Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Monday, January 16, 2017
By Heather Moore
The other night I saw “The Proposal” with a friend of mine. Whether or not you like “chick flicks” there were some great characters in there. Yes, a little predictable, but sometimes when watching a movie and analyzing characters, the “aha” light goes on. It’s a little easier to define why one character works and is endearing or relatable, while another might not be, when you see a 2 hour movie.
But what I really want to discuss is a movie I saw a couple of weeks ago, called “New in Town.” Renee Zellweger’s character is a smart, classy, climbing-the-corporate-ladder type. (Incidentally this was the same character-type as Sandra Bullock in The Proposal—but Sandra played it oh-so-much better).
The plot for “New in Town” and Renee’s character were cliché-ish and quite predictable. Renee’s job was to go into a small-town manufacturing plant, that the corporation she worked for had purchased, and to make it profitable. But who shined in the movie was the secretary, played by Siobhan Hogan. She was quirky and her famous, but top-secret, Tapioca recipe became an integral part of the plot. Siobhan’s character “stole the show” and her naivety and small-town good-heartedness felt real, easy to relate to, and easy to picture her as your neighbor.
Here are the things that made up her character:
-Loves scrapbooking, finds value in it and spends time with her neighbors doing it.
-Is the type of person to invite others over for dinner, even if it’s just meatloaf. Which leads to that she’s the type of person who doesn’t put on airs. Meatloaf is good enough for her, so it’s good enough for anyone else.
-Generous and willing to share her Famous Tapioca. Yet, she will not give out the recipe no matter how she is bribed.
-She is trustworthy and trusts back. Also a peacemaker.
-She is a romantic and wants everyone to be happy.
-She lives in a very cold climate but makes the best of it.
-She states her opinion but doesn’t force it on anyone.
-She’s a bit naïve and goes through several upsets because of it.
-She is funny, but unassuming.
-Even when she is emotionally distraught, she makes Tapioca and takes it over to her “enemy”.
I hope this gives you a more rounded view of characterization. It’s not just about description, but about the core of the person. When faced with two choices, which choices would your character make?
For a quick study (and a quick read), I’d recommend Everything is Fine by Ann Dee Ellis. She is a YA author, and her characterization of Mazzy was impressive in that book.
Friday, January 13, 2017
Several years ago, I took a trip to New York with my sisters and mother. That's a story in and of itself (summary: fun, fun, good food, fun, fun, Broadway show, fun, fun!).
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
by Annette Lyon
It's subjunctive. (So is our first example above: the girl isn't home, but if she WERE, she could tell her mother the truth.)
A common rule of thumb people use is watching out for the keyword if, which often signals subjunctive.
Be wary about relying on if too much. There are plenty of cases where IF does NOT refer to something that’s contrary to fact, so the sentence isn’t subjunctive mood at all, and was is correct.
Yes, the sentence has if in it, but that doesn’t automatically make it subjunctive. In this instance, WAS is correct.
Subjunctive rule of thumb: When the statement is contrary to fact, use were.
Monday, January 9, 2017
by Annette Lyon
Friday, January 6, 2017
By Julie Wright
My first experience with publishing a book happened blissfully enough. I sent the manuscript. They sent a contract. I signed it. They sent me my author copies and the ad copies of the magazines they'd advertised for me in. And we were in business.
Book two had much the same results.
Book three . . . not the same at all. You see, even published authors get rejected. Oddly enough, that book was my best work thus far into my career. I knew it was good. But my publisher thought it was too dark for my audience or whatever. So they passed on it.
That unexpected rejection shattered me into millions of pieces of self doubt. When I was finally put back together again enough to get back out there, I found I had contracted a disabling disease. I had JulieWrightus. It's a wretched disease. Don't bother looking it up at the mayo clinic's website. I can give you the symptoms here:
1. Chronic fear usually rearing its head in times of visiting the post office with a large envelope that includes a SASE.
2. A bizarre inability to speak without interjecting phrases such as, "I suck muddy rocks." or, "I'm nothing." or, "I'll never be a good writer like (insert favorite famous author here)."
3. Spontaneous bouts of weeping.
4. An irrational fear of checking email that has the subject line of query.
5. Jealous rage when other less worthy authors get contracts and you don't.
These are the symptoms. If you have three or more, then you too have JulieWrightus. Sorry. It's truly a crippling disease. But there is a cure.
Getting published won't keep all the symptoms away all the time. It won't keep you from feeling like a failure sometimes--we all have moments, but it will stave off the chronic feeling of failure.
The only way to get published is to keep trying.
I have over 100 rejections. One of my most amazing friends and mentors, Jessica Day George has 187. 187! That is a bunch! Brandon Sanderson has rejections; Shannon Hale has rejections; Stephen King has rejections; JK Rowling has rejections. I know of some people who have rejections numbering into the thousands. Yet these people are all published.
What do they all have in common that got them to this state of published bliss? They didn't quit. They didn't give in to the disease.
And though I had the disease so bad, the specialists (James Dashner and J Scott Savage) named it after me, I too found the cure. I got that manuscript published. And not with just any publisher, but the biggest publisher my little market had to offer. It was a great and glorious day when I was able to meet up with my previous publishers at a writing function. It was delicious to shake their hands, smile, and say, "Yes, I'm doing quite well, thank you."
I didn't outright gloat. How would that look? But I felt as though I'd shaken the shackles of my disease.
I was wrong.
Symptoms pop up all the time if I'm not careful--if I'm not constantly moving. I started writing for a different market which meant I needed a different publisher. This meant more queries, more rejections, more symptoms and random screams of, "I'm nothing!"
As I move forward in my career, there are lots of ways to be rejected: in reviews, on blogs, in emails . . .
When I landed my agent, J Scott Savage warned me, "I know you're excited about this step and it IS a huge step, but don't expect a book deal tomorrow. It takes time. I don't want you slipping back into JulieWrightus."
"I won't!" I said. "I plan on living in this moment for as long as I can."
And I've worked hard to keep moving forward and not wallowing. I keep writing new things, knowing that if I keep going--if I never quit--I can outrun the disease altogether.
Don't quit. If you have one rejection, don't quit. If you have 22 rejections, don't quit. If you have 122 rejections, don't quit.
And when you get those letters that say you aren't good enough?
You know they're wrong, so don't get mad; get published.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Okay I promised to show the sample of the query letter which landed me my agent. This particular letter is at 100%. Which means every agent and editor I sent it to asked for at least a partial on the manuscript. Something I'd always been told about query letters is to never include an excerpt of your book in your query. No one likes it and it's bad form. I went ahead and included an excerpt for two reasons:
1. I knew the excerpt was good
2. It said so much more about the book than I could have.
So there are a lot of rules about query letters, but the really important ones are:
-Be intelligent (don't call your manuscript a fiction novel, because a novel *is* fiction)
-Have several people review your query to make certain you don't have a bunch of grammar errors going on
Your query letter should accomplish three things: It should tell the agent/editor about the plot, the characters, and the author.
Here's that sample:
Dear Awesome Agent,
“Wh—what happened?” My voice sounded foreign and hollow.
He stared down at me, his ashen face hard with lack of emotion. He seemed to be measuring me. I looked away, unable to meet the eyes that held no shred of compassion.
He took a deep breath as though he were about to lecture a child. “You’re dead, Summer Dawn Rae.”
The last thing Summer remembers from her own time was the truck smashing through the driver’s side of the car. She should have died in the crash. Instead, she is rescued by Taggert, a soldier from the year 2113. Sent by Professor Raik, a scientist with political power, Tag travels back in time to save teenagers who would otherwise have been killed in tragic accidents. Summer learns that she has been saved to help repopulate a dying world where men and women have been rendered sterile due to disease and genetic mutation.
But Summer mourns the loss of her twin sister—and quickly realizes things in the future are not exactly as they have been explained to her. She must make her way in a world lost to disease and insanity with only Tag to depend on for protection, friendship, and possibly something more. Fighting the crazies, the politics behind the crazy war, and the scientist’s true intentions, Tag and Summer realize that the future can’t be saved anywhere, except in the past with the twin sister Summer refuses to leave behind.
SR: The Revolution is a science fiction YA novel that is a cross between Uglies and Twilight. It’s a story proving the human heart is stronger than science, and the bond of sisterhood can change the face of the world.
I currently have two published YA contemporary novels: To Catch a Falling Star, and My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life, as well as an adult paranormal romance novel, Loved Like That. To Catch a Falling Star won the best fiction award with my publishing house in 2001, and My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life sold out of its first print run and is currently on a second printing in a niche market. I have a time travel YA book, Eyes Like Mine, releasing in July. I am an editor for Precision Editing Group, do school visits, and speak to youth groups on a regular basis.
Thank you for your generous time. I enjoyed spending time with you at the editor’s retreat here in Utah and look forward to hearing from you.
And here is another query that I'd say had a 70% positive reaction:
Dear Awesome Agent,
Twelve-year-old Frederick Eugene Hazzard (Hap) works in his family magic shop, Hazzard's Magical Happenings. Knowing about magic the way he does, Hap knows that everything is illusion-and he doesn't believe in magic. He doesn't believe in the paranormal. And mostly, he doesn't believe in aliens. Hap's belief system is knocked out of orbit as he and his friend, Tara, are accidentally abducted by a ship full of aliens. With the Intergalactic Communications Enforcers (ICE) chasing the aliens and their human captain, Laney, Hap and Tara are reluctant guests for the travel to the other side of the universe.
There they meet Amar, the last living of the nine unknown scientists from India's mythology. He's sworn to protect the secrets hidden within the nine books of his brothers. The books contain information that, if placed in the wrong hands, would systematically destroy the universe. In a desperate attempt to get home, Hap and Tara unwittingly deliver the device that enables the books to be read to the space mafia boss, Don Nova, getting the scientist captured and sentenced to die in the process. Rescuing the scientist, getting back the prism, and escaping Nova's clutches requires courage, ingenuity, and a little pocket magic.
Now Hap and Tara must race Nova in a search spanning the universe for the missing nine books before the world and families they love are obliterated. Fighting Neubins, surviving intergalactic phone calls, and discovering the secrets of Stonehenge, the pyramids, ghosts, and the Nazca Lines is just the beginning in proving the universe really is a big place-a place only Hap Hazzard can save.
The Hazzardous Universe is a 67,000 word middle grade novel that includes a little soft science, a little mythology, and a whole lot of adventure. It easily fits in with other middle-grade boy adventure series such as Percy Jackson and the Olympians, or Fablehaven.
I currently have two published YA contemporary novels: To Catch a Falling Star, and My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life, as well as an adult paranormal romance novel, Loved Like That. To Catch a Falling Star won the best fiction award with my publishing house in 2001, and My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life sold out of its first print run and is currently on a second printing. I have another YA book (Eyes Like Mine, time travel) coming out summer of 2009. I won the fantasy/science fiction short story contest sponsored by Media Play for The Man in Mandalore. I write at least two books a year, am actively involved in school visits and speaking to youth. I am a member of SCBWI, and an editor for Precision Editing Group.
Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you.
You can see that even in a query letter, I have no clue how to be brief. Everyone says keep the query letters short. And they are absolutely right. But brevity isn't something I'm good at. If you can tell your story in a shorter frame, then by all means DO IT! For me, my letters are under a page--as they should be, and they tell about the three important things: the plot, the characters, and the author.
I hope the examples help. :)