Thursday, January 31, 2013

January Critique Giveaway Winners! says the winners of the January critique giveaway are: janet and Katie L. Carroll!

Here's the procedure. Email me at marcia at marciahoehne dot com:
  • The first 1000 words of your magazine story, chapter book, mid-grade novel, or YA novel pasted into the body of the email.
  • Be sure to tell me the genre of the material (one of the above four).
  • Put "Critique winner" in the subject line.
  • Deadline to submit is February 20.
  • When I receive your email, I'll acknowledge receipt and let you know when you can expect my response.
Congratulations to Janet and Katie, and thank you all so much for stopping by and entering. Wishing you all a great day in the world of books...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Learning by Teaching, With Applications to Voice

January critique giveaway still open! Scroll down one post!

The more I teach, the more I learn. You know that thing called voice in our writing, which is often so elusive and hard to define? I did define it, here, and I still like that definition. As I continue to teach writing students, I continue to see examples of voice or lack thereof. Voice is partly talent, partly language competence, partly the unique way we sound when our writing is flowing, and most of all it puts the author-ity in our writing. When it's there, it's there; when it's not, it's not; and I believe now, more than I once did, that if you have other skills and craft but don't have voice, your story won't work. If voice can be taught at all, I think it's taught indirectly. By that I mean the teacher can point out examples of voice, write essays on voice (as Larry Brooks does for 12 pages in Story Engineering), and discuss voice, but then the student has to take it from there. She can learn about voice, find her voice, and develop her voice. It takes reading, it takes writing, and it takes time.

I think my teaching so far has taught me this: Voice is first. (I didn't always believe this.) If you don't yet have your voice, you are not ready to query or submit. Only books with voice have a chance. It's not the most comfortable thing in the world to realize that this elusive voice element, that can seem so difficult, is for openers.

But once you have voice, it's the story that matters. This was what I'd always thought; it's the story that matters! Once the voice has gained you admittance into real consideration by an agent, editor, or reader, it's the story, story, story that has to deliver.

Any thoughts? Or do I think this way mostly because I write for those people who want to know what happens -- MG-ers? :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

January Critique Giveaway

It's critique time. Enter to win!
  • I will critique TWO manuscripts. "Manuscript" means the first 1000 words of your children's magazine story, chapter book, MG novel, or YA novel.
  • No picture books, easy readers, poetry, or nonfiction.
  • Just comment on this post and state that you wish to enter.
  • Extra entries for following, Facebooking, tweeting, blogging, etc.
  • Include your email, OR check back to see if you've won!
  • Enter now through Wednesday, January 30.
  • Please, no stories that you intend to enter in an ICL Children's Writer contest.
  • Winners announced Thursday, January 31.
Let the entering begin!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Splendors and Glooms, by Laura Amy Schlitz

This book is simply fabulous. How do I count the ways? Splendors and Glooms is set in 19th-century London, and I can see the fog, feel the hunger, hear the accents. The setting is rich (London streets are "an icy stew of mud and straw, horse manure, and urine"); the writing leaves me wanting to linger over every sentence. It's a long book, and the pace not especially fast, but I was immersed -- in for the long haul.

Clara Wintermute is a twelve-year-old lady, only surviving child of wealthy Dr. Wintermute and his grief-crazed wife, who has lost four siblings including a twin to cholera. When she sees a traveling puppet show and requests to have it perform at her birthday party, the evil puppeteer, Grisini, and his two child-helpers gain access to the Wintermute household. Lizzie Rose is the destitute orphan of famous actors, ladylike and proper (in a good way) despite her station, and Parsefall a lovable scamp talented with both the puppets and with thievery. Clara, a nice girl who is hungry for friendship, insists the two take tea with her before the show. None of the three have any idea that tonight, more than just the valuable picture frame pinched by Parsefall will disappear. Clara Wintermute will, too. And in a mixture of compassion for Clara's father, desire to break away from Grisini, concern for Clara herself, and sudden news that they are heir to wealth from a mysterious benefactor, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall leave London determined to find Clara and get the money without it falling into Grisini's clutches. Too bad their benefactor is every inch as evil as Grisini, or more, and wants to pass her life's curse to whichever of the children she can tempt, or force, to steal it.

That the characters are engaging is important for openers, but the writing -- oh, my, the writing. And the setting. And the complex plot. And the multiple POVs; more than I counted, actually. But here's the real crux of this book for me: This is a MG adult novel. Or an adult MG novel. In many chapters and passages, there are no child characters present. There is enough blood and violence to warn away the squeamish. (I'd say age 10 is the lower limit for readership, and even then I'd consider the individual child.) This book is not YA; it is MG. Yet it crosses over to adult. Yup, it jumps an entire category. It may be able to wear that elusive "all ages" designation, and I think it will surprise a lot of people who believe "you can't do that" in MG. By "you can't do that," I mainly mean feature adults and their conflicts so prominently. I'd love to know other readers' views on this.

Highly recommended, but not for an MG reader who isn't ready for a fair bit of gore, or a 400-page book with richer language and a slower pace than Harry Potter.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

750 Words Per Day Update

Some of you may remember that last fall I posted about a new 750-words-per-day approach to finishing my WIP by early-ish October. So how did that work out for me? Well, it both did and didn't.

It's amazing to me that I'm still figuring out fairly major things about myself at this point in life, but there it is. See, I'm pretty organized, responsible, sensible, and logical, and I at times have made life decisions predicated on these qualities. But I think it's closer to the truth that I'm pretty organized, responsible, sensible, and logical despite the fact that I am mainly a head-in-the-clouds, future-oriented, daydreaming dreamer. (For any Keirsey aficionados, this is because I have J paired with my NF.) Routines fit the J in me better than they fit the main me, the NF. I also find that I prefer to spend my days in a few larger blocks of time rather than change activities many times a day.

Therefore, the 750 per day didn't work that great. Actually, 1500 every two days worked better, and five days or so when I could dive into the book and not do much else worked better yet.

So I'm a binger.

It sounds so -- irresponsible or imprudent or something. Reckless and unbalanced Haha! But I am now devising ways to be a binge writer while still keeping up with student lessons, which puts me right back in the responsible camp. :)

When my kids were home, I was more of a day-by-day writer. And it worked then. The bingeing seems to be what works now, and I really don't think it's important to analyze it any further. I'm just going to go with it.

The overall change or resolve or whatever it was worked, in that I met my goal and have figured out how to become a faster, if not fast, drafter. So I consider the whole operation a success. :)