Overhauling

For the past (almost) year, I’ve been surrounding myself with new writerly types. By new, I don’t mean new writers, I mean writers new to me. I’ve been basking in the shiny newness of their ways. And I’ve been learning.

Tuesday, I tuned into Jennie Nash’s AMA (Ask Me Anything). You can watch here. She holds them every Tuesday on the Author Accelerator Facebook page and answers any questions about writing and publishing. If you’re not familiar with Jennie Nash, YOU SHOULD BE. This woman is a wealth of writerly knowledge and she gives so much of it away for free. (And she has the best laugh, I swear.) Jennie Nash is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Author Accelerator and she’s a book coach. Look her up, you won’t regret it.

During her AMA, Jennie talked about how the world does not want or ask for our writing. Yet here we are, day after day, month after month, toiling away at something that the WORLD DOESN’T WANT.

Wait, what?

As writers or artists or any creative type, we are harnessing our passion, something that no one else might ever care about, and we are pouring all our time and love into it. I won’t be the first person to say that writing a book is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. You’re definitely not going to finish writing a book if you don’t love it. And then you have this thing that nobody asked for, and it’s such a subjective thing, an endless feedback loop between writer and reader. Everyone filters our words through their own world lens. Which means two things:

  1. Some people will LOVE it.
  2. Some people with HATE it.

It also means there is truly a market for anything that is well written. (And probably some things that aren’t so well written. You all know what I’m talking about.) There is a remarkable amount of hope in that. So, future readers, I’m thinking about you. XOXO.

Jennie also talked about marketing and how the brunt of it falls on writers (as if we don’t have enough to do with all the writing and brooding and drinking!). This got me thinking about the book Be the Gateway I picked up from Dan Blank a while back. Those of you who know me well know how much I despise marketing. I bought Dan’s book because Jennie raves about it. Then I let it sit beside my bathtub because that’s where I was going to read it. I suddenly discovered a deep love of showers, Dan, I swear. But Jennie said to make yourself do it. To learn, to grow. It’s part of the process. So, I opened Dan’s book and I read.

I’m only 70 pages in and already I feel my insights shifting into something different, something more productive. What if marketing doesn’t have to suck? What if it can be fun? What if I told you this blog post is a result of Dan’s suggested marketing? Go get yourself a copy of Dan’s book Be the Gateway. It’s inspiring. I’m sure you’ll see more and more of his suggestions popping up on my blog, which will be getting an overhaul in anticipation of Pitch Wars, which begins August 2nd.

Look for more frequent updates and peeks inside what I’m working on. I don’t want to be a ghost who only shows up when I’ve got news, after all!

What I’m reading now:

The Secret Garden (audiobook) by Frances Hodgson Burnett – A MUST classic. I remember reading this in school or possibly only watching the movie. Been listening to the audiobook in the car with my son, Patryk. Hands down for sure the book is better than the movie. I also think it’s a good example of tying up loose ends by the end.

Be the Gateway by Dan Blank – See above. Loving this book. Will post more about it as I progress.

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate – I have one chapter left. Redgate is a fantastic, witty author who takes on major things, such as bisexuality, cross-dressing?, and acapella. Not necessarily in that order. Redgate recently announced this book was optioned for television. It’s a bit like Glee meets Pitch Perfect, except with more coming of age bits.

Now I Rise by Kiersten White – And I Darken, the first book in this series is one of the BEST BOOKS I’ve ever read. Lada is a fierce, mean (often justified) girl, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE reading about her. Kick ass girls are the best thing ever.

Cruel Prince by Holly Black – I love Holly Black. Guys, I have a big old crush on her. Cruel Prince was dark and fierce and I read on her Facebook today that just she finished the sequel. I need it in my hands!! Unfortunately, Cruel Prince doesn’t release until 2018!! Soo long for you to wait. Preorder!

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera – Silvera is possibly the nicest most down to earth person you will ever meet. He’s sincere and sweet and I just love him. Aside from that, he’s an AMAZING writer. Just try not to cry reading his work. Try. I dare you. They Both Die at the End is available in September – be sure to preorder!!

 

 

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TAG YOU’RE IT

The wonderful Melissa Keir tagged me in the game, and I thought, why not, I’m always looking for something to blog about and you get interesting little tidbits about the things I’m working on. If you’d like to participate (since I’m not gonna tag anybody) just copy the questions and do your own version.

What is the working title of your book?

Shade of the Poison Tree

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Shade of the Poison Tree is actually the second book in a planned series, with the first book being Through the Reflection Pond. The initial idea started with a girl falling through a reflection pond and ending up in a faerie world.

What genre does your book fall under?

Young Adult Fantasy. My favorite.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

First off, I want all of you to know that I agonized over who to choose for the main characters. I searched and searched and Googled and Googled, but it’s SO HARD to choose someone else when you have such a clear image in your mind. Who I found is a close approximation.

Callie: Annasophia Robb

Rowan: Ian Somerhalder Okay- so Ian is a little (forgive me, because he’s just SO pretty!) old to be Rowan, but unless you can show me a male actor that’s around 20 and is a mix of Ian and Jared Leto, Ian will have to suffice for now.

Ash: Jeremy Sumpter

I’m going to stop with just the three main characters, because as of right now, my character list has 20+ people on it and I already spent at least an hour trying to drum up those three! Oh, the hardships of a writer!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I’m unprepared for this question, so I’m going to skip it. Don’t hate me—this is just another thing I’ll agonize over. I’ll have a synopsis eventually.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I plan on seeking agency representation for the series.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I think the draft of Through the Reflection Pond took me between three and four months to write. I’ve been working on Shade of the Poison Tree for a two months now and I still have a long way to go.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I really hate these questions. I’d love for people to compare it to anything by Cassandra Clare or Holly Black. Enough said.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

When I started writing Through the Reflection Pond, I hadn’t read many books about faeries. Since then, I’ve read a lot, and I’m surprised at how many things I’ve gotten right (or some version of right! Artistic license and all that.). I think I just wanted to try something outside of my comfort zone.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s a series. The most exciting thing, I think, is that the story revolves around three faerie cities, all of which are very different in what they stand for and strive for. Eirensae is a city that is the closest to “human.” Fraeburdh is very traditional faerie, dark and scary. Macántacht is somewhere in the middle. Traditional faerie, but with higher morals. Then there’s the Fallen, who are excommunicated fae that have been stripped of their powers. Throughout the series, the characters will spend time in each city, so the surroundings will vary drastically depending on where they are. It’s a lot of fun to write.

Now Tag! You’re it!!

All the best,

Kacey

YOUR VERY FIRST SENTENCE

Today I’m looking into great one-liners, and no, I don’t mean pick-up lines, I mean the first sentence of your manuscript. What if your manuscript was judged solely on your first line? (Ack! Scary, right?) Would you make the grade? What works? What doesn’t? I’m sure there’s tons of great advice out there on how to compose a great first sentence. Much like the opening line of your query letter, it needs to be eye-catching and showcase your style. So as research, I hauled a whole bunch of YA books off my shelf for some good old investigation. Later, (after a few drinks,) I’m going to open up all of my manuscripts and give you the first lines. Then I’ll judge myself as well. And I heard somewhere that you’re your own worst critic, so we’ll see if I survive!

**I’d just like to point out that all of these books are young adult. I think that’s important.

On the top of the pile we have Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. (Fantasy)

               “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

I love this first line and not just because I’ve read the entire Harry Potter series. I think it’s very sarcastic and captures your attention right away. Why, what do you mean they’re perfectly normal? What is “perfectly normal,” after all? Well played, Ms. Rowling. Grade: A+

Tithe by Holly Black (Fantasy)

               “Kaye took another drag on her cigarette and dropped it into her mother’s beer bottle.”

The first time I read this book, I was expecting typical YA, something meek and mild that skirts around major issues that teenagers face, but that first line really says it all. Kaye is smoking, her mother is drinking. This first line shows me the grittiness that follows in Tithe. I also think it shows the absolute nonchalance to the awful lifestyle she leads with her mother. Grade: I give it an A.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (Steampunk)

               “Finn had been flung on his face and chained to the stone slabs of the transitway.”

This one is a bit trickier. For one, it follows the typical Steampunk verbiage in that it uses way too many words. It doesn’t really give me any sort of emotion since I don’t really know who Finn is yet, though I am curious as to why he’s chained on the transitway (not that I know what a transitway is). It’s not my favorite first line. Grade: B-

The Host by Stephenie Meyer (Sci-fi)

               “The Healer’s name was Fords Deep Waters.”

I remember reading that first line and thinking “What the hell kind of name is that? What the hell, Stephenie, where’s Edward?” But…on closer inspection, it’s a great way to show the sci-fi nature of the book. How many people do you know that go by a name like Fords Deep Waters? I’m guessing none. All in all, it’s a success in setting up the book. Grade: A

Flip by Martyn Bedford (Sci-fi/fantasy)

               “Alex couldn’t have said what woke him in that morning.”

This is a terrible first line to what is otherwise a very good book (that I really enjoyed). This gives me nothing. It doesn’t have emotion, it doesn’t hint at the general voice of the book. Nothing. Blah. Don’t do it. Grade: D (And that’s generous.)

Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast (Fantasy)

               “Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker.”

Yes! That’s what I’m talking about. Suddenly I’m having a bad day and there’s a dead guy at my locker. Wait, what? Dead guy? I’m so in. Plus Zoey talks like this the entire book, so it leads right in to her bubbly voice. Grade: A+

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (Fantasy)

               “I walked into biology and my jaw fell open.”

This is a ho-hum sentence. All I can think is I don’t care!! Where Ms. Fitzpatrick finds her gusto is in the second sentence, which is, “Mysteriously adhered to the chalkboard was a Barbie doll, with Ken at her side.” My advice? Nix the first sentence, start with the second which is scandalous sounding and takes me right back to sex-ed. Grade: F (And only because she had that second, much improved sentence sitting right there and she didn’t use it!)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Sci-fi)

               “When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.”

So it’s not the best first sentence ever, but it’s not the worst either. It shows us that the main character cares for someone, and that someone is not where they should be. It’s decidedly sad without even trying that hard. Grade: I give it a B.

Divergent by Veronica Roth (Sci-fi/fantasy)

               “There is one mirror in my house.”

This sentence is…bland. It carries a little interest in that only having one mirror is a little strange, but not enough that I’d freak out on you. Knowing that the rest of the book is freaking amazing, I won’t judge too harshly. I would’ve like a bit more. Grade: C

Tempest by Julie Cross (Sci-fi)

               “How far back should I go?” I asked Adam.

This is another one of those indecisive sentences. It could mean like whoa! Time travel! Or it could be how far back should I look into this person’s history to support my pseudo-stalker habits? It has intrigue, for sure. Grade: I give it an B+.

Now it’s time for the real fun! The following are my first sentences. I’m actually pretty worried about this…

Antithesis by umm, me. (Sci-fi)

               “Reality flickered at the edge of my vision, bright and painfully demanding.”

I have to say, it’s just okay. Because you don’t know that “reality” is punny, it doesn’t ring out as awesome. It’s well-written, but doesn’t give any insight into the story or Gavyn’s personality. Grade: Sigh. I give myself a C.

Through the Reflection Pond also by me (Fantasy)

               “I picked up my pace as I rounded the ramshackle house and exploded into the street.”

This one is okay as well. The main character is running, which makes me think she’s either running from or to someone. I also like the use of “ramshackle,” it’s tangible kind of word that gives you a nice mental picture. Grade: B-

Stepping Stones (you’re seeing a trend. I wrote this one, too.) (Fantasy Romance)

               “Dawn broke across the sky, streaking it pink and orange as Onna pushed the engine of her G6 harder than she ever had before.”

I like and dislike this sentence with equal measure. I like the description of the sky and the impression that I get that she’s running from something. It has emotion, though I’m not quite sure what that emotion is. She’s in a hurry, but is it to or from something? Apparently it’s a running theme in my first sentences. Grade: B

Untitled (This is a project that has yet to be titled or finished, but I like the first sentence.) (Fantasy Romance)

               “Whoever decided that my life should be irrevocably changed on a Monday was a cruel person.”

This sentence has all the important ingredients. It gets us inside our main character’s head. She’s not just having a bad day, she’s having a life-changing day. And even so, it shows hints of humor in her voice. Grade: A (Yay! I finally got an A!)

NaNoWriMo (This is the project I worked on for NaNo in 2011. Also untitled and unfinished and shelved. Oh, the life of a writer.) (Fantasy)

               “I stumbled and fell hard onto my bed; it accepted me with a short, angry squeak.”

I dig personifying objects, so the second half of the sentence works for me. The first part leaves me wondering why the character fell. Was she pushed? Did she pass out drunk? Is she about to get it on? (Oh yeah, I went there, and only I know the answer.) Grade: A

Whew! I survived the massacre of my own work and came out smiling. I hope you find this entry as helpful as I did. Once you’ve made it past the first sentence, there’s still an entire manuscript to address. Each sentence is as equally important as the last, so I hope you’ll ask yourself if each and every sentence is the best it could possibly be.

After all, the first sentence of a book is like the opening line of song. If it’s good, it’ll stick with the reader long after she puts the book down. Just like when you hear “Just a small town girl…” Everyone knows exactly where we’re going and how great of a journey it’ll be. (Haha, I’m so witty.) So ask yourself, what does my first line tell about my story? Does it give emotion? Does it give mood? Does it set up my story?

So what are your favorite first lines? Do you want my grade on yours? Leave me some comments.

All the best,

Kacey