Archive for the ‘Erin Incarnate’ Tag

In the Blogosphere: 6/21-7/2

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

BE CAREFUL

As Sarah Jane Freymann Literary’s Katharine Sands discussed at Southeastern Writers association last week, when pitching, it’s important to be ready.  Over at Self Editing Blog, John Robert Marlow discusses jumping the gun: suicide by submission.

Likewise, Nelson Literary Agency’s Kristin Nelson describes the dangers of starting your novel in the wrong place.

WORTHLESS WORDS

You know, I sort of think this is kind of a fabulous blog post.  Writer and part-time doctor Lydia Kang of The Word is My Oyster says: Stop apologizing! Chuck that qualifying language and strengthen your writing.

REALITY CHECK

Thinking of doing a little freelancing?  Down the Shore with Jen’s Jen A. Miller (@jerseyshorejen) explains four things you need in order to make it.  A must-read for all fledgling freelancers.

Aw, a baby freelancer.

QUERY STUFF

Here, award-winning fiction and nonfiction author JC Hutchins of Writer Unboxed discusses crafting killer pitches by offering and analyzing examples of good ones.

I’m a little behind with my Blogosphere posts—I saved this one two months ago!!—but it’s too good not to share.  Young adult fantasy author Jodi Meadows of the Query Project gave us a gift on her birthday: the query she wrote for Erin Incarnate that helped her snag fab agent Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency.

GET WRITING!

Looking for a little motivation to get words written?  The Michelle Wolfson repped Tawna Feske details a recent Twitter writing sensation, #1k1hr, where one must turn off her self-editor and get words on the page—1,000 of them, to be exact—in an hour.

If you’re looking for something just as satisfying but a little more flexible and a little more long-term, check out my new writing SWO program, WordWatchers. Pick a weekly word count goal, and divvy up the words written per day in a way that fits your schedule!

OMG

In honor of Eclipse coming out this week . . . if you thought the people who stand in lines for twelve hours to see the Twilight movies were wonky, you weren’t wrong—but there are wonkier folks out there.  Here, Great White Snark gives us a dozen such psychopaths.

If You Missed the SWO LIVE CHAT on Story Openings . . .

ME: I’m a little behind in typing up this recap.

VOICE IN MY HEAD:  A little?  You’re a month behind! *shakes a fist in Why-I-Oughtta fashion*

ME: *cowers* I know, I know.  But better late than never, right?

(End scene.)

At May’s SWO live chat, we discussed story openings.  Here’s a little precursor to our session.

If you missed the chat, or if you were there but it was too buggy to keep up (sorry!), here are the highlights:

THE GIST

At the start of the chat, attendees posted either their own story openings or the openings of their favorite books.  This was not meant to be a critique session (although a little of that went on); rather, we pointed out what the reader learns from each opening and what makes each opening successful or not.

This led to talk about what it means to have a “successful” opening.  It’s subjective, of course; but, for the most part, we agreed that in order to deem a story opening a success, it has to hook the reader in some way—because, while readers might give the author a few chapters before giving up, agents pretty much won’t.  Translation: Your opening needs to do something—and right away.

As we looked at real examples, we noted that the best ones oriented the reader.  As one member put it, an opening has to service your narrative in a clear way.

The best openings were those that:

  • Showed voice
  • Gave context
  • Displayed character insight
  • Raised questions

WAYS TO ORIENT THE READER

  • Work in age the main character’s age—especially important if you’re writing children’s or YA
    • Pay close attention to voice and diction here, as that can be very telling
  • Hone in on structure and pacing (i.e., if it’s supposed to be a tense action scene, your sentence structure and punctuation

    What's my motivation?

    should mimic that)

  • Indicate genre or story type
    • Injecting setting can do this (i.e., placing your characters in the woods might suggest it’s fantasy)
    • Names can do this (i.e., if a character’s name is “Zender,” like in one of the examples we analyzed, that gives the sense it’s sci-fi or fantasy—more so than if the dude’s name is “Bob”)
  • Indicate protag’s goals/motivations (i.e., if it starts off talking about a dungeon escape, the reader might deduce it’s probably not contemporary fiction)

THINGS TO AVOID

  • Avoid gimmicks
    • Like the “fake-out” beginning (where you set it up to look like one thing is true, but you read the rest of the page and discover it isn’t.  Many agents—Nathan Bransford, for one—shy away from the “gotcha” opener)
  • Probably don’t start with poetry
  • You don’t need to start with a fireworks display—particularly if you can’t follow it up anything
    • If you do this, it can come off as “gimmicky”

EXAMPLE

Opening of Stephen King’s Gunslinger series:

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

  • This tells so much without saying anything at all, really
    • Good guy vs. bad guy
    • A chase—an escape
    • In many ways, this one line serves as a microcosm for the entire series.

MORE, PLEASE!

Up-and-coming YA author Jodi Meadows was kind enough to send me her opening to the first book in her New Soul trilogy, Erin Incarnate.  I have posted her thoughts it on Shenandoah Writers Online under the “Files” tab at the top of the main page.  In the file, Jodi shows her original opening and talks about the changes her agent wanted her to implement—and why making those changes made her opening stronger.

For SWO members, click here to access Jodi’s file.*

DISCLAIMER

We also indicated you can probably play devil’s advocate for each of these suggestions or cite counter examples in published books.  However, it’s important to remember we’re trying to establish some “rules” here—not exceptions.  As well, we’re talking about writers trying to break into the industry given today’s market—not established authors whose books are going to sell a bajillion copies no matter what they write.

Now, it’s your turn.  Anything to add to the conversation?

*Not an SWO member yet?  Click here to get started.

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