Thursday, July 29, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Today we're hearing from Melanie Dickerson. Her debut novel, The Healer's Apprentice, comes out in September. It's a young adult medieval romance that I can't wait to get my hands on.
As I tried to think of what to blog about for young adult writers, I decided to talk about the one thing that, more than anything else, seems to stop more writers from pursuing their dream of publication. And that is discouragement. So many writers quit before they get published. How can you avoid allowing this to happen to you?
First of all, you have to decide, from this day forward, that you are never going to give up on your dream. You have to dig deep and find that well of strength and determination, and then tell yourself you’re not quitting, no matter what.
Secondly, you have to realize that publishing is not an easy business to break into. Realize that success is often a long time coming and you have to be determined to stick with it for the long haul.
Think of J.K. Rowling. If I remember correctly, the first Harry Potter book was rejected 42 times. Forty-two. That’s a lot of rejections. A
Remember: A rejection does not mean your writing stinks. It simply means that that editor didn’t think your story was right for their publishing house at that time.
What if J. K. Rowling had, upon receiving her 41st rejection, declared, “That’s it! I quit!” What if she had decided writing novels was not a lucrative venture and she was not going to waste one more minute of her time doing it? She didn’t know, after rejection number 41, that the very next publisher was going to say yes.
Thirdly, is there anything else you enjoy doing more? If not, then continue writing. You may have to get a job some day to pay the bills. Some day you may have half a dozen kids screaming for your time and attention, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write. Many, many writers work, or go to school, or take care of a family, and write in their spare time.
Every writer gets discouraged, but if you persevere, you can be proud that you didn’t give up.
Melanie Dickerson’s first novel, The Healer’s Apprentice, releases September, 2010. The Healer’s Apprentice is a Young Adult Historical Romance, loosely based on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, published by Zondervan. Melanie lives in north
Thursday, July 22, 2010
In the stillness of the late afternoon she examined the room that was to be hers. There was a light colored wood wainscoting with a pretty chair rail trim. Above was flocked wallpaper in silver and gray-green. The floor was covered with a rug in navy, gray and dark green flowers. Creamy lace curtains covered the windows. A seascape hung over the fireplace, masts tall against the sun, seabirds hovering over the windblown grasses of the shore. There were candlesticks on the mantel and lamps with painted globes and crystals hanging from them. Aside from the rocking chair, there was a dresser, a wardrobe, and a single bed in the corner. Between the bed and the rocker along the wall was a cradle.
She couldn’t resist stroking the velvet drapes and fingering the tasseled fringe. The fine strands caught against her laundry-reddened hands. Did they really mean for this room to be hers? Fingering the worn collar of her best—and only—dress, she sighed and surveyed the room. She must look as out of place as a tin cup at a tea party.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
ds every since. Erica's here today, and then also on Thursday when she'll be talking about descriptions. (Something she's way more qualified to talk about than I am!)
Okay, enough of me talking. Onto Erica:
Every week on my blog I have a Friday Five—five things about me, or writing, or life in general that I post. This is one of the favorite posts among my blog readers. When Stephanie invited me here to g
uest blog, she suggested I do a “Five” for you all, and I leapt at the chance.
So, today’s ‘Five’ is: Five things I wish I had known when I was first starting out on the writing journey.
· Rejection is not only possible, it’s probable.
Ø As I was crafting my ‘heart-breaking work of staggering genius’ I just assumed everyone would love it as much as I did. Agents would be clamoring to represent me, editors would be dueling on the village green to see who got to publish my work, and the reading public would be camping out the night before my debut novel released and would be stampeding bookstores to get their hands on a copy. That debut novel was rejected by every
publisher in the Christian Booksellers Association. And rightly so, because it reeked.
· The best writing is rewriting, and rewriting entails a lot more than double-checking your punctuation usage.
Ø I can’t believe now how little work I was willing to do on rewrites. I had no idea how to edit a manuscript. Now that I’ve been through the editing process a few times, I know it’s a lot deeper. In fact, this past month, I gutted 1/3 of a completed manuscript and rewrote it in the editing process.
If you’re a little fuzzy on this as I was, I recommend a few things.
§ Revision and Self Editing by James Scott Bell
§ Any class taught by Angela Hunt. You can get a recording of her Fiction Workshop for a fairly reasonable price here.
§ Critique partners.
· The value of contests.
Ø I wish I had known just how much writing contests would benefit my work. I entered some with the HBWoSG mentioned above, got my scores back, and promptly decided contest judges were idiots. They just didn’t ‘get’ my writing. They were mean, frustrated, unpublished authors who wanted only to jeer at other’s work that was so superior to anything they could write themselves. (Yeesh, I was a pain.) Having learned and grown enough to finally realize I DIDN’T know everything, I came to understand the value of having my work critiqued by professionals. Every last thing they said and marked me down for on that entry was absolutely correct. I am now a category coordinator for a major fiction contest and a contest judge myself. I believe in the contest process, how valuable it can be to get an objective opinion on your work, and how winning contests, and even more NOT winning contests, prepares you for the life of a published author.
· That I should’ve studied juggling.
Ø When I first started out, I was very linear. I worked on one book from concept to completion. I didn’t begin a new project until I had finished the old. I now know that I can’t do this anymore. At any given time, I might have several books in several stages of the process of publication. Rough draft, content edits, copy edits, galley proofs, new release, repackage design. In one two week stretch this past spring, I worked on four different novels in various stages of completion. I’ve learned to put aside all the other stories and focus on just the one that needs my attention at that moment.
· The amazing sense of fulfillment writing would give me.
Ø Not just publication, but the writing process. I love to tell stories, I love history, and I love romance. Writing fiction allows me to combine all the things I love, use my gifts and talents, and hopefully deliver something folks would like to read.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
On Tuesday I introduced genre breakdowns and talked about those for young adults and younger and historicals. Today I'm covering contemporaries and a few of the big categories.
A contemporary novel is anything set after World War II through the present. Futuristic, science fiction, and fantasy are grouped under the title of “speculative”–I imagine we all know what those are.
The most widely read genre is Romance. And yet many of us (myself included) have no idea when we set out that Romance has a few musts. First, the love story between hero and heroine must be center stage. If it shares equal billing with another element, it is most likely a cross-over genre like Romantic Suspense or the like. Hero and heroine need to be apparent from the get-go, and usually they must meet within the first few chapters. Hero and heroine must have some issues, must work through them, and must find a happily ever after (a.k.a. HEA) by the last page. Usually this means either marriage or the promise of marriage.
Now, having a book where you don't know who the heroine will end up with can be an excellent story—but it's mostly likely not a strict romance. Having a book where the heroine doesn't meet the hero until the last ten chapters—the same. A book where it ends with the hero and heroine not together—not a romance. These can be love stories, they can be women's fiction, they can be some other genre. But romance readers have expectations, and if you don't meet them, an editor is most likely not going to touch you. And you know, that's for a purpose. When I picked up a book by an author I knew wrote great romances and discovered that she killed the heroine two-thirds of the way through the book, I didn't finish reading it to figure out how the hero picked up the pieces and raised their baby. I wanted a happy ending, and I wasn't interested in a “satisfying” ending at the time. Had I been, I would have picked up a different type of book, one that did NOT say “Romance” on the back.
I mentioned women's fiction, which is what many books are that have love stories but don't fit the strict Romance definition. Authors like Nora Roberts are billed as women's fiction writers, even though most of her books are romance. Some defy the conventional definition, so there you go. Other women's fiction includes the books about a group of four friends who each come into their own, the story about a woman finding a second chance after a divorce, the wife dealing with infertility, with unfaithfulness, the woman whose mother has Alzhiemers, etc. These are books geared at women, which are dealing with women's issues. They can have romance, but don't require it. I have a manuscript right now that has a love story, but just as key is the facing-her-past story. I could take the romance out and still have a book. This is women's fiction, not romance.
There's a thing called Love Story, which is what Nicholas Sparks says he writes. It's again not something a publisher will use a label, but it's something readers and writers toss around. Basically, it's a story where the romance cannot be removed, but which does not promise to follow Romance guidelines. Maybe it stretches all the way until death, like Sparks' The Notebook. Maybe the hero dies saving the heroine. That sort of thing.
Other contemporaries include:
Mystery—a whodunnit. Usually murder, but there are “cozy mysteries” that are often about a less gruesome crime. A mystery has an amateur crime-solver as the main character.
Suspense—one of those stories with high stakes, danger, intrigue, and a professional as a main character. Think 24. Jack's a federal agent, not an amateur. Military stories are usually suspense. The ones about police officers tracking down a serial killer. That sort of thing. (A Romantic Suspense is a story where the romance and the suspense are equal.)
Chick Lit—light and comedic, generally but not always in first person, may or may not have romance. Chick Lit is currently out of fashion. I suspect it'll make a resurgence under a different name soon.
I'm sure I'm overlooking some, and feel free to chime in with other examples or questions about how to break these things down! They're tricky—published authors can sit and debate this stuff to no end. But subtleties aside, you have to know what it is you're pitching to an agent or editor. And most of them will roll their eyes if you say, “It's a historical mysterious romance that takes place in 1980.” What they'll take from that is that you haven't done your homework and don't know where your story fits.
So—anyone need help figuring out what it is they're writing? =)
Beautiful is a dangerous thing to be when one is unprotected.
For seven years, Abigail has been a slave in the Visibullis house. With a Hebrew mistress and a Roman master, she has always been more family than servant . . . until their son returns to Jerusalem after his years in Rome. Within a few months Jason has taken her to his bed and turned her world upsidedown. Maybe, given time, she can come to love him as he says he loves her. But how does she open her heart to the man who ruined her?
Israel's unrest finds a home in her bosom, but their rebellion tears apart her world. Death descends with Barabbas's sword, and Abigail is determined to be there when the criminal is punished. But when she ventures to the trial, Barabbas is not the one the crowd calls to crucify. Instead, it is the teacher her master and Jason had begun to follow, the man from Nazareth that some call the Son of God . . .
Born free, made a slave, married out of her bonds, Abigail never knows freedom until she feels the fire of a stray drop of blood from a Jewish carpenter. Disowned by Israel, despised by Rome, desired by all, she never knows love until she receives the smile of a stoic Roman noble.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Today we're hearing from the lovely and talented Roseanna M. White. Who also happens to be my best friend. Roseanna, like me, has always known she wanted to be a writer and finished her first novel in high school. We've had lots of, "If I knew then what I know now..." types of conversations. One of the biggest things we wish we'd understood were "genre rules." So here to lay those out for you guys is Roseanna:
When I first began writing novels, I had all these big goals—among them, to provide that ever-elusive Something Different. I wanted to write a romance where you don't know from the start who ended up with whom. I wanted to write a suspense where the main character dies. I wanted to shock your socks off with the ending of this could-be-romance—and then I couldn't figure out why no agent or editor would buy them.
As it turns out, by breaking the mold of a genre, all you do is put yourself in another. And in order to sell it, you've got to know what it is you've written. So, I'm going to lay out some basic genre definitions so you can start figuring out what that work-in-progress is.
A lot of teens might be writing for their peers, which means you're working on a Young Adult, or YA novel. YA novels are geared at people in high school, so ages 13-18 usually. Your hero or heroine ought to be about two years older than your specific target readership—so don't write about 13-year-olds and expect that 16-year-olds are going to eat it up. Um, no. If you want it to reach 16-year-olds, make the protagonist 17 or 18.
There's the Tween books, also called Middle Grade or Juvenile (not in a derogatory way, ha ha). These are books for the 8-12 crowd and should again have main characters at the upper edge of that age spectrum. Anything aimed at lower ages are grouped together under the title of Children's, though there are certainly breakdowns within it.
All these books can run the gamut when it comes to subject matter—they can be romantic, they can be adventure, mystery, suspense, you name it. Historical or contemporary, they still fall under the general headings of, say, YA. (You can certainly call it a YA Historical.)
Keep in mind that not all stories with teen main characters are Young Adult—the genre is decided by the readership in this case. I've read many a Coming of Age story that has characters anywhere from 9 on up but which are not appropriate for young people to read due to the subject matter. These are adult books.
Now, onto a few other generals. First, historical. Historical is any book that takes place from the dawn of time until the end of World War II. Don't ask me why that's the cut-off, and it will likely change in the next decade to include the 50s and possibly 60s. For now, though those are called contemporary. Within the historical genre we have . . .
Historical Romance—this is a historical of any time period, where the romantic thread cannot be removed without the story failing. If the story can stand without the hero and heroine getting together in the last chapter, then it's . . .
Historical Fiction—a very broad genre that covers everything, pretty much.
Biblical Fiction—a historical that takes place during the time when the Bible was written, including New Testament times after Christ and into the Roman Empire. These stories may or may not revolve around the historical events in the Bible—they may just deal with issues of early Christianity or Judaism.
Medieval—a story that takes place in the Middle Ages.
Regency—technically a story that takes place while the Regent ruled in England, but more broadly, anything from 1800-1830 in England.
Victorian—from above through turn of the century, usually British. When we hop over to the U.S. we get our Americana novels, including . . .
Western—um, what it sounds like. Cowboys, ranches, gun-toting hotties wearing holsters and Stetsons.
Prairie—also what it sounds like. Think bonnets and rag dolls, wheat fields and cabins.
The Wars, such as Revolutionary and Civil, are usually just called historical.
Turn-of-the-Century—not sure this is a proper term, but it's a description used a lot. It leads up to . . .
World War I—pretty self explanatory
Depression Era—my, we're getting creative.
And we end our historicals with World War II.
Again, with historicals you can have romance (which earns the Historical Romance heading) within any of these eras, adventure, intrigue, suspense, mystery, etc. We occasionally use terms such as Romantic Historical Suspense to describe books, but that's not something a publisher will usually put on the back cover as a label.
On Thursday we're going to cover some contemporaries and huge genres like Romance, Mystery and Suspense, so check back in to figure out if you're writing one of these!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Today's guest blogger is Heather Burch, an author of young adult fiction that blends the natural realm with the supernatural. She loves putting extraordinary fictional teens into impossible situations. She's here to talk about making plotting manageable.
Go for it, Heather:
When I first started writing, the idea of constructing an entire plot terrified me. Here’s a new look at an old perspective on how to build a plot. I first found this information in a book called Screenplay by Sid Field. (It’s just as helpful for book writing.)
Think of your plot as a line with three section. The middle section is twice as long as the others.
[ Setup / Middle (bumpy road) /Conclusion]
Setup=1/4 middle =1/2 conclusion=1/4
Section one: The setup (First ¼ of book)
Begin with a great hook, then put us in your character’s world. Let us ride that wave until…
BAM! You have a plot point. ( the /’s on the graph represent them) A plot point is a moment that changes everything! It spins the plot in a new direction.
For instance, in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Belle’s life is pretty much the same until BAM! She goes to find her father and offers to take his place as Beast’s prisoner. See, now her whole world has changed.
Section Two: The bumpy road (Next two ¼’s of the book)
This section will be twice as long as your setup and your conclusion. It’s filled with ups and downs in the story.
Beast is kind and gives her a room rather than a prison cell. (Up)
When she refuses to have dinner with him, he locks her door and yells at her. (Down)
He tries to become a gentleman by actually using eating utensils. (Up)
When she pokes around the enchanted wing, he blows up and yells at her. (Down)
Beast gives her the library as a gift. (Huge, huge, huge up!!! )
See? All of section two is filled with ups and downs, but our characters are becoming closer and closer along the way. We can actually see them happily together…Then, BAM! Another plot point.
Beast releases Belle because he loves her.
Section Three: The conclusion (Last ¼ of the book)
Suddenly, Belle’s world has completely changed again. She’s free to return home. In doing so, Gaston realizes she loves Beast and plans to destroy him. All of this leads to our final page where Belle and Beast reunite.
Each section leads to the defining moment, the plot point. Not sure it works? Start watching your favorite movies for their plot points. Start noticing the major plot points in books you love. I bet you’ll see the pattern.
I want to thank Stephanie for letting me guest blog. Be sure to check out novelteen.com for great new reads and author information. My name is Heather Burch and I write about supernatural teenagers. Follow novelteen and you’ll be the first to know about my Halflings…and keep your eyes on the sky, they may be watching over you.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Today we're hearing from Gabrielle Skory, a teen writer, who has released her first book, The Pages of Red Diamond. You can read a sample here.
My name is Gabriella Skory, and I’m a 15 year old homeschooler. A little over a year and a half ago, I needed something to write while practicing hand writing. One of my favorite writing exercises is when you take two or three items in a room and make a short story out of it. So, I took my sister (girl) and a notebook that was on the table (forgotten journal). Then, one thing lead to another: What if there was something different about this journal? What if it was magical? What if it took this girl to another world?! I worked on that story for a couple of weeks or so, on and off, and then when summer came I stopped writing completely.
Once summer ended and school began, I came across what I had written and decided that I wanted to start up working on it again. After that, I just stuck with it. I just started falling in love with the story and the characters and I couldn’t stop writing! As I continued I would, here and there, feel discouraged - wondering how I was going to end the book, what was going to happen five chapters from where I was, wondering how I could develop the characters more. But whenever I felt like that, I found it best to stop thinking about where I was going and focus more on where I was. I personally find that as a writer, it’s much easier to take writing one page at a time – to not think about where you are going with your story, but to focus on where you are with it. And if I was still having major doubts, I would always just take a breath and take a break, then come back and take a look at what I had most recently written and decide if I needed to rewrite something. Or I would bounce some ideas off of my brother to get ideas if I were ever feeling like the story line was getting dry.I found it very important to put in at least forty-five minutes of writing in a day, even if that meant you only accomplished writing a page or less. Being homeschooled I was lucky enough to be able to use an hour of my school time and dedicate it to writing. And then I would write even more once I was done with school. Once I had finished my book, after about six months of consistent writing, I was shocked! I have always been one to read a lot, and to have a book of my own was just amazing! But then I got to move on to the fun part - editing. Luckily my dad helped with much of it, but the next time I write I am definitely going to pay more attention to spelling and grammar because it will save me a lot of time in the end.
Gabriella Skory is 15 years old and has been homeschooled her entire life, along with three other siblings. Reading, writing, and performing are her three passions and what she spends the majority of her time doing. If she’s not doing one of those three things, you will usually find her babysitting, hanging out with friends or playing the piano.
Still filled with anger from her parent’s divorce, and tired of the peer pressure from girls at school, fifteen year old Hazel finds comfort in another world called Red Diamond. Hidden inside a secret book filled with Kings, Queens, sports cars and spy gadgets, the people of this world welcome her warmly as Hazel uses her martial arts skills to keep the criminals of Red Diamond at bay. Things suddenly take a turn for the worse, however, when Hazel encounters a threat to the people of Red Diamond that may be too big even for her to overcome. Will Hazel be able to save them from the treachery and the lies, or will she end up a prisoner of the world she has grown to love, never to see her home again?The Pages of Red Diamond can be purchased at www.ThePagesOfRedDiamond.com