Thursday, March 29, 2012

YA Books are in the News

Alright, if you haven't noticed...this week has brought a HUGE in-flux of YA buzz. It's probably rebounding from the success of The Hunger Games movie this weekend, but it's certainly everywhere. At least in my world. Today especially--even though it's only 9:30 am when I'm starting this--the New York Times has a slew of posts about YA fiction. (Check all these out here!)

Teenagers do not passively love young adult fiction and its authors. The ferocity of our devotion rivals the heartbreak caused by the very same novels. 
 And I really liked this one too:
 Bottom line, there's one thing that young adult novels rarely are, and that's boring. They're built to grab your attention and hold it. And I'm not as young as I once was. At my age, I don't have time to be bored.

Why am I sharing this right now?

A few reasons.

First, this is really exciting to me. I love that people in the world are talking about YA books, even if some opinions seem completely ridiculous.  I love it because I am an adult reading YA, writing YA, talking about it, passing it to friends, getting excited. I can't even attempt to read adult fiction for reasons that the people in these articles point out. I know how good YA books are. How amazing the authors are. I am passionate about these books. So if people are talking about them, that's awesome! Because I want other people to be passionate about them too, to see them for what they are and to discover something about themselves from reading. That's what makes YA so special I think.

Second, as much as it excites me, it makes me nervous. I want to build up this little protective shield that says STAY AWAY. This is threefold.

1. I am a writer. This industry is hard already and the more people who fall in love with YA, who branch out into it, the harder it will be for me. Now, I get that it's totally selfish--but that's okay. My selfishness doesn't mean I don't want YA to be talked about or read--because I do--it's just part of my nervousness/shielding.

2. Quality. YA books are quality. What if that changes? What if we get so focused on the popularity and the next big thing that we (as a genre) loose the essence of what makes us so amazing and connectable? Now, this is a weird nervousness because I don't really believe that would happen. But it's something to think about. YA books stand out because they are supposed to. Because they are well-written and deal with hard issues. They are not afraid. I don't ever want to see us become afraid.

3. It's a territory thing. You know how some of us are "originals" in the Hunger Games phenom? Like, we read the books first! I can't help but feel this way in regards to the genre as a whole. "I was here first!" I know that's kinda silly. But I get really protective of things that I love, be it a book or an author. What would happen if they get lost or changed in the rush? I don't even know what I'm trying to say with this point...but hopefully you get it.

Ultimately, I think it's a good thing. It's exciting! I love YA and I'm glad people are talking about it. It allows me to talk about it too in avenues that I wouldn't normally. I can't wait to see where this growth takes us. It's all about getting people to read, to connect and to grow. And as long as YA keeps doing that, then I think we're going to keep taking people by surprise.

What do you guys think about all this talk??? 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dear Blogger,

There are days that we love you and your ability to make what should be complicated posts simple. However, today is not one of those days. Today, we tell you all the things that you do that upset us. Today we vent and hope that you fix your problems. Today, you deleted a post that was not easy to write, and for that, we're not happy with you.

This is us:

Let the ranting begin:

I hate the way you never format things like you're supposed to and I have to spend hours redoing it.
I hate when you delete my pictures.
I hate that you don't let me arrange my pictures the way I want. Why don't you do that, Blogger?
I love the way you connect me to other people.
I love when you leave me comments in my email. Ding.
I hate that your look is so limited and I don't know html.
I hate the way you miss scheduled posts. 
I hate the way you sometimes DELETE posts that we spent hours working on and crafting and writing. Not cool.
Why don't you delete the posts that I spent no time on and were sloppy?? Why delete the ones that are actually deep and meaningful???
Please fix your issues, blogger. We'd be oh so happy if you did. 
The Tangled Up In Words Team

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Waiting Stew & a Slice of Humble Pie

I am not a patient person. I want what I want right now. I make a decision and then, bam: I do it. I take action and worry about all the details later. I'm not sure when I became that person. 

When I was in high school (and even through some of my college years) I over-analyzed everything. I scrutinized every little detail, every possible outcome and then, after another pro/con list, I decided. There was one point I remember specifically that I made an informed decision and then, the outcome really sucked, and at the same time I found the ones I dove into had better outcomes. Then "diving in" became my life. Why make plans when they always end up changing or not turning out how you planned anyway? So, now I'm not a patient person. Even moreso than before. I'm a "take action" girl. Ask any of my friends. 

The problem is that writing, publishing and everything in between is the slowest moving industry ever. Seriously. Sometimes I feel like I'm frozen in place, watching everyone else move around me at insane speeds. It is not an easy place for impatient people. 

When I first started writing, everyone always told me there was a lot of waiting. I never really understood what that meant, but three years later and I think that's an understatement. There's not much besides waiting. And then rushing. And then more waiting.

I am making a stew...Waiting Stew. I have all these things in it: editing projects, secret projects, crits, moving plans, job plans, writing. There are at least fifteen things I'm stewing and yall, I am getting hungry. When you aren't a patient person and you feel like you're only waiting, then it gets really, really hard. Because you can't take anything out of the pot until it's ready and you can't turn the fire up any higher because you aren't the one cooking it. All you can do is WAIT. 

In my current situation, it's really hard for me not to grab things out anyway. Like I said, I'm a doer. I could take control of maybe half the things in the pot if I wanted to dive in head first and not worry about the outcome. But I care a lot about the outcome, so I have to wait. 

The question I've been toying with in the midst of all this waiting: what can I do so I don't think about it?

I don't have all the answers. Heck, I don't have any of the answers. But I'm trying to be patient and I remind myself five times a day that it will be worth it in the end. I have things I can do now. I can do a crit for one of my CPs. I can write, even if it's the crappiest crap ever. I can read or watch shows. I can talk to friends. I can actively look for ways to solve the saving money/moving/finding a job part of life. I can look for ways to encourage other people.

While I wait, I think I need to have a slice of humble pie.

Dean loves pie, though I doubt "humble" is his favorite.

Because I have this thought: We don't like waiting because we feel like we should be the priority. 

I gave you my MS drop everything and read it!...I finished edits, so re-edit them...I want to work with you so just decide and give me an answer so I can move on!...I want out of here; how I can I do that quickly?...{insert other exclamatory here}

But I'm learning, in all this waiting, that *gasp* it is NOT about me. Which is really hard to swallow sometimes. But it's not. And I think I dive into things without planning because I want it to be about me and I don't want to wait for the things I want.

 I'm learning, I may be the one waiting, but I'm not the only one waiting. 

And all of our time is useful, so maybe I need to eat some humble pie and figure out a way to fill up the time. And the best part? Someone else is probably waiting on something too. Never alone. Have some pie.

What about everyone else? Anyone else have this problem? Have any suggestions to share about letting the time pass and being patient without obsessing?? 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Writing with a Crit Partner

Everyone has a different process with their CP--that's the glorious thing about being writer. Let me take you through what a novel looks like for me. Not every novel has the same process, but this is what happened with my last completed MS. Prepare yourself for it is insanity. Welcome to my life.

**Again, reminder: I have four CPs. I know, I know: it is a lot. But each one of them serves a different purpose and interjects into a different stage of my novel writing, and you can refer to yesterday's post if you want more details.**

Rewind to 14 months ago, when I wrote the last line of an MS--let's call it DAGGER (which is not it's real name at all.) I finished DAGGER and it was 120K (yes, for real!) of this story that I loved. I thought it was brilliant and I was pretty proud of the characters, story, plot. I did my own round of edits--typos, read through, etc--and then I sent it to my CP, who was most assuredly gonna love it because I love it. **Back then, I only had Christina, and she's read everything I've written and always does it before anyone else.**

But then, she came back with notes. Lots of notes. Lotsof questions, pacing issues, and you know, some general loveliness. **General loveliness is important!** She asked things like: Why is the character doing this? What did you mean when you wrote this? What's this piece of the plot supposed to do because I'm confused? Why don't you tell me this? And sometimes the notes are smaller, but usually, they're significant questions about my novel. Questions that she shouldn't be asking because I should've answered them. Or issues with pacing or character development or motivation--it varies--but each of the things my CP offers me are detrimental to the story success. 

Then, I had to look at all the things Christina suggested, asked, and wondered about and figure out how to fix them. Revision is a key element of writing a book. As I saw on twitter once: Revision is re-evaluating the VISION. This took me a month or so that first time. Then I queried, got some feedback on how to fix it MORE and revised more. **I rewrote seven times total before I finished**

Now let's flash forward to about eight-five months ago. 

This is where other CPs (and beta readers) come into play. Patricia and I spent A LOT of time trying to move the story in a different direction, to flesh out the questions, to build the motivation--and she never read the previous drafts, but she completely helped me shape where the story was going. Then, she would read chapters as I wrote them, which usually made no sense since she didn't have the context. When it was done, she read it completely again to make sure it flowed well and that everything still worked.

Once I was happy with that, I sent it back to Christina. She looked at it again and (having read 4 of the 7 rewrites) her feedback was again helpful and more directed. She and Patricia really helped me clean up the story, the characters, all the things left behind from seven rewrites. After Christina approved, I passed it on to my beta readers. I only had two and both were strictly reading. And that's not including the people who read early drafts. Then, at some point, Cindy and Jenn got it and did more of the line-edit/overall process of the story. (Because at that point I wasn't changing anything major!) 

Usually, my books don't have this big of a process. But the problem I encountered was that I exhausted my initial readers/CPs at drafts one and two. So, when draft seven came around, there wasn't anyone new. New, fresh eyes are important because the more you see something, the closer you are to it, then you have hangings of things that used to be instead of what are. **Example: in RENT (movie) there's a deleted scene for Goodbye Love and I love that song. I watched it once with my friend and that song didn't come on! I was so confused as to why it wasn't there because I totally watched it. But then, I remembered it was a deleted scene. That song being in (or not being in) the movie completely changes the story.**

Whew! That was a really short summary of fifteen long, long months. So thankful for my HUGE team.

This WIP is different. Really different.

Patricia has helped me develop and brainstorm, and Christina reads each chapter as I write it. Just for reading pleasure and not for critiquing. Eventually, when the whole thing is ready, she'll read it again for critting purposes...and then I'll pass it on to all my other CPs. Since they all read at different stages, it's really helpful for getting new and fresh perspectives on the novel. 

That's the purpose of having a CP after all--building this trusting relationship where you can get honest feedback and perspective on your book that you can't have as a writer. And cookies....cookies are good too. 

What's your process like??

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Two Peas in a Word Pod

Having a Crit Partner is like sharing your brain space. In my head, it's gotta be a little like what twins go through. Because you are your own person, with your style, dreams,  ideas--but then along comes someone else who's all up in your space too. You have to be okay with it, to embrace it, to function and still try go your own way--even if there's someone else out there with your face. But you're a twin, so you've also got to consider your other half in each step you take because you can't share space with someone and not be bonded. It's a little disarming

This is what having a crit partner is like. 

Through the process of writing (or editing or re-writing) a book, you have this other person all up in your space--creatively--and you have to be okay with it, to embrace it, to function and still keep your story YOURS. And, what's even more, you have to take what they say and suggest and LISTEN because you've invited them into your space and now you're stuck with the person. You can't share a space with another person and completely ignore them. It's impossible.

You are two peas in a word pod.

You exist, together, to make this one story be the best it can be--and to do that you have to be on the same page. You have to share a space.

I have four CPs and sometimes my brain space gets a little crowded. But it wasn't always that way. I used to have one: Christina. She's the only person who has read every single thing I've written (I mean, excluding my early days of fanfic and bad poetry from middle school.) From the beginning, Christina fit in my space. I remember those first pages we exchanged and the way she pulled out these errors and thoughts and questions from my MS and threw them up in the air. I did the same to her. I knew immediately I wanted to work with her

The more we worked together, the more we learned the flow and rhythm of the other person. Where I was weak in description and action, she was strong. Where I was strong in characters and overall plot, she was weak. We were a perfect pair--literally, two peas in a word pod. We fit in each other's space. And, even more, we liked each other's writing. 

Those two things are probably the most important thing when you're searching for or working with a CP. 

I think should also point out that the title of "CP" can be applied in a bunch of different ways and I don't think every writer has the same kinds. Christina is still my #1 go to with my stuff--before anyone else reads it she does--because I know that she'll be able to find exactly what it needs and help me fix it. But then I have the others--and the beta readers (which are different from a CP because they are reading the MS and not offering writing help). 

But with my other three, Patricia is more of my "brainstorming" CP. When I'm stuck or something's not working, I know I can talk to her and she can help me figure out the answer. She always seems to know what my story needs, what my characters would or wouldn't do and how to move things up a level. Cindy is great at fine tuning my thoughts and scenes. She can look at something and ask me questions. She's even line editing my current MS, which no one else really does at all. Jenn is my last CP because I save her for the end.  She will either confirm that it is "ready" or tell me that it's not. Plus, she's just all sorts of fun and happiness and encouraging excitement. ALL of them offer a lot of (much needed) encouragement through the process. Cheerleading CPs are awesome. 

However you want to title them, a CP is so important to a writer. It teaches you how to work in a group, how to write better, how to look more objectively at your own work and it challenges you. When you invite someone else into that inner-circle, you're opening yourself up to sharing your space. Sometimes, it will not be easy. But always, always, it's worth it. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Balancing Critiquing with Writing

My critique partners are amazing. They are kind, honest and quick. They always listen to me and tell me the truth when something isn't working. I honestly don't know what I'd do without them.

That being said, sometimes I feel like the worst crit partner ever. I may be honest and supportive when it comes to critiquing my partner's work, one thing I'm not is quick. It almost always takes me twice as long to get their MS back to them as it did for them to read mine. It's not that I don't love their story or their writing. It's not. It's the time I have in which to critique versus write.

I am the stay at home mom of two young boys. It's very, very rare for me to have time to read during the day, and you can pretty much forget about writing. I just can't focus when my sons (2 yo & 4 yo) are so needy. So when I finally get my children in the bed at night, all I want to do is write. I miss writing during the day and I've been thinking about it all day, with my characters running through my mind completely unleashed. It's my favorite part of the day.

That, however, isn't fair to my critique partners. They deserve the same amount of attention that they provide me, and I know that. I try to plan when I'll be able to read through a MS, so that I can get it back to them quickly, but it just never works as well as I'd like.

What I've learned is that I need a balance between my writing time and my critique time. Just as Christina said yesterday, critiquing others can make you a better writer. There is no doubt in my mind that this is true. I've learned so much just from reading their manuscripts and truly look forward to starting any new ones they are writing.

I realize I'm not exactly telling you how to achieve that balance, but I feel like finding it is as unique as each writer. You could have a set amount to read each day before allowing yourself to write. You could not let yourself write until you've read the whole MS. You could do it a number of ways. The important thing is that you remember to do it.

Balance between critiquing and writing isn't always easy for me, but I know it's necessary and my critique partners deserve nothing less.

Also, I posted this to my own blog earlier this week, but because it keeps inspiring me, I wanted to share it with you as well:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Critiquing Others Can Make You a Better Writer

Hey guys! Welcome to our new segment on Critique Partners!

Let me tell you, there are so many things I didn't know when I started out on this writing journey. So many things. One of those things was Critique Partners. When I started writing, all I had were a couple of my sisters that were willing to read the cruddy stuff I had written and cheer me on (later I learned these people are usually referred to as Alpha readers). Anyway, I didn't know who or what Crit Partners/Beta readers were when I started writing.

Eventually, I stumbled upon the term and Googled/talked to other people and found out who these lovely people are! And because of my critique partners I know my writing has gotten stronger, and continues to with there help.

The thing I didn't know when finding my CP's though, is that critiquing and editing their work would help me with mine too. Just like with writing, I believe that critiquing a work of writing is a skill that you can develop and grow.

As I learned how to critique my partners' works I also figured out how to better edit and revise my own. Isn't easier to see what's wrong with someone else's stuff than your own? If I'm being honest, that's how it is for me. I'm so close to my stories that I don't always see what's wrong with them. My CP's certainly help me with that. They point out things that I don't even notice and I do the same for them. (I hope!) I learn what they need help with--and, sometimes, those are areas where I need help too, I just can't see it.

With learning how to help my CPs, I've also learned how to look more closely at my own work. How to take the critiquing skills that I have developed with looking at their work and turn it onto my own. So, all in all, I believe that with having crit partners, not only are you helping them, but you're also helping yourself by honing your skills in editing/revising/critiquing.

(I also hope this post made some sort of sense you guys. I think this whole Spring Forward business is messing with me, so I apologize for any incoherent rambling!)

What do you guys think about critique partners? Does having them help you learn to do your own edits & revisions better? Let us know what you think!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Check-In

Time for another check-in where we share what we've gotten (or haven't gotten) done this last week!

Christina: This last week I wrote 4500words in my WiP. I'm so so sooo close to finishing and have been trying to step it up. Between work and life and everything in between, I'm pretty happy with how much I got done. This coming week I have quite a few plans, but I'm really hoping to write about the same amount.

Patricia: This week I started a new editing project for my Spencer Hill Press internship AND started a new internship with Stacy Abrams at Entangled Publishing! I am loving both internships and having a great time reading through slush and working on projects. I also had the amazing pleasure of reading Jennifer Rush's debut ALTERED which I will be working into many, many posts in the months to come. So many great writing techniques to talk about! On the writing front, I only added 600 words to my WIP, but you know what they say... slow and steady wins the race. :) I also did some basic sketching of a new idea thanks to a new brainstorming game that Danielle and Cindy came up with!

Cindy: I feel so unproductive compared to my wonderful blog partners, Christina and Patricia. I didn't write anything last week at all. Nothing. I was still trying to get caught up on some critique reading, and never quite made it to my own MS. That will change this week, as I've already devoted a little time to it. Let's hope that this week will be a more productive writing week!

Friday, March 9, 2012


We dropped the ball this week. 

Things got a BIT crazy.

We'll be back next week with a segment ALL about Crit Partners. 

But here,


...and you ARE welcome. 


 the Tangled Girls

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Making it Believable- Freefall by Mindi Scott

Hello there lovelies, this is Roxo from TheBeautifulOnes. I am very glad to be doing this post here with the Tangled girls.

So I am going to show you how to make characters believable, from Mindi Scott's beautiful debut, Freefall. She actually is going to have her second book, Live Through This published in the fall, so, check it out, she has beautiful prose.

In case you didn't read Freefall,(you totally should), here's a quick synopsis:

Seth has been the first to see his best friend dead. And the way he had died wasn't exactly dignifying. Neither was Seth's life. It's a slap in the face for him, facing death like that. He realizes that he should better wake up and start over. It's easy to say, but much harder to do; until he meets Rosetta and he finds out that other people have issues as well. Together, they learn to overcome them.
This is, in short, the plot of Freefall. The book has a very strong and credible male POV, a thing you rarely find in Young Adult fiction these days, especially now that most of it has female main characters.
As a writer of non-paranormal I was delightful to find out there's no magic around, and as I breathed the book in, I tried to learn as much as I could from the craft.


I will be starting at the beginning of the novel and provide examples. I'm going to try my best not to give away any spoilers.

The books starts with a party, and even though we are not explicitly told, the reader can infer that Seth has a troubled mind. There are hints to disclose his torment and his right from the very beginning:
The room I was trying not to go into was exactly where I kept ending up; the stuff I was trying not to drink was exactly what I'd been chugging all night.

The suggestion is simple and to the point, so the reader can easily understand the character. The male voice is clearly distinguishable from the somewhat more poetic and connotative discourse of the female characters.
As the story continues, the male voice becomes more and more distinct, as we learn how he puts up with the real problems in life of a messed-up teenager.


The back door slid across its track.
Open: loud music/ laughing/ talking.
Closed: muffled music/ laughing/ talking

As writers, we should know everything in a scene.
We have it in our minds, we press pause and everything freezes. That is when we detach from the window we're watching, and go investigate the surroundings of the scene in our head. We should see all the details: the lines across one's t-shirt, the way a hair stands out, unyielding to stay in place, one character's frown and another fidgeting with his keys. We should know what color the sky is at every moment and whether the cars are loud or if there's shouting in the streets. We must feel the smell of exhaust and taste the food we're feeding our characters. 
But they wouldn't perceive it all. They would only see things according to their personality. A sensible girl would notice the fresh air and the soft grass under her toes, Seth McCoy notices the factors that disturb his silence.

To make her laugh again, I said, “All right. Fine. Be that way.”
It didn't work at all; I sounded like a dickhead.

What makes Mindi Scott's male voice believable is exactly situations like this one. As much as we love sarcastic comments and awesome dialogue, it doesn't happen in real life. This does: awkward, out of line responses, bad jokes and even worse attempts to fix the situation.
The approach here depends very much on the type of novel you want to write, and I have to admit it is risky to take this path, as people read to distance themselves from real, crappy life. Even with this risk, though, you have to make sure the dialogue sounds real. It helps if you read it aloud.

Another thing that makes us (well, me, at least) wonder in books is the sudden change a character makes. While that might work well in the whole plot and offer us an example worth reading, Seth's change is slow. Actually, the whole book is about this one change.
Imagine him saying: “I am going to stop drinking right now!”. For the rest of the novel we would have seen him fighting with the decision. But Mindi Scott has another technique. Check it out:

I wanted to try not drinking for a while and see where it went.

It's just like real life. You're never going to start running every day if you make a New Year's Resolution. But it might become a habit if one day in April, you might go for a run in the park, just to clear our mind. And then you realize you like it and then you go the next day, and the one after it, and you turn it into a habit.
My point is that you should imagine if what your character does is something you, or any person would do in real life. A strong character might do sudden changes, of course, but the motivation should be very well pointed out, and just as strong.


We weren't much closer than we'd been before,[...]. I breathed in her flowery shampoo until we'd dropped all the golf balls in. Then I reluctantly stood and helped her up.

This description sounds really natural, right?

My basic point is, to make something believable you have to examine it very well in real life, note all the details, extract the meaningful ones for your character and put it in words so that rendering it, the feeling remains the same.
I don't think there is a book to tell you exactly how to write, how to put down word by word. Good writing is maintaining the emotion, no matter of how it is written.

So that was it. Leave your suggestions in the comments. Tell me, what do you do to make characters feel true?
Lovsies, Roxo!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Check-in

We get to share what we did or didn't do last week---and what we want to do this week. As always, feel free to chime in and tell us your goal

Danielle: I did nothing last week. And when I say "nothing" I am not being generous. I read a few things, but I did nothing. This week doesn't look so hot, but I'm definitely going to try to write something new! We'll see. And on Friday night I go to London---so yay!! So excited. Too excited to focus! This is gonna be the longest week ever...If you have suggestions of something to do, by all means leave me a comment.

Christina: This week I wrote about 2k. I keep saying I'm going to write more then I get all lazy and don't get past 2k. This week I REALLY am going to try to get more written--at least 4k. It's hard getting off work and having the motivation to sit down and get writing done instead of just picking up a good book to read! Anyway, I'm getting so close to the end this WiP! (Yay!) so someone yell at me if I don't get more than 2k written this week!

What are you up to this week??