Friday, February 26, 2010

Made it through to second round of Amazon's ABNA contest!

The header says it all: I made it through!

I'm psyched, but I also don't hold much hope for making it to the third round. The first round was based on story pitches, but the second is based on the first 5,000 words of the manuscript, and I submitted a rough second draft of a NaNoWriMo manuscript I wrote just this November. I thought there would be time to edit the manuscript before it was judged, but it turns out everything is locked in even before the pitch round begins, even the finished manuscript that won't be judged until the third or fourth round. This is the first time the contest has had a YA category, so this is my first year submitting, and I didn't know.

Oh, well, I'm happy I made it this far. And next year, if I haven't published yet, I'll know the way the contest works a little better.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why My Love Life Sucks preview

I've uploaded the first 25,000 characters of Why My Love Life Sucks to Amazon where you can download and read them on your computer or your Kindle. You can find them here:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Twitter chats for writers & illustrators

Debbie Ohi, otherwise known as InkyGirl, has put together a list of Twitter chats for writers and illustrators:
There's a schedule at the end of the blog post.

#writechat: Sundays

Topic or topics are usually announced at the beginning of the chat.
Moderated by @WritingSpirit
EST: 3-6 PM

#scriptchat: Sundays
For seasoned and aspiring screenwriters as well as anyone who is curious about screenwriting. The goal: learning and sharing.
Moderator: @jeannevb

#journchat: Mondays
EST: 8-11 PM

#writersroad  Mondays
formerly #ScribeChat, mostly for writers of MG/YA fiction
EST: 9-10 PM

#kidlitchat: Tuesdays
Craft & business of writing for young people, board books up through YA. Topic or topics announced at the beginning of the chat.
Moderators: @gregpincus, @bonnieadamson

#poettues: Tuesdays
Discussion of poetry with @robertleebrewer

#FaithLitChat: Tuesdays
A weekly faith-based discussion of Christian books, writing & CBA market. Follow @FaithLitChat for more info.

EST: 9-10PM
#litchat: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Mission is to connect readers with books and authors.
Moderator: @litchat.
Transcripts on blog.
EST: 4-5 PM

#WNW: Wednesdays
Wednesday Night Writer. Fantasy/Fiction discussion group on Twitter.
Moderator: @_decode_ .
EST: 8-11 pm

#YALitChat: Wednesdays
Young Adult (teen) books
Moderator:  @Georgia_McBride.

#memoirchat: Wednesdays
Moderator: @alexisgrant
Writers of memoir
#poetry: Thursdays
We talk poetry. Readers, writers, and all others encouraged to join. Moderator: @gregpincus.
EST: 9-10 PM

#kidlitart: Thursdays
Weekly chat for illustrators, pb authors & author/illustrators. Topics announced in advance via @kidlitart. Hosted by Bonnie Adamson and ( @BonnieAdamson) Wendy Martin (@lyonmartin).
EST: 9-10 PM

#dnchat: Thursdays
For those who write fiction for online publication. “DN stands for, which is the platform most of us in the group publish on, but all web fiction writers and fans of web novelists are welcome.”
EST: 11 pm-12 PM

#fridayflash: Every Friday.
Writers write/post flash fiction. Readers comment and RT.

#scifichat: Fridays
Moderated by: @DavidRozansky. Follow @scifichat for schedule changes and announcements.
EST: 2-4 pm

#platformchat: Fridays.
Moderator: @thewritermama
EST: 2-3 pm

#scifichat: Fridays
Hosted by: @WritersDigest. Collab fun.

#StoryFriday: Fridays
Moderated by: @DavidRozansky
EST: 2-4 pm

#followreader: Fridays

#FollowReader is a weekly discussion on Twitter for the bookish community, lightly moderated by @KatMeyer and @CharAbbott, who provide a new topic each week. Kat and Charlotte alternate moderating duties on Fridays from 4 – 5pm EDT, Kat is moderating from 4 – 5 pm on Fridays, but the #FollowReader hashtag is used all week long to bring excellent ideas and discussions to the table.
EST: 4-5 pm

#ThrillerChat: Saturdays. #thrillerchat is a Twitter chat for anyone interested in writing Thrillers, although you don’t have to be a writer to join in. 1-2 hours. Moderated by: @Selorian. More info here.
EST: 8 pm

#ScreenwritingSaturday: Saturdays
Moderator: @UncompletedWork.
Time: all day

The following are more motivational groups rather than scheduled Twitterchats, but are still a great way of meeting other writers on Twitter. They're open any day, any time:

#amwriting:  @johannaharness
#amwritingparty: @saramcclung.
#mommyswriting: @quirkywriter: It’s official. If you’re trying to balance raising kids and writing for them, meet us on #mommyswriting for support.
#writegoal: @annadestefano.

Other hashtags of interest to writers: #AgentPeeves, #allaboutagents, #askagent (at least every 2 wks, around 11 am EST Mondays or Tuesdays?), #authors, #cdnkidlit, #editing,#fictionfriday, #nanowrimo (during November), #pubtip, #RomChat (see info), #storystarters, #tuesbooktalk, #wip, #wordcount, #writetip, #novelists, #wordathon, #WriteRomance (see info), #writers, #writing, #writingparty, #agentsday #agentinternday. (I'm not sure of the times for most of these, but if someone can give me that information I would be happy to update it.)

The best way to follow a TwitterChat is with

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I give you permission to...

So many times I've heard writers say, "You can't..."

You can't write a novel that crosses genres. For example, you can't write a fantasy novel that later turns out to be a science fiction novel. Gene Wolfe could do it in his Book of the New Sun because he's Gene Wolfe, but you aren't Gene Wolf.

You can't write in more than one genre. For example, you can't write realistic poetry and prose fantasy. Maybe Jane Yolen can write in more than one genre, but you aren't Jane Yolen.

You can't write for different age groups. For example, you can't write picture books and novels for teens. Neil Gaiman can do it because he's Neil Gaiman, but you aren't Neil Gaiman.

You can't have a novel with different points of view. Stephen King did it in The Stand, but you aren't Stephen King.

You can't. You can't. You can't.

But you can.

Gene Wolfe was a writer just like you before he wrote the Book of the New Sun. Jane Yolen had to start out in one genre before she tried another. Neil Gaiman used to write comic books for adults--and won awards for them--before he started winning awards for his children's books. Stephen King apparently never got the "You can't" memo. Either that, or he didn't listen. None of them did, and neither should you.

Don't listen to "You can't."

I give you permission to write a novel that goes across genres. I give you permission to write in more than one genre. I give you permission to write for different age groups. I give you permission to write stories with different points of view. I give you permission to use repetition. And incomplete sentences. I give you permission to break all the rules, to draw outside all the lines.

What I don't give you permission to do is to tell yourself, "You can't."

You'll never know what you can do until you try, so try. You have everything to gain, and nothing to lose.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tone versus Voice: But what’s “voice” and whose voice?

These are my comments in a discussion on the SCBWI boards on tone versus voice. I’m of the position that the voice of a story is the narrator or POV character’s, while someone else said it is the unique voice of the author. What do you think?

Tone is simple. Tone can be humorous, melodramatic, etc.. It's mood. It's style. Books by different writers with different characters can still have the same tone.

Voice, however, is complex. It's a world view. It's a unique way of seeing and expressing everything in the story. It can be of a certain tone--humorous, for example--but it goes beyond that. How is the humorous tone created? How does the MC or narrator see the world?

For example, in the Georgia Nicolson series by Louise Rennison, the tone is humorous. And yet Georgia's voice isn't intentionally funny. She sees herself "on the rack of love," suffering because of her crazy family and her dither spaz best friend, and all tragic. The humorous tone is created in only the way Georgia's unique voice can create it, her unique way of seeing and describing her world.

I guess one way to put it is the style might tell you it's abstract, but the way it's done tells you it's a Kandinsky.

Yes, to me the tone of a piece of writing is the mood. I think others were saying something similar when comparing it to the tone of voice you use when you say something. You can have an angry tone or a humorous one. Those are moods.

Also, I'd like to point out that in many works of fiction today, the voice is the character's, not the writer's. I know that's the case in my writing. Although some things pop up in different stories of mine, I like to think that is more a matter of my style, that it doesn't prevent the character's voice from shining through.

I think it's important for voice to remain consistent in a story--at least when the POV character is the same--but I don't like it when writers are incapable of changing the voice from story to story. It makes all their stories and all their characters sound the same, and that's boring. Some of us aspire to be Woody Allen; some of us aspire to be Meryl Streep. I'd much rather be Meryl Streep. I know I'm not there yet, but that is the dream.

I would take lack of authorial voice as a huge compliment! To me that would mean the ability to get out of the way and let the story just be itself. That ability would be an amazing thing--if I could achieve it. But, alas, I can't. That would take the rarest talent indeed.

I read stories because they immerse me, not in the writer's skin and world, but in the character's skin and world. When I read Lord of the Rings, I'm a hobbit on a desperate mission to save Middle Earth. I'm not Tolkien. Indeed, I'd find that boring. I'm sure even Tolkien found that boring. If he didn't, he probably wouldn't have written the darn thing!

You say it's the writer's voice that makes one story different from another. I say it's the voice of the narrator or POV character that makes one story different from another. How could anyone else's story sound like mine with different characters' unique voices? I created my characters, and another writer will create his characters, and those characters will give each of our stories a unique voice. Not only will my characters' voices make my work completely different from another writer's, but they'll make each of my stories completely different from one another, or at least they will if I've done my job properly.

Although I love being a hobbit in Middle Earth, I don't want to just be a hobbit. Not when there are an infinite number of stories out there, an infinite number of worlds I can visit and see through a unique set of eyes belonging to a character with a unique voice with every book I pick up. And this is the way I want to write.

You say there would be no reason for anyone to prefer my stories over that of an equally skilled writer. On the contrary! The question isn't about which writer you would prefer to read but whose characters you would prefer to spend time with, which world you'd like to visit for a while.

If you want to hear Meryl Streep in her own voice, watch an interview with her. But if you want to enter the world of Julia Child and hear Julia in her unique voice wax poetic about French cuisine, watch her in "Julie & Julia." And if all you hear is Meryl's New Jersey accent when you're watching the movie, I'm sure even Ms. Streep would admit she'd failed miserably in what she was trying to accomplish. When the audience can't separate the actor from the role, it's a sign of a less than stellar performance.

This is how I see my voice versus the voices of my characters. If the reader can't tell the difference, then I've failed to truly bring my characters to life, which means I've failed the reader. Because how can the reader truly immerse himself in the character's world if the only voice the reader hears—and the only POV the reader can experience that world through--is mine?