Monday, July 28, 2014

Is OMNI Your Man

If the narrator of your story needs to stay outside the action, then Omni is the right POV. Michener chose Omni in his epic novels for that very reason. He wanted Hawaii, Alaska, and Texas to each stand alone as the all-important protagonist. Choosing 3rd or 1st person for any one of these works would have created an intimacy between reader and narrator that would have lessened the impact and importance of Hawaii, Alaska, or Texas as the leading character.

In less formal stories, Omni creates a problem for many writers because they believe it gives them license to head-hop. Many writers have shown me text that states Omni is a god-like character telling the events of a story that only he or she knows.

Therefore, why can’t they head-hop? 

There’s a difference between God telling you what John and Julie are thinking versus “John and Julie” telling you. The trick is to always remember Omni, a unique and distinct character, is telling the reader what Jack thought or did or felt. It’s not Jack showing them. That’s why Omni not only is able to tell you what Jack thinks of Steve driving drunk, but can also show you the police car waiting up the road, or the innocent bystander using the crosswalk ahead of them. Omni switches from one point of view character to the next in a smooth, gentle fashion that your reader will very quickly learn to trust.

While Omni is more formal and less intimate, on the grand scale of things, as in epics like Michener’s, Omni is your man. One suggestion though, when choosing Omni, make him a unique, formidable, and intriguing character. Give him a voice just as entertaining and endearing as any character. Or make him as non-descriptive as possible. And limit head hopping. Every time a writer jumps from one protagonist in a scene into the head of another, they risk disrupting the intimate (there’s that word again) relationship forming between reader and character.


Monday, July 21, 2014

6 Tips to Champion Your Story

I killed a story. It was up to its eleventh draft when I declared it gone. Death by over-work. It had had so many second opinions and so much uncertainty poured into it that it gave up its soul. In my attempt to tick all the boxes and follow all the rules, the story got lost, the voice got buried and the writing no longer sang.

There comes a time when we have to have the courage to say that's enough tweaking and fiddling, that's enough listening to our friends, neighbours and anyone willing to share an opinion on how a piece should be written. We have to stand by our work, with all its flaws, and push it out into the big wide world—and keep pushing it out there until you declare it dead, or someone falls in love with it and gives it a whole new life of its own.

Easier said than done, of course. But it does become easier if you've whipped the manuscript into shape, done the rounds with your critique partners, and given it some muscle so it's strong enough to stand on its own. After that, it helps to remember the tips below:

1. Not everyone will like your manuscript. This is an immutable fact and is no reflection on your ability as a writer. Neither does it mean your manuscript is terrible and therefore needs more tweaks. The trick is to find the people who will like your manuscript.

2. No manuscript will ever be perfect. While it's important to strive for perfection, if all you're doing is small tweaks, then that's enough. It’s time to stand behind your work and send it off.

3. Everyone will have an opinion about how to improve your work. Don't blindly follow everything everyone says, but don't close your ears to it either. Learn to measure the advice you're given. If the suggestions improve the story you're trying to tell, then go ahead and make the changes. Listen to what your story needs because you're the only one who can write it.

4. Believe in yourself. You have something important to say that's worth reading. People do want to read your work. You just have to find the right audience.

5. Remember the passion you had when you first began the story. That passion may have been trampled during the making of the story, after all the rewrites, after the multiple rejections, or after a poor review. Doubt has a way of killing passion. Don't let those doubts sway your love of writing.

6. Trust your voice. Writing what you think others will want to read is the fastest way to drain the magic and originality from a story. Yes, be aware of the market, but first and foremost, write the stories calling out from deep inside you. They are the stories which will shine.

In the fast-changing risk-averse publishing world, if you can't be your story's champion, then no one else will. Against the odds, how do you find the courage and conviction to stand behind your writing?

Lynda R Young

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nine Things Writers Need to Know Before the Book Deal

Please welcome Martina Boone from Adventures in YA Publishing!

Hi IWSG readers!

I love this blog because as writers, we all know a lot about insecurity. Being creative types, our imaginations are wired to run overtime. We imagine what we would love to see happen (the big book deal) and what we are afraid will happen (no book deal, horrible reviews, orphaned books, etc.) Not only that, but everything we do is open to artistic interpretation as well as to trends and market forces and the vagaries of chance, which can seem like the perfect storm of pressure designed to make an aspiring writer crazy. And believe it or not, the time that we spent working toward getting an agent and a book deal will eventually look almost idyllic.

Last year, I was lucky enough to get an agent and a three-book deal based on a YA novel that I had started the previous May. Compulsion will be released October 28th from Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse. I’m honored and excited to get a chance to do this post, because I would love to travel back in time and tell pre-book-deal me a few things. Since I can’t do that, I hope that some aspiring writers might find what I would have told myself helpful as they start their own careers.

1) Don’t rush. Man, I felt like I needed that book deal and if I didn’t get it fast, I was a total failure. I knew it wasn’t logical. Doctors, lawyers, violinists, ballerinas, dental hygienists—they all spend YEARS learning their craft under supervision for many hours a day. We’re lucky if we spend an hour a week getting critiques from other writers, and we squeeze in an hour or two of writing a day, if that. And we expect to achieve the equivalent of playing with a philharmonic orchestra in a year or two. Unfair pressure much? Yeah. That. So, again, don’t rush. Don’t accept that kind of pressure. Take the time to learn, to write because you love to write, to learn what youwant to write, and how you best want to write it.

2) Don’t compare. Yes, Veronica Roth wrote DIVERGENT in college. Tahereh Mafi was 22 when she wrote SHATTER ME. But how can you make your WIP better than it is now? How can you make it bigger, more unique, more buzz-worthy, more controversial, more interesting? Do that. Don’t worry about things beyond your control. Once a book gets to a certain level of merit, talent and quality become only a part of the equation. Plain old luck plays a role. That is not—at all—to suggest that DIVERGENT or SHATTER ME didn’t deserve their phenomenal success. They absolutely do, and if you analyze them, you will see why. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other DIVERGENTs or SHATTER MEs out there that equally deserved it but didn’t happen to hit the right convergence of stars.

3) Don’t skimp on the writing training. In the long run, there is nothing except the story. Have you told it in the way that will most do it justice? Have you constructed the scenes in the most vivid, visual, tension-packed way they could be constructed? Have you used the words and images that will best transfer the emotion from your heart to your reader’s heart? Take the opportunity before you are published to take every writing class, attend every workshop, enter every contest. By the time your book is out there, you’re going to have to have EVERY confidence that it is the best that it can be so that you don’t drive yourself crazy with woulda-shoulda-couldas.

4) Don’t let your skin stay thin. The book is a product, but it’s also an artistic endeavor. Everyone is going to have a different opinion. You can only know that you put out the best book you could, be proud of that book, and focus on the next book.

5) Don’t let editing, promotion, marketing, work, family, natural disasters, or anything else stop your from writing every day, reading every day, and learning every day. Writing is an engine. You have to oil it and keep it tuned to keep it running.

6) Don’t forget you aren’t in this alone. Phenomenal sites like this one keep this journey from being a solitary one. They are a source of sympathy, empathy, friendship, critique partners, beta readers, readers, and much more. The friends I’ve made on the journey to publication are the best part of the publishing process. Seriously. Eventually that circle of amazing people expands to include an agent, an editor, an editorial director, a marketing manager, a marketing director, a publicist, a sales team, a publisher . . . a whole team of people who love your book and talk about the characters as if they are as real as they were when you poured them on the page.

7) Don’t forget this is a career. You and that whole team of people behind you need to be able to count on your next book being as good or better than this one — and being ready in a year. Be a professional. Write every day. Look long term. If the current book doesn’t sell, be sure you’ve done your best with it and move on to the next book. You’ll get better, the market will change, and the current book may have another chance. But not unless you’ve stayed focused!

8) Don’t forget to enjoy it. It’s an incredible, miraculous thing, this writing process. Revel in it. All of it. Every step and every stage, every heart ache and every celebration.

9) Don’t forget to believe. Believe in yourself and the magic of books. That’s what all this is about! : )

Happy writing to all!

Martina Boone was born in Prague and spoke several languages before learning English. Her first teacher in the U.S. made fun of her for not pronouncing the “wh” sound right, so she set out to master “all the words she’s still working on that! In the meantime, she’s writing contemporary fantasy set in the kinds of magical places she’d love to visit. She’s the founder of Adventures in YA Publishing, a two-time Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers blog, and YA Series Insiders. She is also the author of COMPULSION, book one of the Heirs of Watson Island, a Southern Gothic novel for young adults (Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, October 28, 2014). If you like romance dripping with mystery, mayhem, Spanish moss, and a bit of magic, she hopes you’ll look forward to meeting Barrie, Eight, Cassie, Pru, Seven and the other characters of Watson Island.
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Three plantations. Two wishes. One ancient curse.

Darkly romantic and steeped in Southern Gothic charm, you’ll be compelled to get lost in the Heirs of Watson Island series.” — #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Nine Great Tools and Programs to Help You Edit

Between the rough first draft and the finished, polished product lies a lot of editing.

Beta readers, test readers, critique partners, and/or professional editors are all very important. But before we pass our work to any of those people, we have to clean up that messy first draft. (Because yeah, it is a mess.)

Below are some cool features, programs, and site that can help bring order to the chaos.

Microsoft Word’s ‘find’ feature
This feature is great for finding overused words, pet words, and weak adverbs and adjectives. Plus you can catch any misspellings of names. You have to know what to look for, but once armed with a list of words, you can spend days playing search and destroy.

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.
This is also helpful for finding words you overuse without even realizing it!

Here are some other programs (and their official description) that can help with both grammar and style. Some are free and some are paid, so read the fine print.

SmartEdit is a new, first-pass-editing tool for creative writers and novelists. It's not a replacement for a human editor. Neither is it designed to do your editing for you. It was built to act as an aid—a helper for when you begin editing your work.

ProWriting Aid
ProWritingAid is your free online writing editor and personal writing coach. Of course it checks your grammar but it does much more to help you improve your writing.

The AutoCrit Editing Wizard is an instant book editor. With the click of a button it shows you the problems in your manuscript.

Style Writer
Use it to edit advertising copy, business reports, contracts, manuals, newsletters or web pages. Even professional journalists and novelists use the program to polish their writing style.

Robust grammar checking allows you to find those pesky mistakes and correct them before turning in your paper. Find out if your paper contains plagiarized text before your professor does. We compare your text to over 10 billion documents. Our proofreading system alerts you to opportunities to improve your writing.

My Word Count
This writing tool is a standalone program that analyzes your Word document, text file, or Scrivener project for character, word, phrase, and sentence usage. It produces sortable tables of counts for all words and phrases, and graphs sentence length. It can analyze each sentence and assign a grade level difficulty, or help you find your long and hard-to-read sentences. Fine tune your writing and find overused words and phrases.

Grammarly is an automated proofreader and your personal grammar coach Correct up to 10 times more mistakes than popular word processors.

Who’s up for some fun editing?

What programs do you use?

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Vulnerable Writer

Have you written the story that is close to your heart? It may be a sensitive or really controversial topic, that burning issue that requires you to dig deep and lay your soul bare. It’s the story that requires you to be open, honest, direct and vulnerable.

Many people associate vulnerability with weakness. But it actually requires a certain strength, because it involves putting yourself out there – exposing who you are. Being vulnerable means letting go, exposing your thoughts, ideas and true emotions to reveal your imperfectly perfect self. That’s scary. So maybe associating it with weakness is a way to avoid the issue? After all, vulnerability requires that you move outside your comfort zone. So we choose to err on the side of caution. Rather play it safe.

It’s been said that when you write and then you start to feel uncomfortable with the subject matter or your approach to it, that's when you are probably onto something really good. 

But it’s a tough call. From a young age, we're taught not to make other people feel bad/uncomfortable and then as writers we're supposed to do the exact opposite. We're supposed to talk about the tough issues, not avoid them. And we have to create conflict rather than solve it. 

It takes great courage to write straight from the heart, free from fears of anonymous others and what they might think. Exposing our innermost selves comes with the risk of being rejected or cast out, or being perceived as a failure. This is linked to our struggle for self-worth. If people approve of it, then we’re worthy. If people disapprove then we’re worthless. But that's a discussion for another day...

Thoughts to ponder:

In your writing, choose to be brave enough to peel back the layers, to reveal who you really are... 

Dig deep and write about that subject matter that weighs heavy on your heart...

Dare to be vulnerable... 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

IWSG Post Day and Upcoming Guests with Awesome Writing Tips

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Our awesome co-hosts for today are Krista McLaughlin, Kim Van Sickler, Heather Gardner, and Hart Johnson! Be sure to pay them a visit and thank them for helping today.

This site continues to expand with more great links and guests.

We have some amazing guests lined up for the next three months:

Martina Boone from Adventures in YA Publishing will be here on July 16. She’s an agented writer and her first book, Compulsion, comes out this October from Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse. She will be sharing tips on what to do pre-book deal.

Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers will be here on August 20. Angela and Becca Puglisi are authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Negative Trait Thesaurus, and they run an amazing site for writers.

Jessica Bell will visit on September 17. Jessica is a musician and writer, author of countless books, including her Nutshell series for writers. She also heads up the Vine Leaves Literary Journal and Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop.

Any rocking superstars you’d like to see?