Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nailing Your Concept

Concept is tricky. You have to keep it firm enough in your mind that you don't wander and get lost in the details, but still have it pliable enough to bend if a killer twist comes up that you weren't expecting.

Keeping your concept in mind is crucial. And no matter whether you are still in the plotting stage or finishing up your final draft, you should be able to write a one sentence synopsis that includes three primary pieces:

~ Main character
~ Theme
~ Challenge to overcome

Most of you know, this is not an easy thing to do, but it's something that as a writer you just have to work at until you get it. Being able to hold onto this one sentence as you're writing will give your book the consistency it needs as well as help you maintain your focus and not get lost in the muck.

Here is an example concept sentence from one of my projects--

Parker spends every night trapped in the dreams of the last person he made eye contact with and it's killing him.

Think of the summary sentence on the copyright page of every novel. So, you give it a try. Post a concept sentence in the comments. It can be from any idea, outline, draft you have, and the best one gets to choose from:

1 - query critique
2 - 20 pg manuscript critique
3 - a copy of MATCHED by Ally Condie

Hooray for contests! Now go! :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Finding Your Strengths

This weekend I've been reading the WIP of a close friend and she's amazing. I'm blown away by her genius and her ability to weave everything together into this poignant moment of just... wow.

She's incredible, and it has started me thinking. Do other people read my books and feel this way? I really hope so. I strive to be that way, to drag my reader along with me and keep them reading. I think in some ways I achieve it and others I still have a lot to learn.

We all have our strengths. For some it could be scenery, description and setting. Others it could be dialog and character development. For me, I'm really good with building tense scenes and pacing. I also write solid male characters--don't ask me why, I've pondered this a lot and I'm still not sure I get it. Apparently, men interest me. Who knew?

This guy for example... I find him VERY interesting.

Ahem... anyway. What do you consider to be your strengths? Let's start this week off with a bang. Brag about your skills. I give you permission. Nay, I demand it! Brag like you've never bragged before, and then tell us what you want to work on. We're in this together.

As for me, I want to work on using setting to reflect and amplify the emotions of a scene. Also, I feel like my writing could benefit from studying Bradley Cooper a little more. How about you?

Friday, June 24, 2011

You People Crack Me Up

This week I stumbled on some seriously hilarious stuff that I had to share with you. After all, it's Friday and I think going into the weekend with a good chuckle is never a bad thing.

So, up first we have A Publishing Industry Glossary that really gets into the nitty-gritty of what makes our industry tick... or tock, as the case may be.

A couple of my favorites were:

Book: a rectangular device for immortalizing the person whose name is inscribed on it. Not to be confused with "headstone."
Draft: A manuscript with still enough holes in it to let the wind blow through.

Haha... how appropriate.

Second, we have this hilarious post by Jen Campbell on Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops.

One of my faves here was: 

Customer: Do you bother to arrange your books at all, or are they just plonked places?
Me: They're in alphabetical order...
Customer: Oh.
Just. Awesome.

And, last but not least. We have some rather threatening letters from children when the mayor considered cutting their library's, budget. 

All I can say is that I don't want to meet these 6-year-olds in a dark alley.

That's it. What funny things have you found on the internet this week? Anything to make us all giggle? :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Writing Relationships

Blogger hates me today. We're in a fight, if you will. I was trying to put in this great picture of a couple arguing at the top of this post, but it flat-out refused. Not only will it not add it in, it won't even give me any kind of explanation as to why.

I just want to understand, but apparently that's asking too much. It's always like this. I bend over backward trying to keep everything updated, trying to make it work between us, to support Blogger and his bloggy content...but it doesn't even matter. He only participates when he wants to and it's like he doesn't even talk to me anymore...

Oh, wait...he's never talked to me--I promise. And if my therapist asks you, please tell her I said that?

Anyway, I had this great post in mind all about writing relationships and now he's gone and ruined it. The main point I wanted to make is that these characters should be real and breathing and ready to walk off the page. Too many romances in YA seem to get together and then act like a married couple. They're still young. They make mistakes, they argue, they hurt each other. Make their relationship as complex as the characters, and the reader will be as invested as you need them to be.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Yay for Winning!

And the winner is *drumroll please*...

Kristin Rae

Congratulations Kristin! Now you just need to decide if you want a copy of MATCHED by the awesome Ally Condie or a query critique by me. :) Leave your answer in the comments or drop me an e-mail to jenn at jennjohansson dot com.

Thanks everyone for entertaining me with your fun and interesting stories! You guys rock! Have a great Monday!

Friday, June 17, 2011

See Me Give Stuff Away

I'm bored. I'm getting over this bad cold and so I've been stuck in bed for a few days and now I feel just good enough to consider dying my own hair blue, painting the nails of my son, and spray-painting my cat just to keep from staring at my own walls for even one more minute...

...ahem. Let's do a giveaway!

Stop by the comments section, say hello, and tell me something funny/interesting that happened to you this week to be entered for a random giveaway to be announced on Monday. The winner can choose a copy of MATCHED by Ally Condie or a query critique. Let the entertaining begin!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Starting Line

I suck at beginnings, at least the first time around I do. Unfortunately, I'm working on one right now, and I can't get it off my mind. As I've said before, I'm infamous for rewriting my first chapter at least 10 times with each book. My endings seem to flow so easily, but the beginnings are like trying to turn coal into a diamond--it takes a long time + the perfect conditions and it won't happen just by sitting on it.

The thing is that eventually I get there. My beginnings are usually solid by the time I finish. It's just a lot of work to get to that point. And every writer has their own struggles. My friend and crit partner Candice struggles with the endings. Her beginnings are gorgeous... her endings are where she needs to focus to get it right.

Where do you struggle? For those of you that are like me, here are a few links to some tips on creating a great beginning by awesome literary sources:

From Kate Schafer Testerman
From Natalie Fischer on Nailing Voice in your opening &
From the fab Guide to Literary Agents

Monday, June 13, 2011

Keep the Faith

My 6-year-old has taken to leaving sticky notes all over the house to let me know he loves me. I can totally get behind this trend. Note the small stick figure with a book in his lap. My son has definitely inherited my artistic ability. He's adorable and he's absolutely certain that my books are amazing. He's never read a single one, of course. I'm not into giving my children nightmares. But nonetheless, he knows he will love them when he can read them and he has absolute faith in me and my abilities.

I want to feel the same way, and some days I do...but doubt always finds me. It's so easy to get caught up in the impossibility of it all and forget what really matters. Are we doing everything we can to make every word, every chapter, every book as good as it can be? If so, then we should have faith. We've done all we can do and as long as we keep trying and don't give up... things will work out.

So this week, I'm striving to have a little more faith in myself. What are you striving for?

Friday, June 10, 2011


Today I'm just posting some random thoughts because I am feeling a little under the weather and the cold medicine is getting to me. It's been a crazy week around here. I was supposed to be in Colorado today, but I cancelled my trip because a started a part-time work from home job that has turned into a pull-my-hair-out-full-time-job and it's driving me mad.

I haven't been able to sit down and write a word in almost a week and it is sucking the life out of me. It doesn't help things that I have this new deliciously dark idea that I've got fully thought out and planned and it's calling to me. Can I tell you how hard it is to deny this in favor of a job I dislike so thoroughly?


Anyway, today I found out that my job should be turning back into the part-time thing next week and so everything should settle down. This makes me happy. You know what else makes me happy? That this job is going to make it possible for me to go to WorldCon with no concerns, and then take my kids to Walt Disney World on my birthday. I know it will be worth it.

How is that for a random post? Have you guys had good weeks? What are you struggling with?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Today is launch day for my fabulous friend, Elana Johnson! Her book, POSSESSION is available today and as part of the celebration, there is a big blog hop going on in which people are telling about times when they broke the rules.

I thought of many stories in which I broke the rules, but most of them will land me in either a mental hospital, a prison, or both...because that's me...I'm wild like that. :P

Luckily I thought of one that was a relatively minor rule-breaking that I'll tell you about right now.

When I was fourteen, I spent a lot of time at a local community theater. It was awesome and I loved it. One night after a performance, two of my friends and I called our parents and told them we were spending the night at each others houses... then we hid in the back of the theater behind the scenery while the managers locked up. We spent the night there.

As we were already on the premises, I'm not sure it qualifies as entering and since we were extremely careful, it wasn't really breaking either... so I think we're good. Either that or I'm justifying...shh, don't tell.

Anyway, it was a blast, we put on some music and danced on the stage. We played with the props. Stayed up all night sitting in the theater seats and talking. Then we put everything back in its place and snuck out the back-door at dawn.

It wasn't really all that rebellious, but we could've gotten in a lot of trouble. Also, it is one night I'll never forget. What about you? When did you break the rules? Also, follow this link to see a list of all the other blogs in the blog hop. Go read their rule-breaking stories.

And YAY FOR ELANA!! I'm SO excited for you girl! :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gender Bias?

I read the other day that women are 70% more likely than men to read a book by a member of the opposite sex. I find this kind of depressing and fascinating at the same time. So, I thought maybe we could have a little debate about it.

First, do you think this is true?

Second, do you find that you read more books written by one gender or the other? If so, why?

Third, do you feel there is any argument to be made that either gender is better suited to write a specific kind of book? What is your reasoning behind that?

Let the discussion commence! *grabs popcorn*

Friday, June 3, 2011

New Agency!

For those of you who haven't yet heard, my awesome agent, Kathleen Rushall, just moved to the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, and I was very happy to move with her.

This agency seems awesome and like such a great fit. I'm so excited! Yay for happy news!

Any of you have happy news heading into the weekend? Finish a particularly tough chapter? Meet your writing goal for the week? Finally figure out what kind of mushrooms are growing in your front yard?

Do tell! :) And have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Random Dialog

For fun today, I thought I'd run through a couple of my manuscripts and post some random lines of dialog just to play around.

Let's see how messed up I really am, shall we?

"We should take bets on whose leg he'll break this year."

"You just said you are dying. How can it not matter?"

"You guys do anything new or did he follow the routine and act like he wanted to put you in his blender?"

"No, but in your hands I'd consider even this over-sized roller skate a lethal weapon."

"Could you please throw me your coat? I've made a lot of stupid mistakes tonight, but I don't want to add 
getting arrested for public indecency to the list"

"This whole sheltered innocence thing you've got going on. It's awesome."

Now how about a little internal dialog... characters talking to themselves are always fun. 
~~Being a zombie sucks rocks. I'm sure the whole feasting on human flesh thing wouldn't be so bad eventually--and man would I love to see those snobby cheerleaders run when they saw me coming. Talk about zombie vengeance at its best. But Mom and Dad wouldn't let me anyway. It'd be breaking "the zombie 
rules" and what's worse than being a teenage zombie? Being a grounded teenage zombie, that’s what.

~~Now they are just dying--just dead.
And I don't regret what I've done.

How about you? Any fun, random (internal or external) dialog from projects you'd like to share? What is your favorite line in your books? In any books?