Friday, February 25, 2011

Happy B-day to Me!

I’m turning the big three - O next week and I’m taking a week off from blogging and just about everything else to live it up. I’ve known people to freak out when they age out of their twenties, but not me. Last year was great with finishing my manuscript and finding an agent, and I have high hopes for this year too.

Back next Friday

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Chopping Block

When I queried my manuscript the word count was a little over 96,000 words. After my line edit, it now stands at just under 87,000. That’s with an additional scene. I was shocked. 9,000 extra words!? Am I really that, well...wordy?

My agent assured me that all manuscripts need to be trimmed, that writers sometimes explain things that don’t need explaining or continue in a dialogue that can end a few lines earlier. In rereading my manuscript, it is definitely tighter and flows better. I cut out two whole scenes, but the truth is, they were only in there to explain each other.

When it comes to cutting, I can never decide for myself what needs to go. Once someone else points it out, it becomes blatantly obvious. What about you guys? Are you having a hard time cutting out scenes or sections? Are you good at removing the unnecessary?

In thinking about it, it seems more established novelist can get away with lengthier novels…why is that? I’ve read a few that could have used a good cut. J

Friday, February 18, 2011

Books I Love – The Host by Stephanie Meyer

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves-Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.

If you don’t like the Twilight series (gasp…yes some YA fans don’t give a crap about Team Edward or Team Jacob) still give this book a try. It’s a bit long, but if flows really well and such a unique take on an Invasion of the Body Snatchers norm.

While Melanie (the human) and Wanderer (the “soul” invading alien parasite thingy) are stuck in the same body, they have very distinctive personalities. The love triangle is done really well, with Wanderer unsure if her feelings for Jared are only echoing Melanie’s own love for him.

This also touches a lot on human nature (as all good alien invasion stories do). The band of survivors has to decide how to treat Melanie/Wanderer and do not know how to deal with someone they know and love who is at the same time someone they loathe and are fighting against. Wanderer also has to come to terms with her own humanity and revaluate her species. Although they rationalize their presence by making the world better, taking away disease and crime, Wanderer begins to see that they are also harming the world they occupy, by taking away the dominant species' free will.

The Host isn’t typical teen angst YA and is actually listed as an adult novel (although it reads like YA). Check this one out, if you haven’t already.

Back next Wednesday after the holiday.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

SCBWI Grant Time

I just sent off my application for the SCBWI WIP grant. I’m using my current book, In the After, even though it may have a contract before the grant is awarded (fingers crossed). The great thing about this grant is that it only has to be un-contracted through March 15th, after that, all bets are off. You can apply if you have other books published or if you’re a complete newbie. If you haven’t already, check it out. You do have to be member, but if you want to write YA, a SCBWI membership is a useful tool to have.

Other than that, I’m still going through my line edit. It’s actually pretty tedious. It’s more track changes fault than anything else. Here’s what I’ve been doing for the past hour:

Left click. Highlight Accept Deletion. Right click. Left click. Highlight Accept Insertion. Right click.

Repeat several hundred times.

The thing is that you have to approve every insertion or deletion, so if you want to delete a comma and insert a semicolon, you have to approve both. If my agent makes a word choice suggestion I have to either accept or reject it and reject any of her comments so they do not become imbedded in my manuscript. Like I said, tedious. Whoowee. I’d better get back to it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I’m Awesome at Procrastination

This weekend I failed to work on my line edit at all and instead did these many, non-writing related things.

1)      Played a couple hours of Super Mario Galaxy 2. So very addictive.
2)      Watched episodes of Dollhouse on Netflix streaming. Why didn’t anyone ever tell me how good this show was? I think it’s cancelled now. BTW I’m going to marry Tahmoh Penikett. Should probably figure out how to pronounce his name first…J
3)      Read three books: Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa Klein, Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker, and Unwind by Neal Shusterman
4)      Attended a B-day party for a co-worker’s daughter. There was a whole table devoted to candy. How cool is that?
5)      Tried to reach 200 followers on my blog. Mission accomplished.
6)      Walked to Sweet Mandy B’s in search of more cupcakes. Best in Chicago. For sure check it out if you’re here.
7)      Watched Last of the Mohicans for the 100th time. Best. Movie. Ever.
8)      Generally hung out, chilled out, and slacked off.

My rationalization is that my brain needed a few days off to come back and make my manuscript as good as it can be. Makes sense, right?

What are your preferred procrastination methods?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Books I Love – Need & Captivate by Carrie Jones

This week it’s a two-fer! I’ll only post the summary for the first one though, so as not to give away any spoilers.

Zara collects phobias the way other girls collect Facebook friends. Little wonder, since life’s been pretty rough so far. Her father left, her stepfather just died, and her mother’s pretty much checked out. Now Zara’s living with her grandmother in sleepy, cold Maine so that she stays “safe.” Zara doesn’t think she’s in danger; she thinks her mother can’t deal.
Wrong. Turns out that guy she sees everywhere, the one leaving trails of gold glitter, isn’t a figment of her imagination. He’s a pixie—and not the cute, lovable kind with wings. He’s the kind who has dreadful, uncontrollable needs. And he’s trailing Zara.

These books are great. I love Jones’ attention to detail when it comes to setting. I went to college in Maine, and as I was reading I kept thinking, “This sounds exactly like Bar Harbor!” I flipped to the acknowledgements page and sure enough, Jones thanks Bar Harbor and the Mount Desert Police Department. I think it’s awesome that she’s captured life in a small Maine town so well. I know Stephen King is the master of making Maine super creepy, but Carrie Jones gives him a run for his money.

These books are also very well paced. Once you pick them up, it’s hard to put them down. The creatures are remarkable and described just enough to be creepy. You may think, “Pixies…seriously?” But these pixies are more like psycho monsters than cute little mischief makers. Captivate ends with a cliffhanger, so I can’t wait to read the third book, Entice.

What did you all think of these?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Line Edit Away!

Woohoo! I’m on to my line edit…with a bit of rewrite mixed in. My agent continues to amaze me with her awesome suggestions. I’m in the final stretch before submission. I thought I’d be freaking out much more than I am…but there's still plenty of time to have a nervous breakdown. J

I’m changing my blog schedule to Monday, Wednesday, Friday…if any of you are curious. The Monday – Friday thing wasn’t working out and I like having a set schedule.

I’ve been writing a lot of posts about the process of writing a query and getting an agent. Does anyone have any questions? I’ll do my best to answer them and anything I don’t know I’ll ask my agent. Did I mention she is awesome?

Monday, February 7, 2011

To Correct or Not to Correct

That sure is the question. The other day I was having a work related phone conversation and the woman was giving me her email.

She said, “Blah blah blah ampersand blah dot com.”

Hold up. I’ve never heard of & being in an email address.

“Ampersand?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said. “You know…the little a in the swirl thing.”

Whoa. This is the moment of truth. Do I tell her that the @ symbol is not an ampersand?

So what did I do? I just said. “Oh, okay.” And let it go.

In retrospect, should I have said something? She probably gives out her email a thousand time a day and either is wrongly informing people that this @ is an ampersand or has a bunch of people think she’s an idiot. I’m one of those people who appreciates (to a certain extend) being corrected when I misuse or mispronounce a word, but I know to the general populace this is seen as obnoxious.

What would you have done?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Writing a Synopsis or Summary – The Long Version

Writing a longer version of a synopsis is much easier than the shorter version. When an agent asks for a synopsis they usually want something between 8 – 12 pages, but of course, always make sure.

With this longer synopsis you can introduce more characters, expand on your plot points, and go into greater detail. Also, you have to include the ending. In a longer synopsis you don’t have a choice; it’s just how it’s done. Here are some tips.

1)      Always write your synopsis in third person, present tense. Even if your manuscript is first person past tense.
2)      Go through your manuscript chapter by chapter and outline all the major events. This will present you with a sketch of a synopsis. This will also help you see themes and connections that you weren’t aware of before. (Believe it or not, it happens.)
3)      Weed out minor characters that don’t need to be in your synopsis. Focus on your main character and a few essential supporting characters. My longer synopsis mentions (by name) seven characters. The first time each character appears, highlight them and make sure you’ve introduced them into the storyline properly. That way, the reader (agent or publisher) can quickly glance back through and reference any character.
4)      Focus on the major plot points. This is an opportunity to showcase all the exciting and important events in your novel. Make sure events flow in your synopsis; you don’t want to get stuck on unnecessary information.
5)      Pay attention to style. You want your synopsis to read well and be interesting. It’s a representation of you and the way you write.
6)      Don’t waste words. In a synopsis each sentence needs to count. This isn’t the time for flowery writing or drawn out scenes.
7)      End with the ending. This may seem like a no brainer, but a lot of people feel like they should end with a cliff hanger…maybe in a query but never in a synopsis. The agent or publisher needs to know what happens at the end.

These are my suggestions. Any others? I’m working on a two-page synopsis for books 2 and 3 of my series, so I’ll do a post about that next week.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Books I Love – Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

I made it through the storm just fine. One good thing about the blizzard is that I had a whole day to just chill and read. I caught up on some library books and this one really stood out.

Evie's always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours.

But Evie's about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

Sometimes I read a book and I get jealous because it’s so damned good. Yeah, this was one of those books. Evie was just the right amount of sassy and sweet. Also, I like female main characters that can kick some butt. Evie is extremely likeable as a lonely girl living outside of “normal” society.

I liked the way the love story progressed. Evie isn’t exactly torn between two men (boys…things…whatever) but she does have an outside influence (a fairy…literally) vying for her affections. With all the weirdness going on in this book, you’d think things would get confusing, but really White does a great job of holding it all together and making Evie’s word accessible.

My one complaint is that Evie calls her taser gun “tasey,” which really got on my nerves. I’m not in to cutesy wootsy…but seriously, that’s my only problem. The rest of the book was awesome.

Tomorrow – More about synopsis with tips on writing a longer version.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Writing a Synopsis or Summary – The Short Version

If you have your hook, the next part should be a breeze…not really, but don’t you feel a little better about it?

Your short summary is what you’ll use in your query. It will only be 2 -3 paragraphs, you’ll want to get across your main characters and your major plot points. I’m a big fan of putting the ending of a book in a query (for agents’ eyes only) but that’s a matter of taste. You want them to be interested in reading your manuscript. You don’t go into sub-plots or minor characters, no matter how much you like them.

Here are some tips:
1)      Simplify. Remember elementary school English? What are the most important things that happen in your book? Who is the main character? What is the major conflict? Some of you will want to mention the resolution.
2)      Refer to your main character and one other important character central to the plot by name. Three is pushing it. If you mention (by name) four or more characters, you need to reevaluate your summary.
3)      Sometimes it’s helpful to pinpoint your central plot point. Mine is the idea of safety vs. freedom. Expand on this point.
4)      Less is more. You don’t need to say: Stephen turns Mindy over to the awful Grunda monsters. Now the dastardly creatures have the device that can destroy Mindy’s home planet. You can instead say, Mindy is betrayed by a trusted friend, jeopardizing her safety and placing her home world in peril. (Oh yeah, I just made that up…impressed? J )
5)      Don’t use slang that you’ll have to explain. This is especially true for sci-fi or fantasy. Although your manuscript may be riddled with words of your invention, now is not the time to use or explain them.
6)      Don’t get bogged down in explaining details. Avoid writing things like, So and so does this because of these motivations and then this happens. Be succinct and to the point.

Just remember, this is a short summary, you will not be able to give every detail of your manuscript. You may feel at first like you’re cutting the heart and soul out of your story, but eventually you’ll be able to see a middle ground and be able to relay your story in a few paragraphs.

Any other tips on writing a short summary?

Next time – Writing a longer synopsis.

*There is a huge storm moving through the Midwest, sooooo I might be out of commission for a few days. If I don’t post tomorrow I’ll be back Thursday or Friday.*