Saturday, September 29, 2012

Aloha Young Writers Blog - Check it Out!

I've started a blog for my teen writers club to document our weekly writing lessons and awesome author skype visits. Still a work in progress, but we're ready for company now. There will be great advice for young writers (also helpful for those who aren't so young). Do me a favor, gals, and link to me.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Adventures in Cover Design

As most of you know, I have two writing careers. One is as traditionally published Emily Mah, who sells her science fiction and fantasy stories to magazines. The other is as indie published E.M. Tippetts, who is an experiment on my part to try my hand at all the different aspects of the publishing industry. Up until this point, I've always had my novel covers designed by professionals, but this week I've taken the plunge and put one of my own covers out there.

My bestselling book so far is Someone Else's Fairytale, and so I've been writing a sequel. I wanted to design a cover that would work as a template for all the books to come after it. So, here it is, the first cover I designed and put out there:

I debuted this cover on Wattpad, where Fairytale is a featured novel (as of Wednesday). I've since uploaded it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. The images are all stock art off Shutterstock. The leather texture is from Scrapgirls, as is the gold tone effect (I purchased a commercial licenses). The swirly patterns are royalty free brushes that my professional cover designer used, and my knowledge of how to put it all together comes from digital scrapbooking. Yes, really. That's how I learned to use Photoshop, from and her online classes :-)

This first cover's gotten a positive response, so I put together a mockup for the second cover:

This is the book I'm working on right now. I debuted this cover on my site, ( and people have been very positive. I need to make a few changes. I'm going to play with what word I put in the magnifying glass. Maybe "crime" or "police" might look better than just "ot cr". I also need to fix the title block. It's crooked, but nobody noticed that, right?

Now, I suppose I should tie this up with some intelligent, meaningful comment, but to be honest, I am so exhausted I can barely see straight! I launched the German edition of Fairytale, also on Wednesday, and have been writing over 2,000 words a day on Damsel, so as soon as I finish this post, I'm stumbling off to bed ;-)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

You're a Storyteller, Not (Just) a Writer

Titles lack nuance. But they work, if you're reading this now. :)

Susan Kaye Quinn, Young Adult Author
I'm using my website banner, because it speaks to the topic at hand.

Some people are natural-born storytellers. But even if you're devastatingly funny at the dinner table and can regale your friends with the hilarity of your trip to the grocery store, you're still going to have to learn the craft of storytelling if you want to write an entire novel full of story.

Many writers become so in love with their written words that they forget that a story isn't made from them. No more than it's made from the spoken words you use or from images on the screen. It's the imagination behind these words, something that exists in a snapping of neurons inside our heads, that creates story.

This was brought into full relief to me a few months ago when award-winning producer Beth Spitalny asked what I had in mind for the live-action trailer we would be making for my Mindjack series. I've never written a screenplay before, even a short one, but I pitched my idea to her anyway. It boiled down the essence of the story, the basic conflict of the characters told in a moving image format, with a beginning, middle, and end, just as any story should have. The final script that Beth wrote was very close to the images that were playing in my mind. It was a direct transference from one media to another, going through two brains in the process, but keeping the story intact. (I can't wait to see how it looks on the screen!)

Story isn't just plot. It isn't just images one after the other. It lives in the feelings it evokes. The laughter and tears that it causes. The brain-tingling possibilities it conjures. This is what readers respond to.

This is all very romantic, but how does one go about becoming a storyteller, not (just) a writer?

I tend to think of writers and story as being like the Blind Men and the Elephant: viewed one way, we can use structure to understand story; viewed another, we see the emotional journey of a character compelling the story forward; yet another, we see the deeper lessons that a story is embedding in the readers' minds.

All of this work is right and good (and necessary) to becoming a good storyteller. But first we have to pay more than lip service to the fact that story is important. As writers, it is too easy to fall in love with a character or a world and forget that delivering a satisfying story to readers is what is most important.

Right now I'm working on the second draft of my current WiP, Free Souls. This is my most heavily plotted novel to date, because I have to make sure I get the story right. Getting the story right is crucial in every novel, but a wee more complicated (and in some ways, more important) in the last novel in a series. It's like getting the ending right in a regular book. Readers will forgive a lot of things, but not an ending that leaves them dissatisfied. So I wrote and re-wrote the chapter-by-chapter outline for this novel a couple times, making sure the story would hold together, before I ever wrote a single scene. When I finally wrote the first draft, things shifted around and I made some new discoveries, but for the most part, the story held together.

Only during the second draft am I worrying about things like complete sentences and pretty metaphors and tight action sequences and witty dialogue. I'm diving deeper into setting and the emotional arcs of secondary characters. Those are things that a writer does, before she lets that work go out into the wild. Because she takes pride in her work and because it's just not readable without it!

But the story is already, essentially, there.

I'm not saying you have to plot a novel to make the story work (although I do think it helps, even if you're a natural storyteller). Your process may involve discovering your story by pantsing your way through it. I make no judgments there. I do think that you should focus on story first, however you get there, and words second, in order to make your story the best that it can be.

How do you make yourself a better storyteller?
Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack series. Her most recent releases are the short novellas The Handler and The Scribe. You can find all her books on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and iTunes. Susan's business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist," but she spends most of her time writing, because she loves it even more than shiny tech gadgets. When she's not writing, you can find her wasting time playing on TwitterFacebook, and her blog.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Courage to Revise

This is your cabin girl, posting several weeks late (for which you can blame my AP history class) on where I am in the process of revising my brick of a manuscript.

Revising is something relatively new to me. The only revising I've ever gone through with has been short stories. But now I'm going to attempt to tackle a larger project. Which is pretty scary.

Always before, I could never get up the motivation to revise anything because by the time I was finished writing it, I was a much better writer than when I started and it wasn't worth it. But my latest manuscript won't leave me alone.

I've thrown it against the wall, re-written the ending three times and the beginning twice, given it up as a lost cause, argued with my characters (out loud on occasion), and come up with brilliant ideas for it that, upon five minutes of thought, actually turned out to be stupid.

And in the end I figured there was nothing for it but to revise because maybe then it will stop pestering me and I can write something else.

But as I skimmed the first few chapters and started working out my plot and setting and character and everything problems, I realized that I needed to be able to see the big picture before I went in and started changing things.

I had to read the manuscript.

This seems very obvious. But I have actually never done that before. I wrote it and then I let some of my friends read it (besides the ending, which was horrible), but then I shoved it in a drawer and let it sit.

I was a little nervous about reading it, because when I was writing it, I felt like the story was dragging me along and I had no idea what I was doing. I worried that reading it would be like that too. Or that it was so bad it really wasn't worth revising.

But I went ahead and started reading it. I'm a little more than halfway through right now. What I've found is very, very relieving: It's good, but has an amateur feel to it. It's very engaging, and intense in some places, but a bit patchy and thin on detail. I have some things I need to do more research on. I have a lot of things that need re-writing. I have a LOT of work to do.

But it means I can master this story. It felt like some insane, enormous, impossible thing that I couldn't control. But it isn't. It's not brilliant, and it's not terrible either, but most importantly, it's not beyond my ability to improve.

So I'm going to go ahead and attempt at a second draft and see how much I can do to make the story the best it can be.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Writer Therapy and Awesome Contests

Hey everyone, Leisha here.

I know it's not my week to post, but I thought you all would want to know about some really cool things going on at Writer Therapy.

What is Writer Therapy?

I'm so glad you asked.

Writer Therapy is an online webseries for writers, about writers, that is going to air Thursday, Sept 20

They even have a teaser trailer.

Check this out (and yes, there are some Scribblers Cove peeps involved in this cool adventure):

This is what the Writer Therapy group has to say about themselves:

One group. One goal. Get published.
For any writer who has aspired to be published, or any reader who has wanted a “behind the scenes” look at the writing process, Writer Therapy launches their first two online webisodes. The web series follows the life and laughs of a critique group as they (try to) finish their manuscripts and get published. Each webisode runs between 4-10 minutes in length, with twelve webisodes comprising the first season.
The first season kicks off with Chersti, a recent college grad who has just finished her first manuscript. Fortunately, she has her critique group to help her through the querying process. Through the groups’ crazy antics—including everything from stalking famous authors to striking out on a personal quest—might deter from them actually writing, it is perfect research for their books, which will obviously be the BIGGEST thing since Harry Potter or Hunger Games.
Webisodes for season one will air consecutively on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in September-October. Special guest stars include authors Dan Wells, Brandon Mull and more!
More information can be found on the Writer Therapy website at

AND!!!!!!! They are having some killer contests to launch the website. I'll just highlight the awesome first page contest. to check out the others.

Contest information
With the launch of the new website, Writer Therapy will be hosting a 250-word contest. Winners will receive a query critique from an agent. Details will be announced on the Writer Therapy blog on September 10th, the first day of the contest, but here's a sneak peek at some of the prizes:

Molly Ker Hawn - query critique (Bent Agency)
Nicole Resciniti - 1st chapt critique (The Seymour Agency)
Sara Crowe - query critique (Harvey Klinger, Inc) 

And a bunch of other runner-up prizes, too!

So, pull out your first pages and polish them all shiny. This is killer. Now, go forth and do!

website: www.writertherapy.com

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Grabbing the bull by the horns

Overheard at my dinner table:
Dad: You just gotta grab the bull by the horns.
Son #2: And do a flip onto it, and ride it on home. (laughs)
Son #1: (shakes head) Little kids are so literal.

Well, maybe I'm literal too, but when I saw the book First Draft in 30 days by Karen Wiesner, I thought, "Who wouldn't want that?" and bought it from the title alone. The fact that my familiy was (very) ready to leave the bookstore may have been a factor, but either way, on that day I became the newest author to fall for a get-a-book-quick scheme. :)

Upon closer perusal of my new treasure, I discovered that Wiesner's method doesn't actually produce a manuscript in 30 days, but rather a detailed outline from which you can produce a fairly painless, solid, semi-final draft. Okay, that sounds more reasonable. And, more what I need anyway, because I haven't thought too much about outlines since my junior high school days. I did create an outline for my first novel (and the whole series) but that was a simple roman-numeral plot sequence outline. Since then, other than a little dabbling in the snowflake method, I have been acting as a seat-of-the-pants discovery writer even though I know it doesn't suit me. Yes, I'm messed up. Moving on.

Wiesner's outline method includes way more than just plot; it has multiple days dedicated to research, character sketches, setting descriptions, and more. I've dabbled in these things, too, but without structure or order to them.

So, in grabbing a catchy title on my way out of the bookstore, I have stumbled upon a book that may be perfectly suited to shoring up my writing weaknesses. Giving structure, sequence and even deadlines to my pre-writing.

So how extensive do you make your pre-writing phase? Do you outline plot, do extensive research, do character and setting sketches and more? And what is the more?

And... how important do you find these steps in helping you create your masterpiece?

P.S. I have been away from novel writing for more than a year, but am planning to grab the bull by the horns, do a flip onto it, and ride it home. If all goes as planned and I don't get gored, I'll have a spiffy super-outline by November, and I can do NaNoWriMo this year to produce the manuscript itself. I'll let you know how the whole experiment goes. Oh, and I'm not affiliated with Ms. Wiesner or her book in any way. Just sharing!

Write on,

Amber M of Mindsbase