Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Events, Chats, and More!

Sorry I've been so scarce lately. I've been deep in edits, which is a fancy way of saying that I don't remember the last time I brushed my hair, and all I do is stare at the wall chart and try to pull together the strings of this book before it kills me.

A before picture. It's now half-way filled in.
So anyway, that's my life! Poor personal hygiene choices and staring at walls. However! I do plan to take at least one shower this week, and that shower is being taken in honor of APRILYNNE PIKE and the awesome event I'm doing with her and CARRIE RYAN in CHARLOTTE this FRIDAY.

I hope you join me. I'll (probably) even brush my hair for this shindig.

Birkdale Barnes & Noble
Book talk and signing with
Aprilynne Pike and Carrie Ryan 

Although I'll be in the writing cave for a bit longer--through August, probably--I do have some more fall events coming up that I've not mentioned before. I'll be announcing those soonish. 

And, meanwhile, when I need a break from editing, I've been hanging out on Twitter and Reddit. If you're on Twitter, please distract me so I can pretend to be working but really be looking at animated pictures of kittens. If you're an author, too (published or not), feel free to come to Reddit to discuss books. I'm kind of sporadic on both fronts at the moment, but hopefully that time-turner I ordered will get here soon. Shipping from Hogwarts is slow, yo.

Anyway, hope y'all are having an awesome summer filled with watermelon, fun, and no edits! :)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Sound of Silence...or, better yet, Lots of Noise!

One of the most frequently asked questions I get as a writer is, what kind of music do I listen to as I write? I've always found this question to be difficult because I actually listen to music in an effort to, um, not listen. My goal is to have sound that fades into the background. If I'm actually listening to the music, then something's wrong and I'm not working as well as I need to be.

Because of that, I tend to listen to one song on repeat over and over and over again. I don't think people believe me on this, but it's true:

I typically get about 3-5 songs, and just listen to them over and over and over and over again. It drives everyone around me crazy, so I've invested in good headphones. Because, seriously. If you do the math (and I hope I've done it right; I don't math well), then I listened to "Everything is Ending," the top song in my playlist, for nearly 54 straight hours. That's equivalent to listening to one song for more than two days straight with no break at all.

I've not changed up this method in years. The above five songs got me through writing 4 and a half books (with a few others--all with around 400 plays--sprinkled in for good mix). 

My goal is to forget about the music. So I get a good song that sits in my subconscious and doesn't cause trouble. But recently I've found a few other things that make the sound perfect while writing. 

This website provides free, constant, streaming ambient noise. And not just any ambient noise. It makes the sound of a busy coffee shop--chairs scooting, an undercurrent of indiscernible talk--and mixes it with a rainy, thundery day. It's seriously awesome. It's enough noise to break the silence, but not enough to distract you. Give it a try!

This is an app you have to download--it only works for a Mac, but it's free. And what it does is magic. It makes your keyboard sound like a noisy typewriter. Every time you push a letter, it clacks. When you hit enter, it dings. It sounds exactly like a typewriter, and it's perfectly synced to your writing. I've been using it for a few days straight, and I'm already hooked. Seriously, this is amazing. It's made me want to type, and more, it's made me keep typing--when I hear the silence and no clickety-clack of the typewriter, I know I'm not working. 

Give these two things a whirl--they're really great, and they really keep me motivated to write! 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

High Concept

Sorry for the recent spottiness of posting, y'all! Summer's been a time of extremes for me this year--extreme play mixed with extreme work--so I expect the break will continue for at least a little while longer. Meanwhile, I've been doing a lot of posting in other mediums--including the YA Writers subreddit I've mentioned several times here. The community is growing pretty constantly, and so I thought I'd pillage one of the posts I did there for here, so my regular readers can get a glimpse of what we're talking about. 

Recently, we had a discussion on what "high concept" is. To see the full discussion, just click here. But my definition of what "high concept" is, and why it's important, is below. Hope it helps!

What is High Concept?

First, what high concept is not: it’s not “high.” This is the thing that throws people off the most. Most people think that “high concept” means something that’s very literary, artistic, and not commercial—and the exact opposite is true.

High concept is something that has immediate commercial appeal.

Typically, the way this is explained is that:

  • You can sum up a high concept idea in a sentence or two
  • It has obvious appeal to the masses—it’s a concept that most people can get with just a sentence
  • It’s a story that you can immediately see what it would be like just from a short description

High concept is hugely important because it’s easy to sell. If you’re querying, a high concept pitch is arguably one of the best things you can have to make your query stand out. If you’re published, a high concept pitch is the hook you use to advertise your book, the way you describe it to hand-sell it, the sentence you use on your swag. If you want to commercially sell your work, having a high concept pitch is one of the best things you can use.

Examples of high concept:

  • A boarding school with wizards
  • An arena where children and teens have to fight to the death
  • A vampire that falls in love with a mortal

Obvious, yeah? High concept sells. If you can sum up your book in one simple phrase or sentence, one that has appeal to a lot of people, then you’re gold. People tend to like the familiar, and they like the concepts they can easily grasp, the stories they know will appeal to them.

The examples above are obvious, but here’s some that aren’t as obvious:

  • A murder mystery in space (My own novel, Across the Universe)
  • A teen who can time travel, stuck in the wrong time (Julie Cross’s Tempest)
  • A world where everyone gets a letter 24 hours before they die (Shaun Hutchinson’s The Deathday Letter)

When summing up high concept, you’re looking to *give the familiar, then give the twist. “A vampire”—a familiar concept many people know and like. “Falls in love with a mortal”—a twist to the story. The typical reader can take the familiar they already know, see the twist that will flesh it into a whole story, and that makes them want to read it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July Updates, Links, and More

Hey all!

Man, summer's great for being lazy, no? I feel like I've been too lazy, though, and not doing a good enough job of keeping everyone informed of everything.

One reason is because of Reddit. I mentioned before that I'm now a mod of the YA Writers subreddit but I wanted to re-issue the invitation for everyone to join in. We're now more than 400 members strong, and a healthy mix of people at various stages of their careers. If you ever want to discuss, question, or rave about writing for a YA audience, stop by! As a point of interest, July 3rd we're discussing "high concept," and we'll be doing pitch critiques, critique partner match-ups, and more in the future.

Next, I have some winners to announce! For the Defy the Dark prize pack, the winner is: Amanda R! Winners for the All the Nomz cookbook have also been selected. They are Alicia K., Maura T., and Amber P. All the winners have been contacted--thanks to everyone who played along!

Also, have you been to Kickstarter later? You know, that place where people help other people make awesome stuff? Well, Rachel Caine, author of the brilliant Morganville Vampire books, is currently hosting a Kickstarter to get her books turned into a movie! You can support the project here--and you'll see a video featuring me, talking about upcoming projects and more! They're halfway there, with only a week to go.