May 4, 2013 by Kiersi
A few weeks ago I blogged that it takes a village to write a book. In the post, I only mentioned how helpful it’s been working with editors, who have no problem telling us authors where our problems are and helping us fix them.
Today I want to shine the limelight on another essential piece of the puzzle: critique partners.
Often referred to as a “CP” on Twitter (and, of course, the verb “to CP” has developed from there, as grammatically illogical as that is), a critique partner is an essential part of the writer’s toolkit.
What is a critique partner?
In my experience, critique partners are best gleaned from a group of peers–fellow writers in your genre or category. (Note the distinction from beta reader, who doesn’t need any writing experience, just the ability to read and write his or her reactions.) (more…)
Category: How-to | Tags: Agent Query Connect, Authoronomy, CPs, critique partners, feedback, She Writes, Twitter | 10 Comments
April 29, 2013 by Kiersi
I have yet another guest post on writer/editor Kate Brauning‘s blog this week, this time for Pixar Storytelling Rule #17:
No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
This was one of my favorite posts on the subject so far, because it’s personal and near to my heart. I’ve worked on a number of manuscripts that had to be set aside for various reasons, and I’ve spun my wheels more times than I can count trying to figure out what happens next. And the work and the distance always grants me new, helpful perspective.
In this post, I introduce a character that is feature in most authors’ lives: The Nag-bot.
When you’ve written something and it just feels wrong, in a way you can’t explain? That’s her. When you leave your computer but can’t stop thinking about your manuscript—everything that you need to fix, everything you could add to it to solve your glitch—that’s her.
Read the post, “Rule 17: Sometimes Walking Away Is Just What Your Story Needs.”
Category: How-to | Tags: Pixar Storytelling Basics, Rule #17 | 10 Comments
April 19, 2013 by Kiersi
Some time ago, Pixar’s Emma Coats tweeted twenty-two storytelling tips, and aggregated them into a single post called “22 Story Basics I’ve Picked Up In My Time At Pixar.” They have done a few circulations of the internet since then, because they are brilliant.
Writer/editor Kate Brauning started a pretty neat blog challenge recently, and graciously gave me the opportunity to guest post for her while my blog was down. The challenge? Write a post a day about each of the twenty-two rules.
The first one I wrote was for the very brilliant Rule #5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
Check out my post: “Rule #5: Narrowing Your Focus.” This one was so much fun–I think you’ll like it.
A lot of the twenty-two rules pertain to drafting, to plotting, to character development. This one, however, is really a rule that will follow you into revising, into your second and third and fourth drafts. Why? Because it’s all about refining. Narrowing the scope of your vision, cutting out the garbage and honing in on the things your readers will love and remember.
Then, yesterday, I jumped in to fill in for Kate again with Rule #16: What are the stakes? Give us a reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
Read the post, “Rule #16: Stakes and Sweat.” (Great title, Kate!)
A lot of writing is really just clinical abuse. I’m pretty sure that if our characters were real people, most of us writers would be sitting behind bars.
More likely than not, I’ll be doing another guest post for her soon–so be sure to bookmark her blog!
Category: How-to | Tags: #storybasics, 22 Rules of Pixar Storytelling, Pixar | 2 Comments
April 14, 2013 by Kiersi
Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.
- Lewis Carroll
Think about the opening of the last book you read, or the last movie. I, personally, had a cold last week, and during my incarceration on the couch watched How to Train Your Dragon.
A good story starts at the beginning–not before, and not after. The first scene of How to Train Your Dragon is actually one of my favorites: the little viking town where Hiccup lives is attacked by dragons. It’s the very same attack where he shoots down Toothless, the “dragon” in the title, and the story starts to unfold.
Just because a work is a full-length, 90k manuscript doesn’t excuse you from starting at the beginning. The last book I read was a New Adult contemporary romance (if you want to know it was Beautiful Disaster, by Jamie McGuire, about which I have many mixed thoughts–more to come next week).
The opening sequence of the novel? The first time the hero meets her love interest. Because that is where the story starts. (more…)
Category: How-to | Tags: backstory, beginnings, How to Train Your Dragon, inciting incident, info dump, Lewis Carroll | 4 Comments
April 11, 2013 by Kiersi
For some reason, this question of whether or not to title chapters has come up on Twitter a lot lately. I first debated it last month, when I was revising a book and realizing that my chapter titles really contributed nothing to the book as a whole. They were troublesome to write–they had to be pithy and relevant–and kept changing as my chapter order/content changed.
I tried to think of the number of books I’ve read this year that did or did not use chapter titles; what I figured out? 95% of them don’t.
Okay, well, that’s pretty clear. Most authors are choosing to avoid titling their individual chapters. Books with multiple points of view, such as Beth Revis’s Shades of Earth–that one made sense to me because the narrator’s name (Amy or Elder) is listed at the top of each chapter. So, that sort of takes the place of the title. (more…)
Category: How-to | Tags: chapter titles, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor | 13 Comments
April 9, 2013 by Kiersi
The Night Circus
As I move into the critique stage of my current novel, and my August book release finishes up with the editor over at Rain Town, it has become clearer and clearer to me that no single person is responsible for the great books we read and love.
Today I read a fabulous post, “On Writing and Publishing Paths,” by Erin Morgenstern–author of the seriously delightful, magical, spectacle of a novel The Night Circus. And the takeaway is one that I hope every aspiring writer takes to heart: a manuscript rarely emerges from a writer’s mind a finished product.
I’ve been on the receiving end of query rejections, form letters and personalized responses alike. “They don’t get it,” is something we’re tempted to think. “They’re blind to my potential.”
As Erin writes:
…I got my manuscript to the point where I didn’t know what else it needed and it seemed like the right point to start sending it out. I did. It got requests because I had a query letter that made it sound like it had a plot when it really didn’t. It also got a lot of rejections. (more…)
Category: How-to, Literary Agents | Tags: agents, editors, Erin Morgenstern, publishing, queries, rejections, The Night Circus | 15 Comments
February 15, 2013 by Kiersi
I’m disclaiming this post with one thing: I’m still new to Tumblr. I’m still building my base and learning the best practices. But here I want to talk basic and broad, and discuss A) why Tumblr is a great tool with which to build your social media strategy and author platform, and B) how to use it effectively without feeling like it’s a time-sink or “just one more thing to do.” Tumblr can be both fun, educational, and another way to get involved in your community and build an audience–particularly in the YA and MG writer communities. Guess who’s on Tumblr the most?
Young adults and tweens. Your readers are right here, spending huge amounts of time on this new social media network (now that their parents are all on Facebook and it’s no longer a safe haven for them). So grab it by the horns.
What is Tumblr?
Think of Tumblr as Facebook meets blogging. You have a “Dashboard,” which is essentially a Facebook feed. You “follow” other Tumblrs, and their posts appear on your feed. You have a few options: (more…)
Category: How-to | Tags: author platform, Leigh Bardugo, MG, social media strategy, tumblr, YA | 9 Comments
February 5, 2013 by Kiersi
I really owe credit to my partner-in-brainstorming Eddy over at Eddy Writes (an awesome blog, if you haven’t already been) for the term zero draft. He coined it after I refused to show him my first run-through of my NaNoWriMo novel, Gryphon.
I refused because I wanted to take some time away from the novel and perform a revision before sending it to anyone. Why? A NaNoWriMo novel, by its very definition, is written over the course of a single month–and most of that time, you’re encouraged “not to look back”: just keep writing. Don’t stop. Don’t turn around and re-read and fix and obsess. Just keep writing.
For me, this bizarre pace results in a draft that is both fluid and cohesive, but also a total freaking wreck. Like, I would not even show this thing to a third grader, not to mention a critique partner that I actually respect. I refuse to even really call it a draft. Or even a manuscript.
Thus: zero draft. Not quite version 1, not quite out of beta; completed, but still in the incubation stage. (more…)
Category: How-to, Uncategorized | Tags: critique partners, Eddy Rivas, NaNoWriMo, revising, story fermentation, zero draft | 13 Comments
February 3, 2013 by Kiersi
When everything goes to hell in a handbasket in Star Wars: A New Hope
Most authors I know agree with one thing about writing a novel:
Middles are the worst.
It’s true. They are. Middles are like the sagging back of an old horse, the rope suspension bridge between Beginning and End that is slowly unraveling, and probably not safe for more than one person to cross at a time.
I totally get that. Somewhere after the inciting incident (about 10,000 words in) and before the build up to the climax (about 15,000 words from the end) you have to, you know–make stuff happen. Fill all that empty, soggy space between Point A and Point B. And it can be really hard to make that middle stuff not feel slow and muddy to the reader.
As I’m revising my middle-grade manuscript, Gryphon, I’ve discovered a few tricks for making middles not only not suck, but possibly become the best part of your novel.
1. Raise the stakes. This “tip” gets thrown around a lot, and for a long time I wasn’t really sure how one could implement such broad-sided advice. (more…)
Category: How-to | Tags: comedy, conflict, how-to, improving your novel, middles, revising, stakes, tension, writing | 11 Comments
December 21, 2012 by Kiersi
"The moldiest thing I've ever eaten" by Jer Thorp - flickr
The Art of Story Fermentation,
or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Set an Idea Aside
I’m back from my quest and coming to terms with an uncomfortable realization: the manuscript I had intended to query agents with is just not the one. Now I am slowly accepting the fact that the first manuscript isn’t ready yet. And that’s OK.
So. Story fermentation. What the heck does that mean, and why am I writing a whole blog post about it?
I use story fermentation to refer to the process of letting a concept, plot, idea or story just… sit. When you push it to the back of your mind, let it gather some mold and dust, let it age and change and grow as you work on other, more prescient things.
Another term I’ve come to use a lot lately is the idea pipeline. Let’s say you have a great idea. You wake up, having just had the most incredible dream, and you know it has to become a story. A short story, a manuscript, whatever. You start to work out the characters, the premise, the point A and point B (A referring to where a story begins, and B referring to where you want it to end). Once the idea has fully formed, like some kind of chicken fetus, it breaks from the shell and you give it life on the keyboard. (more…)
Category: How-to | Tags: Gryphon, middle-grade, portal fantasy, The Aeronauts, the art of storytelling | 8 Comments