Monthly Archives: November 2017

The Best Young Adult Books of November

A lake transformed by the storms of a half-human girl, a hospital where one patient’s silence sparks an intricate mystery, and a deadly world where the last humans must unite for survival…

Welcome to the world of irresistible young adult fiction! Every month, our team takes a look at what books are being published—and how early readers are responding to them. We use this information to curate a list of soon-to-be-beloved favorites, from contemporary tales set in the suburbs to fantasy epics in realms of mystery and mischief.

For November, we’ve got three buzzy debuts as well as a highly anticipated dystopian series from bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon. Add the books that catch your eye to your Want to Read shelf and let us know what you’re reading and recommending in the comments.

 

Kat hates talking to people, and Meg hates being alone. When a year-long science project throws them together, they bond over their mutual love of online gaming.


After a horrific virus nearly wipes out the human race, a small band of teens with unusual abilities takes the planet back from a heartless alien race.


The daughter of the lake, Anda is only half human. She lurks in storms, terrifying sailors and sinking ships, until a haunted young man comes to her for help.


In the wake of her ex-boyfriend’s tragic death, Jessa packs up his things…and begins to question both the relationship and the boy she thought she knew.


The fashion trend of the future: recoding your DNA. Gene-hacking prodigy Cat dives into a world of killer technology to prevent a global catastrophe.


Alternating between “then” and “now” chapters, Hadley’s heartbreaking story of a forbidden love, a fragile family, and a dark, terrible secret slowly unfolds.
By Hayley
Source: goodreads

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Single Quotations – American English Literary style

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When do writers use single quotation marks?

  • In NON-Fiction AP style – that is, if you’re writing a newspaper article and the editor puts a title of a book or other such piece of work in the headline
  • In languages other than AMERICAN English – like, Queen’s or British-style
  • In quotes within quotes

 

Pay Attention, Authors!

If you’re writing an American English piece of literature no matter the style or genre or length, you only use a single quote mark when one of your characters is quoting something while speaking. Seriously. That’s it.

Please, I beg you, Horatio—nevermore use a single quotation mark by its little itty bitty self. There may be an exception, but just…really, don’t do it. Okay?

If you’re using “air” quotes – double; if you’re using internal and feel like you have to use a mark – double; if you’re going for emphasis, gently, once in a very great while – italics.

Example:

Maude uncurled her long legs from the chair and pushed upward. “Honestly, Rupert, if I’d wanted to hear another method of movement, I would have called Helen. She’s always telling us to ‘get a wiggle on,’ or some such nonsense.”

Rupert guffawed. “Ha! Just the other day she told me to move my ‘blooming arse.’ Said she’d heard it in a movie.”

 

“Ye-es,” Maude drawled. “My Fair Lady. Elisa tries to show how refined she’s become until she attends a race and is about to lose a bet. She ‘shocks’ some of the ladies with her course language, though the ‘gentlemen’ get quite a kick.”

By Lisa Lickel
Source: authorculture.blogspot

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Does Anybody Know What a Bestseller Is?

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Bestseller lists have long been powerful marketing tools for the industry. In short, they sell books. But they have proliferated, with more lists that group books according to different metrics, and industry insiders are wondering whether they wield as much power as they used to. When nearly any title can be called a bestseller, does becoming a bestseller still matter?

. . . .

Historically, bestseller lists were broken down along two major lines: format and category. The largest groupings were nonfiction and fiction. Those groups were then broken down by the three major print formats: hardcover, trade paperback, and mass market paperback. The introduction of the fourth format—e-books—disrupted the way bestseller lists are compiled, as it did many other parts of the industry. Because e-books are predominantly sold online and not in stores, their sales can’t be tracked in the same way that print sales are: by collecting data from physical retailers.

Further complicating the bestseller list landscape was Amazon’s introduction of multiple bestseller lists. The e-tailer, which tracks sales of its titles in real time, publishes a wealth of lists, broken down by format and also by multiple subcategories. There are “overall” print and Kindle bestsellers on the site, but also numerous subcategories like “Crafts, Hobbies & Home,” “Humor & Entertainment,” and “Law.”

. . . .

The New York Times famously pulls data for its lists from a select and secret sample of retailers, and Amazon, while reporting its print sales, does not, for the most part, disclose sales of e-books. The lists that are arguably the most transparent, like PW’s, rely on NPD BookScan’s point-of-sale data, which tracks 80%–85% of print sales in the country but doesn’t include data on e-book sales. Other news outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, run their own lists, and organizations like the American Booksellers Association produces multiple lists, including an overall list of bestsellers in ABA bookstores and regional lists.

The sheer number of lists and Amazon’s decision not to widely share its e-book sales figures (despite the fact that BookScan has for years asked the company to take part in its sales aggregation program) means that there is not a true national bestseller list that can definitively identify what the top-selling books are across all formats in a particular week.

. . . .

Ironically for booksellers, titles dubbed bestsellers aren’t necessarily popular with customers.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

First and foremost, as the OP indicates, bestseller lists are marketing tools, particularly for traditional publishers and meatspace bookstores.

But what good is a marketing tool if you can’t control it?

It’s an open secret that traditional bestseller lists like the Times and WSJ lists can be and are gamed to create artificial bestsellers.

Is there a downside for engaging in such gaming? Who is going to punish fakers and how is a respected independent authority going to know for certain that a book that made a bestseller list was not, in fact, a bestseller?

In this respect, the NYT’s well-known secrecy about how its bestseller lists are created is, for PG, an indication that the lists aren’t to be trusted. Transparency would permit an interested observer to examine the NYT methods for errors and biases. If we’re to trust the NYT lists, how about an audit by an independent outside accounting firm?

An independent audit will never happen because the NYT likes its black box. Numbers of unknown quantity and quality go in one end of the box and ratings come out the other. It’s the definition of obscurantism.

Why is a newspaper even in the business of compiling a bestseller list? Why does the NYT exclude some of the biggest-selling books because they’re “perennial sellers”? (see the NYT methodology below) Does that mean a book can be on the NYT bestseller list for three months, then drop off the list because it’s become “perennial” even though its sales have continued at the same or higher levels?

Further, PG isn’t certain what a bestseller is. Is it #1 in a category? #1 overall? Is it a book that makes it into the top 25 bestsellers on somebody’s list?

If a book is #1 for a day or an hour, is it a bestseller?

While this is not legal advice, PG suggests it would be difficult to charge and convict a publisher or an author for false advertising for using the terms, “bestseller” or “bestselling novel” or something similar.

Here’s the NYT’s current disclosure of its methodology for compiling its lists. PG found lots of wiggle room and many gray areas, but perhaps he’s overly suspicious.

A version of this Best Sellers report appears in the November 12, 2017 issue of The New York Times Book Review. Rankings on weekly lists reflect sales for the week ending October 28, 2017.

Rankings reflect unit sales reported on a confidential basis by vendors offering a wide range of general interest titles. Every week, thousands of diverse selling locations report their actual sales on hundreds of thousands of individual titles. The panel of reporting retailers is comprehensive and reflects sales in stores of all sizes and demographics across the United States.

The book selling universe is comprised of well-established vendors as well as emerging ones. The sales venues for print books include many hundreds of independent book retailers; national, regional and local chains; scores of online and multimedia entertainment retailers; supermarkets, university, gift and big-box department stores; and newsstands.

E-book rankings reflect sales from leading online vendors of e-books in a variety of popular e-reader formats and are included in our combined fiction, combined nonfiction, advice, children’s series and monthly lists. Titles are included regardless of whether they are published in both print and electronic formats or just one format. In general, publisher credits for e-books are listed under the corporate publishing name instead of by publisher’s division or imprint, unless by special request.

The appearance of a ranked title reflects the fact that sales data from reporting vendors has been provided to The Times and has satisfied commonly accepted industry standards of universal identification (such as ISBN13 and EISBN13 codes). All identities, anecdotal, contextual, and other information about the retail sales of any title, as well as overall sales data, are provided with the expectation and assurance of confidentiality by every vendor and are protected by Non-Disclosure Agreements.

Sales are defined as completed transactions by individuals during the period on or after the official publication date of a title. Institutional, special interest, group or bulk purchases, if and when they are included, are at the discretion of The New York Times Best-Seller List Desk editors based on standards for inclusion that encompass proprietary vetting and audit protocols, corroborative reporting and other statistical determinations. When included, such bulk purchases appear with a dagger (†).

Publishers and vendors of all ranked titles must conform in a timely fashion to The New York Times Best-Seller Lists requirement to allow for examination and independent corroboration of their reported sales for that week. Sales are statistically weighted to represent and accurately reflect all outlets proportionally nationwide. An asterisk (*) indicates that a book’s sales are barely distinguishable from those of the book above.

Among the categories not actively tracked at this time are: perennial sellers, required classroom reading, textbooks, reference and test preparation guides, e-books available exclusively from a single vendor, journals, workbooks, calorie counters, shopping guides, periodicals and crossword puzzles.

The New York Times Best Sellers are compiled and archived by The Best-Seller Lists Desk of The New York Times News Department, and are separate from the Culture, Advertising and Business sides of The New York Times Company.

Source: thepassivevoice

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3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Quit NaNoWriMo

You’ve probably been told: It’s National Novel Writing Month, or “NaNoWriMo!”

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Whether you’re already participating, or watching on the sidelines, you probably know that the goal of this movement is to get writers to draft a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days. In case you hate math, that’s a devilish 1,666 words per day.

3 Reasons Why You Shoudn’t Quit NaNoWriMo

Writing a novel in a month is a wonderful idea.

But it’s hard for a multitude of reasons, and the temptation to give up and just “do it over time” can be really appealing, especially as we approach Day 8 of the journey.

I know it’s hard.

But quitting, or choosing to simply abstain, is the worst thing you can do right now if you have a passion for writing.

Here are three reasons why.

1. Quitting Builds Muscle Memory

Quitting provides a shot of instant gratification. It eases the burden and seems to be the solution to a long-term problem.

But giving up builds muscle memory. It is an active decision requiring only passive action. These passive choices get very comfortable over time, and our muscles—both physical and mental—get very used to it!

Think about quitting a diet or an exercise regimen. Both choices require the lack of an action.

Yet continuing the diet (choosing to shop for, cook, and consume healthier meals) requires conscious choices, rebuilding the muscles in your mind, stomach, and body.

The same is true of exercising. Muscles are broken down and rebuilt over a long period of time, due to conscious choices. But if you choose not to exercise, the muscles still learn, and getting back to the gym only gets harder over time.

Whether you quit NaNoWriMo or not, you are teaching your muscles. Make sure you’re building muscles you want to live with!

Don’t quit. Because the “I’ll-Do-It-Later” muscle will never write a novel, never build an email list, never pursue guest posts and podcast interviews, never do readings or appearances, and never go all-in on the dream of writing and sharing that gift with the world.

2. Abstaining Feeds the Critic, Not the Artist

Have you ever read someone’s story and thought, I could do better?

But then we sit down and try, and realize that it’s not as easy as we thought.

This is the duality of Critic vs. Artist. When we sit by and observe, we are not investing in our Artistic selves. Rather, we are giving the Critic his day, allow him to safely watch and judge others, over and over.

Here’s a great diagnostic for whether or not you are giving in to the Critic: Do you frequently say cynical or pessimistic things about other people’s work? Do you see the negative in everything?

If the answer to either of those is “Yes,” then you’re probably spending too much time on the sidelines.

So stay in the game, or get in while the month is young. Jump into NaNoWriMo today if you’re not already. Recommit if you’ve started to falter.

And don’t worry about reaching the 50,000-word goal! What is your goal? What is your dream? Don’t care about what everyone else will think of you—they aren’t living your dream.

Besides: Critics worry what everyone else thinks. Artists focus on telling a great story.

3. Your Choices Reveal Your Character

Many will quit or abstain from NaNoWriMo because “I can’t get to 50,000 words,” or “Novels aren’t my thing.”

This reveals a great deal about one’s character, because excuses are an easy escape route.

When people let arbitrary rules dominate their artistic lives, they doom themselves to wishing and chasing rather than sharing and community-building.

Perhaps your art is poetry. Why not commit to writing thirty poems, one a day?

What if your medium is flash fiction? How about three pieces per day, totaling ninety in just one month? You could publish that, no problem.

Or perhaps you’re the nonfiction coach, eager to launch a blog about something that fascinates you. Write and publish a post a day. Gather momentum. Share it everywhere. See what happens.

We can’t let the “rules” of NaNoWriMo become excuses to quit or disinvite ourselves from risky, rewarding opportunity.

Real artists, those who are wild about telling stories and sharing them with people, don’t let excuses hold them back. They bend excuses to their will and transform them into challenges. And challenges are thrilling because they always make us better.

Don’t let excuses be your escape ramp. Don’t flee from the truth that your artistic future is truly in your hands, and your hands alone.

Don’t worry about NaNoWriMo’s 50,000 words. Find your 50,000 words, whatever they may be.

Remember the Point of NaNoWriMo

According to NaNoWriMo’s Mission Statement, the goal of the event is to “provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.”

It’s not about publishing a bestselling masterpiece.

It’s not about taking advantage of your “one shot” at greatness.

It’s not about impressing your friends or writing community.

It’s about creating. It’s about community, encouragement, building, and finding our voices, within a word-requirement that will test our resolve to fulfill our calling.

NaNoWriMo even acknowledges that this isn’t just about writing—it’s about YOU, and who you are “off the page.”

Something magical happens when we commit to our passion, hustle, and sacrifice for the goal of telling powerful stories that transform us into better people.

It’s something life-changing, too: We mature, and transform into the men and women we long to become.

Remember: NaNoWriMo isn’t about the word count, or the final product.

It’s about your soul.

By David Safford

Source: thewritepractice

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Creativity grows by blending, breaking, bending

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Neuroscientist by day, David Eagleman’s work of fiction, Sum, was an international bestseller.

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Anthony Brandt, Professor of Composition and Theory and Chair of Composition and Theory at the Rice University Shepherd School of Music.

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“Runaway Species” by Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and an adjunct professor at Stanford University, best known for his work on brain plasticity, which has led to television appearances and programs, and, of course, best-selling books. He’s also a Rice University alum and former neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine.

Anthony Brandt is a composer and music professor at Rice University, the recipient of a Koussevitzky Commission from the Library of Congress and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He’s also the founder of Musiqa, Houston’s contemporary music ensemble.

They combine their interests and talents in the book “The Runaway Species,” a fascinating look at creativity across diverse disciplines. The pair will discuss the book at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Christ Church Cathedral, but in advance of that appearance they took some time to talk about how they connected, the future of creativity and a dog that glows red under ultraviolet light.

Q: How did a music professor and neuroscientist come to collaborate?

David Eagleman: Anthony and I have known each other for a while. He’s a music professor, but he’s been interested in how music interacts with the brain, and we met at a conference. We had coffee one day, began discussing creativity, and we decided to write a book on this topic. Three and a half years later, this is the result.

 

Q: You use a framework for creativity in your book, and you discuss the concepts of “bending,” “breaking” and “blending.” Can you discuss these?

Anthony Brandt: “Bending” is taking a source and messing with it in some way, as when a jazz band plays the same song they played every other night, but they do it in some other way. It’s a variation on a theme. “Breaking” is when you take a whole, break it apart and assemble something new out of the fragments. In the book, we use the example of Picasso’s “Guernica,” in which the artist used bits and pieces of animals, soldiers and civilians to illustrate the brutality of war. And “blending” is any time you are marrying two or more ideas. In the book, we have an example of “Ruppy the Puppy,” the world’s first transgenic dog. He has a gene from a sea anemone, and he turns a fluorescent red under ultraviolet light.

 

Q: Writing can be hard work, but it seemed as if you had fun researching examples from all disciplines – art, music, science, marketing – to illustrate this three-part framework.

Eagleman: Yes, that was one of the great things about the book. We make the argument that in the arts, there is overt creativity, the bending, breaking and blending is right there for you to see. We think the same cognitive operations occur in science, but it occurs under the hood. When you hold your cellphone, it’s just a rectangle, and there’s no way to see all of the creativity that went into making it. What we do in the book is surf between the sciences and the arts and illustrate how the same processes are at work.

Q: Speaking of cellphones, you point out in the book that it’s a product of “blending” creativity.

Brandt: Phones used to be for making phone calls, but the smartphone now blends many functions. Now you have a device on which you can watch movies, surf the web, use GPS, listen to music and check your emails. All of these functions are married together in one instrument.

 

Q: The book also describes tension in the human brain between being drawn to the familiar and the lure of exploration. Can you elaborate on that?

Brandt: People aren’t the same in the way they balance novelty and familiarity, but everybody has creative software running in their brain, and they are all capable of aligning themselves on that creative spectrum and being participants in it. But the diversity in this tension, between exploration and familiarity, is healthy. We want a range of people, some of whom are pushing the envelopes, others who are holding back. We don’t want to rush headlong into every wild idea, but we also don’t want to stay rooted in one spot, never improving our lot.

Q: One animal highlighted in the book is the seasquirt, which embodies both of those tendencies over the course of its lifetime. Early in its life, it commits to exploration, but later in life, it adopts familiarity.

Eagleman: (laughs) The seasquirt, early on, uses its brain to explore and to find a suitable habitat. But when it finds that habitat, it eats its own brain for nutritional value.

 

Q: That’s an extreme case.

Eagleman: Yes. The lesson is not to eat your own brain. It doesn’t promote creativity.

Brandt: But it’s also a good distinction between lower-order animals and humans. Humans have a special neural architecture, one that seeks exploration, and creativity is a way to make that manifest – to take what’s going on in our minds and bring it out to the world. Creativity is the exploration of unknown territory. And whether it’s creating a recipe, a musical rift or a patent, humans are exploring all the time.

 

Q: This tension is also captured by a “skeuomorph,” which you discuss in the book.

Eagleman: It’s a graphical object that represents a real-world object. They keep a hand on the past, while introducing something new. One of the examples we use in the book is that computers still use an icon of a floppy disk to save documents, even though floppy disks haven’t been used for 20 years. The skeuomorph illustrates this tension between the novel and the familiar. We want to see something familiar, but we also want computers to lead us into the next century.

 

Q: Can we create computers that are creative?

Eagleman: I think it will be possible. The human brain is a machine, it’s a vast and complex machine, so there’s no reason, in theory, why we couldn’t make creative computers. What humans do is to try to surprise and impress others. If you want to build good artificial intelligence, build a society of AI agents that are all trying to surprise and impress one another.

 

Q: Will we become redundant?

Brandt: I think the good news on that front is that most of the AI right now is gobbling up repetitive tasks. The things that computers love to do are things where the same input leads to the same output. The jobs that are most at risk right now, are the jobs that involve repetitive tasks. Creativity is a social enterprise, and humans are social, and it is this quality that has fueled our creativity over the ages. It will be interesting to see what happens when you bring a machine into that social sphere and whether we even accept the computers’ incursion in that way. It’s an open question.

By Mike Yawn
Source: houstonchronicle

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5 Gripping Ways to Revive the Messy Middle of Your Story

I’m not gonna lie: I hate writing the Middle.

For many writers, there is nothing worse than coming up with the Middle of the story.

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If you’re anything like me, the Beginning is easy. It’s fun to come up with a cool premise for a story. The conflict is there. The goals are plain as day. And getting your protagonist into trouble shouldn’t be too difficult.

The End can seem easy, too. The End of a story is like the candy center of the lollipop — you can’t wait to get to it! Of course you can’t write it yet because you haven’t gotten there, but with each moment of drafting, your heart is dead-set on reaching the end so you can reveal a great twist, kill off a beloved character, or teach a remarkable life lesson.

But for some reason, there’s something about a story’s Middle that’s a pain in the neck.

And like many of you, I’m dealing with it right now.

Stuck in the Middle of the Story

If you haven’t heard, the Winter Writing Contest is happening right now.

Like many of you, I’m hard at work on my story’s first draft. I’m having a blast planning it and sketching out the characters and scenes. I absolutely love this part of the journey.

But that love withers to a weed when I get to that point, about 900 words in, when I realize I’m over-budget on word count and nowhere near the dramatic End I have planned.

I’m stuck in the Middle of the story.

I’m not kidding. As I write this, I’ve decided to put down the draft for a day or two, let it marinate, and write this post instead. I’ve got to write something — so I might as well try and help us all with a problem that can’t be afflicting me alone!

My biggest fear is creating a Mediocre Middle — a trough in the story that merely fills the gap between the Beginning and End that I’ve cooked up. And believe me: As a former writing contest judge, I can testify that stories with Mediocre Middles rarely make it to the winner’s circle. They simply don’t deliver.

So how can we craft something better, something that drives the story forward and propels us to storytelling greatness?

The answer is in creating a Middle That Moves.

5 Strategies to Craft a Middle That Moves

A year back, I wrote a post arguing that Writer’s Block is just a myth, and that what really afflicts us is bad planning.

In hindsight, I wish I had done more then to provide practical tools. The ideas behind it were solid, but we need tangible actions to take when we get hung up in the Middle of our stories, unsure how to bridge the Beginning and the End.

So after a year of growth, I’ve come up with five things you can try today that will breathe life into your story’s Middle. I recommend using just one or two to get the Middle of the story going, so don’t feel any pressure to try them all.

But before we get to those, one rule:

Your End is not sacred.

If you write your story with a sacred, unchangeable End in mind, you will be paralyzed. Your creative freedom and gleeful risk-taking will vanish, all because you’re too afraid to alter the precious End you’ve dreamed up.

Trust me. It’s worth the risk. Let that End go away for a while, and just create.

Let’s look at five ways you can draft an awesome Middle That Moves.

1. Introduce a new character

This is a risky move. And it’s essential that the character be relevant to the protagonist’s goals.

This is a trick I used to elevate the Middle of my entry to the Summer Contest back in June. By adding a new character, preferably one who will resist the protagonist’s goal, you will add tension and stakes to the story in numerous ways.

Just make sure that character is highly relevant to the protagonist’s pursuit, and will either help or hurt that pursuit. Especially in a short story, you don’t have room for any extra personas.

2. Reveal a hidden piece of information

Key Point: It MUST be information that conflicts with the protagonist’s motivation and goals. Otherwise it’s just fluff.

Make sure it’s a brief, easily consumed piece of information. Don’t dump a massive life story on the reader. Just the essentials.

And make sure it’s something that is revealed for a very good reason, and deeply changes how the characters and the reader will view the protagonist’s goal. Preferably, it alters the motivation and increases the conflict, making the protagonist (and therefore the reader) question him or herself.

3. Let the protagonist fail

Nothing keeps a story going like failure.

This may sound like backward logic, but readers secretly LOVE when protagonist crash and burn. It raises the stakes. It builds suspense.

So let the protagonist fail, and then have to recover in time for a second or third try. Just make sure you don’t write yourself into such an impossible corner that you have to cheat (deus ex machina) to get out of it.

4. Let a side character make a choice that hurts the protagonist

In essence, introduce betrayal.

Two of the most poignant moments in the story of Christ’s passion are the betrayals of Judas and Peter. When a close friend or a treasured ally chooses the wrong side, it adds conflict. The protagonist may be abandoned or further blocked from his/her goal, making the quest for success even more difficult.

Make sure there is a good reason for the character’s choice — you may have to go back to the Beginning and add a line or two that establishes the basis for this motivation.

5. (“Countdown” Contest Special!) Decrease the amount of time left

The Winter Contest’s theme is “Countdown,” and a great way to add conflict and tension is to have the clock suddenly start counting down at double-speed!

This is a common trick in action movies. Depending on the countdown you’ve chosen, it can take many forms: an antagonist changes his plans and arrives earlier; a deadline is pushed up; a major character suddenly has to depart, forcing an early decision.

When time is short, stakes are high. And since you always want to raise the stakes, the Middle is a great place to do it.

Why the Ending Can’t Be Sacred

It’s easy to see how any of these choices can, and will, permanently change the End you have planned.

But it’s important to realize that the End you had in mind never really existed, except as an idea. Any experienced writer will tell you that translating ideas into the written word never works according to plan. Besides, you’ll often find that the original End you had in mind wasn’t so great after all, and that the new one is better!

Writing a story with a riveting Middle is the only way to produce an authentic Ending. I think you’ll be surprised by the End that comes when you bravely write a Middle That Moves. It will be an End that is true to the conflict and believable to the reader.

And heck, you might even find a way to reconcile your plan with reality if you’re willing to think outside the box.

Writing is never easy, and the Middle is where the challenges are often hardest.

But if you create a Middle That Moves, you’ll find those challenges melting away and yielding a story that reaches your audience in powerful, authentic ways.

Do you have any other strategies to add drama and movement to the middle of the story? Let us know in the comments.

By David Safford

Source: thewritepractice

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Character Voice: 5 Insightful Questions to Discover Your Character’s Unique Voice

One of the key signs of a well-written character is when the reader is able to identify them with a single line of dialogue. It’s that feeling of I’d know that character anywhere. How are authors able to perfect this art? By finding their character voice.

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5 Ways to Discover Your Character’s Voice

“Voice” is a relatively broad term, so let’s break it down a little. By finding your character’s voice, you’re finding that spark that makes them unique. Specifically, you’re able to figure out in what unique ways they speak, think, and write. If you pay attention to the way your friends and family communicate, they all have different voices.

This should be the same for your characters, and there are five questions you can ask to discover their voices.

1. What level of education do they have?

Generally speaking, a recent high school graduate shouldn’t be tossing around the words “acumen” or “parsimonious” in everyday conversation. Similarly, a woman with a PhD probably isn’t going to use text speak.

This doesn’t mean high schoolers can’t use big words or somebody with a doctorate won’t ever change “you” to “u” in a text, but it’s something to keep in mind when figuring out who your characters are and what they sound like.

2. Where did they grow up?

Not only will accents change depending on where they grew up, but certain words altogether will, too. If they’re from a northern state, they’ll push a “shopping cart” when getting their groceries. But if they’re from the south, they’ll push a “buggy.” “Water fountains” could also turn into “drinking fountains” or “bubblers.”

Do a little research about local lingo. Not only is it interesting, but it adds a whole new layer of authenticity to your character.

3. When did they grow up?

The early 1800s? The ‘80s? ‘90s? The future? What sort of slang would they have used when they were young? How do they address adults?

If your character grew up in a decade you’re unfamiliar with, you might want to talk to people you know who are the same age. Pay attention to what words they use and what their speaking pattern is like.

4. Who influenced them?

People have a tendency to start to sound like those they’re around often. Who does your character spend time with? Their teachers? Their mom? Teammates from football? Their elderly neighbor? Whoever they talk to most, that person should influence the way your character speaks.

Maybe their best friend has a sort of catchphrase. Your character could say it once or twice, out of habit. Most people are a blend of their closest friends.

5. What languages do they speak?

If your character is bilingual, that will change the way they speak in both languages. Idioms hardly ever translate well into another language. They might forget a word for something in English, but remember it in Spanish. When they’re mad, they’re likely to revert to their native language to rant and curse. If they’re talking to someone who knows both languages, they might switch back and forth without even realizing it.

Make sure you know which characters speak what so everyone communicates in a language they have in common!

Find Their Voice by Writing It

In the end, the best way to find your character’s voice is . . . to write. Try writing in your character’s voice and see where it takes you. What words do you find them using? What unique patterns of speech develop?

This process of discovery will lead to a character voice we’d recognize anywhere.

How do you find your character’s voice? Let us know in the comments!

By The Magic Violinist

Source: thewritepractice

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Why You Need to Write a Book Review Today (and How to Do It)

You finally reach the last page of a book that kept you up all night and close it with the afterglow of satisfaction and a tinge of regret that it’s over. If you enjoyed the book enough to stay up reading it way past your bedtime, consider writing a review. It is one of the best gifts you can give an author. Regardless of how much you know about how to write a book review, the author will appreciate hearing how their words touched you.

book review

But as you face the five shaded stars and empty box, a blank mind strikes. What do I say? I mean, is this a book really deserving of five stars? How did it compare to Dostoevsky or Dickens?

Maybe there’s an easier way to write a book review.

The Fallacy of Book Reviews

Once you’ve decided to give a review, you are faced with the task of deciding how many stars to give a book.

When I first started giving reviews, I made the mistake of trying to compare a book to ALL BOOKS OF ALL TIME. (Sorry for the all caps, but that’s how it felt, like a James Earl Jones voice was asking me where to put this book in the queue of all books.)

This is honestly why I didn’t give reviews of books for a long time. How can I compare a sweet romance with Dostoevsky? I can’t, and I shouldn’t.

I realized my mistake one day as I was watching (of all things) a dog show. In the final round, they trotted out dogs of all shapes, colors, and sizes. I thought, “How can a Yorkshire Terrier compete with a Basset Hound?” The announcer explained that each is judged by the standards for its breed.

This was my “Aha!” moment. I have to take a book on its own terms. The question is not, “How does this book compare to all books I’ve read?” but “How well did this book deliver what it promised?”

How to Write a Book Review: Consider a Book’s Promise

A book makes a promise with its cover, blurb, and first pages. It begins to set expectations the minute a reader views the thumbnail or cover.

If a book cover has a picture of a lip-locked beautiful couple in flowing linen on a beach, and I open to the first page to read about a pimpled vampire in a trench coat speaking like Mr. Knightly about his plan for revenge on the entire human race, there’s been a breach of contract before I even get to page two. These are the books we put down immediately (unless a mixed-message beachy cover combined with an Austen vampire story is your thing).

But what if the cover, blurb, and first pages are cohesive and perk our interest enough to keep reading? Then we have to think about what the book has promised us, which revolves around one key idea: What is the core story question and how well is it resolved?

Sometimes genre expectations help us answer this question: a romance will end with a couple who finds their way, a murder mystery ends with a solved case, a thriller’s protagonist beats the clock and saves the country or planet.

The stories we love most do those expected things in a fresh or surprising way with characters we root for from the first page. Even (and especially!) when a book doesn’t fit neatly in a genre category, we need to consider what the book promises on those first pages and decide how well it succeeds on the terms it sets for itself.

When I Don’t Know What to Write

About a month ago, I realized I was overthinking how to write a book review. Here at the Write Practice we have a longstanding tradition of giving critiques using the Oreo method: point out something that was a strength, then something we wondered about or that confused us, followed by another positive.

We can use this same structure to write a simple review when we finish books.

[Book Title] by [book author] is about ___[plot in a sentence—no spoilers!]___.

I chose this book based on ________.

I really enjoyed ________.

I wondered how ___________.

Anyone who likes ____ will love this book.

Following this basic template can help you write an honest review about most any book, and it will give the author or publisher good information about what worked (and possibly what didn’t). You might write about the characters, the conflict, the setting, or anything else that captured you and kept you reading.

As an added bonus, you will be a stronger reader when you are able to express why you enjoyed parts of a book (just like when you critique!). After you complete a few, you’ll find it gets easier, and you won’t need the template anymore.

What if I Didn’t Like It?

You will have to make the call about when to leave a low review. If I can’t give a book at least three stars, I don’t review it. Why? If I don’t like a book after a couple chapters, I put it down. I don’t review anything that I haven’t read all the way through.

Also, it may be that I’m not the intended market. The book might be well-written and well-reviewed with a great cover, and it just doesn’t capture me. Every book is not meant for every reader.

If a book kept me reading all the way to the end and I didn’t like the ending? I would probably still review it, since there had to be enough good things going on to keep me reading to the end. I might mention in my review that the ending was less satisfying than I hoped, but I would still end with a positive.

As writers, we know how difficult it is to put down the words day after day. We are typically voracious readers. Let’s send some love back out to our fellow writers this week and review the most recent title we enjoyed.

What was the last book you read or reviewed? Do you ever find it hard to review a book? Share in the comments.

By Sue Weems
Source: thewritepractice

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Amazon Now Teasing Audible Audiobook Support on $79 Kindle

amazon

When the original Kindle launched in 2007, it could play audiobooks sold by Amazon’s (then) recently-acquired  Audible. This feature was dropped from later models as they lost support for audio, but now Amazon is bringing it back.

The new Kindle Oasis will play Audible audiobooks (the feature is coming in an update after it ships) and now Amazon is teasing that support will be coming to the $79 Kindle.

Amazon has updated the listing for the basic Kindle with this nugget of detail:

  • With built-in Audible, access the world’s largest library of audiobooks. Easily switch between reading and listening on Bluetooth-enabled speakers or headphones. Available in the coming months.

Amazon hasn’t mentioned Audible support on the listings for the Voyage or Paperwhite, and there’s no specific date on when the basic Kindle will get the feature, so it might not arrive until next year.

But the feature will arrive eventually, at which time you are better off not using it.

The thing about the Kindle is that it has a small battery. When used as an ereader, the Kindle will last for weeks, but streaming audio over Bluetooth will drain the battery quickly. Said Kindle also has limited storage – 4GB (3GB is user accessible). So even if you didn’t run out of battery life, you’re still run out of storage after a handful of audiobooks.

So while the basic Kindle could certainly function as an audiobook player, you would be better off using some other device.

By Nate Hoffelder

Source: the-digital-reader

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Borrowing, Stealing, and Building Upon Other People’s Writing Ideas

borrowing

From epic romances to fantastical adventures, stories have been captivating audiences for centuries, and they have been inspiring writers (and other artists) for just as long.

There is a longstanding tradition among storytellers of re-imagining or expanding the greatest legends, myths, and fairy tales ever told, from the Greek classics to last summer’s blockbuster films.

Certainly, many derivative works are frowned upon. You can find lists of authors who do not allow (and pursue legal action against) stories written in their worlds. You can find reviews that call such stories rip-offs or refer to authors as hacks who have done nothing more than steal someone else’s writing ideas.

But you can also find some impressive and respectable derivative works in films, novels, and television. In fact, many derivative works are embraced, beloved, and achieve critical and commercial success, plus massive fan followings.

So, when is it acceptable to use other people’s writing ideas? Why do some of these stories get heavily criticized while others are widely celebrated?

Once Upon a Story…

There are many sources of inspiration for storytellers. Some writers rely on their own life experiences while others rip stories from the headlines. Existing stories, both true and fictional, have always had a heavy influence on the tales we tell and retell. How many variations of Little Red Riding Hood have been written? How many fictional movies have been set during World War II? Let’s take a look at the different techniques writers use to tell stories that are built on other stories.

Formulas

Plenty of writing ideas are culled from great tales that have been told throughout history. Some of these have been converted into formulas that writers can use as storytelling guidelines.

In 1929, Joseph Campbell told the world about the monomyth (or hero’s journey), a universal pattern in storytelling that he found across cultures and throughout history. Writers turned the pattern into a formula, but perhaps nobody did so as effectively or famously as George Lucas, who used it to write Star Wars.

From the three-act structure to the hero’s journey, formulas have been criticized as making stories dull and predictable, yet they have also been credited with providing writers with a framework in which to create.

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction takes factual events from true stories of the past and overlays them with made-up characters or plots.

In James Cameron’s film, Titanic, two fictional characters fall in love on the historic ship that sank into the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean back in 1912. Countless novels, short stories, poems, movies, television shows, and video games have taken a bite out of history and used it as the setting for their stories.

While this practice is widely accepted as legitimate, it’s worth noting that in 2011 China banned time travel stories because they retell history untruthfully (for the record, I think this is a violation of free speech, which is a basic human right). There is an argument to be made about the dangers of retelling history incorrectly (take the holocaust deniers, for example) and a much stronger argument to made about making art that examines history. Often, the truth is not found in the accuracy of a story’s plot but in the emotional reality that a story conveys.

Fan Fiction

Fan fiction is a favorite pastime for hobby writers who are loyal fans to their favorite franchises. Google “fan fiction” and you’ll find loads of stories set in the worlds of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and Twilight — all critically and commercially successful science fiction and fantasy franchises. But that’s not all. Fans are also writing fiction from TV shows like Bones, Glee, and 80s nighttime soap Dynasty (yes, Dynasty! I couldn’t believe it either).

Some authors strictly prohibit writers from publishing material set in the worlds they’ve created (although they certainly can’t stop you from writing stories in your notebook). They feel these works will negatively impact the integrity of their stories or compromise them in some way. Other creators either look the other way or encourage fans to play in their worlds. The television show Lost spewed a veritable onslaught of fan fiction and artwork, and the showrunners enjoyed the homages all the way to the bank. This relationship between creators and fans proved to be mutually beneficial. Lost became a worldwide phenomenon and one of the most-talked-about shows in history.

Generally speaking, writing fan fiction is not the best path to becoming a respectable or published author. The work is copyrighted by someone else, so you can’t publish a book or short story and get paid for it (there may be some exceptions, as with contests or other programs by the few authors who are extremely supportive of fan fiction). I think fan fiction is actually a good training ground for young or new writers. It’s an ideal place to practice storytelling; all the elements are provided, so amateur writers can focus on specific aspects of their work, such as characters or plot. And who knows? Maybe someday you’ll be hired as an official writer for your favorite franchise (it happened to J.J. Abrams, who got to write and direct Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

Public Domain

In 2010, Tim Burton brought us Alice in Wonderland (3-D). This film told the story of a 20-something Alice revisiting Wonderland, so it’s essentially a sequel to Lewis Carroll’s original Alice stories. In their 1951 animated film, Disney took Carroll’s work to the screen, combining elements from various stories and poems that Carroll had written to create a timeless classic that secured Carroll’s heroine a permanent place in our collective, cultural mythology.

This is basically fan fiction breeding fan fiction, but we categorize it differently because Lewis Carroll’s works are all in the public domain, which means anyone can take them and do whatever they want with them. You too can write an Alice story, publish it, and be safe from copyright infringement or intellectual property lawsuits.

When we take our writing ideas from the public domain, the work is generally referred to (not as fan fiction, but) as a re-imagining, re-purposing, retelling, or recycled story. Why are stories based on public domain works viewed and treated so differently from fan fiction? In these projects, writers are using material that is decades (or centuries) old, and the new work basically keeps the old work alive and makes it accessible to future generations.

Where Do You Get Your Writing Ideas?

All around us, there are stories being told and retold, revised and re-imagined, stretched and skewed. Today, we have such easy access to stories (they’re all right at our fingertips) that it’s almost impossible not to be influenced by our favorite works. Consciously or unconsciously, many of our writing ideas come from other writers. The only question that remains is this: where do you think you get your writing ideas?

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward

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