Sunday, September 25, 2011

Resetting the brain...

My debut releases in less than 38 days and it’s made me really think about things. The short explanation—I freaking love my job. How many people can say that? Really say that? 1 in 100? 1000? I’m one of the lucky ones.

It took a while and a ton of crappy jobs to get here. I’ve been a Real Estate agent—go ahead…you can laugh (I do). I’ve trained horses. That was actually fun since I love to ride. I did the whole retail thing (in a book store of course) and even was a nail tech for two years (SO not my thing). But I’ve but I’ve finally made it. Found my true North. I get to make stuff up for a living. It seriously can’t get better than that. And if it does, don’t tell me. I’m not sure my brain could handle it…

It’s because I love what I do so much that I sometimes forget there’s an actual world out there. One with live people and obligations, and most of all, fun stuff to do! Well, fun stuff other than torturing characters, hooking people up, and kicking some bad guy ass. Who’da thunk it, right? Downtime is good. Resetting the brain helps get the creative waves flowing!

So what’s my pastime of choice when I need a brain reset and finally walk—or get dragged as the case sometimes is—away from my characters?

*looks around*

I—well—I kill stuff.

*backs away as a crowd brandishing pitchforks and zip ties closes in*

In games. I kill stuff in games. Seriously people. Do I seem like a Jack the Ripper type? Wait. Don’t answer that.

So there you have it. My dark confession—and obsession. I’m a gamer. Specifically WoW (World Of Warcraft for those not in the know) I’ve been playing since right after beta rolled out. A little over 6 years now. I’m an achievement whore who hoards pets (Still fishing for Mr. Pinchy!) and mounts (oh turtle mount, why do you mock me?) with multiple level capped toons and bankfulls of outdated armor and various vanilla junk. I play with my husband, friends, and a few family members. We raid 3 nights a week. Granted, some might argue that it’s technically not walking away since the game is played on the computer, but it’s a mental break. For me, a great way to relieve stress, unwind, and this might surprise some, come up with new ideas.

In TOUCH, there’s a scene with a bear. The idea actually came from my time playing WoW. Selkie, my little resto Druid, is a bear magnet. If there’s a bear within a 50 mile in game radius, it will come along and NOM on me. Munch my limbs like Twizzlers. From level 1 to level 85, it’s been a disturbing and inescapable trend. This is actually amusing considering Druids, as a race, can turn into bears. I even wrote up a short background on the character explaining her bear-fear which I won’t go into because it borders an entirely epic level of gooberdom on my part...


Anyway, gaming gets the creative wheels in my brain turning. It helps me reset. WoW is full of awesome back story and evolving story lines.

So for those of you who play WoW—what’s your favorite loading screen tip? Mine currently is Don’t stand in the fire! Because, even though that seems like it’d be common sense, someone always stands in the fire. Remember what Buffy said – Fire bad…tree pretty!

For the non-WoWers—how do you unwind? What makes the stress melt away after a long day at the office?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Editing with Margie Lawson

Margie Lawson—psychotherapist, editor, and international presenter – developed psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques used by new writers to multi-award winning authors. She teaches writers how to add psychological power to create page turners.
In the last six years Margie presented over sixty full day Master Classes across the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Writers who have studied her material credit her innovative editing approaches with taking their writing several levels higher—to publication, awards, and bestseller lists.

A big THANK YOU to Lisa Tapp for inviting me to be her guest on YA Fusion!

Deep Edit Your Way to NYT Writing!

By Margie Lawson

If you’ve taken some of my editing courses on-line, you may recall I recommend adding NYT to your margin tracking list for your WIP. Why? Because when your writing is powerful, it gives you a boost toward the NYT Bestseller list.

Are you with me?

All writers want to learn how to make their writing stronger. Deep Editing provides you with the hands-on skills you need.

I’ll share examples from the YA I read a few weeks ago, FLAWLESS, by Lara Chapman. By the time I completed the first page of FLAWLESS, the video in my mind was rolling, and it kept rolling while I read the book straight through.

That video keeps surfacing. My mind craves book two. The story and the writing is that good. It’s that stellar.

Lara Chapman, FLAWLESS

I love the first day of school. There’s nothing like a new start. New clothes, new classes, new goals. And maybe, just maybe, the possibility of meeting a new guy.

Especially when you’re a senior in high school.

With a last glance at the ensemble I’ve put together for my last first day of high school and a mental kiss to the hair gods for my stunning naturally blond wavy hair, I close my bedroom door then dance downstairs.

Where I slam headfirst into reality.

Next to my “You Are Special Today” plate, a tradition my mother started on my first day of kindergarten, polished silverware sits on top of a rhinoplasty brochure.

No napkin. Just the brochure.

I ignore my mother’s watchful eyes. “Real subtle, Mom.” I move the silverware, then flick the glossy trifold with the tip of my finger, scoring a beautiful two-pointer as it lands in the silver and black trash can.

I totally hate the word rhinoplasty. How can you not think of a disgusting two-ton mammal when you hear that word?

Just call it what it is – a nose job.

Spatula in one hand, she pops the other onto her hip. “Just a suggestion, Sarah.”

“Yet still offensive. Couldn’t you have waited until, like, the second day of school to start in on me?” I stab the tasteless egg white omelet on my plate, wishing there were some crispy strips of bacon sitting next to it. It’s hard to believe I was actually born to this health-conscious runway-worthy woman. Being a Burke can be a serious pain in the butt.

“I only want what’s best for you. Now that you’re a senior, you’re old enough to make those changes we’ve always talked about.”

I drop the fork to my plate. “Not we, Mom. You. I don’t recall asking for the privilege of having some whack chop away at the nose you gave me. Just because you changed yours when you were eighteen doesn’t mean I have to.”

The honest truth is that I never would have requested this particular nose, but I’ve spent seventeen years learning to accept it.

“Sarah…” Mom stares at me, the wheels of her brain churning at top speed while her own omelet sizzles in the abandoned skillet. She doesn’t have to say what I know she’s thinking. How in the world will Beth Burke’s daughter ever follow in her news broadcasting footsteps with a honker the size of a Buick?

I nod at the smoking skillet. “You’re burning.”

Cursing under her breath, she drops the tiny pan into the sink just as a car horn beeps from the curb, officially signaling the end to our fight like a bell at the end of a boxing match.

BLOG GUESTS – Are you hooked?

When I read writing that smooth, I always think of a quote by Nathanial Hawthorne (The Scarlett Letter, 1850, House of the Seven Gables, 1851)

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”


What did Lara Chapman accomplish in that opening?

 Established “Yes Set” for reader with first-day-of-school associations

 Shared that POV character is a senior

 Shared two physical characteristics of POV character, blond wavy hair and big nose

 Showed that mom cares (special plate) but mom’s pushy, rhinoplasty

 Introduced conflict with mom and the story theme
 Showed POV character as assertive with mom, several times

 Slipped in some back story fast, fast, fast.

 Showed POV character facing her flaw: Just call it what it is – a nose job.

How did Lara Chapman deep edit to make the opening a smooth and compelling read?

 Two rhetorical devices in first paragraph: anaphora and asyndeton

I love the first day of school. There’s nothing like a new start. New clothes, new classes, new goals. And maybe, just maybe, the possibility of meeting a new guy.

 Anaphora: Starting three (or more) sentences or phrases in a row with the same word or phrase

 Asyndeton: Listing three (or more) words or phrases with no conjunctions.

Note: Anaphora and asyndeton are two of the 30 rhetorical devices I teach fiction writers where, why, and how to use in my Deep Editing course.

 Started a sentence with “And,” not just to irritate all high school English teachers. :-)
She started that sentence with “And,” to draw the reader in deeper.

 Intentional echo for impact: And maybe, just maybe . . .

 Power Words: new guy, slam, reality, “You Are Special Today” plate, ignore, rhinoplasty, trash can, rhinoplasty, disgusting, nose job, offensive, stab, pain in butt, honker, burning, cursing, fight, boxing match

 Backloaded: new guy, rhinoplasty brochure, nose job

 Fresh Writing

 Similes: honker/Buick, bell/boxing match

 Multiple Humor Hits!

 Used Parallelism Back-to-back, contributed to strong cadence

(A) . . . she drops the tiny pan into the sink (A) just as a car horn beeps from the curb

(B) . . . officially signaling the end to our fight (B) like a bell at the end of a boxing match.

 Varied Sentence Structure – Contributes to strong pacing. Supports the emotional tone of the sentence.

 White Space – Lots of White Space picks up pacing. Makes for a fast read.

 Cadence. Cadence. Cadence. Read the opening out loud. You’ll hear the compelling cadence drive you from the first word to the last.

On page eight, our POV character, Sarah, gets introduced to the new guy at school. An incredibly hot new guy.

“Rockford Conway. Everyone calls me Rock.”

I instantaneously think how much I’d love to be stuck between Rock and a hard place when he turns to acknowledge me. His gaze stops at the most obvious spot on my face.

Not my killer blue eyes.

Not my plump pouty lips.

Not even my precious little chin.

His eyes lock dead center on my face.

On my nose.

As he studies me silently, fire burns its way up my cheeks. There can be no doubt he’s taking in the beak-like quality I’ve learned to appreciate. Well, “appreciate” might be a stretch. You learn to appreciate fine art or classical music, and my nose is a long way from those things. I guess you could say I’ve learned to tolerate my nose.

Until now.

At this very second, I’d give anything to be sitting in the doctor’s office, taking “before” pictures and scheduling the blasted rhinoplasty.

“Nice to meet you, Rock,” I say, extending my hand for a shake. Anything to break the intensity of his eyes on my ginormous flaw.

Lots of good points in that passage too. I’ll leave the Deep Editing Analysis of that excerpt to you all.

Kudos to Lara Chapman for her stellar writing!

FYI: Lara Chapman took my online courses and attended a full day master class before she was contracted. Lara must love learning. She attended an Immersion Master Class at my home in Colorado in August.


You have four options:

1. Share an analysis point for the second excerpt.

2. Post an example of fresh writing from your WIP

3. Post an example of fresh writing from one of your favorite authors.

3. Post “Hi Margie!” :-))

If you’ve taken one of my courses, attended a one or two day Master Class, did four days with me on my Write At Sea Cruise, or you’re one of my 114 Immersion Master Class grads . . . let me know.

If you use your initials or just your first name, my psychic powers may fail me. I’d love to know you’re here.

Post a comment and you could WIN:

An online course (up to $40 value) I teach for Lawson Writer’s Academy!

Lawson Writer's Academy is growing. We now have 30 courses and 12 instructors, including C.J. Lyons, Sharon Mignerey, Vannetta Chapman, Jeanne Stein, and Shirley Jump. All LWA courses are taught in a cyber classroom from my website,

Tour the Lawson Writer's Academy campus. Drop by the LWA Coffeehouse, the Resource Center, and the Deep Editing Fitness Center.

Are you a Margie Grad? If you’ve taken at least one of my online courses (or reviewed a Lecture Packet) and you have a book coming out, I’ll feature you on my Pubbed Margie Grad Blog. Drop by my web site and check out the blogs. Lots of learning opps!

Lawson Writer’s Academy schedule for October – December:

The Triple Threat Behind Staging A Scene:
An Actor's Take On Writing Physicality, Choreography, and Action
Instructor: Tiffany Lawson Inman
October 2 - 30; Fee: $30

So You Want to Write Urban Fantasy
Instructor: Jeanne Stein
October 2 - 30, 2011; Fee: $30

Advanced EDITS System: Turning Troubled Scenes Into Winners
Instructor: Margie Lawson
October 2 - 30; Fee: $40; Three Prerequisites

Building Your Readership with Twitter, Facebook, and Blogging
Instructor: Tamela Buhrke
Nov. 1 – 30; Fee: $30

Fab 30: Advanced Deep Editing, A Master Class
Thirty Margie-grads. Thirty days. Thirty-plus pages. Digging deep. Empowering Scenes.
Instructor: Margie Lawson
November 1 - 30; Fee: $75; Four Prerequisites

To learn about Margie’s Immersion Master Classes in Colorado, Lawson Writer’s Academy, full day Master Classes, Lecture Packets, Pubbed Margie Grad Blog, and newsletter, visit:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Opening Lines

As my friend Fraulein Maria says, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

I was recently rereading A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens, and was blown away (as always) by the opening line. You’ve probably heard it: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” etc., etc. In the history of literature that has to be one of the best first lines ever written.* I mean, the sheer physical size of the sentence (119 words) is enough to catch the reader’s attention. Then, on top of that, Dickens covers every emotion on the spectrum by pointing out that for every good thing that exists there is a dark side (Luke…I am your faaaather…) working against it. Glad it’s the “spring of hope?” Guess what? It’s also the “winter of despair.” Pretty excited that we have “everything before us?” We don’t. We have “nothing before us.” Maybe Dickens was Taoist, because he totally nailed the whole yin and yang thang (that's right, I said it).

(As an aside, Dickens uses a concept called anaphora in that opening line. I tried to work in this vocabulary wonder in a clever way, but alas, fell short.)

I agonize over first lines. I write them and rewrite them, knowing full well I’ll just be going back in revisions and rewriting them again. It’s like the hook line in a query letter; your one shot to win someone’s attention. It’s not only the reader’s first taste of the story; it’s the starting point for which the remainder of the manuscript is framed. It’s your first impression, your pick-up line, your hope that they’re interested enough to learn a little bit more.

So how do you make an opening line catchy without being kitschy? How do you tease, but not appease? (Ok, ok, enough.) There are a million and a half ways to do this (I’ve counted). I don’t claim to be an expert on first lines by any means, but I LOVE to read them, so here are a few themes meant to inspire:

1. Inviting the reader in. A “Come join me whilst I tell you a tale,” kind of opening.

2. A “We’re-catching-this-story-halfway-through” news report. Stating the action as though the reader’s been thrust right into the thick of things. (The opening of the HATE LIST by Jennifer Brown is a pretty shocking example)

3. A sense of foreboding. “In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind.” – GRACELING by Kristin Cashore.

4. Something sarcastic and biting. My favorite example of this is from CATCHER IN THE RYE (J.D. Salinger): “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me…”

5. An important memory. “I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves.” SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater.

6. Something shocking, off the wall, or intriguing, such as “The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.” – THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness.

7. A funny start is always good in my opinion. See the opening of WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, or anything by John Green, really.

8. A really surprising wham! Pow! Zap! kind of line. Bullets flying. Light sabers crashing. You get the idea.

9. Dialog. I always feel like immediately I’m part of the conversation when a story opens with dialog. Love this one: “There are places you can go,” Ariana tells him, “And a guy as smart as you has a decent chance of surviving to eighteen.” – UNWIND by Neal Shusterman.

10. Or you can do what I did. After five hundred rewrites, go for simple: “Beth and Ryan were holding hands.” Yup. That’s the first line to ARTICLE 5. Earth-shattering, I know.

So, these are a few of the things I think about when writing/revising my opening lines. I hope they help; there’s nothing more satisfying than feeling like you finally found the right key to open your front door.

*To clarify, I love it; therefore, it is one of the best lines ever written in the history of literature.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Winners! 2 Authors + 1 Editor = 3 Free Books!

Announcing the WINNERS...

Heather Smith Meloche

You won Erin McCahan's I Now Pronounce You Someone Else.

Angel C @Mermaid Vision Books

You won Cheryl Klein's Second Sight, An Editor's Talks On Writing Revising & Publishing Books for Children and Adults.

Anne Speirs

You won Cleopatra's Moon, signed and donated by Vicky Alvear Shecter!

A huge thank you to everyone who commented, and a big blog hug to those who helped spread the word through Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Special thanks to the following blogs for posting about this giveaway. I hope I'm not forgetting anyone!

Literary Rambles
YA Highway
(YA)Y! books
Jennifer Rumberger
Shutta Crum

Congrats to the winners (you'll be contacted by email), and happy reading!
Kristin Lenz