have something in common. I always come away from a conference re-energized and ready to write, but I know not all writers share my enthusiasm about being around that many people.

If the idea of a large conference makes you nervous, then consider a smaller, local conference. These events can range from 20 to 250 people, with smaller workshops and a more relaxed crowd. Even better, local conferences are usually easier on the budget, but offer just as many helpful workshops and opportunities to meet agents and editors.

You’ll be able to:

  • Meet local writers and form friendships and/or critique groups
  • Interact with authors and conference faculty in a more intimate setting
  • Network with people in your area, from authors to editors to agents
  • Build confidence to attend a larger conference in the future
  • Work on your “professional author” skills in a smaller, less intimidating atmosphere
  • Attend workshops and sessions from top industry professionals
  • Get a feel for what you want from a conference in the future

Even if you enjoy large conferences (1000+ people), a smaller conference can be equally rewarding, and a nice change of pace. I find a mix of sizes provides me with the best variety of social, networking, and educational options. Sometimes I want as many workshops and I can get, other times I’d rather relax and have fun.

Finding a Local Writers’ Conference

In most cases, just Googling your state and “writers conference” will get you a list of possibilities, as most states have some kind of writers’ organization. Many of these have one or two events a year, from conferences to smaller meet and greets to single workshops at libraries or bookstores.

If you write genre, try looking at the local chapters of your national organizations. For example, my personal chapter of SCBWI is Southern Breeze, and they hold two conferences a year, plus workshops and other events all year round. Most genre organizations offer events as well. Here are a few to get you started:

Romance Writers of America (RWA) with over 145 local chapters

Society of Childrens’ Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) with over 80 regions around the world

Mystery Writers of America (MWA) with eleven regional chapters across the US

These are just a few of the organizations and local events, and there are a lot more if you check their individual sites.

Why You Should Attend a Local Writers’ Conference

To get out and meet people: Most of us write in a vacuum. We sit in a room somewhere, typing on a keyboard or scribing in a notebook, and we don’t mingle with our fellow writers. Maybe once in a while we attend a critique group or have lunch with writer pals, but for the most part, we’re alone.

This can lead to uncertainty and doubts about what being a writer is all about and what’s “normal” for writers. It’s easy to feel that bout of writer’s block means you suck as a writer when you don’t have other writers telling you they go through the exact same thing and feel the same way–and that it means nothing beyond you happen to be stuck right now. A local writers’ conference allows you to meet other writers and get a healthy perspective on this crazy profession.

To network: Besides being fun, you’ll meet people who might be able to help you in your career, or those you might be able to help in return. There are great networking opportunities that will be valuable no matter what stage you’re at in your career. Just because you’re a newbie now doesn’t mean you can’t make friends and contacts for when you do publish.

To learn: There’s only so much we can learn on our own, and a conference exposes us to different ways of thinking, writing, and being a writer. Aside from the workshops and sessions, it’s an opportunity to talk with other writers and learn from their experiences.

Even if a small conference can have value and they’re worth exploring. Check out what local conferences and events are in your area and see what they have to offer.

And if you happen to be a kidlit writer (picture books to young adult novels), might I suggest the upcoming conference from my own local chapter of SCBWI? Registration for Springmingle ’15 just opened, and this is a wonderful, relaxed conference for those who write for children and teens. It’s in Decatur, GA this year, so not only is it a great conference, but a fun weekend away–the downtown Decatur area is filled with shops and restaurants and things to do, and it’s all walking distance from the conference.

What are some of your favorite writers’ conferences?

Janice Hardy is the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now. She lives in Georgia with her husband, one yard zombie, three cats, and a very nervous freshwater eel. Find out more about writing at her site, Fiction University, or find her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound

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12. Five Tumblrs for Writers

by

Alex Bracken

Alex

When I first joined Tumblr in 2009, I recognized it as a paradise for fandom–practically every fandom under the sun. I was a refugee from Livejournal, looking for a little corner of the internet that was–then at least–a little quieter. What I didn’t expect, though, was for it to provide invaluable writing resources as well.

Over the years, I’ve slowly gathered a list of writing-related Tumblr blogs that I read if not every day, at least every single week. Here are five, in particular, that I think are worth a visit. If you’re unfamiliar with Tumblr, or don’t have an account, I highly recommend bookmarking them and coming back to them later.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 11.00.55 AM

In the mood to write, but waiting for the muse to stop by for a visit? While it’s not updated as frequently as it used to be, there are a lot of gems to be mined from Writing Prompts if you’re looking for inspiration or are looking to practice or experiment with different forms.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 11.01.09 AM

I’ve really come to love reading Writing with Color, a Tumblr that focuses on bringing racial and ethnic diversity into writing and helping others identify microaggressions, stereotypes, and tropes in their stories. They also provide fantastic starting points for research, and talk a great deal about diversity in fantasy settings.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 11.02.15 AM

The Writing Cafe is a fantastic resource for… well, just about anything. I mean, look at their tags page! If the idea of following a zillion Tumblrs feels daunting to you, try TWC. In addition to creating a lot of extremely helpful, original material for the site, they also have a great eye for reblogging others’ advice and guides.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 11.02.51 AM

The one kind of scene I invariably struggle to write is the fight scene. Aside from just not knowing that much about fighting and weaponry in general (nevermind how quickly someone would actually die from a wound), I still struggle with making the scene’s action clear enough to the reader that they can always picture it. Enter How to Fight Write.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 11.08.24 AM

Last but definitely not least, we have Write World. Like The Writing Cafe, they focus on all facets of writing–in their words “education and inspiration.” I’m obsessed with the images they use for their visual writing prompts. I even have their words list page bookmarked so I can get to it in a single click while drafting.

So tell me, have you guys found any helpful Tumblrs for writers out there? Share the wealth!

Alex lives in New York City where she writes like a fiend and lives in a charming apartment overflowing with books. She is the New York Times bestselling author of The Darkest Minds and Never Fade. You can visit her online at her website, Tumblr, or Twitter.

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13. Books vs. Babies!

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by

E.C. Myers

me_and_rPeople sometimes talk about books as if they are babies, raised by the author and ultimately sent into the world to make their fortunes. We even wish authors a “happy book birthday” on their publication day! In the last month, I’ve been thinking about the similarities and differences between “book babies” and actual babies, since I’m in the position to compare the two directly; as it happens (as it was meant to happen), my new book and our first baby were both scheduled to debut in the first week of November. :-o

My son turned up a little early, which made the launch of The Silence of Six slightly easier, but it has still been an interesting experience juggling my new life as a father with my life as a writer with a day job. I decided to put books and babies side by side in the chart below. Like books and babies, it’s still a work in progress, and I left a few things out. Do you have anything you would add or disagree with? Let me know in the comments below!

BooksvBabies

(click to embiggen)

E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and the public library in Yonkers, New York. He is the author of the Andre Norton Award–winning young adult novel Fair Coin and Quantum Coin, as well as numerous short stories. His new novel, The Silence of Six, a thriller about teenage hackers and government conspiracies, is out now from Adaptive Books. You can find traces of him all over the internet, but especially at http://ecmyers.net and on Twitter: @ecmyers.

 

 

 

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14. Taking Risks in your Writing

Julieby Julie Eshbaugh

~~~

The seed of this post began as a reflection on my own writing choices – the constant desire to create something new and original on the page, pitted against the awareness that any break with writing conventions and norms carries with it a certain level of risk. Will readers feel drawn in by this choice, or will they find it off-putting? Is this a bold break with tradition, or is it a gimmick? Risk can be terrifying, (especially for an unpublished writer,) but I’m a strong advocate for risk-taking, and the aim of this post is to help you discover the best risks for your story.

What do I mean by taking risks?

Risk is a broad term. Dictionary.com defines it as exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance. Reading that definition, it’s difficult for me to see how I’m going to make a convincing argument in favor of risk-taking! Even dictionary.com’s example of the word used in a phrase is negative – their example is: not worth the risk. Wow! So much risk aversion!!!

Even when narrowed down to the art of storytelling, the concept of risk is still quite broad and could represent a zillion different things. A writer weighs many choices as he or she forms a new story – the setting… the age, gender, race, etc., of the characters… the time period… the point of view… and on and on and on. Every choice could represent a type of risk to the story. For purposes of this post, however, I want to focus less on the story and more on the telling of the story. I want to talk about narrative choices – risks that a writer might take in deciding to employ a style or structure outside of the norms or expected conventions.

For clarity, let me share some examples of books and films that took narrative risks and succeeded.

(*Spoiler Alert* Most of the narrative “secrets” of these stories are well known, but I personally hate even the tiniest of spoilers. Most of these are harmless, but if you haven’t read Atonement or seen The Sixth Sense – and somehow haven’t been spoiled to their secrets – please skip my notes about them! I would hate to be the one who spoiled these for you!):

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – A book narrated by Death himself.
  2. Monster by Walter Dean Myers – The story of Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in juvenile detention and on trial, presented as a screenplay of Steve’s own imagination.
  3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – The story of a boy named Charlie, who describes the events of his freshman year of high school through letters to an anonymous stranger.
  4. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov – A foreword, a 999-line poem by a fictional poet, and a commentary to the poem combine to form the story of the novel.
  5. Atonement by Ian McEwan – A “story within a story,” but the reader is kept unaware of the nested story until well into the book.
  6. The Sixth Sense (a film by M. Night Shyamalan) – The main character can only be seen by one other character, a narrative manipulation that is hidden from the viewer until late in the story.
  7. Memento (a film by Christopher Nolan) – A story presented as two different sequences of scenes: a black-and-white series of scenes in chronological order, and a color series of scenes shown in reverse order. The two sequences converge at the end of the film, creating a unified story.

These are just a handful of examples, but I hope they convey the breadth of stories that can be successfully told outside of the standard conventions of form. I also hope they demonstrate the value of risk-taking. Looking back at these from the perspective of the present, knowing what we know, for instance, about the way readers have embraced The Book Thief, it may not seem like Markus Zusak took a risk by casting Death as the book’s narrator. But as he was writing, Zusak couldn’t have known how this break from narrative norms would be received. Fortunately for us as readers, he took a chance.

When a break from traditional structure succeeds, it’s often because the choice complements and magnifies the story and all of its elements – character, setting, theme, etc. When such a choice fails – when it calls attention to itself and distracts the reader – it’s often because it doesn’t add to the story, but instead stands out against it in a false and gimmicky way.

So how do you get it right? How do you ensure that your choice to abandon some narrative norm improves rather than detracts? I would suggest that you consider the following:

  1. Your own personal judgment as a writer – How do you feel about this choice? If you’re passionate about a unique narrative structure for your story, you’re probably onto something. Trust your gut.
  2. The advice of trusted readers and your agent – Your critique partners and beta readers may love your choice… they may hate it. They may fall somewhere in between. Weigh their input. Ask for the basis of any reservations they may have. Remember that critique partners and beta readers want your story to succeed. Of course, if you’re fortunate enough to be working with an agent, he or she will have an opinion, too.
  3. Let the story itself be the ultimate judge – Ask questions like: Is this choice illuminating the story, or getting in its way? If I went with a more traditional form, would the story shine more brightly, or dim from a loss of energy? Why?

All this advice can be reduced to one essential truth: the ultimate goal of a writer is to tell the best story in the best way possible. Serve your story. Use conventions. Take risks. Tell the best story you can.

What are your own feelings about narrative structure? Are you a risk-taker, or do you prefer to follow traditional form? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

~~~

Julie Eshbaugh writes fiction for young adults. She is the author of the upcoming Ivory & Bone (HarperCollins, 2016) which (incidentally) has been described as having “a unique narrative structure.” You can add Julie on Goodreads and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

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15. 5 Tips for Researching a Novel & Cover Reveal!

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by

Meredith McCardle

The Eighth Guardian

I, Susan, am a huge time travel dork. Like, I grew up on a steady diet of both time travel fiction and just straight science time travel books, so when I say that The Eighth Guardian is one of the BEST time travel books out there, I think I’m pretty qualified to make that assertion. ;)

Now, imagine my ABSOLUTE delight when the author of The Eighth Guardian, Meredith McCardle, asked if she could do a guest post + cover reveal on Pub(lishing) Crawl? Cue FREAK OUT!

And as if that wasn’t awesome enough, Meredith and Amazon have been kind enough to donate a Kindle Paperwhite!!! So scroll down to enter that giveaway–and to check out the Blackout cover!

Now, onto Meredith’s guest post!

5 Tips for Researching Your Novel

1. Wikipedia is a great place to start, but it probably shouldn’t be your only source.

Wikipedia is great for the small things—like figuring out who the candidates were in a gubernatorial election in the 1870s. But for the really big stuff, definitely branch outside of Wikipedia. In BLACKOUT, one of the biggest missions that Iris goes on is to Washington during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Wikipedia was great for giving me a basic timeline of the crisis—when the US discovered the missiles on Cuba, when President Kennedy addressed the nation, that sort of thing. But Wikipedia can’t give you a feel for how terrifying it must have been to be living on the eastern seaboard of the United States in October 1962. It won’t let you experience the protests that built outside of the White House every day. For that, you have to go deeper. These are some of my favorite sources for further research:

  • Museums and museum websites. There are museums for everything. Many times, you’ll find they maintain really excellent websites with a lot of information and videos readily available.
  • Books! Good ole’ fashioned history books, to be exact. I’ve made fast friends with my local librarians who are always willing to escort me to the right shelf or track down a book through inter-library loan if I need it.
  • There’s a reason 90% of my Netflix suggestions are documentaries.

2. YouTube is a godsend.

You really can learn to do just about anything on YouTube. It’s taught me how to pick a lock. It’s taught me how to defend myself against both a knife attack and a gun in my face. You can also find a lot of documentaries on YouTube that aren’t available on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Google Image Search is also a godsend. Not quite sure what a civil war-era rifle looks like? Want to know what a well-heeled Colonial woman wore? Google images! (But brace yourself because you never quite know what you’re going to get. And do me a favor and never, ever, ever do an image search for gangrene. Trust me on that.)

 3. For settings, primary research is best, but it’s not a total necessity.

I set both THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN and BLACKOUT primarily in Boston because I know that city very well. I lived there for several years. But there are scenes in the books that take place in New York City, Washington D.C., and Vermont, places I’m far less familiar with. And as much as I would love to research all the places I mention in my books specifically, it’s not always logistically (or financially!) feasible. But I have friends who live in those places. I have Google Earth. I have access to all sorts of historic maps. As long as you spend the time researching the setting, you can skate by without buying a plane ticket.

 4. When is it time to stop researching?

Have you ever fallen down a research hole? I know I have. The Kennedy assassination plays a huge role in THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN, and I’m sure you can imagine the sheer volume of information out there on it. I turned THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN in to my editor nearly two years ago, and had I attempted to read everything I could find on the assassination and all of its various conspiracy theories, there’d probably still be a stack of library books on my nightstand. And by probably, I mean definitely. So here’s a good rule of thumb that I learned from my days as a lawyer: When you’re running into the same information over and over again in different sources, you probably have a good enough base knowledge. Move on!

 5. Keep your notes.

You’ll need them when you revise. I am a huge fan of printing out every tiny little thing I find on the internet that might be useful. (I’m currently leaning over a full copy of the Geneva Convention in order to get to my keyboard). The papers will pile up on my desk, I’ll scribble notes directly on them, and then once I have a complete first draft, I punch holes in the papers and stick them in a three-ring binder. It’s kind of a pain to organize everything at once, but it makes life so much easier later on. And trust me, you’ll use them later!

Oh my gosh, having written historical with LOADS of research, I (Sooz) cannot emphasize #5 enough! I was so disorganized with all my research in book 1, and it made copyedits as well as sequel-writing a giant pain in the butt! So be organized and be fastidious!! Meredith’s right that it will make life easier later on.

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for ;)–the cover for the second Anum Guard book, Blackout!

Blackout

Seventeen-year-old Amanda Obermann (code name: Iris) has more on her mind than usual. As a member of a covert government organization called the Annum Guard, which travels through time to keep history on track, Iris has been getting some particularly stressful assignments. Plus, Jane Bonner, the Guard’s iron-fisted new leader, seems determined to make life as hard as possible. Thankfully, Iris has Abe (code name: Blue), her boyfriend and fellow Guardian, who listens to her vent—and helps her cope with her mentally ill mother’s increasingly erratic behavior.

When Guardians start to disappear on their assignments, Iris makes a terrifying discovery: a “blackout” squad is targeting anyone who gets in the way of a corrupt force that’s selling out both the Annum Guard’s missions and Guardian lives. Together, Iris and Blue must go undercover to untangle the Guard’s elaborate web of secrets and lies. But when Iris discovers that the terrible truth may involve her own father, a former Guardian undone by his own greed, she must decide how much she’s willing to risk to rescue her friends…and how dangerous the consequences will be for all of humanity.

A thrilling time-traveling adventure that spans from Abraham Lincoln’s assassination to the Cuban Missile Crisis and back to the present day, this pulse-pounding sequel to The Eighth Guardian reveals that playing with time can turn into a deadly game.

I have read Blackout, and I can honestly say it is just as good as The Eighth Guardian, if not more so. Meredith really takes the stakes up a notch, and aaah! SO much tension!! (I really love this series, if you can’t tell.)

So, if you’re interested in starting the series or reading an early copy of Blackout OR just getting a shiny new Kindle Paperwhite, be sure to fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Meredith McCardleMeredith McCardle is a recovered lawyer who lives in South Florida with her husband and two young daughters. Like her main character, she has a fondness for strong coffee, comfortable pants, and jumping to the wrong conclusions. Unlike her main character, she cannot travel through time. Sadly. The first book in the Annum Guard series, THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN, was released in May of 2014 by Skyscape. The second title, BLACKOUT, releases January 13, 2015.  Learn more about Meredith on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.

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16. 3 Reasons I Failed NaNoWriMo – and Why It’s OK


30 Days to a Stronger Novel Online Video Course: ON DEMAND



I am a failure.
I signed up for NaNoWriMo–again. And again–I failed to make 50,000 words.

But I have good reasons.

World Building. I did massive work this month on world building. Since I’m writing a science fiction novel, I needed to invent technology, figure out where to locate installations, design the installations to meet the needs of my sff characters and the needs of the story, create scientifically accurate details throughout, along with the usual backstory.

I used Google Earth to investigate Mt. Rainier and the surrounding area, worked on backstory and characterization, and dug into the details of scenes. Many scenes that are still to be written have been written about; that is, I’ve written notes about who, what, when, where, why and with what emotion. When I do sit down to write the scene, it should go quickly.

November is Hard. I’ve never understood the decision to make November the NaNoWriMo month; it’s one of the busiest months for me. Arkansas has a major reading conference, besides the Thanksgiving holiday. All together there were 7-8 days I simply could not write because I was busy all day with other activities. For me, burning the midnight oil does no good, but at that hour, all I can write is crap. Still, I wrote steadily on the days that I could and made progress.

Writing Style. Fashion swings wildly. Many editors believe that writing should take a long, long time. The fad in the Indie world these days is very rapid writing. In the end–I write as fast as I can and still turn out something that pleases me. I must please myself, not an editor or a contest like NaNoWriMo or anyone else. I can only write as fast as I can write.

My Speed is OK

BlueOKIt’s really OK that I didn’t write 50,000 words this month.

  • I had a great time at the Arkansas Reading Association conference.
  • I had a great time with my family.
  • I wrote about 32,500 words, which is 32,500 words more than I started the month with. More than that, I know my characters better and know that it was a very good month of work.

That’s all I can say.

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17. Thank You for Being a (Writing) Friend

Writing Life Banner

by

Janice Hardy

Janice Hardy RGB 72Writing is a solitary endeavor, but that doesn’t mean we do it all alone. We have writers’ groups, beta readers, crit partners, and online friends to help motivate and support us. And since it’s the time of year to be thankful for things, now’s a good day to let those folks know how much you value them.

Give hugs to all your writer pals, especially the ones who have stood by you through rejection after rejection, bad reviews, or terrifying bouts of writer’s block. Celebrate their successes and remind each other of the victories you’ve had along the way.

Tell your critique partners why you find their feedback so helpful and how much it aids you in making your stories the best they can be. Be specific about their strengths and what unique view they bring that no one else can. Make sure they know their value, both to you, and as a critiquer.

Let your beta readers know their insights and observations are always just what you need to fix the problems in your manuscript. If they’re not writers, they might feel they have little to offer, and knowing that a reader’s opinion can be even more valuable than another writer’s can make them feel appreciated and confident.

Thank your online bloggers for their advice and generosity, as most of them blog because they love it and enjoy helping their fellow writers. Let them know they’re appreciated and how their words have helped you (and how many of their posts you might have saved or bookmarked).

Show a little love to your commenters. Let them know that they brighten your day with their questions and comments, and that you look forward to those daily (or weekly) discussions.

And last, but not least, give thanks for those in your life who don’t understand this whole writing thing but stick by you anyway, give you time to write when you need it, don’t mind when you drop everything to scribble down a plot idea or a great piece of dialog, who don’t even roll their eyes anymore when you rip apart a bad plot on TV.

It’s easy to get caught up in our work and our lives, so sit back, take a look around and see all the wonderful people you have by your side.

Thank you all.

Who are you thankful for?

Janice Hardy is the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now. She lives in Georgia with her husband, one yard zombie, three cats, and a very nervous freshwater eel. Find out more about writing at her site, Fiction University, or find her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound

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18. Generating New Ideas

by Julie Eshbaugh

~~~

Julie

Where do your ideas come from? This can be a difficult question to answer, since usually, an idea seems to come out of nowhere. One day you’re driving in your car or washing dishes and an idea starts to glow in your mind like the sun coming up, or maybe it glares down on you all at once, as if dark clouds were suddenly blown away and there it is – hot and bright and obvious.

Since ideas seem to come unbidden, it might seem that we writers have no control over our ideas. They come on their own, after all, not when we call to them (no matter how nicely we call…) but when we least expect them. But I would argue that these seemingly random ideas are actually the product of a subconscious mind that has been “trained” to be searching for them at all times.

Maybe this sounds very mystical or pseudo-psychological (because, well, maybe it is…) but if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share four suggestions to prime your mind to subconsciously formulate story ideas:

Always ask “what if?” You may have heard never to open a query letter with a hypothetical question, but that shouldn’t mean that hypotheticals are useless to writers. Most of us think this way already. If it rains for three days straight, we say, “Imagine if this were snow!” If it starts to storm, we say, “Imagine if you were catching a flight on a day like today!”

Since most of us already think this way, I’m simply suggesting you take your questions a bit further. You may ask yourself, “What if it never stopped raining ever again?” or “What if all this rain were acid and it destroyed everything it touched?” You may think of the flight taking off in a storm and ask, “What if two long separated lovers were seated next to each other in a jet taking off in dangerous weather?” or “What if lightning hit an engine just as a hijacker was storming the cockpit?” Just pushing your “what ifs” a bit further will jump start your imagination.

Never accept that there is only one solution to a problem. If you have to pick up Mary from cheerleading and Rebecca from field hockey, and they are ten minutes apart and you have only five minutes to make the trip, you can probably figure out at least one solution. Maybe Mary catches a ride with another family. There’s a solution, so the problem is solved. But as writers, shouldn’t we train ourselves to come up with a few extra solutions? Rebecca could walk to the local library and wait there. Mary could ride her bike to practice so that you only need to worry about Rebecca. Writing is all about obstacles and overcoming them, so train your mind to look for more solutions than you’ll ever need.

Ask questions like a child. I remember when my son was small he would ask questions all the time. “How does an antenna work?” “Why do fluorescent lights make my skin look blue?” “How does the TV find the right show when you change the channel?” I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I had to answer, “Go ask Dad.” Shouldn’t a grown woman know how an antenna works? And if she doesn’t, shouldn’t she be anxious to find out the answer? Unfortunately, as we get older, we let the day-to-day questions – “How am I ever going to pay the cell phone bill?” – crowd out the questions that lead to much more creative thinking.

Read widely. While it’s important to read in the genre you write, I personally believe writers should read all kinds of fiction, as well as magazine articles, current events, travel stories, and even science journals. A few years ago, when the Chilean miners were trapped, I developed a voracious interest in Chile, and tried to read as much as I could about a country I’d rarely thought about before. Not long after that, a photo on a magazine cover spawned a frenzy of research into Machu Picchu. To date, I’ve never used anything I learned about Chile or Machu Picchu in any of my fiction, but it has helped train my mind to imagine different environments, and the lives of the people who live there.

Do you have unique methods for generating ideas? Do you already practice any of these habits? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

~~~

Julie Eshbaugh writes fiction for young adults. She is the author of the upcoming Ivory & Bone (HarperCollins, 2016.) You can add Julie on Goodreads and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

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19. The Between Book

by Adam Silvera

I recently turned in two YA novels–one to my publisher, the other to my agent–and then I didn’t know what to do. It was the first time in all of 2014 I wasn’t on a deadline. I have plenty ideas for what I want to do next, which is great but also problematic. Do I try out one of these ideas with the November beast that is National Novel Writing Month? Do I take a couple weeks to reenergize? I can’t not write, but I also don’t feel 100% ready to throw myself into a new book just yet. I opened a new file and saved it as The Between Book.

The Between Book is my playground to keep my creative muscles flexed while I’m in-between books. The premise is whatever I want it to be. It can be a about a a boy with so many misfortunes that he thinks the gods of all religions must be in some sort of celestial court betting against him. Or it can be about a girl who is creating a coloring book for her one year anniversary with her girlfriend. ANYTHING! The only rule I have is that I must narrator-hop when one character touches another. This way, when it’s time for me to return to a contracted book it’ll also be easy for me to jump back into The Between Book in a way I wouldn’t be able to with a project I’m considering for publication. All I have to do is have the most recent character shake someone’s hand, kiss them, or punch them in the face. And boom, next character, next story.

There’s zero pressure to get the wording right. It allows me to experiment with style, different tenses, different POVs, whatever. And because I often feel like I have a waiting room of characters who want me to call on their names already and tell their stories, the other benefit of narrator-hopping is how it allows me to sort of “audition” their voices on this book’s stage.

I don’t know where The Between Book will take me, but I’m expecting many surprising and unconventional turns knowing it’s for my eyes only. Maybe something cool will come from it that I can share with readers. Maybe not. No pressure.

Is The Between Book something you can see yourself doing? Do you always throw yourself into a new book, even when on submission with agents and publishers? Or do you have your own method? 

adamfaceauthorAdam was born and raised in New York and is tall for no reason. In the past he worked as a marketing assistant for a literary development company. He’s currently a children’s bookseller and reviews children’s and young adult novels for Shelf Awareness. His debut novel, More Happy Than Notabout a boy who wants to undergo a memory-alteration procedure to forget he’s gay, will be coming out on June 16th, 2015 from Soho Teen. Go say stuff to him on Twitter.

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20. Neo-NaNo

by

Alex Bracken

Alex

Well, it’s November once again, which can only mean one thing… it’s time for NaNoWriMo!

I first heard about National Novel Writing Month when I was a freshman in college, back in 2005. Up until that point, I had only ever written fanfiction. I mean, some truly epic-length fanfiction, but nothing original, nothing that I could totally call my own. And, you know, since it wasn’t enough of a challenge to be in my first semester of college and double majoring in the two most reading and writing intensive majors in the world, I thought… hey, why not give it a try?

So I did.

And became obsessed.

Obsessed with the idea of writing every single day, of having a reasonable goal, of being distracted from my homesickness, of crafting a story from the ground up, and, um, feeling like an evil genius as I put my characters through hell. I hit the 50,000 word mark on the plane flight home for Thanksgiving… and promptly realized that I was nowhere near done. All in all, that first novel ended up being close to 150,000 words.

It also went nowhere. It lives forever on my hard drive as a happy memory that will forever stay buried because, believe me, it was the very definition of hot, cliched mess. Did that stop me from trying to query it and loving it down to its weak little bones and bloated plot? Of course not. I learned so much from working on that book, the most important thing being I loved writing and I never, ever wanted to stop.

I will say that, when you’re under contract and writing to meet deadlines, some of the magic and love for the process gets dulled under the stress. I always think about that first NaNo experience and how sparkling and warm and wonderful was, and I’m constantly trying to capture the feeling of endless possibilities that came with it. Every year since I’ve wanted to participate but haven’t been able to due to–you guessed it–deadlines and revisions.

But not this year! This year, for the first time in ages, NaNo falls over a period that I get to draft something new, and I can already feel that crazy amazing NaNo energy flowing through me. It makes me feel nostalgic and more than a little in love with the process again–that magic of discovery that comes when you challenge yourself over a short period of time. Writing can be so solitary that it’s nice to get the sense that we’re all in this together, and we’re there to encourage and support and cheer for each other as we inch closer to the 50k line. See, I have written whole drafts–or at least more than 50k in a month–but that human element, the way we come together and celebrate writing and what we can do if we try, that’s always been missing.

Are you guys participating this year? If so, be sure to check out Susan’s rockin’ printables–and follow her on Twitter to participate in word sprints if you (like me!) can always use a little kick in the pants.

Alex lives in New York City where she writes like a fiend and lives in a charming apartment overflowing with books. She is the New York Times bestselling author of The Darkest Minds and Never Fade. You can visit her online at her website, Tumblr, or Twitter.

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21. Creating a Whole New World

Writing Life BannerBy

Janice Hardy

Janice Hardy RGB 72When you mention world building to a bunch of writers, most are instantly going to think about fantasy worlds. Makes sense since that’s the genre that does the most world building from scratch, but every story needs a rich world, even if that world is set in the good old USA. Luckily, the same tricks genre writers use to flesh out their worlds can also be used by non-genre writers.

A Room With a View

One of the strongest tools you have for world building is your point of view character(s). They can ground the reader by what they see and provide context for everything. They can show what’s normal and what’s unusual by how they react and interact with things in this world. Just as readers have never been to Middle Earth, they might not have ever been to the Midwest. Sure, they’ll have a general idea (corn, flat, farms), but imagine how much richer you can make that world if you treat it like the reader has never seen it before. Especially if your world isn’t what the average person thinks of when they hear your location.

People know what mundane things look like, but they don’t always know what importance a mundane item has. You get your pick of details to convey subtle information to a reader, so look for details that do more than just provide window dressing. Look for details that have meaning to your point of view character, and let that meaning add a new layer of understanding to the world they live in. Make it clear that this world couldn’t be anywhere else but where you’ve set it—whether that’s Atlanta or The Kingdom of Asaguili.

Introducing…the World

Setting is a vital part of any story, and one of the hardest to deal with because it’s all description. As a fantasy author, I have to establish an unfamiliar world and the rules that govern that world right at the start. To avoid bogging down the story, I background the world building details into the actions and thoughts of my point of view character. I don’t need to tell readers about the economic climate if I show my protagonist stealing food so she can eat. Making her wary of soldiers posted along the street shows an occupied city without me ever having to say a word of explanation.

Backgrounding works just as well in the real world, if not better, because readers already have an idea of what the world is like. (They do live there after all). If your protagonist lives in a crime-ridden area, you might show her locking multiple locks on the door, or have her hear gunshots or sirens. She might not carry a purse that can be easily grabbed on the street. Seize the opportunities to flesh out your world in ways that not only show setting, but add tension, deepen characterization, and even further plot advancement. Just because readers know the world is no reason to skimp on making it feel real. And those tiny “real” details can add so much to your story.

What’s That You Say?

Dialog is as distinctive as geography in defining a world. Slang terms, swear words, clichés, metaphors—every culture and region has their own set. If your story takes place in the south, let the dialog reflect the slower pace and country charm of the region. And I’m not talking about writing dialect (dropping the g off words, spelling things all funky) but using the rhythm and flow, the slang and phrasing of those who live in that area. A New Yorker is going to ask for a cup of coffee differently than a Southern Belle, or even a Midwesterner (soda vs pop vs a coke anyone?). Find the language characteristics common to a region or culture and use them to bring that region to life.

You Look Marvelous

Visit both Florida and Chicago in the winter and you’ll notice how different regions dress. You can use this to show climate and even morality with what people wear and how others react to the way people dress. What’s acceptable in Manhattan is very different from what flies in Salt Lake City, and neither might be appropriate in Louisiana. Instead of having your protagonist wear just a green blouse and jeans, see if there’s anything specific to a region that would show another side or trait of the character.

Well, See, There’s a Problem

Even the obstacles you throw at your characters offer chances at world building. A fight with the boss is something that could happen anywhere, so what might be distinctive to your world that would make that fight really memorable? Are there jobs unique to your book’s setting? Are there concerns that only people who live in a particular place have? Perhaps the environment plays a role. Cultures or politics often shape a region, so how might these beliefs hinder your protagonist? When characters going about their daily routine can be a challenge, you have extra tools to use to keep your story exciting.

The World is in the Details

Just as fantasy authors choose details that flesh out and create a world readers have never seen before, non-genre authors can take advantage of the same opportunities. By looking at your world as someone seeing it for the first time, you can discover details that will help make that world a richer place. It’s really no different than choosing the right verb for the right time. Every line of your story will feel layered and deep, and even a world readers know will come alive.

What are some of your favorite world building tricks?

Janice Hardy is the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now. She lives in Georgia with her husband, one yard zombie, three cats, and a very nervous freshwater eel. Find out more about writing at her site, Fiction University, or find her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound

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22. A Reminder to Actually Write

Writing Life Banner

by

Susan Dennard

WritingThis is a repost from my personal blog, and it’s something that I KEEP finding myself pointing writers to this NaNoWriMo.

As such, this has become a personal “disclaimer” of sorts, and I thought the lovely readers of Pub Crawl might enjoy it too. :)

I get a lot of emails (and tweets, tumblr asks, facebook messages, etc.) asking me about my process–and that’s great! I love sharing what I do, and I love hearing about what YOU do.

But the thing is, no matter what my process is (or her process…or his process), at the end of the day, the writing is all that really matters.

I think it’s easy to get caught up in different “methods” or “outlining plans” or “character creation schemes” because we’re all looking for that Top Secret Foolproof Magic Bullet. I see this most often in new writers–they want that special, insider trick that will make writing a breeze.

Heck, I see it in experienced writers too. They think, If I just follow X-author’s approach step-by-step, then the first draft will basically write itself! 

Or, If I just interview my characters like Y-author does, then that first draft will pour out of me!

Or even, If I find my story cookies like Sooz does and write screenplays for every scene, then this book won’t be hard to write!

And I totally understand that attitude, guys! I mean, no one is more guilty of wanting a Magic Bullet than I. Whenever I’m feeling even the slightest resistance in my drafting, I’ll start scouring books on craft 0r author blogs or online workshops. I want anything that will make this writing easier!

But at the end of the day, no matter what method I use–no matter how carefully I prepare or how strictly I follow X-author’s Top Secret Foolproof Magic Bullet–I still have to write the book. All the outlines in the world won’t change that. Knowing my characters as well as I know myself won’t change that either. And even getting pumped up with my cheerleading critique partners won’t change that CRUCIAL step in writing a book.

You know, the part where I actually have to write a book.

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t explore other methods and techniques. I love trying new approaches to the same “problem.” But you HAVE to realize that no matter what: you’re still going to have to write a book, word by word, page by page, and scene by scene.

You’re going to have put your butt in the chair and your hands on the keyboard. You’re going to have to push through every chapter until you reach, The End. And nothing–absolutely nothing in this entire world (short of hiring someone to do it for you) will change the fact that the writing is all that really matters.

So go forth and write. Even when you feel shaky and unsure.

ESPECIALLY when you feel shaky and unsure.

Sit down (or stand. That’s what I do.) and write one sentence. Then write another sentence. Then write another and another until you have a page.

And then write another page. And another after that.

Don’t stop! Keep going. Maybe not right away, but a wrote little bit as often you can, and eventually you’ll find yourself with a finished book.

If you like what you read here, consider signing up for my newsletter, the Misfits & Daydreamers or swinging by my For Writers page! All subscribers get a free guide to query writing OR a free extra scene from A Darkness Strange & Lovely.

SusanDennardBefore she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor, Susan Dennard traveled the world as marine biologist. She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the forthcoming Witchlands series (Tor, 2015), and when not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or practicing her tap dance shuffles. You can learn more about Susan on her blogTwitterFacebookPinterest, or Wattpad.

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23. Would You Read It Wednesday #152 - Hubert's Dreadful Allergies (PB)

Good morning, merry sunshines :)

I don't know about you guys, but I love this writing life.

I feel so lucky that it's what I get to do.

I get up at 5:20, when the world is dark and quiet.

I get to take my dogs for a run on this quiet, pretty road as soon as it's light enough to see.


Sometimes I see these guys (though of course they're older now :))

Hopefully, I don't meet this guy
but as you know from Friday's post, I do run into him occasionally :)

I get to drive my daughter to school - a little time we get to chat each morning - and then go do the barn (and what could be better than hanging around with horses?) :)

Then I come home, ignore my office :) and work at my sunny kitchen table (of which I apparently do not have a picture :))

I set my own schedule, which allows me to be there for my family all the time.

And I am lucky enough to work at something that, though challenging and prone to making me tear my hair out from time to time :) doesn't really feel like work.  As I tell kids on school visits, I get to make up stories all day long - as jobs go, pretty awesome.

So when I have days like yesterday - days when the rejections come in an avalanche - literally! - days when I question whether I really have any right to be doing this at all, whether I have any ability for this career that I've chosen, whether somehow I have wandered onto a path that isn't mine to travel - I try to remember all the things I love about this writing life so I don't lose my perspective entirely.

It's so easy to feel discouraged.

But if you can find the courage to dust yourself off, go for a morning run, and sit yourself right back down at that kitchen table, it's also easier than you'd think to try again.

So for anyone else who had that kind of day yesterday - or any day :) - here's to optimism and inspiration and trying again.  Who knows?  This could be the day we get our best idea yet :)

And of course, around here, we raise our glasses with Something Chocolate :)

Recipe for this gorgeous creation HERE
Dig in :)  (Remember, a healthy breakfast is essential to a productive day - and what could be healthier than cocoa beans (vegetables!) and milk (protein and calcium!)?)

How do you cope with the hard days?  Because let's face it - in this business, we all have them!  That's one of the things that makes them bearable - knowing that we're in good company :)

Now then!  Onward to a good day and Would You Read It!

Today's pitch comes to us from Heather.  Several years ago, Heather Kinser was a Silicon Valley proofreader/editor. Now she’s the mother of two amazing girls, a charter school volunteer, a breast cancer survivor, a long-term writer’s group member—and a wanna-be children’s book author. She keeps her head in the clouds and sand in her shoes. She lives with her husband and children in beautiful Redwood City, California (“Climate Best by Government Test”).

If you'd like, you can go show her some love on her brand new bloghttp://troubadourmoon.weebly.com/

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Hubert's Dreadful Allergies
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch: Aunt Lottie’s fancy luncheon party is in full swing when her highly allergic dog, Hubert, walks in and sniffs the flowers. What happens next is a riot of mishaps that eventually sends the proper party guests on a crazy chase, with Hubert leading the way.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Heather improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in November so you've got a little time to polish up your pitches and send yours for your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Heather is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to a new idea.  I don't know what it will be.  I don't know when it will come.  But I'm going to get busy so the idea doesn't think I'm just waiting around for it.  When it ventures near, I'll be careful not to look at it or acknowledge it in any way.  (Ideas are shy and easily scared.)  After a while, it will get a little annoyed that I'm not paying it any mind, and it will come right over and nudge me to get my attention.  And then I'll have it right where I want it :)

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! :)

0 Comments on Would You Read It Wednesday #152 - Hubert's Dreadful Allergies (PB) as of 1/1/1900
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24. Expectation vs. Reality

by

Jodi Meadows

This month I polled Twitter for a topic and one that intrigued me was “author expectations vs. author reality.” I’m going to limit it to my top three (because wow, that got long quickly), and add how I cope with these differences, but I want to know what you guys think too!

Expectation: Publication Day is life-changing. Suddenly everyone is reading your book. Bookstore rankings are shining gold.

Reality: Nothing really changes on publication day. I mean, it’s really cool! But it’s also a little anticlimactic. There’s all this build up to the day of the book release, and then the day arrives and it’s just another day, albeit a day that people can now purchase the book you’ve spent so long writing and slaving over.

The day, while it feels like it should be all about you, isn’t really. Not totally. Other books are coming out too. Some of them might have more hype and promotion and therefore feel like they’re getting more attention. It’s a bummer. It’s really humbling. And it’s so easy to just sit at home and wonder why this life-changing event (your book is coming out!!!) feels like a let-down.

How I’ve learned to deal: The day my first book came out, I stayed at home and watched the numbers on That Retailer Site. (I was disappointed.) I answered lots of tweets! (That was great.) I went to a bookstore to find they’d lost two copies of my book and hadn’t put the other two out. (I wanted to shrivel up and die.)

The next two books, I decided to travel. And I will likely be traveling on release day for all the rest of my books if I can help it. Traveling gave me a sense of control, like I was doing something useful. When the airport small talk happened, I told people I was heading to my book launch party and I gave them my card (with my book cover on it). Traveling also keeps me from checking numbers or comparing myself to others. I don’t have time to look at those things! And, as self-centered as it may sound, it gives me the feeling that the day is all about me and my book.

And while I’ve learned to accept a slight anticlimactic feeling, I’ve also started reminding myself that things have changed. My books are out. People can buy them. People I don’t know, even. And that’s pretty great.


Expectation: I can totally write several books a year.

Reality: I’ve always been what a lot of people view as a “fast” writer. Before I was published, I often wrote two or three books a year, occasionally more. I thought a book-a-year schedule was nothing — maybe even too slow. But now that I’m on the book-a-year schedule, I realize just how difficult it actually is.

There’s not just writing the book, but editing and more editing and more editing. Crit partners get a crack at the book. So does the agent. And the editor. And just when you think you’ve spent more than seven months revising a book to death and you can’t look at it again, copyedits arrive and the book must be read yet again. And no, that isn’t all! Pass pages!

As if that wasn’t enough, while you’re getting those pass pages and copyedits, often you’re already writing a new book, so you must tear yourself from the new book, stick your head back in the first book for a week or so, and then jump into the new book again.

And then, you must promote the first book while you’re editing the new book and planning (or possibly already writing) a new new book.

And boy, if you want to write novellas or collaborate on another project in there, just forget about sleep or answering those emails piling up in the inbox.

How I’ve learned to deal: Planning and schedules has become very important to me. Also, communication. I give my agent an idea of what I have coming up, how long I think it will take me, and she doesn’t so much keep me on track (I’m an adult, after all) as check in every now and then to make sure I’m still good. That way, if I need more time on something, or I’m struggling with a book, she can help me out. I do the same thing with my editor, though that’s more limited to what is actually under contract, with harder dates for when I’d like to turn something in.

And any time I start feeling like the book-a-year schedule is too slow, I force myself to think about how busy I am this time of the year, when I’m editing a book, promoting a book, planning a new book (and in this year’s special case, writing four novellas and co-writing another book). Remembering that there insanely busy times keeps me from getting out of control.


Expectation: I can just write all day. In my pajamas. And eat cookies. It’s great.

Reality: Well, it is great, but it’s not all just writing in my pajamas and eating cookies. Sometimes people ask what a typical writing day looks like, but the truth is there is no typical day besides trying desperately to make sure you get enough writing done that you don’t feel like a failure.

There’s the never-ending emails to answer, social media accounts that like to be maintained, and all the non-book writing you do (like this blog post!) that doesn’t pay but is still useful. There’s traveling, school visits (and preparation for), bookstore visits, and festivals to attend.

While it’s true that a lot of that is fun (maybe too much fun sometimes!), it’s all time that’s spent not writing. And if you’re not careful, it can really pile up and end up with missed deadlines. After all, that stuff is work too. And writing can sometimes feel like a reward (other times punishment) that you do after all the hard work is done.

How I’ve learned to deal: I remind myself that writing is my job. Not tweeting (though how cool would that be!) or any of those other things.

When I get invited to places, or requests to do school visits/interviews/blog posts, I ask myself honestly: do I have time for this? Can I do all of this stuff around writing my book? If I feel like maybe I can’t meet my deadline and attend the fun book festival all my friends are going to . . . then I stay home and write.

For the day-to-day stuff that can make writing vanish, again, I make writing the priority. If I’m feeling distracty, I close everything else that wants my attention. And I just write. Then, after I’ve accomplished my goal for the day, I go in and take care of some of the stuff I missed.

And then I go do something fun and relaxing, because I am the kind of person who will easily overwork herself and by golly sometimes I just need to knit.


So, those are my top three expectation vs. reality. What about you guys? Any others up there? How do you deal with reality?

Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy and the forth coming ORPHAN QUEEN Duology (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen).
*A Kippy is a cat.

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25. Bridging the Gap between Science and Fiction

Writing Life

 

by Amy K. Nichols

Now That You're HereAmie says: Some months back, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of Now That You’re Here, Amy K. Nichols’s debut novel. I loved it. I mean, I LOVED it. So much, that this is the blurb I gave it:

“The perfect blend of sci-fi and swoons, Now That You’re Here is like no other book I’ve read. Riveting, romantic and utterly original, it kept me up late!”

And in a starred review, here’s what Publisher’s Weekly said:

“These geeks own their intelligence like a badge of honor, using science to help a friend and explore strange new worlds.”

If you want a fantastic holiday gift for yourself (you deserve it!) or the science-fiction lover in your life, pre-order yourself a copy — it’s out on December 9th!

I loved the science in Now That You’re Here so much that I asked Amy to tell us how she approached the task of incorporating it into her story. Here’s what she had to say!

Amy NicholsGrowing up, I wasn’t a very enthusiastic science student. Perhaps it was a lack of awareness of science’s relevance to my self-absorbed teenage existence, but the last science class I remember actually enjoying was in seventh grade when we dissected frogs, learned about the hazards of smoking, and my teacher told us how hot dogs were made. (I haven’t eaten one since.) So I find it somewhat ironic that I’m now a science fiction author.

Somewhere in my college years, I discovered how cool science is, going so far as to consider a career in medicine and reading science books for fun. (I can just imagine my seventh-grade self raising an eyebrow at me.)

Then came the Large Hadron Collider.

Around 2007 I started hearing about this ginormous apparatus deep beneath the Swiss Alps that would answer all the questions of the universe…or create a black hole and swallow up the earth.

Black hole? Well that caught my attention. Even though I hadn’t shown much interest in science classes, I grew up loving science fiction stories, especially those involving portals to other worlds. One of my favorites was H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. So I started reading books about black holes, string theory, multiverses. A couple that stood out were Lisa Randall’s Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions, and Michiu Kaku’s Physics of the Impossible. I can’t say I understood all of it, but it definitely made an impression on me.

By the time CERN flipped the on switch for the LHC (which, thankfully, didn’t destroy the world), I’d already decided to give this writing thing a go, and was actively working to improve my craft. I’d even written a novel (that is really bad it should be burned with fire). I’d also started writing a story about a boy who suddenly finds himself in a body that’s his own but isn’t, in a world that’s his own but isn’t. Somehow, he’d jumped to a parallel universe.

Somehow. That’s the fiction side of science fiction.

In the early drafts of Now That You’re Here, Danny’s jump just happened, more like magic than science. I included just enough science to make it clear he’d jumped without getting into the specifics of how. I mean, this was science fiction, right?

Then my agent sold the book to Knopf, and I started working with my editor, the brilliant Katherine Harrison. From the start, she honed in on the science. How exactly did Danny jump? What is the science holding up the fiction?

So I began researching, trying to form a theory for this scientifically impossible connection between Danny’s parallel worlds.

Now, this is where it gets a bit tricky. If I go into a lot of detail about the actual theory, it’ll spoil the book. So I’m going to try to do this without giving away any spoilers.

Somewhere in my research, I read How to Build a Time Machine by Paul Davies, and attended a talk he gave at Phoenix Comicon. It was fascinating, reading and hearing about the mechanics of time travel. But I wasn’t writing time travel. I was writing parallel universe travel, which is an entirely different animal.

Or is it? I continued researching and tinkering, writing ideas into my revisions. My editor liked the direction I was going, but asked for more grounding. At one point she said, “I showed your book to my friend who is a physicist,” and I thought, Nooooooo. It’s fiction, not actual science! She encouraged me to write a book where readers couldn’t easily poke holes through the science, which is such a great goal. But how do you make the implausible plausible?

Research.

I kept googling and searching, reading scientific studies to support my fictional account of a boy landing in a body and world that isn’t his. I wish I could show you the list of websites in my browser’s bookmarks. It’s long. Really long.

As I worked through my revisions, I created a construct for the impossible elements of the book, all of which are based on actual scientific principle and tested theory. When I stepped back and looked at it, my geeky little heart went pitter-pat.

Then came book two.

See, we’d sold Now That You’re Here as a two-part series, where the books mirror each other. Same characters, but two different stories in two parallel worlds. Pretty cool, right? But…science.

Suddenly the science of the second book had to work with the science of the first book. Since I was telling a different story in a different world, it couldn’t be the same science, either. It had to be something similar, but different.

So I went back to work. More research. More reading. More theorizing. More imagining.

More fun.

By this time I was geeking out. I not only fell in love with science, I fell in love again with science fiction. All those stories I’d loved as a kid felt so…possible. A time machine? Sure. Flux capacitor? Okay. Wardrobe leading to a winter-cursed land? Why not?

And then it happened. I found the Holy Grail I’d been searching for. I was reading an article about Nikola Tesla and scalar wave function, and everything clicked. All the bits of info I’d been collecting suddenly fit together to create one cohesive system involving both worlds, and there in between stood my character, Danny. I revised Now That You’re Here again, and this time, I got the science right. (Or at least my editor said so.)

Is it still science fiction? Yes. Is there still a gap between the scientific and fictional elements of the story? Of course. Fiction always requires some degree of suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. But hopefully, thanks to research and my mindful and diligent editor, it’s more a step over a crack than a leap over a chasm. And maybe, just maybe, somewhere my seventh grade self is smiling.

Amy has been crafting stories for as long as she can remember. She earned a Master’s in literature and worked for years as a web designer, though, before realizing what she really wanted to be was an author. Her first novel, YA sci-fi thriller Now That You’re Here, will be published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on December 9, 2014. The follow-up, While You Were Gone, will be published in 2015. She is mentored by award-winning crime novelist James Sallis. You can find Amy on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Tumblr.

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