Month: August 2016

Writing a Book is Hard #amwriting

Writing a book is hard. Wait, let me clarify: writing a good book is hard. The thing to remember is that people do it. People actually publish books, good ones–even while working full-time, even while raising families. Publishing a good book is doable and worthwhile. But it takes

A

Lot

Of

Work.

Start Your Book

First you need to come up with a story, something unique that can grab readers (and agents) in an elevator pitch of 15 words or less. Yes, you’ll need to write that elevator pitch and synopsis, but first the book…

You must decide how to start.

If you’re a natural-born plotter and/or smart enough to learn how, you plot your story in great detail before beginning to write the actual book.

On the other hand, if you’re a pantser, your book-writing journey will be much longer. If, like me, the only way you can come up with story ideas is by letting them flow organically while writing, so be it.

In other words, pantsers:

  • write a lot of pages just to get an understanding of the story and characters.
  • Read through all that pre-writing, take notes, plot everything in a way that makes sense.
  • Then write the real first draft.

-You create characters, each with their own quirks, histories, fears, goals, and desires–and conflicts, especially conflicts, both external and internal.

-You write all three acts of your book, yes, all three, even when you reach act two and realize, whoah, a book is big, so super big, way bigger than the original story idea I had. At this point you remind yourself that you are not a bad writer, you are not a bad writer, you are not–that the first draft is always bad. Verify this by reading what all published authors say. (ALL writers say their first drafts are bad.)

-You write all the scenes for your book, all of them, around a hundred. You ensure that each scene has a dramatic arc and an emotional arc and that the pacing is right–not too slow, not too rushed.

-You make sure your book falls within the standard word count for your genre, aware that agents and publishers are more receptive to first books with word counts that fall into the lower range. You remain calm as you logically deduce that the reason publishers prefer shorter books from first-time authors is so they don’t waste as much money on you in case your book bombs.

Revise Your Book

  • You rearrange all the scenes in your novel until the narrative makes sense. You add scenes, delete scenes, and completely rewrite scenes.
  • You make sure dialogue for each and every character is distinctive and packs a punch.
  • You craft your story in such a way that it’s not too ambiguous but also not too on the nose because you’re aware readers like figuring out things on their own.
  • While editing your book, you take multiple passes through it, each time focusing on only one or two elements to avoid becoming mired in an overwhelming mass of details that will make you. . .

Losing mind - businesswoman

Maintain Sanity

Balance is everything. While writing and editing, you maintain your sanity through:

  • social interaction
  • commiserating with fellow writers
  •  physical exercise
  • spiritual whatever.

Work with a Critique Partner (CP)

After you’ve written, revised, and brought out the shine in all elements of your novel, you hand your manuscript over to another person, preferably a critique partner (CP). But first, you must find said CP. This means putting yourself out there on social media, websites, local writers’ groups, workshops, wherever you can find fellow writers/potential CPs who understand your genre and are willing to swap full novel critiques.

You must read other people’s works in progress (WIPs) so they will read yours. It’s a fair exchange, and the time is well spent. When critiquing someone else’s work, not only are you helping out another writer, you are learning a LOT about what makes a manuscript work.

You make more changes to your novel based on CP feedback. 🙂

Work with Beta Readers

You send your manuscript out to beta readers. Again, you need to do the legwork first. Interact with fellow book lovers on blogs, Goodreads, wherever readers of your genre dwell in the wild. When your book is ready, summon the courage to ask those people if they’d like to read and provide feedback on your novel.

Make further revisions to your novel based on beta reader feedback. 🙂

Read, Read, Read

All the while, you read as many published novels as you can, not only because you love to read, but also to gain an understanding of what’s being published in your genre, what the trends are, and to get ideas on what you’d like to strive for and avoid in your own writing.

Research Literary Agents

In between all the writing, editing, and networking, you also research potential literary agents. And they can’t be just any agents. They must be agents who: represent the kinds of books you write, are good at what they do, are open to queries. Which means:

  • Every time you pick up a novel, you read the acknowledgment page (often it’s the first page you turn to), keeping an eye out for agent shout-outs.
  • You visit promising literary agents’ Twitter accounts and blogs, agency websites, and check out their #MSWL (manuscript wish lists). And you do web searches for their interviews to ensure they’re looking for what you’re writing.
  • You create a free account on querytracker.net to check out what other querying writers are saying about agents you’re interested in.
  • You study agents’ submission guidelines and follow them to a T, fully aware (without letting it freak you out) that literary agents are so inundated they’ll look for any reason to reduce their submission load. This means that every detail of the query letter, email, manuscript format, synopsis, etc. that you send prospective agents must exactly conform to their specifications.

Network with Other Writers

You make friends in the writing community who will console you when you’re overwhelmed with how hard it is to write a book, especially when you need to write a synopsis, which means summing up your entire novel up in 1-5 pages. That is really hard.

Follow Your Favorite Authors (not required but, oh, so fun)

Another thing you’re probably doing—though not specifically required—is daydreaming and getting ideas for your own writing career by following your favorite authors; seeing what they’re up to on their blog and tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest,Vine, Goodreads, Facebook, maybe even meeting them at book signings (a thrill every writer and reader should experience).

Maintain an Online Presence

While writing, revising, networking, reading,and researching agents, you also maintain your own blog and social media accounts, hoping that by developing an online presence as an author you’ll look legit to future agents, publishers, and fans.

Whew, good luck. Write and publish that book!

–Eve Messenger

 

 

 

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The Winner’s Curse & the Traveler’s Blessing

Hello, fellow book junkies!

This week, with books in tow, I road-tripped through the American Southwest. As a hiker, I’ve always been most drawn to lush forests, but I can honestly say I now have an appreciation for the grand, mystical, majestic beauty of the desert.

At Zion National Park in southern Utah I got to walk under my first waterfall, something I have always wanted to do. In this picture, a poor hiker is scooting around me, probably thinking, “Get out of the way, weird lady,” but I had to stop and take it all in. Standing beneath Emerald Pools Waterfall, I was so thrilled I cried. Can you see the waterfall hitting the back of my hand?

In Northern Arizona, iron-rich red rocks and distant horizons in every–I mean every– direction made me feel as if I was on Mars. The largest boulders in this picture are four times bigger than my car.

Desert Road Trip Aug 2016 - Cave Dwellers Arizona or Mars

Photo by Mr. Eve Messenger

Traveling through Navajo country, I developed an addiction to fry bread, which is used for sandwiches and tacos (and probably other things), but my absolute favorite was fry bread hot and fresh out of the oven, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Desert Road Trip Aug 2016 - Indian Fry Bread

And here’s the book I read in my hotel room each night. I had no idea The Winner’s Curse would be such a page-turner, but it really was, and Kestrel and Arin’s forbidden love story hooked me so hard. Marie Rutkoski’s book has everything. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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Happy reading and safe travels.

XOXO,

Eve Messenger

Book Review: A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe

A Mortal Song cover

 

A Mortal Song is a YA fantasy about Sora (which means “sky” in Japanese), a teenage girl who lives with her kami (godlike spirits) parents on Mt. Fuji. Sora is curious about humans and comes down from the mountain as an invisible presence to visit their homes. I love how Sora bows to the humans before  leaving, even though they can’t see her. That’s so Japanese.

Growing up with a Japanese mom and having spent a lot of time in Japan, I was intrigued by this story’s Japanese setting and incorporation of Japanese Shinto beliefs in kami. I was on the lookout for gaffes and have to say Crewe’s world-building was solid.

Sora’s best friend is Takeo, a kami-like royal guard. As they play and explore on Mt. Fuji, they encounter interesting modern moments like tourists with their cameras.

A Mortal Song takes an interestingly creepy turn with this passage: “dodged the pale trunk of a birch—and nearly darted right through a ghost.” And then, later: “Ghosts were prowling all through that glade.”

Crewe has written many books and has as a strong writing style. For instance: “The second he hit the water, his body shattered into a sparkling mist. It faded into the breeze, and then he was gone, his ki returning to the world from which it had come.”

When battle is waged against all kami, the story turns epic. Sora learns she is a human girl who was switched at birth with the true kami daughter of Mt. Fuji’s prince and princess.  Sora and Takeo must travel to Tokyo to find the other daughter. The true kami daughter–who’s been raised to believe she’s human–is such a unique and interesting character. So much more could have been done with her character, as well as other elements of the story, but unfortunately they take a back seat to. . . romance.

Sora immediately starts falling for a human kid, makes out with him even after he betrays her, and it just doesn’t sit right (at least not with this reader). There are other, much more compelling emotional issues set up for Sora, but they’re dismissed because. . . romance.

The overall concept is a winner, the cover is pretty, and the juxtaposition of ancient Shinto gods and modern-day Japan is interesting. The beginning is especially fun to read. Crew imaginatively weaves in ghosts, demons, and kami (godlike spirits). At one point there’s even a yakuza or two (Japanese gangsters).

If you like Japanese culture and ghosts, you might enjoy A Mortal Song.

 

 

The Girl with All the Gifts – Black Characters Matter

 

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Hello, fellow book junkies! Now that I’m on summer break, I’ve been going like gangbusters with writing and editing three YA novels. One of my projects is a YA fantasy about a girl who can vanish into shadows and longs to see the world but can’t because her family keeps to themselves. Then she learns the shocking reason why.

I recently made a big change in the second draft of that story. It was originally set in the distant past, but I switched it to a couple of hundred years in the future, and now it’s working much better and has an interesting new vibe. I likely got the idea for the time switch from two books I’ve read recently/am reading: Ready Player One and The Girl With All the Gifts, the latter being an adult zombie story with a POV that blew my mind.  (Beware, it gets scary as sh*t.)

The movie version of The Girl With All the Gifts hit UK theaters this week (maybe the US too, but I can’t seem to find it). As a reader who fell head over heals for the character Ms. Justineau, imagine my dismay when I discovered how the producers decided to cast her role.

In the book, Ms. Justineau is depicted as a 40s-ish dark-skinned black woman, in my imagination, kind of like Teyonah Parris:

In the movie, this is how the producers cast her:

Gemma-Arterton02.jpg

?!!? I mean, come on. Nothing against Gemma Arterton, who’s probably a fine actress and certainly is lovely but, well, she’s 30 and so white. Honestly, I felt betrayed and sad, as if the fictional 40-year-old black Ms. Justineau  I adored has been erased.

Other notes about casting for this movie: Glen Close was a good choice, I think, to play the sort of mad scientist Dr. Caldwell, and it seems the movie producers decided to try and balance the color scales by casting the little girl Melanie, who in the book is white, with a black actress.

Okay, but . . .

Ms. . .

Justineau. . .

— Eve Messenger