Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Which Member of the Ch1Con Team Are You?

(First, a note for my few regular blog readers: yeah, I haven't updated my blog in a month, I know. Combination of conference week nightmares and angst over TV shows and angst over books. Luckily none of you are too like super-dependent on this blog so... if you want a personal apology, I guess, ask me? I feel the need to apologize?)

Hello all!!! Can you believe that we're only LESS THAN THREE MONTHS AWAY from Chapter One Young Writers Conference? I can't!

What is Chapter One Young Writers Conference, you ask? Oh, only the highlight of my year. (If I sound like a 1950s salesman, it's because I actually turn into a 1950s salesman every time this conference is brought up). Ch1Con, as it's usually abbreviated, is the only conference BY young writers and FOR young writers, aka, it's an experience for young writers that isn't totally condescending to them because, you know, the people running it are also young. "Young" is loosely defined as age 11 to 23, and the conference is basically a one-day super-fun experience of learning serious stuff about writing tips, the publishing industry, and how to hang out and make real live friends with other people your age who legitimately love writing as much as you do. Seriously- I suck at socializing and I have made friends through this conference.

(Oh, and we have speakers who are actual Important Publishing People: New York Times bestselling author Susan Dennard, acclaimed YA author Francesca Zappia, and young authors Jennifer Yu and Jordan Villegas, whose books are coming out sometime in the future. You can read more about them on the Ch1Con website and in their other interviews. They are talented, cool people, I promise.)

The conference takes place in Chicago- this year on Saturday, August 6 in St. Charles, Illinois. Registration is currently open on the Ch1Con website (where you will also find links to all the other amazing posts in the blog tour) for the early bird admission price of $74.99 until June 1. It is really, honestly, so worth it, but even if you can't make it to the conference this year, Ch1Con holds events online year-round that are also super awesome, on our various social media accounts.

Anyway, so for my contribution to the Ch1Con blog tour, I decided to make a personality quiz! The members of the Ch1Con team are all so cool and often under-appreciated, so this quiz will tell you: Which Member of the Ch1Con Team Are You? To be clear, I'm not claiming to peer into the souls of my fellow team members, so I hope you guys aren't too mad if I misrepresent your personalities. This is just meant to be a fun quiz to show everyone what a bunch of writerly nerds run this conference. :)

QUIZ INSTRUCTIONS: I didn't want each question to have eight options, so each question has four options and the letters will be weirdly mixed up. Tally up how many of each letter you get, and then check the answer that corresponds to which letter you got most. (You might get a tie. I don't know. I'm not a professional quiz maker.) (I just checked it and I believe that the most that'll happen is you'll get a three-way tie. But I suck at math, so who knows)

1. If you could own a restaurant, which restaurant would you own?
A- A French bakery that sells a lot of dishes with cheese.
B- A comfort food store with a frozen yogurt section.
C- A pizzeria. That's it. Pizza
D- A restaurant that's half a bookstore, actually

2. What is your favorite part about being a writer?
E- Getting to have critique partners so you can insult their writing
F- All the networking parts- marketing, social media, understanding the industry
G- Worldbuilding! It's so much fun
H- Creating romances and ships in your book

3. What is the best compliment someone could give you?
A- All your hard work is appreciated.
B- Not only you're a good writer, but you're also a good friend
G- You are both talented and introspective
H- You're funny and kind at the same time

4. If you were to get a tattoo, what would it be?
E- A spider or some other cool creature
F- A meaningful quote about books
C- Something Harry Potter related, most likely
D- Maybe something to do with your fandoms, or with libraries

5. Choose a nickname for Harry Potter.
A- The Boy Who Lived
B- The Chosen One
E- The Heir of Slytherin
F- The next Minister of Magic

6. Pick a young adult series that represents you.
C- Harry Potter, because it's so full of magic and sarcasm
D- Percy Jackson, because friendship, mythology, and humor!
G- Daughter of Smoke and Bone, because it's full of fantasy and love
H- His Dark Materials, because it has cute animals and great ships and friendships

7. Which mythical creature most represents you?
A- Loch Ness monster but it's actually friendly
F- Sphynx
C- Dragon
H- Satyr, who is also friendly. But mainly because it's part goat

8. Which regular animal most represents you?
E- Do microbacteria count as animals? No, but you're gonna choose microbacteria anyway
B- A grumpy, lovable cat
G- Monarch butterfly
D- A puppy

9. Pick a pasta dish to eat
A- Mac and cheese
G- Mushroom ravioli
D- Spaghetti with red sauce and lots of Parmesan
F- Vegetable noodles

10. What punctuation mark is your favorite?
E- Nothing fancy. Just use regular punctuation, honestly.
C- A SEMICOLON
B- Quotation marks, because you like talking to other people
H- Exclamation points, to represent intense emotions in your characters

11. Which character from Shrek most represents you?
F- Mirror, because you're smart and you know all the trends
B- Fiona, because you're an independent, awesome feminist
C- Shrek... because you like being alone in your swamp
D- The giant gingerbread man because you are very sweet but also ready to fight

12. Which of the four seasons best represents you?
G- Autumn
H- Spring
A- Summer
E- Winter

13. If you had to go back in time to visit a historical period, which one of these would you choose?
A- Shakespeare's lifetime
B- The women's suffrage movement
C- The Italian Renaissance
D- The Roaring Twenties

14. What bothers you most about young adult literature?
E- When characters are such obvious, annoying cliches
F- The lack of diversity and representation
G- When adult authors ignore the needs of teen readers
D- Queerbaiting and other stuff authors do that is cruel to marginalized fans

15. Pick your favorite Greek god/goddess from the list below
E- Hades
F- Hermes
G- Artemis
H- Hestia or Demeter

16. Pick an adjective to describe yourself from the list below.
A- Determined
B- Empathetic
C- Creative
H- Friendly

17. Which of the following pastries most represents your personality?
E- Poison. Just kidding. Chocolate cake. That's poisoned.
B- Nutella mug cake.
G- A cinnamon roll.
D- Lemon poppyseed muffin

18. And finally, the most important question of all: which Panera Bread dish are you?
A- Panera baguette
C- Garden vegetable soup with pesto
G- Mediterranean Quinoa salad
H- Grilled cheese

Tally up your answers and see who you are!

MOSTLY A'S- Founder Julia Byers
You're the founder of Ch1Con, Julia Byers! Julia works so hard every day to keep this conference up and running and still maintains her sunny personality. Her personality is primarily made up of cheese, bread, and young adult literature. If you got this answer, you must be a fun, smart, determined young writer!

MOSTLY B'S- Master of Marketing Kira Brighton
You're Ch1Con's master of marketing, Kira Brighton! Kira is fantastic at all things to do with the written word. She loves cats, TV shows, and sappy romances. If you got mostly B's, you probably like to stay inside and eat snacks while fangirling and hissing at anyone who tries to disrupt your cocoon. Still, you are a wonderful and lovable friend to all.

MOSTLY C'S- Associate Online Administrator Ariel Kalati
You're the associate online administrator, aka ME! Ariel does the occasional thing or two for Ch1Con while mostly making sarcastic comments and eating pizza. If you got this answer, this probably means that you enjoy food, Harry Potter, and doing a whole lot of nothing. Congratulations!

MOSTLY D'S- Tumblr Expert Emma Ryan
You're the Tumblr expert of Ch1Con, Emma Ryan! Emma is a friendly, sunshiney, awesome person who loves shipping and fandoms! In addition to that, she runs Ch1Con's Tumblr and always contributes fantastic thoughts about the book world to our events. If you got this answer, you are probably outgoing, fun, and interesting, and love reading more than anything.

MOSTLY E'S- Chief Creative Consultant Molly Brennan
You're Ch1Con's chief creative consultant, Molly Brennan! Molly loves science, mainly so she can threaten to use her scientific knowledge to poison others. She's incredibly smart, has a dark sense of humor, and loves to criticize others' writing. If you got this answer, you are probably clever, funny, and a little bit evil.

MOSTLY F'S- Marketing Consultant Patrice Caldwell
You're the marketing consultant of Ch1Con, Patrice Caldwell! Patrice is a professional genius who knows everything about the publishing world. She gives excellent advice about marketing and is a generally awesome person. If you got this answer, you are probably smart, hardworking, and have lots of opinions about books that you share with the world all the time.

MOSTLY G'S- Creative Consultant Christina Li
You're one of Ch1Con's creative consultants, Christina Li! Christina is one of the most impressive team members since she has an agent while still being in high school, and is also an amazing writer. She has a sharp instinct for writing skills and is also incredibly sweet and friendly, with plenty of book fandom knowledge. If you got this answer, you are an interesting, quirky, and talented young writer who loves books.

MOSTLY H'S- Creative Consultant Brett Jonas
You're one of Ch1Con's creative consultants, Brett Jonas! Brett is a sweet, kind young writer who loves torturing her characters and taking care of baby goats. She has a big heart and a drive to write more than is humanly possible. If you got this answer, you are full of love and writing talent, and you probably love cute animals.

OK! Whew! That took forever, I assume, considering I made so many questions. I hope it turned out well and I hope you guys all like it! And that it wasn't too complicated, haha.
Remember again to PLEASE check out Ch1Con's website and social media accounts, especially if you're a young writer or you know a young writer. And register for Ch1Con 2016! It's going to be amazing!

Thank you for reading, and ideally I will see you next week,
-Ariel

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Ten Most Annoying Things About Editing a Novel

I've been working on editing my novel for a couple of years now, and it hasn't gotten any more fun. I thought it might have gotten more fun at some point, but no, it's just irritating. So, in light of this experience, I decided to make a list of the ten most annoying things about editing a novel. Feel free to add your own in the comments, if you want.

1. It Will Never Be Done... I'll Die Before It's Done...

Editing takes SO LONG! There's rewriting, more rewriting, restructuring, more restructuring, waiting on critique partners, rifling through critiques, deciding which critiques to listen to, cutting stuff, fixing plot holes, line edits, MORE rewriting... I knew editing took a while, but it's such a long process. Of course, it's partially because I procrastinate so much. The procrastination takes up the bulk of my editing time. Additionally, I'm also sure that It Will Never Be Done, because there will always be something to fix. And some readers will be unhappy, no matter what. You could edit until the end of time and someone will still be talking about how your book is problematic. I think about publication and it does not seem like a thing that's actually going to happen. Not because the market is difficult or whatever, but because I will never be done editing.

2. "So you'll be the next J.K. Rowling?"

I think literally every time I've talked to anyone about how I'm a writer, they tell me I'm going to be the next J.K. Rowling. Mind you, the vast majority of these people have not read one word of my writing- they're not praising my talent. They are just that deluded about how publishing works. They hear that I'm done with a book and are wondering when the cash will flow in. For some reason, they got the idea that the publishing process is Step One: First draft. Step two: Fame and fortune. And then they tell me I'm "just being modest" when I explain that that is not the case. Believe it or not, I didn't create a flawless first draft, as nice as that would have been.

3. I read it so many times that I don't know what it is anymore

I've read my manuscript so many times. So many times. To the point that I can't tell if it's good or bad, so how exactly am I supposed to edit it? I know, I know, that's what critique partners are for, but I'm the one who has to make final decisions at this point. Also, there have been many times when I just didn't tell the reader a vital bit of information because I'm used to it being common knowledge, since in my life, whether or not Topaz is an aunt or cousin is common knowledge, since I've read this book so many freaking times.

4. "I'll fix that later" Later has arrived.

When writing a first draft, it's important to let go of perfectionism. If you come to a difficult part, remember that you don't need to get it perfect right away. That's what editing is for. Then you get to the editing, and you have to do all the hard stuff.

5. The knot-in-your-hair parts

I have long, curly hair, and sometimes when I brush it there's this part in the back, always too far for my arms to reach without aching, that gets into this Big Giant Knot of Doom, and it's a hellish nightmare to brush it out. Some scenes in editing are like that. Info-dumps that must be made entertaining and easy to read, for example. Transition scenes that are boring but you need SOME sort of transition. Story-telling scenes that can't just be a speech. They are agonizing to fix.

6. Killing your actual darlings

People always say "kill your darlings" about editing, which means "cut that scene you got so attached to if it's for the good of the work as a whole." But for me at least, I put so much unnecessary junk in the first draft that "killing my darlings" the first few rounds of edits is just killing a lot of stuff that I didn't like that much anyway. Now I have to get rid of scenes I enjoyed and it's annoying, to say the least. Though I did have a taste of that on my first edit when I got rid of a Mean Girls reference. That was a sorrowful day.

7. Too tired for the greater good

Sometimes you know that a big radical plot change would improve the book immensely. Like, changing a character's gender, or making the villain have a totally different motivation, or starting the book two months earlier. But damn it, you are so tired, and you've worked on this version of the draft so many times that you don't want to have to essentially start over again. So you will make do with the inferior story because who cares at this point.

8. Comments on Chapter One

Note to my critique partners: First, let me start with a disclaimer. I love having my ego fed. Please go ahead and tell me how wonderful my book is at any time. Additionally, I love constructive criticism. Tell me that my writing is weak in one scene or other, or that you don't understand what's going on. But please. Do not complain about something when you are NOT DONE YET that is something that could clearly be resolved LATER. If you're on Chapter Two and you think that I really ought to include that minor character more, you really liked them, why don't I include them more... how exactly do you know I'm not going to? You have twenty-four chapters to go! If you're sad about how I'm treating the characters, I'm glad I'm having an emotional effect, but you haven't reached the end yet so don't act like I've already given them a sad ending! Just read the whole thing! Gah!

9. Critiques =/= This is your book now

Let me be perfectly clear, I will accept the harshest, most biting, vicious critiques of my book. I will, of course, go home and cry bitterly for about one month afterwards, but I'll accept it and bear you no ill will and take it into serious consideration. However. What annoys me are the Suggestions. If you have an idea, sure, I guess you can share it, but I'm probably not going to do it because I already have my own vision for the book and I'm going to stick to it. I'm talking about stuff like "why don't you make these two characters get together" or "at this part I think that there should be a battle!" or "you should put dragons in the book! right here at this part even though that would dramatically change the plot that you clearly have set in place already." I get the temptation to make headcanons, but they should remain in your HEAD, or at the very least, admit that these are your fantasies and not actual suggestions that I'm going to do.

10. Reading your old writing

Oh God. It's so terrible. And it's terrible on two fronts when it's someone like me who takes years and years to finish stuff, because on the one hand, you have how bad your writing was, but you also have reminders of who you were when you were a couple years younger. I wrote the first draft of my book in tenth grade, and I had some really awful ideas in my head in tenth grade. If you're reading my book and you think Mae (my protagonist) is insufferable, it's because I was insufferable in tenth grade. Only now I'm making that an amusing flaw of hers, not a great trait because she is oh-so-special. Ugh. It is painful to remember the past.

Anyway, I should probably go to bed because I have class early tomorrow and my roommate also probably wants to sleep. "But why didn't you just write the blog post earlier-" Shut up, voice of reason. I was doing very important work (not at all binge watching shows, no).

Thanks for reading,
-Ariel

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Small Poems

Once again, posting this super late because I just procrastinate a lot.
This week I thought I would share some poetry and some thoughts on a particular type of poetry. So, a while ago I read this poetry collection commentated by Lemony Snicket and he said something along the lines of, "I've read a lot of poems that are too long, but none that are too short." In my poetry seminar last year, my poetry teacher often had us do an exercise where we would eliminate all but the most essential lines of the poem. And there's a publication at my school called "The Cliffhanger" exclusively for short, unfinished pieces of writing.
Basically, what I'm saying is that short poems can be a lot more powerful than long ones, both for the reader and for the writer.
Writing small poems can be pretty therapeutic sometimes. While it's sometimes good to write a long-winded poem and lose yourself in all the words, you can get to feeling like you're constructing a big long art piece rather than just getting some words out. Which can be good, but if you're trying to relax or get some thoughts out, sometimes it's best to just write little poems. If I get struck with tiny bits of imagery or emotion, I can scrawl a few sentences and not feel like I have to make a whole long poem out of it. Or if I have a bunch of unattached feelings, I can do several poems instead of feeling like I have to link them together somehow.
So, I decided to share some of my small poems that I've written recently, and possibly some I've written in the past if I can't find enough from the past few months.

1
When the hunger that is not hunger comes,
I want to pull at the black sky
until it uncoils as a rope.

Then the stars would be all alone
and the rest of space
would be swallowed and swirling
inside me.

2
To butcher your poem,
drain it
'til it's a bag of bon words.
Then skin it
and bury the skeleton
in papery ice.

Then wait
for spring.

3
Dry as chalk,
when I talk
the words go up the wrong pipes
the ears choke on them.

Syllables coil on the mouth
as a snake skin.
Better to keep quiet,
keep the fear in.

4
A strange kind of winter 
this is-
made of water
rather than ice.
I haven't yet
seen anything die.

 5
As stirring
and shaking 
as a silent orchestra
desperate to play
even a verse

Is how the spring is,
shivering in the wings,
dancing in her head
beneath the earth.

6
Siphoned the last drops
of what you were
right out of the last holding cells.

And they left
one letter. 

(Here's some from before the last few months, some of which I've already published here)

7
soft incense, thunder
        brushing my hair

elephant curls itself
         into the starry darkness

8
Sync-o-pa-ted
Early whistle of rain
            Drops
and I am exhausted
            ah god
            violet, exhausted 

9
I look on trees naively,
as though they are my friends,
who cannot speak as I do
with lungs and mouth.

And yet at least
for my imagined mind
they sing-

I'll never know whether
their music is real
or merely
an imagined thing.

10
I almost saw them through the trees-
the ghosts of things I'd lost.
But then they disappeared again
to that place that I forgot.

11
I can pick your voice
out of the stairwell,
like a thread unraveling from a tapestry.
To a well-practiced ear,
even to an ill-practiced ear,
it sounds like the main voice
of the chorus.
I ignore it.

-----------------------------------------------------------

I hope you enjoyed those poems! The first six I all wrote this semester- the last five I wrote either last semester, over the summer, or in high school.
If you have any small poems of your own, feel free to share in the comments! Or even write one of your own just for fun.
Thanks for reading,
-Ariel 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What Sort of Blog Posts Should I Do?

Hey, so, yep, skipped the blog posts for the last two weeks and now that I have returned I'm putting up this post at like, the extremely last second. Sorry about that.

One of the reasons (besides just being lazy and terrible) that I skip posts is because I am just clueless about what to write. Not that I don't have ideas, but I'm never sure if the ideas are good enough. I know that not too many people read this blog regularly (hi, Mom!) but it would be nice to make sure you guys aren't suffering too badly reading this, and maybe draw in some other readers.

So, I was thinking of making a sort of little catalogue of the different types of posts I do, and it would be great if you guys want to offer some feedback? As in, which ones are your favorites or which ones you want to see less of? (I know the comments section on here isn't easy to operate, so you can tell me in person or comment on Facebook or reply on Twitter if you want). Even if not, I guess this will be a fun sort of housekeeping post.

I suspect that my best-liked posts are the funny listicles that keep it short, and the food ones. I do not have that much humor in me, though, guys. Sometimes I try to be funny and it's a disaster and you don't want to see that.

Anyway. Types of posts I have. Let's go.

Writing Advice Posts
These generally come in the form of lists with big long paragraphs of advice. I draw from my own experience and stuff I've heard online/in my classes, and just preach about writing. Sometimes I have a long rant but it's usually list-form about specific ideas.

Recent examples: How to Write Good Beginnings, Some Actually Useful Character Questions, How to Transition from "I'm Writing a Novel" to "I Wrote a Novel"

Funny Lists
These often take a Buzzfeed listicle format. I present a topic and write sarcastic, exaggerated examples that fit that topic and make some jokes. Occasionally, when possible, I add gifs. Additionally, sometimes these lists are about food.

Recent examples: 14 Minor Differences Between Things in the Life of a Writer, Ten Things That Happen on Young Writers' Forums, Ten Foods I Want to Eat Now

Collections of Fun Links
I present to you the gifts the Internet has given me recently. Often these have a theme of "funny things" or "stuff to calm you down or cheer you up."

Recent examples: Ten Happy Things I Saw Recently on the Internet, The Ultimate List of Ways to Waste Time on the Internet

Scrapbooks in Art
I take a natural phenomenon- wind, rain, etc- and find poems, artworks, music, videos, stories, and other works of art that remind me of it or that fit that topic. I usually include one of my own poems.

Recent examples: Wind: a Little Scrapbook in Art, Autumn: a Little Scrapbook in Art 

Book Reviews
Pretty straightforward. A list of all the books I've read recently with miniature reviews and recommendations underneath.

Recent examples: Book Reviews 2015, Part Four 

Embarrassing Journal Excerpts
One of my personal favorites, I find old journals or notebooks I wrote in during middle or high school and look for the most embarrassingly bad excerpts. Then I share them here so you can all laugh at me together.

Recent examples: My Hilariously Embarrassing Old Journal Excerpts, Amusing Excerpts from My Old Notebooks

Personality Quizzes
I've only done one of these, but I'm planning to do more. Basically just a fun personality quiz.

Recent examples: Which Type of Pizza Are You?

Poetic Reflection Posts
Long-form personal essays about my life or about nature, and other thoughts. Sometimes with poetry interspersed. Very personal and philosophical.

Recent examples: On Change with Poetry, The Essence of Summer, Spring and Other Happy Things

Miscellaneous Life Ideas
Where I take an idea unrelated to writing and talk a bit about it, maybe offering some fun ideas for your own experiences or just talk. Sometimes funny, sometimes semi-serious.

Recent examples: Ultimate Bucket List for Fall, How to Eat Healthy- by Someone Who Has No Knowledge of that Concept

General Talks About My Life and Personality
I talk about myself, but in ways that I hope are maybe relatable to others. This is often (I hope) funny, or touches upon my writing experiences.

Recent examples: If My Life Was a Novel, Rain in My Poetry

Specific Talks About My Recent Life
Usually happens when I don't know what to write about. I just ramble on about my recent life. I suspect these are not the best posts, haha. Although, sometimes it is about a good experience like Ch1Con that I'd hope you'd want to hear about.

Recent examples: Me Complaining, Interspersed with Cute Animals , Ch1Con Recap

Creative Writing Showcases
I often publish poetry I've recently written or show off my recently written short stories. Sometimes with backstories or explanations.

Recent examples: Fall Semester Poetry, Short Story Showcase: "Gone"

Well, I hope that covers everything, because I think I am staying up a bit too late to post this. Sorry again! Please if you can let me know somewhere which of these you'd like to see more of and which less.
Thank you,
Ariel

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

How to Write Good Beginnings

Hey everyone! I couldn't think of what to write this week but luckily, this morning in creative writing, we discussed how to write good beginnings to books. Which was a surprise, because often in creative writing we just veer off into random topics. It was kind of fun at first, but I sort of wish we would just stay on topic now. Anyway, whatever.

I think a lot about how to write good beginnings, because honestly, a lot of good books have kind of sucky beginnings. There are a lot of reasons for continuing to read a book after the first few pages, and often it's something like, you have to read it for class, or your friend swears it's absolutely amazing and you want to see when it gets good, stuff like that. And sometimes books with bad beginnings that you have to keep reading anyway do come through with a great story. But if you're just at the bookstore or library picking up a book to see if it's good, you're not likely to keep going with something that's "eh" at the beginning (unless the back cover promises something amazing, I guess, but even then, if it's a bookstore, you might not spend money on it). And when it comes time to choose between reading your new book and wasting time on the Internet, you're going to choose the thing that captures you inextricably. Basically, I'm saying that you're fighting against the Internet for attention. It's a tough job.

How does one fight the Internet for attention, you ask? Well, you have to write something that makes a reader both enjoy what's happening right now and be excited for what comes next. There's several parts to this:

-Voice: Your voice has to be charming, delightful, exciting, witty, easy to read, and a good indicator of the voice for the rest of the book. This has to make the reader think, "I want to hear more from this person." If you've established a good voice for the rest of the book, definitely be sure to amp up the best parts of it here. I've noticed that readers (me in particular) get captivated by voices that point out eccentric or obvious things in funny ways, or make unique observations that no one would have thought of. Or you can just say something that sounds like it would be great on a Pinterest board or something. Again, competing with the Internet.

-Concept: What is unique about your story's concept? If you're writing a story about aliens, what sets this alien story apart from all the others? Do the aliens really like fashion design? Highlight the unique and interesting thing about your story right off the bat. For example, the story we were analyzing in class was about a detective. What made this detective unique was that she was the only female detective in Botswana. So the story highlighted this concept right off the bat.

-Something Happens: I don't necessarily mean action, but something "fun" has to be going on. Something that would compete against a Buzzfeed list. So, frankly, it could be a list- of the types of fairies in your fairy kingdom and the fun tasks they do each day, or the objects on the detective's desk. Obviously, don't stick too long with one topic like that, but move around, catch the reader's attention with stuff that's going on. An interesting conversation. A fun anecdote. A humorous talk about the world the book's set in. You can't just convey information, or have some boring Establishing Nonsense happening (like a regular day at lunch at the protagonist's school or something). It has to be either conveying information in a fun way that is constantly moving forward, like a Buzzfeed article or some Tumblr post or something would, or a narrative bit of action that is unique and exciting.

-Clarity: Starting off a story by confusing your reader is an almost guaranteed way to get them to stop reading. Do not just plunge them into an unfamiliar world without any sort of guidance. Even if you are just plunging them into the unfamiliar world, make sure that they have the potential to figure it out without having to stop reading and work it out like a puzzle. Make sure that if there's a new idea introduced, there's a subtle explanation behind it (not an obvious, dictionary-definition one, but a little snippet of conversation or thought that gives away what's going on). And don't have too much rushing around and context-less dialogue and action when you've just started the book. If there is a huge chaotic mess, you need a huge amount of context and explanation to make it work. Make the beginning as clear as you can.

-Plot Establishment: There's some quote by some author that says something like "start the book as close to the end as you can." Basically, don't take too long to get to what we want to hear: the story. (and for THOSE OF YOU who are going to call me a hypocrite for saying this, I KNOW that I am bad at this myself). Even if you're doing some fun irrelevant nonsense at the beginning, it should actually be relevant in some way, if only just to establish character and background. Everything you put down should be leading us constantly to the end of the story. Otherwise, it's bogging us down.

There's definitely more parts to constructing a good beginning, and I probably didn't word these so well with all my Buzzfeed analogies, haha. I know Buzzfeed isn't the height of literary professionalism, but it is great with one thing: never spending too much time on one idea. There's a concrete idea, a cute bit of words, a gif, and we're on our way to item two. If you want readers to keep turning pages, you should strive, as odd as it sounds, to be like a Buzzfeed list in this way.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any other ideas on how to write beginnings, because that would be helpful for all of us.
See you next week,
Ariel