Wednesday, May 25, 2016

#WeWriteBooks, Post 17: Write Fast And Free


Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series. 

Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.


Welcome to week seventeen of #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays, where we are writing books together. This week I posted Chapter 15 of THIRST over on my author website. Click here to read it.

  

Recap

Week one was genre (THIRST is post-apocalyptic YA). Week two was premise. Here's my premise:
A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.


Week three was Storyworld.
Week four: maps and floorplans.
Week five: protagonists and main characters.
Week six: side characters.
Week seven: prewriting.
Week eight: plot structures. 
Week nine: Theme.
Week ten: creating a plot outline or list of key scenes.
Week eleven: point of view.
Week twelve: narrative modes.
Week thirteen: how to write a scene.
Week fourteen: Where to start.
Week fifteen: Prologues.
Week sixteen: Dividing Your Book Into Chapters and Scenes

Today's Topic: Write Fast and Free

We're at 17 weeks since we started our new books. I am a little over halfway done with this series, and I'm also a little over halfway done with my book THIRST. How are you all doing? This has been a lot of work! Give yourselves a pat on the back and feel good about what you've accomplished so far. Please don't get stressed out. Writing an entire novel is not easy. Many people work for years and never even complete a first draft. So today is encouragement day. But it's also a day with some tips to keep you going.
 
I've been a published author for about eight years now. And without fail, the number one thing I hear when I meet people who have been writing a book for years is that they just can't get those first few chapters right. It was the same for me. When I went to my first writer's conference, I had about 40% of the first draft of The New Recruit done.
 
A book at that level of "completion" is not complete at all. It is not ready to be pitched to an agent or editor. If you're pitching for practice, great. But if you think you're going to sell a book at that point, think again.
 
But I wasn't thinking. I was dreaming. And when reality hit, it hit hard. And it hurt. But it was good for me. I finally understood that I hadn't been respecting my dream. I had been playing. And I'd been rewriting the first three chapters over and over and over and over and over...
 
All that to say, when I meet people who've been stuck in those beginning chapters, I tell them to stop. Stop trying to find the perfect opening line. Stop trying to analyze whether or not you've started in the right place. Stop worrying if you're writing well or not. If you've got what it takes. Just stop all of that.
 
And give yourself permission to stink.
 
New writers are way too hard on themselves. No one creates perfection on their first try. People practice first. They practice lots. They make mistakes. And they learn from them. So rather than making perfection your goal, make finishing the first draft your goal. Give yourself permission to stink and plow through. This is why I love National Novel Writing Month. It teaches people to write fast. When I finally finished the first draft of The New Recruit, I threw out the opening chapters. Now that I knew how the story ended, they were irrelevant. That might not happen to you, but my point is, how will you know if you never reach the end of the story? Once you have a first draft complete, you have something to go back and fix, edit, perfect. This is when you can start worrying about opening lines and plot structure and whether or not your story is any good.
 
My first drafts are horrible. On purpose.
 
So here are some tips that might help you stay focused on the goal of finishing your first draft.
 
 

7 Tips to Get You Through the First Draft

1. Set goals and stick to them. Write a little every day. Or at least on certain days each week. Stephanie just launched another 100 for 100. These are great ways to train yourself into the habit of writing a little each day.
 
2. Resist the urge to edit! Don't do it. You can fix things later. For now, just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing (say this in Dory's voice from Finding Nemo).
 
3. Leave notes for yourself. I'm always leaving comments in Microsoft Word or highlighting bad sentences that I need to fix. Writing reminders for myself is so freeing because I carry Worry/To Do lists in my head at all times. Writing things down allows my brain to release that item, which frees up my brain to work. That's good. If I have an idea for changing something in a chapter, I leave a comment. It might say: "Rewrite this with Steve being the one who breaks the news." If I realize I've forgotten to plant clues, I might scroll back and post a reminder comment at the beginning of several different chapters that says: "Plant that Ralph is the bad guy." If I've written a horrible sentence and catch myself agonizing over trying to fix it and getting frustrated that it's taking so long, I'll highlight it. If I get stuck trying to write a fabulous and unique character description, I'll post a note that says: "Describe him better."
 
All those notes and marks are to remind me of things when I come back to rewrite. I will see my note, and at that point I will either delete it, if it's no longer relevant now that the story is complete, or I'll do what the note says. Either way, I saved myself lots of time in the first draft stage.
 
4. If you get stuck, skip that scene and keep writing until you get your daily word count done. Then you can brainstorm your way through that troublesome scene or ask some friends for help and you won't totally derail yourself from your writing goals. I get great brainstorming done while I'm cleaning or driving.
 
5. Stay offline! If you need to research something, refer to point 4. Get your word count in first, research later. Going online is a very dangerous move. There are just too many distractions. You'll tell yourself, "Ooh. I'm just going to comment on that one discussion." And the next thing you know, it's time for dinner and you've done nothing all day!
 
6. Get a writing buddy or even someone who will hold you accountable. For THIRST, my readers hold me in check because if I don't get my chapter written, I have nothing to post! It can also help to have a writing friend whom you do goals with and maybe even word wars. Nothing like a little friendly competition to increase motivation.
 
7. Give yourself a break. Don't try and write seven days a week. And when you finish a book, take some time off. I sometimes reward myself (Ahem! Bribe myself...) with a special treat after each chapter. The point is, you're not a slave here. Yes, writing is really hard work, but it's also supposed to be fun.
 
 

Archived Posts on Writing Fast or Finishing First Drafts

The point to remember is, first drafts aren't supposed to be perfect. Give yourself permission to stink. Have fun. But get that first draft done! We've talked about first drafts and writing fast before on Go Teen Writers. Here are a few archived posts that you might find inspirational.

Let Yourself Write Bad First Drafts
The Joy of Writing Fast
5 Tips for Finishing Your First Draft
How Long Should My First Draft Take?
Roll Up Your Sleeves, It's Time for the First Draft
  

Assignment Time

My goal for THIRST was to post one chapter a week, and I have my blog to hold me accountable. I refuse to fail! I will post one new chapter a week, no matter what. But I can't do that with King's Blood, so I have a one-chapter-a-day goal for that book, which I sometimes fail when the chapter is particularly challenging. How have you been doing at keeping up with your goals? Are you on track to finish as planned? Do you need to readjust? If so, do it. When I'm feeling behind, it always helps me to re-evaluate my daily word count goals and get my writing calendar organized again. Then I'm ready to tackle the new plan.

And if you've been stuck rewriting too much, stop and just keep moving forward. Leave yourself comment notes or highlight things if it helps you stop worrying that you might forget important changes you'll want to make in rewrites.

So, how is it going? Share in the comments. And let's encourage each other too!






Monday, May 23, 2016

Summer Writing Challenge: The 100 for 100 is back!

Stephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street, which releases in February 2017. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

Of all the events we've done on Go Teen Writers, none has been quite as popular as the 100 for 100 challenge.

If you haven't played along before, the challenge is to write (at least) 100 words a day, every day, for 100 days.

100 words is about a paragraph. You can likely do it in 10 minutes or less. Already, this post is 64 words long. So while it might seem like just a drop in the bucket, all those drops add up to 10.000 words in your manuscript by the end of the 100 days. And that's if you do the bare minimum! Not bad, right?

This writing challenge is open to writers of all ages! Here's how the challenge works:

1. You sign up on the form below saying, "Yes, I want to write 100 words for the next 100 days." You must be signed up by the end of June 1st if you want to play along. If you live in a place where our June 1st is your June 2nd, do whatever feels easiest for you. Either start on June 1st in your time zone or in ours.

2. Beginning on Wednesday, June 1st you write 100 words on the project of your choice. You must pick one project to work on for the 100-for-100 challenge. Only words for that that project count towards your daily words. Here are the exceptions:
  • If you finish your project. Hooray for finishing projects! If this happens, tell us so we can celebrate, and then pick something else to work on.
  • If you and your project part ways. This happened to me one year. The 100-for-100 coincided with a writers conference, and I pitched my 100-for-100 book to an editor at the conference. She told me they already had a book in the pipeline that was basically the same concept. And that was probably the last time I ever opened that manuscript file...
3. You write 100 words a day everyday until September 8th, and you keep track of it. At the end of the challenge, you'll send me your tracking sheet. Here's a link to one we've made, but you don't have to use this one. (This link will give you access to view it but not make changes. You can hopefully print it out or download it. If you're having trouble with it, let me know.) Somehow, though, you need to keep track of how many words you've written so that I can see. A few notes about your words:
  • You are allowed one "grace day" per week (sometimes life happens, plus many people take a day off a week for religious reasons and we want to respect that), and one "grace week" per contest. So if one week you only write 300 words, you just count up what you have, and press on.
  • You can write more than 100 words each day if you like. Most people find they do. But you can't write 700 words on Monday and nothing the rest of the week and still participate in the challenge. The idea is to develop a writing discipline. So some days you might write 1,000 words and others you might barely get in your 100.
4. When the challenge is over, you send me your form. Then three things happen:
  • You get my admiration and respect. I have actually never made it all the way to the end. I'm hoping this is my moment!
  • You get entered for prizes! Books and gift cards and critiques all sorts of fun writerly things that you'll like.
  • We post your name on a list on the website as someone who totally rocks. We also do fun competitions between the age groups to see who was the most productive. It's a lot of fun!
Some helpful tips:

Lydia Howe is a 100-for-100 challenge success story and she was wonderful enough to write a post several years about how she developed the discipline to write every day.

If you're looking for a community to do this with, the Go Teen Writers Community Facebook group is a fabulous place. Elizabeth Liberty Lewis, Lily Jenness, and Bethany Baldwin have been our moderators for almost a year now, and they do a lovely job. They're very careful about who has access to the group, so if you want to join, give them a head's up: GoTeenWritersCommunity(at)gmail.com.

We're planning several word wars on the blog this summer. The tentative dates are June 13th-June 17th and August 8th-12th. That can be a great chance to rack up words and make friends!

Have questions? Leave them in the comments below, and I'll get them answered!









Friday, May 20, 2016

Articles by YOU and for YOU

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 love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. To connect with Shan, check out her website, FB, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

I hope your weekend is kicking off splendidly. We have some fun news to share with you today.

In an effort to encourage your writing and to expand your skill-set, Go Teen Writers is calling for article submissions. That's right! We want to feature your best writing advice on the blog.


Here's what we're looking for:


Articles written by you (there will be no age limit for this submission)

 

Articles that encourage and/or instruct teen writers

 

Articles that are less than one thousand words



We realize that while some of you may have already written articles about the writing life--for your own blog or for others'--many of you have not. And that is perfectly okay. This is your opportunity to branch out, maybe do a little research, and share what you know.

Your article does not have to be complete before you can submit an idea to us. Simply provide two to three sentences about your idea on the form provided and if we decide to feature it, one of us will be in contact with you.

We are accepting up to (5) ideas per writer. All ideas can be included on ONE FORM.

And no, we won't ask you to do this alone. This is your opportunity to work closely with a published author. If your article idea is selected, one of us will walk you through the process, editing your work and assisting as you prepare your fledgling idea for flight.

When your article is ready, it will be scheduled to post here on the Go Teen Writers blog. Fun, right?

This first round of submissions will be open until May 31st. That gives you 11 days to dig up those ideas and get the very simple, very user-friendly form completed. After that, we'll review the ideas submitted and contact the writers we would like to move forward with.

Because this is our first call for submissions, we're feeling out the process and will not be predetermining a number of "winners." We're simply looking for fresh content that will benefit the writing community and will choose the ideas that excite us most.  

If you have questions, please ask them in the comments section and we'll get to them as soon as we can.

Happy Friday, friends!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

#WeWriteBooks, Post 16: Dividing Your Book Into Chapters and Scenes---And How to End Them


Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series. 

Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.

It's week sixteen of #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays, where we are writing books together. As I mentioned last week, I ran out of pre-written material on THIRST, so I had to take some time to brainstorm out what would happen next and how to set up this new part of the storyworld (that would, in seventy-some years, become the dystopian world for The Safe Lands trilogy). So my chapter fourteen is a bit rougher than my previous chapters have been, but I feel good about where I'm headed with the story. And I always remind myself that this is a rough draft, so I will have time to rewrite it all later on. I posted Chapter 14 of THIRST Monday over on my author website. Click here to read it.



  

Recap

Week one was genre (THIRST is post-apocalyptic YA). Week two was premise. Here's my premise:
A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.
Week three was Storyworld.
Week four: maps and floorplans.
Week five: protagonists and main characters.
Week six: side characters.
Week seven: prewriting.
Week eight: plot structures. 
Week nine: Theme.
Week ten: creating a plot outline or list of key scenes.
Week eleven: point of view.
Week twelve: narrative modes.
Week thirteen: how to write a scene.
Week fourteen: Where to start.
Week fifteen: Prologues.
 

Today's Topic: Dividing Your Book Into Chapters and Scenes---And How to End Them

Every literary work has some kind of organization. In fiction, this usually comes in the form of chapters, but not always. Today we’re going to talk about the different ways you can divide up your novel, including how to choose the best ways to end each scene or chapter so that the reader wants to keep reading.
 

How to Divide Things Up

First, there is also no right process in deciding how to divide things up. Some seat-of-the-pants writers divide things as they go. Others write their entire book in one big chunk and save the dividing for the rewrite. Then there are the outliners, who plot out their book by chapter or scene before they even begin writing. All these ways work fine. You need to find the method that is most effective for your writing style.

Second, every book is different. There is no right or wrong way to divide up a book. Some ways might be stronger than others, and that’s what you want to figure out. The goal is to divide your story in places that will give readers the best possible experience. You don’t want them to put your book down. You want the pacing to be perfect, not so fast that they are exhausted but not so slow that they get bored or frustrated. Subdividing your novel is one of the ways you maintain the flow and pacing of your narrative, escalate tension, and keep your reader turning the pages.

Some books have a shorter amount of long chapters. Some books have dozens of very short chapters. Some books have a mix of both. Then there are books that are also divided into parts. Or books with no chapters at all, like Frank Herbert’s Dune, which is divided into three "books" or parts, and the narrative sections are separated by a quote from several books from the Dune storyworld.

Wherever you decide to break or end a chapter, try to choose these places strategically. Whether you do that during the outline phase or later during editing is up to you.

There are many ways to organize your story. Parts, chapters, scenes, sections, prologues, epilogues. You could use chapter titles, numbers, roman numerals, or character names. Take a look at the ways the books below were divided up. The only thing I didn't include here were whether or not the books had more than one point of view. But you can still get a good idea of how many different ways you could go about dividing your story.

Things differ within the YA genre

YA contemporary fantasy: The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride, book 1) by James Patterson: 6 parts • 134 chapters plus a prologue and an epilogue • 442 pages 55,386 words.

Historical YA Romance: The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson: 28 chapters • 261 pages • 90,354 words.

YA dystopian: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: 3 parts • 27 chapters • 374 pages • 99,750 words.

YA contemporary romance: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: 25 chapters • 352 pages • 65,752 words.


Things Differ within the fantasy genre for the adult general market

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks: 66 chapters plus an epilogue 645 pages • 167,276 words.

Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb: 36 chapters plus a prologue • 809 pages approx. 300,000 words

Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn: 32 chapters • 404 pages • 117,735 words.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson: 5 parts • 75 chapters plus a prelude, a prologue, an epilogue • nine interludes (short stories interspersed in three sections of three interludes) • 1252 pages 383,389 words.


And things might even differ amongst your own books

By Darkness Hid: 5 parts  25 chapters • 490 pages 125,925 words.

Replication: 26 chapters • 294 pages  84,062 words.

Tinker: 10 chapters • 94 pages • 12,236 words.

King's Folly: 3 parts 83 chapters plus a prologue • 544 pages  189,119 words.


Mini plots
Many books use the process of crafting each chapter with its own mini plot, complete with a three-act structure of its own. This can be a great method of hooking a reader into the bigger novel one short story at a time.



Scene by scene
Many books have chapters with multiple scenes per chapter. I remember being confused about when to put in asterisks between scenes and when to leave a big space. Turned out, that was the difference between a scene break and a section break. How do you know which to use?


A scene break is when you hit enter (or return) three times in a double-spaced document, leaving two blank lines between one section of text and the next section of text. A scene break is used to separate related scenes. It's used to indicate time passing or a change of location that continues in the same scene. In the following example from my book The New Recruit, you can see how the scene break shows that time has passed.


                   “You believe in angels and demons?”
                   “I guess.”
                   “Ees real, Es-pensor.” And she turned back and opened her
           book again.
                    I wanted to say, “Don’t go!” but all I could do was settle
           back in my seat and try to think of another question to ask.

           Claustrophobia. I’d never understood the full meaning of that
           word until now. Coach seats were not meant for guys over six
           feet tall. At least I had the aisle to stretch my right leg...

 
In the scene above, Spencer was on an airplane, talking to a girl that he thought was cute. The conversation ended, some time passed--indicated by the scene break--and when we returned, Spencer was still on the airplane.
A section break is made by hitting enter to leave one blank line, centering four asterisks on the next line, hitting enter to leave another blank line, then hitting enter to type the next paragraph. A section break is used to indicate a complete scene break or a character point of view change. In the next example, also from The New Recruit, you can see how the section break separates two different scenes.
 
                   “Try to hold tightly to your temper when you are playing
           the sport of basketball à la gym . . . These things come to me.
           In my dreams.”
                   I didn't like the idea that Prière and I had things in common.
           Not at all.
                                                                 ****
                    At lunch the next day, everyone had already heard what had
           happened with Nick. The Mission League kids had infiltrated
           the basketball table . . . again. I really wasn't in the mood to
           deal with them, Isabel excepted.
 
In the above example, Spencer was talking with Prière, an intercessor, who was trying to give Spencer a warning. The scene ended completely, the asterisks showed the end of the scene, and a new scene began at lunch the next day.
It doesn't matter whether you use three asterisks or four or whether you tab in between them or keep them all together. The point is to be consistent throughout your manuscript. Also, if you’re seeking traditional publication, don't add your own cool graphics. I know it's tempting, but adding pretties to your manuscript is a red flag for an editor or agent that screams, "We've got an amateur writer here!"
 
Different Ways to end a chapter or scene
You might say, “Jill. If we want our readers to keep reading, why would we put in scene or section breaks? Why would we ever end our chapters?” Yes, it might seem counterintuitive to stop the narrative flow and keep people reading, but it isn't. When you are clever about it, breaks can be genius. Here are some reason why:
-If you switch points of view, putting in a scene or chapter break helps to signal the reader that a major change has occurred. This is much better than switching points of view in the next paragraph and confusing your reader.
-If you want to jump forward in time, a new scene or chapter is the perfect place to do that without having to write about all the boring stuff that happened in between. Here is an example of time passing from my book King's Folly:

               Jealousy twisted Kal’s stomach into a stone. He berated
          himself for such childish emotions and found comfort in the
          fact that come morning, they’d find Jhorn’s body and have
          reason to leave the prophetess behind forever.

                                                        ****
               When Kal woke the next day, he caught a young stranger
          going through Onika’s pack. “Hey! Get away from there,” he yelled.
 
-Using a scene or chapter break to escalate tension is a great way to pull readers deeper into the story and keep them turning the pages. There are many ways to do that. Let’s look at some.
 

Ways to escalate Tension

End With a Hook
Think of this the way it often happens on TV shows. The hero is in the middle of a high-stress situation, then the show cuts to commercial. You are on pins and needles waiting for the show to come back so you can find out what will happen next. Writers can do the same thing at the end of a scene or chapter. Here is a list of ending hooks. And keep in mind, these things don’t have to be huge reveals. It could be something as simple as a phone ringing when your hero is not expecting a call.

-The hero makes a revelation, remembers something key, or learns something important
-The hero decides to take (a major) action
-The hero reacts to something in a shocking way
-Something happens as a result of something the hero did earlier in the story
-The hero gets caught, stuck, or hurt in some way
-Someone important goes missing or leaves the group
-Someone important shows up
-The hero finds out he has failed in some way or something he was hoping for didn’t happen
-The stakes change
-The hero is perplexed and can’t quite make the connection he needs to make
-The hero is struck with an intense emotion (love, guilt, despair, fear, etc)
-The hero picks a fight (or is attacked) and fights back
-The hero makes a demand or gives an ultimatum or experiences the opposite in that someone makes a demand of the hero or gives him an ultimatum
 
End in the Middle of the Action
If you’re in the middle of a long fight, battle, car chase, or something similar, you might decide to break up the action with a scene or chapter ending. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself where you could break that would be the place of highest tension? Perhaps it’s when your character gets knocked down or crashes. The readers will be so curious what happened to the hero, they will turn the page to find out that the character gets up again or climbs out of the car just before it explodes.
 
End with a powerful statement
Ending a chapter with your hero making a powerful statement of dialogue or even a thought to himself can create a strong hook. I did this in my book King's Folly at the end of part one with this line: “Whether or not [Wilek] ever became Heir or king, he would not let evil win.”
 
End with a recap
If your hero is reeling from a series of events, then is shocked even more by something, he might get to a place of rest and take stock of what has happened so far. How could he have been so blind as to have missed the obvious? Did he make a wrong choice? What should he do next? Perhaps he comes up with a plan, or maybe he decides that he was right and encourages himself to carry on with his original plan. This can be a great way to give readers a rest after several intense situations. It can also serve to remind your readers of everything that has happened thus far.
 
End with a glimpse of what’s coming
You can also use a scene or chapter ending to give hints at what is to come. It could be that your hero and his sidekicks take stock of their situation, come to realize what they must face to reach their goals, and make a plan of attack.
 
Chapter Titles? Yes or No?
Chapter titles can be a great way to foreshadow exciting things to come in your story. I love how Rick Riordan uses chapter titles in his Percy Jackson series. In fact, I loved it so much, I did something similar in my Mission League books. Rather than simply use snarky chapter titles as Rick Riordan did, I formatted my chapter titles like a Mission League report that the spies-in-training must turn in, but the titles foreshadowed what was to come in the same way. How does that help me end a chapter, you ask? Because a good chapter title can pull the reader right in to reading next chapter. Look at this chapter ending and the following chapter title from my book Ambushed. To give you the need-to-know facts, Spencer is at a Hollywood movie premiere, just met his favorite actress (Brittany Holmes), and was unable to form words. Feeling stupid, he and his friend Kip head into the theater to watch the film.
I sat on MacCormack’s left, Kip sat on my left, then some random guys filled out our row. Brittany and Valeria were a few rows behind us. Dennis was sitting in the row ahead.
On the bright side, with Brittany back there, I’d be able to watch the movie instead of staring at her all night. 
Though I might do that anyway. 
The lights went down and everyone applauded and cheered. 
Roll film.

Report Number: 9
Report Title: I Insult Brittany Holmes: Light Goddess
Submitted By: Agent-in-Training Spencer Garmond
Location: Dolby Theater, Hollywood and Highlands Center, Hollywood, California, USA
Date and Time: Thursday, February 14, 6:07 p.m.

I'm banking on the fact that most readers will be dying to find out how Spencer, who already embarrassed himself in front of the famous actress, will manage to insult her. Hopefully, they will read that chapter title and keep right on reading.
 

The Archives

Here are some archived chapters from the Go Teen Writers blog that might also help you on the subject of chapter length and how to end a chapter.

 

Assignment Time

No matter how you choose to end your scenes or chapters, be aware of what is coming next in your story so that the following chapters can build on what you’ve worked hard to set up. Not every chapter will end with the same level of intensity as others. Variety is good because it will keep your readers guessing. The goal is to immerse your readers in the story and keep them turning the pages.

Take a look at some of your favorite books. How did the authors divide their stories? Look at how they ended scenes and chapters. Share an example of an author that did this well. Also, just for fun, share one of your own scene or chapter hooks from your book.




 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Mail Bag Day: A Writers Workshop, Characters Who Are Stuck, and Marketing Your Novel


Stephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street, which releases in February 2017. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.


School is coming to an end for my older two kids, which means I am frantically trying to wrap up whatever I need to work-wise before summer break. That means my normally very organized office looks like this:

This bulletin board is supposed to be for story stuff, and it's been over run by rally towels (go Royals!) and artwork. And check out that smear of receipts, sewing stuff, research material, and more on my ledge. There's even yet another rally towel crumpled up. Like I need a third hanging up? In that shuffle, there's also an envelope of hair that needs to be mailed. I need help. Shan Ditty, your lack of organization has nothing on me, girl!
My brain and inbox look similar. I've been atrocious about answering emails. Let's blame Eli, shall we?



Who could be mad at that guy?

Today I'm going to scroll through my inbox and address some of the events and questions sitting in there:

The Minneapolis Young Writers Workshop: 
http://www.mplsyoungwritersworkshop.com/

This was brought to our attention by the lovely Serena Chase. How great does this workshop look? Jay Asher! Ally Condie! Jennifer Nielsen! Jonathan Friesen! Jacqueline West! Serena Chase! (I can still pass for 19, right???)

Lani asked: 
I wanted to ask, what do you do when your characters are faced with a tough situation and they are in so deep...you have no idea how to get them out?

If you're feeling particularly feisty, you say, "Good! Now I have a chance to be really creative!"

How do you feel about lists, Lani? Because when I'm in this situation, I start making lists. My character could do this, this, this, or this. Or maybe your character doesn't need to do something, maybe something gets done to them.

If I'm really stuck, I reach out to my critique partner, Roseanna. She's able to give good advice because she isn't the one who has to deal with the work of it, if that makes sense. My brain goes for easy answers first because I'm the one who has to write it. Usually she starts throwing stuff like this at me: Could another character show up? Could you blow up something? Can you steal from a plot point later in the story? Can someone leave unexpectedly?

So start with a list, and if you have a Roseanna in your life, reach out to that person.

Hannah asked:
I researched publishers and found several that accept manuscripts from authors, rather than from agents. I read the guidelines for sending query letters to these publishers, and they said that the author must have a plan for how to advertise his/her novel. Do you have any tips on creating a platform? Are there any magazines that you know of that publish short stories by teen writers? What are some ways to increase my chances of selling a novel well?

I remember the first time I heard about this concept. I felt like I'd had the wind knocked out of me, honestly. But I'm the WRITER, I thought. I don't know how to do that stuff! This is one of the reasons why when teens ask me for recommendations for what to study in college, I always suggest marketing or at least taking marketing classes.

First I'll address developing a plan to advertise your novel.

Let's say your book is a historical mystery that takes place in the 1920s. Your ideas for marketing your novel might look like this:

  • Throw a "jazz night" party at my local coffee house with jazz music, prizes, a reading, and more.
  • Hold an online scavenger hunt with clues at each stop.
  • Reach out to the historical society at the location where my book takes place and see if I can host an event there.
See? That kind of stuff. Now for those events to yield any kind of buzz or sales, you need what they call a "platform." Which is to say you need an audience. People who are listening when you speak. People who will want to buy your book when it comes out.

So your platform is a number. How many people are following you on your blog, Wattpad,Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads, Instagram, YouTube, etc. We can debate the fairness of it all day long, but those are numbers that publishers care about because they represent people who are listening to you.

This isn't to say you have to be on every social media platform to get picked up by a publisher, but it's a good idea to pick one or two of those that are going to be Your Thing and concentrate on growing your numbers. Also, having a website that you can keep pushing people back to is a good idea because it's YOURS and not Facebook's, Twitter's, etc. 

One other thing I'll say about growing your reach is that one of your goals should be to make connections. Not in a, "Hi, will you recommend me to your agent???" kind of way. But in a, "Hey, I read your book, and I think it's amazing. I'm an aspiring writer and I write blah blah blah, and your book really influenced me. Thank you for all your hard work on it. Sincerely, Your Name Goes Here." That brand of kindnessthe brand that is genuine and isn't expecting anything in returngoes a long way in the industry.

Let me throw another link out there for you, Hannah, and any others who might be curious about this topic: Creating A Realistic Marketing Plan For Your Book Release

In regards to the short story questions, I would run a Google search for that topic because that's not something I know much about. And make sure to specify your genre. I believe most of those types of magazines are genre specific.

Have questions? You can write to me here, and I'll eventually respond!