The Final Frontier: Starting Your Sci-fi

Pen Friends ~ We are starting a series of posts on tips and how to write each genre- Fantasy, Contemporary, Sci-fi, Action-Adventure, and more. This Month is all about WRITING SCI-FI! 

First post of the Writing Sci-fi series:

Where do you start when you want to write a science fiction story? Just as with any story, you need to have an idea of your plot, your characters, their world and the struggle they’re going to face.

Plot Structure:

If you begin with a basic plot in mind, how are you going to structure your story? Is it going to be a straightforward and linear, or will you use frequent flashbacks?

You could insert official reports or journal entries to open a window into other perspectives. Or you could even jump around in the timeline – though this is tricky to keep track of – unless there’s a very plot-specific reason for it, I would caution against this.

Or perhaps you like to start with at your characters, and let the majority of the plot evolve with them.   Continue reading

Author Interview: Sara Fujimura

Pen Friends ~ Welcome YA Author Sara Fujimura as she shares about her latest book, Every Reason We Shouldn’t that came out with TOR TEEN in March!

sara fSP: Hi Sara! Thanks for joining us! Every Reason We Shouldn’t was released in March–a crazy time for a book to come out! Before we get to that, let’s hear about the book.

Here is a blurb:

Sixteen-year-old figure skater Olivia Kennedy’s Olympic dreams have ended. She’s bitter, but enjoying life as a regular teenager instead of trying to live up to expectations of being the daughter of Olympians Michael Kennedy and Midori Nakashima…until Jonah Choi starts training at her family’s struggling rink.

Jonah’s driven, talented, going for the Olympics in speed skating, completely annoying… and totally gorgeous. Between teasing Jonah, helping her best friend try out for roller derby, figuring out life as a normal teen and keeping the family business running, Olivia’s got her hands full. But will rivalry bring her closer to Jonah, or drive them apart?

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SP: Can you tell us how long it took you to write Every Reason We Shouldn’t and how this story idea came about?

It took about eight years for this book to go from idea to physical book. The sad thing is this was my fastest book to produce out of all three! So the idea that my next project, “Book #4” right now with Tor Teen, will come out in less than two years is a little mind-blowing.

I own a pair of figure skates and occasionally go ice skating, but I am not very good at it. What inspired EVERY REASON WE SHOULDN’Twas Apolo Ohno’s autobiography ZERO REGRETS, specifically the account of his teenage years. Ohno was at the crossroads of his career and had to make a decision: Walk away from the sport with the wins he already had or press on to see if he could make it to the Olympics. Spoiler alert: Ohno has eight Olympic medals in short track speed skating. I think he made the right choice. Jonah’s character came to me first, and Apolo Ohno very much influenced him. I saved the crossroads story for Olivia, though. I have two ultra-talented girls (now young women) in my life, and I got to see—thanks to their moms—what it’s like to be that one-in-a-million teen and all the unique challenges that come with being that high level of an athlete/performer. One is a dancer and the other a singer, but I wanted a girl who was into ice sports to work better with Jonah’s character. As super cheesy as it is, I love THE CUTTING EDGE. I wanted to write an updated (and much more realistic) version of the movie with teen skaters. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Beginning in the Middle” by Author Laura Moe

In the monthly writing workshop I conduct at a local library, the other night I talked about Write Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott Bell. The concept is described as “like popping open the hood and showing writers how they can be intentional about the story.”

In this book, Bell claims that for a book to be effective, there must be a “mirror moment” where the main character can literally or figuratively look in the mirror and questions his/her beliefs about himself. It helps enormously to know the middle moment/mirror moment, because knowing this moment “illuminates the entire book you’re trying to write. It’s the “deep tissue of the story,” (or the engine that drives it.) which many writers don’t discover until much later, sometimes after several drafts or even once the book is published.

Continue reading

Author Interview: Suzanne Park

Pen Friends~ Hopefully this interview finds you well and safe during this crazy season. Many of my author friend’s book launches and book release’s have understandably been cancelled and/or have gone virtual. Let’s try to support them as much as we can during this time! SO…

It’s my pleasure to introduce today’s debut YA (& adult) author, my friend and fellow Pitchwars 16′ alum, Suzzane Park! Sadly, her time in Seattle (where I am based) was also cancelled, but that won’t stop us from celebrating her and her upcoming YA book, The Perfect Escape!

spark

SP: Hi Suzanne! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, can you tell us a bit about you and your writing journey? 

I was a kid who loved reading, but was limited by the types of books we had at our school library and public library system. I grew up in a small suburb in Tennessee with underfunded schools and libraries, so you can imagine how limited the selection of books were for a curious Korean-American girl! Continue reading

Agent Interview: Hannah VanVels, Corvisiero Literary Agency

Pen Friends ~ Today we have a very special guest, Hannah VanVels, once an acquisition editor for Harper Collins Blink, and now a literary agent. Don’t miss her thoughts on publishing, tips on querying, thoughts on the slush pile, and her current wishlist!

Hannah VanvelsSP: Hi Hannah! First, congratulations on joining the Corvisiero Literary Team! I’m excited to have you on the Spinning Pen for our first ever AGENT interview!  Continue reading

Author Interview: Sarah Allen

Pen Friends ~ Get ready for a stream of amazing interviews this coming week. We’ve got Agents, Editors, and a bunch of mega talented debut authors!

Next up is Middle Grade Author, Sarah Allen, my dear friend and fellow 2016 Pitchwars Alumni. Her book, What Stars are Made of, will come out with Macmillan in March, fyi, its open for preorder now. (link above!)

sa111SP: Hi Sarah! I’m so excited to have you on the Spinning Pen to talk about your debut, What Stars are Made Of! Before we get to all the book questions, can you tell us a bit about yourself and writing journey? Continue reading

Storyboarding 101

After teaching on Storyboarding Monday night a few of you asked me to put my notes online. Here they are! If you want a more comprehensive teaching on Storyboarding, plus access to the template I use, and more, sign up for my newsletter on novamcbee.com 🙂 I’ll be sending this out and more.

Link to various templates

(Note: my template is not online. This is a generic one.)

The Basics of Storyboarding

~It’s an outlining & plotting tool.

~It’s a calendar-type template that has an outline of 25-50 Chapters. Each row has 5 boxes. * I always print on both front and back because my novels are more than 50 chapters.

~Make sure there is a turning Point every fifth chapter.

~Black Moment in 23-24

~Realization in 24-25

~Build your scenes from notes and/or synopsis

~Show conflict

~Illustrate Character Arc, can show both internal & external conflicts and resolutions

Here is how I optimize Storyboarding

It’s December 3rd. Many of us just finished NanoWrimo. Fact: I almost never get 50 thousand words. But I do get 30 thousand words.

In general, I outline the plot and character arcs and all major things I think will happen before I sit down to write. Then I write and play. In that way I am both a plotter and pantster. I write and write until the first draft is done. THEN, I storyboard. I write again. Then I storyboard a second time, and revise again. Let me give you more detail.

What I love to write & how Storyboarding relates:

•First Chapters

•First lines, first paragraphs

•Hooks, inciting incidents

•Tension, mystery

•Raising Questions

•Character Introductions

•Last lines & pay-offs

The way I write that first chapter, even first few chapters is crucial to get readers to turn the page. So, after my first draft, I use storyboarding asa way to check my scenes and overall pace of the story and story arc/character arc to see if it has that first chapter standard. Is the scene telling me something new? Moving me forward? Is there tension? Pay-offs? Did I foreshadows enough?

Another cool aspect isthat I can see if there are scenes that slow or sections that have far too much intense action or mystery. I can rearrange the board to fit better. I can move scenes and events, and then I can plan better pay-offs.

Overall Visual Representation  

•Scene Checklist (I check for “First Chapter Standards” in voice, hook, etc)
•Story Progression & Character Arcs
•Holes
•Tension
•Pace
•Setting

Then I read over those 50 boxes in about 20 minutes and I see the story as a whole in a very short amount of time. It’s very useful.

I always do this exercise with a pen and paper.My friends do it on their computer. Both are fine. I do all my novel writing on my laptop, but all my brainstorming is on messy notebooks and even messier storyboards.I love them, and they help me get a clear plan. Then, once I sit down to write, I accomplish much more, much faster. And I hope you can too.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Nova

7 Killer Approaches to Writing a Killer Opening Line

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As we know, a good first line of a book (and chapter) can do much more than just begin the story. It grabs our attention, sets the tone, reveals something to come, lets us taste the narrative & voice, gives the first impression, and can be locked into our memory for years to come IF it is done well.

Look at the 7 approaches below and study them. (FYI: Thanks to Lorie Langdon for sharing these with us!)

I’ve also added links to some of the most popular first lines in YA Literature. Compare, enjoy, and then mentally put them into their correct categories. Then look at your own first lines. Where does it fit? Practice rewriting your first sentence. And if you are so bold, share it in the comments!

  1. A statement of eternal principle

– Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

– Paper Towns by John Green: “The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle.”

 

  1. A statement that conveys the narrative

– Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa: “I had a farm in Africa.”

– Stardust by Neil Gaiman: “There once was a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.”

 

  1. Characterization

– Stephen King’s 11/22/63: “I have never been what you’d call a crying man.”

– The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway: “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish..”

 

  1. Start mid-action

– Lorie’s current WIP:A brisk gale whipped the sea into peaks that pitched the Skylark around like a leaf in a flooded stream.

– The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner: Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.

 

  1. A statement of paired facts

– Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo:Joost had two problems: the moon and his mustache.

– A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

  1. 6. Statement laced with significance and/or conflict

– Heather Webb’s Becoming Josephine: The missive arrived in the night.

  • DOON by Corp and Langdon:I skidded to a halt in the crowded corridor, totally unprepared for a showdown with the evil witch of Bainbridge High.
  1. 7. Start with setting that evokes emotion, establishes mood, or raises questions

-A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas:The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice.

-Maria V. Snyer’s Poison Study: Locked in darkness that surrounded me like a coffin, I had nothing to distract me from my memories.

 

LINKS:

https://www.bustle.com/articles/164702-20-ya-novels-that-will-hook-you-from-the-first-line

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/teen/15-of-the-best-opening-lines-in-ya/ 

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/38-best-first-lines-in-no_b_8836484

 

Thanks Lorie, for sharing your tips with us! *Find Lorie’s books on amazon here & her website.

Nova, signing off!