Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Matt Hayes: How I Became A Writer

Up next  in this parade of guest posts is Matt Hayes, a stellar young writer (and one of my younger stalkers), who I first met in person at LTUE 2012. I had the chance to read some of his work, and wow! If I had written that well at his age, I'd be a best seller by now, which looks promising for Matt's future. Take it away, buddy!

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Hi, guys! I’m Matt from Matt’s Writing Lair, filling in for David while he’s on revision hiatus. Let us wish him luck.

For those of you who’ve stuck around David’s blog for a while now, do you recall a certain post from February called “Start Now, Not Later”? David mentioned me in this post, along with my friend Jackson Porter. It was a very inspiring post, one that touched Jackson and I alike, and gained us each about five new followers on our blogs.

I want to take the opportunity to talk about that post. How did we get to be writers at such a young age?

1) My parents read to me all the time as a kid, so, naturally, I picked up on reading at a young age, even though I didn’t actually read avidly until I was about 9. The first few books I picked up was the entire Narnia set by C.S. Lewis, which was sort of the spark of my writing career.

2) The next book I picked up was The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, and I absolutely loved it. I picked up the sequel almost immediately after I finished reading it, and, while waiting for the third one, I read Eragon by Christopher Paolini. These three books inspired me.

3) Before I knew it, I wrote a 20-page short story. I researched writing and read about writing and watched videos about writing. I practiced every day, not letting my counter-productivity get the better of me. I wrote at least a sentence or two if that was all it took. I turned my short story into 3 short novels, which became the genesis of my current novel.

This isn’t me boasting. It’s to show you that you can do it just like I did, whether you’re 15 or 30 or 60. If you keep putting it off, it’s not going to happen. If you’ve only got one life, make it awesome and do what you really want to do.

My name is Matt Hayes. I’m 14, and I can say I did something cool before I died. So can you, if you put your heart and soul into it. It takes time, I know. I’ve been working on the same thing for almost six years now. It doesn’t get any easier, but the more patience you have and the more effort you put into it, the better you’ll feel when it’s all done.

I’m Matt, and, you can’t catch your dreams if you don’t go after them, so what are you waiting for?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Shallee McArthur: The Key to Writing a Deeper Book - Get Outside Yourself!

I am especially honored to have Shallee McArthur here today, the first of many guests to come (the outpouring of support during this hiatus phase has been amazing - thank you, everyone!). I first met Shallee while waiting in line for a Brandon Sanderson signing, and we've been blogging buds ever since, and I can't wait for someone to pick up her book, The Unhappening of Genesis Lee (which will be the hottest YA sci-fi since Across the Universe, I have no doubt). Take it away, Shallee!

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When I was a sophomore in college, I took the most random road trip of my life. It involved me, a friend, a stuffed orangutan named Olaf, and a spinning bottle that chose our direction: north to Idaho.

Honestly. Idaho. What was of interest in Idaho? A lot, it turned out.

The whole trip started with a challenge from my creative writing professor. He wanted us to see life differently by simply doing something we'd never done before. He said to keep growing as writers - and as human beings - we had to get outside ourselves and our routines.

Usually, we have one perspective on life: our own. There's nothing wrong with that. It's what makes our writing unique, how we can take ideas that have been done a thousand times and turn them into stories only we can write. But it's important to remember that our view of life is not the ONLY view of life. Our stories become deeper when we incorporate characters with different views on key issues, or plots that show the complexities of a theme.

And so, I took that challenge and set out for Idaho with my friend. We had no destination. We belted out Good Charlotte songs, laughed over the insane stories in the Weekly World News, and stopped whenever we saw signs for things like "Historic Rock Formation, next exit." We discovered ancient horse fossils and a former Japanese internment camp. We met a 20-year-old guy from Australia traveling the world to BASE jump from everything he could, and watched him parachute off a bridge. We offered to wash our own dishes at a tiny mom-and-pop cafe, and though we were denied, we learned a lot about small-town life from that mom and pop.

Over the course of 3 days and 870 miles, I broke outside myself. I saw how the world looked from other people's perspectives. My own perspective changed. It didn't give me any brilliant story ideas, or change my life forever. But it widened my own view of the world just a little.

Any small thing we do to get outside ourselves can deepen us as individuals. And that, in the end, is what helps us write deeper stories.

I'm Shallee, and Idaho is a lot cooler than people give it credit for.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Calling All Bloggers: Guest Posts Wanted!

Hey, guys!

It's been an extraordinary week, revising like an international madhouse of pancakes, and what we have so far is nothing short of amazing - but there is a downside. It's taking a little bit longer than anticipated, and we'd rather do this right than rush it. And if you add a collaboration in there, the process is doubled, which means my absence may be extended.

Which is where you come in.

To keep this place active, I'm soliciting you guys for guest posts, interviews, trope posts, you name it - I'd love to have you on my blog! Just treat this place like you would your own. If interested, email me here.

And in other news, The Morandini Genie, Cast of Wonders podcast. It was based on a prompt that I provided, so again, writers working together = awesomeness.

Check it out!

Thank you in advance for your continuous support. The payforward will be epic, I can assure you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday Tropes: The Mysterious Letter

Surprise! The amazing J.A. Bennett volunteered to fill my trope post this week. How cool is that? Revisions are going well. Thank you everyone who commented and read my hiatus post. Your words are ultra encouraging.

Take it away, J.A.! (I'll use parentheses, okay?)

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There are many ways to build suspense in a story: secrets, lies, action, betrayal, but what about those times when suspense needs to be a bit more subtle?

(You know you want to open it!)

The Mysterious Letter - a way to create mystery without being direct. The main character will receive a letter, but the contents of the paper aren’t shown until later in the story. Sometimes the letter will incite the character to action and other times the letter is kept secret, not by their own choice, but because it is kept from them.

Harry gets a letter addressed to him in green ink, but he doesn't know what it says until Hagrid brings it to him.

In Letters to Juliet, a letter is found in a mysterious place, but the contents of the letter are known. It isn't until the character finds the owner of the letter that the real action begins (wink, wink, nod, nod).

(Is it horrible that I haven't seen this yet?)

The letter can also be a series of letters. In P.S. I Love You, the main character loses her husband to a brain tumor, but before he dies, he writes her ten letters that takes his wife on a journey to find life again.

(That makes water come out of my eyes - not joking.)

Whether it be romantic or intriguing, The Mysterious Letter can add a rich layer of suspense to any story.

I'm J. A. and you've got mail!

(Want to fill in for trope or advice posts? Email me and we'll discuss the low down on the high up ... and stuff)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Revision Hiatus: My Two Weeks' Notice

As much as I would have liked to have an advice column this week, I'm pressed for time and have a personal deadline to meet, so this is my Two Weeks' Notice.

Not to be confused with the movie ... or the book ...

 And this doesn't mean I'm leaving my job ...

 It wouldn't be the same without me ...

I'm just taking the rest of May off so I can get this manuscript where it needs to be. Nothing personal. Just business. I'll be back and pumped when June hits.

I appreciate all of you for your continued support in this time of mini crisis. See you in a couple of weeks!

I'm David, and a Mawg is his own best friend.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

inkPageant: May Giveaway Details


Heads up, guys! Awesome stuff is happening over at inkPageant this month. If you're in need of a query critique and a ten page critique, then you're in luck!

Weronika Janczuk of Lynn C. Franklin Associates has offered these invaluable giveaways: three query critiques and a ten-page critique. That's four winners! And every post you submit is an entry. No limit. I had the chance to meet Weronika during LDStorymakers and, dude ... she is super cool!

We are super grateful for the offering of her time.

This offer is up for another couple of weeks, so check out the details here and submit your blog posts. Are you new to inkPageant? Learn about it and sign up here.

Looking forward to see you in the parade!

I'm David, and I'm almost done with this book.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday Tropes: Save The Cat

Actions speak louder than words. I said that last week, didn't I? Goes to show just how true that statement is. If you want people to like your characters, it only makes sense to have them do good and benevolent things.

Save The Cat - used to establish a character as a hero, or one that we're supposed to like, by acts of kindness or by risking their life for another. This trope is known as Pet The Dog for "bad" characters.

This trope is the polar opposite of Kick The Dog.

Superman literally does this in the 1978 film (with a good example of Kick The Dog just seconds later).

Sounds simple enough, right? Save a helpless animal. Assist the elderly across the street. Slip some coin into a beggar's mug. Endless possibilities. But things get interesting when Pet The Dog comes into play. This is typically used to show the audience that a villain (or someone with bad intentions) has a soft side, and may redeem their wrongdoing by the end of the story.

Remember this? A thief watches a passenger plane go down, he goes inside to steal stuff, and ends up rescuing many of its passengers. The rest of the movie focuses on proving that this fellow did the rescuing, all because he gave his shoe to a hobo. I'd tell you more, but that would be a spoiler.

It's funny, if you think about it. Dogs are loyal, but we kick them. Cats are selfish, but we save them. Interesting times we live in, right?

Have you saved a cat in your writing? Or have you ever pet the dog? Was it a small thing or a big deal?

I'm David, and did I perpetuate animal stereotypes?

*DPK runs for the hills*

Monday, May 14, 2012

Post: Interview, Members, & Revisions!


Something exciting going on over at Falling for Fiction today. They invited me over to invade their space. Check out this rad interview by Hope Roberson!

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Set phasers to I'm about to get stunned, because we have five new members to welcome this week!


We bow to your awesome presence and wish you a most excellent week with a fresh cruller in hand!

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Update: I've been a blogging recluse lately, thanks to some incredible feedback we received from an agent that Michael and I felt is worth taking Woven through another round of revisions. Nothing huge, just some additions throughout to give the characters more dimension. 25K words down already, so let's see if we can match what we did last week, and then some!

How was your weekend? What did you started your morning with? Eggs and hash browns here, yo!

I'm David, and The Avengers made a billion already!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Aspiring Advice: The Dream/Fear Cycle

This post is going to make me sound like a complete writing noob, but hey! You figure out a good thing that works and it's worth sharing. Check this action out!

We like characters, right? Can't have a story without them (can be done but, wooo - good luck). And in every story arch you have your introduction, the problem and the goals needed to overcome said problem. We get that down and we'll have a cool plot and solid story.

What about solid characters? They have goals and aspirations. If resolving the plot is all our characters have ... that's what 2-Dimentional characters boil down to. How do we make them 3-Dimentional?

The theory: Every character has a dream, something they want to accomplish more than anything, before the conflict in the story presents itself. Characters have to work out the pattern of their dream while dealing with resolving the plot at the same time - two stories in one! The pre-conflict pattern looks like this:

Look at this mad Paint skills!

Now for the 3-Dimentional part ...

What if the character's dream is influenced by fear?

 "Don't take my last waffle!"

Let's say a character is in line to inherit his father's billion-dollar business. He is scared to death of the stocks and responsibility. His goal (dream) is to find a way out or have someone run the business for him. Obstacles will get in the way, adding fear upon fear.

Complicated character, huh? I like it!

Or maybe someone wants to be a solider - not to protect the country, but to prove he is brave. Let's see what happens to that bravery when war starts.

It is a cycle - it never ends. Even when the story is finished, the cycle is never fully resolved. Even if that dream is attained, there's that fear of losing it.

Give it try. Invent a character whose dream is based on fear. For your already established characters, ask what are they afraid of. If we know their fear, we'll know their motivation, which in turn will reflect upon what they say, do, and think throughout the whole story. And if we set this up with all our characters, with their own unique fear, imagine how diverse the voice is going to be!

This is not the rule, just my thought on the matter. I'm not even sure if this pattern exists elsewhere. All I know is this is the element my stories have lacked. Applying them to revisions has made a world of difference. If characters have something to fear, it's easier for us to sympathize with them. Get those 3D glasses ready!

Have you heard of this cycle or something like it? Found any holes in the theory? Got a pencil sharpener?

I'm David, and Loki is a "puny god."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Random Sauce: The Most Intense Film About Grammar You Will Ever See!


Sometimes we have to watch bad grammar in action before it really sinks in. Hopefully this will make all of us want to never use no bad grammar ever again ...

... And now I'm running for my life. See ya!

I'm David, and dangling participles = bloody mess!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

LDStorymakers 2012: Primer & Day One


What a weekend! Three days of non-stop writerly action that went by fast. Unlike other conferences in the past, this years experience was one that I will never forget.

At least I hope so - old age permitting, and such ...

This year's event had an interesting twist. The Marriott had some construction going on in the lobby. Instead of getting bent out of shape, the committee centered the theme around the mess: Building Better Writers. You could tell who the staff was by their yellow vests and hard hats. I tip my hat for their cleverness!

As for what happened, I could tell you everything, but what happens at Storymakers stays at Storymakers - kidding - here's the word on Primer and Day One.

- I'm a fan of The Publication Primer, this years newest addition to the conference. Unlike Bootcamp, where you read each others work and provide feedback, we read everyone's chapter ahead of time and spent an hour dissecting them for all their worth, all for the sake of making them better. I'll do this again in a heart skip!

- Thursday night's dinner was a success! We had thirteen more people show than were accounted for. I'm just surprised we were all able to fit in that room.

- Agent Weronika Janczuk gave a presentation on Fixing the Easy, which showed us the common mistakes writers make in the material she receives. It was refreshing to see how many of those errors I'm not making now. Even then, I learned a valuable lesson.

- Had the chance to pitch Woven to an agent and got a full request. Awesome! We'll send the manuscript soon.

Jennifer A. Neilsen's presentation on The 5 Essentials of Middle Grade was perfect for helping me shape the beginnings of my new MG, which are: Know Your Audience, Engaging Dialogue, High Stakes Conflict, Vivid Settings, and Movement of Plot. She also told us that New York has come to appreciate Utah writers, especially children's authors. Having "Utah" in your return address is now a good thing. Good for me!

What's a conference without picking up a book or three!

 Kiersten White's Paranormalcy
 Jennifer A. Neilsen's The False Prince
(Had to pose with John Brown - he's awesome)


- Above all else, what can be greater than meeting favorite bloggers, in person, for the first time?

(I already know you, Erin)

For the first time in my life, I understand the impact that an online presence can have. In the past, I attended this and other conferences on my own without knowing anyone. This led to stress and fears, but this was before I had a blog and got involved in the writing community. This year, I always talked with someone or was pulled aside by folks who read my blog and I never knew it. A good 4th of conference attendees knew who I was (the exact number is unknown - exaggeration warning).

And I was glad to meet all of you. We shared and critiqued our pitches. We laughed and shared writerly war stories. This conference produces a solid bunch. We're in this together. Stayed tuned for Part Deux!

How did your weekend go? If you were at the conference and I didn't tag you in this post, holla!

I'm David, and I sure could go for a snowcone ...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday Tropes: Kick The Dog

Actions speak louder than words. What characters do can say a lot about them, for good and ... not so good. This trope will make us dislike characters before we really have the chance to get to know them.

 Kick The Dog - used to immediately identity a character that we're not supposed to like, often through petty misdeeds or unforgivable acts. This trope has no purpose but to label a character as "bad" to the audience upon introduction.

This trope is the polar opposite of Save The Cat.

This is not limited to kicking dogs - it can be any cruel action, unkind remark, or abuse. The world is full of examples, more than we can account for. Just about every story has them and the possibilities are endless. Doing so gives the audience an emotional reaction and suspicion, a great tension building tool. Even the little balloon animal in this example happens to be a dog!

Have you ever kicked a dog? ... In your story, of course. What Kick The Dog moments have you seen?

I'm David, and don't throw off the emperor's groove ...


Monday, May 7, 2012

Post: Technically Difficulties


I don't normally start off a post with guttural growling sounds, but I just did. I'll tell you why. I spent the last few hours preparing an awesome Part One of my LDStorymarkers 2012 experience and it vanished (curse my ineptitude and this new drafting layout). I spotted the mistake this morning, but I have a full day ahead of me - there's going to be a delay. But, hey - the conference was terrific! I'll tell you about it soon.

I'm David, and this is Shakespeare's Three Little Pigs ....

Friday, May 4, 2012

When You're Here ... You're Writers!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's a 6K breakdown of our Storymakers at La Dolca Vita!

(Bonus points if you can find Erin Summerill)

Total Guest Count: 56!

Thank you for coming! We made the establishment happy (by giving them business - not by leaving). We might have to do this again next year? Me thinks so!

I'm David, and when you're here, you're writers!

(If you're in any of these pictures, holla!)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Random Sauce: Ender's Agent Panel!


Got some awesomesauce news that must be shared!

- The Ender's Game film has moved it's release date to November, 2013. Wait ... how is that awesome news? This means we have to wait longer, right?

I'm willing to wait for a great film. By theatrical dates, a mid-fall release is really good! It will give the film a better chance to catch audiences through the holidays and score some Oscar attention (if any sci-fi adaptation has a chance at the little golden man, it's this one).

- My good friend and best critique partner I've ever had the privilege to swap manuscripts with has just landed herself an agent! Congratulations, Elissa Sussman! I'm way excited for her novel and the series that I'm sure will follow. More details when the time comes for it.

- Due to a last minute cancellation, the good people at LDStorymakers has invited the inkPageant team to host a Building Your Online Presence Q&A panel! Panelists will include the awesome Elana Johnson, Jenni James, and Marion Jensen. If you're going to the conference, feel free to stop by. This will be my first panel. Ever.

Encouragement and heckling will be appreciated.

I'm David, and awesome movies just keep coming!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tuesday Tropes: Speak Of The Devil

There's an old saying: if you speak of the devil, he will appear. Such is the common phrase when someone arrives and the people there were just talking about him. But what if speaking someone's name has more draw and power, or gathers their attention from miles away? In this case, you have a trope on your hands.

Speak of the Devil - Often a villainous trope, is the act of someone saying the villain's name, resulting in that villain appearing, becoming aware, gaining power, or causing something bad to happen. Because of the danger this trope possesses, characters grant this villain a nickname.

This is usually a high fantasy trope, a ploy used to make the reader aware that this baddie is powerful and not to be messed with. That or because of fear, characters refuse to speak his name because of superstition (like having your ears burn if people speak about you).

Even if you're careful and stick to You Know Who, you may wind up getting close to them anyway - too close!

"The b-b-back of my head is s-s-so itchy!"

It might be okay to say their name once. Maybe twice. But three times? *shiver* I won't be held responsible!

"I could go for some 'Beetlejuice' about now!"

Perhaps the villain is so evil that his name should be avoided altogether, even if nothing comes of it.

Gandalf: *points to the awaiting council*
"Let's see how many nicknames they come up with."
Elrond: *snickers* "You're on!"

Other good examples of this trope can be found in The Wheel of Time, The Belgariad, Turn Coat, and The Empire of the East. While a valuable trope for striking fear in the heart of your characters (and audience), Speak of the Devil can have many variations and subtleties. A name might cause someone good to appear, too. It all depends on how you use it.

Have you used this trope before? Was it dramatic or subtle? Is there a name you avoid saying?

I'm David, and whatever you do, don't say ...