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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Proposals—basic structure

I'm over at Seekerville today in a long blog article about how to put together a fiction proposal!

Camy here! I know that lots of you did NaNoWriMo in November, and as all of us start to prepare for writer’s conferences this year, I wanted to talk about putting together a fiction proposal for your manuscript.

Not all proposals are set up the same way, but I’m going to go through the structure of a typical one.

Click here to read the rest of the article!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2010 ACFW Genesis contest for unpublished writers

This is my fifth year coordinating the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest for unpublished writers! We just went live yesterday!

Deadline is 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on March 31st, so get your manuscripts polished so you can enter! Actually, enter by March 15th in case your entry gets lost in cyberspace, so we have time to find it.

You must be an ACFW member to enter the contest, but you can join when you submit your entry fee! If you're thinking seriously about being published in Christian fiction, ACFW is a fantastic organization!

Here's the website:

ACFW Genesis contest

Monday, January 18, 2010

Q&A: Writing a scene with 2 characters who are not English speakers

Brenda asked:

I have a quandary.  I have a scene in which two characters are speaking, both of whom are not English speakers, but of course, since it would be meaningless to have a page of dialogue the reader can't understand, it is written in English.  In this story's case, it's a historical, the speakers are Apaches.  Traditionally, historicals featuring a scene like this would write the dialogue in choppy, stilted English.  But this doesn't make sense to me.  The scene is in the POV of the Apache, and while I wasn't in that time period, I view it much the same as if you walked in on someone having a phone conversation with a friend in a rapid exchange of Spanish, French, German, what have you.  They are not stumbling over their words.
On the other hand, I'm not sure if I should assume the reader "gets" that these two Apaches would be speaking in their own native tongue.  And someone suggested to me to use the stilted English, which doesn't seem POV-true to me.  How do I remain POV-true to the character yet provide the cultural clues the reader needs to not assume they are speaking English?

Camy here: I personally agree with you that the stilted English option wouldn’t be very true to character or to point of view. It also might be considered a bit non-politically correct to show the Apache language as stilted English when it’s nothing of the sort.

I have seen this in other books and it has worked quite well. You have two options, both them very similar:

1) Start the dialogue with a line in the language (in italics to show a foreign language), then switch to English, letting the reader know the conversation continues in the Apache language.

For example (since I don’t know Apache, I’m going to use Japanese):

”Genki desuka?” Eleanor asked.

Chikako tried to dry her eyes on her sleeve. Thank goodness Eleanor knew Japanese so Chikako didn’t have to struggle to communicate in English, not now with the way she was feeling. She continued in the same language, “I’m fine, thanks for asking. The doctor said I’ll get the results next week Monday.”

Eleanor smiled ruefully. “It’s hard waiting, isn’t it? I felt that way with my breast cancer a few years ago.”

2) Start the dialogue directly with an indication that it’s in the foreign language. The only problem with this is that some readers might miss the fact the dialogue is not supposed to be in English.

For example:

When Marta left them to go to the buffet table to load up, Chikako turned to Eleanor and asked in Japanese, “Who did the cooking for tonight?”

“Sylvia. She got her sisters to help her, though.”

I hope this helps!

If any of you guys have any other questions for my Q&A series, just leave a comment and I'll be sure to get to it!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Q&A: Unfamiliar settings

Joy asked:

I thought to start my fiction (novel) while I'm on a holiday break. I'm conceptualizing some ideas and taking down notes for a chicklit story. I Love chicklit genre.But my dilemma is about the setting. Did it ever happen to you that you based a setting of your story in a place where you've never been before?

The last time I was in the US was in 1999. A part from the fact that my memory is kinda rusty and needs fine tuning from time to time, I also didn't pay attention to take note of specific details about the stores, where to go, sights to see. I was just overwhelmed with my new environment and ofcourse homesickness.

Currently, I'm based in Croatia ( Southeast EU), but as a background setting, I'd like to mention about the main character based in the US. Should I be very specific about the place in the US? If anything else, I've got friends from the US who can guide me through this.

I don't know if I'm making sense here. But I'm sure you know what I mean.
I'd really appreciate your input based on your writing experience, if that's not too much to ask. :)

Camy here: That's great that you're starting your novel! My advice would be to just write it even if you're not sure if you're accurate about the US settings.

If you're not sure about your facts at a particular point in the novel, you can do what I do and insert [xxx do research later] in the manuscript and then just keep writing.

After I finish the manuscript, I do a search for "xxx" and find all the notes I left to myself to fix. Then you can do more research, ask your friends specific questions, etc.

Also, don't forget that your setting should be a character in the book, not just a backdrop. When you integrate the setting into the storyline—so much so that the story couldn't take place anywhere else in the world—it makes for more vibrant reading.

If any of you guys have any other questions for my Q&A series, just leave a comment and I'll be sure to get to it!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Q&A: Manuscript format

Jeris asked:

I'm in the process of formatting my novel and need to know whether the entire manuscript is saved as one file or separate files within a folder.

I started to save it as one file, but realized the header wouldn't be correct--"Chapter One" wouldn't work with the other chapters.

Any advice is greatly appreciated. Also, are there any helps when using Word 2007?

Camy here: Yes, your entire manuscript should be saved as one file. That will make it easier for an editor or agent if they want the electronic version of your manuscript.

Some agents/editors actually prefer the electronic version, although some want the electronic version as just a supplement to the hard copy version, and they ask you to send both.

Your header should simply be your name, the title of the manuscript, and the page number. Check out my manuscript formatting article for more info on that. Don't put the chapter number in the header.

For Word 2007, I have found a lot of information simply by Googling "Word 2007" and then whatever question I have, such as headers or margins or whatever. Forum boards are usually very helpful. Computer people like helping others who are confused, I guess!

I hope this helps!

If any of you guys have any other questions for my Q&A series, just leave a comment and I'll be sure to get to it!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Seven of Nine – uniqueness in your characters

I'm over on Seekerville today melding two of my loves, Star Trek Voyager and writing. :)

Camy here! I’m a HUGE Star Trek Voyager fan (I watch the reruns on SpikeTV). I really like the character Seven of Nine.

For you non Star Trek fans, Seven is a human woman who was a Borg (mindless cyborg) for most of her life, but Captain Janeway rescued her from the Borg collective and is teaching her how to be an individual.

Click here to read more about creating unique characters for your stories!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Q&A: Two characters

Roxo said...

I was wondering lately if a two character book would seem boring.
The story is about a girl who wanders in the forest with this boy. I have other characters but they appear sporadically even if they contribute to the way the story goes.
Should I add someone with them just to make the plot less centered on just two characters?

Camy here: I’m afraid there’s no really good answer for this. It all depends on how you envision the story.

It’s good that you have other characters who appear sporadically, because they can serve to add more conflict and obstacles to the characters’ goals. If it were purely the two characters, I would say you definitely need more characters, if only to keep the conflict from becoming too much of the same kind of interactions.

I’m not sure how far along you are on the manuscript, or if you’ve already plotted the entire thing out or if you’re discovering the story as it unfolds. If you’ve plotted it all out already, look and see if you actually like just having the two main characters, or if you feel they need someone else to spice up the interactions. If you haven’t plotted it out, then just continue writing the manuscript, and again look to see if you like having only two main characters.

In this instance, you should go with your gut. What prospect gives you more interest or excitement about the book—only two characters, or adding a third? Follow your own instincts about your story.

I hope that helps!

If any of you guys have any other questions for my Q&A series, just leave a comment and I'll be sure to get to it!
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