Saturday, October 25, 2014

Captives is FREE on ebook today and tomorrow

Hey, Go Teen Writers! Just a quick note to let you all know that Captives, the first book in my dystopian Safe Lands trilogy, is FREE on Kindle, Nook, iTunes, CBD, and Google Play today (Saturday, October 24) and tomorrow (Saturday, October 26) only.

If you haven't got a hold of this book yet, now is your chance! Also, please help me spread the word to those who might enjoy this free deal. I'm slowly climbing the charts and would LOVE to reach #1. Help me out by downloading this book and/or sharing it with your friends and family. Here are the details:


Kindle link:
Nook link:
iTunes link:
Google Play link:
CBD link:  



Get hooked on #TheSafeLands with CAPTIVES by @JillWilliamson #FREE #ebook on #Kindle #Nook  ---> CLICK TO TWEET

Do you like dystopian? Young adult? Get CAPTIVES by @JillWilliamson for FREE! #kindle  #Nook  ---> CLICK TO TWEET

#FREE #Dystopian #YA Captives (Safe Lands 1) by @JillWilliamson 4.4/5-star (103 reviews) 416 pg #Kindle #Nook #iTunes  ---> CLICK TO TWEET


Captives FREE on Kindle ---> Share on Facebook
Captives FREE on Nook ---> Share on Facebook
Captives FREE on iTunes ---> Share on Facebook
Captives FREE on Google Play ---> Share on Facebook
Captives FREE on CBD ---> Share on Facebook  

Thanks, guys! :-)


Friday, October 24, 2014

Where To Start: Shan's thoughts

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Happy Friday, friends! When I was mulling over what to write about today, I noticed that both Steph and Jill have addressed story openings lately. Steph did it in her post on prologues and Jill did it just the other day with her article on making your openings intriguing.

I thought I'd add my voice to the conversation as well. Or, rather, I thought I'd steal Kurt Vonnegut's words and give you my thoughts. Here's what he has to say:

This certainly isn't a new concept. Not by any stretch of the imagination, but until recently I hadn't seen it written out in so simple a way. It's given me a lot to think about. Namely, backstory.

Here's what Stephen King says about backstory:

When you start your novel as near to the end as you possibly can, you're doing yourself a favor with all that backstory you've developed. You've just made it interesting. Think about what Suzanne Collins did in The Hunger Games.

Peeta and Katniss have a history, don't they? But Collins didn't start the story on the day Peeta tossed Katniss a burnt piece of bread. She left it as a juicy bit of backstory we don't mind her taking the time to explain later. It reveals something about Peeta's character and gives us compassion for Katniss, a girl who'd rather keep everyone at a distance.

By starting the story on reaping day, Collins places us smack dab in the middle of the action, and when the time is right, she lets Katniss tell the reader all about the time the boy with the blond eyelashes saved her life.

She doesn't dump it on us. In fact, she doesn't bring it up at all until Katniss sees Peeta at the sorting. The unveiling of the information is organic and I like that. In reality, she's stopping the story to tell us a bit of history, but we don't even notice because of the action happening all around. It's masterful.

This technique, when done well, can actually be hard to spot. All we know, as a reader, is that the story has started just where it should have.

Have you been told your story opening is slow? Could it be you're starting it just a little too early? What happens to your tale when you bump that beginning closer to the end?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sidney Sheldon on Playing God (And some Teen Author Boot Camp answers)

by Jill Williamson

I like this quote.

I'm not trying to say that in finishing a novel, I'm in any way equal to God, but I feel like these words capture the overwhelming feeling that comes over me when I set out to create something from nothing. It's not easy. And that blank page stares at me, reminding me that I'm only on page one of 300-500.

But when I finish that novel and hold the print version in my hands . . . Even though I still doubt that the book is perfect. I can't help but see that it is good.

How does the blank page make you feel?

Also, a few of you have asked questions about the Teen Author Boot Camp. Here are your answers:

Registration for Teen Author Boot Camp will open on December 1st.

Writers Cubed is offering ten need-based scholarships to the conference. On November 1, 2015 a "Scholarship" tab will appear on the Writers Cubed website where teens can apply online. You will be asked to write an explanation of why you feel you deserve the scholarship and also be asked to upload a letter of reference from a teacher. (If the teen is homeschooled, a letter may come from a non-family member). 

Scholarship applications will be accepted until January 15, 2015 and recipients will be announced no later than January 25, 2015. If applicants aren't granted one of the ten scholarships, they will still have a little time to catch early-bird registration which ends February 1, 2015.

I hope that helps!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Intriguing Story Openings

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

We've talked about story openings before, but lately I've been thinking about what kinds of things make the first line of a story intriguing. In our world of short attention spans, it's more important than ever to hook your reader from the first line.

But how do you do that?

You can hook your reader by . . . 
-Grabbing the reader's emotions. This could be done by making them smile, laugh, by scaring or shocking them. Any emotion can be used.
-Raising the reader's curiosity. You can do this by writing something suspenseful, by piquing the reader's imagination, by making a promise to reveal something, by letting your character say something intriguing, or by planting questions that the reader will want answers to. Anything that draws the reader in and makes them wonder what's going to happen next.

Make sure to:
-Write something simple and instantly understandable.
-Include lots of white space on that first page.
-Pay close attention to word choice. Make every one count!
-Test out your opening line on a few readers to see what they think.

Try NOT to:
-Use any backstory. At all.
-Give any information dumps. At all.
-Show your character going about his regular day. (I did this in By Darkness Hid, and I've heard numerous times that it took people a while to get into the action of my story.)
-Overdo the description. If you need some in your opening, fine. Just don't let it take over.
-Have too much action before the reader comes to care for your hero and what he's fighting for.

Keep in mind, there have been plenty of books out there that begin with things listed in the "to avoid" section above. As with every writing rule, sift it and do what is best for your story. Just make sure that you've chosen the absolute best way to start. This is a place that deserves extra attention in your rewrites. Put in the time necessary to get it right.

Do you struggle with story openings? Care to share your first sentence below?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Whatever it is you're doing, you're totally wrong.

by Stephanie Morrill

I'll never forget the time I shyly told a boy I liked that I wanted to be a writer. "And what will you do when that falls through?" he asked.

That comment, which I'll guess he put exactly two nanoseconds of thought into, echoed in my head for years afterward. With every failed manuscript, every rejection, every bump in the road. What will you do when that falls through?

Because I didn't know. If writing didn't work out for me, I had absolutely no idea.

Maybe that's why this wisdom from Ralph Waldo Emerson makes me smile: "Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong."

How true is that? And not just for risky careers like writing, for every aspect of life. Parenting and friendships and what you eat and how you study and what bands you like. There's always someone who wants to tell you why you're wrong. And if you can learn early on to ignore those who jump to tell you how wrong you are, you'll save yourself a lot of frustration.

Do you have a way of dealing with naysayers that helps you to ignore them?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Does my book need a prologue?

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.

You will findor perhaps have already discoveredthat the use of prologues in stories is a surprisingly controversial issue. Some writers are so strong in their anti-prologue beliefs that in my early novel writing days, I once walked away from a class thinking, "I will never be a lazy writer who uses a prologue!"

But that's crazy talk. A prologue is a storytelling tool in your tool box. Can it be used ineffectively? Absolutely. But I don't think that's a reason to throw them out entirely.

Prologues that I typically DON'T like:

The info dump: I frequently hear contest judges talk about how many fantasy submissions start with a prologue where the writer explains the story world and the history of the people. If you're a fantasy writer and you've started your story this way, I would advise that you cut that prologue and paste it into a, "Just for me" document. It's great information to know, but it's not the best way to start a story.

I understand the temptation to write this way. After all, many of the fairy tales we're raised with start with an info dumpy style opening, including a ton of Disney movies. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Tangled, and Frozen are the ones that immediately pop to mind.

Because you want the readers to "get" your storyworld, it seems like you need to tell them a lot of information. Think about The Hunger Games, though, and the way it drops us right into the story, feeding us bits of information at a time.

Cheater openings: This is when the prologue is actually a scene from the middle or end-ish of the book, but the author has put it up front. While it's certainly attention grabbing, this can also be a signal that your chapter one is snooze-worthy.

For example, the movie Mission Impossible III opens with a scene between Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), the villain (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), and Ethan's wife (Michelle Monaghan). The villain is torturing Ethan Hunt by way of torturing his wife, and just as the scene climaxes, we cut away to the "real" beginning of the story.

The opening scene with Ethan Hunt, the villain, and Ethan's wife is actually the climax of the movie. After the flash forward, they take us back to Ethan and Julia's engagement party. Why did they make that choice?My best guess is that they felt an engagement party had too ordinary a vibe for a Mission Impossible movie. They wanted a different tone.

My opinion is that robbing your climax just so you don't have to come up with a bang of a way to start your story is a bit lazy. But I like the movie, and it did very well in the box office, so the cheater opening is forgivable.

In the novel Twilight, Stephenie Meyer did something similar. She robs from the climax (though in a subtle way, seeing as she doesn't simply cut and paste) and opens her story like this, "I'd never given much thought to how I would diethough I'd had reason enough in the last few monthsbut even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this."

That's an excellent opening line, isn't it? It raises so many questions about this character. Much better than the first line of chapter one: "My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down."

For a novel about vampires, the prologue Stephenie Meyer uses is much more effective at setting the tone than the opening of chapter one, which details Bella's farewell to her mother and introduces us to the rainy town of Forks, Washington. Since her prologue is only half a page long, and since it's sold a gazillion copies, again, the cheater opening is forgivable.

Prologues that I DO like:

The prologues that I like tend to fall into one category: An interesting scene that takes places well before the bulk of the story takes place, but that impacts the main character's journey.

A great example of this can be found in Shannon Dittemore's Angel Eyes. The novel follows a teenage girl in a contemporary, modern day setting. The prologue, however, takes place 2,500 years ago in Israel and involves the villain of the story. It's short, it's beautiful, and it's effective. (Thanks to the preview feature on Amazon, you can actually read the prologue and the start of chapter one for free. Though good luck with holding off on reading the rest of Shannon's book!)

The Harry Potter series starts off with a prologue that's rather controversial among writers. You could make an argument that a prologue that follows adults isn't the most effective way to start a middle grade story. It's hard to argue too vehemently, however, against something that's had the wild success of Harry Potter. I like Rowling's prologue for a couple reasons. 

One is that it's entertaining. The Dursleys are just plain funny to read about. Right away, Rowling's prose is bursting with personality. ("Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." Just reading the opening sentence makes me want to reread the whole series.)

Another reason the prologue works is that it shows us some very interesting things that hold our interest. A cat reading a map. A man in an emerald green cape. Owls everywhere. We're intrigued.

But the real reason I feel this prologue is necessary to the story is that I can't figure out where else Rowling could have put this scene. There's important information in there, and it's much better conveyed to us like this than it would be if, say, Dumbledore was telling Harry about it later.

Yet considering the prologue seventeen pages long, confusing if you know nothing about the story world, and focuses on adults, it's not the opening I would have advised for a middle grade story. So, really, what do I know?

As you can see, prologues are not one size fits all, even among wildly successful books. Twilight has one paragraph that alludes to the climax of the book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has seventeen pages that detail life on Privet Drive 10 years before the rest of the story takes place, and Hunger Games doesn't have one at all.

What matters is that you're intentional and thoughtful with the way you open your story.

Do you use a prologue to tell your story? Why do you feel it works?

Friday, October 17, 2014

The End. Almost.

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Happy Friday, friends! This week has been a blur, what with the word war and our writing retreat and all. A few weeks back we talked about story endings and I thought I'd continue on in that thread since it's where I'm at.

Both Steph and Jill mentioned it on the blog and I've plastered it all over social media, but in case you happened to miss it, I FINISHED MY BOOK!

Well. Sort of. I mean, before we went to Tahoe I had drafted and edited everything but the climax and the denouement (which, by the way, isn't pronounced the way you think it is). But while we were away, I was able to finish it off. But the end isn't always the end. And with National Novel Writing Month fast approaching, I thought it'd be wise to mention that drafted novels are not finished novels.

They must be edited as brutally as you possibly can and they must be polished. Once I finished those final scenes, I made myself a Punch List. A To Do List. A These-Things-Must-Be-Done-Before-I-Send-It-To-My-Agent list. It looks a little like this.

Let me explain:

1. Timeline: I need to verify that I don't have any timeline issues. In other words, I need to make sure everyone can feasibly be where I need them to be when I need them there. I added several scenes in the editing process and I need to double check all my characters whereabouts. I also check for bloopers at this stage. If a character's wearing blue flip flops in one paragraph, she probably shouldn't have orange ones on in the next. Unless that's a plot point, of course.

2. Notes Review: On my last pass through the manuscript, I made notes. I have two pages of questions I need to answer and those adjustments need to be made in the manuscript.

3. Chapter length and endings: I have a few long chapters and some may need to be broken up. At this stage, I also want to be sure my chapter endings are compelling. We all want readers to keep flipping pages and this is the place where that battle is won.

4. Formatting: There is a way manuscripts are supposed to be formatted and sometimes editors and agents have their own requirements. Don't get fancy here, friends. Play by the rules. I always make sure my baby looks bright and shiny and just as Holly (my agent) expects it to look.

5. Research Questions: I screwed this one up on my list up there, but before I can do my final read through, I must get some questions answered and I've recruited a few experts to help. A physician's assistant has offered to answer some questions for me and very soon I'll drop him a message. I also have a lovely friend who's had two heart transplants. TWO! We're going to have coffee and I'm going to take advantage of her experience and her knowledge on the subject. Might be my favorite task on this list of to-dos!

6. Final read through: While I call this my final read through, it's possible I'll read my manuscript once more. Depends entirely on step number 7.

7. Beta Readers: After I've done everything to this baby that I can possibly think to do, I'll send it off to my beta readers and I'll cross all my arms and legs and pray they love it. But, I'm also hoping they'll catch my mistakes and inconsistencies. And when they do, I'll have another opportunity to make changes before I . . .


So, what do you think, friends? Did I miss anything important? Before you send your stories off to be read, what sort of things do you double check? Help a sister out!