A little bit of everything…

So this past weekend I was able to attend the LDS Storymakers writers conference.  It was really good.  I attended some interesting classes and met a lot of great people.  Here were a few of my favorite people to hear: James Dashner, Jeff Savage, Sara Megibow, and Dave Wolverton.  They all had great things to share.  James and Jeff talked about the “hook.”  It was really interesting, especially since James read his query for “The Maze Runner.”  Sara talked about the process of publishing and it was very insightful, albeit a little overwhelming when she mentioned how many rejection letters they sent out last year.  And Dave did a class on resonance.  It was fascinating and I learned a lot from his discussion.

On a completely different note, I had a beta reader who read my book who came up with the best comparison.  She said HEIR was like Shannon Hale meets Prince Caspian.  I couldn’t have said it better!!!

And finally, I think I’ve had a great idea for what I’m going to write next.  It’s a concept that’s been floating around for a while in my head, but I didn’t quite know how to add that something that would make it unique.  I hope I’ve found the answer.  It takes a dystopian theme of the characters’ reality not actually being reality and inserts magic instead of technology.  We’ll see how it turns out.  🙂

When a scene writes itself…

So, after a few weeks of either me or one of my kids being sick, I think I’m finally going to finish the final edit.  Hooray. 

Among all the other things I’ve realized during this edit, I’d like to add one more.  One of my beta readers had made a suggestion about a particular scene.  She wanted part of it to be longer.  At first I wasn’t sure, but I think that might have been because I didn’t have a good idea of how to do what she suggested.  After thinking about it for a while, I finally had a great idea.

I started writing and it was going great.  I was feeling the characters.  I even thought of one thing to include that I think adds a little more emotion.  Strangely enough, however, hardly any of what I ended up writing was exactly how I’d planned it.  I thought things would go one direction and while the basic idea of the scene didn’t change, the direction it took to get there was completely different.  And better.

I guess the lesson is that sometimes writing just writes itself.  Now that does have a caveat:  You do have to have a general idea of where you’re headed.  But sometimes, especially after you’ve really gotten to know your characters, they have a way of telling you what they want to do instead of the other way around.

10 Things About Me…

I’ve had a couple of writer/blogger friends who have done this and I got tagged…so here goes.

1.  I have a wonderful husband who I’ve known for 16 years and been married to for 13.  We have four beautiful children, two boys, and two girls.

2.  I majored in History with a minor in English.  Then I went to law school.  I actually passed the bar!!! 🙂  But, my oldest daughter was born premature during my third year and I wanted to stay at home with her, so after the bar exam I have never worked (at least in the legal field:)).

3.  During college I was on the Brigham Young University Ballroom Dance Team.  This was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done.  I got to tour the Western United States, England, Finland, Russia, Lativia, Lithuania, and Estonia.  Becasue I’m so short (5’1″) I was on the Latin team.  Our greatest accomplishment was winning the British Formation Championships in Blackpool, England in 1998.

4.  During college I also spent a summer in Israel and Egypt.  Talk about amazing!

5.  Other things I love to do:  play the piano, read (obviously), sing, watch movies, and eat chocolate.

6.  Until a few years ago, my kids had 13 grandparents that were still living.  (The reason it’s not twelve is because my maternal grandparents got divorced when I was one and my grandfather remarried an amazing woman who I get as a bonus grandma!!).

7.  I’m the oldest of six kids.  My husband is the middle child of seven.  We have huge families and it’s a lot of fun.

8.  I totally drive a mini van.

9.  I love Disney.  I have been to Disneyland too many times to count.  And even though I live in the west, I’ve been to Disneyworld ten times.  We just got back from a trip to Disneyland in October with the kids.  It was so fun.

10.  It’s always been my dream to write a book.  Hopefully it’s about to come true.

An observation about world building…

I know I haven’t been around for a while and there are lots of reasons for that:  kids, vacations, cleaning, and yes, rewriting.  I sent my book out to three beta readers and they gave me great feedback.  As with any criticism, I really look hard at all of it, even the stuff where my first instinct is to say “NO!!!”  I’ve found, however, that sometimes the criticism I hate hearing the most has merit.  That’s not to say I change things exactly how someone might suggest, but I might change them in a different way that still addresses the problem at the root of the critique.  And that is what I’ve been doing for the past month or so.  It took a lot of time just thinking about what to change and what not to change — which is how I approach rewriting.  I might spend weeks, or even a month, just thinking about possibilities.  I run them through my head and examine all the consequences.  I’ve found that if I do it this way, it actually takes less time to rewrite in the end.

One thing that has particularly stood out to me in this round of revisions is how much more depth gets added to my story every time I do a rewrite.  The characters evolve, more emotion comes out, and descriptions get more visual.  But perhaps the biggest thing I’ve noticed this time is that the world I’ve created has gotten so much more three-dimensional.  Every little detail adds so much.  And most of the time they’re not even big things.  A sentence here or a comment there can add enough to indicate an entirely untold aspect of the world.  When I go back and read through some of these I get so excited because the world feels so real. 

My plan is to fininsh up the big parts of the rewrite today.  Then I’m going to send the biggest part back to a few of the betas and see what they think.  During that time I’ll work on some of the little things I need to polish up.  Then it’s time to polish the query and start sending it out again.  I’ll keep you updated, but wish me luck.

Book Review (kind of): “Graceling” and “Fire” by Kristin Cashore

For those of you who haven’t read these books yet, you should.  Even if you don’t like the traditional medieval-feeling fantasy.  I’m not going to do a big detailed review here, but I did love these books.  They are especially good if you like strong female characters.  Keep in mind, however, as one of my beta readers pointed out, that they both take a little while to get into.  There is a lot  of set up.  I, personally, didn’t find that a problem.  But I love this kind of book, and I am used to how they are written (there is a certain amount of set up and world building).  I also love that there is a good deal of romance involved.  In my mind, any book without a good romance isn’t as fun to read.  But that might just be me. 🙂

Book Review: “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins

So this is a book I’ve been waiting to read for a long time (ever since I finished “Catching Fire).  It didn’t disappoint.  I have loved this series, even though when I describe the premise to people a lot of them are a little taken aback at first.  I mean, a story about choosing children to go compete in a battle to the death isn’t exactly light and fluffy.  But then, I enjoyed reading “The Lord of the Flies” too.

Here is the blurb from the jacket:  Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed.  Gale has escaped.  Katniss’s family is safe.  Peeta has been captured by the Capitol.  District 13 really does exist.  There are rebels.  There are new leaders.  A revolution is unfolding.  It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in teh cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it.  District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol.  Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans — except Katniss.  The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, adn to change the course of the future of Panem.  To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust.  She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay — no matter what the personal cost.

I won’t go into any more detail about the plot because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but I will say I enjoyed how the events played out.  There was a lot I wasn’t expecting, and some I was.  But more than the plot elements, I was enthralled by the characters themselves.  Many of the twists the characters in this book faced were completely unexpected.  I liked watching them grow, understand who they are as people, and make hard decisions.  I liked watching Katniss be Katniss and yet confront even more impossible siutations than before.  I liked watching Gale develop outside of the confines of District 12.  And I loved Peeta and the realizations he is forced to endure (I won’t say any more, but this particular plot element is fantastic).

Ms. Collins has created an elaborate, yet believable, post-apocalyptic-type world where things happen that shouldn’t.  She has created characters that fit in their designated place in that world, but then act in ways no one would believe.  And it is all completely believable.  I get lost in these books.  I love the companionship, bravery, sentiment, friendship, logic, and love.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the book was how it ended.  There was resolution.  I really don’t like when I’ve invested a lot of time and there’s no resolution, when I feel like I’m right back at the beginning.  Now I know that’s just my opinion.  Lots of people love books without much resolution.  I don’t.  With “Mockingjay” I admit to being slightly worried just for a minute.  When I had about ten pages left I was talking with my friend about the book.  She hasn’t read any of them but asked if I liked how the series was going to end.  I told her I honestly hadn’t decided yet.  I had loved the book, loved the characters, loved everything, but even with only ten or so pages left, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the resolution I wanted.  You’ll understand when you read it.  There were still so many little loose ends I wanted to know about.  Ten pages later, I was convinced.  It was perfect.

And that about sums it up in a nutshell.

For anyone who doesn’t already know…Georgette Heyer is awesome!!!

So in the past few weeks I’ve run across a number of peole who have never heard of Georgette Heyer. In my mind, that is almost criminal. I started reading her books when I was in high school. My mom gave them to me because she’d read them in high school. And they are fantastic.

Ms. Heyer has been compared to Jane Austen. And I totally agree, only I think she’s even better. Ms. Austen has fabulous stories about complex characters. But oftentimes they also have a societal slant to them. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Austen. What makes me like Heyer even more is that her stories are just plain fun. Her characters are fabulous; some of the books are so funny I laugh out loud; and she just plain writes a great historical romance.

So for anyone who hasn’t read her or even heard of her, here’s a list of my favorites:

Venetia (who doesn’t love a good rake!)
Arabella (just plain funny)
Devil’s Cub (best if read after These Old Shades and The Black Moth — they have the same characters in them, although Heyer changed
their names after These Old Shades)
Faro’s Daughter
Regency Buck (my mom’s favorite, it even has a little mystery)
The Grand Sophy (very strong female character)
The Nonesuch

Try one and tell me what you think!

To describe, or not to describe…Is that the question?

Have you ever read a book where you find yourself skimming or even completely skipping over paragraphs because there is just too much description?  I don’t know if this is a personal thing for me or if other people have the same problem.  When I first started writing my book, I kept that in mind.  But I think I went to the extreme and didn’t describe anything (well, almost anything).  After a few readers pointed this out, I realized I needed to go back and change quite a bit.  So I did.  However, I still didn’t end up with a book full of beautiful imagery and descriptions of scenes that took your breath away.  Why write what I often find boring?  Besides, my book always leaned commercial, not literary.

As I read through the finished manuscript, I hoped it was a good balance between too much and too little.  But I was still wondering.  And then the other day I was reading a post by Kristin Cashore (Graceling and Fire — which if you haven’t read, you really should).  In the post, she was responding to a question on how she writes particular scenes.  The thing that stood out to me was this:  “Don’t feel the need to over-describe; resist the urge to explain.” 

Readers are smart, they can fill in the gaps.  And they usually fill in those gaps exactly how they want to, and in ways they like.  Haven’t you ever talked to someone about a book you’ve both read and you each visualize a scene differently?  Is that because the author didn’t describe it well?  Not usually.  People just fill in the gaps.  Chances are that even if each reader pictured things differently, they both got the feeling of the scene the same (at least if it was written well).  And isn’t that the most important?

Now, I’m not saying to cut all description out of books.  You need to have feeling, emotion, characters who grow and change.  And you need to have a concept of place, setting, etc.  I’ve resolved this myself with having one or two unique things in every setting that stand out.  Maybe it’s a smell.  Maybe it’s one particular feature of the landscape.  Maybe it’s what people are doing around the mc.  But, at least to me, that gives structure to the scene without describing every detail. 

When my beta readers get back to me, I’ll be interested to see what they have to say about this topic.  Maybe I’ll find myself going back and adding more description.  Who knows?

What do you think?

It’s Done!!!!!!! (Do you think that’s enough exclamation points?)

I just finished editing my entire manuscript.  This final edit was a little tedious because I was looking for too many adverbs and adjectives, or words that I repeated way too much.  But it was worth it.  Now I’m looking for beta readers who haven’t ever read it before.  I want new eyes.  I want someone who can tell me if everything makes sense now that all the changes have been made.  I’ve had a few offers from people on Absolute Write, so I’m feeling pretty good right now.

I’m also going to get some people to read it who aren’t writers.  I want opinions from regular readers.  I want to know if they like it and would buy it or recommend it to a friend.

Hopefully, I’ll have heard back from all the readers by the middle to end of August.  I’ll read all their comments and then make the necessary changes.  Then I’d like to let the manuscript sit for a few weeks.  In that time, I’ll polish up the query and try to get a synopsis ready to go.  And then…(drum roll), I’ll read it one more time and start sending out queries.

It’s a lot of work but I’m more hopeful than ever.

Writing Sample #?

Ethan turned the heavy, iron key in the lock and stepped into the tower room.  It didn’t look much different than it had a few weeks before.  And it was still as overwhelming.  What normally would have taken up a large portion of a decent-sized library was basically thrown into a room not much bigger than a closet.  And from what he’d been able to tell, without any order or reason.  Books were strewn everywhere, some piled, most haphazardly shoved into the nearest corner.  Forced into any remaining space, cracked, rolled parchments stuck out at odd angles, and loose papers littered the room as if the wind had picked them up, only to abandon them a moment later.  To make matters worse, everything was covered in a thick layer of dust.  The smallest movement sent it flying, saturating the air, and catching the light that streamed through the two small windows.