Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Twelve Hours To Nowhere

I once heard that JK Rowling dreamed up her idea for Harry Potter while riding a train.  I tried this two weeks ago while on a very long car ride.  I had already googled everything I could think of, checked out social media, told the kids to stop fighting, took a nap, told the kids to stop fighting again, watched a movie, and read a book.  (The last two I did sparingly as I tend to get motion sickness).

By then I was bored and desperate for entertainment, but I couldn't write.  I had nothing to go on and staring at nothing for twelve hours wasn't helping. And of course a carload of kids wasn't very inspirational either.  Too many negative distractions.

Then seven hours into our car ride we encountered a funeral procession.  It was on the other side of the freeway from us and for some reason inspiration finally found me.  I spent the next five hours thinking, plotting, and jotting down notes.  By the end of the trip though I'd scrapped the project.  I wasn't really digging it after all and I really can't afford to take on another project, but who knows maybe those characters will demand their story to be told and I will revisit them someday.

So if I'm not going to even work on that project, why even bring it up?  Well, I think it is good idea for writers to practice their craft and even try writing genre outside their comfort zone because the more we write the better we get.  So get out there and write this summer.  I don't care what it is just write and if you aren't really "feeling" your story, then by all means set it free.  Happy writing, safe travels.

FYI - yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but no pictures this time in order to make a point.  My drive was that BORING!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Publishing Advice from Author Jennifer Bardsley + A Chance to Win GENESIS GIRL

We're excited to bring you another successful author story, this time with author Jennifer Bardsley whose debut GENESIS GIRL is out now!  Make sure to scroll to the bottom of the post for a chance to win your own copy of GENESIS GIRL.

Without further ado, please join me in welcoming Jennifer Bardsley to Thinking to Inking!

Jennifer Bardsley shares her path to publication & advice to writers

It took me eight years from the time I first jotted down a story idea, to the moment I held my published book, “Genesis Girl,” in my hands. My biggest advice to writers slogging it out in the query trenches is to not give up. My second bit of advice is to join SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Determination and guidance are what helped me finally land a book deal in traditional publishing.

The first book I ever wrote was in the genre of Chick-Lit and I called it “Palo Alto Blues.” I was awriting newbie, and even though I sought out beta readers and incorporated their critiques, I made a lot of mistakes in my first manuscript that I now recognize. But at the time, I thought it was perfect. Unsurprisingly, none of the thirty five agents I queried were interested in reading anything more than a partial.

This is where I made a mistake that now I regret. I decided to self-publish the book–with all its flaws—on Amazon. I removed the link several months later, but now that title follows me around on Goodreads like a ghost. I’m lucky that it was in the genre of Chick-Lit and not YA, because a self-published YA debut novel would have barred me from membership in The Sweet Sixteens, a support group for first time YA and MG authors that has been a godsend to me during the launch of “Genesis Girl.”

Several years later I began writing again in earnest, and this time I joined SCBWI. They provided me with what’s called “The Book,” a gigantic resource of agents, publishers, and other paths to publication. As soon as my young adult manuscript was complete, I queried agents I discovered via SCBWI. Liza Flessig of the Liza Royce Agency was willing to take a chance on me. She brokered a two-book deal for “Genesis Girl” with my publisher.

Signing the contract was just the beginning. It took another two and a half years to see my book in print. If you’re looking for a quick path to publication, traditional publishing isn’t it. But if you are willing to slog it out and fight hard, dreams really do come true.

About GENESIS GIRL

Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where she’s been protected from the Internet. Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint has made her extremely valuable and upon graduation Blanca, and those like her, are sold to the highest bidders. Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeal’s are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable. By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online.


About Jennifer Bardsley

Jennifer Bardsley writes the parenting column “I Brake for Moms” for The Everett Daily Herald. Her
debut YA novel, “Genesis Girl” will be published by Month9Books on June 14, 2016, with the sequel releasing in 2017. “Genesis Girl” is about a teenager who has never been on the Internet. Jennifer however, is on the web all the time as “The YA Gal” with over 20,000 followers on Facebook, and 15,000 followers on Instagram. On Facebook, she hosts the weekly instant book club called #TakeALookTuesday where YA Gal friends geek out, share pictures of what they are reading, and chat about books. Jennifer is a member of SCBWI, The Sweet Sixteens debut author group, and is founder of Sixteen To Read. An alumna of Stanford University, Jennifer lives near Seattle, WA where she enjoys spending time with her family and her poodle, Merlin.

 Website ● Twitter ● Instagram ● Facebook ● Goodreads


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

YA Book Pick: ALL IN by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Once a month, we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors!

This month's book pick is ALL IN (THE NATURALS, #3), by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Three casinos. Three bodies. Three days.

After a string of brutal murders in Las Vegas, Cassie Hobbes and the Naturals are called in to investigate. But even with the team's unique profiling talents, these murders seem baffling: unlike many serial killers, this one uses different methods every time. All of the victims were killed in public, yet the killer does not show up on any tape. And each victim has a string of numbers tattooed on their wrist. Hidden in the numbers is a code—and the closer the Naturals come to unraveling the mystery, the more perilous the case becomes.

Meanwhile, Cassie is dealing with an equally dangerous and much more painful mystery. For the first time in years, there's been a break in her mother's case. As personal issues and tensions between the team mount, Cassie and the Naturals will be faced with impossible odds—and impossible choices.

First Line: "New Year's Eve fell on a Sunday." While this isn't a terribly hook-y line by itself, it becomes much more interesting when you add the next few sentences:

"This would have been less problematic if my grandmother hadn't considered 'Thou shalt gather your family for Sunday dinner an inviolable commandment, or if Uncle Rio had not appointed himself the pourer of the wine.

"There was a lot of wine."

Highlights: This book is the third in an excellent series of YA thrillers. There's a cast of very interesting characters (who you find out more about with each new installment), genuinely baffling mysteries with satisfying endings, and plenty of exciting action/danger scenes.

Another highlight is the romance that's woven throughout the three books. Unlike many YA series, it's very subtle and takes a backseat to individual character development and the main plotlines of each book.

Notes for writers: The author does a very good job of doling out fascinating background information over the three books. Because of this, she accomplishes the feat of making each book even better and more interesting than the last one.

A good read for: I'd highly recommend these books to anyone writing thrillers or mysteries. In addition, they're a good example of a well-planned series that keeps readers hooked.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Back to the Future - Playing with Tenses



Swirling ClockI've been working on a project for a little over six months now. It's gone through several reiterations and I've just revised the first chapter for the umpteenth time. 

One of the things that I've struggled with most is who's POV is it? How many POVs and what tense am I using? 

At first I was writing solely in the main protagonist's POV in first person present tense (FP-PT). It felt comfortable and with my work in film and television, felt right when I first started the project. 

However, the problems soon became apparent. Not so much in that FP-PT was a bad choice (there are a lot of popular FP-PT novels such as THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN and FIGHT CLUB), but it just didn't feel right for me. The main benefit of FP-PT is the immediacy of the format. You're walking in your protagonist's shoes and there is great opportunity to play with an unreliable protagonist. That unfortunately can also be a disadvantage and it becomes more difficult at times to slow down the pace and to manipulate more complex characters and their ability to tell the story.

One of the things I also noticed was the way writing in certain tenses made me feel. Because of the immediate inherent nature of writing in FP-PT, it made me feel anxious. I would put off writing because I didn't want to get in that "zone". 

Another difficulty I had with writing in FP-PT was the idea of "who is the protagonist telling the story to?" In that present tense moment, the storytelling (to me) felt unnatural.
So what to do?

If a POV doesn't seem to be working for you, change it. Play with your material, rewrite in using different tenses. 

I experimented by writing chapters using:

First Person - Past Tense
Third Person - Past Tense

I shared these chapters with my critique group and their comments were invaluable. 

As a result, I've settled on first person past tense. It's helped me to slow down my writing and to tell the story without worrying about who the protagonist is telling the story to. So we'll see how this plays out. After all, I can always change it again, right?

What tense do you like to work in? Feel free to share here!

Monday, June 6, 2016

When to Call It Quits on a Manuscript

My writing time is at a premium these days. Between a very active almost-two-year-old (how did that  happen??), a demanding freelance workload, and a baby on the way who's sucking much of my energy, I'm lucky if I get to write a few hundred words a week.

So I can tell you, making the decision to scrap my current manuscript-in-progress isn't one I'm taking lightly. I have around 35,000 words written, about half my target word count goal.
Many writers have trunked novels. Often these are first efforts, the manuscripts where they were still learning the craft. I have several of these myself, but this one feels different. I don't think there's much technically wrong with this one (other than the usual first draft problems!). It's in a genre that isn't overdone. In fact, it's one that is getting some attention from agents recently.

What's the problem with mine, then? Well, actually, I have three main issues. These might apply to others too, so I decided to list them out for anyone else who might be going through the same thing.

1. Every word is a struggle.
Writing is hard. Everyone who's ever finished (or tried to finish) a story or a novel knows that. There are always going to be days when you have to force yourself to put your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard. But there should also be times when the words are flowing and things are working. Unlike previous manuscripts, that just isn't happening on this one. I'm not getting the magical flashes of insight into characters and plot that normally come as part of my drafting process—instead, I'm having to agonize over all those details separately, which takes up even more of my limited writing time.

2. Putting it aside for a while didn't work.
Setting a draft that's giving you trouble aside and coming back to it later is often the best way to get over a writing slump and come back to your work with fresh eyes. (Just ask anyone who's ever finished NaNoWriMo.) I tried that with this novel, and it was a total failure. Months and months later, I still had the exact same issues when I tried to jump back into it.

3. I'm just not in love anymore.
This is the biggest factor. The passion I felt for this manuscript at the beginning has faded, to the point where I'm starting to actively dislike it. Maybe I could grit my teeth and power through the first draft, but the thought of spending months more revising and polishing makes me feel a bit ill.

I'm willing to admit that a big part of these issues might be a reflection of changes going on in my life. This concept is dark and twisted, while I'm finding myself gravitating more and more toward fun, adventurous, lighthearted books these days.

So I'm giving myself permission to quit writing this manuscript. Maybe I'll come back to it later, and maybe I won't. Either way, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders—and that's how I know I'm making the right decision.