Saturday, October 22, 2011

Looking for a Beta!

Hello bloggers of the world! I come with great news. ZAP is done. Done done. Not done done done, but done done. Which essentially means, ladies and gents, that I'm looking for a beta reader.


If you've been hanging around my blog, you probably know that ZAP is a steampunk YA with dragons. My pitch is below:

The art of dragon Breeding is dying, but it's the only life Charlotte's ever known. After her mother's death, Charlotte takes over the family farm, but business is bad--really bad. When Cynthia Ross shows up, claiming to be her aunt, Charlotte thinks all her problems have been solved. Aunt Cyn wants to enter her into the Steel Talon Tournament, where the world's best Breeders pit their dragons against mechanical walkers for a chance for fame, money, and immortality. For Charlotte, winning means more than saving her family farm-- Aunt Cyn has promised to tell her about her mother's shady past, as well as where her father has been hiding for so many years.

As the competition heats up, Charlotte finds herself in a world of political mind games between Draconites-- dragon sympathizers and Breeders-- and the Cogs-- business men and technology enthusiasts. With the help of her sponsor Gaspar Laroche and his mysterious and tantalizing son Vern, Charlotte navigates deadly battlefields and even deadlier social events. When Breeders start dying, all clues point to betrayal by a fellow Breeder. Charlotte isn't sure who she can trust anymore. Certainly not the other Breeders. Certainly not the Cogs. And certainly not the infuriating Vern Laroche.

Sound interesting? Want to get your hands on this baby?

--> The wordcount if 114K. Yes, I know about half of you just winced. I understand it's on the long side, and I hope it won't deter too many of you.

--> My deadline for this is January 15th 2012. If you don't think you can make it by this time, just let me know, and we can figure things out.

--> Are you looking to trade manuscripts? Great, I'd be happy to look at your ms! Just know that my specialty is YA and I have the right to say no if I don't think I can handle the project (Which never happens.)

--> Whatever editing style you prefer is up to you. If, because it's longer, you would rather do an overview, that's fine. I prefer line edits, but whatever you're willing to contribute would be great.

--> Uhhhhh.... as you can probably tell, it has no title. ZAP is a WIP title that stuck. So if you have any title ideas while reading, PLEASE pitch them to me, as I haven't a clue what this beast should be called.

--> If something comes up and you have to back out, just let me know. That's no issue at all. I understand that life gets in the way sometimes, just don't leave me hanging.

Want to help me out? You will be rewarded with (internet) cake and icecream. Just shoot me an email at katiecarson at hotmail dot com.



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Between-Book Blues

Every writer has faced it. That moment when you finish one book before beginning another. For some, the wait period is only a few hours before they begin on a new project. Sometimes it's months before they sit down and write another book.

For me? Well, I usually edit the book during the wait period, which kinda feels like writing, if you squint and turn your head to the side. But after that? It's usually about 1 & 1/2 to 2 months of planning for my next book. In which I write... nothing.

Frightening, really. And it does disrupt my life. When I'm working on a project, I'm constantly thinking about it, tweaking it, working on it in my free time. When I'm between projects, suddenly there is a big, gaping hole where most of my life used to fit.

I spend a lot of time out of the house during these months. I spend a lot of time on twitter, facebook and my email, waiting for SOMETHING to happen to capture my attention for the next few minutes.

Being between projects drives me nuts, and after a few months, if I don't start on something, I usually look something like this:

Some people write short stories. (WHAT? Write something SHORTER than 100K?) Some people read. (Can't complain there.) Some people spend time with family. (What family?) Some even have different projects that they juggle. (You lot are never really BETWEEN projects, are you?)

So I wanna know: how do you handle the between-book blues?

Me? I just go bat-crap crazy.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

10 Things Hollywood Has Taught Me

Based only on movies produced by Hollywood, what have I learned about life? Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but I'm only speaking in general terms for fun.

1) Beautiful People Always Find Love.
--> From Jennifer Aniston to Angelina Jolie, all the beautiful people eventually find love. Usually through quirky or comedic circumstances, or through heartfelt emotional situations, or even high-tension, dangerous situations, the beautiful people prevail. They find love, and it's real, true love that will last an eternity. Or, at the very least, they're a really good lay.

2)The Less-Than Beautiful People Find Love. Probably.
---> You don't have to be beautiful to find love! You just may not have the quirky or romantic situations as some of the beautiful people. Sometimes you're a side character, introduced to The One by a major character. Sometimes you're rejected by the main girl and find love elsewhere. But that doesn't mean you won't find someone who's smokin'! Seth Rogen stole Katherine Hegal's heart in Knocked Up, after all. But even if it's a possibility, you also have a good chance of winding up alone.

3) Anything Is Possible.
---> From explosions to dramatic romantic displays, anything is possible in the world. The laws of physics bend to create the biggest explosions, and the most dramatic displays. And everyone knows the exact right thing to say at the right moment, in whatever way, to pull out the perfect response from you. Also, if shit goes down, you'll probably end up smack in the middle of it.

4) 99% Of The World Is White.
---> Everyone is white, and no one questions it! Even the black people are white! Even the Mexicans speak really good English! The best shit happens in America, too. If there are people from other countries/other nationalities/speak other languages, they tend to be side characters, people who are a part of our lives, like a friend or coworker. They tend to tag along with our plans, except for the odd time they stand up for themselves. At least, usually.

5) Everybody deals with crap.
---> It doesn't matter what nationality, what age, how much you make, whether you're beautiful, single, married, gay, we all have crap to deal with. We all have bad days. No one can escape the general shittiness of the world sometimes, even if sometimes we wonder if beautiful people EVER have issues EVER. But Hollywood has taught us they do. We all do. Except for maybe that blonde barista who keeps screwing up my orders. She seems too bloody perfect.

6) High school is segmented.
---> Popularity is important. The beautiful people are jocks and cheerleaders. Everyone loves them, and hates them. Nerds are bullied and mocked. Everyone has their place, bullying is usually rampant, and everyone knows each other in their grade. Any other high school is experience is just plain odd.

7) EVERYONE is NEATER than me.
---> EVERYONE is neater than me. Houses look quite comfortable. Furniture matches. It's always clean, and if not, someone's usually complaining about it or cleaning it. Most people keep their rooms, offices, and cars clean. If they don't, someone mentions it, or makes an effort to clean it up. There is quite frequently a transformation where the messy person learns to clean up their crap.

8) Everyone is straight.
---> The world is filled with straight people! If the beautiful girl spies a beautiful boy, there is an assumption of his sexuality as straight. It's called into question if he is not attracted to girls, is feminine or sensitive, or is too interested in his appearance. Gay people exist, but they are not usually seen and are separate from the straight world. Going into a gay bar or a gay-friendly section of town is foreign and uncomfortable.

9) You WILL triumph.
---> You are the hero of your own story, and the world CAN'T deny you. If you go for the girl, for the job, to save the world, you WILL WIN. Even if you face shit along the way, if you overcome it, you cannot possibly lose. How could you? Everyone gets a happy ending eventually.

10) If it's good, there will be sequels.
---> If anything is good in life, if anything is worth it to you, if it is so wonderful you never let it go, there will be ripoffs, sequels, and all around crappy people trying to make you feel bad. If you find success in this world, there will be those who try to drag you down to their level. The more success you find, the more sequels there will be, the more people will try and bring you down. But if it's really worth it, then we rise above the crappy sequels, and love the original film despite what anyone says.



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"I'm Just Trying To Protect You."

So, my blog pals, the other day I was in the bookstore with the beloved beta. We did our usual thing, we had lunch, I gave her my new ms, we slayed a dragon, rode on a pirate ship, talked about books we liked, she gave me books to read, and we saved Starbucks from a terrorist plot. All in a day's work. But she handed me Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick. Now, I'll admit I read Hush Hush. It was a guilty pleasure for a while. But I grew out of it. I bought Crescendo, but haven't been able to read it.

Why did the beta hand me this book? Because of the back blurb. It's a bit of text from inside the novel, not uncommon. What stopped me dead is that I saw the dreaded phrase, used in the context that makes me cringe:

"I was just trying to protect you."

Just typing out those words makes me cringe. Really, there's nothing wrong with that phrase, and many successful and excellent books use it. But I use it because it's an excellent example of how writers are justifying bad behavior.

I blogged on abuse in YA here, but I really wanted a chance to explain what about this phrase really grinds my gears.

I'm going to pick on the fantasy writers today, because I see it here most often.

When we write urban fantasy, straight fantasy, or any of its sub genres, we immediately have to adjust ourselves to the idea that, though we may be painting an image of our world, it's distorted somehow. If we create a world in which magic exists, we have to let go of the logic that says "that's not possible" and make it believable as well as interesting. This detachment from reality is fantasy's greatest strength, and it's greatest flaw.

If we write fantasy, we have to continually draw back to reality. We have to make the magic seem real. The beasts seem believable. The world building flawless. Because we detach that logical part of our brain, it's easy to drift off into cliches and stereotypes, because that's what's easy.

And this is what I believe is the problem with most UF/F relationships in young adult. Say we have a girl and a boy. The boy is a creature of some sort and the girl is being hunted by other creatures. The boy needs to protect her. There's nothing wrong with this, and this is the basic story line of many successful books. But somewhere along the line, I think many let the extravagance take them too far, and they drift too much into cliches. The action and danger of the plot bleeds into the romance to keep the tension up. Soon we have a situation where our creature boy is protecting our main character a little too much, and suddenly we're bordering on abusive behavior.

The main reason I hate this phrase so much, is as soon as one person NEEDS to protect another, you've created an unbalanced relationship, which is unhealthy. You have set a precedent and you have to work backwards to get out of that. Just because you're writing in a world that's distorted from out own, and your MC doesn't have all these SUPER SPECIAL AWESOME POWERS doesn't mean you NEED an unbalanced relationship.

Many writers use the excuse of the circumstances of the plot, the details of the fantasy realm, or the repercussions from whatever creature-problem the love interest has to justify their abusive situations. We tolerate a vampire physically abusing his girlfriend because he "needs to feed" or the werewolf boy being super jealous because werewolves by nature are "protective of their loved ones." The use of fantasy has detached the logical part of our brain, until suddenly we're tolerating something in fiction that we would normally be horrified at.

But as fantasy writers, we NEED to bring that bit of reality back in, especially within relationships. There's nothing wrong with having a twisted or abusive relationship, but be honest about it. Don't hide behind phrases like "I wanted to protect you." Just think about your main characters for a minute. If you were in their situation, would you tolerate what the love interest did to you?

Just because your MC is a human in a field of creatures doesn't mean she should be roped into an abusive relationship any normal girl would run from. If you want to create a twisted relationship-- great! Go do it! But if you want to create a relationship readers will sigh at, will tell their friends about, will dream about, then put effort in. Make it real. Make the characters want to be together, and connect on another level other than "OMG, we're gunna die." Just because he has fangs and hides a pair of wings under his jacket doesn't mean they can't have a normal, functioning relationship.



Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Epilogues: Yay or Nay?

Prologues are a common topic about writer and agent blogs. You can probably find a bazillion agent blog posts on prologues, what they want to see, what they don't want to see, ect. A the baseline, really, is that if you want to write a prologue, it should a) Have a purpose in the plot b) Not just be a cleverly disguised Chapter One c) be outside the realm of the characters that we will know at the beginning of the story.

Simple, right? Well, epilogues have similar guidelines.

Prologues and epilogues are not just the first and last chapter with fancy names to make us appear fancy. Like every other literary tool, it has to aid the story, and if it doesn't, it should be cut.

How do you use epilogues? I think I could flip this blog post on its head and use "prologues" in the place of "epilogues" because I believe the point is the same. There are two kinds of epilogues, what I will call the Chapter Thirty-Nine and Out of the Box.

What is a Chapter Thirty-Nine epilogue? It's an epilogue that shouldn't be there. It's an epilogue that begins after the climax and ties everything together. This shouldn't be called an epilogue, as it's the natural denouement for the book. There is nothing outside our realm of what we know of the world or the characters. The Chapter Thirty-Nine epilogue can also take the form of a "bow tie ending" where the author can go into detail about the character's life after the conflict is finished, and essentially gives them a "Happily ever after." JK Rowling did this at the end of Deathly Hallows, and I feel it really cheapens the book.

The point of an epilogue is to give us a GLIMPSE. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, just a glimpse. If we tell our readers everything that happens after the climax, how Billy became a carpenter and how Jane really did become a showgirl but Sally eventually married Tom and had kids. WE DON'T NEED TO KNOW THAT. Seriously, we don't. Ignore the fact that Chapter Thirty-Nine and "bow tie" epilogues can be found in published books. That doesn't make them right. Unanswered questions will leave your readers thinking about your story long after the book is finished. Did Billy ever make it out of that fire? Will Sally leave town after college? Will Jane ever fulfill her dreams?

Giving an "out of the box" epilogue can give readers a glimpse of the future and still leave them asking questions.

I've used the phrase "Out of the realm of understanding" when referring to prologues and epilogues. What I mean is that something in the world or the characters changes dramatically from the main bulk of the story and whatever time the epilogue takes place in.

This can mean, we get a glimpse of the villain (if this isn't a common occurrence in your book) we get a glimpse of the MC six months, two years, ten years later, perhaps we glimpse a new character from years before or years later. We get a small look outside the confines of your main character, their primary conflict, and their worldview.

What makes a really good book is staying power. You want your readers to think about your book long after they've put it down. You want them to keep thinking about it, you want it to keep them up at night, you want them to tell their friends about your book. To have that staying power, you cannot give away everything.

Show the ending, but don't tell them what happens next. Let the reader figure out what happens after THE END. After all, by the time the reader gets to the epilogue, it's not your book anymore. It's theirs.



Sunday, October 2, 2011

Word Count Experiment

So, SO, my lovelies. I finished a book.


I'm so happy ZAP is finished. I love this story and can't wait to start sharing it with other people. So, as I finished it yesterday, there has been much:


and of course:

But the point of having a blog post about it is I tried an experiment with this WIP. When I began, I wrote like most authors did-- with a sharp eye on my word count. But as I neared 60K and the end was nowhere in sight, I grew really nervous. I started entertaining horrible ideas of it turning out at 140K or 160K. I feared I'd have to cut my book in half. I was watching every thousand words go up, until I grew tired of it.

So I turned off my word count, and decided to write the rest of my first draft without looking at the word count.

For the first 10K, it was easy. I loved it. I wasn't worried about it anymore. But as I began explaining what I was doing to other writers, I got a similar shocked response: "Wow." and "I couldn't do that."

I started to understand what they were talking about. It was driving me mad, and I wanted badly to peak. I didn't, because I wanted to see what this effect would have on the length of my WIP. I began dreaming about my WIP coming out as 140K or 160K, and I was kinda back where I started.

I finished without peaking since 60K. My WIP turned out to be 119K words. Would it have been shorter if I'd been keeping a close eye on it? Probably not. I cut plot points that were in my notes because I didn't think they'd help. If I had written them in, it certainly would have been longer.

But what I did learn from all this was that writers are addicted to their word count. With good reason. It's how we communicate progress, it's used in publishing all the time, and there are restrictions. But with first drafts, I think its important if writers take time away from their word count. I admit, I did have the same fears, peaking or no, but there were times where I was finally able to let go. I didn't miss watching the numbers roll up one bit.

Try it. On your next book, turn off your word count. See how long your first draft comes out to be and compare it to your drafts you've had in the past.

Did you miss it?