Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Write What You Love and Love What You Write

Otherwise known as: Finding my joy in writing again via romance.

So a few months ago, I decided to try something completely different - to write a romance novel. Years back I'd made some attempts, but hadn't managed to finish one (other than a Historical Undone that got a form R). I'd spent the past year writing novels that I really enjoyed writing and were structurally sound but kept getting rejected, and I was frustrated with myself. The idea of trying out romance again had been niggling in the back of my mind, so I figured what the heck? You only live once. Might as well give it a go.

Writing Just One Week was a bit of a revelation for me. I'd forgotten that sometimes, writing can be easy. Obviously there's always work involved, but the words really flowed for me on this project in a way they hadn't in a long time.

And the end result really helped restore my flagging confidence as a writer. For the first time ever my mom (yeah yeah I know what they say about family but listen guys my parents are the harshest critics EVER. Trust me, handing my stuff off to them is like borrowing Lady Gaga's meat dress and diving headfirst into a pit of wolves) actually blazed through the chapters I sent and demanded more. That's an amazing feeling. Not only that, she forwarded it on to other friends and family who ALSO wanted more.

When I was writing just for myself, I came up with screwball comedies about physics and the nature of reality. But life isn't all about me. When I wrote Just One Week, I wrote it with the fond wish that it would make somebody else happy, and it did. And I think it's a better book - and I'm a better writer - for it.

So what I'm getting at here is: Even if nobody  gives my novel a second glance (though I'd prefer they did, plz and thx universe are you listening), this will have been so completely worth it, even more so than any other novel I've finished.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Written Language Was Probably Invented to Torture You

Lately, I've found myself writing an awful lot. And not on my WIP, ifyannowhatimsayin.

Essay tests, essay answers, all hail our new essay overlords. Seriously, I've written so many of these that I've started having dreams about formatting Microsoft Word into 1.357" margins so that I hit seven pages.

And I have to say, the more essays I've written, the more I've noticed how similar they are to writing a story.

Seriously! So, you start out with this plan, and you should probably write down the plan and add footnotes and jenk, but of course you don't. You start writing, and you get totally lost, and you hit one page and look around like "dude why am i still writing".

Then you go through and re-read, and you see something that actually resembles a sentence a chimpanzee would not write by accident, and you capitalize on that. (Then you remember that you meant to capitalize, not make it all capitals. You ctrl-Z.)

Eventually you hit four pages and you're like man, I'm a freaking genius. Maybe I should go into this professionally. Be a teacher. I could churn out research papers like Shakespeare, and with way less plagiarism.

Then you hit page six.

NOOOOO you have one more page to go and the written language was invented solely to torture you. Why is this happening? Why did you go to college/high school/pre-k? Why did your parents have you in this time period? What was wrong with the Cretaceous period? Grunts and sighs are totally acceptable forms of communication.

No. Wait. You think you might... no, you definitely found a thread there that you can grab onto. You write and then... HOCRAP YOU HAVE AN ESSAY.


What, you don't write like that?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Who Have You Written Into a Book?

This Week's Topic:

Who have you written into a book? Be honest.

It could be someone that just inspired one specific trait in a character. Maybe your MC's ex has a weird obsession with anime, kind of like a certain ex of yours. Or maybe the evil witch wreaking havoc on your other characters is straight-up Mrs. Hawkins, your 3rd grade math teacher. Confession time – who's in your book?

This is YA Highway's excellent question of the week. Can't lie, I'm really looking forward to reading the responses on this one!

While I've never straight-out tried to recreate a person I know in a book, I have definitely had character traits inspired by people I know. The best example of this I can think of is a girl in my current WIP named Brianna. Brianna is a girl who has the ability to make people listen to her, and make people want her to like them.

This is the kind of girl that usually gets villainized in YA books. But while Brianna definitely does some things she shouldn't, she is a real person and her actions have actual motivations inspired by her own dreams, hopes, fears, and insecurities. And that's definitely because of being close to someone in real life who has the same sort of personality. My real life friend is a force to be reckoned with, but she's certainly not the devil.

I think that this character would be boring and one-dimensional if it wasn't for the real life insight of my friend. So, while I will NEVER EVER EVER tell my friend Brianna was based on her, here's a secret thank-you!

Saturday, January 29, 2011


BUMPS & BRUISES SURVEY! Wear & Tear Record: (Fill in a number) Broken Bones = ___ Stitches = ___ Scars = ___ Surgeries = ___ Concussions = ___ Other Serious injuries = ___

This is a thing on formspring that I've seen, and since I always find this kind of thing interesting about other people, I thought I'd fill it out for any/all stalkers I have out there.

Broken Bones = ~4. I've broken two fingers (possibly three but I'm not sure on that last one so I won't put it), my tailbone, and my nose. One finger was broken by a friend accidentally slamming me in the finger (though she was not very apologetic about it, which still ticks me off). The other three (possibly four) injuries were all from horseback riding. Horseback riding is dangerous, folks!
Stitches = 0
Scars = 2. One is, predictably, from riding - well, sort of. I got bitten on the finger and it left a scar. The other is from when a dog dragged its extendable leash across the back of my legs and the owner was an idiot and didn't stop it.
Surgeries = 0
Concussions = 1. Guess what this was from?! Another horse bit the horse I was riding on the butt and it took off, flinging me off its back. I received this one a day before my IB exams, to add insult to injury.
Other = 0

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Saddle Club #1: Horse Crazy

One of the dearly loved book series of my childhood is The Saddle Club. Three girls who are bffs and obsessed with horses. It was the perfect combination. But how do they hold up over the years?

We begin the first book with Stevie, who has exposition duty. Apparently there's a big horsey camp-out coming up and if Stevie doesn't get good grades, her parents aren't going to pay for her to go. This is only bad news until Stevie figures out that her parents said that they wouldn't pay for it if she got bad grades, not that she couldn't go. So she perks up and decides she's gonna earn a bunch of money doing odd jobs. I don't know about Stevie's parents, but that would not have flown with mine.

Then we switch to Carole, and learn that she's obsessed with horses and her mom just died. Downer. Carole is the only one out of the three who isn't a walking stereotype, so she actually had what I thought was the best-developed personality of the three. Anyway, Carole's talking about how her dad is always sorry and Mrs. Reg (deus ex grandma) suggests that he's sorry he can't be her mom and her dad. This is getting way too deep for a Saddle Club book. Abort! Abort!

Lisa walks into the barn with her overprotective, upward-mobility minded mother. Everyone can tell she's super smart, but Lisa is embarrassed by her mom talking her up to everyone. She starts to ride and everything's going well until somebody slams the door and the horse takes off.

I kind of take issue with this - loud noises are not exactly uncommon, and I don't think anyone would consider a horse who's terrified of them to be a good horse for someone's first ride ever. The beginner horses I've known you could pull a grenade under their bum and they would be too lazy to move.

But okay, we need this to happen because when Lisa meets Stevie, she starts to suspect Stevie of being THE DOOR SLAMMER. Fair enough because Stevie takes the stirrups off Lisa's saddle so she can't mount up for her first lesson, thereby humiliating her. Stevie, you're an ass.

Lisa befriends Veronica instead of Stevie & Carole, although she quickly learns that Veronica is a huge spoiled brat because we all know that rich people are the devil. Carole knows that Veronica is actually THE DOOR SLAMMER, but won't tell Lisa under pain of not being able to ride Veronica's STALLION WTF (who puts a beginner rider on a stallion? Whatever, book).

I call shenanigans at this. Slamming the door was obviously stupid, but Veronica could easily say, "Oh yeah, sorry, the wind blew the door out of my hand. I'm so glad you weren't hurt!" Plot thread over. But no, we have to go on for 80 pages with Lisa thinking that Stevie is out for her blood.

A bunch of really boring stuff about Stevie earning money happens, and Lisa finally overhears Veronica being the biotch she is. Carole finds Lisa crying and they kind of clear the air, and Carole invites Lisa to TD's. Prepare to hear a lot about TD's.

Sadly the rest of the book is mostly about sorting out Stevie's money dilemma, which is extremely boring. Basically Lisa tells Stevie to use the racketeering setup she's come up with as her math project, and saves the day so Stevie deigns to like her. Stevie really comes off as a jerk in this book. All's well that ends well, and they establish The Saddle Club.

This book is basically just background info with a story thrown in to tie it together. Unfortunately, the background info is a lot more interesting than the storyline. I ended up skimming all the parts about Stevie because guess what - 7th grade math projects don't get more interesting over time. The parts with Carole and Lisa are the most interesting, but the temporary friendship Lisa has with Veronica is boring at best because she's so obviously a big bad (or as bad as this series gets). Also, I picked this cover because I'm pretty sure it's the cover I originally read it with, but there's about a bazillion others as I found out when I looked it up on Amazon.

That's all for this time! Tell me if you enjoyed it; hopefully someone else gets a kick out of going back in time for these books.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Teaser Tuesday!

From my recently completed novel, Timekeeper.

“Will you tell me about Connor?” I whispered. I hadn’t forgotten that day in the gym. But I felt like the words were made of glass; too fragile to bring out at just any opportunity.

The van jolted and as Alex yelled back, “Sorry! Bus with nuns!” I windmilled in the air for a second before falling flat on top of Neil.

He made a surprised “whuff” noise when I hit and knocked the air out of him, but his arms opened automatically and he hugged me to him.

I said, "Sorry," but anything else I might have added was cut off as Neil squeezed me to him like a kid grabbing onto its teddy bear when the night-light goes out for the first time. He was even stronger than he looked and I gasped for breath, but quietly. I didn’t want him to hear me and feel like he had to let me go.

We lay there for a long time, the sound of the engine drowning out our breath and jolts from the bad suspension making it difficult to fall asleep. Neil didn’t say anything, and I didn’t either. I was too afraid to break the moment, and I felt in a strange way that maybe Neil was answering my question in the only way he could.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why I Think We're Too Hard on Our Heroines

This past week and weekend has been my own personal hell. I had a test on Tuesday and a test earlier today, both of which required me to study. So, in spite of the fact that my word count on my WIP was trundling along nicely, I had to stop around Saturday and pretend to study because I felt way too guilty writing.

Over this dreadful past week I contemplated many things (like why am I a finance major? am I a masochist? or just stupid, and my teachers are too nice to tell me?). One of these things was, of course, about YA books.

I'm going to give it to you straight, gentle reader: I am an exceptionally picky person. I hate lots of people for lots of trivial things, and it only gets worse when it comes to fiction.

However, I do think that we are a little hard on our heroines from time to time.

There are a lot of demands on an author who's writing a teen girl these days. The girl has to be independent, but not unbelievable. She needs to be witty, but not so sassy she's annoying. Being too upbeat isn't realistic, but being a downer all the time isn't okay either. She needs to be completely whole without a man, but have many hot smooches.

Basically, you're screwed, authors.

The problem is that real girls do have flaws, and while people talk about needing a heroine to be flawed, there are certain flaws the YA community is awfully hesitant to accept: being whiny, being helpless in the face of lots of danger, and being dependent on a guy for validation. All three of which are EXTREMELY realistic flaws.

That's why it didn't bother me that the whole of Bella's self worth centered around whether or not Edward liked her. Because guess what, this is precisely what teenage - and let's face it, older - girls do. They fixate on a guy and obsess about him until their brain dribbles out their ears. While it isn't the most desirable state of being, it's not an unrealistic one and I didn't have a problem seeing it in a book.

No, Bella bothered me because she was boring.

So, authors of the world, here is my opinion: I don't care what flaws your character has, who she's codependent on, or what validation she needs. If she's interesting and 3-dimensional, I will read about her. If she's interesting and doesn't pay the slightest attention to guys, I will still read about her, but I'll be awfully skeptical. Because I don't care if you're a werewolf assassin from a future dystopian society; if you're 15 and have the giggles for that cute leprechaun glassblower, you are going to be 100% fixated on that.