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The Paper Crane

ImageSo, the Japanese legend goes like this (or something like this anyway): Anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane. Some believe you will be granted good luck for the rest of your life, some say a single wish…and you have to fold them all within a single year and only the person who receives the wish can fold them. 

For a project, I had all of my students fold their first crane (it was a very quiet day) and then take a picture of it. Later, they wrote what they would wish for if/when they folded 1000 of them. 

And now I feel completely inspired and full of good vibes. This is me passing them on to all of you!

 

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The Contest Junkie

Like I said before: it’s writing contest time!

First, there is Baker’s Dozen over at Miss Snarks’s First Victim which is too late to enter, but the real fun is just about to get started. Authoress has meticulously gone through all the entries and chosen 60 to go onto the Agent Round. They are already posted, so if you feel like having a read and maybe offering some helpful feedback to all of the writers, you should head over. Go Misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com

Second, there is Pitch Wars at Brenda Drake’s blog which begins on Monday, December 2. What do you do to enter? Well, you need to go to the link and check out all of the mentors. Then, you have to choose 4 of them to pitch your manuscript. You write a personalized query letter to each of the 4 and attach your first 5 pages. If one of them chooses to work with you, they will go through your entire manuscript and polish it up for the Agent round. The greatest part about this one is that almost all of them will offer you some feedback on the query and the 5 pages you send to them. It’s almost a win-win.

Third, there is a First 5 pages Workshop over at Adventures in YA Publishing. The workshop sounds pretty intense so be prepared to work your butt off.

Contest Season

It’s the end of September (finally) and contest season for writers is fast approaching. The big contest I’m doing this year is Miss Snark’s First Victim’s, The Bakers Dozen. It begins tomorrow with logline critiques. Tomorrow, from 9-5 EDT, you can submit your logline to her site for critiques prior to the start of the contest. There will be three weeks for critiques, so if you’re not ready, get them ready!

The holidays are fast approaching and with that means a very slow publishing world (or so I’ve been told). This is a nice way to keep submitting and maybe even catch some interest in the manuscript you’ve been working so hard on. Good luck to all who enter.

It’s Contest Time Again

I’ve (again) been M.I.A. for the past few weeks. Can you believe I wrote an entire book this summer? I can’t. I still can’t. I am roughly 1 chapter away from saying…DONE. Let me be clear: It’s already written. That’s one more chapter to edit! Then it’s back to the query process. Which is fun in its own way, but also entirely stressful and exhausting. It’s perfect timing though. I’m going back to work next week AND I have another story which is just dying to be written. Sometimes, a scene comes so fully, that I can’t wait to thrust myself into that new world. Anyway, first things first. 

Contests are a great way for me to get a feel for how my query is doing and also get my work out there in one fell swoop. One of the biggest contests of the year (in my opinion) comes from the blog MissSnarksFirstVictim.blogspot.com. It’s called the Baker’s Dozen and you can read more about it here. I didn’t participate directly last year, but I did have fun cheering from the sidelines. The writers involved are all incredibly talented and it is a great way to get some exposure (if you enter) and read some great entries. Trust me, the writing is excellent. 

Hope to see you there.

Summer…week 2 ish

Summer is just ticking along for us in the Becker household. We spend most days at the pool, where the kids are insanely occupied and want very little to do with me, while I plot away on a tiny notebook trying to work through my latest debacle.

Writing is going well. I’m about 54,000 words into a projected 70,000 word novel. I’ve started Beta-ing for someone and though it takes away from other things, it is well worth it. She’s taking a look at my earlier chapters as well, so that’s keeping my head where it needs to be. 

There are contests in the works, namely PITCHMAS, which I had to watch from the sidelines this year. After a year of being invested in the contest scene, it is hard to not participate. The writing out there is amazing and I wish all of the writers luck.

Summer…week 1

Summer at home with the kids is a lot of things. We spent two days at the pool, one day doing chores, one running errands, and there’s one in there where I have no idea how we spent it. Time goes fast during this time of year.

I have a very long list of things I hope to accomplish this summer. One of which is to finally finish the rewrite I began four weeks ago. I try to write a minimum of 2000 words a day and if I stick to it I should be finished by mid-July. 

I also read. I’m at the end of THE BODY FINDER series by Kimberly Derting. I picked up this book originally because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t too similar to the book I am writing. It does have similarities, but it is definitely different. It’s basically about a girl, Violet Ambrose, who has an unfortunate ability–she can find those that have been murdered. The dead leave behind a type of mark, which she calls an echo, and can be anything from a taste to a smell to something she sees around the body. Whoever murdered that person or animal carries their own mark, an imprint that matches the echo. This obviously creates a problem when someone local starts murdering teen girls. 

So far, I haven’t mentioned anything about the kids who rule my life. They obviously take the lion share of my time with pool and beach trips and this year we’re going to Legoland. And I really want to teach my five year old how to read this summer and get my seven year old off his video game habit. 

And lastly…I hope to feed the photographer in me. So, with a camera in one hand, a book or notebook in the other, and two kids running beside me, I am off. 

An Update

I’ve been MIA for a while now, but I had a good reason. I’ve been writing! Actually, rewriting. For any of you that have taken a manuscript as far as you can take it and then you realize…Wow! There are some major problems here that need some major fixing. I tried to salvage it, work through, move things around, etc. etc. I finally decided to start it over. The good news though is that I much prefer writing to editing and I know my characters so much better now.

I am approximately 10,000 words in with an expected 85,000 completion goal. I wrote 10,000 in just a few days though which is super fast for me. I’ve learned a couple of things along the way too and it’s made it a lot easier. I’ve realized that as much as I love to write pantster style, I work more productively as an outliner. I began by outlining the whole thing using Blake Snyder’s beat sheet method. Then everyday, before I write (this is important), I take a few minutes to outline each scene. In this outline, I really try to visualize where I want it to begin and how I want it to end. I also take notes of scenery, smells, and things my characters might say. The reason I write out the beginning and end of a scene is that it helps keep me focused. A whole mess of things can happen in the middle of the scene, but it has to eventually lead me to the end of it. This keeps me having to move scenes later or edit them out completely. 

My main outline is done inside of Scrivener, but I also have a huge corkboard in my office when I need a more tactile approach. The chapter outlines I do in a yellow notepad. It’s more portable and I keep it with me wherever I go. Inspiration hits at the oddest moments. 

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Editing continued

I’ve been MIA for awhile now, but I do have my reasons. I’ve been editing like a mad woman. Here’s what it’s looking like: 

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I’ve broken my manuscript into 4 sections. This is the first. I printed it out and put it into a binder (I have a love for binders!). Then, I went through each page and highlighted repeating words, weak verbs, and “to be” verbs. I knew they were in there, but highlighting them really brings them to my attention. I go through the section a second time and attempt to fix and change all of the problems. I also keep a pile of sticky notes with me to write bigger problems I may have missed in my other rounds of editing. For example, I changed one of my character’s eye color in one of the edits and didn’t catch every reference to the change. 

On a side note, I’ve been making a ridiculously long list of strong action verbs. I’ll be posting that soon too. 

In addition to that, my muse suddenly decided to pay me a visit and I’ve been overloaded with ideas for 2 (that’s right TWO) more books. One of which is going to require a bit of research, so I’ve been tackling that as well. I have a binder for each of those projects as well! 

I hope to get back here soon!

The Power of Voice

Voice is one of those things that took me forever to understand. I would listen to other writers talk about it, agents insist upon it, and often deny because a lack of it. I’d look at my own writing, reading it aloud and trying to inflect my voice into the characters. I felt like my Voice was there. Yet, sometimes I would get crits on “losing my voice” in areas. I’d scratch my head and still have no clue as to what they were talking about. I’d read and read. Still nothing. Then…BAM! Finally, it became clear. There are books, several actually, but this one for me…

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You don’t have to be a fan of the book to appreciate the quality of voice evident in the writing. I easily read 75-100 books a year and I couldn’t understand the concept until now. There are others, obviously. But, within the first paragraph I felt I had a solid sense of character. Believe me, that’s pretty tough to do.

I thought voice had something to do with prose. Personally I’m not a huge fan of “purple” prose, or super flowery writing. I like writing that is direct and to the point and lets me do some of the imagining.

Now, when I read I can sense the Voice so much clearer than I had before. I don’t necessarily need to like the Voice every time, but at least I can recognize it and I can appreciate my own Voice too.

2013…100 Book Challenge

The New Year always brings a fresh wave of resolutions and promises. It thought this year I would play upon something I already love to do and challenge myself to do even more. My first and most obvious challenge (as per the title of this thread) is to read 100 books throughout the course of the year. By the nature of my schedule most of this will probably be done during the summer months when I’m not working. I started and finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn already. I’ll get to that review next. My second resolution (of which I have a pretty good start) is to really fine tune my manuscript for submission. I tested the waters late last year and didn’t have too much success. It’s not surprising–not now anyway. My query was a mess, my first few pages still need polishing, and I’ve never had anyone really read it. Those are so huge issues. If any of you writers have never heard of Absolute Write, it is like a crash course in writing. There is an endless supply of information and support and criticism. I’ve posted, reposted, and reposted my query. I think it’s finally ready. <happy dance> Next, is my first ten pages. They need to shine like nothing else. That’s step two. Also, through perfecting my query, I found some glaring issues in my MS. It’s funny how you don’t see these things sometimes…