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!