Every human being has secrets. Why we hide the truth (or lies) from others and sometimes ourselves is often the most interesting part behind a good secret, but understanding what makes up a secret can help an author write a character in a more genuine way. So what should we know about our characters’ secrets? […]
Each year I take a few writing classes online because I think writers should always be learning new techniques. I’m a commercial fiction writer and I enjoy using different styles of writing. This year I came across a Master Class offering with James Patterson. The price was right ($90 USD), and it sounded like fun.
Well, it was fun, and I actually learned a few things that I could start using right away. What you should know about me is that I was a Pantser until this class. (A Pantser is someone who writes by the seat of their pants, usually without a hint of an outline). I’ve changed my thoughts on outlining as a result. Not only is online super helpful when you start writing, but it can also help you figure out whether your book idea is really worth pursuing. If you can’t get past chapter 10 in the outline, should you really pursue writing it at all? If you’re not in love with the story and the characters, it is time to pull the plug before you invest a month writing and stumbling through it.
While this may not be earth-shattering information, it was enough to re-invigorate me and get me excited about writing again. In less than three weeks I’ve managed to outline a 70-chapter book and begin outlining a second. I’ve written several chapters in both books and am really enjoying the process. I get up in the morning excited about writing, and I have a little trouble falling asleep because murder mystery ideas keep bombarding my brain. (I’m not complaining!)
Back to James Patterson – this class is comprised of 22 video lessons, as well as a PDF class outline with writing assignments. If you’ve ever taken an online college class, this is just like one, complete with an online forum for each individual lesson. James Patterson is easy to listen to and he appears to speak to you personally in each video. His stories are informative, and he shares his successes and failures.
Recently Mr. Patterson ran a writing contest- enter to win a chance to co-author a book with him (the entry period is now over). Entrants had to write a 2 sentence hook, a synopsis, and the first chapter of a mystery written in Mr. Patterson’s style. As of this writing the judges at large are whittling down the entrants to 10 semi-finalists. I’m hoping to be included in this group as I too entered this contest.
Contest entry aside, I gained a lot of knowledge and tricks to propel my next novel forward. One tip I’ve taken to heart is simple – write quick, snappy chapters that always propel the story forward. If you get stuck or blocked, jump ahead to the following chapter and write ‘TBD’ for the chapter you got stuck on. Give yourself permission to jump ahead if you know where the story is going (if you wrote an outline, this is a no-brainer). Again, this may sound simple, but how many of you have gotten stuck and never moved past that point? How many unfinished manuscripts are laying in your home office abandoned at chapter 4? Personally, I have a virtual graveyard of unfinished manuscripts on my shelf.
I have no problem recommending this class to fellow mystery writers, especially if you are someone who is always getting stuck several chapters in, or can’t figure out how to finish the novel. You will gain knowledge about writing mysteries, the publishing industry, and about Hollywood in general, should your novel be published and turned into a movie. Some of the lessons include: raw ideas, plot, working with a co-author, creating characters (think ‘worthy’ villains and heroes), outlining, writing dialogue, writing suspense, and much more.
If you are interested in taking this Master Class, visit MasterClass.com. There you will find this writing class as well as other classes (such as acting and voice) taught by successful professionals in their field.
Hello readers! Please enjoy today’s guest post from a member of the Ch1Con 2015 Team! Feel free to share it with young writers that you know, or link to it. ~Charlotte
Hi guys! My name’s Kira Budge and I’m the associate online admin for Ch1Con, a unique writing conference by young writers, for young writers. Today I’m here posting as part of the Ch1Con 2015 Blog Tour, which spans a number of writing-related blogs and includes a ton of original content from the Chapter One Young Writers Conference team.
Founded in 2012, the first Chapter One Young Writers Conference (Ch1Con) took place in Chicago with six teenagers in attendance in person and countless others attending via an online live stream. It was an experiment limited to members of the Scholastic’s Write It community and their friends: Could a group of teenagers from across North America really get together and run their own conference? The answer soon became apparent: Yes. And so the conference was born!
This year, the conference will take place on Saturday, August 8th in the suburbs of Chicago, IL, in Arlington Heights. 2015 registration is open on the Ch1Con website for writers from a middle school to undergraduate level and at an early bird discount price of $39.99. Three speakers have been confirmed so far: headliner Kat Zhang, the bestselling author of the Hybrid Chronicles, Taryn Albright, better known as the Girl with the Green Pen, and Ava Jae, debut author of BEYOND THE RED (YA sci-fi coming out in 2016). As a special bonus, Ava Jae’s agent, Louise Fury of the Bent Agency, will open to queries only from conference attendees for up to thirty days after the event.
Early bird registration is currently available at this link with adult registration for those 18+ and youth registration (with parental/guardian consent) for those under 18. This early bird discount ends May 31st and there are only thirty slots open, so register ASAP! For more information and to join in on our community, check out our website and social media platforms:
Conferences like ours are only one of the many great resources young writers can use to find information on establishing writing careers. Young writers have just as much capability as adults to do the work, if we’re dedicated to the craft. All kinds of writing blogs and communities and books can give you help on your way, just the same as they help adult writers. One collection of these can be found at this link.
To further help you guys out, I’m doing a Q+A today using questions provided by a young writer very close to Charlotte’s heart. J Enjoy! And please comment with your own resources and tips below.
Q: Where do young writers find agents for their books?
Once you’ve got a book written and polished and are ready to start querying, it’s time to seek out an agent. I generally use one of two resources to find agents: QueryTracker online or the annual Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents. You can get the second from your library, which I recommend because there’s a new and updated edition every year.
When you’ve found agents, do your research: look at their websites to see what their requirements are for submitting and what genres they represent, read their blogs to see if their personalities mesh with yours, and do the same with their social media. I also recommend using Preditors & Editors to confirm that your chosen agents have a good record and are considered legitimate in the industry. It’s easy to get trapped in a scam!
As you begin to query, again, it’s vital that you read at the agent websites and do other research across blogs and books so you can follow the submission process properly. It’s important to show that you’re willing to do the work and follow the rules!
Q: Is there a place to self-publish if young writers don’t want to or can’t find an agent?
As for adults, there are many routes to publication. You can seek out small publishers that don’t require agented submissions (again, I’d check Preditors & Editors when looking into these) or you can go to the total self-publishing route with resources like CreateSpace on Amazon.com. Keep in mind that you should not pay for actual publishing services and if you are asked to, it’s probably a scam. However, there are certain fees for services related to publication that you will have to front if you’re going the full self-publishing route. These include a professional editor, proper layout, and a good cover design. You’ll want to have all of these things if you’re serious about publishing. Make your work the very best it can be!
Q: How do young writers or artists break into the comic book industry?
Again, you do it like any writer or artist! Big comic book companies like Marvel and DC don’t accept submissions, but you can work your way into the spotlight where they can see you by starting with small comic book companies. Do your research to track these down and submit to them. In the meantime, because of how strongly modern comics are based online, it’s recommended that you begin regularly posting your work on a blog or something similar. If you get a good digital following, you’re more likely to be picked up for print publication.
You can also go the graphic novel route, which would be closer in nature to that of regular novel publishing, though you would have to find specialized agents and publishers. Only a rare few choose to represent this art form!
Thanks so much for your questions. I hope my answers help both you and our readers today! J
The Chapter One Young Writers Conference. Every story needs a beginning. This is ours.
I remember my first summer at camp as a child vividly. A group of 8 girls who didn’t know each other were plunked down in the middle of the woods and expected to get along or perish. For the most part, we perished because we didn’t get along very well. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but rather we were all so strong willed that none emerged as a leader. Instead, we ventured out on our own and became parts of other groups. At the end of each day, we would drift back into the cabin and ignore each other. Sure, there were occasional conversations that ended in awkward silence, but at least there was no blood shed.
Fast forward to adulthood. I have grown up and have been labeled “Runs With Scissors” many times. No doubt my native American ancestors would have given me a similar name! Being a brave individual, I decided to jump in feet first and embrace everything, including cabin assignments during my first Camp NaNoWriMo. I thought that it couldn’t be any worse than my childhood summer camp because after all we were all adults, right? Wrong.
We may all be adults, but the same problems still exist. Everyone wants to be a leader, not a follower. There is no room for Miss Congeniality, nor is there for a Peacemaker (with the exception of the gun variety). It is every man or woman for themselves, torpedoes be damned, stay out of the path of speeding vehicles lest you be run over!
What ever happened for niceties? Be pleasant to new people who enter your life, support other writers, offer a helping hand or words of encouragement. Have we all become so entrenched in the quest for our own success that we’ve become blind to each others basic needs? Social media is rife with trolls and people who love to stir the pot, so it was unexpected to find similar behavior in my virtual cabin with fellow writers. <<Sigh>>
Eventually I became bored with my cabin mates, and since my novel wasn’t going to write itself, I simply quit the cabin after weeks of unsatisfying interaction. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait for my parents to show up in their station wagon to haul my cookies back home.
I really do enjoy working with other writers and helping them to succeed. I’ve created a business to do this (IndieAuthorBookTours), have spent a tremendous amount of time reading and reviewing books, as well as responding to personal requests for assistance in one form or another. However, I don’t have time to try and reform writers who only want to take and never give back. Like summer camp, I have no intention of participating in virtual cabin assignments again.
My advice for those of you struggling with your cabin assignments during Camp NaNoWriMo: don’t spend a lot of time trying to rally the troops, nor asking to get reassigned to another cabin. You would be better off focusing on writing your novel, or better yet, gather together a group of your favorite writing buddies and form your own cabin. You’ll be more successful if you surround yourself with like-minded individuals and those who will cheer you on. It is okay to ditch those people around you who don’t want you to succeed. Let them place their own canoe in the water and paddle away by themselves.
For every manuscript I see with a head-turning title, there’s another with a title that’s limp, unassertive and would never tempt a reader to look closer. Or a title that’s too tricky to remember.
I had a great discussion about this recently with Peter Snell (you know, from Barton’s Bookshop) in our show for Surrey Hills Radio (find it here, on show number 10) and I thought it might be fun to elaborate on it further.
Numbers are powerful
For non-fiction, you might add a sense of value by putting a number in your title. 50 Tips To Help You Build A House sounds like it offers far more than just Tips To Help You Build A House. Numbers also create a sense of insider knowledge, that an expert has chosen just the tips you need and discarded the others. When Peter and I recorded the…
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One of my favorite things to do, aside from writing, is reviewing books for other authors. I love reading a variety of books ranging from children’s picture books and non-fiction to historical romance and dystopian novels. I’ve also spent a fair amount of time writing academic reviews. While I may have some favorite genres, one thing is certain: I take the job of writing reviews seriously. After all, no one knows better than a fellow writer how valuable book reviews are.
What to Include in a Book Review
Each person has their own way of writing and formatting book reviews, depending on whether they are academic or commercial. However, there are a few things that should always be included in a book review: a short synopsis (shows you actually read the book or at least attempted to), the names of main characters, important points found in non-fiction books, things you found interesting in a story, and in some cases, things you didn’t care for.
What to Leave Out of a Book Review
Certain things should not be included in a book review: how you think the book should have ended, why you hate the cover, jokes about the author’s personality, juvenile videos that have been added with the sole purpose to make fun of the author and their writing, advice to an author, and threats. (The last two should be a given, though I’ve seen them with increasing regularity on major book retailer websites).
The job of the book reviewer is to draw attention to a particular book for the author, hopefully in a good way. Even if you don’t like a particular book, you can still write a review that points out both the strengths AND weaknesses without becoming an author basher in the process. Your job isn’t to be the gatekeeper for the publishing process unless you are living in a communist country or a dictatorship. After all, many authors become better with each successive novel or work of non-fiction.
Thoughts on Editing, Formatting and Covers
Thoughts about the book cover, formatting and editing are important, but readers are more eager to know about the substance of the book. Unless you are a professional editor, book formatter by trade or a marketing guru, leave the nit picking to the professionals. In some instances formatting errors (not to be confused with editing errors) are the result of a corrupted computer file, problematic upload, misprint at the publishing level, or formatting error on a book website (which can occur when sampling a book online). If you have any suggestions or questions about these particulars, direct them to the author or the individual who gave you the book to review in private correspondence.
What to Do if You Hate a Book
In some cases you will dislike a book, perhaps even hate it. What do you do when this happens? You have two choices – beg off writing the review and let the author or provider of the review copy know via personal correspondence, or write the review as carefully as possible. Everyone should be able to find at least one good thing about a book, but if you can’t it is okay to simply say you didn’t care for that particular book. Be short and to the point, as potential readers aren’t going to read your lengthy paragraphs that go on and on about why you hate the book. All they want to know if you liked it and why or why not. Keep it short and sweet. Don’t be a bore.
Include a personal recommendation when possible. For example include a “If you liked x book, then you might enjoy this book too.” Comparisons often help potential readers decide whether to take a chance on a new book or not.
Read It Before You Publish It
Read your book review aloud before you publish it. It should have sentences that begin with “the author, the story, the characters,” etc., not numerous sentences that begin with “I didn’t like, I thought, I think”. Remember that it is about the book, not you.
If you wish to be taken seriously as a reviewer, be professional about it. Write a short, succinct review without embellishment. Let potential readers know more about the novel or work of non-fiction and why they should buy it, but remember that the potential readers aren’t interested in how witty and clever you are. Post your review in a timely manner on multiple book retailer websites because reviews drive book sales. Don’t be a reviewer that takes freebies and never delivers because eventually authors, publishers, and book tour hosts will no longer trust you.
Book reviewers that can be fair and balanced are sought out, and if you become one of them you may find that writers and publishers will flock to you. When this happens, you will have more books than you can read each year, and isn’t that a book reviewer’s ultimate goal?