The March #Fouron400 Kidlit Writing Contest Window is now Open!

Q: What is Four on 400? 

A monthly contest that provides ONE LUCKY MG or YA WRITER with feedback on their opening 400 WORDS! As part of our ongoing mission to support writers, we’ll give a MG or YA writer feedback on their work from four of The Winged Pen’s contributors.

Q: Sounds exciting! How do I enter?

To enter, simply comment at the bottom of this post! At 4pm (EST) on the 5th of March, one winner will be randomly drawn from the Triwizard Cup. The winner will be notified and given 24 hours to submit his or her opening 400 WORDS. On the fourteenth of the month, the winner’s words, along with the title and genre of the work, will be posted to our blog with feedback from four of our members. Still have questions? See our Four on 400 page for additional details.

If you’re not sure how to leave a comment, check our FAQ page!

*Please check your email SPAM filter to make sure it will allow an email from info@thewingedpen.com

Want a chance to win an extra entry? Go to our Facebook page and find our post about the March Four on 400 contest. Then like and/or share our post. While you’re there, like our Facebook page if you haven’t already!

Remember, the contest window is only open until 4pm EST on March 5th, so don’t wait––enter now! Good Luck!

 

4 on 400: February Feedback

Thank you to all the brave souls who entered this month’s Four on 400 contest! Sharing your writing takes courage, and we appreciate your enthusiasm for our contest.

Below, we’ve posted the first 400 words from this month’s winner, along with feedback from at least four of our members. We also encourage our readers to share their (constructive) suggestions and encouragement in the comments section below.

The Mouse and the Mustang
Middle Grade Animal Adventure 

The Mustang’s rusty fenders moaned as a gust of icy March wind whipped across the car lot. Inside the car’s trunk, carpeted in a nest of woven hay, Kenny forced himself into his teacup-size bed. He tucked his nose under his tail in hopes that he could sleep tight. Outside, the distant tow truck’s engine roared by. Clatter, clang, slam. He shivered as another car was dumped into the lot of tired, broken cars.

He snuggled deeper. Maw always kept his bed tidy, a perfect fit. But so much smaller than his siblings’. He peeked at the large white mounds of his brothers and sisters settling into their hay craters.

“Head down, Kenny,” Paw said. “You need to sleep to grow.”

Kenny tucked his head under his arm, one eye peeking out. When Paw turned away, Kenny wrinkled his pink nose upward to breathe in the scrumptious scents of dawn and the rising sun that melted the night’s frost.

Drats! I’m missing another sunny day.

Maw’s bedtime kisses always started with Kenny, the youngest of her litter of five.

“But I’m not growing,” Kenny whispered.

She touched her nose to his and pecked his lips. “Patience.” Sniffing a few stray blades of hay, she tucked them into place around the rim of Kenny’s bed.

Patience. Kenny clenched his white paws. The word made him want to jump out of his pure white fur. It made him want to pop out of that rusty hole, high in the trunk’s corner, and run loops around the tires and strewn metal parts. A little daytime playtime would be a nice change from Paw’s supervised nighttime outings.

“Why do we have to sleep all day?” Kenny asked Maw.

Her answer was always the same. “It’s when mice sleep.” Maw turned to tend to his twin sisters.

It doesn’t make a lick of sense. Why waste perfectly good sunlight sleeping?

Even when Paw took them out at night, they all had to stick together, only allowed to go three boring cars in each direction. Except Denny, Kenny’s oldest brother. Paw had taken him all the way to the edge of the lot to teach him how to dig for seeds by the chain link fence. Two whole times.

Kenny couldn’t stop thinking about the other night when he’d spotted a group of mice scampering away in the distance. It wasn’t the first time.

Michelle: Bravo on pulling us in with your setting description. I feel like I’m in the junkyard with Kenny! You’ve done an excellent job with setting up the conflict and building sympathy for Kenny. This sentence threw me off: “He tucked his nose under his tail in hopes that he could sleep tight.” Kenny doesn’t want to sleep tight, does he? I think you should make this clear up front. Maybe something like, “He went through the bedtime motions of tucking his nose under his tail despite having no interest in sleep.” Overall, this is a great start. Good luck and keep in touch with us!

Halli: Wonderful use of senses in your setting descriptions starting with the first line and the Mustang’s fenders moaning. You make the junkyard come to life! My other comment is the line where Kenny says he’s not growing. I am guessing that this will be central to the story, but the line seems to come out of nowhere and after a short response by his maw, he changes the subject. If this is in fact an important part of the story, I would like to see just a little bit more about it in these first few pages. Great job and beautiful writing.

Rebecca: I agree! Your sensory details pull me into the story and help me visualize the little trunk-nest in the junk yard. Well Done! I only have nitpiks. “…scrumptious scents of dawn and the rising sun that melted the night’s frost.” I might imagine the warming air of dawn has a scent, but the rest of the sentence makes it sound like the rising sun has a scent. Something like, “He visualized the rising sun…” to transition us to sight from smell would fit better.  The gap between “You need to sleep to grow” and Kenny’s comment on growing threw me. If you gave that line to Maw, it would flow more smoothly, I think. Lastly, the “white” describing his paws then his fur are close together. Could you change one to a different adjective? All the best of luck with your story!

Kristi: I really fell in love with all the details here! You’ve paced this all so, so well. To be honest, I find your writing lovely, my main comment would be concerning your title. The Mouse and the Mustang sounds like a picture book. Look, titles really aren’t the most important thing to be concerned about at this stage, but I’d still think of something “older” so an agent doesn’t think you don’t know the difference between PB & MG. And one last thing, I’d second Halli’s comment to highlight the main thread early on– even if it is a small phrase, just to give us a hint as to where this is going. Great job!

And a bonus critique!

Karin: I think Kenny definitely deserves some “daytime playtime”!  You’re so good at capturing mood and voice that I think you could do more with this important line, “Drats! I’m missing another sunny day.”  Every night Kenny goes to bed he must think the same thing. Why is this night different? If you tweak this line with a little more of that feeling then it will become more believable. Finally,  I’m very curious about the group of mice he spots while on a night outing, but I have no idea how he feels about them, so would like an adjective or phrase, letting us know if they looked friendly, not friendly or up to no good or if it was unusual to see other mice.  Finally, if referring just to the smell and not Kenny visualizing the sunrise then you could clarify by saying, “…Kenny wrinkled his pink nose upward to breathe in the scrumptious scents of dawn as the rising sun melted the night’s frost.” Well done!

Twitter 101 for Writers

Over the holidays, my father-in-law mentioned that a friend had just written a book, his memoirs about the Vietnam War. Since my father-in-law knows I write, I felt like I should offer to help his friend, but I write middle grade and young adult stories. What useful advice would I have?

Then I asked if his friend was on Twitter. He wasn’t. That opened up a wealth of information and connections that could help him revise his manuscript, find an agent, or self-publish his story. I thought we might have a few Twitter newbies following the blog, or others who got the “my friend wrote a book” prompt over the holidays, so I decided it was worth a post.

The Twitter writing community is awesome, a great resource at all stages of the writing process. While you’re writing, it can be the water cooler, the place to chat for a few minutes between projects. It’s also a great source of craft advice. Once you’ve finished a manuscript, it’s a source of advice on revising your project to make it the best story it can be. You can also find critique partners to exchange your work with and get feedback from. When you’re ready to get your work out into the world, Twitter can help you learn about literary agents or participate in writing contests. Or if your plan is to self-publish, you can find out how and connect with professionals who specialize in packaging books. And it doesn’t take much time on Twitter to see that it’s an avenue for book promotion.

Where can a writer go on Twitter to dig into these topics?

Community

Writing is a solitary process. But Twitter can help you find like-minded folks who’ll inspire you to get your butt out of bed at 5:00 am to get some words written before work, or someone to chat with when taking a few minutes off from banging on your keyboard. Great hashtags for finding writing folks are:

#5amwritersclub
#AmWriting
#1linewed

Look for people writing in your age category or genre, or whose stories interest you. Follow them and over time you’ll carve out “your people” in the Twitter writing community.

Craft

There’s always more to learn – story structure, character development, how to write those darn kissing scenes. I don’t even know what aspects of craft might be important to a memoir…but I know someone on Twitter does. I frequent #kidlit, but found a bunch of hashtags for different genres in just a couple minutes.

#memoir
#TravelWriting
#HistFic (for historical)
#steampunk
#nonfiction

Writing hashtags will help you find experts who tweet about helpful topics, frequently with links to blog posts with even more info. I like:

@writerunboxed
@ayaplit (Adventures in Young Adult Publishing)
@nerdybookclub
And, of course, @WingedPen!

Revising

Once you’ve got a draft of your story, or at least the first few chapters, you need some critique partners to help you refine your story – identify what’s working well, what’s not clear and what’s just plain boring (erm…I mean…the pacing’s off). Find them through the community of writers you’re building or on critique partner match-ups hosted from-time-to-time by bloggers. #amrevising is a good hashtag for connecting with other writers trying to fix their words and for advice on wrangling your hot-mess of a first draft into something great.

Pitching

If you’ve chosen the traditional publishing route and are looking for a literary agent, many have an active presence on Twitter. You can follow them to get a sense of their personality and taste in books. Their Twitter profile should have a link to their website where you can find submissions guidelines. #askagent has querying tips, or try #10queries if you like advice without any sugar-coating.

You can also find writing contests and pitching opportunities on Twitter. The rules for writing contests vary. Some, like our 4 on 400 contest or Adventures in YA Publishing’s First Five Pages workshop, are focused on feedback. Others are selective and aim to refine your work and get it in front of agents. Selective contests include #sunvssnow, #pitchmad, #pitchwars, and many others.

Pitch contests allow you to pitch your story in a 140-word tweet. This is no easy feat! See our post here on writing a killer Twitter pitch. Pitch contests include #pitmad, #pitchmas and #sffpit.

Self-Publishing

If you’re going the self-publishing route, you’ll need things like cover art, a cover designer, and an editor to give your words a final polish. Tons of advice is available over on:

#selfpublish
#indiepublishing

Promotion

If you’ve checked out any of these hashtags, you probably found that there’s lots of book promotion happening on Twitter. #amreading is a good place to start.

 

The bottom line is there’s a mountain of information out there to help you no matter what point you’re at in your writing journey. But don’t forget to turn off your internet and get back to writing!

What are your favorite spots for hanging out with the Twitter writing community and getting writerly questions answered? Let us know in the comments! And if you have any tips for my father-in-law’s friend writing memoir, please let me know that too!

Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure and young adult thrillers with heroines much braver than she is. She’s on Twitter and her website is here.

Book Birthday Twofer: CARAVAL and EDGE OF EVERYTHING

With two books we love coming out on the same day, we debated what to do. Give one book the spotlight today and feature the other another day? Arm wrestle for the blog spot? (That would be a pathetic sight!) But our own birthdays are only a week apart and we celebrated them together with a glass of bubbly—after a morning of talking through fixes for problems in our manuscripts. So it felt right to celebrate the birthdays of these two awesome books together.

We’re wishing happy book birthdays to both The Edge of Everything and to Caraval. And sending congratulations to both Jeff Giles and Stephanie Garber!

Stephanie Garber’s Caraval pulls the reader into a world of magic. Scarlett desperately wants to escape her violent and controlling father and to take her younger sister, Donatella, with her. Scarlet hopes marriage to a man she’s never met, a marriage arranged by her father, will save them. Donatella doesn’t believe it will, so she persuades a handsome sailor to transport them off their island home and to Caraval, a legendary once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show. This year’s audience will compete to solve a puzzle and the winner will be granted a magical wish — exactly what Scarlett and Donatella need.

Find Rebecca’s review of Caraval, originally published January 13th, here.

The Edge of Everything: When 17-year-old Zoe plunges into a snowstorm to find her brother, she’s set upon by a crazed murderer, only to be saved by the mysterious X, a handsome bounty hunter from the hell-like Lowlands who must take the killer’s soul back with him. But when Zoe asks for mercy for the killer, she unknowingly sets in motion a series of events that will have her questioning the circumstances of her father’s death, who she is, and what it means to fall for a boy from Hell.

Read an interview in which Jeff describes his inspiration for the story here.

IMG_1617 GITA TRELEASE writes YA historical fantasy. Her current project takes place during the French Revolution—gambling and desperate games, decadence and dark magic. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Photo by Pam Vaughan

 

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure and young adult thrillers with heroines much braver than she is. She’s on Twitter and her website is here.

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Shout out for Stephanie Garber’s CARAVAL

Caraval is the story of Scarlett, a girl who is desperate to escape her violent and controlling father and to take her younger sister, Donatella, with her. Scarlet hopes marriage to a man she’s never met, a marriage arranged by her father, will save them. Donatella doesn’t believe it will, so she persuades a handsome sailor to transport them off their island home and to Caraval, a legendary once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show.

But even before Scarlett reaches the gates to Caraval, Donatella disappears. Legend, the mysterious showman who runs Caraval, has made finding Donatella the puzzle every player will try to solve. Whoever finds her first wins the prize, the granting of a wish. Scarlett must follow the clues in Legend’s game to find her sister, but winning won’t be easy. In Caraval, no one is what they seem.

There are several things I love about this story. The rich, magical world of Caraval, the tight bond of love between sisters that pulls Scarlett deeper into the game even as she’s desperate to head home for her wedding, and Scarlet’s growing attraction to Julian, the sailor. This story will pull you in, but remember, it’s only a game.

I received an advanced reader copy of Caraval in a Goodreads giveaway and was asked to review. I also purchased a copy for myself and another for my niece for Christmas because…love!

Caraval will be released January 31st. There’s a great pre-order giveaway. Details here (preorder and submit receipt by January 31, 2017).

Find Caraval at:

Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound

Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure and young adult thrillers with heroines much braver than she is. She’s on Twitter and her website is here.