Wednesday, July 20, 2016

An ON THE BLOCK Primer

You may be flitting around the outskirts of the hullaballoo, wondering if ON THE BLOCK is something you want to consider entering in September.  Here's a breakdown of exactly what it is, to help you determine whether this high-energy auction is for you!

  1. ON THE BLOCK is an AUCTION.  In other words, if your entry is among the 20 entries chosen for the contest, the participating agents will be PLACING BIDS if they like what they see.
  2. BIDS = requests for pages.  Agents may start their bids at 5 pages and go as high as a full (which trumps all).
  3. In order to be ready to submit, you must:
    • Have a COMPLETED, POLISHED, AGENT-READY manuscript
    • Have a solid LOGLINE for your story
    • NOT be currently agented
  4. This contest has an entry fee of $21, payable via Paypal.  YOU DO NOT NEED TO HAVE A PAYPAL ACCOUNT; Paypal will give you the option to submit a credit card number without signing up for an account.
  5. This auction is for ADULT, NEW ADULT, YOUNG ADULT, and MIDDLE GRADE novels.  
  6. I'm sorry, but picture books, poetry, and narrative non-fiction are not included.  The participating agents are not looking for these things.
  7. Submission Day is Thursday, September 8.  All submissions will be accepted via our online submission form.  The link for the form will be posted in the official submission guidelines post.
  8. READ THIS POST for more details on the auction.
  9. READ THIS POST for helpful links on writing loglines.
  10. I will be posting the list of our participating agents SOON.  
If you have any questions that haven't been answered here or in one of the links above, please leave them in the comment box below!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday Fricassee

So, aside from next month's Secret Agent Contest, pretty much all my behind-the-scenes hullabaloo is in preparation for ON THE BLOCK.

First things first.  Submissions for the August Secret Agent contest are on MONDAY, AUGUST 8.  Submission guidelines will post on MONDAY, AUGUST 1.

A reminder that YOU MAY ENTER BOTH.  No worries.

*ON THE BLOCK UPDATE*

I've got 12 agents confirmed for this year's ON THE BLOCK auction.  I will be posting the line-up in a couple weeks.  STAY TUNED!

We will also having LURKING EDITORS, same as last year.

I'm adding a THIRD FEATURE, to be announced soon.

READ THIS TO LEARN WHAT ON THE BLOCK IS.

READ THIS FOR HELP ON CRAFTING YOUR LOGLINE.

OTHER THINGS

If you missed Wednesday's post about the one most important thing you need to do to fix the dialogue in your novel, READ IT HERE.

As for me, I've come down off the high of having seen Peter Gabriel and Sting in Chicago last weekend.  (I said that rather calmly; actually, it was INCREDIBLE.)  Mr. A has had a harder time reintegrating this week, as he would have been happy to stay in Chicago indefinitely.

I'll confess--it was my first trip to Chicago!  We walked 8 miles the first day, and I foolishly didn't have a water bottle with me.  I (literally) staggered to a table at an outdoor restaurant, languishing by the moment while I waited for the server to bring a glass of water.  (I tend to pass out easily, and I'm surprised--and grateful--that I didn't.)

Other than that, it was a fabulous getaway.  I didn't bring my laptop--didn't write a single word for 2 days.  And considering that I'm in the middle of drafting, that's pretty darn good.

As for the drafting--I'll be hitting 15,000 words today, so I'm on target.  The euphoric honeymoon phase has passed (alas!), but I still love my story, and I'm ready to push through the first draft yucko-phase, as always.

So, hey.  Will any of you who are also drafting right now sort of wave your arms and jump up and down a little?  I find (and I'm sure you do, too) that there is certainly strength in numbers when it comes to drafting (and, for that matter, any aspect of writing).  Let's tweet at each other...cheer for each other...poke and nudge each other when necessary.

And now I think I'm make myself a nice cup of (decaf) coffee with (grassfed) cream and a touch of vanilla.

Have a glorious weekend!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Do Your Dialogue A Favor



I have to say this -- and it's said in the spirit of wanting you to learn to write better.

Okay, here goes.

I have read SO MUCH REALLY-BAD DIALOGUE over the past few years, both as an editor and as a reader-of-contest-slush, that I sometimes want to throw a veritable tantrum.

One of the first things a writer needs to learn is to STOP BEING IN LOVE WITH HIS WORDS.  And, in my opinion, one of the places this in-love-with-my-words shows up most painfully is in character dialogue.

So here's what I want you to do (and what I tell my clients):

READ YOUR DIALOGUE OUT LOUD.

I've said this before (probably more than once), but it bears repeating, because I really see so much clunky, unbelievable dialogue.  Reading our dialogue out loud helps our EARS to discern whether or not something sounds natural.  Because, in real life, dialogue is aural, not visual.

Like, if you met someone on the subway and they talked like Yoda, you'd sort of notice right away, yes?

Yet you might be tempted, in the midst of your fantasy novel, to make Gregor the One-Handed say, "Perturbed I am that fallen has the city."

Seriously.  It happens.

Here are some examples (and things to avoid):

1.  TOO FORMAL

Because you're thinking about words too much, or you're trying too hard to make your character sound intelligent, you over-think and over-craft his dialogue, making him sound like he's reading from a textbook or giving a speech.   Often, you are FORGETTING TO USE CONTRACTIONS, which exacerbates the problem.

"I do not know what you mean," Goober said.  "I have been trying, to no avail, to reach you by phone or by email for approximately four days.  There is nothing more frustrating, in my opinion, than being accused of not communicating properly, when actually I have been doing my best all along."

Poor Goober.  He has a stick up his behind.

This is better:

"I don't know what you mean," Goober said.  "I've been trying to reach you for four days."

(No, really.  That's all you need here.)

2.  TOO MANY WORDS

People do not talk in gigantic chunks of text (unless they are stuck in a Dickens novel).  If your character's dialogue is more than a couple lines long (three at the most, unless the situation truly warrants a more verbose speech), he is SAYING TOO MUCH AT ONCE.  If he really does have a lot to say, break it up by interspersing reactions from other characters and beats (character actions).

"I got there right as they closed," Twiggy said.  "The woman had just flipped the sign over, and she saw me standing there.  I raised my eyebrows at her, but she pretended she didn't see me.  I mean, I get that.  It was time for her to go home.  But she made me feel less than human.  So I started banging on the window with both fists--just banging and banging, while she stood there staring at me like I was some sort of alien.  I never meant to break anything.  I never meant for the police to be involved.  It just got a little out of hand."

Oh, Twiggy.  No one wants to listen to you prattle on.

This is better:

"I got there right as they closed," Twiggy said.  "The woman had just flipped the sign over, and she saw me standing there.  I swear she saw me."

"Did you ask her to let you in?"  Maximus asked.

"I raised my eyebrows at her, but she pretended she didn't see me."  Twiggy crossed her arms and started pacing.  "I mean, I get that.  It was time for her to go home.  But she made me feel less than human."

"Oh, Twig."

"I started banging on the window with both fists, while she stood there staring at me like I was some sort of alien."  She sighed.  "I never meant to break anything.  I never meant for the police to be involved.  It just got a little...out of hand."


3.  TOO RAMBLY

Dialogue needs to have a clear purpose--it's either a) developing character relationships, or b) revealing information, or c) moving the plot forward.

And even if it's not doing a or b, then it DEFINITELY and ALWAYS needs to do c.  Otherwise, it's just blather.

Tip sat on the bench.  "What'd your mom pack for lunch?"

"Tuna fish and a bag of chips," Flip said.

"Tuna fish?  That's gross."

"Well, I like it."  Flip opened his lunch bag and pulled out a sandwich.


"That smells."

Flip frowned. "I didn't even open it yet."

"Well, I can smell it anyway."

"I've got ham and jelly," Tip said.

"And you think tuna's bad?"

"I've been eating ham and jelly since I was two," Tip said.  "My gramma used to always cook ham with pineapple on top, and then we'd have it for leftovers on bread.  Well, one day, there was ham leftover, but no pineapples.  So my mom smeared jelly on my sandwich.  Been eating it ever since."

Flip pulled open his bag of chips.  "Whatever.  Are you trying out for that play tomorrow?"

"Haven't decided."

"Mary Fulsen is trying out," Flip said.

"What do I care about Mary Fulsen?"

"She's been in two plays before, her brother used to be plays all the time before he moved up to high school."

"Well, I'm not going to try out just because she is," Tip said.

Flip opened his milk carton.  "They were out of chocolate milk again."

"I don't like chocolate milk."

"Strawberry milk is pretty good, though."

Tip made a gagging noise.  "That's even worse.  Milk isn't supposed to be brown or pink."

"Whatever."

"How's your tuna fish?"

"It's pretty good.  How's your ham and jelly?"

"It's pretty good, too."

(Hopefully you stopped reading before you got here.  Tip and Flip's entire scene needs to be deleted and rewritten.)

4.  TOO WEIRD

This is the kind of thing that tends to happen in science fiction or fantasy novels.  In an attempt to create an "otherwordly" effect, writers will sometimes overdo the weird, creating character dialogue that sounds like it came from the scrap pile on the editing floor of a B-movie.

Kuzani stared at the mage, her heart in knots.

"Precious and irreplaceable daughter of the Most High Governor, I salute you with a thousand bright stars."  The mage bowed, folding in half like a boneless snake.  "I am Cheezits'kan, First Mage of the Aboriginal Muckus."

"I'm honored."  She wasn't, really, but it seemed like the right thing to say.

Cheezits'kan stepped forward, his iridescent robes playing with the light.  "As the sun rises and sets over the hills of hither and yon, with each rising and setting easily predicted and never failing, so my confidence in you is longsuffering and ever-present."  He placed his finger on his nose.  "Hark!  And heed!  For many and sundry are the words I have to speak to you e're this night passes, and already my throat is nigh parched for lack of arcane liquid.  Come, let us partake of the fruit of the sacred vines, fermented and bottled in the ages before time.  Then, and only then, we will squeeze words from our lips."

If Kuzani had only stabbed him at "precious", we wouldn't have had to read that.

So I'm going to say this one more time:


READ YOUR DIALOGUE OUT LOUD.

Trust me when I tell you that your ear WILL let you know when something sounds off.  If your character says, "I will not be there," and you read it out loud, your ear will immediately say, "Well, huh.  It should be I WON'T BE THERE."

And so on.  LISTEN to the words you write.  It will start to make a difference in how you write them.

(Disclaimer:  I'm not saying that you have to sit down and read your entire novel out loud.  That's just...silly.  But spending some time on pertinent scenes of dialogue, and reading them out loud so that you can really listen to your characters conversing, will go a long way in improving the way you make your characters talk.)

All righty, then -- have at it!  And best of luck.  I truly want you to be able to produce the best that you are capable of.  Dialogue, ultimately, is FUN!  Spending a little time making it better will allow you to enjoy it so much more.  Your characters--and your readers--will thank you.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Friday Fricassee

If you haven't heard the buzz yet--we're official!  ON THE BLOCK 2016 is happening, and it's not too soon to start getting your ducklings in a row.

The dates:

Submissions:  Thursday, September 8
The Auction:  Tuesday, November 15

If you missed the announcement with all its glorious details, READ IT HERE NOW.

I'm already geared up and working the behind-the-scenes cogs.  We've got 6 confirmed yeses from agents so far, and I expect a number more.  There's also a New Thing this year (that you'll just have to wait to hear more about) that's already garnered a great response.

I'm definitely getting my administrative geek on over here.  :)

ALSO:

There will be a Secret Agent Contest in August.  Those of you who feel like you're caught between the two--as in, if the Secret Agent Contest includes my genre, do I need to skip out on On The Block?  Let me allay your fears right now:

If you enter, and are accepted into, the August Secret Agent contest--YOU MAY STILL ENTER ON THE BLOCK.  UNLESS, of course, you actually WIN the Secret Agent Contest.  (By "win" I mean that you are chosen as an all-over "winner" or you "place" somehow [first, second, third place--all agents do this differently].  If you are given an "honorable mention" or something similar, YOU MAY STILL ENTER ON THE BLOCK.)

All that to say--no worries.  Don't hold back from the August Secret Agent Contest!

Okay.  I think I've got everything covered.  For now.

As for me?

Well, thanks for asking!

Even as you read this, I'm on my way to Chicago with the sweet-of-my-heart for a weekend we've been planning for months.  This posed a slight problem for me earlier this week when I realized that I'd be losing two days of writing.

Two whole days!

Roll your eyes if you must, but the truth is that I've just started drafting my new WIP, and I'm on a strict 1000-words-a-day, 6-days-a-week schedule.  It sort of gave me mental hives when I realized that I'd be messing up my schedule before I even hit 10,000 words.

Never fear, though.  I reset my handy-dandy Scrivener Project Target, marking Friday and Saturday as non-writing days and Sunday (my normal day off) as a writing day.  That bumped my daily word count to over 1200 a day, but at least I can now face my weekend away without stressing about lost words.

8000 words in, and super excited to move forward!

To add frosting to the cupcake, I received some fabulous notes this morning from Danielle, who had graciously offered to read my outline and share her insight.  HOW AWESOME IS SHE??  And at the end of the notes, she wrote


I love this and I am so excited about this and I wish it was already written so I could read it.

How could I possibly ask for a more encouraging, on-my-team agent?  If I could write 5000 words a day, I would.  (Heck, who wouldn't?)  But I'll just plod along at my 1000-words-a-day pace, and the draft should be done by October 1.

And there you have it!  I'm still in the honeymoon phase, but overall I expect to stay engaged and positive, because HOW COULD I NOT?

All right, then.  I'll see you next week.  For now, I'm going to focus on Mr. A and our special getaway.

Hugs!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Preparing For ON THE BLOCK

So, it's never too early to start working on your logline for ON THE BLOCK.  Craft it, tear it apart, send it to your reading buddies for more tearing apart, revise it, shine it up.

Remember that THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 8 is submission day.  You've got 2 months!

Here's a little help:

WRITING YOUR LOGLINE

CRAFTING YOUR LOGLINE

WORDS OF WISDOM FROM OUR LOGLINE GURU

MORE LOGLINE WISDOM FROM HOLLIY BODGER

AND A FINAL CHUNK OF LOGLINE WISDOM FROM HOLLY BODGER

Hopefully you will find the above links helpful.  Remember that a well-crafted logline is like a tiny, high-impact synopsis of your story.  It is NOT a blurb, a summary, or an actual synopsis.  For the context of this contest, think of your logline as a micro-query.  It's going to grab my attention so that I eagerly read the words that follow.

Please ask your ON THE BLOCK questions below.  I'm already getting excited to read your submissions!