Saturday, August 31, 2013

Grammarly Blog Offer

  UPDATE 9/28/2014
First, confession: I've procrastinated updating this post for months, and I feel really bad about that. 
Second: I got another email from Nikolas Baron that said this:
I just wanted to let you know that I'm very sorry for creeping you out and clearly failing to do Grammarly's Blogger Partnership Program justice in my email. I will say that your comment about getting more subscribers took me by surprise. As a growing Inc 500 company, we attract about 30 million page views per year. Emailing individual bloggers in an attempt to get them to sign up, only to then give them a gift card wouldn't make a whole lot of sense. As I mentioned in my first email to you, we offer sponsored bloggers a free, premium account of Grammarly so they don't have to go through the hassle of signing up with a credit card. Looking back, I do understand your skepticism. If multiple people write about something online, there's usually some truth to it. In this case, however, the handful of blog posts decrying our campaign as "spam" was a result of misunderstandings with a tiny fraction of the total number of bloggers we contacted. Most of these misunderstandings have been resolved. The hundreds of participating bloggers we've been fortunate enough to sponsor include Jose VilsonCraig HartKatherine Hansen, and Dr. Leroy Huizenga.
 I think I overreacted  when I originally wrote this post, and for that I apologize. It seems this may not be a scam after all.
Writing related scam alert! I received this email recently, and after doing a Google search, I found a couple blog posts about others getting the exact same email and finding it fraudulent. Thought I'd warn you all too.

Hi Lily,

You know better than most that putting your writing "out there" takes a tremendous amount of courage; readers will find and comment on even the simplest mistakes. At Grammarly we know the feeling - and we've made it our mission to improve writers' confidence. Putting our money where our mouth is, we'd be honored to sponsor your next blog post with a $20 Amazon gift card.

In case you haven’t heard of us, Grammarly is an automated online proofreader that finds and explains those pesky grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes that are bound to find their way into your first draft. Think of us as a second pair of digital eyes that can spare you the cost of hiring a proofreader. If you'd like to join our 3 million users and try the premium version of our proofreader for free, let me know and I'll make it happen!

Please send me the expected publishing date and topic of your next appropriate blog post (ideally something about writing) so I can give you all the details you need in time.


P.S. Let me know if you ever find yourself in foggy San Francisco; I’d love to grab some coffee. 

And may I just say that that last line totally creeps me out. I'm only seventeen! And if this person has actually been here, then he's seen that old picture of me over there on my side bar, but it's two years old so I look only FIFTEEN. Completely inappropriate. And.... well, the wording is just weird. All of it. Thank heaven for Google and those others that posted about this scam.

 Here's one of the blog posts I read: Also, if you follow the link they give to the Blasphemous Homemaker blog it's got some inappropriate content. Just to warn ya.
 Edited to add: According to one source, to claim the gift card you have to sign up for a 7 day trial of Grammarly with your credit card.  It may be that Grammarly is just trying to get more subscribers, but still. There are better ways. 
 And a scam-free night/day/mid-afternoon/whatever to you. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Beating the Editing Blues

In my limited experience there are two types of writers: the kind that approach editing with a giant axe, squealing with glee; and the others who look at their writing as if it is the one holding the axe, sharpened and ready to hack at the writer's soul, and who see their first drafts as a quagmire of stagnant prose, characters with the emotional range of moss, and plot twists as captivating as pond scum.

I tend to swing back and forth.

During rough times of quagmire wading, it's important to stay positive. Editing in a negative, sullen mood is not as productive or enjoyable as editing in a cheerful mood.

But when your characters are trying to drown you in a stinking pit of cliched dialogue, how do you stay positive? Below are some things I've found helpful.

Find a good writing community and ask for help.
Finding people who have been where you are and who can offer support is a good starting place. Last week, I had a bad editing day, and I asked for tips on getting through it on the Go Teen Writers Facebook group. (That group is fantastic, by the way.) I didn't get many answers other than simply "stay positive", but interacting with people who'd been in the same place I was in and had gotten through it was encouraging.

Learn to kill your darlings. 
Once I was comfortable cutting bits of my "precious" first draft, things got easier. I was no longer constrained by the chains of my faulty prose. Example: I recently decided that the one character who dies, shouldn't die. Her death means nothing. I can use her for better purposes if she stays alive. I also decided that her love interest didn't need to be at the manor after all. He did nothing there, and if the girl lived, he had no reason to leave their village. However, cutting that subplot meant cutting some of my favorite scenes with the guy's little sister. She's adorable. I love writing her. I didn't want to take the axe to them, but once I did, it let me explore other and better options for the story. Now that the guy isn't at the manor, other stuff happens, stuff that is better for the story.

Any darlings that get cut I put in a deleted scenes doc, so I can use them again, should the need arise.

I once said that editing is a cross between cutting off your best friend's arm and giving them a much-needed makeover. I still agree with this. And, if your best friend has a third arm that really gets in the way and is entirely useless, even if it's pretty, it's better that it comes off.   Your words aren't written in stone. If something needs to go, it should go. You'll write something better to replace it.

 When you reach the point where you want to strangle someone, take a break. 
This is not a good mindset to edit in. Step away from the computer, set down the red pen. Go outside and take a walk. Read a book. Bathe the dog. Get out of your head.

Talk to someone about your story. 
My mom is by brainstorming partner. When I get stuck, I can talk with her. She knows pretty much the whole story, as she helped plan and plot before I even started writing it. Sometimes hashing an idea out with her sparks a new idea or shows me how to fix a problem.  

Beta read/critique for someone else.
Earlier this summer I started reading Embassy by S. Alex Martin. Reading someone else's work can give you practice editing and spotting rough spots, without having to worry about fixing them.   

When you think you're a horrible writer, remember that the fact that you recognize you're first draft is terrible means you're a good writer.
I found a quote on Pinterest once that stuck with me:
"The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize." - Robert Hughes
 The fact that you know it could be better means you have the ability to fix it. Always remember that you can fix it. You may need to practice, or learn some more, and it may take a while, but you can fix it.

Listen to happy music and/or read encouraging sayings.
I created a YouTube play list of encouraging songs, and I pin encouraging quotes onto one of my Pinterest boards. Here's one of my favorites. Here's another, and another, and here's a funny, though it isn't very encouraging.

And that's all I've got off the top of my head. Hope you find it helpful!

And a fabulous day/night/morning/whatever to you.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Acutal Contest Entry

So, in the post before last, I shared six possible entries that I wrote for the last Go Teen Writers contest. Now that the winners have been announced, I'm going to share my actual entry, which received an honorable mention.

I’ve never been the type of girl to say “leave your hope at the front gate.”
But for the first time in my life, I feel that sentiment worming its way into my head.
I look over the ruins of my city, a ghostly image of what it used to look like flickering just outside my vision.  Then, for a moment, the scavenging dragons in the sky become flying vehicles, and the fog crawling off the ocean becomes steam from Voyle’s Magic-processing factories. The sunlight sparkles off broken glass, and through the truth-obscuring fog I can imagine that the city is whole again.
Then a cloud comes over the sun. The illusion disappears.
I glance down at the notebook in my lap, and reread the words Pearl had written.
It passed.
Two words. Two small, innocent words with consequences far more chilling than I care to think about. 

This is what the MC of one of my latest shiny new ideas had to say about this prompt.  She gave me two paragraphs, actually, the other of which was one of the ones I posted before. 

This story is a bit nuts. It came to me after I listened to a cover of Imagine Dragons' Radioactive by Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix and thought "Maybe one day I'll try writing a dystopia." Those of you who have known me for a while may have just gasped in horror, knowing my previous aversion to that genre. Said aversion is fading. 

Anyway, after that thought process got started, a bunch of other, older ideas said "Hey! You have to write me first!" And, after some bickering, they started joining forces one by one, saying "Hey, if we combine story ideas, maybe she'll write us faster." 

Bloody clever little plot bunnies. Now I have a story idea that covers possibly three genres (dystopia, science fantasy, and adventure), combines ideas for characters I've had floating around in my head for a while, and sounds fun to write. It may be my next NaNoWriMo story. We'll see.

And a wonderful day/evening/morning/whatever to you. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Ankulen by Kendra E. Ardnek Cover Reveal

This past June I had the great pleasure of critiquing/beta reading The Ankulen by Kendra E. Ardnek. Today, I'm participating in the cover reveal. 

Lovely, isn't it?

Here's the back cover blurb: 
Fifteen-year-old Jen can't remember her imagination. She knows she had one once, though, and honestly, she'd like it back. It's been eight years. One day she finds a young boy who claims to be one of her imaginary friends and that her imaginary world is being eaten by a hydra-like monster called the Polystoikhedron. He helps her find the Ankulen, a special bracelet that had given the ability to bring her imagination to life and together they embark on a quest to find friendship, healing, and perhaps even some family.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Ankulen.  Here's the GoodReads profile so you can go add it to your shelves.  

And here's a mini-interview with Miss Ardnek about The Ankulen. 

1. What sparked the idea that became The Ankulen?
There was no initial spark for The Ankulen. My younger cousin and I were in the yard trying to come up with a play for us to perform at our next family get-together. We had being trying to do something based on a story I had found that my mom had written, but it wasn't going anywhere. 

So we did what we always did when we wanted to come up with a new story. We assigned ourselves names, and started making stuff up as we went along. I was Jen and he was Chris. When he popped out of our toy castle claiming to be a friend who had once been my best friend but had been trapped in my imagination for the last eight years, we knew we had struck gold. We never performed the play, unfortunately, because we couldn't come up with an ending that would work with our limited budget.

2. Who is your favorite character, and why do you like them?
This is probably the most difficult question people ask me, since I love every character in a different way and for different reasons. However, I'll go with Derek as my favorite today. I often struggle with my boy characters, since I'm a girl and I don't know any boys older than twelve with whom I could sit down with and ask "okay, now how does your brain work?" But I think I got Derek right, and my Grandma and my Great Aunt (both of whom grew up with two brothers and no sisters) agree. Derek is a very complex guy, and he's stingy with his back story. (Which is probably the worst of any character in the book), and as a result, I didn't grasp his complete character until draft two. For the longest time, I thought that he didn't care about anything, but I was wrong. He does care about things, deeply, and he's very protective of anyone he's cares about. But he's been hurt a lot, so he's afraid to care. The full extent of his horrible childhood is never revealed in the book, but there are hints, and I do know most of it now. If I ever write a sequel, I will reveal the rest.

3. What was your favorite part of writing The Ankulen?
I'll go with the relationship between Derek, Jen, and Megan. I've never been in love, so I feel kinda awkward writing romance (fun though it may be), but I do have brothers and sisters. I also have cousins who live close enough to be practically siblings. I love writing about the bond that siblings share, and since Derek and Megan are adopted, writing this bond into existence was lots of fun. Megan and Jen get it right off, but there are lots of rocks where Derek is involved.

Kendra E. Ardnek  is the eldest daughter in a homeschooling family of four. She has been making up stories since an early age and published her first book, Sew, It's a Quest, when she was sixteen.

When she isn't writing, she's usually knitting, crocheting,  making swords out of paint-stir sticks, or looking up random facts. You can follow her writing adventures on her blog,
 Sew, it's a Quest was equally enjoyable. You should read them both.

And, she's having a release party on her blog on September 6! Mark your calendars! 

And that is all I have to say today. A wonder-filled day/evening/morning/whatever to you.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Alternate Contest Entries

So, last week I sent in an entry for the latest Go Teen Writers contest, in which I had to write a paragraph starting with the sentence fragment "I've never been the type of girl/guy to say..." 150 words tops.

And, I'm a finalist. (See it here.)

This is rather exciting, as I've never been a finalist in one of their contests with something longer than a sentence. The first time I won first place in a first sentence contest (see it here), and the second time I made the top 25 in an one-sentence elevator pitch contest (see it here - mine is #2), but I didn't make it to the winners' circle.

So, I'm rather excited.

When I was working with that prompt, I had a little explosion of ideas. I wrote seven possible entries. SEVEN. And I liked them all. With the help of my family and Hannah M. (one of the other finalists) I was able to narrow it down.

Since I have nothing better to do with them, I thought I'd share the six non-entered paragraphs here. If you have anything to say about them, I'd love to hear it.

I’ve never been the type of guy to say things like “never say never” or “the glass is half full.”
No. I say things like “the grass is always greener on the other side” and “all that glitters isn’t gold.”
Maybe it’s time for that to change.
Investigating murder changes how you see the world.  It becomes darker, smellier, lonelier. If someone had told me that before, maybe I would’ve become something—someone—else.
But here I am, crouching above another mangled corpse in another cramped, fetid sewer. There have been better crime scenes.
Sargent McCallow splashes toward me, a hand clamped over his nose and mouth. “On their way,” he mumbles.
I nod. “Gonna use the Memorizer?”
He shrugs. “Probably.”
I look down at the dead man at my feet. Mid 50s, street clothing, lots of blood. But, just like the last ones, he won’t have any memories for the Memorizer to find.

I’ve never been the type of girl to say “leave your hope at the front gate.” I don’t like to dwell on that aspect of our situation.
But I can feel that sentiment worming its way into my head now.
I stare over the ruins of the city from my perch atop the Assembly building, trying to ignore the notebook resting like a weight in my lap. It is only 5:43. I could pretend I hadn’t read it for another 17 minutes.
But that won’t change what it says.
I give in and look at it.
It passed, Maggie had written. I’m sorry.
I try to imagine what it was like before the Magic died, taking Maggie’s world with it.
I can’t do it. It’s impossible to reconcile what the others have said with what I see before me.

(This is the one I submitted, and once they announce the winners, I'll post it.)

I’ve never been the type of girl to say “I love you.”  But, as I watch my father’s coffin loaded onto a black carriage, I wish I’d said it, if only once.
No! part of me whispers. He never made the effort. He ignored you. He doesn’t deserve those thoughts.
The voice is right.
But still. He was getting better, at the end.
I turn away from the carriage, and cast a glance over my shoulder at the manor. I can’t help but feel a small thrill. Citcra Hall, mine at last.
A tall man in a black suit walks up to me. Mr. Snyder. Wonderful.
“I’m sorry for your loss, Miss Silverbeetle.”
Liar. He only wants whatever Father left him in his will.
“Good day, Mr. Snyder,” I say, walking to where another carriage awaits me.

I’ve never been the type of girl to say “Less is more.”
What kind of nonsense is that? More is always more, and more’s always better.
Especially when it comes to piracy.
I stand in the crow’s nest of our ship, Mourning’s Revenge, the wind kissing my skin.  We’ll be even with the Ootwoxan ship in thirty minutes.
“Noxie, get down from there,” Horace shouts at me. “We’re not going to take those shorties if you don’t get the guns ready.”
Leaning over, I see him scowling up at me. I grin. “Need I remind you that I’m one of those ‘shorties’?”
He belts a laugh. “Aye, that’s why you’re planning to rob ‘your’ king. You’re no more Ootwoxan anymore than I’m a woman.”
I scramble out of the crow’s nest and slide down to the deck. “Right you are, Horace.”

I’ve never been the type of girl to say things like “ROFL” or “TTYL” or “laters.”
But, unfortunately, my brother does.
I glance down at his latest text, a travesty to the English language.  liz can u plz bring my sticks to Burchs? left them in ur truck srry.
“Two things, brother dear,” I mumble as I type a reply, “Spelling and grammar.” I do a quick proofread of my response,
It seems you left your ability to communicate properly with them. I’ll meet you there at lunchtime.
And hit send. He won’t listen to me—he never does—but a girl can hope, right?
Mr. Thompson pokes her head around the corner, her lips pulled tight into a neat circle.
Oh dear.
“Lizzie,” she says, “I just got off the phone with Mrs. Storm-Baker.” —So that explains the expression— “She’ll be stopping by this afternoon to look at teacups.” 

I’ve never been the type of guy to say things like “war isn’t the answer” or “Chad hearts Tori” in my graffiti.
Shakespeare is so much more fun.
So it is with glee that I cover yet another ill-fated proclamation of love on the side of the bridge with something far more poetic and meaningful: the Bard’s sonnet 116.
“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments…”
Now this is true art. The spray paint kisses the rusted metal, soaking up the beauty of Shakespeare’s words.
“Love is not love, which alte—”
A footstep crunches on gravel. I freeze halfway through the word “alters.” This road is supposed to be closed. That’s why I chose this bridge as my next canvas.
Maybe someone else had the same idea.
I slip behind an old honeysuckle bush, trying to see who this intruder on my solitude is.

Please excuse that weird bar.  I copied and pasted these from the Word doc I wrote them in, and it hitched a ride as a stray bit of formatting.  

BUT LOOK MY "ENTRIES" ACTUALLY HAVE BITS OF INTERNAL NARRATIVE IN THEM.  This is just as exciting as making it to the final round, as my WiP has an embarrassingly small amount of internal narrative.

So, that's that. Hope you enjoyed those.

And a lovely night/day/morning/whatever to you.