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: Natalie Mae & The Kinder Poison

Pen Friends~ I’m so excited to introduce you to Young Adult Author, Natalie Mae, who will talk about her upcoming book, The Kinder Poison, out in just ONE WEEK, from Razorbill.

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SP: Hi Natalie! Thanks for joining us! Before we start talking about your debut, The Kinder Poison, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey?

NM: Thanks so much for having me! I’m a Colorado author who graduated with an

Information Technology degree from CU Boulder, because I didn’t think writing books could be an actual job. (I guess I thought authors just “existed” out there? Like stars?) Very happy to say that I soon found out anyone could pursue authorship, and the rest is history! It’s taken about 8 years to get where I am now. It took me 2 of those years to get an agent, and though we sold my debut (a YA sci-fi) within months, it would be another 4 years before I sold The Kinder Poison. And another 2 1/2 years from then until it would publish! So it’s definitely felt like a long journey, but I’m so grateful to be published at all and to be able to write for a living.

SP: The Kinder Poison will come out with Razorbill next week! TheKinderPoison_web

Here is a blurb:

Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.

All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing. A death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish–and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end–will ascend to the throne. With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice.

Now Zahru’s only hope for survival hinges on the impossible: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world. 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: Hanna Howard

Pen Friends ~ Today’s interview is such a treat! Debut YA Author, Hanna Howard, shares about her upcoming novel, IGNITE THE SUN and her beautiful (and somewhat painful) journey to becoming an author. Don’t miss the blurb to her novel. The premise is entirely captivating!

hhSP: Hi Hanna! I’m so excited to have you on the Spinning Pen to talk your upcoming debut, Ignite the Sun. But first, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you started writing? 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prompt: Warm Rain

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Warm Rain.

In 200 words or less, what scene do those two words bring to your mind?

Go. 

Then POST your prompt in the comments!

Here are two example prompts from SP writers Nova and Noah.

Nova:

I wake to small warm drops on my face. A splash on my eyelids has me wiping away what feels like a tear. But tears were for yesterday. Today is for survival. My eyes crack open to a brilliant rainbow light coming thru the mist. I squint and try to remember what exactly happened last night.

My arms push my body up. That is when I notice the bruise on my leg. Dang it. So it is true. I’m marooned. On an island. Alone. In the middle of nowhere. And all because of one little lie.

There’s a rustle in the palms and a rhythm that sounds like footsteps. With great pain, I bend my leg and scoot behind a large bush doubtful it can hide me. Whatever it is, its getting closer. Maybe I’m not alone after all.

Noah:

Thunder rumbled in the distance as I ran across the field. The clouds rolled over head as I ran faster. I always loved to race the rain. The thunder was like our gunshot letting me know the race had begun; the long grass brushed against my legs as I barreled past. My calloused feet pounding on the dry I earth. I could hear the rain coming fast from behind me, a loud, overwhelming whooshing sound, that seemed to come from everywhere and meant no escape.  l saw my small home in the distance and laughed to myself.

“The rain always won,” I thought as it finally caught up to me, instantly drenching me. Slipping in the fresh mud I fell onto the ground and laughed again.  

 

**Photo by Pete Nowicki on Unsplash