Monday, January 31, 2011

Post: The Cosmic Critique Contest

I have a feeling that last Monday's post was saturated somewhat, and maybe the contest I posted fell through the holes of the Interweb. Little interest as been given and I don't want anyone to miss out on this one. If that is the case, this is your second chance to enter . . .

To celebrate The Laire's 50 followers, I'm holding my very first contest! The best part is, everyone's a winner! The prize is a full chapter critique (up to 3K words). One for old followers (before 50) and one for new followers (after 50). Here are the rules to enter, Space Minions!

1: You must be a follower.
2: Comment on this post.
3: Link this contest on your blog, sometime between now and Feb 7th (one week). Spread the word!
4: On Tuesday, Feb 8th, I'll hold a drawing.

I will announce the winners and provide an email to send me your sample for a full critique. For everyone else, you may email me up to 250 words (one page) of anything or a query letter. How does that sound?
Note: I will not open files. Paste your prose, please :)

I solemnly vow to respect your work and provide the best feedback I can give. Your work will not be shared with anyone else. Cosmic Scouts honor! Good luck!

I'm David, and I can't do this without you.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Overcompensation

Have you ever received advice to improve your writing? I'd say that's a given "yes" to all aspiring authors, but how you apply that advice makes all the difference. However, you might run into a little problem when you let the feedback of others dictate your prose, leading to what I call overcompensation - making excessive corrections for fear of doing something wrong. Besides, who is to know that the source of said advice is correct? Nothing will make you want to pull your hair and shimmy up a tree like a squirrel more than finding that your changes have compromised what you've written.

Here are some of my personal examples:

-ly: commonly used for adverbs and adjectives, -ly has a notorious reputation for "lazily applying descriptive words." This is true in a sense, but I've had people tell me that I should avoid them altogether. Taking that to heart, I literally removed every -ly from one of my manuscripts. I certainly learned how to be more creative when describing things, but the end result was overkill, slowed the action and increased word count. I'll tell you this now; -ly is okay to use. Some of my favorite novels are guilty of applying -ly more than they should. Still, if you want your prose to shine, use it sparing-ly.

With my current novel, I wanted to avoid a problem that was pointed out to me from my last project, that my villain had no reason or motive to be evil. Okay. This time, I'll give him a reason! But as I've reread my WiP, I've come to find that I gave him too many reasons to be evil! It made sense at the time, but now it reads like a psychopathic mess. Luckily I caught it in time. To my surprise, the block that has slowed me for so long has finally cleared, since I cleaned up and (realistically) simplified his motive. No more random evil laugh!

Yeeeah . . . that's creepy . . .

This is not the rule, but advice from one who has been there. Receiving feedback, especially the kind that's not sugar-coated, is the best way for starting writers to grow. Take it in stride instead of overcompensating.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check out my Cosmic Critique Contest (the rules to enter are here).

I'm David, and Naruto is unhealthily addicting.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Award and The First Cosmic Laire Contest!

First up, I would like to thank Ali Cross for thinking I'm cool enough to be given a stylish award. Thank you, Ali! The rules for accepting this award are as follows:

1: Thank and link the person who gave you this award.
2: Share 7 things about yourself.
3: Award (up to) 15 recently discovered great bloggers.
4: Contact these bloggers about their award.

Looks like I got my work cut out for me - and it's worth it! As for seven things, I'll divulge a few secrets.

1: I sport novelty-tees 85% of the time (I'm currently wearing a 1UP mushroom shirt - got to love Mario).
2: I've never been on a cruise and I don't plan to (that is to say, I won't make the plan, but I'll go if invited).
3: My car has a name, and that name is Sarah.
4: I've always wanted to live in a Hobbit Hole.
5: I make a pretty dang good James Bond in a tux.
6: I can never get enough of the show Psych.
7: I love exercising - and I should do it more often.

This is where I pass on the torch to some stellar bloggers that I've met in the last couple of weeks.

Gabi at Iggi and Gabi
Morgan Lee at FantasyFairy
I'd give one to Lindz, but she already has one.
The same goes to Ali Cross
Matthew Rush at Questionable Query
Abby Minard at Above Water
Julie Dao has one too . . .
Jen Knox at Jen Knox
Damyanti at Writing on Writing

Congratulations you guys! Your blogs are styl'n!

And thank you, Kulsuma, for following :)


To celebrate The Laire's 50 followers, I'm holding my very first contest! The best part is, everyone's a winner! (Hey, why not? 50 followers is manageable - everyone should get something, right?) Since I am short on cash, I'm offering my time and writing know-how. Here's how it works. The prize is a full chapter critique (up to 3K words), one for old followers (before 50) and one for new followers (after 50). Here are the rules to enter!

1: You must be a follower.
2: Comment on this post.
3: Mention and link this contest on your blog sometime between now and the 31st of January (one week).
4: On Tuesday, Feb 1st, I'll do a drawing.
5: I will announce the winners and provide an email for you to send me your sample for a full critique. For everyone else, you can email me up to 250 words or a query letter for a critique. How does that sound?
Note: I will not open files. Paste your prose, please :)

And they're off! Good luck to everyone

Update: a working draft of chapter 15 is DONE! Only one word seems suitable for that statement - Hallelujah! That, and I have uncovered my block. The story is flowing again at full speed! I think the bananas helped.

Phew! That was a monster post! Awesome sauce. Head back later this week for another awe-Aspiring Advice.

I'm David, and my car is named Sarah.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blogfest: The Process That Writes Me


The totally cool and aspiring author Shallee McArthur hosted a blogfest earlier this week, but due to time constraints I was not able to participate until now. So buckle up and ready yourself as I share my process.

Step 0: Clear Your Mind and Pull Up A Blank Slate :)

Step 1: Acquiring the Idea - through my career as an (not yet published) author, the first step has always been the intrigue of an idea. I've never gone out of my way to get an idea. I let them come to me. As I continue to read books and watch movies, I ask myself, "what hasn't been done in a while?" and start brainstorming. Like agents and editors, I have to sell myself on the idea before I invest typing words for it. The idea is central to all - everything else is simply getting the idea across. I'll mull over an idea for about a week in my head, and if I feel no inspiration, a warmth through my body or a tingling in my brain, I'll probably drop it. Once my idea is in place (which aims for originality), I move on.

Step 2: Write the First Chapter - wait a moment . . . you're diving right in without a plan? Yep. After a good week or so, I've brainstormed enough to have a fair picture of where the story takes place and who I want to be my characters, so I draft a first chapter to see if the story is worth telling. If it doesn't interest me, I shelf it for later and think of something else. However, if I'm genuinely excited and see potential, I move on.

Step 3: Worldbuilding - I then detail the world in which the story takes place (or a suitable real-world location) and a host of characters to fill it. It's sort of like placing units on a Risk board, deciding how many should go to which territories, but I build their personality, history and psychology once they are in place. Aside from writing the first draft, worldbuilding takes up the most time. I'll write one-page bios for every character, the setting's history, magic or technological system (if any), and so on. Once that is down pat, I move on.

Step 4: Outline - this is where I draft a summary of my entire novel - one sentence per chapter. This gives me a picture of just how long the book will be (depending on the nature of the novel) and also provides a word count estimate. When it comes to writing epic novels, I never limit myself. For Young Adult, I aim for no more than 5K words a chapter, 3K for Middle Grade. Outlining is very much like a map on a road trip. You start somewhere and have a destination with a few stops along the way, but I leave what happens in between for the first draft. Until I know exactly what my introduction, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution is, I move on.

Step 5: Write Until It's Done - self explanatory.

I write up each chapter as a separate document, then paste them as a full MS later. Makes for cleaner editing.

This is more or less a general process. Sometimes I make changes to my original plan as I write the first draft or go back to already written chapters so the applied changes make sense. A writer's process is always evolving, I think, but a personal outline is never a bad idea - it's a downright good one.

Thanks for reading! I do hope this was insightful.

I'm David, and the eraser on my pencil is missing!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Post: 1000 Visitors and Leftover Pizza


Can I ever say enough just how much I treasure pizza? Not just a commodity, but a lesson in life. What's not to love about a slice of food that has the power to contain every element of the food table (some things certainly don't belong on pizza, but it still holds that potential). Opening the fridge in the morning to a plastic-wrapped plate of leftover pizza is like finding a bar of gold in your kid's sandbox (not speaking from experience, but I wish I were). Anyway, it's a fun treat, and no one knows more than I that pizza ought to be an occasional thing, unless you go cheeseless . . . where's the fun in that?

It's been almost two years since I started this blog (and a year since I've taken it seriously). After all that time, a milestone has been reached - 1000 unique visitors! That doesn't sound like much, but it's cool to know that the Laire has obtained decent exposure. A thank you to everyone for browsing and/or following! Since we're closing in on 50 followers, I'll hold a contest. Haven't decided the prizes yet, so come next week for details.

Speaking of followers, here's this weeks latest!

Matthew Rush - not only is he a novice writer who is strong in the Force, but a helpful resource to the querying process. I'm digg'n your blog, Matt :)

Updates: if you've noticed the progress bar on my WiP, you'll see the word count has actually shrunk. Seems to be that, what I've done so far, is a little excessive. I'm in the middle of rereading chapter 6 and struggling to find the right balance, since this is were the plot really kicks into high gear, or the magic system gets a shed of light. So far, so good, and if my rate of words cut keeps up, I'll definitely stay within my word count goal. Yay!

Click in later this week as I take part in Shallee McArthur's blogfest by sharing my writing process.

I'm David, and cold pizza is even better.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Knowing About "Bob"s


I'm incredibly late this week, aren't I? My apologies. Entertaining the family and working on the reread has been oodles of fun. I feel good. I feel great. I feel wonderful. It's borderline neurotic if you ask me, but we're not here to talk about that or its relation to one of my favorite comedies. They do share something in common, however. They both have annoying Bobs!

Have you ever heard of "as you know, Bob?"

A while ago I wrote about info dumping, giving the reader lots of backstory and history all at once, something that first time writers tend to do in hopes of filling the reader in. I've since learned that it's more interesting to give backstory and history as you tell the story. Intrigue us with your present setting and characters first and the rest will follow, but enough about that. What, then, is this "as you know, Bob" business? I take this to mean 'info dumping through dialogue.' I'll provide an example.

Perhaps a princess is about to meet a suitor and a handmaiden tells her "you're next suitor is arriving soon," followed by a monologue of descriptive attributes about the guy. He's not in the scene right now. We don't need to know what he looks like here or what feats he's accomplished. Let him do that when he shows up. It also doesn't help the story if the girl knows about this guy to begin with. What has happened here is the writer using a side character to provide information for the reader at the character's (and story's) expense. This type of info dump is often said by butlers and maids, but also through friends or side characters.

So what about this Bob? How can we avoid him so our stories do not get bogged down? I've found there's no set way, but I screen for Bobs with these questions:

Does my character already know this information?
Does the person speaking know more than they should?
Does it give information without building suspense?

A yes for any of these and you've got a Bob to deal with. Better look out for them in your stories so they don't come back to haunt you later, or tempt you into chucking or burning your manuscript altogether. Some might consider this a form of writer's Death Therapy . . .

Avoid 'as you know, Bob' to avert storytelling disasters.

How do you avoid "as you know, Bob"s in your writing?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Post: Slimming Down My Overweight WiP


It's been a real treat playing host to my parents this weekend - and for the rest of this week - since I don't get to see them much. That happens when you try to make a life for yourself halfway across the country from the nest, but a bird has to fly if it wishes to go places. Now that we're over a week into the new year, I'm glad to say that my resolutions are on track, like slimming down. I wish I was referring to my figure when I say that, but the time for that will come later - eventually.

Before we move on, I'd like to introduce our newest follower - Abby Minard - a budding YA fantasy writer whose blog and prose keeps her aspirations well above water, in my book. Welcome to the Laire, Abby!

Updates - what a productive week! Since Monday, I've reread chapters 0-5 of my WiP and cut over 2k words in total. That may not sound like much and I'm surprised I didn't cut more, but more important was the discovery of why I was having a hard time moving forward with chapter 15 - important backstory that needed inclusion. Good thing I caught it now and not at the end. That would have been a nightmare to revise later. On top of all that, it reads very well and very clean. The sooner we get this thing finished and submitted, the better.

As I am entertaining my parents all week, I'm taking a semi break from gun ho-ing the reread, but I do plan to work on something every day to keep alive the fire of my resolve. This magnificent beast will be licked!

Thanks for reading my weekly ramble. Come again soon for another friendly neighborhood Aspiring Advice!

I'm David, and I forgot the avocados.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Write Until It's Right


This post should not be confused with the writer's strike from a couple years back, plus my time is somewhat limited, more than usual, so let's cut to the gritty nitty!

As writers, we feel accomplished after we string a group of words into sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, books, trilogies, sagas, and etc (at least I assume we do, so correct me if I'm wrong), but after awhile we tend to look back on our writings and no longer feel satisfied with what we've done. I bring this up as part of what I mentioned on Tuesday, me rereading my WiP. I literally zipped through chapters 1-4, but spent far more time on 5. Why? It sucked! They say you're your own worst critic, so consider mine the Anton Ego of writing.

He's a hard fellow to please, I tell ya :)

But you know what? Don't let that get you down. If it's not working for you anymore, make it work. Move some words around. Add some. Delete some. Write until it's right . . . for you! If your critique group, writing club, agents and editors spot something that doesn't work for them, that's another matter. What matters is you being satisfied with your work, you having fun with it, you challenging yourself and improving. Keep your "Ego" in check and hungry for more of your delicious prose.

So I ask, who is your own worst critic?

I'm David, and too much screen time burns your eyes.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Post: A New Year And New Followers!

Happy New Year! (Better late than never, right?)

It's my hope that you all had a splendidly good time and didn't party harder than is physically possible. Who wants to wake up on the first day of the year feeling like your pancreas is about to explode? Well, too much of anything edible will do that. Cheesecake in particular. Easy on the raspberries. Horde not the eggnog!

I'm late with my new years greeting because I've had some serious discussions with myself in the last few days. Reminiscing, to be more specific, about what I'm doing with my life and my writing, but first things first! The Laire has garnered the attention of a few new followers over the holidays, and now, I'd like to return to my usually-on-Mondays tradition of giving the spotlight to those who think my blog is worth following . . . .

Mary Lindsey -she is an aspiring author, at least until her debut novel, Shattered Souls, releases in December this year! Way to go and welcome to my "space" :)

M.J.A. Ware -is an aspiring MG and YA author with a "zombirific" blog and a finished work that he's currently seeking representation for. Welcome and good luck!

Matt Nord -also known as "farmboy," is a writer of horror with focused interest in all things undead. That's the kind of horror I can dig. Zombie hunters unite!

Jen Knox -is one accomplished gal! A Creative Writing professor, a fiction editor, and scores of articles in various magazines. I'm honored to have you here!

Julie Dao - is an aspiring author who is sailing in the same post-college waters as I am and will soon seek representation, just as I am. We have a lot in common!

Again, welcome to the Laire. Enjoy the Journey!

Update: Earlier I mentioned reminiscing about my life and writing. To be honest, I'm slacking. I could be far more productive than I have been. I finished a 120k novel in six months with a family, full-time school, and work, yet it's been almost two years and I haven't finished my next WIP? What's with that? So, as a resolution, I've decided to do something every day towards my writing and a lot less social networking. So much time has passed that I felt disconnected with my current characters, so I'm going to knock two birds with a stone by rereading my WIP from the beginning and cut excess words. I'm at chapter 4 with 800 words cut so far. It may not seem like much, but that's a forth of my normal chapters. With 11 to go, I can sqeeze more in for later, and hopefully, stay within my word count goal.

That's all for now. Thanks for reading, and feel free to return on Thursday for my weekly column on Aspiring Advice. I'll try and make it entertaining this time ;)

I'm David, and rosebushes have pointy thorns!