Twilight Movie

Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Our book club has been devoted fans of Stephanie Meyer since the first book. So of course, we all banded together to see the movie last night. It was the funnest "girl's night out" I've had in a while.

Without giving anything away, I will say you should go and see it. I really liked it. The casting of Edward wasn't my favorite, nor was Rosalie, but hey, you can't have everything. I really liked Bella's actress.

It has nothing on the book, but what movie does?


It's time for an upgrade.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I hate that commercial (the one that uses the same line as my title, case ya didn't know), but whaddya gonna do?

Here's the situation. For the past three years, I've been sitting on a folding chair lined with pillows from my couch. My behind is here anywhere from 2 to 8 hours a day. When I stand up, my hips hurt and I limp like a 90 year old lady until they both pop, then I'm good to go.

So this year for Christmas, when my husband asked me what I wanted, I told him a top of the line, leather, highbacked chair with lumbar support (I know, I know. "EXCITING!").

Problem is, they're all really expensive.

Hmmm . . . I know! I'll go to Staples this Fri at 3:30 in the morning, brave the below freezing weather, and get one for $100 off!

Maybe I'll bring my tent and make a camping trip out of it! Anybody wanna come? (If you can't read the sarcasm here, I'm sorry. I lay it on a little thicker).We could scrounge up some marshmallows and cook them over our lighters?

Seriously, have any of you ever tried this before? I'm not sure I'm cut out for that kind of torture.

Blog remodel

Monday, November 24, 2008
I remodeled my blog in an attempt to make it look more professional. Whaddya think?

I'm not sure about the picture in the title. Too much?

Paragraph length

Friday, November 21, 2008
I just read a pretty well known book. The book was really well written. The prose is striking, and the metaphors original and memorable. For me, the problem came with simply too much prose, metaphors, and description. Now, part of that is that it was written when the rules were more lax, or just plan different. But there's a lot we can learn by going through it and comparing it to now. For instance:

The cheerless cold of the Northland sky hung in thin strips of gray fog against the dull edges that formed the peaks of the solitary mountain of pitted blackness that was the castle of the Warlock Lord.

Not too bad, right? The writing paints us a fabulous picture of what the scenery looks like. Could have ended there. But the problems comes when the first 38 lines of the chapter are dedicated to describing the mountains and castle--lots of repitition here. And that is the norm. Now, we don't know which of the characters, if any, is seeing this scene. None of them are mentioned. It's simply the author painting us a detailed picture in exacting details.

I find this type of writing heavy and, dare I say, condescending.
Why? you might ask.

Because the author feels like they have to hold us by the hand to see the world exactly as it is.
This bugs me for two reasons. First, I have an imagination, thank you very much. Draw me a sketch and let me fill in the blanks. Second, this is an imaginary place, so why does it matter if I see it exactly as the author, or make my own slight variations? The castle and surrounding mountains of the dark lord are dark, cheerless, void, and dead. Got it. Done. Why do I have to know every minuscule detail. Variations of the word black are used no less than 7 times in these 38 lines!


Wish I could say that this was an aberration of the book, but the whole thing is basically like that.
So how do you fix it?

Go over you MS. How many paragraphs are there per page? In the passage I mentioned, there are 3 paragraphs in four pages. That's less than one paragraph break per page. If your paragraphs are that long, you're getting way too long winded.

Hold a page of you MS at arms length. It should be jagged and rough because of all the breaks. Long paragraphs should be broken up by dialogue. Description should be sprinkled throughout, not given in one big chunk. When writing YA or middle grade, the paragraphs are obviously smaller, while you can usually make the paragraphs longer for older readers.

Remember, the important thing is the story, always the story. Not the exact shade of your heroines hair or a step by step verbal map of the castle.

We get it. It's a castle. Move on.

A good tip is to have your main character see and experience the landscape. Don't simply tell us what it's like.

Lastly, watch the head hopping! My opinion is that if you're going to switch character view points, you need to have a chapter or section break. And then, your character better go on for a few pages before you switch back. This also breaks up the monotony (more on chapter length later).

One last point, and I promise I'll shut up. The whole first half of the book is the main characters fleeing the dark, flying creatures into dangerous, scary places.

The scary places seem invented merely to make the travels exciting. But what does traveling have to do with the plot?

In fantasy, it's impossible to avoid all the traveling, but try to cut it back. It shouldn't take up half of your book.

Okay, on more last point (cringe as you throw rotten fruit at the screen). Guess what compromised the company? One wizard, two small weak men that are totally dedicated to each other, one dwarf, two elves, and a king of men.

This group travels through the scary, haunted tunnels of the mountain of the dead. Anyway, I could go on, but is anyone else havin' flashbacks to LOR?

Don't do this. It's been done to the point that it's a cliche storyline.

Learn from David Farland for free!

Monday, November 17, 2008
A writing friend of mine, David Farland (Wolverton) sends out regular emails dealing with tips and tricks of the trade. I've been on his mailing list for over a year. He's been on the NYT bestselling list and has all the accolades and accomplishments most of us will give our husband for.

If you would like to be added to this list, just email and say, "Kick me!"

How to find an agent, Amber style.

Saturday, November 15, 2008
At Nathan's website, an interesting post was created concerning agents. One of the bloggers asked how to get an agent. The guest author didn't have any insights, because he's had an agent long enough to be out of the loop. So I thought I'd give you all my ideas.
You've heard the old standby that every rejection gets you closer to a yes? Well, I hated that statement too, but I found it to be true when finding my agent. If you want an agent, go to conferences. Networking will get you further than blind queries. At the conferences, introduce yourself to EVERY single agent in attendance. If possible, sit by them during lunch and be polite and engaging. Don't be weird about it. There just people--most of them really nice. If they're busy, tell them you have a few questions you'd like to ask them when they have a moment, and then make yourself available (don't stalk them--if they have to go to the bathroom--let them). Even if those agents DON'T represent your genre, they know agents who do. Don't be afraid to ask them if you can use them as a reference. Also, introduce yourself to all the visiting authors. They are great sources of information and resources. Ask them questions. Now in saying all this, please, please, please remember not to be pushy or condescending. The first conference is the worst, but it gets easier. Good luck, and keep working!

My other, other job

Thursday, November 13, 2008
In order to support my writing habit, I started a home based business selling jewelry. It's not to bad, considering that my other option was cleaning toilets at the HS.

But every once in a while, I'm forced to drive down one of those street. I gape in wonder at the ENORMOUS houses with their RV and matching pickup, Lexus, manicured lawn, or professionally done X-mas lights and I wonder, "How do they do it?"

I mean, really. My husband and I both have our bachelors. He has a job as an accountant for a local bank, and they treat him well. I sell jewelry on the side. Our home was marketed as a 'starter home'. But bills always manage to crop up that take any extra money we manage to save. Take my $500 dog bill this month. We really need a new car and we're looking at some pretty big medical bills.

So I scratch my head and ask again, "How do they do it?"

The first 14 lines

Monday, November 10, 2008
Arguably the most important part of your novel is the first 14 lines.
One could argue that if the cover and back of the book catch the reader's attention, the reader will then open the book and read the first page. If they continue to like what they see, they will buy.
But there's an even more important reason.
Agents/editors pick up your MS and start reading from the begining. If you're first 14 lines don't catch them, it doesn't matter how brilliant the rest is. They'll never see it. And neither will the bookstore patrons.
So craft your first page (14 lines) with the all care and precision of a heart surgeon.
2--Don't start with the weather. This isn't a forcast. I don't care if the setting sun looks bruised or if thunder is rumbling in (though a few spread out lines lines is perfectly okay.)
2.5--Don't overdue the description. A good rule is keep it to one sentence per paragraph and no more than three paragraphs in a row before we get a break.
3--Start with tension. I try to start my novels with a mini story. One that can creates a lot of tension and can quickly be resolved (ie-in The Last Witch, my main character is accused of stealing.) This gives the reader insights into your character's motivations, behaviors, and social standing.
4--Show don't tell. IE-Shanna was smart. This is telling. Show me she's smart--Shanna quickly scratched out three lines of equations and masterly rewrote them. Finished, she plopped the pencil down and smiled. "Kid's stuff."
5--Please, please, please, don't 'head hop'. I HATE head hopping. Stick with one character's POV.
6--Introduce your main conflict somewhere in the first chapter. The mini story can be part of the whole plot.
7--Keep it realistic. Don't overdue the grandiose. We need to relate to your character, not laugh at their epic speeches/thoughts/quests.
8--Make me buy you're quest in the first 50 pages. I need to yearn for your hero/heroine to come together, your hero to save their world/family/farm. I'm not going to care if Hebeshon saves his gourd.

Heres the first 14 lines of Witch Song. Here's your chance to bash me for not following me own rules! Happy reading!

The sun scorched Brusenna’s straw-colored hair and the street's dust clung to her feet as if begging her to take it away from this stifling place. She knew exactly how the dust felt. Every part of her wanted to whirl and run as she waited for the merchant. But she and her mother needed the supplies.
“Twelve upice,” Bommer said sourly as he wrapped the spools of thread in crinkling brown paper.
A ridiculous price. If she were anyone else, she could have bartered it down to half that. But she was not anyone else. She was a witch. She held out the coins. The man’s gruff paw swallowed the dull upice in mounds of fat. She wondered what marvelous things he ate to flesh out his skin that way. Things like the honey sweetened cakes that she could still smell in her clothes even after she'd left the marketplace.
As Bommer counted his money, Brusenna gathered the packages tightly to her chest and turned to go. She hadn’t gone five steps when a meaty hand clamped down on her arm. With a wince, she craned her neck up to see the merchant looming over her.
“You tryin’ to cheat me, chanter?”

Get creative, dangit!

Friday, November 7, 2008
Okay, so back to the conference. Louisa Ahern did a class on publicity, and even if you're not published yet, you will be someday (we're thinking positive here, buster--don't make me reach through your computer screen to smack you upside the head).
Her first tip was that Press Releases don't work, because of shrinking newsrooms. Well, that could save us all a lot of wasted effort. Nothing more fun than shoveling the driveway in a blizzard, right?
The next tip was not to promote YOUR BOOK, but SOMETHING BIGGER.
What the heck does that mean!?
It means that you need a platform. If you write nonfiction, this is a nobrainer. Say you write a novel on rare warts, your platform can be awareness, prevention, and treatment. Walla! Done.
Nonfiction is harder, especially when you write YA fantasy, like me. But, dangit, you're creative! After all, you're a writer! So get thinking. My novel is about a young girl that finds out that she is more than she ever dreamed. There you go. Go around to schools and teach about self worth and looking inside yourself to see that you are MORE--More beautiful, inteligent, talented, etc, etc.
If that doesn't work, you could always promote literacy.
Try to find a local angle--anyplace you've lived, seasonal (romance writers hit your valentines days and mothers days hard).
Tie into the BIG news story right now. If you've written about about the separation between church and state, now would be a great time to advertise.
Strange and unusual always sells--Did you hear about the lady that gave birth to a 20 pound baby! If you've just written a book about obesity in pregnancy, you're gold.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I've read some more books. I absolutely loved The Blue Sword by Robin McKinnley. LOVED IT!

I also read Brisingr by Christopher Paolini (sp). Not really impressed. Way too much time was spent on politics and traveling. Blah! The only reason I read it at all was because I'd already invested in the first two, and I did want to know what happened.

So, take these two books off the shelf and compare them. First thing you notice? Brisingr is heavy enough to use as a wheel block, while The Blue sword could have fit nicely inside my purse.

The point?


Take Stephanie Meyer's first book, Twilight and compare it with her other books. Notice anything? Each and every book is bigger, heavier, more wordy, and more disliked.

Same thing with Paolini. Each of his books are bigger than the last. Why? Because the publishers knew they would be successful and let things fly they normally wouldn't have, and because the authors got overconfident and lazy.

Ouch! That was harsh. But it was also true.

Without exception, those big, honking books usually drive readers nuts. Me included. So here's some tips:

1. Every chapter needs to have tension. No exceptions. If you're main plot doesn't come into play, than you dang well better introduce or work on one of the subplots. Don't have one? Make one.

2. For the love of all things holy and right, DO NOT spend entire chapters traveling. Skip the traveling. Readers can only handle so much, "My feet hurt, and I'm hot." before we all begin to vomit useless words.

3. Make every Chapter earn its weight. Chapters MUST have conflict and move the story forward. If it doesn't do these two things, MURDER IT! If it has some beautifully written prose or a tidbit of crucial information, save it and insert it in another chapter. An entire chapter cannot exist for one page of important information. It's a waste of the readers time.

4. I submitted my novel to a well known publisher--in reality my dream publisher. They absolutely loved it, but they didn't want anything over 100,000 words. My novel was 120,000. I sucked it up and deleted 20,000 words. One of the hardest edits I've ever done. BUT THE NOVEL WAS SO MUCH TIGHTER. It's one of the best things I could have ever done.

And even though they turned it down at the end, I don't regret it. That's what authors mean when they say their rejections got the closer to being published. It was after this that I found my agent (who's submitted it to some publishers. If you're a believer in prayer, pray for me. If you're a believer in luck, cross every appendage you have, throw some salt over your shoulder, and buy a lucky rabbits foot. If you're unwilling to do any of the above, think positive for me.)

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