What is Southland? The most awesome cop show ever.
Why? Because it's awesome.
Okay, okay... I'm not making much sense, BUT trust me. Grittiest streets of L.A. + Flawed yet relatable characters + Emotionally charged plot arcs + Up-close filming that makes you feel like you're in the scene =
AND Ben McKenzie from The O.C. in it. *fist pump*
So. Why I am talking to you about Southland today, you ask? In this week's (super awesome) episode, a character died. A character I l-o-v-e-d. But this character's death was important to move other stories forward. To make other characters change their priorities and reevaluate who they really are.
Even so, the death hurt me. A lot. *sobs*
That got me thinking about books. Specifically, about creating characters we become attached to as writers, then having to let them go in order to propel the plot in the best direction for the story.
This week's question: how do you choose which characters to kill in your stories? Do you like dropping the axe on them, or do you sob like me?
So. Behold this list of epic awesomeness, folks. It is all about contests:
1) Operation Awesome (my other hangout) is having a Mystery Agent Contest next week!! Head over there to see what Mystery Agent is looking for in his/her slush pile, and polish that 25-word pitch until it shines. See you there on February 1st!
2) The uber-awesome Shelli Johannes of Market My Words is offering an AGENT REFERRAL to one lucky winner. Trust me--you want that referral. Oh yes, you do. Go here to check the details.
3) My 200 Followers Contest is still on!! Deadline's tomorrow, so sign up here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly :D
Hope you're all having a great week!
Now tell me: any other contests I haven't heard about??? Let me know!
Folks, I am lame. I reached 200 followers a while ago, but I TOTALLY forgot to celebrate. *slaps wrist*
In honor of said blogging milestone, I've decided to have a nice lil' contest. And since my latest obsession has been queries, I figured I'd keep fueling the fire. Also, Elana Johnson's amazeballs ebook, FROM THE QUERY TO THE CALL, is available for free. Yes, f-r-e-e. You can download this brilliant piece of awesomeness here.
So. Back to the contest. Folks, I love queries. Writing them. Reading them. Critiquing them. That's why I'm going to offer FIVE lucky winners a query critique! *throws confetti*
1) Follow my blog :)
2) Comment on this post to enter the contest
You can Tweet and/or blog about the contest, but I won't rule you out if you don't.
The five lucky winners will be announced this Wednesday, January 26th. And don't fret--the winning entries will NOT be posted on the blog. My feedback is meant for your eyes only, so no pressure. In case you do want me to share the query, you may say so, and I'll leave it up with my comments.
Best of luck to all who enter, and I can't wait to read your babies!!
Oh, and quick reminder: I'm over @ Operation Awesome today. Talking about sex. Fun times.
I have a very special treat for you today, folks. My Operation Awesome buddy, Michelle McLean, is hanging out on my blog! *fist pump*
Michelle's book, HOMEWORK HELPERS: ESSAYS AND TERM PAPERS, hit stores this week. As part of her uber-epic blog tour, I decided to ask her some burning and very important questions.
I give you ze interview:
Hey, Michelle!! So happy you agreed to my randomness :D Please sum your book up in three sentences or less.
Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers is a fun, user-friendly guidebook that walks the reader through every step of the essay writing process. Unlike other books that are so full of technical jargon they confuse more than help, this book uses straightforward language, simple steps, and fun examples to guide students through a dozen different types of essays, including the SAT essay, as well as giving info and tips on researching, proofreading, and citing sources.
Most teens hear the word "homework" and pass out. Or roll their eyes. How does your book encourage them to smile instead?
I try to focus on the “fun” aspects of a writing assignment. You might hate your topic, but there is almost always some aspect of that topic that you might find interesting. I try to guide my readers into finding that interesting aspect so they won’t be so bored with the whole process.
Also, I break the process down into really simple steps. One thing at a time. Depending on the time frame the student has to write an essay, it could be one step a day or one step a week. Even one step an hour if they only have a short period of time. Bottom line, no one wants to focus on an assignment they don’t want to do for hours on end. I show you how to write an essay a little bit at a time. It still gets done well, and even quickly if necessary, but taking it slowly makes it much less overwhelming and painful :) Like taking medicine. Do it quick and move on with your day :)
In terms of research, did you dive into other non-fiction books that benefited students? If so, which ones were the most helpful?
I actually started with my own college papers. I went through them to see which types of essays I had and made a list. I’ve written every type of essay out there at some point in my life. I saved a lot of them, and my mother saved even more lol I did search through a lot of college websites so I could make sure I had as many of the most commonly assigned essays as I could find. I went through my papers and wrote down the components of the essays, quadruple checking these against several writing books and college writing lab sites, and went from there.
In regards to the citations chapter and the SAT chapter, I went straight to the main source – books like the MLA handbook and the SAT website. I include a resource list in my book of good sites and books to check out for more information.
What is the best thing about writing non-fiction? The worst?
I’ve always been a total information nut. I used to read encyclopedias for fun. I love to research. And I actually enjoy writing essays and papers…researching on a topic that interests me and recording what I’ve learned. For me, writing a non-fiction book is like writing a really long paper :) One of the best things about writing it is sharing it and hearing that it’s helped someone.
The worst – it does sometimes feel more like “work.” I worry more about it. I spend more time researching than actually writing because I have to make sure every word I put down is correct. With fiction, you can write anything. Non-fiction has to be accurate.
For those in the query trenches, how did you hook your amazing agent? *gets ready to take notes*
LOL there’s really no big secret to it….I wrote a query letter, sent it out to my top picks, got some requests and rejections, sent my proposal to those who wanted to see it, and got an offer :)
And now for a couple random (yet VERY important...) questions:
Best book (either non-fiction or fiction) you read last year:Oh, this question is always so hard. LOL. Honestly, I read so many good books last year….The Hunger Games trilogy was a favorite. For non-fiction, I like reading biographies, mostly of historical women like Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Lucrezia Borgia, Marie Antoinette…..it really is amazing what some of these women went through and managed to accomplish.
Favorite writing snack: Goldfish crackers :D
Which TV or movie actor would you pick to give you a shoulder massage after a long day of writing?Ooo, tough one too :D Umm, probably Alexander Skaarsgard on one shoulder and Julian McMahon on the other :D (*ahem* My name is Amparo Ortiz, and I approve this message *cough*).
Music while writing or not?LOL this actually isn’t such a simple question. Regarding non-fiction, yes, I often listen to all kinds of music while writing. For fiction, I usually listen to music before writing and often while editing but very rarely while writing. If I do, it’s classical or the movie scores channel on Pandora – nothing with lyrics and the volume is low.
Best writing advice you've ever received: Don’t give up. It’s a tough road, a tough business. Shake off the negatives and keep on going. The rewards far outweigh the pit falls.
Michelle McLean is a writer and the Chief Editorial Consultant for PixelMags, LLC. In addition to her non-fiction work, Michelle writes YA historical novels and other children’s books. If she's not editing, reading or chasing her kids, she can usually be found in a quiet corner working on her next book.
A big THANK YOU to Michelle for sharing her awesomeness with me!! You can check her and HOMEWORK HELPERS out on the following links:
And she's now officially a New York Times Bestselling Author.
Many people hate this. Others don't seem to mind.
Those who do mind say Snooki doesn't deserve to be a NYT Bestselling Author. Their arguments are:
a) she didn't write the book herself
b) she's taking another (real) writer's spot on the list
c) she's Snooki
I, folks, have zero problems with Snooki being an author. My argument is:
a) young adults are reading
They're caring about books. They're not just focusing on what their teachers assign in class. They're going to the store and buying books that are relevant to pop culture, whether adults are familiar with that pop culture or not. Or whether that pop culture is worthy of emulation or not.
If you say you hate the fact that Snooki's a Bestselling author, I interpret that in two ways:
a) you think teens should be reading better books, such as the ones you write
b) you think you're a better writer than Snooki
If that's the case, I have a tip for you: keep writing.
If you are a better writer than Snooki, that means you'll get a book deal. Because if she did it, so will you, right? Someday your book will be on shelves. Young adults will be buying your book. They will be choosing it over the classics they call boring and hard to read. You will show the world what real quality writing is. That teens are wasting their time reading books by people who drink and have sex on TV.
Is that why you want to get published?
Don't you think people will say the same thing about your book when (if) it hits shelves?
Aren't literary fiction writers against YA because they think it's not quality fiction? That it's what you do before taking writing seriously, like playing pretend until you're good enough?
So. My WIP is evil. You see, I have a final word count for the manuscript in mind. A nice lil' goal I want to meet. Knowing myself, the first draft will be much longer than my intended goal.
When I sit down to write, I try not to dwell on word count. It's not about how much I write. It's about what I write--content. Otherwise, I'd just put whatever sparked my fancy on the page in order to get to X amount of words, you know? So, like the word count rebel that I am, I haven't cared that much about it. Until now. You see, there's this chapter that WILL NOT END.
Well, I sort of... finished it this morning, but... you get the point...
Anyway, Chapter From Hell is long. Very, very long. And it hits the 30k mark of my first draft. Which is supposed to be the halfway mark of the manuscript. Problem? Chapter From Hell isn't the halfway mark. Not even close. That makes my first draft much longer than my intended goal.
In a way, keeping that goal now is sort of useless, right? I'll just surpass it, then meet it again during revisions. Which leads me to the following tips:
1) For the first draft, focus on content.
I get it all out, even if it's messy and makes zero sense. Blocking scenes, playing with dialogue, raising the stakes and putting my MC face-to-face with more conflict--you name it. I tend to write chronologically, so I go from Point A to Point Z without losing myself or the story. Yes, content is a top priority in every stage of the writing process, but during that first draft, I think it should be the only one.
2) For revisions, focus on everything else.
Here's where I pull out my axe and start cutting, cutting, cutting. Or improving, which means keeping something, but making it sparkle to the best of my ability (with help from others, of course). Word count should matter during this stage to me, mainly because here's where I decide if Chapter From Hell is as relevant as I thought it was when I wrote it. But I can only see that in hindsight--after the deed is done. Word count for the sake of word count will only give me the worst headache of the century during revisions. And it'll probably happen to you, too.
There you have it, folks. For me, content wins every time.
Now tell me: what do you think about this epic battle between word count and content? Who takes the lead during your first draft?
Okay. Forgive me if I start rambling, but my brain just EXPLODED from seeing such great contests on the blogosphere today.
First up, my Operation Awesome buddy Michelle McLean is having a book and swag giveaway at the OA blog!! For details, click here.
Then we have Pam Harris and Marquita Hockaday's 100 Followers Contest!! The ladies are offering 3 lucky winners free (super awesome) books, manuscript critiques, and a gift card!! Wanna enter? Check it out here.
Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go put my brain back together...
How's your long weekend going, blogging buddies??? Any books you'd like to recommend me??
Plot devices are tricky. Some writers use just a handful and ignore the rest. Other writers use everything they can get their hands on to force sense into their story.
Here lies the problem: forcing sense.
Not making it.
An example of this is a plot device you may or may not be familiar with--Deus ex machina.
Definition from the Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary:
[singular]:a character or thing that suddenly enters the story in a novel, play, movie, etc., and solves a problem that had previously seemed impossible to solve.
In terms of writing, I confess. One of my manuscripts has a Deus ex machina moment. *blushes* But now I steer clear of this device, mostly because: a) it confuses/irks readers; b) it just plain irks agents/editors.
BUT this plot device is not just a plot device to me. It's something that happens. In life. Sort of.
You see, I believe in signs. Yes, I just said it. Stop looking at me like that...
Yesterday, a sign presented itself to me. A sign to take a chance. A chance that had n-e-v-e-r appeared to me before yesterday. And, to be honest, it sort of came out of nowhere.
My very own Deus ex machina, waving hello at me. *fist pump*
So there you go. Random moments out of Nowhereville can sometimes work.
Now fess up: have you ever used the Deus ex machina? If so, how do you feel about it now?
I'm weird. Let me give you an example of my weirdness (this didn't really happen, so no worries):
A friend of mine runs on a wet section of the floor. He slips and falls. I watch him slip and fall.
I don't run over to help him up. I don't gasp. I don't blink.
Standing a good five feet away from him, I ask, "are you okay?"
If he says yes, I stay where I am and watch him get up. If he says no, I stay where I am and ask, "you think I can help?"
I he says yes, I help him up. If he says no, I stay where I am and watch him get up.
Moral of the story: I never rush to anyone's side.
I never take their ability to get up by themselves for granted. Doesn't matter if they hit the floor literally or figuratively. I never assume someone needs my help.
Or my encouragement.
This is what today's post is all about--encouraging those who don't really need it. Or even deserve being encouraged too much. Falls happen for a reason, folks. They're supposed to hurt. But the person who falls has to feel that pain. If he (or she) doesn't, what was the fall good for?
Now I don't mean you shouldn't help people. *chuckles* Of course you should, good citizens of the world! I'm talking about helping people feel better when they're supposed to be learning why the sucky things are happening. About showering them with warm and fuzzy when they should be wrapped up in shivers. Nothing gets on my nerves more than seeing people being nice just for the sake of being nice.
"But THAT'S who I am," says Enabler. "I'm a nice person. Therefore, I will be nice to everybody. Because that's who I am. Nice. Oh, and did I mention that I'm a nice person???"
So? Go adopt a puppy or something. Stop telling my guy friend the fall was an accident and the world is cold and evil for making him fall.
Reasons, people. There are always reasons.
Anyway, pats on the back, over and over and over again, might make my guy friend believe he did nothing wrong in running on a wet floor. It's the universe's fault. Gravity, you know. It's a tough cookie.
For writers, the same problem arises. If I suck at life, but you don't tell me and let me query my sucktastic manuscript because you don't want to hurt my feelings or (God forbid!) make me disagree with your feedback, you're not helping me at all. (again, this hasn't happened to me, mostly because my CPs are pretty awesome).
I start querying my sucktastic manuscript and get rejected. All the time.
But you tell me it's not my fault. I'm amazing! Agents are just not getting me or my book, you know?
So I query again. Same. Thing. Happens.
I am confused.
Second moral of the story: tell it like it is. Please. I'm on my knees right now. Begging you.
We all have lessons to learn. And we all learn them in different ways.
Nobody should be forced to smile when they want to cry.
Nobody should be forced to be confused about their passion because people around them can't own up to the truth.
Thing #1: ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis is officially out in stores!!!! *brain explodes* Do you have ANY IDEA how long I've been waiting for this book? A millennium and a half. That's how long.
Thing #2: Nerds are officially cool! Why? See picture above. That's the current King Of Nerd Cool, Mr. Jesse Eisenberg. He's the star of THE SOCIAL NETWORK by the best director ever, David Fincher. And yeah, I've seen Jesse's face before. In three other movies, to be exact. Now his face is everywhere. I saw THE SOCIAL NETWORK and l-o-v-e-d it. Jesse's performance is incredible. I hated him, loved him, hated him, and loved him again. Point is, he is geek chic, my friends. He is bringing nerdy back and in a big way.
Why am I telling you this, you ask?
Simple. For those of you who think Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner rule the world, I have found your solution. :)
What say you? Is geek chic the new brooding vamp/cocky werewolf?
So. There's a book every single YA lover should read.
A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.
Trust me. You want this book.
You want it so much that you're going to head over to the Operation Awesome blog and you're going to enter our super awesome pre-order giveaway!!! One lucky winner will get a copy shipped straight to their home the same day ACROSS THE UNIVERSE comes out!!
Confession: I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I'm in love with TV.
When I say "in love", I mean obsessed. It's quite sad, really.
Anyway, I am not ashamed of the TV shows I watch. I love them. Why would they embarrass me?
So. There's one TV show I'd never even imagined could teach me anything about writing. Until it did. And I was PWN'd.
Which TV show, you ask?
Millionaire Matchmaker on BRAVO
*blushes even harder*
Anyway, Patti Stanger (the woman pictured above) is a matchmaker for millionaires. Her clients run the gamut from uber-nice wealthy people to deranged and frightening wealthy people. The latter is best represented by a woman who received Patti's help on this week's episode. You see, her ideal mate is Matthew McConaughey. And she won't settle for less. Or other qualities in a man. Like, say, an actual personality.
Being the savvy lady she is, Patti hooked her up with a bunch of great guys who were nothing like Matthew McConaughey... and one Hot Dude. The Hot Dude was a test. To see if Deranged And Frightening Girl fell for his allure.
And she did.
She picked him over Other Great Guys With Actual Personalities, then they went on a date. Which sucked. But Deranged And Frightening Girl never noticed.
Exhibit A (if you're easily offended, forgive my French...)
Hot Dude: "I'm an asshole."
Deranged And Frightening Girl: "I love assholes..."
Let's change the scenario a bit. Deranged And Frightening Girl is actually Aspiring Author. Hot Dude is Hot Trend Of The Moment. Aspiring Author wants to get published badly. Hot Trend Of The Moment might prove tricky to write for Aspiring Author, seeing as they don't read the genre and don't know how to write for it. But Aspiring Author is up for the challenge. Because Hot Trend Of The Moment will get them an agent/publishing deal/uber-awesome advance.
Aspiring Author writes a manuscript using Hot Trend Of The Moment. Then they query. Then they get rejected. Over and over and over. Aspiring Author scratches head, not sure why this is so.
Hot Trend Of The Moment: "I'm not for you."
Aspiring Author: "I love things that are not for me..."
Folks, I have only one point to make with this post--know your match. You can explore genres, obviously, to find the one that fits best. Or you can fit amazingly well in a TON of genres. But you have to really love what you're writing about.
Don't fail Patti's test. Say NO to the hotness.
Unless it was meant to be. In that case, love that asshole all you want :D
Now tell me: is there a genre you think isn't your match??
The what: Post your favorite last sentence of any story you've written, then post the first line of a brand new story.
Here's the deal: my YA paranormal romance doesn't have a last line you can understand on its own. Because I'm weird like that. So here are the four last lines:
But what came next wouldn't be entirely up to dear ol' fate.
I'd get to choose for myself, too.
Something I would never take for granted.
"Right," I said, believing it for the first time in my life.
Although I'm currently working on another project (YA contemporary), I'm not sharing that first line just yet :D Instead, I'm posting one I thought about a month ago for a possible YA historical urban fantasy (mouth. ful.):
The night I opened my eyes for the first time, a man named Adolf Hitler gave me a hug.
I so don't want to be my main character for that WIP...
Make sure you head over to Summer's blog and check out the other entries!!
So. I love contemporary YA fiction. So much so that I'm working on a contemporary YA manuscript. The process is slower than usual, but I'm loving it.
Problem is, I haven't read much contemporary YA fiction. *blushes*
That's why I'm going to make a resolution (the only one I think I'll manage to accomplish...): read at least 30 contemporary YA books this year. I'm calling it my 30 Contemp Books Challenge. As I read the books in my pile, I'll write their names here on my blog, right over on my sidebar somewhere, just to keep me focused on my goal. I will read those 30 books, dang it!!
So here's to reading awesome books in 2011. Hope you get your hands on a couple, too (be them contemp or not).
Now tell me: is there a genre you're dying to explore this year?? Oh, and feel free to suggest me some books for my list!! Thanks!!
Reminder: Today's my day over @ the Operation Awesome blog, but I talked about the challenge, so you're covered. BUT if you want to salivate over a nice lil' picture of Robert Pattinson, then hop right over. Your welcome :D
So. Today I continue with my blogfest obsession with Frankie Diane Mallis's NO KISS BLOGFEST!! Woot!
What: post a scene from your work, or from one your fave books, movies, or TV shows. The scene must be one in which two characters are about to make out, then...
Cruel, I know. But so. So. Awesome.
My scene: For this entry, I thought about posting something from a book I love. Something so bittersweet that broke my heart and stomped on it. But... I sort of changed my mind. Because... you know... I do that sometimes.
Anyway. My scene. It is epic, folks. In fact, one of the characters says so.
Who the heck am I talking about?
Okay. Veronica and Logan, from the uber-awesome TV show Veronica Mars, are an awesome couple. At least, they were until Season 2, where Logan was accused of murdering a motorcycle gang member. Veronica was by his side through thick and thin (because she believed he was innocent... which he TOTALLY was), but Logan sort of flipped out. He started partying and plotting revenge on the people he thought had set him up. He did very immature things that Veronica disapproved of. So she dumped him.
And on Prom Night, Logan did this:
That, folks, is a No Kiss made of epic fail. *sigh*
Please make sure you check out the other entries here, and join in on the fun! Thanks to Frankie for hosting this blogfest, as well as a shoutout to Katrina for hosting yesterday's blogfest!!
So. My buddyKatrina is throwing a blogfest today. It's all about revisions. *shudders*
Okay, that's a lie. I LOVE revisions. I'd take revising any day over drafting. For reals.
So here's my entry for the Revision's Blog Party!!
What I plan to revise: My current WIP, which will *hopefully* be done my mid-February. I started it in November (not for NaNo, though), and spent a lot of time outlining like a maniac. The outline still needs work, but I'm ignoring it at the moment. Focusing on the actual writing part instead :D
The process I'll go through: First, I'll finish the first draft. This one will focus on getting the events in place, making sure the character development is there, as well as my MC's voice. The second draft will be more focused on world-building and setting, but I'll also be on the lookout for plot holes. Usually, I send the finished second draft to my crit partners, and work on a third draft once I have their feedback. Then it's back to square one.
How long I expect it to take: Since my first draft will *hopefully* be done by mid-February, I plan on working on my second draft from that point till mid-March. So, basically, a month. Then it's off to crit partners. *crosses fingers and hopes they like it* Once I get their feedback, I revise with what works best for the story. That will most likely take me another month, so I think I might be able to start querying in late May.
Easiest part: Fixing dialog/story arc/GMC (goal, motivation, conflict). It's always what others consider the hardest that I love working on (yes, I'm weird like that...).
Hardest part: Fixing weak writing/passive voice/show vs. tell. You know, the "writerly" stuff. *shudders for real*
When I'll feel done: After five drafts, I think. The fourth will be using crit partner feedback, and the fifth will be a final read-through before querying. *fist pump*
There you have it, friends. 2011 is gonna be a busy year.