Sunday, April 22, 2012

Getting it wrong the first time

So you're writing your new WIP. The first draft is going great. You're loving your characters, you're making your own head spin with the sheer awesomeness of your plot... and then you get to the end. And you heave a big sigh and congratulate yourself.

And then, sometime later -- whether that day, or that week, or whenever you pull your manuscript out and kickstart your revisions -- you realize you got. It. All. Wrong.


You completely misunderstood your own intentions with this novel. Your plot zigged when it clearly should have zagged. Your MC's best friend randomly acts like a douche when that's the complete opposite of how they should be acting.

You ask yourself, "How the bloody hell did I not notice how wrong this all is?!"

I do this almost every single book I write. First drafts, as they say, really are shit. My first drafts always get it wrong. My character arcs are so muddled and confused and when I start revising, I almost laugh at how wonky everything is.

Revisions, to me, are really re-visions. Focusing all the messiness from my first-draft delirium. Fine-tuning all the slightly-off characters. Sometimes rewriting entire plots after they make absolutely zero sense.

My current WIP only shares about 20% of the content from the original draft I wrote back in August. At first, it was just a book about a boy who falls in love with the prince. It was cute and stuff, but it was lacking immediacy. Lacking danger. No stakes.

In my revision, I killed off the prince's dad and suddenly, my male MC's male love interest was the frigging king. Um, hello stakes!

I had the story so completely wrong. I don't even know what I was thinking, back in August.

Whoever said that writerly cliché -- "Writing is rewriting" -- they were so right.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pointless Rant: YA Love Interests

When I was typing that title, at first I typed Pantless Rants. Let me assure you, I am most definitely wearing pants.

So, ahem.

YA love interests.

If you know me in real life (I think that's maybe one of you) or, more likely, you've encountered me on Goodreads or AW, you might've heard a tiny complaint or two from me about YA love interests (hereby referred to as LIs).

I feel like my feelings on the matter have to bubble over into a big ranty blog post.

Let's face it: most YA novels have romance. Because most teen girls love it or at least like it, and the YA readership is almost entirely made up of girls. I love YA novels that focus on things besides romance, but I do love me a good romance, too.

Heard my unrelenting, unabashedly loud declarations of love for Anna and the French Kiss yet? *cough*

But lately, in reading YA romances, I've been getting feelings of déjà vue. I see the same LI over and over and over again and I'm like, "I've vue-d this, déjà."

Tall. Dark. Smirking. Smart-aleky. Pouty-lipped. Dreamy-eyed. Mysterious past. Probably the desire of every other girl in the school, but only has eyes for our MC.


I'm seriously getting sick of this.

When you were in high school, or if you are currently in high school... if you've ever had a crush on a teenage boy yourself... have you ever seen one like this? And if you have, and if you're the bookish, quiet girl all these MCs seem to be, did he only ever have eyes for you?

No. Those boys? They're usually douchebags.

Bad boys are sort of delicious. I mean, who doesn't swoon a little at the defiance of authority? I've been known to, occasionally. But... in real life, those guys our nerdy little MC girls fall for, they're bad news. I've fallen for them. They will break your heart and then hook up with their bad girl counterparts, who then proceed to mock you every day at school.

Can we please get some realistic guys in YA? Please?

Why can't the swoon-factor come from a guy's freckles instead of his biceps or abs? Why can't the moment of falling in love come from Mr Average giving you his last Tic Tac instead of gazing into smouldering eyes in a model-like pouty face?

Y'know that saying "nice guys finish last"? Why don't we change that? Why don't mean, badass, unattainably distant guys who ignore girls finish last, and harmlessly sweet funny guys start finishing first?

And I'm not going to ignore the other side of the coin here. As far as female LIs go, we've got the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Instead of being cold and distant, our MPDG is warm and welcoming and kind of too forward and on the surface, she seems a little crazy. She probably harbours some dark secrets, just like the male LI, but on the surface she's gleeful and adventurous and quirky beyond belief.

I've been the MPDG. I showed a little bit of personality around a certain guy, and he latched onto me. Seemed to think the world of me. It made me feel a little drunk at first. I unleashed every crazy impulse I'd ever had. We stayed out all night, drove to every school playground in the town and sat on swings and talked about life. Then we drove to the top of a waterfall and threw rocks two hundred feet down and talked about even more deep stuff. I felt like the coolest person ever.

But I wasn't being myself. I was being the person he thought I was. I dressed my personality up to impress him. And he got bored. And we both got hurt when the relationship burned out after two weeks.

One MPDG character is original, but when she becomes this character type, it becomes too easy to fit people into that box. Same with Mr Douchebag LI. They become tropes, cardboard cutouts with no real personality. And when they start to crop up all over the place, it's a symptom of laziness.

I try every day not to be a lazy writer. If I catch myself writing what's easy -- turning a character into a recognizable "type" -- I stop. I look at what I've done. And I turn it on its head.

I want a character. Not a character type.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Blogger's block. And hockey.

I don't really know what to do here anymore.

I've been kind of MIA from the blog lately. I don't know, something inside me just kinda dried up. I have a couple ideas for posts, but it seems like the world of YA blogs has just gotten so fancy and I feel like I'll be left in the dust for keeping it simple, y'know? I don't do flashy pictures (I actually find it very tiresome to add pictures to my blog posts and avoid it at all costs), I don't do detailed reviews listing all the book info and links and all that fancy stuff everyone else seems to do.

I want to keep it real here. I want this blog to be a treasure trove of randomosity, but at at the same time, sometimes when I'm writing posts or brainstorming I think to myself, "Who do you think you are? Who would want to read this? You're nobody."

Am I wrong?

But then, nobody is forced to read my blog shit. Really I shouldn't care what I post, because it is mine, after all. Right?

: /

Anyway, it's Stanley Cup playoff time. Canucks are down two games in the series agains the L.A. Kings, which makes me annoyed because we're so much better than the Kings almost all the time but come playoff time, we fall apart? What? Game 3 starts right now, and I'm hiding away in my room instead of joining the family to watch it. Hockey love hurts. I don't want to see them lose. I think I'll join in mid-first period, to take the anxiety off. The opening minutes hurt sometimes.

I love hockey. That thought just occurred to me. I've kind of entertained the thought (very, very quietly in the back of my mind) of starting a hockey blog, but then, I'm not an expert commentator and all I can really offer is one girl's opinion. But then, what's the matter with that, right? And who cares about audience? I could write hockey rants to my heart's content, just for me.

Also I'm entertaining the thought of writing a YA novel that takes place in the NHL world. Again, thoughts of who would want to read that? keep coming at me.

I guess, what I'm trying to tell you (and myself) is not to worry about what other people think.

Yeah. That.

I guess.

go canucks go!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

This book is nothing special. You'd think, from all the hype leading up to its release, that it was groundbreaking. Thrilling. Mysterious and tightly-plotted and exhilarating like the jacket copy. You would be wrong.

Why do I constantly get pulled in by the hype? I've been bitten so many times that by now I should learn to adapt my expectations and stop being so "omg have to buy all the new books rite naaoooo." I'm getting better. I think. But the Mara Dyer hype bug bit me so hard and now here I am, months later, still scratching at the itchy bite it left behind.

I'll start with the good, because there are some things I liked here.

The cliffhanger chapter endings

They really made me want to read more more more. If there's one thing to learn from this book, it's how to hook a reader into turning each page. I finished the book pretty quickly and never felt like the story dragged.

Mara was an okay protagonist

I remember chuckling at some of her jokes. I thought she was fairly spunky, and downright dynamic compared to the Bella Swans of the world. But spunkiness doesn't excuse her from some of her graver transgressions, as I'll talk about.

The cover is pretty

Because, let's face it, we all read this book because of that cover. More on this later too.

So, that's basically it. A handful of good things. Now, the not-so-good...

A certain misogynist doucheshit named Mr. Noah Shaw makes everything turn to shit

Mara was spunky on her own, but once Noah makes an appearance on the page, it's ALL ABOUT HIM AND YOU NEVER HEAR ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE.

I'm okay with romance. I write a great deal of swooning over dreamy love interests, myself. But this character is not real! He is the biggest cardboard cutout I've ever read in my entire reading life.

If you're anywhere from a novice to halfway decent writer, or an avid reader, you can probably craft an okay character, or at least conceptualize what makes a good one.

Flaws. Realistic traits. A believable, sympathetic backstory. Believable physical description. A certain pinch of magic to make it all jive and come together as the soul of a person in your mind.

Now, let's list some points about Noah Shaw and discuss.

-- He's rich.

Okay, I've written rich characters before. I've read about plenty. Sometimes you have to work a little harder to make people who seem like they have it all seem real and actually like people you'd want to know. Noah Shaw? Arrogant douche. He's the kind of rich we all hate. He peels a couple thousand dollars off a wad of cash in his wallet at one point in the story and acts as though it's nothing. He lives in a palatial mansion and gives no real acknowledgement that this isn't normal, or that he's lucky, or anything. His wealth could easily be used as a tool to characterize him. He could come from a long line of hardy people who worked like dogs for their money. He could be a spoiled rich boy trying to transcend his privileged background and do good for the world. A million other options. But Noah Shaw is just rich for the sake of swooniness. His wealth isn't used to say something about him, it's simply a reason for female readers to fawn.

-- He's arrogant.

How do you think someone with his head stuck so far up his ass would be treated in the real world? I'm going to let you in on a secret: my best friend is kind of a douche. He's pretty arrogant, seems to think he understands everything about everybody, and assumes things all the time about people he doesn't know. It infuriates and embarrasses me sometimes. And when he vocalizes how damn arrogant he is, people don't like it. His boldness drives a lot of people away. So why is Noah Shaw so universally liked?

This is more a comment on the douchey love interests in YA in general, but seriously. In real life, when people act like jerks, like "bad boy" love interests do with the drippy female MCs, it doesn't make you want to sleep with them. It makes you want to go stabby-stabby.

-- He's British.

Oh, this is the worst one.

I'm not going to mention Jamie, Mara's token bisexual-black-Jewish-adopted friend (his existence just insults me), because it's been talked about by better reviewers. But something that isn't talked about as much is Noah Shaw's British accent, even though it's the same kind of tokenism at work.

Noah suffers from a condition running a little rampant in YA... BFNRS, or British For No Reason Syndrome.

This book takes place in Florida. All the characters are American and the story has no ties, whether literal or thematic, to England. SO WHY IN GOD'S NAME IS NOAH BRITISH?!?!?!

Same thing as his wealth: swoon factor.

GOD! This irritates me to no fucking end.

...what was I talking about again?

The story sucks.

What the hell actually happened in this book? Some mysterious stuff happened to Mara, then she met Noah and there was much sexual chemistry, then a bunch of romantic shit happened interspersed with some mysterious bullshit... something about voodoo... some random crocodiles... someone got kidnapped (wtf was that, seriously)... and then lame-as-shit cliffhanger that didn't make any sense?

The main reason this book pisses me off is that it's bloated.

Noah's Britishness.

The crocodile part.

The kidnapping, which I barely remember because it was so random.

The voodoo part.

Most of the stuff with the dog.

All of these things could be sliced right off the manuscript without any damage to the actual story. I felt like this book was a lump of half-plots that didn't really connect to form a whole, complete arc. I'm just left shaking my head and asking how the heck this got published.

Let's play a game!

I challenge you to come up with a story that would suit that gorgeous cover. I bet you almost anything it would be better than this one.