Monthly Archives: August 2013

Keep it Concise

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I belong to a writing group. They’re a good group of folks and we’ve started to meet more frequently (from monthly to weekly) so we can get through more of our stories and people could hear the progression, etc.  It’s been great in a lot of ways, but one of the downfalls is that there are a couple folks who feel they need to recap their entire story each week before launching into the new stuff.

I don’t mind so much when we’ve got new folks, but even then, people need to learn how to keep it concise and get on with it.  This is were taglines, loglines or elevator pitches come in handy.

What’s the difference?

I’ll explain.

Elevator pitch: Imagine you’re waiting in an elevator to go to a meeting and the agent of your dreams walks in. It’s just the two of you and you have a few brief moments to pitch them your story and get them interested.  You’re not trying to close the deal and get them to sign you, you’re trying to get them interested to want to know more. The pitch should be 30-60 seconds long and it should end with a “call to action” or a question so you know they were listening and gives them the opportunity to ask questions.  Something along the lines of “Does this seem like something you’d be interested in representing?” could work.

Tagline:  Whomever is doing your marketing tends to be the one to come up with the tagline.  They are typically a short phrase to describe the plot. It’s a catch phrase to catch the attention of potential readers rather than an agent. Good example I found is for the movie Jaws: You’ll never go into the water again.

Logline: These are used to get the agent’s attention. They’re a one line synopsis that should tell what the story is about.  For example (keeping with Jaws): A sheriff must find and destroy a killer shark that terrorizes a summer resort town.

Loglines are also handy for social media purposes, especially Twitter.  They are short enough to get the already waning attention of those following you.  Also, there are often contests running on Twitter that are based on your 140 character loglines.  I’ve participated in a few and gotten agent requests to read my work.

In today’s society, people are used to a quick info dump.  Everyone is in a hurry and are often distracted or (gasp!) bored before you get done explaining about your baby (aka manuscript).  One of these short marketing ploys can help you gain their interest quickly and have them focusing their attention on you rather than the shiny thing moving past them in the other direction.

They can be difficult to come up with, but are a worthwhile endeavor.  Go ahead and practice on me.  What’s the logline for your work in progress or work you’re trying to pitch to agents?

 

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Book Review – Where the Stars Still Shine

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where the stars still shineTitle: Where the Stars Still Shine

Author: Trisha Doller

Genre: Young Adult

Source: Net Galley

Goodreads Rating: 4.29

My Rating: 4 stars

Summary (from Goodreads):

Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love–even with someone who seems an improbable choice–is more than just a possibility.

Reaction:

Quite the powerful story about a teen who finds herself back with a family she barely remembers while her mother rots away in a jail cell several states away.  It’s obvious from her flings with boys and the way she acts around her father that Callie wants to be loved but doesn’t really know what that means or how to go about being loved/showing love.  She struggles between trying to stay loyal to her mother and to her own longing for a place to finally call home where she will feel safe.

The occasional flashbacks to what happened to Callie as a child are gripping and emotional and those who have been abused/molested may want to pass on the story for that reason. Her nightmares and reactions to certain sexual situations go to show she is struggling with demons and when she finally admits out loud what happened, reactions of other characters range from anger to disbelief but also cause bonds and relationship dynamics to change.

A great read covering some heavy topics. Characters come off as very realistic and you’ll definitely come to feel for them. Heart wrenching and beautifully written.

Book Review – Elite

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Title: Elite

Author: Rachel Van Dyken

Genre:  New Adult/Contemporaryelite

Source:  NetGalley

Goodreads Rating: 4.24 stars

My Rating: 3 stars

Summary (from Goodreads):

When I won the annual Eagle Elite College Scholarship lottery, I was thrilled. After all, my grandma had just died and I wanted to take care of my aging grandpa — he couldn’t be a farmer in Wyoming forever. And graduating from Eagle Elite meant opportunity.

But I wasn’t counting on meeting Nixon.

Nor was I counting on the rules of the Elect.

1. Do not touch The Elect.
2. Do not look at The Elect.
3. Do not speak to The Elect.

And worst of all? Don’t discover the secret they hide, because in the end, you may just realize… it’s about you.

*This is a New Adult Book, blood, violence, cursing, sexual references, and drug use. Not recommended for those under 17.*

Reaction:

A familiar story although I admit I didn’t catch on to the Romeo/Juliet bit until later in the story.  It’s a decent read and you wonder why Nixon is being such an a-hole, but as secrets are spilled and things are revealed you realize that there’s a method to his madness and you come to like him a bit instead of hating his behaviors, but the bullying and sexual harassment is pretty abhorrent and a bit of a turn off. I wish Trace had fought back more.  The fact that the “kids” ran the school seemed quite unrealistic and honestly it was a bit ludicrous that all the adults would bow and scrape to them.  Not a horrible read but I wouldn’t put it at the top of my list.

What the Trope?!

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The good ole dictionary tells us:

trope  (trp)

n.

: a word or expression used in a figurative sense : figure of speech

: a common or overused theme or device : cliché <the usual horror movie tropes>

If you’re a frequent YA reader, you know there are some very common tropes making the rounds, especially these days. Let’s list a few:

1) Absentee Parents

I’m not sure why this is, but there are sooooo many young adult novels out these days where the parents are non-existent, dead or deadbeat (meaning they don’t count anyway). Is it because then the characters can’t come and go as they please? That they can’t be staying out all night at underground raves or so no one questions why they come home covered in blood and ichor? Probably, but I think having the parent/guardian around to question these things makes the stories a bit more believable. That’s not to say I can’t enjoy a story sans authority figures, but it’d be a nice change to see them come back into style.

2) The Love Triangle

Alright, I admit I’m guilty of using this one myself, but it started as a joke, I swear! Haha. I think since the release of Twilight, this has probably become of of the most common, overused tropes in the genre. Yes it’s good for creating some tension and having the reader be annoyed if your MC doesn’t end up with who they want (poor poor Jacob), but there are other ways to keep your reader turning the page. Think outside the box.

3) Holy crap, I’m really a >fill in the blank<?!?

Perhaps this started with Harry Potter and his secret “Woah, I’m a wizard?!”, but there are tons of books out there where the MC is a fae in hiding, or a  *cough*Shadow*cough* Hunter, or some other kind of magical fantasy type of persona.  This goes along with “Powers will reveal themselves on your  16/17/18th birthday, so be prepared for your whole life to change!” tropes.

4) Female Main Characters

While I get there are really only two options here, female MCs way out weigh male MCs and while this isn’t an awful thing, I’d love to see it balanced out a bit more.  I think young female readers would enjoy seeing a romance from the boy’s point of view and it’s not like they don’t have their own set of insecurities and issues.  Even it out folks!

5) Mary Sue, at your service

The Mary Sue character is perfect and everyone loves her. She can do no wrong. She’s the most beautiful, the friendliest, the smartest, the perfectly perfect all-around-amazing character that no one in the book can hate.  She’s the character us “normal” folks want to push off a cliff just to see if she’ll land scratch-free.

6) The Bitchy Popular Girl

If you don’t have the girl everyone loves (see above) you’ve probably got the bitchy “Queen Bee” that everyone (but the MC) bows to, treating her as if she rules the school/town/whatever even if she treats them like annoying little peons she wouldn’t go out of her way to walk around. She’ll typically get knocked down a few pegs before the book ends as people open their eyes and see her for what she really is! Or, ya know, they grow a backbone and tell her off.

7) The Bad Boy with a Heart of Gold

He wears black, has tattoos and drives a motorcycle. He’s been to juvie or kicked out of several schools. He’s the hottest thing around and is rumored to have slept with the entire cheerleader team…at the same time.  But deep down, he’s wounded, nursing a broken heart or mourning the loss of a loved one.  He secretly takes care of disabled younger siblings or works 3 jobs to support his family since his mom/dad/both parents ran out on them.

8) Love at First Sight, Touch or Smell (I’m looking at you, Edward)

I was a teen, I remember infatuation and those heady feelings of first love, but this soulmate bullshit that keeps popping up in YA books drives me bonkers. WE WERE MEANT TO BE AND NEVER SHALL WE BE TORN APART! Yeah yeah, until you go to college and your first frat party where 5 guys hit on you and make you feel all “special”. Heh

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Those are just a few of the popular tropes in Young Adult literature these days. Some of them I can live with. Others? I won’t even give some of them a chance anymore. Some of them are unavoidable, but if you’re going to use them, try to throw a twist in there at least, be a breath of fresh air for the reader.

What are some of your most hated YA tropes? Which are you still a sucker for?

Book Review – Starry Nights

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starry nightTitle: Starry Nights

Author: Daisy Whitney

Genre:  Young Adult/Fantasy

Source:  NetGalley

Goodreads Rating: 3.84 stars

My Rating: 2 stars

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Julien is a romantic—he loves spending his free time at the museum poring over the great works of the Impressionists. But one night, a peach falls out of a Cezanne, Degas ballerinas dance across the floor, and Julien is not hallucinating.
The art is reacting to a curse that trapped a beautiful girl, Clio, in a painting forever. Julien has a chance to free Clio and he can’t help but fall in love with her. But love is a curse in its own right. And soon paintings begin to bleed and disappear. Together Julien and Clio must save the world’s greatest art . . . at the expense of the greatest love they’ve ever known.
Like a master painter herself, Daisy Whitney brings inordinate talent and ingenuity to this romantic, suspenseful, and sophisticated new novel. A beautifully decorated package makes it a must-own in print.

Reaction:

I wanted to love this story: Paris, famous art work coming to live, romance, etc. but it was lacking the spark to keep me interested. I found I couldn’t connect with Julien and didn’t care what happened to him or the girl in the painting. I felt like Paris wasn’t painted in the gorgeous kind of light that would make me want to go back and see it all over again.

I always try to finish books to see if they get better or find out what happens, but I decided it wasn’t worth it to me to finish this one when I had so many other things waiting on my pile.  It wasn’t awful, but the magic just didn’t pull me in. Maybe you’ll find you like it more.