Sunday, July 31, 2011

Let Me Ask You...

I'm about to dive into act three of the new book and make that final hard push to finish the first draft. I thought it might be a good idea to spend a day and knock out some blog posts so I can queue a bunch up and thin out my To-do List. That way I can focus on the writing the next few weeks and still provide good daily posts. So...

Anyone have any questions or topics they'd like to see discussed in the next few weeks? I'd always rather talk about the things you guys are struggling with or interested in than randomly picking topics.

If it helps, here's a reminder of the regular columns:

Mondays and Thursdays: General writing topics
Wednesdays: Revisions and editing
Fridays: Plotting and storytelling

Tuesdays of course are still the How They Do It columns and I have those scheduled through the end of the year (though there are a few open slots left for authors out there who might be interested). Saturdays are the Real Life Diagnostics, and I have one more before the queue is empty. Sundays are free, but I keep getting this nagging feeling that I should do something on Sundays. I have two ideas for this. One is easy and could be fun, the other is more work, but more potentially interesting overall. More on that later when the book is done and I can dedicate some time to this.


  1. Actually one thing which has been playing on my mind a lot lately is how much time to devote to supporting characters? In my first book, there are characters important to my protagonist, and the story, who only show up in two or three scenes.

  2. I'd love to see something on the present Narrator~ one who occasionally addresses the reader directly. When it's been done, examples of bad/good usage, etc. My new MG WIP keeps trying to have one, and I have mixed feelings about it.

  3. Ooo, I second Jess's question because I have the same situation.

    My question is more about process I guess. The query process specifically. Can you give some examples of good ways to personalize it to an agent. The "I picked you because..." Why you might ask? Because this is where I make a fool of myself because I tend to joke when I'm nervous, even in my writing. Weird huh?

    Sometimes after researching someone all I can think is, You're on the query tracker list and it says you like sci fi and fantasy. That's lame though, right?

  4. Maybe a post about how to describe your main character when you're writing in first person? And anything about characterization in general- creating realistic character, creating interesting relationships between characters, etc.

  5. Ditto on the querying help.
    And how to know if you're making progress or merely idlingin your writing career. Any specific steps for those of us still struggling through for to hang on or decide it's time to change focus.

  6. I can't think of any specific questions right now (I'm at the beginning of a new book now and it's pretty much a nose + grindstone thing -- first drafts are hard), but I wanted to admire your forethought. Thanks for keeping the blog going!

  7. I have three things I hope are addressed ASAP-

    1. More in-depth looks on how reading strengthens our writing, even if the books I love weren't exactly published last year or even five years ago.

    2. How to write these accursed one-sentence hooks and still sound like YOU, not like X bestseller author who you either admire or feel unfairly compared with? Why they just try our souls, even for those writers who just don't struggle as I do with being short and concise, and yet not sound like they're rip-offs of the best in the genre or age group.

    3. More tips, and seriously, more solace about not letting query letters make you feel like a weaker writer than you really are, as vital as they are. How do you improve and make peace about it? I know everyone's process is different, but I always find it interesting to see how other people more further along their path than me got through it, it makes me feel less alone if nothing else.

    4. More insight into how and why reading strengthens our writing, even if the books I love weren't exactly published last year or even five years ago.

    5. Finally, How common or possible is it for the natural way you write to read best for an age group you feel the least confident in?

    For me, people say my natural writing voice is YA, yet the stories I write don't naturally lend themselves to the YA audience, to the extend I understand it. Much of the YA fantasy I've read and heard of has a more paranormal or spiritual bent when it's not High Fantasy or Arthurian, neither of which I read or write, but my stories are more in the vein of the books I mention here.

    Since sometimes I don't make myself clear enough, and leads to answers that imply something different than I really meant to ask, I'll have to break this up into separate replies. These will be long, so bear with me.

    To Be Continued…


  8. Here begin the elaborations, in numerical order, as the points mentioned above-

    1. Even if there are more teens than I realize who also can't happily devour these kinds of books as easily as others anymore than I did as a teen and now, it doesn't mean I'm condemning them, I'm not, but that doesn't I can or simply want to write them myself.
    I read (listened to) and loved Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale, and it was not a rosy romp in paradise, it was nearly the antithesis of what I usually enjoy reading. But I loved it anyway. That said, am I able to write that dark if I wanted to? No.
    I'm sure one day I can, and would actually like to, I'm not ruling it out one bit, but I have to honor and respect what I can write now that I also enjoy reading if I'm going produce the best stories possible. As I say often, what we love reading isn't always what we're best at writing ourselves, and that's OKAY.

    I think we owe it to ourselves and to other writers whose work we critique to acknowledge that more often, and maybe, just maybe, we'd feel less tortured in this part of the process. I know I do. I think giving more props for that on our blogs occasionally will help us remember that on those days when we just feel lost and defeated, as positive as we all aspire to be daily.

    We can't let it stop us, but it's okay to acknowledge it, something I really had to learn last year.

    To Be Continued...


  9. 2. If we're expected to keep an eye on what's selling now, these kinds of books and writers are just always the dominant sellers and get the most media attention, and speaking purely from the business side of this, how can you just pretend it's not true?

    It wouldn't sell if it was trite junk, or purely on the premise, as Janice has said often that premise alone won't sell a book, the writing and how it can fit in the market does, but if the latter's not there, sometimes the former feels irrelevant.

    How can we be knowledgeable about the market without being slaves to it?

    If agents and editors don't expect that of us, what pieces of this puzzles am I not getting? Again, not for lack of trying on my part.

    To Be Continued...


  10. 3,4 and 5. and more on 2. I love substance in my reading, don't get me wrong, but I often find more male writers who see boys and men more than one way, and not abide by certain stereotypes that while may be true of some boys and men, it wasn't speaking to my experience, and I had to struggle to find concrete examples growing up, as none of the men in my family really get me, and the writers I found at least started in MG fiction before branching out to YA and/or picture books, fantasy or not.

    There seem to be more male writers I get into in MG and below than most of the YA and adult male writers I know of are either really dark or their kind of humor is more snarky than I personally can stand.

    Most of my favorite writers are women, and I've no problem with that, and I really don't want to sound chauvinistic in any way, but I find it's easier to find books that interest me when they're written by or about girls and young women.

    They just seem to allow more emotion in their books whereas we're always having the stereotypes of what boys will and will not read shoved down our throats, I often feel like boys and men who like me may not be grunting he-men sports maniacs, we're not trying to be women either, and I don't just mean the gender and sex aspect of that, but it's hard to find books written by men, but also in general whatever the writer's gender, that speak to me in the same way girls have so many heroines who speak to them that weren't there decades before.

    I really feel like non-traditional men who aren't gay aren't represented enough in fiction the same way girls and women are now, who had to struggle to make people see them as more than wives, mothers and homemakers, but I feel the same radical movement is needed for how today's boys and men are.

    Boys who may not love sports, but aren't of the Star Wars religion.

    Boys who actually LOVE to talk, instead of grunting a word or two, trust me, as shy as I was as a kid, if you actually gave the chance, I'll talk, for better or worse, I can't forsake my emotions.

    Boys who can express anger without becoming warped murderers.

    Boy who aren't hyper competitive, but aren't against challenging themselves?

    Liking a girl without being pervy about it.

    Being funny without being gross or resorting to slapstick involving certain areas of the body, I think you can fill in the blanks, so let's stay G rated, okay?

    Dads who aren't the absent cowards homicidal maniacs, or perverted alcoholics who think nothing of killing their spouses and children then leave a marriage gracefully.

    Are there not other ways to get guys in fixes that don't do any of the above?

    Hope I'm not sounding mean or rude, Janice, just trying to be honest, and specific to avoid confusion.

    I pray August will be better for me than most of summer has been so far.
    Particularly as far as reading and writing is concerned.

    Please wish me luck on my new WIP, it's the first YA novel I've attempted since a botched and incomplete effort from 2005.

    I know '05 YA novel can be a great story, but perhaps like my last MG novel, I'm not skilled enough to make it work, and I really hope this YA novel will bring about better results come query time comes for it next year.


  11. Awesome topics everyone, thanks! I should be able to get a ton of posts done from this.