Good Reads

Good reads is a website devoted to readers. It compiles the opinions and suggestions of readers on books from all genres. Their search feature provides pages of book listings from simple key words like, YA angels that usually line up with what you were actually looking for.

Based on your own list of books you have read, are reading or intend to read the sight will also provide suggestions of books that may interest you. These lists are compiled per genre which is a feature I like since I flip back and forth from fiction to nonfiction, YA to career, ect.

The reading challenge is something I encourage everyone to take up. Set a goal of books to read by the end of the year and keep track with ease by using their site. Make friends, (I should be the first of course) read books, have fun with the link below.

http://www.goodreads.com/

Playlists to Write to

Stephanie Meyer posted the playlists she listened to when writing her novels. The music was so telling. The songs provided a glimpse into her frame of mind as she created characters and scenes. Not to mention it introduced me to Muse, an excellent band.

This playlist includes all the songs that I play over and over when working on Faceless, however; certain songs are only for certain situations.

The lighter, fun songs are for when Mase is doing his "normal" thing.

The midsection is where I spend most of my time. When I am writing about a dark topic and trying to end on a positive note, these songs help.


The last section is for villain creation. I want my villains to be awesome because I like them so much. They listen to cool music.

So here goes:

Bare Foot Blue Jean Night: Jake Owen          (Only country entry I promise.)
The Fighter: Gym Class Heroes
Tonight, Tonight: Hot Chelle Rae
Lights and Sounds: Yellowcard
Shake it: Metro Station
Seventeen Forever: Metro Station                   (See the shift?)
Good Life: One Republic
Wide Awake: Katy Perry
We are Young: Tonight
Pumped Up Kicks: Foster The People
Somebody That I Used to Know: Gotye
Born to Die: Lana Del Rey
Blue Jeans: Lana Del Rey         (If you aren't listening to this your iPod must be broken.)
Heavy in Your Arms: Florence and the Machine
It Will Rain: Bruno Mars
Kings and Queens: 30 Seconds to Mars
Vindicated: Dashboard Confessional              (Changing gears again.)
Prelude 12/21: AFI
Supermassive Black Hole: Muse

New Fave Quote

"The road to hell is lined with adverbs."
                                                      ---Stephen King

The Peter Principle

I just finished reading the Peter Principle and it is hysterical. A formal book review will follow but I had to share a funny story about the book right away.

The Peter Principle is the idea that people are promoted to their level of incompetence. The book is a satirical look at this principle at work. Due to grouped incompetence things go wrong and production plummets.

I told you that to tell you this. My copy of the book demonstrated such failure in that it was numbered correctly, but I was missing a page in between pg 81 and 82. Too funny.

Editing

This week has been jammed packed with editing. Every night I've bee up till two, three o'clock, trying to get every word just right. Then as soon as my head hit the pillow, I'd be back up again because some great dialogue would come to me. Sometimes my brain has awful timing.

Faceless has survived major edits. I started completely over yesterday after realizing I made a terrible error. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, a book by professional editors Renni Browne and Dave King alerted me to a fatal error I had made all throughout the first draft.

I will describe this excellent book in more detail in a formal review, but basically in one of the last chapters they describe a tactic that "hack" (their word not mine) writers use frequently that gets their manuscripts rejected. They combine sentences like this: Feeling around in the drawer, she pulled out a fork. After reading eight books by a bestselling author that all did this, I picked up the bad habit. So yesterday I spent the day undoing all of my sentences that began with words ending in -ing or the word as.

Bits and pieces of a sequel to Faceless have been floating around in my head. The working title is Juna's Reach, and I am really excited about it. Its going to be an interesting, fast paced ride for Mase. Only this time, he won't be visiting Hell at all. Mase will be happy to hear about that I think.

On Editing

I completed first round edits on 37 pages of my draft thus far. Editing will become my favorite thing to do the day I am faced with either it or eating toxic mold for fun.

What's going on here?

Reading book after book about the craft of novel writing has my head spinning. When I go to read an actual YA novel, I get thrown for a loop. Bestselling authors are making all the "mistakes" and getting away with it. I'm not crying foul, it just makes researching what I liked about the books difficult.

Oftentimes, what I liked is what the experts say new writers shouldn't do. The experts say to read what you want to write, then essentially tell you not to write like that.

The experts say don't use a prologue. Open to the first page of Twilight, tell me what you find. Go ahead, I'll wait.

They say not to use dialogue as a hook line, seems to be working for the Riley Bloom series.

Tag lines must be he said/she said and no derivation will be allowed past the slush pile. The Immortals series, which is rumored to be in movie talks, is riddled with, she smiled, he growled.

After going back and forth on it, I decided to rewrite my entire draft in past tense, only to open the second book of the Hunger Games and find its all in present tense. Will I regret this choice later on too?

Suffice it to say if an agent options my book, with the sole requirement that I go back and put the whole thing in present tense, the first thing I will do is throw something while letting loose a steady string of profanities. Then, of course, I will rewrite the whole thing in present tense and do my happy dance.

Book Review #3

Do not read The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, by Noah Lukeman if you are the slightest bit sensitive. The entire work is negative, coming across like a lecture from your parents. But it is very worth the read, if you can handle the author's bluntness. So if you have grown that thick, calloused skin that every writer seeking publishing should possess, this book belongs in your editing tool box.

Lukeman speaks from years of experience in the publishing field, and he makes everyone in it sound miserable. The image he portrays is a group of sleepy, irritated, underpaid cubicle dwellers just looking for a reason to kill the dreams of querying writers. I am not really sure how accurate this is, but the mindset that he provides is actually conducive to better editing. If I envision an agent, or publisher, skipping to her desk, eager to discover the slush waiting in her e-mail inbox, well, this person sounds more forgiving about blatant typos in my book. The sinister cubicle dweller, not so much. She sounds like she is going to be animated with sinister glee when she finds that first typo, or plot hole, or unnecessary scene. I imagine her cackling as she deletes the e-mail, and all my aspirations of becoming published deleted with the push of a key.

This short book provides tips, exercises, and examples of errors that land writers instant rejections. The tips are fresh and insightful, the exercises are effective, and the examples are incredulous in a good way. His examples, by being over the top, bring to life the errors so that writers can grasp the concepts quickly. And it works, his advice has definitely cut the guesswork out of my editing and reduced the time I spend head in hands, glaring at my computer, trying to decide what gets cut and what lives to see another day in my first draft.

My favorite parts are in the beginning of each chapter. Lukeman describes insider information about how book deals work, who agents really are, and how many of the bestselling writers were rejected multiple times before meeting with success.

This was the second book by Lukeman that I read this week. The other one is a short free e-book on query letters. How to Write a Great Query Letter is a quick, informative read. Following the same jaded style of First Five, this book provides step by step instructions on how to write a query letter that will past muster by avoiding the pitfalls that send letters straight to the rejection pile.

His advice helped me to construct a solid query letter quickly, but there was one area that I felt he went against the grain with. Lukeman recommends writers provide titles of books and movies that are similar to their work, especially if said agent represented said title. This runs counter to the advice I have received in at least two other books by experts in the writing industry, leading me to believe it is a manner of taste. Some agents might appreciate this, others may resent it. Considered yourself warned.

Visit Lukeman's website to download it for free. Note: Downloads are only available once to each visitor, so don't download this at your aunt's house the day before your visit is over. http://www.lukeman.com/greatquery/

Recommended: (First Five) Yes
Recommended: (Query Letter) Yes

Writer's Groups

Last night I had the good fortune to attend two different writer's groups. At first, I did not know what to expect, a dozen bad scenarios crossed my mind as I drove to the first meeting. Would the writing community spit my idea out or laugh at my grasp of the English language? Nothing of the sort occurred and I left fired up to get into the editing process for my novel.

Turns out, writing groups are composed of authors that are in love with the craft. They lean on each other for advice and motivation. The groups I attended encouraged while criticizing, and took the time to be delicate while truthful.

So for those who have not attended a writer's group, stop working alone! If you really value your writing don't cut yourself off from people who can help, and want to help you out of the goodness of their hearts. Your novel deserves honest criticism, something your family and friends may unfortunately be too biased to provide.

Writer's groups are based on give and take, but both aspects will assist aspiring authors in honing their craft. Each week the group will critique pages from each others work (provided in advance of the meeting.) By critiquing another author's work you will be sharpening your own editing skills. By being critiqued you are saving yourself future SASE postage from agent rejection letters for flaws that you did not catch on your own.

The best part about a diverse group of writers coming together is that they are all looking for different things. My group is strictly children's work, so they already are on the lookout for talking over our shared audience, but in addition to this, we have a  grammar guru, a voice critic, and gentleman that is a pro at finding plot gaps, and lastly, a guy who not only catches confusing sentences, but also suggests a better way of wording them. Go find a group like this for yourself if you have not already.

Lastly, groups can provide advice on locating agents and the publishing process. At most, the group may devote a few moments to query letters and then get back on track, but if you befriend some of the members they may meet you offline to discuss how they enticed agents, became published, won awards, ect. Finding someone who has done what you want to do is invaluable, take that person for coffee!

I cannot wait unit the next meeting. A final word of caution before you run out and join a group. The most legitimate groups will be the ones that stem from a writing association, so google them to find your local chapters. The last thing you want at this point is a dead end that will slow you down, bad advice from people that know less about this than you, or to walk into an unsafe situation. Be smart and look out for things that don't seem right.

In short, I was really nervous about attending a group but now I am so glad I did. This is just what my novel and I needed. I cannot wait unit the next meeting.

Book reviews #2

The second in this series of book review is on: Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb. This book is essential for aspiring writers of all genres and audiences.

Your First Novel is a no-nonsense guide to writing and publishing one's first novel. The book is divided into two parts, the first is a guide on writing the book written by a published author. She guides readers from the very first brainstorming session to the last revision, highlighting every tedious detail in the process.

The second part is written by a literary agent who is blunt, but very wise. As an aspiring writer one has to be able to hear constructive criticism and the harsh truth. For a crash course in that read the second half of this book.

This book is perhaps my favorite and most helpful resource to date. It is riddled with online resources, recommendations on other helpful books and guides, and concrete statistical information to back what the authors are telling their readers. As a nosey person, being provided insider information on what makes the publishing industry tick was an added bonus, as an aspiring writer it was a rude awakening. It was after closing this tome that I made my note cards, set my goal on a year to complete my manuscript, and began building my much needed platform. These authors prepared me for the uphill battle to come.

This book is my go-to when I get stuck and need a refresher.

Recommended: Yes!

Book reviews #1

This is the first of a series of book reviews. Each book deserves its own post in my humble opinion so each shall have one.

The first book I would like to review is Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks. What drew me to this book was the combination of the fact that Brooks is a literary agent and that the book is tailored to writers of YA material.

The book meets my page range (coming in at 172 pages) I prefer books that are under 350 pages because I can read them quickly. Any longer than that and my life happens, the book gets put down and never gets picked back up. Very sad on my part, I know.

The book itself covers a lot of the material that can be found in other books, but has a unique spin and caters to YA writers. I also love the fact that the book has an e-preview option online, which helps the reader to determine whether or not it is the right book before making a purchase.

As an author and an agent, Brooks provide great advice and step by step directions to writing a book. The back end of the book is devoted to finding an agent and other publishing related insider information. This kind of info is gold when one is trying to get a sense of what agents and publishers are looking for or sick of looking at.

The book reads smoothly, mainly due to her light hearted writing approach. I refer back to this book frequently for the 50 words or less answer I am looking for in the heat of a writing moment. Her writing style and economical sensibility with words made this a very enjoyable and informative read.

Recommended: Yes

Faceless Update

As good aspiring writers do, every available moment I have had lately has been poured into the first draft of Faceless. But quite honestly, I am finding that very little time is going to actual writing. Since about May I have been stalled out on the last five scenes, but I am happy to report that as of today I am down to completing the last two scenes of the first draft. If I can continue to be inspired and think up good stuff, I anticipate hashing out the whole thing in the next few days. 

What I have found is that most of writing has nothing to do with typing at all. The majority of my time has been devoted to researching for the book itself, and the actual publishing industry. I am most inspired after reading a book about the art of writing or about how publishing actually works. So when I realize it has been a few days (or weeks) since I had a decent idea for a scene, I buy a book  (yes a real book, I don't own a kindle yet) and have at it. Before chapter two I am usually jotting down ideas rapid fire. 

For the next few posts I will list some of the books I have found to be great resources, ones that I refer back to as write. Not only my word count, but also my knowledge is increasing, there is ample improvement since the first words I typed out for Faceless. 

Another new thing I am going to try is a writer's group. Although my friends and family have been great critics, providing not only constructive criticism, but also encouragement, I think it is definitely time to talk to some people who are in the thick of it as well. As much as my Mom loves me and is interested in hearing about my characters she can offer no assistance on a good query letter. 

The resource I will recommend in this post is Writer's Digest.com. The site is highly consumer based, but so far the books that Writer's Digest has endorsed and I have bought in well known book stores have been top notch. 

In addition to this they run writing contests weekly and monthly. My goal is to start writing for these contests when one peaks my interest for two reasons. One is that prompt writing is a great exercise for writers that I will not do unless someone gives me a good reason, and two, if I were to actually win one of these contests I will have something to put in the bio of my query letter. It will not stand against someone having an article published in the NY Times, but it will look better than blank space at the bottom of the page. 

Lastly, they have some really good articles on all aspects of writing and all genres and types of writing. The articles that I have stayed up all night on two occasions reading were from a 150 piece collection on literary agents. The newer articles not only provide the agent's name, but also the types of queries they accept, so one can discern who to even bother reading about. Although it is way too early in the game to be making a folio of people to send unsolicited mail to, I find hope in reading about what will lie in store for me later on. Not to mention there is solid research quality to finding out what is hot and what has been done to death, and there is no one whose thumb is closer to the pulse of publishing right now than of course agents and the publishers they court. So, if you are a writer in need of inspiration, check out the site.

Agent interviews:
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/agent-advice-agent-interviews 

Outstanding math books

As a brand new teacher, I have some certification examinations that I have to pass or they kick me out of the school and tell me to never come back. Fortunately for me, I had already passed all but one of these, expensive, difficult, and long tests. The one I put off to the end was staring me down, with a deadline two months out. This test was put off because it had math on it, and I am so bad at math, it is pathetic. Nothing seemed to work for me, GRE study guides, GKT study guides, online resources, I was sunk.

Then I got a hold of these math books intended for middle grade females written by Danica McKellar. Yes, Wynnie from Wonder Years. Actually, little ole' Wynnie graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a degree in mathematics. And she is a fabulous teacher. For the first time in my life I understood the concepts, enjoyed learning the material and bonus--was getting the answers correct. Passed my test, no issues, thank you Wynnie!

So if you know a girl who is struggling with math, hook her up with these books:

http://www.danicamckellar.com/store/

Much needed update

Okay, so unfortunately, I have been crazy busy and have had little time to write. Life totally got in the way, what with becoming a teacher, college classes, and other obligations. Safe to say my reading and writing were on hold temporarily.

Any moment that I could hang onto though I used to work out, read or write. Last month I finished reading an amazing series of books, whose female protagonist frustrated me to no end. If you have not read The Immortals, by Alyson Noel, you are missing out. The series is infused with pagan and wiccan themes that take the story line to a place werewolves and vampires just can't reach. The teens in the book actually think, act, and speak like teens instead of thirty-five year old women, which as a reader I appreciate. The tone is somewhere in-between Twilight and Laguna Beach, just edgy enough to be interesting, yet tame enough for young adult audiences.

There are rumors of one last book in the saga and perhaps a movie deal. Noel also started a spin off series intended for middle grades, focusing on a minor character from the original saga.

If you have been bumming around since you finished reading Twilight or are sick of faeries and vamps, give this series a try.

http://www.immortalsseries.com/