Tag Archives: Harry Potter

5 Reasons Why I Leave a Book Half-Read

It’s happened again. I’ve fallen out of love. Well, actually, I don’t think I was ever in love, but after 200 pages of George RR Martin’s A Clash of Kings, I’ve decided to take some space. I mean, I think it’s better for the both of us. I need to answer some very serious questions: Who am I? What do I want? More importantly, what don’t I want, and right now, that’s this.

It’s nothing personal against George RR Martin. I read A Game of Thrones two summers ago and I loved it. I will, however, say that it took me a long time to get into it. Say, 150 pages? But I just can’t do it this time. So, that led me to think about why. Why do I ditch books halfway through? It seldom happens. I honestly think I’ve only ever done it to about a dozen books, but is there a formula?

I strove to find out.

I Hate the Characters

I’m not going to lie, this doesn’t happen very often for me, but when it does, it’s a huge turn off. And I don’t mean the good hate. Think Joffrey from Game of Thrones. That’s good hate. It feels good to hate him. You watch the show or read the book just so you can see what he’s going to say or do next so that you can get angry and want to strangle the poor kid.

I’m talking about the other hate. In this circumstance, I can’t stand a character. It started happening with Harry Potter circa The Order of the Pheonix. Harry became whiny and annoying and acted like the whole wizardly world was against him and that made me want to reach into the pages and give him a smack across the face. Now, in that situation, I didn’t stop reading, but it definitely slowed my pace down. I was happy when he stopped being such a suck in the subsequent books.

joffrey

Where’s the Plot?

I understand the lack of plot for artistic reasons (think Catcher in the Rye), but unless you’re JD Salinger or F. Scott Fitzgerald, you best have a point. I can’t stand getting halfway through a story and realizing that it isn’t going anywhere. It’s like seeing a car crash happening in slow motion. You know what’s going to happen, but you trudge on thinking that you’re wrong, and then you get to the final scene and–

Nothing. There’s just a whole lot of nothing.

And the worst part is that I sometimes don’t even see this coming until it’s too late. I’m invested in the characters, and I just need to know. But if I had some foresight or if I had bothered to read reviews of the book on Amazon or Goodreads, I would put the book down.

Three Words: TOO MUCH DESCRIPTION!

This is the number one culprit. If I decide halfway through a book that I don’t want to read it anymore, ninety percent of the time it’s because there’s too much description and I’m bored: too much description of the setting, too much description of objects. And the worst: too much description of past events and back story.

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Too much description has sealed the fate of quite a few books that I’ve decided not to read: Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson, Across the Face of the World by Russell Kirkpatrick, and most recently A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin. That’s not to say that I won’t return to these books. This happened to The Lord of the Rings Trilogy at first, and I ended up finishing all three eventually and loved them. This is just to say that I won’t read these kinds of books right now. I need time to engross myself, time that my life just doesn’t have right now. I’m too busy a person for a book to spend hundreds of pages describing trees and rocks and lineages.

Maybe I’ll make reading these books my retirement task.

The Writing is Full of Errors

This one is self-explanatory, and this often leaves a book unread before I even start reading. Most of the time, this doesn’t happen to big name authors, but a lot of indie authors that have piqued my interest have sealed their fate with spelling and grammar errors. Sure, they happen, even with a professional editor. But when it’s clear to me that there has been no editor, none at all, I’m out. I won’t buy.

The Writing is Just BAD

Thankfully, I have yet to read a book where the writing was so bad that I stopped reading. There have been cases where the writing isn’t my cup of tea, per se, but I normally trek through, especially if it promises to be an easy read.

However, bad writing has stopped me from buying a book outright. Think the Twilight Saga or the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (Gray? What country is this?). I picked up the books in a bookstore just to see what the hype was about. At around five to ten pages in, I would decide the writing was crap and the books wouldn’t be for me. I know sometimes this is an unpopular opinion (sorry Twi-hards!), but as my mom always says: Life is too short to read a bad book.

CoK

So, with that in mind, I extend my apologies to A Clash of Kings. This isn’t working out for me, and I’m thinking I should leave before one of us gets really hurt. Maybe we can try to make this happen some other time. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.

What makes you stop reading a book? Reply in the comments.

How to Write a Query Letter that Makes Agents and Editors Swoon

This is a response to my earlier post called Why Your Query Letter is Making Agents and Editors Cringe. I’m so meta, right?

Writing a query letter is an art, they say. What they really mean is that it’s really gosh-darn hard. It seems that everyone and their sister thinks they can write a query letter, but out in the real world, it fails. Miserably.

That’s what happened to me. I thought writing a query letter was easy. I composed one in a couple hours and unleashed it onto the world. Little did I know, it was crap and yielded no return. It wasn’t until I joined the Absolute Write and participated in their forum that I was able to learn how to write a query letter properly.

Now, I shall bestow my knowledge upon you.

Step One: Write a Manuscript

A given, right? Wrong. I am a big advocate that writers complete their entire manuscript before they attempt to write a query letter. Yes, I know querying seems exciting for you right now. Yes, I know you think you’ve struck gold and you absolutely NEED to tell someone. But you need to finish. And when I say finish, I mean beta-read, edited, spit-shined, and all.

Why? Well, how can you write a clear, concise, pristine query letter if your manuscript is not clear, concise, and pristine. So, get back to writing, grasshopper! Your day in query letter hell will come.

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Step Two: Learn the Anatomy of a Query Letter

A query letter is generally broken into three parts:

  1. The Hook
  2. The Story
  3. The Credentials

This is the basic structure that writers follow. Yes, there are little variations to this structure, but they generally only occur if a specific editor or agent requests said variations (and they will make such requests and other specifications on the submissions page of their website). Otherwise, it’s safest to stick to this model. Remember, you are writing a proposal for your product (ie. your novel), not taking over the world with your revolutionary literary prowess.

Step Three: The Hook

The Hook is just what it seems: it is a small paragraph, normally one to three sentences, that will draw in a reader, hold tight, and make them want to read more. Think of it like the deep, intense voice that begins movie trailers. A lot of writers will use a When-clause, but it’s not always necessary. Here is an example of a When-clause:

“When Harry Potter discovers he is a wizard, he enrols in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and uncovers a dark magic, one that threatens to take over the wizarding world.”

With that hook alone, it’s easy to identify three things: the main character, the location, and the gist of the plot. In theory, this should be enough to force the reader to read the remainder of the query letter, but don’t forget to make it sound pretty. You’re selling your amazing writing skills, after all.

Step Four: The Story

The Story is, again, just that. It is the plot of your novel, concise and juicy, giving away just enough to entice. It is important not to overwhelm your reader with too many details. That generally means that you should stick to your main character, no more than two supporting characters, and the chief antagonist. Also, it is essential to stick to the MAIN PLOT. Again, the OVERARCHING PLOT. I know you love your subplots, but those do not belong in your query letter. They will overwhelm the reader and crowd your query letter.

crowd

Reading your query letter shouldn’t feel like trying to find a small child in a crowd.

Now, I’m not one for outlines. I very rarely outline a story and when I do, it’s such a loose outline that it’s barely an outline at all. But the query letter is different. You absolutely should consider an outline. Why? Well, let’s try a little experiment. Take your current novel and try to sum it up in 150 words or less. Hard, right? Even if you were able to do it, I bet I didn’t sound beautiful and I bet you left out details that you’re dying to include.

The outline will help with that. To outline, I normally use the Three Question Method. This helps writers to focus their query and be sure not to forget the most important elements of the plot. Each query letter should strive to answer these three questions (taken from the Absolute Write forums):

  1.  What does your protagonist want?
  2.  What does s/he have to do to get it?
  3. What happens if s/he fails to get what she wants? (the stakes)

Once you’ve answered these three questions, you have the bare bones for a query letter. Essentially, you want this paragraph to read like the blurbs on the back of books. You want it to entice and you want to detail the plot, but leave it open-ended.

Step Five: The Credentials

This is the part where you talk about yourself. What other work have you gotten published? What qualifications do you have? Don’t have any of that? That’s really okay, but what inspired you to write this story and what makes YOU the person who should tell it?

Also, the second part of this paragraph should cater to the person you’re sending it to. Why did you choose said agent/editor/publisher as a candidate for your work? This will include some research. Look at other titles your agent/editor/publisher has worked with. Look at their blog, Twitter or Facebook pages. This is the part where you personalize your letter and don’t go skimpy on this part. They will know if you’re lying or if you haven’t done your research.

Lastly, do NOT forget to include the title of your manuscript, the genre and the word count. This is generally done in the first sentence of The Credentials paragraph.

Step Six: Get Feedback

This is perhaps the most important step. Have a writer friend? A beta-reader? A brutally honest friend who likes to read? Have them look it over. Does it entice them? Are they able to understand the main pillars of your plot? If you answer no to these questions, an agent or editor will to. Revise, revise, revise, and if you send it out to prospective literary personnel and get no bites, revise again.

Finally, don’t be discouraged. Querying is a long, labouring, and often fruitless process, but all writers go through it. Besides, all it takes is one yes.

——-

And it’s a simple as that. Good luck!

Confession: Twilight Inspired Me! (10 Books that Have Stuck With Me)

So, I’m a little late, but I’ve decided not to do this challenge on Facebook. Instead, I’ll make it into a blog post! It may take me a little longer than a few minutes, but yolo, right? Thanks to my mom and brother for tagging me! Instructions:

“Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard – they don’t have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just the ones that have affected you in some way.”
Why no sequels?

Why no sequels?

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Yeah, there are 13 books… I know. In any case, these books were my favourite for a long time, even more so than Harry Potter (until book 7, of course). I remember reading the first book in this series, The Bad Beginning, in a single evening after elementary school. For me, that was when my love for books and writing really started.

And besides, have you seen the movie with Jim Carrey? The fact that there were never any sequels produced is one of the great human atrocities.

Harry Potter and the Whole Goddamn Series (Obviously)

Another series, but how could I not? I have such admiration for JK Rowling as a writer and for the world she created. I really love how all-encompassing it is for people and how all-encompassing it was for me. I remember staying up all night to read these bad boys and I distinctly remember crying when some of the characters died… Okay, I cried almost every time.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

I have never once been so riled up by a book. Oryx and Crake follows a man who has survived a global pandemic who recalls the details of his life, his dead lover, and his best friend who was responsible for it all. This book made me many things: sad, angry, and even disgusted — only Margaret Atwood could pull off a child pornography scene (you read correctly). In fact, the feeling of being disturbed is why I think this book was so powerful to me. Margaret Atwood has always been one of my favourite authors, but this book is her best in my opinion. If you’re a fan of speculative fiction with a literary flair intertwined with a healthy dose of cynicism, then this book is right for you.

Big Brother is watching.

Big Brother is watching.

1984 and Brave New World

I’ll group book four and five together, mostly because their content is related. For the longest time, 1984 by George Orwell was my favourite book… And then I read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. If you haven’t heard of either, I implore you to surface from under your rock and read them. THIS INSTANT. For me as a young reader and writer, these two novels were one of the biggest influences for my debut novel coming out in 2015. Dystopia is just so interesting!

Intrigued? Stay tuned.

The Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby? Amazing. It was one of those novels I appreciated as I got older and I became kind of obsessed with the Jazz Age and the I-don’t-care attitude for a while there.

This Side of Paradise? Even better. Maybe it’s because I can relate so much to the main character. Yeah, he’s whiny and entitled and cynical, but he would fit right in in this age of millennial disappointment and a general distaste for real life. If you haven’t read it but adore Fitzgerald as much as I do, this is a must!

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Mr. Rothfuss gets a bad rep for taking such a long time between installations of his trilogy The Kingkiller Chronicle, but this second book was well worth the four years I had to wait for it. He has such a way with words and his world-building skills remind me of Tolkien. Yeah, he may not have mentioned anything about his third book for this trilogy lately, but he has a new companion book coming out in October. I can’t wait!

Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind

I’m not gonna lie, I kind of fell off the bandwagon after book four of The Sword of Truth series, but I did love this book. This was the first book I read post-Harry Potter that was in the fantasy genre and it definitely piqued my interest… enough to write a whole manuscript in the genre. Yes, that manuscript sucked and will never be published (EVER), but the initial inspiration was there thanks to Mr. Goodkind.

And the moment you’ve all been waiting for… Twilight

It’s not what you think. Really. I didn’t even read all of the first one. In fact the Twilight Saga didn’t stick with me because I enjoyed the story or because it was well-written. Instead, it instilled in me a critical eye. I just wanted to understand. Why was it so successful even though I thought it was lacking in both story and style? Why were people freaking out over it? I gave it a try, really I did, but I just couldn’t do it.

The real Twilight, my friends. Notice the lack of sparkling.

The real Twilight, my friends. Notice the lack of sparkling.

The Twilight Saga impacted me for one reason: I didn’t like it but it was popular and successful nonetheless. It sent me on a crusade to *not* do all the things that made me cringe in the book. Frankly, it made me want to write something that wasn’t terrible. It also gave me hope that my own work could be published. I’m not saying I’m an amazing author or anything, but there’s definitely no Bella Swan in my work.

14 Millennial Struggles That Would End If I Was Harry Potter

NOTE: This doesn’t have to be limited to being Harry Potter. It could be any character from JK Rowling’s series. Besides, Harry got a little whiny around the fifth book anyway.

1. PROBLEM: Where’s my wine?

SOLUTION: Accio, wine!

2. PROBLEM: My email is down and I have important business to attend to.

SOLUTION: Hedwig, let them know I’m down for drinks tonight!

3. PROBLEM: My Facebook wall is flooded with marriages and babies and passive-aggressive statuses.

SOLUTION: Maybe I’ll send an anonymous Howler or two.

4. PROBLEM: This person is annoying.

SOLUTION: “Hey, would you fancy a stroll in the Forbidden Forest?”

5. PROBLEM: College debt.

SOLUTION: I don’t remember any Hogwarts student paying for tuition. Ever.

6. PROBLEM: My job is boring.

SOLUTION: Maybe I’ll make a career change to an Auror or a Dragon Trainer or something.

7. PROBLEM: I’m too lazy busy to exercise.

SOLUTION: I could make time for some Quidditch.

I'll even take the toilet route if it means I don't have to sit in this...

I’ll even take the toilet route if it means I don’t have to sit in this…

8. PROBLEM: I’ve been stuck in traffic for an hour.

SOLUTION: Numbis 2000! Apparition! Oh, the possibilities!

9. PROBLEM: I’ve misplaced my keys. Again.

SOLUTION: Who needs keys when you got Alohomora! Now to find that wand…

10. PROBLEM: I’d like to avoid Timmie Talks-Too-Much and Suzie Sassy-Pants.

SOLUTION: I shall evade them all with my Marauder’s Map.

11. PROBLEM: I have three days’ worth of work and only 6 hours to do it.

SOLUTION: Hermione, bring me the Time-Turner!

12. PROBLEM: I don’t want to be at work today.

SOLUTION: Basilisk snake, anyone?

13. PROBLEM: It’s dangerous to walk around my neighborhood at night.

SOLUTION: Not when I got a dragon!

14. PROBLEM: I just wanna be a crazy awesome wizard.

SOLUTION: Become a wizard.

…So, where’s my Hogwarts letter?