Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Okay, so I know some of you are frantically checking your Google Cal right now, trying to figure out if you missed Christmas and hey, why isn't it cold outside? Because, duh, Elana, resolutions happen in January.

For you.

See, my husband and I both teach school, so we function on an August to August calendar. When we start a new school year, it's a new year. Thus, resolutions.

1. I spent some time on the blogosphere on Monday. It caused a mini panic attack. Okay, not a mini panic attack. A full-blown, massive, what-have-I-been-missing? panic attack.

So resolution #1: I will get back to reading blogs. Your blogs. I'm sorry.

2. I've spent the last three years sitting at my computer, writing books. Publishing is a very up and down business, at least for the author. Yay! She likes my book! Let's go celebrate with cakes and chicken pot pies and bacon.

Boo! They hate my book. I can't cook dinner. Let's go to Wendy's and I'll eat two junior bacon cheeseburgers and forget about that person.

You can imagine where this is going.

Resolution #2: I will take better care of myself. I have been doing this for about 3 1/2 weeks already, and I've lost 11 pounds.

3. I have been writing for almost 4 years now, and I wrote a lot of books in the first 2 1/2 years, and not so many in the last little while. In fact, I've only written one book in the past 18 months.

I have scheduled time for writing, 9 - 11 PM.

Therefore, resolution #3: I will write another book by December. 

Do you have any resolutions at this time? Do tell.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me Four Years Ago

See, four years ago, I was starting another school year. I was not a writer. I was a teacher. A mom. A wife. A video game player on Monday's. (I don't work on Monday's. I seriously owned every Pinata in Pinata Party. Every variation. Every. Single. Thing. I pwned that game.)

Anyway, I wish someone would've told me the path my life would take, because of this one thing that happened. No one did. I was left to wander through the dark for a few months, teaching but not really there, living but not really awake.

Then one day I began writing. And, now, almost four years later, I really wish someone would've intervened to give me just one piece of advice. I'd still write the books I've written. I'd still try to get them published. That wouldn't change. But I think my attitude toward specific aspects of this industry would be different if I'd had someone to tell me back then what I'm still struggling to learn today.

Are you ready?

All books are not created equal.

Sure, when you look at them on the shelf, they might appear equal. They all have covers, and words inside. Stories, characters, plots. These vary slightly: some are long, some are short, some tall, some short. What I mean by "equal" is the amount of push you get from your publisher.

I had no idea this wasn't equal between books. But it's not.

And you know? That's okay.


As authors, if you know this, you'll be fine. And by "know," I mean more than "know intellectually, because I read Elana's blog on the matter." I mean "know" like "I know this, and it doesn't bother me, and I'm not going to worry about it. I'M GETTING MY BOOK PUBLISHED." type of way.

It's advice I wish I'd known four years ago when I was still just a reader. It does no good to compare your book to someone else's, because you're already on unequal ground. So don't even try. Don't play that game. It's a slippery slope, and one you'll always fall down.

So, do you know this? If you don't, make sure you do before your book gets snatched up by that agent and that editor. You'll be happier, I'll be happier, and the world will be happier. Maybe. (*wink*)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: JANITORS by Ty Whitesides + Giveaway!

Okay, so this if my first Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, but I have a few other middle grade books sitting on my shelf, so I think I'll be doing some more soon. You can go to Shannon's blog for more MMGM awesomeness.

Up today: JANITORS by Ty Whitesides.

About the book: Have you ever fallen asleep during math class? Are you easily distracted while listening to your English teacher? Do you find yourself completely uninterested in geography? Well, it may not be your fault. The janitors at Welcher Elementary know a secret, and it s draining all the smarts out of the kids. Twelve-year-old Spencer Zumbro, with the help of his classmate Daisy Gullible Gates, must fight with and against a secret, janitorial society that wields wizard-like powers. Who can Spencer and Daisy trust and how will they protect their school and possibly the world?

Okay, so I met Ty, oh, I don't know, last fall sometime, just after his book had sold. Mine had sold right about the same time, and we had a great time discussing the publishing industry.

I got an ARC of JANITORS a few months ago, and immediately devoured it. I mean, come on. The reason kids are distracted and sleepy in school is because of the janitors?? Brilliant. The writing is smart, and you really will never look at a mop the same again.

I teach twelve-year-olds, and Ty has really captured the essence of the pre-teen in JANITORS. Spencer is heroic, while Daisy fills the holes he can't. It's a story of great teamwork, a little ice cream, a bit of vacuum dust, and pure middle grade magic.

You won't be disappointed. And to prove it, I'm giving away a signed, hardcover copy! All you have to do is comment on this post by Wednesday, August 31. I'll announce the winner on my Bookanista Thursday post.

Did you fall asleep in school? Get distracted easily? Don't you want to know WHY??? Buy/Read JANITORS to find out...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Why I Wish Writing Were More Like Movies

Okay, so it's no secret that I'm a lover of movies, and relating things I see in movies to writing, and yeah. Well, strap yourselves in for another comparison. I guess this might be more of a complaint, actually.

So think of your favorite movie. It could also be an hour-long drama/comedy on TV. Got it in your head?

Think of the beginning. Then think about half-way through. There are two things that I really, really, REALLY wish I could do in my writing.

1. The voice-over beginning. I'd love to simply voice over the first five pages of my MS to fill in the readers on exactly how my world came to be, and the hierarchy that exists, and who the good guy is, and who the bad guy is.

Think of how many words you could save! In fact, it would be great if a recording began as soon as a reader opened the book, sort of like those greeting cards that play music when you open them.

2. The musical montage. About halfway through every good movie comes the musical montage. You know. The part where a catchy song plays and time is advanced, and the two MC's fall in love, and everything is hunky dory and la-la-la.

In Baywatch, this is where all the running on the beach happens. Ha!

I would basically kill to be able to skip these middle chapters where my MC's spend all this time together getting to know each other and falling in love, and winter becomes spring and spring becomes summer and then bam! The next bad thing can happen.

Maybe in books, when the reader gets to page 250, there can be a CD or something. The reader can listen to it before turning to the next page and continuing the story.

Yeah, I definitely need a voice-over beginning and a musical montage middle.

What aspect of movies would you like to implant into your novel? (And it can't be an actor. Ha!)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Write Your Book Now! by Gene Perret

So we all need a kick in the pants sometimes. Whether it be from a critique partner or a blog post or an online friend. This time, it comes in the form of a book--and the author is here to talk about it!

First a bit about WRITE YOUR BOOK NOW! by Gene Perret: Nearly everyone wants to write a book. Sometimes we get as far as writing a few pages, or even a few chapters. But very few of us ever complete that book we’ve always dreamed of writing.

Whether you aspire to write a romance, an expert guide to business success, or the Great American Novel, Write Your Book Now! gives you proven, field-tested tools to successfully finish the book you’ve always wanted to write.

The central insight of Write Your Book Now! is that no one writes a whole book. All anyone can do, at every specific step of the writing process, is write part of a book. Write Your Book Now! simplifies the book-writing project by breaking it down into a series of discrete tasks that anyone can accomplish.

You need this book, right? RIGHT. Gene is here to talk about letting your chapters marinate, something I agree with wholeheartedly. Take it away, Gene!

Let Your Chapters “Marinate:”

I’m sure you’ve experienced this phenomenon at some time or another: You are trying to recall a name, but it escapes you totally. You struggle to remember. You might even run through the alphabet to get an initial that helps you recall the name. Nothing works. So you abandon the effort. Then suddenly, with no warning, the name almost literally pops into your head. This is an indication that your mind continues to work even when you’re not consciously working.

This same phenomenon can be useful to writers. I call it “letting the chapter marinate.” I recommend this practice in my most recent book, Write Your Book Now!. The idea is to think about the specific chapter you are going to write. Consciously formulate some ideas that you will include in that chapter. Make notes. However, then allow some time for your subconscious to continue to work on the chapter without your interference. (Dude, this is what I do! Instead of outlining, it's stewing. Sweet validation.)

Remember the way that elusive name “popped” into your head with no prompting from you? Well, thoughts could well pop into your head that will enhance the chapter you’re about to write. Utilizing this technique can add substance and depth to your writing. It bypasses the obvious ideas because somehow that second level of the mind comes up with more innovative, unique aspects of whatever topic your writing about.

To take advantage of this process, you do have to plan your chapters before writing them.

This is another technique that I recommend in Write Your Book Now!. Momentum is an important part of writing. Once you begin to tap out words on your keyboard, it’s beneficial to keep going. Just like sports teams try to maintain positive momentum, so should authors. (Which is why I can write whole books in three weeks. Momentum. Who knew?)

Planning your chapter produces more forceful writing because one thought can lead into another. The entire text seems to be driving toward the goal. Having that road map planned before beginning the typing allows the author the freedom to simply keep “driving.” There’s no need after finishing one thought to stop and plan what the next idea will be. It’s already been thought through.

Another important part of this process is to complete any research that is a part of your chapter. In many of my joke writing books I like to include examples of whatever comedy technique I’m illustrating. Stopping to look up appropriate examples forces me to interrupt my writing, gather my references, and then return to my writing. If the research is done before the actual text writing, I can simply list the illustrations without breaking the flow of my writing.

With a well-planned chapter, you can have all applicable quotes, entertaining anecdotes, pertinent statistics, and other references on hand so that you can turn to them whenever you need them in the text. It’s counter-productive to interrupt solid writing momentum to do research.

Some author once noted that he had the book already written, all that remained was to fill in the words. Filling in the words can be a daunting task and one that demands your full attention and devotion. Allowing time for your chapter to “marinate” and to plan all of the steps in the chapter, along with whatever research is required, will give you the freedom to concentrate on being a writer.


Wow. See why you need to buy Gene's book? It is just that fabulous.

So do you allow your chapters to "marinate" in the way Gene describes? Do you allow yourself to stall in the writing to research?

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to this week at the Reading Room.

Or on their blogs:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Characterization Moment: Embarrassment

Okay, so I've been thinking a lot about characterization these last few weeks. See, I'm currently writing a novel from two POV's, and I want each one to be different, unique, and true. I have writing exercises I do to find the narrative and speaking voice of my characters, but I added something this time around.

I wrote a scene in which each of my characters is embarrassed. Because everyone acts differently when put in this situation. I have a best friend who turns bright red. My daughter giggles nervously when embarrassed. (I laugh when I'm nervous too.) Another friend of mine gets teary-eyed, even though she's not upset or sad. She's just embarrassed.

This was a great exercise for me to add another layer of characterization to my narrators. You might try it, and use some of the following questions to guide you into shaping them into more complete people.

  • Do they clear their throat?
  • Do they shuffle their feet?
  • Do they make eye contact?
  • Do they turn red?
  • Do they cop an attitude to try to cover up their embarrassment?
  • Do they fidget? If so, with what? Their clothes? Twist their hands?
  • Do they make a fast escape or face the music?
  • Do they talk a lot or not at all?
  • Do they laugh to hide their nerves?
  • Do they stutter?

Anyway, the list could go on and on. Do you do an exercise like this? How does your MC act when they're embarrassed?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Dude, today is the first day of my twelfth year of teaching! It is officially the longest I have ever held one assignment. (I spent three years as a music/art specialist, and then four years teaching third grade. So this one day of my FIFTH YEAR in the computer lab makes being the technology specialist the longest teaching assignment I've had.)

So today, on this first day of awesome, I wanted to talk about firsts. We hear it all the time as authors. You've got to hook them with your first line. The first sentence. The first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter.

I'm no different. Heck, I like to be hooked by the front cover. First sight. That kind of thing.

That said, does that mean I quit if I'm not wowed by the cover? No.

What about the first sentence? Nope, I give authors a lot longer than that to wow me. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't labor to find the exact right line to open our stories with. There is something to be said about first impressions.

Some examples of what I think works:
1. "When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold." ~The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

I love this line, because it implies that the other side of the bed shouldn't be cold, and that this MC is left wanting because they were asleep when the other person left. It's haunting and poetic at the same time.

2. "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." ~Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling.

I think this line does a decent job of convincing me to read more. I mean, it just screams of "NOT normal coming right up!" and I'm a sucker for "not normal."

3. "I used to be someone." ~The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson.

Now, it's no secret that this is one of my favorite books. Lines like this are why. There is an immediate connection to the main character, because we all want to be someone.

But I don't stop with one sentence, or one paragraph, or one page, or even one chapter. I do think firsts are important, and I do think authors should work to create the best writing and storytelling they can. The goal is that every word is in the right place, not just the first one.

Some firsts I like just by looking at them: (I have not read any of the books below, but I want to just from my first impression of seeing the cover.)

I mean, seriously? How could you not want to read this?

This is seriously creeptastically eye-catching. First impression? CHECK.

First is the title. It's brilliant. The haunting smoke, the wind-whipped hair... I'm sold.

Are you a creature of firsts? Do covers sell you? First pages/chapters? How long do you read before you know a book just isn't for you?

Monday, August 22, 2011

When You Need Backstory And When You Don't

Okay, so this is another area that I normally struggle with. See, I've created a new world in POSSESSION (and thus SURRENDER), and well, readers typically want to know how our world became theirs.

You may not have a world backstory, but certainly you have character backstory, setting backstory, etc.

Here's a little secret: I don't care about world backstory.

There. I said it.

When I'm reading I don't care how our world became the one in the story. I just don't. I suppose some might call me shallow. I don't know.

But as an author, I don't normally gravitate toward including a wad of backstory for my world. This is something I'm working on, not only in my future writing (fix it before you have to fix it, right?), but in drafts I've already completed.

So, how do you know when you need backstory and when you don't? It's simple, really. If it's essential to your plot, you need it.

I make a Venn diagram in my head. (Yeah, I write down some notes, but diagrams? That's going a little bit too far for me. *wink*)

One circle is labeled "ESSENTIAL" another is labeled "NICE TO KNOW" and another is labeled "MAYBE IF I HAVE ENOUGH WORDS".

And let's face it, I never have enough words. So what ends up happening is I take stock of everything that the reader MUST know and what it would be NICE if they knew, and I insert them into the MS.

In my forthcoming novel SURRENDER, I tell the reader about the educational system by examining a defunct friendship, and use the school years to chronologically advance (or de-advance, I suppose) the relationship. I sneak in the world's backstory through another person.

The beginning of POSSESSION reads as follows:

"Good girls don't walk with boys. Even if they're good boys--and Zenn is the best. He strolled next to me, all military with his hands clasped behind his back, wearing the black uniform of a Forces recruit. The green stripes on his shirtsleeves flashed with silver tech lights, probably recording everything. Probably? Who am I kidding? Those damn strips were definitely recording everything."

I established several things by using Zenn:
1. Good girls don't walk with boys.
2. Zenn is in the Forces, and they wear uniforms.
3. There is some level of technology in his actual clothing, what with the flashing stripes.
4. Those stripes record stuff. Definitely all kinds of stuff.

Things you might want to reconsider:
1. Using dialog to deliver backstory. Typically, the two (or more) characters talking already know the backstory, so it's lame to have them discussing it as if they don't.

2. Having the MC simply give a long monologue about the world they live in. Trust me, I have to get a lot of information about the world into my books. Find ways to put it in where the MC isn't just expounding on their world for no reason. Use a relationship, a person, or an attitude to establish a reason for inserting the backstory.

Got any world backstory tips for me? I'd love to add to my arsenal!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Are You POSSESSed?

Okay, so WriteOnCon starts tomorrow, and lasts for three packed days. (Three. Packed. Days.)

And I have to go back to work this week. (Word.)

Therefore, I will not be blogging here this week. (I seriously don't know what POSSESSed me to even blog today...)

Before I go, I wanted to leave you with one picture of what I've been doing lately:

Have you been POSSESSed? You won't have to wait much longer! (The book by Gretchen McNeil comes out August 23.)

Catch you next Monday! (Have a good week!)

Friday, August 12, 2011

When You Think You Might Quit...

Don't. (I think this might be the first blog post I've ever written that didn't start with the word "dude" "okay" or "so." Check it.) ((Also, warning, later in this post, there are some possibly disturbing pictures. Don't say I didn't warn you.))

Don't quit.

Things might get hard. Writing is hard. Revising is hard. Querying is hard. Marketing and publicity is hard. I'm sure that, intellectually, you know this. But do you know it?

Today, I'm going to share a story. A story of a kid. He was in my husband's sixth grade class last year, and he's suffered from seizures his whole life, being born with epilepsy. He's had countless surgeries, beginning when he was just tiny.

This past spring, he went in for some more treatment. Specifically, the doctors went into his brain and put grids on it.


On his brain.

They then reduced his seizure medication, so that he'd have more seizures. They wanted to find the places where the seizures were originating. Then they cut out those parts of his brain that showed the most activity. It was at this point that my husband and I went to the hospital to visit the boy and his mom.

And let me tell you, that if you're thinking about quitting this whole writing thing--or anything really--think again.

Look at this:

And this:

And then look at your manuscript, and don't quit. If this kid can endure having his entire skull sliced open, you can surely get back into your manuscript and put a grid on it. Find out where the weaknesses are and cut them out. Sure, it might hurt, but do you ever think you'll have to endure anything like this kid? (I'm seriously hoping I don't.)

I'm dieting right now, and it's hard. I'll be starting school again next week, and that will be hard. Surely you have something in your life that makes you go, "Ugh. This is hard."

You know what? It probably is. But hard things are worth doing.

So yeah. Motivational message of the day: You can do hard things. Don't quit.

Have you survived something hard?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

CHIME by Franny Billingsley

Okay, for today's installment of the Bookanistas I bring you magic. Intrigue! Guilt. And romance.

Combine all of those together with a heavy helping of oh-my-heck-I-will-never-write-this-well, and you've got CHIME by Franny Billingsley.

I seriously considered quitting while reading CHIME. The writing is exquisite, with characters and a story to match.

About CHIME: Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.

Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.

I could say so much here, but one line in that blurb says it all: "Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin."

I mean, seriously! That's brilliant--and exactly the kind of emotional read I enjoy.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the secondary characters in the book. Briony's sister, in particular, is well-drawn, and I loved every scene with her in it. And Eldric is just plain perfect. Briony's Stepmother isn't even alive in the book, and yet I felt like I knew her from the first time Briony spoke of her.

CHIME is one of my new favorite books. It's one I could read again and again, just so I could try to figure out how to use words the way Franny Billingsley does.

What books do you read and wonder if you'll ever write that well?

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to this week at the Reading Room.

Or on their blogs:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Adding More World To Your Novel

Okay, so on Monday I talked about strengthening and using relationships in writing. It's something I'm learning and working on while I edit my second novel, Surrender.

The next phase that I've been considering and stretching and growing in is thus: world building.

See, I'm not what you'd call a super-deep person. When I read a book, I don't really care about the society or the world or how it came to be or anything like that. So as a writer, I don't really think to include those things.

I write the kind of books I like to read, and they're light on the world building. Heck, most of the time, they're light on the actual setting! I just find that I like a very fast, emotional read, and setting is neither fast nor emotional to me.


Apparently, I need to amp up the setting and world building in Surrender. This has been difficult for me on many levels, but I think I've managed to learn a thing or two along the way.

So today, I give you a few tips I've learned about adding more world to your novel.

Tip #1: One sentence is sometimes enough. This sounds simple, and it is! I seriously thought I'd need to drone on and on (and on!) in order to give the background of my society. But it turns out that a well-placed, well-crafted sentence is sometimes enough.

This pleases me greatly, because then I don't have to slow down my action in order to convey information.

Tip #2: Edit on paper first. I'm a huge fan of editing on paper, because for me, it's like note-taking. I'm not really writing new scenes or anything like that. I'm simply reading my MS, taking in all the notes my editor has written in the margin, and finding places for that one sentence explanation.

I mark these places on the hard copy of my book. I write all over my MS, and this allows me to really see what's going on in my book. I'm very visual/tactile in that way.

While I'm editing on paper, I also keep notes in a journal. I'll jot down on which pages items about the world are already mentioned, and on which pages I'm planning to add more explanation and what that explanation is about. This helps me keep the sequence of revealed information in the right order.

Tip #3: Spread the building out. When I first got my edit letter, I sort of had a tiny panic attack at all the additional explanations that were needed. I seriously thought they all needed to be addressed in the first chapter. But they don't.

As I read my novel and found the spots that would house further explanation well, I realized that not everything has to be explained in chapter one. Or two. Or even ten. (I feel rather silly about this now, but yeah. Edit letters are scary. Awesome, but scary.)

Tip #4: It is, in reality, okay to establish the setting. I'm sure you're going, "Duh, Elana!" but for me, setting is a huge weakness of mine. As I said, I just don't care what a house looks like. I can't imagine why anyone would care, and so setting is not something I consider too heavily. But as I've been editing, I can see the value in establishing the setting in my futuristic society. Some people probably want to see it better than I've written it.

But I'll tell you, this is one I'm repeating to myself all the time. "It's okay to establish setting. It's okay to establish setting."

So editing in more setting and world building is...going. Are these things you gravitate toward doing naturally? How do you weave in setting and world building without slowing the action?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tell the Truth Tuesday: Balancing Is A Tough Act

Anyone who does anything besides write novels knows that there is a huge part of an author's life that no one really tells you about.

It's called balance.

And it's incredibly difficult to achieve, especially if you're like me and are balance-challenged. I'm more on the pit bull side of "balance" where I sink my teeth into something and don't let go until either I'm dead or the other dog is dead or I've gotten what I wanted.

So yeah. Not so great for the whole balance thing.

I could make a list of the four kagillion things I have to do everyday, from household responsibilities to parenting to teaching to writing to church obligations. I'm sure you have a list ten miles long too. (And if you don't, I sort of hate you a little. And you know by "hate" I just mean "am extremely jealous of" and/or "love".)

How does one balance it all? The cooking dinner with the edits? The book signings with the family time? The church responsibilities with the job responsibilities with the family responsibilities? And the TV! Dude, the TV.

Here are some things I do that help me achieve a semblance of balance.
1. DVR. Seriously. Some of you may not watch TV, but I do. And it's nice to know I can just record and watch whenever.

2. Google Cal. A lifesaver. I can put all events on that thing, and it syncs to both my son's and my husband's phones. Then we can coordinate who's going to take whom where and when.

3. Strict bedtimes. This allows me to work after the kids go to bed. Then I don't feel like I'm neglecting them.

4. Make a list. I'm a huge fan of lists (really? Just like this one!), and sometimes I even put things on my list that I've already done, simply so I can feel the joy of crossing them off. I make a ginormous list, and prioritize what needs to be done that very day and what can wait until another day.

5. A dedicated day for chores. Every Monday, I clean my whole house and do all my laundry. This frees me from worrying/thinking about cleaning the other 6 days a week. (Of course, I still sweep up spilled cereal and wash the dishes and other stuff that has to be done every day.)

6. Layering activities over "dead time." When my daughter has dance, I make sure to write/edit during that time. When she has swimming, I bring my pages. Any dead time is used. I no longer just wait for my son to show up. I read or comment on blogs. I tweet in line at the post office. I am always working while I wait for my kids or while they're at their activities. That way, when they're home, so am I.

7. Sacrifice. When you have forty billion things going on all the time, something has to be sacrificed. Sometimes it's my writing time. Sometimes it's family time. Sometimes it's making dinner. I try really hard to juggle these things around, so that a different thing is being sacrificed each time. So I'm not always choosing writing over going to a baseball game. I'm not always editing over making dinner. I'm not always blogging over going out with my husband.

But no matter what, it always comes down to sacrifice. Weaving writing into life is a delicate balancing act, and it's always tough.

How do you work toward balance? What is in your rotation of sacrifices?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Using Relationships To Shape Your Novel

Okay, so I've been working on edits for SURRENDER (a Possession novel, coming next summer. Did you like that seamless plug? Ha!), and I've been learning more about writing in the process.

First, let me just say that every book has it's own process for drafting, revising, and editing. I didn't draft Surrender the same way I drafted Possession. I didn't revise it the same, and I'm learning that I'm not editing it the same either.

This whole writing thing is an interesting beast.

Second, I've learned some things about editing (and my process) during this round of work on Surrender that I thought I'd share. There are three areas, and because I'm a huge fan of the short blog post, I'm going to break this up into three posts.

Up today: the relationships in your manuscript.

Relationships between teenagers can be volatile, fiercely loyal, and very intense. I seem to be able to do this with people who like each other but aren't supposed to. Everything else, uhhhh, needs some work.

So during this round of edits, I'm really exploring the relationships between my characters. Are they friends? Good friends? Best friends? Do they like each other at all? Why or why not?

I've realized that the relationship between people shapes and dictates everything in the novel. The thoughts the MC has. The conversations people have with each other. Another's perspective of a relationship.

It's been eye-opening. Maybe you already know this. I think, way down deep in the recesses of my head, I knew it. But it hadn't translated onto the pages of my manuscript.

So I'm working on strengthening and further defining the relationships in my novel, and then using them to guide the dialogue and action.

It's a lot of work, as anyone who's revised a novel knows. If I changed one aspect of the relationship on page 6, everything beyond that changes. How the MC feels, what they might say, what they might think/not think, etc.

But I shall prevail! And my book will be better for it.

Have you realized how important the relationships are in your novels? Do they shape everything else?

Friday, August 5, 2011

How To Succeed In Publishing

Okay, so today I'm going to give you the secret to succeeding in publishing. Your definition of success matters not (whether you're considering self-publishing, POD publishing, traditional publishing, etc.).

Today, you get the golden secret of how to succeed in publishing. Many of us thinks this means releasing a book. If that's what you call successful, so be it. I think there are different levels of success, and those are constantly changing for each author based on where they are.

So. Set in your mind what you would consider a success for you and your book.

This is how you achieve it.

Are you ready?

Step One: Write a really good book.

That's it. There is no magic formula--or even a step two! It doesn't matter how many blog followers you have, or how many people like your Facebook fanpage. It doesn't matter if you have 10 critique partners or just one, and it doesn't matter if you tweet your brains out.
(I'm not saying these things aren't good to do. They are.)

What matters is that you craft, write, perfect a really spectacular book. After that, the followers and likers and fans (and sales!) will come.

So get out there and write that book. Write the heck out of it.

What defines success for you? What do you think the secret to success in publishing is?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab

Today I get to talk about THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab. I got my hands on this book several months ago, before ARCs were really out. I couldn't have been happier with what I read.

THE NEAR WITCH combines several of my favorite things: mystery, romance, and magic. I think that's like the trifecta of awesome for me.

Mystery: There's a new boy in town in THE NEAR WITCH, and that's not a good thing. And when children start going missing? Yeah, that's bad news. Lexi, the MC, has to figure out what's going on with the mysterious guy, and find the children.

I love a good mystery, and THE NEAR WITCH has one.

Romance: So the new boy in the town of Near is Cole, and he's mysterious and see-through (yes! See-through!) and kind and my favorite part: broken. I don't know, maybe I just really like broken characters (I do, there's no maybe about it. I like to feel when reading) that have something to lose or that have lost. And Cole does.

Lexi starts out suspicious of him, and then as she realizes that he's trying to solve the mystery too, their relationship grows. And the romance is incredibly well-done. Not too fast, not too slow. And achingly real.

Magic: Okay, so it's not magic like unicorn-haired wands and stuff. But there's often talk of a witch, and there are some spells and some fairy tales/legends that are told. It all weaves together to feel magical, and I really like magic.

And the way it's written is fab. Very sort of wispy and lyrical, while being utterly fast-paced. Here's what I mean: The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

I LOVE the line, "The wind is lonely, and always looking for company." It possesses magic. Yeah. Magic.

If you haven't read THE NEAR WITCH yet, get your hands on a copy! And if you're lucky enough to live in the south, you might be able to meet Victoria over the next couple of weeks. She's on tour as part of the Ash 2 Nash book tour with Beth Revis and Myra McEntire.

What book has been magical for you?

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to this week at the Reading Room.

Or on their blogs:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why Movies Help Me Write

Dude, it's no secret that I like my movies. I'm forever talking about them on twitter and stuff. I think I've started watching movies in a new way since reading the best book ever, SAVE THE CAT.

STC really helped me with my writing, and it's because that book took something abstract and put it into visuals--a movie. Something I can watch and analyze in just a few hours.

But that post is here.

Today's post is about movies and how they help me in my writing. I'm going to use a short illustration. I've been taking my kids to a movie every Thursday this summer. A couple of weeks ago, the movie was Bedtime Stories.

Great flick.

I liked it. But there was something that really stuck out to me. (I don't want to bash the movie, nor do I want to analyze all the things wrong with movies.) I thought there was a glaring inconsistency in the movie.

See, there's these kids, and their mom is all hopped up on wheat grass this, and whole grain that. The kids don't have a TV and they don't watch TV or movies. So their Uncle Skeeter has to watch the kids for a while and he lets them do all kinds of "wild" things.

One of which is play with shaving cream in the bathroom. And the little girl has cream all over and says, "I'm Princess Leia."

Which made no sense to me. Why? Because she hasn't watched TV or movies. Her mom didn't let her do that.

It was inconsistent to me.

And it taught me to make sure that my characters don't reference things which they have no experience with. This is especially hard for me in my futuristic society, using words and references from right now.

Man, my brain hurts just thinking about it.

But it's a good lesson.

What do you think? Did I just miss the boat while watching Bedtime Stories? Have movies helped you make connections in writing? How?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What You've Waited Your Whole Life To See

Oh, come on. Maybe not your whole life.

Without too much introduction, I give you THE POSSESSION TRAILER.

I am in love. Vania did an amazing job. Cora Kass, the actress, is fan-freaking-tastic. The hair. The messages! Ahhhh!






Die again.

So tell me. Does it make you more interested? If you've read POSSESSION, does it represent?

And when I saw the trailer last week, I got a sudden inspiration for a giveaway. See, the whole iPod giveaway is over now, and well, I'm just not complete without a giveaway going on. Stay tuned for more details!

Also, I have winners!

The winner of Zenn's approved iPod Shuffle is: Tom M Franklin! Email me, Tom, with your mailing address so I can get this to you! elanajohnson(at)gmail(dot)com.

The winner of yesterday's epic YA Scavenger Hunt of Awesome, POSSESSION prize package is: Martha Mendoza! Congrats--an email has been sent.

Monday, August 1, 2011

YA Scavenger Hunt Update: My Exclusive Content!!

Okay, so today was the Scavenger Hunt of all scavenger hunts. Thus the capital letters. The content was up for only one day, but I was thrilled to host Sophie Jordan, author of VANISH. Be sure to check out her books.

And I revealed the title for the second book in the POSSESSION saga!

In case you missed it...

Ahhh! What do you think of the title? And yes...that is part of the cover... That's coming soon!

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