Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Keeping it Real - POV

An incident happened the other day in my community that has everyone rallied up.  A man shot a dog while at the dog park.  My community is by no means sleepy, but it is peaceful, so this incident came as a shock.  Now everyone is talking and everyone has an opinion.  Some are against the man, some neutral, some support him, and some say lets wait until all the facts are available (that would be me).  So in other words, everyone involved has a different POV and then of course there is the truth.  Hmm?!

 This got me thinking about POV.  The topic of point of view is a big deal in the pub world lately.  Or maybe it always has been.  Recently, however, there seems to be all kinds of toying around with POV.  A few years back the industry wanted books written in first person, but now gears have shifted.  Lately, it is all about multiple POVs.  Even the movie industry is embracing the multiple POV.  It has been said that there are two sides to every story, but now it looks like stories have way more than just two sides and story tells are chomping at the bit to explore this whole new world.

 So POV is indeed very important to our writing and it can be hard for writers to know what exactly the industry may want. A writer friend of mine is currently writing a novel with multiple POVs and asked my opinion on how many POVs to include.  I told her that the best advice I've seen is to tell the story from the POV that works best for you and your story.  Trust your instincts.  The industry changes, but if you tell the best story possible, then the story will do just fine.  But then that's just my POV.  So writing community what is your POV?  How do you like your stories to be told? 

And for those of you with more than one POV to your stories, here's a site that you might find useful:

Monday, March 2, 2015

How to Write Dialogue Tags With Action

I stole the idea for this post from the fabulous Janet Eoff Berend who wrote the great YA novel Vertical (a staple for my classroom of reluctant readers). While we all probably know that it's generally best to use the simple "____ said, or ____asked" because it's less distracting than a whole bunch of "mumbled" "guffawed" "whispered" "shouted" etc. tags, we often want to include action right after speaking. 

Janet found herself using the same actions too frequently so she started writing down actions associated with dialogue as she watched people in real life or in her reading so she could break herself away from old patterns. I started jotting things down as well and found it insanely useful. Here are some of my findings. Feel free to add ones you discover in the comments section. :)

  • scanning the titles of books in the bookcase.
  • shook his head
  • sat back in the soft leather chair.
  • unwrapped a stick of Juicy Fruit gum
  • motion to the radio
  • bite my lip
  • give him a small smile
  • waved my unasked question away with his hand
  • he fumbled about for silverware
  • he coughed again and took a deep breath
  • he gazed at me intently, his eyes narrowing
  • his voice had a strange almost wistful quality to it
  • put my hand on his shoulder
  • closes her computer
  • gets herself a generic soda that is clear and citrus-y
  • took a single step and was swallowed up by the crowd
  • he did not turn
  • glancing down at his program
  • leaned forward toward him, smelling his familiar smells
  • extending her hand to him formally
  • reaching for a plate of cake
  • a tear edged itself out of her eye
  • I replace the chair beneath the desk
  • Janet Eoff Berend
  • Plus a TON of the usual "he sighed," "she smiled," etc. etc. 
*Note: None of these involve the character doing something else with his/her mouth while talking (okay to do after character finishes speaking) as that is quite difficult to do in real life. :)

Personally, I've loved flipping through my favorite authors' books & discovering the way they use dialogue tags for effect and seeing the ones they tend to rely on. Thanks again to Janet Eoff Berend for the tip and if you haven't checked out Vertical yet, I HIGHLY recommend it (especially if you're looking for a book for reluctant boy readers that involves cool San Diego skate park kids) :)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

FINGERS IN THE MIST Bloghop, Review & Giveaway!

O'Dell Hutchinson
I'm thrilled to bring you yet another exciting new release - FINGERS IN THE MIST by O'Dell Hutchinson.  Make sure you scroll to the bottom of the post for your chance to win a copy!

I started reading FINGERS IN THE MIST on a dark and stormy night...which was a terrible idea because the story starts with a spine-tingling scene on--you guessed it--a dark and stormy night. It's a great read for anyone who likes horror, suspense and creepy leave-the-light-on stories.

In addition to the scare factor, I loved Caitlyn, the main character, who had just the right amount of bite to her. She was nicely juxtaposed by the small-town setting, complete with a fire-and-brimstone pastor and the stuck-up pastor's daughter. Add in the mystery surrounding the town and Caitlyn's mother, Caitlyn's questionable past, and a creeping killer-mist with ghoulish figures climbing out of it, and you have a nice page-turning suspense-filled roller coaster ride.


Title: Fingers in the Mist
Publication date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: O’Dell Hutchison

Sixteen-year-old Caitlyn Foster never believed in the legend of the Redeemers. That was before the trees started to whisper her name. Before a murder of crows attacked the town. Before she and her family came home to find a bloody handprint on their front door, marking one of them as a sacrifice. As Caitlyn’s friends are ripped from their homes, she knows it’s only a matter of time before the Redeemers come for her. Caitlyn has the power to stop the terror, but she’ll have to decide if she’s willing to sacrifice herself to save those she loves.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | TBD


O’Dell was born in a small rural town in Idaho. There were no Redeemers living there (that he knows of). After attending college in the Pacific Northwest, he found his way to the Houston area. By day, he is a Business Systems Analyst and at night you can either find him sitting at home, dreaming of random super powers he wishes he had, or directing plays and musicals at various theaters around Houston.

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Are You Really Writing YA, or Is It Actually MG?

Brenda Drake's annual Pitch Madness contest is going on right now (you can check out the details here, but be aware that the submission window has closed!). The readers going through the entries and deciding what entries will move on to the agent round have been tweeting general tips on the hashtag #PitchMadness based on what they're seeing. There are some really good tips on query pitfalls to avoid, so it's worth taking a look.

I noticed that one in particular keeps coming up: people calling their manuscript young adult when they're really writing material that's more suited for a middle grade novel. It's more common than you might think. So what makes a YA novel YA and not MG?

1. Targeted Age of Reader
This one's a bit obvious, but let's start here. A middle grade novel is intended to be read by kids who are roughly ages 8-12. Young adult novels are targeted toward 12-18 year olds (although, as we all know, they are often read by people much older than that!).
middle schoolers reading
2. Age of Main Character(s)
As a general rule, middle grade main characters tend to be preteen or below, and young adult characters tend to be fourteen or above. (There's an odd gray area with thirteen-year-old characters that sometimes makes them a hard sell.)

That said, there are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books are all considered middle grade because the main character started out as twelve years old, even though he's sixteen when the series ends.

3. Word Count
You'll find many different opinions about what constitutes proper word count for each age range, but the general consensus seems to be about 30,000-60,000 words for MG and 50,000-80,000 for YA. Sci-fi and fantasy books in either can have a high range that's ten or fifteen thousand words above this.

4. Primary Focus
Readers of middle grade fiction are focused on their immediate environment--friends, school, family--and the books targeted to this age range tend to reflect this. A MG protagonist often discovers something about themselves by the end of the book.

In contrast, YA protagonists are figuring out things about the outside world and how they fit into it. They're influenced by the world outside their small sphere and often have to deal with adult problems.

5. Content
Elements like swearing, drug use, graphic violence, and sex tend to be very light or nonexistent in middle grade novels, but they're all fair game in YA. This doesn't mean MG novels can't be dark or scary, but writers will do well to consider that most of the books for this age group are purchased by parents or teachers and they will often take exception to edgier content.

Knowing the correct age category for your manuscript will make it easier to target the right agents and editors, and it will also help you market your book correctly. For further reading on this subject, check out this post on the YA Highway blog or this one from Writer's Digest.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Keeping It Real - Diversity in Books

On an evening when we're watching one of the least diverse Oscars in recent history, one wonders if this is the norm across all forms of media and entertainment.  

Unfortunately, the discussion of race in young adult novels is still a hot topic and has been  for sometime.  As Jen Doll in her article "The Ongoing Problem of Race in Y.A." notes, the three most popular Y.A. series, Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games all feature main characters who are white. Even a story aptly titled Divergent focuses on lead characters that are caucasian. 

However, things are changing.  We're excited about the range of stories that are now being told about people of colour in children's literature.  The Cooperative Children's Book Center tracks diversity in children's books and has seen their figures increase in recent years, specifically in African American and Asian/Pacific American titles.  

If you are interested in seeing more diversity in books, check out We Need Diverse Books, an organization focused on promoting diversification efforts and increasing visibility for diverse books and authors in children's literature. 

Hopefully by this time next year we'll see something a little more colorful at the Oscars than just the red carpet.