TCWT November 2014 Blog Chain

Hey guys!

It’s time to announce the topic for the next blog chain, which begins on November 5th. I’m really excited about this one, and even though the topic is a little different from the norm, I think it could have some truly awesome results.

Use pictures and individual words to show what, to you, is the essence of being a teenager. 

By that, I mean for you to talk about what feelings and emotions and ideas you feel represent your teen experience. Basically, I want to know what growing up means to you.

Although this topic is not directly about writing, I think–considering that a lot of us write YA, which focuses on the lives of teenagers–that it’s relevant. Hopefully it’ll get us to take a hard look at ourselves and our teen experiences, and figure out what, to us, are that experience’s most important characteristics. (If you write YA, this might even translate into your own writing, as it could help you figure out what themes connect your characters.) We all have different stories, and seeing how people define theirs during this wacky section of life called being a teenager could be hugely insightful, even inspiring. Books, after all, are about people and their stories.

Also, for the first time, I plan to publish a roundup blog post on TCWT when the chain ends, and I’ll feature my favorite word and/or picture from each blog (and will link back to all of your posts), so onlookers can get a glimpse into the different responses.

Some side notes: by “pictures,” I mean pretty anything. You can use a normal stock image, or you can use a drawing (by you or someone else), a painting, a comic, a meme–anything. You can either take your own photos (maybe of stuff around your room, outside your home, or something else altogether), or you can use photos on the internet. However, if you choose the latter option, please make sure to link back to the source. I really want to be sure credit is given to the photographer or artist.

As for “individual words,” I mean a list of words that you feel is integral to your teen experience. (BTW – please only share what you feel comfortable sharing. There is no pressure to reveal more or less about yourself than you want to.) You can show these words by actually typing out a list of in your blog post, or by writing them on notecards and taking pictures, or even by finding a fancy image that displays the word on it, i.e.:

(Found: http://fbopinmate.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/hope.jpg)

In your post, you’re welcome to elaborate on any word or picture you include, but, if you can, please keep the explanations at a minimum. I encourage you to keep your posts relatively description-free, and let the words and the pictures speak for themselves.

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If you’re interested in participating in the blog chain, comment below with a link to your blog and any days you can’t post on, and I’ll assign you a date. And if you’re unsure whether or not you should join, for this chain in particular I say YES! :) The more voices we get, the more meaningful the blog chain will be.

Let me know if you have any questions!

 

Writing In Your Own Style

Here’s the thing: I don’t write lyrically.

I’ve tried to, of course. Countless times I’ve attempted–and failed–to be poetic in my writing, because I hoped that if I just worked hard enough, my writing style would magically fall into that category of “lyrical” that so many of my favorite books are a part of.

But, here’s the other thing: it hasn’t worked.

My style, simply put, refuses to change. No matter how much I try, I can’t get the whole lyricism thing down. At best, my final product comes out as an overworked, purple-prose-filled mess. At worst, it’s completely indecipherable. (Who knew a person could fit so many rain-as-a-metaphor-for-tears lines into one paragraph?)

This is a reality I’ve struggled a lot with over the past year or so. As someone with critique partners who write incredibly beautifully, I have sometimes felt inadequate as a writer. I’ve even, on multiple occasions, desperately tried to “adjust my style” midway through a first draft so I could write “better.” In fact, whenever I come across a particularly amazing snippet of a friend’s manuscript, I seemingly have to go back and rewrite my whole book in a style like theirs, thinking that will improve my writing. Basically: I read other people’s lyrical prose in awe, and then I look back at my own WIP (Work in Progress) and I feel utterly lacking. I wonder why I can’t be so evocative, why I can’t just freaking write the way my favorite authors do.

But then, when I am not obsessing over my style and comparing it to that of others, I’m happy. I really am. When I don’t try to write lyrically, my writing is natural. And fun. And is, most importantly, better. Sure, the awkwardly-teenager style I currently use may not fit the traditional conception of “good.” Hell, to a strict critic, it probably wouldn’t even be considered “good,” period. But I learned something the other day, when I reread my first few chapters and realized they weren’t half bad, and that is this: it doesn’t matter. You don’t write to win awards for how deep your metaphors are. You don’t write to master a technique just because it’s traditionally considered the best. You write to be creative. You write to be different. You write to be you, and to master your style–whatever that may be.

The great thing about writing is that everyone’s work is unique. Every writer, no matter who they are or where they are from or what their aim is, is different, and as a result so is their writing. I know it’s a cliche; I know, at this point, it’s probably meaningless. But I mean it. And no matter how much better you think Dan from across the hall is at writing than you, trying to mimic his style–even mimicking it vaguely, like I used to do–just isn’t worth it. It doesn’t help you, because Dan’s style has already been done before. Yours hasn’t. And I promise you that yours, too, with enough hard work, will be absolutely amazing.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to change writing styles, or that there is anything wrong with writing lyrically. I am forever in awe of people who write like that. But great writing comes in many forms, and “deep and poetic” does not hold a monopoly on it. So, I say, work on improving your own style first, before you try to switch to another. Then maybe you’ll see how talented you truly are.

It boils down to this: awesome is a spectrum. Just because most people like blue and you paint in fulvous* doesn’t mean your work is any worse; it just means it’s more you. It’s equally awesome, in a different way.

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*THIS IS A REAL COLOR, BTW.

Also, note for anyone interested: the November blog chain announcement post will be posted on October 24th. I’m endlessly sorry about not getting up a chain for this month. And, on that note, there’s also some exciting blog-related news coming toward the end of the month. :D

September 2014 TCWT Blog Chain

Hi guys! Since I’m posting this a little late (I meant to have it up a day early–sorry!) and to give people ample time to sign up, I’ve decided to start the blog chain two days later this time, on September 7th. So the schedule will go up on the 6th; you have until then to sign up.

Also – thanks to everyone who participated in the August blog chain! It was tons of fun to read all of the posts, and I’m still going through them.

For September’s chain, I thought an interesting topic could be:

“What are your favorite book beginnings and/or endings?” 

I am really excited about this because the very beginning and very ending of a book are often the most difficult parts for writers to get right, yet they are usually where the reader is most impressionable. Examining how authors have done them well in the past will hopefully be a help to anyone who is stuck with their own manuscript. Plus, being a fan of great endings in particular, I have a feeling it can lead to some great new book discoveries.

Some notes: I realize the “favorite endings” part of this question makes it tricky, but please, refrain from spoilers in your post. If you could talk in vague terms about why you liked a particular ending, that’d be great. Also, the length that actually defines “beginning” or “ending” is really up to you. A page, a chapter, an opening or closing monologue–anything works. It might even be fun to just include a bunch of your favorite opening and closing lines. (I was actually going to make that be the topic, but I realize people tend not to keep track of that kind of thing and it might be more difficult.) And finally, when I say “book,” I mean that really loosely. Movies, plays, musicals, TV shows, etc are all valid to include as well.

And I think that’s all! If you’re interested in participating in the blog chain, just comment below with a link to your blog and any days you can’t post on, and I’ll assign you a date. (First-time visitors: you are completely welcome to join as well!) Thanks! :)

 

Humans of New York and Writing Inspiration

Recently, I discovered the page that I now consider to be the best on the internet: Humans of New York. For those who don’t know, HONY (I’m going to use this acronym throughout the post) was started by photographer Brandon Stanton a few years back, and basically what he does is travel throughout the streets of New York and take pictures of anyone he finds interesting (with their consent). He posts these photos online, accompanied by a short quote they give about their lives or their favorite memories or something along those lines. But what makes this blog so special is Brandon’s insane ability to get complete strangers to open up to him, and the beautiful and thought-provoking stories that they share as a result.

Some of my favorite photos include this, this, thisthis, this, and this post, and honestly a million others that I promise I won’t bombard you with. But all of them, whether it’s the quote or the picture or just the look on the face of the person being photographed, are so real and relatable and amazing. And since Brandon finds such a broad range of people for his blog (yay diversity!), you really are seeing all kinds of experiences, many of which you may never have considered before.

What makes the page even better, perhaps, is the comments section, which seemingly counteracts all of the Forces of Evil on the internet by remaining mostly civil and interesting. Each photo and quote is accompanied by pages and pages of discussion and shared experiences and stories. And it’s those stories that remind me: at its heart, HONY is a page about people.

Books, too, are about people, and in that way each HONY post feels like a miniature novel. It has a story and a character attached, and it makes you think. Not only that, but like books, every post seems to enhance the way you look at the people around you, and it truly does give you a new appreciation for them and their internal battles. Even on another level, HONY does what novels should be doing more of: it gives a voice to those we rarely hear from in the media.

And for that reason, HONY is the kind of blog that reminds me why I read and write. I do it to tell stories, yes, but I also read–and write–to discover. Because I want to know and understand different kinds of people, because I want to feel close to them, and because I want to use stories to help me make sense of the world around me. And sometimes, for me, those reasons get lost in the stress of writing and wanting to craft a great book, and it’s why blogs like HONY have become so dear to me–because it makes everything clear again.

I think that maybe we all need our personal equivalent of a HONY. We all need that reminder of why it is we write. Because, let’s face it: writing is hard sometimes. And when you fall into the black hole that is revising, or when you hit a wall and just want to quit, it is so helpful to remember that you shouldn’t. To remember why you should keep going. To remember that, published or not, your words and your stories really do matter.

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(Okay, I admit it. This post was 60% a way for me to gush about HONY. BUT SERIOUSLY. It is amazing, and I think writer/reader people will especially appreciate it since some of the stories really are worthy of being turned into books or movies or plays.)

(If you want to follow HONY, you can on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and probably elsewhere,* and you can buy the spin-off book here. Brandon also did a series on the people of Iran during his visit there, which I found totally fascinating. Also, if you’re interested, there are a bunch of off-shoots of HONY in a number of countries and cities, so if you want to find one more local to you and you live in a big city, search “Humans of [insert place here].” I bet there is one near you.)

*Most people seem to comment on the HONY Facebook, so I’d say that’s the best place to follow it if you’re interested in reading discussion after the fact. Also, you don’t need a Facebook account to read the posts. All of it is public. And if you do decide to check out the page, let me know! I’d be interested to hear what you guys think.

Stay awesome!

TCWT August 2014 Blog Chain

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the blog chain this July! It was another fantastic one, and I really enjoyed reading all of your posts.

For August’s chain, I thought an interesting topic could be:

“What characters are you most like?” 

Once again, you have a lot of freedom with this topic. While the character(s) you choose should hopefully come from a published work, it can be from pretty much any type; book, movie, musical, short story, poem, etc characters are all fair game. And as for the post itself, you can set it up however you like. Maybe you could talk about the characters’ experiences and how they are similar to some of your own, or you could focus on how that particular character changed you–really whatever comes to mind you’re welcome to post about.

And I think that’s all! If you’re interested in participating in the blog chain, just comment below with a link to your blog and any days you can’t post on, and I’ll assign you a date. (First-time visitors: you are completely welcome to join as well!) The final schedule for August’s chain will go up on our blog chain page on August 4th, so you have until then to sign up. Thanks! :)

 

TCWT July 2014 Blog Chain

 

As always, a huge thank you to everyone who participated in last month’s blog chain! All of the posts were really thought-provoking, and it was especially cool seeing such a variety of opinions on book-to-movie adaptions. (If you missed the chain, you can still see the list of participants and their posts here.)

 

Since the last few blog chains have focused more on actual, published books, I wanted to return to a writing-related topic for July. 

 

“What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started writing?” 

 

Once again, you can pretty much go wherever you like with this topic, whether it be an actual advice post, a discussion of aspects of your writing journey, a list of what you wish you knew/what you’ve learned (you are certainly not limited to choosing only one thing), or something else entirely.

 

If you’re interested in participating in the blog chain, just comment below with a link to your blog and any days you can’t post on, and I’ll try to assign you a date as quickly as possible. (First-time visitors: you are completely welcome to join as well!) The final schedule for July’s chain will go up on our blog chain page on July 4th, so you have until then to sign up. Thanks! :)

 

“The Netflix Effect” For Books?

**Please note: This is all speculation. I’m a writer, not a publishing insider, but I think this is a topic worth discussing.**

If you are familiar with the television realm, you’ve probably heard in some way about “The Netflix Effect.” Basically, the Netflix Effect–or at least the one I’m referring to–describes the growing shift toward binge watch-able shows. Since Netflix now has its own television shows (Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, etc.), they have decided to shake things up, and so rather than releasing one episode every week, they make all thirteen in a season available at once on the season’s release date. This new strategy has done wonders for the company and its subscribers, as it gives people a way to watch the seasons straight through without having to worry about forgetting what happened in the previous episode. Another interesting twist is, I think, that this method gives fans an incentive to watch all of a given season immediately after it releases, because watching some of the bigger Netflix series has almost become an internet-wide event. After all, since all of the episodes are available at once, it feels like everyone is watching.

But then the other day I started thinking about this Netflix Effect in terms of books–specifically trilogies. You hear a lot of complaints about the one-year-or-more waits between most books in trilogies, usually for good reason. These waits, while totally sensible if you look at it from the points of view of the writer, editor, publicist, and so on, can be a bit of a strain on a reader. For one thing, by the time a sequel releases, you as a reader will probably forget much of what happened in the previous book, and unless you loved it, that fact alone could leave you anticipating the next book much less than you otherwise would have. (And from a book-selling standpoint, even if you end up buying that next book, this still matters. When you are excited for a release, you tend to let other people know, and word of mouth is a major driver of sales.) And it’s true that you could always reread the first of the series before the sequel releases, but with so many new books appearing on the scene every day, people in general seem to be less inclined to reread a book they didn’t absolutely love the first time. In that way, the wait almost becomes a hassle, and if you didn’t feel strongly about book one, chances are you may altogether lose interest in the second book by the time it releases (whereas you would be more likely to buy it if all of the books had already released).

As someone who has struggled with the above, I’ve begun to gravitate back toward that Netflix strategy as a solution: what if, in the future, an entire trilogy could be collectively released on the same day? Bearing in mind that there are probably a number of technical problems with this idea–I’m sure there is a reason no publisher I know of has done this before–it is certainly something to think about it. Not only would this method give a reader more incentive to buy the rest of the books in the series after finishing the first one (if they’re all right there, why not?), but it will also get more people to want to read the series in the first place, since it eliminates a lot of the cliffhanger/wait time anger that usually makes people hesitant to start a new series.

Another potential benefit, to add to my point in the first paragraph, is hype. Hype is a powerful tool, and if it feels like everyone is reading a particular series (which, assuming a collectively released trilogy gets reasonably well marketed, I’d bet a lot of people will be inclined to do since all of the books are there and ready to be explored (for reference, think about how the sales of books one and two tend to shoot up when the final book in a trilogy releases)), a number of those who aren’t reading it will want to find out more. But on the other hand, this means that the hype for the trilogy will be very concentrated in that one-to-four-month time span as everyone reads the books. While with the Netflix shows another season can always be released to regenerate hype, the end of a trilogy is the end of a trilogy, and if a book series were to be collectively released, the hype for it, while strong, will die down rather quickly.*

Still, when you consider that a number of people are starting to adopt policies where they won’t read a series until all of the books have released, this “Netflix Effect for trilogies” strategy is certainly something to consider. I’ve even noticed some publishers having shorter-than-a-year time gaps in between the release of books in a series, which might be a sign of things to come. For now, this is mainly limited to New Adult (Finding Fate, Losing It, A Little Too Far, etc.), but I’ve also been noticing it happening in some Young Adult series as well (ExtractionGlitch, etc.). From where I stand, I’m not sure many publishers will try the Netflix, release-everything-in-one-day method because of the concentrated hype problem I mentioned above, but I have a feeling we’ll start to see shortening time intervals between release dates of YA trilogies. Considering that 1) YA is becoming reasonably flooded with new books and 2) that many readers are less inclined to wait years for a next book in a series as a result, it certainly seems likely. And, if publishers eventually choose a select few trilogies to be released all at once, I can see that strategy being very effective as long as it’s limited to only certain, well-marketed trilogies.

If this shift were to happen–and I have no idea that it will–it will obviously be more difficult for the writer and the editor, but that could be solved by a longer period in between the date a book is sold and the date it publicly releases. But whether this possibility is realistic or not, I find it to be at the very least exciting to consider, and is certainly something I would welcome as a good thing.

 

 

*There are also, I’m sure, a number of other contractual issues with bookstore/library distribution as well as other potential problems with this strategy, but my guess is that this concentrated hype problem is the main pitfall of the Netflix-for-books idea.

 

EDIT: There is an upcoming New Adult trilogy by a popular author, Ann Aguirre, in which each book releases one to two months apart.