Archive for September, 2010

Most literary agents will tell you that they read the first several pages of your submission before they read your query. That’s essentially why the first several pages of your novel are the most important. You’ve got to grab your reader from the beginning to sell the story to an agent or publisher. On her blog, Agent in the Middle, 20-year veteran agent Lori Perkins said, “Your novel has to grab me by the first page, which is why we can reject you on one page.” The reason behind that theory is a survey that came out years ago that said a consumer will determine whether or not to buy a book based on the first paragraph or first page. This puts alot of pressure on the writer, so we’d like to do our part to help you through this.

A successful novel should begin using one of the following storylines:
 Begin with something happening.
 Begin with action in unusual circumstances.
 Start with action that challenges the character.
 Put your main character into jeopardy that pertains to story.

Here are three specific examples from some bestselling young adult fantasy authors:

The Prologue Intro

Stephenie Meyer started Twilight with a prologue. I will warn you against this because most agents who blog complain about the use of prologues. Nathan Bransford, highly respected literary agent for Curtis Brown wrote this on his blog: “The most common question I get about prologues: are prologues necessary? Personally I think the easiest litmus test is to take out the prologue and see if your book still makes sense. If you can take out a prologue and the entire plot still makes perfect sense, chances are the prologue was written to “set the mood”. But here’s the thing about mood-setting: most of the time you can set the mood when the actual story begins. Or, the prologue is to be used as a framing device around the plot or to introduce a crucial scene in the back-story that will impact the main plot. So okay, prologue time.” I think the point here is that you have to be careful when you use this method, because if you get it wrong, then it’s a very short trip to the rejection pile. You can read Mr. Bransford’s full article here: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/03/prologues.html

The Action Sequence Intro

I say, start with an action. The action gets you right into the story. Donald Maass, agent icon and author of Writing a Breakout Novel said, “To hold our attention, a novel’s action needs to compel us to read every word.” I’m not saying add in some weird accident or shooting that doesn’t pertain to your story. I’m saying that if you have something magical that happens on page ten, that really gets the story going, then erase the first nine pages and begin there. Cassandra Clare started City of Bones with this type of beginning. She takes you into a nightclub where her main character witnesses a murder that only she can see. So immediately you want to know why she can see it and you want to know about the people committing the murder. In other words, you’re hooked!

The Dialogue Intro

This is where the dialogue between characters sets up the story. I’m talking about a conversation between relevant characters that sets the tone of the novel. And no, a conversation about the weather or favorite pets isn’t going to cut it. If your story is about a mysterious boy starting at school then maybe the conversation is between girls talking about the boy. If the main character has something happen on her birthday then maybe the story starts while she’s blowing out candles. Alyson Noel used this method when writing Evermore. By the end of the first page, you know that her main character has the ability to read minds, see auras, and is an outsider. Yet again, hooked.

For further help on the subject, try out: The First Five Pages: A Writers Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman

You can check out some of my other popular articles here: http://www.yafantasyguide.com/for-writers/index.htm


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We’ve all been there. You sit in front of the computer, coffee at your side and ready to create, but nothing happens. Instead of writing, you stare into a blank screen and ponder whether you really have any concrete writing skills. The truth is, we all go through this at one time or another. It might happen sometimes or it might happen once a day. The point is, it’s more common than you think. To help you with your internal battle, we compiled a list of exercises that might help you get back on track.

1. Stop beating yourself up. Don’t doubt yourself or your skills. Remember that you love to write and that this is your passion. Everyone has a bad day, week, month, etc. Not every painting can be a Picasso, even when your name is Picasso. It happens to the best of us.
2. Walk away from your computer, yes I’m talking to you. Clear your head by taking a long walk, ride a bike, or just go to the gym and work-out. You’d be surprised how much a little sweat can do to clear out the cob webs.
3. Meditate. I know some of you have just started laughing, but my response is don’t knock it before you try it. Remember all the foods your Mom begged you to try as a kid that you now love? Well, I can say from experience that some of my best ideas were born during a solid meditation.
4. Stop talking. When’s the last time you truly observed the world around you? I mean the world that takes place while you’re talking or thinking about the next thing your gonna say. As writers, we create characters and those characters on based (for the most part) on people. So keeping that in mind – go watch some. Go sit at a park and watch people. Watch their physical movements, mannerisms, and listen to what they talk about. You might just discover something that your current main character is missing.
5. Create an outline. Write a summary for each of your chapters. Remember where you want your characters/story to start and where you want them to end up. Get as detailed as you can and you might see the holes that need to be plugged. I actually did this once and built a really cool twist into the middle when I realized it got a bit boring.
6. Start a new project. Most writers have more than one story going on in their head at one time. Maybe you’re being pulled into this new story for a reason, who knows? I say, go with your gut. Put your current project to the side and focus your energy into something new. Could be the story that lands you an agent or a book deal.
7. Go out and have fun. Why, because you’re overreacting and need a break. Your block isn’t permanent – it just feels that way right now.

You can check out my other articles for writers here: http://www.yafantasyguide.com/for-writers/index.htm

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1. What drew you to YA fantasy writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I was always an avid reader, raised by a mom who introduced me to the magic of books early on. But it wasn’t until I read Judy Blume’s ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET and DEENIE , that I knew I wanted to be a writer too. It was those books that felt like they were written just for me, and my friends, and all the things we were going through. They made me realize how a story could be so much more. So I started writing really dreadful poetry in junior high, and by high school I took to writing short stories that I used to hand in instead of the essays my teachers assigned. And though I took various writing classes through the years, it wasn’t until the tragic events of 9/11 when I was working as a flight attendant in NYC and figured a job change might be in order, when I finally sat down and finished the manuscript that’d been living in my head for decades. Ultimately resulting in my debut novel, FAKING 19.

As for writing fantasy, ever since I was a little kid I’ve been fascinated by anything to do with the supernatural. Seriously, CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST was my favorite cartoon! So I’m actually kind of surprised I didn’t write a paranormal sooner, especially since I love being in Ever and Damen’s world.

2. Where did the idea for Evermore come from?

EVERMORE , and the entire IMMORTALS series, was inspired by grief. A few years ago I lost three people I loved in five months, and shortly after that I nearly lost my husband to leukemia (he’s in full remission now!). Experiencing that sort of intense grief and fear got me thinking a lot about life and death, mortality and immortality, the soul’s journey, the bonds that tie us even after a loved one is gone, and how our youth loving culture sort of seeks physical immortality by trying to remain youthful looking for as long as we can—and yet, what would happen if we really could achieve it? What would it mean for us, our loved ones, society in general? And since I’ve been interested in all things paranormal since I was a kid, Ever and Damen’s story seemed like the perfect vehicle to explore all of those themes.

3. Are there any plans for a movie? If there is, will you be part of it as a producer?
We are currently in serious negotiations that I’m really excited about, but that’s all I’m allowed to say until everything is inked and ready to go! Though, if there is a movie / TV show, they’ll most likely hire a team of professionals so I probably won’t be part of that process—I just get to write the books ! J

4. Do you know how many more books will be in the series or do you just write one at a time?
There will be a total of six books in the IMMORTALS series. I’m currently in the process of finishing the final book in the series. So far, the release schedule is:
Evermore – in stores now
Blue Moon – in stores now
Shadowland – in stores now
Dark Flame – in stores now
Shadowland paperback- 09.14.10
IMMORTALS boxed set- 10.12.10
NIGHT STAR – 11.16.10
UNTITLED #6 – in stores 2011

5. Radiance is Riley’s life after death, can you give us a little peek into the story?

RADIANCE is the first book in the Immortals spin-off series featuring Riley, Ever’s ghostly little sister. Riley’s series picks up right after we left her in EVERMORE , and it’s about her experiences in the afterlife—which is not quite the eternity of cloud lounging and harp lessons she envisioned. She has a job—Soul Catcher—and she’s been assigned a guide—Bodhi, a fourteen-year old boy she’s not quite sure what to make of.

Riley turned out to be one of my favorite characters to write, and because of that she ended up getting a much bigger part in EVERMORE than I originally planned. So I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to send her out into the world to tell her own story. RADIANCE will hit stores on August 31 and you can view the trailer here , and read a summary of the story here .

Read the rest of the interview here: http://www.yafantasyguide.com/author-interviews/alyson-noel.htm

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Step One: Decide you’re going to write a story.

Step Two: Decide it’s going to be brilliant. Imagine the response of your [teacher, classmates, reading group, agent] and how it will completely change the way they look at you.

Step Three: Open up Microsoft Word.

Step Four: Stare at the blank white screen stretching on into infinity until your eyes begin to burn and your brain hurts from the sheer emptiness of it all.

Step Five: Check your e-mail. If writing a novel, research agents for a couple of hours.

Step Six: Stare at the blank Word document again.

Step Seven: Realize you need music. Spend the next hour finding the perfect “mood” music for what you want to write.

Step Eight: Inspired by [insert perfect music here], click back over to Word document.

Step Nine: Change Facebook status to: [Your name here] is WRITING!!! Realize you aren’t on Twitter, and that anyone who is anyone is networking/wasting time on Twitter. Sign up for an account and spend the next two hours figuring out how it works and what the crap # means.

Step Ten: Stare at blank Word document. Decide you need a title. Brainstorm for the next hour.

Step Eleven: Come up with a GENIUS title. Proudly type “The Scent of Green Papayas” at the top of the document, followed by your name. Happily consider how easily a story will come now that you have such an amazing, literary title.

Step Twelve: Take a four-hour break for snacks and naptime.

Step Thirteen: Refreshed, sit down and toy around with pen names for a while.

Step Fourteen: Realize to your horror that your genius title is actually the name of a Vietnamese foreign film you saw seven years ago.

Step Fifteen: Erase the title, pressing Backspace much harder than necessary.

Step Sixteen: Stare at the blank Word document until your eyes bleed.

Step Seventeen: Check Facebook. See that fourteen people have commented on your status, asking what you are writing. Feel both guilty and annoyed.

Step Eighteen: Slam your laptop shut and go to the movies. Tomorrow’s a better day for writing, anyhow.

See? You never knew writing was so easy! Another great post from Chuck! Check him out below!

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This contest is CLOSED

Cassandra Marshall (YA writer, Editor, and Literary Agent Intern) is offering a FREE Edit Contest

That’s plot, pacing, character development, etc, up to 100k words to one lucky reader!

All you have to do is follow the link and fill out the form! Contest ends September 20th!

If you’d like to do an interview or Q&A with her to give your blog readers something extra, please let her know!

Follow this link to enter the contest: http://www.camarshall.com/

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If you’ve perfected your novel, then the next logical step is to attract the attention of an agent or publisher. Unfortunately, you need more than a colorful envelope and fancy font styles to stand out in the ever growing slush piles. The publishing world has taken a huge hit due to the poor economy. More than ever, publishers aren’t as willing to take chances on the hopeful unpublished writers out there. Does this mean you should give up your dream? Absolutely NOT!

The best thing you can do is to create a writing platform for your novel. A platform is a publishing term for a built-in audience for your novel. You need to get yourself out there in your field before you submit your work. Great writing, original stories, and platforms are sure fire ways to create a successful writing career for yourself. So how do you do it?

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.yafantasyguide.com/for-writers/creating-your-writing-platform.htm

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What drew you to writing fantasy?

I grew up reading fantasy. My father was a big fan of fantasy and science fiction, so those were the books we had in our house. Obviously there’s a large fantastic component to children’s literature anyway, and when I was a kid, my favorite books were those by Edward Eager, Susan Cooper and E. Nesbit. I was also big fan of fairy tales — the original grim ones — and folklore. So when I moved on from children’s books, I moved on to Tolkien and Terry pratchett instead of moving on to realistic contemporary fiction. (The one thing I made an exception for was historical fiction.) So when I decided I wanted to write, it was natural to write fantasy. You write what you love to read.

You’ve written about vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, etc. Do you have a favorite fantasy character that you love to bring to life?

As in a favorite sort of creature? No, not really, though I find writing faeries difficult. They seem very removed and archaic and their doublespeak — they can’t lie, but they love to mislead — is a pain. I always have to run my faerie dialogue by Holly Black before I can send it out.

Who are your favorite young adult fantasy writers? Do you have any books you would recommend to your fans?

I don’t really believe in favorites. When I was a kid I did, and I was always rearranging my booksholf in order of what my favorite was down to my least favorite, until eventually I realized I was being silly because different books were my favorites in different ways, and appealed to me at different times. That said, I would recommend two books that haven’t come out yet as books to look for: The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff, and Bitterblue, the new Graceling book by Kristin Cashore.

What was the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

I was once advised that once you’re done with a book, read the whole thing aloud to yourself. It takes a long time but it really lets you hear things like overused words, awkward sentence construction, and the like.

Read the rest of the interview here: http://www.yafantasyguide.com/author-interviews/cassandra-clare.htm

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