Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How to Choose, Develop, & Research a Setting: Part 1

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Setting is far more than the backdrop of a novel. It’s the environment that breathes life into a story. It can paint hues of emotion, provide necessary backstory, enhance characterization, and serve as a tool to unfold significant plot elements.

When a writer prepares to write a book, they should spend just as much time researching and developing a setting as they do with their characters. In fact, setting should be treated with much attention as if it were a character in itself. 

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Monday's Minute Challenge: Writing Prompt Challenge For Teens & Up!

A quick writing prompt challenge (and contest) for teens to get their creative juices flowing for the new week. A new prompt is posted, and winners are announced, every other Monday.

  1. The entry must be between 150 - 300 words. (In order to see how many words your entry is, write it in Microsoft Word, or you can copy and paste it here.)
  2. The deadline for the contest will be the Thursday after next. 
  3. The winners will receive a badge for their blog.
  4. The winner will be chosen based on the judges's preferences, as well as the following questions: Does this entry capture my attention immediately? Does it make me want to continue reading? Is the writing clear? They will also take into consideration the writer's voice and style--not necessarily technical issues, such as grammar, punctuation, etc. 
  5. This is only for fun and to stretch your writing muscles--not necessarily to be taken too seriously. =)


The judge panel chooses these winners based on a point system. Keep in mind that the judges are not aware of which entry belongs to which participant until after the judging is complete.

NOTE: I was unable to read the posts submitted by Savannah and Esther due to your blog's privacy settings. If you'd like to submit your entry into this week's MMC, feel free to resubmit them in the comments. (You can still write an entry for this week's prompts as well!) =)  

As they sat there in silence, she could sense there was something he wanted to convey, but didn’t know how to begin.  There was a nervous excitement in his overall presence. Anticipation started to fill her own self as she studied him. 
“Sarah,” he finally said, turning sharply to face her full on.  He clenched and unclenched his fists. 
“Yes, Kay?”
“I think you’re ready now.”  He didn’t say anything further for a moment.  She felt an urging to know more, not just out of curiosity, but out of a feeling of longing.  This feeling nearly consumed her and it was all she could do not to shake the information out of him.
At last he took a deep breath, and brought his gaze to hers.  “Come with me.”  And just like that, he reached down and grabbed her hand. 
“Where are we going?”  She gasped, trying desperately to keep from tripping.
“For a swim!” he called over his shoulder.  At last they ceased their pace at the rocky cleft of an ocean. 
“Climb in!” Kay instructed, gesturing to a ladder leading down into the water.
“What?”  She screamed, her voice barely heard above the crashing of the waves.  “The water is dangerous, we can’t!”
“Sarah, trust me.”
She peered into his eyes.  The feeling of longing once again consumed her and she found herself grasping onto the ladder rungs.  She descended into the waves, paused for a moment, and finally submerged.  But instead of being greeted by frigid water, she was met with warm, gentle sunshine.  When she looked back up, she could see Kay appearing as if in a mirror.  “Kay,” she breathed, her feet touching the ground, “what is this place?

“Don’t you know by now?” he smiled “it’s your home.”  He jumped down and kneeled. “Welcome home…Queen Sarah.
Congratulations, Natalie! Click here for your badgeand don't forget to claim your points here. =) 

The rope. How could it have slipped? It wasn't as if she’d meant it to. And that was the pity. 

She'd been tempted to pass him by when she had seen him hanging there. And why not? They weren't friends. In fact, they'd never spoken a civil word, either one to the other, in life. She could have walked right by, let him die. Not been accused of anything. That was the pity. 

Instead, she'd tried to help. Put aside petty prejudice that had lasted a lifetime, and tried to help the man. Tried to save his life. And she was accused of murder. No one would believe her if she tried to deny it. And she could not blame them. How many times had she sworn she'd take out Jeremy Kindle, her opponent, even killing him if need be. How many times had he sworn the same of her. Their malice was not a private matter. And that was the pity. 

Their oaths had been fulfilled without either party wanting them to be. 

The mallet came down to smack the wood of the desk, sentencing her for the next 30 years. 

The rope had snapped, dooming him to give up the rest of his life forever. 

If words could be taken back, what each wouldn't give to do just that. Bucket load by bucket load. 

It was a pity to learn the truth which the old grade school rhyme tried to hide. 

Words do hurt.
Congratulations, MaddieClick here for your badge, and don't forget to claim your points here. =)

I peer up into the black canvas called the night sky dotted with my twinkling navigators. “Smith!”
An elderly, bone thin man scurries up to me, tripping on a stray bucket in his hurry. I suppress a sigh. He’s like a clumsy puppy that hasn’t quite filled out. He rights himself and snaps to attention. “Yes, Cap’n.” 
“The weather is not in our favor today. We must rouse the men and begin rowing so we can get to Dead Man’s Cove tomorrow, or else…” My words fade, leaving silence to say what will become of us if we fail to return to the cove at midnight. I shiver, despite my heavy overcoat. 
“Aye, Smith.” I straighten and rake a hand through my unruly crop of hair.
“The men are getting nervous.” I flinch at his words. Not another threat of mutiny. Have I not outlined every single detail of the deal we made? “They are beginning to wonder if you’re leading them to their deaths.”
I slam a hand into my forehead. “Curse the stubborn lot. Their best bet is to be at Dead Man’s Cove tomorrow at midnight.”
Smith fidgets. Under the starlight, I can see perspiration bead on his wrinkled brow. He fiddles with a piece of rope. “But Cap’n,  you know the legends…”
“I do, Smith, and I am no fool, but we must do this!” I pace back and forth, my boots thudding against the wood of the deck. Why have they so little faith in me? 
I whirl towards my first mate, thoroughly annoyed. “Blast it, Smith! What do you want now?”
“Behind you, Cap’n!” Smith’s eyes grow as large as saucers.
The harrowing click of a pistol sounds behind me. “Do listen to your first mate, Captain. Behind you.”  
Congratulations, Micaiah! Click here for your badge, and don't forget to claim your points here. =)


  1. Simi
  2. Allie Taylor

      Thanks so much to everyone who participated!

      • Submit your response in the comments below, or post it on your blog via InLink (below).
      • Your response should range between 150 - 300 words. 
      • The deadline for the contest will be the Thursday after next. 
      • If you'd rather not submit your post in the comments or on your blog, you may email it to me instead.

      Choose at least one:

      Note: You can always combine the prompts into one entry.

      (Optional) Write a passage continuing your entry from last week week (or whichever week you'd prefer). If you can, try to continue it using one of the following prompts.
      • Write a passage using these items: artificial tulip, wood carving, drawing (submitted by Esther)
      • Write a passage based on this picture OR this one (submitted by Kendra and Maddie)
      • Write a passage either incorporating this phrase OR based on this phrase:  

        If I had known I was being watched, I wouldn't have said a word. (submitted by Savannah)

      Post your entry on your blog!:

      If you're posting your entry on your blog, please add your link below:

      Tag your friends!

      (Optional) If you post an entry on your blog, tag at least 3 writers who have never participated in Monday's Minute Challenge. Be sure to comment on their blog to let them know they've been tagged. (Thanks to Micaiah for this suggestion!)

      Do you have an idea for MMC? I'd love to hear! 
      Send me an email at christiswrite (at) gmail (dot) com. 

      Submit your prompt idea!:

      The prompts that are used for Monday's Minute Challenge are submitted by the participants. 

      Here's how this works:
      • You will be able to submit 3 prompts each week in the same format as above: three objects, one picture, and a piece of dialogue or phrase.
      • On Mondays, I will choose 3 prompts that have been submitted by 3 different people.
      • If your prompt is selected, you will receive 2 points!
      • You may submit in the comments below.

      New updates are coming SOON! Be sure you're among the first to hear ... 

      Subscribe to Tessa's mailing list!

      * indicates required

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      Friday, June 17, 2016

      How Can an Aspiring Author Build a Platform That Impresses an Agent or Publisher?

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      TEXT VERSION ...

      It's not an easy feat for aspiring authors to sign with a literary agent these days. The competition is tough. Slush piles are high. And when a writer receives a rejection, it doesn't necessarily mean they're a bad writer. So how can you, an aspiring author, catch the attention of an agent or publisher?

      For those of you who aren't aware, I've been working with Hartline Literary Agency as an intern for the past six months. It's been enlightening to see this side of the industry, to say the least. As I've helped Cyle Young weave through his slush pile, I've discovered more and more as to why, exactly, it's difficult for aspiring authors -- even the talented and experienced writers -- to land a literary agent. 

      Agents receive floods of queries. This isn't just an excuse they give when they respond to your query six months after your submission. It's the hard truth. And unfortunately, responding to this flood of submissions is not an agent's primary job. 

      When they do snatch an opportunity to comb through their submissions, they have to be strict about who they sign with -- otherwise, they'd take on hundreds of authors who share the same publishing dream as you do.  

      So how can you, an aspiring author, separate yourself from the crowd? What are agents searching for these days?

      As much as agents love to discover new talent, they won't sign with a client unless they believe the project has potential to sell to publishers. With that in mind, let's reframe the question: What is it that publishers look for when they receive a proposal?

      Great writing + Intruiging premise + Strong platform

      Of course, publishers only take on projects that they believe will sell in today's current marketplace. So if you can send them a project that fits the above criteria, then your chances of publication will increase.

      Acquisition editors are becoming more strict about platform. In the past, only the non-fiction writers were expected to have a strong audience; now, the fiction writers are expected to have an established one as well. Yes, even before their book is published. 

      What is a platform, exactly?

      A platform is the total number of people you can reach when your book is published. It's your audience, your readership. The combined number of your followers online. Your "tribe". Potential customers of your book.  

      I've even heard that some acquisition editors will choose a big platform over good writing. Why? Because, ultimately, it’s the number that will sell the book. Publishers have to stay in business. It makes sense that they wouldn't want to take on a project unless they know the book could sell well.  

      In other words -- that book you've spent countless hours working on? If you hope it'll see the light of day, it's wise to devote just as much work into building a platform that will impress an agent or publisher.

      Here are 5 ways this can be accomplished:

      1. Blog consistently

      If you post 1 - 3 times per week, blogging can expand reach to your target audience. Your blog is your cyber home, and it can become the area in which you discuss topics related to your writing, spark conversation, and interact with followers. Think of your blog as a virtual coffee shop you can go to and interact with your readers. 

      Your blog is also an online portfolio of your writing. It can help you discover your brand -- which will, in return, expand your platform. Not only that, but if you do post consistently, you'll prove to prospective agents that you can write quality content on deadline.

      But simply creating a blog and writing an occasional post isn't going to help. You must go into blogging with the specific intention to build your readership. If you'd like more advice on how to do that, check out my series on blogging -- Part 1 and Part 2.

      2. Remain active {and interactive} on social media

      Blogging is a passion of mine. I enjoy the process of sharing information and inspiration, then receiving instant publication and conversation with readers. 

      Social media, on the other hand, took a bit longer to get accustomed to. As an introvert, I don’t have that natural tendency to spark random conversations or publicly display my life for others. However, social media is a powerful tool that allows writers to network with others in the industry and target core readership -- both of which can contribute to platform. 

      You can use social media as a way to connect with readers. Your posts can inspire, entertain, inform, reflect, and educate. No, you don't necessarily have to use it to grant strangers an "inside peek" into your personal life -- but keep in mind that readers do enjoy learning about the person behind the books. It makes authors come across as more approachable. (John Greene is an excellent example on how to build a tribe on social media by remaining your genuine, authentic self.)

      If you need more help on how to use social media to your advantage, I recommend Edie Melson's blog, The Write Conversation, as well as her book, Connections.

      3. Discover and develop your brand

      A brand is the reputation you create for yourself. It’s the image, essence, and impression that comes to your readers' minds when they hear your name. A brand combines an author's genre, personality, and unique characteristics in a way that sets them apart from other authors. 

      At the same time, your brand can offer something of value to your readership, which is why it aids in building platform and selling books. If you can communicate your brand effectively through your online presence, then your readers will know what to expect every time they purchase one of your books.  

      4. Focus on your readers

      Going back to the example of John Greene: Another reason he has such a supportive tribe is because of the relationship he's formed with his fans. He didn't become a #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author simply by posting on his social media accounts and blog, My book releases in two days! Pre-order your copy now! Instead, he first focused on building a relationship with his readers. And it's because of that relationship that readers flock to buy his books as soon as they're available for pre-order.

      We can accomplish the same through our social media accounts and blog as well. Rather than using our online presence as a means to post "commercials" of our products, we can instead use it as a way to connect with our target audience. Offer something of value to them in every post. Learn who they are. Cater to them, and make them feel special.

      Why do fans love Taylor Swift? Not just because of her music, but because she establishes friendships with her fans. And of course they'll want to buy an album from one of their best friends! Never once have I seen her begging these fans to buy her album.

      As you're discovering your brand, ask yourself: What is it that readers will get out of my products? Why will they want to return to my blog and interact with me on social media?

      5. Generate a mailing list

      Your readers might miss an occasional blog or social media post from you. But if they sign up for your mailing list, then that post can be delivered straight to their inbox.

      This can be a powerful tool, but only if it's treated with respect. If you abuse your mailing list, then the frequent email blasts you send will come across as spam, and your readers will most likely unsubscribe.

      When you set up your mailing list, use the same principles mentioned above. Ask yourself, what will my readers get in return? Why will they want to sign up? Is it because they'll receive an instant short story or coffee recipe? Is it because they're interested in hearing about the frequent YA book sales that you could include in your newsletter?

      Treat your mailing list subscribers as if they're apart of your special club. Cater your email blasts and newsletters toward them, and watch as the size of your dedicated readership increases.   


      Building a platform that impresses an agent or publisher probably won't come quick or easy. But if you keep at it, it can turn into a snowball effect: The bigger it grows, the more people you'll reach -- and the bigger it'll grow, etc.

      Eventually, you might feel as though you're taking away from your book-writing hours. But if you can balance time management well, then the hours and effort you devote into building a platform will pay off. 

      In fact, it may be the very reason why a literary agent selects your query out of their pile of submissions.


      ~ ~ ~
      Do you enjoy the challenge of building a platform? Or would you prefer to devote time into writing instead? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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