Thursday, September 30, 2010

October Prep days 1-3

The time has come to get ready for NaNoWriMo.  I'm going to try and get them mostly one week at a time but figured it'd be nice to have the first few days up in time to prepare instead of rushing on day one. Also, thank you to Brandiwyn from for letting me post the activities from her challenge on my blog. I really appreciate the opportunity and hope others find the information very useful. Remember: to see my attempts at the exercises don't forget to check out my other blog (

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Most exercises are meant to be worked on for 15 minutes or so. Some may not take quite as long while others, like the outlines, can take a bit longer. Not every single assignment will apply but the goal is to try and do as many as possible in order to get to know the novel idea more before making the mad dash in November.

The Schedule:

Friday, Oct. 01
The general premise of the novel. Summarize the following: Who is the protagonist (or protagonists)? What will happen to him/her/it/them? Why? How will it turn out? What does that tell us? Is there a moral to the story? Resources to help:  -  creating_the_premise  and  Premise discussion on WDC.

Saturday, Oct. 02
Outline: first draft. Basic overview of main events. Check out the section on Outlining in this free ebook:  -other sources:  WDC Blank Novel Outline  -  Snowflake Method  and  how-to-write-a-novel-outline 

Sunday, Oct. 03
Character sketch: The protagonist, (one of them if there are more than that). A couple of resources to help: Fantasy Character Background Information,  Character Profile Template , and

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

NaNoWriMo and Schedule

That's right. The month of craziness approaches and I can't wait. October and November will be affected on both of my blogs, so this is your warning.

What is National Novel Writing Month?
It is..."is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30." According to the rules on the web site: it has to be a "new" novel (complete redo's still count) and the first word can't be written until November 1st. No screenplays because Script Frenzy in April is for writing those.

The point of doing NaNoWriMo, in part, is to shut the inner editor up for a month and to just write. Get that novel out. Sure it is a quantity over quality exercise, but it's a first draft. First drafts are allowed to suck, so don't worry about the bad words and get that draft done (or 50,000 words or so done).
Web site:

Personal Story
My first year of attempting NaNoWriMo was back in 2006. I failed with a total of only a few thousand words. It was my first attempt at picking a single novel and trying to write that length so it was definitely a learning experience. Haven't finished that novel but I still like the idea. 2007 went a little better when I attempted to only get 20,000 words done of a YA novel. I manged to get 14,000 of what was then called Ephram's Defiance (I'm working on the rewrite of that novel now). Not a win but the longest piece of fiction I had going at the time. Then came 2008 and my first year doing the October prep challenge on with a romance/erotica novel. With tons of coffee and a friend coming over for the last weekend to write, I managed to get over 50,000 words done and win. My first time, and only thus far. It was awesome. I finished the first draft in december and even though it needs a rewrite, I enjoyed it. Last year I had personal things come up during the month, so I didn't really even try. This year I'm doing the novel I have wanted to do since high school, one of the first novel ideas I've had. I'm doing epic fantasy, book one of a series, and the 50,000 will only be the first half. I'm hoping to make it early and I'm using my blogs this year along with the novel writing.

I will have a schedule for both this blog and my it's in the book blog.

Schedule for this blog.

October is prep month for NaNoWriMo. The manager/creator of the October prep challenge has given me permission to post this year's prep work on my blog. I will have a blog post with each week's assignments up for those that want to try doing the prep but aren't on I will do one week at a time to give people time to work on them and in case I want to expand on certain topics that week, like maybe one on premise, but we'll see. The prep work I do for my epic fantasy will be posted on my other blog.

November is novel writing month. Woot!  Probably won't post as often, though it's hard to tell, but will try to get some updates posted at least a few times during the month. Plan to be writing and maybe even get 50k down by the 20th of the month. The best I've done is in March of this year I wrote 50k in 15 days. We'll have to see how this year goes. Hopefully all this stuff posted on my blog for my followers to see will keep me going through the month.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Query tips I learned from Kristin Nelson

Say Goodbye to the Slushpile: The Pitch Paragraph

Who is Kristin Nelson?
"Kristin has her B.A. from the University of Missouri at Columbia and is a graduate of the nationally respected University of Denver Publishing Institute. In the early nineties, she studied creative writing with National Book Award Nominee Patricia Henley at Purdue University where she earned her M.A. This makes her particularly interested in representing fiction. Before opening her own agency, she learned the ropes working for another literary agent. As for her previous work history, Kristin has been a college English teacher, a freelance writer, and a corporate trainer for business communication topics before embracing her true passion of agenting."
Bio Source:

While many different bits of information was given at the workshop, with email tidbits and a query breakdown, I'm going to focus on the pitch paragraph of the query because that was the focus of the workshop. There is also an activity and I will share with you all what I wrote. Yes, it is pretty bad but I'll show you what I tried to get done during the workshop.

The Pitch Paragraph

This is the section in the query that should catch the agents attention. It can often read like the back cover of a published novel, or inside the flap of a hardback book. The job of the pitch paragraph is to highlight the plot element that forms the catalyst for the rest of the novel.

The catalyst should be found within the first 30 pages of the novel. (Note: this doesn't mean there aren't any other areas of conlict added that lead to the climax. This is just the first one that is key to leading the main character towards that climax and/or major conflict, decision, etc.)

On average, the paragraph should be 7 to 10 sentences total.

To find the catalyst: list the events that open the novel. Then decide which plot element is the most important and sets the rest of the novel in motion. So, we had to do just that... find the catalyst.

Want to see mine? Well, there isn't really a choice because I'm making myself post what I wrote so here is my "catalyst" that I actually wasn't even using when I first attempted writing a pitch/query.

Closest thing to a friend Ephram has shows an ability from genetic mutation that he will have to report to the men in suits, government agency. The result of his telling leads ot regret, goals of seclusion and a revolution of his current role as a tattle.

Good thing that's just me trying to find the catalyst and not an actual pitch line.

Next, we had to write it down in 1 sentence.

On mine, I struggled very much so. Some words are crossed out or changed but I'll try and post it all.

A young mutant (tattle tell) has to tell the men in suits (realizes the consequences of his telling) when a friend shows signs of genetic mutation...

I didn't finish the full sentence. Sad, I know.

The hardest part of the one sentence, and the pitch paragraph, seemed to be the consequence of the catalyst. Everyone that brought up their sentences and paragraphs for examples on the CD struggled with the consequence and I know I had issues with that too. What is the consequence of the catalyst for the main character?

To shape the pitch paragraph from that one sentence consider the details that support the catalyst. This includes backstory, other inter-related plot and character insights. Also includes that pesky consequence.

Then comes the challenge. Write a pitch paragraph that has 7-10 sentences. In the time given, which was plenty of time considering the challenge and workshop, I wrote 5 sentences. Yeah... Here is my very rough version of a pitch paragraph using the catalyst from the first 30 pages of the novel, Tattle Tell.

Unlike most, Ephram Gray's genetic mutation was discovered at birth, leaving him already identified and monitored. Which would be fine if the government didn't use him as their personal tattle source for finding other mutants. It's even worse when one of his limited number of friends shows signs of mutation, forcing him to tattle. He soon discovers the truth behind the identification process, the men in suits, and he must make a decision. Either risk having to tell on another friend or accept the life of a loser and a tattle tale.

It's not the best pitch paragraph ever, but it's a start. And thanks to Kristin I now know to use the first conflict (catalyst) instead of the last one leading to the climax. She was amazing as a presenter and I've definitely learned a great amount of information from the workshop.

Now for you.
Have you ever written a query?
Going to try?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

World Building

Writing Worlds That Work by Carol Berg

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Who is Carol Berg?
"I am a writer of epic fantasy novels: ten published, one forthcoming, and two more in the process of bubbling up from wherever the ideas come from. Where did I come from? Though my home is at the foot of the Colorado Rockies, my roots are in Texas in a family of teachers, musicians, and railroad men... Since Transformation was published in 2000, my novels have won the Prism Award for best romantic fantasy, the Geffen Award for translated fantasy, and multiple Colorado Book Awards. They have been short-listed for the Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award and for the Barnes and Noble Maiden Voyage Award, both given for the best first science fiction/fantasy/horror novel and for the Romantic Times Book Club Reviewers’ Choice Award for epic fantasy."
Other Page:

Now for my notes from the Writing Worlds That Work Workshop.
World Building

First, you will need compelling characters. Then a setting that is so real the readers believe, become involvedin, aspects in the novel that may not even exist in the real world. But what is the difference between the wolrd and the setting?

Setting v. World

Setting is the where and the when of the story.

World is beyond the setting. It is the entire, interconnecting reality combined as backdrop that encompasses all characters, story, setting, etc. This goes beyond the story both before and after. Compared to an iceberg, the story is the portion that people will see but the rest is under the water.

There are a few options with world building. It doesn't have to be brand new worlds for a writer to actually work on world building. One option is to world build on a certain time and place in the real world. Another is to have something close to Earth but has elements that aren't found there. Another is to completely invent a new world, which still can have realism elements borrowed.
Key element to world building - Research!

While the story is often more important than the world, but it can be a good idea for certain novels. But it can seem like a daunting task to do when considering all the different elements that go into building a world. In order to get the would built, start with a segment of that world, any segment and go from there. Like writing the story, it's not always easy but it's almost impossible if you don't start. Those segments that you choose, however, should be ones that are key elements in the story because it's better to start with something you know that you'll need then an obscure fact that probably won't end up in the series ever.

After you start, don't do all of the world building before writing the first draft.  It's risky to do too much up front because it can become a form of procrastination, and/or too much information may be developed that will stunt the writing.

Some things to consider when world building:

    How do characters make a living?
    How is the economy reflected in different locations?
    What resources are available?
    Are there any exports/imports?
    What are the class rankings?
    What objects have value and why?

Diversity of races & langagues
    Are there clashing customs?
    What are group prejudices and are they based on reality/myths?
    What changes have occurred in history with the races/languages?
    Consider religion, science and beliefs of the races.

Racial and gender roles
    How do the roles relate during the times of the story and place.
    Don't force present day sensibilities if not realistic for story.

    Why are the cities(places) in their location? What is their reason? (river, etc)
    What does the location have access to?
    Do they have power?
    How much exploration is done?
    What does one set/location of people know about others in different places?
    If they don't know much, why not?
    Are there any geographic barriers?
    There needs to be log in the weather and geology.
    Tip: don't always copy Great Britain (has been done a few times in fantasy).
    Empires don't happen overnight.
    Have there been conquests in past or attempts made?
    What changes have occured over time in the land?

    What are the boundaries between magic, divinity, mythology and science?
    Are there flaws?
    How important is the Divine?
    How does human experience factor into things?
    Are there any myths? legends? important rituals? superstitions?
    Is there a range of believers? skeptics - believe a little - middle - fundamentalists

Magic (linked to the supernatural)
    Magic should have rules, limits and consequences.
    Why can't magic solve all problems? (food preservation, housing, etc)
    How does society in general feel about it?
    Does everyone know there is magic?
    Can anyone do it or is it special?
    Is it okay to use magick or is it banned?

Also, in world building, consider the world beyond the limited scope of the story. In theory, it should feel like the world existed before your characts had their story and it should, at the end of the novel, feel like the world will continue after it.

The information shouldn't be dumped in huge clumps. Remember the post on Exposition? That will come in handy with world information. One thing to remember is to layer/scatter the information in, making sure not to put too much in one spot.

This is a good start. There are many other places to look for information on world building. Despite having three different novels with a first draft done on each, I had never done world building. Not even for the mutant novels. But I am world building for the first time now with my steampunk idea. It's different but I can already tell it's going to be useful.

How about you? Do you world build?
Ever consider trying it, if you haven't yet?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lessons from Connie Willis

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It Gets Complicated - the middle of the novel
Plot Exposition - Where to Put It

Who is Connie Willis?
Author who "recently inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, has received six Nebula Awards and ten Hugo Awards for her fiction; her previous novel, Passage, was nominated for both. Her other works include Doomsday Book, Lincoln’s Dreams, Bellwether, Impossible Things, Remake, Uncharted Territory, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Fire Watch, and Miracle and Other Christmas Stories. Connie Willis lives in Colorado with her family."
 More Info:

Middle of Novel

The middle of the novel is very important, though it gets less recognition than the ending and far less than the beginning when it comes to writing advice. The workshop at the RMFW conference by Connie Willis on the middle was awesome. Here are some tidbits from that workshop.

The middle of the novel should follow logic in the story by keeping the conflict going throughout the middle of the novel. Often this involves the things that go wrong in the story.

Delays in the plot or the scenes can add a little suspense. Even little delays can help to make things remain interesting in the middle portion of the novel. Or have a deadline in the story (not just deadlines to write it). Different deadlines will add certain elements of emergency and time constraints to the middle section, making it less of a slum part.

In this aspect, mystery novels have a great usage of the middle part because there are often warnings or clues that exist but sometimes have been ignored by the reader. Those elements are helpful for creating the end.

Next, consider how emotions affect the plot.

Remember that with many actions and decisions made there might be unintended consequences that they character didn't consider but could complicate things more.

And a favorite "trick" used in great writing that isn't really a trick = The Reversal

Consider the movie "A Beautiful Mind" because it does this well. Another example is the movie "The Sixth Sense". I'd recommend watching those movies at least once.

How this works? The move is going along with the plot and readers think they know what's going on when all of a sudden, the story goes off in a surprising direction that changes everything the reader/watcher knew from the beginning. Yet the evidence is there; it just wasn't interpreted that way until the reversal happens. What this does is it changes the nature of the questions the readers have been asking before the reversal.

There was a lot more but those are the tips from my notes.

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Plot Exposition

This dealt with the different aspects of backstory and other explanations that could fall under the dilemma of an info dump. While some of it isn't necessary, there are different times when that exposition can be very important to the story. And the workshop gave many tips on how to do exposition without overdoing it.

One option is to give information through dialogue, but this technique can be overdone or used in the wrong way. For example, there is a character some people use whenever they want information to be given through dialogue. This doesn't work when the characters talking are both people who would already know the information. Often the dialogue starts with "As you know..." or something similar. But having someone who is new or young and doesn't know the information is a character that can be used during certain times when information is needed to be given to the reader. Also, in dialogue, arguments can be used to tell stuff that the character may already know because people will do that in fights.

Some information is more necessary than others. Grounding, for example, is the telling of key information that happens near the beginning of the novel. Information can be prioritized based upon the concept of "on a need to know basis."

Where do background and other explanations go?
They should be scattered throughout the novel in a few different methods of "telling" in order to give the information but not to dump it on the reader. This shouldn't be done at unrealistic moments, like in the heat of action. When being shot at by laser guns, most people won't go into a story about their history or about how the laser gun works. Trust me!

Don't leave/start giving the reader too many things to question that they don't have any answers for yet.

Don't directly tell the reader the character's sate of emotions. This is linked to the "show don't tell" rule of writing.

And consider indirection as a tool to show character.

Last bit of advice on getting books signed by other authors.
"When you are having a book signed by an author, always have them sign it to your real name, not your pen name."
One of the reasons was to keep the ego of the pen name separate from the rest of your life/ego. Which does make sense to some degree but I'll add a little to it. The pen name is the person's focus on writing. The books are fiction signed by other people who have already been published. Make sense to anyone else? Hope so because that's the end of this explanation.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Novel Influence

Novel influence is one reason that some writers don't read books similar to theirs or in their genre when writing a novel. But how much does a novel really influence a writer?

I don't really have any statistics to tell you how much the reading of novels will influence a single reader so instead, I can just talk about how reading books recently has influenced new novel ideas for me.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Border Patrol, and pregnant woman idea

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is one amazing novel. I have never read a zombie novel, I didn't watch any zombie movies even though were supposed to watch several for policy debate (for a capitalism negative). Yet, despite the fact taht I haven't read much in the past 3 years, I read this book in 24 hours. If you haven't read it, you should give at least the first book a try. I haven't read the second book because I'm waiting for the paperback to come out. But I will read it when it does.

The Border Patrol is an idea that I might write soon, which is dystopian. The name is a work in progress title, so it will probably change but it's the idea that has some obvious influence from The Forest of Hands and Teeth. No zombies. Instead there are different types of monsters that hunt humants. There is a village in the mountains, where one main character is from and the second main character's family barely makes it there alive. The border is kind of like a fence, only done with magic. It's similar to the fence in the published novel because it keeps the "monsters" out.

The pregnant woman main character story sparked from a blogfest involving breaking the rules and I got the idea when I was reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth (took me 24 hours to read, with some sleep in the middle). Granted, it's not similar to the published novel because no zombies, or fences, or any similar characters. But the overall tone of the novel affected the tone of the novel I'm developing.

Shiver and The Pack (working title, not all that serious)

Shiver has a pretty cool idea in werewolves. I haven't really been into werewolves before, except for the movie Ginger Snaps Back, which is a horror movie about windegos (has some similarities to werewolves). The idea is that the one character is a wolf when it's cold and human when it's hot outside. But they don't always change, but I won't get into that. Also, they are wolves or humans, not a crossbreed of human-wolf.

My idea involves werewolves that are wolves a year or so then humans a year or so. MC is an older teen boy who stands up against a pack of bullies for a weaker friend and it seems to work. But they "jump" him on his way home from school. Leader forces him to do something and he thinks this is just a move to show him not embarrass the group again. But the truth is he has been chosen to join their pack. There is more that goes on, blah blah blah, not going to say it all. But at first I wasn't interested because of the werewolves, and the love triangle... then the second book idea came up too. The situation in the Rocky Mountains years ago, where the wolves were removed and taken to Canada. Made me wonder what would happen if they were wolves during the move and the new wolf woke up in human form somewhere in Canada with no idea where he was. The idea has ahold of me now. Darn the idea!

While most of my ideas come from random dreams and such, there are times when published novels influence me.

So, what about you?
Has a published novel you read or heard of, ever influence your own writing?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speak loudly

Martin Niemoller -
“First They Came for the Jews”

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

This is a poem that we used to use for National Day of Silence when I was an officer (secretary, president, treasurer) of the Gay Straight Alliance in Ogden, Utah. While it is in relation to the Holocaust, the overall message of the poem is useful in many different contexts. If you are unwilling to speak out, even when the topic doesn't affect you, there may be a day when you need the help and no one will be there to speak out for you. Which brings to the reason many blogs are talking about speaking out...

I haven't read the book people are talking about right now, the one that this blog post is about, which is SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. I was going to do a banned book week at one point but with the confernece, october prep month and november novel writing month, it's going to be a long time before I can post on it. So, I'm throwing this one post in between conference topics because it's important.

SPEAK is being banned because the character in the book is raped, which is a key element to the novel. On top of that, someone is actually saying that the rape scene is pornography (even though the term would be obscene, but I won't do that rant here, I promise). The link for the article about the banning is HERE. There is also a dispute over the sex education because they are teaching about reproduction...

This doesn't surprise me. I do have a different story not related to rape but it shows how just the word "sex" scares parents when it comes to any school, even High School. I volunteered for three years at a drop-in center for GLBTQ teens (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning) in Ogden, Utah.  We were given a bunch of abstinence only stuff from an organization. Not because they were trying to force abstinence on the gay teens (though I'm sure they didn't mind giving us the message that even we could be abstinent for awhile). They gave it to us because they could not hand out the pencils, stickers and little flashlight thingy at the schools in Ogden. The reason they couldn't hand it out is because they said "wait for sex". The schools ban handing out anything that has the word "sex" on it, even if it is telling people to wait. For real.

Parents don't want their kids to be around sex, just like kids don't want to know that their parents have sex. The only thing is the parents have a little more power, and sometimes too much power to control what goes on.

Now, I don't think if the student is overly uncomfortable with the subject matter of a book, they should be forced to read it. But there has to be a line. Should one parents single complaint affect the rest of students in that school forever? No. Maybe they can ask that their child be given an alternative assignment, or something. But one parent not liking a book shouldn't mean no one ever gets to read it.

Besides, don't these parents know what happens when books are banned? As soon as you ban a book, that means the students will actually want to read it. Students are a little less likely to like a book when they are forced to read it in school, but tell them they can't read it at all... not a bright move. I bet at some point, that parent's kid is going to read SPEAK in part because they were told not to read it.

Buy the book:
10th Anniversary Edition on Amazon
on Barnes and Noble
on Borders web site
from Books A Million

So, my advice here is: Think Before You Ban!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Conference Tips

If you have the chance, and can afford to, go to a conference in person at least once. (Online is good too, but doesn't have the same, face to face aspect.) And for once I'm going to flat out give advice. I've been to two conferences, small and not as small sized, and have some tips to share with you all.

Where to sit?
In front, if possible. I know some people prefer the back, to be away from the presenter and the chance of being called upon because the front row is fair game for any speaker, but that's why it's better to sit in front. While many writers are introverted by nature (I'm shy, I promise. Very shy.) much can be attained from sitting close to the front of the room at a conference. In college, some statistics state that those sitting in the front row and in the middle sections of rows have a tendency to get higher grades than the rest. Okay, workshops don't get grades but maybe those in conferences could get more from the presentation but that is just my own speculation. It does, however provide more opportunities.

I moved to the front after sitting through a not as useful workshop on networking and because of that, had Connie Willis (science fiction author and winner of many Hugo and Nebula awards) come up and start a conversation with me. Had a little fan girl moment there once I read her name tag but managed to keep talking about A Beautiful Mind and such. Even brought up the Sixth Sense for how the plot in the middle of the story worked and she mentioned it in her speech (which she probably planned to mention because her knowledge of books and movies is amazing but I can pretend).

In the workshop run by agent Kristin Nelson, on how to get out of the slushpile, I could have spoke with the agent during a break when we were working on the pitch paragraphs because I was in the front row. Granted, I was actually speaking to the person next to me, and I had a second of panic but if I'd really wanted to, that would have been a good moment.

I could have one more but that will be in the take opportunities section.

 Talk to people
 Yes. Even if you are really shy like me, you should try and talk to people when at a conference. Either approach people and start talking, or you can stand/sit on your own because other people will also approach you. Just don't be afraid to talk to anyone. It is actually one of the perks to going to a writing conference. Everyone is there to talk about writing and they all understand the characters doing whatever they want, talking to different characters and the other aspects found in writing. They understand it all, which is very freeing for those of us that don't have many writers around in real life. And it is different to talk in person than to talk online.  If you are with a group of people, go ahead and enjoy time with them but at least once, get out on your own to meet new people. Trust me, it's good for you.

Never know who you will have a conversation with at a conference.

and the big one...

Take chances and opportunities if they arise.
This is true for not only writing conferences/conventions but also in general. There may be times when you should turn down an opportunity, there is a difference between doing what you can and doing too much, which rarely leads to great things. But if you have the opportunity to do something, then go with it. This can be small or big.

Example: I'm not a vocal person usually. When watching a presenter in a large enough room, I know my input isn't needed. But during the last workshop of the conference, on writing endings, the questions part brought about a question the presenter didn't feel suited to answer. Since she wrote mostly stand alone novels, she didn't feel she had the answer for people trying to write endings in series. So, I raised my hand to give an answer and got the microphone handed to me. The workshops were taped for those that wanted to buy the ones they couldn't get to see. My answer is on the cd of the ending workshop because I put myself out there even though, I hate talking in microphones. I'm very self conscious about it because I don't feel I understand how the work or how to hold them in the right way.

Have you ever gone to a conference?
Would you go to one (again)?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

RMFW Conference Aftermath

Hi. This weekend I was at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) Colorado Gold Conference and it was awesome!

There is just so much that I could post right now thanks to the conference. Talk about brain overload. Between the knowledge, workshops, discussions, panels and people's names, my brain is exhausted. If I saw most the people I met there (with a few exceptions) a week from now, I don't think I'll remember them because it was just too many names for one weekend. But I still loved it. This post is a general, this is random stuff that happened. There will be specific posts with things I learned at the different activities. The ones I really enjoyed and got the most out of will get their own posts because I took notes for you all.

It was so crazy that I don't know where to begin. So, I'm going to do this. I'm going to list the events I went to, small bits of advice I learned but don't want to dedicate a whole post to the topic and then tell you all the books I bought (9 of them, all signed).

The Workshops
I went to several workshops, though some were hard to choose from because two or three really good ones were held at the same time. I missed the first editors panel, for example, which had the fantasy/sci-fi editors because there was no way I was going to leave my front row seat (people sat on floor even) in Kristin Nelson's query workshop. What I went to at the conference:

Welcome to RMFW - Getting to Know Your Characters - Neworking: Sowing the Seeds of Success - It Gets Complicated: Dealing with the Middle of Your Novel - Rhythm and Cadence and Beats, Oh My! - Agent Panel One - As Miss Piggy Says, It Has To Go Somewhere - Searching for Harry Potter: Key Elements of YA - He Said, She Said: Writing the Opposite Sex - Writing Worlds That Work - Say Goodbye to the Slushpile - Editor Panel Two - Revising Fiction: Making Sense of the Madness - The End is Near! Now What Do I Do?

Yep, I went to all those.

Random Advice

With Marketing Self: Consider the people you need to make a career from writing, write those down and then across from them on the list write down what you could give them in exchange.

From Revision Workshop: Write in scenes. Scene changes occur when POV shifts, skipping time (hours, days, etc), or sudden moves of location.
Also, Show v Tell. Tell draws a conclusion for the reader, instead of letting them come to their own conclusions.

Pitch (query workshop) - The pitch should have the catalyst, which should be located in the first 30 pages. (Not the big, near the end part of the conflict, which is what I had been doing. Good to know.)

There will be much more advice over the next week or so. I'm going to post one blog entry on my own advice for attending conferences along with doing posts using the information I received at the workshops. And I will even post the stuff I wrote during the query workshop, which is really bad. So, you can see my horrible attempt at the pitch part of the query (people were struggling to get under 10 lines and I barely managed to get 5 lines, just saying).

Books I Bought:

Two books signed by authors specifically to me.
Dooms Day Book by Connie Willis
Heart Mate by Robin D. Owens

Book on Writing (signed)
Wild Ink: How to Write Fiction for Young Adults by Victoria Hanley

General signed fiction.
Cowboy Trouble by Joanne Kennedy
Bellwether by Connie Willis
Violet Wings by Victoria Hanley
The Witch of Agnesi by Robert Spiller
The Gods of Fate: Foresight by Sherry D. Ficklin

And the last one is different. I picked the book up because the cover interested me with the atomic type symbol and earth in the middle. The story information sounded information, involving a physicist so I took the book to the register. Turns out the books first printing had a slight error on the front cover. Instead of saying "13th" the front says "13", which according to the ones selling the books makes it a collector's item. And it was the only one they brought to the sale. Quite the little surprise.
The 13th Power by Terry Wright

Now, I need sleep because I've got work tomorrow.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Romance Novel Covers

Had trouble with the site all day, but finally am able to do the last post for the romance week. And it's a fun one. Today, I'm mostly posting pictures of Romance Novel book covers. There will be some commentary too, don't worry. It's a fun last post for the week. No posts will be up over the weekend as I'll be at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference.

Romance novels are notorious for their covers, which have some variety but often have a specific look to them. The covers will often have the couple on the picture, though the second common would be to have a single character (often the male, love interest). The type of romance, or subgenre, also influences the cover in some cases. Okay, let's look at some covers. (Note: all images were found in google images, not my own by any means, though that should be obvious. And if any of the books aren't romance, blame Google.)

And it wasn't easy to find romance but not erotica looking covers for any pairing.

The Couples

Let's consider the titles. And these were the better titles, for real, in the first 5 or so pages on google image of romance novels. OMG  There is one that seriously has the words "crack baby" as part of the title. Wow. Not only do the images have some things in common (I'll talk about the glaring male common factor in the single character section) but the titles are either very obvious or odd against the image. These images don't necessarily show that, but give google a try and you'll probably see what I mean.

Yes. It was difficult to find non-erotic, or just enough, book covers in the Google images of gay & lesbian romance novels. Not to mention, some of the covers were of a man and a woman, which they may include bi elements but that's hard to tell based upon the cover.

So, couple covers are common in romance novels. This is in part because it shows who the novel is about, because the story focuses around the two characters and their romance.

Single Characters

Notice anything? It seems that many romance novel covers with a man on it either has the guy shirtless or with something that still shows off his chest. Not something that appeals to me in the slightest, but  whatever works for their sales.  And it wasn't very easy finding a single female, or at least there weren't easy ones to in the first few pages. But the goal is to get the reader interested in the book and for the most part, Romance Novels know their target audience.

And that ends Romance Week. Yay!

What covers do you like for romance stories?
Did you have fun this week?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Love Triangles

The rant is here!

(Image  from Simply Solo)

(Image from Sandy Feet)

What is a love triangle?
This usually refers to two different types of situations where more than one person is involved, or the love interests are split and/or not to the same person. It can refer to more than three people, but three is the common number used. The two main types of situations is when two characters like/love the same person and that person has to choose between the two (Twilight, etc), or when person A likes person B but person B likes person C (Les Miserables, the musical at least). Often, in the case of the second type at least, one character is either the decoy and/or unrequited type of love. There are ones where the person doesn't have to choose between the two love interests but that's more of a menage, as opposed to a conflicted love triangle.

Rant time:
When I see a novel description that says love triangle, it makes me not want to read the book a bit. I should have a better reason, I'm sure, but it just bugs me. There will be an occasional one where I won't notice it as much. The books in this section are both pretty good books, but they illustrate my opinions pretty well.  ***possible spoilers on the books but no plot twists given***

I think there is sort of a love triangle in The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Carrie Ryan), but it's not the who will she choose happy type. It doesn't feel like a love triangle really and the main focus of the story is how the main character handles things and makes decisions for herself. She's not reliant on either of the possible choices of relationships. That type works for me. If I read the story and barely notice it might be a love triangle that is great. Which is why, I don't want the description to tell me there is a love triangle in the story. If it's there, I don't want it to be the most important part of the story because it's really hard to pull it off for me. Because there are so many possible problems.

Wings (Aprilynne Pike), is a good book with an interesting type of faerie and I really liked the character but there is a love triangle started in this first book that I didn't care for. The problem has to do with the overall story, which was necessary for the way it was written. And this one is a bit of a spoiler, but... She doesn't remember something important, which has to do with the second love interest and their history. But the reader doesn't know it either until the little bits at the very end. So, at first it's the human boy who works really hard and despite everything he experiences with her, is devoted and then this faerie male she has this unexplained attraction to that she can't help but practically swoon when he's around. Some people might like the different tension and the whole picking a team aspect, but I didn't like it. I just felt bad for the human boy. I liked the other aspects of the novel, just not the love triangle.

Twilight is the one people talk the most about but I've never read it. Okay, I read 4 pages of Twilight and that is all. So, I won't talk about it.

For me, it's hard to enjoy the story line if I don't see why the person is conflicted. This is more of a problem, it seems with the mc must choose between two(or so) love interest characters. The one character who loves another character who loves another character has its own set of problems but it's not quite as bad for me. One of my favorite songs is from the unrequited love character in the musical version of Les Miserables. Basically, I have a harder time believing the love triangle and sometimes it seems to be put in just to have the added conflict instead of it really being needed in the story. Those are the worse, because the love triangle should only be used if needed in the story and not just because the writer thinks some readers will like it or that it's necessary for extra conflict.

Web sites:

And another picture just for fun.

(Image Source: toppun)

Your Opinion

Do you like love triangles? No?
Do you write love triangles in your stories?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Romance Plots

Yes, there is plot in romance. ;-)

Main Plots

This is where the romance novels fall under. The main plot of the novel is the romance storyline. So, to reiterate, the whole story is based around the love, relationship and the conflicts that occur within it. And there isn't much else to explain. So, I looked up a few different plots of romance novels and the link is found below.

The Bet - This one annoys me a little bit. Think the movie She's All That. He helps the girl, trying to make her prom queen material based on a bet and they fall for each other. After she finds out it was a bet there is a conflict but then it gets worked out.

Adversary - the love/hate types. In the story there is strong conflict between the two characters, which can make it hard to have the right balance because it still needs to be believable that they fall for each other.

Star Crossed Lovers - The Romeo & Juliet type, the fated, young lovers that are kept apart. It usually ends on a sad note and can be considered more of an anti-romance for those that follow the trope of romance always ending well.

The Best Friend (right under your nose) - This is the one where the friend has been there a long time, but it takes some type of twist (often the one friend being engaged to someone else in movies) for the one to realize they have been in love with the other the whole time.

Some good Web sites:

Sub Plots

Many of the romance tropes can work in the sub-plot, only they aren't the main point of the plot. These novels can be found in any genre or subgenre, where there is a main plot (quest, adventure, coming of age, etc) and one of the twisting side stories that make the novel more substantial has a romance storyline. It can intertwine with the main plot, having an effect on the results, like falling in love and the villain uses the love interest as bait. Fantasy is one example of a genre that can include a romance story line even when the main plot isn't.

Sub plots of romance are what I strive for in a number of my own stories. Sure, the romances are fun, to focus full on the conflicts of the relationship, but to have an exciting mutant adventure and a relationship involved is just as fun (or more).

The problem of some romance lines is that there should be a reason for the subplot. An author shouldn't tack on the subplot just because they think the reader needs a romance. This is sometimes called a "token romance" and can be off-putting for some readers. Not every story needs a romance storyline in it, and knowing when to put it in and when to leave it out of the manuscript is just one of the many aspects of writing that will take practice.

Done right, in a story where the romance works well with the main plot, a romance subplot will not only get readers interested, but enhance the overall story of the novel.

Which do you prefer in reading or writing: romance as main plot or as subplot?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Romance Characters

Characters are key for romance novels and for subplots. Both the main character and the love interest have to have enough appeal and then believability that they will get together even if some readers would rather the character end up with someone else. The characters depend a little on whether the romance is a main focus of the plot or if it's just a subplot. Dual point of view is more common in romance stories, for example, but that can also be done in romance as a subplot. Characters give us readers the "aww" moment, for without them there would be no romance.

Main Character (hero or heroine)
(side characters can have romances but we'll focus on main ones this week)
The main character, the one the story is about, is the one that will be the POV character for a larger percentage of the story. Even with split POV novels, there is usually one that has more chapters than the other, at least in romance novels. Often times this charcter is female when talking about romance, but with subplots (and sometimes with full romance plot) the male can be a main character.

It's not easy to write the main character as fresh, unsterotypical and interesting for the reader to follow. The reader has to "like" the character enough to read the book but there has to be certain flaws to make the character realistic. Like any genre, there are some stereotypes that some people still like but others get tired of reading. The virgin main character is an example from romance novels.

How the character falls in love is another aspect because the meet one time and immediate infatuation may work for some readers, but those that are like me won't find that very believable. But we have a couple hundred pages to develop the love story and the first aspect is really interest to get the ball rolling.

Love Interest
This character is key for a romance plot/subplot. Would be very difficult to have a romance without the love interest, at least one that readers would want to see in a book. The love interest is just that, the person the character falls in love with in the story. Usually, if the MC is female, then the love interest is male. GLBT is considered an exception and separated from general lines, though as most will know those are the types I write.

The love interest is one fun aspect of a story, though it can be a struggle. Sometimes the person the author plans the MC to fall for doesn't work out and instead someone else ends up being the actual love interest. I haven't had this happen yet but have heard authors talk about it. Getting the right chemistry between characters is key and the love interest can't be a cardboard character either.

It takes the Pair
One doesn't work well without the other, the MC and Love Interest, for a romance story. Not including the exceptions, these two characters make up the start of a good romance subplot or main plot. Without them, it would just be another story.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Week of Romance

Romance Week is here and I'm going to spend the several days talking about different aspects of romance plots and books.

(Image Source: Aquarian Age Romance)

What is romance(in fiction)?  The romance novel is a book that focuses on the relationship and romantic love, almost always between two people, and usually has a satisfying, optimistic ending.

The genre, as a whole, tends to have very strict structure to the novels that do have some exceptions but not all that often. A good book to read on writing romance novels is "On Writing Romance" by Leigh Michaels. It is a useful novel for general romance writing, which I got for christmas from one of my stepsisters. However, from the very beginning, I could tell my writing isn't as helped by the book because it's one of the exceptions that exist.

Why do I say mine is an exception from the very beginning? Well, the book On Writing Romance defines the romance genre as a relationship between a man and a woman. Yeah, I don't write that. My romance/erotica novel is man and man. Exception to the rule. lol

Though, romance isn't always the main plot(genre). Most of the other genres and subgenres can have romance subplots. Through this week, I will post not only on the romance novel but also the use of a romance subplot, how much I don't like love triangles, the creepiness of romance novel covers and the characters themselves.

Topics for the week:
(In no particular order)
Main Characters
Love Triangles
Main versus Sub plot
Novel Covers

Hope you enjoy this week.

Do you like romance? Do you write it?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Epic/High Fantasy

My favorite genre to read when I was in high school was Epic Fantasy. Dragonlance series, well 3 of the books because by the time I heard there was a 4th in that particular series I was already done and felt it finished well after book 3. I read 3 books in Robert Jordan's series (okay, maybe a slight trend but I do intend to finish the whole series at some point). I loved them. Epic fantasy rules in my opinion.

(Image Source:

What is Epic/High Fantasy? Why combine the two words?
Most consider them interchangeable and web searches to define them come up with pages that use one or the other first but refer to both as the same thing.
Epic/High Fantasy is a subgenre often set in invented or parallel worlds where the heroes have an adventure of epic proportions. Is often linked to sword and sorcery, though not all sword and sorcery is epic/high fantasy. There are usually different species along with humans that have enough humanity to them that they will work as a character, though an all human cast is possible. High fantasy can be in reference to the type of story, setting or the characters while Epic means the story is... Epic.

Don't often see first person in epic fantasy, at least not as often as some of the other subgenres like Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance. And it's possible to have more than 2 main characters, although they will all have different degrees of importance. While this may be offputting for some, it also allows for people to root for different characters and read about them for long enough sections of book to keep that interest (and not just the love triangle, which one will the MC pick type of rooting for a character).

Also, because the story lines are epic, books in this subgenre are often series. This is good and bad in a few different ways. Series are popular right now, maybe not epic fantasy but still, because people enjoy following the character they grow to love through more than one book. If the story is really epic then it would be one really long long book (even more so than they already are. Scary huh?). Series allows for reasonable page counts per book. But sometimes the series last a little too long. Even I'll admit 15 books in a single series is a bit much.

There can be problems with the genre. Too many books for a single series is one of them, which can lead to another problem. Formulaic writing. While having a template for novels can work for some veteran writers, it can be hard to keep an epic series going without falling into some type of pattern that some readers may not appreciate. Epic/high fantasy is a subgenre with a strong past making some believe that innovation is unnecessary because what works has already been determined. But there is still room for originality in new novels, which I hope occurs because when I'm not doing research reading in other subgenres I want to read new epic/high fantasy.

Instead of listing books to read for this genre (just look up epic or high fantasy in google, amazon or barnes and noble), I think it will be fun to post the "formula" that is used on a few different web sites to showcase how originality is needed even in epic/high fantasy. I got the so called formula from Will Kalif, posted on

"The formula for success:

Create a bunch of interesting non human characters like orcs, dragons, elves or dwarves of course your hero should be human or nearly human

Put them in a fantastical world filled with magic and secret places

Open up your novel with something exciting to get the reader hooked

Keep the action moving - insert a series of small obstacles that need to be overcome

foreshadow something really big that will happen (won't happen in this novel though -if it ever happens at all)

Come up with two big things that will happen and when they are resolved they cancel each other out so the plot hasn't advanced at all

Make a big lead up to the next novel (promise the moon)

Repeat steps 3-7 in the next novel

Before you follow this formula (Which is guaranteed to make you a wealthy and successful novelist in less than 30 days) why don’t you stop and think about why you want to write epic fantasy."

Notice how a couple of them are general writing rules (like start the novel with a hook and keep the action moving cause doing nothing for long books is boring)?  If not, you have now.

Now I'll admit something. Someone may wonder, if Epic/High fantasy is my favorite to read why am I not writing in it? I'm a little intimidated. I have an idea for a series (not 10 or more books, I promise) and it was one of the first ideas I've had for a novel. Started out historical fiction, so yeah, it has evolved but the story hasn't changed in the last five years. While I have the idea, I'm just not sure if my skills are up to par with writing an epic/high fantasy, though it is my goal to one day write a novel with elves and mages in it. Plus, I have all those other pesky novels that I've chosen to write first (though in some way the mutant series can be viewed as epic in the grande scope of it all). So, I hope to write epic/high fantasy in the future.

What about you? Do you read epic/high fantasy?
Anyone write it?