Thursday, July 24, 2014

ACTIVATE YOUR STORY

I have been doing a lot of first 10 pages critiques lately, and I find myself writing…START YOUR STORY and ACTIVATE YOUR STORY on almost 100% of the manuscripts. Choosing where to start you story is so very important in grabbing your reader and willing him to keep reading, captivating him so he cannot put your book down.

Unfortunately, so many writers start in the wrong place. They start in what seems to me like they are talking to themselves, working out what is happening or who their characters are or what the back story is and putting that in the first chapters rather than starting where the book needs to begin. Starting right before everything changes for your main character.

Right before? Yes, I know you have heard so many times to start in the action, to start at the moment your character’s life is about to change, but by doing this we often do now know who your character is so we don’t care that their life is changing. We don’t care about who they are or what is their peril.

Don’t start by describing what is going on. Don’t start by having your main character ‘think’ about/tell us about all that is happening in their life. Don’t start with shot from a gun, waking from a bad dream, dialog of people fighting, random thoughts from your character that does not activate your plot and bring the character and the reader into the character’s world. Don’t write a passive, telling, descriptive beginning.

START YOUR STORY. Show your character in his world, interacting with other characters that give us a glimpse into who your character is, what problem is he facing and why this problem means something to him, and to us the reader.

In one of my favorite books, Gayle Foreman’s IF I STAY, Gayle does not start the book at the moment of the car crash. We first see the family together, we actually fall in love with the main character and her family so when the car crash happens, we are devastated along with the main character. Gayle starts the first line of the book with an intriguing sentence….a sentence that activates us to pay attention to this first meeting with the main character’s family. That foreshadows the doom and gloom to come:

Everyone thinks it is because of the snow. And in a way, I suppose that’s true.

And then we are back in her world.  A world where the main character is not telling us what is happening but shows us through other characters’ actions and dialog, as well as her own.

Look back at the first pages of THE HUNGER GAMES, SPEAK, LOOKING FOR ALASKA, DRAMA QUEENS IN THE HOUSE, STARGIRL, SWEET EVIL the list goes on and on.

These are captivating beginnings that establish voice, character, plot, setting without plunging us blindly into the ‘problem’, the ‘crisis’. They also do not bore us with little details that talk down to the reader to make sure they are going to ‘get it’, that make sure the reader knows everything they need to know so they can follow your story.

Often you have to finish your book so you can rewrite/re-envision your beginning. Often you have to toss out your first couple of chapters. Do not mourn those lost words.  Thank them for helping you get started, for helping you understand where you book is going, for activating you to write rather than spend your years like so many wannabees saying I have a story I want to write but I just don’t know where to start. Congrats. You started. You got to the end. Now rewrite that beginning. Activate your story.

*originally posted in 2010. Still holds true:)




50% off Scrivener, Final Draft 9, Highland and Slugline in the Mac App Store

Apple is running an Explore Your Creativity promotion in the Mac App Store. That means for a limited time, you can buy several screenwriting apps at 50% off their regular prices. If you’re looking for more minimalist screenwriting tools, now would be the time to check out Highland or Slugline. If you’ve wanted to pick up Final Draft 9, but stayed away because of the sticker shock, 50% off may be the right price for you. You can even pick up Scrivener at half off. The Explore Your Creativity promotion in the Mac App Store is only for a limited time, though, and Apple is playing coy with the deadline.   Read full article here: 

50% Off Screenwriting Apps During 'Explore Your Creativity' Mac App Store Promo  by

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Write, Revise, Repeat...

Martha Alderson and I talked for a long, long, long time tonight and realized that we truly want to share our passion with more people--we meant it when we said our goal is to help you all learn about the craft of writing and the book biz. What we are hearing is that the cost of the videos are a bit steep for some of you. To help, we have decided to drop the cost of all video series to $75. And, for the picture book series we will offer a $25 Pre-Order discount so for now the Picture Book Series is $50.

Also, with the incredible response to the one-day workshops, we plan to start offering them on a variety of topics approx. once a month. A schedule will be going up on apathtopublishing.com soon. The one-day workshops will also be $75.

Happy writing and revising, All!

For PLOTWRIMO: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH go to https://vimeo.com/ondemand/reviseyournovelinamonth


To pre-order HOW TO WRITE & SELL A PICTURE BOOK go to https://vimeo.com/ondemand/writesellpicturebook



Monday, July 21, 2014

WRITING IS AN ART. PUBLISHING IS A BUSINESS.

WRITING IS AN ART. PUBLISHING IS A BUSINESS.

The word "Gatekeeper" regarding publishing is BS. I am not a gatekeeper as I am a woman/mother/wife/businesswoman (in that order!) that sees the opportunity cost of time with every client I work with, and Publishers are businesses that must make a profit (hello, are you a shareholder of any business that you hope will grow their stock price) and who invest not only time but a good deal of money In every book they publish...money includes but is not limited to rent, utilities, salaries of all 25+ employees that impact your book, development, production, marketing, conferences where they display and sell-in books to retailers, libraries, consumers, etc.

So enough with the gatekeeper argument. Don't blame agents and editors and publishers for not investing their time and money in your book. The books that are not chosen are books agents/editors/publishers did not see as a good investment of their time and money. It does NOT mean your book is not fantastic. It just means that the people you sent your book to did not choose to INVEST in it. And, if you choose to self-publish you are investing in yourself just as you invested your time and money to learn the craft of writing, and to write and revise your book. You are choosing to give up (opportunity cost) other things in your life that cost money and take time, to self-pub/market your book and in the end, there are no gatekeepers. Just choices.

FYI--I posted this on FB the other day but wanted to also post it here on my blog:)

Come on over to the A Path to Publishing Facebook Group to ask Plot Whisperer Martha Alderson, Literary Agent Jill Corcoran and 1,200 other agents, editors, writers and illustrators your questions. Created by Martha and Jill, the APTP FB Group is a safe, smart, fun alcove for writers and illustrators to share and learn about the craft of writing and the book biz. This is NOT a place to sell your books but a wonderful forum for us all to advance our skills, our creativity, and our dreams.
www.apathtopublishing.com
https://www.facebook.com/groups/apathtopublishing/

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Armed with the tools and the self-confidence of truly understanding the craft of writing, each one of you will make your writing dreams come true.

So here's the thing...(and this is NOT a sales pitch but what I truly believe) you will DEFINITELY have a better understanding of on how to solidify your story's concept, identify its energetic markers, plot your novel scene by scene, amp up the drama, flesh-out your characters and deepen the meaning of your story plus much more if you watch all 8 videos and COMPLETE the 30 writing exercises.

Martha Alderson and I wrote those scripts and then went off script to elaborate and drive home everything we know you need to both WRITE and REVISE your stories. In every workshop you do with us, you will be far better off watching all those videos first so you know, deep down know, the hows and whys of concept, writing and revising.

You have these videos for a full year so each time you watch/complete the 30 writing exercises with either one book or a whole bunch of books, you will learn something new. Just as each sentence/piece of dialog/scene should move your story forward and/or deepen your readers' understanding of your characters/theme/etc, so too does each viewing of the videos/completing the writing exercises move you, the writer, forward and deepen your understanding of the craft of writing.

I know, deep in my heart, that hanging with Martha and me for the next year via these videos, via the A PATH TO PUBLISHING facebook group, and if you choose via a workshop, that each one of you will grow into your best writer self. Armed with the tools and the self-confidence of truly understanding the craft of writing, each one of you will make your writing dreams come true.

Friday, July 4, 2014

STATE OF THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY HAIKU

paper books not dead
self-pubbed e-books part of whole
readers reject dreck
©Jill Corcoran 2011
Three years later and my haiku commentary stands:)

Friday, June 6, 2014

FIRST LINES FRIDAY-- First one:)

I am a huge fan of a fabulous first line. It truly sets the tone of your book and let's me know I am in for a great ride.

I often tell writers to read the first line, first paragraph, first chapter of books, tons of books...just the first....to see how those firsts effect them.

Then, go create a unique, enticing beginning.

First line from I'M NOT HER by Janet Gurlter, Sourcebooks Fire.
No matter how much I don't want to care, it's not easy being stranded all alone in the middle of a crowded room, like the ugliest dog at the animal shelter.


and first paragraph...

No matter how much I don't want to care, it's not easy being stranded all alone in the middle of a crowded room, like the ugliest dog at the animal shelter. Kristina shoved me into her shiny red Toyota like she's my fairy godmother, insisting I do the party "for my own good." But other than a few heys and disinterested stares, no one notices that I'm here. Before long, even Kristina forgets about me. Swept up by her friends and admirers, Kristina leaves me bathing in my own flops sweat.


I signed Janet Gurtler based on the first 50 pages of I'M NOT HER. There were no other pages back then but I knew Janet had a unique voice and a command of character. I wasn't wrong. Janet has gone on to selling 7 Contemporary YAs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Praise for I'M NOT HER
"Rich in characterization, Gurtler's novel wrestles with some serious issues and explores different means of coping (or escaping) yet manages not to be overwhelming or bleak. Just right for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jodi Picoult, this is a strong debut that attempts to answer the question, What does it really mean to live?" - Booklist

Check out Janet and all her books at her website: http://www.janet-gurtler.com/books.html





Need help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Watch Video 1 for FREE: HOW TO REVISE YOUR NOVEL/PB with Plot Expert Martha Alderson & Literary Agent Jill Corcoran

STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTION on HOW TO REVISE YOUR ADULT, YA or MG NOVEL....and we are hearing from viewers that it works great for PB too!

How Do I Revise My Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? A Simple 30-Step Revision Process


REVIEWS
 Wendy Mcleod Macknight *****
I just finished video 8 and all I can say is: WOW! I want to thank Jill and Martha for developing and delivering such a wonderful, informative video course. Last year, I retired early, at age 50, to pursue my lifelong dream of writing books for children and young adults. I didn't know what I didn't know (well, I likely still don't!), but I trusted that with hard work and perseverance, I would magically become a published author. It didn't quite work out that way. I live in a small place in Canada and my access to conferences and courses is very limited. I discovered Jill Corcoran when searching for names of agents accepting unsolicited manuscripts (I still cringe to think of what is in her slush pile or deleted into the ether!) and through Jill, Martha. I have been writing, writing, writing, and reading about writing, but I knew I was still missing the mark and I knew my work was not as good as the work of the authors I so admire. So when I saw that Jill and Martha were offering this affordable course, I jumped on it - I think I was one of the first ones in. The beauty of this course is that they take you step by step, day by day through the process. And when you start having those "oh crap, I made THAT mistake, too?" moments, they seem to already know they are coming, and they encourage you to keep going, keep working through the process. I truly believe that the money I spent for this course is the best money I have ever spent on anything to do with writing. And not only do you get hours of content, you are able to go backwards and forwards and keep going back to the videos for a 6 month period. That is amazing!!! As I start my final rewrite I am more confident than ever. Do Jill and Martha promise that if you take this course you will become a published writer? Of course not. But if you are like me, and you are wondering why your baby is not being met with widespread enthusiasm and dancing in the streets, well this course is for you. I believe that by the end of this rewrite, I will have many agents asking to see the whole manuscript. And how I write and rewrite books will be forever changed for the better. Sorry to be so long-winded, but I really have to gush. If you are like me, money is tight. But this course is going to get you where you need to go!

Dolly Napal *****
Having Jill Corcoran and Martha Alderson in the comfort of your home, teaching you how to write and revise at your own pace for a full twelve months is the best thing that ever happened in my writing career. I live on a little rock in the middle of the Indian Ocean, where conferences and live workshops/retreats are a myth. Don't let the title fool you. This is not only a revision course. It's a fully comprehensive writing course for PB, MG, YA, and Adult writers, at any point in their career. You can go step by step, with one or two videos every week, or use it as I do. Watch the whole series, take some notes, and then go back, and do the step by step on each WIP needing revision. I'll be using the PLOTWRIMO videos to revise a few YA manuscripts, finish one manuscript that has been dormant for a couple of years, and for all new manuscripts to come. If you want to progress in your writing career, and have a few bucks to spare, this is where you should invest. Go for it. You won't look back. Thank you, Jill Corcoran and Martha Alderson. Your good humor and casual approach make this even more enjoyable.

See More Reviews Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/apathtopublishing/

In this 8 Video (5.5 hours) Series, Plot Expert Martha Alderson and Literary Agent Jill Corcoran provide step-by-step instruction on how to revise your
• Concept
• Structure and design
• Tension and conflict
• Character growth and transformation
• Pacing
• Cause and effect
• Meaning
• Hook
• Polish
• Prose

To complete the course in a month, watch two videos a week. Or, work at your own pace and take more or less time on the step-by-step exercises. You decide your revision pace as you explore and complete each video exercise based on your own individual needs in preparation for a major rewrite.

• 8 Instructional videos (available for viewing as many times as you would like for 1 year)
• 30 writing exercises- one for each day of the Revise Your Novel Month

For more information about A PATH TO PUBLISHING see our website at www.APathToPublishing.com

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTION on HOW TO REVISE YOUR ADULT, YA or MG NOVEL


PLOTWRIMO: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH - Trailer from A Path To Publishing on Vimeo.

In this 8 Video (5.5 hours) Series, Plot Expert Martha Alderson and Literary Agent Jill Corcoran provide step-by-step instruction on how to revise for a stronger and more promising story:
   Concept
   Structure and design
   Tension and conflict 
   Character growth and transformation
   Pacing
   Cause and effect
   Meaning 
   Hook
   Polish
   Prose 
To complete the course in a month, watch two videos a week. Or, work at your own pace and take more or less time on the step-by-step exercises. You decide your revision pace as you explore and complete each video exercise based on your own individual needs in preparation for a major rewrite.
   8 Instructional videos (available for viewing as many times as you would like for 1 year)
   30 writing exercises- one for each day of the Revise Your Novel Month
Who will benefit from PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month:
    Writers seeking to write a great novel
    Writers with a draft of a novel and uncertain how to proceed
    Writers with story problems 
    Writers who feel blocked
    Writers who wish to move from where they are to where you wish to be
    Writers committed to improving your craft
    Writers interested in digging deeper into your story
   •    Writers needing help organizing for a major rewrite

PlotWriMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH
I.    TRAILER
a.    Introduction 

II.    OVERALL STORY LEVEL
a.    Video #1: HOW TO REVISE + CONCEPT & CHARACTERS 
•    Welcome
•    How to Approach Revision
•    Organization
•    Concept
•    Characters
•    Story Titles

III.    PLOT AND STRUCTURE LEVEL
a.    Video #2: TRANSFORMATION + GOALS 
•    Review
•    Layers of Plot
•    Transformation / Change
•    Goals 

b.    Video #3: CONCEPT + ENERGETIC MARKERS 
•    Review
•    Concept
•    Energetic Markers 
•    Plot Planner

IV.    SCENE LEVEL
a.    Video #4: SCENES AND THEMES
•    Review
•    Scene and Summary
•    Themes
•    Character Motivation
•    Antagonist

b.    Video #5: CLIMAX 
•    Review
•    Preparation
•    Anticipation
•    Event
•    Reaction
•    3 Major Plot Lines
•    Antagonist Crisis

c.    Video #6: BEGINNING & END 
•    Review
•    Beginning
•    Traits, Skills, Knowledge, Beliefs
•    Cause and Effect
•    Antagonists

V.    WORD LEVEL
a.    Video #7: MANUSCRIPT VOICE + CHARACTER & ACTION 
•    Voice
•    Transformational Journey
•    Backstory Wound
•    Subplots and Theme
•    Crisis

b.    Video #8: FIRST PAGES + FINAL TEST 
•    Every Word Perfect
•    Sentence structure
•    Dialog
•    Prepare for Rewrite
•    Rewrite

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

You query an agent based on their ‪#‎MSWL‬ (Manuscript Wish List) and you get a rejection--my perspective on what the agent was thinking and how to turn this lemon into lemonade

So let me give you a little of what the agent was thinking and what positive reaction you
can have from this....

1) Agent was thinking he wants a certain book but although in your mind it is a perfect fit, in his mind he is looking for a certain voice/character/plot that is not the same as the ms you sent him, OR
 

2) (and this is hard to hear) perhaps your concept/writing/first pages are not as strong as you think they are.

You have a couple of choices...

1)you can keep querying if you believe you have made the query and pages the best they can be, OR


2)you can take this as sign that is time to relook and re-evaluate your concept, then your characters, then your voice, then your plot, and finally...the way your words form together on the page.

If you want to learn more, a discussion about this topic is happening right now in the A PATH TO PUBLISHING Facebook Group. 

Come on over and join the conversation!

The A PATH TO PUBLISHING Facebook Group. was created by Literary Agent Jill Corcoran and Plot Expert Martha Alderson as safe, smart, fun alcove for writers and illustrators to share and learn about the craft of writing and the book biz. This is NOT a place to sell your books but a hopefully wonderful place for us all to advance our skills, our creativity, and our dreams.

A PATH TO PUBLISHING's goal is ensure authors and illustrators understand concept, plotting, character development, scene development, action and emotional arc development, as well has how to pitch your work to agents, editors, and readers.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

There are 3 things that, for me, distinguish a great writer:

There are 3 things that, for me, distinguish a great writer:

1)VOICE
2)CHARACTER DEV
3)PLOT
 in that order.

Be unique. Be yourself. Be confident. 



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