Friday, August 24, 2012

Paper vs. Computer, which is better?

Sorry for my also prolonged absent, I went on vacation and forgot some things. Anyways, this post was originally posted on Birds of a Writer.

Anyways, so today instead of rambling about books I will ramble about paper vs computers? Which is better? Or is there even a "better"?

Computers- Pros

  • Better organization. 
  • Its easier to store your files in multiple places. You can store them on your computer itself or on the internet. 
  • Easier to erase and add things. 
  • Easier way to share your story with multiple people. 
  • You can type up your project on different kinds of document writers besides Microsoft Office, like Scrivener, Wordpad, LibreOffice, and others. 
  • If you're a fast typist, you don't have to worry about messy hand writing and some people are faster typist then they are at handwriting. Its easy to change fonts too. 
  • You can store all your research and stuff into files for quick easy access. 
  • Your work can be password protected. 
Computers-Cons
  • If you want to put a document onto paper, then you have to print it off. And overtime, it'll cost lots of money. 
  • It might be easier to catch a virus, accidently delete something, or corrupt your project. 
  • If you change word processors (like when my Microsoft office stopped working and I had to convert all my files so they would work on different programs) you'll have to convert files. 
  • You can forget passwords or have something hacked.
  • If you share something online, there's always a chance it could be stolen. 
  • It can be easy to make a ton of files and loose stuff. 
  • Your computer can die and if you don't have backups, you'll loose your projects.
Paper- Pros
  • Like using different word processors, you can use different kinds of paper. 
  • You can use journals, notebooks, sketchbooks, or any other form of blank books to write in. You can even choose between lines and unlined (you can do choose this too on some word processors).
  • Different colored ink in pens, crayons, colored pencils, markers, etc. 
  • Pen vs pencil. 
  • You can write or draw in the margins. 
  • There's that wonderful feel of paper. 
  • Might be more convenient. 
Paper- Cons
  • Its easier to loose and destroy in some cases. 
  • No password protection. In most cases, anyone can find it and read it. 
  • You might have messy handwriting or get cramps easily. 
  • Its harder to share with multiple people. 
  • You might have a harder time keeping notes, research, and your project organized. 
  • It takes more space to store paper. 
  • It takes lots of time to write something and then transfer it to your computer.
  • Kills trees. 
Combined Pros.
  • Both can have different fonts, shapes, colors, and sizes. 
  • Both can be lined or no lines (in some cases).
  • With somethings on the computer, you can draw or write in the margins like on paper. 
  • You can organize your stuff into files. 
Combined Cons
  • Cramps either way. 
  • You can destroy stuff either way.
  • Distractions either way. 

So well, there it is. A list of the pros and cons of writing on either paper or computer. Which do you prefer? Do you have anything to add to these lists?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quotes For Writers

Sorry about my prolonged absence!  I've been gone on and off so many times this summer that I lost track of when I was supposed to post.  So, here it goes! 

The post title says it all. Here are some of my favorite quotes on writing:

“If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[ pasdlgkhasdfasdf.”
― Lemony Snicket

“So what? All writers are lunatics!”
― Cornelia Funke

“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”
― Toni Morrison

“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”
― Stephen King

“Someone needs to tell those tales...There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words.”
― Erin Morgenstern

“The trouble with quotes on the internet is that it’s difficult to discern whether or not they are genuine.”
― Abraham Lincoln

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
― J.K. Rowling

“Don't loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club.”
― Jack London

“Some people have a way with words, and other people...oh, uh, not have way.”
― Steve Martin

“we write every day, we fight every day, we think and scheme and dream a little dream every day. manuscripts pile up in the kitchen sink, run-on sentences dangle around our necks. we plant purple prose in our gardens and snip the adverbs only to thread them in our hair. we write with no guarantees, no certainties, no promises of what might come and we do it anyway. this is who we are.”
― Tahereh Mafi (No caps because that's how Tahereh Mafi blogs. And yet her blog is still awesome, because she neglects capitalization with style.)

“Some writers enjoy writing, I am told. Not me. I enjoy having written.”
― George R.R. Martin

I want to blow this up really big and put it on my ceiling,
above my bed.
“It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
― Madeleine L'Engle

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
― Mark Twain

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”
― Saul Bellow

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
― Robert Frost

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
― Stephen King

"A writer writes not because they like to write, but because writing is something that is ingrained in every fiber of their being."
― Me (from this blog post)

“Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it.
Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.”
― William Faulkner

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.”
― Isaac Asimov

“Always be a poet, even in prose.”
― Charles Baudelaire

“Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.”
― Meg Cabot

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
― John Steinbeck

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.”
― Ana├»s Nin

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I want to gather up all the ink cartridges in the universe, because somewhere, mixed in with all that ink, is the next great American novel. And I’d love nothing more than to drink it.”
― Jarod Kintz

"One does not simply write a novel. It is folly."
Creative Writing Cat

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
― Markus Zusak

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
― Thomas Mann

And my all-time favorite:
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
― Stephen King

You can learn quite a bit from quotes. There are many, many more out there, if you just search "quotes on writing". And no, I'm not an advertiser for Stephen King. I've never read a book by him. I just think he has good quotes on writing.

And yes, I had to throw in the Lincoln one.

What are your favorite quotes on writing?

This post was originally published at The Epic, the Awesome, and the Random.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to Ruin your Novel

Unoriginality
I'll say this first, all stories written are just previous stories with the writer's own twists. Everything's been done before, but that doesn't mean you can't use one or a few of those ideas. Just add your own touch to them. Of course, unless you're writing a crackfic to post for whatever reason on the Internet, don't shove everything your pretty little brain can think of into your novel. It has to make sense, or at least seem like it makes sense.  

Overexplaining
Your readers aren't idiots. They don't need you to write paragraphs after paragraphs explaining every little thing. Some things are better left shrouded in mystery, piquing the reader's interest, others are better off explained in a few short sentences. Once you explain something, you don't need to repeat it every chapter. Stay on track. Don't start recapping the events like you're some commentator. It gets annoying.

No Emotion
If there are no emotions in a novel, it makes the novel feel like a manual or a textbook. Boring. If you want your readers to laugh and cry along with your characters, describe their emotions. Put yourself in your characters shoes. Even if you haven't experienced what they're going through, think about how they would be feeling.
Here's a body language cheat sheet to help you: [link]

No Conflict
There's absolutely no conflict in your story. People read stories to live another life through the characters. If they can't relate to them, they won't experience their life. The characters need to want something and that something needs to be worthwhile. There needs to be setbacks, things that prevent the character from getting what he or she wants. Make the reader want to stay and root for the characters.

Characters
The readers don't have to love your character, but they have to care about what happens to them. If they don't care about the character, they don't care about the book.
Antagonists don't have to be pure evil, the same way protagonists don't have to always be good. The antagonist may have the right goal in mind, but they're going about it the wrong way. The protagonist might resort to underhanded tactics to get what he or she wants. That's okay.

Backstory
It might be a little hard to tell when you should begin your story. Just write enough to make your readers care about what happens to the character and make them continue reading. If you jump right into the action, say your character about to be killed by a monster, why should the reader care about their death? They don't really know much about him or her. Back up a little and try to express that character's motivation. You don't necessarily have to tell the reader what the character wants, but they should know that the character wants it.

Laziness
Lazy writing is bad writing. Laziness isn't just limited to letting the draft sit there unedited for weeks, months, even years. It includes relying on cliches and telling instead of showing what the character is feeling, thinking and doing. Don't keep your readers away and give them a detached summary of what's going on in your head, show them.

Giving Up
Writing a novel is a lot of work. Sometimes, you just sit there for hours, staring at a blank page, waiting for words to come to you. At other times, you might be staring at a draft wondering how you're supposed to improve it. If you don't write your novel, then who will? It's certainly not going to write itselfYou have to write it. It's your story, isn't it?  

I hope this helps and have fun writing!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Character Needs vs. Wants

A huge part of figuring out who your characters are is figuring out what they want most in life. And also, what they need most. These are an integral part of your story. In fact, it's really the only reason you have a story at all. It's hard to write a book if you don't know what your character wants, and how far they'll go to get it.

At some point during your writing, I highly recommend you sit down and do two things. I recommend doing this before you even start the book, but if you're having character troubles, it's also a good way of straightening them out. You should write down the answers to these two questions:

1) What does your character want most?
2) What does this character need most?

These questions help you with character development. Actually, they help with plotting too. I'm convinced you can't have a book without having answered these questions in some way or other.

They're more complex than they seem, though. And no, they aren't the same question. What your character wants and what they need can often be two very separate things, sometimes conflicting. Here's an example from my book, Secrets of the Legend Chaser. Once again, I'll use my ever-willing (Haha, kidding, he has no choice! Love you, buddy! Yep, he'll be making me pay for this during revision tonight.) guinea pig, Davi.

What Davi wants: to find the dragon eggs (he's searching for a legendary bunch of them, a treasure allegedly stolen away by humans hundreds of years ago). A desire which, in turn, comes from a desire to feel responsible, to feel like he's able to accomplish something.
What Davi needs: to go back to his home and forgive his father.

What Davi wants and what he needs are two very different things. What he wants is completely controlled by him, something he feels he must achieve in order to prove himself.

He's actually not even aware of his need. It's there, in some deep part of him, but he doesn't know it. In fact, the last thing he wants is to go back and face his father. It's something he's been avoiding for five whole years.

What he doesn't realize is that he has a forgiveness problem. And a guilt problem. Both of these would be solved by returning to his father, but of course, that's the last thing he wants. But the guilt lurks at the corners of his mind, never leaving. It haunts his every step. It's slowly getting to him.

At one point in the book, Davi has realized that what he wants doesn't exist (which may or may not be actually the case, as he finds later....). He's crushed. Having been denied the one thing he wants, he's left with no choice but to return to his father. Where he finally gets his needs met.

Throughout the book, though, his wants and needs are at constant odds with one another. Davi pushes away his needs because he fears them, which creates more conflict. And your goal as a writer is always to create the maximum amount of conflict possible.

There's a good chance your character's wants and needs will be different. Sometimes they'll overlap, but often times they won't. Take advantage of this. Exploit it, because it has countless wonderful conflict opportunities to offer.

What your character wants, and what they need, are integral parts of your story. If you know them, you have a solid handle on who this character is, what what the plot will be.

You tell me: Do your characters' needs and wants differ? How do they conflict? How do you use this?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How to Not Write A Good Pitch.

This post was originally posted on Birds of a Writer.

Book pitches (or blurbs, but I like to call them pitches) are very important. One could argue that they're the most important factor in whether or not someone will buy your book. I'm sure everyone here could say that they've bought or picked up a book because those 250 or some words on the inside flap or back cover sounded interesting. But I think that most authors end up having pitches that ends up sounding like a bunch of other pitches. So what does and what doesn't make a good pitch?

This has been annoying me a lot lately. Mostly because it seems like I see it on almost every book pitch I read. And I'm sure you've seen lots of these too. And guess what, they're not unique or exciting anymore. Here's what I mean:
  1. (Insert character name here) was a normal (girl/boy) who just wanted a normal lifeOr something like that. Guess what, people don't read books because they want to read about someone who's life is probably just as boring as their's. And characters who may have had a normal life in the beginning, their lives usually end up never being normal ever again. So why have it? 
  2. And nothing is as it seems... Blah, blah, blah. Yeah I get it, in every book nothing is as it seems. And do I really care? Probably not unless it's something really good. My advice: don't even put that in the pitch. It's boring and used way too much. In the book I'm writing, Night Lies, literally nothing is what it seems, but I say that no where in the pitch. Because I want it to be a surprise, something that my readers weren't suspecting. 
  3. Nothing will ever be the same... We got that already. Especially when you began the pitch with (Insert character name here) was a normal (girl/boy) who just wanted a normal life. In what story please tell me, is anything ever the same afterwards?
  4. (Character name) will learn some startling truths but not only everything else, but him/herself...Really? I had no idea that was going to happen! *sarcasm* 
  5. (Main Character) will have to choose between two men/women.Something like that. I've already had this talk about love triangles. They aren't cool anymore. 
  6. In a race against time...Doesn't everything end up being a race against time?
Now I'm not saying that you can't put these in your pitch, but when you're writing one, try to be original and not use the same thing we've seen over and over. People want something exciting and fresh, and while these are certainly exciting, they're just used all the time. 

But let's face it. Trying to fit your whole book into 250 (more or less) words is hard. And I'm sure every writer will tell you that. Sure some have it easier than others and some books have easier pitches than others. I've written several pitches for my unpublished books where I came up with a great one in a day while others took me a long time to get it right. 

Oh and the best way to make an especially bad pitch is to write a really good one, but then have the book be something totally different. 

Yeah I saw that once. 

No lie.

Well it wasn't in anything published, but I saw it once on Inkpop. There was this awesome pitch but when I went to read the story, it ended up being something totally different. I wasn't sure if the author meant to do that on purpose or if it was an accident. Because for all I know, the author could have just uploaded the wrong story and have not noticed. Although whatever the case was, it story wasn't all that good anyways. 

The point of that was, if you're going to write an awesome pitch, make sure it has something to do with the story. Because your readers will know that you lied and they will tell all their friends and you'll have lost what could have been a great book. 

Another tip, don't copy another book's pitch just because it's similar to yours and it sounds awesome. You'll most likely be found out and sued for all your worth because you stole some one else's work. That or people will assume that your book is a rip off of another great book and won't read yours. 

So what other things about pitches annoys you? Have you seen any other common pitch sentences? And have you ever read a book where the pitch was different from the story?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Advice on Chapters

It seems like a lot of writers are worried about the lengths of their chapters. What's considered too long, too short? What's just-right?

The good thing here is that the answer is short and sweet: there is no ideal chapter length. As long as all of your chapters are reasonably consistent (i.e. don't have one chapter take fifty pages and another take five), you'll be just fine.

Some books, like Maximum Ride, for example, have very short chapters. Many of these chapters have two to four pages. I've heard that Stephen King wrote a chapter that had only four words. Having short chapters like this makes the story seem like it moves along more quickly, highlighting the feelings of action and suspense. Some books, on the other hand, could have chapters up to fifty pages in length. This is fine, too. It highlights the complexity of the story, and breaks it up into broad pieces that each have something a little different.

The one thing to remember with chapters is that you never want to end in safe place. When you're reading a book, you want a convenient place to put it down, right? You're not going to stop reading in the middle of an action sequence or when something important is about to be revealed. You want to put it down in a place that's comfortable and has little or no tension.

Because of this, you don't want to end your chapter in a "safe" spot. Don't end with the protagonist contemplating recent events before she turns out the light to go to sleep. Instead, end with your main character dangling off the edge of a cliff. If you end every chapter with a moment of suspense, readers won't want to put your book down.

"Safe" doesn't necessarily mean that the MC is safe from space aliens or whatever. The character could be physically safe, but maybe the chapter ends with the revelation that the captain of the space aliens is actually her ex-boyfriend, or something. And action doesn't have to be life-threatening, either. It could also mean a heated argument, a love scene, etc.

Just remember: when you write a book, your goal is to write something that your readers can't put down. If you end each chapter with something exciting, they'll want to stay up half the night saying "one more chapter...one more chapter..."

Originally spotted at The Epic, the Awesome, and the Random.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Inkie Interview- Kristin


Hey guys! So, we're back with "Inkie Interviews" (although really, anyone who wants to be interviewed can). I haven't done these since the  shutdown of Inkpop, but since I'm in contact with most of the Inkies again, I've started these back up. 

So our first interviewee of the summer is, Kristin, who will also be blogging with us. 

What story(ies) are you writing and what are they about? 
I am writing multiple stories at the moment. Hollow involves a soul sucking tree, family issues, life or death situations, kidnappings, choices, secret agencies, and all that jazz. Tearing Through The Light is about a girl who is capable of controlling oceans, and is being haunted by a ghost who wants her to use her power for evil. Falling will most likely be a novel in verse, and it is about a popular girl who is secretly depressed. Horizon is a fantasy novel that takes place in another world.

What is your favorite genres to write? 
I prefer to write paranormal and fantasy.

Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote? What was it about? 
I remember it, but not in exact detail. It was a crappy piece I wrote in grade one.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? 
No. I just realized I wanted to be a writer about a year or two ago. Before that, I wanted to be a teacher (I still do) or a counsellor. 

What do you do when you get Writer's Block? 
I eat food and watch weird videos and talk with my friends.

Is there a certain time when you write best?
Night, but I'm usually asleep then :P

If you could have anything as a major in college, what would it be?
English

What is your favorite place to be and why?
Probably camping in Jasper. It's nice to be surrounded by mountains, away from civilization, roasting marshmallows every night, and just roughing it.

And think fast!

Pizza or Desert Pizza?
Dessert pizza

Bananas or Strawberries?
Strawberries

Working in McDonalds or Dairy Queen?
Dairy Queen

Movies or TV Shows?
TV shows

Thanks so much, Kristin, for joining us today! It was great fun! 


If you're a writer or anyone else you know who is and would like to be interviewed, don't hesitate to be contact us! 


Sincerely,
Sareh


Also: If anyone knows how to fix the banner on top, I'd greatly appreciated it if you would contact me. I would like it to fill up the whole width of the front instead of partly filling it up. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Get In Late, Get Out Early

For awhile now, I've found myself giving the same piece of writing advice over and over. Finally, I've decided to just write up a whole post about it.

When do you start your first scene? How do you start it? How do you know when to end a scene?

For questions like these, go by this rule: Get in as late as you possibly can, and get out as early as you possibly can.

What this means is that you shouldn't start your book (or your first scene, or any scene) any earlier than you need to. When does the action start? When does the essential plot problem come into play? When is your inciting incident? Start here, and not a minute sooner.

For example, say I'm writing a book about Fred, a high school student who wants to be a detective. His goal in the story is to solve the mystery of who stole his friend's iPad (all my plot-building power goes into my actual books, so I have no decent plots to use as examples). One morning, he gets up and takes a shower. He gets dressed and grabs a poptart on his way out the door. He picks up his friend Jason, and they have a lengthy discussion on the merits of Firefox vs. Google Chrome. When he gets to school, he meets up with his other friend, Bob. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a dark shadow appear, snatch the iPad out of Bob's backpack, and disappear again.

This is where you should start your story, right at that moment where he sees that sketchy shadow. That's when the real plot begins. The scene where he drives Jason to school isn't needed. It's part of Fred's life, yes, but it's not part of the plot. It's not needed.

This same principle applies to every scene you write. Start it as late as you possibly can, while still having it make sense. This, then, ties into the next part of this in-late-out-early rule. When you're finishing a scene, get out as early as possible. What is the earliest point you can end this scene without omitting any crucial elements? This is where it should end.

This goes for the end of the entire book, too. You have a little more room to work here, but you should generally follow the same rule. Don't let your ending drag. This is probably another post for another time, so I won't get in too deep on this. But if the main plot of your story has ended, and all loose ends have been wrapped up, don't keep going. Stop before your readers start losing interest.

Get in late, get out early. I don't even remember where I first heard this, but it's proved to be one of the best pieces of advice I've received. Don't start any earlier than you need to, and don't keep going after everything has been wrapped up. 
Originally posted at The Epic, the Awesome, and the Random.

Monday, May 28, 2012

What Genre is Your Story?

This post was originally posted on Birds of a Writer.


Some writers only write one particular genre and stick with it, while others dare to try new ones. Some may not even be sure what genre their's falls into. And that's okay even if you're not sure what catagory your book belongs too. Some stories just don't fit nicely into one thing and sometimes you may create a new genre. But I'll remind you, that creating a new genre is hard.

I'm warning you now: This post will be long. 
You have been warned.

So if you find that a genre is missing or you would like something changed, please let me know! Also, the Word Counts (WC) are a general estimate. If you're writing in one of those catagories, you don't have to have an exact word count. It's always fine for the story to be large or smaller than the estimated word count.
Anyways, here's a quick overview of some genres and their subgenres.

  1. Mainstream- To sum it up, the ever going struggle between good and evil in every person are present in these novels. Basically, these books can be hard to put into a certain catagory.
    1. Contemporary- Anything really can be put into this subgenre, although it mainly involes books concerning familiy sags, coming of age, personal relationships, and so on so forth. Word Count: usually starts at 100,000.
    2. Historical- Usually has something to do with real life people in fictional settings Word Count: begins at 100,000.
    3. Romance- While these books are very much like books from the romance genre, the difference is that these book may not have a happy ending.
  2. Young Adult- These books, YA, are stories for teenagers, generally from the ages of 12 to 18. They may mimic adult fiction but in these stories the Main Characters are teenagers. Duh. While it is one of the biggest growing parts of the publishing world (with fantasy/science fiction and paranormal romances being the most popular) it once wasn't even really a genre. These books most of the time don't contain large amounts of swearing, graphic violence, or other things that may be questionable.
    1. Contemporary (Aka, General Fiction)- These books deal with real life things that most or even all (or some), teenagers face. The issues can cover everything from drugs, abuse, emotional/mental issues, and many more things. The authors try to show these things as realistically as possible. WC (word count): 40,000 to 60,000. 
    2. Genre- While contemporary YA novels may give examples on what real life is like and how to deal with it, these ones may take the reader away. They cover every other genre here and their primary goal is to entertain. WC- 40,000 to 60,000. 
  3. Romance- This genre may be considered the biggest genre in the publishing world. The mainly only thing that happens, the main difference, is that the couple ends up living happily forever after (or so we hope.) Since the main story point is the romance, basically anything else that happens becomes not as important as the relationship.
    1. Contemporary- This subgenre deals with how to man and woman come together in today's society. They deal with people from every culture and nation. WC- 50,000 to 100,000.
    2. Historical- Do I need to explain? The Heroine and Hero fall in love in a past setting. 
    3. Paranormal- Probably one of the most popular genres right now, at least for the YA section. You know the drill, anything from vampires to werewolves, witches, ghosts, or whatever are in these stories except that the romance is a leading point in these stories. Twilight. Do I need to say more? WC- 85,000 to 100,000.  
  4. Mystery- These novels have a wide range of ideas and basically, anything can go as long as there is mystery. I have seen that normally, it tends to be a murder and the MC has to find the killer. Or that could be because that's half the books in my house. They're not mine, they're my mom's. 
    1. Thrillers- These books usually happen in the present time. A lot of violence is mixed with the mystery and we end up rooting for the good guy. The bad guy(s) tend to die in horrible ways. WC- 85,000 to 110,000.
    2. Cozy Mysteries- My mom's favorite genre. I swear we have tons and tons of these, mostly paperbacks, sitting on our bookcases. The common ground between these books is that you have a nonprofessional sleuth, normal person who happens to solve the crime. For example, a baker who solves and catches the killer and mystery of her brother's death. WC- 60,000 to 100,000. 
    3. Police Procedurals- These are those shows you're always seeing on TV now. If it's not a hospital show, it's a show involving a cop, someone who works with the cops, or a group of police peoples. They usually always end up in the end with the bad guy in jail. It's advised you do your research before takling this genre. Although that doesn't mean you should follow the cops like in Castle. Check out some police websites, or talk to someone you know who is a cop. 
    4. Historical- A crime set in the past. The mystery here has to be solved by the items avabiile to the time your writing about. Make sure you do your research! These can also become cozy mysteries too. 
    5. Hard-Boiled- Detective novels anyone? Edgar Allen Poe is not only credited as one of the first writers of horror, but he may have come up with one of the first detective stories. WC- 85,000 to 100,000. 
  5. Action/Adventure- Commonly known as men's favorite genre, just like romance tends be a woman's favorite genre. The protagonist is commonly put into some kind of dangerous situation and expected to defeat the bad guy and come out alive. 
  6. Fantasy- For some reason this genre and Science Fiction are usually grouped together. While they are similar, they are different. One of my favorite genres.
    1. Epic- Want a couple words to sum this up? Lords of the Rings. Yep the epic (pun intended) story in which a group of heros come together to rid the world of evil, save the world, fight the last battle to end all evil, etc. This subgenre is usually very large, with well developed worlds, and the stories in which continues for several books. 
    2. High- While this subgenre is close to the first, it is different. Instead of having a group of heroes, you have one who's goals are much more centered around him. The last battle will usually end up being between him and a villian and the protagonist wins. 
    3. Sword and Sorcery- In here the story is spent a lot on action and less on world building. When the bad guy is end the story is mostly likely over. Usually it involves big, strong men and beautiful women. That and lots of creatures and gods, godesseses, and other mythological beings. WC- 85,000 to 150,000.
    4. Dark- Often confused with horror. But it is different. Instead of finding good characters, your character may not be a good guy. In fact, the hero may not win. The world is a dark and scary place where evil regins and only the strong can live. My story, The Cursing, is strongly dark fantasy. Where the MC does some not good things and evil is very present. 
    5. Historical- Must I really? Basically any fantasy world where is has strong roots in historical culture and other things. It might be a story set in Ancient Rome but where the barbarian girl goes to fight the emporer with a magical sword. 
    6. Contemporary- Two words- Urban Fantasy. Yep, this subgenre is set in our time period and most often in cities like ours. The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr is considered urban fantasy. Often it contains elements of the horror genre although it is not meant to be scary. 
  7. Science Fiction- This genre is commonly called "si-fi" or "SF" for speculative fiction. The difference between science fiction and fantasy here is that fantasy relies upon the supernatural while science fiction must have some form of science or technology in it. One of my favorite genres.
    1. Hard- This subgenre relies heavily on science itself. The authors of this genre study everything in broad areas like biology and chemistry and they are devoted to getting the facts straight. These facts will help their stories and make it more believable. Some famous authors in this genre include Issac Asimov and Greg Bear. 
    2. Military- The emphasis here is placed on warfare in the future. Fighting aliens with high technologies is a common theme. Hard science fiction is a strong presence in this genre.  
    3. Space Opera- Although it has themes of both military and hard science fiction in it, this one is more fun. The authors might be less worried about how their machines work than with how they look. It is more fun and less educational than the first two subgenres. But it is widely loved by many people, just look at how many people love Star Wars. My book, Night Lies, is probably is subgenre. 
    4. Slipstream- This one happens to not be science fiction exactly, yet it is. Basically, it's science fiction that's all fiction but no science. The term, slipstream, was first coined by the author, Bruce Sterling. It's more of a cross between science fiction and contempory fiction, not really horror, not really about the techonology, and  but it doesn't really have dragons and wizards in it too. 
    5. Cyberpunk- This genre isn't really written is our time today because the authors who first wrote it were writing about our time today. They tried imagining what the 21st century would be like. This subgenre focuses on the future of computers/information and how humans interact with machines. A famous book of the genre would be Neuromancer by William Gibson who coined the term cyberspace
    6. Steampunk- One of the more popular genres of today. Stories like The Girl in the Steel Corset, Levithian, Clockwork Angel, and Worldshaker are just a few of the books out today.  Basically, these are books where techonolgy of the future is ran on steam (in some cases, basically techonology in general) and the story is set in Victorian times. 
    7. Dystopia- This always seems to get confused with  Utopia whenever I tell someone about this genre. The different is that while a Utopia is a perfect world, a Dystopia is a perfect world with one fatal flaw. And usually there's a normal person whom experience the system mess up. Famous works include, The Hunger Games, Uglies, Delirium, Matched,and Fahrenheit 451.
    8. Alternate Histories- Scott Westefeld's book series, Leviathan, is not only steampunk, but an alternative history of World War I. Although this subgenre is like steampunk, this one is more concerned with real history and facts- but with a twist. This subgenre takes real history and then asks "what if?" For example, what if the North hadn't beaten the South in America's civil war? Would there still be slaves? Would we still be one country?
  8. Thrillers- This books are related to mystery books but are different. The plot usually includes something along the lines of the thing that everyone wants or is looking for no matter that cost. These books tend to be quite large, ranging from around 500 to 600 pages, and is normally told from multiple points of view. 
    1. Techno-thrillers- These novels have alot to do with technology, much like military or hard science fiction. World wars are common, and they might have near-future events in them. 
    2. Historical- Basically thrillers with something to do with the past. 
    3. Espionage- These are your spy novels. They might have communists in them or Nazis. (In fact, the Nazi's have their own subgenre thrillers.)
    4. Medical- Basically plot is that our hero finds out something awful about a hospital, research center, government lab, etc. And they usually involve human guinea pigs. 
  9. Horror- This genre began with books like Frankenstein. Today's horror stories contains gruesome scenes and a good one scare someone into not sleeping. Okay maybe not that much, but they should be pretty frightening. 
    1. Psychological- Most horror stories of today are set in this subgenre. These are stories that make readers question their sanity, crawl under the covers, or be generally afraid. They can be slow ad creepy or fast paced. This subgenre is set in today's times since we're most likely to be able to relate to the story. WC- 85,000 to 100,000.
    2. Slasher- These are books that are similar to movies like Saw, but just in book form. They are filled with gruesome images and bloody scenes and lots and lots of violence. This is not a popular subgenre with publishers, but it can be done. WC- usually around 100,000. 
    3. Paranormal- These are your ghost stories. Ones filled with horrifying vampires (ones that don't sparkle at least), werewolves, the undead, and anything else you can think of. Like that scary ghost story you used to tell at sleepovers, but much worse. WC- usually 100,000. 
  10. Erotica- A genre I'd rather not get into. But I thought I should mention it. There's usually only two subgenres to this- men's and women's. 
  11. Western- Probably one of the least popular genre's in today's market. Few major publishing houses will accept these novels anymore. They are sometimes called Western Historical. It is considered very important for you to do your research on the time period these novels are usually set in- 1860s to the 1880s. 
  12. Memoir- I had to include these last two because I figured that there are some people out there who write these. Although similar to the autobiography, a memoir can be defined as a book that focus on a certain time in the author's life rather than the whole thing like an autobiography does. Like the autobiography, a memoir is usually written in first person. People who normally write these are famous or are upper class people.
  13. Biography- I'm sure you know what these are. These are books written by another person about someone. Usually someone famous too. They cover the person's life and give glimpses into what the person was like. And yes, usually the subject is dead. 
  14. Historical Fiction- This genre is commonly found in almost every other genre out there. Usually the stories include fictional characters in real historical events or settings, or real people in fictional events or settings. This is one of my favorite genres. 
Resources
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel By Tom Monteleone
The Everything Guide to Writing a Novel  by Joyce and Jim Lavene
The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Philip Athans

So what is your favorite genre to write? What is your favorite to read? Which categories (or category) does your stories fit into?

Sincerely,
Sareh

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Word Count Anxiety

Word count is something that many writers needlessly worry about while writing their books. Is the book going to reach a publishable word count? What's an acceptable word count? Will it be too long, too short, will baby sloths overrun the planet?


Definitely a picture we can relate to.
I say "needlessly" because, while you're writing, word count is not something you need to think about. Yes, it is important. Just not yet.

While you're writing, word count is not important. Yes, do set word count goals for yourself. But don't stress over it. If you're going along, writing your book, and estimate that it'll end up being 55,000 words, that's great. And if you end up writing 70,000, that's great too. If you end up with 45,000, it's still great. Before you stress over what's publishable, finish the book. Write the story as it wants to be told. If your characters want to pull you into an 120,000 beast, go with it. If you find that you're at 50,000 words with nothing more to say, awesome. At this point, it doesn't matter.


T-shirt wisdom.
If you don't care about getting published, the word count is never going to matter. But now, if you do care about getting published, then the revision stage is when you should start thinking about word count. Think about it...when was the last time you read a 200-page YA epic fantasy? A 750-page contemporary romance?

There's not a definite word count that your novel should be. YA novels are quite a range of lengths. The general consensus seems to be that standard YA novels are somewhere between 50,000 and 90,000 words (and this is a very generous estimate with a rather wide range). There are exceptions, of course, but that's the general range. YA epic fantasy has a little more wiggle room on top, and can be in the 100,000s or even 110,000s.

If you aren't in this range, you won't automatically get rejected by every agent you query. For many agents, word count itself is not a cause for rejection. If you query a YA book on the upper ends of this spectrum, it might be a red flag for that agent, but it doesn't mean they won't consider you.

The key is that if your book is going to be that long, there needs to be a good reason for it. Many times, novels are overly long because the author uses too much description and is too wordy. Sometimes, though, books are long because they have a complex story to tell. If you want to get your long book published, you need to make sure every word counts. You need to prove to agents and publishers that every word is worth it.

Having a book that's too short is a less common problem. If your book is way below this range, agents are going to start to question your ability to flesh out characters and plots, and your knowledge of the YA genre (as in, is your 40,000 word book actually more MG but you're calling it YA because you haven't done your research?

To give you a frame of reference, here are the word counts of some familiar YA novels. Many of these have rather unusual word counts. I'm just giving you these numbers so you can get a better idea of how big of a book a certain word count translates to.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini: 157,220
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer: 56,684
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan: 87,223
Holes by Louis Sachar: 47,079
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: 99,750
Paper Towns by John Green: 81,739
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis: 36,363
Harry Potter 1: 76,944
2: 85,141
3: 107,253
4: 190,637
5: 257,045
6: 168,923
7: 198,227
(Look at that. Look. At. That. 257,045. That might get you insta-rejection from most agents if you're a debut author. Just goes to show that it pays to be an established author with a ginormous fanbase. Can you imagine typing that many words? And Inheritance is actually a few thousand words longer!)

To sum it up, don't worry about your word count while you're writing. Don't let thoughts of word count interfere with the natural telling of your story. And even after that, you should be aware of the general publishable range, but nothing is ever set in stone. Don't let word count run your story.

Originally posted at in District 3.14, aka The Epic, the Awesome, and the Random.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Danger of Plagiarism and How to Prevent It.


*This post was originally posted on my blog Birds of a Writer.


Today we are going to talk about a very important subject- plagiarism. There are many ways you can plagiarize and sometimes it happens without you meaning too. Plagiarism is something that not only happens in school but in the professional world of writing and other things. The penalities for copying someone else's work without their premission can be very high.



In my school they recently started having us all submit our papers to Turnitin.com, a site for schools and I guess other places where when you submit something it will judge your paper against thousands of other works and tell you how much you plagiarized. Here if you are found guilty of copying something you get a zero on your whatever, your parents are called, and you get a detention. In some colleges it can be worse, you can get kicked out of college for it.


I briefly talked about copyrighting and stealing in last week's post The Good and the Bad: Writing websites. Here I will talk more extensively on how to prevent yourself from doing it and how to prevent it from happening to you. And why people steal other ideas. 


Why People Steal Ideas 
  • Laziness- Some people are just too lazy and don't want to take the time to write their own stuff. So they steal others and hope they get away with it. Hopefully they won't. 
  • Inferior Feelings- Some people feel like what somebody else wrote won't be as good as theirs so they take the sentence or whatever.
  • The Thrill- Now why people get a thrill and love doing something bad is beyond me. Sure I've had this feeling before but just because you like a thrill of doing something bad doesn't mean you should. If you really want a thrill of danger go ride a roller coaster or join the army and ask to be put on the front lines. 
  • Wasting Time- Some people procrastinate to the point where it actually starts to hurt them. If you do have this problem you should get help or try and stop it. Ways you can better manage your time is by doing something as soon as you should and make time for it if you don't. 
Ways to Avoid Plagiarism
  • Poor Man's Copyright- One of the ways you can prevent this is from using the poor man's copyright system. If you're a writer, I'm sure you've heard of this, but if you don't I'll explain. It's quite simple actually. All you have to is put your manuscript or whatever in a sealed envelope, mail it to yourself, put it somewhere safe, and whatever you do don't open it! 
  • Starting Dates- Legally if you have to, you can always prove that something was yours first by the date you started it. If you have a computer and you write everything on it, to find your created date go to your manuscript or whatever, right click properties, and then a box should appear with the information. It's have your created date and the date last modified. You can also search for previous versions. On sites like Inkpop, they record the date you originally put the project up and this you can use if you find that someone has taken something of yours by proving that you created it first. Also it helps to start a document, write down a short synopsis and the general information of your story, save it and don't change it. 
  • Paraphrasing- While substituting different words for others may seem like a good idea, it isn't. Paraphrasing someone else's work is not a good idea. To prevent this from happening, don't look at the material when you start writing. Write everything in your own words. 
  • Quotation Marks- This is the easiest way to use someone else's words. But as my english teacher advises, try to not quote something as much as possible. If half your paper or whatever is filled with quotes your reader may as well go and read the other work themselves instead of bothering with yours. If you only want to use part of a quote and another put ... in between in so you don't have to use all of it.
  • CitationOn Blogger or example, there is a quote button, this button when clicked will make whatever your quoting look different. You can also say the person's name or the article and do so-and-so said "..." or so-and-so says "...". You can also use citing formats such as MLA that provide ways to cite books, websites, etc. If you can't find a book on how to cite something you can look it up on Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) or there are sites that will do it for you like Easybib
  • Using Your Time Wisely- My teachers have often told us that one of the reasons kids copy something is because they wasted time and don't have the time to finish something. Or they didn't study. To prevent yourself from falling under the temptation to copy something not yours while under stress is to do it early or not wait until the last moment. Not only will your work look better but you won't have to copy something to get it done on time. 
  • Legally Copyright It- The U.S government will give you a patent on their copyright registry for pretty much anything. This way you can be sure that it's copyrighted from people who steal and you can sue the crap out of somebody in court if they steal it. The U.S Copyright Registry
Some articles on Plagiarizing [Resources Used For This Post] (And yes, I used all buzzle articles for these) 

So have you ever copied something you shouldn't have? Did you have something of yours copied? How did you find out about it and what did you do about it?

Sincerely,
Sareh

Friday, April 27, 2012

Endings

Endings are vitally important to novels. This seems rather obvious, but it always baffles me how so many people spend hours and hours tweaking their beginnings, when they have no idea how their ending will play out.

When you start writing, you have to have an ending in mind. Always. Even if you know nothing else, know the ending. You can't just sit down and try to write a book without knowing where you are going. It doesn't work. You'll end up floundering in the middle and you won't get anywhere.

You don't have to know every little detail about the end. For example, if you're writing about Bob the explorer, a man who is searching for a lost Mayan statue that could stop the 2012 apocalypse from occurring. You know that in the end, he’ll find this statue, and he’ll find it with the use of his trusty flashlight in an ancient temple in Peru, 20 minutes before the so-called apocalypse begins. You don’t necessarily need to know that he’ll be with his sidekick Winston, or that there is an army of zombies chasing him. You just need to know the basics: what happens, where/when it happens, and the general how it happens. Just know the foundations of your ending, and it will go a long way in moving your story along.

Your ending should, in most cases, tie up loose ends. It's okay to leave a few threads hanging, but not too many. It’s fine to leave the reader wondering about one or two things (though some readers are more okay with this than others), but don’t overdo it. It’s also fine to tie up every loose end, as long as you don’t have too much falling action. (More on this in a later post. Falling action and I do not get along well.)

There should be a sense of closure to your ending. I once read somewhere that a good ending is utterly unexpected, yet still feels inevitable to the reader. I think this is an excellent way to put it. Make your ending unpredictable, but at the same time, make it feel like there’s no other way it could have ended.

Also, before you even start writing, you should probably know what kind of ending you want. The endings of most books can be sorted into three categories. These categories are:

Happily-ever-after ending: Fairly self-explanatory. The good guys win. The protagonists get what they want. People are, well, happy. The bad guy, if there is one, gets executed or thrown into Mordor or forced to listen to the Bill Nye theme nonstop. It's predictable, which isn't always a bad thing. Examples: most Disney movies, Harry Potter, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Non-ending: In a non-ending, the immediate conflict isn't really resolved. There's not much closure, because the story just kind of...ends. Now, this isn't always a bad thing (I'm the .001% of people who likes the ending of The Giver). This can also be known as the "make the fandom want to sue you" ending. Examples: The Giver, many series books, the seventh Harry Potter movie, part 1

Open-ended ending: The immediate conflict is probably resolved, but after that, much is left up to the reader to decide. Do the main characters grow up and get married? Does the plague come back and everyone dies? Does the MC become an insurance salesman? We don't know. Some people hate these, but I like them. They give the reader a chance to make up their own mind about the story. Examples: The Scorpio Races, the Chaos Walking Trilogy, I Am the Messenger

Bittersweet ending: My favorite kind. The immediate conflict is resolved. There's some amount of happy-ever-after, but there's also some amount of sadness. Maybe the main characters might have to part forever, or a friend has died, or nothing will ever be the same again. I love these kinds of endings. There's a definite sense of closure, but there's also a definite sense that these characters went through a lot, so the story left a lasting impression on them. Examples: Lord of the Rings, The Book Thief, Inheritance, pretty much every Warriors book

(There's also the "loop ending", but that probably only applies to Pendragon.)

Each of these types of endings are options for your book. Keep in mind, though, that some endings might not be as appropriate for some types of books. As in, should your dark, gritty horror story have a happily-ever-after sort of ending? Maybe not. Non-endings, or even open-ended endings, to some extent, tend to leave readers feeling like they were cheated, so you also might want to take that into account.

Also, here is a list of books with fabulous endings. I highly recommend reading, um, all of them.

What kind of ending does your book have? What kind do you prefer to read? Feel free to chime in with other comments about endings in general.

Originally posted in the lands of unicorns and glitter, aka The Epic, the Awesome, and the Random.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Do You Really Need That "Big Secret"?


This post was originally posted on Birds of a Writer.


So today we are going to talk about "that big secret" or "a bunch of little secrets". What I'm talking about is that major secret that the plot and story hangs on or a big reveal nobody saw coming. Many authors feel as if they need a big turning point in their story, one that often comes in the form of finding out that someone betrayed a character or something.


But do you really need a big secret to make your story good?

Not necessarily. Although you'll find a lot of books that have this, you don't always need them. Sometimes, a story can be good with a bunch of little secrets or multiple big secrets for more power. But sometimes, those big secrets can make or break a story. When you have a big turning point, you risk the chance of it either being too big or not big enough.

In Night Lies, I have a giant turning point that I don't think that my readers will see coming. Oh I'm sure some will realize it before I reveal it, but most probably won't. InThe Cursing I have a bunch of little turning points. Most end up being big to Tatiana, but some of them aren't huge. In The Prophecy, I have several big turning points, although I sprinkle them up among the story and the other books in the series rather then all in the first book.

Reasons for Big Points 
  • Starting a book
  • Changing a Character's mind
  • Cliff hangers
  • To keep the story interesting
  • To introduce a new idea or a new subplot
  • To torture your characters more
  • To lengthen the story 
  • Ending a book
If you have a big turning point...
What exactly your big reveal, your turning point, or whatever you want to call it is depends on your story. Not every type of secret is right for your story (long lost friend, everything's a lie, so and so isn't really dead, etc) and you shouldn't put a big reveal in if it actually doesn't have anything else to do with your story other than you want one because it'd be cool and dramatic.

And your big reveal also depends on what your characters can do. Are they up to handling something big? If you have a dangerous secret will they be able to resolve the issue or what will they do if they find this big secret out. Some secrets can be too big or too little for certain characters. If your character finds out that he's the only person who can save the world, does he have the abilities and resources to do so? If your character is one of the only people to survive a hurricane, will they be able to make it to safety in time or save people other than themselves?  

There's also the case of when to reveal the big turning point. Some authors wait until the story starts getting boring to reveal a big secret to make the story more interesting, reveal at the beginning for a motive, or wait until the end for a final punch in the gut.

And its the big reveal that not only matters, but the timing is also very important. Reveal too early and you may find yourself with not enough power to get through the rest of the book. Reveal too late and you may not have enough time to resolve the issue.

To make things even more exciting you could add more than one giant turning point for an extra whammy. But be careful, you might find yourself in deeper trouble than you thought. Also remember that if you have a big turning point, your character should be able to fix it (or fail. That could be exciting too.).

If you don't have a big turning point...
That's okay. Remember that its okay to have a bunch of smaller ones. Smaller turning points can be just as dramatic as big ones because you give your characters more than one problem to deal with and they may have a more dramatic effect than one giant one.

But if you choose along that path, keep in mind that too many small but big points may overwhelm the story or the characters. And the more problems you have, the more loose ends you'll have to keep track of. It'd be bad to introduce five or six problems and then more than halfway through realize that your characters never fixed three of those problems. And now you have to fix those plot holes.

Other tips
And even if you want a bunch of small points or a big one, you can always put that point or other points into another book. Not every idea you have has to go into this one story. And spreading things out can make keep the story fresh, alive, and exciting.

And you don't even have to have a bunch of small ones or a big one. Some stories are fine without the extra baggage and with the one main conflict. Your characters may have enough on their plate without dealing with more.  

If you have a big secret or several, it's a good idea to drop hints before hand rather than suddenly drop it out of nowhere. If you do drop it out of nowhere, your readers may accuse you of not being able to continue with the main plot or something equally horrible.

Plus, the best big secrets are the ones that are out in the open but hidden cleverly enough you never really guessed it till it was revealed (Note: this plan may result in side affects in readers such as outbursts of "I should have seen that coming! Or How in the world did I not realize that?" Other symptons of surprise may result in anger, throwing the book across the room, or calling a friend and revealing the big secret.)

Of course, you could always just reveal something out of nowhere, but I find it more fun to toy with readers and characters with hints of the truth rather than a big sudden reveal. Plus, its more fun to watch readers try to figure something out on their own and desperately read the book to find out if they're right or not or whatever.

Four types of big secrets
  • Only the author knows (both reader and character are clueless)- Where everyone but you is left in the dark. Sometimes this is effective for bigger surprises rather than little ones. 
  • Only the author and readers know (character is clueless)- Ah, those times when your readers are either told something important or realize something before the characters do. 
  • Other characters know (except for certain characters and readers)-Times when your main character is clueless of something everyone else seems to realize (That reminds me of an article I read where firefighters were called to a burning apartment. After putting out the fire, the found the owner of the house still sleeping on his bed. Apparently he hadn't woken once during the whole thing and never felt the heat.)
  • Only the author and the characters know (readers are clueless)- This one I don't think I see a lot of, but I'm sure it can happen. When your characters are all aware of something not made known to the readers. 
Examples
  • A Million Suns
  • A Long Long Sleep
  • Wired
  • A ton of other books. 
Genres I think that have the most surprises:
  • Science fiction
  • Dystopian
  • Mystery (duh!)
  • Fantasy
  • Thrillers
  • Other genres of course but those are my top five. 
So, do you have any big turning points in your story? What's your favorite one?

Sincerely,
Sareh