I’ve transferred this blog to www.zellie.info Unfortunately, during the transfer the pictures got stuck linking back here so I can’t delete the blog itself unless I want to upload all the pictures again. Maybe later ;p
#1 …you take a vacation and find yourself taking notes and dreaming about paragraphs.
Since I finished those hardcore edits, I treated myself to a trip out to Atlanta to see the Aquarium on Saturday and visit Japanfest on Sunday. It was supposed to be a relaxing, writing-free weekend with the boyfriend (who occasionally gets neglected in favor of the keyboard ^^; ).
Then I ran across electric eels…. HMM, note to self, go home and research how their electricity works in order to make sure that Analee’s ability is fleshed out. I’m sure I researched that back when I first gave her the lightning but just in case. Then I found some adorable garden eels that absolutely must make an appearance in Deep Within. I can see Bones playing among them 😉
Then at Japanfest we got to see a demo of Paro, the therapeutic robot seal and I can’t help but branch off from that into the robots of the future in Sierra’s unnamed story (oy, I need a title because I don’t think her name is even going to be Sierra)
#2…. (added after a long day) you’re so engrossed in writing that you forget to eat. Again. ‘Just one more word…’
I’ve read many a back cover that claims a book is “gripping,” “pulse-pounding,” and a “fast-paced thrill ride.” PERSONAL EFFECTS by JC Hutchins actually delivers. (ha, you see? I’m capitalizing now like a Real Writer! ^_~ )
The concept alone sold me (partly because I drafted something similar but didn’t have the means to see it through). It’s a book that crosses the boundary between fiction and reality by including pieces of evidence from a murder case. There are phone numbers you can call, birth certificates, and more. I enjoyed translating the braille but most chilling was the piece of artwork. Reading along, I took the paper and did as the the characters did, folded it to match up two symbols…. BAM, message.
I didn’t expect the writing to be anything special, often a concept sells weak writing, but this is some of the best I’ve ever read. My heart raced through the majority of the book — if it wasn’t so damn scary I would have finished it in a night. I was dying to get to the end just so I could read it all over again.
There are some spots that could have had less backstory and I thought I had everything figured out at the beginning–but the line between reality and fiction is even thinner than I realized.
If the characters don’t do it for you then you may find parts overwrought, but I was right there with them every breath. It’s freaking brilliant. Hutchins layers the fear and builds quirky, unique characters… I mean, Lucas the parkour expert? But the traits aren’t just throwaways, they relate to the plot even their affectionate ” ‘dore you” slang is an integral clue.
I don’t usually like metaphors and similes because they’re often cheesy, ridiculous or overly poetic at the cost of the story but I was drinking up those in PERSONAL EFFECTS. The protagonist describes his hyperactive brother as “pop rocks for the soul” and you get “the sound-scape of the city played kick-drum backbeat to our high, ragged breathing.” The unique specifics he chooses make the story leap off the page.
I also just plain loved the characters. I’m a geek and not just a geek but a weird geek. I often have a hard time finding characters I relate to. Pretty much Jaenelle from THE BLACK JEWELS trilogy by Anne Bishop and Stargirl in STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli. That’s it. But Zach, Rachel and Lucas had me from square one. I love Zach’s relationship with Rachel, it’s geek romance perfection yet still conflicted enough to stay interesting. Sometimes authors fall back on manufactured conflicts, miscommunication mainly. But the moment Zach and Rachel’s relationship is tested was heart-wrenching because it was so real, they each had very valid reasons for their opposing choices.
In conclusion, I have a new favorite author.
In the Breakout Novel Workbook, Maass mentions that a prologue or flashfoward at the start is a red flag that the author doesn’t have confidence in their first chapter. My first chapter has had the worst growing pains. I always had problems with it and everyone who read it had problems with it. So I wrote up a prologue that starts with Nighthawk (the guy who seems to be almost everyone’s favorite 😉 ). And I know it was because I wasn’t confident in my first chapter.
But I was feeling good about some changes I made recently so coming to the critique meeting was awesome — to hear those specific changes pointed out as A+ and that it was really hard to find anything to critique. What helps more is that we found a solution to something that has been bugging me and it solves a few problems I didn’t even notice in addition to that! With that in place, I feel that not only is the prologue unnecessary but its a hindrance. It’s getting in the way of starting the story with the main character, it’s getting in the way chronologically, and reveals too much too soon.
Proud moment 😀
“Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook” by Donald Maass. Get it. Love it. Live it.
Practical, effective, explains the reasons behind the do/don’ts to help you avoid not only common beginner mistakes but really polish what you’ve got to make it thrilling and meaningful.
My only issue with it was that I didn’t always agree that the examples were effective because some of the examples didn’t follow his own advice! He mentions being specific but in his pitch example he has vague “dangerous cargo” and something like ‘must make an important decision.’ Same with the first line/last line list… I thought it was a trick question, that he was giving ineffective lines and on the next page he would show some ways to transform them because I found them average at best. Admittedly, none were specificly sci-fi/fantasy and I’m a hugely biased geek for those genres so it may just be me. Still, I went to the bestseller shelf a few weeks ago, only a few were my genre, read the first paragraph of every book, was was much more captivated by what was there.
Additional writing resources
“The Fire in Fiction” by Donald Maass. An excellent guide to building tension, with (mostly) practical prompts at the end of each chapter. This is more than just a ‘do/don’t’ book. He shows you what works, explains why it works, and then goes a step further to show how and why breaking the rules can work equally well.
Absolute Write – This bottomless writing resource includes a plethora of articles in addition to a forum frequented by writers of all shapes and sizes (bestselling novelists, newbie screenwriters, freelancers, variety of genres).
A place to find competant beta readers and get your own reading material as well. I’ve found some seriously grade A stories, diamonds in the rough just needing some editing to make them shine…can’t wait to see them on the shelves (:
My writing ability has skyrocketed since critiqueing others. There’s just something about seeing ineffective techniques in someone else’s work that really clarifies them in your own. I had no idea how redundant I was being nor how confusing my fruit basket of characters was. It’s amazing to see someone’s work brighten as they edit…now it can be frustrating to read books from the library because I can’t tell the author how I feel or what I think might work better ;p
Plus it’s just nice to come to a community of writers after spending hours locked to no one but the keyboard.
Then there are, of course, good ol’ writing classes and workshops. I have to thank my English degree for something 😉
My brain looks like mush but my query doesn’t look too shabby (praying the critique group likes it ;_; I think I’d rather throw it out the window than rewrite the first line again and I really do like it this time even if it is kinda long ._. )
The personality and adding both the personal conflict and overarching conflict = longer than I want…. I mean, it’s two short paragraphs which is about what every other query I see is…. But I did one draft that was a single punchy paragraph and I love how CLEAR everything is. But it lacks the personality and only touches on one conflict so you don’t get a sense of the Underground War setting. I love the underdog battles… I just started watching Firefly. Loved Serenity but just never got around to the TV show until now (thank you hulu.com! )
By the time I post this, I will have finished my hardcore edits. I HOPE D:! Below you shall be blessed with my unique brand of procrastinating from writing: …more writing….(and more, and more…)
OH GOD CRAMPS D:
haha usually I’m dedicated, but not THAT dedicated… crampytime tends to be the only time I tear myself away from the computer to do something like play video games (Bioshock, incidentally, is very well written) or watch a movie.
but today the writing MUST GO ON!
besides, Jennifer just got back from the hospital and wrote us all a huge long email…..if she can do it post-surgury then I have no excuses ._.
Onward and upward….!
I live by a few phrases:
You make your own happiness
Do unto others as you would want done unto you
Hope for the best but prepare for the worst
Given the last one, I’m currently in a safe zone with my writing. Near enough to the end and experienced enough to know I’ll finish the novel and I’m damn proud of my writing. As I hardcore edit the last few pages and then do my last read through, I’m taking a self-indulgent moment to day dream that querying will be magic. That (haha!) every agent will request my full – I can hear myself screaming and sure hope it’s not something I find out at work. I imagine them calling me because they adore it and we chat over my WIPs which they also love, I must struggle valiently to pick the agent that meshes best with me. I can’t help but casually mention ‘Why yes, I DO have an agent’ to a few choice people who I might fling a few other choice words in the face of. From there I’ll immediately get a wonderful publishing contract with such a large advance that I can walk into the bubble tea place (uh, that no longer exists ): ) and treat everyone in there to tea, that writing will become my career, the book will be in stores from small to huge, that I’ll couch surf around America doing a tour and stop by critique groups, I’ll set up writing workshops (there aren’t nearly enough out there), attend conventions, do interviews that reveal parts I loved but had to cut, and write write write write~!! Fabulous!
Right now I have the opportunity to indulge myself but when I start querying that’s when I go into ‘prepare for the worst’ mode which means I cut myself down, expect nothing so I can let rejections roll off my back and so if/when I get request(s) it’ll be a pleasant surprise. And all the while working my ass off on the next book as preperation for ‘the worst’ which would be no representation (yet).
This mentality serves me well. It’ll be my second time querying (previously the book was too long and the query didn’t have enough personality) and last time the rejections honestly didn’t bother me. I don’t go through the rollercoaster writer’s talk about. It is what it is. I actually was working on Deep Within and thinking that Lightning Spliced had unpublishable qualities–Karen and a few other fantastic beta readers kicked my butt in gear, got me to edit out parts I used to think were essential. It was like shining the rough till it becomes a diamond (is that too cliche?) I’m confident in my novel, if agents can’t see that it’s great then I’ll just keep writing and eventually one of my novels will strike someone’s fancy 🙂
As I write this, I wonder if an agent will google my name from my query and judge me on it. Do I sound too blase? Do I look lazy because I didn’t look up how to add the accent on blase? Do I look crazy because I wrote a sentence to explain the lack of accent when it would have taken less time to look up the accent? Do my questions make me appear self-concious, does my questioning my questions damage my image of confidence? Does my assumption of confidence smack of egotism? etc etc etc
I don’t know. I like to think I’d fit well with an agent with understands Web 2.0, that the draw of social media isn’t just the presense but the depth….personality shines not in the perfection of a Hollywood commercial but in our flaws. Not that we shouldn’t be polite and put on our best face but we shouldn’t neuter ourselves in the process. Everyone can relate to flaws but who can relate to being perfect? Haha but since no one is perfect and since beggers can’t be chosers, I’d be happy to land a reputable agent who is happy to represent my work 😉 everything else is just details.
I got really excited for a day because there’s a writer convention going on in DC around the time I’ll be up there………but I was wondering why I’d never heard of any of the guests. Well, looking closer it’s a short story focused convention 😛 I HATE SHORT STORIES. I know it’d be good for my career and good structural practice to write some but damnit I can’t stand reading them let alone writing them. They’re all so freaking high concept but I want vivid characters. If they do have those, I feel cheated because the stories are over so fast but I want to spend a series with a good character.
A rare symbolic and writing related dream:
I was on a metal stair case much like the one in MGS near the Hind and also much like the staircase in GAMA leading to the roof at the end of the novel. There was a light on where I entered the staircase (which was about halfway up the building), I ran up a bunch of flights, ran down a bunch of flights, back and forth, kept coming back to the place with the light on, couldn’t find anywhere else with the light on. It’s hope for my query, the light is that there’s one line that almost everyone liked… but I can’t seem to hammer down any of the other lines 😛
Hmmm April Rain by Delain sounds like April THUNDER OF DOOM. <3metal.
I have an addiction to describing eyes. I'm really enjoying Zcythe's right now. Originally she had purple contacts. I like purple but how ordinary for contacts….so I searched special effects and came up wiith BIOHAZARD contacts. They glow in UV light! I hate yellow so I don't use it much, but what a great use for it.
Hardcore edits have finished, Query Hell round #666 will commence tomorrow. Thankfully absolutewrite.com is up after major construction time over Labor Day weekend.