Posts Tagged ‘writing’
So, once again, the enabler of this blog tour thing…ahem, I meant, the person who invited me to participate in this blog hop is the lovely and talented J.M. Frey, Lambda Literary Award nominated author of Triptych. Check her out here.
Now that the introductions have been made, the way this works is that I answer a few questions about myself. These are short and fun. Hope you enjoy! And make sure to check out the amazing authors linked at the end of the post.
1 – If you could time travel and steal somebody else’s novel/short story/film for yourself, what would it be?
The first book in Anne McCaffrey‘s Pern series, Dragonflight. It’s not currently my favorite book of all time, but it certainly was at one point, and it–and the following series–affected my life profoundly, and my writing. To have been able to start in that world and take it through the worldbuilding she did, would have been an amazing experience, I think.
2 – What writing sin do you actively have to struggle against in your own work?
In first drafts, I tend to use too many adverbs, echo the same reactions over and over (shrug, smile, etc.), and fail to indicate who is speaking in long passages of dialogue. Thankfully, those are pretty easy to spot in editing.
3 – Pick three writers, past or present, that you would want to have dinner with. Why those writers?
Mary Shelley, Brandon Sanderson, Carol Berg. Thankfully, two of those are still alive, and I might just get lucky enough one day…
As for why, Mary Shelley not only wrote the original science fiction novel, Frankenstein, but she was a woman writing something completely original–and heaven knows how that might have been received, woman or no–more than a hundred years ago. Anyone close to the industry knows that women writing science fiction and fantasy are STILL fighting for acceptance and equal standing among our peers. What must it have been like for her?
Brandon Sanderson is a name everyone reading this probably already knows. He’s an amazing fantasy writer and he doesn’t need me to sing his praises. But what fascinates me about him and what I’d love to talk to him about is his worldbuilding. He writes the most original worlds I’ve ever read, barring perhaps Elizabeth Bear. It’s not that they’re so mindboggling foreign that we can’t even relate, it’s that they take a world like ours, and they make something about it amazingly different, in a way that’s mindboggling and changes everything. To be able to invent worlds like that…
Carol Berg writes the most amazing characters I’ve ever read. And then she combines them into situations and relationships that could just tear your heart out or make you dance in the streets, depending on what page you’re on. I’m a character-centric writer, so for me, that’s magic.
So, quick and painless, more or less. Be sure to check out these other authors, and their amazing writing.
Gabrielle Harbowy: Editor and author extraordinaire. Co-editor with Ed Greenwood of the When the Hero Comes Home, When the Villain Comes Home, and When The Hero Comes Home 2. Also my co-author in a short story in Carbide Tipped Pens, coming soon from Tor.
Have you seen this lineup?
- Amy Boggs, Donald Maass
- Danielle Chiotti, Upstart Crow
- Josh Getzler, Hannigan Salky Getzler
- Weronika Janczuk, Franklin and Siegal
- Melissa Jeglinski, The Knight Agency
- Sarah LaPolla, Curtis Brown
- Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown
- Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy
- Lauren MacLeod, Strothman Agency
- Victoria Marini, Gelfman Schneider
- Vickie Motter, Andrea Hurst
- Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy
- Tamar Rydzinski, Laura Dail
- Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, Larsen Pomada
- Tina Wexler, ICM Talent
Think you’d like one or several of these agents salivating over your novel, fighting other agents (hair pulling and bitch-slapping optional) just to get their hands on your full manuscript first?
Then GET IN THERE!
There’s still time to enter and, if you have a completed manuscript, YA or Adult (anything but erotica) then you’ll kick yourself if you don’t at least try to get involved in this. There are deadlines all through October and November leading up to the big event in December.
Ugh. Loglines. Authoress over at Miss Snark’s First Victim is running the pre-Baker’s Dozen logline critique sessions right now and I’ve been reading and adding my two cents and I’m reminded of how much query and logline writing sucks balls. So I’m thinking a concrete example of how you can go wrong, and then distill it down to something right, might help others going through this hell.
So what’s a logline? Essentially, it’s the pitch for your book distilled to one single sentence. Holy… Well, like most people, I started from the query and worked down. Want to see?
Now, I’ve never publicly owned some of this because it’s so embarrassing. But, in the spirit of helping others, and because this way you can laugh at me when I can’t see you doing it, I’ve decided to share my full novel-pitch evolution. That’s right, you get to see the bad stuff I actually put my name on and emailed to people.
Disclaimer: I’m not showing you the first one I wrote, or even the tenth. The very, very first stuff was pure garbage. Even I knew that. I worked and worked it until I got one I thought was pretty good. Here it is:
You can never trust anyone in authority. Jacob Dawes always knew that; but he fell in love with the Emperor anyway. The dangerous mess his life has become really is his own fault.
Jacob is nothing and no one in the Intergalactic Empire where birth, wealth, and social status mean everything. But when his incredible genius is identified, he becomes a valuable commodity to the Empire and he’s taken to the Imperial Intellectual Complex.
The Empire may want him, in spite of his origins, but the scientists and scholars at The Complex don’t. His groundbreaking discoveries in physics overcome prejudice, and earn him the favor – and friendship – of the Emperor.
In time, the friendship becomes more and Jacob, cynical and wary of anyone in power, is now the Emperor’s lover.
The Emperor’s favor isn’t a protection, and Jacob soon finds himself embroiled in dangerous political games he’s ill-equipped to play that may cost him the man he loves, and even his life.
Wow, that’s long. Well, it’s a complex world and a complex character with complex problems. There’s only so much you can cut out, right? Here it was after I got some seriously good quality (and professional) help with it. This is the version that I queried with that led to the sale of the book:
Jacob Dawes’ scientific genius got him out of the slums and into the Emperor’s bed; but when a very public mistake gives his rivals an opportunity to be rid of him, Jacob discovers that fighting his own execution would mean betraying the man he loves.
Well that’s a bit less, isn’t it. Barely even a pitch, more like a logline. It got me a book deal, though.
Here’s the back cover copy of the published book:
When Jacob Dawes is Selected for the Imperial Intellectual Complex as a child, he’s catapulted from the poverty-stricken slums of his birth into a world where his status as an unclass is something no one can forget, or forgive. His growing scientific renown draws the attention of the emperor, a young man Jacob’s own age, and they find themselves drawn to each other in an unlikely, and ill-advised relationship. Jacob may have won the emperor’s heart, but it’s no protection when he’s accused of treason. And fighting his own execution would mean betraying the man he loves.
Here’s my editor-approved logline:
A brilliant young physicist is accused of treason; to fight for his own life, he’ll have to betray his lover, the Emperor.
Let’s be clear, I didn’t come up with that one, that was the combined effort of my editor and another author who is actually good at this stuff. I COULD NOT get the above back cover copy distilled to one sentence. What about all the stuff about his past? That’s Important! What about why he was ever in danger in the first place? That’s Important! What about the setting? That’s Important!
Well, sure. But that’s for the “oh, tell me more” version of a pitch, or the one you use when you’re querying. That’s not what a logline is. You often hear it called the elevator pitch. You find yourself on the elevator with your dream agent and she asks what your book’s about. That’s not the time to recite your full query from heart. That’s where you use a logline.
What do you NEED in a logline?
Character, conflict, decision, stakes.
A brilliant young physicist is accused of treason; to fight for his own life, he’ll have to betray his lover, the Emperor.
Character: Brilliant young physicist.
Conflict: Accused of treason.
Decision: Betray the man he loves or not.
It can feel impossible to convey what is unique and interesting about your story without at least some of the trimmings. But there’s no room for that in a logline. Every word counts. Make one word and the one you put next to it convey whole volumes of information. Well you can do that, right? That’s what you do! You’re a writer!
Yes, but one of the hard things about writing a logline isn’t that you don’t know how to write a sentence, it’s that you have to learn to see down to the bare bones of your own story and find the very, very few things that truly matter in conveying an idea of the story in one breath. That’s really really hard for the writer because you are so close to the story you usually can’t see it clearly. That’s why things like Authoress’s logline critique sessions are so helpful! It’s HARD to be told you’re wrong, that what you worked SO HARD on doesn’t work, that your beloved Very Important details aren’t important to anyone but you.
Get used to it. Once you sell the book, you get to do that over and over and over again. For a living.
And good luck!
(Check out, too, Authoress’s own post on loglines. As usual, the comments from the community are helpful as well. Don’t skip them.)
I need to figure out who killed the king.
OK, there’s a bit more to it than that. I’m in the will-this-shiny-new-idea-work stage of a new novel. It’s coming together beautifully and I’m in love with the main characters. But I’m still trying to fill in pieces of the overall plot to make sure it works. It’s a high fantasy sort of setting. Here’s the basic premise and where I’m running into trouble.
Basic premise as it applies to current problem: The King is assassinated. His teenage stepson walks in on it and sees it done. Stepson escapes that night and is missing for ten years. He comes back. Conflict that’s been raised/resolved/brewing/etc over all this time comes to a head/ensues.
The plot turn where I’m having trouble: One of the ways the shit hits the fan with this return is that it was never determined all this time who actually killed the king. There have been powerful dukes and the king’s younger brother implicated in the overall plot, but no one knows who wielded the knife, or if they do, they’re not telling. But the stepson saw who it was all those years ago. So now that he’s back, he can out the killer.
Problem: I need a character for this killer. Thing is, there’s an alternate world attached to this one where each person has a counterpart, though, as often is in one of these stories, ones who are good in one world are evil in the other, etc. I have a counterpart for this character in the alternate world that I need to match up to someone in this one. For that reason, I need this person to be:
Someone both the king and the stepson would know.
It doesn’t have to be someone they liked or trusted but there’s no reason it couldn’t have been, either. It would probably fit better with the alternate world if this one wasn’t clearly and obviously a friend of the king.
Someone who is now safely out of the way, her compatriots probably know where and have means to contact her. She may or may not have disappeared as soon as the deed was done, but she’s not in reach now that the stepson is back at the palace to name her.
She’s someone no one suspects. (This one makes me leery of using wives/sisters of any of the known plotters.)
Limitations: The boys’ mother was already dead, the king had no other lover. They have no other close female relations, except possibly a wife for the king’s brother, a known plotter.
I’ve got no major female character already in this part of the story at all–it’s one of those icky patriarchal societies–;) except one who is too young to have been involved. I don’t have a problem inserting one, and she doesn’t have to play a hugely important role otherwise, but does have to be enough a part of the backstory that it’s not a “who?” moment when she’s revealed. (Obviously she can’t play a huge role now, since she’s not around to be captured once the prince names her.)
Anyone have any ideas? Or have I backed myself into a corner and need to revisit some of my limitations?
So, I was tagged to do this “The Next Big Thing” meme, by one of my favorite author people, J.M. Frey. The way it works, I tag five other authors in turn to participate by answering the questions below.
Naturally, I tagged the following authors:
Now, not all of them could participate, but you should check them out anyway because they’re talented writers, great people, and they all work really hard to give back to the writing community as well.
So, there were questions, right? Here they are with my answers. And check out writers all over the web participating in The Next Big Thing!
What is the working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
This one’s the sequel to Fighting Gravity, my debut novel that came out this past spring.
What genre does your book fall under?
Science fiction with a bit of a gay love story on the side.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I haven’t the foggiest. I’m not a very visual person, so even if I knew the names of more than the top five or six actors right now, I’ve never been able to picture any of them as my guys.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Jacob thought marrying the emperor would make him safe; but he’s in more danger than ever, and this time, his worst enemy knows the one secret Jacob’s desperate to keep from the emperor.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither. I signed with a small publisher without an agent.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took shape over the course of about four months, but if I’m honest, the actual writing time was about three weeks worth of eight hour writing days sprinkled out over those four months.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
If anything, I think my brand of scifi most resembles Anne McCaffrey’s style of light but plausible sci-fi that’s very character centric.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
The writing fairies? I’m not sure “inspired” is the right word, but my husband was the one who convinced me to actually put it down on paper instead of just storing these stories in my head.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
One thing people really seem to like about the series so far is that it addresses prejudice and social injustice in a story centering on a same sex relationship—where the sexuality of the people involved is a complete non-issue. It’s not only not what you’d expect, but really refreshing to me to get to read about a same-sex couple without their sexual preferences being The Issue.
OK, now that you know what I’ve got going on, check in with J.M. Frey and the other great authors on the tour. And Have Fun!