Monday, July 30, 2012

YA Novels: Hooked in Five Sentences or Less

It's late at night. You've just finished a book on your e-reader and are dying for something new to read. But how much time will you give a sample chapter to lure you in?

For me personally, I've found that new late-night reads need to hook me in five sentences or less, that way I can sink my teeth into them right away

I've chosen three excerpts from books I've loved that have 'hooked me in five sentences or less'. I'll tell you why they appealed to me as a READERS and what we can take away as WRITERS.

From The Selection by Kiera Cass

When we got the letter in the post, my mother was ecstatic. She had already decided that all our problems were solved, gone forever. The big hitch in her plan brilliant plan was me.
AS A READER: I'm loving the title, and the fact that there is a mysterious letter. I love mail! I also immediately like this girl.

AS A WRITER: Right away we are hearing the MC's voice and already know of a conflict brewing.

From Between Shade of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
They took me in my nightgown. Thinking back, the signs were there -- family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work.
AS A READER: I can feel that this is a historical novel that sucks you into its time and place right away. I want to know what happens to this girl.

AS A WRITER: The MC's voice, character, and family are introduced right away. You are also informed about into a huge conflict the MC faces.

From Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

"Wait -- did you -- You just yawned!" The vampire's arms, raised over his head in the Classic Dracula pose, dropped to his sides. He pulled his exaggerated white fangs back behind his lips. "What, imminent death isn't exciting enough for you?"
AS A READER: I can't help it. I love paranormal. And I loved this because right away I knew it was different -- it was funny!

AS A WRITER: The writer takes a normal subject and brings her own twist in a humorous way, enticing readers to read more and find out what her 'different' is all about.

What books have you read that have hooked you in five sentences or less?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Muddy Feet Story and a Very Muddy Recipe

Rio with puppy, Aria in the bath
I'm over the moon today. My short story Muddy Feet is the 'Story of the Day' at Knowonder!. This story was inspired by my Mom's red and white English Bull Terrier, Rio (pictured at left). She is a beautiful dog with a gentle, loving disposition. She's also known as the cling wrap dog, a clown, and a mother hen. Check out the story to see what Gina thinks of her dog, Rio.

In honor of Rio's muddy feet I decided to share a recipe for Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Peanut Free Muddy Buddies*. (We have some food intolerances in our house. Can  you tell?)

Enjoy and have a Muddy Day!

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Peanut Free Muddy Buddies*
9 cups corn Chex or Rice Chex
1 cup Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup SunButter
1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar

1. Measure cereal into a large heatproof bowl.
2. Heat SunButter, Chocolate Chips, and Earth Balance in a Microwave Safe bowl for 1 minute on High. Stir. Heat additional 30 seconds + stir cycle until smooth. Stir in vanilla.
3. Pour mixture over cereal. Stir until all cereal is coated. Place mixed cereal into a gallon sized resealable bag.
4. Pour powdered sugar into bag. Seal and shake vigorously.
5. Pour mixture onto waxed paper or aluminum to dry. Store in fridge.

Mmm...this stuff is delicious! Enjoy!

*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or nutritionist. Please make sure to do your own research regarding products or manufacturers (as sometimes they change their ingredients) that may affect your personal food allergies or intolerances.

Friday, July 20, 2012

11 Tips for Maintaining a Daily Writing Habit

This summer I've made a deal with myself -- write something new every morning, Monday-Friday. I can't move on (with submissions, revisions, etc.) until I've written something new. At first it was like scratching nails over a chalkboard. I'd talk myself out of it for at least a dozen different reasons. It's been a few weeks now, and I'm on the daily writing train showing no signs of derailing. I decided to share 11 tips that have helped me so far.

1. Set a schedule and stick to it!

2. Make new writing the first thing you do in your writing time.

3. Avoid Social media and the Internet at all costs.

4. Ignore the little voice in your mind that says "Aw...can't I do this later? Or tomorrow even?

5. Even if you don't feel ready, go to your writing space and open your work in progress.

6. Having more than one work in progress or an idea file comes in handy, just in case you're truly stuck on your main project.

7. If all else fails, write a journal entry.

8. Don't stop until you've reached your allotted time or word count.

9. Reward yourself for a job well done! Some writers allow themselves one jellybean or skittle after every hundred words. Others enjoy a special cup of tea or coffee or a trip to Starbucks. Find out what works for you.

10. Keep a daily writing log to track your progress. Being able to see what you've completed in a week visually is a huge motivator. (A sneaky side note for highly visual folks: You can replace your daily writing desktop icon to one similar to the photo above. That way you know it's a special writing only file.)

11. Sign up for a writing forum to discuss your progress with other writers. It helps knowing others out there have similar goals. Sometimes it's the highlight of my day knowing I can share that I've made my daily writing goal with others.

I hope some of these tips help you maintain a daily writing habit. Happy Writing!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Take Three...

The opening lines of a blog entry a little over a year ago....

Out of the ashes rose a phoenix...wait scratch that, a raven. When I was thirteen years old I began my love affair with dark, paranormal fiction (back then I think the whole section of the bookstore I was drawn to was simply called "Horror." One of my favorites was Of Saints and Shadows by Christopher Golden. Some vampires in the story could transform into animals. This inspired me to write a novel about a young shape-shifter on a quest. I called it Ravyn's Quest. I began typing the story on my tiny Mac Classic. I actually made 3/4 of the way through the manuscript before I realized I didn't know how the story would end. I sent my character on this treacherous journey only to realize I didn't know what she was going to do when she got to where she was going. I always thought in the back of my mind, some day I'll finish it.

And I did take it back out last year. I started over, from the very beginning. This time I'd make sure there were actually characters in the book and that her quest actually had a purpose to it. I thought I liked what I had, but then about 8000 words in, I got stuck. Bogged down by the research of it all. And what did I do? I put it away again. For another year!

In the mean time, I took some much needed time to educate myself at writer's conferences and read, read, read. One very helpful book has been Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Rennie Browne, recommended to me by Stefanie von Borstel at Full Circle Literary.

I finally had the urge to take out my manuscript again last week. I blew off the dust and read through it. I deleted the entire preface and half of the word count, so essentially I started over -- AGAIN!

I'm loving it now. It'll take plenty of encouragement, nourishment, love, and dark chocolate, but this time, I think I'll make it to the end. I've found what's most important -- Ravyn's voice. (And it sure helps that she has a supporting cast now)

What are your current works in progress? Do you have that one project or idea in a back cabinet somewhere just screaming to be written?

My word count so far: 

12200 / 50000

(First time I've made it over 10,000 words with this project. Yay!)