Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Critique Opportunity ALERT: Miss Snark's What's Broken?

If you have a completed manuscript and are struggling with a particular scene, this is a great opportunity for you.  Submit 500 words for critique.  Submissions open at 8pm TODAY and she is only taking the first five, so you better be quick.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Book Review: Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass


You may be wondering why I am reviewing the supplement to Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass instead of the actual book.  I'll tell you why.  Because it's awesome.  Writing the Breakout Novel is great too but if your book buying budget is limited, just buy the workbook.  There is no subsitute for learning a concept and then immediately putting it into practice with your own manuscript.

Here are some of Maass's lessons that stuck with me most:
  • Your characters aren't allowed to drink tea,  take showers, or drive cars. 
Okay, not exactly.  Here it is as explained by Maass, "...cut scenes set in kitchens or living rooms or cars driving from one place to another, or that involve drinking tea or coffee or taking showers or baths..."  He goes on to say that this particular exercise always prompts the most debate in his workshop.  That's not surprising.  It sounds ridiculous.  Maass is not being literal, you can have these things in your book, but there better be a darn good reason.  His point is that inexperienced authors often feel the need to give readers a play by play of what their characters do.  If your character is at home in one scene decides to go to the park the next day, it is okay for your next scene to start at the park.  We assume the character woke up, ate breakfast, and drove their car to the park.  You don't have to tell us.

What I love about this lesson is that is seems so crazy, you will definitely remember it.  Now everytime I read a book I notice these things.  Do you have any idea how often they drink tea in Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches?  It's a great book, but there is really a lot of tea drinking.  Don't get me started on the wine.  That leads me to the unpublished author's cardinal rule - Brilliant, bestselling authors can get away with things you can't.  Just accept it and move on.

  • Have your characters act out of character.
Maass instructs the reader to think of the one thing your character would never do and then find a place in the story for them to do exactly that.  I love that one.  It's so insane it's genius.

  • Tension on every page.
That one doesn't need too much explation.  It's simple and easy to remember.  I often find myself spot checking pages for tension.  Of course, Maass suggests checking every page for tension.

  • Put your characters in such perilous situations that success seems unlikely or even impossible.
After reading this one, I started to notice this everywhere in popular books, film, and even television.  My favorite example is Harry Potter.  Take the climax of book 4, Harry, a fourteen year old without any special talent is stranded alone in a graveyard with the most powerful dark wizard in history and an army of his followers.  Voldemort wants him dead.  Would Harry get out of that alive?  Absolutely not.

If I could ask Maass one follow up question it would be this.  Okay, so I've raised stakes, added complications, and put my character in an impossible situation they can't possibly get out of.  So...how do I get them out?  Assuming you want your story to be a little bit more upbeat than a Greek tragedy, you have to find a way to uncomplicate your complications in a plausible way.

Of course, plausbility is subjective.  Back to my Harry Potter example.  How did he get out?  Well, his wand and Voldemort's wand had twin cores and when they try to duel with them they just connect with a stream of light and all the people Voldemort has killed tumble out and help Harry.  Now is that not the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard?  Don't get me wrong, I love the Harry Potter series, probably more than a grown woman should, but it does sound crazy.  Yet when I first read it, I didn't throw it the book down and say, "That could never happen!", I stayed glued to every word.  Why?  Well, in my opinion it worked for three reasons:

  1. J.K. Rowling created such a believable and living world.  She had been teaching us about magic with authority for four novels, so we trusted her.
  2. She set it up beforehand.  Earlier in the book, she established the twin cores.  This is critical for any ending that borders on unbelievable.  Ease the reader in with subtle clues. 
  3. See cardinal rule above.  ;)
In conclusion, read Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass immediately.  And if you have any more advice about how to resolve the terrible situations you put your characters in, please share!!
     
     






Saturday, May 28, 2011

Made of Awesome Contest Submission

For those of you who also entered the Power of Tension Blogfest, I apologize for the duplicate.  My submission to the blogfest also happened to be the first 250 words of my manuscript.

Thank you for your feedback!

Title: Stormland
Genre: Urban fantasy
Word Count: 67,000


“Why isn’t the sky blue anymore?”

The man sat under a bridge with his niece huddled beside him.  The black rain seeped through the cracks above and left little pools of ash on the pale skin of the girl’s arms.  The child reminded him of a doll that had been left out in the rain and ruined.  Her hair was so tangled and matted that he had cut it into short uneven clumps. 

“Why isn’t the sky blue anymore?” she asked again.

Lena, dear, I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do.”

“The sky is a giant mirror that reflected the blue oceans.  But someone threw a rock at the sky and it shattered.  So now we just see what was behind the sky.”

“Can they fix it?”

“No.”

The brush nearby crackled and he was there.  The child pressed herself closer to him.

Lena, I want you to go with this man.”

Her little green eyes went wide with fright.  “I want to stay with you.”

He took a deep breath to hold back tears.  “I am no good at taking care of you.  He is going to take you to a better place, a place where the sky is still blue.”

“Will Mommy and Daddy be there?”

Each time she asked of them, he felt like his heart would burst.  But this would be the last time he would have to say it.

“You won’t see Mommy and Daddy for a long time.  They will meet you in heaven.”

Friday, May 27, 2011

Trends for the untrendy: Steampunk


I'm not trendy.  For starters, I just this week learned about steampunk which appears to have been trendy since at least 2007.  But for all of you who like me and are not yet aboard the steam train, I introduce you to my first installment of "trends for the untrendy."

My oversimplified definition for non-trendy people:
Steampunk - science fiction set in the past

The most traditional steampunk is set in the Victorian era and highlights futuristic technology as it would be imagined by people from the era, reminiscent of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.  However, steampunk can still be steampunk if it is set in different time periods and/or highlights paranormal elements instead of futuristic technology.  For great examples of steampunk, check out Soulless by Gail Carriger and The Girl in the Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles) by Kady Cross.


More eloquent and accurate definitions from real steampunks (linked to source):




Although I am way late catching on to steampunk, it seems that the trend is far from over.  I researched it in the first place because agents are looking for it! 

Here are some agents who are looking for steampunk:

The McVeigh Agency (steampunk for young readers)


Steampunk is still steaming.  Will is still be hot by time I'd be able to write and edit a steampunk novel?  That's not as clear.  But if you love steampunk, don't worry about the trend, just write it, read it, and love it.



Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review of Critters Writers Workshop



Critters is a free online critique group for science fiction, fantasy, or horror (adult or YA).  In my fifteen years as a writer, I've sought critique from a variety of forums (other websites, in person workshops, forcing my family read my work, etc.), and Critters is my favorite thus far.  Critters is the first place I've had good luck in getting my ENTIRE manuscript critiqued.  I used the "request for dedicated readers" process and got FIVE intelligent and perceptive fellow writers to read and critique my entire novel.  Their critique helped to transform my manuscript into something I am (even more) proud of. 

For those of you who like a little order in your world, you'll adore Critters.  You critique other people's work and people critique yours.  It's fair and reliable.  I was a little overwhelmed by all the rules at first, but it's actually quite simple to submit and critique, so don't be scared off.  :)

I want to personally thank Dr. Andrew Burt and his "minions" for creating and maintaining such a great site.  If you're not a science fiction/ fantasy/ horror writer, you still have a home here.  Critters recently expanded into http://critique.org/ with critique workshops on everything from literary fiction to website design!

And now for my shameless plug...if you do decide to join Critters, check out my revised manuscript for Stormland, up for critique from today until June 1st.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Submission for The Power of Tension Blogfest

Stormland
Prologue

“Why isn’t the sky blue anymore?”

The man sat under a bridge with his niece huddled beside him.  The black rain seeped through the cracks above and left little pools of ash on the pale skin of the girl’s arms.  He moved her over in the hopes of finding a dry spot.  The child reminded him of a doll that had been left out in the rain and ruined.  Her hair had gotten so tangled and matted that he had had to cut it into short uneven clumps.  She deserved something better than this.

“Why isn’t the sky blue anymore?” she asked again.

Lena, dear, I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do.”

“The sky is a giant mirror that reflected the blue oceans.  But someone threw a rock at the sky and it shattered.  So now we just see what was behind the sky.”

“Can they fix it?”

“No.”

“I’m hungry,” she said.

The brush nearby crackled and in an instant he was there.  Far too soon.  The child pressed herself closer to him.

Lena, I want you to go with this man.”

Her little green eyes went wide with fright.  “I want to stay with you.”

He took a deep breath to hold back tears.  “I am no good at taking care of you.  He is going to take you to a better place.  He is going to take you to a place where the sky is still blue.”

“Will Mommy and Daddy meet me there?”

Each time she asked of them, he felt like his heart would burst.  But this would be the last time he would have to say it.

“You won’t see Mommy and Daddy for a long time.  They will meet you in heaven.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

CONTEST ALERT: Made of Awesome Contest

This is an AGENT JUDGED contest with Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson & Associates.  On May 31st, 2011, post the first 250 words at the link below to possibly win a 10 page critique from Judith Engracia.
Judith Engracia (photo from http://shelleywatters.blogspot.com)
Click here to enter and for more info

CONTEST ALERT: Cynsational Manuscript Critique Giveaway

Publisher Elizabeth Law is giving away a 30 page manuscript critique PLUS a thirty minute phone call to discuss.  The contest is for manuscripts directed toward younger readers (8 and up).  To submit, comment on the post from Cynsational with your email.  Due May 31st, 2011.

Click here to enter and for more info

CONTEST ALERT: The Power of Tension Blogfest

Submit a 300 word excerpt from your unpublished manuscript that embodies tension.   Win an Amazon voucher, interview on Cally Jackson Writes and Rachel Morgan Writes or 1st chapter beta read by Cally and Rachel.
Click here for full rules and info

Welcome!

Hello!

Welcome to the Blue Word.  The Blue Word is a blog devoted to books and writing in the genres of science fiction, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance, both adult and YA.  If you are an aspiring or published writer of these genres, follow this blog to tap into source of news from the blogosphere.  I started following blogs to find CONTESTS to get feedback on my writing and the eyes of an agent, so I promise to post all contests I find...even though I'm tempted to keep the info for myself...maybe I'm a little bit competitive.  I am of the philospohy that one should only post when they have something to say.  So...my posts will not be daily.  ;)  My goal is to help keep you updated and to make connections in the writing community, and of course pimp my unpublished manuscript, Stormland.  If you want to know why my word is blue, you'll find the answer there.  Please comment and follow.