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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Let's Help Each Other Out

Alright guys, my post today is super brief. I just have three quick things to say.

1) I'm trying to figure out how many times I should post per week. Since I've started blogging, I've put up a post nearly every day. However, I'm starting to wonder if this is too much, since most people don't have the time to check. How often would you suggest that I post?

2) I created a professional facebook the other day for purely the writing and musical parts of my life and career. PLEASE be my friend. you can search for me (Gina Blechman, of course) or go straight to my page www.facebook.com/ginablechman. Thanks!

3) How do you like the content on my blog? Is there anything you'd like to see more of? Less of? Anything I haven't been doing that you'd like me to start doing? (Adding more excerpts from my story was a thought of mine...) You ask and I'll do it!

See, I told you it'd be a brief post.  Thanks everyone. Have a great day!

<3 Gina Blechman

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Ultimate Manuscript Editing Checklist

The more dozens of hours that I spend editing Synesthesis, the more things I learn about the writing process. My perspective on character building, POV, and action have all changed, hopefully for the better, over the past month and a half. Because I want you all to benefit from my mistakes, I have included my Ultimate Editing Checklist so that you can know all of the things I've learned from hundreds of hours of editing before you even start! (Nice, right?!)

So here are the fourteen questions you need to ask yourself before you send out your manuscript:

1) Have you made all of your passive sentences active?
2) Have you eliminated common words? (For me, these are "Yeah. Well. That. Been. Was.)
4) Do the characters' personalities differ enough?
5) Does every scene contain action? Not just an info dump?
6) Are your characters consistent in their actions and dialog? No sudden changes of heart or jumps in tone of voice?
7) Are all of the characters essential to your story?
8) Are you telling too much, instead of letting the readers learn for themselves?
9) Do you give the reader enough info about every character as they enter the story? Would your readers be able to finish and tell you the characters' ages, rough images, and personalities.
10) Are your suspenseful actions suspensful? (Not just mentioned once in the beginning and then appear 100 pages later)
11) Are your plot twists developed so though the reader will not initially figure them out, they can look back and have it all make sense?
12) Are all of your scenes told from one POV? Or at least, only one POV, per chapter?
13) Are you using -ly words sparingly? Replacing them with stronger verbs or metaphor?
14) Are you using appropriate grammar and punctuation? (Check for misplaced apostraphes, over-use or under-use of commas, missing question marks, single dashes where double dashes should be and vice versa, etc)

Hopefully these will be helpful to you. I'm still working my way through and making sure to fix the questions that I can't yet answer yes to. Good luck in your editing!

<3 Gina Blechman

You MUST Read This Book (And If I Was The Totalitarian Government In A Dystopian Novel, I'd Force You To)

" "There was an...incident at her evaluation," he says, his voice icy. He and the guard are both staring at me.  ... "Nothing too severe. But her parents and my superiors thought she might benefit from a little reminder of the dangers of disobediance."

The guard flicks his eyes over me. ... "What kind of incident," he says...

He drops his voice, but I can still hear him. "Her favorite color is the color of sunrise." "
~ Delirium by Lauren Oliver

There are books that you read for enjoyment. Books that you like, would recommend, but maybe made you wish for a little bit more than they could give. There are books that you fall in love with. Books you can't put down. That make your heart beat faster. That make you smile at the end, even if the smile comes after you've finished crying, because the ending is what you somehow knew would need to happen all along. And then there are books that inspire. Books that move you. Books that take you to places you've never been, and by God, you want to go there. Books that, when you're not quickly but thoroughly reading through their pages, fill your mind with questions and make you crave answers. I don't come across this last type of book too often, one of the many aspects of its beauty, but I found it recently in Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

Delirium is a refleshingly raw and realistic young adult dystopian novel about a world where love is a sickness, amor delira nervosa, and all people must be cured. The necessary surgery is a gift for each child's eighteenth birthday. They get the joy of being cured. Of being free from the pain and instability that the delirium causes. But nothing could ever be so perfect, because Lena, prepared to be cured in just a few months, has discovered love. And that's...well...that's a bigger problem than you could ever imagine.

Those of you who've read my other reviews know I tend to be quite critical. As a writer, I've come to expect more. I want a book that makes me think and feel. That makes me question and makes me feel like, in the end, I could hold the answers.

For the first fifty or so pages, I'll admit, I was hard to sway. Sorry Lauren, but I just spent a week editing my novel for passive voice, and you have so damn much of it in the first part of your book. But then, I got to a point where I couldn't be critical anymore. I wanted to be. I so wanted to finally really dislike a book from the beginning and hate it through to the end and be able to say on my blog, "well...that was a total disappointment." But it was impossible.

Lauren Oliver's writing, as occassionally filled with passive voice that I must mentally edit as it may be, is witty and inventive. When she says "Hana's always had a thing against children. She's always saying they're too sticky and clingy, like Jolly Ranchers that have been left too long in a hot pocket," I can feel the sugery goo coating my hands, which suddenly turn in to the tiny, grabby, "gimme gimme" hands of a child. No matter how many times I started to think of questions about the plot or wonder what happened to a certain character, sure enough, she'd explain it better than I could ever have thought about five pages later. Her novel is full of twists and turns, and not all of them are fully answered--something I always prefer. The ending, I assure you, is complete magic.

For those of you that know anything about my novel, (and if you don't you should check out my back cover story AND my excerpt for the Nature of Magic blogfest), it's a dystopian, YA fiction revolving mostly around the characters discovery of self-expression and free thought in their world. So, as someone who has written a LOT about discovering, and questioning, and learning about, and fearing love over the past year and half, I feel pretty damn qualified to say that Delirium really takes the cake. I mean, it made me take out my pocket love poetry book for goodness sakes. It's THAT good. If you thought my review for Feed by Mira Grant was good, my feelings towards this one are even grander. (I know, I know, I said that Feed was "the dystopian novel you should all be reading," and I'm sorry if I confused you, but you should definately all be reading Delirium.)

Alright, I could rant for hours, but I'm going to save you from witnessing me drone on and on. Just let me know: Have you read the Delirium? Did you like the it? If you haven't read it, do you think you will?

Love always,
Gina Blechman

P.S. Hopefully you've caught on to the idea that I review books at least once or twice a week, so if there's a book you'd like me to review or if there's something you'd like me to look for or include in my reviews let me know. :-) You can look forward to a review of Across the Universe by Beth Revis sometime within the week or the very beginning of next week. (The book is due on 4/3, so I'll have to finish it by then, lol.) Then, I'm open to whatever. Even non-dystopians. So bring 'em ON!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Review: Drought by Pam Bachorz

This book is hard to review, because my feelings for the first and second half are so conflicting. The first half seemed slow. There was no suspense and there didn't seem like there was anything in the first part that really could have created suspense. It was an information dump. It let you know the main characters, the setting, and the situation. (Something I also could've found out just by looking at the back of the book.)

"Ruby dreams of escaping the Congregation. Escape from slaver Darwin West and his cruel Overseers. Escape from the backbreaking work of gathering Water. Escape from living as if it is still 1812, the year they were enslaved.

When Ruby meets Ford--an irrestistable, kind, forbidden new Overseer--she longs to run away with him to the modern world where she ould live a normal teenage life. Escape with Ford would be so simple.

But if Ruby leaves, her community is condemned to certain death. She, alone, possesses the secret ingredient that makes the Water so special--her blood--and it's the one thing that the Congregation cannot live without.

Drought is the haunting story of  one community's thirt for life, and the dangerous struggle of the only girl who can grant it."

Sounds intense doesn't it? Yeah, that's what I thought.  I guess, at least in the beginning, I wanted more. I know sometimes there's only so much excitement an author can include, but a couple hundred pages of "this is where they live. Look how horrible the Overseers are! Don't you just hate them? And look how unfair life is for poor Ruby?" I mean, there could have been a couple more twists...

But then the second half came around and I ended up finishing the book in a day. All of a sudden everything started happening--all the chaos that a good book contains--and I couldn't stop. I wanted to know what would happen to the characters. And the interesting thing was, the events weren't that completely different from those in the beginning, they were just suddenly charged with meaning. Very very cool.

The other fun thing about this book is that it brings up a lot of fun ethical questions, most along the lines of "is it better for one person to suffer or for hundreds to suffer?" There are also a good deal of potential religious questions too. (Can't go divulging too much now, can I?)

All in all, Drought rates about 3 out of five stars. Now, I might just be rating over-critically, considering I just read the amazingness that is  FEED by Mira Grant, but I think that though Drought is a pretty good read, that with just a little bit of tweaking could have been much better.

Should you read it? Yes. It does bring up some very excellent questions and, as I said, the ending is quite good.

<3 Gina Blechman

Saturday, March 26, 2011

An excerpt from my manuscript, Synesthesis, for the Nature of Magic blogfest.

Today is the Nature of Magic blogfest. The task: "Write or share something you’ve already written that, to you, shows the nature of magic. It can be an excerpt from your WIP, something you’ve written especially, poetry, whatever strikes your fancy. It just needs to show the nature of magic as it exists for you or for those you write about." I hope the magic of the scene speaks for itself.

I have inserted an excerpt from my manuscript, Synesthesis. This particular section is a flashback. (It's not a spoiler--just a teaser :-P--don't you worry.) That's also why it's in italics.


It was not a surprise that Peter cried when he saw sunlight for the first time in eighteen months. He screamed at the top of his lungs, his soon to be post-pubescent voice much deeper than he remembered it. He ran in circles around the group and his whole body flew with a newfound energy. His feet, so ecstatic to be able to run, could have dashed right off his body and danced into the slowly arriving sunset. Peter punched the air and flexed every muscle in his body. He did not want to go on the bus that would soon arrive for him. He did not want to be confined ever again.
Strangely enough, surrounded by emptiness and ash and uncertainty, he had never felt more complete. Even Chiara--even knowing she could have been here to see this, aching for her to still be alive to feel this freedom--even that could not slow him down.

Brigid, watching her son from a safe distance, let her shoulders rise as the sunlight warmed her skin. Her body seemed to stretch and grow as it acclimated to the fresh air, and its rhythm became faster and more lively. She yawned and expanded, collapsing on the dusty soil to watch her son run laps around her.
Her eyes and cheeks warmed at his growth and surviving passion and energy. It did not matter who saw her as she cried slowly and silently, wearing the first honest smile in a year and a half. She did not desire to chase Peter. She did not want to attempt to take away his freedom or diminish it in any way. She just wanted to be with him while he came back into himself.
Watching him scream and shout, Brigid felt alive with him. They were out! They were free! The world was theirs! And her son, her darling son, smiled again.
Peter still had his whole life ahead of him. He would grow stronger no matter what struggles laid ahead. That was the good news. That was why Brigid kept grinning even though another monster began to refill the tears in her eyes. Even though her mind raced, she pushed all of it back for her resilient son. Because her son was immortal, and if Peter lived forever, then she would have no choice but to live with him.
As they rode for hours to their destination, Peter rested his head on his mother’s chest and stared out the window and up at the stars. He had never seen so many sparklers in the sky before. They had always been blocked by the streetlamps and the house lights. But now, the sky existed as a canvas on which he could paint all of his dreams in whichever way Peter wished to align the stars. He knew his mother worried about him. He could feel it by the way she spontaneously hugged him closer to her and kissed the top of his head.
“It’s gonna be okay, Mom,” he whispered. He didn’t have to see her trembling lips to know they shook for him.
“Your father isn’t going to be there, when we get there,” she said. It felt foolish saying it; she knew her son must have known this already. “It’s just going to be you and me.”
“Well, we’ve always made a great team, you and me. This is our time to do things the way that we want to.” Peter always knew how to say things in just the right way to make others feel better. Brigid patted his stomach as she held him
“Yes, Peter,” she said. “I suppose you’re right.”

Don't be afraid to let me know if there's any way you think I could improve the scene. (Or, certainly tell me if you like it!)

<3 Gina Blechman

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Words No Writer Wants to Hear

Every writer knows what I'm talking about. The first phrase that people seem to think of whenever you tell them you're a writer.

You say, "Yea, I'm in the middle of editing my book and sending out queries"
And they say, (all together now), "That's really cool. You know, I've always wanted to write a book. I thought about it, but I'm too much of a procrastinator."

Sound about right? Yes?

This drives me crazy. I mean, more often than not, the person saying this actually thinks he or she is impressing me by doing so. They think that relating to you when you've spent years perfecting your craft and they have no idea what they're talking about is a good idea. (This is also similar to the reply that those in the LGBT community often hear: "Oh, you're gay? I had an aunt/friend/second cousin twice removed who had a gay friend once back in 1987." I get the joyous opportunity of hearing this at least one every couple of months...)

But back to my main point...why do people think that telling a writer that they have always wanted to write is cool? "I've always thought about doing that, I just never had the time." Like they're talking about some new Indian restaurant they've been meaning to check out. Like it's so simple to just write a novel. Nothin to it. (As long as you have the time at least.) Oh yeah, that's the only thing that separates us writers from everyone else. Not that we make time, pushing for nearly twenty-five hour days, just to get our work and home and writing lives all taken care of. Not that we spend hundreds of hours writing and editing and querying and networking. Not that it actually takes, dare I say it, talent.

No, it's just one day we woke up and said "Hey, I feel like writing a novel. ...And golly gee! Today's my day off, so I might just sit down and get it done."

To all of those people that have always wanted to write but haven't, do you know what we hear when you say that? We hear two words--you haven't. You haven't written a novel. You haven't sat down and tried. You have no idea the effort it takes, and you obviously don't care too much about writing a novel if after all these years, you've never even tried. So if you want to make us feel good, tell us "wow, sweet. Hey, with your persistence I'm sure you'll get that thing published in no time." That's what we want to hear.

Other things you shouldn't say or ask when someone first tells you he or she is a writer:
1) Cool. I love to read. (Wow, impressive! Have you graduated from the "See Spot Run" books yet.
2) What's your book about? *Only ask this if positive you want to know. And certainly don't ask it if you only have 30 seconds to spare. Better yet, say, "I'd love to see a synopsis of it sometime."*
3) Do you intend to get published? (No, I just enjoy working late nights and stressing out for no particular reason.)
4) Once, for a fifth grade english project... (Yeah, totally don't care.)

Oh my. Maybe I'm just picky and vaguely psychotic--it would fit some lovely writer stereotypes--but I just wish that people could feel comfortable with themselves and whatever they do instead of trying to up their appeal by trying to talk about something they don't know about.

What do you think?

<3 Gina Blechman

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Many Thanks

In the past three days since I've returned from break, my writing has been in hyper drive. I can't stop. All I want to do is edit, add, and fix, and when I'm not doing that, all I want to do is read. I'm in love with my craft, and the more that I work, and the closer I get to being ready to query, the more that I want to work.

Though I've been writing all my life and have many unfinished manuscripts under my belt, my current novel, Synesthesis, is the first I've felt ready to share with the world. It's good enough. And not just that, it has staying power. I don't know what it is, I can just feel it as I read. If I'd put money down on anything, I'd do it for this novel.

As of a couple of weeks ago, I have three amazing beta readers helping me through: Sarah (Constance) Ketley, Madeline Bartos, and Charity Bradford. Now, I've never used beta-readers before, but I can say with quite a bit of certainty that these ladies are some of the best. Each puts her own spin on her beta-ing and they all put more effort into their comments than I could have ever asked for. Every time I get an e-mail from them and see that little attachment paperclip in the corner, my heart starts racing and I can't help but smile. They make my editing so much fun. (You should definately check out their bad ass blogs if you have a chance.)

Finally, as I've been going through all of this crazy editing, I've spent a lot of time thinking about all of the reasons I write. One of them is the people who've supported me for the past century (at least it seems that long) and encouraged me to never stop writing. Atop this lovely group of people is the members of the  Writers Circle of Room 216. The Writer's Circle, a writer's group that I ran for three wonderful and fulfilling years, is family to me. They have even affectionally labeled me "mom". When I was at my lowest points, it was always the WC who assured me of my talent and reminded me how much I inspired them. (I'm still a bit amazed at all of the things they've claimed I've done to change their lives and experiences over those three years.) I know that they would never settle for anything less than "published author" for me, and anything less would not only be letting myself down, but would be letting them down. To Room 216 WC, Momma loves you more than you know.

As much as I love writing, it would not be nearly as fulfilling without all of the contributions and encouragements of all of you: friends, bloggers, betas, and family (both real and adopted). Whether you're leaving a comment on my blog, stalking following my twitter, or writing over a hundred comments on the first twenty-five pages of my novel (*cough cough* Charity Bradford *cough cough*) every little bit makes it that much easier to continue doing what I love.

<3 Gina Blechman

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Dystopian Novel You All Should Be Reading

FEED by Mira Grant is undoubtedly one of the best novels I have ever read. It's witty. Intense. Heart-warming. Heart-breaking. Intelligent. And, well, just generall,y all around brilliant. FEED is 575 pages of addicting awesomeness proving a novel can be both high in word count and high in interest. The characters are well-crafted, relatable, and true to themselves throughout all thirty chapters, and it is quite evident that Grant has done her research. Her knowledge of the setting and all fields related to her characters makes her story incredibly realistic. FEED made me laugh, cry, smile, and cringe, and is one of the few stories whose twists and turns I never suspected. Before I continue, here's the back cover story to peak your interest:

" 'Alive or dead, the truth won't rest. My name is Georgia Mason, and I am begging you. Rise up while you can.'

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we had created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.

NOW, twenty tears after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives--the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them."

If you're thinking what I was thinking when I first picked this up, then you're wrong. I first thought "eww, a book about zombies..." (then picturing all of the cheesy zombie movies I'd ever nearly seen before thinking better of it) "I'm going to hate this."

As soon as I started reading, I knew my initial thoughts were false. FEED is about a quest for truth. It's about a world where the media can't be trusted and a group of bloggers are the nation's only chance to recieve the real news on the Rising and the political campaign that the group has been asked to follow. It's about putting the facts in the hands of the people and fighting to the death for what is right. I can't say enough how much this book amazed me.

Over the past month, I've been working on reading one dystopian novel a week. So far, I've read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo IshiguroFeed by M.T. Anderson, and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Never Let Me Go was fantastic, but left me craving something more raw and real. Feed by M.T. Anderson was so raw that it almost became superficial. I wanted to know more about the world and the characters and less about the MC's Holden Caulfield type ramblings. The Hunger Games seemed to have both the gritty truth and the subtle reality that I desired, but somehow ended flat. (The reason you never saw a review of it from me is probably because I got to the end and just stopped caring.) But Mira Grant's FEED has everything I wanted and more. It's dark and conceptual yet real with relatable characters and symbolism available if ever you look for it. I hope you'll all give this book your consideration.

It's great to be back and blogging again.

Love,
Gina Blechman

Friday, March 11, 2011

Away In London

Hey everyone,

I just wanted to let you all know that I'll be in London from Saturday, March 12th to Saturday, March 19th. This means that I won't be updating my blog or commenting on your blogs until next sunday. (Tragic I know. Hopefully, you'll find some way to get over the loss.)

Anyhow, in case you thought I hadn't been posting and commenting for some other reason, the reason I haven't been entering the blogosphere much this week is because I've been busy getting everything done that needs to be done before I leave tomorrow.

I still love you! I haven't forgotten about you! And in just over a week, I will be blogging at my normal rate!

Have a great week everyone. I know that I will...


Love,
Gina Blechman

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Real-Life Dystopia

What do The Hunger Games, The Giver, Feed (the M.T. Anderson techie version), FEED (the Mira Grant zombie version), Never Let Me Go, and my novel, Synesthesis  ALL have in  common?

Well, other than all of them being AMAZING dystopian novels (see how I fit my own novel in there :-P) they all revolve around main characters who are fighting for something. Whether it's love, knowledge, freedom, life, self-expression, understanding, or a combination of these, dystopian novels-and many of the top novels of today and of the past-center around fighting the good fight. What attracts us to novels like these? Our knowledge and experience from our own battles.

I'm pretty sure most of you were never thrown into a government controlled arena and asked to kill all of your opponents (The Hunger Games). I'm also reasonably sure that none of you have ever been placed in a post-nuclear-fallout society and been brainwashed to prevent future warfare and rebellion (Synesthesis). But we all have had our own struggles with life, love, and identity. Many of us have even directly or indirectly battled with illness, abuse, addiction, or poverty. So when these things come up in novels, taking the form of fantastical dystopian events, we find ourselves fighting with the characters. And you know what, we want them to win. We love the underdog, particularly in fantasy and dystopia, because we have been the underdogs in our own upside-down worlds. (That's why it's so gut wrenching when they kill off the sweetest characters. Did you ever notice that in dystopian novels, someone ALWAYS has to die?)

Just the other day, Kiki Hamilton mentioned the concept of micro-tension on her blog. The idea of micro-tension is that we keep reading a book because of the internal conflicts and struggles of the characters. It makes sense, doesn't it? Because we've either felt what they're going through and want them to win out, or we've felt what they're going through, had no bloody idea what was going on, and now want to see how they handle it. (I mean, come on people, how many Harry Potter books-not dystopian, I know-did you go through internally SCREAMING at Ron and Hermione for not just putting their stubborness aside and snogging already?! ...yeah, that's what I thought.) Because we know, or we hope, that if we were in that situation and that perfect person came along, that we would do the same thing. Or, maybe we have been in that situation and did it right or utterly wrong.

I'm going to make a(nother) shameless connection to my novel right now. Are you ready?
In my novel the four most central characters are all fighting in different ways.
Peter is willing to risk his life and sanity and go through continuous abuse to create change.
Brigid, Peter's mother, wants the same changes and has full faith in her son, but is also afraid of what will happen to him if he goes too far and gets himself killed by martyring himself for the cause.
Jade is an outsider coming in to the community who is fighting for change, but, in her words, "was once firey, young, and ravenous, but has become stunted by the knowledge of the pangs that hunger brings."
Alexis would give anything, just as Peter would, for change, but has been raised in the community too long to make the outside connections that Peter and Jade can make-something she wants more than anything in the world.

I share these characters with you, because I feel you can all relate to at least one of them. It is through these characters such as these that we see ourselves, and through them that we can take the look in the mirror  we need without being knocked over the head with it.

The Open Vein mentioned on his blog yesterday that some authors believe that YA fiction is a lower class genre. But when I think of what YA fiction has taught me and all of the ways that I just mentioned that people can relate to and learn from it, I can't imagine why anyone could ever think YA is just a bunch of rubbish to placate kids and teens who can't read "real" novels.

It also makes me think of how many underdogs there out there in the world and how important it is to help them. It's important not just to be grateful for what you have, but to be willing to give back. You can be a real-world hero and help someone out of their dystopia. Books are models of life after all, and it's important to remember that though there is only one, (okay, 3 if you count the whole series), Hunger Games, there are millions of people who feel like they've just been thrown into an arena where everyone is out to get them. Keep this in mind as you go along your day.

Thanks fellow bloggers and bloggees.
SPREAD THE HAPPINESS!










Peace and love!
<3 Gina Blechman

Monday, March 7, 2011

Catch Me If You Can Blogfest! -- First 500 Words of My Novel, Synesthesis


“You there!” The booming voice awakened Jade from her reverie, reaching her eardrums with the subtlety of a blunt mallet. Jade’s head immediately jolted towards the origin of the sound. “You! Where do you think you’re going?”
The large, bronzed figure towered down the street, running towards the bushes that Jade hid behind. His starched khaki outfit stayed in perfect form, but dampened with sweat as he neared the gates. “You there! I said stop!”
The officer screamed at the young man who continued to run, but the devilish creature darted just a few yards ahead. The runner's muscular features and tall silhouette was about all Jade could see of him. He dashed with purpose, and Jade nearly fell over as he rushed into the bushes parallel to her own. He crouched less just two feet away, leaving only the gate and her own sheltering shrubbery tp distance her from him. His pants and shirt were of a deep navy, and his hair was cropped close to his head. Jade felt herself panting with him, feeling his fatigue as though it were she who had been running. She squinted to try to better make him out, but the darkness of his hide-away made him nearly invisible.
Jade focused her attention on the officer, who was nearly as intriguing to watch. His face contorted in anger and annoyance as he paused to wipe the sweat from his brow. He was one of those men that lived for duty.
 “Peter! That’s not you again is it?” the patroller laughed. He flexed his muscles, perhaps for the gods to admire. “You know what happens to naughty little boys, eh? Don’t want a repeat of last time do we?”
The man crouched closer, folding against himself. He was still panting, but was clearly trying to hide the noise of his breath.
Jade's grandmother’s voice rang in her mind as the officer tapped his club against his outer thigh. “Their society is not like how ours used to be. It’s fear, it’s ignorance. They do what they’re told and don’t know any better. The simplest mistake is grounds for torture.”
Jade strained her eyes again, trying to find what didn’t want to be seen.
Wham! This time Jade really did fall backwards as the officer raised his club and slammed it down into the bushes. He missed Peter’s head by a little over a centimeter. Wham! He struck again, this time hitting Peter in the center of his back. The victim gasped inward, sucking all of the air in between his tongue and teeth. The officer paused. Jade bit her tongue.
“Okay…” The voice was weaker than Jade had imagined it would be. “Okay, I’m coming. I’m coming.”
The officer smiled as Peter reached his arm out in front of him and gradually exited the bushes. Jade was surprised he was even able to walk. There were two gaps in the brush where the officer’s club had struck.
“So it is you Peter. Well, well…I should’ve figured as much.”

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Beta Time!

After hundreds of hours of writing and editing, my story has finally reached that time: beta reader time. Prolem is, I don't know much about beta readers. I know what they are. What they do. A few sites on where I can start looking for them. But that's really about it.

I plan to finish my last pre-beta round of editing tonight or tomorrow, and I would like to try to find a few beta readers by next friday. (I leave to go to London for spring break on saturday. Woot woot! Hence the deadline...)

What I would like to know is what is your experience with beta readers? Have you used beta readers? Would you like to? Where did you find them? Your shared experience is greatly appreciated.

<3 Gina Blechman.

P.S. If you want to know more about my story and are interested or know someone who would be interested in being a beta reader for me, feel free to check out my "back cover story"

Friday, March 4, 2011

What if I Just...Write?

In all of the obsessiveness over editing and agents and queries and synopses and networking and beta readers and, you know, all of that other writing stuff, I'm starting to wonder: what would happen if I just decided to write. Just write. Nothing else. Just turn the writing into my career and stick with it.

I've read a couple of blogs lately that have talked about "coming out of the writer closet" and admitting to yourself that you're a writing addict and that's all you want to be. My problem is that I don't know if that's all that I want to be.

Being a writer is something I've always wanted. It's something I've always loved. However, I should also note that I'm a freshman psychology major on an excellerated 3-yr path. I've wanted to be a clinical psychologist for at least 7 years. ...But then, I start to wonder...

Remember The Crying Problem? When I talked about how I was looking up agents and I got so excited by the process and by them and their love of literature that I started to cry? Yeah, that happened again today. I was looking at the PUSH website. (PUSH as in the segment of scholastic that publishes gritty YA.) I was scanning the titles and looking at the authors that had changed my life as a reader and ones that I knew could effect me in the future. I had been directed to the site to use as research and so that I could then look up more authors who write gritty YA and who their agents are.

But then I started reading the story previews and the memories started flooding back. I was 11, 13, 15, 16. I was abused, depressed, coming out, frustrated, and these books were my therapy. They were literary Lexapro. They taught me it was okay to be frustrated, that other people have been abused, that I'm not the only one that thinks about sex (shocked?), and that hey, at least I was only eating my feelings and not smoking them through a crack pipe. And it just hit me that that's what I want to write. This is what I want to do. I want to be a writer. And I could be a writer forever.

And yet, I'm a writer now. (Just not a published one.) And I can be a writer and a therapist...sort of...lol. (I'm one of those people who, in my mind, can juggle the world if I want.) But then I think, "What do I want to be my main thing, and would I still want to get a doctorate in something that isn't my main thing if I decide that psychology is just the occassional affair I have on my mostly monogomous relationship with writing." (And then I think, I'm too young to be stressing out about this. Lol.)

Oh my. Well, I suppose only the future will tell.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Word Count Diet

Some of you may have noticed I was having some word count issues earlier. (AKA 120K for a YA novel). Well, now I'm 1/3 of the way through editing my novel, and I'm already down to under 103K. I plan to take the word count down as low as is necessary and then add some paragraphs in parts that weren't well enough explained in the original draft.

So, because I am now getting quite good at lowering my word count, I would like to present to you *drum roll please* The Word Count Diet!

1) FIRST, get rid of any extraneous scenes including characters you never mention again and who have no major part in the plot of the story. If you were trying to prove something about your MCs through interaction with these characters, try to show it in other ways throughout your story. (Of course, if your character just waves to a random person on the street, this doesn't count. I'm talking about full on scenes.)

2)Make sure any dream sequences you have are important.

3) If you have some nearly identical scenes, either get rid of one altogether or meld them into one.

Quick and Easy Grammar Tips
1) Get rid of "begins" or "began to" If the character wasn't running and is running now. We know that, at some point, she "began to" run.
2) Get rid of "that" as much as possible. (Ex: She knew that it wouldn't be easy --> she knew it wouldn't be easy)
3) Make all passive sentences active. (DUH.)
4) Remember to hyphenate hyphenated words. (yes, i understand this isn't really lowering anything, but I have "subtracted" a few words this way.)

Other Simple Stuff
1) Broaden your vocab and use descriptive words instead of descriptive phrases. Instead of saying "walked tiredly" say "plodded."
2) Leave "show and tell" to kindergarteners. When you have dialog, limit how often you tell how the character is feeling and thinking etc. The motto is "show don't tell" not "show and tell" for a reason. (I had this problem a lot. For some reason, I didn't seem to trust the readers to be able to figure things out on their own...)
3) Limit stuttering. This may sound silly, I know. But if EVERY time your character is confused or flustered they started going "I just...I...well...I just don't really know..." that's a LOT of extra words.

Finally, as you're reading keep these three thoughts in the back of your mind:
1) Do I need this?
2) Does it make sense?
3) Is this dragging?/Is there a lull?
4) Does this flow well with the rest of the story?

Try to think from the point of an agent or editor. If an agent feels a lull in the middle of your book or feels like a part is dragging, she won't trudge through it, she'll just put your wonderful masterpiece down and pick up another entry from the pile.

Be Aware of Lulls. Lulls are NOT your friend.

...But apparently, this little guy is!

Can I be your friend? Pweeze?

Have a great day! Smile!

<3 Gina Blechman

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What would my MC's room look like?

As many of you probably figured out, today is Super Snooper Blogfest. The point of the blogfest is to tell you about my main character by describing his room. Since my main character lives in a totalitarian society and can't really control what he has in his actual room, I'm going to explain what his room would look like if he lived out in the real world.

The room is dim. Not dark but cozy. The desk in the corner is covered with a slushpile of articles, none of which he will have the time to read today. Above the bed is a large portrait, the subject a naked woman-her head tilted back, her hair flowing in the wind. Her eyes are closed. Her mouth is open.
The floor isn't exactly clean, but it isn't exactly dirty either. Of course, there's the occasional crunching of a potato chip or a pencil as you walk, but it's not a pigsty. There's flowers on the nightstand, hand drawn pictures on the walls, and old letters on the dresser. Frank Sinatra is in the cd player.
On the door there hangs a calendar with dragons to match the dragon that lays in the back of his desk drawer.
The room is dim. Not dark...but cozy.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tips For a Stellar First Chapter (Bonus Inspirational Quote Included!)

You're in luck! Not only do I have fun first chapter advice to share, but I also have an inspirational quote. (How cool is that?)

1) As I was doing my blogging rounds, I started to come across a lot of interesting links about first chapters, lines, and pages. As usual, the thing that I wasn't supposed to be doing? Yeah, that's what I was doing.

According to  pretty much every article I read, (and I think there were about 5), you shouldn't start your story explaining your setting, you should start it off with the character performing some sort of action. Whether your character is having a conversation, going for a drive, hiding a dead body, whatever, starting with action will make readers feel like they are a part of it and will make them want to read on to see the action through. (Which of course will be followed by more amazing, mindblowing prose.)

Because my first 3 pages were more setting focused and then the action started happening, I cut the first three pages and pasted them in another amazingly super fitting spot. My story is so much more interesting now. Seriously, if you are reading your first few pages and  find they're about 5% action and 95% description. Change it. You might find your descriptions fascinating, but your new readers won't. They'll get bored, fall asleep, and drool all over your lovely novel before putting it aside to read something that keeps moving.

I also like to think about it this way: You know when you have 5 minutes of free time and your best buddy wants to tell you some very important anecdote about some irritating Starbucks barista and she spends the first 3 minutes setting you up for the confrontation and you just want her to get there already?! Yeah, that's how the reader feels about your first chapter.

For an article about agents pet peeves regarding first chapters visit: 8 Ways to Write a 5 Star Chapter 1 (and while you're at it, go to http://www.writersdigest.com/ to subscribe to the e-newsletter I got it from.)

"You get all that AND a Bonus Inspirational Quote too!" 
2) Stay with me for the inspirational quote: In addition to performing in the Vagina Monologues a couple of weeks ago, I am also performing in A Memory, Monologue, Rant, and a Prayer. This is another performance put on by the v-day campaign to prevent violence against woman. (Topics discussed in this play are domestic abuse, rape, murder, prejudice, sexuality, etc. Check out http://www.vday.org/ for more info on the organization.) When I read over my part today, there was one part that really stuck out to me that I wanted to share with you. (This would be the totally inspiring quote I was talking about)

"We need writers in these terrible times of deception and manipulation
and sound bites and half-investigated truths, in these
times when the lust for power has trumped the hunger for justice,
in these times of evildoers and saints. We don’t have many
real leaders, we don’t have many politicians we can trust. But we
can trust writers. Rather than selling us something, they are exploring
something; rather than dominating us, they are opening
us; rather then winning or having a position, they are inviting us
to ask questions.
We need each and every writer, each and every artist, to tell
the truth the way she or he sees it, the way it comes through her
or him. " - Eve Ensler

I think this quote is exceptionally beautiful, and I hope that it inspires all of you. (Believe it or not, providing you with inspiration is very important to me. ...That's right, I care about you!)

It definately reminded me about why I write and who I write for. Not just for the love of it, but to make people happy, to give people something to relate to, to learn from, and to laugh about, and to touch deep topics in the way that only fiction writers can.

So remember that. And be inspired, gosh darn it!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog including my tips for cutting down the word count of your novel!

<3 Gina Blechman