Friday, September 28, 2012

Dissecting Genre: Science Fiction

I don't know about you but when I was younger, when I heard science fiction, I thought Star Wars and aliens and other crazy-eyed creatures that maybe had green rubbery skin and, well, think Randall from Monsters, Inc.

So suffice it to say that I was never terribly interested in reading science fiction books until I had critique partners who were writing it. And now that I've been introduced to these amazing novels, all of which do NOT have slimy, rubbery Randall-esque characters, I know it's a genre I'll always love. There are just so many things you can do with it. So many.

Let's start with two of my favorites that defy my old beliefs:

CINDER by Marissa Meyer was everything I never knew I wanted in a young adult novel. Well, okay, I do love those old fairy tales, so that's mostly why I picked this one up. But what I didn't expect was to find myself rooting for a cyborg who's character I grew attached to within pages. The world in CINDER is painted with such an expertise that every single moment and every single aspect of the story become believable. And isn't that the hardest part about writing a novel that isn't based in reality? The author has to make us believe. Marissa Meyer does that easily.

Source: via Misty on Pinterest

OBSIDIAN by Jennifer L. Armentrout creates another world  of believability. With it's surprisingly high alient counts and hot alien boy-next-door, OBSIDIAN is all kinds of fun. As a book blogger herself, the main character Katy is likeable and easy to connect with. And let's not forget Daemon. He's gorgeous, a total jerk, and did I mention totally otherworldly? What Daemon loses in likeability, he makes up for in chemistry and witty dialogue. So while one element of the story is something as foreign as aliens, the majority of the story isn't really about aliens at all.

And that brings me to my main point: It's not the genre that sells me as a reader. It's the story. If an author chooses to write about pixies who sniff charcoal to keep their hair black, and dragons who dress like pirates, I'll still read it if I can connect with the characters. Science fiction is no different. Aliens and spaceships won't convince me to read a book, but a well thought out plot will. 

I know I won't enjoy every single science fiction novel out there. Not every book is for every person and all that jazz, but I no longer shirk them in favor of some other genre that I feel more comfortable with. I enjoy being pleasantly surprised, and what better surprise is it than when you find yourself totally engrossed in a book you would haven't normally picked up? 

Some of our favorite science fiction books are (aside from those mentioned above):

The Host by Stephanie Meyer
For Darkness Shows the Stars
Across The Universe by Beth Revis
Hourglass by Myra McEntire

What are your favorite science fiction novels? Share with us in the comments! 


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dissecting Genre: Fairy Tale Re-Tellings

Tale(s) as old as time…

For many of us, watching Disney movies is the first recollection we have of fairy tales. Watching beautiful princesses find their true love and embrace their destiny all while dressing like a million bucks and singing catchy tunes with the household objects/animals/local fairies. And as Disney movies have been around for many, many years (the first Disney movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was released in 1936), fairy tale re-tellings are not a new trend.
In YA literature, however, they have become a genre all their own over the past few years. That’s not to say that there were never any YA fairy tale retellings before, but now more than ever you can walk into a bookstore and, if you so desire, walk out with a pile of YA fairy tale retellings that rivals Gus-Gus’ armload of cheese nibblets.

The great thing about this explosion of fairy tale reinventions is the spectrum of genres they span. While some fairy tale retellings remain light and happy, a homage to the warm and fuzzy feelings of those childhood movies, others dare to go darker in a tribute to the darkness of many of the original tales. All of them bring us closer to the child within us, reminding us of the first time we heard or saw that story and expanding our imaginations by challenging us to re-imagine those long-held memories of the characters in new and magical worlds and situations. They bring back the relationship we have to those iconic characters but in a way that allows us to re-discover those roles and connect with them on a more relatable level as we see the stories through the eyes of characters our own age (or an age we have been). This is especially true of contemporary re-tellings, which share well-known stories in the framework of our everyday lives, and the best of these help to illuminate the magic that is possible in our everyday lives. 
Some of my favorite fairy tale re-tellings recently have incorporated multiple well-known fairy tales into a world where our old friends continue on past the stories we know and love. Others bring to life fairy tales I never heard as a child, stories from other countries and cultures that find a place in my heart alongside the stories I’ve known all my life. 
This trend toward re-imagination of classic stories has also directed attention towards authors who have taken the genre a step further and given us brand new fairy tales that allow us to experience the joy of reading a fairy tale for the very first time. These stories are not always branded with a FAIRY TALE stamp, but you know them when you read them by that feeling they give you – the one that makes you curl up in a corner and feel like a kid embarking on a magical journey and then leaves you believing in happily ever after (or in the case of some of the darker tales, that justice catches up with the wicked.)
As much as I loved discovering fairy tales as a child, I think I enjoy discovering and re-discovering these stories even more as an adult. There’s a magic in fairy tales that you just can’t find anywhere else in literature and I hope I’ll always be able to find it – in stories, new and old.  
Some of our favorites:
Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge (Adult poetry re-tellings. Creepy and fabulous.)
Once Upon a Time (TV SERIES – cheating, I know, but it’s JUST. THAT. GOOD)
The Tenth Kingdom (Miniseries, now on Netflix – also cheating and also JUST. THAT. GOOD.)

What are your favorite fairy tale re-tellings? Any favorite fairy tales you'd love to see as a YA novel?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dissecting Genre: Magical Realism

Hey everyone! Sorry for the late post tonight. It's been a crazy day, because...

I now have a literary agent!  Hurray!  I'm now part of the family at Veritas Literary.  Check out my blog to read some of the details.  I'm so thrilled!

Ah... ahem.  And now, onto the post!

Ah, Magical Realism! My favorite genre, and the one that gets me the most confused looks when I try to explain it. So, why don't we start there?

What is Magical Realism?

I've seen agents complain that they get queries for 'magical realism' manuscripts that are really urban fantasy manuscripts.  I think these two genres are often confused.  Urban Fantasy is when a fantasy world meets our real world (originally, specifically in an urban setting, though that seems to have fallen away somewhat), whereas Magical Realism is more integrated than that.  In Magical Realism, the fantastic is part of the every day, making the every day seem fantastic.

Bruce Holland Rogers writes, "magical realist writers write the ordinary as miraculous and the miraculous as ordinary. The ice that gypsies bring to the tropical village of Macondo in One Hundred Years of Solitude is described with awe. How can such a substance exist? It is so awesomely beautiful that characters find it difficult to account for or describe. But it's not just novelties such as a first encounter with ice that merit such description. The natural world comes in for similar attention. The behavior of ants or the atmosphere of a streamside oasis are described in details that match objective experience, but which remind us that the world is surprising and seemingly full of design and purpose.

The miraculous, on the other hand, is described with a precision that fits it into the ordinariness of daily life. ...An even better example is the character who is so beautiful that she is followed everywhere by a cloud of butterflies. This extraordinary trait is brought to earth somewhat by the observation that all of the butterflies have tattered wings. The miraculous, looked at closely, is mundane." (link)

In other words, the every day is described so carefully, so imaginatively, that it reminds us of the magical world we live in throughout our normal lives, and the fantastic is described as part of that world seamlessly, so that it only highlights the awe of every bit of ordinary life.

What does it do?

One way I like to look at Magical Realism is as something like an impressionist painting.  Impressionists used 'unrealistic' colors and shapes to depict the world in order to more accurately capture their perceptions of the world.  Have you ever tried to take a photograph of a place, only to find that the result is nowhere near what you perceived?  This happens to me frequently, especially in wide open spaces or landscapes. My photographs of the Russian steppe or the Negev Desert don't begin to capture the awe of those gorgeous expanses of earth and sky.  But I find there are paintings of these locales that do, or come much closer to. Using a wider palette of colors, depth, and physics than 'reality' strictly allows, enables artists to capture that 'reality' far more accurately.

Magical Realism, when done well, achieves the same result in literature. When I'm reading Magical Realism is when I most frequently stop and think, "YES! That is what falling in love is like."  "YES! That is what grieving is like."  "YES! That is what living is like." So magical.  Our lives are so magical.

For some examples, I recommend 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, and Big Fish (film).  Lindsey recommends On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta.  I'm also pretty excited about Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz, which is set to come out in January.

What about you? What Magical Realism do you love? Or do you have a different definition to add?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dissecting Genre: Fantasy

I have always loved fantasy--light and whimsical, or dark and devastating. I grew up on Narnia, Oz, Madeleine L'Engle, Robert Jordan, and Sarah Douglass. And I don't think it was the sorcery or the ancient prophecies or the excessive usage of "e"s (Ye Olde Taverne) that compelled me to read and write fantasy, either, though those elements didn't hurt! It all comes down to one awesome feature:

You get to write the rules.

Heterochromia = an exceptional talent? Done. Brain inhabited by squawking bagpipe players? Make it happen. Sorcerers hoarding gemstones they popped out of dead folks' belly buttons? Shine on, you crazy diamond.

(Those would be Graceling, Seraphina, and The Girl of Fire and Thorns, for those keeping score.)

Fantasy lets you pull on the Power-Glove and  magic up whatever bizarre, surreal, unbelievable, or frighteningly believable world you can imagine. If you need that mountain ridge to curve just so to explain two thousand years of tension between kingdoms, then you can do it. If you need to build a whole cultural zeitgeist around something to conceal a major plot point, that's well within your right.

But there's always a catch.

You have to live and breathe your fantasy world. Your characters have to inhabit whatever maniacal, goofball, dreadful world you've created for them, and sell us on its feasibility. We have to see the way things are in that world--in as unobtrusive a way as possible, of course! no infodumping!--and understand why your characters have to interact with their world in the way they do. You can write whatever rules you want, but once you've made them, you have to own them.

Sell us on your world, and the plot and characters that inhabit it, and you'll have mastered fantasy!

What do you love about fantasy? Is it the common fantasy setting itself--swords and sorcery and pseudo-medieval politics? Is it the possibility? Is it the idea of interacting with a plot on an epic, world-shattering scale? Share your favorite parts of fantasy--and your favorite reads--in the comments! I'm always dying for new recommendations.

Here are some of the Tangled girls' favorite fantasy reads:

Christina- Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Lindsay-Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Danielle-Fire by Kristin Cashore
Ariane-Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Cindy-Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Patricia-Firelight by Sophie Jordan


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dissecting Genre: Dystopian Edition

This segment we're discussing genres and why we love the ones we do. And my post probably won't be quite as elegantly said as Danielle's. I'll probably just ramble about my love for dystopian stories, so forgive me for that!

All in all, I love just about any out there in the YA world. If it's well written, has engaging characters that I care about, and a great plot then it doesn't really matter what genre, to be honest.

But there are some stories that I have a soft spot for. Give me Greek mythology or mermaids or a falsely perfect world/completely ruined world and I'll probably like it. A lot.

And that's why I read and love dystopian. I know it's a trend that's fading out, but I'm not sure I'll ever tire of it. One of the main staples in dystopian is the world/society being broken in some way. Usually there's either an imperfect world that tries to hide the flaws or it's an openly broken world.

I love the societies that are set up as being supremely perfect when really they're a mess. A terrible ruined mess. I like seeing the characters either struggle to learn the truth or watch them figure out how to deal with already seeing behind the curtain of lies.

Or the other way around, where the world is already destroyed and there's no hiding that. I love how those characters have to learn to survive this damaged world where the rules of society no longer exist.

In either scenario, there's this huge obstacle that's not always tangible that they have to overcome. Sometimes it's a controlling government or a fracture lawless society, or something else, but these things put a lot of pressure on the character to measure up to that obstacle. And that's why I think I'll always be a fan of a good dystopian book. You might start out with a weak character, but in the end they usually come out strong. The characters change where their society can't. They grow, evolve, and define themselves in a new way despite the stagnant and destroyed worlds they live in.

And not only that, they change--for good or bad--the world they are in. Like a ripple effect. Sometimes it's just the characters around them and sometimes it is the whole world they live in that they alter. It's the characters and how they change themselves and their world by overcoming these huge obstacles that I love reading about in dystopian stories.

So, if you also like dystopian stories, what is it that you love? What makes you come back again and again to them? I only touched on a few aspects of this genre. I know there's a lot more that could be said about it, but I didn't want to ramble too much! So if you have another reason, shout it out!

And if you don't like them, why not? I'd love to hear your thoughts too!

Also, a little side note: I grew up on sci-fi and while dystopian isn't usually considered quite that (I like to think of them as siblings), it still has that futuristic feel to me that I like about sci-fi, so one more little reason for me to love it. :)

And also! Some recommendations! Can't forget those!

Christina's: Matched by Ally Condie
Lindsay's: Divergent by Veronica Roth
Danielle's: The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
Cindy's: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Patricia: Follow Me Through Darkness (the MS of our very own Danielle! Sorry guys, you'll have to wait for this awesomeness!)


Monday, September 17, 2012

Dissecting Genre: Why I Fell for Contemp

Guys, I've fallen in love--with contemporary. Two years ago I would read a contemp book here or there, but that was all. In fact, I remember when I read those first few contemp books: I Now Pronounce You Someone Else, 13 Reasons Why, Heist Society. I remember the first one that made me cry (like, ugly snot cry!) was The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney. And when I read Anna and The French Kiss I wanted more like it, but there was nothing. So, I stayed in my magical worlds--worlds filled with hot boys who could turn into werewolves. I was happy. 

Then somewhere, somehow, I fell. I can't place it. I don't know what book made that happen, or where I was, or anything. All I know is now, I thirst for a good YA contemporary. I don't care if it's light and happy or dark and twisty--I just want it. It has been the best discovery ever. 

"Character is power." ~Booker T. Washington

This is what makes a good contemporary: characters. 

When I was a kid, I read all those kids-with-cancer-or-other-serious-disease books. Yes, those. (I've been mocked. I can handle it.) I loved them, and not because of the sadness (not all of them were sad!) or the sickness: because of the characters. In every situation in those books, the characters were different. They had various voices, various backgrounds, various diseases and problems beyond that which I somehow connected with. I had a tough life as a kid, and I think I found some sort of solace knowing there were people who had it worse than me. I also watched A LOT of TV as kid--something which is completely driven by characters who were always dealing with problems. (Have you seen Boy Meets World??)

I love reading contemp because I love meeting these people who are letting us into their lives. Sometimes, it's over a longer period of time; sometimes a short moment; sometimes through a problem. There's not magic to fix a problem. There's no "let's blow up this building" because you don't know what else to do. There are characters who have to own up to whatever they are dealing with and work through it. 

I've talked before about Promises Made, Promises Kept--the idea that whatever you introduce in a story must be delivered on by the end. Contemporary books, in particular, have this notion in a two-fold manner. 1) You have the actual plot of the book and 2) the character. The reason contemp must have powerful characters is because so much of the plot is the evolution of the character. Whatever problem the character is facing in the plot, usually somehow changes the character by the time the plot is resolved. I love that! I love meeting a person with x going on and in order to move beyond x must get out of her own way. I think, whatever the issue, contemporary books are empowering. 

"I can achieve that by personally relating the words that I am saying to something I have known in my life." Mandy Patinkin

Contemp books are relatable!

When I started reading, the last thing I ever wanted was to relate to this person undergoing incredible suffering--or boy drama or life-altering decisions, or whatever! But we all go through that. It's so easy to find yourself, or some aspect of your life, in a contemp book.

 The dreams I had as a teen (and now) are alive on those pages. Some of the things I felt or suffered or hoped for or questioned can be found in the MC's life. This isn't to say that doesn't happen in other genres--but in other genres there is magic or bigger reasons or hot boys to lead the way. Real life doesn't always have those. Or ever. (Thanks, Sabrina, for lying to me about that, you witch.)

"Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great." ~Mark Twain

I think there's something---refreshing!---about getting to experience someone else's life for a few hours. It may be worse than yours, or better, or just FUN, but it offers this sort of hope for your own life. At least, I think so.  The characters resonate with me long after the story has ended--and that's why I love reading contemp. 

 Each of the Tangled Girls give you our top picks (favorites!) for this genre! 

Christina: Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Lindsay: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Ariane: Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Cindy: The Statistical Probabilty of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Patricia: The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer
Danielle: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry; Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers; Clean by Amy Reed; Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins; Stolen by Lucy Christopher. 

Why do you read contemporary?? What are some books you love? Why do you love them?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Big News, Book Nostalgia, and an Impromptu Pitch Contest

So last week there was a wonderful feature article about Spencer Hill Press in Publishers Weekly. (You can read the article here!) And, as if that wasn't exciting enough, it was also the official announcement of my most recent secret project! After waiting (impatiently :) for many months, I am thrilled to announce that the amazing Kate Kaynak has asked me to head up our new YA Contemporary imprint, SPENCER HILL CONTEMPORARY! 

I am so excited to be able to share this incredible news with all of you and share (in just a few short weeks!) some of the amazing titles we will be publishing in 2013! Contemporary YA has always been a great love of mine and I could not be happier about having the opportunity to work with some absolutely incredible authors and books!
Spencer Hill Contemporary is going to publish the full spectrum of YA contemporary titles -- from light, sparkly comedies to darker, edgier dramas. All of these books will bring to life vivid, authentic teen voices and stories.

In honor of this amazing news, I wanted to do an impromptu pitch contest here on the blog! We have plans to do a few of these over the next few months, but this one is going to be a bit more specific than most. 

I'm looking for a contemporary YA romance or romantic comedy that takes place over the winter holidays. Think Anna and the French Kiss -- but during the holidays. Or something like Jenny Han's The Summer I Turned Pretty series -- at New Year's. The best example I can think of is Louise Plummer's The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman. First published in 1995, this is my absolute favorite holiday YA. It's not the holidays until I've done my annual re-read of this adorable, snarky love story about a budding romance writer who falls for her older brother's best friend. 

So here are the rules! The contest will be open until September 25th. In the comments below include your title, word count, and a pitch of no more than 50 words. I am looking for completed, polished manuscripts, though I would consider a work-in-progress if the pitch really blows me away. Please include some way for me to contact you. I will email the winners to request pages after the contest closes. 

Thank you to everyone who has been celebrating with the Spencer Hill Press team over on Twitter and Facebook! Stay tuned for some very exciting book announcements in the next few weeks!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Why I Like Twilight

Yeah, I'm going there.

When I tell people that I write YA novels, I almost invariably receive the response - "Oh, like Twilight?"  Depending on the person, this comes off as disgust or extreme enthusiasm, but rarely anything in between.  I answer that I write for the same target audience, but very different novels.

But one thing I never do is take this comment as an insult.

Because... I like Twilight.

I think many YA writers are grateful for Twilight.  YA has been an ever evolving genre since its origins, and in my perception, Stephenie Meyer blew the gates to YA wide open and the genre literally exploded.  Since Twilight, the YA shelf at my local bookstores turned into shelves.  Yes, you see a lot of the oft-complained of Twilight imitators, but you see a lot of innovation too, growing up in the cracks the Twilight explosion left behind.  There are thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of people who read YA now that didn't before, because they discovered the genre through Twilight.  There are thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of people who write YA now, or write at all, who didn't before, because they discovered a love of storytelling through Twilight.  And I always see more readers and writers as a good thing.  Our lives  need more storytelling, period.

But I won't stop there.  I like Twilight for itself, and not just for what I believe it has done for the industry. On a basic level, I am in awe of a woman who was a full time mom and had a dream so vivid that she sat down every night, or every time her kids were at swim lessons, and wrote wrote wrote.  She wrote an entire book.  She wrote four books, more than that if you count all of the extra books we haven't seen.  I think writings books is hard.  I can only imagine writing books when you have a husband and three sons is that much harder.  And to write a semi-racy set of vampire novels, based on a dream, when surrounded by testosterone, especially considering the cultural and religious background in which she was raised, and then to write queries, send it out, share it with the world, and stand by it through the vitriol flung at it and her... that takes balls.  And I admire that tremendously.  I have a hard time, sometimes, stringing words together for my critique partners.

But I won't stop there, because I like Twilight as a book. I won't even stop at "it entertained me," even though it did.  No.  Twilight inspired me.

I am a quarter of a century old. I've loved deeply and lost horribly.  I've traveled the world, and lived abroad. I have a couple degrees and have studied at some of the most rigorous institutions of higher learning on the globe. I've always considered myself a feminist, and a rather ardent one at that.  And you know what?  I have a lot of respect for Bella Swan.

Yes, respect. Because Bella, so often criticized for her lack of personality and priorities, knows absolutely what she wants, whom she loves, and the person she wants to be, and she chases these things down with intense courage and faith.

Bella is dismissed because what she wants is love, as if that's less valid than wanting a career or some other goal. We've all seen the quote, "Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend." (usually attributed to Stephen King, but I can't find the interview where he supposedly said it).  I've always found this comparison outrageously unfair.  Do all books need to be Harry Potter?  Do all books need to have a didactic message? Who said Twilight was trying to be another Harry Potter, anyway?

But even if so, Twilight is about following your heart and being steadfast to it, which Bella is.  There is a point in Breaking Dawn, after she transforms, in which she realizes that she's a vampire so naturally.  As if she were always meant to be one. And Bella is about as perfectly content at the end of the books as she could possibly be.  She knew the moment she fell for Edward what she wanted her life to look like, and in the face of all discouragement and mortal danger, she made her dream a reality.

The disparagement comes because her dream is dubbed ridiculous. Why? Anyone who's fallen desperately in love knows the sensation to drop everything and run away with that person.  If you've been in love like that, you know how everything else in life fades and loses its potency, work and everyday tasks turn into the wah-wah-wah talking of a parent in a Charlie Brown cartoon.  We crucify Bella for experiencing what we all have, but the only difference is that Bella does drop everything.  She does turn away from her ordinary life.  She lets herself get swept away and she loves every moment of it.

And because Twilight is fiction, I love it. Twilight is not Meyer's etiquette guide for young girls.  It is not a self-help book. It is a story about that amazing leap of blind faith and love and lust and bliss that most of us can never take - but at least we can indulge it a little in a book! As a feminist I do not find Twilight threatening, because I don't for a moment believe this is Meyer prescribing a mode of behavior for teenage girls, rather tapping into an intensity that all teenage girls have and allowing it, in her novel, to spiral out.  And any teenager who sees the book as non-fiction speaks more to the bleakness of her reality, than the errors in fiction.  I do not hold Meyer, as writer and entertainer, responsible for the void that parents, family, friends, school, and society should help fill for teenage girls.

At the opening of Breaking Dawn is a quote by Edna St. Vincent Millay:
"Childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age The child is grown, and puts away childish things. Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies."

Meyer, and Bella, choose a story in which childish abandon and devotion to dreams is allowed to flourish for a lifetime (an endless lifetime), and I find that extremely compelling and inspiring, even if I would apply that abandon to other aspirations in my life.  I think it is a devotion that all writers must have.

Friday, September 7, 2012

That Insidious Predator

It hunts you down when you’re exhausted, powering through a first draft in search of the finish line. Or maybe when you’ve just settled in for a long night of revisions, it calls to you. It can strike as you try to fall asleep, or wake you up before your alarm goes off.

The Shiny New Idea.

Mine usually start with a situation, and then the attendant plot structure and necessary characters spin off of that. The function comes first. But I know plenty of people who find their characters first, their form for the book, and grow the plot out of that.

But how do you tackle that idea when it’s not yet time? When you’re caught up in your old love, or maybe multiple ones, and can’t make brainspace for whatever comes next?

If you’re a plotter, can you step outside of your current work long enough to get the outline down on paper? Or maybe you trust that if the idea is good enough, real enough, it’ll patiently sort itself out in the back of your mind so that once you have the time, it’ll be ready and waiting and all gussied up.

Or maybe you have to word-vomit anything and everything associated with the new idea before you can trust that it’ll stay put. When my new idea woke me up last weekend, I had to sit down, write out her first few paragraphs and a few bullet points, and then get on with my day. Otherwise my MC and her story would wander back into that jumble of isotopes in my head, never to collide and form a full-fledged atom again.

Whatever your method, I think we’ve all faced the dark fear of running out of ideas. I have a bullet point list of at least twenty books I want to write eventually, and I still fret about reaching the end of that list someday and having nowhere to go. Which is ridiculous, because it feels like each book I go through the writing and revising process with spawns at least ten more ideas, usually completely unrelated to the task at hand.

How do you tackle those shiny, sparkly plot-predators? Do you succumb to them, indulge them just long enough to keep them happy, or ignore them completely until the task at hand is done? Are you desperately in need of a new idea and fantasizing about smothering me with a pillow for daring to suggest that there are more ideas than hours in the day?


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Are you scared?

I didn't know what Danielle was going to write about yesterday, but after reading her post, she mentions what I wanted to talk about today:

Writing is scary.

I'm not going into all the stuff about publishing and so on. That, I'm sure, can be scary too. What I'm talking about is just writing a story.

Sounds simple right? Write a story. Get those thoughts down on paper (or the computer). But it's not, is it? It's SO MUCH MORE.

I always thought that the more I write, the more I learn and know about the craft, and how to hone my skills as a writer, the easier it will be to sit down at my computer and just type away. Just get those words down and weave them into this beautiful story.

But writing is scary. And I'm not sure that's ever going to change for me. Yes, I know how to write better than when I started, but that doesn't change the scariness factor for me as I thought it would.

My first story scared me because, well, it was my first! The first time I seriously thought I wanted to write A BOOK. The first time I let myself dream of being published. The first time I thought about spending my future as an author if I ever got the opportunity.

Then I started writing my next manuscript. And my next. And they didn't get any easier. They still scared me. Each one. Every time. (I'm pretty sure it will always be like this with my writing. And I'm okay with that because, for me, I know that if I'm a little [or a lot] scared, then that means I'm pushing myself as a writer. That's not to say this is the case for everyone though.)

And now, I'm working on a contemporary manuscript. And it terrifies me. I love contemporaries, but have always been afraid of writing them. I mean, essentially it's making up a story that could happen to a real person and making it interesting enough for a reader to stick with it for several hours (or days). I can't just kill someone or blow something up in this story if I feel like it. I don't have some otherworldy hook to this story.

In it's simplest form, it's just a story about a girl with a younger brother that has autism.

Cue, freak-out number two for me. (Now, I work with children with autism so I know the subject matter pretty well. But....) I am TERRIFIED of not doing this story justice. Of failing to show the intricacies of autism and how this little boy in my story is unique and the same as any other kid all at the same time. I'm scared of not properly showing how this disorder *can* affect a family. I'm worried about it sounding belittling or heavyhanded. Of so many things.

This is just specific to me and the current story I'm working on, but I'm sure others of you out there feel the same way, right? (Please say yes. B/c it's hard to put myself out there like this, only to find out I'm alone?! Oh noes!)

So what do you do when you feel scared or terrified of what you're writing. Or of writing in general?

For me, I take encouragement where I get it. And I don't doubt what those people are saying, either. Their little words of encouragement are what get me through the hard parts. In fact, I entered the first few pages of this ms onto an online writing conference (WriteOnCon) and I got an incredibly encouraging comment from one of the ninja agents on there. (I hope this doesn't come off braggy b/c that's not my intent) Anyway, ya know what I did with that comment? I put in on a digital post-it note on my computer background. That way, anytime I feel discouraged (or distracted even) I can read it and remember why I'm writing this story even when it scares me.

So, does the story you're writing scare you? What do you do to overcome that? Any tips or tricks to share?