Friday, December 30, 2011

2011, and looking ahead to 2012

A lot of blogs have been participating in year-end favourites lists, and I've been reading them all with pleasure. I always like to see what different people enjoyed. I've wanted to participate myself, but due to some very sad, very difficult things that have gone on in the past week, I haven't had the energy nor the... enthusiasm I usually have. I don't want to say too much, as this blog doesn't get very personal very often, but it's enough to say that my family has gone through hell and back this week. I may or may not write a blog post about this issue, but until I decide what I'm going to do, I thought I would just write a quite wrap-up to say goodbye to 2011.

At the beginning of 2011, I made a resolution to do something I've never done before: keep track of all the books I read this year. As of right now, the number is 57. 52 of those were YA/MG. The adult books I read were either for literature classes or British mystery novels.

Out of 57 books, you'd think I could come up with maybe a top 10. But my brain power right now is zilch. During the year, as I listed the books I finished, I put a star next to them if they were particular favourites. I'm just going to tell you which books I put a star next to.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: This would probably be my hands-down favourite book I read this year. This book makes me feel all bubbly and happy inside the same way Disney's Beauty and the Beast does. It speaks to something inside me that just makes me glow. I can't define that. I can't label it. All I know is that any author who can do this to me immediately jumps to my all-time favourites list.

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford: A very, very close second to Anna, this book also speaks to me in a way most don't. This book makes me feel like, somewhere out there, there are people who totally get me. These characters are my soulmates. I want to crawl inside this book and live there, with Beatrice and Jonah. I want to call in to old timer radio shows and go on imaginary magic carpet rides with them. Like my favourite movie, Ghost World, this book gives us the weird and wonderful and sometimes heartbreaking world we live in and makes it magic.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson: How to Say Goodbye in Robot reflected the weird world we know, while 13 Little Blue Envelopes shows us the wider aspect of it. This book ignited the wanderer in me and basically inspired the trip to France and England I'm planning for 2012.

The Killings at Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham: One of the few adult books I read this year, it's a murder mystery about an English village. While it isn't as deep and heartfelt as some of the other books I read this year, it does have something amazing going for it: sparkling characters that leap off the page with their chemistry. Chief Inspector Barnaby and Sergeant Troy (who are also my two favourite characters on TV) are gems.

Those are the standouts in my reading for 2011. In 2012, I'm looking forward to Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (of course), The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (also a no-brainer), and too many more to count.

Other awesome things from this year include the film Midnight in Paris and the music of Joss Stone, the Smiths, Jack's Mannequin, Matthew Good, and too many more.

I'm sorry for the understated and sober year-end roundup... but what can I say? I hope 2012 sees me in much better spirits. Happy New Year and much love to you all. I hope to be blogging more soon.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

image from Goodreads

I must confess: this is a review of a book I did not finish.

But there are reasons I did not finish this book and I think they need to be talked about.

I waited a long time to read Shatter Me. I was aware of it before it even had a title, before it had a release date, months and months before it had a cover. I read the author's blog and I find her such a charming person. Regardless of what the book was about or what the cover looked like, I knew I was going to buy it and read it anyway. I support authors like that.

And the internet made no small deal about this book! Probably everyone in the entire YA world was clambering for an ARC and, if they didn't get one, giving the early reviewers the stink-eye. There was a much-hyped book trailer, a much-hyped cover (revealed on MTV!), and some really early rave reviews. The stage was set.

So, does it live up to all that crazy hype?

My answer is no.

Let me explain. From the reviews I read, I knew going in the writing was going to be lyrical. I read a few excerpts that let me in on the style of the novel. In my opinion, it was too much. Way, way, way too much. Every other sentence has a long, rambling metaphor that is beautiful on the surface, but soon becomes too drawn-out and convoluted. At first you're going right along with it because it sounds pretty, but by the time you get to the end of the sentence the meaning is completely jumbled. You start the sentence with a dreamy expression, but by the end your face looks all "WTF?"

I love metaphors. I do. I use many of them myself. Markus Zusak said once in an interview that he thinks each page of a novel should have a gem. That's my theory on metaphors and other pretty devices, too. One per page is nice. One item of beauty per page is perfect.

One. Not ten. I swear, every other sentence of Shatter Me is one of those pretty sentences. It just gets tiring to read and slows the pace down to a molasses-like trickle.

I only got about a quarter of the way into the book before calling it quits, so that's almost too soon to comment on the romance, as it barely got started. But that's just it: I quit so early on because nothing was happening. Adam is the most boring character ever written, I really can't think of a thing to say about him, and Warner? Um, is he supposed to be a love interest? Because I got serious creep vibes. Serious creep vibes. If a guy seems to have put you in prison just to test your abilities and see how you'd react (um, V for Vendetta, anyone??), you do not get involved with him. You do not. I got predatory vibes from him all the way and I can't imagine how that could ever have changed enough for Juliette to want to get it on with him.

Juliette herself is fairly blah. She has the ability to kill people by touching them, apparently, but by a quarter of the way into the book, that ability is barely explained. Mafi skirts the issue, describing Juliette's feels about the power and how her parents and other people reacted to her having the power, but never fully explained how the power worked or what exactly it does. Do people drop down dead when she touches them? Or do they get sick and die gradually? Do they asphyxiate? Or what?

Despite all the hullabaloo, Shatter Me is so messy it's not even funny. It feels like trendbait to me. I never got the feeling that it was a real story. I could never really get past knowing the specifics of the novels creation -- knowing that Jodi Reamer represented it, knowing that it got released the same year as it sold (practically unheard of). I don't think you're missing anything at all if you skip this one.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Please, please, please watch this video



Aside from being beautiful and absolutely necessary, I think there are very valuable lessons for writers in this. Playing with expectations, perspective, and emotional impact...


Also, it's World AIDS Day. I have had a few family members affected by HIV/AIDS, so it'll be a special day of reflection for me. Bless you all.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I win NaNo!

30 days.

50,213 words.

One girl. One boy. One murder. One almost-romance.

I'm so glad to have this thing over-with. Not because I didn't enjoy writing it -- I definitely did -- but because now I can go back to my other book. It beckoned me with its siren's call all through November and I missed it like the desert misses the rain. And now we can be together again. My NaNo novel can now spend lots of time in the bottom of the drawer to think about what it's done.

But seriously, it was a good NaNo. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone a little in writing a murder mystery, and it turned out well. I could see myself writing another, possibly even a sequel to this one -- and if you know me at all, you know I am not the kind of writer who writes sequels. So this may just have been a game-changing NaNo! But it needs so much revision, and I'm so tired of it, so it'll definitely be months before I pick this one up again.

I've been up to so much this past month and I haven't blogged half as much as I should have. I have a ton of ideas for posts that should be coming soon. Especially one long overdue one which includes me having met a lovely YA author in person :)

Stay tuned! There's lots to come from me!

And if you won NaNo too, congratulations! How'd it go? Are you going to go back and revise your book, or does it get shoved in a drawer?

Friday, November 18, 2011

IMM & miscellaneous topics vlog!

Hey! I made a vlog!


I would embed, but the video is too big for my layout >.< Anyways, I enjoyed making it, and I hope to make more soon!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day 12: Yesss, Caught Up! Also, the Smiths

I fell behind by a few thousand words over the past couple days. I'm not used to being behind during NaNo at all -- usually I can bully myself into writing even when I don't feel like it. But I worked a few long days and had a friend come to town for a short time and I skipped a couple days of writing. So unlike me. Luckily I was a day ahead anyway, so I only ended up being about 3k behind target, but still. It was weird for me.

But today I battled through it and got caught up! Yay! THE DEAD RINGERS currently sits at 20k! And of course it sucks. They all do at first. But there's potential. Unfortunately I got hit with a bad case of SNIA (Shiny New Idea Attack) in the first couple days, so I already have another manuscript brewing in the back of my mind that I have to write sometime, and my Camp NaNo novel still needs a lot of revision... ah well. Life of a writer, amirite??

Here's a song for you. I've been on a Smiths bender the past couple weeks... I'm pretty sure they're my second favourite band of all time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo, Day 1!

So today is Day 1 of NaNoWriMo, as I'm sure you know. Unless you live under a rock. Which I'm pretty sure you don't, if you're reading this blog!

And if you've read this blog before, you'll probably be aware of the fact that I freaking love NaNo.

Well, I capped off Day 1 with 3,367 words. Definitely not as high as my Day 1 in Camp NaNo this summer, where I wrote over 6k. x_x no idea how I did it. But 3,367 is over twice the daily goal, so hooray!

My NaNo novel is titled THE DEAD RINGERS, and it's a YA murder mystery, which is definitely a departure for me. I adore murder mysteries, though, so I'm having a really fun time writing one myself.

I'll have a proper post soon (with pictures!) detailing what I did over the weekend! It was exciting! Stay tuned! Until then, happy writing!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Do You Hate Insta-Love?

Do you hate insta-love, the YA phenomenon where two characters meet and then declare their everlasting love for each other only a few pages or chapters later?

I know I hate it. But this post over on YA Highway made me think a bit.

Teenagers do stupid things. Being a teen is all about experience crazy emotions -- from ecstatic happiness to lowest-of-the-low depression. And insta-love is a part of that. When you were a teen, how many times did you get crushes on guys/girls just because they were hot? All the time, right? That's what a crush is when you're that age. Usually those crushes fizzle out fast, and you're on to a new one the next week. I still get crushes like this.

So many insta-love isn't that far from reality. Sure, my crush-at-first-sight experiences all ended in heartbreak, but maybe some everlasting love has really been forged out of a single look.

The issue I still have with insta-love, though, is that YA characters never see any consequences for their sometimes rash actions. In the real world, if you go ahead and declare your feelings to that cute upperclassman you've been talking to... chances are it's going to end in heartbreak, a few days of tears, and then a swearing-off of love forever. It's going to hurt.

It never hurts YA protagonists. They never get to a point where they think, "Wow, it was pretty silly to believe I'd actually fallen in love with this person. We're totally not going to be together forever."

YA romance is full of happily ever afters, and not enough growing-up moments.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

YA is Full of Pretty People

When was the last time you opened a YA book and read a description of someone's glossy hair, chiselled cheekbones, or flawless, porcelain skin?

Five minutes ago, right?

Now, when was the last time you actually saw a teenager who looked like a Burberry model?

You don't see many, do you?

Okay, I'll stop speaking in questions. But really, why is YA so full of pretty people?

Think back to yourself as a teenager. Or, if you are still a teen, think of yourself and your friends. Imagine walking down the hall of your high school. You see heavier girls wearing sweats and oversize t-shirts to hide their stomachs, and you see way-too-skinny girls doing the same to hide eating disorders. You see boys with cuts from their first times shaving. You smell the people who forgot deodorant that day.

My point is that teens are rarely polished and perfect. So why are YA characters so perfect? It's rare to see a girl protagonist who's bigger than a size 8 -- unless it's an "issue" novel where her weight is the "issue." And male love interests? We constantly get Mr. Perfect. Cheekbones that stick out a mile, sexy five o'clock shadow, tousled -- but perfect -- hair, and smouldering eyes. Edward Cullen, Patch Cipriano, Noah Shaw, anyone? It's so, so rare to get an actual, living, breathing teenage boy as a love interest, patchy beard, bad fashion sense and all.

And the biggest issue I have with this? Acne. The teenage years are full of unsightly red monstrosities. No one is immune to it, not even the rich girls with access to the most expensive skin regiments. And yet, open up your current YA read, and I'm willing to bet everyone has flawless skin.

I had chronic acne from the time I was 11 all throughout my teens. It's better now, but it's still there. I went through hell dealing with it, everything from my mom constantly treating it like a scientific experiment, to my former best friend using it as gossip fuel when she left me for other friends. And I know a lot of teens have the same experience.

But I've yet to see acne make an appearance in a YA novel, at least not as a serious issue. Maybe the occasional zit causing some angst, but never to the extent to which I know it can come to.

Is it too much to ask, to have more realism in our YA? Because not all of us are Pretty People.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Contest!

The wonderful blog YAtopia is hosting a magnificent two-sentence pitch contest with literary agent Mandy Hubbard. If you have a completed YA or MG manuscript, I urge you to enter!

Why "Disturbing" is Good

In light of Banned Books Week, and also just because I feel the need to talk about it, I'd like to talk about disturbing books.

Books get banned and challenged and not-recommended for all kinds of reasons. Sexual content is a big one, so are topics like drugs and religion.

The one I'd like to talk about is violence.

"Violence," to me, can mean different things. It can mean physical fighting. It can mean angry emotional intensity. It can mean blood and gore.

Last night I finished reading The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. It was a rip-roaring roller-coaster of a book, never slowing down for a second. The pages flew by. The plot was fantastic, the characters were fantastic.

And it disturbed me.

Oh, god, did it disturb me. There are so many things that could be disturbing about this book. Scary bad guys? It has 'em. Blood and guts? Oh yeah. Sad death scenes of characters that shall not be named? Has 'em in spades.

I'm not going to reveal exactly what it is that disturbed me, I don't want to spoil it. I'll just say that it was a scene where a character acted rashly, resulting in a death.

It wasn't a main character who died. It was the equivalent of Taxi Driver #3 being killed in a big-budget disaster movie. But somehow, the situation slid under my skin and stabbed right into the core of me.

I didn't know whether to burst into tears or slam the book shut and toss it against the wall. I didn't know whether I wanted to be violently ill or curl up in bed and sleep for days. I was paralyzed, physically and emotionally.

That scene shook something up inside me. Like the titular knife, that whole book slit me open and spilled my insides, stitching them back up after.

That is why disturbing books are good. They change you. They break your heart and put it back together. You heal from the pain, but you're different afterward. They scare you, but they teach you about yourself. Sure, maybe I wish I'd never read that scene in The Knife of Never Letting Go (it would save me a lot of heartbreak), but now I know how not to act. I learned that I could never stand to cause such intense fear and tragedy, like the character who killed did.

I know myself better now because of those disturbing book. I would recommend the experience to anybody.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Novel is Lonely

I haven't written a word of fiction in two weeks now. I put myself on a one-month hiatus to get refreshed, to read a lot, and to chillax a little bit.

But guys... one month is a long time.

I have to admit: I checked up on my novel.

It misses me.

I opened the document to ask how it was doing, and the characters gave me puppy-dog, please-come-play-with-us eyes. There were bloaty extra words in there that need cutting down. There is an entire plot that needs changing and delicious new scenes to write.

I don't know if I can last the whole month. But I want to last the whole month. So I'll bury my head in my TBR pile and tell my character to shhhh, I'll get to them later.

:]

Monday, September 12, 2011

Teachers Teaching Cool Books

So this past week, school went back in. Not for me -- I'm a disillusioned university drop-out at the moment -- but for my siblings. My little brother is now in grade 11, doing an alternative program because high school didn't work out for him. My little sister, however, has just entered high school in grade 8.

Beyond this being totally mindblowing (omg my little baby sister is going to be 13 soon!!! When did this happening?!!), it's exciting. She's growing up, yay! She's also a complete brat, but that's besides the point. She's always been a brat, heh.

It's also worrying. She's attending the same high school I went to, and she has the same Phys Ed teacher I had. I'm worried because that teacher bullied me and utterly obliviated my self-esteem in grades 8 and 9, and my sister's a little chubby like I was at the time. I'm crossing my fingers that either that teacher has changed, or that my sister is a hell of a lot stronger than I was and will fight back. She's a really tough kid, so I'm hoping she'll be okay.

Today she came home from school with a huge smile on her face, brimming over with excitement to tell me something.

"OMG, Becca, guess what book we're reading for English?!?!?!"

"What?"

"The Hunger Games!" she squealed. Literally squealed. "Right away I told the teacher that I've already read it and that everyone else was going to love it!"

What a little busy-body. It's so her to jump up and blab any fact that makes her look cool for already knowing something.

But it made me so happy. A teacher who teaches The Hunger Games instead of the dry and dull things some teachers choose?

I think my sister will be just fine.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Today I'm 20!

Today is my 20th birthday!

*confetti*

Hello books for my birthday <3

I have a lot of strange feelings about this birthday -- shedding that '1' prefix and '-teen' suffix is kind of doing me a number -- but for now I just want to enjoy it. Probably a more whiny, angsty post coming up in the near future!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Looking Back on Camp NaNoWriMo

Well, friends, I did it. I crossed the threshold of 50,000 words on August 15th, actually, but it took me until the 29th to finally type the words "The End."

The first draft of what is currently entitled THE BRIGHT FOREVER is almost 67,000 words long. Phew. I thought it was never going to end.

I think, for me, NaNoWriMo works best as "first draft in a month" rather than "50k in a month." Sure, 50k is what I aim for, but every single time I've competed, I've written solely for the purpose of getting to 50k. And then by the time I get there, the end of the story is nowhere in sight because I ignored the traditional beginning-middle-end structure. So when I hit 50k, the climax isn't even in sight. And then, upon hitting 50k, I immediately lose steam. The 16k between 50k and The End was some of the hardest stuff I've ever had to push myself to write.

But it's finished. Sort of. Actually, I had a Revision Revelation on my final day of writing, so when I start revising, most of what I wrote this month has to be scrapped.

*shoots self*

Oh well. I had fun. And it's a lot easier to start over with a finished draft than it is to start with fragments.

I'm going to take a month off from writing -- yes, a whole month. I don't think I've taken this long a break from writing since I was 10 years old. No, I don't think I can actually do it. But I really need to devote some time to reading, and to get some distance from all the projects I'm currently working on. THEN I can plunge into heavy revisions and heavy, heavy research for this stupid novel.

*dies of exhaustion*

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gushfest: Lola and the Boy Next Door

I somehow stumbled into the luck of winning an ARC of my most anticipated book of 2011 -- Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. Having this ARC still feels like a dream to me, I wanted it that badly. Thank you so, so much to Leah Clifford for her BlogTV chat where I won it, I am eternally grateful!

Where to start, where to freaking start...

Like I said, this is my most anticipated book of 2011. I read Anna and the French Kiss earlier this year and it rocketed to the top of my list of all-time favourite YA books. It had heart, it had hilarity, it had the most relatable, loveable protagonist and the most swoon-worthy love interest... and it had two forthcoming companion novels.

(May I just say that I love the idea of companion novels? I've spoken before about how I'm often tired of every single YA release being part of a series. I like new, fresh stories and characters every time. But of course, I love the added excitement of catching up with old friends in overlapping characters.)

I was nervous for Stephanie Perkins's sophomore novel. What if it sucked? What if it totally lacked the spark that Anna held for me? Even worse -- what if I was just apathetic about it?

Safe to say I worried for no reason. Lola and the Boy Next Door is close to perfection.

Because I cannot really articulate all the things I love about it in a cohesive review, let's continue on in list form.

Things I Loved:

-- Lola has two gay dads, and they were real, honest-to-goodness good characters. Funny, nuanced, and they loved Lola so, so much. They were such good parents and fun to read about, to boot.

-- the setting. San Francisco was so vibrant and lovely in this book, and it made me want to go there even more. (Hey, maybe I should go -- it's only about a two days' drive from here!)

-- Lola herself. I was afraid I wasn't going to like her as much as I liked Anna, but I did. Where Anna had that manic nervousness that I could so relate to, Lola had such a magnetic confidence that I want to relate to. Lola is someone that I want to be. She's a great role model. Plus she has the best style the world has ever seen. Any character with Marie Antoinette as a style inspiration is all right with me!

-- Max. I know, I know, he's a douchebag. And I don't like him in a swoony way. I just loved how he was portrayed, how he seemed all right for the most part but would occasionally show his thorns -- and then it would hit you that he is not the right guy for Lola, not at all. I loved how Stephanie Perkins used him as a foil to Cricket.

-- Cricket. While he didn't have the same omg-I-love-him factor that St. Clair did for me, I loved his zaniness. And his awkwardness was so adorable that I wanted to cry. In a good way, if that's possible.

And finally,

-- Seeing what Anna and St. Clair are up to. They slipped into this novel so effortlessly. They really fit. It didn't feel at all like they were just shoved in to appeal to the the fans of their book. Even if you haven't read Anna and the French Kiss (and why the heck not?!) and don't know them already, you'll love them.

Stephanie Perkins has become one of my absolute favourite YA writers in what feels like overnight. I'm going to be buying a finished copy of Lola the day it's released, and it'll sit next to Anna on the bookshelf, awaiting the day Isla and the Happily Ever After can join them!

Lola and the Boy Next Door is being released September 29th, and I can't freaking wait for you all to read it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I Has a Guest Post

Hey, all!

While I'm still getting it together after a really busy few days, here's a guest post I wrote over at Brittany's blog. I promise I've got some good posts up my sleeves, but I hope this will tide us all over until then.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

50k in 15 Days

That title is no lie. I wrote 50,000 words in fifteen days of Camp NaNoWriMo.

Who's awesome?!

But, like most NaNo books go for me, the story's not done. I'm trying to do 2k a day now for a couple more days so I can reach THE END. And then take a break from writing for a little while, because I'm feeling a little burnt out. But probably just for a few days. A week tops.

But who am I kidding, nobody's reading this! You're all over at WriteOnCon -- right? ;)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Series or Standalones?

Do you read Natalie Whipple's blog? If not, you should. It's fabulously entertaining and offers some great writing insight (plus Natalie's just so cute).

Today, she blogged about series and sequels versus standalones, and it really got me thinking.

I am in no way, shape, or form cut out to write sequels to anything I write.

I've tried. When I was younger, I wrote a couple sequels to other novels I'd written. That was back when I was still just writing for fun. Now that I write more seriously, I find it impossible to dwell in the same fictional world for too long.

It's not that I don't love the characters. I do. But a lot of the time I want to do something new instead of write about the same old people. And, in a weird way, it feels like I'm trying to involve myself too much in my characters' lives if I try to write sequels. Almost like I'm a mom trying to cling to her adult children. They don't need me anymore. They're independent. They can handle themselves just fine without me, thankyouverymuch.

Personally, I think YA needs more great standalone novels. Is it just me, or does it feel like every new book you pick up is the first in a trilogy? And how many times have you read a sequel to something and thought, "Wow, that was unnecessary"? I know I've done that. I would much rather read one solid, amazing book that packs a real punch than read three separate, but weaker books.

(Although I do like the idea of companion novels -- sequels-but-not-really, like Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. But maybe I just think that because Stephanie Perkins can do no wrong!)

What do YOU think? As a reader, do you prefer series or standalones? How about as a writer?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Camp NaNoWriMo Day Seven

So in my last ecstatic blog post, I gushed that I'd written 6,000 words on day one.

Well, guess what?

On Day Seven, my wordcount is 28,043.

O.o

I've never written anything this fast in my life. I'm amazed with how easily this book is coming.

I say that now, but that must be because my brain is so frazzled from so much creative output. Believe me: in a few weeks/months, this blog will be full to the brim with revision woes about this book.

But oh well. This kind of rush is what I live for, and the reason I friggin' love NaNoWriMo, in all its incarnations.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Camp NaNoWriMo Day One Recap

Yesterday was Day One of Camp NaNoWriMo, the month where I go crazy and write a lot.

I wrote...

*drumroll*

6,084 words.

Oh. My. Gawd.

I don't think I've ever written so much in a single day. I'm extremely impressed with myself, and I plan to get to 10k by tonight. Think I can do it?

Because I'm feeling so jubilant... want a teaser?

I can't share too much, because sharing works-in-progress tends to mess me up, but here's the first line of THE BRIGHT FOREVER, my NaNo novel:


"I can't believe the sun really exists."


I think this book might be a weird one, guys XD

If you're participating in Camp NaNo, how are you doing so far? Even if you aren't a camper... how are you, in general?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Camp NaNoWriMo!

Today is August 1st, and I'm starting Camp NaNoWriMo today! I'm so excited. This will be my fourth NaNo novel.

Are YOU NaNoing this month?

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Oh, You're a Writer? What Do You Write?"

Today on her blog, literary agent Sarah LaPolla addresses this issue: you're talking to an acquaintance/someone you're meeting for the first time, and they find out you're a writer. They inevitably ask you, "What do you write?"

I hate this question.

Despite being very forthcoming about my writing on this blog, on the AW forums, basically anywhere online, I'm extremely shy about it in real life. I have fairly close friends who only have vague knowledge of my writerly affliction. If people know about specific projects at all, they only have the murkiest idea of what my latest book kind-of-sort-of is about.

When the "what do you write" question comes into the conversation, I freeze up. I wish I could just say "YA" and have that be that, but outside of the YA world, people have no idea what those two letters stand for.

I usually answer the question with "teen fiction."

The next question, almost every time, is "Oh, like Twilight?"

And I say no, not like Twilight at all. When they probe a little deeper and ask for what the novel is about, I say something along the lines of this:

"Oh, um, well, there's this family, and they have fifteen kids, and the sixth child is, like... not happy? So she starts, like, creating this fake online persona, and, like, then she's actually a man."

This gets me polite smiles and nods and quick changes of subject.

Which I'm glad for. For some reason, talking about writing is really hard for me. Even my mom, my cheerleader throughout the querying process, only knows the above vague summary. My two best friends have actually read my work, but besides that... I write in secret. Maybe because writing has been such an all-consuming passion of mine for so long that it feels too personal to let people in on it.

Real life people, that is. You online folks get to hear everything.

I suppose I'll have to break the code of silence and shout from the rooftops someday, but for now, I'm a secret agent writer, writing under cover of darkness.

That sounds so much cooler than it really is.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I'm Fine, How Are You?

As my neurosis-soaked last post might inform you, I've kind of been in the revision cave lately. I think I'm going to give a final push on this until July 31st, and then on the first day of August I'm going to leap headfirst into a new WIP during my stint at Camp NaNoWriMo! I'm so excited for that. I'm a huge, huge fan of NaNoWriMo and I always wish I had the drive to do it during other months besides November. Lo and behold, NaNo answered my prayers!

So, tell me, what are you guys up to? I really want to know. I feel like we don't talk enough. By the way, you look great! :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Wisdom from the Revision Trenches

Lately I've been working on a revision of TKoGU. Among the (many) things I'm working on in this round is lowering the wordcount. THE KING OF GROWING UP is contemporary YA, a genre where normal wordcounts are between ~40k-65k, maybe going as high as 80k if you're a multi-published author. My wordcounts for this genre are usually around 50k, with FAKE clocking in at 64k.

But TKoGU, at the end of the first draft, clocked in at 90k.

Ouch.

My problem isn't that it's full of useless scenes and filler. My problem is that it isn't. Almost everything is crucial to the story, there isn't all that much plot fat to cut. I found a few scenes that could go, but mostly I've been skimming the prose itself to try to cut that wordcount down.

I try to play a game with myself sometimes while I'm editing. I try to cut as many words as possible, being absolutely ruthless. If a single word doesn't improve a sentence, it goes. If a line of dialogue isn't absolutely necessary, it goes. Watching that wordcount go down is thrilling, and I feel like I'm really accomplishing something. I got it down to 87k, which is an improvement, if only slight.

But today, while I was playing this weirdo game, I came across a chunk of the story where some dialogue needed to be tweaked to reflective new information that had come in earlier in the revision. A character needed to say a few more things for that information to make sense in this scene.

That required a few extra words. I was worried for a minute. Wasn't I losing my game if my wordcount went from 87,031 to 87,045? Maybe I shouldn't add those couple extra things, are they really THAT necessary?

Then I stopped myself. I just started thinking, "This is stupid. The story needs that dialogue to change. So what if it's a couple words longer?"

The exact amount of words doesn't matter a whit compared to the quality of words.

If I was adding a couple words, but they were good words and not just fluffy filler words, then that's totally fine. I'd rather have a story a few words above where I'd like it to be than a story that is perfect word-wise, but doesn't make any sense.

I hope my lesson learned helps someone out there. Anybody else play the silly wordcount reduction game?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thoughts on Settings

Settings are one of the foundations of novels -- along with characters, themes, plots, etc. -- and yet I'd say it's one of the most flexible of those foundations.

I'm going to use YA novels as examples because, let's face it, that's what I'm into.

In some novels, setting isn't so important. A lot of YA novels have this typical suburban setting. It's Every Town, USA. These kinds of settings remind me of the cartoon Fairly OddParents, which takes place in Townsville. How much more generic can you get? Often these settings illustrate a very teenage way of thinking: all suburban dwellings are the same and cookie-cutter-ness is bad and it doesn't matter where exactly the book takes place because it could be anywhere and it doesn't really matter anyway because suburbia crushes souls. In these kinds of settings, the universalness (or flat-out genericness) is emphasized.

In other novels, setting is paramount. This story could only take place in this town. Instead of the generic aspects of the town being emphasized, the author draws our attention to the specifics. It's kind of a cliché, but really, in some novels, the setting is like another character.

There are pros and cons to both types of settings, of course, and examples in which each is effective. Courtney Summers' books have generic suburbia settings, as does Barry Lyga's The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, but it doesn't take away from the awesomeness of those books. The settings just aren't focuses. On the other hand, just try to imagine Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard and Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma without their settings... impossible. Their settings are so well-drawn, so specific and beautifully described, that they would be entirely different stories if they were set anywhere else.

I, as a writer, have gone both ways. I've written a few books where the settings were pretty much inconsequential. You could set the novel in your own hometown in your head, if you wanted to.

But these days, I've been thinking a lot about what type of writer I want to be, now and in the future, and I've decided that I want to be a very setting-specific writer. I want to set my stories in real places that you could actually go to. I love it when stories have that element. Knowing that, if I wanted to, I could get in my car and drive to Forks, Washington in just a few hours is really cool, and makes reading setting-specific stories so much fun. I want readers of my work to have that element of "this place really exists" that I find so exciting.

I want to be a writer of one setting in particular: Vancouver and its surrounding towns. I've lived here my whole life, I love this place, and I want to share some of its awesome with readers from around the world. I grew up (and still live) in Squamish, a small town outside of Vancouver, and my current WIP takes place there. I've found that I have much more fun writing real places than made-up places.

This way, instead of trying to keep a made-up town layout in my head, I can just plunk my characters down on Cottonwood Road, a three-minute walk from my house, and know exactly where they are, what the place looks like, what it feels like. When I mention a character's house, I know which house it is (and in some cases, I know who currently lives there). I can set the scene in vivid, true-to-life detail, and I know that the book benefits from it.

I'll cap this post here, but I have more thoughts on settings. Stay tuned...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Deathly Hallows, Part 2

I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 last night, at midnight. Because I'm just so whacky and crazy, I went in my pyjamas. The small-town movie theatre was packed with teenagers I'm now too old to have gone to high school with, but there were a few people I graduated with who were home for the summer.

I'm still trying to put this movie into words, and I don't really think I can. I kind of already went through the angst of "Oh my god no more Harry Potter" when the seventh book came out, so there was less of that feeling for me. Movies are almost never as good as the books, and that is definitely true in this case. Still... a lot of this movie pulled me apart at the seams. The death of Snape, one of my favourite fictional characters of all time. Snape's memories and reasons for every action he took over the course of the series. His doe Patronus.

The ghosts of Harry's loved ones surrounding him before he took that last step to meet his enemy.

I cried. A lot. The whole theatre did. There was utter silence, punctuated by sniffles and sobs people tried to stifle but couldn't.

Just thinking of finding a way to summarize all my feelings about this experience makes me freeze up. I just can't do. These books, these movies, these stories have been a part of my life now for eleven years, and to have another piece of the Harry Potter world wrap up is very hard. Because I can't say it any better, I'll leave you with the words of one of my random airhead Facebook friends:


"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book Titles that Remind Me of Songs


I love when books are titled after songs. Sometimes it's on purpose, like these:




Whenever I see those covers, I get The Beatles' "Across the Universe" and U2's "With or Without You" stuck in my head. This is no doubt done purposely, to give the prospective reader a taste of the novel's tone. I haven't read either of these books yet, though, so I can't say for sure.

But it's kind of funny when titles remind me of things the author and publisher cannot have anticipated. Like how this...



Reminds me of this...


Monday, July 4, 2011

What the Heck?!

An important part of revisions for me is outlining. Yes, I outline in revisions, after the whole manuscript is already rewritten. I'm a pantser, my methods are random and weird like that. Anyway, I put each chapter on a Post-It note, jot down a quick synopsis of everything that happens in that chapter, and stick it to the wall about my desk. I currently have two WIPs plotted out on the wall. This is a picture of it:




The pink, dark pink, and blue block of stickies is my outline of FAKE, which has gone through multiple revisions and is (for now) complete. The light pink is the original chapters in Jen's POV, the dark pink chapters are the ones in Orlando's POV, and the blue are the chapters that have been totally changed and revised. I just finished putting up the green block of stickies. It's for my newly finished first-draft, THE KING OF GROWING UP, which is just moving into revisions.

FAKE is 50 chapters. TKoGU is 37.

The weird thing is... TKoGU is 26,000 words longer than FAKE.

What the heck????? How did my much-longer WIP end up with 13 fewer chapters?? HOW??? And it's not even finished! I almost always end up adding words during the revision process, and I know that there are at least a couple thousand words that'll be added before TKoGU is ready for beta readers. This is so weird!! I would've thought that more words = longer outline. I prepared so much space on the wall for the TKoGU stickie block but... it just looks so tiny and empty!

Just goes to show... every manuscript is different. And some manuscripts are really, really weird and make you question everything you knew to be true about writing.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I Can Haz a Blog Award!

The oh-so-awesome Christine Taylor over at The Writer Coaster has given me the Seriously Cute Blogger Award! Yay! Thanks, Christine. Your kind words about me and my blog are much appreciated!




Okay, that puppy is like, the sweetest thing ever.

To accept the award, I have to list five books/movies/TV shows I've watched in the past 12 months.

1) I read Beauty Queens by Libba Bray last month and oh my gosh is it ever awesome. I bought it thinking "Oh, yeah, this should definitely be in my TBR pile, I'll get to it sometime" but I ended up starting it that same day and finishing it really quickly. It was surprisingly deep, and the satirical elements were spot-on. I found myself laughing out loud and reading passages to my mom, too, which is definitely the sign of something special. Plus -- OMG -- there were no unhealthy relationships or passive females! And there was a romance with a trans character! And sexy pirates! Whooohooo!

2) For movies, the best thing I've seen lately is the Bollywood comedy 3 Idiots. It was an impulse watch, my family just found it on the Video on Demand and thought it sounded interesting, so it was really fun to watch it with no preconceptions. It was hilarious! I absolutely love foreign films because they bring such unique humour and situations -- Hollywood can become monotonous. Definitely recommend 3 Idiots if you're looking for a quirky, weird, and touching comedy.

3) I don't watch a heck of a lot of TV, but when I do, I watch British murder mystery shows. Midsomer Murders is my favourite TV show at the moment, as well as Heartbeat and, of course, Agatha Christie's Poirot. Either British murder mysteries, or old people shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bob Newhart, or Antiques Roadshow. What can I say, I'm an old soul. More like geriatric soul.

4) Another book! I read Divergent by Veronica Roth a little while back, and I really, really enjoyed it. Dystopian isn't always my thing, and the book is pretty daunting (get it?) and huge, but I blew through it in two days. Although it kind of felt like mostly set-up for the sequel, I found I really loved the main character, Tris. Her struggle with selfishness and her discovery that it's okay to be selfish sometimes really spoke to me. I'm definitely going to pick up the sequel, Insurgent, when it's out.

5) I haven't read this book yet, but I would kill to and I just need a moment to squee about it... OMG THE FAULT IN OUR STARS SQUEEEEEEEEEILOVEJOHNGREEN.

...I'm a little excited.


Okay, now I get to pass the award on! I'm supposed to pick five bloggers to give it to, but to be honest I'm a little pressed for time and I can only think of one blogger right now who deserves it!

Aaronni @ Simply Aaronni!

Her blog is so cute and it's really fun to read how excited she is to be writing, editing, and starting her query-go-round. I met her on Absolute Write and I think she's awesome! Go check her out!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Discussion: Who is Your Favourite Author?

I'm really curious about this question.

You see, I always feel conflicted when someone asks me who my favourite author is. Do I pick a perennial favourite, someone whose novels have been and are going to be major influences in my life for many, many years, like J.K. Rowling? Does the title of "Favourite Author" have to be reserved to some big, important writer? Is George Orwell more worthy of the title than someone more modern, like Maureen Johnson? I love, love, love Jane Austen (more than words can express), but I'm just as wild about Stephanie Perkins. Does one merit the title more than the other? Should I crown my favourite based on what makes me sound fancier, or based on which book is igniting my imagination right at this moment?

How about you: who's your favourite author and why? Do you have different favourites for different occasions? Do you fret about the question or just spit off the first name that comes to mind?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Have You Heard?!

This just in: John Green's new book's title has been released! It is...


THE FAULT IN OUR STARS


When I heard him say it on his live YouTube show, explain where it comes from and what it means, and when I remembered what it's about, my eyes watered. Yes, I'm crying already after just learning the title. I think this is going to be emotional.

Anyway, John has announced that he is signing 100% of all preorders of the new book! That's right: if you head over to Amazon.com, or any other book retailer, as long as you're ordering the American edition, you can own a book signed by John Green. This amazing thing was brought to us by an author who is more passionate about his readers than any other I can think of.

To make it nice and easy for you, and because I know you want to soooo bad, here's the link to preorder THE FAULT IN OUR STARS! Do it! I did!


Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Dangers of Hype and YA Blasphemy

If you're a YA enthusiast, chances are you've gotten wrapped up in hype at some point. You start hearing about a book all over various blogs. The buzz gets a little louder and Goodreads reviews start showing up, and they're all good. The cover is just sooooo gorgeous and the premise makes you want to torch all your WIPs because you know you'll never be able to think up something that awesome.

Then release day comes, or, if it's an older book, you finally get your hands on it and have time to read it. So you do. And...

...it's just not that good.

You feel bad. You want to cry. You expected so much, but the delivery just wasn't all you'd hoped for. The clouds didn't open up, a beam of sunshine didn't envelop you as you read, you didn't have any life-changing epiphanies while reading.

This is happening to me right now. I'm no stranger to the feeling of being let-down by hype, but right now it's on a much bigger scale. I'm delving into some of the older books of an author I like, an author that's considered YA royalty, and I'm just not enjoying them the way I'd hoped I would. From what some bloggers and reviewers say, it doesn't feel like I'm reading the same books they did. It makes me really, really sad.

It also makes me feel blasphemous.

If I tell anybody I don't like these books, the books everyone else seems to adore, will I not be allowed to join the cool kids' clubs? A lot of bloggers nowadays are scared to voice negative opinions on books because of that whole YA Mafia thing last year... if I write a less-than-glowing review of these books, will everyone hate me? Do I have to lie, pretend I liked it, fake a smile when I talk about it?

I don't think I should have to. I have legitimate reasons to dislike the books and I have a right to express myself, right?

At least, I think I do.

Have you ever felt like this? Either blinded by hype or scared to write a negative review? When I'm done reading all the books by this author, I want to review them all together in a vlog -- what do you think about that? Should I?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

State of Sadness

So last night the Vancouver Canucks lost game 7 to the Boston Bruins, thereby losing the Stanley Cup.

I'm obviously upset. They're my team, they're my boys. It physically hurt me to see their eyes well up with tears after the last buzzer, and I had to swallow a giant lump in my throat during the presentation of the Stanley Cup to a team that has disrespected us throughout this series and treated us like dirt.

It hurts. To tie it into something relevant to this blog, it feels like rejection. It feels like jumping through hoops for so long, making it past the query stage, then past the partial stage, then to the full stage, and then... not being good enough. The Canucks were number one league-wide almost all season, highest in points, Western Conference champions, Northwest Division champions, President's Trophy winners. We have a Vezina Trophy nominee, a Hart Trophy winner and nominee, a handful of new Hall of Fame inductees, and our head coach and general manager are all nominated for awards.

We won everything but the Stanley Cup. Every honor but the highest.

For a writer, this is like having a great manuscript that you love. You're ready to conquer the world. Someone, an agent or publisher, loves your query. Reads your manuscript. But... "It's just not there yet."

You spend forever thinking about your failure, dissecting every word in the rejection. Thinking about every move and how, maybe if you'd tied your left shoe first instead of your right that day, the outcome might've been different. You're thinking you're just not good enough.

Well, maybe you're not good enough -- yet.

The Canucks are going to take the summer off to chill, refocus, shoot pucks on their home rinks. It's not going to be easy for them, working their whole lives to get to that Stanley Cup game and losing it in front of their home crowd, but they will bounce back. They'll be even better next season.

And so you, writer, will be even better in your next manuscript.

With practice, we get better, whether we're talking hockey or writing. If you keep working, keep up that passion, being so close to achieving that goal -- whether it's a 'yes' from an agent or a Stanley Cup -- will happen again.

And next time? You're going to win it big.


P.S. - Me and mine are all safe after the riots in downtown Vancouver after the game. I'm trying to think of the words to describe my dismay and embarrassment after what happened. It's just ridiculous, and I just want to say that no true Canucks fan behaves like that.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Semi-Colon: Misused and Misunderstood

I do a lot of critiquing and beta reading, and something I keep coming across is the incorrect use of semi-colons.

You know, this thing:

;

The semi-colon is among the least-common of punctuation marks, so it's not really a surprise that it's so often misused. And when something is a little bit rare, sometimes that leads to people wanting to use it more to look fancy.

Semi-colons are used to join related, but independent sentences. That is, you can't use it like this:

The house on the corner was enormous; with white shutters.

Or like this:

My hair stood up on end; as if I'd been electrocuted.

The sentences on either side of the semi-colon have to be complete sentences, with nouns, verbs, everything. If the sentences aren't complete, they could be joined by a comma, like so:

The house on the corner was enormous, with white shutters.

Or sometimes there doesn't have to be any punctuation:

My hair stood up on end as if I'd been electrocuted.

You can use a semi-colon to join two related, complete sentences, like this:

He looked at me with sad eyes; I wished I hadn't hurt him with what I'd said before.

But, even if you're using semi-colons correctly, I recommend using them very sparingly. They have a stiffer, more formal feel than other punctuation marks, and overusing them doesn't make you look smart: it just makes you look like you're a little kid who's discovered a new word and uses it all the time. Consider the voice and tone of what you're writing and whether or not a semi-colon fits in. For instance, a third-person narrator is more likely to use a semi-colon than a first-person narrator. I don't know about you, but I sure don't think in semi-colons!

I recommend scrutinizing your every use of a semi-colon, and making sure that it's 1) correctly used, 2) absolutely necessary, and 3) not surrounded by other semi-colons.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Funny How Things Change...


I never used to be a sports person. I always hated gym class in elementary school (I mean, once you get to the age where you have to start changing into gym strip, things reach a whole new level of awkward), and in high school I was lucky enough to have a sadistic Nazi gym teacher who basically shattered my self-esteem. This woman was pure evil: she would be perfect nice if you saw her outside of school, but in the gym she would be doing things like dividing girls into teams based on weight (the "Twigs" and the "Trunks"), calling people fat to their faces, and setting up her grading system so that, if you didn't do a lap fast enough, you got zero -- no points for effort. It got to the point where I wouldn't even bother to run laps of the field anymore, since I could never do it fast enough so I would always fail anyway.

Needless to say, gym, sports, and most physical activity was ruined for me for a very long time. I'm still not a sporty person -- I prefer to lounge around and read than get physical -- but in the past year and a half, I've found my sentiments changing a bit.

At the beginning of the 2009 season, I really got into watching hockey. Every Vancouver Canucks game, there I was, watching the broadcast eagerly. I've only missed a handful of games the past two seasons, and only because I absolutely had
to. At first I was pretty confused and had to ask my dad lots of questions, but now I can rattle off statistics like a pro. I have the heights and weights and stats of most players memorized. I put my male friends to shame.

I never used to be like this. I used to scoff at every sport and bury my nose in a book. I still do that, of course, but I kind of learned something: the Vancouver Canucks are not all that different from YA fiction.

There are personalities. There are relationship dynamics
between players. There's chemistry and flair and straight-up style. Sure, maybe I originally came to hockey for the boys (I mean, want some Kesler? Or some Mason Raymond? Good God, how gorgeous can you get?)... but I stayed for the stories.

The way the Sedin twins play off each other, practically reading each others' minds? There's a story there. Alex Burrows's overtime goal that eliminated our rival, the Chicago Blackhawks? There's a story there. Manny Malhotra getting hit in the eye with a puck, everyone says his career is over, and tonight he could step back out on the
ice in a miracle recovery only three months later? There's a story there.

So, as we're plowing through the Stanley Cup Final, Game 2 tonight, and I'm gearing up to start a new WIP (about an NHL team), I have only one thing left to say...




Go Canucks Go!









Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Want a Teaser?

I'm kind of in a blogging slump, if you haven't noticed. I have a few post ideas, but they all kind of require actual work put into them, and as I prefer to blog by the seat of my pants, I don't like having to plan things. I'd say I'm lazy, but I prefer to call it carefree, spontaneous, or any other synonyms for "lazy" that have pleasanter connotations.

So, while I cannot yet offer you a well-written, well-thought-out blog post yet (although I will soon be writing a review for the amazing book I'm reading right now)... would you like a Teaser Tuesday?

Yes?

Okay. This is from my WIP, The King of Growing Up (hooray for finally titling it!). Here we join our main character, Hunter, and his love interest, Taylor, on the night before Taylor leaves for L.A. I hope you enjoy it!


*


I eat a bag of chips for dinner with Assassin’s Creed on pause. Dad’s still in the garage, Mom’s still being cranky couch bitch, so I figure there’s no official meal tonight. I have no problem with a Dorito dinner. Unfortunately I look like a total slob when Taylor walks in.


He pauses in the doorway, taking in the sight of me in my boxers, slumped in a beanbag chair with a bag of chips. And then he sees the bouquet of red roses on the floor next to me.


“Uh, what’s up?”


I swallow my mouthful, put the controller down, and motion him closer. Taylor closes the door and sits down next to me, still looking confused.


“What are the flowers for?”


“I got them for you. Because I love you and I don’t want you to go.”


Taylor closes his eyes. “We’ve been over this, Hunter. I’m leaving tomorrow. You can’t pull this shit now.”


“I know that, I know I can’t make you stay. But...”


What the fuck am I trying to say? While I’m stumbling over my words, making half-starts on sentences I don’t know how to finish, Taylor pulls rose petals between his fingers. One of them falls off the flower and he rubs it against his lips.


“I’m going,” he says softly. “If you can accept that, we can have a really nice time tonight. If you can’t...”


I swallow. “I know you’re going. But... is this the end?”


He doesn’t answer right away. Damn it. Fuck.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blog Award!

I've received a blog award!




From Margo! Go check out her blog :)

Thanks!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Graduations, Proms, and Summers, Oh My!

We're coming up on that time of year again, the year of endings and new beginnings. Graduation. Although I graduated high school two years ago, I still feel really nostalgic around this time.

Graduating was hard for me, all of it. Not just having to move on, make new plans, and become a grown-up (something I'm still decades away from, I'm pretty sure), the whole ordeal of graduation itself was hard. The stress of having to cross the stage in a stupid-looking robe with the entire town staring at me, being forced to spend almost a whole weekend with classmates I didn't even really like that much, and my actual prom night -- ugh.

My graduation ceremonies went like this.

-- on the Friday evening, we had the walk-across-the-stage ceremony

-- After that, a mocktail party.

-- After mocktails, casino night (not actual gambling, we had fake money, but still, boring as hell)

-- Saturday afternoon, another mocktail-type party

-- Saturday night, prom

When I say "prom," I mean that we rented out the local university (really swanky building), had a fancy dinner, then we played Wii on a giant screen, had a Velco obstacle course, mechanical bull, karaoke, photo booths, Tarot card readers, and just generally ran around all crazy -- in our fancy dresses and tuxes.

Sounds fun, but point I was so burnt out. I'm the kind of person that can have fun with a group of people for an hour or two, but I really need alone-time to recharge, and I just didn't get that the whole weekend. As a result I was completely miserable and spent most of "prom" by myself in the gardens outside or on the balcony, staring out across the valley at my small town and wishing I was somewhere else.

*emo alert*

And of course, after grad weekend there were after-parties and house parties for another month, since our grad stuff is held at the end of May and school is out near the end of June!

Anyway, I'm now writing a book where a graduation is the opening setting, and I'm aware that my prom/grad experience was probably pretty atypical. So I'm asking you: what was your high school grad like? Did you have the typical American prom, or did your school do something a bit different? If you read about a prom like mine in a YA book, would it ring true to you, or would it be hard to relate to?

Tell me your stories!

Friday, May 13, 2011

What a Day!

Friday the 13th was not kind to me.

First off, Blogger was doing stupid things all day. There was the Blogger Apocalypse yesterday, and today the Google Reader kept re-posting blog entries that had been posted days ago. I'd get all excited to see a certain blogger had written a new post, then I'd realize that it was the same one from last week. I was about ready to punch something.

But my bad luck carried over from yesterday. I had a surgery on my left big toe (I have chronic ingrown toenails, I periodically have to have nails removed and parts of my nail bed scraped away... eugh!), and my pain meds just decided to stop working. I was up all night long, sleeping in short two-minute bursts before being awoken again by the pain. It only hurt when I was lying down, somehow, so I spend most of the night pacing around my house since it barely hurt at all when I was standing. No painkillers worked, and I took a lot of them. Probably too many.

I was able to take a short nap a bit later, but I'm basically running on no sleep and my body won't let the painkillers work. In short, this has been the worst day ever.

But... I managed to do some writing! :D Am I a complete freak for enjoying these horribly painful sick days because I can distract myself by torturing some characters, instead?

I hope your Friday the 13th was a heck of a lot better than mine!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My WIP and ways it likes to torture me

Sorry my blogging has been kind of sporadic lately. Other things have been taking up my time and, to be honest, I'm not really sure what to blog about. I have a few ideas for posts but they all require time to put together, and I like blogging when it's spontaneous and doesn't need a lot of HTML and pictures and fiddling around with formatting. I prefer to just... type things.

Anyway, so one of the things that's been keeping me busy is this WIP of mine. Stupid thing. When I say that, though, I say it out of love. *cough*

I've been working on it since last summer. I still can't believe that. Sure, it went on a hiatus during NaNoWriMo, and another hiatus when I needed to focus on my revision of FAKE, but it's still the longest I've ever spent on a first draft. I'm almost at 65,000 words, which is longer than FAKE, but it's nowhere near done. It's just so complicated. There's the main plot, but there are all sorts of subplots as well. The story is about Hunter and the girl who becomes his ex-girlfriend, Hunter and his boyfriend, Hunter and his parents, Hunter and his relationship with his peers, Hunter finding his place in the world, Hunter trying to get out of his small town. There are just so many facets of the story, it's becoming kind of a monster. I love it so much, though, and I really believe in it, so I HAVE to keep on truckin'.

Revisions are going to be a pain, though. But aren't they always? ;)

Follow Friday (7)


Hello! I haven't done a Follow Friday in a good while, and I feel like it today! Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee's View. The question this week is:

Circle time! Time to share. What character in a book would you most like to be, what character in a book would you most like to date?

My answer:

Oooohhh... I think the character I'd most like to be is Hermione from (duh) Harry Potter. I would love to be that studious, but I'm just not! All throughout this past term at school, whenever I really had to buckle down and work, I'd tell myself "Be like Hermione!" to the point where I wanted to get a WWHD? tattoo on my hand! Alas, at least right now, I'm really not cut out to be the super academic type.

As for the character I'd like to date... gotta say Etienne St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss. He's just soooo dreamy and funny and he sounds like a complete blast to be around. I'm still going on about this book months after reading it! If you haven't, you're really missing out -- on a great read AND a very cute boy!

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding








Is anyone else totally inspired?

I got up at 2am to watch the wedding, even though I had an exam at 9am. I'm so, so glad I did.

I fully expect and really, really want royalty-themed YA to come back into style. I think I'm going to be writing something along these lines very, very soon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

RTW: Music Stuff!

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival hosted by the lovely ladies over at YA Highway. Today's question is:


If your WIP or favourite book were music, which song(s) would it be?


Aww, hell yeah.

Ask almost anyone, music and writing are very much connected. While I can't always write to music, sometimes it distracts me, there are always certain songs I listen to on repeat while I'm not writing to keep myself in the mindset of the story.

For my current WIP (which refuses every title I give it!), I'm drawing heavy inspiration from one band in particular: Something Corporate, my favourite band ever. I've talked about them on the blog before so I won't bore you with the details of my adoration, but there are a few songs in particular that encapsulate my WIP.

"Miss America"


"Miss America" really captures the sadness my MC, Hunter, feels after he is separated from someone he loves very much (vague, non-spoilery explanations FTW). Something Corporate has a lot of songs about separation, and this one is the one I've been writing to lately.

"Airports"


The other song I've had on repeat lately is "Airports," also by Something Corporate. This was from when they had just formed, the lead singer was 16, so it's pretty rough. It's a pretty rare recording -- the YouTube one isn't the one I'm used to hearing, I have an acoustic on my laptop I like better, but it's still good. Anyway. There's an airport scene in my WIP, one I've always wanted to write. Airports are some of my favourite places in the world.

Basically any song by Something Corporate has contributed something to this WIP. I wish I could post every one of their songs, but... let's face it, you wouldn't listen :P

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Advice to Young Writers

I was one of those kids who always knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up: a writer. Sure, I toyed with the idea of fantasy jobs (rock star, astronaut) and half-heartedly admitted to myself that I would need a day job, but I was always hell-bent on writing, ever since I was six years old. A lot of writers have trouble "coming out of the closet," admitting that they're writers to friends, family, and acquaintances. I was never one of those. I made sure everyone knew my writerly inclinations. Being so verbose about it made me open to a lot of criticism and strange behaviour, though.

I've been thinking about it a lot, and I decided to post my advice for young writers here for the world to see. I'll start with a statement of the advice, and back it up with my personal experience. If you aren't a young writer yourself, pass it on to one you know. I hope it helps somebody out there.

1) Write -- a lot.

It sounds really, really obvious, but strangely enough, it's something people have trouble with. When I was young, my family went to my dad's company Christmas party every year. When I was probably about eight, one of my dad's bosses got a little tipsy and took a great interest in conversing with the little kids. He wasn't really listening to anything they said, though, until he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I wanted to be a writer. He flipped. Got so excited he sprang up out of his seat.

"That's great! Do you write?" he asked me. "Because you have to write to be a writer."

I said yes, I did write, I wrote a great deal. I briefly detailed a story I was working on.

"Wow," he said, shaking his head. "Wow! My daughter wanted to be a writer all her life, but she never actually wrote anything. Now she takes care of old people."

This conversation has always stuck in my head. It seems so simple: if you want to be a writer, you have to actually write. "To write" is a verb, which requires action. You can't call yourself an artist and never actually do any art. The only way to become a writer, or to become more comfortable in your identity as a writer if you're still "in the closet," is to write. I stopped writing for a while when I was nine and ten, and those are some of my most miserable years -- I wasn't doing what I was meant to be doing. If you're a writer, write. A lot. Which leads me to my next point.

2) You have to want it bad.

Some people, people who aren't writers and don't understand it, think that writing is a surefire get-rich-quick venture. It is not, in any way, shape or form, a path to easy money. I've been writing for more than ten years now and I've never made a cent. Why do I do it, then?

You have to want to write, for no other reason than that it makes you feel complete. You can't just be writing because people think it's cool, that you're some fancy genius scribbler. Your primary motivation can't be what others think of you. If the only reason you're writing is to get rich, be on a bunch of prestigious awards lists, and have droves of adoring fans, you're not going to get very far.

When you're a young writer, people are going to think it's cool. When I was fourteen, I started writing a novel that I really loved. I showed the first chapter to a friend. She showed it to our other friend, who passed it on to someone else. Before long, every chapter I wrote was being passed around the school, as I wrote it. People I didn't know, students years older than me, were coming up to me in the halls and telling me how much they loved the story, and what was going to happen to such-and-such character, and OMG so-and-so is awesome! It was hard not to let it go to my head. Having fans was pretty awesome, in a lot of ways. Heck, one girl even did her grade 10 book report on my book!

But there were a lot of negative aspects to the attention. I became "the writer girl." Teachers would expect a lot from me in class, since they'd heard (and read for themselves) that I was good at English. I was flooded with requests to write articles for the town and school newspapers, to be the editor of the yearbook, to do all this random stuff I didn't want to do. I had people requesting to read stories I didn't want to share yet, and getting huffy when I told them no. I got cold-shouldered by one girl because I killed off a character she liked. I got sneered at by a lot of bullies, who would sometimes read my work aloud in a mocking tone.

If you're going to be a writer, if you're going to tell people about it and make something so personal public, you have to be fully committed to it. So many things could have gone wrong for me. I could have taken on all the extra projects people gave me and not had time to write for pleasure. I could have caved to the pressure from my "fans" and sacrificed my integrity, writing exactly what they wanted. I could have stopped writing altogether, scared by the people who made fun of me. It was the love of the work that pulled me through, not the applause.

3) If you really want it, you have to make sacrifices.

I missed out on a lot. In high school, I would come home after school, sit down at my desk, and write for a few hours (I envy that dedication! I'm such a procrastinator now). Then I would eat dinner, do homework, mess around online, and go to sleep.

Meanwhile, other people my age were getting boyfriends, going to parties, and just being teenagers. I was kind of high-and-mighty about that stuff, saying I didn't care, that I'd rather be writing. And that was true, but there was a part of me that ached to be normal. The writing was more important to me, and I don't regret the decision to put it first, but I still sometimes think of the person I could have been had I gone out and done all that teenager stuff.

For me, the sacrifice was worth it, and it may be worth it for you, too. But think about it, long and hard. Nowadays, since I write for teens, I supplement my lack of real-life experience with imagination and second-hand stories. But when you can get some life experience, go do it.

4) Don't let the dream die.

I don't really have a personal story to explain this one. All I can really say is... don't stop writing. Not for any reason. I don't mean don't take a day off, that kind of thing is fine, but don't let anything stop you.

Pretty much any time you tell any "responsible adult" that you are a writer, they're going to tell you something along the lines of, "Oh, you better get a good day job, otherwise you're going to starve, ha ha!" I get this all the time. In high school I had people making fun of me for being this reclusive writer-type.

Don't let those people kill your dream. Do everything you can to keep the dream alive. Write all the time. Write stuff that inspires you. Write thinly-veiled fanfiction if it makes you happy. Keep gorgeous notebooks in your backpack all the time. Find a pen you really love. Doodle your book title all over your school work. Compose blurbs the New York Times will someday say about your book ("a little slice of genius" or "profoundly, exceptionally awesome" are my favourites). Read, read, read, constantly.

The world needs young writers and the fresh perspective they bring. Don't you dare give up.