Wednesday, May 30, 2012

100 page wall

Well, I'm about at the 100 page wall on Novel 2.  I know where I need to go, but I'm struggling getting there.  I'm getting distracted by shiny things.

And I'm worried the first draft will be waaay too short.  I'm beginning to think I don't understand middles.  I'm 25k through and I feel like I'm already getting towards the end.  50k is about the lowest one can go for a YA, and I try to hit that mark for the first draft.  I know as soon as I start the second draft, the magic will happen and it will boost my word count (adding in all those many things that got left out on the first draft), but it's still making me nervous.

Plus, I just got some feedback on COTF (shiny things!) and it makes me just want to dive in to revisions, instead of working out the problems in Novel 2.  There's so much to work on in COTF, that I feel like if I don't do it right this second, I'll forget.  But that's not true, because I can always go back and re-read the notes.

So I'm trying very hard to finish Novel 2 before diving in to COTF, putting thoughts of crappy drafts and word count behind me, though they do keep creeping into my consciousness.

What do you do when you get stuck?  Do you ever get distracted and want to start something else?  What do you do when that happens?  (Do you give in or just keep plugging?)

Friday, May 25, 2012

top 10 misunderstood lines in literary history

This was an awesome read.  (I think I found the link from one of YA Highway's field trip Fridays).  A friend just recently quoted The Road Not Taken to me saying I should take "the road less traveled" and I was really tempted to link him to this article.  But I didn't cause I thought that would be rude.  Or am I being rude by not telling him?  I don't really know...

ANYWHO.  Give it a read and let me know what you think :) 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

cursing in YA books

This is always an interesting debate.  There has been some posts about this on Gayle Foreman's blog, Kiersten White's blog and even

For me this is an interesting question.  I didn't curse when I was a teenager.  I don't think I would have cared either way reading it in a book; I mean, all my friends cursed so it's not like I wasn't aware of it.  I was the oddball (as always, lol).

For one reason or another, I started cursing.  I don't really know what happened, I think maybe I wanted to be cooler, or express myself better when I'm angry.  (Saying "darn it" just doesn't have the same emphasis.)  I don't think of myself as the biggest curser ever, but I definitely don't shy away from it.  At.  All.

But I don't curse in my novels.  Maybe I'm trying to hold on to my childhood, I don't really know.  But I just don't really think it's the right place for it, in my novels.  It just doesn't go with the tone of my my stories.  But I'm not at all against it for other young adult novels, because the fact of the matter is they hear it all the time anyways.  They're going to make their own decisions about whether or not they want to curse.

But the thing with profanity is that it's kind of lost it's meaning.  People drop the F-bomb all the time over things that don't really matter.  [Myself included.]  And that's kind of a problem because these words do have power behind them.  Teenagers might say "eff off" and not really mean it as anything, and that's a problem.  Someone could react to that like it's no big deal, while others may be very hurt by it.  And we have to respect everyone's reactions and understand that they may differ from your reactions.  I think that's what we should really teach teenagers.  We shouldn't just ban books because there is cursing in it.  Again, they have heard it all before, so it's not like we would be introducing anything new.  We need to teach teenagers that their words can hurt, and that everyone reacts differently to cursing, whether it's being offended or not.  And while to me, it's fine for teenagers to curse, they also need to learn how to be respectful, and I don't think banning books because they have profanity is the way to do it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

differing reactions

My MC for Novel 2 is very different from my MC in Novel 1 (and even very different from me).  She's out-spoken, confident, not afraid of saying what's on her mind.  Her reactions to situations are completely different than what I would do.  And that's where I'm having trouble.  It's getting harder for me to write her reactions because they are so different from mine and I'm finding myself having to edit her reactions before they even get on the page.

I was thinking about this.  There are so many different personalities out there.  For a given situation, there are many different reactions specific to each different person.  For example, I'm an only child.  I think this is part of why I am not very talkative.  It could be because I had no siblings to talk to.  On the flip side, I have a very good friend who is an only child and he is one of the most talkative people I've met.  He's super friendly and loves talking to anyone who will listen.  This could be because he had no one to talk to, so when he does get around other people, he talks as much as he can in order to get the talking in that he wouldn't get at home.  So we both grew up in the same situation, but different reactions stem from it.

So this is the problem I'm having in my WiP.  A situation occurs and can give multiple reactions.  The first reaction that comes to mind is ultimately mine and not my MC's.  So it's taking me longer to figure out what her reaction is.  I know her motivations inside and out, I just have to continually remember them.  My first reaction is not hers.  She is her own person.

Tesla is confident; it's something I love about her.  It's one of the main staples of her personality.  A boy says something rude?  She'll give a witty retort back.  (Unlike Elle, my first MC, who would probably go hide in a corner).  But even confident people get nervous.  But how do I show that, while also keeping the integrity of her character?  It's another one of these "walking the fine line" type situations.  Making sure the nervousness shows, while also keeping her confident.  Maybe she's confident in being nervous, lol.  Either way, I think this type of nervousness is drastically different than the nervousness Elle feels in COTF, so it has to be shown differently.  It's just finding the actions and reactions that would show it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

poetry in novels

I am no poet, but I am frequently finding myself writing poetry in my manuscripts.  Well, song lyrics, which are slightly different.  It may be because music heavily influences my writing, and all my MCs' love interests turn out to be musicians and recite lyrics.  So they're popping up in various forms.
BUT, I am no poet, nor lyricist, really.  (I've dabbled, but that's it).  I was in a band in HS (I played bass) and we had two lead singers for a while.  Both wrote their own lyrics, so I didn't really write much.  That was their job so I never really concerned myself with it.  This makes things difficult.

But now I'm finding myself having to write poetry and lyrics.  And that is an entirely different skill set than writing.  As I mentioned a few times, I love words (being a linguist), and slang, and especially plays-on-words.  Some of my favorite musicians are my favorites because of their creative lyrics.  But trying to make up my own takes a different sort of brain for me.  And a lot more focus.

Especially writing romantic poems.  I find a lot of the commercial ones sappy, so it's hard for me, because I don't like sap.  The trick is to find something genuine, harness that emotion or detail or description, and use that.

I don't think I have quite found that yet, but hopefully, with more practice, I'll at least get better.

Friday, May 11, 2012

contemporary fantasy?

So I've been seeing this genre quite a few times in contests for agents.  But I'm not sure if the writers just made it up or if it's a real thing.  I mean, what is it?
I'm intrigued by this because this is how I want to describe COTF, which starts off in the present world and time and then goes to a fantastical world.  That world isn't a traditional fantasy world.  I wouldn't call it "Epic Fantasy" at all.  That's why I like contemporary fantasy, because I think it fits well.  But I'm still hesitant to use it.

I don't want to mislabel my work, because [unfortunately] labels are so important.  It should be about the story but a lot of times it's about the genre as well.  Is it marketable?  Is there a place for it on the shelf?  Plus that whole thing about New Adult not being a genre... yet.

But is COTF actually fantasy?  And is TDOC actually SF?  I'm not really sure.  It's kind of like a watered down version [that sounds awful, but it's true] of both.  I want to be able to straddle both worlds, the familiar and the fantastic.  When someone reads it, I think they'll get it, but what do I categorize it as in a query letter?  And that part is VERY important.  

Agents only rep some genres.  A lot of YA agents do rep fantasy and SF, but there are a lot who don't.  And I feel like SF and f are the first things to go from an agent's list, so I want to make sure if I label it that, that it's labeled correctly and I'm not doing myself a disservice.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

new horizons

Well guys, I finally quit my job.  No, not for writing, though I won't say that isn't part of the reason.  I'm going back to grad school in the fall [for science education], and I need to take two Praxis exams before I can even register for classes.  Not every state does uses the Praxis as teacher certification, but PA does, and the grad school I'm going to is unusual [read: annoying] in which it requires me to pass the biology Praxis before I even start classes.

Anywho, this means I am going to be very busy for the next two months.  I leave my job June 7th, take the biology Praxis June 9th.  The Philly Writers Conference is June 8-10 (yeah, I know, annoying that I'm missing the morning part of the conference on June 9th, but the Praxis for areas of study is only given about four times a year.  (I should get there by 10 am though)).  I have to take the Praxis 1 on June 28th, all the while studying for both tests.

So two months of crazy before 2 months of nothing to do at all.  I think the biggest challenge for me is going to be making sure I get writing done while I'm studying.  For me, studying is an all-encompassing monster.  I feel guilty if I'm doing something that's not studying.  (At least I did in undergrad.  I literally read zero books for fun, or watched any TV shows and rarely movies.  All I did was study and play Ultimate frisbee (you need to exercise at least a little bit...))  For all intents and purposes, I only get one shot at these exams, and I'll be studying for the hard one while also working 9-5, and gearing up for Ultimate season/doing PT on my knee.

So it's all about choices.  During this month, focus on studying, with some writing on the side while maintaining some form of exercise.  Should I be watching TV right now?  No.  Get back to studying.  Need a study break?  Get some writing in instead of watching a TV show.  Those TV shows will be online forever; they can wait.  It's about mind set and focus.  And making schedules (they're like lists!  I love them!) and sticking to them.  The trick to schedules, is also scheduling in some down time.  (I did this all the time in undergrad).  Taking frequent breaks is actually conducive to studying, if you schedule them in and keep to the schedule.  If your break goes hours longer than planned, they're not really helping anything...

So for the next month I might be sporadic with my blog posts.  Writing is a big part of my life, but I need to make sure I pass these exams.  And I mean after June 28th, I'll have two whole months of nothing before grad school!  That sounds like a lot of time to be writing.  (Which makes me nervous, because of what I posted about on Monday about my writing habits).  And also being a teacher gives me three whole summer months to explore more book ideas :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

writing habits

So I'm pretty self-motivated, which is pretty good for an unagented writer - we have to be.  Otherwise we would never finish a book.

It's good to set daily goals, but sometimes it takes me awhile to just get started.  I found I am most productive when my brain creates a deadline.  It's 8:30 pm and I want to get ready for bed in 2 hours?  I haven't written tonight?  Oh crap.  GO GO GO.  And I just write for two hours.

On the other hand, when I have the whole day to write, take the day The Boy got surgery and I took the day off from work, I procrastinate LIKE WOAH.  There's something in my brain that just tells myself that I can wander the interwebz or watch a TV show because I have the whole day to write.

So what is it that makes us procrastinate?  Maybe I need to up my goals A LOT on those days where I have the whole day to write.  I need to focus and just go.  I think I need focusing exercises, oh what's that sparkly thing? 

A lot of bloggers talk about Word Wars.  Maybe that's what I need.  I am VERY competitive, so I could see myself probably doing pretty well with that.

I think many times I get in moods where I'm stuck in a place and just don't want to write.  Getting myself to sit down, open the laptop, and actually focus is the hardest part.  After that BAM I crank out a thousand words in a brief sitting.  It's just the initial focusing that makes me get hung up.

What are your writing habits?  How do you make yourself sit down and just write?

Friday, May 4, 2012

the jumbles

So I think I have a case of the jumbles. Okay, maybe not that kind...

Yes, I totally made an outline, but I'm beginning to think that it wasn't quite what I needed.  I'm a pantser.  I like that part of discovery writing because something new is always lurking around the corner.  As I write, new things just happen, and it makes sense.  

I can't do that when I outline.

When I started outlining Novel 2, it was a very vague/broad outline.  I knew the premise of the story and figured I'd figured out along the way what would happen in between the plot points.  

Welp.  I already blogged about beginnings being hard.  They are!  Getting the story to pick up pace, while doing what you have to do to introduce EVERYTHING (character, setting, plot) is hard. And sticking it all in the beginning?  I found my path being very windy and jumbled.  So I ended up making another outline just of the beginning.  So my new favorite thing is outlines (but outlining AFTER I've already written the scenes).  It really helps to organize my thoughts.

Now my question is go back and fix the beginning order of events?  Or keep chugging?  Maybe I should take my own advice about keep chugging, but my brain feels like I need to order the scenes correctly, so that I can really get a sense of my characters.  Trying to turn off the perfectionist is hard, and I'd really rather just finish the draft because I know there will be a million revisions afterwards anyway.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

sci-fi genre

This is not what I want my world to look like.
So I've been researching SF genres lately because Novel 2 is looking to be in that realm.  When I think of SF I think of white walls, sterile rooms, space, technology.  I didn't want it to be too futuristic, but I don't really know a lot about the genre.

So I read a bunch of books: Across The Universe, Feed, XVI, Uglies, Ender's Game.  Some I read before, some I have recently picked up.

One common theme I saw was instant communication.  No need for phones, no need to carry anything. In every book, pretty much everyone has a device implanted into them to allow for communication.  In Across The Universe, it was the wi-com.  In Feed, it was the feed.  In Uglies, it was the skintenna and pings.  And I thought having a iPhone that lets me use apps, phone and music was good...

And there's always new technology and gadgets.  Across The Universe has the floppies, which I think of as iPads that are thin and membrane-like.  Uglies had a bunch, like the skimmer board and crash bracelets.  Feed has the hover cars.  Things that make it apparent that it isn't the same time period as now.

There's also new bio-technology, like DNA scanners in Across The Universe, or Pretty surgery in Uglies, or viruses or bacteria.

Also the lingo.  This is my favorite part, making up new words.  In Across The Universe, she uses "brilly" and "chutz". (The first one is great, but I never really understood what the latter meant).  In Uglies, there are "littlies" to mean "when they were younger".  I could do another whole post on this like I did before on what makes good slang, but I'll keep my linguistic fetishes to myself this time.

The hard part is thinking up stuff that will exist in the future.  How do I know what's going to happen in the future??  The options are endless!  Wait, so maybe that's a good thing.

I'm trying to find a balance, of future stuff and stuff that is familiar.  I think Scott Westerfeld did a great job with this.  That's the type of feel I'm going for.  Or In Time (if you ever saw that movie with JT).  I don't want my future setting to go all technology on me like FEED; I want there to be regular buildings and plants and animals, but also seem like technology has progressed.  I want to tip-toe that line.