August 24, 2010

A Few Good Books

While I decide which book(s) to bring on vacation, here are some quick reviews of recent reads:

I rarely finish a book and then read it again immediately, but Dunkle totally swept me up in her tale of a goblin king and his reluctant human bride. If you never thought a goblin could entice you, then meet Marak, a roguish, manipulative sovereign who rules a richly imagined underground world. I guarantee you’ll be rooting for him long before the book’s end.

Literary agent Maass believes every novel can be inspired and his book offers techniques to fire up yours. Maass offers succinct examples from general fiction, followed by exercises that bring a fresh perspective to any WIP. Highly recommended.

Brian Jacques – REDWALL
Normally, I’m a bit ho-hum about stories with talking animals–although I'm definitely looking forward to Hilary Wagner's Nightshade City in October–but this clever tale of mice defending their abbey against a ruthless rat and his army hooked me with lively characters (good and evil) and a grand adventure.

Won't have a chance to post again until I get back. See you in a few weeks!

August 17, 2010

Have Notebook, Will Travel

Many writers take their laptops everywhere, even on vacation, but some of us like to travel light (says she who crams clothes into suitcases, but it's all about layers, isn't it?). In preparation for a wedding back East, I decided against trying to fit my iBook into carryon luggage and opted instead to work on a hard copy.

Normally, I don't print until a draft is finished, but since I'm done revising the first 50-odd pages of my MG fantasy, it seemed like a good time to look at them off-screen. So, I'll be mailing the ms. to my destination–a house with no computer access, by the way–along with red pens, Post-Its, and a notebook for comments and the inevitable rewrites.

How about you? Do you write when you travel?

BTW: If you missed last week's incredible WriteOnCon, check out Marissa's daily roundup over at Adventures in Children's Publishing:
Day 1:
Day 2:
Day 3:

August 3, 2010

Questioning the Author

While teaching, I used a wonderful resource (see below) to help students connect with text. Basically, you ask questions about an author's purpose to increase your understanding of story structure.

And it dawned on me recently: what a great way to look at our own writing! We want readers to actively engage with our stories, don't we? So, I took a few of the book's Queries (interesting choice of words, no?) and modified them for writers. Hope you find them useful.

- What's the basic story you're telling? (Think of your pitch here.)

- Is everything in the text relevant to this story? (Don't create drama just for its own sake; if it doesn't further the narrative, out it goes.)

- Do your scenes present POVs the reader can easily follow? (Zoom in and zoom out, as needed.)

- Does the story flow, or is it bogged down in certain areas? (If you stop, your reader will, too. Guaranteed.)

- Are you using age-appropriate language? (Tricky–you don't want to "dumb down" your story.)

- Is the plot clear? (Confusion and ambiguity can kill a reader's enthusiasm for your story.)

- How have you revealed your characters? (Actions vs. description.)

- If you asked readers to explain the meaning of a scene or chapter, or even the entire work, would their responses match your intent? (One of many reasons to be thankful for critique partners.)

What do you think? Did any of these help?