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Pitch Contest Approaching!

It’s been a while. And though I have been busy that’s not really my excuse for neglecting my little blog here. I swore I wouldn’t ditch this thing a few months after I started it, that I’d keep it going no matter what even if I didn’t feel like it, that I would blog daily and like it! Well guess what happened?

Yeah.

I am sorry.

But I’m back because I want people to know about the upcoming pitch contest on Twitter. It’s slated for March 25th so that’s ten days to write and polish your 140 character pitches.

I’ve talked about these before. I think they are really great. Basically you tweet out your pitches for your completed manuscript and agents or editors who are watching the feed on that day will favorite your pitch tweet if they want to see more of your manuscript. A favorite is a request.

You should still query and not rely solely on contests, but this thing is great for taking chances, getting pitch practice, meeting other writers, and becoming familiar with matters and people in the same boat as you.

I’ve done it and received a handful of  ‘favorites’ each time. One even led to a full request after the initial partial request. So don’t let this opportunity slip by. There are success stories out there. (Scroll down and click to read the pitch wars success stories) You might just find your agent.

Mind the rules. You must condense your pitch for Twitter’s character limit while also including the hashtag and your manuscript’s genre. DO NOT favorite other writer’s pitches. That’s for agents/editors only. DO retweet other pitches to show your support for them. DON’T overload the feed. Only post twice per hour. When I did it, I pitched two novels. So I tweeted a pitch for each every hour. No more.

Click here for the guidelines.

If you want to practice your pitches, post them below and we can work on them. Here are examples of some of the ones I used previously:

Cameron shows up next door w/ more bruises than suitcases. As she learns more, Maddie is forced 2 confront her own insecurities YA Contemp #Pitmad

Kidnapped for ransom alongside 4 classmates, 17yo Ezra Winchester will either fight for their freedom or die a hostage YA Thriller #Pitmad

*Notice how I had to abbreviate to make use of the limited space?

You want your pitch to convey the stakes and the obstacles in your MC’s path. When _______ happens, Main Character must _______ in order to ________. What drives the story? How does it affect your MC? What must they do? What are they trying to overcome?

Alright. There it is. Good luck with your pitches. I hope to see you on the Twitter feed on March 25th.

And expect some new posts soon. I’ll catch you up on what I’ve been up to these past couple of months and what I’m working on now.

Keep writing!

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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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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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