Monday, March 31, 2008

Writer's Block

Recently, I've been experiencing a bit of writer's block. Thing is, I've got a great concept for a novel, a new spin on YA fantasy that I think has never been done before. Putting it on paper...a whole other thing entirely. I have the idea, and the characters, but combining the two is killing me!

Some people walk away and leave it until inspiration hits, but I can't do it that way. I obsess...I think about it constantly; I don't feel right unless I'm at my computer at least staring at the screen.

Some people outline, but I can't do that either. If I know how the story ends (i.e. through an outline) I canNOT finish the book. I get bored with it! Half the fun of writing is figuring out how to tell the story and how it will end!!

For this novel and this case of writer's block, I'm still struggling. I do outline a bit--I know enough about my story to know the broad outcome (i.e. who lives, who dies--but not how). For this story, I've had to change around the plot so much I'm more confused--and anxious about--the ending than ever. I want to know what happens, because I have no idea! So I just stare at my screen, waiting to figure out my character's problems....

Sunday, March 30, 2008

On Editors

From Meg Cabot's blog:
I get a lot of letters from aspiring authors asking if you HAVE to do what your editor tells you, and the answer is, yes, if you have a good editor, you pretty much do. Not only that, but if you have a good editor, you should WANT to.
These words mean a lot to me. When I first started seriously writing, I thought that since I wrote it, it was good enough. I thought that editors fixed grammar, that was all. I thought that the hardest part was just writing something long enough.

Then I wrote something long enough, and realized for it to be any good, I'd have to cut it down by half (or more)...and even then, it would take a shot of gin and a miracle to make it salable.

When I submitted my work for contests or critiques, I thought everyone who didn't instantly love it was jealous.

Ah, naivety.

I have actually learned since then. I've realized that if the reader doesn't "get it," it's my fault. That I don't have to take all advice, but I should at least consider it. And that if you find someone good at reading and critiquing--editor or otherwise--you really should be eager to change your work, because if you trust them, then you trust that they're making your work that much better.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Review of Works in Progress

As far as I'm concerned, a ms. is a WIP until it's pub'd. (ooo, look at me with the abbreviations!)

My first pub-worthy WIP is a YA Fantasy called BABBLETONGUE. It's the closest to publishing as I've gotten so far, too; a Random House editor read and did a first round editing with it before backing out. I've got another completed ms., THE RED THREAD, and am currently working on a new project that isn't close to being finished yet.

WIP: BABBLETONGUE, YA Fantasy aimed at teen girls; 65k words

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Mina Hawthorne is blunt, temperamental, and has the housekeeping skills of the average frat boy. She could care less about a quest to find and capture an evil megalomaniac who threatens the universe, and a talking cat on her doorstep certainly isn't going to change her mind. However, when that talking cat informs Mina that she can speak a rare magical language--and that if she doesn't help the forces of good fight the evil Unnamer, she'll be placing her beloved grandmother in danger--well, that's enough to convince her to join the good side. That is, until she discovers that she can almost sympathize with the Unnamer's motives...and that he may be the only one who can cure her grandmother. Saving the universe just doesn't seem that important anymore.

Evaluation: This is the first thing I ever wrote worth publishing (something like the third book I wrote; but the others are under the bed, so they don't count, right? Right?). Anyway, it's different and funny, but it may be too different...not quite the thing for a break-out novel. I get lots of agent and editor nibbles from this one--lots of requests for partials and fulls, but I think it's ultimately turned down because it is a bit random (I was going for a Douglas Adams kind of humor) and it's certainly not a safe bet.

Status: On hold. After a close look at the first fifty pages from my crit group, I know I need to tone down the opener and focus on establishing the plot in a way that doesn't leave my readers banging their heads on the table. So this one is on hold, and will be edited and revised even more.


WIP: THE RED THREAD, YA Fantasy, aimed at teen girls, about 70k words

Synopsis: In THE RED THREAD, sixteen year old Chloe has been unexpectedly dropped into a world where monsters are real and indoor plumbing isn't, and the knight in shining armor she thought would save her turns out to be a berserker who tends to go mad with bloodlust at the most inconvenient times. The knight, Heath, is on a quest to save a kidnapped princess and defeat an evil tyrant. Chloe joins Heath, but her fairytale perception of his world is skewed when she realizes that the enemy Heath is fighting is linked to her own brother. In THE RED THREAD, Chloe must figure out how she can save her brother, even if he doesn't want to be saved, and how far she is willing to go for the knight she's falling in love with...even if he doesn't love her back.

Evaluation: This book is, in my opinion, much more marketable than BABBLETONGUE. For one thing, I wrote it based on some of the positive comments that the editor at Random House said about BABBLETONGUE (i.e. she liked the will-they/won't-they romance, she liked the action). Also, I kept in mind what I'd learned about the market and what would sell when writing this one. It's not to say it's formulaic--far from it. I just kept a better mind of what readers would want, not just what I wanted in this one.

Status: After one more edit, this is the ms. that will go out on the query round next. I'm focusing on this one for the time being, as I do think it more marketable than BABBLETONGUE.



...wait and see for the rest!

Getting the ball rolling...

I posted this on my critique group's blog, The Wunderkin, but as that's a closed blog (and as I've got nothing here yet), I thought I'd add it here, too.

I was reading Pub Rants when I came across this: what an agent and editor think are tired YA fantasy themes. Essentially, you know you might have a tired YA fantasy theme when:
1. Your main protagonist is the “chosen one” and only he or she can save the world.

2. You have a lost magical amulet and that search alone is driving the story.

3. When your main protagonist is waking up and getting ready for the day in the opening chapter.

4. If you have to go through the portal to actually begin the story.

5. If your Mom & Dad are dead (and on top of that, they are dead wizards or something similar) that the protagonist must live up to.
This isn't that different from the cliches list, really... In fact, it got me thinking. When the cliche list came out, I was kinda mad. I mean, is it really that much of an issue to have a red-headed sidekick or an occasional eye-brow raise? But there's something about this list that struck a cord with me. When I think about my favorite YA fantasy books, either they're old (like Narnia) and follow the category, or they're new and don't. I guess the stuff above really is the stuff that's been done before, and we as writers need to challenge ourselves to find something new and entertaining to write that is different. Right now, I think my first ms. definitely falls under 1 (only she can save the universe!) and maybe number 4 (I do rely heavily on portals). And my other finished ms. absolutely requires number 4 (whole point of the book is that she falls into another world and wants out). However, my new work in progress has none of the above, in part because of a conscience effort on my part to NOT use any portals or make the kids be the saviors of the universe. Part of my problem is that I LOVE the old books that wrote that way (Narnia especially)...and I need to break away from emulating them.

Welcome to the Blog!

So...what's this thing? It's my new writer's blog. All the cool kids have one.

This is a place for me to muse about writing, share ideas, and develop myself professionally. It's also a way for me to write through writer's block sometimes. Writing is important, even if it's not on my latest work in progress, and if I can just write about, er, writing, then hopefully I'll be more practiced for when it comes time for me to really write on my novels.

So I know it's simple, a bit of a cliché, and the lay-out's tacky...but bear with me :)