Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday morning thought.

The character that lasts is an ordinary guy with some extraordinary qualities.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday CONTEST! New critique opportunity!

I had a great time on the last critique contest, and with things winding down for the year, this seems like a great opportunity to do it again. Here's the deal. Second verse, same as the first.

What's the prize?  I will critique the first two pages of your manuscript (maximum of 750 words), here on the blog. All genres welcome, though you might have a look at my submission guidelines to see what I'd say are my areas of expertise. In other words, I'll happily critique your military thriller, but I'm not as well-versed in how it fits into its genre.

How do I enter? Leave a comment on this post. You've got till Friday, December 21 to enter. I'll use a random number generator to pick the winner. One entry per person, please!

What's the catch? If you enter and are chosen as the winner, you agree to let me post your pages here on the blog; this is a public critique. You needn't use your real name if you'd prefer to stay anonymous, but if you'd like me to I will include a link to your website as part of the post.

Who's eligible to enter? Everybody except my clients and the clients of my SJGA colleagues. Sorry, guys. I think this will be most useful to those writers who are as-yet unpublished, but I'm not going to make that decision for you.

What's the deadline again? Friday, December 21-- the contest is open till I close comments on this post.

Spread the word, and don't forget to leave a comment to enter. Good luck!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

GUEST POST: The Care and Feeding of Your NaNoWriMo Draft

A nice surprise on this rainy Thursday (well, it's rainy here): a guest post from the wonderful Brenna Aubrey. (Memorize her name: it's going to be all over the historical romance section in a year or two, if I have anything to say about it.) 

The Care and Feeding of Your NaNoWriMo Draft

November has faded to a blurry memory of sleep deprivation and word count angst.  Thanksgiving leftovers have vanished and, with luck, you’ve had a chance to recuperate some of your lost sleep and reconnect with those strangers you used to call friends and family.

And you have 50,000 words of a vomit draft sitting on your hard drive.  What on earth do you do with the mess you’ve created and how can it grow up to become a pretty manuscript that readers will want to pet and love and name “George”?

Here are some tips and tricks for the care and feeding of your brand new baby draft:

1) Put it to bed:   And by that I mean tuck it away somewhere safe, don’t look at it and TRY NOT TO THINK ABOUT for at least a week or two, more, if you can spare the time.  Read a good book, plan your next project, do some research.  Consider it your writing sorbet, palate cleanser for the brain.

2) A loving note to your draft will let it know you are thinking of it:  After your rest period, but before you do a read-through, sit down and write out a BRIEF synopsis of what the story is about.  This is the bare-bones skeleton of your story, the structure upon which it will hang.  

3) Spend quality time together: Once steps 1 and 2 are complete, mark out a block of time, preferably a day or two, where you can sit undisturbed for hours at a time (hard trick for you parents, I know!) and read through the draft.

4) Spare the rod, spoil the draft: Make heavy use of your red (or whatever color you prefer) pen.  Or, if you edit electronically, make notes as you read.  DO NOT make the additions/edits needed on this first read-through, though.  You are reading and noting what needs to stay, what needs to go, and what is missing.  

5) Make it pretty:  Now that you’ve made all those ugly edit notes, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.  Bite the bullet and hit the delete key on the scenes that aren’t working.  If it’s too hard to kiss them goodbye, then make a “deleted scenes” file and stick them there.  Telling yourself that no delete is 100% permanent will help you murder the requisite darlings.

6) Socialization: NOW is the time to show off the draft to your trusted circle of critique partners.  New sets of eyes going over your draft is a MUST!   They aren’t just correcting punctuation, typos and word-choices, however.  Ask your critique partner for observations on overall structural issues such as characterization, plot development and emotional realism.  At this stage, those overall observations can be far more valuable than line critiques.

7) More Grooming: Once you have your notes back from your cps, it’s time to get back to that draft, yet again.  Take their notes, assimilate their observations and apply them to the draft.  

8) Expand the circle of friends:  Your draft is up and coming and on its way to becoming a real manuscript!  Now find some friends, real readers who like the genre you are writing, and ask them to take a look.  In the “biz” we call them beta-readers.  They are beta-testing your story to see if it’s ready for the real world.

9) Spit shine and fine-tooth comb:  Fix the issues your betas have pointed out, if any. Then do passes for tightening language, clip out those troublesome adverbs, edit for word choice, subtext and voice.  Untangle those overwritten passages and clunky sentences.  Get down to the nitty gritty.

10) Take it out on the town!  Your draft has grown up to a manuscript now!  And though you won’t be shaking your head fondly, wiping away the tears (unless they are tears of relief) and asking yourself “Where has the time gone?” you won’t regret any of the hard work you’ve put into it.  

My NaNoWriMo draft from 2010 took a lot of care and feeding.  By the time it went out on submission to agents, only about 20% of the original structure remained.  But in the end, it was worth it and I’m please to say that I have a fantastic agent now!

Best of luck with the care and feeding of your NaNoWriMo draft.

Brenna is an aspiring author of Regency Historical Romance and Fantasy fiction.  When not dreaming up people and worlds and writing them down, she is also a mom, wife, teacher, avid reader, French-speaking Francophile, and lover of nature.

Twitter: @BrennaAubrey

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday morning thought.

If I owe you the song Tuesday, Monday night I really get to work on it.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Fridaydream: the nicest compliment you've ever received

What's the nicest compliment you've ever received?

I'm not sure it's THE NICEST, and I'm not sure he really meant it as a compliment, but my dad (hi Dad!) once told me that I'd make a good lawyer. We were in the midst of a "discussion" about something at the time, of course.

I think about that every time I'm working on a contract negotiation that's gotten a little strained, and it never fails to toughen me up for at least one more round. Because what he really meant by that is that sometimes, I like to be in a fight. And he was right.

What's the nicest-- or maybe the strangest?-- compliment you've ever received? Got any good stories?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Contest winner critique


At long last, I'm very pleased to say that today's the day: I'm posting my critique of our contest winner's first two pages. Commenter slingsomeink bravely agreed to let me critique the first two pages of her historical romance novel here on the blog.

Blogger is really fighting me on the format of this-- or maybe I'm just doing battle with my own technological ineptness today?-- but keep scrolling down, please, for the annotated pages. I've got a summary of my critique at the bottom.

page 1

page 2

slingsomeink is doing a lot of things here that I really like, not least that she's catapulted her heroine into an unfamiliar and unexpected situation. Emily Starling seems to be a well-bred young lady, at least middle-class (and possibly a member of the ton) based on her education level and memories of "back home," not the sort of woman we expect to see herded onto a prison ship, bound somewhere that's five months' journey from England. The author takes pains, even in these two pages, to draw distinctions between the heroine and her fellow inmates. The former cellmate doesn't seem to like Emily much, for example; I doubt "Duchess" is a term of endearment. Yet there's nothing in this segment that suggests that Emily is wrongfully imprisoned...and I love that we don't yet know what she's imprisoned for. This mystery will keep me reading, and a smart writer will keep me on the hook for a while, till I'm more thoroughly invested in the story.

I also like that slingsomeink wastes no time introducing us to the man I assume will be the hero, this sea-god officer on the prison ship. If Emily's biting back a sharp retort, I'm guessing sparks will fly between these two.

As a number of my comments point to, there are a few clunky bits in here, too; in particular, I'd like slingsomeink to give us a bit more background on what's going on here, as this feels a little disorienting in the first couple of paragraphs. Watch out for cliches, and be mindful that word choice is appropriate to the character whose "head" we're in at that moment.

Overall, this is promising. I'd keep reading.

Thanks, slingsomeink, for being a great sport. What did the rest of you think? (compliments and constructive criticism only, please.) Any questions about any of my terminology, etc.?  

Should we do this again soon?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Greatest hits.

Welcome, Writer Unboxed readers! Make yourselves comfortable; have a look around.

Here's a list of some of my most popular posts, if you'd like to start there.

On professionalism and communication

As you know, Bob.

How to write a bio paragraph in your query letter

Don't do this in your query letter

Eyes the color of the ocean 

Five tips for revising your novel

And come back tomorrow, when I will (drumroll!) finally post my critique of the winner of our most recent critique contest.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday morning thought.

"If you want to be a writer, than be a writer, for god’s sake. It’s not that hard, and it doesn’t require that much effort on a day to day basis. Find the time or make the time. Sit down, shut up and put your words together. Work at it and keep working at it. And if you need inspiration, think of yourself on your deathbed saying “well, at least I watched a lot of TV.” If saying such a thing as your life ebbs away fills you with existential horror, well, then. I think you know what to do."