Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Writing Advice I Can’t Delete from my Phone Inbox

You know when you’re sick and can’t even think about keeping up with things… like blogs? That is today. I’m under the weather, even though the weather outside is gorgeous. I’m hiding in my bed, even though it’s Easter and I fully intended to make a nice dinner for my boyfriend and myself. But I don’t want to neglect my blog. I’ve been posting here every Sunday since September and if I give up today, that might provide an excuse to stop in the future. So here I am.

I read most of my email on my phone, a slightly outdated iPhone 4 that has been glued to my hand since I got it almost 2 years ago. I try to keep the inbox clean, but there are some emails that I just can’t manage to delete. Four of these e-mails are from the Write Practice, Jeff Goins, Writer and YA Stands, dating back to August. They remain in my inbox because of their outstanding inspiration and awesome advice, and I want to be able to refer to them at any time.

“For your story to be realistic, something has to happen. You don’t need to have explosions, murders, or dramatic love stories, but something has to happen.”
This is a short post, but one that is worth a read. Whenever a story idea pops into my head, I think about this post. Does something happen in this potential short story or novel? If not, it may not be worth writing. Also, this post has a great list of potential “happenings” that will guarantee something happens in your story.

The Write Practice: The Secret to Creating Conflict

"Conflict, in good stories, is not about spectacular events or painful emotions. Good conflict is about values." 
This post compounds on the previous one, even though it came three months later. When something happens in your story, it is usually a conflict. Maybe its man v. man, man v. society, society v. society, but as this post advises, good conflict is about values. This post gives a great list of potential values and some questions for you to consider when adding a conflict of values to your story.

"Dave Ramsey says if you want to be rich, then you should do rich people stuff. I want to grow my platform, so I'm doing what people with larger platforms have done."
This is actually a guest post by Andy Traub, but it reads as advice from Jeff himself. This post is meant for writers that have followed Jeff's advice and proclaimed themselves writers, but maybe they haven't made it too much further. If you want to build a platform and live your dream, this is a great lists of steps to consider. However, I must admit it's been difficult for me. I'm still struggling with Step 2, as 5AM and I are not friends. I know I need more time to write and waking up earlier would help but I haven't quite come to terms with it yet. Which is why this email remains in my inbox, as a reminder.

"Goal. Motivation. Conflict. I need to know these things for every character. If I do, the plot will be that much tighter."
This is great advice from Tonya and by extension, her agent. When writing, you have to know your character inside and out. Most importantly, you have to know their goals, motivations and conflicts. Also, this post mentions the importance of outlining the plot in advance, and even provides a link to a helpful generic outline. When I’m musing about my characters, I like to be reminded about GMC, which is why this post remains in my inbox.

Hope these posts provide some helpful advice for your writing!
Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Reconnecting with your Inner Teenager

Most teen authors are not teens themselves, but we were all teenagers once. When I’m writing, sometimes I find it difficult to get into the right mindset. It’s been *gasp* ten years since I was sixteen years old with worries that didn’t extend far past homework, tests and learning to drive. I can imagine that connecting to my former teenage self while writing will only become tougher with time. We grow, age, evolve and get set in our ways. Delving into the teen mindset and relating to present-day teens may become ever more difficult. Here are a few suggestions to help reconnect with your inner teenager:

Reminisce with your Old Stuff

In my room at my parent’s house, there are tons of items that bring up old memories from high school. I have a box of notes that my friends and I exchanged. Reading through them conjures up a picture of that day, maybe some drama between friends but usually just the excessive boredom of pre-calculus. Also, there are piles of school papers (with varying doodles in the margins) in the basement and mismatched photo albums in the dresser drawers. If I want to reminisce and remember who I was during high school to connect with the teenager that I was, diving into these papers, pictures and notes are a great resource.

Experience what your Character Experiences

Is your character a teenage drama queen with tons of magazine subscriptions? Then I would suggest reading those magazines, or even subscribing yourself. Is your character a punk rocker type who always has music blasting? Listen to the music they would while you write. Basically, try to experience what your character would, whether it’s movies, music, television, even websites and food. It may be difficult if your character is from the past, future or not of this world, but you might still be able to find a connection. For example, if you have a Katniss-like character, you can spend time hiking in the woods or even sign up for archery lessons.

Interact with Real Live Teens

Not in a creepy way, please. But, if you have the time and desire, volunteer at the local high school, Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, etc. If there’s an opportunity to volunteer where teens congregate in your community, you can learn a lot by interacting with them. If you have a particular aptitude, you can try your hand at tutoring or proctoring (e.g. SATs, ACTs). However, if you don’t have time for such an investment, then considering observing at the mall, movie theater or local coffee shop. Just don’t stare too much. Those mall cops on Segways are always around the next corner. 


Hope these tips help you reconnect with your inner teenager and by extension, your teen character!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

One Lucky Day

Today is my birthday. (Please, no singing.) That is correct, I am a red-head* born on St. Patrick’s Day. Everyone always thinks/assumes that I’m Irish. Although I have a fascination with Ireland and Celtic history, the truth is I have very little Irish blood. (I’m mainly Belgian.) Either way, I’ve always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day because it’s my birthday, and fusing the two together has always been enjoyable.

When one thinks of St. Patrick’s Day, they think of leprechauns, pots of gold at the end of rainbows and merrily wishing each other “Good Luck!”
      luck        noun \ˈlək\
      a: a force that brings good fortune or adversity
      b: the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual

Luck is a finicky thing. It can be good or bad. It’s a combination of ability, opportunity, good timing and coincidence. Some may consider it lucky that I was born on St. Patrick’s Day with red hair. It’s more coincidence. One may think it is good luck they beat the crowd at the coffee shop. It’s more good timing.

      “Luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn't been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn't have been 'lucky.” –Oprah Winfrey

When events out of one’s control go well or badly, luck can be thanked or cursed. Usually, these events can be attributed to someone’s own ability, choices or even opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, I am a believer in luck. However, true good luck is rare. (As, hopefully, true bad luck is.) When you encounter it, make sure you take it for what it is, and thank your lucky stars.

Wishing everyone a lucky St. Patrick’s Day!

Just for fun, here are a couple Irish-themed YA books:

*Please Note: I am not a ginger.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Most Anticipated Teen Books: Spring 2013

Here are six soon-to-be-released teen novels that will hopefully put a spring in your step and drive away those dreary April showers. Enjoy.

March 21
17 & Gone – Nova Ren Suma

What it’s about:

Visions are impeding on Lauren’s life. They are of girls who are 17 and gone, missing without a trace. As Lauren, also seventeen, struggles to deal with these visions, she wonders why the girls are speaking to her. Can Lauren help the girls? Or is she the next to go missing? After a brush with death, everything begins to unravel and clues turn to a monumental truth.
Why I’m excited:
Because I’ve been hearing about this book on Suma’s blog for months and I’m eager to see it in my to-read pile. I have a feeling it will be suspenseful and thrilling and potentially even unputdownable!

April 2
Dark Triumph – Robin LaFevers

What it’s about:
LaFevers returns to 15th century France in this thrilling story of love, history and magic.  A sequel to Grave Mercy, Sybella arrives at the convent grief-stricken and half mad. One of Death’s trained assassins, the convent views her as a weapon and forces her back into the life that drove her mad. After she discovers an unexpected ally in the dungeons, she realizes there may be other reasons to live than for vengeance.

Why I’m excited:
Because this is the sequel to Grave Mercy, a historical fantasy novel that I adore. The idea that main characters Ismae and Sybella are Death’s assassins is intriguing and I look forward to devouring this story of another girl from that era and life.

May 7
Icons – Margaret Stohl
What it’s about:
The day that Earth lost a war it didn’t know it was fighting was the day that Dol’s family dropped dead. Unsure why she survived, Dol takes up a simple life in the countryside, away from the power and shadow of the Icon. When Dol and her best friend Ro are taken to the Embassy off the coast, she becomes immersed in conspiracy that is no coincidence. Joined by Tima, a hostage, and Lucas, the Ambassador’s son, Dol must piece together their past in order to save the future.

Why I’m excited:
Because I love the idea behind this book! The description is quite intriguing and has the word “conspiracy” (need I say more?). Plus, Stohl is a co-author of recent bestseller-turned-blockbuster Beautiful Creatures, which means Icons will surely be a hit as well.

June 4
The Moon and More- Sarah Dessen

What it’s about:
Luke and Emaline have been together all throughout high school in Colby, a beach town where they both grew up. He’s the perfect boyfriend but when Theo, an ambitious New Yorker, drops into Emaline’s life, she wonders if perfect is good enough. Emaline is split between her roots and her potential. She may want the moon and more, but can she balance where she comes from with where she’s going?

Why I’m excited:
Because Dessen’s novels are always relatable and realistic. She’s the Nicholas Sparks of teen fiction in that she writes about romance and real issues in the Carolinas but of course that is a narrow definition of her talent. I’m sure The Moon and More will be another swoon-worthy bestseller. Also, I love Dessen’s down-to-earth Twitter presence.

Siege & Storm – Leigh Bardugo
What it’s about:
Darkness never dies, and Alina can’t outrun it for long. In the sequel to Shadow and Bone, the Darkling has emerged with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan. Alina must return to the country she abandoned to fight the gathering forces. As she slips deeper into the Darkling’s game, she glides farther from Mal, forcing her to chose between country, power and love—or risk losing everything in the coming storm.

Why I’m excited:
Because I’m eager to dive into Shadow and Bone, the first in the series and this sequel sounds just as good, if not better. The concept behind the series has piqued my interest since the first book’s release, and truthfully I should have read it months ago. Now I'm planning on waiting until June so I can dive into both books at once!

June 18
Watcher in the Shadows – Carlos Ruiz Zafón
What it’s about:
When fourteen-year-old Irene moves with her family to Cape House in Normandy, she meets a local boy named Ishmael. They soon fall in love, but a dark mystery shrouds their romance and darkens the skies. When a young girl is found murdered, their summer of love turns to terror as they try to piece together the mysteries and secrets of a town torn apart by tragedy.

Why I’m excited:
Because The Prince of Mist was mysterious, magical and unputdownable and I’m betting this novel will be the same. Normandy is a bold and powerful setting, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Zafón integrates that choice with the thrilling plot.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Destination YA: London

Reading is an escape. To places seen or unseen; to places real or imagined. Usually when I decide I need a little escape, I want to travel elsewhere. Away from the dreary, wintry Midwest and to… pretty much anywhere else. A Carolinian beach, a dark and stoic European city or another world entirely. So, I’ve decided to take a look at teen books that travel. Maybe they take place in another city, another time, another world or maybe it’s just about the journey. Road trip, anyone?

This post begins (what I hope will become) a monthly trip around the country, abroad and out of this world. This week: London, England!
London is Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Will & Kate. It’s Victorian yet mod with a kick of Winston Churchill’s “We shall never surrender.” It is centuries of history, from Londinium to Jack the Ripper (see below) to the 2012 Olympics. Here are a few YA novels that will take you there:

Red Ruby: Kerstin Gier
London plans a central role in this time-traveling tale. It’s the setting for Gwyneth’s adventures, not only in this century, but in centuries past as she tries to decipher who she can trust. The rest of the trilogy: Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green (yet to be released in the US) also take place in London.

The Name of the Star: Maureen Johnson
Rory arrives in London the same day a Jack the Ripper copycat begins terrorizing the city. She is caught up in the whirlwind of modern London’s fascination with the killings, and is soon in danger herself. The sequel, Madness Underneath (just released!) also ventures into rainy London.

Pastworld: Ian Beck
Victorian London becomes an amusement park for 21st century tourists in this thrilling journey. When a Jack the Ripper attraction goes horribly wrong, the park becomes dangerous and only Eve, a native of the park, can make sure that the theme park fun doesn’t become all too real.

And a few more London-based adventures:
Devil’s Kiss: Sarwat Chadda
London Eye: Tim Lebbon
Ruby in the Smoke: Philip Pullman
Happy Travels!