December 31, 2010

The YA Writer (Part 1)

I love YA. I don't know why. Maybe it's the voice, it could be the problems they face, it may help me reminisce about my own teenage years, it's probably all of the above, plus other reasons that don't occur to me right now.
There's definitely something that's pretty great about young adult books, because it's really hot right now (and has been for years). So today's post is about YA/teens. If you don't write YA, you can ignore these posts, but you may pick up some useful tidbits on voice and about writing younger characters. So, unless your books take place in a retirement home, read on!

So simple, yet so important. What's the number one element in a YA book? Voice! Also in this article: WHY it's so hot. YA is red hot right now: tips from 3 top agents

YA Author Magge Stiefvater gives her opinion on what's wrong with so many attempts at a teen voice in Dude: Teen Voice, My Problems with It, and Obi-Wan.

Something I struggle with, especially in the first draft, is writing convincing emotions in my characters. I may have mentioned this. Forgive me. But Beth Revis comes to the rescue! Some Observations covers how teens act, and how boys and girls are different.

December 22, 2010

Help! My characters need more... character!

Anyone else out there struggle with creating lifelike characters? I keep reminding myself to let my characters drive my story, instead of commanding puppets to do my bidding. (I guess that's the problem with playing God in your stories.)

So how do you create awesome characters? I've posted about characters before. (You can see them all by clicking here. It'll open up in a new window.) But guess what? I needed some inspiration and I hunted down more help on characters.

How to Build a Great Leading Character gives you a laundry list of things to consider when creating your protagonist.

Miriam S. Forster has a 6-part series called Character is Destiny. The first post is here and it's on the Edward/Bella dilema.

My go-to site on characters is Show Some Character! Plot to Punctuation. If you need help on character building, spend a few days scouring his site. Specifically, Five Steps to Building a Believable Character Arc and 7 Ways to Show Character Growth.

December 14, 2010

Those Odd Little Details

Back in June, I posted about making a memorable setting. It's one of my favorite posts (remind me to add it to the must-read list). I was thinking about setting last night. (My muse likes to be active at night while I'm trying to sleep. Maybe it's because I'm too tired to fight against her.) Setting is a crucial part of my WIP and I was thinking about details I could add to make my setting more vivid.

One thing I learned while revising my last novel is that in order to have a good setting, you only need two or three things. They just have to be good. And by good, I mean out of the ordinary. Something you wouldn't expect to be there.

For example, in the Philippines, one could describe it as hot, with a lot of trees, and either very wet (during the rainy season) or very dry (and smelly. Sorry, it's true.) during the dry season. Does that help you see much in your mind's eye? Probably not.

But what if I told you that there are little pink walls just standing there off the road like bus stations? (They're to pee against. I'm not kidding.) Or that their mayonnaise is sweet? Their ketchup is made from bananas. And when you eat at McDonald's in the Philippines, there is someone there to bus your table (and he could get in trouble if you take your own tray to the trash).

See? A lot more specific. Things you wouldn't expect.

This past spring, I traveled through different states. One thing I noticed is how green it is around the Smoky Mountains. I mean, a LOT of trees. Now, where I live, it's very green. Tons and tons of trees, canopy roads, and very little open sky. But there was a difference. Here, it's mostly oak and pine. But in the mountains, every tree was different. I couldn't identify them, but each tree had different leaves, were a different shade of green, and added complexity to the scene. It was beautiful.

So what are some odd little details you've noticed? About where you live? About places you've visited?

December 10, 2010

The Networking Writer

You may or may not know about the vast (vast, vast) writing community out there. As a writer, you should know about it, but the question is: how much should you network? You can have too much of a good thing in this case. One can spend countless hours talking with other writers online and not get a single word of fiction done.

On the other hand, networking is great. It lets your voice be heard and you make connections you might not otherwise make. You build friendships, you practice your writing voice every time you say something out there. You can learn a lot about writing on blogs and forums. I learned a TON this way.

So, if you're interested in expanding your network, here's a link to QueryTracker's blog post on The Writing Community. They list a few of the big sites you should at least know about.

And then there's Twitter. You either love it or you hate it. My personal opinion is: if you enjoy it, do it! But if you drag your feet every day, making yourself say SOMETHING, then it's probably not for you (and your tweets will reflect that).

You should give Twitter a try, if you haven't already. (And even if you have) here's a Writer's Starter Guide to Twitter (or: everything I wish someone had told me when I first started using twitter) by Justine Musk.

December 7, 2010

New Project

Just so you know, writing-related posts are on my to-do list. I'm sorry it's taking so long to get back into the swing of things.

I'm writing again and it feels amazing! I've been toying with this story idea for a long time. I knew the basics, but the story itself didn't come together until last night. I decided that I needed to map out the setting for my story.

So I get to work with pen and paper and start labeling rooms. I used Holly Lisle's dot and line technique, if you're familiar with it, and I come up with all sorts of crazy stuff: secret passageways, a magic spell, a hidden fear of one of my characters, and a better romance than I had hoped for! I won't give it all away (what's the fun in that?) but I will say that Ivy's pulling an extra shift.

December 3, 2010

The girl blushes when I ask her if I look like a beast. Man, she's gorgeous. I feel bad. "Sorry," I say. "I've had a rough ... um..." I look out the window and onto the brightly-lit lawn. "A rough morning. I'm here to meet the beast, but he isn't expecting me."

I back up and lean against the Greek-style column that makes up half the door frame. "Don't mind me."

The girl relaxes and nods. She sidesteps over to the flowers, and shoots a glance at me before looking at them more closely. She smiles and smells the roses, then touches one, just barely, with the tip of her pinky. Wow. She really gets a kick out of flowers I guess.

I slide down to sit on the warm marble and think. How can I speed things up?

I hear a bunch of clicks coming in from the opposite side of the room. I have no idea what I'm hearing until I see a huge dog walk into the room. Except the dog has horns and a snout that looks more like a wild pig. And really, really big  claws. The ones that click against the marble floors. I round the pillar to get out of sight and listen to the conversation.

"Beauty," said the beast, "will you give me leave to see you sup?"

"That is as you please." Her hands were shaking. Poor thing.

"No, you alone are mistress here; you need only bid me gone, if my presence is troublesome, and I will immediately withdraw."

So... yeah... skip ahead. The conversation went on like this for a while. Basically, it all ended in a marriage proposal (I'm not kidding.) and Beauty turning him down. Figures.

The beast leaves, kinda sulky, and Beauty (who's sitting in a gold-framed chair now) puts her hands in her lap. She jumps a little when she sees me. Honestly. How bad is her memory?

"You just turned him down?"

Beauty frowns. "I did. He cannot possibly expect me to comply."

"Comply?" I pull another chair away from the table and sit in front of her. "I know you may not believe this, but that beast," I point at the empty doorway, "is under a spell. And he'll die if you don't change your mind."

Beauty's face wrinkles. She's still beautiful, though. "He'll die? But he's so..."

"Good-natured? Well-educated? Disgustingly wealthy? Totally into you?" I laugh. Yeah, I can see why you wouldn't want to marry him." I stand up. "Look, if you can just get past what he looks like, you'll see that you two belong together. He's perfect for you." I turn to leave the room, but stop. "I mean that as a compliment."

Beauty's face is pale, but she nods. I wait for the room to change, but it doesn't. Crap. I'm still here.

December 2, 2010

Why do you read this blog?

Okay, I've always heard that a blog should focus on one thing, one subject. Obviously I've ignored that. I started out by posting helpful resources that I found online, things that would help and inspire writers. Then I wrote about my own writing journey. And then along came Ivy. I've gotten lots of positive feedback on her, but I'm wondering if she's enough to keep you all interested.

Right now, I'm posting mostly fiction because I feel like I don't have time for "real fiction" (my books). My muse needs an outlet, so I like to put my spare minutes toward letting her be creative. But I know that some of you started following this blog because you want to be a better writer.
So why do you read this blog? What keeps you coming back? Do you want writer tips (I still have quite a few websites I can share)? Or should I focus more on keeping Ivy active?
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