Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sometimes Your Characters Know Best

Kristi's excellent post on characters acting out of character got me thinking. While it's true that sometimes characters do something they normally wouldn't for a good reason, it's also true that sometimes we writers make our characters do things they know they shouldn't do, for no good reason at all. Most of the time, if we pay attention, our characters will tell us exactly that, it's up to us to listen and heed their warning.

We've all done it - had some great plot twist, or specific event that we needed to have happen no matter what. We made our characters get there, ignoring their protests along the way. What do I mean? How about an example!

Say you have a smart, feisty character, let's call her Veronica. Veronica is trying to solve the mystery of who killed her best friend. So far Veronica has done some sneaky spy-like investigating, racked up a bunch of clues, and run from a creepy guy who seemed to want to kill her too. Now it's time for the big reveal/fight for her life climax that you envisioned when you started this story. It starts when Veronica gets a phone call. A mysterious, very creepy, man, tells her to come to the woods alone at midnight and he will give her the evidence she needs to find out who killed her friend and put him in jail. After the call, Veronica's inner monologue goes something like this.

I have a bad feeling about that phone call. Only those stupid girls with big boobs and high heels in horror movies went out to the woods alone. He's probably going to kill me. I'm only 5'1", I don't have a weapon, and my cell phone doesn't get a signal out there. I know that if I go I'm as good as dead. I don't know why I don't call Logan to go out there with me, or why I wait until midnight and go out there by myself, but I do.

It sounds ridiculous doesn't it? As a reader you're wondering why would she be so stupid? Veronica is smart, resourceful and yet she's going to do something so out of character that even she has no idea why she's doing it all for the sake of getting to the big action showdown sequence.

When your character says they don't know why they're doing something, pay attention! It's your subconscious telling you that this plot point doesn't work. It means you're cutting corners, and cheating your readers out of a much more intense and exciting story.

In the example above, you would need to go back and ask yourself, Veronica's too smart to go just for a vague promise of information, so what would be enough to get her out there on her own? Have the caller hold her boyfriend hostage and threaten to kill him if she brings the police? Or if there's nothing that would get her out there by herself, what smart, resourceful thing would she do to protect herself? Notify the police and have them help her set up a sting?

With either of these options, you could still get that action-packed information reveal you'd been dreaming about, and you would have the added bonus of having your character act believably which always makes for a more satisfying story.

Don't get me wrong, this is not the same as a character not knowing why they feel a certain way. That goes along with Kristi's post. An action coming from an emotion, whether the character understands that emotion or not, is authentic. And when I say "no good reason" I don't mean the reason has to sensible, only that it has to make sense to the character. If Veronica wanted to go out to the woods by herself because she's a danger-junkie and loves the thrill, that would be fine. Stupid, but fine, as long as she knew that's why she was going and let us know that.

So the bottom line is, listen to your characters. If two of your characters have a conversation about how stupid something you're having them do is, chances are they (and your subconscious) are trying to tell you something.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Why it's okay for your characters to act out of character PLUS contest

Most writers have their own method for really knowing their characters inside and out before they begin writing. Some write pages of backstory, most of which never make it into the final draft. Others answer random questions about their character such as favorite music, flavor of ice cream, etc. We do these things so that each character is unique and has their own personality -- and so there is consistency in how they act. Yet sometimes it's okay for your character to act "out of character."

Why? Because that's how real people are. They surprise you sometimes. Here's a real life example from my vacation last week. I know my 5-year-old son inside and out -- I've spent most of every day with him for the last five years which is way longer than I've spent with any of my fictional characters. So when my 2-year old (now 3-yo) daughter popped his precious light saber balloon, I could've placed money on how my Star Wars/light saber obsessed son would react based on his 'character.' It would involve tears and screaming that his light saber was ruined, followed by pointing his finger in his little sister's face, saying "Kyra, you're mean!" That's pretty much how he reacts every single time she commits some perceived injustice.

But I wouldn't have been right this time. As my husband was telling our son he was sorry for letting Kyra play with his light saber, Caleb held up his hand and said verbatim: "Dad, don't apologize (yes, he used the word apologize). It's not your fault and it's not Kyra's fault. Sometimes, balloons just pop. It's okay." I stared at him a moment wondering if at some point in California, he'd been abducted by aliens and replaced by a pod person. NOTE: This concern was alleviated the next day when he pointed his finger in Kyra's face and told her she was mean. I think Kyra was relieved as well, as her daily goal is to make him upset enough to do this to her.

The point here is that while it's important to know your characters, it's okay to make them human too. Let them surprise you once in a while. It keeps things interesting. Have your characters surprised you or stepped out of line with their 'personality' while writing?  Were you okay with this or did you feel the need to fix it to get them back in line?

CONTEST NEWS: The very cool Moonrat is hosting a contest over at Editorial Ass to celebrate her 500,000th visitor AND she's offering a 20-page critique to the winner! It closes tomorrow 3/31 at 11pm EST so hurry the heck up already.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Expo America!

OMG! I forgot to blog on Thursday!!! Eeek! But I'm here now, so it's okay. Whew! Sorry.

Book Expo America's new mid-week dates are fast approaching and I am stoked! In part because a certain Sister is coming to visit! And my book blogging, beta reading, 2009 book expo buddy, Jess! Will also be making an appearance! Conferences and book fairs are always a ton of fun, and BEA is one of the best.

Last year was my first time attending, and I was not at all prepared. I was lost, confused and befuddled for most of the time I was there. And I was late, so I had already missed all the freebies (and who doesn't love free books?). Still, I finally got to meet Jess in person and I also met Maggie Stiefvater for the very first time. I saw super-agent Andrea Brown from a distance, but I didn't think I'd have anything constructive to say to her so I just awed from the corner.

This year I think I'm prepared! I have business cards ready! A giant tote bag! And I plan to get there BEFORE 8am! The place opens at 9, I think, but I want to attend the Children's Book Author Breakfast!

If you don't know what BEA is, visit their website for more information. It is a trade only event, meaning it is not open to the public, but if you're a book blogger, you may be in luck!! Book bloggers can register for a FREE press badge! But badges are subject to approval so don't try to fool them. If you say you're a book blogger, be a book blogger.

And if you plan on attending this year, let us know and maybe we'll see each other!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Query Help

So I had to get up super early this morning to get some dental work done and I completely forgot that today is Wednesday and I'm supposed to post! My bad. It's been a rough few days and my brain is fried. So since I'm nearing query time, I thought I would provide you with links to a few great recent posts on querying I've bookmarked.

Check them out:
Writing a Query With Voice from

The Secret Strength of Killer Queries by Nathan Bransford

What are some of your favorite query advice links?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Help Beth Celebrate her Amazing Book Deal

As I'm on vacation this week and enjoying the many things Cali has to offer such as Legoland, Disneyland, the San Diego Wildlife Park and, of course, the beaches, this post will be a quickie. By the way, for all of you living in California, I can't believe you can buy 10 avocados for $2. Seriously, I hope you appreciate how awesome that is -- it almost makes me want to move here. The amount I spend on avocados would make up for the cost of the move in a month or so.

Anyway, I digress. The purpose of this post is to honor the sweet and wonderful BETH REVIS. In case you've been living under a rock, Beth recently landed an amazing book deal and is having an awesome contest to celebrate. Head on over to Beth's blog at Writing It Out and enter her contest. Oh, and be sure to congratulate her while you're there!!!  Congrats Beth - you rock!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation!

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Juvenile (March 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067001110X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670011100
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 1.4 inches
  • Get it on Amazon here

  • Buy Indie

“We held hands when we walked down the gingerbread path into the forest, blood dripping from our fingers. We danced with witches and kissed monsters. We turned us in to wintergirls, and when she tried to leave, I pulled her back into the snow because I was afraid to be alone.” WINTERGIRLS, page 99

WINTERGIRLS beautiful, inside and out. The hardcover is gorgeous (and I do recommend you get it in hardcover, it's one of those). The metaphors that Anderson uses are so vivid and strong, you can't help but read passages like the above over and over. I highly recommend this book to any and everyone; young, old, male, female. Doesn't matter. It's one of those that shouldn't be missed.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Writing Evil.

I was thinking a lot about the characters in my book and how I portray them. All of them, even the background characters. In other projects the bad guys are not such a concern for me, but when I'm writing FATED, my WWII historical, I need to be a little more cautious. In the first draft, I made the Germans out to be these horrible, horrible monsters. My MC, a Jewish teen girl, saw them with black eyes and jagged teeth. Shadowy gray monsters that hide in plain sight, ready to jump out and snatch everything away from her. And in many ways, this is true to the story. But it also raises a problem for me. I don't want to demonize an entire group of people. Not even Nazi Germany.

So how do you create characters that do these horrible, sadistic, psychotic things without demonizing them? They're demons in your character's eyes, so do you write them as such?

I realize I may be over-thinking this, but it is something that has bothered me for quite some time. I never considered how difficult it would be to write a Historical novel. Writing anything is hard work, but when it comes to something as sensitive and serious as WWII, it becomes a whole different game.

I found this great podcast/interview from the united States Holocaust Memorial Museum website and it really hit home for me. First of all, I LOVE Ralph Fiennes. He is amazing in every film I've seen him in. And one of my favorite films is Schindler's List. I am writing a WWII novel, so I have watched a good number of movies, read books and memoirs and did ample amounts of online research on the time. Makes a very depressing "hobby" by the way.

In this interview, Ralph talks about playing the role of SS officer Amon Goeth in Schindler's List. I will post a link to the full interview as well as the audio, but the one part that really stuck out to me, was Ralph's reply when he was asked what he learned about evil while playing that role.

Well, that it’s every day. Evil is cumulative. It happens. People believe that they’ve got to do a job, they’ve got to take on an ideology, that they’ve got a life to lead; they’ve got to survive, a job to do, it’s every day inch by inch, little compromises, little ways of telling yourself this is how you should lead your life and suddenly then these things can happen. I mean, I could make a judgment myself privately, this is a terrible, evil, horrific man. But the job was to portray the man, the human being. There’s a sort of banality, that everydayness, that I think was important. And it was in the screenplay. In fact, one of the first scenes with Oskar Schindler, with Liam Neeson, was a scene where I’m saying “You don’t understand how hard it is, I have to order so many-so many meters of barbed wire and so many fencing posts and I have to get so many people from A to B.” And, you know, he’s sort of letting off steam about the difficulties of the job. And so I suppose you can step back and that is where the evil is, when you can step back and look at it.

I don't want my Nazi soldiers to be static. I don't want them to be purely evil. I want them to be people. But I also want to remain true to the time. I want the reader to see them as my protagonist sees them. I want the reader, to hate them. To fear them. But I don't want the reader to feel as though I have demonized all of Germany because that is not my intention. I think the only way to do that, is what Ralph Fiennes said above: step back and look at it.

In the scene he mentioned where his character is speaking with Liam Neeson's character, he is giving us a glimpse into the mind of Amon Goeth, the man. Not the demon. Another one that comes to mind is a scene from INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (I know, not the best choice for WWII reference). There is a scene when the "basterds" have captured some young German soldiers. They ask one soldier what he plans to do with his uniform when he returns home. The boy says he's going to burn it. This is another look at the "evil" characters as humans. This kid din't want to murder people. He didn't want to be a part of the genocide that came along with that war, but he did it because it was his duty. He became evil inch by inch.

Even for minor characters, I think it is important to know them. To know why they do the things they do. My book is a first person narrative, so my MC may not understand the soldiers. She may still see them with black eyes and jagged teeth, but it is my responsibility as the author to be sure that they are more than that.

Now, if I can just figure out how to do that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Recently, I had one of those moments writers dream of. An agent read some of my writing samples on my blog and requested a partial.

Awesome, right? AMAZING! I was stunned and surprised (and let this be a guide for everyone hoping to draw attention to their work, two tips - 1. MAKE SURE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IS ON YOUR BLOG and 2. TAG your teasers!) and then moments later, the elation turned to that most evil of all emotions - DOUBT.

I won't get into what those doubts were, they were the standard fare that I'm sure you can come up with on your own. What I doubted is not the point. The point is that in a moment that should've felt like validation, I was personally invalidating myself.

The important thing is that I realized I was doing it. And 90% of solving a problem is figuring out what that problem is. (Okay I just made that up, it could be like, 78%.) Knowing I was having an irrational reaction helped to tone that reaction down and keep it from overwhelming me and convincing me that before I send anything I need to say, rewrite my entire book in the 3rd Person POV of a snail, and remove all instances of the word "the".

So what to do about doubt? I don't think it will ever go away. It's like the weather. Sometimes it has to rain, but you can prepare for it, and you can know it's not going to rain forever. If you're serious about being the best writer you can be, and creating the best work, then you will have moments of doubt. Even Mother Teresa questioned her faith!

Just make sure that when those moments come you recognize them for what they are - your desire to be your best - take a deep breath and don't email or delete anything until you've calmed down!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My New Boyfriend

The excitement of the first draft of a brand new manuscript reminds me of the initial stage of a relationship. New story = new boyfriend. Think about it -- the book consumes your every waking moment, all you daydream about is the scene or conversation that happens next, and you neglect basic things like dishes and laundry just to be with your characters for a few more minutes (please don't tell me I'm the only one with heaps o' laundry in my closet). Don't get me wrong -- revisions and edits have their own unique brand of charm -- but it's not the same thing.

So I've been cooling my heels waiting to submit revision number bazillion of my book to my critique group and -- something happened. It was a soft whisper in my ear, beckoning me closer. And guess what? Yeah, I've got a new boyfriend. Technically, an ex-boyfriend since I started this ms before my current book, but this ex really wants me back. He's been very persistent and I'm back in that excited 'first draft' stage. I know I'll settle into the routine of revisions when I finish the draft but for now -- I'm just going to enjoy my new love. What about you guys? Any new boyfriends out there?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cover Art!

In 2009, FALLEN by Lauren Kate was released from Delacorte. The cover for the sequel, TORMENT, was just released and it is so awesome, I have to share.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation!

If you've read the books I recommend, feel free to discuss them, but please DO NOT post spoilers!

This book is written by the fabulous Gayle Forman, author of IF I STAY. It doesn't get nearly enough publicity. I loved it!

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 Reprint edition (April 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060887494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060887490

Have to admit, I'm not crazy about the paperback cover. The hardcover was much better.
Product Description from Amazon

Have you ever had the out-of-control dream? The one where you know you're not crazy, but no one around you—not your parents, not your teachers, not even the authorities—will listen to you?

For sixteen-year-old Brit Hemphill, the out-of-control dream comes true when her dad enrolls her at Red Rock, a bogus treatment center that claims to cure rebellious teen girls. At Red Rock, Brit is forced into therapy, and her only hope of getting her life back is in the hands of an underqualified staff of counselors. Brit's dad thinks Red Rock can save her, but the truth is it's doing more harm than good.

No girl could survive Red Rock alone—but at a treatment center where you earn privileges for ratting out your peers, it's hard to know who you can trust. For Brit, everything changes when she meets V, Bebe, Martha, and Cassie, four girls who keep her from going over the edge. Together they'll hold on to their sanity and their sisterhood while trying to keep their Red Rock reality from becoming a full-on nightmare.

This book is about sisterhood. It's about believing in yourself and taking a stand for what you know is the right thing. Brit, V, Bebe, Cassie and Martha form a sisterhood in the secret confines of an empty office when the "goons" at Red Rock--a school for misguided teen girls--turn their backs. Together, the girls learn the ins and outs of Red Rock. They learn to survive it and they learn to rely on each other.

Sisters in Sanity is not a typical coming-of-age tale but the reader follows Brit through her stay at Red Rock where she discovers who she is and what she's made of. It's well written, an easy and entertaining read that can make you laugh one minute, cry the next and be fuming with anger when you turn the page again. The characters are unique, full of individuality and life. You feel like you're right there with them in the quarry, building walls or hiking up the hills in 90 degree heat. You can't help but feel like a part of their sisterhood.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Boys in books are just better."

I saw this on one of those blinky avatar things this morning and it made me chuckle, but then I realized, it's actually true. In most cases. Not mine because my husband totally rocks. Seriously. But I remember my dating/high school years very clearly. Boy were better in books. No offense, guys.

As some of you know, I am a big vampire fan. Always have been long before the Cullen's took the stage. Blame Brad Pitt, because he was one sexy ass vampire, even to an eleven year old girl.
interview-vampire.jpg interview-with-a-vampire image by charlotteofraiz
Yum. I totally envied Kirsten Dunst in this movie.

What makes boys in books so awesome? Depends on what you like. I like danger but not a bad boy. I like them intelligent, chivalrous, and sentimental. Which is why I love vampires. You can have a totally desirable boy, with old world charm who also wants to eat you.

So lets list some of our (my) favorite fictional boys:

Louie - Interview With the Vampire. Obvious reasons.
Eric Northman - Southern Vampire Mysteries. Eric is a bad boy on the outside, but there is so much more to him the farther you read into the series. And, hello? He's a Viking!
Bill Compton- Southern Vampire Mysteries. Bill is a true Southern Gentleman. With fangs.
Sam Winchester-Supernatural. Sam is sweet, smart and strong. And, especially in the latest episodes, he's frigging gorgeous. (Yes, a fictional character can make an actor more attractive. Look at Hugh Laurie as House.) But Sam is also dangerous. If you've seen the show, you know what I mean. If you haven't, you should.
Balthazar- Evernight series. All the reasons I listed above.
Dimitri Belikov-Vampire Academy. His devotion to his duty, and to Rose make him a favorite. And being a big sexy Russian, who is also half vampire helps.

Hmm... 5 vampires and a boy who is addicted to drinking demon blood. Eeek! Thinking of a human...

Dean! - Gilmore Girls. Love Dean, and Dean is a normal boy. We like to see the boy chasing after the girl.
Will - The Luxe.
No real danger will Dean or Will, but they both have the sweet, love-struck boy thing going for them.

I'm going to stop now, because clearly I have a bigger thing for vampires than I thought. In short, I like danger and I like power. But I want it wrapped up in a good-looking package, and tied with a gentlemanly bow. When you finally meet the love interest in my work-in-progress, FATED, you will totally see that. I realize real boys can't compete with a thousand year-old vampire, or a boy who can exercise demons with his mind, but have no fear guys. Just be confident in your self, but humble enough to kiss her butt from time to time.

So who are some of your favorite fictional boys and why?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Staying In The Moment With First Person

I usually write first person present tense. It feels most natural to me and it's what I'm used to from writing screenplays. For my current WIP I made the choice to write first person past tense because I thought it better suited the way I wanted the story to unfold. What I noticed almost immediately was that some of the energy of my story was lost. The ms starts with a short piece of necessary backstory (paranormal world-building) and then moves into present day. My problem was that the "present day" stuff still sounded like it was happening in the past. It was all telling. Then I stumbled across this quote by Tami Brown over at the blueboards:

The biggest hurdle, I think, is true for all first person narratives. It's what I call "let me tell you my story" syndrome. The narrator tells the reader about what happened to them rather than jumping into the middle of the action and letting it unfold with the reader right there in the middle. You can debate showing vs. telling all day, but having plenty of showing and a minimum of telling is very important in a first person story, in my opinion. If you "tell" too much that creates a huge distance between the reader and the story- the narrator/protagonist is literally standing there, blabbing, instead to acting, and that equals boring.

It's so interesting to me to read this, because I've found it doesn't happen at all in present tense. There's just not a lot of room for sitting around ruminating on the past in present tense, because you are by definition, in the moment. I looked over my (very) rough draft and realized that I had fallen into this trap of "let me tell you a story" which was making my characters distant and the story itself, less powerful because it was being told as if it had already happened rather than as it was happening.

Here's an example of some of the changes I made (and remember please that both of these are still rough drafts!):

The "Let Me Tell You A Story" version:
I had a bad feeling as soon as Jenna said “party at Snake’s,” but I ignored it. Snake, Jenna’s latest victim, was twenty-two, and when he wasn’t busy selling drugs to the rich kids at West Haven, he worked at his uncle’s body shop.

Jenna was stoked though, so what could I do? I had just dumped my boyfriend, it wasn’t like I had other plans.

The "In The Moment" version:
Jenna shoved her phone into her back pocket and flashed me a grin. “Party at Snake’s.”

My gut said bad idea, but one look at her face told me I had no choice. Jenna had that “new guy glow”. Even the pink streak in her hair looked brighter.

I shrugged.

Jenna rolled her eyes. “It’s not like you have other plans.”

See the difference? One is a character standing in some undisclosed place, musing on events that happened, and the other is that character actively experiencing those events. I think the second version feels much more connected to both the character and has more energy than the first.

I find for me that it's important to remember that just because the character is narrating in past tense, doesn't mean that everything happened in the past.

I'll leave you with my new favorite piece of advice on tense: When it's done right, tense should be invisible.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Shutter Island and 3 Amazing Contests

I'm off to a girls' night out to see Shutter Island -- no, I haven't read the book yet, but the book doesn't star Leonardo DiCaprio and the only thing I like better than a creepy, psychological thriller is one starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Also, I have yet to see a movie AFTER reading the book when I didn't think the book was better. However, since I'd never leave you empty-handed, I give you my 3 favorite contests of the week:

1) The fab Elana J.(seriously, if she had a fan club, I'd be her president) is having an awesome book giveaway -- and the books are SIGNED. Check it out here.

2) The dynamic duo Bethany and Suzette from Shooting Stars are having a killer contest as well. One of the prizes is a 40-PAGE submission and critique from super agent Suzie Townsend of Fine Print Literary. Details, including other great prizes, can be found here.

3) The third Lucky Agent Contest through the Guide to Literary Agents blog is being hosted by another super agent, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary. Joanna is seeking urban fantasy and paranormal romance -- she's giving a 20-page critique to the winner! More details here.

NOTE: All 3 contests have deadlines of Sunday, March 14th so get movin' and good luck!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation!

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Juvenile (January 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670011533

Product Description from amazon

Take Romeo and Juliet. Add The Outsiders. Mix thoroughly.

Colt and Julia were secretly together for an entire year, and no one—not even Julia’s boyfriend— knew. They had nothing in common, with Julia in her country club world on Black Mountain and Colt from down on the flats, but it never mattered. Until Julia dies in a car accident, and Colt learns the price of secrecy. He can’t mourn Julia openly, and he’s tormented that he might have played a part in her death. When Julia’s journal ends up in his hands, Colt relives their year together at the same time that he’s desperately trying to forget her. But how do you get over someone who was never yours in the first place?

Beautiful writing, memorable characters, and jam-packed with emotion and teen angst. I loved everything about this book. Not to be missed.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Teenfire Semi-finalists Announced!

Many of you out there in the YA community have probably heard of the Sourcebooks Fire/Yalitchat contest being held at this time. If you haven't, talented YA writer Georgia McBride(founder of #yalitchat)teamed up with the editors of Sourcebooks Fire to bring a unique opportunity to our community.

Georgia sifts through all the entries picking only a handful of them to be sent to the editors at Sourcebooks. The editors will then pick the winners. There is no guarantee for contracts, but just to have your work read by an editor is a great opportunity.

The semi-finalists were announced today! And Kristi and I both entered and we were both on the list! A happy day for the Sisters in Scribe! Because you know we're all about celebrating baby steps. I imagine Kristi has already danced around her kitchen like a monkey on crack. I haven't had my coffee yet, so that isn't happening. But I did a little wiggle in my chair.

We want to hear about your little accomplishments. What have you done recently to put yourself one step closer to accomplishing your goals? It doesn't have to be a writing goal. Anything we do to better ourselves, even if it's just self-satisfaction, is worth celebrating.

The List of Semi-finalists! from Georgia's Blog.
  1. Kristen Yard
  2. Ethan Marcantel
  3. Gail Zerrade
  4. Lisa M. Basso
  5. Alyssa M. Kirk
  6. Carolyn Grace Matteo
  7. Durga Walker
  8. Courtney Alameda Lowe
  9. Bethany K. Dellinger
  10. K.M. Walton
  11. Christina Lee
  12. Mary Danielson
  13. Kimberly Mitchell
  14. Candace Ganger
  15. Cathy C. Hall
  16. R.C. Lewis
  17. Morgan Baden
  18. Jessie Harrell
  19. P.G.K. Hanson
  20. Laura Perdew
  21. Mark Freeman
  22. Patricia Perez
  23. Eli Ross
  24. Erin Richards
  25. Kristi V. Helvig
  26. Sandi Greene
  27. Nikki Katz
  28. Chris Shanley-Dillman
  29. Lisa Magedler
  30. Joelle McClure
  31. Amitha Jagannath Knight
  32. Tiffany Truitt
  33. Rebecca Lees
  34. Mariah Abotossaway
  35. Steve L. Edwards
  36. Lori Sowell
  37. Lacey Boldyrev
  38. Jordan Elizabeth Mierek
  39. Julie Moffett
  40. Annie McElfresh
  41. Kym Balthazar Fetsko
  42. Pam van Hylckama Vlieg
  43. Elle Strauss
  44. Dean Hardy
  45. Jodie Meadows

Congrats, all and good luck on the next round!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Great Books On Writing

As I wade deeper into revisions, I thought I'd share some of my favorite books on writing!

The Writer's Journey by Christopher E. Vogler - This has been one is a carryove from my film school days, it's been one of my favorites for years. A GREAT look at plotting and the three act structure. It's aimed at the screenplay, but it works just as well for novels. I like to take my finished draft and compare it to the steps in the journey and see if I'm getting the most out of my story. It can also help if you're stuck on a plot point.

The Power Of Point Of View: Make Your Story Come To Life by Alicia Rasley - Lots of great info on POV, the benefits of each kind, staying in the POV you've chosen and how to choose the best POV for your story.

Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schmidt - Another cool one with tons of plot/structure ideas. It's fun to flip through when I'm stuck, but also gives a good understanding of how plot structure works if you just read through them.

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass - A book loaded with info. I mean, literally LOADED, it tackles everything from POV to plot to editing by an agent who knows what he's talking about.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne, Dave King - I'm actually about to dive into this one this week. I haven't read it yet but I've heard nothing but good things about it.

On Writing by Stephen King - because, well, it's Stephen King.

What are some of your favorite books on writing?

Monday, March 1, 2010

3 Ways to Ease Writer-Related Stress

This post is inspired by the psychologist in me, but hey, that is my day job. I've learned that I greatly enjoy the wild ride that is writing...from the thrill of the first draft to slogging through the trenches of revision hell. Long periods with nothing but the soft glow of the computer monitor for company punctuated by helpful, supportive feedback from awesome critique members.

In the last two days, I've gotten two requests for partials from agents after entering several contests. While I have yet to start the query process, I believe in celebrating baby steps -- which is why I freely admit to spending several minutes dancing around my kitchen like a monkey on crack. Realizing the requests only mean that my query is decent, not necessarily my book, I've spent the last day obsessing over my partial before sending it (thank you wonderful Sisters for your help!) I'm feeling stressed and I haven't even begun to experience the additional stresses of submitting to publishers, editorial revisions, book publicity, etc. Writing involves a lot of fun but a great deal of stress as well. So...

Here are 3 ways to deal with the stresses involved in being a writer. NOTE: I didn't include chocolate and wine, but I'm not saying those don't work too!

1) Rest. I'm not just saying this because sleeping is one of my all time, favorite activities. Everything seems better after a good night's sleep. I'd say shoot for 8 hours a night but those of you with young kids know you have a better chance of winning the lotto. Sneak naps if you can.

2. Play. Do something fun. See a great movie, hike, go to dinner with friends, take the kids and/or dogs to the park. Remember: All work and no play made Jack one f*#@'d up boy.

3. Read. More specifically, read something outside of your normal genre. If you live and breathe urban fantasy YA, read adult literary fiction. In my book club, we take turns picking the book we read each month and it's forced me to read things I wouldn't have picked up otherwise. I've enjoyed some amazing books this way and it gets me thinking outside my typical zone.

Simple, right? What's interesting is my kids do these 3 things every day and they are amazingly happy, stress-free kids. It's when we get older that we tend to lose touch with our inner kid. No matter how stressed I get, five minutes of dancing with the kiddos gets me centered again.

Except when I dance like a monkey on crack which prompted my 5-yo son to ask yesterday, "Daddy, what's wrong with Mommy?" So how do you relieve stress? What would you add to this list?
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