Monday, August 1, 2011

Rough Draft Done, and My Thoughts on On-line Critique Groups

Well, the good news is that the rough draft for my new book is done. Actually, it was completed the other day, but I am only now getting here to post it. There is that part of me that wants to dive into editing, eager to clean it up and get it out there to agents, but I am putting on the brakes and giving myself a couple days before I actually do that editing. I have a film writer friend who does this all the time, basically he follows a format like:

Write rough draft
Start working on story and character info for next film
Go back to previous film and do an edit
Write rough draft for second film
Go back and do another edit of first film

And well, it goes something like that. That may not be exactly it, but you get the picture. There is a time off between works, to put his mind elsewhere so he's got fresh eyes when he goes and looks over the previous project for editing and review purposes. That's what I am doing here, though instead of immediately jumping into another story - though I have the next one in the planning stages already anyway - I am going to take some time to read through a new book I just got: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print. It was suggested by my lovely friend Michelle at Never Gonna Grow Up Reviews, as suggested by a friend of hers. It might sound a little like a he said, she said kind of situation, but I trust this will have been a priceless purchase, at least the knowledge I gain will hopefully be priceless. The reviews were insanely positive, so I shall dive into the pool of helpful educational reading, and hopefully emerge with insight and knowledge that will help me delve into my editing with confidence.

Now, self-editing isn't all I am doing. I have been joining some critique group styled websites to get peer writer opinions and critiques along the way. I have run into some issues with some of the people though. It's hard to take advice from someone when you do a swap read and cringe with every second word because of grammar and spelling flaws, not to mention the excessive times I've had to read stories that were either focused on or started with suicide as a theme. Even worse is when I know the suggestions for changes (especially to grammar) are incorrect. They aren't all cringe worthy, but I've seriously read about more suicide in the last month than I have in my entire lifetime thanks to those websites/groups. They are also rather competitive, like she/he who can make the flashiest post and offer the most to others (like making covers or such) gets the attention, rather than people reading and critiquing for the sake of helping themselves and others in a common goal. In the cases where members get something out of getting the most picks, reviews, or thumbs up, I am seeing a lot of disgustingly underhanded things going on: people making multiple accounts to pick their own work multiple times, having friends vote others down just to vote their friend up, and blatant sabotage of others posts and stories to keep people from getting interested. Some of them are so scary, it makes me want to stick with self-editing and help from my three lovely beta-readers alone.
That said, I would really like to find a critique group that is focused in my same realm of writing (young adult paranormal romance, or at least paranormal even without the young adult or romance elements) that doesn't have any immediate prize or special thing for people who get highest ratings, votes, or number of picks. I want to find an honest to goodness group of people who just want to get help/suggestions/comments about their writing and help others in doing the same. I am not giving up on the other places I have already found, but it would be nice to get advice/comments/critiques from others who are actually actively interested in the things I write. A reply of, "It's a good story, but it's not really my kind of thing," or "I don't really like vampires so I don't have much to say, but I didn't see any grammar mistakes," doesn't really help much.

If you have any suggestions on web-based critique groups focused more on paranormal works (young adult paranormal romance if at all possible), I'd appreciate the heads up. Comment away if you have any ideas. I am still always on the lookout myself, but I am always open to suggestions of new things I may not have found yet.

I was going to end there, but I want to pass on one other thing I found interesting today.
While I was at the bookstore, I was strolling through the Teen Paranormal Romance section and I saw/heard something that made me smile. There were two boys, they were with a girl but she'd gone off somewhere else, looking through the section. One boy looks to the other and says, "This book was terrible." He then proceeds to look further down the aisle and said, "This one was really good." His friend agreed on both accounts, and they moved further down the aisle and I was no longer in creepy eavesdropping range. Now ordinarily I wouldn't have given it much thought, because I've heard the same general conversation happening between sets of girls or a girl discussing books with her mom. This was different because it was boys, and they weren't talking about boy-centric books either. The disliked book happened to be Twilight, sorry Twilight fans. The liked book was one of the Vampire Academy books, though I didn't catch which one. It didn't really matter. The point was, they were hanging out in a slew of teen paranormal romance books, expressing an interest (or disinterest, but obviously having read it anyway, as the case may be) in the genre. That was nice to see, and I thought I would share that.

With that, night!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Speed Reviews, pt 1

Okay, this will be the first of what I will call - Speed Reviews. It's kind of like Speed Dating, only without the creepy jerks drooling at you from across a table. Essentially, it's just quick thoughtful bits about books I've read and really like, then I will be off to something else. Some may be shorter than others, but don't expect a full laborious critique.There are so many great reviewers out there, doing excellent jobs of getting across the full nitty gritty on these wonderful works. I just want to say what I thought, and perhaps encourage others to pick them up and find out exactly what they are about for themselves (that is if you haven't already, since some of these will be older books).

Now, to get this started, I am going to do a Speed Review of THE IRON KING first in the IRON FEY series by Julie Kagawa.

I have to say this particular book/series/author was suggested to me by my friend Michelle (Never Gonna Grow Up! Reviews). I'd heard of it, but while I like the idea of fairies, I never really thought I would be interested in a story about them. Still, when it was mentioned, I figured I should give it a shot. I am a hard and fast vampire fan, but I know there is more out there than vampire fiction. So, thanks Michelle!

I bought the book and started reading, and was instantly hooked.

Yes, hooked. I literally couldn't stop reading. I was sneaking in reads at the dinner table, while I took a bath, and stayed up way too late until I finished it. It was practically an obsession, and I don't say that lightly.

What did I like?
The whole thing really, if I have to be honest. The story pulled me in, and I fell effortlessly into Meghan Chase's life. I got a tiny taste of the fey world through L.J. Smith's earlier books and some text rpg playing I did many years back, plus I'd always been a fan of Midsummer Night's Dream, so many of the characters felt familiar and like old friends/enemies. The new ones, and those I wasn't already familiar with, fell in naturally making the rest of the reading quick and effortless - which is how I think reading for pleasure should be. The writing is so easy to follow, and that only lends to how pleasurable a read it was.

As another note, the covers of the series are amazing. I, like many, are drawn to the attractive covers. Sure, you aren't supposed to read a book by its cover, but that's harder than it sounds sometimes. The covers create a tone for the story, and The IRON KING cover really does its job. Bravo cover maker!

What didn't I like?
That is a tough one, since there really isn't anything I disliked. If anything, I suppose I didn't like what happens to Puck, but I won't get into that for those who haven't read it yet. Since there are several things that happen, it would be hard to specify on the down-low. Just know, I am leaning on the side of Team Puck, so... yeah. Ahem. Moving on.

Maybe I can also say I didn't like how I was constantly on the edge of my seat, but then that would be a lie. While those parts drove me crazy and had me kicking the bed with socked feet when things were going crazy, that is the kind of stuff that really keeps you reading. Ahhhh~ it was a roller-coaster, that's for sure.

Favorite Character:
Tie between Ash and Puck

Favorite Scene:
When Meghan dances with Ash.

TaDa! This concludes my Speed Review of THE IRON KING. Sheesh, I am long winded even when I am trying to be speedy. Figures!

If you aren't familiar with Julie and her work, I suggest checking out her website: Julie Kagawa
You can also get more information about the IRON FEY series here: IRON FEY

Up next?
Who knows. Perhaps it will be another IRON FEY book, but likely it will be something different. You'll just have to pop back in later and find out.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bookblog Giveaways! Fun Stuff!

I am just starting to get into book blogs. Yes, I know I should have done so long ago, but what can I say.

Anywho, one new blog I checked out is The Bookish Brunette, and she's got a great giveaway going on now. Check it out:
500 followers-that's great! - *looks at my 3 followers* I should really do something about that lol

Another great book blog, and my personal friend, is Never Gonna Grow Up Reviews:
She's got a nice little book giveaway going on to, so check it out:

There are more out there, yes, but these are my current targets.
Oh and that review I mentioned last time... yeah, that's still coming. I just got sucked into the second book and haven't had a chance to sit down and write a proper review.

Till next time!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The dreaded first sentence...

I am such a terrible blogger. Perhaps I shouldn't even call myself a blogger, because of the huge gaps between blog posts. I am more a ... hmmm.... occasional poster. Well, that sounds lame, but we'll go with that for now. I am going to try to blog more, but I always say that and fail.

Anywho, to my point. The dreaded first sentence. I have a great idea for a story (at least I like it, my family likes it, and so do my lovely beta readers/testers/editors. I have a pretty solid outline, not including all of the story since I don't know yet how some parts will go, and I have a solid ending. What I don't have is a start. *Le Gasp* But seriously, that is my problem. I am at that part where I have to come up with an engaging start, that will pull the reader in, and make them want to keep reading. In theory, the reader has already read the hook/back of book, and that's what piqued their interest, but I have to keep that interest. I have to make them be so connected from page one, that they HAVE to keep reading to find out what happens. Even more so, I have to find a way to do that from sentence one.

That is where I am, writing an opening sentence, deleting that sentence, writing another sentence, then deleting that one too. What I have done: read through my favorite books to see how they started, read up on professional views of how to start (or how not to start), and asked some folks for there opinions as to what they would like to see. What I won't do: I won't start with a dream, and I won't start with a long drawn out description of something. With that decided, what will I do: GET WRITING. I have to write, I mean literally have the itch to write, so that's what I will do. I will see where I start, what words come out of my mind and onto the screen, and just let it flow. I have given it lots of thought, but it's time to just let go and be creative. It will either be pure genius, something that can use a little help, or complete rubbish; however, I won't know until I get it done. You can't eat if you don't make, gather, or obtain the meal, so here I go!

For anyone out there, what do you do when you don't know where to start or what to write to get you going?

And for next time: A review of THE IRON KING by Julie Kagawa. Yep, I am way behind, but that's okay. I want to do some mini reviews of stories (old and new), and this is a great place to start. Coming soon~

Friday, July 9, 2010

Enter the Vampire

     After a lot of changes to my manuscript, changes made because I have been told time and again that vampire fiction is a bad place to start, I started thinking a lot about vampires in general. Will vampires ever really be out of style? Will the demand die? Not likely.
     Vampires have been a source of wonder, drama, horror, and romance for as long as I can remember - even longer for those who are older than I am. I started writing about vampires when I was in highschool, many years ago. I was inspired by such writers as Anne Rice (INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, VAMPIRE LESTAT, QUEEN OF THE DAMNED - the list could go on), Poppy Z Brite (LOST SOULS), Mercedes Lackey (CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT), and L.J. Smith (VAMPIRE DIARIES and NIGHT WORLD). Their worlds were something I could fall into without getting lost. Their characters were friends and lovers, without having to surrender myself to anyone. Their writing was enveloping without being overpowering. There were so many more that fell into that category - all vampires.
     Come back to today, an age wrapped in TWILIGHT and HARRY POTTER. If you are new to the writing world, attempting to sell a book you hold great pride in, you are lucky if it doesn't have vampires or witches in it; otherwise, you may risk being lumped in with all those who are also making their TWILIGHT-fan book because they are so caught up in the hype. You could have an amazing story, but the moment an agent or publisher reads "vampires", they are likely to toss you into the garbage with all the others they have already done so to. Most will even tell you that it is no real reflection on your writing, as many may even say that your writing has great potential. The problem is the genre and the fact that it  is over saturated with vampire romance. Either that, or they already have someone writing the future-popular next TWILIGHT, and they certainly don't want you to be competition for their current clients - makes sense, but does not make it any easier to take.
     The common suggestion is to move away from vampires, or have something so unbelievably original that it can't be passed up. Yet, I go to the bookstore, and see another vampire-based story, hot off the presses. I check out the agent pages, and they are gushing over a new vampire-based story they've sold to a publisher. I see another vampire show on tv or in the movies. These aren't insanely new and original ideas; instead, they are the same thing as all the rest. Does this make people like them any less? No. Does this make people buy less of the books, watch less of the shows, or dream up less of their own vampire fantasies? No.
     Vampires have been a part of our lives for so long that most don't even remember their first vampire experience. We just know that the world is exciting, and something mysterious that we'd like to experience - again and again. The genre, regardless of which age-range or media-type you are looking at, is thriving; and the book stores promotional tables prove it to a point. VAMPIRE DIARIES was made into a TV show, True Blood is a great hit among those who love vampires whether they know of it's original book-based origins or not, Blade was a hit for its time, and now we have the new show The Gates which is taking off to an interesting turn. If people didn't want to see these things, they wouldn't be created. TWILIGHT wouldn't be as popular a phenomenon as it is. People do want to read, see, and hear these stories of eternal life and love. People want to continue to write about them. So now I suppose people just have to wait until there is a lull in the vampire submissions, so that their visions can properly be heard.
     I am not saying that what I have read from agents is wrong. Again, I note that they probably don't want competition for their own clients. Likewise, publishers aren't going to want insane amounts of competition for the authors they already represent. If the publishers don't want to buy a book because it'd be competition, then an agent can't possibly be expected to be able to take yet another on knowing this. Some are so clogged up with vampire (and specifically paranormal romance vampire) submissions, that they feel like they are going to choke if they see another come through their door. This does cause problems for those who's life work was vampire related, but a good writer can persevere - either by coming up with an amazing extra hook, finding some way to change from vampires to something else, or just put that aside and come back to it later after writing something non-vampire related. It is to those, who have taken the time to say that vampires are going out of style, that I have a beef with. To those who feel that the vampire crazy will pass and be over with, I say that you are mistaken. Time and again, vampires have made their mark on the entertainment and literary worlds. This isn't something that will pass, never to be relived. This isn't just a phase that kids go through and get over. It is a longstanding concept that will continue to grow and build and expand: romantic vampires, evil vampires, troubled vampires, vampires who want to be human, humans who want to be vampires, vampires in space, sci-fi vampires, time traveling vampires, doctor vampires, cop vampires, vampire presidents - the list could go on. To those who are following the TWILIGHT-train, only reading because it is something cool to do, well at least you are reading. To the rest of us, who like the stories for what they are, and always will, I am certain that vampires will never go out of style. Vampires will never die.

~Jennifer Alyx

Monday, June 21, 2010

Aliens, and Immortals, and No Vampires - Oh my!

My completed book is getting an overhaul. I had something else in the works, moving forward and hoping that Dark Kismet would see the light of day in the future, but I had some ideas and decided to give them a shot first. This means an entire revision: changing from first to third person, removing all the vampires (I will see you again my friend's, I swear), and changing the order of some things which in turn meant having to change how my characters relate to each other. It took a bit for me to get to the point of revisions, but after some brainstorming with friends, I feel confident in the result... or at least the result I expect once it's done. I still have 5 chapters to go until revisions are complete, then a round of beta testing on the new book; new since it's made so many changes that it's pretty much become a new story in itself. Also important is the task of finding a new title. Titles are tough for me, but the perfect title will no doubt find its way into my heart and mind.

Change is good. I wasn't sure if I could do it, but I am glad that I was able to have the flexibility to make changes, even though they weren't necessarily changes I wanted to make.

Now a questions, for anyone who stumbles upon this blog:
Where do you get title ideas? Do they just come to you, or is there some ritual that helps give you inspiration?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Dreaming of a Plot

I was thinking about how writers come up with their stories, plots, ideas, etc.
A lot of my ideas originate from dreams. I have really vivid and extremely detailed dreams, some bordering on exceedingly odd. So, I write what I dream, and bring it to the light of day... well... the edge of reality as far as my screen and paper can take it at this time. A couple friend's commented that they have also written a lot starting with a dream that spawned an entire reality. My current work in progress actually came into being starting with a very sleepy drive to work. My mind was wandering, luckily the roads were clear that particular morning, and I it just came to me - as if in a dream. I was hooked on the idea, and just let it blossom from there.
So, how do you get your ideas? What is your muse?