On Reading Many Books at Once

Photo credit: Dvortygirl on Flickr
I used to be the kind of reader who could only read one book at a time. I'd often binge read and get through a book quickly—especially if I was enjoying it, especially especially if I was enjoying it and eager to read another book—but one book at a time was a firm rule for me.

Then I started doing literature programs in college and I didn't have the luxury of sticking to my one book at a time rule.

Granted, I suppose I could have added all the pages I needed to read in a week (adding together the page counts of the books I needed to read) and then gone through one book at a time that way, but for some reason I've found it's less daunting to read 50 pages of one book and 30 pages of another book and 35 pages of yet another book than it is to read 115 pages of a single book. Which is silly, I know, because I'm reading 115 pages a day either way, but it doesn't feel like it as much as it would if I was reading that amount from a single book.

After I broke that rule initially years ago now, I started occasionally pleasure-reading multiple books at once, oftentimes because I'd get a book I was really excited about and couldn't wait to read so I'd dive into that one while still reading another one. It's not something I did often but...#noregrets.

The other thing book hopping allows me to do is get through books I'm not enjoying as much (a necessity, in literature programs because invariably there will be books I have to read I'm not really into) in bite-sized pieces. I'll tell myself, okay, I'll read 50 pages of this book I don't love first, then I'll get to read 65 pages of those other books I do like. 

Granted, reading several books at once means it takes me longer to finish all of them—but it evens out because I end up finishing a bunch of them within a couple days as I near the end of every book around the same time.

Moving to reading a bunch of books at once has actually been easier than I anticipated, although it's quickly becoming clear to me that pleasure reading is a thing that's probably going to be rare as long as I have three (or more) books in a week to read for school. But that's okay—I'm reading lots of books I probably wouldn't have otherwise—or at least wouldn't have so soon. And that's certainly not a bad thing.

Do you read multiple books at once? 

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Do you read multiple books at once? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)
You asked, I answered: what are the different types of editing and what is each helpful for? Today I'm talking the stages of editing and why each are equally important.
What are the 3 types of editing and why is each important? @Ava_Jae breaks it down in today's vlog. (Click to tweet)

How to Juggle Multiple Deadlines

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Writing deadlines are hard, and writing deadlines when you have more than one, and when writing deadlines aren't the only deadlines you have, and when writing isn't the only thing you do, is even harder.

I've been thinking a lot about that as I juggle my writing with my responsibilities, new and old.

Writing-wise, I currently have three projects I'm tossing around, two with deadlines (one self-imposed, one not), and a third that really wants my attention but has to sit and wait. On top of that are my freelance editing projects, my social media commitments, my part-time job, and grad school. And even before I've started doing all of those things at once—though I will have started by the time this publishes—I've already been thinking a lot about how to prioritize to make sure things get done.

For me, it starts with recognizing hard deadlines vs soft deadlines. Hard deadlines are deadlines I can't move—deadlines in contracts (both writing and freelance) or homework, for example. Hard deadlines I usually get plenty of advance notice on, so when I initially get them I sit down and do some math to figure out how much work I have to do every day in order to finish on time. And then I build in a few extra days, for days when things don't go as planned.

Conversely, soft deadlines are usually self-imposed deadlines. They're goalposts, rather than something someone else is waiting on—or, they're sometimes a hard deadline date with the wiggle room built in. So, if I've committed to finishing a project on the 31st, I'll usually math out so I finish on the 29th, so the 29th is my soft deadline that can be moved if needed, and the 31st is my hard deadline.

Once I've established all I need to do every day for each of my commitments, I prioritize within the day. My to-do list nowadays typically looks like this:
  • errands
  • writing/revision work
  • freelance work
  • grad school reading/work
  • social media work
Within my grad school reading, I like it split it up between boring reading and fun reading. The boring reading I try to get out of the way first, and then the fun reading I know I can spread out throughout the day, even up until my bedtime reading. Social media work often gets priority unless I can push it off a day without consequence—but I try not to do that too much because I usually have plenty to do the next day too. Freelance work and writing work I generally prioritize the most, because the later in the day it gets, the less energy I have to do it—but those two categories frequently have the most hard deadlines, so I have to get them done. Then errands of course get prioritized and scheduled by how urgent they are.

By splitting up my tasks into bite-sized pieces and prioritizing them from most important to least, it allows me to get high-priority items done even when I have a lot going on while leaving some flexibility for overflow tasks that I can get done on a catch up day. 

It's not a perfect system, but it definitely helps. And it's very necessary, for me at least, to keep track of all I need to do. 

Do you prioritize your daily tasks? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
How do you juggle multiple responsibilities with writing? @Ava_Jae shares a few tips. (Click to tweet

Fixing the First Page Giveaway #39!

Photo credit: Eldriva
We are somehow nearly halfway through September! Which means Fall is upon us and Halloween is creeping closer and it's time for the next Fixing the First Page giveaway! Yay!

For those who’ve missed before, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a public (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post.

Rules!


  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I'm most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(

So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the thirty-seventh public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Thursday, September 21 at 11:59 PM EST to enter!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Vlog: How to Move Affordably with Lots of Books

Moving is expensive and moving when you have a lot of books, even more so. So today I'm sharing how I moved with over 100 books without breaking the bank. 


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Have you ever moved with a sizable library? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Getting ready for a big move & not sure how to affordably transport your library? @Ava_Jae shares how they did it. (Click to tweet)

On College and Authoring

Photo credit: Sole Treadmill on Flickr
I frequently get questions from writers about what degree they should do if they want to be a published author, or what I learned from my schooling so far that helped me get published. And up until very recently, where I've started schooling specifically for writing children's books, the truth was my schooling was a thing I did alongside my writing, not something I did specifically to write.

Of course, my situation was not the same as many. I'd been writing all through high school and was largely self-taught. I devoured books on writing, blog posts from people in the industry, and wrote manuscript after manuscript. By the time I transferred over to my alma mater to get my BA in English, I already had an agent—and just two months into my BA degree I got my debut book deal.

So when people asked me up until recently if I went to school to be an author, it felt disingenuous to say yes. Because the truth was, my education hadn't really done much to make me a writer—I did that on my own.

Now things are a little different, however. Now I'm starting my MFA in Writing for Children, which is very much intended to further push me as a writer and also hopefully open up some doors for job opportunities down the road directly related to children's literature. But my main focus is very much to improve my skills and expand my writerly repertoire.

I do want to emphasize though: I didn't have to go to college to get published. No one does.

When I was first deciding what to do, college-wise, all the while knowing my ultimate goal was to become a published author, a degree became important to me not to help me write, but to help me get a job that'd allow me to support myself while I write. So I could've gotten a degree in just about anything, really, but after dipping my toes in the film world I decided I'd be happiest getting a job analogous to writing and children's books—even if not directly publishing-relating. That was the option I've decided was best for me, but that's not going to be the best option for everyone.

Some writers are also doctors, or analysts, or teachers, or fishers. Some are booksellers, or scientists, or nurses, or event planners. I think the main thing that's important when considering college is keeping your expectations grounded and understanding that making a living as a writer isn't easy and often takes a lot of time. So when considering college, I encourage writers to consider how they'd like to make a living outside of writing and then go from there.

Starting school specifically for writing will be a new experience for me—and one I'm looking forward to. But ultimately, for me, this was another step toward figuring out how to make a living in a way that I'd enjoy—and that requires openness and exploration I'm grateful to have the space for.

What do you think? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Do you need to go to college to get published? @Ava_Jae shares their experience getting published while at school. (Click to tweet

What’s Driving Your Plot? by Janice Hardy

Hello, friends! Today I've got a special guest for you guise, Janice Hardy, author of The Healing Wars trilogy and several writing books, most recently Understanding Conflict (And What It Really Means). Hope you enjoy!

Conflict encompasses a wide scope of problems and situations, and can be as varied and interesting as you want to make it. But no matter what type of conflict a character faces, it presents a challenge in how to resolve the conflict. That challenge leads to a choice on the best course of action, and that choice forces the character to act. And that’s good, since those challenges, choices, and actions create and drive the plot (the combination of internal and external conflicts). Without conflicts, the protagonist would have no problems at all, and there'd be no story.

On one side, we have the external conflicts. These are challenges the protagonist has to physically overcome to resolve the core conflict problem (and all the smaller problems along the way). They’re the actions she takes to fix the problems preventing her from getting her goal. They’re what make up most of the action in the plot, since this is what the protagonist does from scene to scene.

For example:

  • Protagonist wants to find her missing sister, but someone has stolen the security tapes covering the parking lot she was last seen in.
  • Protagonist wants to impress her date on their trail ride, but she has no idea how to ride a horse.
  • Protagonist wants to surprise his girlfriend with breakfast in bed, but he has to get her kids out of the house first.

External conflicts are based on how the protagonist uses her intelligence, skills, and resources (or lack thereof) to overcome an external challenge. The key thing to remember with external conflicts is that resolving them takes action—the protagonist does something. While she might take a moment (or longer) to come up with a plan to overcome the challenge, it’s what she does that resolves it.

Generally speaking, the scene will unfold like this: The protagonist will be trying to achieve a goal when she’s presented with a challenge (she’s trying to do something in a scene and something stops her—the conflict). She’ll either react on instinct and try to overcome that challenge, or take time to decide what to do (how much time is up to the writer). The difficulty of the challenge, the level and type of conflict, and the competence of the protagonist determine how that challenge is resolved. What happens at the end of the challenge leads to the next goal of the plot and the next challenge.

This is essentially plotting in conceptual form. Pursue a goal, face a challenge, outsmart or overpower it, proceed to the next challenge with a new goal.

Of course, just watching someone complete a series of tasks can get boring after a while. Most external challenges just require skill, strength, or intelligence to overcome, others will be much harder to resolve due to personal issues. To counter potential task boredom, another layer of conflict is often added to keep the story interesting. This is where the internal conflicts kick in.

Internal conflicts are the emotional, ethical, or mental struggles a character faces while trying to decide what to do about an external problem. The challenge isn’t a physical thing in the way, but a struggle within the protagonist to make the right choice. It’s the mental and emotional debate the protagonist needs to have in order to resolve an external problem.

For example:

  • Protagonist wants to save her missing sister, but doing so will reveal a secret she can’t afford to have known.
  • Protagonist wants to be loved, but her refusal to compromise keeps her alone.
  • Protagonist wants to romance his girlfriend, but he doesn’t want to risk making her kids mad and their not liking him.

An external task that’s easy to complete can be made difficult by adding an emotional roadblock. What needs to be done is clear, but the protagonist doesn’t want to resolve it that way for personal reasons. Either the right choice has consequences she doesn’t want to suffer, or there is no good choice—whatever she does has serious ramifications.

Internal conflicts are based on who the protagonist is and what has happened to her in her life, and this past makes it harder for her to make decisions and resolve her external challenges. They typically come from the morals and ethics of the character, and more often than not, choosing one side negates the other and the protagonist can’t have it both ways.

Internal conflicts are great opportunities to put the protagonist in the hot seat and force her to decide who she is and what she stands for. How far is she willing to go to help a friend? What will she risk? What does she value? Her struggles while making a decision shows readers who she really is as a person.

Mixing the two create a plot- and story-driving engine that keeps readers invested in what problems might be faced and where the emotional challenges will come from. It not only piques readers’ interest about what could happen, but it makes them wonder why, and anticipate how the protagonist will overcome the conflict.

So, what’s driving your plot?




Looking for more tips on creating conflict? Check out my latest book Understanding Conflict (And What It Really Means), an in-depth guide to how to use conflict in your fiction.

Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the fantasy trilogy, The Healing Wars, and multiple books on writing, including Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting It), Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure and Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft. She's also the founder of the writing site, Fiction University. For more advice and helpful writing tips, visit her at www.fiction-university.com or @Janice_Hardy.

Vlog: On Making Changes Part-Way Through a Draft

So you're part-way through your first draft, and then you realize...your story's headed in the wrong direction. Or you need to make a major change. Or both. But how do you handle this realization when partway through your first draft?



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What do you do if you realize mid-1st draft you've made a big mistake? @Ava_Jae talks handling first draft trip ups. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #38

Photo credit: Matt Henry photos on Flickr
September is nearly here, retail stores are transitioning to their fall collections, and summer is at an end. But of course, the end of the month means it's time for the next Fixing the First Page feature!

As usual, I'll start by posting the full first 250 excerpt, after which I'll share my overall thoughts, then my redline critique. I encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques in the comments (because I'm one person with one opinion!), as long as it's polite, thoughtful, and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be unceremoniously deleted.

Here we go!

Title: DRAWN IN 2

Genre/Category: YA fantasy (light)

First 250 words:

"She's dazed, the white of her nightshirt standing out like a beacon in the moonlit forest, but it's the circle of guns pointed at her that captures my attention. Four Enforcers surround her, and as I watch from my hiding place behind an oak tree and try to get my bearings, inexplicably, they laugh. 
'A little confused, Traveler?' It's the leader who speaks, his rough voice amused at this poor girl's blinking bewilderment. If his beefy stature towering over the others isn't clue enough that he's in charge here, his unremarkable unhandsome face is. It's Donovan, and although the fact that he's not currently threatening me is a nice change, I still shiver, knowing exactly what this stranger in pajamas is feeling. 
'Am I... am I dreaming?' She turns a full circle, taking in the men surrounding her. She tosses her long black hair over one shoulder and tentatively reaches out to touch the barrel of one of the guns. 'It feels so real.' 
My pulse speeds up and I steady myself, leaning into the tree. I should intervene somehow, do something. But what? I'm as unprepared as this girl is, ripped from my bed in the middle of the night—no warning, no weapon--just me in my Ravenclaw PJs, bare feet sinking into the soft grass. At least I've been here before. This Traveler isn’t quite as savvy. 
Donovan sneers. 'Dreaming, huh? Funny, that's what they all think. I keep hoping one of you will be original someday.'"

Interesting start! I like that we're starting in medias res (which is my personal favorite kind of opening), and some of the details and thoughts in there from the narrator definitely helped ground me, even as I tried to figure out what was going on. All in all, pretty well-built foundation here.

Now for the line edits!

"She's dazed, the white of her nightshirt standing out like a beacon in the moonlit forest, but it's the circle of guns pointed at her that captures my attention. Adjustment made both to cut wordiness and remove filtering. Four Enforcers surround her, and as I watch from my hiding place behind an oak tree and try to get my bearings, inexplicably, they laugh. 
'A little confused, Traveler?' It's tThe leader who speaks, his rough voice amused at this poor girl's blinking bewilderment. If his beefy stature towering over the others isn't clue enough that he's in charge here, his unremarkable unhandsome face is. It's Donovan, and although the fact that he's not currently threatening me is a nice change, I still shiver, knowing exactly what this stranger in pajamas is feeling. Again, suggested cuts are to lessen wordiness and remove filtering.
'Am I... am I dreaming?' She turns a full circle, taking in the men surrounding her. She tosses her long black hair over one shoulder and tentatively reaches out to touch the barrel of one of the guns. 'It feels so real.' 
My pulse speeds up and I steady myself, leaning into the tree. I should intervene somehow, do something. But what? I'm as unprepared as this girl is, ripped from my bed in the middle of the night—no warning, no weaponjust me in my Ravenclaw PJs, bare feet sinking into the soft grass. Love the Ravenclaw PJs detail! Not only is it a great image but it tells me a little more about your protagonist. At least I've been here before. This Traveler isn’t quite as savvy. 
Donovan sneers. 'Dreaming, huh? Funny, that's what they all think. I keep hoping one of you will be original someday.'"

Okay! So the main thing I'm noticing here is wordiness throughout, which is super common, so no worries. I recommend going through your manuscript and reading it aloud—that can help make it easier to spot when you're saying something in five words you can say in two, or when the flow stumbles.

Otherwise, I think this is a pretty solid start. I'm definitely intrigued, and if I saw this in the slush I'd totally keep reading. :)

I hope that helps! Thanks for sharing your first 250 with us, Sioux!

Twitter-sized bite:
.@Ava_Jae talks wordiness, details and more in the 38th Fixing the First Page Feature. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Winner #38!

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Quick off-schedule post post to announce the winner of the thirty-eighth fixing the first page feature giveaway!

*drumroll*

And the thirty-eighth winner is…

SIOUX!

Yay! Congratulations, Sioux!

Thanks again to all you wonderful entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there'll be another fixing the first page giveaway in September, so as always, keep an eye out!

Vlog: What Happened to New Adult?

What is New Adult and what's the status with the category in 2017? Today I talk about this in-between category and where we're at with it today.


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What do you think? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
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Discussion: How Often Do You Write?

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I've pretty frequently talked about why writing every day isn't a requirement. At the same time, because I'm a binge writer, I do tend to use pretty consistent writing spurts when I'm first drafting to maintain momentum, and use daily writing goals to keep myself on track.

But between chronic illness, work, freelancing and soon school again, I don't always get to write quite as consistently as I'd like when first drafting anymore, because there literally aren't enough hours in the day and/or I run out of energy before I can get to it.

Nowadays, I tend to aim for 2,000 words a day, six days a week when I'm first drafting. When revising, I go for the same kind of six day a week schedule, though I tend to be a little less structured about how much progress I have to make a day—I just try to get some progress in every day, tracked by items I check off as I get them done (have I mentioned lately how much I love to do lists?). Of course, life being what it is means I don't always get to have those six day a week writing/revising streaks, which is okay too, but in an ideal world, that's what I aim for.

Understandably, not everyone is able to maintain that pace—or even attempt to aim for that kind of pace—which is fine. We all work differently and have vastly different schedules, so it's fully understandable that we'd have different goals to tackle.

I'm curious, though: when first drafting or revising, how often do you write? 

Twitter-sized bite:
When first drafting or revising, how often do you write? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet

Vlog: 4 Tips for Keeping Yourself Accountable

Keeping yourself accountable is pretty essential when working on a project as a big as a book. So today I'm sharing four tips I use to keep myself on track.



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What do you do to keep yourself accountable? 

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Author @Ava_Jae shares 4 ways to keep yourself accountable while writing your book. #vlog (Click to tweet

Fixing the First Page Giveaway #38!

Photo credit: mr.throk on Flickr
How in the world are we nearly halfway through August? I'm honestly stunned at how quickly this summer has flown by and how I'm transitioning into an incredibly busy three weeks. But that said! The date being what it is means it's time for the next Fixing the First Page giveaway! Yay!

For those who’ve missed before, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a public (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post.

Rules!

  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I'm most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(

So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the thirty-seventh public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Monday, August 21 at 11:59 PM EST to enter!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

POV (Should) Influence Every Word

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While working on freelancing projects as of late, I've been thinking a lot about POV, and all the things a well-done immersive POV entails. When I first began writing, I thought POV was about focus—as in, the POV character was the character you had to focus on most in your writing, but that was about it. I knew, on paper, that you were supposed to "step into their shoes" so-to-speak, but I don't think I really knew what that meant until many years later when I began working with a critique partner who is truly excellent at writing immersive character perspectives.

When said critique partner pointed out to me, in an old work of mine, that I was using rather flowery language for an allo cishet non-artsy teen boy perspective, it sort of blew my mind. Because I realized, for the first time, that character perspective affects literally every word.

Your character perspective changes:

  • what words and phrases are used to describe things.
  • what readers know about the world, surroundings, and other characters. 
  • what readers see in any given scene. 
  • what readers think about other characters or various situations. 

The perspective, in other words, pretty much makes the story. 

That's why it's so important to really hone in on our characters' POVs. We need to understand the way they think, the way they speak, the way they feel even when they're trying to hide it, what they care about, what they look at, etc. It really does come down to asking ourselves, "would my perspective character use this word?" or "would my perspective character notice this?" There isn't a single part of the story that perspective doesn't affect in some way, and that's essential to remember. 

While it's not something I think you need to worry about too extensively while first drafting, it is definitely important to check—again, and again, and again—while revising. Because readers will notice when a perspective doesn't really fit a character, and long before that, not paying enough attention to perspective will limit your ability to deepen a story and make your characters truly feel memorable and real. 

Do you step into your characters' shoes when writing?

Twitter-sized bite:
Author @Ava_Jae says POV should influence every word in your WIPs. What do you think? (Click to tweet

Vlog: Surprise Reveal: ARCs!

A couple weeks ago when I mentioned I had an announcement, one of you asked if it was a cover reveal. And then I remembered I'd failed to post a cover reveal here. And then I got special mail... :)




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Book Review: THE GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by Mackenzie Lee

Photo credit: Goodreads
I don't read a whole lot of historical (that is to say, I pretty near never read historical), so I'll admit when I first heard about The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue I was really intrigued but also hesitant because...I don't usually like historical.

But in the end, the premise was just too fantastic to pass up, and every snippet I peeked at made me want it more. And I'm so glad I gave Gentleman's Guide a shot because it immediately jumped onto my favorites list.

But before I go on, here's the Goodreads summary:
"Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men. 
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy. 
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores."
Firstly, this book was hilarious. Monty's voice is so captivating and fun from the first page to the last—I found myself smiling instantly and I pretty much didn't stop until the end (you know, minus some emotional parts). I loved Monty's reckless view of the world and all the situations he put himself in—then the way he handled them and thought about them had me literally laughing out loud in places.

I also loved the representative aspects involved. While I can't speak to most of them from personal experience, it was really cool to see not only a queer protagonist (Monty is bisexual), but his best friend is biracial and there's some really in-depth discussion about chronic illness that I could relate to and really appreciated. I have zero complaints about how Lee handled the chronic illness discussion, which becomes a pretty big part of the book, and there were moments that I certainly found myself nodding along to.

Honestly, this is the first time I've seen a chronically ill character in YA in a book that wasn't specifically about illness, and it was really, really awesome to see, even while the illness was vastly different from my own.

So between the representative stuff, the kick-ass plot, and Monty's pitch-perfect voice, I absolutely loved every page of this book, and I can't recommend it enough to others. It really just made me so ridiculously happy to read and I'm delighted to see how successful it's been.

Diversity note: The protagonist, Monty, is bisexual, and his best friend is biracial. There's also a pretty intensive discussion of chronic illness throughout.

Twitter-sized bite:
.@Ava_Jae gives ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ to THE GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by Mackenzie Lee. Is this fun YA on your TBR? (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Discussion: What Are Your Favorite Books?

It's time for another discussion vlog! Let's talk your favorite books from different genres. Sound off in the comments below!



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What are your favorite books from different genres? 

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Fixing the First Page Feature #37

Photo credit: gwen on Flickr
Somehow, August is nearly here—something I can't quite wrap my head around, in large part because August is a huge transitional month for me. But that said! The end of July is nigh which means it's time for the next Fixing the First Page critique!

As usual, I'll start by posting the full first 250 excerpt, after which I'll share my overall thoughts, then my redline critique. I encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques in the comments (because I'm one person with one opinion!), as long as it's polite, thoughtful, and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be unceremoniously deleted.
Let's go!

Title: DIA DE MUERTOS (working title)

Genre/Category: YA Paranormal

First 250 words:

"The veil between the living and the dead has always fascinated me and is much thinner than you might think. My mother spoke often of this doorway, especially at the end of October during Dia de Muertos, the time of year when our deceased loved ones return to the world of the living for a short time. We welcome them back with altars filled with photos, marigolds, incense and their favorite foods and drink.

I always imagined the veil to be something I could feel, like fine silk slipping through my fingers. One day I told her this, and she laughed kindly.

'No, Lana, it isn’t an actual curtain. No one can see it or feel it.'
'Then how do we know it exists?'
'Faith,' was all she said.

But she turned out to be wrong because the time came when I could see the veil. Eventually I could also touch it with enough concentration. Far more beautiful than I had imagined, it was silvery, gossamer and soft with a pattern so intricate I don’t possess the words to describe it properly. I’ve often wondered what would happen if I tried to cross over. Would I be able to make it back since I’m still alive?

There’s no one to ask.

Neither of my parents know I have this gift. After what my mom told me, I don’t think she’d believe me. Then I might end up no longer believing and fear I’d lose this ability. So for now, it’s my secret."

Okay, interesting! I think this is the first First Page critique I've had with a Latinx protagonist, so yay. :)

Annnyway! First thing I noticed is actually the title, and the holiday name which you use in the sample—I'm not 100% sure (I will be the first to tell you my Spanish grammar is atrocious), but isn't it Dia de los Muertos? I'm pretty sure "Dia de Muertos" would translate to "Day of Dead" which is missing an article (the). When I looked it up online, Dia de los Muertos seemed to be the default. Just a minor note!

As for my overall thoughts, this is an interesting opening and sets up the mood well...but it's all exposition. And those last three paragraphs in particular involve the protagonist telling the reader what she can do, but it'd be much more effective to see it in action. Expository openings aren't necessarily an automatic no (I actually start Into the Black with some exposition ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) but it does require careful balancing and right now this feels too exposition-heavy to me. At the very least, I'd like to see her doing something while thinking about the other side—maybe they're actually having a Dia de los Muertos celebration? That could be interesting. Or maybe something else, but I want to see her in motion even as she thinks about these things. 

Okay, now on to the line edits! 

"The veil between the living and the dead has always fascinated me and is much thinner than you'd might think. Adjusted to cut down on wordiness and condense to the heart of the sentence. My mother spoke often of this doorway, especially at the end of October during Dia de los Muertos, the time of year when our deceased loved ones return to the world of the living for a short time. We welcome them back with altars filled with photos, marigolds, incense and their favorite foods and drink.

I always imagined the veil to be something I could feel, like fine silk slipping through my fingers. One day I told her this, and she laughed kindly.

'No, Lana, it isn’t an actual curtain. No one can see it or feel it.'
'Then how do we know it exists?'
'Faith,' was all she said.

But she turned out to be was wrong because the time came when after a while I could see the veil. Eventually I could also touch it with enough concentration. Far more beautiful than It had imagined, it was silvery, gossamer and soft with a beautifully pattern so intricate I don’t possess the words to describe it properly. I’ve often wondered wWhat would happen if I tried to cross over?. Most of the cuts I've suggested so far have been to decrease wordiness, but this one in particular was to remove filtering (wondered). Would I be able to make it back since I’m still alive?

There’s no one to ask.

Neither of my parents know I have this gift. After what my mom told me, I don’t think she’d believe me. Then I might end up no longer believing and fear I’d lose this ability. So for now, it’s my secret."

Cool! So as you can see, by far my largest line editing comment is to be careful with wordiness—I find it helps if you read your work aloud, because it's often easier to feel when a sentence is crowded with too many words when it's spoken. Just make sure you ask yourself with every sentence whether you're saying something in ten words that you could say in seven or five. :)

Suggestions aside, I am still intrigued so if I saw this in the slush, I'd keep reading. But I'd personally give it maybe a page or two more before I lost patience with the exposition sooo...just saying. ;)

I hope that helps! Thanks for sharing your first 250 with us, Jennifer!

Twitter-sized bite:
.@Ava_Jae talks wordiness, exposition and more in the 37th Fixing the First Page Feature. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: I Have a Patreon!

As I mentioned last week on Writability (but not yet on bookishpixie, until today) I have a Patreon! Today I'm talking about what that means and all the fun stuff you can get access to if you join. Hooray!




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.@Ava_Jae vlogs about their Patreon and all the cool insider rewards available. Check it out! (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Winner #37!

Photo credit: juliet_earth on Flickr
Quick off-schedule post post to announce the winner of the thirty-seventh fixing the first page feature giveaway!

*drumroll*

And the thirty-seventh winner is…

JENNIFER RICKETTS!

Yay! Congratulations, Jennifer!

Thanks again to all you wonderful entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there will be another fixing the first page giveaway in August, so as always, keep an eye out!

Patreon Launch Day!

So last week I talked about some pretty big changes for Writability and hinted at new things on the horizon, including a new platform. And now, to my delight, it's time to talk about that new platform.

Starting today I have a Patreon! Yay!

For those who don't know, Patreon is a site where fans can monetarily support content creators (anywhere from $1/month or per creation and up!)—and in return get access to some pretty neat perks. My Patreon tiers look like this:

  • $1/month—TIP JAR: access to patron-only content and polls!

  • $2/month—PROMPTS ARE FUN: access to monthly sensory writing prompts, plus previous rewards!

  • $5/month—PROMPTS ARE REALLY FUN: access to monthly character development writing prompts, plus previous rewards!

  • $8/month—PROMPTS ARE THE MOST FUN THAT EVER FUNNED: access to monthly manuscript development writing prompts, plus previous rewards! 

  • $10/month—I WANT TO KNOW THE SEKRET THINGS FIRST: access to a monthly newsletter-like patron-only posts where I will share sekret things first, plus previous rewards!

  • $20/month—OOH SHINY VIDEOS: access to monthly patron-only Q&A videos that will answer all of the previous month's questions, even if it's more than 4 minutes long, provided there were questions the previous month! Plus previous rewards!

  • $25/month—I WANT TO SEE WHAT YOU'RE WORKING ON NOW: access to a monthly peek at a page of whatever I'm working on at the moment, both with to-be-published and not-yet-contracted work! Plus previous rewards!

  • $30/month—I WANT TO SEE YOUR TERRIBLE OLD WORK: access to a monthly peek at at least a page of my newly annotated old, trunked, never-meant-to-see-the-light-of-day work, plus 10% off my editing services, plus previous rewards!

  • $50/month—I WANT YOUR BOOKS EARLY: access to early signed copies of my published work, a couple weeks before publication (US only), 15% off my editing services, plus previous rewards! This is limited to 5 people because I get a limited amount of author copies. 

  • $100/month—I WANT TO TALK WRITING WITH YOU: access to a monthly 1-hour Google chat consultation with me where you can talk to me about your writing and I can give you immediate feedback! Plus 20% off my editing services and all previous rewards except the books! This is limited to 4 people for now because I can only commit to so many of these a month. 

I'm really psyched to get going with this—I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I've been looking forward to starting this new journey with everyone to see how it goes. And now the day is here and you can check out my page at this link. :)

So whether you think you'll be able to (or want to) join up or not, thank you all for your support over the years! I appreciate it more than you can know and will keep giving back as much as I can.

<3

Twitter-sized bites:
.@Ava_Jae now has a Patreon! Try it out for writing prompts, sekret news, peeks at their work, consultations & more! (Click to tweet)

Vlog: The Secret to Writing

In which I talk about the secret to getting words on paper, to starting your book, to finishing your book—to writing.



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What do you think?

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Fixing the First Page Giveaway #37!

Photo credit: Eldriva on Flickr
We're more than halfway through July! And I did say I'll only be posting on Tuesdays and Fridays but I also said giveaway posts wouldn't count, so enjoy this Monday giveaway post. Because it's time for the next Fixing the First Page feature! Huzzah!

For those who’ve missed before, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a public (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post.

Rules!


  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I'm most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(


So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the thirty-seventh public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Friday, July 21 at 11:59 PM EST to enter!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

5 Favorite Reads of 2017 (So Far)

I'll openly admit I haven't read quite as much this year as I originally intended. This has been for a couple reasons, in part because I was flaring a lot at the beginning of the year and frequently found myself too exhausted to read (which is a thing, I learned), in part because I've been ridiculously busy and found myself with less reading time than usual, and in part because I also had an epic reading slump that really ate away at my reading motivation. 

But that said! I've still read some really amazing books this year so far and I'd like to share my favorites until now. In no particular order:

Photo credit: Goodreads

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
YA Contemporary

Goodreads summary:
"When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course. 
To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart. 
If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life."
Why I liked it: This book is a heartbreaker, and boy did it make me feel things from start to finish. I wrote a review talking about History in depth, but the short version is this story is raw, impactful, and just really beautifully written.


Photo credit: Goodreads

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
YA Historical Fiction

Goodreads summary:
"Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men. 
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy. 
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores."
Why I liked it: I'm actually still reading this one, but I'm about 90% done and I've been loving every step of the journey. It's hilarious, compelling, and I'll be honest, seeing a major chronically ill character on the page has meant a lot to me. As a bonus, the protagonist, Monty, is very clearly bi from the first page so the book is super queer and super awesome.


Photo credit: Goodreads

Adulthood is a Myth and Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen
Graphic Novel

Goodreads summary: 
"These casually drawn, perfectly on-point comics by the hugely popular young Brooklyn-based artist Sarah Andersen are for the rest of us. They document the wasting of entire beautiful weekends on the internet, the unbearable agony of holding hands on the street with a gorgeous guy, and dreaming all day of getting home and back into pajamas. In other words, the horrors and awkwardnesses of young modern life. Oh and they are totally not autobiographical. At all. 
Adulthood Is a Myth presents many fan favorites plus dozens of all-new comics exclusive to this book. Like the work of fellow Millennial authors Allie Brosh, Grace Helbig, and Gemma Correll, Sarah's frankness on personal issues like body image, self-consciousness, introversion, relationships, and the frequency of bra-washing makes her comics highly relatable and deeply hilarious."
Why I liked it: I'm lumping these together because they're both very quick reads and related—but I loved these graphic novels so much. They're incredibly funny to begin with, and also super relatable, full of sketches about anxiety, stumbling through adulthood, and relationships. I definitely recommend them both for a quick read that'll make you laugh.


Photo credit: Goodreads

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
YA Contemporary

Goodreads summary:
"Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. 
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. 
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life."
Why I liked it: I obviously couldn't do a first half of 2017 book post without including THUG. I already reviewed this book and talked about why I felt it's so excellent and poignant, but the short version is the voice and story are both incredibly compelling and I truly believe it deserves every ounce of buzz it's gotten so far.


Photo credit: Goodreads


Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living by Majula Martin
Writing Reference

Goodreads summary:
"A collection of essays from today’s most acclaimed authors—from Cheryl Strayed to Roxane Gay to Jennifer Weiner, Alexander Chee, Nick Hornby, and Jonathan Franzen—on the realities of making a living in the writing world. 
In the literary world, the debate around writing and commerce often begs us to take sides: either writers should be paid for everything they do or writers should just pay their dues and count themselves lucky to be published. You should never quit your day job, but your ultimate goal should be to quit your day job. It’s an endless, confusing, and often controversial conversation that, despite our bare-it-all culture, still remains taboo. In Scratch, Manjula Martin has gathered interviews and essays from established and rising authors to confront the age-old question: how do creative people make money? 
As contributors including Jonathan Franzen, Cheryl Strayed, Roxane Gay, Nick Hornby, Susan Orlean, Alexander Chee, Daniel Jose Older, Jennifer Weiner, and Yiyun Li candidly and emotionally discuss money, MFA programs, teaching fellowships, finally getting published, and what success really means to them, Scratch honestly addresses the tensions between writing and money, work and life, literature and commerce. The result is an entertaining and inspiring book that helps readers and writers understand what it’s really like to make art in a world that runs on money—and why it matters. Essential reading for aspiring and experienced writers, and for anyone interested in the future of literature, Scratch is the perfect bookshelf companion to On Writing, Never Can Say Goodbye, and MFA vs. NYC."
Why I liked it: Unsurprisingly, I wrote a review for this one too, so if you want in-depth details you can check that out. But the brief version is I largely found this book eye-opening, honest, and encouraging (though some who read it found it depressing, so YMMV).

So those cover my top five favorite reads so far. What are yours?

Twitter-sized bite:
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Ch-Ch-Changes!

Photo credit: freestocks.org on Flickr
Writability has been going strong with three posts a week since 2011, which I'm pretty damn proud of. We're nearing the 1,200 post mark, which is more blog posts than I ever expect any one person to read, which means a pretty extensive archive of topics covered, often more than once.

Unsurprisingly, though, a lot has changed in six years.

When I started this blog, I was 19-year-old community college student reaching out on the internet, trying to connect with other writers, become more knowledgeable about publishing, and continue to improve my writing skills. I was a year away from being diagnosed with a degenerative autoimmune disease, studying film, unagented, and hadn't yet written the book that would be my debut.

I started Writability, not really sure anything would come of it, and definitely not imagining I would be here six years later with over 2,000,000 lifetime page views, a growing YouTube channel with nearly 15,000 subscribers, and imminent plans to move to a city to start grad school and get my MFA.

Yeah, a lot has changed in six years. And honestly, what I've listed here barely begins to cover it.

My life looks pretty different now from what it used to, and that divide from what was to what is is only going to widen in the fall. I'm now a published writer with deadlines to meet and projects to write, while juggling freelancing and a part time job to pay the bills, and I'll soon be adding school back into the mix. Which is a long way of saying my limited time is becoming more limited as the months pass.

So I've finally reached a point where I've realized something has to give. I need to be monetizing my time as much as I can—that means spending most of my time on things that will help me pay the bills. But I don't want to give up this wonderful blog, which I know has become such a big resource for so many, either.

As much as I hate to say it though, I do need to cut back. Because to be super transparent, this blog is quickly burning me out, and as I spend sometimes hours trying to figure out what to write about that I haven't already written about, it's increasingly cutting into time I need to be spending on my deadlines.

So starting today, I'm changing Writability's posting schedule. Instead of four days a week (including the vlogs), I'll be posting twice a week: vlogs on Tuesdays and blog posts on Fridays. There will be some exceptions to that—giveaway posts won't be a Friday post and guest posts may or may not be a Friday post depending on what I have going on that week. But for the most part, Tuesdays and Fridays will become Writability's new schedule.

But that's not the only change. I'll soon be announcing a new facet of Writability, on a new platform, that I'm very excited about. I hope you guise like it too. :)

Thank you all for your support over the years—it has, and continues to mean, so, so much. Here's to many more years of awesomeness all over the internet.
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