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


Friday, December 21, 2012

90 Days to Your Novel: UPDATE DAY 50

Trucking right along on my 90 days to my novel challenge....remember I'm only counting the 90 actual days I work on it, not going 90 days straight. With 2 kids, helping at school, and my volunteering schedule, 90 straight days is impossible.

But I am on day 50. Over halfway there now!!! So exciting. And I just purchased this new writing software called Scrivener. The learning curve is a little long, but I think it's going to be amazing once I plug everything I've written so far into it.

Wish me luck.

Below is what day 50 looks like...

The chapter in 90 Days to Your Novel is called:
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU

I have been writing all of the middle scenes from my outline. I have also changed my outline, having realized that I was smashing too much into the first outline. I had to expand it a little.

Quote of this day: 
"In a story, something happens."

The middle is considered Act 2 of your novel, and according to Sarah Domet, it should contain plenty of conflict, yearning, and obstacles for your main character.

The first thing she had me working on were my action scenes. I had to pull all of the action scenes from the middle and write them. It did not have to be in sequence, in fact, in your outline you shouldn't have only action scene after action scene. So this is a jumping around the outline exercise. 

This used to bother me. I like to write linearly. But, after working this way for the past 5 months or so, I'm used to it. I also think it is making me a stronger writer because I am thinking of each scene as its own individual mini movie, rather than trucking through them in a line. 




Action Scene Example Sample: (Remember this is a first draft - no revisions yet....)


Week 8: Day 50

Scene 16: Action

Characters: Seita/ Uncle/ Anpaytoo/ Mindy/ Bane/ Kele/ Winita

I reach out toward the huge bird. It's beak golden, shines with the warmth of the sun. But as my fingertips get closer, it calls out with a high-pitched song, turning to look West. With three pumps of its giant wings it flies off, over the sea to someplace beyond what I can see. I want to go. And, then I'm awake.

The whole tribe stares at me but with sleepy eyes. They look peaceful, like they just woke up too. And, when the first one falls, I think he fell back to sleep, until I see the blood. I scream.

My awakening, my beautiful dream, quickly becomes a nightmare. I see Kele pointing in my direction. A bald guy, covered in white powder, looking more like a ghost, charges toward me.

I'm still groggy, and fall backwards, trying to figure out what's happening. We're being attacked, and led by Kele.

"Uncle!" I yell.

He strikes the ghost with his smoking pipe. The ghost spins to the right, and stabs at Uncle with a long spear. Uncle dodges, hitting him again with his pipe. The blow shatters the pipe. The ghost smiles. His big yellow teeth are ground into sharp points. He thrusts his spear at Uncle's belly. Uncle dodges, but not in time. He's hit. I scream. He falls to his knees. Hands are on my shoulders, and I turn wildly to fight, but it's Anpaytoo.

"Come," she says.

"No! I have to—"

"You must."

I search for Uncle, but I don't see him. He's all right. He has to be all right. Someone had to help him. The lodge is filled with screams, and cries. Adults hide their children behind them, as more ghost people pour through the lodge doors. Blood splatters the leather walls. Something is thrown on the fire, and black smoke rolls out from under it, filling the lodge and my lungs. There's a mad dash for the doors, and more fighting. People fall, dead.

Anpaytoo guides me without a word, around the outer sides of the lodge and to a corner. No one comes after us. It's like they don't see us. It might be the smoke, but the way Anpaytoo's mumbling, I think it's something more. She waves her hands over the wall and walks through. I follow. And we are outside. Just like that we walked through a wall. I glance back, and the pelts are intact. She did not cut them. How? I stare at her, and she shakes, putting a finger to her lips. I nod.

Anpaytoo moves swiftly toward the path I know goes to the docks. But there are not boats scheduled to come this week.

"Seita. Wait!" I hear little Kara's voice. She's running toward me, long dark hair flying out behind her.

Anpaytoo waves to her, but not a hello. She's doing something, putting a curse or throwing magic. She's definitely doing something to protect us. I can hear screams coming from the lodge. I want to go back, but Anpaytoo grabs my wrist. She points silently to Kara, and then to me, and then down the path to the docks.

Kara nods without words. I do too. I take her hand in mine, and we run. Turning back for a second, I see Anpaytoo still waving her hands in large circles, like she's saying hello to the whole world. I turn back and run harder.

"How did you see us?" I finally ask, when we are far enough away from the fighting that I can't hear the horribleness anymore.

Kara's eyes light up. "Anpaytoo's been teaching me."

We round a corner and I slide to a stop. My bear is there. He sees us and lets out a hello yowl. Kara backs up.

"You see him too?"

She nods.

"He's friendly. He's my guide." I squeeze her small hand to reassure her.

The bear pounds the ground, and I can feel Kara tremble. I put my other arm around her. And, her body relaxes. The bear nods at both of us, turns and trots down the path.

"He wants us to follow him," I say.

"Okay, but you go first," she says.

I smile, and jog off after the bear. The three of us race down the last stretch of the path, and I see a boat coming in to dock. I don't recognize it. It's not one of the local fishing boats. It's painted black, with an odd symbol on its side painted in gold. I slow up.

"It's okay," Kara says. "They're supposed to be here."

"But I'm not." Winita jumps out from behind a tree.

"Go away!" Kara stands between me and the big girl.

Winita laughs. "What you gonna do about it, shrimp?"

"This!" Kara kicks Winita square in the shin.

"Ouch! You're dead!" Winita grabs for Kara, but Kara ducks.

"Run!" I yell at Kara, but she turns and tries to kick Winita again.

I pick up a stick, and swipe at Winita as she lunges again for Kara. I miss, she doesn't. Kara goes down, holding her face. I ready to strike at Winita again, when I'm grabbed from behind. I scream.

"Shut up, and get on the boat." The voice booms in my ear.

I struggle. "Let me go."

Kara cries on the ground, holding her face. I see blood in her hands.

"Let go of me!" I push on my captures arms, but it's not use. He's strong, and has me wrapped in a tight bear hug.

"Honaw!" I yell.

The bear charges from the trees, but it doesn't come for me. It storms toward Winita. Winita screams, and takes off up the path.

"Honaw, help me!"

"You want the whole wraith's to hear you?"

He hauls me to the boat and throws me on board. I turn to kick him, and stop mid-thrust. "Bane?"

"Get back!" He growls at me.

I hear them coming down the path. I can see their white powdered bodies racing through the green trees. "I have to help her!" I try to get off the boat, but Bane shoves me back. "Kara! Hide!" I yell, struggling with Bane.

Kara lifts her head. Blood drips from her lips. "I'm okay, Seita. Go. You have to go."

The engine kicks on. Water's thrown behind us.

"Get up! Run!" I yell one last time. I can see the ghosts charging down the dirt hill. They quickly become white dots, like salt on a brown plate. And, then they're gone. I wipe my face. Did Kara get up? What will they do if they find her? What happened to Uncle?

"Bane?" I search the boat for him. "Bane!"

"Pipe down. He's occupied."

I look up toward the voice, and see Mindy smirking down at me. She's at the wheel.

"Where are you taking me?" I climb the steps to the helm.

Mindy turns the boat sharp to the right. I stumble. She smiles.

"Where?" I grab the wheel.

"You want to drive? Good. I could use a rest." She sits down on one of the cushioned seats. "Just don't hit ice." She closes her eyes.

"Mindy!" I hold the wheel, watching the water. "Mindy, I'm serious. I can't drive a boat."

"You couldn't drive a seaplane either." Bane comes up the stairs. "But you did."

"That was different," I say.

"How?" He hands me some hot tea, and takes the wheel.

I toss the hot water out. "No way. You're not putting me to sleep again."

Bane checks over my shoulder to see where the hot water landed. "That was regular tea, and now it's all over our poles."

I glance down. Six fishing poles drip with the hot water. Steam rises from them.

"It had a lot of honey in it. The lines will stick together, now."

"Sorry," I say.

"Stupid," Mindy whispers behind us.

"I'm not stupid," I say to Mindy, but she keeps her eyes closed. "And you have to turn around and take me back." I stare at Bane. "My Uncle was hurt. Kara was hurt. People were killed."

"Yeah, and no ones coming to their rescue for days." Band steers to the left, avoiding a chunk of ice. "They'll be fine, your Uncle and Kara. I promise. Okay?"

"No. It's not okay. None of this is okay."

"Why don't you go downstairs, get some more tea. You're freezing. Warm up, and we'll talk."

I don't move.

"If you get hypothermia, you'll never know what's going on."

I stand my ground.

"There's a down blanket in there too, and a coat for you." Bane raises his eyebrows like doesn't that sound nice.

It does. "Fine. But I want real answers when I get back."

"Absolutely."

I search his face to see if he's lying, but I can't tell.

Inside the boats kitchen is pretty warm. I find the coat, and blanket just like he said. I zip the long down up, and instantly feel better. The tea is still steaming on the stove. I fill a cup with the hot liquid and dump about a beehives worth of honey into it. And, then I notice the gear.

There are boxes, and bags, tons of food, and maps of the sea. This isn't just a quick rescue mission. We're going somewhere, and by the looks of all this stuff, it's a long ways away.



 What I've learned:

  • Begin action scenes in the middle of action
  • Just write - don't get held up on some word or phrase - just write and revise later
  • Move on - don't revise right now - this scene might not even make the final cut
  • Engage all your character's senses
  • Show how your character acts and reacts
  • Do not edit yourself yet


I hope this helps you when you are stuck in your middle. 


Keep writing...

and as always.
Good Luck
Happy Holidays too...































Thursday, December 20, 2012

VOICE - Get out of your writer's box!

I had an "I finally get it" moment the other day at a writer's retreat. I've learned about voice from various teachers at Chatham University, and Writer's Boot Camp. But, for some reason it didn't really get in there. I didn't really make a strong connection.

Every piece of writing I did as an MFA student, and as a Script Writer student always had a strong voice. I know this, because the teachers and fellow students told me. They would write on my manuscripts, "Strong Voice!" Or "I love your voice!" So I thought I had it. Nope, not even close.



It wasn't until this last writer's retreat, when I had a tough critiquer - a literary agent - but an awesome one, that I put 2 and 2 together for the first time and got 4. 



I read my first chapter of THE LINK out loud to the group. The group consisted of the agent, leading it, and four other writers. As I read my chapter, I felt good about it. No, I felt damn good about it, and I just knew I would get good remarks. And, I did. But, I didn't get the "it" factor remarks. 

Here's what they said:


  • Great writing
  • good action scenes
  • strong MG voice
  • the ending is such a cliff hanger
  • I want to read more
  • your writing is strong
  • keep going

Now this all sounds promising, but I've heard it all before. I was still missing something. Did anyone mention character? NO! Did anyone connect with my character on a level that they felt they knew her? NO! Did anyone say my character had a strong voice? NO!

And, when I left this group, I was pissed. Not at them - at myself. It should have been better. With all my writing knowledge, I should have seen that my character lacked VOICE. My writing was good. People wanted to read more, but my character was flat. Who is she? 

When I got back to my cabin I sat down at my computer...and stared. I had nothing. I felt I had tried everything for this character, and maybe she was just not in there. Then my mind spiraled out of control. Maybe I'm a horrible writer? Maybe I suck? Maybe I've been wasting my life....and on and on until my roommate showed up.


She had gotten that coveted, please send this to me, remark on her manuscript. So I said, lets pop open the bubbly and celebrate your awesomeness. We did. And then I kept drinking....and got quite tipsy, dare I say drunk? And, then it happened. I heard my character. I heard her voice. And I started to write. And I started to laugh. 

I'm pretty sure my roommate thought I was nuts - but in my insanedom - it worked. I got my character's voice for the first time down on paper. 


Moral to the story:

 I need to drink to let myself write out of my writer's box I have created for myself.








The next reading of my manuscript, I had the agent laughing....6 times. I counted. She told me to keep going with this, and that it's great. I told my drinking story, and everyone laughed. The agent actually said that she sometimes tells her clients to have a drink to loosen up and get out of a stuck attitude. 

I joked back, saying, the next time she saw me, I'd have an awesome manuscript, but I'd be an alcoholic. 

Okay, so drinking a few glasses of champagne helped me get my character's voice. I'm not saying it will help you...but why not try it out. 

Suggestions:
  • Write at a different time than what's typical for you
  • Alter your state of mind -- a little -- see if it helps
  • Let go - don't care - just let your fingers fly over the keys
  • Make yourself laugh - think about the odd things you think about and write those as your character's
  • Pull an all nighter - the more tired you become, the less tight your writing will be
  • Go on a trip for writing - just you - stay at a lodge and write



I hope these suggestions help you get out of your box, and free your fingers to be the best writer you can be!







Good Luck
Write~On
Angie










Friday, December 14, 2012

Interview with Mary Kole: Agent and Editorial Consultant





I met Mary via SCBWI. My manuscript was assigned to her for an individual critique. I was very impressed by the amount of work, and time she took to help make my work stronger. I believe in Mary as an agent, and now I believe in her as an editor. I'm sure we will see many new books make their ways to publishing via her help.



Below are the questions I asked her:  




1.     Describe your editorial service in 5 words:

providing craft focus, market savvy 




2.     What time do you get up, and what do you eat for breakfast?

My boyfriend is a chef, so we tend to keep strange, late hours. Adding to that, our new puppy has hijacked any routine we used to have. My breakfast never changes, though: plain yogurt with berries and a shot of espresso.







3.     Why do you believe you are the best editorial consultant for the job?

There are many amazing people out there: writers, former editors, former agents. I've been lucky enough to think very deeply about both the craft and the market, and have done critiques for literally thousands of writers while participating in an MFA program, speaking at conferences, and teaching my Writer's Digest webinars. 

Helping writers in a craft-focused way is something I enjoy, and since I'm a publishing professional, I'm in a unique position to give my clients industry context that they might not otherwise have.




4.     How quick is your turn around time per manuscript?

One week for smaller projects like queries and picture books, two to three weeks for full manuscript edits. 

I give myself a wide cushion because I prefer to meet or surpass deadline expectations instead of being behind schedule. In terms of lead time, I am usually booked about a month in advance.




5.     What is your goal for your business in the next 3 years?

To grow my client base, gather momentum via positive testimonials and word-of-mouth, and to get some success stories under my belt from clients who go on to publish after consulting with me.




6.     Will your service help to place manuscripts in the "right" hands if you believe in the project?

The children's book community is very small. While one of my rules is that I will never represent a project that I have edited as a freelancer, I am more than capable of connecting a writer to an agent colleague if I see an irresistible fit. 




7.     I've heard many writers say, "It's not about the writing anymore, it's about the bottom line." Is this true? Or do you feel agents/editors/publishers want to cultivate a writer's career, not just the next big hit?

I'm not going to deny that there is a LOT of pressure on each book to have blockbuster potential and commercial appeal. This didn't used to matter as much in the children's market. However, now that HARRY POTTER and TWILIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES have proven that children's books make big money...more and more publishing bosses expect them to. 

Fruitful, developmental editor/writer relationships DO exist, but editors are feeling the crunch, too, and have fewer resources to spend on drawing talent out of creators. 




8.     What writer's groups/associations do you belong to, and why?

The SCBWI because they are, hands down, the best organization for children's book writers. Not only do they provide valuable resources on craft and publishing to members, but they put on incredible events. I've personally had the pleasure of speaking at dozens of regional conferences, domestically and abroad. All children's book writers should check them out at scbwi.org




9.     What's the toughest part of writing for you to overcome in your own writing? And, how do you work to make it better?

I mostly do non-fiction writing now, with my book and blog. Just like most writers, though, I think that writing a compelling fiction beginning (the first chapter or so) is very hard because you have to accomplish a lot quickly to draw a reader in.  




10. Are you a one-woman editorial consultant, or will you have trusted readers helping you critique manuscripts?

Nope, just me. My fees are based on my reputation, experience, and platform and what I, personally, can bring to the table. That's the whole point. Plus, I really do enjoy the work, so outsourcing doesn't serve me or my clients. 




11. What is your main goal when you choose to edit a writer's work?


Every writer is on a path, and each path is unique. I want to give everyone a few "Aha!" moments that they can take with them as they continue writing. Not only do I want my notes to apply to the manuscript at hand, but I really do try to explain things in a way that will make them more universally relevant for future work. 




12. Where do you believe writers have the most difficulty? Beginnings? Middles? Endings? Overall idea?

Beginnings (see above reasoning) and middles, because writers often don't know how much complexity to include (more than they think) and what makes for compelling ups and downs as the story rises toward the climax and resolution. 

Most middles feel very Point-A-to-Point-B without developing the necessary sophistication that will keep a reader turning pages. It's very easy to lose your audience either right away or in the "Muddy Middle."

If you'd like to hear more about children's book writing from Mary, please check out her blog at kidlit.com




13. What do you think about the publishing world today? Is it easier or harder to find true, lasting talent with everyone self-publishing?

I think self-publishing is a good showcase for certain types of talent, and that talent and the choice to self-publish are not mutually exclusive. 

I do think there's a lot more noise to wade through now, and everyone seems to get busier every year, so there's less time to sift through the static and really pay attention. 

I think that's a humans-in-the-modern-world problem, though, not necessarily just a publishing problem. 




14. You've moved from San Francisco to New York City. Where is the best place for a cup of Joe or tea in both places?

For the Bay Area, I'll pick Barefoot Coffee. It's not in San Francisco (where my neighborhood places were okay, at best), but my old Sunnyvale stomping grounds, and they make some ridiculously decadent dark mochas. 

In Brooklyn, I'm partial to a place in Park Slope called Venticinque Cafe...they make pumpkin lattes with real pumpkin pie filling, not flavored syrup. 

For iced coffee, I like Black Gold in Carroll Gardens.




15. What one piece of advice would you give a newbie writer, manuscript polished, trying to break into the publishing world?

Be patient, it's never going to turn out exactly like you think. Also, when the going gets tough, put your head down and write. 

This business is full of frustrations, because the product we're all dealing with is someone's creative output--it's a very emotional thing. So if you ever start to get down about something--rejections, a low print run number, the amount of publicity your house is doing--go back to the well and focus on the next manuscript, the next idea, the next inspiration. 




16. Who is your biggest cheerleader?

My boyfriend. He is the most supportive and unfailingly positive person I know, and I'm lucky to have him in my life. 




17. Why did you decide to open up an editorial consultant service?

Everything in publishing takes a long time and agenting is commission-only (at least at the agencies where I've worked) and unpredictable--you never know what will land in your inbox, when it will sell, and how it will fare in the market. 

I like working with writers and wanted the opportunity to use my skills in a way that would also fill in my income gaps while offers and sales and contracts trickle in at their own pace. This is more active than sitting by my slush, twiddling my thumbs, and waiting for the next big thing. :)




18. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Hire me! :) If not, tell your friends to hire me. 

You can find her for hire @ http://marykole.com




19. What one word best describes you?

Curious. 

I like to always be learning something.




20. Any big news?

A new puppy and a new business in one month? That's plenty of news for me!