Lost Treasure

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Frustration. That’s what started everything this week.

On Monday, I sat down to try and fix the voice problems in my MG Contemporary WIP. I switched from first-person POV to third. Then I tried writing a new scene – but my MC *still* kept coming off too old.

Fine. I put it aside and sat down with PB #1. I cut and revised and fiddled and…still didn’t pull it under 1000 words. Arrgh!

I needed a break from those stories.

But I was annoyed. Here I was with time to write – and nothing to work on. With summer fast approaching, there was no way I was going to squander my precious writing time. So I decided to go back and check out the novel I wrote for NaNo last year.

Didn’t know I’d written another novel, did you? Well, that’s because, it was something new for me. Just before NaNo last year, I got a great idea for a YA Contemporary. So, in November, I sat down and wrote just over 50,000 words on it. But when the month was over, I wasn’t sure about it. See, I’ve never been much of a contemporary fiction reader – give me a mystery or a fantasy any day – so I put my YA away to cool off. And then, never picked it back up.

Until Monday.

I opened it up and started reading, and I couldn’t put it down. And when I finally got to the part where I’d stopped writing, I actually yelled in frustration because I wanted to know how it ended. (Yes, I technically *know* how it ends, but it’s not the same as reading it as it unfolds.)

So, this is my new project. I’ve moved my MG Contemp and PB#1 to the back burner for now, to simmer and stew while I work on this YA. I’ve been revising all week, and I think I may be able to put my first chapter up for my online crit partners next week, while I finish writing the ending.

I’m anxious to see what other people (especially those with more experience with YA) think of it. And, even if the story idea turns out to be bad/overused/unmarketable, at least it all counts as more writing experience.

What about you? Do you go back and re-read abandoned projects, looking for treasure? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Patchwork Post

Image(Side view of a patchwork cake I made for my grandmother-in-law)

I wasn’t really sure what to write about this week, so I thought I’d just catch you up on the writing adventures I’ve been having this week.

PB #1 – finished the first draft of a new PB for Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Challenge. The MC is a spunky eight-year-old with attitude, and one I could see evolving into a series. Need lots of revision to pull this draft under 800 words, so I can send it off to my crit partners.

PB #2 – completed the first and second drafts of a PB for The Girl, to help her deal with upcoming dental work. I don’t plan on pursuing publication with this one, so I just might try and illustrate a final copy for her (if I can find the time in the next few weeks before her appointment)*

MG Contemp WIP – 500 words in. Still loving the idea, but not sure I’ve found my voice. I started in first person POV, which I don’t usually write in, and I think my MC sounds a lot older than 12. Debating switching it to my more usual third person to see how it develops.

Queries – Followed up on a couple of queries that have gone well past their reply-by time. I hate not knowing if agents are just really backed up, or if my stuff is going straight into a spam filter/otherwise disappearing in cyberspace. Sent out a new batch of queries to different agents, just to keep my work out there. Crossed all my fingers, and some of my toes.

SCBWI Schmooze – attended a meet-up with other local writers and illustrators. Had fun meeting new people and talking shop. Tried not to be discouraged by being one of only two unpublished writers there. Looking forward to the Fall conference in October.

And that’s it. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a productive month or not, but so far things are looking good. What about you? What writing adventures have you got up to lately? Tell me in the comments.

 

*Update: I think this story might work too well. I read it to The Girl last night and she begged to go to the dentist ASAP. It was really hard telling her she has to wait a whole month for her appointment.

The Name Game

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I spent most of last week plotting and planning my new MG Contemporary, and most of last night fleshing out a PB idea. Having to name about thirty characters in a short space of time has got me thinking about the naming process.

Naming a character is almost as hard as naming a child (only without the arguments with your spouse). Sure, you can always go back and change their names later, but it’s hard to break the habit of calling them by their original name. Just like I’ll always be Kimberly to my parents, my characters will almost always be whatever name I called them first.

So I have to make sure the name is right.

Fortunately I still have all my baby name books (and website bookmarks), as well as my short-list from when my husband and I were naming our kids. (I find it satisfying to be able to give a character a name I’ve always loved, but which my husband didn’t agree on.)

Lately, though, I’ve noticed I have patterns when it comes to choosing names. For instance, I like flower names for girls: Lily, Violet, Rose, etc. (some of which have family connections for me). And I like boys’ names that end in ‘an’: Ethan, Aidan, Sebastian, etc. That’s great if you want continuity when naming your kids, but not so hot for naming a diverse cast of characters.

So I’ve started listening for names when I’m picking my daughter up from school, when I’m watching tv, and when I’m on social media. My latest trick this week was to take the first name of someone in my daughter’s class and attach it to the last name of someone I went to school with. That character won’t necessarily have any of the characteristics of either of his or her namesakes, but I found it was a great starting place for names.

What about you? How do you name your characters? Do you have naming patterns you tend to fall into? Tell me about it in the comments.

Time to Cool Off

Cool Off

I did it! Somehow, despite the distractions of The Writer’s Voice contest and sick kids (again!), I finished the first draft of my MG Fantasy WIP!

YAY!

This is my fastest first draft ever (well, not counting picture books), and now that I’m done, it’s time to cool off.

Nope, I don’t mean taking a break from writing – just a break from this project. This manuscript is going into a virtual box for the next month, so I can look at it with fresh eyes and decide if it’s worth revising. (I think it is.)

In the meantime, I’m going to start on my next novel. I’m still in the planning stages, but my new goal is to get as much of the first draft written as possible before school ends. Not sure how that’s going to work without another writing retreat, but that’s my goal anyway. This new story is going to be a Contemporary MG – which also means I need to dust off my library card and start reading some comp titles.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, time is short and I need to go do some character interviews and a story board.

What about you? Do you give yourself time to cool off or jump right into revisions? Tell me in the comments.

Why I’m Wearing Yellow Today

 

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It’s Wishbone Day.

Don’t worry, I’m not asking for donations.

Wishbone Day is purely to promote awareness of a condition called Osteogenesis imperfecta or Brittle Bone Disease. Last year my cousin’s daughter was born with this condition, so I thought I would do my part and post here. So, if you have the time, click the link and find out more about OI, (or if you’re not much for dry facts, click here to see a video made by a little girl with OI for an idea of what it’s like living with the condition) and if you want to help, too, wear yellow today and spread the word.

(I know I usually use this blog to talk about writing (and cakes), but today is important to my family. I promise not to digress too often.)

The Writer’s Voice

I’ve been picked as a participant in The Writer’s Voice query contest. Below are the query and first 250 words of my Upper MG Fantasy, SHADOWCATCHERS. Wish me luck!

Dear Mr./Ms. Agent,

At only thirteen years old, Zane Blackthorne is the youngest Shadowcatcher on the force. He’s also the best. He has to be. The ridiculous amount of gold he earns hunting down the shadows of tax evaders is the only thing keeping him from ending up back in the slums where he was raised. And he’d rather eat a Narcow than go back there.

Zane thinks he’s hit the jackpot when the Empress commissions him to collect the shadow of a political opponent. Sure, she threatens to sic bounty hunters on him if he fails, but that doesn’t scare Zane. He’s too good to fail. At least, he thinks he is, until a rat-faced urchin named Meescha gets in his way.

Meescha tells Zane that the shadows are actually people’s souls and shows him what happens to those who can’t afford to buy them back. Most, like her father, become husks of their former selves, withering away with agonizing slowness; the rest die instantly, their lives snuffed out like street lamps at dawn.

Haunted by the faces of the suffering shadowless, Zane fails his mission, and the Empress takes his mentor’s soul as punishment. Now Zane must team up with Meescha to rescue the shadows of their loved ones and evade the pair of crazy bounty hunters who would rather capture them dead than alive.

SHADOWCATCHERS is a standalone, 44,000-word, Upper MG Fantasy with series potential. It is told from the alternating viewpoints of Zane and Meescha.

I am an associate member of SCBWI and CANSCAIP.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 Sincerely,

K. Callard

 

SHADOWCATCHERS

CHAPTER 1

Zane

Zane slouched in the shade of a stall, eating a fig, while he waited for the man he was hunting to appear. The market was empty except for a few servants dragging their feet through the sand. Under their headdresses, sweat beaded on the servants’ foreheads. Zane felt sorry for them. Sure, he was out here, too, but at least he got to hide in the shade.

A cloth merchant, dressed in an embroidered shirt, ducked out of his shop, and knocked sand from the canvas roof with his hand.

Dropping the fig skin, Zane reached into his pocket and double-checked the sketch he carried. Same fair hair and beard, same crinkly eyes, same snaggle-toothed smile. Definitely his man.

The merchant hustled through the market, staying close to the stalls and out of the sun, but whether it was to keep cool or to protect his shadow, Zane didn’t know. Either way, he would have to be careful.   

Zane peeled himself off the wall and slipped across the sand toward his mark. Three scraggly chickens clucked into his path, and he stumbled as he sidestepped them. He glanced around, but no one had noticed. The market was a ghost town, just the way he liked it. Most Catchers worked when the market was crowded, and the shadows long, but he preferred the precision of getting up close.

 

Some Thoughts on Dialogue

But first, a knock, knock joke:

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Interrupting Sheep.

Interrupting Sheep w –

Image    BAA!*

 

Heeheehee! That’s my favourite knock, knock joke. (Now you see why I write for kids.)

Seriously, though, there’s a reason I subjected you to that, and it has to do with dialogue. Thanks to my crit partners I’ve learned a lot about the art of writing dialogue, and I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned here today.

1)      People (and sheep, apparently) are impatient. We don’t always wait for someone to finish talking before butting in with our own story/answer/opinion. If your characters are excited, angry, or just impatient, they’re not going to wait for another character to finish a long speech just because it contains important plot points.

2)      An info dump in dialogue is still an info dump. Just because you need your MC to know that the library he’s in was built in 1921 after it was destroyed by a fire that killed three people, etc, etc, doesn’t mean you should have another character recite those facts to him like a walking encyclopedia. Find another way to work the information in gradually. Which brings us to:

3)      The three sentence rule. This kind of ties in to both of the points I’ve made above. Never have a character say more than three sentences without being interrupted or exchanging dialogue. Why? Because when was the last time you sat there silently when someone droned on and on? Ok, there are exceptions. Like if you have a character who is a chatterbox, or boring, or whatever, but as a general rule, this one’s a keeper. (I have a soft spot for old mystery novels, and it’s started to really bug me how often someone prattles on for pages and pages while everyone else in the room just listens avidly.)

What about you? Do you have any dialogue-writing tips to share? Put them in the comments, I’m always glad for new writing tips.

 

Oh, and for anyone wondering how writing went last week: I drafted a PB, added 2800 words to my WIP, and came up with an awesome idea for a contemporary MG – and managed to whip up another dragon cake for my daughter’s school cake raffle. Yay!

 

*Author’s Note: I didn’t write this joke. I’d love to give props to the actual author, but I don’t know who it is.