Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Author a Book: PRIMAL URGES and The BSBS Sheet

Hello fellow writers. Another week has gone by with my fabulous Seven Peaks writing class. The students inspire me and teach me something every week. The lesson we are on on this blog is PRIMAL URGES and the BSBS worksheet.

Although, in class this week, I brought supplies in for the students to make their own dream boards. Every writer needs a writing break sometime. Dream boards are a great distraction and a fun outlet for creativity. We'll talk about them on the blog next time.

I have mentioned this book before SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. He breaks down how to write screenplays in a step by step way that will surely get you to the end of your script. I am using this book for this class for novel writing, along with a few other amazing books…

  • WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg
  • A WRITER'S GUIDE TO FICTION by Elizabeth Lyon
  • SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS  by Renni Browne & Dave King

Also great reads for any writer:

  • THE WAR OF ART by Steven Pressfield


Every character you write, whether she is the main character, a sidekick, the protagonist or a random person the MC comes in contact with --- must have a primal urge. 

So, what is a primal urge? It's the character's motivation --- why they do what they do. 

  • Survival
  • Safety
  • Hunger
  • Love
  • Protection
  • Fear of Death

To get readers on your character's side and rooting for them give your character one of these primal urges. Everyone relates to them We've all been there before. 

Give your main character the most emotional issues - readers will respond to them and want to go along on the journey with them. 


What is the BSBS sheet? It's the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet. Now, I have gone through Writer's Boot Camp in Santa Monica and we worked with beat sheets there. There are versions of beat sheets you can find on the internet. All of them are great, but for me, the BSBS hits the spot.

What is a beat?

They are considered breaks - where the readers can take a second and think about what just happened. It's the music of the book. And the beats have to be hit at certain times and yes, on certain pages. There is structure to every movie and every book - some have weak structure and so they don't get watched or read as much as those that have strong structure --- or beats.

Blake believes there are 15 beats in a movie and I tend to agree. But I write books, not movies, not yet. Yet, the 15 beats works for novels just as easily as it works for movies. The only difference are the pages the beats happen on.

BSBS 15 Beats:
  3. SET-UP
  7. B STORY
  14. FINALE

Below is the BSBS set up for novels - I found it on Belinda Crawford's blog. ‎

Blake Synder's Beat Sheet, with template |

In SAVE THE CAT - there are 15 questions that go along with these 15 beats. I suggest you buy the book - make a word doc of them and then answer them about your main character before you start writing the first chapter.

If you can answer the 15 questions you are well on your way to creating a complete and exciting novel.

OPENING IMAGE = this is the tone of your book - the mood and image of your main character before anything great, horrible or exciting happens. What's going on in the MC's life before everything changes?

There you have it - lesson 3 --- go get the book SAVE THE CAT and start answering the 15 Beat Sheet questions. 


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Author a Book: Lesson Two LOGLINES

My amazing class at Seven Peaks is in it's 4th lesson - but for you, following along on the blog, we are on number two -- Loglines.

Loglines are a great way to capture your story in one line. You have to be able to tell people what your book is about, in as few words as you can, but still make it intriguing and awesome. Because, it won't matter how many things you're going to blow up, how great the love story is or if it's the best mystery in the world -- If you can't sum it up in the best way possible, you'll lose the interest of the people you need to get your book published - the agent, editor and/or publisher. You have to think about everyone who will see this logline before the book ever hits the market for readers. 

If I haven't mentioned it before - go out and buy SAVE THE CAT! by Blake Snyder -- right now. It was written for screenplays - but it rocks for novels, too. A screenplay is just a short 120 page novel, after all.

Blake talks about LOGLINES in his book. And it's worth the read. Especially if you are in the query stage of your book - but even before you begin - before you write one single line in that amazing first chapter - you should have a logline. Like a beacon, it will keep you headed toward your goal as you write each chapter.

What is a logline? 

Logline: A good logline tells what the story is in the most creative and quickest way. 

Examples I found on the web: (you can find some easily if you type in LOGLINES for movies)

   FORREST GUMP: A Southern simpleton has a bumbling hand in some of the 20th century’s biggest events in this touching story of love, courage over adversity and snappily-named shrimp chains.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL: Blacksmith Will Turner teams up with eccentric pirate “Captain” Jack Sparrow to save his love, the governor’s daughter, from Jack’s former pirate allies, who are now undead.

THE HELP: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maid’s point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.

·  The Legend of Nina Simone: After hearing a legend about the lost recordings of Nina Simone, a young boy teams up with his friends on an adventure to find the treasure in hopes of saving his dying grandfather.

     E.T. : An alienated boy bonds with an extraterrestrial child who's been stranded on earth; the boy defies the adults to help the alien contact his mothership so he can go home.

The best way to come up with a logline of your own is to copy others first. Take one of them from above and pop in your characters/ideas. Play with it until you have changed all of the words and made it your own.

When writing loglines - Ask yourself these questions:
  • Who are your main characters?
  • What happens to them? Good and bad?
  • What is the most important thing that happens in the book? 
  • What makes the MC dive into action? 
  • Why did you want to write this book in the first place?
  • What is the big ending? 
  • How does your MC grow?
  • What is the main story at its root?

The book I am working on right now is called: 

Here's the logline: When her mom dies in a seaplane crash, a disconnected and depressed teen is sent to live with her crazy 1/8th Tununak Indian Uncle in Alaska where he forces her to confront her spirit guide and there she discovers that she's the missing link between an ancient Alaskan Tribe and the old magic of the Egyptian people. 

It's still a bit long and I'm working on trimming it down but you can get the idea of the book from this one line. 

1st Attempt to trim the logline:
   A depressed teen is sent to live with her crazy Uncle in Alaska where she discovers she's the missing link between an ancient Alaskan Tribe and old magic of the Egyptian people. 

I definitely cut it, but it lost too much of the interesting parts. 

2nd Attempt
   A depressed teen is sent to live with her crazy uncle in a mixed Indian Tribe Alaskan commune where she unwillingly confronts her spirit guide and discovers she's the missing link between an ancient Alaskan Tribe and old magic in Egypt. 

This is a good mix of both the longer version and the super short one. I'll keep it for now. 

    So that's it - that's a logline. You really should have one. You can think of it as your elevator pitch. It's good to be prepared in case you ever are in front of your wish-list agent and she/he asks you what you're working on. 

Your assignment is to come up with the best LOGLINE for your book before the 3rd lesson. 


Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Hello friends & writers!

I mentioned in my last post that I am teaching an elective class at Seven Peaks Middle School. But I didn't say how much I LOVE it!

I taught an adult class through SCBWI before - but it was not as much fun as this class! And not as scary for me either.

When I first walked into the science room (where we will meet for this class) I could feel the hives start to warm my chest. I wore a high collared shirt because I knew I'd break out. It always happens when I'm nervous. 

But my five students were wonderful and not as frightening as I had imagined. We began class by saying something about ourselves. I went first and told them about my time working at the Pittsburgh Zoo with the elephants. That broke the ice and we were off. I got to learn a little bit about each one of them and it helped me to remember their names and uniqueness from the start.

Then I dove right in:

The first topic I wanted to share with them was on TITLES. Everyone knows you need a good title to catch the eyes of readers. But interning at Andrea Brown taught me that you need an awesome title to catch the eye of the agent, too. Or the eye of the intern checking out the query box. When an interesting title popped up in there I noticed it right away. Because it stood out. 

A great title has both meaning and irony. If you don't know what that means, think about these titles below:

  • The Hunger Games
  • The Lightning Thief

 The Hunger Games is a great title because it explains a bit of what's going on in the book and it's ironic. Hunger is never considered a game. We know right away that something bad is happening in this book - there is hunger. But we also are curious about it being described as a game. It's strange and unique. It leaves me wondering and wanting to know more about the story.

It's the same for The Lightning Thief. It tells you that someone stole something. But how can anyone steal lightening? No one can, and yet it's in the title. And everyone wants to read about a thief, right? They're interesting, naughty and daring. 

Both of these titles peak your interest as a reader and make you want to read and know more about what's going on in these books.

I had my students share their titles. Most of them had one word titles that meant something to them and told a little bit about the book but none of them had irony.

These are not their titles but examples of titles that have some meaning but are too vague.

  • Love
  • Best Friends
  • Hurt
  • Abandoned
Now lets try to make them better - make them pop!
  • Twisted Love
  • Best Friends Sting
  • The Hurt that Shines
  • Abandoned Together

I only added something interesting in the word that precedes or comes after the first title and it helped. The titles are stronger and more interesting. There's a bit of irony in them. Love is usually a good thing, not a twisted thing. Best friends are supposed to help you, not sting. Hurting usually does not get you to shine. And being abandoned is not something that usually happens together. These titles would make me want to read more if I saw them on a bookshelf in Barnes & Noble.

Here's an example of my title - which I thought wasn't bad, until I taught this class. Funny how teaching helped me realize I hadn't done what I was asking them to do to my title.

Working Title: SKINNED

Titles after teaching this class: 


I'm still playing around with the title but I think I'm getting closer to something that both tells the reader something about the book and has something ironic about it. People usually don't think of skin as wicked or awful and sweet. Or fur as sweet and wicked. 

After playing with their titles we looked at the words in their titles and in my titles. Words matter. The stronger the better, meaning the word that makes the reader feel something is the one to use. 


What if THE HUNGER GAMES was instead:
  • Starvation Play
  • The Starving Game
  • Need to Eat Games
  • The Hunger Tournament
  • Playing with Hunger

  • Stealing Lightning
  • The Storm Thief
  • The Bright Light Burglar
  • Taking Lightning from the Sky
  • Robbing Lightning
Words matter! None of these other titles are as strong as the original titles. And that's why they peaked our interest. When trying to come up with your working title look at each word. And ask yourself if that word is the most powerful one you could use. 


Now go create your best title!

Sunday, March 15, 2015


                                              Hello fellow writers.

I've been away from my blog since December 2nd. The biggest reason is I needed to focus on the book I am writing. 

I had 15 requests from agents, but in the end 13 of those rejected it after reading and the other 2 have gone silent.

There is something wrong -- mostly in the middle -- where many manuscripts get sick. I have been doctoring mine and will show you what I've been doing in future posts. What I've learned about revising, these past 3 months, is worth it's weight in ink!

I have also moved twice in the past 10 months - needless to say the Boxes, Boxes, Boxes and mounds of Boxes took over my life. Packing, unpacking, packing, unpacking --- I truly thought I was in a nightmare because I could not find my manuscript notes, or the books I use when writing. 

I had crazy thoughts about the moving company and theft of boxes of books. Like anyone would take them….but of course in my head there was a conspiracy to kill my novel.

Turns out they were in the LAST box I unpacked. Of course they were.

Today --- I unpacked the LAST LAST box in the house!!!!! 

Now I am free from clutter, free from the pressure of boxes, and I have my manuscript on note cards up on a bulletin board, I can get back to the lovely blog. 

I have some great posts coming up that will help guide you through tough revisions ---  and even tougher rejections. We will do this together!

Oh - and I almost forgot to give a shout out to my 5 amazing students at Seven Peaks Middle School. I am teaching a writing elective there called Author a Book. I will showcase the classes I prepare and if they agree --- some of their work.

So - looking forward to a productive 2015.

I hope you will join me on the quest to publication and my launch into teaching writing!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Interview with Grier Cooper: Author of WISH

Once upon a time, Grier Cooper and I were in a critique group together. I have watched her writing morph and evolve into something you won't want to put down! 

Grier is passionate about writing and ballet and it pours through her work. Below are the questions I asked her about her debut novel, WISH.

  •      You’re releasing your debut novel on Dec. 2nd. How are you launching?

WISH will be available in paperback and digital formats so I am planning to launch using a few different methods. There will be a blog tour beginning December 2nd and a number of guest posts and interviews on several sites that focus on ballet and young adult literature. I'm doing a countdown on my blog with posts covering different aspects of the book. I regularly use social media, primarily Twitter and Facebook, to reach readers across the globe. In early January I will host a book launch party and then begin a local tour promoting the book through author visits and book talks/signings.

  •      Who did the cover? How did you find them?

LJ Anderson of Mayhem Cover Creations made the cover for WISH. I discovered LJ through Joel Friedlander's blog and liked her work. I took the photograph of the ballet dancer (I worked for more than 15 years as a commercial photographer before turning to writing full-time) and LJ took it and did her magic, adding colors and layering in additional elements.

  •      What makes WISH something YA readers should read?

Dance has been one of the few constants in my life and my dance life has shaped who I am in the world today. Many people don’t get to experience this world firsthand and I wanted to give readers an insider’s perspective.

I also feel strongly about the difficulties of growing up in a dysfunctional family. I know the long-term implications from personal experience: my mother was an alcoholic. You learn to distrust your instincts and feelings, to play small, and to stay quiet when you know you should speak up.

Young adulthood is a time of huge transition and change even when there are healthy family dynamics. It’s a time to find your voice, to clarify who you are and who you want to be in the future. It’s not an easy road to navigate. I wrote WISH to give readers hope, to show them a path to self-empowerment, and to help them understand they can create change in their lives.

  •      How long did it take you to write this book? Revise?

I began writing WISH several years ago, in between writing a bunch of other things. The first draft took me a little over a year to write because I wrote in very short bursts. As we all know a first draft needs a lot of editing. I spent a lot of time combing through my novel and polishing it, then worked with a group of other YA writers to get feedback. My critique partners asked a lot of questions, often about things that I hadn’t thought about.

Even after the work I’d done revising and implementing some of their suggestions my novel still wasn’t quite there. I tinkered some more; focusing on the parts I felt needed more work. I'd say all totaled it took me 2-3 years.

  •     What made you choose to self-publish?

The publishing industry is changing so much and independent publishing is really growing. In today’s market it’s the author’s name that sells a book; we writers are our own brand. All writers have to do the work of growing that name through marketing and promotion, whether they are traditionally published or self-published. That is the reality. I realized if I’m going to do the work anyway, why not do it on my terms?

I also didn’t want to wait years to see my book on shelf. I have many other books in the pipeline and I wanted to keep moving forward. I’ve enjoyed maintaining my creative freedom and having the ultimate say on things like cover design. I also like knowing that after all I’ve put into it my book won’t expire or go out of print.

I’ve found the world of indie publishing to be incredibly giving and supportive, which has been a nice surprise. I’m really grateful to the other indie writers out there who share their knowledge and expertise so willingly.

  •     Why did you choose the name Indigo Stevens as your main character?

A lot of people have asked where the name Indigo came from. It’s an unusual name, I’ll admit, and there’s a story behind it. Before I tell the story, humor me and guess which of the following is true:

a. Indigo’s mom is an interior designer who named her daughter after her favorite wall accent color.

b. The name is a secret identity.

c. It’s a family name.
If you guessed a or c then you failed this pop quiz (kidding). The real answer is b, the name Indigo is a secret identity. Specifically, it is my secret identity, but only for a few weeks each year when I am a summer camp counselor. Don’t ask me why the counselors all have alter egos – this mysterious practice has never been fully explained to me, even though I’ve been working at this camp for five years now. All I know is the first day I showed up for training I was told to pick a name – although there were certain rules: I couldn’t pick a name that was already being used by another counselor and the name had to fit on the name tag.
Mostly this secret identity thing works really well, except for a few random encounters with other counselors outside of camp. At that point I always feel a little awkward because I’ve worked elbow to elbow with these people and I still don’t know their names. It feels a little funny to say, “Hey, Bluebird, how’s it going?” anywhere outside of camp.
But then again, they’re stuck in the same awkward name conundrum that I am, and when they say, “Hey, Indigo, how are you?” I just smile.

  •      This book is set in and around a ballet studio. What do you know about ballet?

I've been a dancer since I was five years old so I've spent decades (I won't say how many but more than two) in dance studios. I received my training at the School Of American Ballet and performed with companies including San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Today I still enjoy writing and blogging about ballet as well as attending performances.

  •      Which character is most like you in WISH?

I’m a bit like of many of my characters. I have aspects of Indigo’s emotional sensitivity, Miss Roberta’s work ethic and perfectionist tendencies, and Becky’s supportive nature. I wish I had more of Monique’s sass and Jesse’s laid back attitude.

The cool thing about creating characters is that even though I come up with the initial vision they eventually take on a life of their own. I’m often surprised by some of the things they say or do and I’ll think to myself wow, I never would say that to someone. Which is strange since the idea came out of my head. But it’s what the character would do, not what I would do.

  •      How difficult or easy is it to self-publish?

I'd advise anyone who is considering self-publishing to develop a solid plan before starting. This process is not particularly complicated but there are a lot of details to manage so organization is key. It's a process I've thoroughly enjoyed although it's been a lot of work. Essentially you're doing the job of four people when you self-publish. I've written and edited the work, researched and hired professionals to help me create the finished product and I've done all of my own marketing and PR....which means I wrote another novel's worth of content! Oh yes, I also built and maintain my own website. However, I think it's amazing that today's technology makes these things possible.

  •    Where should your fans send mail? Email?

The best way to find me is by email: You can also find me on Twitter (@griercooper) and Facebook.

  •      Is there a sequel in the making?

I'm happy to say that this is a planned trilogy and it's already in the works.

  •      Coffee? Tea? Chocolate? Or all three?

I enjoy all three...although chocolate is a rare treat and I drink tea during the winter. When I was younger I never thought I'd get into coffee. A friend told me that would change once I became a parent. She was right... but I stick to one cup in the morning.

  •      Is it difficult to put your work out there?

It's a little nerve-wracking because you never know how well it will be accepted. A famous musician friend once told me she never pays much attention to what people say about her work because she always makes sure to do her absolute best. There's peace of mind that comes along with knowing you've done your best. you can't do any more than that, right? So you put it out there, let it take flight and move on to the next project.