Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Getting Defensive: A Cautionary Tale

If you have not yet seen This Astonishing Post you MUST go read it now. No time? Okay, I'll paraphrase it for you. The link takes you to BigAl's blog where he gave 2 stars to a self-published book he'd been asked to review, and then the author comments several times with angry diatribes, and comments that make it clear she has not understood what the reviewer was saying, before finally signing off with a pair of F*** Off!s. I encourage you to read BigAl's review when you have a chance because I think it's a fair and honest review of the book.

He called the story "compelling and interesting."

He also said "the spelling and grammar errors, which come so quickly that, especially in the first several chapters, it’s difficult to get into the book without being jarred back to reality as you attempt unraveling what the author meant."

Ouch, right? But a fair warning. He makes it clear that if you can get past these, you will find a compelling story, and he did in fact read the whole book, however, the difficulty he had reading it was one of the factors that lead to his low rating.

The author (who I will not name, nor will I post any of her writing samples for ridicule) took offense to the review and apparently misunderstood, or refused to believe that the reviewer was not talking about mere formatting problems within the ebook.

She made repeated negative references to the reviewers character and integrity, as well as his and many other commenters' intelligence.

In response, many commenters apparently went to amazon and rated her book, which previously had 4 and 5 star ratings, with one star.

It was quite simply, mortifying.

And it made me think. My first reaction was one of how can she be so angry? He said her story was good, just the writing wasn't up to par. But then I tried to put myself in her shoes. This was a book she'd put up for sale, as an example of her talent. And I remembered how the first few times I got a critique from one of my crit partners, I could only see the negatives -- the things that didn't work, the should've-been-obvious mistakes, the seemingly insurmountable amount of revision I was going to have to do even though I'd already worked so hard on it.

And then I felt kind of bad for the author.

She had a fairly natural reaction to a negative review, but rather than taking the time to process it, find the good, find the things she didn't agree with and let them go, she took it straight to the internet and sabotaged her reputation, and potentially her book sales and career by lashing out.

So today, I just want to remind us all (including myself!) to STOP, and BREATHE, and THINK before lashing out at those we have asked to help us. Remember that any crit or review is just one person's opinion, but also that there is almost always something worthwhile in a negative critique or review. You can't please everyone at once, but you can always improve.

And those of you going the self-publishing route, I think this author's experience is proof that you must be extra vigilent since you won't automatically have the eyes of a professional editor or copyeditor before your book goes out into the world.

Don't let defensiveness, pride, or hurt feelings keep you from making your book the best it can be!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chapters Vs. Scenes

So I was reading this awesome post at QueryTracker today about writing a synopsis and the section on chapters got me thinking.

I don't write in chapters. My brain doesn't understand them. Like, literally - I find it confusing how sometimes a chapter can take place over a period of three days, and another time a chapter ends in the middle of a scene and the next chapter picks up at the exact same place. I can't find the pattern.

I think in scenes and scene sequences - thanks to all my film and screenwriting education, I guess. My first ms is a dual narrative and for the most part each "chapter" is one complete scene or sequence.

H.L. Dyer says at QueryTracker, "Each chapter, like a novel, should have a beginning, middle, and an ending."

This makes sense to me, and I think this is true of my scenes and scene sequences, they are just generally too short to be considered a "typical" chapter. I'm also a fan of the short chapter in fiction, so maybe that says something about me and my writing.

As I'm in the planning stages of my next book, I'm finding the chapter issue interesting. This book will have one narrator and so switching chapters at the end of each scene doesn't quite work with how I want this book to be.

I don't outline, but I do make note of all the major scenes I know need to happen, as well as my beginning through to the inciting incident, and my ending. I'm fascinated by people who use chapter outlines, and know exactly what will be in each chapter when they sit down to write.

I don't know how they do this. But then I also tend to be more fluid with my scenes. I will switch them around and re-order them in order to best build tension, make motivations clear, and keep the story moving forward.

At this point, I feel certain that I will have to write first and separate into chapters later. I will probably but in chapter breaks in places where it feels right, but other than that I won't know where a chapter ends and the next one starts until I finish the story.

What about you? Do you know exactly what your chapters will entail? Do you think in chapters or scenes? Does anyone else split and number chapters after they've written the book? Am I crazy?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Three Things on a Thursday (WINNERS!)

Don't drink and drive!

1. Look what Pretty Little Liars sent me! A clover plant! How cute is that?

Next Monday, March 21, they're doing a marathon leading up to the Spring Finale! Don't miss it!

2. I wrote a letter to my teenage self for the awesome website Dear Teen Me and it's up today. Read all about My Tragic Youth (And see some rather embarrassing photos of my "fashion sense")! And then read the other letters from some amazing YA authors like Sarah Ockler, Hanna Moskowitz, Shannon Messenger, Jo Knowles, Sara Zarr, Elana Johnson, I could go on and on!

3. Now for what you've been waiting for, the winner of my Back From Branson Giveaway Part 2! They are:

Congrats to the winners! Look for an email from me soon! Thanks so much to everyone for entering and spreading the word! I have a lot more books to give away now that BEA is coming up! So you've got plenty of chances to win!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Starting From Scratch - Again

When I first decided to give writing a book a try, I was terrified. Not that my book would be bad - strangely, I never worried about that, don't know what that says about my ego. No, I was scared at the idea over a hundred pages full of words. As someone who had at most written a 100 page screenplay which has considerably less words on each page, and many short stories, the task seemed impossible. Where would all those words come from? What would they be? How could I possibly find a way to use so many of them to tell just one story??

I decided to make my goal simple. Just write a complete story, and make it to page 100. I thought if I could tell a whole story and reach three digit numbers I would know that I was capable of writing a book, which would be all the reassurance I would need. And so I did it, and it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

Ah, whoever coined the phrase "ignorance is bliss" was SO right. I look back now and I can't believe that I thought just finishing a book would be enough to turn me from under-confident writer wannabe to seasoned writer extraordinaire. You know, the one that churns out fabulous books and never has trouble with plots or dialogue or motivation. Ha!

Just like I knew that winning the lottery, or becoming mega-famous, or getting plastic surgery won't actually change who you are, I should've known that neither does writing a book.

Sitting down to write the next book is still hard. It still feels daunting to know I have to come up with 200+ pages of words. In some ways it's more daunting because I know how to spot the bad stuff as it's happening. In other ways, it's exciting, because I know this one will be SO MUCH better. I just also know that it won't be any easier.

Maybe one day I will sit down at the keyboard and gorgeous prose will shoot out of my fingertips like a sprinkler, but for now it's just me, a little bit wiser, trying to make the magic happen on my own.

I have a feeling that each book I write will get a little bit easier and a little bit harder at the same time. But I think that's good, because if it doesn't seem hard, I'm not trying to make it the best it can be. And as long as I learn from each book and make the next one better, I can live with that.

What about you? Do you find each book you write is harder? Easier? The same? How do you deal with it?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Contest Winners! Contest News!

First up, the winners of my Back From Branson Giveaway part 1 are:

Victoria Saavedra
Lindsay C

Congrats! I've emailed you. If I don't hear from you by this Friday night (March 11th) I will pick a new winner.

Now, I realize that the info post for the International Part 2 of my giveaway isn't the most informative. I had intended to use a goodreads widget so that you could check out all the books, but for some reason the widget wouldn't display properly so I took a screenshot instead. So, if you're wondering what your choice of books are, here's the list:

Beyond The Sea And Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton
Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford
The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
Hourglass by Myra McEntire
The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
Luminous by Dawn Metcalf
The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
The Revenant by Sonia Gensler
Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready
Supernaturally by Kiersten White
Sweetly by Jackson Pearce
Taking Off by Jenny Moss
The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
Wanna Go Private by Sarah Darer Littman
XVI by Julia Karr

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

For The Love Of Boy... Books

I love boy books. For some reason I'm always drawn to books with male narrators. Many of my story ideas come to me with boy as the main character. And even though my current project is a dual narrative, in which one of the narrators is a boy, I never considered it a "boy book" and I've always been a bit hesitant about writing something strictly from a boy's point of view.

Then I read this post by Hannah Moskowitz who has so far written exclusively male 1st person POVs (and they are AWESOME) and I changed my mind. Since then I've written several shorts over at Tangled Fiction that feature boy narrators, and fleshed out some ideas for novels. And I really love it. I have no idea why, but there are several teenage boys living in my head and I think it's only fair they get their shot to appear on paper too.

So today I want to celebrate women writing boys, because there have been some great books lately about boys who are REAL BOYS, not the sweet, fantasized versions girls are supposed to like written by women, and I don't think they get the kind of attention they should.

Here is a list of some of my recent favorite boy books by women who I think totally nailed the voice. If you haven't read them yet, I suggest you get started now.

Break and Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Candor by Pam Bachorz
The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard
The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell
Freefall by Mindi Scott

What about you? Do you have a boy book in your head you've been afraid to write? Do you love boy books? What are some of your favorites written by women?
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