Starting After “The End”: Revisions

Starting After “The End”: Revisions

One of the most exciting things about writing is being able to put that big “THE END” at the last page of your novel manuscript, epic poem, short story, what have you. It is SO rewarding. (Don’t act like you don’t do it!) And it makes you feel like this:

Snl-so-freakin-excited

AND

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But what happens when it’s over? When the piece you have labored on for days, weeks, months, years (yikes!) is done.  I mean, once you put “THE END” on a piece, it’s perfect. There really isn’t anything else you need to do. Except, of course, submit it to agents, editors, teachers, etc., and wait for the praise to come. Because it will come. Right?

What happens when that doesn’t happen?

What happens when the “end” isn’t really the end? What happens when it’s just the beginning? For most of us, the end, this first end, isn’t actually the end. So what do you do? What do you do after you finish a novel, set it aside for a month or two, and then realize it sucks?

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Sometimes your baby doesn’t turn out like you thought it would and all you really can do is… revise. Yep. Revisions. Most writers either hate ‘em or love ‘em. I happen to be in the “love” group. I don’t really outline so revising, for me, is all about restructuring my “beautiful” work.

Here’s my process:

  1. I reread it. No pens in hand. I go over it like one might read a book they’ve been dying to read: in one sitting. This usually consists of me laughing, crying, laughing some more and realizing it doesn’t suck as bad as I thought. (Yay!!!) However, by the time I’m done, I should have some idea of what needs to be fixed.
  2. I reread it again. Pens in hand. I like red pens. I also like pink and purple pens. (I have lots of colorful pens.) But it really doesn’t matter the color of the pen so long as the manuscript is in my hand this round. By that I mean I need to print it out. (*cue screams, etc. about wasting paper*–I know, but it helps.) I print it out and read it as if it’s not even mine. I pretend I’m my worst critic. I start, maybe with the red pen, picking apart structural issues: why does she say she only has a brother in this scene and only a sister in the next? For my recent mystery novel I realized several clues didn’t match up. Then I pick another color and make note of times the character isn’t acting herself. I like to call these times when Patrice is pushing her agenda as the writer instead of letting the character react. Then I pick another color and edit for grammar. I do this as many times as I need for the issues my story has.
  3. I edit using my handy dandy marked up manuscript (see #2). Sometimes I start with grammar, especially if I don’t know how to fix the structural issues. Sometimes I begin with the character because, let’s face it, if your character isn’t “on point,” your story won’t be either.
  4. I spend at least one day revising my opening scene. A lot of times I write a scene that I, as the writer, think the reader needs for a beginning. With my most recent MS, I knew she was a retired con artist who for some reason was at a criminals anonymous support group that took place in a Catholic church. So when I edited, it was not the scene, per se, that I changed, it was the layout. Remember, you have write how your character would see things. Whereas I might notice the people first and whereas I generally use parenthetical asides, etc. my character’s a very direct person. So I had to revise that scene, and others, with her in mind.
  5. I continue to revise and edit until I think it’s ready. And then I send it to friends, critique partners, people I trust to be brutally honest. With their help, I revise again.
  6. Then I set it free!

Hopefully my steps will help you with your own revisions! Remember, in writing, the “ending” is really a beginning of a whole new process. Dig in, keep improving things, and enjoy the ride.

*For some help with #4, or character in general, I love this post by author Chuck Wendig: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/10/28/plot-and-character/ I often use his guide after I’ve finished writing the story to provide clarification on who my character is and to hone into her voice.

Happy revising!

On Endings

Hi guys! I’m super excited to be able to join you today for my first post on Teens Can Write, Too! This month’s TCWT theme  is “Endings,” which is appropriate because December marks the end of the semester for most people, the end of NaNoWriMo for those of us who participated (whether you won or not, guys, you did something new and wonderful!), and, most importantly, because December is the last month of the year.

And what an ending also means is that there’s a new beginning on the horizon–January, the new year, a time of reflection and renewal. So as we come to this ending, it’s a good time to get some perspective and reflect on what we’ve just been through, so we can understand better where we want to go as we make our new start.

Personal

[via MattMorris.com]

Since the year is ending and New Year’s resolutions wave at us from the distance (hi there), we should think about what we’ve accomplished personally in 2014. (And yes, just making it through counts big.) I have:

  • Gotten diagnosed with OCD, after having suffered through it in complete and devastating ignorance almost my entire life
  • Finally gained control over that OCD so that I can live a (relatively) normal life — my counselor is going to “discharge” me in a couple of weeks!
  • Learned how to deal with being isolated and not having a lot of friends to turn to
  • Figured out how to gain a measure of independence from my family
  • Adopted a totes adorbs cat to snuggle
Hello Spartacus!

Hello Spartacus!

To everyone reading this: What have you personally accomplished?

Educational

[via LatinTrends.com]

With the semester also coming to a close, we can stop and examine how we’re doing academically. School’s a big part of our lives as young writers and it’s important that we be proud of it! Every victory in our education, no matter how small it might seem, means something. For me, school has never been a real problem, for which I’m infinitely grateful. I know so many others who struggle in this sphere–and for them, the victories are even sweeter. This year, I’ve: 

  • Maintained a high GPA
  • Gotten another three-ish semesters of college under my belt
  • Gained some knowledge and reviewed other awesome information!

 To our readers: What victories have you gained in your education?

 In Writing

[via Globe University]

Finally, with the end of NaNoWriMo, it’s a good time to look at what we’ve accomplished in our writing careers, which, of course, is what this blog is all about. Every word, every paragraph, every page counts in our journey towards making a difference in the world with our voices. In 2014, I have:

  • Done significant editing on a number of my manuscripts
  • Worked on preparing one in particular for querying
  • Written parts of two different new novels (one won in Camp NaNo, one won in regular NaNoWriMo–I haven’t had the chance to actually finish either yet!)
  • Gained new knowledge about and skills in the writing world
  • Become a part of this great TCWT/Ch1Con community!

For you wonderful viewers today: What progress have you made with your writing?

In examining all of these things, we create a meaningful ending to this small portion of our lives and prepare ourselves for the next beginning. Think about what you can continue to expand on in 2015! Pat yourself on the back for what you’ve done this year! And guys–thanks for being here with us. :)

Beginning The 2nd Draft

Hi everyone,

My name is Aisha, and just like you, I have been following this awesome blog for ages, which is why I was so excited to get the honor of posting on here.

You guys have already heard from Mark, who talked about beginning the query process, and today I want to take it back even further: to the second draft.

And with NaNoWriMo being almost over (not that my word count is anything to judge by), lots of us are going to be left with heaping piles of first-draft-yuck. I know from personal experience that going back and looking at the first draft of your novel for the first time can be a horrible feeling:

  • ‘Put thingy here’ - really, Aisha? Really? WHAT EVEN IS “thingy”??
  • Wait, who is this character? Why are they even here? And why did they suddenly disappear on page 20?
  • It’s so funny how much I love sloppy adverbs… so funny. *hysterical crying*

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If you’ve done anything like this (or maybe something a little less dramatic), then I know how you feel.

Here’s how I defeat the monstrous second draft (besides of course, large amounts of overly processed foods.)

First, take a break. Step back, remind yourself what outside actually smells like (Yeah, I know. The bright light in the sky burns at first, but you’ll get use to it) and give your mind some time to refresh itself.

Second, decide what you want from your second draft. Some of us, most likely anyone doing NaNoWriMo, are basically starting from scratch with their novels. We got the words out, we have the main plot kinda, and we realize just how completely terrible those words actually are. So, the second draft can either be a complete rewrite or just a bit of copying and pasting. Either way, I can assure you, after the second draft, your novel will not be the same as it started out – and that’s a good thing. We’re trying to move forwards not backwards.

You most likely will not be focusing on punctuation and fancy prose in the second draft of your novel; there’s no point in fixing line by line, if the story itself doesn’t make sense.
Your second draft is mainly about fixing big plot holes (Yeah, that pirate family that you decided halfway through the novel worked better as farmers, yeah that’s gonna need some fixin’.)

The second draft is about figuring out your ideas, it’s about pulling all the big pieces of your story together to make it coherent.

Because, if we’re being honest, half the time when I go back to read the first draft I have no idea what was going on when I was writing a certain scene or what I was thinking.
The second draft is particularly important for those of you who are pantsers, who started their novel with not much idea where it would end.

The second draft is where you’ll mold most of your story, where everything comes together and you sift through those very big plot holes in the story and might end up killing a few plot bunnies that had seemed like such a good idea at the time.

The second draft basically consists of a lot of R&R – revising and rewriting.

Just like the first draft, this one will also have it’s difficulties. You’ll get tired, you’ll get annoyed and downright mad at your story. The important thing is to push through, to remember why you’re doing this in the first place: Because you have a story, a story that is brilliant and amazing and that you want to share with the world.

Aisha.

TCWT December 2014 Blog Chain

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Hey guys! This month’s blog chain topic was suggested by Lily at Lily’s Notes In The Margins, and I’m really excited about it. She asks:

“What works of fiction have taught you by example, and what did they teach you?”

Because I think this topic is relatively self-explanatory, I won’t elaborate on it too much–but basically, you have the freedom to do pretty much whatever you want with it. If you have an out-of-the-box idea as a response, don’t hesitate to try it. Can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

*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.

*If you’re new to the site and are wondering what the blog chain is, you can find out more here. You are more than welcome to join in, of course. We’re always looking for more participants. :)

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A Fundraiser and a Book Giveaway

Hey guys! John here. As you probably know, TCWT has joined forces with the awesome young writers’ conference, Ch1Con (you can read a little bit about the conference here), and since they’ve kicked off fundraising for their 2015 conference, I thought it could be fun to support them with a book giveaway.

Here’s how it’s going to work: to enter the giveaway, you basically have to help us spread the word about the Ch1Con fundraiser. The entrance options include sharing a link to the fundraiser either through Twitter, Facebook, your blog, or some other social media site, or by following the Ch1Con blog (which is here!), or by donating or getting a parent to donate.

By the way, that fundraiser? It’s full of awesome prizes, including books, shirts, tote bags, and lots and lots of critiques. You can find it here. If you donate, I’d be eternally grateful. Or, if you can’t yourself donate, getting a parent to do so would also be amazing. (Any amount, however small, is very much appreciated.) The conference is awesome, and it provides a great opportunity for teen writers–hopefully even some of you–to attend, listen to the speakers, and meet other cool young writers, and anything you could do to help it continue would be greatly appreciated.

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Now, for the giveaway itself.

photoI’m giving away four paperbacks, which you can see above. Each is, like, VERY LIGHTLY used, I promise. I’m not really the destroy-the-book, dog-ear-every-page type.

I’m also linking to each book’s Goodreads page below (the “HERE” links). Clicking them will a) open a new tab and b) give you a full blurb of each book along with some reviews, so you can get an idea of what each is about. Entering the giveaway puts you into the raffle for all of the books, but I’ll ask each winner what book they prefer to receive. (If the book that is left is not one you are interested in, let me know and I’ll draw a new winner. So don’t worry about receiving a book you personally don’t want to read.)

WordPress does not like Rafflecopter, the service I’m using to do the giveaway, so I’m going to link directly to the giveaway below. The link is the one with all of the frenzied arrows around it. :-) 

P.S. There are no age restrictions on entering the giveaway–you can be an adult or a teen.

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  • Love Letters To The Dead: This a YA contemporary which, you know, was recommended by Emma Watson and has tons of rave reviews, so it must be pretty awesome. Find out more about it HERE.

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  • The Half Life of Molly Pierce: Really cool YA psychological thriller. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say: if you’re into untraditional mysteries (i.e. Memento), you want this book. Find out more about it HERE.

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  • The Kiss of Deception: YA fantasy. I’ll admit that it took me a while to get into this one, but once I got into it, I REALLY got into it. I highly recommend it, particularly if you like kickass–and flawed–heroines. Find out more about it HERE.

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  • Out of Play: This is a YA romance that’s definitely on the older side of YA. (It’s technically New Adult.) I’m a big fan of Nyrae Dawn and Jolene Perry, and I’ve heard amazing things about this one in particular. Find more about it HERE.

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THE GIVEAWAY–> a Rafflecopter giveaway <—THE GIVEAWAY

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Beginning Querying: A Horror Story

Hi, readers! I’m so thrilled to be joining the Teens Can Write, Too blog with my archnemesis John and the lovely people of Ch1Con, and I’m super pumped to write our first post! I’m Mark O’Brien, and I’m going to tell you a horror story: my first querying experiences.

I was fourteen when I began querying, but it was a small, naive fourteen, and I was no prodigy. Not that I knew that. My first novel (which, I kid you not, was a “literary YA” that was about as literary as a sack of potatoes and was entitled Cream and Sugar at the time of querying—it’s now affectionately referred to as the more accurate Words That Burn) was perfect and gorgeous and I didn’t even need to edit, I just needed an agent to read my query, recognize the genius, and offer me representation because it was so freaking great. I didn’t look up how to write a query because I didn’t need to, what with a story as good as mine.

So I queried maybe three to five of my top choices, which seemed like the best strategy ever. My query letters were full of compliments about how many sales the agents had made and how I was certain I could be their next. I did not summarize the book; instead, I talked about its themes. The email I used was not my full name with “books” at the end; I used my personal one, an address that referenced dying balloons. And had numbers. (I’m not kidding.) (I wish I were.)

Thankfully, I got no responses, positive or negative or anything else.

This book sucked. My next book sucked, but I didn’t know that, so I queried it anyway—and even got a full request! For this one, a dystopian I wrote in 2011 (again, I wish I were kidding), I actually went to the trouble of writing, you know, a real query letter, getting it critiqued, and developing something of an online presence.

The third book was eh, but it got a much better reception. Around the fourth book, I figured out how to write coherently (thanks, critique partners), and soon I didn’t have one request out at a time, usually more like five or six.

What I’m saying here is that I was not ready to query before my fourth book. I just wasn’t. My writing wasn’t there; my attitude was far too high-and-mighty. I’m now working on Book 6, and you bet your bottom dollar I’m going to put my manuscript through quite a few rounds of revisions before I query.

But how do you know when you’re ready to query? Good question, hypothetical person! This varies from writer to writer and book to book, but a good rule of thumb I like to use is: you’ve edited your manuscript so much you don’t know what to edit anymore. You’ve read all the way through it, start to finish, probably half a dozen times (or more!), looking for everything and anything you could make better, and you’ve made those things better. You’ve had critique partners and/or beta readers rip it to shreds, and you’ve pieced those shreds back together into something good. Something you’re proud of, even through the self-doubt.

If you’re not proud of your book—like, not at all—ask yourself why. Do you not love the story? Is your writing not where you’d hoped it would be? If your gut tells you something’s wrong, there’s no shame in taking a while—two weeks, three months, a year—to determine why. No one is forcing you to query right now, except maybe yourself.

Take your time. Breathe. It’ll be worth it in the end.

Announcing TCWT 2.0

Hey guys! This is John speaking. I clarify that because some totally awesome things have happened, and it won’t just be me posting on the blog anymore.

I’m not too great at suspense, so I’ll just tell you why: TCWT is partnering with Ch1Con, an annual teen writer conference created by some really geeky and fantastic and hilarious people, and as a result we are pooling writers. In my mad power grab, I am also bringing two more victims into the fold to join us on the blog. This means that TCWT now has a team of nine writers (myself included) behind it, six of which are with Ch1Con, and that we’ll be working together with Ch1Con on a number of teen-writer-oriented events. (You can read all of their bios here.)

Ch1Con Facebook and Twitter Banner 2014

I am really excited about this, guys. This means big things not only for the blog, but also–I hope–for the quest to give teen writers more and more forums to interact and swap stories and experiences, as well. Ch1Con is doing some amazing things, and being able to work closely with them is going to bring a lot of great opportunities for you all. For example, we plan to start running critique contests, book giveaways, online workshops, group chats, and so on. We also plan to organize mini events and manuscript/story swapping on the TCWT Facebook group, so be sure to join the group if you haven’t already (provided that you have a Facebook account that you feel comfortable using). Posts on the TCWT blog will also be more frequent, will cover much more diverse topics, and will, to everyone’s relief, be written by people who are infinitely more awesome than I am. At the very least, there will be one blog post a week, though most weeks will probably have at least two. These posts will span everything from publishing advice to personal writing experiences to book reviews to interviews to random GIF posts–there are no limits on what our writers will do. (Cue dramatic music.)

On the blog, we’re also giving each month a theme. Our writers aren’t by any means required to follow the theme, but, assuming that it might inspire at least a couple of posts per month, we hope it gives you all a basic idea of what to look for each month. If you’re a blogger and one of our monthly theme particularly inspires you, feel free to write a post to it on your site and send us a link–I’d love to read it. This month, in the spirit of the new venture, the theme is going to be more basic: “Beginnings.”

Another thing: we are trying to make it easier for you to get in touch with us, should you ever have writing questions. So if you want some advice or commiseration or a pep talk, please don’t hesitate to ask. We’ve created a new email, TCWTblog@gmail.com, which all of us will be checking in on. If you need support, we want to help. Seriously. That’s what this blog is here for. And if you’re ever feeling down about your writing and you want someone to talk to, you can talk to one of us.

(Side note: I have a bad history of clicking on a comment notification and then forgetting to respond to the comment, so emailing us is definitely best.)

If you have a writing or publishing question that you email to us and that strikes the interest of one of our writers, with your consent, we will likely turn it into a blog post. We plan to have an intermittent-but-ongoing Q&A series, so please, send us your questions! (Feel free to email us with any ideas/critiques/promotions you are doing that you feel is relevant to the site as well.)

To be clear, we’re not doing away with any current aspects of the blog. In particular, the blog chain will remain intact, and will continue to occur every month. The TCWT community will simply be growing, as I’m hoping these changes will help give anyone who wants it a way to connect with other awesome teens.

Also, in the spirit of expansion, pretty soon we are going to be asking you guys to get involved with the blog. Once everything gets going, we’re going to be looking for more guest posts, but also for your general ideas–about contests, about books to feature, and so on. We really want to let everyone have a say who wants to have a say, and to give other teen writers a chance to share on the blog some of their personal experiences. More on that soon!

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And… I think that’s all I have to say! Actually, wait, no it isn’t. Right now, I want to thank you all. I’ve had an amazing time running this blog for these last three years, and I am so excited for things to come. You all are so talented; I know you will go on to do great things in the writing world, and I hope this blog, in some small way, helps you get there. But regardless, thank you endlessly for having read and followed my inane and rambly blog posts. It means the world to me. <3

Now, for the fun stuff: TCWT is home to eight new writers. But instead of simply listing bios (though you can read their bios and follow our contributors here), I wanted to bring out the heavy artillery. So, we’re each going to introduce ourselves via quotes we pulled from our old, laughably-bad stories. Cringes, get ready to be felt.

(Just to be clear: the ages listed below are the ages when each person wrote the excerpt, not their current age.)

Ariel, Age 7: 

“Oh puh-leeze can we go camping?” I asked Mother. “Come on, it’s only 6 hours! A fourth of a day!” “Okay” said Mother. ”And don’t complain that you are bored. We’ll go right back if you do!”

I ran upstairs and started to pack. Oh, I’ve noticed that I’m telling you a camping story and you don’t even know my name. Well, I’m Sally and I’m a detective. So are my friends Lonna and Marcy. My blue notebook stores clues. I live in New Jersey. That’s all you’ll need to know now.

Aisha, Age 8:

Ounce upon a time, in London. On the 88nd street lived a family! A family of four, but not the kind you would think!!

Not with two parents and two kids, not even one parent and three kids. But all kids.

Well I guess the two oldest aren’t kids, Lucinda(twnenty-two) and Tom(eighteen) are the oldest.

Next are Lisa(16) and the youngest Lucy(eleven) and they all lived together in a cozy three bedroom house…

Julia, Age 13:

In real life, I have short auburn hair and dark hazel eyes. When I’m Shauna, I have long chocolaty-brown hair and deep green eyes (Made possible by the fact that I wear contacts.) My makeup-person even piles on an extra coating of blush where my very prominent freckle is on my cheek. No one has ever figured out that I live a double life, and I plan to keep it that way.

“Whatever, Kate; I can see that you don’t want to talk about your obsession with hating Shauna Guarder.” Claire laughed. All of my friends were used to me throwing out nasty comments about the author, but sometimes seemed to forget about this fact and expected me to talk with them about how great she was.

“Hey, it’s not my fault she stinks on ice.” I said with added seriousness, throwing the group into a fit of giggles. My secret was safe for now…

Mark, Age 14:

[In the main character’s intro to the book]

Don’t worry, I’m not about to kill myself at the end of this novel. You’ll have to wait a few more books for that. This is the story of the past seven hundred and thirty-one days of my life. (One of them was a leap year, outraged math people.)

Emma, Age 12:

“You look like a raccoon who applied too much eyeliner this morning,” though Samantha, she never announced her rebuttals, no matter how witty, in fear of being further mocked and embarrassed.

Olivia, Age 13: 

Along with the unusual stillness, something else was bothering me. Something not quite tangible, but undeniably present. It was almost as if I could feel what was causing the forest unease, a sense of hatred and corruption.

Patrice, Age 19: 

At her last words the chapel erupted with claps and cheers; it was David. With all the applause he was getting I would’ve thought he was a politician who’d just announced he was running for President.

Not that I blamed them, I mean David was hot, and hot wasn’t a word I used to describe people. His smile almost made me melt. He had the richest, dark brown eyes, perfectly, plump lips, and warm caramel skin. It was a scene straight out of a teen romance novel. That is if I believed in insta-love and all that. However, it wasn’t only the female population he captivated for everyone seemed to be in love with him.

Realizing he had charmed me earlier just like he was charming everyone now, I let me eyes wander around the room, trying to escape the rhythm of his voice. He was probably the same as every other spoiled, popular, student body president who was most likely also the captain of some sports teams. Since I liked to avoid those, hopelessly in love with themselves, douchebaggy types, swooning over him, again, would be a complete waste of my time.

Kira, Age 10:

[Kira posted her first ever story on her blog, complete with shiny photos and formatting, so I’m just going to link to that. Read it here.]

John, Age 13:

My name is Taylor Williams and it was I who murdered Barbara Jensen. Now don’t be too appalled by me, I didn’t have much choice but to kill her. Barbara Jensen was a fine woman. I can’t say she was my favorite person but I had nothing against her and she had nothing against me. Why kill her, you ask? Well, I had my reasons. However, in the event that you are a cop, these reasons will not be shared with you. All I will say is that she knew too much. She had stumbled upon something inadvertently; a secret, something that could bring me down and I could not let word get out. Once I discovered that she knew, I made her swear that she would not tell anyone, especially the police. I informed her that if she were to reveal me (quote) “Your future will be very bleak.” Nevertheless, I couldn’t risk it. Word would almost certainly spread. So I silenced her voluble mouth.

[^*CRINGES VERY VERY HARD* Can you tell I had a thesaurus with me that day?] 

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And with that, I think it’s finally official: TCWT 2.0 has arrived.

(DUN DUN DUN.)

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.

***

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.

 ***

*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.

 ***

(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.

TCWT June 2014 Blog Chain

**Quick announcement: On June 14-15, just outside Chicago, Illinois (U.S.A.), a few really great people are hosting a writing conference for teen writers known as the Chapter One Young Writers ConferenceIt’s led by CEO Julia Byers, Creative Director Molly Brennan, Associate Online Administrator Kira Budge, Event Aide Lynn Byers, and a number of other contributors heavily involved in the teen writing world. They have workshops and speakers (one of the coolest people out there, Amy Zhang, whose equally amazing YA contemporary Falling Into Place releases in September, is the headliner!), and the conference is open to all writers from middle school to undergraduate level. If you’re interested, you can register now, and you can find more info on their website.**

(Note: I’m not personally associated with the conference, but it looks fantastic so I agreed to post about it!)

***

 

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that May’s blog chain has been one of my favorites since the inception of this blog. Everyone who participated had such brilliant responses, which meant each post totally gave me a host of shiny-new-ideas-I-will-probably-never-write–which, as far as I’m concerned, is always a plus. So thank you endlessly to all who participated and followed along; it was tons of fun. (If you missed the chain, you can still see the list of participants and their posts here.)

 

Now, for June’s blog chain, the prompt is:

 

“What are your thoughts on book-to-movie adaptions? Would you one day want your book made into a movie, or probably not?”

 

This topic feels especially relevant because of the large number of “YA movies” that are releasing (or have already released) this year, and I know from talking to a lot of you that your opinions on book-to-movie adaptions vary wildly, the latter of which should hopefully make the chain all the more interesting.

 

As always, you’re welcome to approach this prompt however you like. You can discuss some book-to-movie adaptions you’ve liked or disliked in the past, you can talk about your thoughts on adaptions in general, or if you just want to do a review of a recent book-to-movie adaption (or talk about why you are excited about an upcoming one), that’d also be awesome! And for the second part of the prompt: we all know from seeing our favorite books in movie form that it’s unlikely Hollywood will completely capture the essence of a novel, as chunks of the story will always get lost of translation. So if given the opportunity to work with a film studio on adapting your book, would you risk it? Or would you be like Salinger and never let it happen? I’m curious to hear what you all think!

 

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 June’s chain will go up on our blog chain page on June 4th, so you have until then to sign up.

 

Thank you! You guys, as always, are amazing.

 

The Secret Life of a Teen Writer

I’ve always been a writer. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been putting my thoughts into stories in some way or another. At first, they were pretty obscure: epics of talking mice travelling to new worlds through da Vinci paintings, or tales of rebellious fruit who decide to wage war against their vegetable overlords. As I got older, those stories turned to novels (or at least half-written ones), and those novels into polished manuscripts. And yet, right from the beginning, I hated telling people about my writing.

My parents would ask me what I was working on, and I’d mumble out a vague answer and then turn in the other direction; my relatives, who my parents told all about my books, would ask when one would be published, and I’d just say something along the lines of it being “far away” and would try to change the subject; and my friends… well, I wouldn’t tell any of them that I write at all.

Even now that I have grown more experienced with the book world, have joined twitter, started my own blog, and so on, that hasn’t really changed. I’ve not only continued to avoid discussing my own writing in real life, but in a way I’ve also created this whole second world for myself, this super-secret online life. And maybe it’s because this makes people feel like spies, which is always a plus, but I’ve noticed from talking to other writers that this happens a lot. In fact, from what it sounds like, there are a number of us who write or blog “undercover,” who have over time created a second life for ourselves online.

And for the almost three years now that I’ve been active on the internet, I’ve been wondering why this is. On the surface, it seems like a pretty easy answer, right? I mean, it isn’t difficult to blame this whole “secret writing life” phenomenon on some level of introversion within us all. Or maybe, it seems, we’ve created this separate writing world because of societal pressure, because we are so afraid to be ourselves in public that we feel the need to hide our love for writing or something. And while there may be some truth in those theories, I personally have never really bought into either of them, because both imply that I am, on some level, ashamed of being a writer. When the fact is? For better or for worse,* I’m pretty damn proud of it.

So then… why? Why get involved with the writing and book and blogging communities, then work so hard to keep it a secret from people I know in the Real World? Why keep it to myself? What’s the point?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and here’s what I’ve decided:

It’s because sometimes we all need a way out.

It’s because we all need a way to express ourselves.

It’s because we all need an escape.

There is something truly freeing in the secrecy of a “second writing life,” in being able to have something that is just yours, something that you can come home to every day and, like a blank canvas, fill with your thoughts. Writing is a naturally freeing experience, but when you can write just for you, for you and a few weird people on the internet, the possibilities become endless. You don’t have to worry about anything; you just write. And for me, that is exactly why I keep my online life a secret: because it has become my outlet. Because it’s the safe place I can escape to whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed. Because it is a world full of like-minded people who make me feel a little less strange. But most of all, because this secret life is mine.

And that, to me, is the heart of it all. Having this life that I get to keep all to myself allows me a way out when I need one, gives me a world that really just makes sense to me. There is even something kind of meta about it all, like through this secret life I’m suddenly creating an entirely new story for myself, like I am the main character in the book I’m writing. And in that way, why I do this seems (to me) at least a little bit logical. I don’t make a second life because there is anything wrong with the first one; I make it because I need a way to make sense of the first one.

After all, at the end of the day, we all do need to take a step back. We all need a place where we feel safe, a medium through which everything becomes both a little clearer and a little more sane. It doesn’t mean we’re unhappy with our real lives or anything; it’s just necessity. Some people find this escape through gossip, through music, through sports. Some people find it by looking at art or writing troll-ish YouTube comments or staring at the stars with their next-door-neighbor. And me? I just happen to find it through books and writing.

It’s not introversion that has me keeping this secret–not really, anyway. It’s because my online life is the same as your private journal, or your favorite TV episode, or that best friend you stay up all night every night talking to. Or anything else–but chances are, you have something. Some secret, some place that is always a constant. Something that is yours.

Because we all have our secrets. And sometimes, that can be a very, very good thing.

 

(*By “worse,” I am of course referring to the day the FBI finally arrests me for my Google searches.)

May 2014 TCWT Blog Chain

I’m totally thrilled to announce that the blog chain is back–for real this time. After a long hiatus, it’ll once again happen every month, starting this May. (For those who are unfamiliar with what the blog chain is, you can read a brief explanation here.)

So let’s get right to it. The topic for May’s blog chain will be:

What kinds of published books would you like to see more of? 

This is inspired by the Twitter hashtag #RBWL (stands for Reader/Blogger Wishlist), which is basically a place for people to post about the kinds of plots/characters/themes/genres/etc they personally would like to see in more published books. So maybe someone wants to read a published book whose plot is like Hamlet meets Game of Thrones, or someone wants to have more YA historicals on the shelves, or someone else wants there to be more mute characters in literature. Anything fits; it’s all about whatever you wish there could more of. (You can find some examples of what I mean here or here.)

For the sake of this blog chain, you can be as vague or as specific (or, as serious or as random) as you like in your “wishlist.” It’s probably best if you could include more than one idea in your post, though, and it’s even better if you could organize them all into some sort of list. However, that’s certainly not a requirement; if you have a better idea, go for it! You have plenty of freedom with how to respond to this topic.

Hopefully, this will not only be a fun way to explore the different types of books you feel we need more of, but will also provide some writing inspiration for anyone who has been struggling with what to write next. (So in that vein, you may want to be careful about posting story ideas for books that you personally are writing.)

Let me know if you have any questions! Otherwise, to sign up, all you have to do is comment below with a link to your blog and any dates that don’t work for you (if applicable). And new people: you are always welcome to join, too!

(Sign-ups for this blog chain will end on May 3rd. On May 5th, the chain will begin.)

 

7 Popular TV Shows If They Were Made for a Publishing Audience

(So after nearly a year of infrequent posting, TCWT is finally back–for real this time! I’ve missed this blog, and I’ve missed you guys, and I’m really excited to be returning.

To give a quick update: I’ve spent the last two weeks updating old posts in preparation for this blog re-launch, organizing them into archives, and although not all of the posts are updated yet (I have yet to go over the critique partner posts, for example), those that are should hopefully prove to be at least a little bit helpful. We also have a new, cleaner blog design; our list of books by teen authors has more than doubled after I added to it last week; we now have, in that vein, a page for upcoming books written by teen authors (two are releasing from Big Five publishers this month alone, and one of those two has already sold movie rights!); and finally, yes, the blog chain is returning as a monthly occurrence as well. I’ll announce the topic for May’s chain in mid-April!)

***

So while watching most all of the writing/publishing/blogging community live-tweet the Game of Thrones premiere last night, I remembered Allegra Davis’s bookish reality TV show post from two years ago, and I thought, Well, what if Game of Thrones were remade for a writing/publishing audience? And from there, I starting imagining what it would be like if other popular TV shows were redone for book lovers… and then this post happened. I wish I could say it ended well. ;)

Breaking Books – After getting fired from his job and realizing he is broke, a high school librarian named Walter Write, desperate to make money to support him and his thirty cats, uses his knowledge of books to write and self-publish dinosaur erotica novels. He knows that what he’s doing is wrong, but he has no choice, and dinosaur erotica is a hot sell–pun intended. So hot, in fact, that the money quickly starts rolling in, and Write becomes famous in the underground dinorotica community for creating the finest dinosaur love stories out there (specifically, books involving his trademark blue pterodactyls). Soon, to increase his audience, Write begins working with a mysterious publisher named Gustavo who uses his small press as a front for dinorotica bookselling all across the world. And as the thousands of dollars turn to millions, Write tells himself that he’s merely trying to gather the funds to support his cats for the rest of their lives, but he soon realizes that, in fact, he isn’t: he’s doing it for him. Because, most shockingly of all, he likes writing dino love stories.

Game of Office Chairs – A drama following power-hungry editors from all across the publishing realm, who play an unending game of poaching each other’s authors, blackmailing publicists at other houses until they quit, and doing everything they can to propel their imprint to the top. Fans are still reeling from the shocking third season finale, which ended with the Red Merger, where two of the rival publishers attempted to merge–and their furious employees responded by drenching both buildings in red paint.

Sherlock: A BBC (Book Broadcasting Corporation) series about Sherlock Holmes, London’s best literary talent scout, who investigates books published throughout the web and, with the help of his partner Watson, analyzes the writing and decides whether those authors have what it takes to land a publishing contract. Unfortunately for Holmes, his rival, Moriarty, keeps finding undiscovered talent faster than he can.

Sleepy Hollow: This supernatural thriller takes place interchangeably between the Amazon-Big Five war of 2079 and two-hundred years after the fact when Bezos’ long-dead military commander Ichabod Crane comes back to life and mutant Kindles start terrorizing the town of Sleepy Hollow. The series revolves around Crane and a local small press owner as, through their attempts to save the town, they uncover one of the greatest conspiracies in all of publishing history

Mad Publicists: A group of corrupt publicists works to convince readers to buy books they know to be of poor quality. Famous for drinking and writing vicious reviews of competitors’ books while on the job, Don Draper, the show’s lead, is desperate to hide the numerous secrets from his own dark past–especially a lengthy vampire romance he self-published years back.

The Auth-Bachelor – A group of some of the most prolific literary agents in the industry, who have their own share of personal troubles and are in need of a new client to resolve them, compete to win the representation of an extremely talented, somehow-unpublished writer. As the writer’s initial queries lead to a partial-turned-full with each agent, the reality show teems with romantic one-on-ones. And even after the writer is forced to choose only one agent that he wants to be represented by, things happen fast; after all, one day the two meet, and the next they’re picking out a publishing house together!

The Walking Read - Set in a post-Amazocalyptic world hundreds of years after the fall of Amazon took the rest of the publishing industry with it, where authors everywhere have become so desperate to get their work published that they’ve resorted to attacking everyone they see until the people agree to read the tattered remains of those authors’ books (shameless self-promotion just got serious), a rag-tag team of former self-publishers has to fight their way through the desperate-author-riddled world and into New York City, the heart of the former publishing industry, in their attempts to save the writerly race.

TCWT January 2014 Blog Chain

Oh yes, it’s that time again. After an uber-fantastic December blog chain, it’s time to announce the topic for January!

(See here for more info on what this whole blog chain thing is about.)

This month’s prompt is:

“If you could co-write a book with one author–living or not–who would it be and what would the book be about?”

FYI: as far as the “what would the book be about?” part of the question is concerned,  you’re welcome to be as vague or as specific as you like. (You also don’t need to write out a blurb, but you’re welcome to if you prefer that.) Or if you’d rather not come up with a book idea at all, feel free to talk about why you’d choose that author instead. Really, go crazy with this! After all, in my experience, crazy always = more fun.

If you want to join in, comment below with a link to your blog and any dates you can’t post on!

Writing An Antagonist

There’s something about antagonists that, I think,  inherently fascinates us as readers. We all get at least a little curious about what leads someone to become “evil,” why it is they do what they do, and so on. And considering we live in a world where right and wrong is all about perspective, well-done antagonists can be especially exciting. I think this is where my love of Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo comes in. The Darkling is one of the greatest villains I’ve ever read. He’s evil; he’s terrifying; he’s complex. And you know what, on top of that, makes him so great? The fact that he feels uniquely human. (Well, okay, this is a fantasy so technically he isn’t human, but you get the point.) Bardugo does this incredible thing where she gives him emotions and fears and goals and even a bit of romantic longing, and this helps the reader to understand and connect with him, because at the heart of it all, she shows that he is still a struggling guy. He is still a normal person, just one that is immeasurably angry and unpredictable. This fact, I’d argue, makes him all the more terrifying to a reader–I mean, how can you be afraid of someone if he doesn’t feel real?–thus adding lots of tension to the story. Plus, making the villain have his* human moments adds a layer of intrigue for the reader. After all, you don’t want to write a villain so pointlessly evil that the reader cringes whenever he enters the scene; you want to write a villain so intriguing and complex and wicked that he makes the reader’s heart pound instantly, but at the same time, they can’t look away.

Recently, I heard someone on Twitter give advice that went something like this (I’m paraphrasing): “you haven’t succeeded in writing an antagonist until the reader knows why he or she [the antagonist] is the hero in his or her own story.” I couldn’t agree with that more. Take it from me, because I’ve made this mistake before; you don’t want your villain to be all evil. You don’t want them to do the bad thing every time for no apparent reason, because that’s boring. Not only that, but unless you give your villain a real character and real motivations, the tension in your story will be significantly lacking. Think about it. If the reader doesn’t understand your antagonist, they won’t be afraid for your main character. They won’t have those moments where they’re reading at 1 a.m. with their heart pounding because the prospect of the main character meeting the villain terrifies and excites them all at once. And you want those moments. Those moments are key to making a good story become great. So you have to make sure your antagonist feels real and layered and exciting. Give him goals. Give him drive. Give him weaknesses. Give him a unique backstory and an interesting personality and possibly even romantic longing. Make sure his dialogue isn’t always centered around being pure evil. (Maybe he’s apologetic at times. Maybe he’s reminiscent. I don’t know. But even the bad guys say more than just endless threats.) Don’t get me wrong; your villain doesn’t have to be a nice guy. He doesn’t even have to have redeeming qualities. But he should feel real. He should feel unique and human. And to get this across, here are three key** aspects you need to make sure are clear, or become clear, in your story:

1) Motivation. What makes him do what he does? What is his endgame? What in his past brought this about, and why does he think doing [X thing] will help? What are the lengths he will go to achieve his goal? 

2) Justification. Why does the villain think what he’s doing is just? Why does he believe the main character deserves it? Why does the villain, like I mentioned above, see himself as the hero in his own story? After all, nobody is all evil. Sometimes people will do bad things because they feel it’s for the right reasons, and you have to convey that in your antagonist. 

3) Fear. Let’s face it: everyone is afraid of something. This means your villain has to be afraid of something, too. He has to have a weakness. He has to have a past he doesn’t want revealed, or a person he doesn’t want harmed, or a world he doesn’t want created, or something. Show what this fear is, or at least hint at it.

*I’m just using “his” because The Darkling is a guy, but you can obviously have villains of all genders.

**Please note that this is all my opinion. You may be able to write an incredible villain without any of this. I have yet to read one, but I’m sure it’s possible. These are mostly just guidelines that can always be broken, and if you disagree with any of it, feel free to bring it up in the comments! I love discussing antagonists, lol.

Good luck, guys! Let me know if you have any questions/you disagree with anything I said. And for those of you waiting for the blog chain–yes, there will be one in January! I’m going to announce it on the 26th. :-)