Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Final Chapter

by all of us

It is not with sadness, but melancholy, that we at From The Write Angle announce we are disbanding, inter-marrying and moving into condominiums.

Wait, that was Doonesbury.

We have only been the imaginings of an autistic boy looking into a snow globe. … No, that was St.Elsewhere.

The war is over – nope, M*A*S*H.

We can’t continue because we’ve been jailed for criminal indifference. We haven’t, that was the characters of Seinfeld, but maybe we should all do a little time for that offense.

What we’re trying to say is we are moving on.

From The Write Angle began in 2011 on the premise that we are often best helped not by those who have reached the top of the climb, but by our peers just a rung or two ahead of us. As a collection of writers at different levels on the ladder, we offered our thoughts from our point of view, our angle.

But our angles have changed. Each of us has kept to our own climb, which now takes us away from this blog.

For our readers who have journeyed with us, thank you. We hope we have helped. For those who have just found us, we leave behind these articles not as sage advice, but just as clues, hints, of how we got where you are now, with the hope that they will guide you toward a better tomorrow.

And we wish that your success will one day inspire others.

In the comments of this post each of the contributors to From The Write Angle, past and present, will write a little something about where they were when they joined us, and where they are now. After that, the automatic lights will go out. This blog will be dark.

But as soon as someone walks through the door, the lights will click on.

If you are a budding writer who has stumbled on this anew, please keep posting comments. We’ll be listening. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Genre Jumping - Yes, You Can

by Mindy McGinnis

I've had many writers and readers comment on my upcoming novel, not only because it interests them, but because it's such a huge departure from my previously released works.

A MADNESS SO DISCREET releases next Tuesday. It's a Gothic historical thriller set in an insane asylum, and yes, it's vastly different from NOT A DROP TO DRINK and IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, which are post-apocalyptic survival stories. And if that makes you double-take, process this: my next release from Harper Collins in Fall 2016 is a contemporary, which will be followed up by the beginning of a fantasy series from Penguin/Putnam in the Spring of 2017.

As my students often say: Wait.... what?

I've fielded a lot of questions about writing across genres, most of them revolving around the fact that I'm publishing under the same name in all of these instances. While these books are different from each other in many ways, they retain what my audience comes to me for - my voice, and the feel of an author brand.

A brand can cross genres with you, easily. These novels may take place in different worlds and time periods, be populated by characters that bear no resemblance to the ones that came before, but there's a feel to them that marks them as mine. A reader who enjoys the darkness of my post-apoc writing will find the same element in my Gothic historical, and in my upcoming works as well.

As my critique partner and fellow FTWA blogger RC Lewis likes to say, "It's not a genre. It's a McGinnis."


Mindy McGinnis is a YA author who has worked in a high school library for thirteen years. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, a post-apocalyptic survival story set in a world with very little freshwater, has been optioned for film by Stephenie Meyer's Fickle Fish Films. The companion novel, IN A HANDFUL OF DUST was released in 2014. Look for her Gothic historical thriller, A MADNESS SO DISCREET in October of 2015 from Katherine Tegen Books. Mindy is represented by Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What makes a good villain so bad?

by Brighton Luke

Everyone loves a good villain, and if there’s one truly great gift you can get your hero it’s a worthy foe. So, how can we avoid getting stuck with one dimensional, underwhelming, or just plain confusing bad guys/ gals? 

1) Motive
I often see variations on the idea that evil characters (or people) don’t see themselves as evil, that no one thinks they’re the villain of the story. It’s a simplified way of trying to get at the point that villains need a motive. They can’t just go around being evil or the sake of it, that’s boring. Though if you look at some of the most popular villains some of them are well aware of their status as the bad guy, and even relish it. Look at Voldemort in Harry Potter, or Richard III, who got to headline his own Shakespeare play, but comes right out from the start admitting what a bad dude he is. The exciting part wasn’t that they were evil, it was how the villains motives contrasted and interplayed with those of the hero. 

Giving your villain a motive is more than just having him/ her want something. Them wanting world domination, or to kill the hero is the WHAT, the motive is all about the WHY. 

Think about anytime you see a gruesome crime on the news, Why? Is always one of the questions that crosses your mind. Why would anyone do such a thing? In real life we aren’t always lucky enough to find out, but it’s always something we crave, because the why is inherently interesting. So while a real life court case may not legally require a motive for conviction, your readers may very well require one for their interest in your story. Why is the thing everyone wants to know, and in fiction we have the power to give it to them. 

If Voldemort was just killing people for the heck of it there would not have been enough story to fill up seven books. What made Voldemort such a good villain was WHY he was killing people. The WHY of Voldemort’s actions are so interesting that Harry and Dumbledore spend most of the 6th book on a hunt for information about Voldemort’s past and what clues it gives to his motives. In fact it’s his motives that lead to the climax of the story and his ultimate defeat, his obsession with magical superiority and purity meant he chose Horcruxes that had magical significance making them much easier to find, an adventure that had enough juice to fill up almost the entire 7th book. 

So take some time to really go through and work out why your villain is pursuing their current goal, and what impact it has not only on how they go about achieving it, but also on how it affects how your hero will stop them. 

2) Compatibility 
I have commercials for online dating sites to blame for the fact that when I hear the word compatibility I now think questionnaires, and lonely single folk looking for love. Compatibility isn’t just for romance though, it’s key in finding your hero the perfect villain. 

If your hero dispatches the main villain without breaking a sweat, you’re doing it wrong.
If your villain wins, you have a tragedy, but if your hero never stood a chance then your story is just depressing. 

A compatible villain and hero challenge each other to the max, and make us seriously wonder who’s going to come out on top. Writing is hard, you have to go to work and hurt people, especially your hero. 

So, if things are too easy for anyone in your story take a look at their antagonist and see if they need a bit of upgrading.

3) Stop smirking.
This one comes from the land of TV, and anyone who has seen the BBC’s otherwise delightful Merlin series will know what I’m talking about. Morgana (who everyone not a character in the show knows turns bad) starts off the series as a decent person, but just incase we were not catching on to her obvious and inevitable transformation to the dark side the writers and show runner decided to have her give an evil smirk at the end of nearly every line she gives once she starts going bad, all the while the characters around her are completely oblivious to it. I love Morgana, she is a badass formidable foe, (and I totally ship her and Merlin together) but all the smirking made me hate the writers. 

Do not make your readers hate you. If you think your readers need to be hit over the head with some plot point it means you either did not write it correctly to start with, or you are writing for the wrong audience. 

Questions for the comment section:
What are your favorite villain motives? 

What villain pet-peeves do you have?

You can find Brighton on twitter @brightonAwesome or Instagram @brightonL or motivating other writers via Jennifer Connelly memes over on Tumblr

Monday, September 21, 2015

Commas With Conjunctions

by J. Lea López

Are you one of those writers who agonizes over commas? Some writers sprinkle them through their paragraphs with abundance and weed them back out during editing; others use them sparingly and add more to taste later on. Regardless of which type of writer you may be, it never hurts to try to learn the rules of comma placement and hopefully get it right on the first try. Now, I know that in the world of fiction writing, there's little more we hate than "rules," even when it comes to grammar. But I firmly believe that to break any rules, you must first know them well enough to understand how and why you're breaking them in the first place. Today I'll talk about a comma mistake—it's sort of two commas wrapped into one—that I frequently see during editing and also make in my own writing.

In a nutshell, here's what you need to know: you only need a comma with a coordinating conjunction (and, but, so, etc.) if you're joining two independent clauses. An independent clause is one that can stand on its own as a sentence.

If you're allergic to grammar speak, I know what you're thinking right now. Commas, conjunctions, and clauses, oh my! But I promise, it's not that difficult, and once we go through this one tiny example, you'll wonder how you ever got it wrong to begin with. I'll be the guinea pig and use a sentence from my own WIP to demonstrate.

He backed me up against the car and rested his forehead against mine. 

You might be tempted to insert a comma after car, but you don't need one there. He backed me up against the car is an independent clause, but rested his forehead against mine is not. Therefore, no comma.

He backed me up against the car, and he rested his forehead against mine.

Now you need a comma, because both clauses are independent. When in doubt, split the sentence before/after the conjunction and see if each clause is a complete sentence. If so, you need the comma along with the conjunction. He backed me up against the car. He rested his forehead against mine. See, wasn't that easy?

You need that comma whenever you use a conjunction to join independent clauses, but I see a lot of people leave it out. If the two clauses are relatively short, you can leave it out, but otherwise, comma away! Here are a few more examples to reference:

I turned around to push the elevator call button, but Luke grabbed my waist and whipped me around again, his arms closing around me like a vise. Correct. But joins two independent clauses, so you need a comma.

The priest makes eye contact again, and holds it this time. Incorrect. "Holds it this time" is not an independent clause, so there shouldn't be a comma before the conjunction.

It’s one of the stranger things I’ve ever found myself doing, but strange seems to be my only constant right now. Correct.

He released me and stepped back. Correct.

He released me and I stepped back. Comma optional. The clauses are short, so you can leave it out. But if there are issues of clarity or consistency, you should keep the comma before the conjunction.

Do you struggle with comma placement? Let me know if I've confused you more than I've clarified this issue in the comments!

J. Lea López is an author who strives to make you laugh at, fall in love with, cry over, and lust after the characters she writes. She also provides freelance copyediting focused on romance and erotica as The Mistress With the Red Pen. She welcomes online stalkers as long as they're witty and/or adulatory. Kidding. Maybe. Check for yourself: Twitter, Facebook, Blog.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Have I Built My World Enough?

by R.C. Lewis

A funny thing happens sometimes when you read book reviews—your own or otherwise. (I know, I know. "Don't read your reviews." Good advice in general, but you do you.) You see a lot of contradictions, and one in particular I've been thinking about.

Reviewer #1: This book is full of amazing, rich world-building!

Reviewer #2: This book could've been good, but the world-building was pretty much non-existent.

(Not real review quotes!)

So, who's right?

They both are. Reading is subjective, and I think when it comes to world-building especially, it varies by both perception and preference. Some readers crave detailed descriptions painting the exact picture as the author intended it. Others want just enough on the page to trigger a mental picture of their own, leaving some of the work of creation up to them.

Neither is wrong.

Some readers focus on the visual aspects—geography, clothing, architecture, art. Others pick up on the less concrete details—sociological, cultural, historical influences on characters' lives.

Again, neither is wrong.

Perhaps the most objective evaluation of world-building would look at how fleshed-out and detailed the world is in the author's head. If only we could know. Alas, all we have is what's on the page, so that's what we have to go on.

That's why it's tricky assigning value judgments like "good" and "bad" to it.

My advice to authors (including myself!) would be to focus first on that off-the-page world-building. Make sure your virtual world is fully realized and makes sense. Then let that reality filter and ooze and weave through the story in whatever way fits your style. Always try to do better, but realize that if readers knock it, it may just be that your style isn't for them. And it will be for someone else.

What do you like to see in world-building? Pet-peeves? Tips for excellent execution?

R.C. Lewis is the math-teaching, ASL-signing world-builder of Stitching Snow and Spinning Starlight (Oct. 6, 2015), both from Hyperion. You can find more information at her website, or find her random musings on Twitter.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Twittequette Tips Part 2

by Jemi Fraser

Last year, I posted some Twittequette Tips (Etiquette on Twitter). If you're new to Twitter, you might want to check some of these out, especially if you're considering interacting with agents/publishers.

Today's rant topic is DMs. DMs are Direct Messages, private conversations between 2 Tweeps.

If we've only just met (meaning you followed me, and I followed you back), there's probably no need for us to have a private conversation yet. Let's get to know each other first!

I've had plenty of DM conversations with people I know well on Twitter, but for the most part (for me at least), Twitter is about having fun and making connections with other people, and most of those conversations can be carried on in public. DMs are a great way to warn Tweeps when their Email accounts have sent me spam, to ask/send email addresses, along with other more obvious uses.

(Warning: Personal Pet Peeve Rant Ahead)

If we've just met, please don't send me a DM and:

  • ask me to buy your book or other product
  • link me to where to buy your book or other product 
  • ask me to give you money through a fundraising link
  • ask me to like your FB page

If you met someone in a coffee shop, on the street, or at a friend's house, would your first sentence to them, your first conversation, be to ask them to buy your stuff???? I sincerely hope not!

Don't do it on Social Media either.

I've bought dozens of books written by friends I've met through social media, probably well over a hundred by now. NOT ONCE have I bought a book by someone asking me to do so via a DM.

Marketing is tough. Lots of our authors here at FTWA have posted advice on that, and will continue to do so (click on the Marketing link in the sidebar!). Maybe this seems like an easy way to promote, but, for me, it has the exact opposite effect.

(Okay, rant complete)

What do you think? Are automated DMs requesting a new follower buy something okay or annoying? Have you bought anyone's book that way? Or (like me) have you unfollowed people who pester in DMs?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs  and tweets while searching for those HEAs.