Learning from the Masters: The First 250 Words

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It’s time for another installment of this! (Click here to find installments 1, 2, and 3.)

You know how when you read advice on querying, they suggest comparing your manuscript to a published book? For my first manuscript, this was really hard to do–it’s a YA mystery, with some historical fiction, with some magical realism, with some romance, with a lot of coming-of-age stuff mixed in. I was having so much trouble coming up with a comparable book–until I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

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Wanderlusty Wednesday: Giverny

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Time to talk about one of my favorite places on earth…

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Do you like flowers?

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Of course you do. They’re beautiful and fragrant. Do you like Monet?

Fleurs XIVWillow fronds

How could you not? His paintings are beautiful. So I suggest you head to the place that feels like you’ve just stepped into one of his paintings: Giverny, in Normandy France.

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MK’s Book Reviews: Every Day

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Because there’s no day that begins with B so I can’t make it alliterative, I’ve decided Tuesday is now Book Review Tuesday.

Instead of reviewing a few at a time, whenever I have time, I’m going to be reviewing books one at a time, once per week. I’ll include 3 main things: the Goodreads summary, so you know what it’s about, the first 250 words of the book, so you know if the writing style is for you, and my favorite quotes, because I love quotes.

Sound good? Let’s begin then.

Today’s book: Every Day by David Levithan

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Improve Your Writing: Show and Tell

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I think Mondays are a good day for a quick writing lesson, don’t you? At the beginning of the work week I’m (usually) in a productive mindset. So going forward, on Mondays I’m going to be sharing some little tips that can improve your writing in a big way.

First up: On how (and why) not to show and tell

I’ve written about this before, because it’s my biggest pet peeve and such a clear marker of an amateur writer. I used to do it myself. I see it in first drafts. I even see it in published novels. And all I can think is: ARGH.

Show and tell is when you show your reader something and then, just in case they’re super dense, also tell them what’s going on. As a reader, I hate being pandered to that way. And as a writer, it makes me cringe. When you imply something, you don’t need to then state it outright.

An example of showing and telling:

“Don’t eat that,” I say. “It’s too hot.”

Cara looks right at me, as if taunting me, then ignores my advice and takes a bite of her pizza anyway. A moment later, she spits it out, fanning her mouth. Clearly, it was hot.

I smile, pleased I was right.

Compare that to:

“Don’t eat that,” I say. “It’s too hot.”

Cara looks right at me and takes a bite of her pizza. A moment later, she spits it out, fanning her mouth.

I smile.

Do you see how much better the second one is?

You don’t need to tell your reader that Cara is ignoring the narrator’s advice and then taunting her–you’ve already shown her doing those things. You don’t need to tell the reader the pizza’s hot–Cara’s actions imply this. Also, anytime you use the world “clearly”, that’s a red flag that you probably don’t need that sentence at all. Finally, you don’t need to tell your reader the narrator is pleased–the fact that she smiles is enough.

When you apply this to your own writing, it becomes tighter and just overall better.

Image from a broken link–if anyone has the source, please let me know!

Friday Things

tumblr_nopqdud6ur1rfy10no1_500Hello! Apologies for my radio silence. I had a nice long 4th of July weekend in which I attempted to disconnect from the internets for a bit. I’m working on coming up with a more regular blogging schedule. Time will tell if I stick to it.

Here are three things that made my week:

1. One of my favorite blogs did this lovely post asking What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever read?” More than 600 people responded! I LOVE beautiful sentences–borrow a book from me and you’ll notice all the turned-down edges with my favorite lines on them–so this was just blog post heaven to me. I still need to go through them all and add them to my Tumblr where I collect such things.

2. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: when you’re stuck on plot problems, get away from your computer. When I’m stuck, like really stuck, sitting there staring at the screen hopelessly, 99% of the time all I need is a little distance. In yoga class last night, the issue I’d been struggling with came to me in a burst of clarity while I was in high lunge. It was all I could do not to race out of class that moment and jot it down. Instead, I worked through it inside my head for the remaining half hour of class, doing the complete opposite of what they ask you to do in yoga class, which is be present in the moment. It was worth it, though. I went home and wrote for three hours straight. I got to bed way too late, but again: worth it.

3. My friend and her husband just got back from the Amalfi Coast, which is SO on my list and has been since I saw this movie. Her pictures are amazing and now all I want to do is plan a trip there, since we still don’t know where we’re going this year yet. But it’s quite pricey. If anyone has any Amalfi Coast tips, please let me know!

Reading: I just started The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen. I haven’t actually really read Sarah Dessen, which is a crime, I know, as a YA lover (and YA writer!) All I can say in my defense is: too many books, too little time.

Watching: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is now my favorite thing to watch during Monday dinner. I generally don’t watch the news, because it’s usually awful (I keep myself informed by reading about it instead) but John Oliver has this way of making awful, important things palatable–but not in an insensitive way. He’s like Colbert and Jon Stewart, but somehow funnier. You didn’t think that was possible, did you?

Listening to: A New Found Glory. Yes, I’m a teenager in the nineties again.

Lovely image found here

Wanderlusty Wednesday: Patagonia

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Have you been there? I’ll write a full post about it someday, because it was just an amazing experience, but for now I’ll leave you with this lovely photo that was taken just outside our hotel, on the edge of a lake in the middle of absolutely nowhere. What I wouldn’t give some days to live in the middle of nowhere…