Monday, May 16, 2011

Re-vamp and Re-work

First, thank you everyone for your patience while my wife and I settled in to our new home. We are all unpacked and completely out of the old place. I'd also like to thank my friend Danny Oertli for putting together a post about my Charity of the Month.

So on Friday, when I actually had access to the internet, Blogger shut down their site for some emergency maintenance. I don't know all of the details, all I know is that I couldn't get on to write a post. Instead, I spent my day reading through WYRM FIEND to find out where I can work in some great re-writes. As I put together a new pitch for this book, I started to realize that I wanted this book to be about something very specific. But every time I tried to write the pitch and SAY that the book focused on this topic, I realized that I didn't write the story that way. In fact, the more I analyzed my book, the more I saw that my book didn't stand out from the other books on the shelves. So I'm going to add some scenes, re-write the bland scenes, and add some valuable substance to the characters and their reactions to the events that come to pass.

Here's a question for you (if you read YA Fiction): what is your favorite YA book/series, and why? What makes that book/series stand out when compared to the wide variety of books out there for young adult readers?

This weekend, I started to re-vamp my own efforts to move forward in my career. I joined a writing group. The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, to be exact. They have an annual conference that I'm going to attend this fall, and I realized a while back that I need to get involved in a critique group. And not just for my own work. I edit my own manuscripts better when I actively participate in critique groups. When I go out of my way to help other writers, I learn from their styles, their well-written passages, and those areas of their manuscripts that need some polish.

Another question: are you involved in an official or unofficial writers' group? Does it help?


  1. Quill and Think FTW! :)

  2. Quill and Think was awesome, but we haven't done anything with that site in years. Kinda sad, really. :(

  3. Haha... yeah, we didn't really get into it as much as we'd hoped... but look at where both you and Todd are as Writers... I like to think I helped. LMAO.

    Going back to your post... one of the things that really draws me into a story (I doubt this will help you, and I don't read YA often) is depth of world.

    The unexplained but evident history of a world you create makes it so much more vivid. Showing evidence of a real past makes the present very real as well. Todd did this well in one or two spots in Avatar, and it really made me get into it more than anything. It left me craving more details, which he intelligently left out. Leaving the reader wanting more than you give them feels cruel... but it's just awesome.

    Anyway... you're beyond me as a writer, so I doubt there's a lot of help I can offer... but I do enjoy reading your updates.

  4. Hey Giles! Congrats on the move. The series that stands out in my mind, at the moment is Deliruim. Of course, the second book in the series hasn't come out, yet, but I am dying to read it. I suppose, because I can relate to the characters and I think the concept is brilliant.

    As far as your other question, I do belong to a local group and it's been a great experience getting to know other authors in my area. I haven't attended a conference, yet, but I am contemplating one this year. It's important to observe and learn the market.

  5. TA Barron and Madeline L'Engle are two of my favorites. They both use descriptive text to make the scenes and characters come alive in my imagination. But it was never so much that it detracted from storytelling.

  6. Erik, as a reader, your thoughts are invaluable! I miss a lot of stuff when I read my own work simply because I'm so familiar with what I'm trying to say. Any reader, regardless of how well they write, can provide great insight into what's missing from a story just by asking a simple question (like, "what did you mean by...").

    Jen, I'll have to check out that series :)

  7. Hi Giles -- I belong to RMFW and Northern Colorado Writers. I also belong to a critique group (since 2003) and believe in them so much that I start new critique groups for NCW. I'm a writing group junkie, and that's what helped me get published.

  8. Patricia, nice to meet you :). I'm excited to join one of the RMFW groups! I'm still trying to figure out how to navigate their site to get involved in the community, but I have high hopes :D

  9. I don't know if I've mentioned him to you, but a YA writer I really love is Garth Nix. I read "Shade's Children" for the first time when I was 13. What made the story absolutely riveting to me is how he made me feel his characters emotions - their fear, their hope, etc.

    I then continued on to his Abhorsen series. What made this series stand out to me was how he created a very rich and developed world. I love fantasy novels that have their own world with its own rules. But more important than a rich world is how the author deals with that world - I hate authors that tell the reader how their world works rather than hinting at it subtly and assuming anyone reading such a tale would just "know" how the world works. I'm not sure how to really describe how a really good author accomplishes this, but I know it when I read it.

    More recently (within the last year) I picked up a newer series by Nix, The Keys to the Kingdom. This is another tale with a richly built universe, but what I loved about it was how it grabbed me by the seat of the pants and made me *need* to read the next book in the series as soon as possible. You had a great blog about this a while back - how an author can build tension between chapters. Specifically, how an author can keep the suspense going between chapters so that no matter how many times you tell yourself "Ok, I'm putting the book down and going to sleep as soon as I finish this chapter", you find yourself reading into the dim hours of the morning until you've read the final line and have to wait for the bookstore to open so you can buy the sequel. I know Nix used this suspense in his other novels as well, but in the Keys to the Kingdom series he did it masterfully. The way he structured the series even made me need to read the next book because I understood who the next "boss" would be and couldn't wait to see how the protagonist handled the challenge.

    If you haven't read Nix, I would really recommend him. I have have a few other favorites, but his books always stand out to me (so much so that I purchased Elthia her own copies of them when I thought she was the right age).