Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Blog Chain

It's time for the blog chain again and this time Christine asks:

What are your "go-to" scenes or phrases? You know, the ones you have to remind yourself NOT to use too frequently? What do you do to keep yourself from being overly reliant on them?

Okay so, I just can't believe Christine thinks I might actually repeat words or phrases. I mean, seriously? I just don't like, write like that. Okay, I mean come on. Seriously.

Ha! Okay, no actually it's embarrassing how often I use the same words and phrases. For my last manuscript, I was fortunate enough to be mentored by the amazing Ellen Hopkins as part of the Nevada SCBWI Mentorship Program. She helped me so much, but it was kind of humiliating how many repeats she pointed out. In dialogue, I use okay, just, come on, really, actually, seriously, like, and I'm sorry way too much. In that story I used dark, freak, zombie, glisten, rush, and unfurl too much.

I'm always writing about character's eyes. So many eyes.

And in this last story my main character dropped too many beverages. And the love interest asked if she was okay too many hundreds of times. (But she was so not okay!)

I always think by reading the manuscript out loud, I'll find these things. I do, but clearly not enough. Scrivener has a great feature where it ranks the order of which words appear most frequently in the document. I should use this feature more often.

What about you? Which words sneak themselves onto every page?

Check out Michelle's and Cole's take on the topic.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thick Skin

Oops! So I'm a day late on the blog chain and the topic is my own question! I asked the group:

Have you developed thick skin as a writer? How do you handle having your work critiqued? Do you love revising? Hate it?

For my latest novel, I've been lucky to receive A LOT of feedback. I received critique from three readers at a revision retreat, my mentor gave me great notes as part of a mentorship program, my critique partner, the amazing Kate, had very helpful comments, and my agent gave me a great editorial letter. Some of these critiques shared common threads, but of course the specific comments varied.

Revision is my favorite part of the process. I love the creative problem solving aspect and I get excited about weaving in new threads to the existing story. I like to think I have a thick skin and am open to critique, but for some reason, I find myself bristling when I first read editorial feedback. Interpretations are wrong and suggestions are impossible on first glance. But by the next day I'm usually agreeing with the critique and revisions are very doable if not exciting.

I know some authors cringe when they're told to delete a scene or change a plot point. That's all part of the fun. It's thrilling to make the puzzle pieces fit together. 

Line edits have much more of a sting. I can get discouraged when it's pointed out that I've described the love interest's warm brown eyes for the 50 millionth time and I use "just" in every sentence and characters ask each other if they're okay on every page. It's easy to get embarrassed and start questioning why I thought I could even write a book in the first place. That's when I look for those happy faces and "Good!"s in the manuscript to keep me going.

It's been great reading about how everyone handles critique. Check out Michelle's and Cole's take. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I need more reality

This round on the blog chain Sandra asks:

We all know it's important to read fiction if you want to write fiction, but what about reading non-fiction? How much non-fiction do you read? What kinds of non-fiction books do you read, and why? Has reading non-fiction influenced your fiction writing style?

Ummmm. So now I feel shallow and uneducated. I don't read a whole lot of non-fiction. I should. I should read the newspaper, and intellectual magazines, and books about our changing world, and all these things to expand my mind. But instead I mostly read about teenagers with super powers kissing.

My husband reads almost exclusively non-fiction. He reads books about science, and politics, and religion, and nutrition, and philosophy. He's always recommending things to me, but I just...don't. In all fairness, he rarely reads the latest YA I recommend to him.

The non-fiction books I do read are practical. So lately I've been reading a lot of baby books. Right now I'm reading one on baby-led weaning. I do listen to NPR. Or at least, I used to, when I had to commute to work. Now I stay home, take care of my baby, maybe read some YA, read about baby stuff, talk to other people about baby stuff. Oh god! I'm turning into one of those moms with mush for brains. Quick! I better start in on Stephen Hawking's latest book or something.

Hopefully Michelle and Cole are smarter than me and can recommend some good non-ficition

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It's blog Chain time again and Michelle asks:

What elements in your favorite genre make it your favorite? For instance, if your favorite genre is romance, what elements do you like in a romance story? A tortured hero? A spunky heroine? Steamy love scenes? Sweet romance? If your fave genre is sci-fi, what elements do you love the most (the characters, the science, the possibilities?), etc?

I have to agree with Kate and say YA is by far my favorite category because of the huge variety of genres within it. Like Kate said, within YA authors have more freedom to combine elements from different genres and I love reading these unique stories.

I'm a sucker for YA fantasies. For some reason I haven't been able to get into fantasy written for the adult market. I get hung up on the world-building. But I've found so many YA fantasy novels with fluid world-building and compelling characters. 

Some of my favorites are Holly Black's Curse Worker Series, Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor, and Kristin Cashore's Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue. I love the original worlds in these stories. These writers create dynamic characters that are very different from the people I see every day, yet are extremely relatable. These characters have to face problems unique to their world and its rules.

The best kind of escapism for me is when I'm rooting for a character to use her magical power to defeat the bad guy and win over the love interest.

Be sure to check out Michelle's post from yesterday and read Cole's tomorrow.   

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Favorite Tropes

Time for the blog chain again. This time Kate wants to know:

As a reader and/or a writer what are some of your favorite fiction tropes? Are you sucker for secretly in love with best friend type stories, stories set in mysterious boarding school stories, stories that contain time travel, or something else entirely? As a writer how do you try to give the tropes you tackle in your own books a fresh spin?

Of course I'm a sucker for a kick-ass heroine. Whether she uses her body or her mind to defeat the bad guy, I love girl who takes charge. Kristin Cashore writes awesome heroines.

I LOVE unreliable narrators. Liar by Justine Larbalestier is the ultimate example of this, but I like any story that makes you question what the narrator is telling you. 

Like Kate, I love the survival trope. I'm more into post-apocalyptic stories than surviving in the wilderness tales, though. The Forest of Hands and Teeth and Under the Never Sky are two of my favorites.

I also like childhood best-friend turned lovers romances. The romance in the Curse Workers Series by Holly Black is a good example of this.

Similar to the unreliable narrator, I like stories with a protagonist who isn't necessarily a "good guy." Kate does a great job of this in Another Little Piece.

In terms of my own writing, I always try to write about strong women. And whether it's due to memory loss or mental illness, my narrators aren't very reliable. I've written about childhood best-friends turned lovers, but it didn't work very well.

You can see Michelle's post from yesterday and read Cole's take tomorrow.

What about you? What are your favorite tropes?