Guest Post

Guest Post: Testing the Effectiveness of Your Scenes by Rice Om

Posted by on Aug 17, 2015 in Guest Post, Writing | 1 comment

Guest Post: Testing the Effectiveness of Your Scenes by Rice Om

Testing the Effectiveness of Your Scenes by Rice Om   I’m a firm believer that everything begins and ends with a scene. I love scenes. I re-read, re-play, re-trace, and re-watch them often. One powerful scene can illuminate an entire piece of work.   That’s why I’ve compiled some of the best scene tips and tricks I’ve come across in books, panels, classes and lectures into this one list. Feel free to bookmark this page when you’re scene testing. And may your journeys all have phenomenal scenes!   Scene 101   Scenes are defined as “a sequence of continuous action in a play, movie, opera, or book.”   A scene: Is made up of 1 dramatic beat (is about 1 thing only) Contains a beginning, middle, and end Starts Late – The scene is started at the latest point that it can be understood. Gets out Early – The scene is left at its earliest point of completion. Answers the following questions: Whose scene is it? What do they want? Why now? What happens if they don’t get it? What obstacles do they face? What actions do they take to overcome their obstacles? What is the outcome of the scene?   There are multiple types of scenes. These include: Connectors – Scenes that glue master scenes together. These tend to be short, small scenes. Reflectors – Scenes that come after major plot points have occurred. They tend to feature characters reacting to an event. Activators – Scenes that feature major plot points.   Elements of a Scene Dialogue Character Action Description Craft     Testing Each Element   To test your scene’s efficacy, ask yourself the following questions.   Dialogue Is your dialogue consistent to each character? Is your dialogue clear? Have you read it aloud? Is your dialogue unique to each character? Is your dialogue expository? If yes, does it reveal character? Or does it reveal information? Is it moving the story forward? Is the dialogue inward action directed? Or is it outward action directed?   Description/Action Does your description focus on key details only? Does it describe unnecessary elements that are not significant to your story? Are you using your keenest senses to describe things in fresh new ways? Are you focusing on the peculiarities of your character? Or the specificity of your character? Is your action described in a clear, concise, and visually stimulating way? Are you allowing the reader to use their imagination to fill in most details?   Character Is your character behaving in line with his personality? What is the audience learning about your characters in this scene? What are my characters feeling? Is this a scene of emotional resonance? Can my reader sympathize or understand the emotional core of what is happening? Does my character change at the end of the scene? (Albeit in a small way?)   Craft What is the function of this scene? What is the event of this scene? Can this scene be cut? Would the reader lose anything if it is? If not, can it be reworked? Can it come before or after other scenes? Can it take place in a different setting or time? What pieces of information is my scene revealing to the reader? What is the causality of this scene? Subtext Is there subtext to what my characters are saying? Is there subtext to what my characters are doing? Theme Are my themes represented in this scene? If so, is it in dialogue, actions, description, or character? Tone/Mood What is the tone of this scene? Is it consistent with the overall tone of my...

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Crowdfunding? Can This Work For Authors? By Kayleigh Webb

Posted by on Dec 23, 2014 in Guest Post, Marketing and Branding, Publishing | 0 comments

Crowdfunding? Can This Work For Authors? By Kayleigh Webb

For those of you who don’t know crowdfunding is a relatively new business model that creative people of all types have been using to get their work out into the world. There are different ways to do this, including Kickstarter and the various other sites that use a similar format; Patreon; using a website; or mixing and matching the available options to create something that works for them. I’m a crowdfunded writer. Although it was an easy choice for me to make, because I readily admit that I am a control freak, it’s not something I would recommend for anyone who writes. Sometimes I wonder if it would have been simpler to take one of the paths that have been walked by other people, but there are reasons for the choice that I made that I feel make it the right one for me. My first reason, and possibly the most important, is my love of people getting involved. What I want is for the worlds I’ve created to be fascinating enough for my readers to join me in whatever way they want to. Fanfiction is something I’d love more of, and fanart, and people creating worlds they want me to write in or characters they want to place in one of the already available settings. I do have a worlds that have been created by my readers, just not as many as I would like, unfortunately, as the hardest thing with this, for me, has been to get people interested enough to do that. That, for me, has been one of the hardest things. Most of the time I don’t write for other people, because I mostly write what’s been nagging at me the most, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want someone to comment on a story and say they like it, or they didn’t like it, or they like the character and want to see more of them, or just tell me they read it. When you have your own website one of the hardest things can be looking at your site stats and realising you have no visitors. Of course they could be reading elsewhere – but sometimes it’s incredibly disheartening. If you’re going to crowdfund that is something you have to be prepared for. Not writing for other people is probably what’s kept me going some days. I love writing, so I keep going, no matter what. The second reason I chose crowdfunding does mix in with the first, and that is the fun I have with experimenting with different ways of getting people interested. I offer character adoptions and setting rentals, where the purchaser will get a number of stories sent to them over a period of time with a word count of their choice. Buying 1000 words means you’re likely to get a fragment of a story, but it’s simple enough to have them extended. Some will end up being much longer than I expected. Some will be short and sweet, and often with the chance of seeing what comes after that one, as the one thing I have worked out about what I write – there is never really an end. One story almost always leads to another. Another thing I offer is story bundles. Buy stories for all of your favourite characters and have them sent to you together. This gives the reader much more freedom to get what they want from me, including putting a character from one of my worlds into another one. I love doing that myself, or seeing what would happen if they made another decision,...

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How to Build a Kick-Ass Street Team by Mina Vaughn

Posted by on Sep 11, 2014 in Artistry of Marketing, Guest Post, How To, Marketing and Branding, Writing | 1 comment

How to Build a Kick-Ass Street Team by Mina Vaughn

So you’re going to be an author. Congrats! You’re at the start of a really exciting journey, so why not bring along your friends and gain some major cheerleaders! I love my street team, but it wasn’t easy putting it together, so that’s why I’m here at the Pen and Muse school to help you figure out how to put one together. There’s no right or wrong way, and many other authors may do it differently, but here are five steps to putting together an awesome street team.   1)      Figure out what you want. Do you want your street team to blast every new blog post someone does about your book, or do you mainly want them to tweet promo links? Think about what your goal is—discoverability? Sales? Having a goal-centered plan is key to being able to build your street team and also measure its success once it’s up and running. 2)      Start with your friends. I don’t necessarily mean your BFF from third grade, I mostly mean your writer friends. The ones who were in the query trenches with you, the ones who are already published and the ones who are almost there. If they’re active in the writing community and love you and your book, ask them. Note: I didn’t say add them. Some people may not want to be on your street team but that doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Don’t take anything personally—this advice will go a long way during this publishing process! If you don’t have a thick skin yet, work on it! 3)      Meet some bloggers. This part makes some new authors nervous. Bloggers for your genre may often be really influential and it’s scary to just say “UM HI READ MY BOOK”, so don’t do it that way. Follow them on Twitter. Like them on facebook. See what they love to read and what they’re not as jazzed about. Interact. If you end up forming a relationship, you can eventually see if they want to be on your street team. This is after they’ve read an ARC, of course, since they need something to base their opinions on. Some bloggers may not fall head-over-heels for your book, and that’s ok. Stick to the ones who are going to be your cheerleaders. Stop being nervous—bloggers do what they do because they LOVE BOOKS, plain and simple. Plus, they’re always on the lookout for new talent. 4)      Decide on a platform. There are many ways for you to organize your street team, but the best that have worked for me are google groups and facebook groups. Google groups is basically an email format where you would add people to a list and then shoot out emails to that pre-made list. Basically, if you have something to say (Hey, ____ starts pre-order today!) then type up the email to the group and it’s on its way. Easy. But not that interesting, and doesn’t build camaraderie as well. It’s good for just business and getting the important stuff out there. This is why I have two formats. Facebook groups allow members and myself to post pictures (This guy looks so much like _____) and ask polls and just interact more in a small, more intimate way. However, sometimes the main message gets lost in the feed so that’s why I like the two group method. Some people don’t have facebook, too, so that’s part of it. Anyway, pick your platform, add your friends and bloggers and then… 5)      Reward them. Tweeting your book, RT’ing reviews, sharing on Facebook. Those all take time and...

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Craft Your Way – With Layers, Without Rules by Jessica Park

Posted by on Aug 11, 2014 in Guest Post, Pen and Muse Summer School, Writing | 1 comment

Craft Your Way – With Layers, Without Rules by Jessica Park

Welcome to the next week of Pen and Muse Press Summer School! This week’s course is The Artistry of Noveling. Who better than to open this up than New York Times bestseller author Jessica Park? Jessica has been here before – discussing the natural give and take between authors and readers. We’ve reviewed (and by review, we mean swooned over) her New Adult novel LEFT DROWNING. Now she’s here to open up this course of Summer School, with a lesson on writing true to yourself, yet complexly. Craft Your Way Instructed by:  Jessica Park Let class begin, minions! Kidding, kidding. Relax. This will be fun. I swear. So you’re writing a book. Or thinking about writing a book. Or you wrote one and don’t know if it’s fabulous or vile. Are you stressed out? Take a breath. Now take another. It’s going to be okay. Really. There are two things that I want to cover today: genres and layers. Doesn’t that sound sexy? Well, it is. Say it with me. Genres. Layers. Okay, well, if you had used your sexy voice, you’d know what I mean. One of the first things people ask when they hear that you’re writing a is, “What’s your book about?” (Side note: This is obviously followed by, “I have a great story idea for you,” which then leads into a lengthy and detailed presentation of so-and-so’s ideas. I have yet to ever hear an author say, “Gee, I had NO idea what to write about until so random person shared a point-by-point brilliant storyline, and now I’m going to write an epic book and become hugely famous.”) Anyway… So what’s your story about? Often there is an impulse to answer by labeling the book by genre. Romance. Mystery. Sci fi. Horror…. Here’s an idea for you: Don’t label your book. Or label it very loosely. Toss grains of salt all over. Because you know what happens when you decide to write, say, a “young adult romance”? Then you easily succumb to pressure to conform to some weird industry standard that could very well hurt your creativity. If you think that “young adult romance” means that your character must be a certain age, must kiss/not kiss the love interest by page whatever, must have a best friend who behaves in a certain way… Well, hello? That story has been done. So write yours. There seems to be a whole hullabaloo these days about what exactly the terms Young Adult and New Adult mean. I don’t have an answer for you. Nothin’. The publishing and writing markets have changed so drastically over the past two years, and it’s hard to keep up! Different readers and authors and publishers define YA and NA differently. For some, it’s about the age of the characters, and for others it’s about the content of the books. I just… I sort of don’t care. I pay very little attention to what genre my books should fit in because I don’t like writing by rules. “Well, if this is going to be an NA book, then I better include… and the characters better be…” Fourteen New York editors told me that Flat-Out Love was not worth publishing because my character was eighteen years old and a freshman in college. And because it was not a paranormal. College-age characters were not featured in many books at all when I was shopping FOL, and paranormal was a very hot genre. NY publishing wasn’t “safe” bets. They wanted more of the same. They didn’t believe in a book that broke rules. They said the book...

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Putting Conflict in Place Quickly by Nicole Steinhaus

Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Guest Post, How To, Writing | 0 comments

Putting Conflict in Place Quickly by Nicole Steinhaus

Let’s face it, conflict sucks. In real life we avoid it like rotten fish. It’s funny, then, that it’s the one thing that will keep us reading a story. Take a look at these beginnings from popular NA novels: She walks into Yogurtland with her cell phone pressed to her ear and a scowl on her face. Behind the scowl, her vulnerability shines like a fucking nuclear explosion in a dark closet. Whoever she’s talking to has stripped her bare. (Abandon, Cassia Leo) “I can’t believe it’s been five years,” Branch said as he held my hand tightly. I took a deep breath and tried to distract myself from getting choked up. (Love’s Suicide, Jennifer Foor) Everything in the room screamed that I didn’t belong. (Beautiful Disaster, Jamie McGuire) What do they have in common? They open with conflict. Right from the beginning, readers know that not all is peachy, and immediately the reader is dying to know: Where are they? How did they get there? What are the circumstances and how will they be resolved? So what’s the reason readers are so drawn to conflict? The answer is actually quite primitive. Most people don’t want conflict in their lives; they don’t want to be burdened with fear or worry or heartache. Conflict in fiction gives readers a chance to explore these emotions through a sieve—better known as the eyes of your characters—without experiencing the negative consequences in their real lives. Is conflict necessary in a novel? Yes. Is it necessary in the story’s opening? Absolutely. Conflict is the device that will keep your readers turning the pages. Without it, your story becomes predicable and familiar. But a great first line—even one riddled with conflict and tension—is not enough to hold a reader’s interest for the course of an entire novel. It does, however, carry the reader to the next zinging bit of tension. Think of it like a bridge. Readers will keep reading so long as they’re continually presented with something to read for. The effects of a fantastic first line don’t last long, maybe a page or two, and that’s where you as the author must continue to present a string of minor conflicts until the central conflict or first all-important event of the story arrives. Adding conflict to your story is simple and can be done in a variety of ways. Conflict can show its face in the form of mouthwatering sexual tension—two characters attracted to each other but haven’t yet confessed their love; danger—like the someone-is-after-me kind; misery; pain; or even shame or humiliation. Whatever the emotion, the key to letting this conflict shine through from the first page is to not state it directly. Dialogue, body language, setting, even the prose and narrative rhythm can breed conflict. Donald Maass in Writing the Breakout Novel puts it this way, “If the milieu of the story is not only multifaceted but also involves opposing factions or points of view, then you have a basis for strong, difficult-to-resolve conflict. To put it another way, if problems already exist in your ‘place,’ that is a good thing.”  Nicole Steinhaus is the Assistant Editor to Karen Grove at Entangled Publishing, LLC. She is a Young Adult/New Adult author, represented by Bree Ogden of D4EO Literary Agency, and also the author of Amazon’s best-selling New Adult STRIPPED (written as Brooklyn Skye). Her newest novel FRAGILE LINE is out now from Entangled Teen! Amazon page (for books written under Brooklyn Skye)...

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The Law of (First) Attraction by Mandy Schoen

Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Guest Post, How To, Writing | 1 comment

The Law of (First) Attraction by Mandy Schoen

The other day, my husband pointed to a guy in a magazine and asked me if said guy was attractive. After he convinced me it wasn’t a trick question, I looked at the picture. Then I answered. “I have no idea.” Husband gave me a puzzled frown. “He’s good-looking,” I offered. “But not attractive?” I shrugged. “Why don’t you know?” “Because he’s flat. Two-dimensional. I haven’t seen him move. I haven’t heard his voice, his words, the tone with which he says them. I haven’t seen his sense of humor. I know nothing of his personality.” Husband didn’t look convinced. So to illustrate, I pointed to the sultry-eyed underwear model on the cover of FHM magazine. “Is she attractive?” “Yes.” Okay, that one was my fault. He pointed to another photo. This one I recognized. “Oh, that’s Elijah Mikaelson. He’s hot.” Husband squinted at the caption. “Says his name is Daniel Gillies.” Which got me thinking. I’ve never seen an interview with Daniel Gillies. I don’t know anything about him, except that he plays the character Elijah Mikaelson on The Originals. He’s good-looking, sure, but stripped of the personality and characteristics that define his character on the show, I’m left with no more information about the person in the photograph other than he’s good-looking, and the few faint hints of personality that a headshot can convey. Do I have a point? So glad you asked. As an acquiring editor at a romance press, I see a lot of submissions that all make the same mistake when they first introduce a love interest: they treat a character’s appearance as the only (or at least the most important), part of the character, the part that attracts the main character. And they’ll spend two or three paragraphs describing the character’s appearance (the color of his eyes, his hair, his skin, how defined his musculature and jawline are, etc.), and when they’re done, the main character will be aquiver with lust and sometimes even love. And that’s when the submission begins to fall apart, at least for me. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good-looking guy as much as the next girl, but more than that, I read because I want to fall in love, in lust, right along with the main character, and I can’t do that if I’m just looking at a picture (no matter how glossy the photo). But Mandy, what a person looks like is the first thing a character sees! Well, sure, and describe away. Physical description is important. And it’s important to describe your character before the reader fills in the necessary blanks herself (or himself) and then gets annoyed with a later, basic description that is inconsistent with her mental image. But try to use some physical descriptions that convey more about your character than what he looks like. For example, if his hair is slicked back with tons of product, it tells the reader he might be smarmy. If his hands are thick, calloused and tan, that he might be used to outdoor manual labor. Those are rather obvious examples, but hey, it’s your job as the writer to be creative. (And keep in mind that what your POV-character notices will show the reader what she thinks is important about him, and will probably color her interactions with him.) But what about love at first sight?! Don’t tell me that’s not a thing, because I knew the moment I saw my now-husband from across a crowded bar that we were destined, that our love was written in the stars, that… Yes, I get it....

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