Twitter Pitch Etiquette #SonOfAPitch

March 6th there will be a #SonOfAPitch Twitter Pitch Party! What is a Twitter Pitch Party? How do you pitch? Why do you pitch? Here’s the quick and dirty details for all the Twitter Pitch debutantes out there!

What is it? A Twitter Pitch Party is an online event organized by writers, editors, and agents around a date and hashtag. During the event authors post a pitch (or logline) for their book with the appropriate hashtag. If an agent or editor likes the pitch, they’ll let the author know. The author will then send in a query along with requested pages. These queries will get top priority from agents and editors.

How do you pitch? It’s as simple as putting your pitch on twitter with the right hashtag! Going to be away from the keyboard all day? Use Tweetdeck to schedule tweets!

Why do you pitch? Did I mention that editors and agents give pitching authors priority when reading queries? It’s nice to get feedback fast. Over 60% of my full manuscript requests came from pitch parties. Even though I wound up with an agent I found through a traditional query process, the feedback from other agents helped me refine my early query.

Do’s and Don’ts:
Do use the hashtag.
Do be polite to other authors and anyone on the hashtag (but feel free to report spam).
Do keep a positive attitude.
Don’t spam the hashtag. As a general rule, tweet once every two to three hours (4 total tweets for the event).
Don’t tweet more than one book.
Don’t tag agents with your pitch.
Don’t pitch on twitter unless you are participating in an event.

Etiquette for authors on Twitter:
There’s a lot that can be said here, but let’s keep it simple: your twitter feed is part of your brand. Everyone – from potential agents to potential readers – will see your feed. So put your best foot forward. Make sure that someone reading your feed finds the same tone there that they will in your books. You want to keep a nice balance of book-related tweets (NASA tweets for the SF crowd, Teen Vogue tweets for the YA crowd, archaeology or Victoria tweets if you write historical fiction, ect), personal-tweets (pets… people love pets), and promotion (actual ads for your book should take up less than 10% of your feed).

Even before you publish, you want to make your Twitter feed (or whatever social media feed you use as your Home Base) a place that reflects you, your style, and welcomes new readers to stop by and say hi.

What you do put on Twitter: a real avatar (no eggs!), a good bio, a link to your website/author page, retweets of things that interest you, conversations with other authors, pictures of pets, pictures of your bookcase, pictures you, information about cool stuff in your hometown (I’ll be tweeting about the Iditarod this week), information about the research you’re doing for a new book, #WIPfire with a sentence from your latest story, fun stories about two people sharing a found wine bottle on the sub ride home.

What you don’t put on Twitter are things like: your address, your phone number, nude pics, complaints about how slow an agency is responding to your query, rants about how you could do so much better in self-publishing while querying, brag posts about how you’ve never read a genre but are totally going to rewrite it because you are a genius, or hate-filled screes against anyone (with exceptions for football season and March Madness… sports rants can be forgiven).

What if an agent or editor starts chatting with me on Twitter? Be friendly and keep talking. I’ve met some fabulous people who offered me stellar advice for free just because we happened to be Twitter-friends. Done right, social media can be an amazing networking tool, especially for people who live in remote locations (like me!), are anxious in crowds, can’t get to cons, or otherwise wouldn’t be rubbing elbows with people in the publishing industry on a regular basis.

Got questions? Hit the comment box and let me know what you’re worried about.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the How-To Write A Pitch workshop, and post yours for feedback.

 

Editing Sale!

emergency-edits

Emergencies happen. Unexpected bills. An unplanned trip to the dentist’s office. Car problems. We’ve all been there.

Rather than sitting here fretting over emergencies though, I’m turning this into an opportunity. This week only, I’m opening up two new novel slots on my editing schedule, and offering discounts on developmental edits for the first three chapters of your novel, and submission packet critiques. With #SFFPit coming up, I want to make sure your opening pages are polished and beautiful.

The catch? If you want these special prices you need to book before December 12th, and the books needs to be emailed to me by December 15th.

Submission Packet Critique (synopsis, query, and first 5 pages) $25
First Chapter (up to 20 pages)  $50.00
First Three Chapters (up to 50 pages) $100.00
Entire Manuscript Critique $1.00 a page minimum of 200 pages.
Emergency Fee to Jump the Queue  $50
* all page counts are double-spaced, Times New Roman, size 12 font, formatted for Microsoft Word *

To reserve a space please contact me at liana.brooks1@gmail.com

These are for CONTENT EDITS only. I will address plot, pacing, and character development. It is recommended that you schedule a Line Edit with a reputable line editor to go over your final manuscript for typos and grammar errors.

Get all the details here.
FAQ

Breaking Through Writer’s Block (the expanded post)

Originally this was written for Savvy Authors in 2013, and then Leslie brought it back November 16th because she was struggling with NaNo. Reading through it, I saw a few places where I could expand on ideas better, so here is the revised edition of Breaking Through Writer’s Block!

I don’t believe in Muses.

I’ll never blame a magic fairy’s disappearance for why I can’t get my writing done each day. But I do believe in writer’s block.

Sometimes it’s very obvious why you can’t write: there’s a cat in your lap, a kid sitting on the keyboard trying to color on your face, or the power’s gone out. In these cases, you feed the cat, distract the kid, and grab pen and paper to plot out your next scene. These are easy to see problems with equally easy fixes. Other forms of Writer’s Block aren’t as easy to identify or cure. Writer’s Block comes in three basic forms: Physical, Emotional, and Logical.

Physical Writer’s Block

This doesn’t mean the keyboard is missing, it means there is something physically wrong with the author or the environment. Fatigue, hunger, and illness all make it hard to write.

Signs you have physical writer’s block:

  • Staring at the screen yawning
  • Thinking of food but not the next scene
  • Shivering
  • Sweating
  • Coughing, vomiting, doped up on medicine
  • Distracted by things around you

When you hit a stumbling point where you can’t work, do a quick self-diagnostic and try to remember when you last ate a healthy meal. A real, all-five-food-groups meal that provides the brain with energy.

If it’s been more than four hours it’s probably time to hit save and grab some food. If you’re yawning and rubbing your eyes take a nap or go to sleep. Tired writing is bad writing.

Shivering, sweating, or distracted? Adjust the temperature or location.

Loop on cough meds? Call it a night and go watch a movie while you eat an orange for the delicious vitamin C!

Physical writer’s block is something you can walk away from. Get up, move, address your physical needs, and the words will come back. Your brain is not a machine, it can’t work at 100% for 24 hours straight. Giving your body a break is the quickest way to fix this form of writer’s block. Food and good nap will solve 90% of your problems, trust me, it’s been scientifically tested by millions of authors.

Self-care is not selfish. Beating your body up, or neglecting it, isn’t good for you in the long term. Or for your career. Authors joke about living off coffee and alcohol, but at the end of the day it is a joke. Your brain is a delicate organ that needs certain things to do its job correctly. Stay hydrated. Get the sleep you need. Take regular breaks to stretch, walk, and get some sunlight. Give your hands a nice massage after a long day of typing. And make sure wherever you write is comfortable and supports a healthy posture.

You have a bright future in front of you; you should be doing everything you can to make sure the body you’re traveling in is as healthy as it can be. (That sounded less creepy t

Logical Writer’s Block

When everything is right with the author and the environment sometimes the story creates the stumbling block.

Signs you have logical writer’s block:

  • The scene is wrong but you can’t say how
  • You can’t picture where the scene is going
  • You reread the scene and it’s boring you
  • You are ready to set the manuscript on fire
  • Your crit partner asked a question about a plot point and you burst into tears

Don’t fret, plotter or punster this happens to the best of us. Everyone will one day write themselves into a corner and not know what to do. Save your work, close the manuscript, and take a deep breath. Now is the time to do a triage.

Start with the most basic question: Why do you love this book and need to write it? If you don’t love it, put the book in the retired book folder on your computer and move on. There is no time for you to spend months writing and editing a book you don’t love.

What scenes are you excited to write in this book and why? Even if you’re pantsing this thing and making it up as you go along there are scenes you know you’re looking forward to writing. Analyze why you love those scenes. Susan Dennard calls these Magic Cookie Scenes. Every chapter should be built around a scene that you really, really want to write. The more fun it is for you to imagine, the more likely you are to write the scene. If you’re not feeling it… cut the scene and find another way to write that information.

Is the outline holding you back? This is a common problem for new authors and die hard plotters. Outlines are great but sometimes books outgrow them. Outlines can remove the element of surprise and prevent plot twists. If the book has outgrown the outline, trash the outline. Make a new one. Or don’t. Some books are better off written as spontaneous acts of creation.

Do you not have an outline at all? Grab the pen and paper. Write down the worst things that could happen to the character (make a list of about 20 – go wild!) and then decide what absolutely must happen so you can get the ending you want. Plot as least as far as your next plot twist. If you don’t like outlines try a plot box, an Excel sheet, or post-it notes on the wall. Do whatever you need to do to visualize the story.

Are your villains doing their work? Poorly written villains are a death sentence for a manuscript. Take a good hard look at your villains. Are they the heroes of their own story? Do they have good motivations? Do they have a cunning and intelligent plan? Are they doing their work or do you have a cardboard cut out and a hero punching at shadows.

Do you have all four plot twists? Plot twists should come at irregular intervals throughout the book. In a 90,000 word manuscript the plot twists would come at 10k, 35k, 60k, and 88k. That last twist at the end is the satisfying closure and the lead to the next book in the series. If everything is going according to the hero’s plan than you need to shake things up a bit. Let the hero lose a battle. Kill the beloved family pet. Burn the safe place to the ground.

If you get through all of this and are still having problems you need to consider that you may have a dead book on your hands. It’s a sad truth that 90% of what all authors write will never hit the shelves. One in ten started manuscripts becomes a finished book. One in ten finished books becomes a published work. Don’t fall into the trap of letting a dead novel keep you from moving forward with your writing. And, remember, even if you trunk this book for a year or ten you can always come back to it at a later date.

Emotional Writer’s Block

The number one cause of writer’s block is fear.

Signs you have emotional writer’s block:

  • You’ve muttered the phrase, “I suck at writing.” at least twice today.
  • You’ve just read an amazing book and know you will never compare.
  • Someone is pressuring you to quit writing and get a real job.
  • You are pressuring you to quit writing and get a real job.
  • You’re worried the book won’t be good enough.
  • You’re not sure you can handle the pressure of deadlines.
  • You’re not sure what you’ll do after this book is done.
  • You have a habit of not finishing projects you’ve started.
  • You are a perfectionist or recovering perfectionist.
  • You’ve recently received a rejection or hyper-critical critique of your work and you’re questioning everything you’ve ever done.
  • Your worrying about low sales.
  • Your obsessing over market trends.
  • You’re comparing your published work to the bestsellers and convinced your new book won’t make the cut.
  • You’ve started browsing online job forums looking for an opening as a scorpion petter.

Fear of the unknown is the leading cause of writer’s block. You get so tangled in the What Ifs and Maybes that you can’t focus on the story.

Perfectionism insists the book will never be perfect. And, I’ll be honest, no book ever is. No author alive looks at their published novel and doesn’t see something they want to change. I know, I’ve asked around, we’re all like that.

Concerns that you’ll fail, that you’ll never be as popular as That Big Name Author, or never make a living off writing make you question if you should spend so much time with fictional people. We’ve all been there. Most authors visit this place at least once a book, even the Big Name Authors who you think sip champagne as bestsellers magically appear on their hard drive. Doubt is part of art.

All forms of creation involve a stage where the creator questions themselves, their art, their intentions, their future. The trick is to not let this moment of self-reflection keep you from creating something beautiful.

Look at the facts: rough drafts are ugly buggers and they always will be, no one makes a living off of writing until they have at least 5 books on the shelf (and even then it’s a stretch), no one else is going to write the book you are thinking of, you can’t be anyone else, no one else can be you, and if you love this book you should keep writing.

Sure, there are reasons to quit. There’s a time and a season for everything in life and sometimes you had to admit this isn’t a writing season for you. Most authors having taken a year or ten off for everything from dabbling in other careers to going to college to just not wanting to write. If that’s where you’re at, embrace it!

But if writing is what you love – if sitting down to write each day makes you a better, happier, healthier person – than toss your doubts in the trash can and keep writing. The world wants to read your story.

Friendsgiving Critique #2

friendsgivingfeedbackQuery #2 was one I picked out because I love UF and I haven’t seen Norse mythology done well recently (maybe I missed a book?). 

The original query is in black, my notes are in red, and my rewrite is at the bottom. 
– L 

 

MARK OF THE VALKYRIE is a 75,000 word contemporary fantasy novel that should appeal to fans of the October Daye books by Seannan McGuire and the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. This paragraph should be at the bottom. Start with a sentence that demands attention.

Erin Hawke is the daughter of a Valkyrie, but prefers Scrabble to spear practice, and running her pub to heroic adventuring. Her mother, Sigrun, is intent on forging Erin into her image of a Valkyrie, despite Erin’s longstanding belieif belief that Choosing the Slain is the furthest thing from what she wants to do for eternity. Fed up with having a disappointment for a daughter, Sigrun gives Erin a test with her life on the line Cut this (. Erin must) find the source of an interdimensional disturbance that is drawing the Nine Worlds dangerously close together. Erin has to remember her much ignored lessons to complete this task.

Her challenge will take her through the turbulence between the Nine Worlds, where she’ll face problems bartending never prepared her for. Fighting rock wyrms and Dark Elves will be the least of her worries. Combine those two sentences for more snap and clarity. Erin will need to learn what secrets Sigrun has been keeping from her. Secrets that could lead to destruction that makes Ragnarok look like a nice day at the park. Failing this test means losing the life she’s worked to build, but success means leaving her home to join the ranks of the Valkyrie. It’s up to Erin to find an outcome more to her liking. I’d like a punchier ending. All the details of a good query are here, but it’s lacking a Voice. I want to hear you in the story. I want to hear the author’s confidence and humor and emotion in a query. This sounds very sterile. It’s clean, but it’s needs the author’s final touch to make it perfect.

MARK OF THE VALKYRIE is the first in a series. Say instead, “has series potential” … you will need to be able to sell this as a stand alone. The market is volatile and a series can be a tough sell. Not that it can’t happen, but the rule of thumb is that the first book should always be able to stand alone. My urban fantasy short story “Daybreak” was published in Salt Lake Community College’s Folio magazine.

This is a very clean query so there isn’t much to rewrite. This is what I came up with…

Erin Hawke loves Scrabble, watching Animal Planet, and running the Bastard’s Brew, her beloved Irish pub in Ohio. It’s a perfect life, except it’s not exactly hers. Erin was born as a Valkyrie, one of the Choosers of Slain meant to bring worthy souls to Valhalla, and her mother is p****ed she’s not practicing with a spear or riding into battle reaping souls.

Her mother, Sigrun, decides there’s only one reasonable way to solve their impasse: send Erin to find the source of an interdimensional disturbance between the Nine Worlds or die trying. If Erin returns victorious she’ll be swept up with the rest of the Norse pantheon. If she fails, Sigrun has arranged a tasteful funeral. Either way, there is no Scrabble in her future.

Bartending didn’t prepare Erin to fight rock wyrms or Dark Elves, but she’s bright enough to know that Sigrun isn’t telling the whole truth. There are secrets in Valhalla that could make Ragnarok look like a nice day at the park. Maybe, if she can unravel the lies spun around her, Erin can save the day and get back to mixing cocktails before happy hour. Or maybe she’ll find out of Hel is any good at Scrabble.

MARK OF THE VALKYRIE is a 75,000 word contemporary fantasy novel with series potential that should appeal to fans of the October Daye books by Seannan McGuire and the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. My urban fantasy short story “Daybreak” was published in Salt Lake Community College’s Folio magazine.

Readers, what do you think? Leave feedback in the comments below and don’t forget to check out the Romantic Suspense query HERE

Friendsgiving Critique #1

friendsgivingfeedback

The query is one of the hardest parts of writing a book. Even if you aren’t looking for an agent or a publisher you will write something similar. The query is, essentially, the back-of-book blurb with an additional paragraph containing personal details (previous publications, relevant platform, word count, ect). I picked this one to critique because it is written by an author who has a disability (something I can relate to because of Ehlers-Danlos), and because it’s romantic suspense, which is one of my favorite things to read. 

The original query is in black, my notes are in red, and my rewrite is at the bottom. 
– L 

 

Dear [Agent Name],

Christine was born with only three fingers on her left hand, a minor issue in most people’s eyes but to Christine it’s huge. Ever since a mean girl This reference feels dated and I recommend cutting it unless this person becomes a reoccurring character. Remember, it can take several years for a book to hit the shelves and On Trend today is dated in a few years. told her, “Christine, don’t deceive The word GIRL implies young, and deceive isn’t a word I associate with kids  yourself. No man will ever want to put a ring on that hand,” she has believed she is disqualified This strikes me as an odd word choice, but if it’s in keeping with the tone of the book, it’s fine. from being loved. She had one serious relationship in her life, but it ended badly. She has accepted that she will never be loved. What is Christine’s motivation? What is she doing with her life while she isn’t falling in love? I’d like to see that.

Then she meets Paul. White space is our friend! This is not normally a trick I use for queries, but this is a sentence that needs the space to have impact.

Paul does not This isn’t a formal letter, go ahead and use contractions. care about her hand. Christine begins to hope that she has a chance at love. When a beautiful woman makes a very forward pass at Paul, all of Christine’s insecurities resurface and she walks out on Paul, fearing that he would wake up one day and regret being with her. She had already been betrayed once. She refused to let it happen again. Her heart could not take it. If their relationship was going to end, it would be by her choice, in her timing. I don’t love the fact that you’re describing her running away without stopping to figure out what is happening. If I read this on the back of a book, I’d pass, even if it is well-written. I recommend giving her a stronger reason for leaving.She accepts a job out of state and starts packing to move.

Heartbroken and believing that Christine is gone, Paul is without hope until he discovers that the out of state job Christine was heading to had fallen through. With hope renewed, he buys an engagement ring for Christine even while she still refuses to speak to him. Paul has a secretive national security job that sometimes puts him in danger. See, this is a big deal. Unpack this! His secrets can be the reason Christine doubted him. He is accustomed to taking chances and succeeding even when the odds are stacked against him.

While many forces, including Christine’s stubbornness and a violent drug cartel that wants Paul dead, seem determined to keep them apart, Paul is determined that they will be together. This is promising! 🙂 

WITH THIS RING, a romance, is 66,000 HUGE PROBLEM!!! For an adult romance novel you need a minimum of 70,000 words. Very few agents or editors will even give this manuscript a chance because the word count is too low (the high end is 100,000 words for romance and 120,000 for epic fantasy/SF – just FYI). You need to go through your manuscript and find places where you glossed over the action or skipped some details and get those words in there. words long. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

THE REWRITE – I didn’t have a copy of the novel so I made up as many facts as I had to…

Successful lawyer Christine SURNAME is on a partnership track at a prestigious law firm and she doesn’t plan on little things like love, or being born missing two fingers, hold her back. This presents Christine’s circumstances and driving motivation. Not that there aren’t a few offers on the table, it’s just that she’s been burned before and she doesn’t need another heartbreak. Her incredibly hunky neighbor, Paul SURNAME, hasn’t let her cold shoulder stop him from trying to win her heart. From homemade sushi to fried plantains, Paul’s been dipping into his family cookbook trying to find the way to Christine’s heart, and it’s working. This introduces the love interest and the interpersonal conflict as of Page 1.

In between stories about his Jamaican grandmother feuding with his Vietnamese aunts over the proper way to cure a cold sore Paul has left out one, very important, personal detail There was a note in the original query and Paul being Black/Asian and I tried to work it into the query. He’s an undercover CIA agent on the verge of breaking open the biggest case in agency history. Senators, cartel leaders, and a Canadian ambassador… it’s going to make headlines. But when Christine walks in on him talking to his handler, things go south, fast. Here the big conflict is introduced.

When a job offer from a dirty judge puts Christine in the center of his case, Paul decides it’s time to tell Christine the truth. He’s madly in love with her, he wants their honeymoon to be in Italy, and if she isn’t careful her career-making case is going to end with her in a shallow grave. Paul has the ring all picked out, now all he needs is for Christine to give him a second chance. And here the stakes are set. The reader knows it will only be True Love that keeps the couple alive, and we’re excited to see how it all plays out

WITH THIS RING, a romance, is 75,000 words long. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

Well, Readers, would you pick up this book? 

Leave your responses, suggestions, and encouragements for the author in the comments below! 

The Ultimate NaNo Prep Post (good for the rest of the year too)

nanowrimo2012-tuaw

This is the master post for everything I recommend to get you prepped for NaNoWriMo or a Fast Draft.

Remember, each author is unique and so is each book, so be sure to play with this and make it work for you. The way I think and the steps I follow might work for you, but it’s okay if they don’t.

ALL ABOUT FAST DRAFTING
How to Write 10k A Day by Rachel Bach
Magical Cookies Scenes by Susan Dennard
25 Ways To **** With Your Characters by Chuck Wendig (language is PG-13)
25 Ways To Write A Real Page Turner by Chuck Wendig
How To Write a Book In Three Days by Michael Morecock (a short book but still…)
The Master Fiction Plot by Lester Dent
5 Things Your Book Needs by Joss Whedon
A Deep POV by Wendy Sparrow
Can We Be Honest (Why do a fast draft at all?) by Liana Brooks

BEFORE YOU WRITE
Plotting Beat Sheet (get your villains and twists first!)
Finding A Blockbuster Plot by Graeme Shimmin

NaNoWriMo BOOT CAMP
Day 1: Establish a Baseline
Day 2: Finding a Plot
3: The Antagonist
Day 4: The Protagonist
Day 5: Motivation and Inspiration
Day 6: Set The Stage

THE EPIC PLOTTING SESSIONS (for fixing lost or broken plots and not letting them break in the first place)
Plotting Session 1: Structure
Plotting Session 2: Beat Sheets
Plotting Session 3: The Epic Plotting Video

THE DOWN AND DIRTY DETAILS
Write a First Chapter That Gets Read
Subplots And How To Write Them
How To Write Endings by C.S. Lakin

GENRE TIPS AND TRICKS (Romance)
Stages of Love: Lost and Rough-Hewn Spears
Stages of Love: Attraction and Rejection
Stages of Love: Commitment and Happily Ever After
Writing Realistic Relationships (the basics)


WHEN YOU FINALLY FINISH
Grande Finales by C.S. Lakin
Writing a Killer Logline by Graeme Shimmin
Query Examples
What To Do Before You Hire An Editor Or Write A Query

*I will add to the list as time goes by because just looking at this I can see what’s missing: world building, high concept pitches, queries… this barely scratches the surface! But it’s enough to get you started!

Plotting Beat Sheet

Plotting Session 1: Structure
Plotting Session 2: Beat Sheets
Plotting Session 3: The Epic Plotting Video

During the epic plotting video where Amy Laurens and I fixed her Very Broken Novel™ I showed you the beat sheet I made Amy fill out before we replotted her book. This isn’t a full outline, but it’s what I consider the basics you need to know before writing a book (or editing it if you forgot this step in the beginning). Even if you’re pantsing a novel, you need to have some idea of what you want the final form of the book to look like.

And then, after the video was posted, I realized it would be super helpful if you had the beat sheet available so you could copy/paste to your computer and use it for yourself. So, here’s my plotting and editing beat sheet just in time for NaNoWriMo.

Protagonist: This is your main character and the person whose choices influence the book the most.
Goal 1: Want does the character want in the opening sentence?

Antagonist 1: The Page 1 trouble maker who is preventing the protagonist from getting what they want.
Antagonist 2: The person the protagonist thinks is the evil villain of the piece.
Antagonist 3: The Big Bad Boss at the end who is pulling the strings all along.

Ticking Time Bomb: A time limit that means the protagonist can’t ignore the plot for 60 years. The time will suddenly shorten in the middle of the book.

Opening Scene: What happens on pages 1-5?
Twist 1 (25%): The protagonist realizes things aren’t what they seem.
Twist 2 (50%): The protagonist loses something/the ticking time bomb speeds up/a new player arrives
Twist 3 (75%): The protagonist takes a major loss and their goals seem impossible.
Climax/Big Battle: The protagonist fights against all odds.
End Scene: Emotional conclusion that leaves the readers satisfied.
Twist 4: On the last page make the reader see the book in a brand new way.

Emotional Statement of the Book: Every book is a thesis on something you believe, this is your thesis statement. Examples: The love of friends is stronger than the love of lovers. Good defeats evil. Crime doesn’t pay. Ordinary people can be amazing heroes.

Thematic Concepts (themes): Tied to the emotional statement of the book, what concepts are you exploring? Your thematic concepts will probably be similar throughout your body of work.

Visual Concepts: Colors, shapes, or images that repeat throughout the book. You can highlight how a person or thing doesn’t belong by giving them something outside this set of imagery.

 

Plotting with Amy Laurens and Liana Brooks – Part 3 The Plot Session

FROM LIANA: Grab some popcorn, a really big glass of water, and something to take notes with. This is not a quick plotting session, mostly because this was Amy’s original NaNo novel and a lot of scenes existed just to make word count. There were beats missing, motivations missing, villains missing. And we could have done this on any of my novels too, we just happened to have Amy’s nearby and it made a handy sacrifice to the cruelty of the world.

FROM AMY:
Today, the climax this has all been building towards. A couple of weeks ago I was super excited to able to visit Liana in Alaska (!!!!), and while I was there, Much Plotting Occurred. We plotted 6 novel/las that week, I think, mostly mine, and plotting so many stories in such a short space of time was *really* beneficial for my plotting skills. As well as the simple repetition of skills, it was also amazing to stick everything up on post-it notes on the wall and conceptualise the whole plot at once. I’ve done this before, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had a handy door/wall/vertical space to stick post-it notes on for extended periods of time (since my writing time is extremely sporadic during the school term) and so I’d fallen out of the habit.

Anyway, we were fifteenÊminutes into replotting How Not To Take Over The World (officially abbreviated to HNOT) when we realised that we were actually covering A LOT of stuff that would be really useful to other writers – so we stopped, set up the computer, and filmed the whole session for you 😀 It’s totally uncut (except the brief pause in the middle where we stopped to get water and snacks) and live and messy and glorious and we’re both in our pyjamas looking TOTALLY UNGLAMOROUS, but if you can deal with that, there is some really useful plotting information here. Plus, weird accents. Yay! 😀

Have fun!

Plotting Session 1: Structure
Plotting Session 2: Beat Sheets
Plotting Session 3: The Epic Plotting Video
A Beat Sheet of Your Own

Do You Need An Editor?

editing-ad-winter-1

Every book is unique, and to keep the unique voice and dream of the book alive, you need a content editor who can catch the vision. A line editor is perfect for finding typos, but before that can happen, you need a content editor. You need someone who can fix the pacing, repair the plot holes, and do it all while keeping your dream alive.

Between now and November 1st I’m booking new editing clients for the months of November, December, and January. I edit sci-fi, urban fantasy, fantasy, crime fiction, and romance (all genres except erotica). For a dollar per page you get not just feedback, but an editing letter that will help your writing skills grow so you can build the career you want.

Spaces are limited, so reserve your editing spot today! liana.brooks1 @ gmail

Submission Packet Critique (synopsis, query, and first 5 pages) $25
First Chapter (up to 20 pages)  $50.00
First Three Chapters (up to 50 pages) $100.00
Entire Manuscript Critique $1.00 a page minimum of 200 pages.
Emergency Fee to Jump the Queue  $50
* all page counts are double-spaced, Times New Roman, size 12 font, formatted for Microsoft Word *

Plotting with Amy Laurens and Liana Brooks – Part 2 Beat Sheets

dust-it-off-white-swanFROM LIANA:
The instinct of a new writer is push back against the tried-and-true, and this is especially true with beats. I think there’s something hardwired into new authors that makes us want to try and break a genre by doing something new and radical. What we forget (or don’t know yet) is that each genre has their own music.

The readers are coming to the genre looking for a familiar melody, a familiar rhythm, and if you don’t hit the beats in the story right, the music is ruined.

But it’s hard to hit the beats of a story correctly, especially for new writers, and especially if you are a new writer who is pantsing a story. Trust me. That’s where I was in 2005 when I started writing fiction seriously. I was not born with a gift for hitting beats. Even after years of writing I make mis-steps. That’s why authors edit.

And it’s also why I took up plotting the basics of a story before writing.

FROM AMY:
Okay, so, yesterday I confessed to you my secret nightmare as a writer: structure. Not because I resent being constrained by arbitrary rules or whatever, but because actually, after reading a crap-tonne of new-writer stories in the last ten years, I have a healthy appreciation for a well-structured story and I’m *just* *not* *GOOD* at it myself. Which, URGH. I’m an English teacher and a writer and I have *experience* with these things and I read a lot and I know what good structure looks like, so why, why, WHY is this whole structure/plotting/pacing thing not more intuitive for me? Seriously?! Gnurgh.

Anyway. The turning point for me was the discovery of beat sheets. Beats are nothing more or less than those points you have to hit in a structure – like, there’s a call to action at the end of act one, a turning point in the middle, a climax at the end – that sort of thing. But those three or five or eight or twelve beats never seemed to be enough for me to keep up the pacing in between times, and not meander around in a way that left the conflict dragging. Oh, the scenes are FUN and PRETTY and SHINY and often also even WITTY, but they still… meander.

And look: I’ve nothing against meandery books. I like lit. fic., or at least as much of it as I do most genres. I appreciate character-driven, wandery sorts of stories. But I also know that you have to be a really good writer to pull them off in a way that makes them accessible for public consumption, and I’m not ashamed to admit that my primary goal here is to write stories that people actually want to *buy*. I write for myself, because if I didn’t I’d get so twisted up in anxiety that I wouldn’t write at all (why hello there, 2012-2013). But I want the end results to be accessible for other people to *enjoy*. There’s that saying, right: I write for myself and revise for my readers. Yup, good idea right there. Except thus far my revisions have always been nightmarish slogs of retrofitting structures and proper character arcs to Really Broken Drafts, and quite frankly, that process sucks. If I can learn to do my structure/pacing/plotting/character arc right the first time, I’ll save hundreds of hours in revision – and once you know the rules, THEN you can choose to break them at will.

Hence, beat sheets.

First came Save The Cat by Blake Snyder, a book on writing screenplays that delves into structure and the different ‘genres’ that movies actually fall into. I highly recommend the book, if only for the reconsideration of how genre applies to stories, and how knowing what genre you’re actually writing can change the way you look at the book – and you’ll be surprised by the genres and their definitions, too, because it’s not about the trappings and cosmetics and setting of the story, but rather the plot/character arc and the beats that the story needs to hit.

Secondly, Jami Gold’s amazing free beat sheets, based on the information in Save The Cat and another book I haven’t read, Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. I’d tried to make something like this for myself years ago and failed, so when I found these I was super excited.

And finally, something I wrote up myself based entirely on Jami’s beat sheets just recently – while I was visiting Liana, in fact. I got sick of using the calculator in Jami’s sheets to calculate when things were supposed to happen, and on the basis that I was pretty much aiming for a 40-scene, 80k novel or a 20-scene, 40k novella each time, I wrote up this beat list, which tells me which scene number each thing is supposed to happen in. As you’ll note, nearly every scene has a specific job, and knowing that has made a HUGE difference to my ability to keep the pacing of the story on track.

By way of experiment, I also used the novella sheet to plot out a novella while I was with Liana. It made the whole plotting process just like putting together a jigsaw, and while I’m sure there will still be things to fix and tweak, it’s the first time I’ve delivered Liana a plot and had the tick of approval with only a minor tweak or two. YAY ME I AM LEARNING THINGS WATCH ME LEARN. You can evaluate the success of this process yourself hopefully next year – this novella is one in my Puricorn (Age of Unicorns) universe (see short stories here and here) and I have a cover for it ready to go… I just need to write and edit it >.< 😀

Anyway. I hope that some of these resources are useful for you! Feel free to share some of your favourite plotting resources in return, and tune in tomorrow for an epic case study: How Not To Take Over The World!

Plotting Session 1: Structure
Plotting Session 2: Beat Sheets
Plotting Session 3: The Epic Plotting Video
A Beat Sheet of Your Own