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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Naming Characters

It's Wednesday again which means YA Highway has another blog carnival! I really liked this week's question, but before I start, I have an exciting announcement. JUMP IS COMPLETE! Final word count: 45,000 words! Which means it's time to put Jump and Hannah away for a month until I can start revisions after NaNo is over.

Okay now for the question: how do you name your characters?

This is a tough one. I don't have any set system for naming them, but I can't write a story without a name. Sometimes I have a name that just comes to me. Like Katie in ARML. Her name didn't require any thought at all. Hannah was the same way.

Then there are times when I can't for the life of me come up with a name that I like. So I turn to my number one source for names: baby name sites. There are whole listings of names for boys and girls. The best ones even show the origins and meanings of names in case you want to choose one based on that too. If you, like me, struggle with coming up with last names, there are sites with those too.

My two favorites are:

First names: http://babynamesworld.parentsconnect.com/

Last names: http://www.last-names.net/

If I can't think of a name right away, I just go on those sites and scroll through them until I find one that pops out at me.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Week in Short Two Days Late

I'm so sorry I'm late! I had one busy weekend. I wasn't home at all between noon Saturday and 9 pm Sunday so WiS pretty much fell to the sidelines. It took me quite awhile last night when I remembered to catch up on all the blog posts. So here is Week in Short, two days late.

There are three Must Reads this week. This first one is from YA Highway on the weight of words and sentences. I know this is really late, but here is Nathan's thoughts on first paragraphs and the winners of his contest! And last but not least, Hannah has her thoughts on word count.

Blood Red Pencil talked about ghostwriters last week. Back before Destiny was even started, I thought the only one of my ideas was going to be finished was if I hired a ghostwriter.

BookEnds agent Jessica answers some random questions.

GLA has the essentials of a novel synopsis.

Querytracker discussed the value of text to voice in editing. It really is a great editing tool. And unlike with reading your manuscript out loud, you can use headphones to listen to it if you don't want anyone listening in.

Rachelle Gardner has a guest blog on a writers' climb and talked about exclamation points and other annoying devices.

Quick warning: Week in Short this week will either be on Saturday or Monday depending on what I'm doing on Saturday and whether or not I keep up with blog posts during the week instead of trying to read them all at one time. I'm going to be away from my computer all day on Sunday (which, sadly, is also the first official day of NaNo).

Jump is almost complete! It currently stands at 41,000 words. My goal is to write two bullet points on the outline (which equals roughly two scenes) a day. If I can do that, Jump will be complete by Friday, just in time for the start of NaNo. Right now I'm procrastinating writing a particularly painful scene. But I will do it...

My NaNo project has an official title now: Aliens Ruined My Life. Much better than whatever I was brainstorming before. Can't wait to start! Though since I'm going to be gone all day on the first, I'm debating if I should start a day early or if I should just accept that I'll have one less day.

Destiny and Shipwrecked will be officially trunked today. Destiny will come back out in December and as for Shipwrecked...I haven't decided yet.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Writing, with School

Ahhh the school year. The time when teenagers spent eight hours a day trapped in the hall of "learning", work hard to keep up with the homework, and enjoy extracurricular activities. But doing all that and keeping up with writing can be difficult. So here are some tips on how to balance writing and school while you count down the days to summer break.

1. Remember, as much as we wish it was otherwise, school should always come first. Do your homework as soon as you get home instead of *ahem* putting it off until a few minutes before it's due. This way you can relax and just write, rather than worrying about that history project or math worksheet.

2. Set aside a period for writing/editing. Maybe you write best after dinner or right before bed. Set aside an hour or two to unplug and just write.

3. If you're like me and you have trouble setting aside a specific amount of time for working, then at least try to write each day. As soon as your homework's done, open up your WIP instead of the internet. Resist the urge to "just check your email" or check Facebook. Write first, play later.

4. Use your weekends and breaks! Days off are a great time to get writing done, but don't feel pressured to get a lot done just because it's your day off. Take some time to relax too. Make sure you're not taking all the fun out of writing.

5. Give up extra things if you have to. No, I don't mean extracurricular activities or homework. But if you have to cut back on your blogging, or internet time, or beta reading, do it. Your writing is more important. I've already decided to write all my blog posts on Sunday and set them to auto-post so I don't have to worry about that during the week and I'm severely restricting the amount of beta projects I'm allowed to take on.

6. Work in school! Carry extra notebook paper around with you during school for brainstorming during downtime. This is also a great idea just in case you -- like me -- sometimes get random ideas that pop into your head that you just have to write down so you don't forget. If you're working on editing, print out a few manuscript pages and take them with you.

7. Becky at TWFT suggests using assignments to your advantage. For example, if you have an assignment to write a short story, try to find a way to incorporate that short story in your own writing. Maybe write a short from a minor character's point of view to better get to know them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Releases: Prophecy of the Sisters, Leigh Ann's Civil War, Liar

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
Book 1 of Prophecy of the Sisters Trilogy

An ancient prophecy divides two sisters-

One good...

One evil...

Who will prevail?

Twin sisters Lia and Alice Milthorpe have just become orphans. They have also become enemies. As they discover their roles in a prophecy that has turned generations of sisters against each other, the girls find themselves entangled in a mystery that involves a tattoo-like mark, their parents' deaths, a boy, a book, and a lifetime of secrets.

Lia and Alice don't know whom they can trust.

They just know they can't trust each other.

Leigh Ann's Civil War by Ann Rinaldi

Leigh Ann Conners is spunky and determined. Although she often finds herself in trouble, she loves her two older brothers dearly and would do anything to make them proud. When the Yankees arrive in Roswell, Georgia, Leigh Ann places a French flag upon the family’s mill. She hopes the Yankees will then spare the mill from destruction, but her actions have disastrous results. Sent north with the women and children who worked in the mill—all branded traitors for making fabric for Confederate uniforms—Leigh Ann embarks on a journey that requires her to find her own inner strength. Only then will she be able to rise above the war raging around her.

Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Micah will freely admit that she’s a compulsive liar, but that may be the one honest thing she’ll ever tell you. Over the years she’s duped her classmates, her teachers, and even her parents, and she’s always managed to stay one step ahead of her lies. That is, until her boyfriend dies under brutal circumstances and her dishonesty begins to catch up with her. But is it possible to tell the truth when lying comes as naturally as breathing? Taking readers deep into the psyche of a young woman who will say just about anything to convince them—and herself—that she’s finally come clean, Liar is a bone-chilling thriller that will have readers see-sawing between truths and lies right up to the end. Honestly.

Monday, October 19, 2009

NaNoWriMo

Ahhh NaNoWriMo. If you have no idea what that is, you're missing out. NaNo is National Novel Writing Month, when writers sacrifice their sanity and personal life for one month in an attempt to write an entire 50,000 word novel. NaNo takes place during November, which means it is 14 days away. :D

If you'd like more information about NaNo visit http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/node.

My name on there is (unsurprisingly) Horserider.

I have never officially done NaNo. Whether or not I actually did or not last year is debatable. I did start Destiny in November and I did finish it at 100k in December, but I didn't actually know about NaNo at the time. So this will be my first official year of participation!

Some things you can do to prepare:

1. Use a '100 questions for your character sheet.' (I've got one for Katie, my MC for my NaNo project.)

2. Outline.

3. Character bios.

4. Character pictures.

5. Anything you want, as long as you don't start the novel until November 1st! And the good news for this year is, October 31st is on a Saturday. So everyone that has to get up for work/school on Monday gets to stay up until midnight for the start too! Well, at least I plan to. :D

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Week in Short

Contest:
Nathan Bransford had his first paragraph contest last week. The finalists were announced Friday and tomorrow we'll know who won.

Kidlit.com is hosting a query contest for YA, MG, and picture books. Deadline is October 31st and the prize is a critique of the first 30 pages of your manuscript.

Kody is also hosting her own query contest.

News:
I recently learned that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (my favorite movie) is coming out on DVD December 8th! HA! I told my mom it would come out before Christmas. :D

Blood Red Pencil
talked about redundancy and wordiness this week.

BookEnds explained why agents auto-delete mass-mailed and 'Dear Agent' queries.

GLA reminds us all about Google alerts.

Rachelle Gardner adds her on to what to do when an agent offers to rep you.

That's all the links for this week! Short, I know. I was surprised too. Now I'm going to talk about what I read and wrote this week.

I finished The Last Olympian, the final book of the Percy Jackson series, yesterday! I am pleased to announce that I enjoyed it just as much now as I did then and TLO is still my second favorite book. Was planning a review of the entire series, but might not do that now. I don't really have that much to say about them... Can't wait for the Lightning Thief movie or Riordan's next series!

Also finished Blue Moon this week. Probably won't be a review of that one either. Not because all I want to do is fangirl, it's the opposite. I liked the writing as much as I did with Evermore, but the plot made me want to throw the book out the window. I just didn't like where the story's going.

Destiny: Line by line revisions are underway! I think I prefer plot and character changes over line by lines. Hoping to finish by November so I can send it out to betas while I do NaNo, but probably won't happen.

Jump: Still coming along. Doubt it'll be done before NaNo like I hoped. Also starting to worry that I might be glossing over parts of the story in an attempt to get it done faster. Which is bad.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Steampunk

Steampunk. If you're like me, you no idea what that means. You just know that it's some genre of books. So what is steampunk? I went to my resident expert on all that I don't know (Google) to find out.

Steampunk is a sub-genre of fiction set in past centuries -- commonly the Victorian era or the Old West -- but uses modern or sci-fi-type technology. Often steam power technology is also involved.

Some examples of steampunk according to this website:

1. The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling

2. The Age of Unreason by J. Gregory Keyes (a four-book series)

3. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

4. A Nomad of the Time Streams by Michael Moorcock (a trilogy)

5. The Pesawar Lancers by S.M. Stirling

6. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

7. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman (personally, I don't see it...)

8. Morlock Night by K.W. Jeter

9. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

10. Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti

There. I hope that cleared that up for some of us...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Releases: Ash, The Georges and the Jewels, Intertwined

Ash by Malinda Lo
In the wake of her father's death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash's capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

The Georges and the Jewels by Jane SmileyJane Smiley makes her debut for young readers in this stirring novel set on a California horse ranch in the 1960s. Seventh-grader Abby Lovitt has always been more at ease with horses than with people. Her father insists they call all the mares “Jewel” and all the geldings “George” and warns Abby not to get attached: the horses are there to be sold. But with all the stress at school (the Big Four have turned against Abby and her friends) and home (her brother Danny is gone—for good, it seems—and now Daddy won’t speak his name), Abby seeks refuge with the Georges and the Jewels. But there’s one gelding on her family’s farm that gives her no end of trouble: the horse who won’t meet her gaze, the horse who bucks her right off every chance he gets, the horse her father makes her ride and train, every day. She calls him the Ornery George.

Intertwined by Gena ShowalterMost sixteen-year-olds have friends. Aden Stone has four human souls living inside him:

One can time-travel.

One can raise the dead.

One can tell the future.

And one can possess another human.

With no other family and a life spent in and out of institutions, Aden and the souls have become friends. But now they're causing him all kinds of trouble. Like, he'll blink and suddenly he's a younger Aden, reliving the past. One wrong move, and he'll change the future. Or he'll walk past a total stranger and know how and when she's going to die.

He's so over it. All he wants is peace.

And then he meets a girl who quiets the voices. Well, as long as he's near her. Why? Mary Ann Gray is his total opposite. He's a loner; she has friends. He doesn't care what anyone thinks; she tries to make everyone happy. And while he attracts the paranormal, she repels it. For her sake, he should stay away. But it's too late....

Somehow, they share an inexplicable bond of friendship. A bond about to be tested by a werewolf shape-shifter who wants Mary Ann for his own, and a vampire princess Aden can't resist.

Two romances, both forbidden. Still, the four will enter a dark underworld of intrigue and danger but not everyone will come out alive....

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

RTW -- Rough Drafts

As some -- or most -- of you probably know, YA Highway has a new thing they call "Road Trip Wednesday" where each contributor writes a post on their own blog about a certain subject. Then you get to go on a road trip and read their awesome responses.

Well this event is also open to random bloggers. Visit YA Highway for more information and to read the awesome posts.

This week's question was: How rough is your rough draft?

The first thing I want to say is: all rough drafts need work. It's a fact of writing. I don't believe anyone in this world can produce a flawless draft on the first try, or even the second.

As for my rough drafts...well...they suck. A lot. Destiny's been through one full rewrite, one partial rewrite, and is still looking forward to another partial rewrite and revisions. Let's not even talk about the 100k rough draft still saved on my computer that it started out as.

Black Diamond and Shipwrecked are the same way. I refuse to even think about the rough draft of BD anymore.

But the more you write, the better your first drafts will become. I know Jump's going to require revisions and I look forward to them, but in my opinion, Jump's first draft is going to be a LOT better than Destiny's first draft. And I'm definitely not editing as I go -- unless I find a spelling mistake, which I can't leave without correcting.

So try not to worry about revisions, know that all first drafts need work, and just write. Because just like all published books on the shelves today, all books started out with a rough draft.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Non-Teaser Tuesday

Sorry guys, no teaser this week! Like I said last week, Jump is too far along for teasers and Shipwrecked isn't ready to be displayed. Hopefully I'll be able to start doing proper teasers when NaNo starts up and I have snippets of that yet-unknown project to share. In the meantime, here is a short story. If there are any words that feel out of place, it's because they're vocab words that we were forced to use. But I think this is pretty good for a five-minute vocab exercise.

***
The women of the village were disconsolate as the men prepared for their venture. The men held themselves with confident mien though the majority knew they would not return. Their group was a multifarious mixture of young and old, strong and weak, tall and short. All wore shirts and pants of a lawny texture. As the women shook with sadness, the men doggedly set out into the woods after a denizen of its heart, a creature so vile that few dared to enter its territory alone. That night, as the women waited around the campfire, only one boy by the name of Damien returned. In one hand he carried a sword coated in acid green blood and in the other, the head of the fearsome beast.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Edgy YA

Before we begin, I'd like to share the results of last week's poll. Summary won the poll with 50% of the vote, reviews was second with 25%, and author and cover both won 13% each. I admit to voting summary myself. The only way a cover gets me to buy a book is if it has a horse on it, and I still read the summary first.

Onto today's topic: Edgy YA. So last week my mom was talking about her story and how "kinky" it is. (Which pretty much means edgy to her.) But her book is adult and I've never heard of "edgy adult." So we started to get a little bit into the edginess of YA novels these days. Now, me and my mom recently read a book that has sex in it. It's barely mentioned and there's very little detail whatsoever.

And she was shocked.

Apparently my mom hasn't read YA in ten or twenty years, because not only is sex in YA not only allowed, it's pretty widely known. But her reaction is EXACTLY why she's not allowed to read anything I write. Ever.

Why are parents so surprised that YA has gotten so edgy lately? This is a common thing in our society. I don't even want to think about some of the conversations I've overheard lately in my high school. Teens do not live in a little protective bubble and when we're in public school for eight hours a day, it's impossible to avoid subjects such as these.

Yes YA is edgy. And that's real. Abuse, drugs, sex, violence, that's all things most teens know about and some have experienced! Yes it's nice to pretend that we all live in a bubble gum pink world where everything's fine and no one gets hurt and I'm not saying all YA books have to be real, but there's no reason to outlaw the ones that saw things like they are.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Week in Short

What a busy week it has been! I can't believe it's the 11th already. Not that I'm complaining. :D

The Must Read this week comes from our very own Kody at YA Highway where she talked about her seven deadly sins of querying.

News:
Some big books are coming to the big screen in the next few years! Check to see if your favorite is on the list. :D Hopefully some of them will wait until 2011. I already have six movies that I need to go see in theaters and I rarely ever go there. The last movie I saw in theaters was...probably G-Force.

BookEnds talked about what publishers do for book publicity.

Editorial Ass added a glossary of all the main posts.

GLA discussed the bio section of a query letter and had a short interview with Nathan Bransford.

Nathan Bransford talked about calling books "trash." I must bookmark this...

Writer Unboxed has a post on how real realistic fiction has to be. It's a fascinating post. Now does anyone know if I can get away with medical miracles?

My writing is coming along slowly. Destiny has returned from the trunk and I'm getting ready to run through some revisions. There's a couple minor things that I want to change while I contemplate the more major changes that have popped into my head. Jump is still coming along, but I'm not sure if she's going to be finished before NaNo. Shipwrecked is not going well at all and will probably be trunked again during NaNo.

Everyone have a great week :)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Weather in Writing

Today I'm going to talk about the weather. Not whether. Weather. And not the fact that the sky looks like it can't decide if it wants to rain or not over here either.

One of the things that the writer can do to make their worlds more realistic is pay attention to what the weather is like. I'm not saying describe the clouds in very specific detail and point out the one that's shaped like a bunny and the one that reminds your character of alphabet soup. (I don't know where that comparison came from either.) But in the real world, it's certainly not sunny all the time. Unless the MC lives in the desert.

Weather fits right in with the setting. Take, for example, Forks, Washington. Yes that's a real town. Who knew? (Please don't hurt me.) Forks apparently is the rainiest city in the U.S. That fit right in with Twilight since vampires can't be seen in sunlight. Forks was the perfect setting for them and yet there were still a few days of sunlight in the story. Another example is Michigan. In the summer it's hot -- unless it was this year which was just insane -- in the winter it's cold, and in the autumn and spring it's in between with lots of rain.

Integrate this into the story. Choose a season and a setting for the story and stick with it. If you're like me and have trouble remembering what season, month, year, and day of the week it is in a story, try to keep track. Keep a spreadsheet if you have to. If your story is set in Phoenix in the summer, don't forget that it's going to be unmentionably hot there and it should affect your characters accordingly. If it's set in Maine in the winter, there's going to be a lot of snow.

In addition to the normal, seasonable weather, don't forget other things like fog, rain, hail, etc. If your characters are in school, give them a snow day or fog delay once in awhile. We usually have a few a year. Fog delays usually happen in spring and fall, as the nights start to get colder. It's going to be more common in places with a lot of water. Maybe throw in a thunderstorm once in awhile.

Our weather isn't boring and predictable, so don't make you characters weather like that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What Made You Buy It?

Sorry there was no teaser yesterday. I've gotten up to the point in Jump where teasers are no longer possible without requiring some kind of explanation or avoiding a major spoiler, so no more Teaser Tuesday for me for a while. My goal is to finish Jump (which has now hit 30k, yay!) before November so I can put all my time and energy towards NaNo, which I fully intend to do officially this year. But more on that when it gets closer to November.

So I was thinking while I was catching up on blog posts and a thought popped into my head. I know why I buy/check out the books I do, but why do you buy/check out the books you do? Think back to the last time you bought a book. What made you want to buy that book over all the other AWESOME books in that store?

To help me with this little question, I have created this cute little poll. Feel free to explain your answer in the comments. Should be fun to see the answers.

What made you buy it?
Cover
Title
Summary
Cover Blurbs
Recommendation
Author
Reviews
Other
sheepskin boots

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Back With the Last Two Weeks in Short

Sorry I've been gone for the last week! I had a ton of stuff that I needed to do and I just didn't have the time and wasn't in the mood to blog. But I'm back this week, though I don't know if it's going to be much better. My sinuses are all stuffed up so I barely want to move, let alone think about something to blog. :)

Must Reads: Nathan blogged about another of my pet peeves this week: telling vs showing. I was trying to figure out how to do my own post on the subject, but Nathan tells it a lot better than I could.

*bounces up and down* This second one is from GLA. It's the query that landed Lisa McMann her agent for Wake!!! I like the title now better than the title then, but it's fascinating to read and think, This is where it all began.

News: Rick Riordan announced on his blog that his next series (featuring Egyptian mythology this time) has an official release date: May 4, 2010!!!

I know this is a little late...okay, really late, but last week was Banned Books Week. Here are the ten most challenged books of 2008.

Querytracker also went through a full make-over the last couple weeks. I've checked out some of the new features and they look AWESOME! I can't wait to start querying again just so I can play with them...even if that day is awhile in the future.

You may have noticed the new widget on the side of the blog. I decided to put that there for updates on my WIPs instead of talking about them here. I'll try to remember to update it at least twice a week.

BookEnds Jessica has her opinion on male protagonists in women's fiction.

GLA talked about publishing a book while living in another country.

Janet Reid has a few questions to ask prospective agents.

Nathan Bransford discussed what agents do and submitting to editors without an agent.

Pub Rants talked about earning out. That seems to be a popular subject among blogging agents lately.

Queryshark ate five the last couple weeks: a first five pages instead of query, tragicomic novel (what exactly is that?), long crime novel, unfinished fantasy, and a thriller.

TWFT had an interview with the wonderful Lisa Mantchev, author of Eyes Like Stars.

I think I'm finally getting into the swing of things again. A month after starting school... So I'm going to go catch up on stuff and hope that I can sneeze so I can start breathing normally again.