Monday, August 31, 2009
So...I did, I created my Debut YA Book Cover. Before I reveal mine...here's how you make your own.
CREATE YOUR DEBUT YA COVER
1 – Go to “Fake Name Generator” or clickhttp://www.fakenamegenerator.com/
The name that appears is your author name.
2 – Go to “Random Word Generator” or click
http://www.websitestyle.com/parser/randomword.shtmlThe word listed under “Random Verb” is your title.
3 – Go to “FlickrCC” or click
Type your title into the search box. The first photo that contains a person is your cover.
4 – Use Photoshop,Picnik, or similar to put it all together. Be sure to crop and/or zoom in.5 – Post it to your site along with this text.
And now I present to you...
Personally, I'm a little scared that my name is Tammy D. Love...and my book is called Bless...how did that happen? What is this YA book about? Is it really a YA book or this some kind of missionary brochure? I kind of want a redo... but the picture is pretty...now I'm tempted to go back and make a real cover...soooooo tempting...soooo wrong.
OK FNC Chicas, Donna, Sara, Janine...I expect to see your fake covers posted up here pronto!
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Kimberly Derting, debut author of The Body Finder, answered some questions for FNC about creating a character's supernatural ability, her husband's influence on her writing, her guilty pleasure TV shows, and more!
About The Body Finder:
Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes that the dead leave behind in the world... and the imprints that attach to their killers.
Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find the dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.
Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer... and becoming his prey herself.
What was your creation process for The Body Finder? Meaning, what was the original nugget that inspired the books – the characters, the setting, a certain scene or line of dialogue, the plot? How did it develop/evolve from there?
My husband’s always throwing around ideas, and one day while we were driving he just looked at me and said: “What if there was a person who could find dead bodies.” Of course, he was imagining a middle grade boy, but for me it was always a sixteen-year-old girl. By the time we got home I was practically racing through the front door to start making notes. That was how my main character Violet’s creepy ability was born.
You’ve already completed the sequel to The Body Finder, Desires of the Dead, which will be released by HarperCollins in 2011. When in the process did you realize there would be more than one book? How did you outline the series, and did that affect the plot of the first book?
The plot of the first book never changed because of consequent books. Technically, each book could be a stand-alone and read out of order even though they contain the same main characters. They’re sort of like companion novels in that regard. It made outlining book two easier since I could start fresh with a new plotline (for the most part).
What was your process like for drafting, revising, and completing your novel?
It’s not so much a process as it is just sitting down and writing. I’m not much of an outliner, so mostly I just open whatever document I’m working on and go for it. Despite the fact that I don’t have a hard outline, I do have a very distinct idea of where I’m headed with the story. I may have even written it down (in not-too-many words) I just don’t always know exactly how I’m going to get there. That’s what revisions are for, to clean up my first draft mess.
In The Body Finder, Violet realizes she’s fallen in love with her childhood best friend, Jay. Have you had a similar experience? What from the novel did you shamelessly steal from real life?
I didn’t fall in love with my childhood best friend, but my husband and I were friends before we actually dated. We worked together at a restaurant waiting tables and I used to lend him my car so he could go on dates with other girls. Funny that one day I just looked at him differently. Seems like yesterday, but it was over seventeen years ago.
Violet has the ability to sense the echoes of murder victims, including birds that her cat had killed. How did you decide on the parameters of her power? Did you change them at all while writing the book?
When I first “created” Violet’s ability, I sat down and created ground rules for them. There were things that Violet knew about her ability, like that she could only sense those who had been murdered, each “echo” would be unique and it would “imprint” itself on the one responsible for the death, and that once a body was laid to rest properly its echo would fade (although the imprint on the killer would not).
As the book evolved, the rules changed a little, but not much. I added rules that Violet doesn’t entirely understand yet. I keep those “in the vault,” to reveal in snippets as she discovers more about what she can do with her gift.
You mention on your blog that you’re a big TV fan. (FNC’s based in Philly, so we have to point out that you love It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia!) How do you think your TV watching habits have affected you as a writer? Do you watch any teen shows for inspiration (or because they’re so darn good)?
I watch a lot of shows on, ehem, Nickelodeon and Disney channels. I want to say that it’s because my eight-year-old makes me, but I’d probably be lying. (Between you and me, I think Sam on iCarly is hilarious!)
I think as a writer I’m influenced by everything, whether it’s intentional or not. Even when I’m watching something strictly for entertainment, I can’t help paying attention to dialogue and characterization, and to settings and moods. Sometimes in my head, I’ll even try to describe a scene. Actually, that last part just makes me sound crazy.
What do you see as your greatest strength and your greatest weakness as a writer?
This is tough. My greatest strength is probably my ability to revise well with my editor. My greatest weakness is my blackbelt in the art of procrastination!
The Body Finder won’t be released until March 2010. (Such a long wait!) What are you doing to generate buzz up until then, and what are your promotional plans afterwards?
Ah, yes, March 2010…aka “Forever.” For now, I’m doing all of the obvious things: blogging, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Goodreads. But I’ve also joined The Tenners, a brilliant online support/marketing group geared toward YA and MG authors who are all debuting in 2010. After my release, I have some tours scheduled and, hopefully, will attend some conferences this summer. Other than that, I just have to hope that word spreads, and that people tell their friends about my book. Honestly, word-of-mouth is the best form of promotion.
Which authors have inspired you the most?
It seems like I should say something really profound here, like Jane Austen or Harper Lee, both of whom I’ve loved. But I’ve gotta go with the obvious here and say: Stephen King. Mostly because when I was a teen, I was a voracious reader, but we didn’t have the YA variety of today, especially for horror and suspense, so I was forced into the adult market. Authors like King and John Saul and Dean Koontz became staples for me. I devoured them. Of course, that was the '80s, so there was also the obligatory Jackie Collins. I was a pretty well-rounded reader.
And here’s the really important question: If you were a chipmunk, would you want to date Alvin, Simon, or Theodore?
HAHA! As fun as I think Alvin is, he also seems a bit on the irresponsible side, so I’m going with the slightly nerdy Simon. Hey, nerds are lovable too!
Sure, you have to wait until March for The Body Finder, but if you want more Kim, check out her BLOG. Kim's a sweetheart who often replies to comments, and when she becomes a big hit I'm sure this'll be more difficult for her, so take advantage of it! Kim's WEBSITE has a nifty FAQ PAGE with great tidbits, such as how she chose her title, her writing history, and more!
Read Kim's post on "Getting THE CALL" HERE.
Check out another interview with her HERE.
PLUS, keep your eye out for our upcoming co-review of The Body Finder... and maybe even a chance to win our ARC!
Since I finished my WIP (the latest incarnation of it's alpha draft) a couple weeks ago, I didn't really have anything new for them to look at, but I did show up feeling kind of down because I've been literally stuck on my revision for a week. I was able to revise 8 chapters rather effortlessly, but by chapter 9 I knew I was in trouble and there were some structural issues and what-not.
I've been literally obsessing in my head about how to change things, how to revise, how to allow a new better faster version of the book spring to life and I was hitting on some points that I discussed with the girls and they seemed to be fans.
But then Donna...oh Donna reminded me of an issue she had with the WIP that was a pretty big issue. I finally allowed her advice and concerns to sink in...and you know what...I now have my Re-Vision!!!
This week has been a week of epiphanies for me-realizing I didn't need to write a companion/sequel series to my current WIP was a big one, and realizing that some world building ideas I'd come up with years ago and shelved away were still good.
So thanks to super awesome advice and brainstorming from Donna and Sara, I now have my new book plan and things are starting to click in my head.
So in a way, I'm going back to page 1 of a blank word document (SCARY) but then again...I've never been closer to finishing as I am now.
Man do I have my work cut out for me...
She wrote a post recently about when to acknowledge the death of your treasured novel (after significant rejections, etc), and I found it so honest and useful because I can imagine that it's really hard to accept that you need to move on, and few people in life are willing to tell you to shelve your darling.
Anyway, I was inspired to comment, as were a few others, and then Nicola wrote a follow-up post referencing the comments. AND SHE HIGHLIGHTED MINE! Seriously, I was skimming through my blogroll and I see my name like two lines into her latest post. I'd written that, even though I didn't see myself being able to acknowledge my book as dead, I probably could sign divorce papers. And she liked it! Nicola Morgan liked it!
Anyway, the original post is super-worthy of your time and attention, so check it out HERE. And then check out her super-sweet acknowledgement of all the comments she received, including mine, HERE. And then follow the blog. I'm not kidding.
Alright, off to a critique group meeting!!! (To which I will be late because of this. Oops!)
Friday, August 28, 2009
Why did you choose to write YA?
I always say that I didn’t choose YA; it chose me. When I was in my early teens I became obsessed with the now-defunct Sassy magazine, so for a while I wanted to write/edit a magazine for teenagers. My all-time favorite television shows include THE WONDER YEARS, MY SO-CALLED LIFE, GILMORE GIRLS, VERONICA MARS (first season only, please), and FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. So when I first applied to the graduate program at Emerson, it was with the intention that I’d learn how to write for TV. Only I couldn’t get into the scriptwriting class, which met during the day (I worked full time while in grad school), and through a series of serendipitous events, I ended up in an adolescent novel workshop taught by Lisa Jahn-Clough, whom I’d met at Emerson’s open house and who impressed the hell out of me. By the end of the semester, I was in love and never once looked back. Oh, and I never took a single screenwriting course, either.
What was your process like for drafting, revising, and completing your novel?
I don’t really have a set “process,” per se. I’m definitely a plunger (vs. a plotter), though my friend Emmett, who’s also a writer, calls this a complete waste of time (his notecards have notecards). For me, the seeds of a novel are planted long before I start writing it. I think about the characters, the “What If?” scenarios, the voice. This can go on for years while I’m working on other things. Eventually I’ll start to write, and those first thirty pages are brutal. They take me FOREVER. But once I’ve gotten them to a place I feel okay with, I’ll move on to the next thirty, which are still hard but definitely less painful. Finally, when I reach the 100-page mark, the rest of the novel feels like it writes itself. Until the ending, that is. I’m terrible with endings.
I do minor revision along the way, usually with help from feedback I get from the women in the WIPs, which is my local writing group. Big revision – the kind where you rip the novel up and stitch it back together again – happens with my editors (in this case, Jodi Keller, who is fantastic). She’ll send me a four- to nine-page edit letter, single spaced, with extensive line-by-line comments. I let those marinate for a while before responding, though with SWEET LIFE, I felt like some of the things Jodi told me weren’t working were things we’d discussed before I started writing the book – things she’d encouraged me to push for. So I was kind of a brat when I got the first edit letter. I was also kind of burned out, and I took about 18 mos. before I started that revision. Of course, as I rewrote the book, I saw how most of Jodi’s comments were spot on. Because she’s brilliant like that.
Jodi and I typically go through three rounds of edits – a major, a minor, and a picky tightening one where I don’t really even get an edit letter, just some e-mails about scenes that need tweaking, editing, or rewriting. Then it’s on to production!
Stella Madison is set in Delaware, with lots of references to real-life places in the surrounding area. What are the most difficult and best parts of using a place you know well to set your novel?
Let me start with the best, because that’s the easiest to answer. I’m a huge fan of novels that have a strong sense of place. One of my earliest influences was Douglas Coupland, who’s from Vancouver and writes about Vancouver in such a way that, when I actually visited the city, and went on an unofficial “Coupland” tour of all the places he’s written about, I felt like I was at home – like I already knew this place. I wanted to do that with my books, so using Delaware as a setting was natural. I grew up here, have spent most of my adult life here, and honestly really love living here. It’s also very gratifying when Delawareans read the book and are like, “Oh my god, I know that place!” They get so excited!
As for difficult: sometimes as a writer you want to take liberties, and I will in very small ways. Like in ANYONE BUT YOU, I wrote about Critter and Sarah hitting the Brewster’s on 202, and I needed there to be a picnic bench for the scene to work. There isn’t one. But I put one in, and sure enough, three people called me on it. Three! So that’s hard.
Did any characters gain larger roles than you initially intended for them?
Max! In the first draft, Max was kind of this teenage lothario that appeared briefly in the opening scene – he was macking on Stella on the last day of school but gets interrupted when Enrique picks her up. Stella had some desperate line like, “Call me!” as Max walked away, and he was all, “Whatevs.”
During the revision process, I was dealing with some messy things that just weren’t working. Like, initially Jeremy had a girlfriend, but that made his flirting seem smarmy so I took it out. Only, then I had this whole set up about why he kept telling Stella he couldn’t be with her, and it didn’t work without the girlfriend. Off-handedly, Jodi said, “What if Stella has a boyfriend?” and poof! There was my answer.
Briefly detail your journey to publication after finishing your first book. (Finding an agent, an editor, promoting the book, etc.)
I’m so not the person to ask about this, because there are many things I did backwards and many things that happened for me far too easily. But, here goes:
Manuscript for BRINGING UP THE BONES was as polished as I could get it. Pulled a list of eight editors who in 2000 weren’t afraid of “edgy” YA. Sent queries to all; three days later got a request for a full MS from an editor at HarperCollins. Waited three months before sending a follow up. No follow up. Later found out editor moved to Simon & Schuster two weeks after requesting my MS and didn’t bother to tell me.
Entered BONES in the Delacorte Press Prize Competition for a First Young Adult Novel. Didn’t win, but was named the first honor book in something like six years. Was offered a standard contract, accepted it, and started revising.
Got a call from my agent right after ALA in 2002. He’d actually started the Delacorte competition when he was an editor. Saw my galley at the Random House book, nabbed it, and read it on the plane ride home. Sent me an e-mail shortly after asking if I had representation and, if I didn’t, would I be interested in having him represent me? (I said yes.)
The night BONES came out, my mom and I drove to a bookstore and took a picture of me holding the book. Then I went to Mikimotos for a big boat of sushi with a random assortment of friends. Drank some sake; went home happy.
Didn’t learn until my second book, CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE, how crucial a role the author plays in publicizing their own book. Realized that BONES died a premature death because I didn’t know the what-what. Rectified those mistakes with CONTENTS, which is still my best-selling Random House book to date.
See what I mean?
What do you see as your greatest strength and your greatest weakness as a writer?
Strengths: voice and dialogue.
Weaknesses: unstructured with my writing time and not nearly as prolific as I could (or should) be
What advice would you give aspiring YA authors?
1. Don’t quit your day job, because the odds of you making a decent living from writing YA are slim. Everyone else who touches a book makes good money – just not the author. In the beginning, anyway.
2. Be prepared for all of the peripheral stuff that comes along with being a working YA writer – networking, marketing, blogging, presenting at conferences, etc., etc. You have no idea how much time this takes until you’re in the thick of it, but trust me: it’s a lot.
3. If you are okay with the crappy income and the marketing stuff, and you really, really want this, go after it with everything you’ve got and don’t stop until you have that contract. I don’t care how many rejections you receive, if you want it badly enough and believe in yourself strongly enough, it WILL happen.
You've also published two books--True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet, and its sequel, More Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet--under the pen name Lola Douglas. How is writing as Lola different than writing as Lara?
Lola’s books are more commercial than mine are. But me being me, I couldn’t write a straight-up commercial novel, so STARLET ended up with a lot more depth than my editors at Razorbill were expecting. Sadly, unless Razorbill decides they want a STARLET 3 (which, as of right now, they don’t), I think Lola’s gone into retirement. Permanently.
True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet was turned into a Lifetime movie. Can you speak about that experience?
It was crazy and exciting and very, very cool. I got to spend a day on set, in a suburb of Toronto, hanging out with the cast and some of the crew. When they were editing the film, they decided they needed some new voice-overs, but this was during the Writer’s Guild strike. I’m not a member of the Guild, so when the producer asked me to try my hand at writing some, I did and oh my god, was that fun! Plus, hi – IT WAS A LIFETIME ORIGINAL MOVIE. Those things live on in perpetuity (and for good reason!).
You are stranded on a deserted island for five years. What five books would you want with you?
Life After God – Douglas Coupland (book that made me want to be a writer)
Girl – Blake Nelson (book that set me on the path to YA, years before I got there)
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks – E. Lockhart (latest book I wish I’d written)
Holes – Louis Sachar (book with immaculate plotting; if I’m going to be stuck on an island for five years, I might as well spend part of the time deconstructing this one)
I’m Just Here for the Food – Alton Brown (book that teaches me something new every time I read it)
And lastly, you've published four novels as Lara Zeises, two as Lola Douglas, had one of your novels turned into a Lifetime movie, and Stella Madison is getting a lot of praise in the book world. What else do you want to accomplish?
I had a list of goals several years ago, and I’ve achieved almost all of them – except that I’ve never had an audiobook made from one of my novels (which is sad, because I love audiobooks), and I’ve never gotten a starred review in a major publication. I’m kind of over the review thing, because there are some recent novels that got multiple starred reviews and that I thought were complete and utter crap, and I’ve come to realize that all reviews are pretty much subjective. But the audiobook … yes, please, I would like one please and thank you.
The other thing – I would like to try my hand at writing for television some day. I was really lucky in that the producer of the Lifetime movie, Barbara Lieberman, offered to mentor me a bit. I haven’t devoted the time or attention to screenwriting that I need to, though, so that’s definitely a goal for the future.
Thanks so much, Lara! To learn more about Lara's other awesome books, check out her website at http://www.zeisgeist.com/.
You can also follow Lara's adventures in writing, cooking, and everything in between at her blog.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
(Technically it's out 9/1, but I already got mine from Borders.)
If you haven't already, check out Storm Glass, the first book in the series. Seriously, cool magical abilities and a will-they/won't-they romance? We're hooked.
Since we've already interviewed Maria and reviewed a couple of her books, we hoped it was time for Maria to write a guest post--and she so kindly agreed! So check back soon for more Maria!
Monday, August 24, 2009
Our first email? From Ducks Unlimited. And it was addressed to me.
Some of you may have had the misfortune of reading my silly, sleep-deprived Friday night post. One that was inspired by my discovery of a promotional Ducks Unlimited mousepad at my computer.
Apparently, Neil at Ducks Unlimited loves him some Google Alerts and came upon the FNC blog. (If you're reading this -- hi, Neil! You made my day!)
What did a Ducks guy have to say to this YA author? Check it out:
Dear Donna – I wanted to drop you a note and thank you for bringing Ducks Unlimited’s wetlands conservation mission to a new audience. I hope that learning about the efforts to conserve wetlands and waterfowl habitat didn’t put you off writing your novel too much (and I for one also enjoy TFLN as a solid procrastination tool).
^ Alright, he likes TFLN. Points there. And has a vested interest in my novel. Or really knows how to suck up. But it worked. (I'm posting this, aren't I?)
Clearly you are intrigued by our moniker – especially that “unlimited” part. As you probably saw from poking around the website is that our organization was founded in 1937 by a group of concerned, conservation minded duck and goose hunters that knew that if wetlands were not protected and conserved, that their passion for waterfowling would soon be just a fond memory.
^ Apparently there are people with "passion for waterfowling." Who knew? Not this city girl. Oh, and I cut some stuff here. Sorry Neil, you understand.
Ducks Unlimited founder Joseph Knapp stepped up and took action to conserve habitat before it was lost forever.
^ And then I cut more stuff that says why preserving wetlands is great for everyone. It even cures arthritis. Ok, I made that part up.
This was much more of a response than I imagine you anticipated, but I hope that it was enlightening as to why we went with Ducks Unlimited as opposed to “A Whole Bunch of Ducks.”
^ Thanks for the email, Neil. Although personally, I'm a fan of "A Whole Bunch of Ducks."
Ok, people. It's going to be hard to top that email, but we'd love it if you tried!
Friday, August 21, 2009
Writing this blog post, but it's so obvious that it doesn't deserve a number.
6. Wondering when our ratty blue mousepad disappeared and was replaced by one with a picture of a duck that says "Ducks Unlimited." Seriously. Makes me wonder why anyone would want unlimited ducks? They're noisy. And they poo a lot. Of course, they waddle adorably and follow the momma duck everywhere, but realistically, no one needs more than five ducks at a time.
5. Googling "Ducks Unlimited." Apparently it's a wetlands conservation group. With a magazine. Considering ordering a subscription to amuse mail carrier.
4. Contemplating the disturbing fact that tonight I did, in fact, willingly forgo a trip to the bathroom to finish the last hundred pages of Graceling without interruption.
3. Realizing that I'm apparently way too tired to blog, because I'm revealing awkward details about myself. Comforting self with the existence of Lisa and Laura, whose posts make me giggle.
2. Loving this Text From Last Night: (936) Feel like bed is flying. Not sure where we're going. Hope there is candy.
1. Deciding to set a record for Earliest Friday Night Bedtime for 23-Year-Old. Because that way, it's a competition, and I can pretend I'm not exhausted to the point of social reject-dom. Who knows, maybe there is candy.
Seriously though...unlimited ducks?
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
I'm a pretty particular type of TV addict, though. I rarely watch a show for the sake of watching it. Of course, I'll sit down for the random HGTV show or the always-engrossing E! True Hollywood Story, but I have too much going on to waste my time on non-obsessions. And I've seen every single Friends episode fifteen times and I'm never tired of them.
But what is it about a show that hooks me? It's the same thing, I realized, as what makes me love a book. Primarily, it's the characters and dialogue. And I'm an utter sucker for a juicy romance. Do I enjoy the random episode of Law & Order? Yeah. But I can walk away.
(Disclaimer: I didn't have cable until I went to college, so don't hate me for neglecting your favorite Nickelodeon series or something.)
So what shows can I watch over and over?
(Honestly, there are more, but this is a sampling of the best.)
~ Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- FANTASTIC through the end of season 3, still great through the end of season 5 (when it should've stayed ended). Some of the best teen dialogue out there.
~ Alias -- At least until the third season, when JJ decided to turn a fantastic spy show into a prophecy-ridden mess of identity issues.
~ Grey's Anatomy -- I didn't study for my science final in college because I couldn't stop watching the end of season 1 on DVD. nuff said. Hoping it regains some former glory this season.
~ Lost -- JJ, I'm trusting you not to lead me astray this time. I'm investing years of my life in this!
~ Scrubs -- Too absurdly funny not to love.
~ Friends -- My ideal comedy. I will quote it to the death. I loved the seasons when the jokes became character-centric and not just one-liners.
~ My So-Called Life -- Only the good die young. If you never saw it, it's out on DVD!
~ Desperate Housewives -- Really well written. Not enough people appreciate the quality behind the fluff.
~ Castle -- Smart, snarky, totally fun, with great chemistry. And it's about a writer!
~ Dollhouse -- I heart Joss Whedon.
~ Samantha Who -- Really really funny. So bummed it's cancelled!
... and since I write YA ...
My Favorite Teen Shows (from when I was a teen):
Buffy / Dawson's Creek / Beverly Hills, 90210 (not the newfangled crap!) / Roswell (mock me for the aliens if you will...but I also love the 10-book series) / The O.C. (again, awesome for about 2 seasons.) / Saved By the Bell (only the original class) / Party of Five / Gilmore Girls
... plus there are shows that are awesome, but didn't addict me ...
Other Really Really Really Great Shows:
The Wonder Years / Home Improvement / Fresh Prince of Bel-Air / Full House (so bad it was good) / The Cosby Show / It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia / The Golden Girls / Family Guy / Cheers / Malcolm in the Middle / The King of Queens
I'd like to think that all of these shows over the years have helped me to be a better writer. Did I learn plotting (both good and bad)? Yes. Did I hear great conversational dialogue? Totally. Did I salivate over cliffhangers? Oh yeah. (What better way to see how chapters should end?) Did I see how to draw out a romance over a very very long period of time? Yeppers. AND (the best lesson) I learned how to show, not tell. (Woo Golden Rule!)
Alright, here's your chance to agree...or argue! Do I love something you think is terrible? What did I forget to include? Comment away!
PS - A semi-inspiration for this post came from Janice Hardy, over at The Other Side of the Story. She gets you thinking!
Maggie Stiefvater has done it again. Woman, when do you sleep and how are you so creative? She has composed the music for her trailer and created the artwork and animation.
Check out her livejournal for a chance to win an arc of Ballad among other things:-)
Sunday, August 16, 2009
The Revision Process
A lot of people talk about the writing process. The writing process is, for me, fairly easy: I write. End of story. But (perhaps because my writing process is so simple), I find revising to be something so painful that I'd prefer eating slugs, honestly.
Fortunately, I've had some practice in revising, and I think I've (finally) found a process that works for me. But, keep in mind--just like the writing process, the revising process is unique to everyone. I imagine that someone who is a meticulous writer with lots of organizing would have to revise half as much as someone (like me) who slaps together drafts as quickly as possible.
Step One: Write the Book. A bit obvious, yeah, but it still needs to be said. Write the book first. In the event that you get stuck while writing the book, don't fall into the trap of revising what you have--do enough to fix the plot hole or whatever else has you stuck, and then keep writing.
Step One and a Half: Revise the work yourself. Really. Go through it, read your baby, tell yourself you're wonderful, and "revise." But this is only a half-step, because no matter what you do at this stage, you're not even close until...
Step Two: Admit You Need Help. My name is Beth Revis...and I need help revising. We all do. It is *impossible* for you to revise on your own. Here's why: when your character does something, you know why they need to do it in terms of plot. You need Bob to go into that room to find the body, or you need Susie to go on a walk so she can meet Mike. By necessity, as a writer, you need your characters to do certain things to fulfill the plot. But that's not what a reader needs. A reader needs a clear character motivation that *isn't* just because the plot needs it. We need Bob to go into that room looking for something he needs, and he stumbles upon the body. We need Susie to be rushed on her way to work when she meets and falls in love with Mike. The writer *must* see the story the same way an architect looks at the structure of a house. But a reader just wants to read.
Step Three: Select Readers. So, you need readers. That much is clear. The next thing you need to do is look around you and decide who should read your work. There are different kinds of readers, and I recommend you use them all.
Alpha Readers These readers read the roughest of rough drafts. They're not looking for typos or anything like that--they're strictly looking at what works and doesn't work in the story. You need someone who's critical enough to understand what a reader wants, but easy enough not to obsess over details. Look for a fellow writer who loves to read, especially in your genre. Your goal at this stage is tie up all loose ends and not let the story get boring.
Beta Readers These readers need to be your big-picture readers. You may get away with an alpha reader who's more of a reader than a writer, but for your beta readers, you need someone whose writing your really respect. Have them focus on structure. Expect to make big changes here--cutting 5k words, rearranging chapters, eliminating or creating characters. Pick someone you can really work with--you'll want to ask questions and get feedback several times, perhaps even submit a couple different versions of things. Your goal here is to write the overall structure of the book.
Once you have what you consider a 100% completed copy of the book, get Gamma Readers. Because, honestly, you're not 100% done. You think you are, sure, but you're NOT. Gamma Readers need to be skilled writers who aren't afraid to say what needs to be done. Look for comments that repeat across all three levels of readers. Does the opening not work for the Alpha, Beta, or Gamma Readers? Then your revisions on that opening *still* aren't strong enough. Rewrite. After Gamma Readers, your goal to *really* make your book 100% done.
Your Mom. Because she wants to read it, too, so let her read it. And she'll tell you it's great, and by the time you get to this point, it *is* great, and she'll give you the confidence to submit.
Step Four: Read Your Novel as a Novel. When everyone's read it and you've rewritten the thing until you *hate* it, print it out, sit down somewhere nice, and read it. Think of it as a book, not a manuscript. Read it as a reader, not a writer. If, when you're done, you still have a niggling doubt about something--a character, a plot twist--now's the time to change it. Because this is it. After this, you're done, Grasshopper.
So, looking at this simple (ha!) four step process, you'll see that you'll need to revise at least three times. Probably, throughout this process, you'll revise much more than that. I wrote two different version of the opening of my current work in progress for *each* of my Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Readers--and I'm still tweaking it.
But there are some corollaries:
Don't Be Lazy. Seriously. You've written a book, but that's only half the work. If you know a character isn't working (and all your readers tell you it's not working), don't just slap on a paragraph of description and hope that fixes it. It doesn't rewrite the whole character.
When In Doubt, Cut. Personally, I make it a goal to cut 5k words from my manuscript. Five thousand words. And, with this last work in progress, I knew it was a little more fluffy than my usual writing, so I made a goal of TEN thousand words. Fifty pages. If this sounds like a reasonable thing to you, then you're safe with cutting 5k--you'll make the manuscript tighter and be happier with it. If you look at this and are horror-struck by the mere idea, then you probably should cut 10k. Maybe 15.
Be True To YOUR Story. True confession: I killed a manuscript with over-revision. Seriously. It started out as this sweet little thing, then I changed it to make one reader happy, then a different change to make another reader happy, and in the end, they might have been happy--but I sure wasn't. The story became about pleasing everyone else more than it was about pleasing myself. I've never touched it again.
Here's the secret. There is actually one more step to revising that I didn't mention before.
It's a pretty big secret.
You might not want to hear it.
Ignorance, after all, is bliss.
Still with me?
OK--the secret's this: sometimes, even after you've done everything you can to revise, even after you're rewritten the whole manuscript--sometimes, you have to admit that it was just a practice manuscript. If, after all this, you still aren't attracting agents; if, after so many rewrites, the book isn't salable--shelve it. This is the dark secret of writing: not everything you write is good enough, even after revisions. But it's still important to write your book and go through every single step of revising. Why? Because it makes you a better writer. So do it all over again with the next manuscript--and the next one. Eventually you'll make it work. And when you do, you won't be ashamed or angry at all those manuscripts you wrote, revised, and rewrote that were never published--you'll be proud of the work you did on all of them, and happy with the realization that it was the fact you went all the way with each manuscript that made you the best writer you can be.
BIO: Beth Revis authors WRITING IT OUT, a blog for writing in the MG and YA genres. She's currently finishing revisions on a science fiction YA novel. And, if it makes you feel better, she's written ten practice novels.
Ok, so I'm not really sending you to Australia, but I am going to send you to her blog to read my post. Steph is super cool. Thanks so much for having me:-)
Guest Post Here!
Saturday, August 15, 2009
I think a scene is more like a song, and a book is more like a playlist or a really awesome album. You know, one where the progression is just smooth and logical, leading from song to song up to a kick a$$ final song where the credits roll. The best albums (and playlists while we’re at it) is where you have a fast song and then a slow one, a sad one, then a happy one, while all sounding similar enough to go together. So a novel, to me, is the same way. You switch up the scene, one from the next, but they all have to have the same “sound.”
2) Tell us your most embarrassing author moment (we promise we’ll laugh with you and not at you).
Oh man. I was not a huge fan of my first cover for LAMENT and I sent an email to my agent to tell her so. Only I didn’t send it to my agent. I accidentally sent it to my editor.
I will allow a moment for that to sink in.
It was not the worst email in the world, but it was definitely more . . . forthright then I would’ve been. Anyway, I am still on great terms with that editor, but when I realized what I’d done, it was a terrible morning until I found out that he’d taken it in good humor. Phew.
3) Is there any element in any of your books that you have shamelessly taken from your real life?
Well, there is a character in BALLAD who is pretty shamelessly stolen from real life. I steal kernels of situations for almost every scene in my books. Even if it becomes unrecognizable later, through exaggeration or twisting or additions or subtractions, I think good fiction starts out real.
4) Is there any element in any of your books that you wish was a part of your real life (or had been)?
There are a lot of settings I wish I could see in real life. The bookstore and the golden woods from SHIVER. The bonfires from BALLAD. The graveyard from LAMENT. Sometimes I’ll see someone who reminds me of one of my characters and it will make me grin to see what they’d look like real. I think I abuse my characters far too much to actually want any of their lives to be real. I take too much pleasure in making them face their worst fears. Great in fiction. Sort of awkward in real life.
5) If you could have your own personal theme song-one that would spontaneously play in people’s heads the moment they saw you-what would the song be?
“Everybody wants to rule the world” by Tears for Fears. ;)
6) We’re all pretty partial to the bathtub scene in Shiver (we don’t think we’re alone). Can you tell us a little more about what went into the creation of that scene? How the idea evolved?
Actually, it’s funny you should mention that. There are moments when writing books where you get little presents as the writer -- where you have everything planned out and a character surprises you. They’re rare, these moments where you get to be both writer and reader, but the genesis of the bathtub scene was one of them.
It started where Sam was laying in the hospital bed, and Grace notices the scars on his wrists. And I thought to myself, “why did I write that?” So then I thought, well, Sam’s an EmoPet, maybe he couldn’t hack it as a werewolf and he tried to kill himself. So I was all ready to write that up, and then he opened his eyes, looked at his wrists, and said “My mother did this one. My father did that one. They counted down so they’d do it at the same time. I still can’t stand to look at a bathtub.”
I don’t know where that line came from, but it changed the entire book. And the instant he said “I still can’t stand to look at a bathtub,” I knew I was going to do everything in my power to get that boy into one.
I love testing characters by making them do the things they think they absolutely can’t live through.
7) If you were stranded on a desert island with only 5 books which ones would you want?
1. THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, because the characters are so good I wouldn’t feel alone.
2. FIRE AND HEMLOCK, because I never get tired of reading it.
3. JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL, because it’s lovely and so long that I would be rescued before I finished it.
4. CALVIN & HOBBES. Any of the collections. Because a girl needs a laugh.
5. A blank book. Because something so minor as a desert island isn’t going to stop me from writing.
8) I’m fascinated by the role your dreams have played in your story creations. How often do you dream about your stories, or about scenes. Can you share a recent dream and describe it’s evolution into a story or part of a story?
I actually dream a lot about my characters, especially when I’m rough drafting. I really do think that your subconscious keeps working hard when you’re sleeping, and it’s a great place to learn things that you already know but are out of reach. I’m trying to think of a dream that’s not spoilery . . . okay, here’s one I had recently as I was writing the synopsis for the book that I’m starting after I finish FOREVER. I had a dream where the main character was running the entire time, and when he wasn’t running, he was bicycling. And then he would run again. And he told me “I run all the time because I don’t know what I would do to myself -- or anyone else -- if I stopped.”
And it gave me a little clue into his personality.
With SHIVER, I dreamt about Grace in the winter wood behind her house, and the first two lines of the book are almost identical to what she told me in the dream. I had to wake up and write them down right away. Beck looked like Robert de Niro in the dream, however, which is unfortunate. And there wasn’t a clear plot, other than the wolves in the wood and a boy who didn’t want to be a wolf anymore. But it was great for jogging my brain.
9) This next question may or may not be spoilery so be warned. There seems to be a slight connection between Shiver and the Take On Me video from Aha. What are some of your other favorite music videos and have they influenced your writing?
Oh, I love that video so much. I’m a huge fan of music videos in particular but they rarely influence my writing. The music, on the other hand. Oh, another video I love? The one for Low vs. Diamond’s “Heart Attack.”
10) Ok we are dying to know something about Linger…can you give us a hint about the plot or who our narrators are? Or maybe a sample of the play list?
Hmmm . . . Linger. I can tell you the song that set the mood. Shiver’s song was “The Ocean” by the Bravery. And Linger’s was “Wash Away” by Matt Costa. And I can tell you the little blurb that’s on my site: “It's about after. What happens after you discover there are werewolves in the wood, after you've fallen in love for the first time, after you've lost what you think you can't live without, after you've become someone you can't live with.”
And it was the hardest book I’ve ever written . . . but also the best, I think. I’m excited about it.
Thanks so much for your brilliant double review and for having me!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Today we will review Shiver by the super-uber talented Maggie Stiefvater who will be doing an interview with the FNC shortly.
And so without further ado, let is introduce to you, Shiver.
For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.
Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.
Ok here we go!
Frankie 45°F - It’s really cold right now, maybe we should let up on the air conditioning.
Donna – But we can’t, because we’re in our favorite Target Starbucks. We don’t control this weather. So how about you stop whining and we start co-reviewing?
Frankie (puts on her sweatshirt) now it feels like 50°F -Fine. Ok, how about we start with the fact that I have already read Shiver and now listened to the audio and I’m ready to dive in a third time. Seriously, I liked Shiver the first time I read it, but I didn’t realize the effect it had on me until a few weeks later when it was released (I was lucky enough to score an ARC). Shiver is the sort of book that touches you unexpectedly and it stays with you. There are so few books like this. I want to hug it.
Donna – I know! I found the whole novel very poetic, almost haunting. It’s very low-key, but there’s a sense of urgency throughout the whole thing because Sam knows it’s his last year being a human, and he’s just begun to connect with Grace. I was completely drawn in to their story, and I found myself caring for the characters.
Frankie (thinks about Sam) now it feels like 55°F - I was so impressed with the pacing and the lyrical nature of the novel. Whenever Maggie ended the chapter with a cliffhanger, there was something subtle and organic about it. I could see another writer (myself cough cough) being too tempted to turn this into a suspenseful action packed story, but Maggie was brave enough to let Sam and Grace speak for themselves, allow the love to speak for itself and carry the story and this is why I think the story stays with you and why you find yourself caring so much. Oh also…Sam…
Donna (getting a little warm) – Never did I think I’d want to fall in love with a werewolf. Think of all the shedding on the carpets! And wet dog smell! But oh no, somehow Maggie made Sam’s unfortunate condition a non-issue, and even the less attractive parts of werewolf-dom are easily forgettable. Face it, it’s much more difficult to make readers accept someone falling for a werewolf as opposed to the ever-popular vampire. But it worked!
Frankie (thinks of werewolf nookie) 60°F!-Oh but I loved Grace too. One thing about her was that she was clearly a character who had suffered and whose suffering had impacted her personality and the way she lived her life. She didn’t see herself as a victim or spend time dwelling on the fact that her parents barely noticed her- (aaah Donna just hijacked the computer)….
Donna – Sorry! I just had an exciting thought! One of the most memorable moments of me for Grace’s character was when she compared herself to her shy friend Olivia, saying that they were both quiet, but Grace chose to be more reclusive whereas Olivia couldn’t help but be anything but painfully shy. And also, I loved overall how Maggie handled the complexities of the friendship between Grace, Olivia, and Rachel.
Frankie (still thinking about werewolf nookie) 65°F (removes sweatshirt)-Grace was just such a wonderful strong female role model and she was different from most characters we see in YA, very pragmatic, not prone to crying or curling up and hiding waiting for someone to save her. What was unique about Shiver was that although Sam was the supernatural supposedly stronger of the two, she was the one coming to his rescue every time (well except for the first time). Sam could have easily been a strong alpha male, but the way he saved Grace was more emotional. His love was her saving grace (haha no pun intended). And I loved that aspect of the story, physically Grace had to save her wolf-it made them equally strong, equals and completely compatible and believable.
Donna – And it just has to be said – the romantic tension and fulfillment was…wow. (Alright I’m amping us up to 70°F.) Sam is a very artistic character; he’s constantly reading poetry and literature, he composes song lyrics in his mind – he sees beauty in the world. I think there’s a lot of Maggie in Sam, because she’s an artist in so many mediums in real life. (Check out her trailer for Shiver HERE.) And Sam describes the mythology of his werewolf existence in a beautiful, almost mournful way because he hasn’t been able to live a normal life, but the pack is his family.
Frankie 70°F -Yes, Beck was quite an interesting character. His relationship with Sam was so heartfelt, he loved him so much and cared for him, it was so clear in the text, although I can’t say I really agree with many of the choices he made. What do you think, Donna?
Donna – There were no villains in the story; everyone just made the best choices they could, and flawed people make flawed decisions sometimes. Alright, this train of thought has arrived at the station. What next?
Frankie – You’re a cheeseball.
Donna – Why you love me. Just keep talking about Shiver.
Frankie (checks temperature) Still 70°F -Ooooh I know! Let’s talk about the alternating points of view! I loved how the narration allowed for suspense to build, and how it also took us out of our comfort zone in regards to character safety. We all know that a first person narrative (unless we’re talking about The Lovely Bones or If I Stay) means that the main character cannot die, because hey, someone has to tell us how it ends. But with this story, it was possible for one narrator to go quiet and when they did…well we still had one narrator left, so really, all bets were off.
Donna – Nice one! One thing I appreciated was that Maggie didn’t feel obligated to alternate equally. Sometimes Grace had two chapters in a row, etc. As a slightly neurotic writer, I’m in awe of that freedom and how much it added to the story’s natural flow.
Frankie (thoughts shall be revealed) 75°F - So let’s flow on into some werewolf nookie discussion.
Donna – You and the darn werewolf nookie!
Frankie-I did it all for the nookie! WHAT! The nookie!! WHAT WHAT!
Donna – You did NOT just say that. I’m ashamed. And giggling. But yes, the nookie was wonderful. Maggie allowed every romantic scene to really be about Sam and Grace. Their personalities shaped how things unfolded, and I didn’t feel like I was reading the same tired kissing scenes from other books. (Not that I ever actually get tired of them…but you get my drift, right Frankie?)
Frankie 80°F - Uh-huh...Wow it’s really getting hot in here now.
Donna – If you burst out into Nelly I will walk away.
Frankie-Oh I can do much worse than Nelly. Ready?
Frankie- Ok, actually I can’t. How about instead we say Congrats Maggie on making the New York Times Bestseller List two weeks in a row and say HOT DAMN you moved from number 9 to number 5!
Donna – Well deserved! So in an effort to keep her on the list, here’s a LINK to Amazon to purchase your very own copy of Shiver! (Well well worth the money.) And if you can’t get enough of awesome Maggie, stalk her on her BLOG and WEBSITE. (Tell her First Novels Club sent you!)
Frankie 85°F -Then when you get your copy, hug it and squeeze it and read it and tell your friends. And Donna, I think our work here is done!
Ok we'd love to hear your reactions to our review, please leave comments-because we love comments:-)
Well, I’ve run out of excuses.
My teaching semester ended months ago. Our pre-wedding trip to celebrate with my husband’s family in Australia was wonderful--and exactly what we needed to do, as crazy as the timing was. Our June wedding, now a beautiful memory, was more perfect than we dared to hope for. Our semi-local honeymoon in Myrtle Beach, SC was relaxing and rejuvenating. My husband’s immigration case is in order—at least, our work is done; now it's in our lawyer's hands. We’re settled into our new apartment.
I could, however, come up with another string ofexcuses as to why I can’t possibly post on the blog—in a few weeks, another semester will begin, and I have much yet to prepare; our landlords have turned out to be crazy, and we’ve decided to look for a new apartment; we’ll be moving out in a month; we haven’t connected the internet at our apartment, and now we’re going to wait to connect we’ve moved (which, by the way, is quite an inconvenience)—but at this point the reason for my lack of posts is more closely related to my cognitive state and my writing habits than to any circumstance of my life.
I have a problem—an idea problem. Whenever I approach the page, I almost always have the same question: What in the world do I write???
How can one who aspires to be a writer struggle with ideas as much as I do, you ask?
I think the answer is simple. You see, I’m all about the language. It’s the words that I love, and the rhythms. It’s the moments of chilling pleasure when the two combine in such a way that they sing off the page.
Sure, I love the ideas, too—especially the gripping and inspiring ones—and I agree, the language and the ideas each are nothing without the other. And, if asked why I write/want to write, I would answer ". . . because I think I have something to say." Though, if I were to ask myself this question, my answer would probably be ". . . because I hope I have something to say," which makes me wonder whether invention is not really my problem after all, but something much deeper.
I wrote a book. Just one book. It started as a fantastical story about a boy who rides his bike off the edge of the earth, but over the years, as I try to get it "just right," it's morphed into something else--a story about a Japanese girl who receives a silkworm egg as a gift from her grandfather. The plot line and most of the characters are entirely different from the original, but the themes of love and loss remain the same. I've submitted my book twice, once as Blaine's story and once as Jitsuko's. Blaine's story received such criticism that I was compelled to put it away for over a year. Jitsuko's story was born out of that percolation period. While I'm still working out the glitches, I think Jitsuko's story is by far more compelling than Blaine's ever was. Nonetheless, to her story, I received one of those "thanks but yeah right" letters.
I've heard established authors' advice about those letters--blow them off, collect them in a folder, use them as inspiration, et cetera. I know that it's taken some authors years to "make it." (In a way, it was encouraging to hear Dan Gutman tell me last April that it took him 12 years, if I remember correctly, to find his niche.) But what keeps them all going through all the rejections? My guess is a love for the craft and the confidence that they have something to say.
I love the craft--ya know, the words and rhythms. It's the confidence that I lack. It keeps me from blogging, and, much worse, it keeps me from writing. I suppose the lesson for me in all of this is simply to just get over myself and get writing. Otherwise, I should just quit it all now before I waste a good chunk of my life wishing I had the courage to put my pen to the page.
So, I thank you dear blog, and dear reader, for another opportunity to face my fears and to be that person I so very much wish to be--a writer.