Discussion: Your Favorite Posts

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Short post today! So as I've recently hit the 1,000 blog post milestone (for which a giveaway is still running, by the way), I thought now was as good a time as ever to take stock of what you guys have enjoyed and would like to see more of.

My blog posts generally fall into one of many categories: book reviews, how to, writing life, writing tips, character development, social media, editing, publishing, and miscellaneous. Both because I'm curious and because I'd like to gear future posts toward what you guys would like to see most, I'd like to know: what blog posts have been your favorite (or what types of blog posts have been your favorite)? And what would you like to see more of?

Similarly, if there are any topics or questions you'd like me to cover, let me know in the comments and I'll add them to my list of possibilities. :)

Thanks!

Twitter-sized bite: 
Have a publishing or writing question you'd like answered? Author @Ava_Jae is taking blog post suggestions. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How Chronic Illness Affects My Writing

On my chronic illness and how it's affected different aspects of my writing—a collaboration with Lily Meade.


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What life factors have unexpectedly affected your writing?

Twitter-sized bite:
Author @Ava_Jae shares how her chronic illness has affected her writing. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #27

Photo credit: archer10 (Dennis) OFF on Flickr
Somehow, it's the last week of September, which means the time has arrived to critique another first page here on Writability.

As per usual, I'll start by posting the full first 250 excerpt, after which I'll share my overall thoughts, then my redline critique. I encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques in the comments (because I'm one person with one opinion!), as long as it's polite, thoughtful, and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be unceremoniously deleted.

Let's go! 

Title: SAVING ERIIA'S WINDSTORM

Genre/Category: YA Fantasy

First 250 words:

"The entire throne room was filled to bursting, elves in every row, some even filling the spaces between seats and walls. The day the king banished his own daughter was not a day to miss. 
But Eriia didn’t see the elves in the seats, high above her and behind. She saw only the two thrones before her, one empty and the other with the tall, imposing figure of her father. She hadn’t meant to hurt anyone, she really didn’t. She had just wanted to prove to her father that she was good enough, so she wove a spell to light a candle, something Ileon had been doing since he was five. Now he was eleven and could make fire into shapes, dancing dragons and flowers and things Eriia couldn’t even name, and she was nine and set the Hanging Castle on fire, because she had no control. 
'Eriia,' her father’s voice boomed. He wouldn’t even call her a princess anymore. 'You’ve become quite the spectacle to this family.'
'Father, I—' she tried to say, but King Cepheus held up a hand and a frown. 
'You destroyed part of the castle. You’re lucky no one was hurt, but our poor Queen is sick in bed from the smoke. Do you realize what you’ve done?'
'Father, I’m—'
'You’ve always been a menace, causing trouble since you were young.'
Hot tears welled up in Eriia’s eyes. She hadn’t meant to make trouble. Trouble just always found her. 
'Where’s mother?' Eriia looked up at her father, 'Where’s mama? Does she know?'"

Awww. This is sad. :( Okay, interesting opening with nice details but I'm sensing this is a prologue. It's hard to say how necessary a prologue is without looking at the first couple chapters, but given that this is when Eriia is nine and this is a YA, I'm assuming this is just background information on how she got banished. While I understand the urge to start there, as I imagine a princess getting banished from her kingdom is a pretty big deal, I suspect it'd probably still be better to start closer to the actual inciting incident, whatever that is, and fill in this background information either woven into the text, or through a flashback or something, or both.

It's not badly written or anything (far from it!), but in terms of plot and tendencies I've seen with many, many prologues, that'd be my guess.

On a different note, I'd also like to see more description—the throne room is filled to bursting, but what does it look like? She sees the thrones—what do they look like? I was having a bit of trouble picturing the room where the scene takes place.

Now for the in-line notes!

"The entire throne room was filled to bursting, elves in every row, some even filling the spaces between seats and walls. The day the king banished his own daughter was not a day to miss. Nice.
But Eriia didn’t see the elves in the seats, high above her and behind. She saw only the two thrones before her, one empty and the other with the tall, imposing figure of her father. She hadn’t meant to hurt anyone, she really didn’t. She had just wanted to prove to her father that she was good enough, so she wove a spell to light a candle, something Ileon had been doing since he was five. This is a great detail and gives us some nice, subtle world building and tells us she has a brother (or I'm assuming, anyway). Now he was eleven and could make fire into shapes, dancing dragons and flowers and things Eriia couldn’t even name,. 
and sShe was nine and set the Hanging Castle on fire, because she had no control. Moved this down a line to give it more punch. :)
'Eriia,' her father’s voice boomed. He wouldn’t even call her a princess anymore. This is also a great detail to bring attention to. 'You’ve become quite the spectacle to this family.'
'Father, I—' she tried to say, but King Cepheus held up a hand and a frowned. Adjusted both because we don't need the dialogue tag (we know she's speaking because "Father") and also "a frown" sounds like "he held up a frown" which is not what you meant. :)
'You destroyed part of the castle. You’re lucky no one was hurt, but our poor Queen is sick in bed from the smoke. Do you realize what you’ve done?'
I recommend inserting some of Eriia's emotions and thoughts in here. We have her external responses (dialogue) but until two lines from here we don't really get any internal reactions at all, and I think they'd help. This must be a really emotional scene for her, so where are her emotions? 'Father, I’m—'
'You’ve always been a menace, causing trouble since you were young.'
Hot tears welled up in Eriia’s eyes. She hadn’t meant to make trouble. Trouble just always found her. This is a great paragraph and makes me sad, which is good because I'm connecting emotionally with your protagonist.
'Where’s mother?' Eriia looked up at her father, 'Where’s mama? Does she know?'"

Overall, the writing is really well done. There's more I'd like to see, like I mentioned (description, internal emotions and thoughts), but what's there is nicely polished and I only felt like it needed a few tweaks. If I saw this in the slush, I'd keep reading.

So all in all, while I'm not convinced it's starting in the right place and I think it could use more embellishing, this is a really solid start. Nicely done, Magdalyn!

I hope that helps! Thanks for sharing your first 250 with us!

Would you like to be featured in the next Fixing the First Page critique? Keep an eye out for the next giveaway in October!


Twitter-sized bite:
.@Ava_Jae talks prologues, description, internal emotion and more in the 27th Fixing the First Page Feature. (Click to tweet)

On Writing the YA Voice

Photo credit: Fey Ilyas on Flickr
It's no secret that nailing a great voice is absolutely essential to YA. Whether lyrical or quirky, casual or full of gorgeous imagery, voice can make or break the reception of a manuscript.

An issue I frequently see with unpublished YA manuscripts is the attempt to make a voice sound YA is there, but it falls short and ends up sounding like an adult who is trying to sound like a teen (I'm sure you've all seen this at some point; it's noticeable). I understand why this happens—getting the voice right can be especially challenging in why—so today I'm sharing some tips on getting the YA voice to sound authentically teen.

  • Read (a lot) of voice-y YA. There's a reason it's essential to read what you write—and this is a big part of it. The best way to get a sense of voice in a category is to read—a lot. A while ago I asked Twitter for recommendations for YA with especially good teen voices, and this is what they came up with:

  • Listen to teens (and keep listening). TV shows and movies can help, but even better is listening to actual teens in your life, because they'll be way more up to date with how teens actually speak today. (Remember, it often takes over two years to make a movie.) Don't have any teens in your life? Go to your local mall, or park, etc. and listen to people speaking around you.

  • Don't rely on outdated clich├ęs or stereotypes. Teens don't really text like "R U going tonite? C U l8r!" anymore. I'm not entirely convinced most teens ever did, but now in the age of autocorrect, it takes a lot of extra effort to text like that and it's lost its cool shine, so most don't. That's just one example, but basically, pay attention to the changing world and don't rely on stereotypes.

  • Pay attention to word choice. Remember to ask not only "are these words a teen would use" but "are these words this particular teen would use?" An art student might know that bike is vermillion blue, but one less oriented in the arts probably would just say blue (or bright blue, or intensely blue, but blue nevertheless).

So those are just a couple tips on getting YA voices right. What would you add to the list?

Twitter-sized bite:
Struggling to get the voice right in your YA? Author @Ava_Jae shares some tips. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Winner #27!

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Quick pre-post post to announce the winner of the twenty-seventh fixing the first page feature giveaway!

*drumroll*

And the twenty-seventh winner is…



MAGDALYN ANN!



Yay! Congratulations, Magdalyn!

Thank you again to all you wonderful entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there will be another fixing the first page giveaway in October, so keep an eye out! :)

1,000 Blog Posts and Counting

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Yesterday I published Writability's 1,000th blog post, which happened to be, somewhat perfectly, a vlog about getting traditionally published. When I first began blogging almost five and a half years ago, I was petrified and had pretty low expectations. I honestly wasn't sure I'd come up with enough material to blog for a year, let alone ever make it here.

It's amazing and I'm so glad I took that step and hit post.

A lot has happened in five and a half years:

  • I've written ten manuscripts.
  • Overcame my photo-on-the-internet phobia. 
  • Hit a bunch of blogging milestones. 
  • Switched majors from Film/Digital Media to English.
  • Took a year off of college.
  • Got an agent. 
  • Began (remote) interning in the industry.
  • Began vlogging. 
  • Went to my first writers' conference.
  • Got a book deal. 
  • Saw my debut published. 
  • Presented at two conferences. 
  • Graduated college.
  • Began freelance editing.
  • Reached 5,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel. 
  • Got a book deal for two sequels.

Writing out that list honestly made me kind of emotional. It's so easy to forget the steps you've taken and milestones you've hit along the way. When I first began blogging I didn't dare to hope half of those things would happen—and I certainly didn't imagine many of the others. 

I started this blog figuring if it helped one person, it would be worth it. Now, five and a half years later, I have more readers than I ever imagined making it worth it every day. 

Thank you all for reading—and here's to another 1,000 posts. 

To celebrate, I'm giving away a signed copy of my debut, Beyond the Red, along with signed swag (US only). You have until the end of the month to enter. Good luck! :)

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Vlog: How to Get a Book Deal

Last week I shared the simplified steps to getting an agent, and this week I'm moving on to the next milestone toward traditional publication: getting a book deal.


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Want to get a book deal but not sure where to start? Author @Ava_Jae continues her how to vlog series. (Click to tweet)
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