Monday, January 30, 2012

Pacing

I think today I want to talk about pacing, because that's what I'm struggling with right now.  I'm not sure if I completely understand it because I thought I had enough "stuff" happening in the beginning of my story.  I'm one of those readers, that if I'm not hooked in the first few chapters, I probably won't finish the book.  (A good trait for a YA writer, since it's a very "teenage" mind set.  Or at least that's what I tell myself...)  My critique was of the first 30 pages, and my CP said that the problem was pacing; that what happened didn't warrant being 30 pages and that it could have been fit into 20 or less.

So how do we know what to tighten and take out?  I reread everything and tried to take out everything that wasn't essential to the story.  That left me with ... 27 pages.  lol.  I think I need another set of eyes to help me decide what is essential to the story, because to me, everything is important.  I was listening to a podcast that said pacing is about the hills and valleys.  An explosion can't happen on every page because even though explosions are exciting, the repetition is what slows the pacing.  With every additional explosion, the tension fades and it becomes mundane.  I think that might be my problem.

I've redone my outline, which will hopefully help my structure and pacing.  I feel like pacing is one of those mysterious things that you don't think about until you realize there's a problem.  If it's done right, it's not noticed, but if it's done wrong, it's blatant.

Friday, January 27, 2012

"she" as the general pronoun

So I've been coming across this a lot lately and I kinda like it: "she" or "her" being used as the general pronoun instead of "he" and "him".  I studied this a little bit in one of my linguistics classes in college, how the general pronoun is "he".  Really, it should be "one" but very few people use it in writing because of the old fashioned feel to it; more likely than not, it's just "he".  Some languages have a general pronoun to use when speaking about hypothetical or general statements that don't have any masculine or feminine connotation but in English it's just "he".

 The article I read (which I can't remember now since it was a while ago, so much for primary sources... ) talks about the psychology of this and how it makes boys feel like they could do anything, where as it makes girls feel more reserved.  This is because "he" is used so much in writing, so subconsciously boys and girls read that and think whether or not it applied to them.  This is especially important now, where the trend is to make girls intelligent and able.  (a good trend if you ask me).  I think that it's good we are starting to use "she" to be the general pronoun, so that (subconsciously) it lets girls know they are able to do anything too.  I have to say, because I didn't grow up with it, I always notice when writers use "she" instead of "he" as the general pronoun, but I still think it's a good change.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Clockwork Prince

So I just finished Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare.  She is another one of my favorite authors, though I think I prefer her Mortal Instruments series (City of Bones etc.) to the Infernal Devices series (Clockwork Angel etc.)  The Infernal Devices is a prequel series, taking place in the 1800s of London, which is why I think I prefer the contemporary setting of the Mortal Instruments better.

But anyways, I just finished it and had to get down my thoughts.  I first picked up Clare's books because of the genre: urban fantasy.  The Mortal Instruments has werewolves, vampires, faeries and Clare created her own version of Nephilim, Shadow Hunters in this case, which are the descendants of fallen angels.  Plus the book cover looked swoon-worthy.

see?

I started reading not really thinking much (this was another one of those times I couldn't find any good books) but fell in love with Jace (as everyone does).  I read that series and started the Infernal Devices.  And I started falling in love with Will (as everyone also does again).  Clare loves love-triangles but she also does them really well in Clockwork Prince.  I sympathize more with Jem than I did with Simon, though I still don't root for him as hard as I did with Jace or Will.  
 
In every book, she rips my heart out and leaves me wanting more.  She does emotions so well and knows exactly when to capitalize on my feelings.  I read somewhere that there are things worse than death for your characters and that you have to figure out what those are and do them in the book.  AND SHE TOTALLY DOES.  And for Clockwork Prince it's especially heart-breaking because it's not quite worse than death, but super bitter/bittersweet for Tessa, the MC.  When you read it you will totally know what I mean.  It's so hard for me to do that to characters I love, but she does it, and I get angry and want to throw the book across the room, but I keep reading.  I really admire her being able to do that.  It's like when J.K. Rowling knew she had to kill off Sirius in HP; she was crying but she did it anyways.  I really respect how shes does that and hope that when the time comes I'm able to do the same thing in order to make my story better.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Secret Hour

Has anyone read the Midnighters series by Scott Westerfeld?  First of all, I love his books; the Uglies series is a fantastic fantasy series (which I talked about in one of my last posts) and his new series, Levithan, is an awesome alternate history series filled with mistaken identity and a clever twist on Nature vs Machines.  I recommend him always but back to the Midnighters.  The first book, called the Secret Hour, is about a group of people who have have an extra hour each night at midnight while everyone else is frozen.  They do all sorts of things during that hour, fight evil creatures, fly around the sky, hang out.  Imagine having an extra hour every day?  What would you do with it?

I'd probably do a lot of mundane things that I couldn't fit into the regular day: laundry, sleep, finishing what I'm currently reading so that I wouldn't be distracted while I wrote for myself (or visa versa).  I could definitely use that 25th hour in a day, especially this week.  Oh well.  I guess for now I'll just keep plugging along!

Friday, January 20, 2012

power of the creative introvert

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/opinion/sunday/the-rise-of-the-new-groupthink.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

This was a great article, which I loved, because I am an introvert, and a proud one at that.  Read the article and see what you think.

It talks about creativity in different, specifically job, settings.  The trend now is to work collaboratively in a group setting.  Everyone sitting around a conference table.  No dividers, no offices, no privacy.  But, psychologists find this isn't really the most conducive way to get a job done; it's not the best way to be creative.  The most creative people are the introverts.  (yay!)  Or at least the people who work alone and relish that time to themselves.  So you can still be an extrovert; your creative side is just an introvert.  For writers, I think this is common sense.  Bouncing ideas off of CPs is definitely helpful and critiques/critique groups are vital, but I think creativity, or that twist that makes the MS different/amazing, usually comes at a time when one is alone.  Lots of ideas come from other things you might see around you, but it's that creative twist that makes it special.

Where do you get your ideas?  Is it when you're with a group or doing something alone?

I think my ideas are usually when I'm not thinking about writing at all.  I'll get an epiphany in the middle of the day when I'm at work.  By myself.  With no distractions.  The article states "solitude is a catalyst to innovation".  This makes so much sense because there are no distractions.  Solitude allows time to think and work through problems.

So I liked this article, and to me it was nothing ground-breaking, but it was nice to have an article that reinforces the idea that sometimes the most creative people aren't the most extroverted and it's totes okay to be shy.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

YA Lit

To kind of piggyback off of my post from Monday, I wanted to write about how much I wish I had YA when I was younger.  But steph, you're only 25; what do you mean?  Yes, I know, but no one had ever told me about them and when I was in high school I had a hard time finding books I liked to read.  When I in elementary and middle school, I read a ton of Babysitters club books (especially the mysteries; they were my fave!) and some Nancy Drew.  My mom would tell me to try some more "grown-up" books but I couldn't find anything else interesting to me.  I dabbled in Agatha Christie but they were too adult as mysteries for me.  I remember my mom recommending Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace for me, kind-of the only YA books at the time, that she knew of.  (Hated ASP but liked CitR, and then had to read them over again the next year for English class.  I remember complaining to my mom that I had to read ASP over again and I still haven't let her live that down, lol).  I tried reading Catch-22 and Fahrenheit 451, two books that were good, but didn't peak my interest enough to make time to read for leisure, since high school was already incredibly busy.  I remember going into the library and not being able to find a book I wanted to read.  Yeah I know; crazy I couldn't find a book in a library...

I remember reading Ender's Game and loving it.  When HP came out, it was amazing.  But I couldn't find much else.  My high-school years were spent playing sports and music with the occasional book thrown in.  Maybe I had trouble finding books because I like fantasy/mysteries better than contemporary, and couldn't really find that in YA.  (There still aren't a lot of mysteries in YA).  In college, I only read during the summer, but still couldn't find a lot of books.  I read the Ender's Game/Ender's Shadow sequels but they were teetering on adult.  Same with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I think the first YA book I read was the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld.  And woah.  I. was. blown. away.  The world-building was amazing and I finally got that fantasy world that I so wanted!  I scarfed the rest of the series and then anything else I could find by him.  Then I started to look on the same shelves he was placed on.  I was like, what is this?  A gold mine?  Suddenly, at 20 years old, I came out of the library, my arms brimming with YA books.  Why had no one told me about this section before?  I wish I would have discovered it earlier, because it would have given me so much more time to read all these fantastic books.  Now, I think, I have 140 TBR books on my list and 95% are YA.  My mom still tells me to read more "grown-up books", but since I look like I'm 17, I think it's okay to still read YA.  (Plus I would read them even if I didn't look 17, because these books are good).

My point is, I didn't read that much in my late teens, because I didn't like "the classics" or "adult" books.  How is not reading that helpful to anyone?  Reading gives you experiences that you might not have otherwise, teaches you what to do in certain situations, gives you a world to fall into when you need a retreat.  Just because they aren't the classics, doesn't mean they can't teach lessons, morals or life experiences.  They probably teach them better than the classics, because young adults are reading them and understanding them.  I love YA.  I think we should be giving praise, instead of belittling.

ps.  I will be out of town playing Ultimate frisbee for the long weekend, which I'm making longer, so I won't be back til next Thursday.  'Til then!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Article on YA lit

So a writer friend of mine sent me this article.  While I think the author really wants children to read and has good intentions, his all-or-nothing attitude is a bit extreme.  http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/01/against-walter-dean-myers-and-the-dumbing-down-of-literature-those-kids-can-read-h

He talks about dumbing down literature and YA being too insipid to read.  I think for him, maybe (but not really), because he states that the reason for reading is to elevate.  For me, that is not why I read; I read to get lost in a story.  But I also think YA can still elevate; he obviously hasn't read the books about sacrifice, or the values/challenges of friendship and loyalty, or suicide, whatever.  There are tons of YA books that focus on the hardships in life and don't dumb anything down.  (I've never read these books but two that come to mind are Speak and 13 Reasons Why).  I think if young adults are reading, that's pretty much all we can ask for.  Take his example, about the kids in Brooklyn reading Walter Dean Myers.  If they didn't read him, they probably wouldn't read anything.  So how is reading WDM a bad thing?  (I've never read any WDM, but I still think reading is better than not reading).  Yes, it would be great for young adults to read the classics (they are called classics for a reason) but that's not always an option, and not all kids would understand them anyways.

He also talks about literature not just being words, but power, and a power that can be the readers' and the power to save.  I think all these things can be (and are) in YA books.  Maybe he has only read hearts and flowers books.  But even in hearts and flowers books, I think readers can gain insight from them (especially since I intend my next book to be a "hearts and flowers" type book); for example, taking a risk can lead to something good, (even if that risk happens to be on romance) or breaking out of your comfort zone.  These are all situations that happen in YA, but still need to be learned.

I think he's too black and white in his comments, and maybe even a little bit elitist about reading in general.  What do you guys think?

Friday, January 6, 2012

keeping organized

So I've realized I think I need to be a little more organized...  How does everyone do it?  I make stuff up, especially because of the fantasy setting, and then I forget and have to look back and find it.  All. The. Time.  It's kinda annoying.  I have a million notebooks but not in any one place.  That's probably where I should start, right?  Someone told me about keeping a story bible and I never really thought about it.  I thought "I'm young. I have a good memory."  HA.  So what is a story bible and what goes into it?  I think of it as everything I need to know about the story, just put it in one place.  I'm talking:

Characters: what they look like, their personality, family, clothing style, talents, hobbies, flaws, motivations, anything you think you might need later.  This is especially good for minor characters, because when they reappear I can never remember the clothing style I had them in the first time. 
Backstory: stuff you as the author need to know, but everyone else doesn't.  I kind of combine this with characters to make one giant character list
World/setting: is there anything different in this world?  any new laws of physics?  new dressing styles?  how does transportation work?  money?
Magic system: for me, this is key, because I've already talked about how hard it was for me to set boundaries.  When you invent a special power, it can throw off the whole magic system; you have to know WHY that special power happened and what the effects might be.  I like to document the regular powers in the world, and then my characters special powers and why they have the special ones.  It's also a great brainstorming convention because I write my story bible by hand.
Plot: I throw some important plot stuff in there too, just so I have everything in the same place.  It's helpful if you're writing a series and the plot continues throughout the whole thing.  So if you have to refer back to something that happened in book 1, when you're writing book 3, the details are there.  Like if a secret message pops up, I have the exact words of the message at my finger tips.  Though I guess I could always search my word document, for some reason this helps me focus.

So I just started making one and found it incredibly helpful.  Has anyone found anything that's helped them stay organized?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Resolutions

Welp, it's that time again.  New Years resolutions.  And I have a a lot...  I'm always overzealous when it comes to resolutions, because they're like goals and I like karate chopping them off my list.  hoo-rah!

It's always good to look back on your journey and see how far you've come.  So this is where I started.

In 2009, I graduated from college and started looking for a job in biology or linguistics.  (Funny that I got a job in linguistics before biology, right?  The reason I majored in biology was because I thought it would be easy to get a job...)  Having graduated, I fiiiinally had some free time to read for pleasure.  woohoo!!  I discovered a lot of good books: City of Bones, The Demon King, White Cat.  But after I finished all those series, I read a lot of not so great books that made me frustrated.  I knew what I wanted to read; why weren't there any books like that?  So I made a decision.  I was going to write a book that I wanted to read.  I started, got about 5,000 words in and realized I didn't really know anything about writing.  I got a full time job and my writing dwindled.  Then a writer friend of the family said he was teaching a 9 month write class (1 session per month) and I jumped at the chance.  That helped and I wrote the bulk of my story.  I wrote a query and a synopsis and a pitch.  Then I took a YA writing class through my job at Penn.  That helped me with the basics plus fine tuning everything that needed changing.  Then I rewrote my query, synopsis and pitch.  (Then I did that all again).  All the while, I read A TON; I joined goodreads (and found soooo many good books); I created a blog (hello out there!); found CPs through both my classes; critiqued lots of writing; wrote a lot more.  I intend to continue all of the above, in addition to everything that's below.

1) finishing revising CotF and send to CPs
-well I'm almost done that, but wanted to put that there so I had an extra thing to karate chop.
2) polish CotF
3) start querying (ack!)
-I've already written and re-written my query, so it's just time to polish the MS before I send it off
4) outline manuscript #2
-it's been fumbling around in my brain, so it's about time to start
5) write manuscript #2
6) attend a writing conference
-this I am most nervous about, since I am young and shy, and the word that terrifies me the most is "mingle"

Other resolutions I have are:
1) getting into grad school
-apps are done, now I'm playing the waiting game
2) moving somewhere new
-this has a lot to do with #1
3) make/join a women's ultimate frisbee team
-I've tried out for a new one every year; why would this year be different? lol
3b) make nationals - though this has to do with the team and not just me...
4) start playing bass again
-this will happen this semester thanks music lessons to Penn (yay working at universities)
5) run more often
-I hate this resolution, but I'm going to do it!

So that's a lot of resolutions.  But like I said, I like a challenge :)