Monday, June 28, 2010

Paragraph Makeover

According to the revised focus for my blog, I will review writing tips by showing examples. See sidebar for submission specifics.

TODAY'S OPENING PARAGRAPH:

High above the crashing emerald waves of the wild, frothing sea, Rianna stood on the grassy bluff. Her thick ebony hair flailed in the wind like anxious whipping banners as her blue-green eyes scanned the waves for a glimpse of her father's huge merchant ship. She saw no tiny scrap of sail on the horizon, no sign of a wooden hull. The wind caught at her full skirt, wrapping like a protective cocoon around her little brother who stood beside her. He shivered, his dark eyes somber, his body small and thin but sturdy like the reeds that grew by the inland rivers.

COMMENTS:

Adjectives, similes, and redundancies are the three areas of concern, where this passage could be improved.

Adjectives: This passage is infested with adjectives! Slashing some of these will give a better effect; in cases like this, less is more. Every single noun should NOT have one to three adjectives describing it. The waves here are crashing and emerald, the sea is wild and frothing, the bluff is grassy, etc. At this point in the story, do we really need to know her eyes are blue-green? (Especially since her brother's eyes are described, too) Those details can be worked in more naturally, later--and please, not by having her look in a mirror or a reflection! Those are cliché methods and way overused in literature.

Similes (or figures of speech): There are also three similes very close to each other, 3 in one paragraph--banners, cocoon, reeds. Does everything remind the main character or narrator of something else? It's often better to choose one strong simile rather than a number of weaker ones, and not saturate your paragraphs with figures of speech. If you feel you can't omit one, turn one of the similes into a metaphor to break up the monotony (metaphors say a thing IS something else, similes say a thing is LIKE or AS something else, a comparison). Even changing one simile to say "as" while the other says "like" breaks things up a bit.

Redundancies: Saying the sea is crashing and wild is fairly redundant, and a "tiny scrap of sail" is definitely redundant in that a scrap IS something tiny, so the word tiny is not needed. Likewise, if the hair is already flailing, then the word whipping wouldn't be needed to describe banners. A cocoon is inherently protective, so the word protective could be eliminated. In choosing which adjectives or words to keep, check for words that mean the same thing and eliminate the duplicates. "The waves" are repeated in both sentences 1 and 2; trim one. "Inland" in the last sentence tells us nothing; is there such thing as a river that isn't inland?

Miscellaneous: Technically, the second to the last sentence actually says the WIND wrapped like a cocoon around her brother, not the skirt doing the wrapping (wind is the subject of the sentence, the thing doing the action). This must be fixed. A mere adding of "it" clears this up.

REWRITE:

High above the crashing emerald waves of the sea, Rianna stood on the grassy bluff. Her hair flailed in the wind like anxious banners as she scanned the horizon for a glimpse of her father's merchant ship. She saw no scrap of sail, no sign of a wooden hull. The wind caught at her skirt, wrapping it around her brother who stood beside her. He shivered, his dark eyes somber, his thin body as sturdy as the reeds that grew by the rivers.

Adjectives omitted: 14!
Words omitted: 103-83=20!
The result is a much cleaner, easier to read paragraph.
(I wrote both paragraphs, by the way, so I can be harsher about the critique. LOL)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Obstacles in Blogland

I've read Writing it Sideways' post on copyrighting and posting others' work online this morning, and it makes me nervous about my new blog focus! This link expresses some of the concerns:

http://writeitsideways.com/writers-poll-what-are-your-genres-of-interest/#more-4149

Look halfway down the page for the section on critiques. While I have been posting only one pagers, I worry about infringing on any potential copyright problems for writers who may get published someday. The post DID say less than one chapter was probably okay, though, and all I'm posting is one-pagers.

I suppose the BEST place for critiques is in a critique group, either live or via email. More privacy that way, less worries about copyright. But a lot of writers don't mind if their work is made public or critiqued publicly. It can be a learning experience for other writers, too, even if those writers don't want THEIR pages publicly shredded! I just wonder about the publishers.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hypothetical Story Beginning: Critique

I'm envisioning a goal of posting critiques two or three times a week. I'll go for two for now, probably Mondays and Thursdays. Below, I've written up a hypothetical story beginning for a writing/editing example.

THE STORY:

She had arrived for the summer.

Jane Brownwell looked around her crossly, putting her suitcase down. Here she was at last after a long hot bus ride, and Aunt's May's house looked very boring. Across from the dining room window was a table, round and plain. Faded doilies were placed across the top of the couch. Another doily was spread out under a collection of flowers in a vase, on the coffee table. Most of the flowers in the vase were wilted and droopy. The couch was a mess, all saggy and stained with tea.

It was horrible! How was she expected to stay here for an entire summer?


This is an okay passage, pretty introspective. It introduces conflict, albeit a tired and overused theme of arriving somewhere new for the summer and hating it. Kinda cliche, really, like opening your novel with your main character waking up in the morning. Action or dialogue or something more lively would need to be introduced soon hereafter. As far as writing style, it could be written a lot more colorful and interesting, as I will illustrate.

Personally I have an issue with the name Jane. I admit it. I'd change the name to something more youthful and current. Google-search "names for girls" but don't choose the faddishly popular ones or your book may become dated and oh-so-last-year. The next thing that jumps out in this passage is the use of "crossly." Only use adverbs (clue: most end in "ly") when absolutely necessary. Adverbs usually indicate TELLING rather than SHOWING. The writer needs to show that Jane is cross by actions, rather than telling the reader that she is. The next verb is "putting" which is serviceable but it could be more active and used to play a role in SHOWING that Jane is put-out. I'll give an example of this fix later.

Next, take a look at all the weak "to be" verbs in this paragraph. Tons of them, very common when (beginner) writers start describing things. These "was" and "were" verbs are passive, and it's good to swap these out for more active, vibrant verbs. Even "stood" and "lay" are more active than was and were. It's not that you can't ever have a "was" or "were" in your passages (and sometimes the simplicity of was is preferred), but like adverb usage, make sure they are absolutely necessary. The entire structure of most sentences here is passive-- the subject is not doing the placing, spreading; i.e., they "were placed" or "were spread."

MY REWRITE:

She had arrived for the summer.

Lacey Brownwell dropped her suitcase with a thump, and glared at the inside of Aunt May's house. BO-ring. Not much to look at, and certainly not worth the sweaty eight-hour bus ride getting here. A plain round table stood across from the dining room window, while faded doilies draped themselves like limp and bedraggled butterflies across the back of a tea-stained couch. The vase of flowers on the coffee table pinned yet another sad doily to the coffee table. The flowers drooped, wilted beyond recognition.

Horrible. Her mother expected her to stay here for an entire summer?


More active sentences here, in that the subjects are doing the actions--the table stands, the doilies drape, the vase pins, the flowers droop. Notice that I add specific details, like an 8-hour bus ride rather than a "long" one. A sweaty bus ride versus a hot one. Her mother's involvement at the end. I've also added a simile with the butterfly-like doilies, which is likely more memorable than passively placed doilies or any of the other living room descriptions. The adverb crossly has been omitted, showing instead that Lacey is upset by the actions of dropping her suitcase with a thump, and glaring.

The doilies also serve as a narrative interpretation of how Lacey is feeling or viewing her new surroundings. The narration can be a filter through which the setting is viewed through the main character's eyes. Pinning a sad doily mirrors/suggests something happening against her will, limp and bedraggled is probably how she feels after a sweaty 8-hour bus ride.

And the changes didn't affect the word count much. The first example was 109 words, the second 103--using basically the same information, just assembled differently! I combined sentences and cut out some repetition (in a vase, in the vase), so that even with adding my longer butterfly simile, I didn't affect the total length.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Featuring Critique #2

This critique is a middle-grade excerpt from Patti Haack, novel title not given. The unadulterated version is posted here first, followed by the one with my critique:

The first page:

       Chazz had learned from his dad that his grandpa lived in a house up the hill. It was a little secluded, surrounded by trees and small hills. A fence surrounded the property and there were a gazillion “No Trespassing” signs everywhere. One said, “I have a shotgun and am not afraid to use it.” Apparently, Grandpa liked his privacy.
       Tuffer pooched his lips and looked over at Pete and Chazz. “Are you surrrrrre?”
       “No, not really.” Chazz looked around. A medium sized house sat in the middle of the property. It was dark brown with dark brown trim. A porch in need of some serious repair jutted out into the yard and a black chicken perched itself on the railing. It eyed them suspiciously.
       “It looks like it should be condemned.” Pete shook her ponytail in disgust.
       Tuffer looked at her.
       “Wrecked.”
       “Oh.” He nodded in agreement. “How ‘bout they do that now and we don’t go in.”
       “Nope. We need answers.” Pete climbed over the locked gate. “And he’s the man with them.”
       Reluctantly, both boys climbed over the fence, too, and followed their ponytailed friend to the porch. The chicken squawked and bolted from its perch, yelling the whole way to the back of the yard.
       “Who’s there?” A gruff voice bellowed from inside the house. A curtain moved at one of the windows on the door. “Kids? Get out of here.”
       “Um, Mr. Montgomery…” Pete started.
       “I don’t want anything. I’m not going to buy any of your crap. I don’t want you trying to sell me anything. And I DON’T LIKE KIDS!!!”

Followed herewith by my verbose comments, added in sky blue:

Chazz had learned from his dad that his grandpa lived in a house up the hill. Chazz is an interesting, unusual name. I like unique names--as long as they're not too complex and mentally unpronounceable as I read a book. It seems odd to me, though, that his dad would have to tell him where his grandpa lives, especially since it seems like recent information. If it's NOT recent info, perhaps you should indicate when he learned it. As it is, it sounds like he just learned it as a young teen, which is a little baffling. You will need to explain why so late in his life, or rephrase; you don't want to start out with a head-scratcher for your very first sentence.

It was a little secluded, surrounded by trees and small hills. Using "was" makes this sentence passive. It also seems that the house would be very secluded rather than a little, if the trees and small hills surround the house.

A fence surrounded the property and there were a gazillion “No Trespassing” signs everywhere. You may not need gazillion AND everywhere; seems redundant. This is another weak verb sentence, with the "were," and while that might be useable, you do need to change the verb "surrounded" because you used it in the previous sentence. Gazillion is popular though; one of those words teens/younger people use (as is gabillion, million-gabillion, etc). One said, “I have a shotgun and am not afraid to use it.” Apparently, Grandpa liked his privacy. Could be personal taste, but I'd give this sentence a line of its own to add punch.

Tuffer pooched his lips and looked over at Pete and Chazz. “Are you surrrrrre?” I'm not 100% clear what this question means. Is he sure this is the right house/property, or is he asking whether he's sure they should go ahead with whatever they're doing (trespassing, I assume)? Pooched: I tend to revel in made-up words like this, but be careful; sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. This one seemed fine to me. Poochy lips…pooched lips--it's almost like an onomatopoeia. You can practically see the protruding, flappy lips. I'm glad to see that Pete has a normal name, though. You wouldn't want EVERYone to have an unusual name. I'm a trifle concerned about the similarity between Chazz and Tuffer in that they both have double consonants in their names…too similar? At least they are different in the number of syllables. It's always good to vary the number of syllables in your key characters, as well as vary the letters they begin with (so you don't have a Barb, a Bonnie, and a Betti, for instance). Less confusing for the reader that way.

“No, not really.” Chazz looked around. A medium sized house sat in the middle of the property. Medium-sized would be hyphenated, as adjectives dependent upon one another to describe house. Although medium-sized really is not a very vivid description, if you think about it. Mere size is often subjective. Can you compare it to something? And really--how important is it that it's medium-sized?? Another adjective might give the reader better flavor. It was dark brown with dark brown trim. A weak verb here: was. If it were me, I might say, "A medium-sized house sat in the middle of the property, dark brown with dark brown trim." No weak verb that way. Uh, wait…dark brown with dark brown trim? That's amusing. Wouldn't he just say it was dark brown all over? LOL Which got me to wondering what time of day it was. I had gotten the idea that it was nighttime, but then as I looked back, I see you didn't say either way. You might give the reader a hint of what time of day they are doing this. Say something about the sun in passing, maybe.

A porch in need of some serious repair jutted out into the yard and a black chicken perched itself on the railing. It eyed them suspiciously. "In need of some serious repair" is vague. What does the house look like, in a brief cameo? A saggy porch, maybe? Dilapidated? Crooked? Give us a mental picture. In need of repair is okay, but it could be stronger. I do like the black chicken. First of all, it's black, which is symbolic of darkness and gives a more ominous tone to the scene (which builds the conflict). Second, it's simply a nice image, with that dark chicken perching on the railing. Jutted and perched are nice, active verbs; well done. My adverb radar goes up on "suspiciously" though, knowing adverbs usually indicate a telling rather than a showing. What does eyeing them suspiciously look like--glaring or staring? Neck hunkered down? A gleam of challenge or suspicion in its eye? With added detail, you could play up that chicken even more.
“It looks like it should be condemned.” Pete shook her ponytail in disgust. You just finished talking about the chicken, so it almost sounds like she's saying the chicken looks like it should be condemned. Whoa--Pete is a girl! Didn't see that one coming. It also almost sounds like she could be shaking the ponytail with her hands, when I think you mean she's shaking her head which in turn shakes her ponytail.

Tuffer looked at her.
“Wrecked.” Ah, like he doesn't know what condemned means? That is a great way of indicating he's not good with vocab and Pete is.

“Oh.” He nodded in agreement. “How ‘bout they do that now and we don’t go in.” You'll probably have to say Tuffer here instead of He, since you have two males in the group and it's a little unclear who answered. It's fairly obvious that it's Tucker, but these are middle grade readers (8-12) and you don't want to risk being confusing, here. Your dialogue is good, by the way, in that you don't over dialogue-tag your lines (like: he said, she said).

“Nope. We need answers.” Pete climbed over the locked gate. “And he’s the man with them.” I like the mystery here, tweaking the readers' curiosity. Like, answers to what?

Reluctantly, both boys climbed over the fence, too, and followed their ponytailed friend to the porch. Adverb alert (reluctantly). Very close to the last one; if you choose, I'd suggest omitting the first one (suspiciously). This one seems more necessary. On the other hand, you could also just say "With reluctance." The word "too" is unnecessary, here. The chicken squawked and bolted from its perch, yelling the whole way to the back of the yard. Yelling seems rather un-chickenlike. Even screeching or shrieking would be more like a chicken's voice. I like the chicken as a sort of a watchdog.

“Who’s there?” A gruff voice bellowed from inside the house. A curtain moved at one of the windows on the door. “Kids? Get out of here.” "Who's there?" and the line about the gruff voice bellowing are all part of the same sentence (the voice is bellowing those words), so de-capitalize the A. Just say: "Who's there?" a gruff voice bellowed from inside the house." The verb "moved" might be altered for something more interesting, but only if it flows okay.
“Um, Mr. Montgomery…” Pete started. I've seen writers use this expression for a dialogue tag, and it always seems odd to me (Pete started). I'd add "to say" or something, like: Pete started to say. Even "began" sounds more natural to me than "started." And if Mr. M is interrupting him, a dash would be more appropriate than a trailing off ellipses. Like: "Um, Mr. Montgomery--" Pete began. Or the plain simplicity of "Pete said" would work even better.

“I don’t want anything. I’m not going to buy any of your crap. I don’t want you trying to sell me anything. And I DON’T LIKE KIDS!!!” Well, we're definitely getting the flavor of Mr. M here. A definite grouchpot! The 2nd and 3rd sentences are a little similar to each other…but maybe okay if he's ranting.
This work does feel middle grade, so you're spot-on in that regard. It's also good that you've started with a scene where something is happening/action rather than a bunch of internal thoughts and rambling descriptions. By the way, your page emailed as Calibri, 14-point size. If that's your manuscript font size, just be aware that most editors prefer Times New Roman, 12-point (with 1" margins all around). One downside to Calibri is that is has no serifs, those little "feet" on the letters…the absence of which makes the capital I's look like lowercase L's and vice versa.

Thank you, Patti, for sharing your work with the whole class!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Launching: The First Critique

Here is Sara-Lynne Simpson's MG excerpt. First, her version unvarnished by my verbose cyber-chicken-scratches:

TO CALL THE VORTEX
By Sara-Lynne Simpson

Chapter One

“Search now for the sorrow of this boy between two worlds that we may find him.” Celine

       Jake hung back and scuffed along, as a large group of students spurted up the trail. Morning sun sparkled on October’s wet, crimson leaves, but he didn’t notice. He had other things on his mind. His classmate’s loud laughter whirled around the curves as their sixth grade teacher tried and failed to keep order. His friend Daniel signaled him with a wink, an evil grin and a little sideways jut of his head. Jake mouthed “no, thanks,” and smiled just enough for no hard feelings. Daniel shrugged and moved on. Two boys and a girl joined him as they broke off and surged up the big rough hillside. “Come back here, right now!” yelled Ms. Arnold. Her words were no match for the class. The general mayhem jostled on up the trail.
       Jake hung back farther from the noise. It didn’t scorch his ears the way his parents’ fights did, but any yelling was too much right now. Last year, he would have been right in there with Daniel, darting uphill for some extra fun. Now Jake just looked away, watching the creek instead. It rushed past with high water from a recent storm. Rapids ripped over big granite boulders. Jake saw large gold-brown leaves swirl in the creek. They were torn up from riding the rapids. He pulled back even farther. The crashing creek completely drowned out the shrieks of his class.

Followed herewith by my comments, added in blue rather than red because blue is a much kinder, less garish mark-up--and besides, it matches my blogsite color scheme better.

TO CALL THE VORTEX
By Sara-Lynne Simpson

Chapter One

“Search now for the sorrow of this boy between two worlds that we may find him.” Celine
Nice fantasy-like element added here with this quote, to set the mood. I find it intriguing that the search is for the SORROW of the boy, not for the boy! I'm also assuming "Celine" is a hint of someone who will be introduced later in the novel (a little foreshadowing). Your title sounds like a fantasy, so if it is one, you've nailed the fantasy title feel.


Jake hung back and scuffed along, as a large group of students spurted up the trail. Good job--nice to see some active and vibrant verbs, i.e., scuffed and spurted. You have quite a number of energetic verbs in your first page, which is great because a lot of writers (especially beginners) tend to use weak verbs, like was and were. I kinda question the use of spurted, however, since my first impression is something gushy or liquidy. The definition of spurt does include a "short, intense burst of energy or a sudden increase in energy," so I suppose the word might fit…as long as you don't mind the possibility of readers getting a liquidy impression. But perhaps sprinted would be more accurate or appropriate?

Morning sun sparkled on October’s wet, crimson leaves, but he didn’t notice. It could just be me, but at first I was snagged by October being a possessive. A little unusual and a slight mouthful of a phrase (October's wet, crimson leaves). I'm assuming the point of including October is to inform the reader what time of year the story takes place, but it seems a trifle forced where it's now placed. To an extent, crimson leaves in themselves would indicate autumn/fall so that you may not even need the word October. (On the other hand, if this is fantasy, we don't yet know our baseline for normalcy, or what the world is like--maybe the leaves are bloody, or crimson all the time, etc.) You're the boss, but I personally would rephrase it to say something like "Morning sun sparkled on the wet, crimson leaves of October, but he didn't notice." Or say the "wet autumn leaves" or "wet October leaves." Hmm, why are they wet, anyway? It's not raining, so perhaps dew?
The next issue is point of view. Technically, the last part of the sentence is an impossibility UNLESS your narration is omniscient (all-knowing, delving into everyone's minds and thoughts). If your narrator has a limited POV, based only in Jake's head and only seeing what Jake sees, then you wouldn't be able to mention anything he doesn't notice. You could get away with saying he barely noticed them or some such--but not that he didn't notice at all.

He had other things on his mind. This a little like telling, informing the reader he had other things on his mind, rather than showing what those things are. You DO show later that he's not into what everyone else is doing, so I'm wondering if that might be enough, rather than spelling it out and summarizing it here.

His classmate’s loud laughter whirled around the curves as their sixth grade teacher tried and failed to keep order. Punctuation, here. Classmates' is the correct possessive of plural classmates, with the apostrophe placed after the s rather than before it. (I assume it's plural, since you say "their" teacher later in the sentence.) Also, sixth-grade would be hyphenated, being two adjectives dependent upon one another to describe the noun "teacher."

His friend Daniel signaled him with a wink, an evil grin and a little sideways jut of his head. This is good in that you are showing a snippet of Daniel's personality by his actions. I'm having a bit of trouble imagining a sideways jut of someone's head, though. "Jut" means to stick out, or to make something stick out, especially beyond the surface or edge of something. The word implies more of a forward motion or like over an edge to me, rather than a sideways motion of someone's head. Perhaps jerk or tilt would be more accurate here?


Jake mouthed “no, thanks,” and smiled just enough for no hard feelings. Daniel shrugged and moved on. Two boys and a girl joined him as they broke off and surged up the big rough hillside. I like him mouthing his refusal; it says something about his mood as well as his character. Surged is a great verb in the 3rd sentence here, and works better for me than the aforementioned spurted. One problem I had with the 3rd sentence is that the 2 boys and a girl can't join Daniel AS they break off and surge…they can't join him in the middle of those actions; AS implies at the same time. What sequentially is happening (I think) is first the breaking off, THEN the joining, then the surging. I'm assuming the class/teacher/Jake are on the trail, and then Daniel and 3 others leave the trail to charge up the rough hillside, but it's a little unclear. At any rate, the AS presents a timing problem that you'd want to fix, for instance something like: "Two boys and a girl joined him, breaking off from the class to surge up the big rough hillside." It's a little unclear what Daniel wants Jake to do until you get to this sentence, especially since you say Daniel "moved on." Moved on sounds like he's on the trail still, rather than up the hill.

“Come back here, right now!” yelled Ms. Arnold. Is she talking to Daniel and the 3 others? (Does she notice they're gone?) It seems like she is, because you just mentioned them leaving the trail. If she's talking to them, you may need to add a "to them" to make it ultra clear…although then your next sentence indicates she's yelling at the entire class.
Also, new dialogue usually begins with a new paragraph, so you'll want to make a paragraph break here. Especially for Middle Grade (ages 8-12), your readers are fond of white space and shorter paragraphs; this will break up your lengthy paragraphing. This whole page would probably benefit to being broken up into more bite-sized pieces. At the very least, break for your dialogue sections. (If you HAVE broken these up but pasting it into an email to me has destroyed your paragraph breaks, ignore this advice!) Personally, I would break it in the following places, after sentences ending with: notice, mind, jut of his head, feelings, hillside, trail, rapids. This only changes the total length from 15 lines to 19 lines.

Her words were no match for the class. I like that; her words versus the class. Lopsided power struggle.

The general mayhem jostled on up the trail. I like this too, the mayhem jostling up the trail rather than the people doing the jostling. I mean, the people are implied, but I like the image of mayhem personified, moving its way up the hill.

Jake hung back farther from the noise. It didn’t scorch his ears the way his parents’ fights did, but any yelling was too much right now. Last year, he would have been right in there with Daniel, darting uphill for some extra fun. Ah good, you have the possessive correct here, with parents'. With more than one parent, the possessive goes after the s. Nice way to introduce a little background of his home/inner life, too. The 3rd sentence tells us that whatever has changed for him has occurred in the past year--without a big information dump describing all the changes. Just a nice hint of the Something that happened.

Now Jake just looked away, watching the creek instead. It rushed past with high water from a recent storm. Rapids ripped over big granite boulders. Do a double-check on your entire manuscript to see if "just" is not one of your pet words that you take everywhere and use all the time. It used to be one of mine! You've used it twice in two paragraphs/one page. Try to spread the justs out, omit them when you can, or substitute "only" or "merely", etc. For instance, it reads fine to omit this particular just: "Now Jake looked away, watching the creek instead."

Jake saw large gold-brown leaves swirl in the creek. They were torn up from riding the rapids. Maybe a little bland and/or repetitive in your adjectives here: big boulders and large leaves. I like the symbolism of what feels like nature paralleling your character, like Jake has been torn up from riding the rapids of his life. He pulled back even farther. The crashing creek completely drowned out the shrieks of his class. From proximity sentence-wise, this almost sounds like he's pulling back from the rapids and boulders, which I don't think you meant; I think you meant pulling back from his classmates. You may have to add a couple of words here to clarify.

Thank you, Sara-Lynne, for your story. Remember that these comments are my opinion, and critiques are like a buffet: take what you want or what works for you, and leave the rest. Kind and constructive feedback from others is welcome below; feel free to contradict or add to what I've said. My ego will still be intact.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Official Blog Change

My blog makeover is complete! I played around with 2 other headers and a BUNCH of backgrounds before I got one I liked. Love the clouds--so airy and ethereal.

NOTE: This post previously announced taking first-page entries sent to me from MG or YA novels, where I had planned to make my posts featuring those pages with my comments added. However, I'm being a little more cautious, after reading about the perils and pitfalls of copyrighting and posting writers' works online. Am thinking and re-thinking. However, most places online DO say that one-page excerpts are probably okay.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Blog Focus?

Ok, I'm toying with the idea of turning this blog into a critique kind of forum, where people post their sentences or pages, and I critique them. It'd be fun! I wouldn't have to deliberate and scratch my head about what to write, and I wouldn't be BOring anyone with tedious accounts of what page I'm writing on my latest novel. Somehow I'd have to advertise, though, to let people know. Maybe on the SCBWI Boards, etc.... Then it'd get known by word of mouth, after that. I think I'll redesign my logo up at the top too. Fun!
NOTE: I have since re-focused this, due to the inherent copyright problems of posting excerpts from writer's works. One-pagers probably would've been okay, but there's an iffy ground there, where I don't want to tread. It only works if the writer never intends to publish the posted works.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Browsing Around Other Writer Sites

Lately I've been browsing around other writer blogsites and regular sites. Adventures in Children's Publishing has a cool first-line contest going on, that I joined. The top 25 out of 100 get prizes, critiques and books. Rah! That means my first five lines have to be better than 75 others though. We'll see. I've narrowed it down to my 8 favorites (mine not included; I'm too biased to know, altho I think they're pretty good!), the most original and compelling. The winner gets a critique by an agent. Cool. It's kind of a long drawn-out contest though, and won't end until mid-July. They get narrowed down to 75 on the 24th of June, 2010.
I followed a link from agent Nathan Bransford's site to find that contest. Been following Nathan's site lately, seeing how he critiques first pages and query letters, etc. Each week he chooses one (mine's in the lottery pile) and critiques it online for his blog entry. Other writers give feedback, too. Nathan also has a Forum where I discovered another writer to swap YA novels with, just started. More of a beginning writer, but another set of eyeballs is good no matter at what stage of the game they're in.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Book Research Shortcut

Helpful Book Reading Tip! A shortcut to keeping up with what's out there in Published Book Land (without reading all the books in the world) is to go to Amazon and bring up a particular book. If you don't have a specific book in mind, type in "YA paranormal romance" or "adult mystery books" or whatever field you're interested in. You can see what's out there and read the book summaries and reviews of your genre that way. Also--even handier--is Amazon's "Look Inside" feature; nowadays more and more books have it. With it, you can select to read the first 5 or so pages of a book. Great for researching how other authors begin books (their opening lines, etc), and for providing a flavor of an author's voice and style.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Review: Catching Fire

Catching Fire is Suzanne Collins' sequel to The Hunger Games, and I have to say, it's as good as the first book! (and rats, the third book, Mockingjay, doesn't come out until August). I was glad to see that it wasn't predictable--SC gave readers plenty of surprises. Although I guessed one thing, and was kinda going well duh, why doesn't Katniss, the main character, GET that? but that's okay. There was a very clever arena set-up in this book, like a clock with wedges/sections for each type of trial and when they would occur. Plenty of action, tension, drama, etc. Great book!