Quick thoughts on nonlinear structure and punctuation comedy. (Analyzing WOOL by Hugh Howey)

I'm really enjoying WOOL by Hugh Howey right now, and wanted to jot down two quick notes.

First, some sections of make use of nonlinear structure.  The second section, for example, starts out with the main character in a jail cell, and then goes back several days to explain how she got there.

It made me start thinking about the types of stories that benefit from this type of backwards structure.  My best thought is:  this works well when it's not obvious how the character got to the later scene from the earlier scene.  The bigger the disconnect, the more intriguing the hook.  What do you think?  Are there any other factors that determine whether to use this structure?

That's the first thought, I also wanted to highlight this amusing passage. It's from an underwater diving scene where the POV character is diving and her eccentric friend Solo is communicating with her via intercom.  There's a running joke that Solo's voice is too loud over the intercom.

“YOU OKAY?” Solo asked, his voice startling her again.

“I’m fine,” she said. She held her chin down against her chest, leaving the contact open. “I’ll check in if I need you. The volume is a little high down here. Scares the hell out of me.”

She released the contact and turned to see how her lifeline was doing. All along the ceiling, her overflow bubbles danced in the glow of her flashlight like tiny jewels—


“Goddammit,” she muttered, wishing she could reach inside her helmet to adjust the thing or to dig a finger in her ear. It felt like his voice was still lodged in there, tickling her.

I really like the exchange I bolded up above.  The juxtaposition of the poetic underwater description interrupted by the ALL CAPS response.  It's a great use of punctuation (the em-dash) and capitalization for comedic effect.  And also a good example of how the main character's internal dialogue interacts with external happenings.

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My Income Distribution for 2015

I'm getting my finances together from last year, and thought I'd post some stats on my writing income for 2015, as I did for 2014.  No specific numbers, but some trends.

Here is my writing income distribution for 2015:

91% of my income last year was from my traditionally published YA.  This included the second half of my advance from Daughter of Dusk and also my first royalties from Midnight Thief (yay!). The next highest income source was speaking and teaching fees (5%). That was a new category for me this year and something that I'd like to investigate more in the future. After suffering from some book event burnout at the end of last summer, I think I'm going have to be more discerning about appearances, especially if they don't pay an honorarium. Self pub income was about 3.5% of my income.  I didn't put out anything new this year, so these are all sales of books I had up before.

And here's how 2015 compares to 2014.

Self pub income was slightly lower, which makes sense since I didn't release anything new. The increase in traditional publisher income is mostly due to Midnight Thief starting to earn royalties. It's nice to see the total slightly higher than before, though as for the actual number, let's just say I'm glad Mr. Blackburne has a steady job. We like to say that he married me for my potential millions, and I married him for his guaranteed thousands ;-)

2016 should be an interesting year.  I'm drafting two books right now on spec -- one in the Midnight Thief universe and one unrelated YA fantasy.  So depending on how I end up publishing them, next year's chart might look quite different.

So writers, any financial thoughts/goals for 2016?

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Save 28% on My Creative Writing Lesson Plans!


I'm having a sale from January 20-21 at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Use the coupon code START16 to save 28% across the board!

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Game Changing, Action Packed Inciting Incidents

I recently finished the very enjoyable Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, and wanted to jot down a quick note about the inciting incidents .

Almost every novel has an inciting incident -- the event that gets the story started.  I found the ones in this series particularly engaging, and I think it's because they have several things going for them.

1.  They're game changers. Well, this is kind of the definition of an inciting incident, but the incidents in these three books really shake things up.  Actually, all three involve moving the character to a new physical location, which contributes to the sense of change, I think.  In addition, all of these incidents involve changes in character relationships as well as character goals.

2.  They're action packed scenes. Not that every story needs this, but it sure is exciting.

3.  They  have a large cast of characters.  Again creates the sense of excitement.

So readers, what do you think? Any good inciting incidents come to mind?

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Story Writing Workshop

Bundle cover2

This past July, I ran a week long creative writing camp for middle and high school students. We had a ton of fun, and the students wrote some great stories! After the camp, I revised my materials and expanded on them for other teachers to use.  They are now available on Teachers Pay Teachers.

GET THE ENTIRE BUNDLE AND SAVE OVER 20%! Or check out individual lessons below. (Lesson one is free)

Lesson One: Introduction to Storytelling (Free download)
Lesson Two: Freewriting and Idea Generation
Lesson Three: Building Strong Characters
Lesson Four: Plot
Lesson Five: Setting and Description
Lesson Six: Revision
Lesson Seven: Book Cover Design

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My Favorite Reads from 2015

Okay, it's a bit late this year, but better late than never!  I've been reading a lot more nonfiction as well, so I'm doing two lists this year:  my top 3 nonfiction, and my top 5 fiction. These aren't necessarily books that were published in 2015.  I just happened to read them in 2015. They are in no particular order except for my favorites from each category.