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June 15, 2011

General Writing: Dystopias

Filed under: General Writing, Genre — Tags: , — ax20 @ 7:43 pm

Dystopian novels are all the rage right now, especially in the YA world, but writing them is a difficult process. You have to create an entire, complicated universe where things have gone wrong.

For some help writing a dystopian novel, read this post:
Elana Johnson: Creating a Dystopian Setting


General Writing: Things to Think About When Writing Your Book

Filed under: General Writing — Tags: , — ax20 @ 7:40 pm

There are a lot of things that come into play when a reader decides if they like your work. Does it flow well, is it interesting,etc.

Look at this article for some big picture things to consider about how your work will be perceived:
Three Ways Readers Will Judge Your Work

General Writing: Writing a Sequel

Filed under: General Writing — Tags: , — ax20 @ 7:36 pm

Writing sequels is a difficult job. Not only do you have the characters’ general histories to include, you also have the book preceding it as back story too. How do you know what to include without boring returning readers while keeping things clear for new ones?

Check out this blog post to find out:
Elizabeth S. Craig on Sequels

June 9, 2011

General Writing: Writers Beware!

Filed under: General Writing — Tags: — ax20 @ 10:36 pm

Here’s a couple excellent blog posts I came across that warns of some things for writers to be wary of when they are writing their story.

Check out these posts:

The first post talks more about the content while the second talks about particular grammatical and formatting elements.

June 2, 2011

Getting Published: Synopsis

Filed under: Getting Published — Tags: , — ax20 @ 12:32 pm

Unlike your query letter, the synopsis provides a more in depth view of a novel. Here is where you can get into the more complicated parts of the story. (You still need to make sure it is clear, but you have more space to explain things.)

Make sure to hit all the major points of your book. (You still should not give every detail and event and character to show up, but you can expand on some of the details.) Introduce your main characters and the main conflicts. Give a clear idea of what your book is about, what the characters we will care about (or dislike), what is at stake for the heroes, what they stand to lose, and how it all turns out.

Don’t forget to include how it all turns out. Some writers think it is better to tease the editor, but the truth is, they have to know that there is a clear, reasonable ending. They have to know that it makes sense in the end and that you know how to finish a book (which is often one of the toughest parts).

A synopsis is generally written in third person, present tense. Make sure it is active (not passive). Be specific but not so specific that you include every detail.

Start where your book starts and end where it ends. If you tell an editor that your story is about a girl who has no memory of her past and must learn the truth, that is what they expect. If they then pick up your manuscript, expecting to read about an amnesiac girl only to find one who has her full memory, they will be disappointed. (This may actually be a flaw in the book itself since it would be more dramatic for us to start with her lack of memory and slowly discover the truth.)

A good idea would be to ask a friend who does not know about your book to read your synopsis. Do they understand it all? Does it interest them?

Getting Published: Clarity is Key

Filed under: Getting Published — Tags: , , — ax20 @ 12:16 pm

It is true that your story might be complicated, it might have many characters, but if you can’t boil it down to a few sentences you may have a problem. When you are pitching your story to an agent (or an editor) they need to be able to understand what it is before they can decide if they are interested.

For this reason, simplicity and clarity is the most important thing in your cover letter and synopsis. Rather than talking about every character who shows up in the story, zero in on the main ones. (Think about George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones–there are so many characters involved that were he to write about every person who shows up, he would have a twenty page query letter. Harry Potter is another example. When writing a summary about Harry Potter, you write mostly about Harry and Lord Voldemort, maybe a little about Ron and Hermione. You do not write about Neville and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and the twins, etc.) Focus more on the bigger story than every little subplot.

Keep in mind that you should be including a synopsis of your work as well. A synopsis can go more in depth into the story and give more details about the characters and events. Therefore the query letter doesn’t need everything, only the important bits. If you pose some questions in your query, not all of them must be resolved in it. These are resolved in the manuscript.

Don’t waste time in your query talking about how fantastic your writing or characters are. The editor can decide that and it doesn’t help explain anything about your book.

Basically, make sure to focus on the heart of the story and keep it as clear and concise as possible. If you confuse the editor/agent reading it, your book has no chance of being picked up.

General Writing: Prologue Do’s and Don’ts

Filed under: General Writing — Tags: , — ax20 @ 11:47 am

I have noticed, from the many submissions I’ve read, that authors–new authors in particularly–often feel the need to use a prologue where none is needed or write a prologue that is so boring it turns the reader off the rest of the story. Prologues are a tricky thing. If done poorly, readers may skip them altogether or simply put a book back on the shelf rather than buy it.

There are a lot of things to keep in mind when writing a prologue and here are some of them:


  • Do reveal significant facts that help us understand the plot (if they cannot be included in the main story without bogging it down with too much exposition).
  • Do use a prologue to show an important scene where the character you are following is not present.
  • Do use a prologue to show a defining moment in the protagonist’s past that will better help us relate/sympathize with them.
  • Do introduce a danger of which the reader should know, but the protagonist shouldn’t.
  • Do separate the prologue from the main story by either time or space.


  • Don’t copy a scene from later in the book and simply put it in the beginning.
  • Don’t write a prologue that could just as easily serve as chapter one.
  • If you’re writing a funny or teen novel about everyday life, don’t try and make it sound so serious.
  • Don’t put in too much information that it will bore the reader.
  • Don’t include a prologue if the book is just as good without it.
  • Don’t write an overly long prologue.
  • Don’t use a prologue to address your reader–this is an author’s note or preface, not a prologue. (And why does a reader care what your motivation for writing the book is? This is what author’s interviews are for.)

A prologue should be vivid and entertaining in its own right (who wants to read a boring prologue, no matter how much of the background it explains?) It should make us want to read on, not bore us to tears. Think long and hard about whether or not the prologue you want to include is necessary and helpful for your book. If it does not enhance the story in some way, do not include it.

June 1, 2011

General Writing: YA vs Adult Writing

Filed under: General Writing, Genre — Tags: , — ax20 @ 2:34 pm

There is always a lot of discussion about this subject, so I am going to compile a list of posts from a few different sources that talk about this subject. Here is a particularly good post by author Sara Kendall, who recently sold a book to Harper Children’s:

Writing YA Versus Adult Fiction: what’s the difference?

General Writing: The Truth About Guns

Filed under: General Writing — Tags: , — ax20 @ 2:27 pm

I have thought about it and decided that in addition to writing my own posts, I will be including links to other posts that I think are really helpful for writers.

If you’re writing a story that utilizes guns, check out this post for some things to know first: 7 things guns cannot actually do.

While people can take creative license about things (and you will find that guns are often used in unrealistic ways as the article points out), making the details as accurate as possible helps keep the reader in the story, rather than have them sit up and go “wait, that isn’t how it works.”

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