I blog about writing topics over at Go Teen Writers, combining forces with my friend Stephanie Morrill. We wrote a book for teen writers. It’s called Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book. So, if you’re a teen writer, or if you’re curious what we’re up to, come and visit the Go Teen Writers blog by clicking on the button to the left. The blog is a FREE place to learn and to meet other teen writes. Hope to see you there!
We also have a Facebook page that you can follow by clicking on the link on this sidebar.
There’s also a lot of great writing information under the Go Teen Writers tab on my website here and in my old blog archive. So take some time to dig around and see what kind of helps you can find.
And if you’re looking for a critique of your work, please enter my monthly contest here.
Feel free to copy this Go Teen Writers blog button and share it on your blog. Spread the word so teen writers everywhere can unite. Go team!
If you already have the paperback, please download the free ebook as well. The more downloads the book gets over the next two days, the more people will find out that the book exists. That would be so cool!
So, if you don’t mind, please go buy a FREE book to support me and the Blood of Kings series.
Thanks so much!
WHAT: Bid on a 50-page critique of your novel, I don’t care what genre it is. Highest bidder will send their amount to Samaritans Purse for their relief efforts for the victims of Superstorm Sandy.
WHEN: Begins Friday, November 9, ends Friday midnight EST November 16.
HOW: Place your bid in the comments section of this post. Monitor it closely so that you can re-bid if needed. Check back on this Facebook page for updates on all the bids. If you are the high bidder at the end of the week, make your donation and email a copy of your receipt to the author with your 50 pages. It’s that easy.
How much is a 50-page critique worth?
Most authors and editors can easily charge $35 an hour and a fifty-page critique is well over three hours of labor. But this labor of love is for victims who have lost everything. Their need is huge. One blogger who hosted a similar campaign last week had a top donation bid of $1,000 for a 50-page critique!
What will the critique entail?
I will read your fifty pages with an eye to giving you insights and feedback on all aspects of your story excerpt, including plot, character, story arc, mechanics, pacing, and reader appeal. If you also send me a one-page synopsis of your full story, I can give overall story feedback as well.
What is Samaritan’s Purse?
Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Here is a video from Samaritans Purse on their efforts to help Sandy’s victims.
How do I donate to Samaritans Purse?
You can head to the Samaritan’s Purse webpage on Hurricane Sandy http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/articles/hurricane_sandy/
and click on the GIVE link imbedded on the page. Whether you are the highest bidder or not, do consider donating to this effort.
How do I bid?
Leave your bid in the comments section below. Thanks for your generosity in helping those in need.
I wrote a four-part series over at Go Teen Writers on how to write fight scenes and battles. Here are the links:
My first post, Writing the Action/Fight Scene, talks about three things you need to know before writing out your fight scene.
In Editing the Action Scene: Seven Ways to Make it Stronger I talk about believability, research, cliches, dialogue, pacing, and what happens after the fight.
In The Wizards Duel I talk about what makes magical battles different from other fight scenes.
And in The Great War I discuss how to tackle writing out a major war in your novel.
Have any questions? Leave a comment here or on the Go Teen Writer blog.
When I’m working on a story, I like to have pictures of my characters out where I can see them. I have a sandwich board sign that I use for book signings, but the rest of the time, it’s covered with the characters from my recent work in progress.
Here is my character inspiration for Captives, the dystopian novel I’m writing for Zonderkidz. I sometimes have the tendency to pick famous people who pop into my head and are easy to find pictures for. Sometimes I spend a lot of time on iStockPhoto or Shutterstock looking for characters. FYI, you don’t have to pay for images you print out and look at in your home. You only have to pay for images you are going to put on a product and sell. You also have to be careful putting images on your blog.
So what do you think of my character board? You can click on it to see a larger image and zoom in.
I try to find a few pictures of each main character with different expressions. Have you ever made a character board?
This is where I spend most of my days. Got any questions about something you see?
Click on the image to see a bigger version that you can zoom in on.
How about you? Post a picture of your desk and tag me in the comments.
You love making up stories and the idea of having your own book someday thrills you. So you want to be a writer. What next?
It’s that simple—or difficult. Just write, write, write. Then go back and rewrite. But keep writing, every day if you can. You’ll get really good at it because you’ll be practicing all the time. Make yourself finish each book you start. Because if you can’t finish a book, you can’t write one. This is a very important rite of passage for authors. Complete one book, then write another, then another, and so on.
Read some books on writing. Click here for some of my recommendations.
Start following some blogs on writing. Click here for some of my recommendations.
Join some groups of writers. Click here for some of my recommendations. And be willing to take the advice of others.
You’ve written your book, submitted it to dozens of editors and agents, and no one wants it. Rats! But don’t lose heart. And don’t give up. Put aside that book and start polishing the next one. Too many writers hold on to that favorite idea for so long that they end up wasting time that could be spent writing something new. Learn to be flexible. Because in most cases, an author’s first book is often not his first published book.
Also, when you write a whole book, characters and plots sometimes take over and your plans for the story don’t fit. You might have to let go of your plans. Often the story and characters know better than you. That may sound strange, but when your story comes alive, that’s a good thing. Trust it.
Being a writer means being criticized. A lot. It’s part of the job description. Get used to it early on. And realize that you can learn something from every criticism. But don’t react to them. Don’t defend yourself. It’s bad form. Accept all feedback with humility and grace. Then think it over, use what you can, and ignore the rest. Because there will be plenty to ignore.
And give to other writers without looking to get back. Purchase your favorite author’s books and your friends books new. Support your author friends and your industry. Don’t trash talk it. Word gets around. Your reputation is at stake.
You’re going to have to be persistent. You’re going to have to pick one idea and stick with it until you finish a book. Then you can go back to all 237 of your other ideas and write a different one. But I’ve met too many authors who’ve never finished a book because they’ve been “perfecting” chapter one for three years. Accept that your first draft might be a mess. That’s okay. Just finish the book. Then you can go back and have something to fix. Because, really, by the time you finish the story, you might find out that chapter one is no longer relevant to the story because of how the book ended.
But part of persistence is also knowing when to put that book down, submit it to editors and agents, and start writing another book. Treat rejections as another step toward publication. Finish that second book and submit that one too. Just keep on swimming. You can do it! You may fall a few time. You may make mistakes. So dust yourself off and try again. It’s all part of the learning process.
No one likes the word “patience,” especially in this “get it now” world we live in. But there is a reason for sayings like: “Good things come to those who wait.” Because it’s true. Sure, anyone can pay money to have his book printed today. Frankly, he can do it for free if he has the right graphic and computer skills. But should he? Likely not. At least not until he’s put in the time to learn his craft.
Pace yourself like a marathon runner. If you go too fast in the beginning, you could ruin your whole run. Not that you can’t start over. You always can. But being in a hurry is not to your advantage.
It will be hard. You’ll see others getting published before you, and you’ll long to have a book out too. But if you want to be a serious writer, and you like the idea that this could be your career, then take it seriously and prepare for years of training. Don’t be in a hurry and publish a book that will be a mess. Your career is on the line! Make sure that your first book is your best one! Nothing comes easy. And if it does, there is probably a catch. If you work hard and respect your dream, and make up your mind that you will not rush this, you will be on the right track from the start. And when you do get that first book published, it will be the real deal.
Roselynne asks, “I’m writing a book on the computer and I wanted to know how many book pages there are per computer page.”
If you format your manuscript with 1″ margins all around and use 12-point font, double spaced, it’s generally about the same as a novel. So a 300 page manuscript will be roughly a 300-page book.
According to SCWBI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), early readers should be about 20 pages (5,000 words) and chapter books should be from 40-60 pages (10-15,000 words). And most middle grade novels are in the 20,000 to 40,000 range. The Magic Treehouse books are about 5,000 to 12,000 words, depending on which one you pick up.
Also, around 80,000 words is about a 300-page novel. That’s a good target length if you are writing YA novels or adult novels. Replication: The Jason Experiment is 85, 214 words long and the final book is 294 pages.
I recently discovered Michael Hauge’s story template. Michael is an author, screenwriter, and script consultant who has worked on projects for Will Smith, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Kirsten Dunst, Charlize Theron, and Morgan Freeman.
I thought some of you might find this tool helpful. Be sure to check out Michael’s website at: http://www.storymastery.com/.
TITLE is a GENRE about HERO, a ROLE, who EMPATHY/SET UP. When HERO is OPPORTUNITY, s/he decides to NEW SITUATION/PRELIMINARY GOAL. But when CHANGE OF PLANS, s/he now must OUTER MOTIVATION/PRIMARY GOAL by HERO’s PLAN as well as SECOND GOAL in spite of the fact that OUTER CONFLICT.
By Darkness Hid is an medieval fantasy story, about Achan, a stray boy, who is about to become a man, who lives under the ale casks in the cellar of the kitchens of Sitna Manor because he is owned by Lord Nathak and was raised by Poril, the cook.
When Achan is offered the opportunity to train to be a squire, even though it’s against the law for strays, he decides to train anyway, in hopes of becoming worthy of Gren, the peasant girl he loves. But when Lord Nathak discovers Achan’s training and forces Achan to squire for Prince Gidon, and the prince tries to take Gren for himself, Achan now must help Gren marry another and keep her life safe by pledging to serve the evil prince for life, as well as give up his dreams of freedom, in spite of the fact that he is now hearing voices in his head.
Now you try it:
______________ is a ________________ about __________, a ________________, who ________________________. When ____________ is ___________________, s/he decides to ____________________. But when _______________________, s/he now must ________________________________ by ______________ as well as ____________________ in spite of the fact that _______________________.
How did it work? Is this something you might find useful in the future? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
The strength of a plot depends on how the writer reveals information to the reader. If you have nothing going on in the middle of your book, try some of these mystery tips to see if you can add some intrigue. And if you don’t have enough characters for intrigue, maybe you need to add some minor characters.
1. Know the ending
When writing a strong plot, it’s important to have some idea of how you want the story to end. This usually results in your main character achieving his goal. In a mystery novel, that means figuring out who done it. If your mystery is a subplot, you still need to reveal the answer to that mystery. Once you know your ending, it will be easier for you to plant clues and red herrings for the reader along the way.
2. Avoid luck
Nothing is more frustrating to a reader than a story in which the main character succeeds by a string of good luck. Do not allow luck or other heroic characters to sweep in and steal the spotlight from your main character. Your hero needs to solve the mystery!
Know the backstory of all your main and minor characters. Do not put all that you know into the book! You need to know it to understand each character’s motivation for doing what they do in the story. Murder requires motive. So does every other action. Once you know each character well, it will be easier to plant clues and red herrings for the reader.
Make sure the reader gets to see that bad guy/traitor/guilty party early on in the book. It’s frustrating to be reading a story and think you know who may have done it only to discover it was a character who just entered the story in chapter 28! Give the reader a glimpse early on. JK Rowling does a great job with this. If you’ve read or seen the first Harry Potter, remember that we first saw Professor Quirrell at the Leaky Cauldron when Harry was first headed to school.
Keep in mind, the culprit shouldn’t always be the least likely person. Mix it up. Keep your reader guessing.
A clue is: anything that serves to guide or direct in the solution of a problem or mystery.
Plant clues as the story moves along. Things that may seem significant or completely ordinary. Harry Potter’s meeting a new teacher seemed like no big deal at the time.
Clues can be observations. Perhaps your character notices a tattoo on a friend. He doesn’t think much of it until later in the book when he sees a villain with the same tattoo. Then there is a connection that raises suspicion of the friend.
Clues can be relationships: relatives who hate each other, a boyfriends who was cheated on, a couple in love, a mentor…
Clues can be evidence like fingerprints, hair color, footprints, license plate numbers, etc.
Clues can be dialogue. Keri told me she loved snowboarding. Then why did she tell me she hated it?
Depending on the type of writer you are, you might plan these clues before you write the book or write the whole book then go back in and plant clues. Both ways work.
Use clues sparingly. You don’t need them for every character in every scene. You just need a few here and there.
6. Red herrings
A red herring is something intended to divert attention from the real problem or matter at hand; a misleading clue.
Plant red herrings as the story moves along. Things that may seem significant or completely ordinary. Professor Snape’s apparent hatred of Harry seemed like a very big motive for villainy, even though it wasn’t.
Red herrings can be observations, relationships, evidence, and dialogue too. Reveal them in the same manner as you do clues. You goal is to throw your reader off track.
Depending on the type of writer you are, you might plan out these red herrings before you write the book or write the whole book then go back in and plant red herrings. Both ways work.
Use red herrings sparingly too.
7. Wait as long as possible for the big reveal
If the mystery subplot is integral to the overall plot of your story, don’t reveal your culprit in the middle of the book. Wait until the last possible moment for your main character to figure it all out.
The idea is to create a trail of puzzle pieces for your character to find and put together until it’s time to be revealed. So if your story is stuck, I suggest you plant some more puzzle pieces.
Red herring is smoked herring. They turn red when cured. White herring is fresh herring. Red herring was supposedly used by fugitives to put bloodhounds off their scent, which is where the term “red herring” came to be used as a mystery term for something used to divert attention from the truth: false clues.