Random Musings · Writing Advice · writing process

Query Breakfast – A (weird) Analogy

I was making my breakfast this morning when – either out of hunger or sleepiness – I likened queries to cereal.

By the time I sat eating I’d gone off on a completely new train of thought to do with queries, but all about food (I was REALLY hungry).

So here is a (probably weird) post about queries, what’s needed within them, and what you can do to make sure yours stands out.

CEREAL

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As if you don’t know what cereal looks like. I mean.

You don’t want to give someone a cereal query. This is where it’s just the grains of your story and nothing else. Even if it’s something fun with a free toy (ok I might be going a little overboard with this analogy…) the grains of story doesn’t give whoever is reading your query a strong idea of what your book is about. If you just throw in the basics, chances are it won’t be the most interesting cereal query in the world. For example –

“17 year old Jessica Lisa Eisenstein wants to win a talent show. If she wins the talent show, she’ll get a crown and £100. A boy, Marcus Orelio, thinks Jessica is too much competition so he ruins her dress. To get her revenge Jessica thinks up a huge plot to ruin him – publicly – in front of everyone.

We know the characters, but it sounds pretty boring – it doesn’t really GRAB people’s attention and say READ ME (unless you want to read about Jessica’s revenge). WHY is the talent show important to Jessica? Why does Marcus want to win so much and think Jessica is competition? What happens if Jessica fulfils her revenge?

STAKES, PEOPLE.

Ooo, Steak.

TOAST

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This is the play-by-play, read my book, I’m doing this but I don’t think I have a shot query. You can dress it with marmalade or chocolate all you want but it’s still burnt bread – dry and without flavour. If you’re not inspired when writing your query, they won’t be inspired reading it. Where there’s no personal lilt to a query, it can come across as bland as toast.

THE BEST BREAKFAST / QUERY

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In my view, the best thing you can give to me as a query-breakfast is the staple hotel morning welcome;

ORANGE JUICE /  CROISSANT /  CEREAL.

I would have put bacon etc on here but I’ve turned vegetarian so my piggy friends will leave it off this list.

ORANGE JUICE – the refresher

Orange juice is a wonderful, refreshing taste which just zings up your mouth and gives your tongue a little dance. This is what you want your query to do – zing with the tang of your story, your voice and your style to whet the appetite.

CROISSANT – the thing which makes your book UNIQUE

If you think of a croissant chances are you will associate it with France. It’s one of the most uniquely identifying things of France around the world bar the Eiffel Tower. That’s what you want for your book – something which will identify your premise as UNIQUE, what makes it new?! Exciting, bold? Is it the characters, is it the layering of plots? SHOW US YOUR CROISSANT.

…. there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

CEREAL – GRAINS ARE STILL NEEDED, PEOPLE

You can dress up your query with Croissants and OJ but you need to also have the basis of your story, except in this case – with the help of the above – your cereal is like little bits of bread, creating a little trail for query-readers to follow while you ensnare us with your writerly-wiles.

So there you have it – my thoughts on how to write a query based on breakfast foods.

 

 

Just For Fun · Random Musings

What Makes Me DNF A Book?

I, unlike a lot of friends of mine, DNF books I can’t handle.

I know, sometimes the book turns around in the last and actually surprises you, I get it. But in my opinion life is too short to read books you’re just not into.

Whether it’s content or the way it’s written, many things can cause people to stop reading. It’s why books are so subjective. Not everyone likes the same TV shows either. For instance *prepares for barrage of stones* I don’t like Game of Thrones.

But what are the particular things which make me so uninspired I choose to stop reading?

Read on, if you care.

  • Writing style.

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This is a biggie. A lot of the time I view writing as a rhythm. Sometimes, particular writers have a sort of style I need to read a few chapters to get into, like a song you need to listen to a couple of times to truly enjoy or understand.

Case in point for me – Uptown Funk.

Once I understand the rhythm I can enjoy a book no end. But a few writers I’ve read and either DNF’d or come close to abandoning, have a very staccato style of writing and it throws me off. Terry Pratchett is world renowned for his humour and writing style, but I’m not a fan unfortunately. I couldn’t ever wrap my head around what he was trying to say and the flow of the writing always felt disjointed to me.

It’s the same when some writers are very to-the-point with the writing, it becomes less of a flow and more of a play-by-play. So… I like it lyrical, not too jumpy, but also not too lyrical.

If you tell me each leaf colour I’m going to scream.

  • Characters.

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Whether it’s acting out of character, doing Dumb Shit, or simply skimming the surface of what could be an interesting personality, I stay with books for characters. Even if nothing much happens dramatically, if there’s characters rich with personality and voice, I’ll stay.

Of course there are some exceptions – if the MC is far too whingy or weak or just not my kinda person, I usually read on for the side characters but there are some times where everyone is on the same level of either one-dimensional or nasty personalities, or a combination of that and the first reason, then… yeah. It’s annoying.

  • No plot. At all.

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I am a fan of character-driven novels, but if all you’re doing is having characters talk to each other and nothing else? If your story is just a romance of will they won’t they dragged out over 270 pages and the only thing that happens is she goes shopping?

I will be bored. I’ll be more than bored, actually, I’ll have closed the book and be running around the garden singing songs.

Slow pacing is fine a lot of the time done well, but if there is NO ACTION at all I will be asleep with the book for a pillow.

  • INSTA LOVE.

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I get it, especially in YA, that hormones can make you lust after someone. Again in YA, teenagers can say they love someone after an hour. I know I felt really connected to people when I was 17 and formed a very intense, hormonal bond.

HOWEVER, I’m sick of the image of teens who would readily die for someone because of insta-love after 2 days. I’m sure some teens feel so deeply they would, but there are some teens who wouldn’t really believe it as a be-all end-all. I think it sometimes does teens a disservice to imagine that they’d blindly follow someone they love just because they love them.

Like, yeah love is blind sometimes but does it always have to be damaging characters? Follow me off a cliff or else? Psh.

  • The One Mistake Of Death

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Everyone: Feyre, no!

Feyre: Feyre, yes.

You know, when someone is told 100x NOT to do something and they do it anyway? Without remorse? Or second guessing?

I will put the book down, heave a huge sigh, and may or may not pick it up again. IF they go against someone’s advice who knows better, and the character KNOWS they know better, at least give them a fucking good reason to defy that advice. Not just “because I must!”.

What are your dealbreakers for novels?

7 Sins Saturday · Just For Fun · Random Musings

Seven Sins Saturday – 7 Authors I’ve Never Read – But Maybe Should

Any of the Bronte sisters

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I’ve heard Wuthering Heights is a big complicated mess of ugly personality characters, and I don’t even know the plot of Jane Eyre – but they’re classic British female writers from t’north of England so I feel I owe it to them, as a British female writer from t’north, to go back and actually read some of their novels.

John Green

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Ok so recently I bought The Fault In Our Stars at a charity shop, and maybe like a week later everyone was screaming because of the recent news he’s got a new book coming out. I’ve heard bits and pieces about John Green which may or may not be entirely favourable, from personal conduct to quality of stories, but he’s such a big presence in YA I have to at least read something from him.

Roxane Gay

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I read a teeny excerpt in one of those “books coming out in June” or whatever things and I enjoyed it, but I haven’t ever read a book from her. I know she’s an incredibly influential writer, and her stark observations on modern day women and the situations surrounding them are second to none. I’m actually excited to read from her.

Margaret Atwood

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YAS MY FELLOW SCORPIO LADY! The Handmaid’s Tale is EVERYWHERE right now and I keep hearing how Margaret is exceptional with her storytelling. I feel so guilty I haven’t read anything from her. I will amend, I will amend.

Ursula Le Guin

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ANOTHER FELLOW SCORPIO. Maybe I should do a list of Scorpios. SFF Queen. Duchess. Whatever. I need to read her books, because she genuinely seemed ahead of her time and absolutely breakthrough in terms of storytelling and subject matter. I’ll actually look for a book RIGHT NOW.

Robin Hobb

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……that’s a lot of books. Queen of Fantasy, yeah? Forshame that I haven’t read any of her books! I think it’s a distilled need in me to avoid her novels, simply because when I was a kid I skimmed the blurb of her books in the library and didn’t really ‘get it’. I’ve still had no real interest to delve in to a fantasy world – adult fantasy worlds always seem so bloody complicated to get into – but I will definitely have to try and sample some of her work soon.

Terry Pratchett

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Holy heck. Now I may have told a teeny lie here – I have actually read some of him, mostly in Good Omens which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman. The only thing is, I found Pratchett’s chapters almost unbearable to get through not because the writing or plot was bad, but because the rhythm was so staccato. It didn’t flow, it jarred me out of the story, and I couldn’t relate to the characters. It was the same when I read the first few pages of a Discworld novel I can’t remember, and the footnotes at the time weren’t cute or funny, it was more like an essay. I will try him again one time, but my previous experience has kinda put me off.

What about you guys? Any recs from these authors, or any ‘classics’ you need to read?

Random Musings · Uncategorized

On Remakes – Like Dirty Dancing

So I recently saw an article about Dirty Dancing. More specifically, its remake, which is being completely butchered by film critics and probably fans of the original alike.

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I’ve never really understood remakes, if I’m honest. A film which was popular 30 years ago and still is to this day maybe for relevance or simply *feelings*, doesn’t need a remake. If you tried to remake Back to the Future you’d get speared in the gut by fans, I’m telling you.

I’d be one of them. And God help the people who decide Lord of the Rings needs a refit, because I WILL LEAD THE CHARGE.

If it aint broke, don’t fix it.  Stop meddling. If it works, it works. The reason the original film was or remains a success or cult hit is probably because some quintessential magic happened while it was being made, and to try and recreate that – just to put a modern spin on it or design it in tone for a ‘modern audience’ – won’t achieve the same effect.

It’s like trying to rewrite a book that’s popular. If someone took Throne of Glass characters, or Six of Crows characters in 10 years’ time and wrote the same story – it wouldn’t work. We already have that story, done extremely well, by the person who was supposed to write it. Yeah we get retellings, but mostly this is from ideas or legends, folklore and mythology which is about 100 years old or more. But remakes are usually step by step, point-for-point story rehashes for megabucks with current stars from a relatively recent decade.

I know there’s an argument within this subject, and it suggests that since this is a visual medium, it can be interpreted on the screen in so many different ways. That’s true! No artist has 100% the same vision.

But…. why not allow that artist to do something different?! Or if you MUST do Dirty Dancing why not put it in the Jane Austen era, or put it like The Terminator, JUST DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT WITH IT.

Take the Rocky Horror Picture Show – that shit is ICONIC. But they made a remake for the ‘modern’ age (which in itself will be old in 5 years) and it was too clean, too cookie cutter, too knowing what it was trying to emulate. Maybe it was a love letter, sure, but it wasn’t needed. To my mind, it added nothing from this ‘modern age’ that the original lacked, apart from maybe being more sensitive to gender identity.

Remakes aren’t needed. It’s the same with sequels – people are getting tired of them. Even Hollywood has recognized it! In an age which is already oversaturated with rip offs and similar ideas, there may be struggles to find original concepts but don’t ADD to that struggle by basically cleaning up something which was made iconic WITH GOOD REASON just because you want to cash in on the media furor.

It won’t work, it won’t be remembered (well it might be, but not for the right reasons) and it won’t give the audience the fresh blood they truly desire.

// rant

Random Musings · Top 5 Wednesday

Top 5 Wednesday – Summer Reads

The weather is heating up (for half of the world), so what books remind you of summer and are your quintessential summer reads?

Sense & Sensibility

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I read this on the beach in Ibiza and ever since then it’s reminded me of hot, sunny days and glorious endless sands while salsa or trance music played in the background. It’s also a gorgeous, perfect summery-type read for the hills of England and the sweeping countryside and Colonel Brandon is my everything.

Harry Potter (any of them)

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I remember for some reason I used to re-read Harry Potter when I was out in the garden on sun loungers, or just at my window smelling the gardens outside. It didn’t matter where, and when the last book came out I was on holiday, desperately trying to avoid spoilers from the girl who ate dinner across from me and SOMEHOW HAD THE BOOK THERE ALREADY?!

Anyway it’s always good to read Harry in summer.

The Raven Cycle (any of them)

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Set in summer but read in winter, I fully intend to appreciate the descriptions of hot days and wasp/bee weather while I’m out in the garden this year. A gorgeous, spooky story set in gorgeous, spooky hills and I love it.

Neverwhere

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I read this in late summer of 2012 I think, about August / September, and I read it everywhere – on the bus, at breaks at work, morning when I woke up, before I went to bed. I barely even SAW summer when I was reading this. But it’s the perfect dark-ish fantasy to get into on light days, or to read as the sun goes down.

Getting Rid of Matthew / Pip

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These are just like ultimate chick flick, speed read relationship stories that were hilarious but also just beach page turners. You didn’t really have to think about the plot much, but the characters were vivid. I can’t remember which one was actually set in a nice summer area? I think it was Pip, which was bright and breezy and fun. But they’re ultimate lazy garden book trash if you need that sort of thing.

Leave me your recommendations for this summer!

Random Musings · Top 5 Wednesday

Top 5 Wednesday – 5 Authors I Want To Read More From

Talk about some authors that you’ve only read one or a few books from, and you NEED to read more!

 

Neil Gaiman – So far I’ve read two short story books and three novels by this man. I know there’s many more – such as STARDUST and ANANSI BOYS and other glorious things like NORSE MYTHS. Or is it GODS? I can’t remember. Point – Stardust was a film which stayed with me for a long time, and I have never read the book, so I need to resolve that.

Leigh Bardugo – QUEEN. Unfortunately I’ve already read her back catalogue so I’m unable to read any more but I’m so excited to follow her career and devour her books on release!

Becky Chambers – I know the sequel to A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is out, but I haven’t managed to get my hands on it yet. I’m hopeful to do that by the end of this year. What I am not sure of, is whether she’s got another book coming out, and if she doesn’t this needs to be remedied – pronto. I need more books!

Maggie Stiefvater / Victoria Schwab – I COULDN’T DECIDE. But these to me are masters of word craft and making me FEEL things. They also have intricate world building and just… yes. I haven’t read all of either’s previous books so I’m going to work my way backwards.

Jane Austen – CONFESSION TIME – Never made it through Pride and Prejudice. Couldn’t do it. I didn’t like any of the characters. But Sense and Sensibility? Hoah yeah I loved that, I devoured it on a beach holiday. Possibly because I saw the film which remains one of my favourites. I tried Mansfield Park too. Didn’t work out. But she has many other classics I’ll have to try.
Book Things · positive posts · Random Musings · Writing Advice · Writing Method

Top 3: Tips For Making Your Writing Life Easier.

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Now, a lot of these things will just be general common sense, but I understand as a writer, we can sometimes lose sight of what is reasonable. We put so much pressure on ourselves, even the slightest slip can seem like we’re doomed to failure. So here is my top 3 list of things which has worked so much for me, and which you can use to hopefully feel better about your writing journey.

 

1. Find a routine that works for YOU.

There’s a lot of hoo-haa about having to write every day. It’s true, if I write a little each day it keeps the mental demons at bay, for if I go a few days or longer without putting fingertips to keyboard or pen to paper, I feel like there’s a backlog of words trying to get through. This does not make for a happy Jade, but the second I write again, it’s like someone removed the grey clouds and everything goes back to being normal.

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But writing every day sometimes isn’t plausible, and writers shouldn’t feel guilty if they’re unable to do 500 words or so each afternoon. There’s so much additional stuff to worry about in today’s society, more responsibility which divides our attention, it can be really difficult to maintain a groove which allows for savoured writing time.

While you shouldn’t ignore the hard work which goes in to writing, it’s probably going to work a lot better if you put in that effort at a dedicated time where you know you can manage an uninterrupted hour to focus on your MS. For instance, if you know you generally have a quiet morning on a Wednesday, or that most of your errands take up your Saturday morning, work around it.

Short version: Don’t worry if you can’t make it every day. Do what you can. A stressed writer is not always a good one, so give yourself a break, as long as you keep going afterwards!

2. Create a System for Recording your Ideas.

Now – this can take many forms and it depends on how you get your ideas. Some get them by asking “what if?” scenarios and writing a concept, other writers may just have flashes of inspiration and have to write it on a napkin. Personally, mine can strike any time, without warning, like lightning, and often I’ve had recent ideas in my sleep. But whatever your method, try to figure out how you can record these ideas without losing those inspired tid-bits of story.

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My main advice is, don’t be like me and have 500 separate word documents (okay, maybe an exaggeration, it’s like 100) per project with single paragraphs, sentences, speeches, ideas for scenes, linking passages of time – and then name them something which doesn’t make sense, and worse – don’t put them in a folder all together, meaning you lose hours trying to find that one bit you remember writing months ago.

Ideally, if you write an idea on your phone, put it with the rest of the stuff later. Or create a ideas pile where you can easily flick through to see what your brain told you yesterday. If you have an idea while napping, keep a dream diary.

3. Create REASONABLE Goals.

Unless you are some form of far superior being who turns coffee into words at a rate of 100 per minute, you will not be able to write a cohesive novel of 70,000 words in 5 days.

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That’s why NaNoWriMo gives people a month to do 50k, and even then not everyone makes it.

As mentioned before it’s easy to feel pressure to perform well, and to the best of your ability, or else feel like you’ve failed. So, the only way to keep the demon of self-doubt at bay is to make sure you’re not stretching yourself, and within the routine you’ve already procured, see what you can achieve.

Start small, maybe? A chapter completed in 2 weeks. 100 words before you shut down the computer and go to bed. Then you can see how far increasing it gets you, like 1000 words a week, or something similar.

It’s better if you sort of leave timing out of agenting, editing, etc while you’re writing because there is no guarantee at all how long any of the process afterwards takes place. Focus on what you can control, and that is definitely how much you want to write by such and such a day.

I had the unfortunate thing of moving a deadline for myself, not because I didn’t put the work in when I could, but because Real Life had decided to throw everything at me in one lump sum. So prepare for life’s little surprises by reducing the amount of stress you’re creating for yourself. If you miss a day, you won’t feel like you’re missing “finalize 5 chapters” and have to rush to catch up.

Be kind to yourself!

OH! AND A CHEEKY 3.5

Talk to people. Other writers, ideally. Build up a tribe of like minded individuals who get you, acknowledge your struggles, support you, and support them in return. This is invaluable. What you’ve experienced, you can share your wisdom. Vice versa. Writing careers are solitary only when you’re *actually* writing. The rest of it requires a heck of a lot of patience, and understanding friends to make it bearable.

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The writing community is amazing, supportive, and there for you. Reach out if you need to! ❤