Saturday, July 22

Real Life Diagnostics: The Pitfalls of Starting with a Dream

Critique By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Real Life Diagnostics is a weekly column that studies a snippet of a work in progress for specific issues. Readers are encouraged to send in work with questions, and I diagnose it on the site. It’s part critique, part example, and designed to help the submitter as well as anyone else having a similar problem.

If you're interested in submitting to Real Life Diagnostics, please check out these guidelines.

Submissions currently in the queue: Three

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through August 12.

This week’s questions (and a little more background than usual):

The story is a fantasy follows the lives of 2 women - Alyena (the ancestor) and Dena (in the present) who discover they can control dreams. I have started with Alyena, as to bring her in after would feel disjointed (though Dena is the pre-dominant character). Alyena is vital to the story - I have tried deleting her, or starting with Dena, but it doesn't work!

Originally the story started with Alyena and her family travelling, a lot further back in the story, but I have changed it to try to start with more action. Alyena wakes from this dream to find the caravan under attack and her Uncle killed at the reins to complete a short prologue. I can't start beyond the dream, as it is integral to the story later and the fight scene feeds into the dream as she is waking. I have changed the start several times (having a brooding feeling in the woods, starting with the attacker lying in wait), but none of it was right so I have come back to starting with just the dream.

I am aware that the first few lines are the hook. Is this beginning enough of a hook, or is it too placid? How important is it to start in the action? (should I go back to the original start where there is no fighting and try to find a hook there?). Also, the book is essentially about dreaming, but I am aware that agents aren't keen on the dream sequence start. Can I get away with it in this instance (bearing in mind the theme) or is that a reason to start elsewhere? (Chapter 2 begins with Dena dreaming as well).

Market/Genre: Fantasy

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, July 21

On the Road at Quills & Coffee: Interview with Janice Hardy

I'm on the road this week over at Quills & Coffee, with an interview on publishing, pitching, and a sneak peek at the first page of my upcoming urban fantasy novel.

Come on over and say hello!

Broken, but Still Good: 3 Ways to Create Character Flaws

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Since we're on a character roll this week, today's Refresher Friday takes an updated look at creating character flaws. Enjoy!

There's an old saying: "I'm not looking for the perfect man, just one with faults I like." No clue where I heard this, but it always stuck with me.

This is even more important when it comes to characters. The flaws are what allows our characters to make the mistakes and bad choices that lead to compelling plots. But picking just any old flaw isn't going to cut it. Who cares if the protagonist can't cook if cooking never matters to the story? It's important to choose flaws that add to the overall novel.

Thursday, July 20

How An Internship Really Works for Writers

By Jana Oliver, @crazyauthorgirl

Part of the Indie Authors Series

An author's life is full of constant demands: the need to write new books, keeping current on social media, plus the behind-the-scenes business responsibilities. One way to manage some of this workload is sharing that load with an intern.

This summer I did just that, bringing on an intern, courtesy of the Marketing Department of Kennesaw State University (Georgia). At the time Bretagne and I began working together she was in the last semester of her senior year, and has now graduated. As part of her internship with MageSpell LLC (my publishing company) Bretagne’s “assignment” was to create a marketing campaign for the upcoming release of Valiant Light, the final book in my Demon Trappers series. What she came up with has pretty much blown me away, but I’ll write about that in a future post. For this post I want to discuss the finer points of hiring your own intern.

Wednesday, July 19

Three Reasons You Don't Need a Character Arc

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Character arcs are a wonderful part of many stories, but not all novels need them. That might surprise you since so much of the writing advice out there (even on this site) extols the virtues of a strong character arc. It’s good advice if your story contains and will benefit from a character arc. If not, it’s advice that won’t help you and might even hurt your story.

Not every protagonist needs to learn a lesson or grow as a person, it’s just a trend right now and very much in fashion. Let’s look at three reasons you might skip that arc in your novel:

Tuesday, July 18

On Pen Names, Cover Art & Reader Betrayal

By Gail Carriger, @gailcarriger

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: With more and more writers writing in more and more genres and markets, how to distinguish which book is which is a growing problem. Please help me welcome back Gail Carriger to the lecture hall today, to share her thoughts and reasons behind why an author might choose to use a pen name to maintain brand and book integrity.

Gail Carriger writes comedies of manners mixed with paranormal romance (and the sexy San Andreas Shifter series as G.L. Carriger). Her steampunk books include the Parasol Protectorate, Custard Protocol, Supernatural Society, and Delightfully Deadly series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. She is published in many languages and has over a dozen NYT bestsellers. She was once an archaeologist and is fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea.

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Take it away Gail...