Monday, January 30, 2012

How to Get Published--Part 1

Pay Attention

Pay attention to the world around you. The stories that stand out from the masses are the ones which reflect a slice of life. To get this slice the author must notice the little things.

Pay attention to marketing trends. The world is changing rapidly with new ways of marketing, new formats to explore, new approaches to try.

Pay attention to social media trends. With rapid technology changes comes rapid trend shifts. One popular social media platform may not be so popular tomorrow. Keep an eye on what's popular for maximum number of readers.

Pay attention to publishing trends. As much as we shouldn't write for a particular trend, since by the time the book is ready for publication, the trend has passed, it's important to know what's happening.

Pay attention to other books like your own. If you do the research and find what other stories can compare to your own, then you'll know what works, and how you can make your story different so it stands out. Agents and publishers often request a list of comparable titles in your query.

Pay attention to other authors. They can help you. You can gain tips you may not have known and connections you might need. You can learn from their mistakes. When you offer the same in return, you can find yourself in an amazing group of people who support and encourage each other.

Pay attention to your critique partners. Find someone you trust and listen to the critiques they offer. There is no point handing over your manuscript to someone if you aren't going to at least consider what they have to say about it. You don't have to accept every point they make as law, but pay attention, consider and then decide whether or not to go ahead with any suggested changes.

Pay attention to the details. Don't be in such a rush to pump something out there in the hop of 'getting published'. Spend the time to get the grammar right, the structure right, the little details of the story right.

Pay attention to events. Writers' festivals (conferences), workshops, local writing groups. Take note of when they are on so you don't miss out. Take part. Be open to meeting new people and learning new ways to improve your craft. Get involved.

Pay attention to submission guidelines. These guidelines are not suggestions. Agents and publishing houses often have their own particular likes and dislikes. Don't assume standard formatting will fit every submission.

Pay attention to the way you present yourself. Be professional at all times in all things.

Can you think of other ways you can pay attention to get ahead in publishing?

Thank you: A huge thank you to everyone who took part in the Great Aussie BBQ. A special thank you to those who spread the word. It was a fabulous success.

Awards: I wish to thank Cynthia Willis for the Great Comments Award. I would also like to thank Nick Wilford and Mark Noce for the Versatile Blogger Award. 

Note: Part 2 will be posted next week. My next post will be for the Insecure Writers' Group.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lynda R. Young's Great Aussie BBQ is NOW!

Find new followers and come celebrate Australia Day with me at this virtual barbeque.

One important requirement of writing is to step back and enjoy life. We need the time to mingle, to enjoy a day once in a while without the pressure to produce words. This time is like a battery. It recharges our creativity, our motivations and dedication to our work.

So here's what you do:
1. Follow my blog

2. Leave a comment here. Introduce yourself and your blog and let everyone know what virtual food or drink you've brought along to share.

3. Pop back often over the extra long weekend to meet new people.

4. Choose at least three commenters and visit their blogs. If you like what you see, follow their blogs and leave a comment, introducing yourself and the virtual food you'd like to share. The more blogs you visit, follow and comment on, the more others will return the favour. You'll get out of it what you put in.

5. Invite more to the BBQ. All welcome! Send invites out on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ because the bigger a party gets, the better it becomes.

Have fun!

I'll go first:
Hi, my name is Lynda R. Young (I'm not going to tell you what the R stands for). I write YA novels along with speculative short stories. My blog offers writing and blogging tips. I've brought to the party a huge bowl of mango salad with roasted macadamia nuts. Yum.

Note: A huge thanks to Karen Gowen for the brilliant idea. There's a special place at the table for you.  

Please note: It's not too late for the BBQ. The party will continue all weekend.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Advantages of Writing a Fast First Draft

Every one of us is different, which means we each need to discover what process works best for us when we write. Some writers meticulously plan out every detail of their story before they begin the first draft, some dive right in and wing it. Some writers will polish a chapter until they can move on, some power on and go back later to do the polishing. There is no right or wrong way to write, however this post is about the latter technique. It's about why I've found writing a fast first draft is advantageous:

1. To avoid the doubts. Doubts can make the writer question everything from the believability of their plot, the realism of their characters, and even the worth of being a writer. These doubts may raise some valid questions, but mostly they'll cripple the writer. As a result, the writer may veer from staying true to their story, or worse, quit. Writing a fast first draft will keep those doubts under control.

2. To be yourself. Similar to the point above: If you think about it too much, you could over analyse. The writing could then become stilted and 'proper' and you could lose your unique voice.

3. To keep the descriptions under control. If you are a writer like me, you can get caught up in the wonderful world you've created and indulge in rich descriptions. However, if you're moving quickly through the story to get it down in words, then you're likely not spending the time on descriptions. Descriptions can not only distract the writer, but when they're overdone they can distract the reader. I find it harder to delete a beautiful description than to add one later.

4. To stay focussed on the main plot points. Distractions have a way of veering the story away from the main plot, especially if you don't plan the story ahead. Writing fast will help an author keep an eye on the big picture.

5. To save time. I used to edit as I wrote because I loved to read my polished word. The problem was when I'd finished writing that first draft and read through it as a whole, I discovered some of those polished scenes had to go. I'd wasted so much time on sections I eventually tossed. Now I tell myself anything can be fixed… later! The main story structure is the most important element of the first draft stage. The rest can wait.

6. To finish. Many people start writing a novel, yet so few actually finish. Because writing a novel is a slow process, celebrating at key milestones is important to keep the motivation levels high. For me, finishing the first draft is one such milestone. When it's done I have a completed story in my hands. Don't underestimate the power of a finished story.

Do you like to write a fast first draft? What do you find slows the process down the most?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

6 Signs of Description Misuse

There are many ways to use and abuse description in fiction. There are the obvious ways of simply over doing it, and the less obvious ways. Below I've listed the six signs to keep a look out for. (Please note today's inspiration came from the comments from my previous post regarding character description, particularly those from Carol, Deniz, Tyrean and L'Aussie.)

1. The Shopping Lists. I recently read a novel where every time a new character stepped onto the scene the author would tell the reader every physical attribute of the character in a way that made me think they were checking it off a list: character height, weight, eye colour, hair colour, etc. The reader doesn't have to know every single detail about a character all at once.

2. If the Action Stops. This is the kind of description that stops the flow of the story for the sake of letting the reader know the details of the setting, the characters, or anything else that's not currently relevant. It will grind the pace to a halt, diffuse the tension, and pull the reader from the story.

3. The Tell. This kind of description doesn't show the reader the place, the atmosphere, the characters. It tells them: The forest was spooky. I'd rather the author shows me what the forest was like and I'll decide for myself whether or not it's spooky.

4. The Wall. This is also known as the info dump. It's seen as a wall of text full of nothing but description. It might be acceptable in the classics, but times have changed. It's better to break it up and pepper it through the prose.

5. The Clichés and the Stereotypes. Descriptions are a great opportunity for the writer to get creative. It's tempting to fall back on clichés for the sake of moving along in the story. This is fine for the first draft only. My first drafts are rife with them because I need to keep writing as fast as possible or I'll get snagged on a distraction. However, I'll always go back, hunt them down and dress them up into something more original--or, I try.

6. The Lack of Relevance. One of the many comments made in my previous post was the dislike for countless descriptions of what the characters are wearing. This is because it most often lacks relevance to the story. Descriptions should only be included if they reveal something of importance about a character, adds atmosphere, advances the plot etc. If it's just there because the words are purdy, then it needs to go.

Which of these sins are you guilty of? Which do you least like to see in a novel? Can you think of any others?

Award: Thanks to Coral Riggs and mshatch for the Great Comments Award. You guys rock!

Announcement: Next week on the 26th January, it's Australia Day and since I'm an Aussie, I'd love to celebrate the date with a virtual BBQ. Thanks to Karen Gowen for the idea. Her BBQs have been wonderfully successful. The idea is to visit my blog on the 26th, bring a virtual plate of food to share, then in the comments tell everyone about yourself and your blog, and come back and visit three other people who have left a comment. Please spread the word!

Monday, January 16, 2012

How to Write the Ultimate Man

While people-watching by the seaside one summer, I bantered with a good friend over what we thought made up the ultimate man. To my surprise, the physical attribute that attracted her most wasn't a man's eyes, his butt, or his muscles. Instead she confessed she adored his hair: hair on his chest, face, arms, back, and shoulders. The more hair the better. I shuddered at the thought and when I told her so our conversation degenerated into amusing name-calling. (I never said I was mature).

My point is that hair does not make the man and neither does his height, the colour of his eyes, nor his bulging muscles. It's not the physical appearance of someone that attracts for longer than a few seconds, it's his or her thoughts and actions that give the lasting impression. This is also true in books.

If I used description to define my characters then I run a powerful risk of not only alienating my readers--what one person likes, another may not--but I also risk underestimating my readers and turning my characters into shallow nothings.

I'm not saying don't describe your characters at all--if you try to please everyone you'll end up pleasing no one. I'm saying be careful not to put too much emphasis on their appearances. The ultimate man can only be defined by the decisions he makes and the actions he takes.

In books you've read what physical attributes in the characters attract you? Have you been turned off a book because the character descriptions have been too much?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

6 Reasons to Write Flawed Characters

It's so tempting to write the perfect character: the dream man, the rugged hero, a character who could grace the catwalks of Milan, knows exactly what's going on, can solve anything. But it never turns out well. One element every character must have is a flaw. And here’s why:

1. Credibility. No one is perfect. No one is good all of the time and no one is bad all of the time. It’s just not real. We all have multiple flaws, both internal and external.

2. Likeability. A likeable character is an interesting character and they are usually interesting because of their flaws.

3. Relatability. We can relate to characters with flaws. It’s easier to care for a character we can relate to. We may yell at them for making stupid mistakes*, but that’s part of the joy of reading about them. That relatability draws the readers into the story and keeps them there.

4. Conflict. Flaws get characters into trouble which can add tension to a scene and build much needed conflict in the plot.

5. Uniqueness. If we all wrote perfect characters, they would lack distinction. I think part of what makes us unique is our different combination of flaws.

6. Growth. Growth and development are essential to the main characters across the course of a story. Flaws give the writer this opportunity.

Can you think of other reasons to write flawed characters? What are some flaws you've used?

*make sure they learn from those mistakes and don't keep making the same mistakes.

Monday, January 9, 2012

I Write my Best When…

The New Year is a time of new beginnings and it's made me think about ways I could improve not only my writing, but the way I write as well including my scheduling, my goals, my attitude. I came up with a list which I thought I'd share, a list that helped me toward an optimum writing environment:

I write my best…

  1. when I stop over-thinking it and just write. As soon as I see those doubts come creeping in, I must catch them fast before they take hold and just keep writing.
  2. when I throw myself into my characters so I can see through their eyes and experience what they experience, rather than forcing my own experiences and reactions on them. I've found it's not enough to just step back from a scene and view it from afar. This is good for editing, but not so good for fresh creations. I need to become a part of it, to taste it, feel it, smell it.
  3. when I take the time to distance myself from a draft. A fresh perspective can help me see the mistakes, the slow moving plot, the dodgy phrasing.
  4. when I'm active both physically and mentally. When I sit around all day reading and writing, my work becomes as stodgy as old pudding. I need to get up and get the blood pumping. I need to engage with the real world.
  5. when I look after myself. This includes not skipping meals because the writing is going well. I inevitably pay for it later.
  6. when I'm not necessarily happy, but content.
  7. when I stop worrying what others will think.
  8. when I have few distractions--including the internet, the smell of chocolate when I'm dieting, jack hammers etc. Not all distractions can be switched off, so I must find a way to overcome them even if it means facing them head on.
  9. when I live outside my self-created worlds. Stepping away from the computer is essential to gain life experiences. These experiences become inspiration for more stories.
  10. when I just write. I've found I need schedules and goals. I can't rely on a muse to tell me when it's okay to write. Circumstances will never be perfect for writing, so I must just keep writing.

When do you write your best?
I hope you like the new look for my blog. A special thank you again to Dezzy for the use of the wonderful banner he'd created for me last year. It served me well. Below is a pic of my blog the way it used to look, including Dezzy's banner--for prosperity.

Thank you to Nancy Thompson for the Great Comments Award. I really appreciate it. Please pop on over and say hi from me.