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Monthly Archives: June 2011

A blog post that blew me away

Or “In which I get on a soapbox and, knowing me, manage to fall off again.”

After spotting a link on twitter (thanks, Ang!), I took a break from editing to read a fabulous blog post and am continuing that break to write this.  Please, take a break from whatever you’re doing to read here.

In as much as this blog has a topic, that post, and this commentary, may seem like a deviation from it, but I don’t think it is.  First of all, the writing is compelling, which is really all that matters to me regardless of subject, and also I think there’s relationship between that post and fiction writing.  (Please note, I’m not for a second claiming to be the first to make a connection between those real-world concepts and character creation, it’s just something I want to write about here.)

Hanne Blank is absolutely right, in my opinion, and as I am knee-deep in edits and watching my characters on the page again, it got me thinking.

It is, I believe, a universal hope amongst writers that someone, anyone out there will connect with the people we create in our books and identify with them.  We may be telling the stories of completely invented characters, but we want readers to invest in them and think, “Hey, that’s me!” to some degree.  Not everyone will, and that’s fine, maybe even good, since as Ms. Blank says, women aren’t just one thing.  People aren’t just one thing.  Still, it means that we want to make our characters as “real” as we possibly can, and with that there is an inherent responsibility to make them diverse.  That is to say, make them an accurate representation of the world not only that we’ve invented, but the one we’re sitting in while we write them down.  For one thing, if we succeed (and learning how to is a process I’m sure I’ll be going through for the rest of my life) it makes for a more interesting book, but there’s another issue, too.  I’m a YA writer, at least some of you who will read this post are YA or middle-grade writers, and I’d argue that it’s especially important for these age groups to read about as many different kinds of people as possible.  Not in a hey-let-me-sit-you-down-and-teach-you-a-lesson kind of way, because every kid and young adult I know can spot that faster than I can spot a twix bar, but in a way that reminds us people aren’t just one thing.  It is, after all, depiction in various forms of media that has led to the necessity for posts exactly like the one linked above, and books absolutely have their place there.  I’m sure actual people have said things like this, often, but for the simple fact that I can remember it off the top of my head, I’m going to quote an episode of The West Wing, in which Toby says this:

There is a connection between progress of a society and progress in the Arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo Da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was the age of Shakespeare.

The next line is another character saying “these people aren’t Da Vinci or Shakespeare” and I’m not saying we are.  Not at all.  I have theories as to why I think we’ll never see giants like that again, though that’s another post.  We’re writers, trying to get by and maybe see our books on shelves along the way, but I don’t think that nullifies the point.  Pretty much everything is “normal” and if it takes depictions in books and TV shows and magazines and everything else to subtly guide us towards having that view of the world, then hey, at least we get there in the end. 

As a personal example, there is something about the protagonist of my current MS that could be considered a little “different” – or not, depending on who you are, but it could be.  I didn’t choose to put it in there, or set out with a plan to create him with that particular aspect, but he was one of those characters that popped into my head fully formed, including this one thing, and there is a reason I didn’t take it out.  I was recently asked whether I would if that would make the difference between being published or not, and my honest answer is I don’t know, but if I ever did it would be a wrench.  It makes him more real to me, and if my book does make it to shelves and someone out there identifies with that aspect of him, then that’s a bonus.  It’s not why I wrote him that way, and at no step of the journey was it ever intended to be some kind of lesson or an attempt to force my own beliefs on anyone, but if it resonates with someone, just once, I’ll be glad I didn’t listen to the naysaying voice inside my head at the beginning.  (I just think he’s a cool character, it’s an interesting story, and I had an amazing time writing it.)

As of this morning, the twitterverse was re-alight with the debate over darkness in YA fiction, thanks to another article in the WSJ by the author of the original, who argued that darkness in YA is unhealthy.  Millions of opinions proliferate, and here’s mine: the exploding YA market and its corresponding wealth of all kinds of subjects, tones, and genres brings with it an incredible number of rich, diverse, layered characters just waiting for people to read about them, put the book down, and (hopefully) think.  What could be healthier than that?

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Posted by on June 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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I HAVE BIG NEWS!

I hinted at this a few days ago, but it’s time to let you all know officially…

I HAVE AN AGENT!

I am now represented by the awesomely talented Meredith Barnes of Lowenstein Associates.  Meredith’s particular skills and her enthusiasm not just for my MS, but the other projects I want to work on in the future make her the perfect agent for me, and I couldn’t be happier or prouder to be working with her.

The next month will be a whirlwind of edits and learning about everything that’s coming up for me.  I want to thank everyone who’s been a part of this, holding my hand and cheerleading and being generally awesome.  I wouldn’t be here without you.

Onwards!

xoxo

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The hodge-podge post

Life has been crazy recently, and the past week has been a contender for the craziest week ever–in the best way possible.  I’m not quite ready to share my news, but I’m feeling bloggy so I thought I’d put a little something up here.  I was actually planning to do a “week in pictures” thing and scour the net for randomly hilarious gifs, but I’m navigating my trackpad with a finger that took a paintball to the knuckle a few hours ago, so I’m going for minimal effort here.

Instead, I will say my week went roughly like this, and 90% of it is book-related:

OMG.
OMGSOCOOLBOUNCEBOUNCE.
CANNOTBELIEVETHISISREALLYHAPPENING.
SEEINGBRIGHTEYESDESERVESMYFAVORITECOLORANDZOMG!
SOMUCHZOMGICAN’TBREATHE.

And that brings us to today, where as you read above, I injured myself in a way only I could manage.  Outside of a dance floor, graceful, I am not.  Accident prone, I absolutely am.   If I based a character on myself and documented examples of my own actual klutziness, no one would believe it.
Add in the beginnings of the plot for my next book, general awesomeness at seeing some old friends, and a trip to my favorite restaurant anywhere in the world, and it’s been a really great week. 

Since I should talk a little about actual writing and stuff here, I’ll say that lots of things are brewing in my head–new projects, old projects, and peripheral projects to the manuscript I’ve just completed.  I’m excited about writing in a whole new way now, and that’s saying something considering how I attacked the creation of my MS with all guns firing.  (Literally, when it comes to the end.)  More than ever, I’m looking forward to doing this forever.  There’s a quote I’ve had reason to share this week (which in fact I misattributed, so I will correct that here.)

Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else. ~Gloria Steinem

If you feel like that, keep writing.  It’s the reason we can’t stop, and I know so many of us feel this way.  Write everything you can think of.  Carry a pen everywhere.  Keep a notebook by your bed and don’t make the mistake I do of not being able to read the completely illegible scrawls the next morning.

So, that’s kind of what’s been going on with me–short on the details, I know, but stay tuned for BIG news on Monday. 




 
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Posted by on June 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Writing what you know is crap

I find myself with a little writing-related time on my hands while Second Novel brews in my head and Weird Novel is beginning to make its first tentative steps out into the wide, scary world of queries, so I thought I’d blog about part of the writing process today.  The title really says it all, but it’s worth saying twice: writing what you know is crap.  The (many) of you (us) out there who write speculative fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy prove that.  We’ve never been on a spaceship, had magical powers, been a vampire/werewolf/vegetable lamb (my personal favorite mythological creature/supernatural being of your choice.

So, here’s the thing.  Don’t write what you know, write what you can extrapolate.  For all the wide range of human emotions and experiences, the nuts and bolts of those things don’t change that much.  Guilt is guilt, whether it’s over breaking that jug your mother was fond of or crashing that spaceship prototype into the Ocean of Storms.  You know what your first kiss felt like, so when you write about it, it doesn’t matter whether the other participant in your fictional game of tonsil-hockey is a cute guy in your protag’s drama club or a demon from the depths of hell (but he’s TRYING to be a better person, Mom, honest!)

Sit down at your keyboard, think back to a time when you felt the *thing* you want your protagonist to feel.  That’s where it starts.  Subjects and settings…that’s all research, and we’ve never lived in a better time for having access to information.  You’re (probably) writing because you want whoever reads your work to be emotionally affected, invested, to cry when your protag does, laugh when they do, cheer when something great happens.  That’s what has to be real, that’s what you have to know.  You already do-you’ve been navigating the world through a haze of emotions Spock would disapprove of since you could walk.  Write from the heart.  You know that. 

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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