Tuesday, November 26, 2013

4 Writing Tips to SHOW and NOT TELL

One of the things I’ll be looking for on the Pitch Wars entries is the ability to show versus tell. Well, and not only in Pitch Wars, but in the other contests I host, like The Writer’s Voice, too. 

So today, I’ll be giving a few tips about how you can either identify when you’re telling, and how you can improve that.

1) Filters:
When you say “I knew,” “I think,” “I see,” you are telling the reader what the MC knows, what he thinks, what he sees, INSTEAD of just going ahead and showing what the MC knows, thinks, and sees.
“I wonder if it’s a good idea.” --> “Is it a good idea?”
“I knew he was right.”--> “He was right.”
So always, try to nix the filter… UNLESS you want to accomplish something else with the filter, like voice, or like foreshadowing something, like:
“He is the murderer, I’m sure.”
In that case above, adding “I’m sure” foreshadows that the MC can be wrong. And if the MC says “He’s the murderer,” then you’re not foreshadowing anything. He *is* the murderer, then, the readers will think.In other words, use filters knowingly.

2) Telly Verbs:
Watch out for these: “is, are, am, etc.,” and verbs like “feel.”
First work on identifying these type of verbs. Then you can change them.
“The wave was big.” --> ”The wave rolled forward and swelled, towering over the ships of the bay.”
“I am scared.” --> “Holy crap, where did I leave my taser?”
“What he’s doing is dangerous.” --> “He’s driving ever so fast, catching speed, aiming directly at that cliff.”

3) Naming Emotions:
This one is like the example above of the taser--when you name an emotion, like “She’s nervous.” Or “He was upset.” etc. When there’s the name of an emotion in your MS, then you probably are telling the reader how the character feels instead of showing how he feels.
“I’m angry at him.” --> ”That @#$%&, he’s so full of himself. He should rot in hell.”
“I’m frustrated.”--> “Oh, come on! Give me a freaking break.”

4) Subjective Adjectives:
If the adjectives are subjective, like beautiful, pretty, ugly, etc, it won’t convey a visual to the reader—you won’t be able to show what you mean well. Because something that is pretty for someone could be ugly for someone else. Always try to choose objective adjectives.
“Her hair was so pretty.” --> “Her honey-colored hair shined, and when he touched it, it felt soft, like… [um, I can only think silk right now, haha! But “soft as silk” is so cliché. Still. You get what I mean, right? =) ]”

There are other ways to identify telly places, like watching out for “info dumpy” paragraphs, not using dialogue when you could, etc. But this post is getting long, so that’s all for today, folks!
Hope it helps!
Looking forward to reading your entries next week!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pitch Wars is HERE! My Mentor Bio and Wish List! :)

So! Pitch Wars is finally here and I’m so excited!

As some of you know, I’ll be mentoring someone with a YA ms, and we’re going to polish it to take it with a tuxedo and a tie to the agents’ round in January. And hopefully, this writer will get MANY offers of representation! *wink* 

Now my bio and my wish list!

I’m a mother of three boys and owner of eleven hens. When I’m not collecting laundry or eggs, I write YA fiction. I’m represented by Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency, and I’ve worked with many published YA authors, such as Francisco Stork, Gretchen McNeil, Debra Driza, and Kimberly Sabatini—among others. I freelance, too, and I absolutely love helping others hone their manuscripts.

Let me tell you what I want to read this year, but first, I’ll let you know what I DO NOT want to read this year:

- YA dystopian—I’ve read too many and, even though I know there could be a true gem out there, I’m not up to it this year.
- A novel written in verse.
- A quiet novel. Like, a teen losing someone they love and the ms is just about this teen coping with this death… or something quiet like that.
- A novel that’s over 100,000 words. While there are a few mss that are over 100k that get pubbed like Twilight, this contest will take place in just a couple of months, so I don’t think we’ll have time to edit thoroughly something that has so many words.

What I would LOVE to read:

-Contemporary YA.  
I love this genre. In fact, the MS I picked last year was a contemp. YA that did more than well in the agents’ round. (More about that later!)
I want an original contemp. YA with a hook—nothing that is too quiet (like I said above). Give me something fresh, and if it has romance, then even better. I love girl POVs and guy POVs, love flawed characters that make you feel. (BTW, I’m writing a contemporary YA right now, and I’ve read tons of books in this genre. Also, I've been so lucky to beta some awesome contemp. YAs, like THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US by Kasie West /Harper Teen 2012 and VICKY by Francisco X. Stork /Scholastic 2015.) 
Seriously, if you have a contemporary YA, I'm your gal!

-Literary YA.
Last year, someone asked me about literary YA. So I want to specify here—think of a MS that is beautifully written, that it doesn’t only matter what happens in the book, but it also matters THE WAY it’s written. The cadence and rhythm is beautiful and the characters are complex and flawed and loveable at the same time. An example of lovely prose would be Lauren DeStephano’s WITHER. Or Nova Ren Suma’s IMAGINARY GIRLS.
If your MS has a commercial aspect, like an intriguing and hooking premise (again, that isn’t quiet), and it’s written beautifully, with a literary slant, then it’s very possible that I will pick your ms.

-Fantasy YA, and Urban Fantasy YA
I love fantasy, but not high fantasy. (High fantasy is something set in a very different world, sometimes with a different language, etc—like Eragon, Lord of The Rings, etc). Since editors aren't buying so many Fantasy YAs lately (they are currently asking for contemporaries and the like) I will be picky with this genre, but if I see something I truly love, then I'll definitely pick it.

- Historical YA
I just finished revising a historical YA I wrote, and I’ve read tons of historical YAs to get the language right and all. So I know my share of historical YA. The bad news is that I’ve also learned that is a tough genre to sell, so it has to be really awesome. And the writing must be smooth, and the plot shouldn’t be predictable, either. If you think your Historical YA is very original and your writing is there, then please send it my way!

- YA Sci-fi
I have to be honest. Sci-fi isn’t my favorite genre. But I HAVE picked sci-fi in contests before. Like one of the mss I picked for The Writer’s Voice 2012 was a great YA sci-fi that later sold in a six-figure deal. What I’m trying to say here—I read sci-fi. I’m just very picky when it comes to it. But again, if I love it, I will definitely take it.

- Magical Realism YA
SURE!!! As I mentioned above, I loved IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma, and that is totally magical realism. Seriously. I love magical Realism.

-Thriller YAs
I love the nature of this genre—that it makes you flip pages because you really want to know what the heck is going on! And then there’s always a twist that you hopefully didn’t see coming and you’re like, WOW! Yeah. I want that. Said this, I have a couple of things to say. If it’s a YA thriller, I want a romantic subplot (it doesn’t have to be a huge romantic thing, just that there’s a love interest). And I want that there are enough teens around—let me explain. Sometimes YA thrillers include institutions like the FBA, CIA, whatever, and those are filled with grownups. Teens want to read about teens. So if your YA thriller has romance and there are a few teens around (without so much focus on what the grownups do), then send it my way, please!

-Paranormal YA
It makes me sad that editors aren’t buying Paranormal YA as they used to. Because come on! It’s a great genre. This being said, I'll be looking for something exceptionally good in this genre.

-Horror YA
Yes!! Send it my way. *thinks better of it* *shudders* Um, no!! Okay… yes? But promise you’ll send it during the day. Otherwise I won’t be able to sleep!! *wink* But seriously? Sure! I love this genre, too. I’m even in the acknowledgements of a YA Horror published by Balzer & Bray, and I loved that book.

YA Memoir
It has to be something original and that reads like fiction. I may fall in love with a YA Memoir!

And if you think of any other YA genre that I didn’t mention, then SURPRISE ME, and send it my way—unless of course, it’s something I specifically said I don’t want to read. ;)

Why should you pick me?
Well, I’m going to let my last year’s mentee, the lovely Missy Mitchell, to answer that for me:

“Monica is the mentor YOU need. First, she knows her stuff, which is totally important. She has a great eye for "big picture" and line-edits. She also helped brainstorm ideas with me to help bring my MS to the next level. And availability?? I have to tell you, Monica was available at a moment's notice. She was super fast with her edits and responses, even if I would send a regular old email to just talk about a MS idea. << This is super important during #pitchwars. Most important, I received offers from agentS and am now talking with publishers. 'Tis true!! So you should choose her. She's the one!”

Also, you may want to check out my Editorial Services page, because I have some other testimonials there.
And I’ll say what I said last year: you should pick me because I’m going to make you work so hard, you’ll fall off the grid while revising your MS. Because I have lots of experience editing mss, and I can help you brainstorm. And because we’ll have fun in the process!

Summing up, PICK ME! ;)

<3 Mónica

Oh, OH! And while I was drafting this post, the lovely Brenda Drake sent us the names of the 18 participating agents. Aren't they awesome?

For submission guidelines, go to www.brenda-drake.com.

Now, the list of mentors so you can hop around the blogs! (Or maybe don't, because you're going to pick me, right?)

2. Stacey Lee

32. Stephanie Garber

Secret letter: R