Category Archives: P. J. Hoover

Goodbye, Lovely Readers

Goodbye Graphic #21You might not be aware that when this blog was created, the original group of posters agreed to keep it going for 843 days exactly. We had done some pretty complicated calculations on the shelf-life of a blog about speculative fiction for teens and pre-teens, with some assistance from several persons (and a robot) who arrived from the future to warn us about impending utopian conditions.

So here we are at Day 843, feeling compelled to say goodbye so that we can enjoy the sudden utopia we have been informed is about to be created on Earth. (We’ve been told there will be free iced coffee and several Harry Potter sequels for everyone.) We’d like to thank you, blog readers, for following us for so long (two and a half years! over 500 posts!). We’ve appreciated your comments and silent visits alike. We feel this has been a great opportunity to explore our thoughts on various topics important to us science fiction- and fantasy-lovers, and to chat with people we otherwise would never had known existed.

We hope that you will continue to visit us on other places on the web so that we can chat about books and hear your recommendations for what we should be reading and share thoughts about writing and publishing. You can find links to our websites here. Thanks, lovely blog readers, and Happy Reading!

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Writing from the Place: TEN WAYS TO MAKE ROMANCE SIZZLE IN YOUR MANUSCRIPT

Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s such a lovey holiday, and thinking of it makes me think of first love which is so often found in YA these days. And sure, some stories have romance, and some stories HAVE ROMANCE!

What makes these different? What sets them apart?

Well, we here at THE PLACE (being K. A. Holt, Jessica Lee Anderson , E. Kristin Anderson, Madeline Smoot, Mari Mancusi, and sometimes member Jenny Ziegler) offer up 10 amazing ways to make the romance sizzle in your manuscript. So read up and get ready to revise!

We give you…

TEN REASONS TO MAKE ROMANCE SIZZLE IN A MANUSCRIPT:

1) Have stuff happen off-screen.
It’s amazing how much your reader will fill in on their own.
(For example, did Aerin and Luthe have sex in The Hero & the Crown? It’s a midgrade Newbery Medal winner, and nothing happens on the page, but I sure thought so. –Madeline)


2) Make the romance forbidden.
And make the roadblock believable. Because if that roadblock can be torn away with one flick of the wrist, I’m not buying it as a roadblock in the first place. It really has to stand in their way.

I want real consequences.

3) Build tension leading up to the first kiss.
Even if this means you REALLY, REALLY want your characters to kiss. Don’t let them. Keep the kiss away from them for just one more scene. One. More. Scene.

4) Pining. Lots of pining.

5) Find a picture (Calvin Klein magazine ad, yearbook photo of school crush, pin-up of hunky movie star) and “cast” him as your male romantic lead.
Keep pic close by as you write. Squeegee off lipstick marks as necessary.


6) Ask a friend who writes erotica for tips.
Scale it back ten notches.
Then increase it forward by two.

(there is no picture I can think of to keep it clean here.)

7) Watch John Hughes movies for inspiration.
(I have a forever crush on John Bender. Oh yeah. –Emily)


8 ) Make a playlist with your characters’ favorite love songs to listen to while writing their romance scenes.
Feel free to date yourself with these songs. “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” is perfectly acceptable if it puts you in the right writing mood. Ditto “Open Arms.”

Remember slow dancing.

9) Treat yourself to a date night with your honey.
And, since you write YA, make it super fun and retro: burgers, ice cream, and a movie (see above for movie recommendations). Thinking of his/her kisses will definitely steam up your love scenes.


10) Emotions
Did I mention those? Because no matter how functional he may be, without emotions, it’s just not going to work out.

pjhoover_casual1

PJ Hoover is up for some serious romantic revising!

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Writing from the Place: TEN REASONS TO HAVE A WRITING GROUP

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Writing can be a lonely thing to do, and all you guys out there who go at it alone, I hope you’re finding some ways to connect like Skype or texting or tweeting every ten seconds or something.

Okay, so maybe the tweeting thing isn’t going to advance your writing career along, but here’s an idea of something that is.

A WRITING GROUP

For clarification, this is not a critique group. This is a group of people who get together to write. They all put words on paper at the same time.

Maybe you think you don’t have time for this. Maybe you think you don’t mind being alone. Well, we here at THE PLACE (being K. A. Holt, Jessica Lee Anderson , E. Kristin Anderson, Madeline Smoot, Mari Mancusi, and sometimes member Jenny Ziegler) offer up reasons why you, too, should be part of a writing group.

We give you…

TEN REASONS TO HAVE A WRITING GROUP:

1) It maintains social skills after long periods of writing in isolation.


2) It’s inspiring when you can watch your writer friends make themselves chuckle as they write.
Or maybe they’re chucking because they’re sneaking zombie stickers up onto the walls. Either way, it’s entertaining.

3) Trying to keep up with everyone will increase the amount (and hopefully quality) of what you write.
This is still theoretical. We’re not sure there is a valid way to prove this hypothesis.

4) Your group will always have good suggestions for books to read.
Plus, you can trash discuss books you’ve read without ever having to put it in writing.

5) Someone will usually let you borrow $6 for an egg sandwich.


6) When you get a crappy rejection you can tell your group and they’ll totally make you feel better.

7) You can look up and say “if you stabbed a guy repeatedly with a pen knife would he totally bleed out or could he survive?” and you will get advice instead of dirty looks and suspicions of being a serial killer.


8 ) While taking breaks, you can make TOP TEN lists.

9) You get to have a place called THE PLACE.
At said PLACE, you can order things like Beer Tea and meet people like the drunk night nurses and Sleeping Guy. You get to even see TROLLS from time to time.


10) Isolation sucks.
It’s a proven form of torture. Why would you do that to yourself? Torture your characters, not yourself.

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PJ Hoover thinks her writing group is fabulous!

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Writing from the Place: TEN WAYS TO MAKE TIME FOR READING

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…when everything else seems to get in the way.

I know we’ve all been there. We claim we can’t read the latest next best paranormal romance because we don’t have time. We can’t possibly squeeze in a book on the writing craft because we have too many things on our plate. I mean we have kids and jobs and lives. How can reading possibly get any kind of priority, especially when we’re trying to crank out some writing, too? This just goes beyond the impossible. This is just asking too much.

FALSE, I say! Just flat out false!

We here at the place (being K. A. Holt, Jessica Lee Anderson , E. Kristin Anderson, Madeline Smoot, Mari Mancusi, and sometimes member Jenny Ziegler) are going to disagree with the global statement that there is no time to read. We have the answers you need.

We give you the Top Ten Ways to Make Time for Reading:

1) Locate an isolated closet in the house.
Purchase a reading light and a year’s supply of batteries. Using crayons, create a “DO NOT DISTURB” banner to post on the door. Tell your family to respect the banner. When they call for you, do not answer.


2) Read during your daily commute.
Unless you’re the driver. In which case you should listen to audiobooks.
Actually whether you commute or not, audiobooks are a fantastic way to add extra books to your list. They make cleaning and cooking and commuting and grocery shopping and everything better.

3) Set aside an hour at bedtime before turning off the light.
This might mean turning off your TV and laptop earlier to make time to snuggle up with a book, or it could mean staying up a little later. Either way, it’s great relax-y time.
And really, even if you’re too tired, it’s okay to fall asleep reading.

4) Visit the library with your family.
Everyone gets to curl up with a book for a while.
(Yes, admittedly, this will make some moms roll around with laughter. It’s very kid dependent.)

5) Buy a pair of reading glasses, download the appropriate app, and read a novel on your cell phone.
Just think how fast you can flip through those words.

6) Always keep a book on your person.
In your purse, in your manpurse, on your phone, whatever. Then, wherever you are, you have something to read.
Take *that* line at the post office.

7) Read aloud to your kids.
But you get to pick the book and they have to listen. It’s the perfect opportunity to re-read THE HOBBIT while spending time with your family. They’re happy so long as they get to hear your voice.

Always the perfect read-aloud

8 ) Turn ‘date night’ into a ‘reading date night’ and alternate reading pages out loud to your significant other.

9) Stop watching TV.
I know, it’s hard to fathom this, right? But all of “your shows”… well, they don’t need you. The feeling is not mutual.

For the record, Star Trek is an exception.
Geordi LaForge—I mean Levar Burton—knew how to find the right balance.

10) Stop making excuses.
Stop pretending reading doesn’t matter for your writing. That writing is the only thing that matters. Reading does matter. It matters more than anything else. So read a book already.

 

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PJ Hoover loves any excuse to read a great book!

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From the Archives: Technobabble

Technobabble

A form of prose using jargon, buzzwords and highly esoteric language to give an impression of plausibility through mystification, misdirection, and obfuscation.

startrek_logo_2007I first heard the term in reference to Star Trek. Basically, the script writers would plot out the (always awesome) story line, and where convincing technical information was needed, they would write:

“Insert Technobabble”

The thing was (at least in the case of Star Trek), it didn’t always have to make perfect sense.  But it did have to sound like it made perfect sense. It had to fool the viewer, make them feel smart for hearing familiar terms (like Warp Core), and add to the overall sci-fi effect of the show.

So as writers, especially for kids, how technical must we be? Do our technical definitions need to be precise? Are vague explanations good enough? If our story has a strong technical basis, how much must be conveyed? Do you make up your own technical terms, or rely on those already recognized as convention?

I think of THE EMERALD TABLET (as I often do). It uses well-known terms like:

telekinesis

telepathy

teleportation

even telegnosis (which is a real term though new to most readers)

I find when writing sci-fi and fantasy for kids, I general fall back on terms kids will be comfortable with. Not in all cases, as new terms do get coined and learned this way. But the majority or the technical jargon provides a sci-fi/fantasy comfort zone for the readers.

What are your thoughts on technobabble? Make up new? Use stand by old? And what books for kids excel is the use of technobabble?

P. J. Hoover

Originally published 3/2/09

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From the Archives: THE EMERALD TABLET – A Closer Look at Revisions

First some basic stats on THE EMERALD TABLET:

Time to write first draft – 3 months
Length of first draft - 113K
Length of published novel – 66K
Time from first word written until publication – 4 years

First line of first draftThe night was bright, lit by a waxing gibbous moon.
(Okay, it pains me to put that down. And it came from a prologue, no less, long since deleted from the story.)

First line of published novel - When Benjamin Holt saw his mom disappear into a pinprick of light, he shouldn’t have been surprised; his life was already weird.

So I’ve talked a little bit about the revision process for THE EMERALD TABLET before, but I thought I’d go into a bit more detail.

After my manuscript was complete (I’d been through it a few times, I’d added all I thought needed added), it weighed in at a hefty 113K. Why hefty you might ask. There are books being published with that word count and more. But for the case of THE EMERALD TABLET, the words were unneeded. I’ll summarize these unnecessary words in three line items:

  • Backstory
  • Incorrect Starting point
  • Far too many things “personal” to me

Backstory:
When I started the planning of the novel and the trilogy overall, everyone had a birthday and everyone had a family and there were friends of the family. And being a telegen in the real world, Benjamin had played many pranks in the past. And there was the prologue which dealt mainly with Benjamin’s birth. And you know what? I needed to know all these things. But the reader didn’t. And so I went through the manuscript many, many times, cutting everything I could possibly cut in regards to backstory. Benjamin’s best friend’s mother’s occupation was just not pertinent. Neither was the girl next door who had a crush on Benjamin.

My advice: Cut all the backstory you possibly can. Ask yourself – does the reader really need to know this? If not, cut it.

Incorrect Starting Point:
Let’s see, first there was the prologue (as mentioned above), but then the story started one sunny afternoon with Benjamin and Andy playing a prank as they so often did on sunny afternoons. And after the prank, we needed a chapter showing us a little more of Benjamin’s talents. And then we needed to see the last day of school. And once Benjamin found out he was going to summer school, he needed to go shopping, because, you know, all boys are really excited about going shopping. And then he was off to summer school and the story got going. So yeah, in revisions, guess where the story ended up starting?

A couple fun comparisons:
Benjamin finds out he’s going to summer school – first draft – page 54
Benjamin finds out he’s going to summer school – final - page 2
Benjamin actually goes to summer school – first draft – page 74
Benjamin actually goes to summer school – final - page 13
Benjamin finds the Emerald Tablet – first draft – page 208
Benjamin finds the Emerald Tablet – final - page 54

My advice: Really think about the right starting point for your novel. Where does the action start? What drives the story forward. Find out and start there.

Far too many things “personal” to me:
I’ve heard it said that a first novel written is too close to the author. When we write, we want to put in all those things that are special to us. We want to write in the funny jokes we heard cracked in middle school. We want to portray our nemeses in all their rotten glory down to the dumb jean jackets they always wore.
We get our novel critiqued and someone says they love a certain line. And so we hold onto that line forever. And ever. We never want to cut it.
Here’s the truth: Things that are funny in your memory will not necessarily be funny to others. They also may not fit in this particular story. But the good news is you have plenty of stories ahead of you. You will be able to use those jokes somewhere else. You will be able to set a scene at your favorite ice cream shop in a different novel. Benjamin Holt had no need to visit Scoops Ice Cream and play his favorite retro game Moonquest. Maybe you did, but give your character a break. Don’t give him too much retro baggage that you loved.

My advice: If you are hesitant about cutting something, ask yourself the honesty question. Honestly, why are you holding onto a certain line? Does it add to the story or is it because it is a line that you love? Kill your darlings, right? Yes, kill them. Away. You seriously will never miss them.

(Just for fun, THE EMERALD TABLET in its beauteous first draft had bonsai trees, Aikido, crabapple flinging, and popcorn popping as gradable homework.)

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PJ Hoover can laugh about her revisions now. And she thought her first draft was perfect :)

(Originally posted 12/1/09)

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TEN POST-NANO REVISION TIPS

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So you did it.
You wrote 50K words in the month of November. Or maybe you only got to 25K. Whatever it is, congratulations! This is a huge accomplishment! Now comes the fun part, because, yes, you need to revise…

Well, we here at the place (being K. A. Holt, Jessica Lee Anderson , E. Kristin Anderson, Madeline Smoot, and sometimes members Mari Mancusi and Jenny Ziegler) have the answers you need.

We give you out Top Ten Post NaNo revision tips:

1) Throw out the whole draft and start again.
It may sound daunting, but at the end of revisions, this very well could be exactly what has happened.

2) Eat cake. Lots of cake. You deserve it, no matter what your mother says.
If you’re a perfectionist, you might consider imbibing wine in addition to cake.

Making it a fun cake will make it all that much better.

3) Do not read about anyone else’s novel idea.
If it’s similar at all to your NaNo project, it’ll make discouragement settle in.
Anyway, your story is different. And unique. And totally has a place in the market, even if it is chock-full of faeries and vampires and mean cheerleaders who stole your main character’s boyfriend.

4) Cut those cliches that crept their way into your manuscript.
Okay, they didn’t creep. You put them there, and sure, you said to yourself, “I’ll remove this cliche when I revise.”
Guess what? It’s time to revise.
Here’s a handy list in case you’re interested.

5) Sit on it. Put it in a drawer. Hide it under your cat.
Seriously. Best tip ever. Take as much time away from that thing as you can stand. It will love you so much more when you return.

Wait until Daylight Savings Time ends and you have to change your clock.

6) Ask your favorite Barista at THE PLACE for tips.
Like, advice, not the stuff in his jar by the register.

7) Read the author who most inspires you and ask yourself:
“What would
Francesca Lia Block do with this scene?”
Feel free to substitute the author of your choice here.

8 ) Don’t be afraid to slice & dice Ginsu style.
Come on. You know you added some of that crap just to up the word count.
Epilogue? Yeah, I can smell that.

Thanks, Gary, for the image!

9) Go back to whatever you were revising before that NaNoWriMo nonsense interrupted.
And the extra benefit of this one, it won’t look nearly as bad as you thought. (See number (5).)

10) Just edit out every other word. It’ll make sense. Probably.

pjhoover_casual1 PJ Hoover is not ready for these tips yet since she’s still writing her NaNo project :)

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TEN THINGS TO DO AFTER RECEIVING A REVISION LETTER

…or a critique. Because hearing others tell us what needs to be changed in our work can be painful.
Because we are in love with our stories.
And we think they are perfect.
And we can’t imagine why the world doesn’t feel this way, too.

But reality hits and the critique comes in, and our rosy colored world can come crashing down.
(um, if this hasn’t happened to you, then you’re either the rare, perfect author, or you aren’t getting enough feedback on your work. You decide.)

We here at The Place (being K. A. Holt, Jessica Lee Anderson , E. Kristin Anderson, Madeline Smoot, and sometimes member Jenny Ziegler) have come up with a list to help you cope with this event.

We give you…

TEN THINGS TO DO AFTER RECEIVING A REVISION LETTER (or critique):

1) Drink eight cups of coffee
We recommend picking a favorite coffee mug for this step, and avoid anything that can be crushed (such as Styrofoam).


2) Hide the critique in the freezer

Things have a way of getting lost in the freezer, at least in mine. I’m thinking the critique could hang out with that half-full bag of frozen peas that never seems to get used. Or maybe those ice cubes in the far back that you have to chip off the walls.


3) Tell your cat or dog or tortoises about it

The love you. They agree with you. They listen and never tire of hearing your voice.
And they think you are the rare, perfect author.

4) Commiserate with writer friends at The Place.
Unless of course they were the ones to give you the critique. In that case, go back to step (3).

5) Cry.

6) Bury yourself in a plate of nachos and eat your way out.
If you’re going gluten-free, substitute yogurt and nuts for this step.
(But come on, you know you want the nachos.)

7) Take up belly dancing.
You would look fab in that belly dancing costume.

8 ) Use your Kung Fu skills to pummel a pillow


9) Try to hold off on responding for as long as possible.
Except for a nice thank you. There is always a place for a nice thank you in the world.

10) Read or watch something inspiring and make a plan of attack.
I recommend this video.

And then get busy revising!

pjhoover_casual1 PJ Hoover thinks waking up to a breakfast of nachos and coffee is not always a bad thing.

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Ten Things Found in Any Manuscript

So I’m not sure how many of you know about my local writing group, but it’s OSUM and fun and we meet at the coolest place. On a normal Friday I get together with K. A. Holt, Jessica Lee Anderson , E. Kristin Anderson, new member Madeline Smoot, and sometimes member Jenny Ziegler.

Yes, we talk about fun stuff. Yes, we get writing done. Yes, we listen to music from the 80s and read the graffiti on the walls (and there is lots and lots of it…). And yes, we come up with ridiculous lists.

Care of “The Group” from “The Place,”
here are ten things found in any manuscript:

1) A dog barking in the distance

Due to the paranormal craze, we’ll stretch this to include werewolves, too.

2) A Star Trek reference

3) A head wound

A gash, a small cut, blood dripping warm on the face. You know you have one.

4) Some stupid joke which will not longer be funny after 50 revisions

So kill the darling early. No one else thinks it’s funny from the start.

5) Something small to crawl through (like a secret tunnel or a ventilation shaft).

Make this a Jefferies tube, and you’ve got (2) taken care of, too.

6) A doorway/keypad/lock that’s impassable that your character manages to pass.

Why? Because your character has to change the world. And how else is your character going to change the world if they can’t get through that locked door or figure out the secret code.

7) Homage to a friend or teacher or family member or pet (Easter eggs)

No birthday is random in books. It’s kind of like lottery numbers.

And names? It is no coincidence I named the bad guy in THE EMERALD TABLET after my ninth grade Geometry teacher.

8 ) Explosions or fire

When the middle of the book is sagging, blow something up. It’s sure to make something happen to the plot.

9) Piercing or brooding eyes

Maybe think up some new descriptors for the eyes. And vary the arching and raising and narrowing while you’re at it.

10) Typos

Yeah, maybe these aren’t so good to have. But yet they exist. Always.

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CWIM Winner!

Thanks, everyone, for participating in revision week here at THE SPECTACLE! It’s time to announce the winner of our giveaway.

The winner of the 2011 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market is…

Sherrie Petersen!

Sherrie, email me your address, and I’ll get your book out to you!

pjhoover_casual1 PJ Hoover just finished decorating her house for Halloween!

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