Critique Blog Hop Week 8

It’s Sunday, and that means another addition to the Critique Blog Hop! You can click that link for more information, or check out this page on my blog for the details.

This week I’m returning to my highest priority work-in-progress – On The Surface. These are the freshest 250 from what I’ve managed to add to it over the past few weeks… my schedule just has not been kind to my creative side lately. These are also the (current) first lines of the second chapter. I’m considering changing the point of view for the story, as I feel it may be more powerful in the first person POV rather than third. Any comments or thoughts on that are welcome!

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Liza wasn’t exactly thrilled about the idea of cleaning up the house. It would undoubtedly be a huge task, and why did they have to sell it anyway? After all, the house was still filled with Pap’s belongings, and most of his wife’s. She just knew her mother would get emotional, and then her dad would become annoyed and the whole thing would go to hell. Just thinking about the impending hours in the old house was exhausting.

They pulled into the cracked cement driveway between the house and the garage. Liza couldn’t help but notice her grandmother’s rose bush was blooming beautiful, bright pink flowers. They were still somewhat closed, like roses that people get for corsages or in arrangements for special occasions. They weren’t exactly buds, but they still had some time before they would open completely. She sighed as they walked past the bush and underneath the overhang.

“I’m so glad you decided to stay home for school, Liza,” her mother said over her shoulder. “You’ll be able to help us get the house ready.”

Before she could stop herself, she rolled her eyes at her mother’s comment. Luckily, though, her mother was in front of her and wasn’t looking. She knew her parents had been nervous about her college decision, but they were not the sole reason she chose to stay home when she could have gone to the state’s best school – three hours away.

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Like what you read? Check out these great authors for more 250 word excerpts!

http://mermaidssinging.wordpress.com/

http://caitlinsternwrites.wordpress.com/

http://ileandrayoung.com

http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com

http://jennifermeaton.com/

http://richardleonard.wordpress.com

http://jordannaeast.com

http://itsjennythewren.wordpress.com/

https://wehrismypen.wordpress.com

http://jlroeder.wordpress.com

http://letscutthecrap.wordpress.com/

 

Great Tips for Dialogue From Meg Waite Clayton

My latest endeavor in the publishing industry has been to follow all the big publishers, agents, writers, etc., on Twitter. I absolutely love their tweets, and I wish I had done this so much sooner. I highly recommend it. Side note: I also love TweetDeck for following certain publishing-related hashtags, but I’ll probably post more about that later on.

Anyway, it was via @RandomHouse that I discovered this gem of advice for writing dialogue, as compiled by Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters, among other titles. She’s got a great blog full of great advice, not just on dialogue, so those of you working on your own stuff should definitely check her out!

Meg’s Blog: http://megwaiteclayton.com/1stbooks/

My Twitter List of Significant Writing/Publishing Entities: https://twitter.com/kmwehr/writing-publishing (in case you’re interested in doing the same!)

New Looks for Harry Potter Books?

In honor of 15 years since first being published, the Harry Potter books are getting new illustrations on their covers in the U.S.

First of all, I cannot believe it’s been 15 years since Sorcerer’s Stone was published. That makes me feel super old.

The new cover (courtesy USATODAY)

Secondly, I don’t know how I feel about new covers for my all-time favorite book series. I grew up with those covers and LOVE them. Some people thought they were no good, but I appreciated the artistry and relative ambiguity of the covers. Besides, doesn’t the old saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” apply here? Regardless of what you thought about the cover, it doesn’t take away from the supreme awesomeness that is the book inside.

USAToday talked to Ellie Berger, president of Scholastic Trade Publishing, and she said:

“We thought it was time for a fresh approach” for the trade paperbacks “as of a way of attracting the interest of a new generation of 8- and 9-year-olds who may know Harry mostly through the movies.”

I mean, she’s got a point there. We all know the importance of a good cover to market a book, old adages aside. I can see how the new cover (pictured above) is more visually attractive to today’s kids. It’s true that some kids can probably identify at least Harry and Hagrid off the cover without even having read the book, just based off of the movies, media, etc. In fact, I’d venture to guess that most of today’s kids know the storyline without having read the books, thanks to the movies.

Maybe I’m just becoming one of those fussy old anti-change folks, but at least the hardbacks are sticking with Mary GrandPre’s illustrations for now.

What do you think? New covers totally warranted? Or is it all just a ploy by Scholastic to re-energize the series and make people re-purchase the books?

Weekly Writing Challenge: Mind the Gap

Way back in 2010, a young college sophomore version of myself began taking 400 level Literature courses. I got my first booklist for ENGL 420 – “Wilderness Literature” and was shocked when I learned I needed nine novels for the course. And that was just one course. Thus marks the beginning of my interest in eReaders.

This week’s poll on The Daily Post asks whether you prefer eReaders and eBooks to the good-ole fashioned print version, a topic I’ve discussed many times (here, here, and here for starters!).

Since the good people of WordPress were kind enough to link to my blog on their site, I’m going to take their challenge and respond to this poll. As you know, if you’re a regular around here, I’ve gone paperless this semester and bought all my textbooks as eBooks, so I’m not going to talk about it from a textbook point of view.

I begged my parents for Barnes & Noble‘s Nook, and since they love me and wanted to get me an awesome birthday gift because I was away at college, they caved and got me the Nook Color in 2010. So now instead of hauling textbooks and four or five novels around the metropolis that is Penn State’s main campus, I could contain those novels in one little device. The best part? Most of the novels I was studying were in the public domain, so the digital versions were FREE.

The educational benefits were the hook I used to get my parents into the idea of buying me the $300 device, but I wasn’t about to relegate my eBook consumption to pre-1900s American literature. I have to admit, the number one pro to having an eReader is that you can buy books and read them instantly, and for a digital native like myself, instant gratification goes a long way.

For example, when I wanted to read Catching Fire immediately after finishing The Hunger Games, I couldn’t stand to wait until the next day to go to the bookstore. I whipped out my Nook and BOOM! I was off and reading once again. Love it.

However, I can still get lost in Barnes & Noble. I still love roving the library stacks for the next great find – because there’s nothing better than an interesting spine that calls to you from the top shelf, catching your eye because of the perfect color combination, font style, or clever title. I still love carrying a physical book when I go to substitute teach – I don’t have to worry about my Nook getting swiped, and there’s just something about other people seeing me engrossed in a physical, paper-bound book that makes me feel different from the tablet-toting consumer of pixels and electricity.

My conclusion to the poll is this: A true lover of words cannot choose between physical and eBook. eBooks offer the instant gratification of reading the next book in the series, the self-published e-author’s first work before they got famous, or the steamy romance novel with the racy cover that you wouldn’t otherwise be caught dead reading in public. Physical books, for a true lover of words, are just too near and dear to our hearts to ever let go of completely. Readers of paper-bound books don’t need to constantly worry about where the nearest electricity-producing outlet is. A physical tome can be passed down from generation to generation with ease. Holding a novel is like holding a part of the author – expressed not only in the words, but in the paper weight and font choices.

Physical books and eBooks will live in not-always peaceful coexistance, and I don’t foresee the conclusion of that relationship until long after I’ve left this earth.

Giving Backstory WITHOUT Info Dumping?

This is the current challenge I’m facing with my WIP. I need to explain some backstory, as my protagonist’s character flaw stems from a death in her family that happened way in the past.

I know the first question I should be asking myself is “Is it really necessary information?” It is — without including it, my readers and critiquers are kind of like, “Meh, she’s just dramatic and sad.”

It’s actually a lot harder than I originally thought. I want to show and not tell, but it’s hard to “show” history. Just about every writer will tell you, “NEVER INFO DUMP. EVER!” (Imagine someone saying that you to in the same manner the Mythbusters always give their “never try this at home… EVER!” warning… hehe.)

But in my research, I’m finding that some writers say info dumping might be the only tool in certain situations. And if that’s the case, you’ve got to work to try to make this information matter to the reader now.

Some suggestions I’ve collected from various writer’s blogs on how to accomplish this include:

“The more your information dumps relate directly to a story element currently at play in your narrative, the easier it is to hold an audience’s attention.” – From Lit Reactor

“Add Tension:  Make the info dump something that causes problems for the characters.” – From Jami Gold’s Blog

“I think the key to making information entertaining is to entwine it with drama — and that means ensuring that the characters’ happiness is tied to it too.” – Ruv Draba, a moderator at Scribophile

Would anyone else care to offer their opinions, advice, or techniques for getting essential backstory to the reader without the dreaded info dump?

 

NPR’s 3-Minute Fiction Returns Feb. 2!

Hey, flash and microfiction friends (and those are willing to try it out!)!

NPR‘s All Things Considered is kicking off another round of Three-Minute Fiction, starting this Sunday, Feb. 2!

http://www.npr.org/series/105660765/three-minute-fiction

They’ll post the prompt, and then it’s up to you to create a short fiction piece that can be read in 3 minutes on air. You can click that link above for examples and details, or check them out on Facebook here.