Thank you! Yes, you!

I just wanted to write a quick thank you post to all of you and let you know I’m appreciative. I know this blog is still small, and 50 followers may not seem like much, but it is to me. It is way more than I thought I’d have when I started this thing back in October. I figured I’d be posting for only a handful of people, and that my followers would most likely just be my mom and husband or something.  So thank you for following me, reading what I have to say, liking, commenting, and reblogging. It’s really such an awesome thing. I know you don’t have to take the time to read my posts or follow up with comments so thanks for giving me your time. I will always comment back. I’ve also enjoyed following many of you in return and discovering some wonderful posts and people to connect with.

I started this blog because I knew my school English course was going to be on New Media & Publishing and building a writer’s platform, but I also really wanted to start meeting people in this crazy writing world. I live in a small town where you either become a nurse or a coal miner so saying you want to be an author isn’t exactly looked highly upon. It’s often followed up with comments telling me I should become a teacher so I have a real job to fall back on.

It’s been wonderful sharing my excitement for writing and reading with other aspiring writers and passionate readers. I know I’m still finding my way; my posting could be more consistent, and I could do a better job networking with all of you. But honestly this new media stuff is new to me, and I’m still learning it. I hope that in between going to school and writing new projects that I will start doing a better job with this blog and actually using my Twitter more. Eventually I might make one of those nifty “author” Facebook pages too.

Again, thank you for sticking with me. I’ll take this chance to ask you guys if there are any certain things you would like me to post about in the future. Did I touch on a subject you wanted more information on? Do you want to know anything more personal? Should I post more original work? What would you like to see on this blog? What advice do you have for me? Reply in the comments if you have a suggestion. I will gladly carry out your requests and link back to you in the corresponding post. Thanks for your support and feedback these last couple of months!

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Writing in 2013: A Look Back

This has been an exciting year for me with writing. At the beginning of the year I finished my second novel, a YA contemporary about a girl’s personal struggle with hating herself for being a follower instead of her own leader and how a new transfer student helps her change that. After I finished it I started researching literary agencies, how to query, what a synopsis should look like, and I began sending out letters seeking representation. Replies came back with plenty of rejections and one full manuscript request.

During the summer I began writing my third novel, a YA thriller centered around a kidnapping and the ensuing struggle for survival, to keep me busy while I waited on news from the queries. I finished it in only a few months and have just recently begun crafting and sending query letters for it. I’ve learned a lot this year about the writing industry, and I believe my work and I have both grown and improved. More than ever, I know this is something I need to keep pursuing.

Yesterday I answered questions about books I read this year for a blog link-up/e-book giveaway that this blog is running. Today, I promised to answer the writing questions. So here we are!

Check out yesterday’s post if you want to know what sort of books I read recently or if you need some new recommendations.

How many books did you write this year? (Estimate your overall wordcount for us too!)

I’ve written two this year. I wrote my second novel in the first half of the year which is 105,000 words. I wrote my third novel in a couple months later in the year, and it is stands at 60,000.

Which was your favourite to write?

My second was a totally different route from my first book, and I really like how one small idea came together and grew into what the book became. I had no idea where I was taking the story initially. All I knew was I wanted to write about two teenagers who lived across the street from each other and were from totally different worlds.  Seeing where it ended up from that idea feels really rewarding. The characters just took over and told their stories.

Which was the hardest to write?

I’d say 2 was also the hardest. I planned Book 3 out more whereas Book 2 took a lot of discovery which was really frustrating and overwhelming some days. Writing a female perspective was tougher for me as well because I usually do male narrators. Some days I just didn’t want to tackle the task. Book 3 flowed easier when actually writing.

Tell us about you favourite Male Character you wrote this year!

Book 2 introduced my MC’s love interest, Cameron Dawson, a mysterious bad boy next door that completely shakes up everything for my female MC. He’s damaged, but doesn’t take crap from anyone. He’s brutally honest and strictly secretive at the same time. He’s romantic and sensitive but violent and hardened. I liked his layers. I like writing rebels and damaged heroes.

And how about your favourite Female Character?

My MC in Book 2, Maddie Carlisle. She went through a complete transformation. At points you can hate her and her actions as much as she hates herself, but you feel sorry for her too because of the hard situations she’s in. You root for her then want to smack her when she doesn’t step up. She’s very dependent on others, and by the end it’s interesting to see if that’s still the same case. She has plenty of adversaries, but really she’s her own worst enemy.

Can you introduce us to some awesome sidekick(s)?

In Book 3 my MC’s best friend Tyler Hammons starts out as a flirty, pompous tough guy, and we’ll just say he gets a new perspective. Also in that novel a guy named Jasper Riley is a character who juggles a lot of different roles and affects the main character in ways he didn’t expect. His sidekick status isn’t that he’s funny or laughable, but shown in the importance of how he changes others and furthers the development of the story.

Any romances in your writing? Which couple didn’t go together as expected?

I’m not going to ruin the romantic subplots! But I will say all characters were meant to be together.

Show us the full cast in pictures from one of your books.

Actor Ezra Miller as Jasper Riley

Actor Ezra Miller as Jasper Riley

Actor Jake Abel as Tyler Hammons

Actor Jake Abel as Tyler Hammons

Actor Penn Badgley as Ezra Winchester

Actor Penn Badgley as Ezra Winchester

Actress Denise Vasi as Sadie Atwood

Actress Denise Vasi as Sadie Atwood

Actress AnnaLynne McCord as Peyton Hammons

Actress AnnaLynne McCord as Peyton Hammons

Epic quote(s) you wrote?

(Note: From Book 3. This quote ties into the title and has a lot of meaning for the events in the plot.)

“Ezra, on the road of life you have two choices.  You either stare in the rearview and look at where you’ve been until you crash and burn, or you look out through the windshield and focus on where you’re headed.”

Last word from your manuscript(s)! Go!

Book  2: journey.

Book 3: most.

Show us your favourite funny scene!

(Note: This is from Book 2 when the new guy, Cameron, first comes to Maddie’s school. I always hated when teachers would make you introduce yourself and then ask the class to say hi back so maybe this was my way of finally saying what I wish I could have back then.)

             Mrs. Nelson, our homeroom monitor, stands up with her attendance book and a happy smile on her face.  Before she starts calling off all our names or passing out fliers though, she walks over to Cameron’s side of the room and addresses the class.

            “Everyone,” she says, “we have a new student joining us today.  All the way from sunny California!” she says with added pep.  “Let’s do our best to make him feel welcome here at North Hill.”  She turns to Cameron with her smile spreading from ear to ear and gestures a hand at him.  “Do you want to tell us a little about yourself, son?”

            He finally looks up and tilts his head at her.

            “Are you actually giving me the option or just presenting me with a really nice command?” he asks back without missing a beat.

            Mrs. Nelson looks like someone knocked the wind out of her.  Her smile slowly turns into a frown and her brows furrow.  She stands meekly, confused that the new guy doesn’t want to stand up and share in her excitement.  When she doesn’t respond he says, “Okay then, I’ll share.”

            He stands up and faces the majority of the class. They stare back, sizing him up and ogling over his busted up face, trying to figure him out for themselves.  He isn’t speaking very long before they get
it.  Loud and clear.

            “My name is Cameron Dawson,” he begins.  “And I don’t care.”  Everyone stiffens as one.  “I don’t care if you don’t like me.  Chances are I won’t like you.  I don’t care if I hurt your feelings.  I don’t care if you want to talk about me because of it.  I don’t care about this piss poor town or your stupid school.  I don’t care if I pass or fail or even graduate.  I don’t care about your problems or how you want me to be.  And I don’t care, Mrs. Nelson, if you or any other teacher wants to punish me for not caring.  So I guess that covers my introduction.  You can spare me from all of yours’ because, you guessed it, I don’t care who you are.”

            He sits back down casually to a shocked silence.  Everyone is glancing around the room at each other between staring back at him. Mrs. Nelson is the worst of us all.  She’s frozen in place with her brows raised high and her mouth hanging open.  The silence drags on until someone finally shouts, “Freak!” from the back of the room.  Cameron just nods, like he was expecting it.

             And still doesn’t care.

Show us a snippet of dialogue you’re proud of.

(Note: From Book 2. Cameron is switching from his persona of not caring to pretending to have feelings for Maddie’s queen bee Jen in order to be accepted into their circle. He sits with Maddie during Jen’s dance practice and acts like he loves watching even though he can’t stand Jen.)

            “You know you’re pretty good at faking,” I say.

            “Yeah, well, it’s easy enough to act how I’m expected. It’s just more fun not to.”

            We watch them grind and shake and flaunt their bodies for a few minutes.

            “You know I’m like those girls you said you don’t want. I dress the same way Jenny does and let all sorts of guys stare me up and down, only letting them dream of ever being with me. I’m just like Jen.”

            Cameron breaks his gaze on the girls.  He stares into my face, suddenly serious.

            “You’re nothing like, Jen. You just don’t realize it yet.”

Tell us about some funny typos or writer-bloopers you’ve had this year!

I had two characters whose names both began with J in Book 3: Jasper one of the kidnapped teens and Jimmy one of the abductors.  I mixed them up in an important scene because I was typing so fast. Not good.

What has writing taught you about yourself this year?

I really started believing in myself a lot more this year. I started taking writing more seriously than just a hobby I’d do here and there. I committed to it more. I’ve learned about rejections and taking risks when you put yourself out there. I’ve felt defeated, but learned to keep going forward. It’s a process based on hope and fear, love and hate, uncertainty and confidence. It’s a strange thing.

Best piece of writing advice you learnt this year?

Read. Best advice is always read. Whatever type book you want to write, read as many as you can. Just as you learn from doing, you learn writing by reading.

Anything big on the horizons for next year? Plans to query? Publish? Edit?

Book 2 has been under consideration at an agency since the summer. Querying 3 is a definite next step. I also plan to edit Book 1 and make it presentable to query at some point.

Tell us a bit about a book you’re super excited to write in 2014!

I have so many ideas. One involves a guy with an eidetic memory who is thrown into a murder mystery. Another involves a comedic paranormal tale about a ghost, a necromancer, a reaper, and a psychic in which the MC’s girlfriend dies and comes back as a ghost, and the other characters are enlisted to bring her back to life again. I’d also like to do this modern Greek-myth fantasy, and I really want to write a book about gamers and videogames.

That’s it! Thanks for reading! Post any comments or questions below, and be sure to visit the original blog to enter the giveaway or answer these questions yourself!

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My 2013 Reading List: A Look Back

Okay so this post is related to this lovely blog. They’re awesome and have posted different questions (1 set relating to reading and 1 set relating to writing) as a way to look back on the books you read or wrote in 2013. It’s also part of a giveaway where the winner will pick from 4 e-books (The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, OR Unbreathable, OR Steel Lily OR Click to Subscribe) so go check that page out and enter to win! Today I’m going to answer the reading-related questions. I’ll post links to the books’ Amazon pages so you can find their descriptions and purchase them if you’re so inclined. 🙂 Here we go!

What was your overall favourite book this year? (Yes. Pick one.)

I can’t. You’ve asked the impossible.

Which books did you reread this year?

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith and Bottled Up by Jaye Murray.

Favourite cover(s) this year!

The Marbury Lens might be my favorite cover of all time.

marbury     passenger

Its sequel Passenger is just as good and when you put them on the shelf together, oh my god, even the books’ spines are awesome.

Lockdown, but actually all the books in this series have great covers, and I still need to read them all.

lockdown

Scowler, another one on my to-read list, but look at that cover. How could you not want to read it?

scowler

Worst cover(s)?

The Mortal Instruments City of Bones (movie tie-in version). This pisses me off to no end. It’s a complete rip off of The 10th Kingdom, a genius fantasy TV miniseries and novel from 2000.

mortal instruments          The 10th Kingdom

Which book(s) gave you a massive hangover?

The freaking Marbury Lens by Andrew freaking Smith. Every single time.

Best standalone you read?

Runner by Carl Deuker

Biggest book(s) you’ve read this year?

Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes.

Most disappointing book(s) you read this year?

I hate calling books out. But Feedback, the sequel to Variant , really disappointed me with its ending. It could have been so much better. But it was still a great book. Until that point.

Favourite leading-female character?

Did I read a book with a leading-female character?

Favourite leading-male character?

Sam in Hold Me Closer, Necromancer and Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride.

Best romance(s)?

There’s this romance that gets flipped on its head in the book Variant by Robison Wells. I can’t even talk about it without giving away the twist.

What book(s) hit the DNF list? (Did not finish.)

I’m not going to say. A lot of times I start books and get 20-70 pages in and then stop because my mood changes and I want to read something else. But I usually go back to them. For example, I’ve been trying to finish one book since Xmas 2011. It’s going to happen.  I’m close.

What book(s) did you read out of your comfort-zone?

I read No Country for Old Men and The Great Gatsby for school. I liked both.

Which author did you read the most from?

Last year it would have been Andrew Smith. But this year it was Michael Harmon. I read Skate, The Chamber of Five, and The Last Exit to Normal, and I’m currently reading Under the Bridge. Also, Brutal is waiting for me on my shelf.

Top 5 books you’d recommend from all the books you’ve read this year?

Boot Camp by Todd Strasser. The topic this book covers really hits a nerve with me.

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz. A beautifully sad and sweet novel. It’s one of the books that has made me cry.

You by Charles Benoit. I loved the approach to this book, and the ending I did not see coming.

The Chamber of Five by Michael Harmon. I just love this author. He has a gift for voice. This novel has a way of making you feel uncomfortable because it’s so believable, and you don’t want to think the things within could happen.

Stick by Andrew Smith. Smith could write instructional manuals for furniture assembly, and I would buy them. But this book is much more honest and beautiful than those evil, rage-inducing things.

 How many books did you read this year all up?

Come on. I like reading not counting.

What’s a book you’re hugely excited for coming out in 2014?!

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. Yes. Please. Give it to me now.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson. I love her books, and I’m thrilled to have a new one to get my hands on.

Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I’ve been waiting for this sequel! I’m so excited! The first one was such a pleasant surprise. I didn’t want it to end. I was ecstatic when it was left open for continuation. This will be a release day buy for sure.

That’s it! Have you read any of these titles too? Are you going to read any of them now? What does your 2013 reading list look like? Post below!

Be sure to visit the original blog to enter the giveaway and answer these questions yourself!

And stop by tomorrow for answers to the writing related questions!

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A Day of Disappointment and Excitement

It’s been an up and down day on the writing front. Well maybe a couple of days. Do I give you the good news or bad news first? Well, technically there doesn’t have to be any bad news. It’s all in how you choose to look at it. I’m working on that.

So there was this contest I spoke of briefly called #PitchWars. Basically writers submitted a query and five pages to four possible mentor picks. They were notable authors and people in the writing industry. If chosen they would then mentor you for a few weeks and then in January, with your polished MS and query letter, you submit to a wonderful array of known agents for the agent round. The mentors work with you and your novel to give you the best chance for scoring an agent. Basically the grand prize could be requests for your work and possible representation leading to a publishing contract.

Unfortunately, I was not chosen in the mentor round. I was prepared for that. So many wonderfully talented people entered the competition, and only so many can be picked. It was fun following the feed on Twitter and meeting new people. It was encouraging to put myself out there like that. All four of the mentors I submitted to gave me personalized feedback on why they passed, and I’m grateful for that.

So how am I taking the news?

*I’m disappointed, of course, but not discouraged; I’ll keep trying.

*I’m kicking myself for not changing a few things in my initial query/sample pages. I think I could have had a better shot. But this is how we learn. We can’t always know what’s right, and being given feedback from respected authors is a priceless tool in improving and moving forward.

*I’m sad none of my mentor picks requested more pages before deciding like they did with other authors. Maybe if they’d read just one page more their minds could have been changed or their connection grown stronger. But that falls on me for not making sure my first few pages accomplished just that. Remember that post I wrote on the importance of first pages? I could stand to listen to my own advice.

Overall, the people who were chosen deserve it; they are talented writers and the mentors really championed for them. I’m happy to say I was a part of this community and learned the things I did. Rejection always hurts. But we grow and we move on. It’s actually made me want to dive into writing again, and that’s always a good side effect.

The good news this week?

I placed second in a small short story competition between other writers at my university. There was no prize other than bragging rights, so here. I’ve bragged. Seriously though, I haven’t done many writing competitions, and it was cool to place and know my story was received well among the judges.

The even better news?

All the authors involved in the charity anthology got a sneak peek of the finished product today. It looks amazing. Seeing the table of contents with all the author names and story titles was really satisfying. Then the stories themselves and the author bios at the end made me proud to be among these people for this awesome cause. There are some great stories in there, and we are all excited to share them with you and give back to those affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy. It goes on sale on Amazon on December 23rd.

So yeah there were some good and bad moments lately, but really they were mostly good. One rejection doesn’t mean I’ll never be accepted. One contest isn’t my only option out there. I learned a lot and was included in something special. If writers quit and gave in after receiving one rejection then no one would be an author. It’s part of it. And even though you’re reading a response that says you aren’t being pursued further and you know that’s disappointing, there is good amongst that rejection too. It tells you how to improve. It gives you reason to persevere. It gives you hope that maybe the next one will be a yes. So don’t give up. I haven’t yet. Writing means too much to me to let it go.

Have you experienced rejection in the writing world? How did you react? Reply below!

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Cover Reveal!

Alright so a few months ago I contributed a short story to an upcoming anthology book. It was conceived, written, and created by students in the Masters of Writing program at my school, Southern New Hampshire University. Remember Patrick Donovan, the author I interviewed? He came up with idea and brought us all together to create this anthology. Here’s what he had to say on his author FB page.

“This past summer, I had the idea to try and make it a regular thing to collaborate and do a Charity Anthology for a worthy cause. I wanted to get some talented folks together, write some stories, and earn a little scratch for a worthy cause. Well, this is the first one. If all goes well (and this is a tentative date) it’s going to go on sale around Dec 23rd. All of the profits, and I do mean all, will go to benefit Sandy Hook Elementary School. It may only raise a hundred bucks, but that hundred bucks can plant a few flowers, take a few of those kids to a movie. Point is, if anyone could use a little magic and a little cheer, it’s those kids. Also, I wanted to give a big shout out and thank you to S Ravynheart for the cover artwork. He donated his time and energy to the cause, and for that I am mucho thankful.”

And here’s that beautiful cover!

SHAnthology

I’m so happy to be a part of this project. I really hope we can continue to create more charity anthologies for other tragedies and help bring some light and relief to the people affected. This installment will consist of ten short stories and a poem, and any and all proceeds will be donated to Sandy Hook. My story is titled Reaper’s Redemption and follows a teenage Reaper as he witnesses the world falling into chaos because of a decision he made to alter the balance of life and death and interfere with fate. This collection of stories is set to release by the end of the month if all goes according to plan. If you have the money or feel compelled I hope you’ll pick up a copy to help contribute to this cause. Keep checking back here for updates on the release date, and thank you for stopping by my blog!

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#PimpMyBio

My PitchWars Mentee Bio- What You Need to Know. Or Not. You Decide.

I’m young and impressionable. I’ll take your feedback and critiques and adapt accordingly. I trust that you know your stuff, and if you say jump I’ll say…well…I’ll probably ask if I can just sit instead. Physical activity was never really my thing. But you know what I mean. I’m here to learn.

Speaking of learning, I’m still a student, so learning is sort of what I do. I have 8 classes left until I’ll graduate from Southern New Hampshire University with a BA in Creative Writing. I study online because I actually live in Kentucky with my husband and our three miniature Schnauzers.

Even though I’m 24 and ready to be molded, I’m also extremely dedicated and disciplined. In the past two years I’ve written three novels. You’re currently holding the query for my third. Out of those three books, I have no problem admitting that the first isn’t ready to be published. It’s too long, full of unnecessary details, and needs work. But I began it when I was 13. It’s where I started. It’s where I grew up. I can recognize when my work isn’t ready, and it makes me even more devoted to work harder and improve.

I love YA. It’s all I read. It’s what I love to write. The people in my life don’t read as much YA as I do so I’d be happy to talk your ear off about all those books and authors I love. If you even mention Andrew Smith though, I’ll squee all over the place, so you have been warned. YA books overflow my bookshelf. I think I have more stacks of books in the floor than on the shelves, but that’s actually something I’m proud of. I love my YA library.

I may quote the following things at random: Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Fight Club, The Breakfast Club, The Princess Bride, Lost, and Psych. However, I’m also well-practiced in self-restraint if random quoting is a problem.

Besides reading and writing, I love videogames, animals (especially penguins), and Converse and Vans.

Some writers live off of coffee, I choose Mountain Dew.

That’s it. Thanks for reading, and thank you even more for taking me into consideration.

***

If you’re wondering what this was for it’s for a contest called PitchWars that I’ve entered. All the mentee hopefuls were allowed to post personal bios for their mentor picks to read. More info on great writers and participants can be found here: http://dcmorin.blogspot.com/2013/12/pitchwars-mentee-contender-bio-blog-hop.html

Read about PitchWars here: http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitch-wars/

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First Pages: Making Sure Your Novel’s Beginning Isn’t Its End

There are certain dos and don’ts you can think about when you’re writing that first page. First pages are critical. They’ll either excite your potential reader enough to keep reading or annoy them to the point where they drop your book before giving it a chance. I know. No pressure, right? Don’t let the first page stop you from starting though. The important thing is to begin writing period. Get your idea down, make a rough draft, and just tell the story before you lose the idea or drive to create. Then go back. Study that first page. Tear it apart, rewrite it, explore your options. Question everything. Does it hook you immediately? Is it boring? Could it be improved?

Imagine someone who doesn’t know the story picking up your novel for the first time. They don’t know about that awesome twist that comes in the middle, the tearjerker ending, that super witty exchange of dialogue you created on page 132, or if and when the novel really gets good. All they know is that first page. So is it good enough to make the reader stick with your book long enough to discover all those other great things? Or is your beginning actually the novel’s end? And by end I mean death. Because no book can live and enjoy a long life with its readers if it never gets taken home.  So do right by your book and give it the beginning it deserves, not the one you think it needs. Yes, I’m indirectly quoting a certain bat-themed superhero movie.

Moving on.

Here are some tips, rules, and examples to get you thinking. Some should be followed. Some should be broken.

Open With Action

Generally this is good. Action means excitement right from the start. We don’t have to wait for the novel to pick up because, bam, it started with a bang. Just make sure your action serves the story and isn’t a cheap special effect. And don’t make it last too long. Tease me and make me curious, but let there be an end in sight. What makes action good and spicy at the start can be lost if you spend the first ten pages on it.

Showing & Telling

Show, don’t tell. I hate this phrase. I hate hearing it, I hate reading it, I hate that it’s everyone’s go to piece of writing advice everywhere, all the time, forever. But dammit it’s some good advice. For example if your MC, or main character, is a burglar with a heart of gold who robs corrupt socialites and then anonymously donates the score to charities and those in need, show me that, don’t say it. Don’t say, “I’m a professional thief who is tired of the corruption in my town. At night I make a difference by stealing from the rich, and the next day I attain justice by giving that money to the ones who really need it.” Don’t narrate who he is and what he does. Throw me into the robbery. Write about the reactions of the recipients of the money or the rage of the people who were stolen from. Make it all tie together until we can see why your character does what he does and how it affects everyone else.

Description of Setting: I’m Looking at You, Tolkien

For the love of god, please, don’t start your book with paragraphs of description, especially if you’re describing the setting or mood. Tolkien, I love you to death, but sometimes I just want to cry in frustration at your pages and pages of details. Usually, I’m good with a couple sentences of description. I like to infer and imagine some of it on my own. Give me the building blocks, enough to form an image and follow the flow of the story. Then let me color in the rest. Think of it that way. Like a coloring book. What you write is the black outline of the shapes on the page. What the reader does is color in the shapes. Everyone’s won’t look alike, but it will always start from the same groundwork.

Starting in the Middle

The way I use this in my third novel is by including a page before the actual first chapter. It isn’t really a prologue; it’s an excerpt of a piece of action that happens much later in the story. It tells the reader they can expect this to occur later in the plot, and then when they begin the book they wonder how in the hell the characters start at point A and end up at that point B later on. What changes? How do things progress to that point?

Another example is that initially in my first book I began at the start. And by that I mean it was the first day of school, and I was introducing all the classes and all the characters in a nice little linear succession. This is my first class, this is my second class, now it’s time for lunch, now the day is over, this is best friend1, best friend2, ex-girlfriend, enemy, love interest, etc. I realized that was tedious later. Instead, I changed things to where it wasn’t the first day, but just any old day at school, and the characters didn’t get stupid intros like that, they were just there. My main character wouldn’t have a need to introduce everything he already knew. It was his life, just another day, and the people in it had been there all along. I wanted the readers to feel like they were part of his day, not being introduced to every new thing like an awkward acquaintance. A friend would know these things already and be immersed right into it.

Back Story- Save It for Later

Another mistake I made in book one was starting with two pages of back story. I was explaining why my MC’s father suddenly moved home, how it felt to lose his mom and meet his dad again after over ten years apart, how their relationship has been since then, and how his friends help him deal. It’s all important information. But not how you want to start a book. I needed to build up to that and be giving away tidbits of back story in the meantime while I was setting up the plot and relationships. Eventually those pages of back story became spread out. Instead of leaving it as pages of information, I broke it up into paragraphs and incorporated places to fit it in in the middle of the narrative. That way readers understand where my MC is coming from without the plot being broken up with heavy explanations. Show the back story as you go. Make it relevant to the characters’ present. It’s part of their development.

Flashbacks & Dreams

I’m not saying don’t use this at all. Dreams are an important part of revealing information in my third book. Just don’t use these as an opener. We need to know who your character is before we care about who they were. We want to know what’s happening to him in the present and what his current struggle is before we want to fall into his past or see his nightmares. Plus, come on. Starting with a dream or a flashback and then making your MC jolt awake, wide-eyed, heart-hammering, and sweating? Cliché alert.

Speaking of…

Clichés

You know this anyway. If you’re writing a novel, you’re committing to creativity. Don’t ignore your imagination and take something that’s been done and overdone. Once upon a time…It was a dark and stormy night…the whole dream thing…just don’t do it.

Conversations & Too Much Dialogue

I love dialogue. I love writing it, I love reading a witty exchange between characters and then rereading it because it was so clever, I love when a character says something vicious, cruel, underhanded, sarcastic, hilarious, etc. But I don’t love when your novel starts this way. If your novel begins with a page or two of fast-paced dialogue, I’m not going to care. I don’t know who these people are. They might be hilarious, sarcastic, or witty, but why do I care what they’re saying if I don’t even know who they are or how they know each other? It’s a personal preference, I suppose, but I like to establish my characters and their relationships and the inner narration before throwing them into heavy conversations. I want a chance to get to know the character before I read about his interactions with others. Maybe I’m just clingy like that.

Okay, presentation time.

I guess this is only fair. Here are the opening lines from my first three novels. Judge them how you wish. There’s nothing saying they have to stay this way. That’s what writing, editing, and critiques are all about.

1. Fourteen. That’s how many scars I find on my body. I remove the bandage from my cheek. It’s stained red from the cut, but at least the wound has closed up. I stare at the thin slit and wonder how noticeable the scar will be a week from now.

2. The glass breaks at my feet as my parents scream at each other.  I don’t know who threw it this time, only that I’m not sticking around to get caught in the crossfire.  I step around the sparkling shards and head outside, closing the door on their dysfunction.

3. I’d never held a real gun before.  It’s not like I was trained to use it or could hit all the right circles on those paper target dummies.  I didn’t know how to properly hold it, aim, or anything.  But none of this mattered in that moment.  You could have given me a spear, a slingshot, or just my bare f***ing hands and I would have found a way to make them deadly.  He needed to pay for what he did.  After all we went through, everything we’d seen, there wasn’t anything that could stop me from hurting him.  I raised the gun and cocked the hammer.

So there it is. Advice on writing first pages. Take it and do what you think is best. Just make sure you’re doing something. Write. “The hard part is getting to the top of page one,” remember?

What are your thoughts on first pages? What stops you from reading further? Do my opening lines work or fail? Post below!

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