Friday, January 27, 2012

5 Blog Resolutions

Oh my, I am really on a roll today. Earlier this morning, I was lost in thought about THIS BLOG as I walked outside to take care of a few things in my yard when a teenager walked by on his way to school. I smiled and said, “Hi.” And he just stared at me as he walked by (in a furrowed-brow, even scrunched-up-nose kind of way). That’s when my scattered brain scrambled back into place, reminding myself that I had a head full of curlers—curlers!—and I was wearing bath slippers, no makeup, and a sweatshirt I’ve had since high school. Now, don’t get me wrong. No make-up? Fine. But CURLERS? It just seemed so old lady to me, and my only thought for this young man was, “Yes, I am an aspiring Young Adult author.”

Back to the blog. Thanks to a couple of articles I’ve read (Robert Lee Brewer’s blog link, and Nicholas Cardot’s site link) I now have five New Year's Blog goals. Here they are; you can use them, too, (if you haven't already) to improve your blog:

1) Post regularly. Robert Lee Brewer encourages bloggers to post at least weekly, and preferably on the same day each week. So that’s my goal. Once a week (we'll see how the same day each week thing goes). I'll try to post mid-week, so tune in then if you'd like.

QUESTION: what types of blog posts do YOU enjoy the most? Stories? Book reviews? Writing tips? Embarrassing moments? (I have plenty, as you are now aware). Any comments on this are appreciated.

2) Tag content. Blogger lets you tag posts with keywords so readers can more easily navigate through your blog.

3) Links. My friend Kristyn has a craft blog LINK (ha, look at me go), and she showed me how to do this. Link your own blog content, link to other sites, etc… Select the word you want to turn into a link, click the green button (next to the i on your posting page), and type in the url. Connecting applicable sources of information is helpful should your readers want to learn more about a certain topic you discuss.

4) Blog buttons and social media share buttons. Blog buttons help readers connect with you via Twitter, Facebook, etc… Additionally, you can make your own unique blog button that readers can share on their blogs, linking your blog to theirs. Check back later, and hopefully I’ll have my very own little blog button.

5) Post polls for your readers to vote. I love this! Nicholas Cardot suggests doing this. Readers enjoy voting on things, and they want to come back to your blog for the results. I love polls because I love learning what other people think, and I’m excited to come up with some polls in the future. Check back here next week. I already have my first poll in mind.
There they are, 5 ways to improve a new blog like mine. Any thoughts/suggestions on what blog posts you enjoy most are welcome!

Monday, January 9, 2012

First Lines...and my Christmas surprise!

Let's face it. There are only so many avid readers out there. (It's a shame!) Even then, many of us have short attention spans when it comes to getting into a book. Too many turns of the page with a subconscious hope of something drawing us in soon, and before long, we give up. So why not start from the very first line and draw us in?

An opening line creates an impression and sets expectations. I’ve made a habit of taking note of the first line of every book I read. Santa was good to me this year…

Yep, I got a Kindle!! So I’ve been reading even more first lines lately as I try book samples. I examine each first line. I think about them. So many first lines fail to excite. That’s too bad. Even in best sellers or books I end up loving.
A solid first line intrigues us and makes us want to read more. What makes a solid first line (please comment!)? Here are a few ideas, with examples of first lines from books I’ve recently read, looked into, or found online:

• “For Dawson Cole, the hallucinations began after the explosion on the platform, on the day he should have died.” The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
• “Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.” Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls
• “Reporters had been circling the event for days now.” Home Again by Kristin Hannah

What explosion? Who should have died? What Event? What old crows?

• “Owen Blackthorne stepped into the Armadillo Bar and found trouble waiting for him.” The Texan by Joan Johnston (This also "makes me wonder")
• "When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it's never good news." Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
• “It was dark where she was crouched but the little girl did as she’d been told.” The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

• “I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.” Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
• "Getting punched hard in the face is a singular experience." Godless by Pete Hautman (I sure hope it's singular!)
• "Four days after his own funeral, Albert Wilkes came home to tea." The Death Collector by Justin Richards (love this)
• “They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet.” Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

If a killer first line is ideal for the first chapter of a novel, why not for every chapter throughout the entire work? I'd love your input on this one. Here are a few of the first lines from several chapters throughout my contemporary YA novel that are up for your assessment:

“I’m suddenly fighting to breathe.”
“When life gives you lemons, buy a Mountain Dew.”
“I shouldn’t do this, but I can’t help myself.”
“Pralines have never led me astray.”
“If my mom knew what I did tonight, she wouldn’t be too disappointed.”
“Let’s just say I’m doing the last thing I want to do on a summer night.”
“It happened on a sunny day in mid-March, eight years ago.”
“I regret the words even before I say them.”

Do they make you wonder what the next sentence will be? Which of the above first lines is your favorite? Least favorite? Are these first lines better than starting with weather, setting, a date, etc…? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.