Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How Attending a Comic Con Can Help You as a Writer


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.

I'm home from my second visit to Salt Lake Comic Con, and I'm a bit wiser than I was last year. Comic Con is huge, so much fun, and a little overwhelming at times for an introverted writer like me. Sitting in my booth for three days straight was enjoyable but tiring, and by the time Saturday afternoon rolled around, I was counting the hours until the event ended. I decided to share with you all how attending a comic con event can help you as a writer.



Dress Up in Cosplay
This one doesn't really help you so much as an author, but it's a lot of fun. You could dress up like one of your characters and have cards ready to hand out if anyone asks who you are. Or you could take the time to dress up in something really popular so that a lot of people will ask to take pictures of you or with you, and then you could hand out your author card. Or you could just do all this for fun and forget the marketing side of things.

Get a Table and Sell Books/Hand Out Swag
There are usually several options for vendors at a comic con event. Author Alley is often the most inexpensive option. You'll likely get a six-foot table, two chairs, and no backdrop. Vendor booths cost more but you have more space. I've had both and I preferred the vendor booth, though I didn't sell enough books to cover its cost. If you have a good salesperson who you can bribe to come work your booth for free entry, bring them! I'm a terrible salesperson and can use all the help I can get.

Walk Around and Sell Books/Hand Out Swag
It never occurred to me to do this, and since I hate selling books, I likely never would. But this woman came up to my table at comic con. I saw the pin she was wearing which said, "Ask me about my new book." So I asked her. She told me about her book, which is a spiritual picture book she self-published that is made up of landscape pictures she has taken on various journeys around the world. She told me that she has sold some 300 copies by hand, and that she has met all of her buyers face-to-face. While this method is not for me, I thought it was interesting and asked if I could share her picture with you all.



Walk Around and Meet Other Authors
You can go to comic con to network. It's a great place to meet other authors and talk. This can be more difficult for famous authors, but I did get a chance to meet Brandon Sanderson last year and David Farland this year. If I was attending the event just to network, I know I could do even better. You could jot down a list of questions, show up at the time when authors are at their booths, then ask a question or two. If they are autographing books, it would be good form to buy a book while you are holding up their line with your questions. And never hold up the line for too long. At least not if you want them to remember you fondly. ;-)

Attend Panels and Meet Panelists
There are often a few dozen panels on writing and publishing at a comic con. You can really learn a lot at these panels. I have been very impressed with the caliber of authors who contribute their time on panels. There are panels for other things too, like TV shows, movies, fandoms, and famous people. This year Brad and the kids went to the Jenna-Louise Coleman panel and to the Anthony Daniels panel. They enjoyed both very much.

Also, sometimes editors and agents sit on these panels. You can not only try and ask a question at the end of the panel, you can wait for the panelists to head out of the room and introduce yourself. I've heard of many authors who have pitched to editors and agents at cons. You never know. You just might sell your book!

Sit on Panels
If you can work your connections right, you might someday be able to be a panelist. This means you would get to contribute your wisdom and opinions on whatever topic the panel was about. It's a pretty fun thing to do, especially when you get to sit next to Kevin J. Anderson. If you do get the chance, remember, the panel is about a subject, not you. Listen, share when you have something helpful to say, keep it short, and respect the other panelists by not hogging the mic! Be friendly and have fun.

Here are this year's highlights in picture form. From left to right, top to bottom: the kids in my booth, me introducing Robo the robot dog at the Fairy Tales panel, Me and David Farland, me and Kevin J. Anderson on the Outlinging vs. Discovery Writing panel, me and a reader, Kaitlyn and me with Star-Lord and Groot, a weeping angel with a Blink YA Books tote bag, my autograph from David Farland, Kaitlyn and some minions, and a double book signing with James Dashner and Brandon Mull. No, I did not wait in line to meet these fellows as the lines were each at least 300 people long!





Also, yesterday was the official release day for Tinker, the first RoboTales book, so I'm giving away one paperback copy. If you have little brothers or sisters at home or enjoy books for younger readers, here's your chance to get a copy autographed by me and Luke! Enter on the Rafflecopter widget below. And if you don't win, keep this book in mind for a Christmas present for the young reader in your life.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Sending Your Character Back Home

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Birch House Press). 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.

(This post is part of the Writing A Novel From Beginning to End series. You can find other posts from this series on the Looking For Something Specific? tab.)

One of the most rewarding parts of a story is when we get to see how much a character has changed. There are lots of ways to show this, but something I really like to see is a character being "sent home."

This isn't in every story, nor should it be, but many stories have a moment where something has happened that sends the character back to their home world (meaning the place where they started the story) and the character finds that they no longer fit there.



While this is a scene that comes at the end of a story, it's really flexible as to where it fits or even who it should happen to. Let's look at a few examples that show the diversity:

In Cars, Lightning McQueen isn't so much going home as he is going back to the racing world. He finally arrives at his big race in California, but despite how he's spent the majority of the movie trying to get out of Radiator Springs and back to the society where he's a big star, he finds the superstar life isn't as satisfying as he remembered it being.

Another great Disney example is in Tangled. After Rapunzel is abandoned by Flynn Rider and her mother chases away the Stabbington brothers, Rapunzel willingly returns to the safety of her tower. Her mother undoes the hairstyle that the village girls did and states, "It's like it never happened." But that's not true at all. Rapunzel has changed and can't quite turn off that part of her that thrived in the outside world.

In romance novels, we often see this "going back home" moment when the characters break up. The characters try to go back to living their lives like they did before they met each other. In This Lullaby, when Remy and Dexter split, Remy goes back to her life of casually dating, obsessively cleaning her room, and preparing to leave for college. Dexter returns to his life as a musician. But their time together evolved them into new and better people than they were on their own—a trait that makes a relationship great in literature and in real life—and we see how they can't just go back to who they were. 

If you're writing a series, sometimes moments like this come after the climax. Like at the end of The Hunger Games where Katniss believes that after she gets back to District 12, they can all just pretend the games never happened and go on with life as it was. When we pick up with her in Catching Fire, we'll see she's found that's not true.

If you have multiple point-of-view characters, getting sent home may not have to happen to your main character. In Frozen, the moment happens for Kristoff. He's a man who likes to be alone, who never wanted to be saddled down with Anna in the first place, but after he returns her home and heads back up into the mountains, Kristoff quickly realizes that being a loner doesn't work for him anymore.

Again, this isn't something your story has to have, but it can be a very effective way to show just how much a character has changed since we met them.

Does your story have a moment when a character gets sent home? 




Friday, September 25, 2015

Suspension of Disbelief: Story World Rules

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.

Today, we're continuing the series I started last Friday on suspension of disbelief.

Suspension of disbelief is a fancy phrase for something that happens very naturally for most audiences. When we come to a story, be it on television, in a theatre, or between the covers of a book, we do so with the desire to be entertained. More often than not, we are happy to believe implausible things for the sake of hearing a really good story.

Suspension of disbelief happens on some level with most any tale, but for reader and author alike, fantasy and science fiction often require a higher level of commitment. In these genres, specifically, it's exceptionally important that the author create a world so compelling that the readers' doubts are readily set aside. 

Taken out of context, out of their story world, we have to try very hard to believe in Orcs and Goblins, in immortal Elves and towering Ents. But within the masterfully created Middle Earth, it's not difficult at all. Because Tolkien put time and effort into the creation of his world, we willingly suspend any disbelief that would dare creep up on us while we read. In this way, we become invested in the story. Invested in the fictional creatures and we freely feel their plight.

There's an argument out there that claims the reader assumes the burden of responsibility when it comes to suspending their disbelief. That when a reader comes to a story, they must choose to set aside their preconceived ideas and simply believe what is put before them.

I think there's truth to the argument, but I think in most cases this is happily done and as long as the author holds up their end of the deal, as long as the author does not screw it up, the reader will remain in a state of suspended disbelief. A little too philosophical? Maybe. 

Why don't we talk about how your story world construction fits into this discussion? 

Story worlds, specifically fantastical ones, must be built on rules. In some stories the rules play a large part in the plot. In other stories, the rules act more like boundaries, but whatever the case may be, you must be careful not to violate your own story world rules. If you do, you open the door in the reader's mind to doubt.

When I was writing Angel Eyes, I was very conscious of this truth. Believing in the supernatural--as I do--I genuinely believe that, with God, all things are possible. But I knew that if I wanted readers to suspend their disbelief, I could not have God swoop in and fix everything at the end. I needed to show that my characters were bound by the rules of the world they were living in.

So, while I believe that angels are immortal, spiritual warfare makes little sense to my human brain if angels and demons cannot be injured. To solve that story problem, I created rules. I had to decide what angelic warfare would look like, who it would affect and how exactly, and then I had to commit not to break those rules. 

When we think about all the fantastical worlds that use magic, we realize they are constructed uniquely. In some books, magic can be conjured simply by thinking or speaking, but in the Harry Potter books, JK Rowling makes it clear that wands are necessary for casting spells. This is an important piece of information and a rule she exploits to her great advantage. 

Without spoiling the books for new readers, think about how devastated we all were when So-and-so's wand broke. And what a wand it was! A very special wand, with powers So-and-so had greatly depended on. When we found out the wand couldn't be repaired, we understood the consequences were dire. And all because Rowling was faithful to the rules she built her world around.

Consider how anti-climactic that moment would have been had the author not been clear about the importance of wands. Which brings me to another point: if readers aren't clear on the rules of your story world, you risk toppling their desire to believe. 

The movie version of Maleficent is a great example because Angelina Jolie's terrifying speech at Aurora's christening laid a very important rule for us. Once Aurora was grown and pricked her finger, only true love's kiss could wake her. From the very beginning we understand this rule, we understand the stakes. And we trust the storytellers to do their job honestly. To give us a fairytale ending that is arrived at by staying within the boundaries they've set. 

I could get lost here meandering through one example after another, but I'd rather hear from you all. 

Which story worlds are easiest to believe and can you pinpoint 
some of the things the author did to make it so?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A List of Smells and Tastes


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.

It's another crazy busy week in the life of Jill. We are heading out to Salt Lake Comic Con in the middle of the night tonight/tomorrow, so I've been frantic as I prepare. This year, the whole family is going, so that will be a lot of fun. I'll post pictures next week.

I'm a list girl, and as a writer, I've made lists of just about everything you can think of. Recently I've made lists of smells and tastes to try and add interesting things into my writing. I thought this list might be useful to you whether you're describing food, a building, outdoors, or an underground cave. I think I have more food-like words than other smells, and I'm sure I'm missing a TON of words. There are just so many great words out there. If you see any that I'm missing, write them in the comments and I'll add them to the list.

To print out a nice, two-page copy of this list, click here.

a la king
a la mode
acidic
acrid
aftertaste
aged
airy
al dente
alcoholic
alkaline
almondy
ambrosial
antiseptic
aromatic
artificial
astringent
au fromage
au gratin
au jus
balmy
balsamic
barbecued
battered
béarnaise
bite-size
biting
bitter
bittersweet
blackened
blanched
bland
blended
bold
Bolognese
brackish
braised
brewed
briny
brittle
broiled
browned
bubbly
burning
burnt
buttery
cacciatore
candied
canned
caramelized
carbonated
caustic
chalky
charred
cheesy
chewy
chili
chilled
chipotle
chocolatey
choice
chopped
chowdery
citrusy
comforting
condensed
condiment
cool
course
creamed
creamy
creole
crispy
crumbly
crunchy
crusty
crystalized
cuisine
curdled
cured
curried
damp
dank
dash
decadent
deglaze
dehydrated
delectable
delicate
delicious
delightful
deviled
diluted
disgusting
distasteful
distinctive
divine
doughy
drenched
dripping
drizzled
dry
dry-roasted
dulcet
dull
dusted
earthy
edible
eggy
enjoyable
enticing
evaporated
exquisite
fatty
feathery
fermented
fibrous
fiery
filling
fine
fishy
fizzy
flakey
flambé
flat
flavored
flavorful
flavorless
Florentine
floury
flowery
fluffy
foul
fragrant
freeze dried
fresh
fricasseed
fried
frosty
frozen
fruity
full-bodied
full-flavored
gamey
garlicky
gaseous
gelatinous
gingery
glazed
glopy
glossy
gluteny
gooey
grainy
granulated
grated
gratifying
greasy
griddled
grilled
gritty
hardboiled
harsh
heady
healthy
hearty
heavy
herbaceous
herbal
homogenized
honeyed
hors d’oeuvre
hot
hot sauce
icy
infused
intense
inviting
juicy
julienne
kick
kosher
laced
laden
lean
lemony
light
limp
lip-smacking
liquid
low-fat
lumpy
luscious
lusty
malodorous
malty
marinated
mashed
mature
mealy
meaty
medicinal
medium
mellow
melty
messy
metallic
microwaved
mild
mildewed
milky
minced
minty
mixed
moist
moldy
mouth-watering
muddy
mushy
musky
musty
nasty
natural
nauseating
nectarous
nourishing
noxious
nuked
nutritious
nutty
odoriferous
odorless
oily
oniony
oozing
organic
overpowering
overripe
palatable
pan-fried
parboiled
parched
pasteurized
pasty
penetrating
peppery
perfumed
perishable
pickled
piney
piping
piquant
plain
pleasant
potent
powdered
powdery
preserved
puffy
pulpy
pungent
puréed
putrid
rancid
rank
rare
raw
redolent
reeking
refreshing
relish
rich
ripe
roasted
robust
rosy
rotten
rubbery
ruined
runny
saccharine
saline
salted
salty
sapid
saporous
saturated
sautéed
savory
scalded
scented
scorched
scrambled
scrumptious
seared
seasoned
sharp
shredded
sickly
silky
simmering
sizzling
skimmed
skunky
slathered
sliced
slimy
slivered
smelly
smoky
smooth
smothered
snappy
soaked
sodden
soft
soft-boiled
soggy
sordid
soupy
sour
sparkling
spicy
spirited
spoiled
spongy
spread
sprinkled
stagnant
stale
starchy
steamy
stench
stewed
sticky
stiff
stinging
stinky
stringy
strong
stuffed
subdued
succulent
sugar-coated
sugary
sulphury
sweaty
sweet
sweet-and-sour
sweetish
syrupy
tainted
tangy
tantalizing
tart
tasteless
tasty
tempting
tender
tepid
texture
thick
titillating
toasted
toothsome
tough
umami
unflavored
unsalted
unsavory
unseasoned
vanilla
velvety
vicious
vinegary
warm
watery
well-done
wet
whipped
wholesome
wild
wilted
woody
yeasty
yucky
yummy
zesty
zingy
zippy

Monday, September 21, 2015

When You're Stuck In Your First Draft

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Birch House Press). 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.

(This post is part of the Writing A Novel From Beginning to End series. You can find other posts from this series on the Looking For Something Specific? tab.)

After I write my big middle scene, like I talked about last week, I've usually given myself enough material to work with for a few chapters. But inevitably, around 2/3 of the way through my first draft, I find myself doing more staring at my Word document than actual writing. It's not that I'm exactly blocked but I've definitely lost momentum.

Most writers have a place in the first draft process where they find themselves stuck. By now it's happened to me enough that I've learned some ways to handle it:



1. Clean my desk. 


Yes, I'm serious. Often I've been in such a writing groove with my exciting middle scene that my desk is now a cluttered mess of story notes, research books, receipts, and random items that my kids have brought down to my office and left for me.

I don't do well working in chaos, and if I invest 30 minutes in getting the mess cleaned up, I find the words magically return.

2. Review my story notes.


Sometimes in the wake of whatever happened in the middle scene, I've lost touch of the other story threads I had going. Simply scrolling through my document or reading through my story notes will often jog something. Like in chapter four when I mentioned a character coming for a visit and who has never actually arrived...


3. Deal with holes in the story.

When I scroll through my Word doc or review my story notes, I sometimes discover I'm currently stuck because there's an enormous hole in my story.

I need a character to do something, but I haven't motivated them properly. Or my character has developed a terrible illness, and I haven't yet bothered to research symptoms of said illness. Or I planned on "something mysterious" happening at the party, and I still don't know what exactly that mysterious something is.

Identifying the precise hole is sometimes the trickiest part. Other times it's figuring out the best way to patch it. There's nothing wrong with waiting to fix a hole in edits—if I'm in a writing groove, that's often what I do—but if you're struggling with what happens next, patching the hole could help you get your momentum back.

4. Brainstorm with others.

Sometimes I'm stuck because I have no idea where the book is going.

Coming up with the right ending is often a struggle for me, and I always fumble my way through the first time. So when I'm blocked, it can be because I'm trying to ramp up to a conclusion that I don't know yet. Or even if I outlined an ending, it's probable that I've changed enough story threads along the way that my original idea needs help.

In this situation, I take time to brainstorm. Preferably with a writing friend or two because I have such tunnel vision that I can't see what's surprising and what's predictable.

5. Examine my personal life.

Sometimes getting stuck isn't about the tidiness of my office or poor character motivations. Sometimes it's because I'm sick, stressed, suffering from self-doubt, or not getting the big chunks of writing time that I like. If my personal life is draining my energy, it's only natural that my creativity will suffer as well.

In those situations, I've learned the best thing I can do is just sludge forward one awful word at a time and tell myself that I can clean it up in edits. Taking time off is sometimes helpful and necessary, but often I have to climb my way out of a writing rut by putting words on the page. If I do that faithfully, the momentum returns.

Have you had times when you've gotten stuck in your first draft? How do you motivate yourself to get going again?