December 2017 Archives

Im writing a first draft

I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.
Shannon Hale

What Goes Up

whatgoesup.jpgWhat Goes Up (Bloomsbury, 2017) by Katie Kennedy is a scifi novel written in two viewpoints. I loved it!

Both Eddie and Rosa are applying to NASA's Interworlds Agency tryouts. Only two out of 200 just done with their junior year students will make the cut. Two days of testing. And confirmation that there are aliens. The math and physics exams aren't too unusual, but the idiosyncratic exams are something else. Rosa should make the cut--look at her background. But Eddie--he's trouble.

The book has humor, danger, romance, friendship, sorrow, and more. Don't miss it.

You can read Katie's bio here. She also has another book out--Learning to Swear in America--another scifi. I need to get it.


Serving Up Tempting Titles

cover-1179704_1920.jpgThe right title feels so perfect. Delicious even. But if you don't have a perfect title, maybe you're struggling to have any title. (Yes, I know titles are often changed before publication, but you have to call your manuscript something before you can submit!) What do you do if you're stuck?

Here are some ideas. If one idea alone doesn't work, try a combination.

Think about the theme of your book or magazine piece. Can you narrow it down to a few words? Does rewording it work for a title? Is there one word that is especially strong in your theme? Maybe the main character's name and that word (or a synonym for that word) would work as a title for fiction.

Summarize the plot in one sentence and see if you can pull a piece out of that for the title. Or what is some interesting action that happens in the story? Sometimes a single verb makes a good title. Or use the character's name and an action verb.

Look at short quotes, sayings or clich├ęs. Could one become a title with a slight twist? Once for an article about a science writing contest, I used "It's Not Just Rocket Science." Or could a partial saying work? A recent book I read was called What Goes Up (by Katie Kennedy). The end of that adage might be an interesting title as well.

Is there something special about the setting? Could that be part of your title? I think of the song Rocky Mountain High. It'd be a different piece replacing High with Low. My friend's book combines setting, main character, and action--Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3 by Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan is a picture book.

What about your main character? Does she have a nickname? It might be his own personal one for himself. Or your quick summary of that character. I once titled a story "Ice Princess" since the main character was hiding a weakness by trying to appear perfect. Does your character have a motto? Could that be the title? What's the character's main problem? Once a publisher sent a book to me for rewriting. It was called What's that Smell? which sounded too much like nonfiction. I changed the title to The Smell of Trouble which hinted at the problem in the story and both the editor and I were happy.

Could your title ask a question? Once I called a short story "Who Do You Tell?" Or quote a line or piece of dialogue in your book or story. I've used this often. Some examples are "No Way!" and "Just a Minute."

I like titles that are puns or have more than one meaning. A student titled a story "In the Dog House"--not only was the main character in trouble, but the story included a dog. Perfect.

Think about descriptions in your book. If you have an analogy or metaphor that might make an interesting title.

What have you been calling your book privately? Could you play with that?

What about your antagonist? Would his name or title or label make a good title?

Perhaps try rhyme or alliteration with some of the title ideas you do have. Does that freshen it up? Give it a twist? Or try assonance.

Make a list of as many ideas as you can come up with. If you don't find one that you like, try taking half of one and putting it with half of another. If you're still frustrated, I suggest sleeping on it. I often find my subconscious plays with ideas while I'm asleep.

Have other ideas for title brainstorming? Feel free to share in the comments.


I begin with an idea

I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.
Pablo Picasso

Daughter of the Burning City

DaughterBurningCity.jpgIf you've read Caravel, I think you'll like Daughter of the Burning City (Harlequin Teen, 2017) by Amanda Foody, as they have a similar flavor.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina is the only illusion worker in the Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival, and she runs the Freak Show. All the freaks, except for Sorina herself, are her illusions come to life. They're one happy family until one of her illusions in murdered. Her adopted father, Villiam, the proprietor of the festival, is investigating the death, but he has too much else on his mind. So with the help of a new friend, Luca, Sorina starts her own investigation. Will she be able to protect her family?

This compelling book was Amanda Foody's debut novel. Ace of Shades comes out next April and is the first in The Shadow Games series. Read more about Amanda here.


Know your ending I say

Know your ending, I say, or the river of your story may finally sink into the desert sands and never reach the sea.
Isaac Asimov

Before She Ignites

BeforeSheIgnites.jpgBefore She Ignites (Katherine Tegan Books, 2017) by Jodi Meadows was such a compelling read written in two time periods BEFORE and AFTER. (And isn't that a lovely cover?)

The story begins with a BEFORE: "The last day of my real life began with disaster."

The speaker is Mira Minkoba and she is the Hopebearer. A treaty was written between six island nations and named after Mira the day she was born. She is the speaker to the people for the Luminary Council. Her father rarely pays attention to her and her mother is often disappointed.

AFTER, she's imprisoned in the Pit. Surely, she'll be rescued soon, Mira thinks. But meanwhile in the dark, she's trying not to panic. Without her calming pills. And without her friends. And with much worse to come than the dark.

This book is the first in a trilogy--yea! The author has also written the Incarnate trilogy and the Orphan Queen duology. Good. More for me to read while I await the sequels to this book. She's also a co-author with some other books.

You can read about Jodi and her books on her website here.

Continuous Verbs

abstract-2915769_640.jpg"Sometimes I'm guilty of lumping continuous verbs into the same category as passive verbs because both types, used incorrectly, create wordiness and cause slow, turgid writing that could be much livelier." Pearl Luke

Raising my hand to say, "me, too!" I'm always circling "was walking," "am running," "was throwing," etc. and telling my students to use a simple past tense: walked, ran, threw. My advice to writers is often, "Search for those 'ing' endings and see if the verb can be straight past tense."

Leah McClellan says, "When overused, -ing words in the progressive forms (whether past, present, or future tense) introduce too many weak, little words like am, are, is, was, were, been, have, has, and had--and more."

You may remember the term "helping verbs" from grade school. The italicized verbs above are helping the main verb. However, those main verbs are strong enough to live on their own.

Let's look at a few examples with the "ing" removed:
"They were standing on the corner by the high school." - "They stood on the corner by the high school."
"She is brushing her hair." - "She brushes her hair."
"He has been walking his dog." - "He walked his dog."

Does that mean you never use an "ing" on a verb? Of course not. But if it is the only verb in the sentence, limit the use. Sometimes it is necessary in context.

We need it in phrases. "While walking the dog, Mandy called her best friend." "Shaking his head, Mike set his books on the table." In both of these cases, we are indicating two actions that are happening at the same time. If they are not simultaneous, they might look like this: "Mandy walked the dog, then called her best friend." "Mike shook his head and set his books on the table." Just make sure the actions are possible to do at the same time when using a phrase.

We use it correctly in examples such as this one: "They were eating dinner when I arrived."

It's necessary when using the verb as a gerund. "Skiing is my passion." Or "Reading is how I relax at night." Leah McClellan says, "Gerunds are useful because they point to the essence of an action--the concept or thing-ness of it--rather than the action in performance."

But, remember, in simple sentences less "ing" is clearer and more concise.


A writer never has a

A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.
Eugene Ionesco

The Lost Girl of Astor Street

Lost-Girl-of-Astor-Street.jpgThe Lost Girl of Astor Street (Blink, 2017) by Stephanie Morrill was a hard to put down historical mystery with a very likable tough female main character. I enjoyed the book a lot.

Eighteen-year-old Piper Sail's best friend disappears two weeks before graduation and Piper is determined to find out what happens to Lydia. Along the way she finds out some uncomfortable truths about her own family, is disturbed out of her complacency about young men, and puts her own life at risk. The book is set during prohibition in Chicago.

The first sentence is a good description of Piper, "If he doesn't know it already, Jeremiah Crane is about to learn that I'm not the type of girl to be pushed around."

Author Stephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. You can read about her here and read about her other books here.