Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Where have I been?

on vacation (Mt Rushmore--it's a right of passage for people who live in Colorado)...fall break. The kids are starting to wear on my last nerve and Denver just got snow. I guess it's a sled day tomorrow.

Plus, all kinds of exciting is happening in the blog world and I'm having trouble catching up.

On the upside, I'm 25 K into my first draft of my new story and I had a stroke of brilliance on a new story idea. I'm gathering my characters for that story now.

So the question is: do I write my draft that's zooming, start a new story, polish an old or just read the blogs and go to bed?

How's your week?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

She's Crafty: First Lines

I do not hinge my interest in a story based on the first line, but I do notice when it is done well. A great book should hook the reader from the first line, first paragraph, and first page (and really till the end of chapter one) pulling the reader deeper into the characters and the plot.

I've even read somewhere that a debut author should treat each chapter like a chapter one.

This makes sense for middle grade, when readers can be reluctant and will easily put the book down if it doesn't hold their interest.

So I decided to do an experiment. I took the top five middle grade books in my To-Read pile and picked my next book based only on the first line.

Here are the first lines, which would you pick?
  • "Take good care of this girl," Miss Beatty told the coachman. --The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall
  • Ms. McMartin was definitely dead. --The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows
  • The house was a mansion, the lake was a pool, Kitty was a dog, and Juniper Berry was an eleven-year-old girl. --Juniper Berry.
  • I was fairly sure I would not leave the meeting alive. --The 39 Clues: The Black Book of Buried Secrets #1
  • The hat in question was owned by Mrs. Constance Lovestock. --The Emerald Atlas

It actually took me awhile to decide. The Ghost of C Hall didn't cut it, neither did The Emerald Atlas which is funny because I've heard amazing things about both books and The Emerald Atlas was at the top of my pile. (The only reason I haven't read it is because Lauren and her friends have been passing it around--swearing that it is their new favorite book.)

So that leaves the other three, and all three first-lines are good for different reasons. The Shadows tells me it is a spooky mystery (plot reveal), Juniper Berry is a rich and quirky girl (character reveal), and The 39 Clues is a dangerous adventure (plot reveal).

In the end, I chose The Shadows because it's October and I wanted a spooky mystery but normally I would lean adventure. Juniper Berry (which is actually a spooky story) got cut.

Which leads to my next question: in middle grade, should your first line be a character reveal or plot reveal?

I know, it depends on the story.

My current MG story that I'm querying is a fantasy adventure which means I should lead with a plot reveal because the first 18 pages are character building till I get to the inciting incident. I realize now, my readers need to know where the story is going before they invest the time in my characters.

Of course I queried with a character reveal, only to wait months to hear it wasn't a strong enough hook. In my revision, I've decided to change my first page and lead with a plot reveal. I hope it's stronger. (We'll find out next week when I send out more queries.)

Need help crafting your first line?

It's a Start: The First Line @ The Other Side of the Story.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: A Tale Dark and Grimm

I found my MMGM pick A Tale Dark and Grimm from the 2010 Cybil's Middle Grade Fantasy list. I love The Grimm Fairytales so I was intrigued by the story. I also loved the first line of the story: Once upon a time, fairytales were awesome. I couldn't agree more.

A Tale Dark an Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
Published 2010

The Hook: When Hansel and Gretzel's father cuts off their heads, they are healed by magic but decide to run away to find parents who won't hurt them. The children weave through several Grimm fairytales and find under-standing.

Why I loved it: A new story woven through classic fairytales and an incredible moral. Seriously, I can't say enough about how much I loved this story and the woven Grimm. And the moral of under-standing isn't preachy but essential to the fairytale. The writing is also amazing, the balance between the story and the narrator insight (to diffuse scary parts) is well done. This is a great story for tweens who love scary stories BUT let me emphasize that this story is very scary. There is tons of blood, guts, and a staggering body count. This is NOT for younger middle graders and I wouldn't recommend it to children under the age of 12.

Parent Heads Up: A particular chapter in the story where Gretel meets a warlock is particularly disturbing. The warlock is a charming young man who happens to be a serial killer and Gretel watches him rip the soul out of a young girl and then he chops the dead girl to eat her. See Exhibit C to read the most disturbing passage from the book.

I'm just say'n, the book is great but you've been warned.

Want More? Go to Adam Gidwitz's website.

Have you read a middle grade book you felt was too mature for its audience?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Time to Nominate for your Fave 2011 Middle Grade Book

The Cybils are asking for nominations. You have till Oct 15 to nominate your favorite children's books from 2011.

I'm excited. I love the books they pick. So I'll have to put in my 2 cents.

What 2011 middle grade books would you nominate?