Saturday, December 20, 2014

Giveaway Day 9: Orphan's Song by Gillian Bronte Adams

Stephanie here! Gillian Bronte Adams is our guest today. She's sharing about her experience with cutting her debut novel from 120,000 words to 80,000, and we're giving away a paperback copy of it to one lucky commenter! Details are at the end of the post.

Gillian Bronte Adams is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, coffee-loving speculative fiction author from the great state of Texas. During the day, she manages the equestrian program at a youth camp. But at night, she kicks off her boots and spurs, pulls out her trusty laptop, and transforms into a novelist. Orphan’s Song, the first book in her fantasy trilogy The Songkeeper Chronicles, is now available. Hang out with Gillian on her blogTwitter, or Facebook page where she loves chatting about all things related to fantasy, books, villains, and adventures.

When I signed with Amanda Luedeke as my agent, she told me that she really liked the story and characters of Orphan’s Song, but thought it was too long. I needed to trim it down to get at the true heart of the story.

At that time, Orphan’s Song clocked in at about 120,000 words.

My new goal was 80,000 words.

So I tore into my novel with sword in hand determined to cut 30,000 words from my story. At the beginning, I didn’t think it was possible. There was absolutely no way I could cut 10,000 words from my story, let alone 30,000. I would give it my best shot, but come on, those 30,000 words were necessary!

But I drew up a plan and held to it like a lifeline as I dove into the turbulent waters of my novel, and it wasn’t long before I was treading water and headed toward shore.
I decided I would…

1.Be intentional about every word I allowed to stay

This meant that I often read and re-read and re-wrote sentences and paragraphs at least ten times before deciding that I’d said exactly what I meant to say in the best words I could choose to say it in.

Now, the best words are not always the fewest words. I’m a lyrical writer. I love using cadence and rhythm and varying short and long sentences to develop vivid word pictures and suck the reader into the emotion of the moment. But knowing how to balance your love of words with a desire to keep the plot moving is key.

And a great descriptive phrase that’s bogged down in a massive paragraph full of description won’t have as great of an effect, so learning to minimize words for maximum impact is a great thing.

2. Ensure that every scene added to the story

Once I realized I needed to trim my scene count, I started boiling each scene down to its bones to figure out what really needed to be in my story. Each scene needed to move the story forward, whether it was advancing toward a key plot point, laying the grounds for conflict, revealing an important piece of information, or simply pushing my characters toward who they needed to be by the end.

If a scene didn’t accomplish at least one of those goals, and preferably more than one, it was voted off the Island.

This was where I learned to combine scenes to keep the story moving and amp up the conflict between characters who were focused on accomplishing different goals in the same scene.

3. Cut unnecessary dialogue

Sometimes once my characters got talking, it was so hard to get them to stop. Especially once those juicy tidbits of backstory started floating to the surface. But I found that I had to curtail my characters’ talkativeness to the important bits or wind up with scenes that were nearly as longwinded as a bagpipe.

It’s really important to do this with internal dialogue too. It’s easy to fall in love with being in your characters’ heads and being privy to all of their thoughts and emotions. But it’s also easy to slip into using internal dialogue as a means of telling what’s really going on, rather than letting the audience see it.

So if the internal dialogue is just telling, cut it. And if your characters’ conversations start getting out of hand, reel them back in. Cut to the chase. Focus on what’s important to further the plot, build character development, and give your story that flavor that makes it uniquely yours.

In the end, I cut my 30,000 words from the story and wound up with a novel that felt a thousand times cleaner and sharper. I still have a tendency to write long, but keeping these three things in the back of my mind has helped me reel in my crazy first drafts to something much more manageable and easier to edit later on.

Stephanie again. Here's Gillian's book:

This is the actual copy I'll be mailing to you. After Christmas, because the idea
of going back to the post office before... *Shudder*

Due to the unfortunate price of international shipping, this giveaway is only available to U.S. residents. When leaving your information, please make sure to be accurate so we can reach you should you win! We will be updating this post with the winner once we've selected him or her.

Most writers tend to "write short" or "write long" like Gillian does. Which one are you?

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Giveaway Day 8: Your Choice of a Stephanie Morrill Novel


Stephanie here. Today's giveaways is your choice of any of my novels:

Click to read more about The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series

Click to read more about the Ellie Sweet books
Joking :) This one is always free on my website.

Due to the unfortunate price of international shipping, this giveaway is only available to U.S. residents. When leaving your information, please make sure to be accurate so we can reach you should you win! We will be updating this post with the winner once we've selected him or her.

When I was in middle school, I created a character named Skylar Lynn Hoyt because my initials were SLH. I wrote several Skylar stories before she landed for good in what became my debut novel. If you could rename yourself, what would you pick?

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Giveaway Day 7: 2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron


Stephanie here, and I'm continuing the 12 Days of Giveaways here on Go Teen Writers with a craft book I read this fall.

I stumbled upon 2k to 10k: How to write faster, write better, and write more of what you love a few months ago. Because I was already in the middle of edits for my project, I haven't been able to try out her first draft strategies, but I'm eager to with my next manuscript.

Rachel's book isn't some fancy system for writing your novels, but rather it's ideas about how to maximize the writing time you have using three simple tools:

Knowledge: Know what you're writing before you write it.

Time: Use your most effective hours for writing and writing only.

Enthusiasm: You write better and faster when you like the scene you're writing.

After some trial and error, once Rachel had all three of those things clicking, she went from writing 2,000 words everyday to 10,000 words everyday. This book was born out of a blog post she wrote on the matter, so you can check that out too.

She has some really great editing advice in the book too. It was a really worthwhile read, and some of you writers who are at the place where you're taking writing more seriously or pursuing it as a career would find it helpful, I believe.

Warning: There's some language in this book. I don't think it's anything that would have shocked my high school aged ears, but I want to be respectful of sensitivities and let you guys know before you enter to win.

This giveaway is open to writers in all countries and will be up for 24 hours. Please make sure you leave the correct information for us so that we can contact you! We will also update the posts with the winners, so you can check back.

How much time do you have for writing on a regular day or in a regular week? Generally speaking, do you feel like you use your time well?

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Giveaway Day 6: A critique from editor Rachelle Rea

Update: Our winner is Naomi Downing! Congratulations!

Stephanie here! I'm super excited that we have Rachelle Rea with us today to share 5 Tips for A Successful Self-Edit. 

It's a little surreal to me that my little Rachelle is a qualified guest poster these days. *Sniff, sniff.* Rachelle has been around Go Teen Writers basically since it began, and it's been such a joy to watch her grow and mature. Not only is her writing beautiful - her debut novel releases next summer with WhiteFire Publishing - but she's building a reputation as an amazing editor too. I've heard both Roseanna M. White and Lisa T. Bergren sing her praises. 

We're so touched that today Rachelle is giving away a 25 page critique to one lucky writer! You'll be in excellent hands.

SwitchedRachelle Rea writes novels by night. By day, she coaches others in the craft as a freelance editor. As a homeschool and college grad, her favorite subject was always history. So, until time travel is possible or a Tardis lands in her front yard, she writes about times gone by. She wrote her debut novel and first historical in one summer between sophomore and junior year of college. That novel will be released by WhiteFire Publishing next summer.
 Hi, I'm Rachelle, and I edit for other people. 
I correct typos and punctuation, check to make sure tense and point of view remain consistent, and suggest changes that ensure clarity. I enjoy my job. I also edit my own novels. Do you expect me to say I don't enjoy that job? Well, I do. 
But it's a lot harder to edit my own writing than it is to take the words of other people and push and pull until they're perfectly in place. Why is that? Why do my own words look pristine on the page until someone else finds a typo or points out that the scene I deleted is referenced in Chapter Three? 
Because I think I know what I'm talking about. 
When I sit down with my own document and make it a goal to power through a set number of pages before I fall into bed, I go in knowing what to expect. I have an image in my mind of what the heroine and her hero look like. I hear what they sound like. I may miss the reference to the deleted scene because I remember that deleted scene (and may forget that it's, um, deleted). It's part of the story in my mind. 
So my pre-first step for you when you sit down to edit your own words is don't. Wait. Stephanie's a fan of six weeks. I've gone as long as a year (I was writing the sequel, okay? Sheesh). When you write The End, revel in it. Throw a party. Give yourself some distance before you start self-editing.
Six weeks is over? Okay, then. Let's get started.

1. Read Your Novel.

A lot of authors recommend this: that you read your entire novel for a big-picture look at how you want to macro-edit before you tackle the micro-edit. Simply, scenes before sentences. This didn't work for me until I discovered you can email documents to your Kindle. Hallelujah. So read your whole novel and...

2. Make a List of Big Changes.

When I edit my own novel or someone else's, I keep a notepad handy. Or sticky notes. Anything. Later, I compile all my story notes into a document named just that and I look at the list as a whole. What do my notes deal with? Shades of suspicion. Wherever I doubt a character's motives (or where there seems to be little motive at all), wherever I'm confused about the timeline (and, alas, this happens often in my historicals), wherever I question whether a scene is really needed or can be summarized. I note all of it, make a list, and study that list until I decide how I'm going to go about removing every shade of suspicion. Next up...

3. Make a List of Small Changes.

This is often regressive for me. For instance, my novel's heroine is near-sighted and wears glasses (did I just hear some of you cheering?). In an early draft, she lost her glasses yet conveniently possessed a second pair. On her person. In the middle of a voyage across the English Channel. Yeah. This didn't make it onto my List of Big Changes, but it did seem contrived to an early reader. So I made it more realistic: she just lost them. Doing that, though, enabled me to make her more vulnerable later. Win. Don't be afraid to make small changes and see how that shifts your character's development or the plotline of the whole novel.

4. Editing is No Longer Optional.

This stage is not the final polish, but treat it like it is. Treat this like your mother, grandmother, or an agent you aspire to work with one day is going to read this draft. A note to speed-readers: refrain. Instead of glancing at the sentence, comprehending, and moving on, sound out the words in your head as you read. Slow going? Absolutely. Worth it? Every time.

5. Polish Until It Shines

This looks different for different writers. Some ideas:
  • Hand out copies to your friends.
  • Let your critique group read chapters.
  • Email your writing partner.
  • Ask a trusted mentor to tell you what she thinks.
  • Hire an editor.
Then? Implement their suggestions. Sift through what they say for what feels right to you, the author, but remember they have that distance you will never have with this story and they may make suggestions you don't want to make but perhaps need to. Finally, make sure you read that manuscript over again, catching the reference to the Long Since Deleted Scene in Chapter Three. ;)​

Lots of writers have a favorite part of writing the first draft. Do you have a favorite part of the editing process?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Giveaway Day 5: A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes

The winner of the copy of A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes is Emma Davis.

Congratulations, Emma! Contact to claim your prize!

Jill here. 

To celebrate the coming holiday and vacation, we're hosting the 12 Giveaways of Christmas. That's 12 giveaways, 12 days in a row

It's now time for Day 5.

Each giveaway will run for 48 hours, so be sure and check back each day to see what giveaway is next and who the winners are.

Today, I'm giving away a copy of my friend Nadine Brandes's dystopian novel A Time to Die. She also has some writing advice to share with you.

Advice for Teen Writers

Ah, you’d like advice? *ahem ahem* Build good writing habits now in your life. Being a teen has its demands and busyness (don’t you know it?), but those demands and busyness grow the older you get. Add a hubby to the mix, some kiddos, and homemade dinners every day? Ack! When will you write? Well, that’s where habits come in (just ask Jill!) If you form writing habits right now, even if it’s just a small word count per week, then you will always be progressing in your writing in the future, whether it’s word count, diligence, or honing your craft. Now is the time to start.

And a second piece of advice (because I can’t just give one) is to go to a writer’s conference! I attended my first one at age 17 and it drop-kicked me to an entire new level of writing. (Painful, but totally worth it.) Even if it’s a small conference, try to attend. You won’t regret it!

Thanks, Nadine! That's great advice. As mentioned, I'm giving away a copy of A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes. International entries are welcome. If an international person wins, I'll ship the book from The Book Depository. 

Here's a little bit about the story:

How would you live if you knew the day you'd die?

Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government's crooked justice system.

But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall -- her people's death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Giveaway Day 4: Winner's Choice of a Jill Williamson Novel

The winner of the copy of the Jill Williamson novel is Carilyn E.

Congratulations, Carilyn! Contact to claim your prize!

Jill here. 

To celebrate the coming holiday and vacation, we're hosting the 12 Giveaways of Christmas. That's 12 giveaways, 12 days in a row

And heeeeeerrrrrrreeeeeee's Day 4!

Each giveaway will run for 48 hours, so be sure and check back each day to see what giveaway is next and who the winners are.

Day 4 is the Jill Williamson FICTION winner's choice giveaway. International entries welcome. Choose any one of my novels or novellas. I'll sign it and mail it to you. And if you live outside the USA, I'll mail the book via The Book Depository.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Giveaway Day 3: Go Teen Writers/Storyworld First Two-Pack and a Guest Post from Raychel Rose

The winner of the copy of the Go Teen Writers/Storyworld First Two-Pack is Linea Marshall.

Congratulations, Linea! Contact to claim your prize!

Jill here. 

To celebrate the coming holiday and vacation, we're hosting the 12 Giveaways of Christmas. That's 12 giveaways, 12 days in a row

Day 3 has arrived.

Each giveaway will run for 48 hours, so be sure and check back each day to see what giveaway is next and who the winners are.

Today we have teen author Raychel Rose, whom I met at this year's ACFW conference.

Raychel began writing at a young age and has been writing ever since. She is the aspiring author of Flee The Cage, a young adult dystopian. When not writing, Raychel jams to too much Nirvana and piles way too many books to her to-be-read shelf. She writes young adult fiction, in several subgenres. Her other activities include, living it up for Jesus, procrastinating on Pinterest, and fangirling. You can learn more about Raychel on her blog.

My Writers Conference Experience

by Raychel Rose

With shaky hands I signed up for the ACFW conference. In the days that followed, doubt settled in my belly. Days before the conference, I was sick to my stomach because I dreaded having to pitch my novel.
      Stress weighed heavily on me as I began preparation. I tried to figure out what in the world a proposal was, revise the last chapters of my book, and faced many computer and printing difficulties.
      The only thing I was concerned about was those meetings. Not until the day before did I really think about what else the conference offered. I would end up making friends, learning my craft, and opening opportunities. So I prayed, a lot, and took a step forward. I tried as much as I could to shake the nerves away, and mostly succeeded.
     The first thing I did was register. That’s where I met Jill for the first time. I was so excited to meet her because I had been following the Go Teen Writer’s Blog for about two years now.
      The first timer’s orientation followed. It settled down a lot of anxiety to see other people there for the first time. Near the end they separated us into what genre we wrote, so I got to meet other young adult writers.
     The next day, the nerves of going to my first agent meeting began. I sat with my mom and we waited and prayed. Then the time came and I wobbled down to meet with Amanda Luedeke. Though the wobbling might have been from the new heels I was trying to break in (seriously don’t do that at a conference, I have blisters to prove it).
       After entering the wrong meeting room, I found Amanda, shook her hand, and sat down. My pitch started with, “What if a book told you you lived in a world based on lies?” Amanda was kind and smiled during the whole meeting. She read my work and gave me some feedback. She said I had great talent but there were things I needed to work on. I left the meeting, smiling and happy, even though she didn’t ask for any of my story. I loved the feedback she gave me. Before I knew it, the fifteen minutes whizzed by.
      After the meeting, I felt calm so I signed up for more appointments. Why had I worried so much about them? 
      Right after my first meeting I had another with Ann Byle. She took my proposal and gave great feedback as well. That night I met with two more agents: one wanted the full and a short story (I had to pitch that one from scratch!), the other offered great advice. The next morning would hold my last meeting, and this agent asked for my full, a short story, and a list of any other story ideas I had.
        Even though I missed half of two workshops and one all together (I was too excited when the agent offered to see the full), I learned a lot, and not just from the workshops.
      I met so many amazing people: Linda Farmer Harris, Cara Grandle, Braxton DeGarno, Diana Sharples, Jill Williamson, and other writers. They were friendly, willing to offer advice, and take time to ask me how everything was working out.
       Are you thinking about going to a writer’s conference? If so here’s some advice:

  • If you’re signing up to meet with agents, just remember they’re human and they might be just as nervous as you!
  • Do your research before going. Google “writing conferences” and take notes.
  • Make sure your manuscript is done and polished before you go, so if you get any requests, you can email it right away when you get home.
  • Break in shoes before the conference.
  • Order business cards. (I brought fifty with me and only had four left at the end of the conference).
  • Make sure you have a blog or social site, so people can contact you.
  • And most of all remember to smile and relax.      
I plan on going to many more conferences. They’re a great way to skip ahead of other writers in line with query letters and to build your networking platform. Remember that it’s okay to be a little nervous. I hope you all can one day go to a conference and make great connections. Just remember to pick a conference that’s right for you and your writing.

Are you planning/hoping to go to a conference in the future? Or have you already attended one? If so what is your advice? Share in the comments.

Thanks for that post, Raychel! Today we're giving away a 2-pack. The Go Teen Writers book and a copy of Storyworld First, both in paperback. Enter on the Rafflecopter form below. USA entries only on this one as these are copies in our homes that we'll be sending out. Thanks!