The first chapter…

Vicky Burkholder offers great advice on how to add characters’ backstories into the first pages without losing steam of the action…

Vicky Burkholder

In reading over several manuscripts, I ask myself, how does this writer introduce information about the characters? How much belongs in the first chapter?

Handling background information is one of the trickiest parts of writing. The general rule is to include only what’s needed up front, then gradually provide additional details. The problem is, how do you know what’s needed?

You want to involve the reader immediately with the story and characters. Anything that slows down that process, unless the information is essential to the scene, should be pared. However, the reader needs to feel grounded. Where are we, in what time period, and roughly how old are the characters (just a hint — don’t have to be specific)? Gender’s important, too, especially if you’re writing in the first person.

Don’t drop information in an awkward lump. It can be subtle. We know it’s present day if a character uses…

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Word Count Makes A Difference Between Short Stories, Novels, and Novellas

Word count means the number of words in your story. There are guidelines to follow in the publishing industry; however, different genres have different preferences. Please double-check before submitting to agents or publishers, or hitting the publishing button. Here’s a break-down between short stories, novels, and novellas:

NOVEL–50,000 to 110,000

  • has more complicated plot (beginning, middle, ending)
  • has main and supporting characters
  • has chapter breaks
  • very popular length for paperbacks and hardbacks

NOVELLA–20,000 to 50,000

  • has a more complicated plot than a short story but not much in-depth like a novel
  • has more than one character, but usually focuses on just main ones
  • typically no chapter breaks
  • very popular length for e-books (so readers can finish in one sitting)

SHORT STORY–1,000 to 7,500

  • has simple plot (usually focuses on a couple of scenes, sometimes even only one)
  • has more than one character, but usually focuses on just main ones
  • no chapter breaks
  • very popular length for magazines and writing contests (readers definitely finish in one sitting)

For all the writers out there, is there anything you’d like to add on the guidelines for different lengths of books? Especially on how genres have varied lengths?

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

How To Create An Elevator Pitch

What’s the point in writing a book if no one will read it? To get potential readers interested, writers should understand the value of an elevator pitch. Even if you’re shy, you should be able to keep eye contact for about a minute or two, smile, and say a one to two statement about your book.

Here’s tips on creating an elevator pitch:

  1. Open strong. Being specific is better than vagueness. You want a one to two line summary of your novel that will hold someone’s interest. It should take you 30 to 60 seconds to pique someone’s interest. If they look away or glance at their watch, you lost them!
  2. Keep it short, but say how your story is unique. Don’t be wordy, too vague, or too flowery. Once again, if someone looks away or glances at their watch, you’ve lost them!
  3. You want to tie the big and personal picture together. Which character has the most to lose in the story? What does he want to win? What obstacles stand in his way? But beware, try to keep your character’s name out of your elevator pitch.

For all the writers out there, do you think you can handle that? If you are really shy, try practicing in the mirror to observe what awkward movements you tend to make. You want to look comfortable selling your book. If you’re very talkative, practice in the mirror. You want to observe every time you twitch because you’re keeping your dialogue brief and not dominating the conversation hee hee.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

“One By One” Second Draft Completed!!!

On July 1st, I completed my second draft of One By One with a total of 57,619 words (told you guys I’d cut a lot out), Calibri 12 point, single-spaced, 101 pages. Woo hoo!

It dawned on me that if I have the majority of my characters saying they didn’t murder anyone during their narration–or interior monologue–then it wouldn’t be hard for readers to figure out who the killer(s) is. Process of elimination.

  • So, I had to go back and delete those type of phrases. Now, of course, the characters can shout that to the rooftops, doesn’t mean they aren’t lying 🙂
  • Another thing I tackled was I knew who the killer(s) is since the very beginning, so I had to add motives, suspicions for the other characters as well, providing red herrings if you will. These were fun to plant throughout the story.

I’ve stuck to my word so far of not changing any characters’ names; I’m pretty satisfied on that end. Plus, there were no major changes to the plot. I’ll see what my writing buddies say to see if I should delete or add some scenes.

Melissa, Robin, and I have already started swapping chapters to critique; we do two at a time, preferably twice a week. Since I only have 12 chapters with an Epilogue, time should go by fast. Keeping my fingers crossed (I already have two beta-readers lined up).

  • Agatha Christie is my favorite author. It was a huge compliment when Robin said she noticed the author’s influence in my writing. I couldn’t stop smiling. Plus, she and Melissa both agreed that the nine characters have very distinct personalities and clear motives, that it’s not confusing. Each narration sounds different instead of a carbon copy. That’s cool because I was afraid they’d say they couldn’t keep up due to too much going on at one time.
  • Most importantly, Melissa has been trying to guess who the killer(s) is. She already has a suspect in mind 🙂 You have to know how hard it is not to blurt out if she’s right or wrong! But I can’t spoil the ending for her. We’ve already reached Chapter 4, so not much longer.

I’m so excited to share my story with my writing buddies. Ever since we began our NaNo challenge, I’ve wanted to describe the mystery, plot, characters, setting, etc. to them. Finally, I get to hear their opinions–made everything worthwhile.

Through email, we swap two chapters at a time, then send it back to the original owner with our comments, suggestions using track changes. I’m thrilled to be reading their stories. I hate mystery and surprises–says the girl who wrote a mystery thriller hee hee–I hate being in the dark; I have to know now, now, now. There were many days during NaNo when we met at Jumpin’ Java that I wanted to sneak a peek at their laptop screen. Good thing I have self-control.

It feels good to contribute to their novels as well as they contribute to mine. For writers who work alone, its a bonus to get more opinions about your story, especially an objective eye. The things a critique partner/writing buddy catches, you may not pick up on if you’re too close to your story.

Depending on what Melissa and Robin comment on, I may have a lot more editing to do, or only need to make minor changes. Either way, I can’t wait to have a final product in my hand.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Quill Wielder offers very informative links to help with revising, editing, polishing, etc. etc. 🙂 a novel or short story. Enjoy.

Laura Catherine

I’ve spent a lot of time researching editing over the last week and I’ve found some great tips for getting your manuscript from a mess to perfection.

Author Holly Lisle has a great little walk through of things to look out for when you edit: How To Revise A Novel. In fact her site has a lot of great tips for writers.

Here is a great article for a way of Adding 10,000 words without panicking.

Writing Tips with helpful tips for getting rid of things like Unnecessary words and Redundancy.

A nifty Checklist for Editing, lots of great tips here too.

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“One By One” Thriller First Draft Completed!!!

I’m proud to say that I completed my first draft of One By One in 43 days! For everyone who’s been following my blog, you know that I documented my NaNoWriMo Experience with a day by day account. For those 30 days, I mostly discussed the writing process itself instead of my story. Can’t give too much away. I love spoilers; doesn’t mean everyone else does hee hee.

On May 24,2012, One By One finished with a 67,331 word count (which is pretty good, considering I only had to write 50,000), Calibri 12 font, single space at 128 pages.

I used to be surprised when authors could bang out novel after novel like it was nothing. I often thought there’s no way I could do that. However, after NaNo, I’ve realized if I discipline myself to write every day instead of when the mood strikes me, then I certainly can write novel after novel, short story after short story. No more writing as a hobby–have to focus as a business.

I celebrated and put my novel away for about 3 days. With an objective eye, I read word for word all the awkward phrases, passive wording, lengthy info dumps. All writers know first drafts are complete cramp. If not, then please tell me your secret. Overall, the story held my interest. I fleshed out my characters’ personalities, and fell in love with them (so much I was bummed that I had to kill them hee hee). The suspense was there. I bit my nails in some scenes, and I believe that I successfully managed to put subtle clues of who the killer(s) may be since the beginning.

Now, of course, I’ll enjoy my story. I wrote it 🙂 The word count let me know that I really liked this one. Usually I struggle to make it in the late 48,000 range, so this was a huge accomplishment for me. In reality, I could’ve kept going, but I needed to wrap it up. Robin, Melissa, and I are doing the NaNoEdMo challenge next, so our second draft is due June 26th. If I was still creating the story, then that would’ve given me less time for editing and revisions.

I can’t wait to make this story more reader-friendly. Good-bye to 67,331. I’ve already begun revisions and a lot–especially in the beginning chapters–were cut. I can’t wait for critiquing to start to see if Robin and Melissa get creeped out or if it’s too obvious who the killer(s) is. I can’t wait to get suggestions for improvements and to see what they enjoyed the most. To say I’m excited would be an understatement. I’ve even asked a horror author to beta-read for me later on, and he agreed!

  • I must admit that I went into self-doubt, self-sabotage mode for Something’s Amiss (my romance drama), but this mystery thriller has brought my passion out again for the other novel.  To think that a fun challenge put things in perspective for me is pretty cool beans.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

P.S. And I’m happy to announce that I stuck to my word of no one tripping and falling while being chased 🙂

Day 5 (Splitting Priorities)

APR. 14TH – 1,352 WORDS

I’ve listened to music all day. When I say that, I literally mean all day from the moment I woke up to midnight. When I’m creating stories, I listen to certain songs to put me in the desired mood.

For instance, with my NaNo story, I had two songs on constant replay:

  • Civil Twilight-Letters From the Sky
  • Coldplay-Paradise

For my other story (a drama):

  • Mariah Carey-Butterfly
  • Mariah Carey-Anytime You Need A Friend
  • Brandy, Tamia, Chaka Khan-Missing You
  • Avril Lavigne-When You’re Gone

Yes folks. I worked on two stories today, and let me tell ya, my hand was cramped! This morning I worked on NaNo then the rest of the day, I wrote and revised the other one. So that definitely had a higher word count, causing me to turn back on my inner-editor.

Yet, I’m impressed with my word count for today on NaNo as well considering how busy I was having to split my priorities. I’m proud that I took the last half hour at 11:30 PM to bang out more words for NaNo.

  • This morning I was only a little over 600, so I knew I had a lot more I needed to cover. Thankfully, I didn’t give up today. That last 30 minutes helped me bring my word count up, and I love that I reached Chapter Three. All the characters have been introduced except one (the stranger to the group).

The sections I created were full of manipulation and deceit; it was fun to write. Tomorrow, I have to work on other stories as well, so I’m prepared to have a word count for NaNo that doesn’t reach my goal again (1,666 words a day). Oh well. Anything’s better than zero. Now, I’m in the habit of keeping track of word count after so many pages or paragraphs. I like seeing how far I’ve come and how much I have left that way I can estimate my time properly for my writing breaks.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Women’s Fiction VS. Chick Lit

I write romance, but I wanted to see if I fall under any other categories as well. I researched women’s fiction and chick lit (from all the websites I looked through, they all pretty much said the same thing).

Women’s Fiction

Women’s fiction deals with issues of family, birth, death, sex, money, love, careers, men, motherhood, aging, etc.  It’s aimed for a female readership.  The novels require the female characters to overcome personal and external adversity–meaning strong, female main characters often have crossroads in their lives.  She has meaningful relationships with her family, friends, co-workers, and/or lovers.

With women’s fiction, it’s not required to attach the main female character with a significant other.  If romance is involved, love scenes don’t have to be written on the pages; it can be implied that it happened off scene.  Since love isn’t the main interest of the book, it doesn’t have to end with a traditionally, happy ending (like marriage or a long-term commitment agreement).  As long as it ends in a satisfying way to the female character, that’s all that matters.

  • I think I fall under this as well because most of my main characters are female, who are independent.  I like to balance my stories with tension from her work like, friendly arguments, etc.  I don’t like to just spend time on her romantic relationship.  If she’s having second doubts about a career choice, then I want her to decide on her own what to do.  I don’t want it to be she can’t make a decision unless her lover agrees with it. 

Chick Lit

Chick lit often includes love and relationships.  It shows the main female character struggling with men, friends and family, own sense of self, but it’s written in a light-hearted way.  The novels are usually fun, down to earth, quirky, and entertaining while narrating women’s dating issues, career mishaps, or inner-conflict within herself.

  • Never say never, but I couldn’t see myself writing under this category.  Most of my stories are dramas, so I don’t see anyone laughing through my novels.  But, it would definitely be fun to try chick-lit–just to see if I could do it.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby