Thursday, April 3, 2014

Writing Humor

Wow... It's been a LONG time since I last posted. I've been writing up a storm, so that's at least one reason why it's been a while.

Anyway, as I may have mentioned, well, ages ago, one of the projects I'm working on is a humorous superhero story. I'm currently almost finished with the rough draft, but the third-act villain showdown scene is really giving me a tough time (damn you, third-act villain showdown scene!).

In any case, as I've learned with writing, every project is its own unique challenge, and this one certainly isn't any different. This time around, it's been the humorous aspect that's been so difficult, and after thinking about it for a bit, here are what I think are a couple main reasons for that (at least as they apply to me personally):

1. When writing a comedy you need to, theoretically, have humor consistently throughout the story. This can be a challenge when nothing funny comes to mind for stretches of the story, and it can lead to trying to force humor, which, well, is never a good thing.

2. Getting into a "funny/zany" mood typically happens while writing a comedy (I'd say it's a pretty important aspect), but this sometimes leads to going overboard with the zaniness and humor. In fact, there are a couple stretches of my book I refuse to even look at for awhile, because I'm afraid I went too overboard in those spots and will need a much fresher pair of eyes to see exactly where, so I can tailor appropriately.

The bottom line: Humor is HARD. Like, what, did you expect it to be easy? Also, although putting your work aside for some time in order to come back to it with a fresher perspective is important - nay, essential- for ANY story/writing, it's equally, if not more so, important with humor. Then you'll be able to really see what's working and what's not (I've already done this a couple times while writing this draft, and it's really been eye-opening). I have to admit, when I'm finished with the draft, I'm tempted to stay away from it for several months, but that might be overkill, especially since we can't take FOREVER to write our books. So my goal is to let it sit for about two months before I come back to it. I just hope that's enough time. Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Savage Jungle Query Pitch & First 250 Words

I thought it'd be fun to post the current query pitch and first page of the MG SF book I'm currently querying, SAVAGE JUNGLE. Enjoy!

QUERY PITCH:

Twelve-year-old wimp and self-designated videogame pro Kreith Briggs’s birthday is off to a great, but scary start: a wild safari with his Uncle Tonas through the most treacherous jungle in the whole universe. The tour’s real fun, if not a bit creepy, until Kreith discovers he and his uncle have been set up.
The jungle’s got seven of the ten most exotic—and most lethal—animal species in the universe, including the super-sneaky electrocat and the giant land squid.  But Wilmur Banx, the host of the tour, holds an old, even more lethal grudge against Uncle Tonas and the other twenty-four safari guests.  That’s why he strands each pair of victims in separate places in the jungle with zero protection from the universe's fiercest beasts.

Kreith and Uncle Tonas head toward an old research facility where they can call for help and get off the planet alive.  Only Kreith gets separated from his uncle and now he’s got no plan at all.  Armed with a trusty new guidebook and his knack for all things techno-nerdy, his and his uncle’s survival—not to mention the lives of any remaining safari guests—rests squarely on his puny shoulders.
FIRST 250 Words:


My heart rate doubles as Uncle Tonas hands me what I’ve been waiting for all day.  Heck, all year—a present about the size of my fist.  He always gets me the coolest gifts, like that fluorescent slug from planet Zambor last year for my eleventh birthday.

            I rip the wrapping paper off the present without removing the bow, lift the lid off the cardboard box, and peer inside.  A small electronic chip rests on the bottom.

What’s—?” I ask.

“It’s a book,” Uncle Tonas says, eyes wide in his huge, muscular face.  “Go on, download it.”  He leans forward with those monstrous shoulders of his, a cigar between his pointer and middle finger.  The total opposite of me.  Sure, I’m only twelve years old, but my overly large black sweatshirt and baggy jeans hide the fact I’m as skinny as Uncle Tonas’s pinky finger.

“Uh…okay.”  A book?  That’s what he got me—a book?  I try not to show my disappointment as I pick up the tiny chip and insert it into my Multipurpose Bracelet, my parents and Uncle Tonas looking on from the couch.  I should really try to be grateful.  It’s the thought that counts, after all.

“Would you like to download the book The Top 200 Most Treacherous Creatures in the Universe?” the MB asks in a voice as gruff as Uncle Tonas’s.  I set the MB’s voice to that because it sounds like his and he’s the man, though I’m starting to doubt that after this sorry present…

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Update

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I know.  Been pretty busy.  I recently entered an online writing contest (with my MG sci/fi novel) called Query Kombat that was a lot of fun and very helpful.  I’ve also been working full-time as a proofreader, so it’s a bit tougher to squeeze in the writing thing, but of course I manage.  I work on writing about 10 hours a week, and try to get in some good reading over the weekend as well.  Overall, it feels like an adequate amount of time. 

Now that my YA dystopian book is off to crit partners, I’ve returned to my humorous New Adult superhero fantasy book.  It’s been a while since I’ve looked at it, so the 10K words I’ve already written felt like an old, alien relic when I first read them again, which was awesome.  I’m going to try to get down a total of 25K words on the MS  before I shift back to the YA, but we’ll see how that goes.

One thing is for certain, it’s always nice to have at least a couple projects going on at the same time, because there will always be times when one is stalled (i.e., off to crit partners/agents/simply stewing/whatever), so it’s good to have a fall-back project to work on in the meantime.  Not sure I mentioned that before, but it’s certainly proven useful for me lately.  Anyway, that’s all for now.  Happy writing, everyone!

Monday, May 13, 2013

It's Official...Again

           So, concerning my MG dystopian story, currently titled The Adult Plague, I’ve decided yet again to change the genre (man, I’ve really been going against some stuff I’ve been saying on this blog lately!).  I am now changing it to YA.  For those who have read past entries on this blog, you’ve seen I’ve gone back and forth on this issue—MG vs. YA.  I even “officially” announced that I would keep the project MG, but, clearly, in hindsight, that wasn’t very official.

            I’ve yet again decided to change my story to YA because, well, despite the fact I had “decided” on MG, somewhere deep in the crevices of my brain something felt just plain off about that.  It just gnawed at me and gnawed at me and gnawed at me.  So, once again, I sought a couple more opinions on the matter, and I’ve decided to convert the story to YA.  This time it feels right (crossing my fingers it continues to feel that way when I actually start to make the changes to the manuscript).

            The interesting thing about this dilemma is that it just goes to show that sometimes you’ll come across tough decisions with your WIP, and sometimes said tough decisions take a long time to figure out.  It also goes to show that deep down you tend to know the correct solution to a dilemma, but might not be willing to listen to it.  And, like I said, eventually (hopefully) that solution makes itself apparent.  All that being said, I would like to thank everyone who’s given me input regarding this issue (you know who you are).  Clearly, I needed a lot of opinions, and they’ve all helped me arrive at the one I’ve made, so thanks so much!  OK, off to do some more revisions and then make the big MG-to-YA revision.  Wish me luck!

Monday, May 6, 2013

How I Manage Critiques

            I’m sure everyone has their own methods when it comes to this, but when I receive feedback on a story of mine from critique partners, I use the following handy-dandy steps (yes, I just said “handy-dandy”).

1.      I read the critique.  And that’s basically all I do—nothing else.  No mulling over the ideas, no making notes—just read it.  I also go in knowing that some of it (if not all of it) will feel like fire-breathing dragons, so I mentally prepare myself for that so it’s easier to take.  That’s another reason I don’t do anything but read the critique.  No use having my brain try to wrap its way around all the overwhelming (if that happens to be the case) feedback.

2.      I let the critique sit for a day or so.  During this time, I don’t think about the critique, or at least I try not it.  Sometimes I simply can’t help but think about it, and if I do, I let myself go ahead (I mean, sometimes you just can’t do anything about it).

3.      I read the critique again—for the second time—and it’s apparent I have some ideas/opinions on some of the points (my brain usually has done some subconscious thinking—and I didn’t even know it had!).  The critique also doesn’t feel quite as much like fire-breathing dragons as it did the first time I read it, which is nice. This time I’ll make comments next to points I agree with, or ones I don’t.  Some I’ll note that I still need to think about or perhaps would like more opinions on it from other critique partners.

4.      I let the critique sit for another day or so.  And, again, I try not to think about it.

5.      I reread the critique again—third time, people—including my notes next to each point.  This time, I’m starting to really get a solid idea of what parts of the critique make sense to me and which ones don’t.  Which then leads me to…

6.      I brainstorm the points I feel are valid (or I agree with) and that I need to find a way to incorporate/weave into the story.  Once I have “solutions” for each of those points, I write them down alongside said points on the critique.  And then, finally…

7.      I incorporate the feedback into my story, going point-by-point.

            So there you have it.  Sometimes I might not take that much time away from the critique or maybe I’ll take even more time, but I think it’s a good idea to take at least some time to let things mull around in your brain.  It really is amazing how much subconscious work your brain does.  You should really be grateful it works so hard for you, you know?

            So…how do you manage your critiques?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Multi-pass

It’s been a while since I last posted, but I have a confession to make—I’m making a multi-pass through my MG dystopian manuscript, meaning that rather than going through the book just to look to fix one specific thing (such as making sure the world-building elements are woven seamlessly into the narrative rather than info-dumped), I’m going through looking to fix multiple things.  I know before I advised making one pass per element you wish to fix, so I’m pretty much going against my own advice here.  But I think it’s okay in this instance, because I feel I can handle fixing these particular things in one pass.  At least for this pass (as I’m sure there will be more to come based on later crit partner feedback).  Some of the things I’m fixing only apply to certain parts of the manuscript, though there are some over-arching ones, too.  If you’d like a feel for what I’m looking to fix, here’s a nice bulleted list:

·         Making sure the world-building elements are seamlessly woven throughout the story rather than info-dumped (bet you didn’t see that one coming)
·         Making sure a specific character’s dialogue is believable and consistent throughout the story
·         Making sure the world’s slang/language (has to do with world-building, too) is consistent and makes sense throughout the story
·         Smoothing over a particular romance element
·         Deepening the main character’s emotion at certain parts of the story

So those are just a few of the things I’m looking for in this multi-pass, and so far they feel manageable.  It’s also been a while since I’ve read through the book end to end, so it should be interesting, especially since I recently added in chunks of backstory and incorporated more of the overall world.  It’ll be interesting to see how those things are working (or if they’re not).  Will let you know how things progress.

Friday, April 5, 2013

World-building Tip: Incorporating the Big Picture

So sometimes I’m in the habit of leaving out or just plain forgetting to incorporate the “big picture” aspect of world-building when I write a story.  It’s no big deal.  It just means I need to brainstorm and flesh it out, and then incorporate it into the story.

What I mean by “big picture” when it comes to world-building is your world outside your “small picture world.”  There.  That explained it perfectly, right?

OK, I’ll give a couple examples to make it clearer.  One story I wrote recently takes place in an alien jungle (a kid and his uncle get lost in the jungle and need to escape it).  I spent so much time fleshing out the jungle and the creatures in it (small picture world-building) that I totally disregarded the big picture world, such as: What defines this new age of the future?  How did this age come to exist (i.e., how did humans on Earth evolve to the point where they could send spaceships to other planets and what not)?  In light of this new age and the changes that had to happen in order to get to this point, what are the fears and values of this society?  Etc., etc.

I’ll give another example.  I also recently wrote a story (an epic fantasy) that consisted of two neighboring nations that’d been at war with each other for generations.  One is made up of people who can telepathically control animals, whereas another is a group of technologically gifted people (an electric current runs through each of them) that have formed a city full of metal structures and complicated machinery (the people power the machines with the natural currents in their bodies).  I spent so much time brainstorming and ironing out how these two different societies function that I, again, forgot to consider the big-picture world (I did later, however), such as: What is the rest of the world like?  Are there other societies of different types of people?  If so, how do they affect these two groups/nations?  How did these two groups develop such different abilities based on the world they live in?  Etc., etc.
So, moral of story: It doesn’t matter when you do it, but make sure you set aside time to brainstorm your “big-picture” world if you haven’t already.  Then go and incorporate it into the story.  That way, your world (and story) has more of a complex, fully-fleshed feel.  Go on, try it. Think big, class.  Think BIG.