Thursday, September 29, 2011

Contest on Another Blog

YAtopia is having a pitch contest, open until October 5th! The winner will receive a full ms request from Mandy Hubbard, a literary agent at D4EO Literary.

You have to put your entire pitch in two sentences, so good luck!

Link

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

1 Down...So Many More to Go...

And two classes later, I've finished my first college day! Please restrain your wild cheering. I received a Poe reading called "The Man of the Crowd" that was very interesting. It concerns a man who is watching London stroll by him while he's in a cafe. The character descriptions are amazing! Even though each sentence refers to several people he sees, you can picture each one clearly.

My favorite one is as follows: "...the loathsome and utterly lost leper in rags-- the wrinkled, bejewelled, and paint begrimed beldame, making a last effort at youth."

In that one sentence is an entire story that we don't get to finish. And I have an image of her in my head. Dirty brown hair, long skirt faded from too many washings, large blue eyes with lots of makeup around the corners to hide the crow's feet. I feel sorry for this woman, and she doesn't even have a name.

These are the characters that make books worth reading. The descriptions that are unusual and moving, even if in the long run you won't remember them. This short story reminds me of Iva Ibbotson's books. If you haven't read them, you should! It's historical romance, but very light and has multiple plot lines.

1 day of college down, and I'm loving it!

What is your favorite character description, or one that made you really connect with the person?

Monday, September 26, 2011

A New Day, A New Page

Now that I'm all settled in at the dorm, I'm ready to do some writing. As of yet each day has been filled with activities meant to keep us involved in campus life, get to know one another, and more importantly: not get trashed every night.

Since I don't drink, am shy to the point that I should be called a hermit, and know the campus pretty well, there has thankfully been some down time. Like now!

I've been thinking about the difference between my first novel and this burgeoning second novel. GRIFFIN'S SONG is written from three points of view: Sarah's fiance, Jonathan Harper, and, of course, Sarah. The sequel, WIND CHASER is written from even more points of view, ranging from the standard three above, to the pirate captain Tiras, to a lowly dock rat called Porter. I added different POVs so you can get a scope for what is happening throughout the world because of this one pirate ship. However, I don't want to do what, say, Greg Keyes does: have so many POVs that you don't have a main character.

Even though classes will be starting soon and I'll be up to my eyes in work, I want to continue writing the sequel. In this past year I've come to consider GRIFFIN'S SONG a home, a place where I can manipulate emotions and escape from whatever problems I have in real life. And WIND CHASER will be even better - perhaps a vacation home in Hawaii.

Do you prefer stories with a plethora of POVs, or do you prefer only one or two MC perspectives?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Blue Bedding and a Giant Etch-A-Sketch

So I'm all moved in at my dorm! It was an exceptionally busy day. And hot. Very very hot. It was a bittersweet experience. On the one hand I'm leaving my childhood behind. And on the other I'm claiming my independence.

But at the moment I'm so tired I can't even get up the energy to miss home. I didn't even stay up late. There was a movie in the commons on a giant blown up screen that looked like an etch-a-sketch. My alarm clock went off at midnight because everything reset when I unplugged it. Then at 1am one of my roommates came home and finished unpacking.

Then Wake Up came at 7:30 when my other roommate left the room. After breakfast I tested the showers and set up my internet.

That's all I have for you today. It's lovely to have my own space and to be able to decide where to go when I want to. But I miss my parents and my dog. And my air conditioning, since it was 80 degrees yesterday in a building with only central air.

Have a relaxing weekend, everyone! I'm off to nap. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Zero to Hero

There are a few characters in books that have stuck with me over the years. I admit that I am not an aficionado in the areas of paranormal, sci-fi, steampunk, and traditional YA stories involving stressed high school students. But I do know what I like, and my favorite characters are not limited to one genre.

Alanna of Trebond: I picked up Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce when I was in elementary school. It had sat on my shelf for a while without my feeling the compulsion to read it. A quick grab for a novel to read on a plane ride began my decade long love of this author's books. And my favorite character is Alanna. I wanted to be her so badly. She had spunk, she had a temper and wasn't afraid to use it. She didn't let others make her decisions. And she could fight as well as any man. What little girl hasn't wanted to be a knight? I loved her.

 For a while a grown out haircut gave me a striking resemblance to Alanna. Seriously, that is almost exactly what I looked like for a few months. Minus the poofy shirt and sword.
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Image: Goodreads
Keeley Grant: Again a spunky character. I am a shameless reader of romance novels. Probably because in books the love actually works out. This tough girl was an Olympic silver medalist in horse jumping. Now, I am a dedicated fan and ex-participant of barrel racing so I don't understand jumping as well. But I loved this character because she was mule-headed enough to go after what she wanted.

Eleanor Dashwood: This quiet protagonist of Sense and Sensibility tried to never burden her family with her problems, unlike her volatile sister Marianne. I wish I could be as restrained as her.

Peeta Mellark: Kind and compassionate, this male character in Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games never let go of his true character. He was hardened, of course, by the tragic events in the books, but he was straight-forward and charismatic.

Leafpool: Yes, I'll admit that I read the Warriors series. It began a long time ago, and now I read them to see how the books connect and how the authors change the story and keep it interesting. Considering there are over 20 books, it's quite a feat. And I love the gentle medicine cat, Leafpool, for her love of her family and her belief system that's so strong it led her to give up the option of a mate to pursue her destiny in the Clans.

Briar Moss: Tough as nails on the outside, but a love of all things green and his adoptive sisters on the inside. In another Tamora Pierce series, this ex-street rat wormed his way into my list of favorite characters because of his sense of humor and tenacity. I wanted him as a big brother. He would be the kind of guy to make you laugh while secretly putting a whoopee cushion on your chair.

Harriet Morton: And finally there's this protagonist of A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson. She was helpful and like a small ball of sunshine. Intelligent and desperately wishing she could love the family that oppressed her love of the theater. I wish I could have her bravery. Instead of Alanna's flashy bravery in ditching it all to go after her dream of being a knight, Harriet slunk away with a ballet company up the Amazon, and eventually came to terms with her decision.

All these books that I've read have been spread out over the years. My bookcase is double stacked with books filled with likable characters. But I find that the ones I love the most are the ones where I either have something in common with them, or wish I were like them. The genres include historical fiction, dystopian, MG, fantasy, and romance. There are many more. But these characters, all different, have taught me how to be. How I can be brave, romantic, practical, strong, and compassionate.

They have taught me who I am.

What characters have influenced your life or made you seen things a different way?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Recommendations

So I'm heading off to school soon, and have had to cull my library to an excruciatingly small amount so as to maximize space in my dorm. And I want to have a nice representation of genre.

My list is as follows:
Under the Black Flag - research book for my novel
East - bildungsroman
Tricksters Choice/Queen - fantasy
Too Good To Be True - romance
Sense and Sensibility - novel of manners
All the classics on my Kindle and the books required for my English classes

What other books do you think I should take that would be in equal parts inspiring, humorous, enjoyable, and otherwise good?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Long Long Night

You know those scenes in books where a character tosses and turns all night while thinking/dreaming about the conflict in the story? Well I had one of those last night. Only it wasn't because I was thinking about that special guy, or debating how to overcome some obstacle the next day. No, I kept waking up because of ridiculous dreams and my dog leaping up and down from my bed.

And it always amazed me how in those novels the MC would wake up the next day, be achy and grumpy for a while, but then when the conflict escalates they can put it aside and make it through death defying climaxes a la Dan Brown.

It amazes me still, because after a night where I did, however briefly, sleep, I feel like someone has tried to glue my eyelids shut and stuffed my ears with cotton wool.

So much for my plan of packing up all my dorm equipment. I think I'll just stay in bed researching literary agencies and watching sitcoms. And make more coffee, since I've already emptied my thermos.

Quote of the day: "It is perfectly okay to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly" - C. J. Cherryh

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Other WIP

Now that GRIFFIN'S SONG is off to my critique partner I'm spending time with a pet project. TRAPPED IN MY HEAD is a young adult novel focusing on the social system in high schools, and how everyone has a motive, no matter how simple.

I began this project while I was at the coast, working. It started as emotional purging, for I wrote into the characters traits of people I knew. But after writing the general idea, I started into the character descriptions. And the story just took off.

If you've ever seen She's the Man, you'll know the kind of story I'm talking about. Everyone has preconceptions, and something in their life that forces them to act certain ways. Be it love, disease, homework, heartbreak, or parent troubles, there is always a motive.

And that's why I started writing TIMH, starring Ellie, a seventeen-year-old with Ivy League aspirations and a boyfriend who dumped her for her friend. Enter Sage, a plump eighteen-year-old, who is as prickly as a cactus. With her family moving to Los Angeles after graduation, she's just trying to survive her senior year and the other kids' taunting. When the two meet all hell breaks loose, secrets come out into the open, and no one knows if it's for better or for worse.

What started out as emotional downpour now has full character charts, a story outline, and 12,000 words. Every time I work on this project I slip back into my own senior year, and I can't help but remember everything that happened - good and bad.

It's probably just a purging novel, that I won't try to polish and sell. But it certainly is fun to write.

Enjoy your weekend, everybody!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What Now?

I've sent my manuscript off to my critique partner after some pretty heavy editing. I'm dorm shopping tomorrow and my room is relatively clean. Work is over and it's too cold to swim. So what do I do now?

My List:
  • Go through clothing and determine what I'm bringing to college
  • Watch Disney movies till my eyes blur
  • Start researching the 17 page list of literary agencies I've compiled
  • Figure out what books I can't live without and pack them
  • Work on sequel to the book I just sent off
  • Do some tweaking on my query letter
  • Work on one of my three other WIPs
  • Clean room so it is more than relatively clean
  • Finish my university's common book *sigh*
  • Make coffee
  • Drink coffee
Well, I suppose I've got enough to do! Some obviously more important items. Like making that coffee. In fact, I think I'll go do that now. Tootles!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dilemma

So I've had a couple days away from writing. Got to go to a fair and then spent the next day with a good friend. Since I've joined the forum community on Nathan Bransford's blog, I've been forced to look more closely at my query letter. And I've realized that, while it's not terrible, it's not great.

Which means I've spent a good chunk of time trying to improve it, even sending it to a non-writer friend who knows my story to see if she would be interested in reading it provided with just my plot summary.

But now I'm back to editing my novel so I can send it off to a critique partner this week before dorm shopping sweeps me up. Now, to those of you who have read past posts on this blog, you'll know that Griffin's Song is a multi-perspective novel. But the last couple days I've been debating whether or not this is wise. It is a young adult novel, which tend to be between 75k and 100k(max) words. And mine is currently 108k.

So I've been contemplating scrapping the second point of view, which brings my word count down to 73k, which is much more manageable. Of course, I wouldn't want to. I love Jonathan's perspective (naval captain tracking the pirate ship) and I think there's some good foreshadowing for the next book in the series. But if I can't get the word count down...it may be my only option.

Opinions? What drastic measures have you gone to to bring down your word count?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

If you look in a mirror too long*

My Main Problem Character: Sarah Whitman

Description: Soft brown hair which falls in waves below her shoulders and frames her pixie features. A small nose inherited from her grandmother, so she was told, is positioned above a tulip shaped mouth, the lower lip fuller than the upper, colored a delicate pink. Her eyes are almond shaped and the same gray as her father's. In the sun they are flecked with green. At 14 she is barely five feet four inches, and the majority of that height consists of her long, coltish legs that are always running somewhere.

My Problem: When this story was originally told to me by my father, Sarah had no name. She was simply, The Girl. And it wasn't until much later in life that I discovered The Girl was modeled after me. She originally was of average height, very thin, with bright red hair and very blue eyes. That's how my dad saw me her. And though I've changed her appearance to suit my own desires, some aspects of my personality are mirrored in this fictional girl. For one, her tendency to push away confrontation and negative thoughts. I'd rather not think about the terrible things happening on Wall Street or in Washington DC, or even the problems in my own life. Just like Sarah, I wish I were braver than I am. And looking back on my book, I now see why it's been hard to bare this book to critique. So much of me is in there. In her.

My Solution: A la Sarah, I'm going to avoid confrontation. The sensible part of me knows I need critique because I am new to this world of commercial writers, agents, and publishing. So I'll push away that child in me that wants to curl up in a fetal position when I send off a chapter to be looked at. I need this. Yes I do. And I'll repeat this until I am comfortable with it.

*If you look in a mirror too long you start to see the fault lines, the creases, the flaws that a cursory glance overlooks. And you'll compare yourself to something assumed better than what you see.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Editing

I have a love-hate relationship with editing. On the one hand I truly believe that revisions are making my manuscript better, but on the other they are such a big pain in the rear. Yes, I've cut almost 8,000 words from the story, and it is more concise. Yes you get more flavor with the characters now.

But sometimes I still want to chuck the whole thing in a bin. This is about the 6th time I've done a full edit, changing the plot, adding and snipping. Now I'm slashing and burning. I need this book to be a reasonable length. Then I can continue with my querying as I work towards finishing the first draft of the sequel.

The scene I mentioned in an earlier post? The one I'd have to redo? Now it's completely gone. I toyed with the notion of adding a new scene, but it would just be to increase the amount of dialogue, not further the plot. So I deleted it.

Given this frustrated attitude, I've developed a reward system. For every chapter I edit, I get to read a chapter of whatever book I want. I've read over half a book this way.

But I just finished my allotted chapter, and it's back to the grindstone. I wish I knew for certain what I'm doing  will pay off in the end.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Death of 3rd Person

It's probably not an actual death. But it sure as heck feels like one. It might just be the books I've picked up recently, but they all seem to be in first person. And I have no beef with first person, although it sometimes seems like a way to cop out of making truer connections between the character and reader. Heck, I've even written a few stories in first person.

But the repetition got me to thinking about why more books appear to be using "I" and "me" instead of "he" and "she". And I wonder if it has to do with media. Like as not there have been hundreds of posts like this on other authors' blogs, but I wanted to put out my two cents.

Since we live in a world of Twitter and Facebook and Google+, we are used to talking about ourselves to other people over media forms in the first person. Of course we are, because referring to yourself in third person can look rather odd. I once had a substitute teacher who only talked in third person. Interesting guy, but very weird.

So I'm wondering if these media outlets have influenced our writing style. We are now so adjusted to the immediate information surge of these places that it changes our writing to reflect it. More action, more dialogue, less internal conflict. Because to keep up in this technology age, you need to have an instantaneous reaction, otherwise everything has changed and you just sit there with a confused and slightly dazed expression.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Home Again Home Again

Tired doesn't even begin to describe it. The last two days have been exhausting to say the least. I have the limp to show for it. Thanks to an old gymnastics injury my ankle still acts up after I use it a lot. Let's just say, had I not brought my brace with me, I would not have made it through Labor Day weekend.

In writing news, I've been working more on cutting my word count (slowly but surely) and refining my list of agencies to research. I'm down to 20 pages! And I'm attempting to reach out to the wide writer universe by joining the forums on Nathan Bransford's blog, as well as Absolute Write. Not to mention commenting on blogs I read.

Not bad for a summer spent out of touch with my usual world. But now that I'm back home before college I'm looking forward to spending some serious time with my book, as well as with my family and friends.

Look out, world, here I come!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Exhaustion of Mind and Body

It is my last weekend of work. After Monday I will be returning home for several weeks before starting my fall quarter of college. And as it so happens, my last weekend of work is Labor Day weekend. And the weather is beautiful, and warm which is a rare combination here.

So naturally people are flocking to the coast. Which means we have been slammed since Friday. I am mentally and physically exhausted. And I haven't even completed my last two shifts! As a result of this flood of people, I have been too tired to put any real effort into my book. So I finished copying the P&E agent listings onto a word document and am now working on cutting out the "strongly not recommended" agencies. It's amazing what you can learn from that site. Apparently one of the agents who was later thrown in jail, pinned her mother against a picnic table with her car. Yikes! If that's what she does to family imagine what she'd do to publishers to whom she is pitching!

So that's my story for the past couple days. I cut a huge scene out of my book before the weekend set in, which brought my word count down to 109k. I say temporarily because I now need to replace the scene.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend, everyone! Retail gods willing, I will see you all in a couple days.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ups and Downs

Today was a nice mixture of sad and happy. First, to get the bad part over with: I submitted a story to a writing contest and didn't make it to the finals. Boohoo, sad day. I'm not overly depressed. Short stories aren't my forte and there are hundreds of people more qualified than I am who deserve to be published in literary magazines.

Anywho, on to the happy part of the day! It may sound odd and unimportant, but I was reading a blog bulletin about a new YA boutique agency opening up, the founder having split with her agent and setting up her own firm, and I recognized the name of the agent. I was so excited because it means that I am retaining information about this business and the hundreds of literary agencies I've looked up. Hundreds. Indie's and boutiques, large agencies and small. And I'm remembering the names and reputations. Now when I hear the name Publisher's America I instantly recoil.

So, that's my story. Thank you, Bree Ogden for making my day!