Monday, January 25, 2010

Damn you, Elizabeth Scott!

Have you ever read a book and thought, "Wow ... Now that was the epitome of teen voice. I mean, damn ... Why do I even bother when I have to compete with this level of awesome??"

It's a strange feeling, to be so in love with the voice of a book that you immerse yourself in it, live it eat it breathe it need it love it. I've had this feeling before, for instance, when I read LHA's Wintergirls. But there was something about Elizabeth Scott's Love You, Hate You, Miss You that grabbed hold of me and punched me in the gut.

The story was simple. Not a whole lot going on: girl's friend dies; girl goes to treatment center to get better; girl deals with the aftermath and finding her way in a world without the only thing in it that ever made sense to her. But what made this book for me was Amy's voice--how she spoke, how she acted, how she felt, her nonverbal cues ... It was all very real, authentic, raw, honest. Very teen, without all the "ya knows" and "likes."

If you haven't read it yet, you should. (Plus, it's so cheap on Amazon right now that it'd be crazy to pass it up!)

Now. I'm off to kidnap Elizabeth Scott, tire her up, and make her tell me her secrets.

(Elizabeth: If you've somehow stumbled upon this post, please know I mean you no harm. I'll feed you lots and make sure you watch all your favorite shows. Plus, I have tons of board games--Scrabble, Boggle, Clue, Monopoly ... If you're into that sort of thing. And of course I'll give you a pen and some paper, b/c the world would be a less lovely place if you stopped spreading your words with everyone. See? Told ya. Not bad for being kidnapped.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

142 pages is my limit.

So there's this book. It's YA, and you've probably heard of it, even if you haven't read it yet. Here are a few of the stats:

1) The cover? Gorgeous. It's why I had to learn more about the story.

2) The description? Fun, spooky history + love story + first in trilogy + mystery = trip to my local Borders to pick it up, pronto.

3) The story itself? ... And here's where things get a little ugly.

-- At about 40 pages in, I set the book down for a couple of weeks, because it wasn't that interesting yet. But no way was I giving up on such a big, fat, beautiful book that easily.

-- At 92 pages, I set it down again, because, well ... still not that interesting. Where was the story? What was the point to all the "I did this today and this the next day" Bella antics? Surely it was building up to something, but what? And when? How much longer would I have to wait? The 40-or-so other books in my TBR pile(s) were calling to me--and the call was strong--but dammit, I was seeing this one through.

-- At 122 pages, I stopped again, and decided to read some reviews. Some people loved it, but many reviewers said the same thing I was worried about: There was no story, at least not until the last 20 pages or so. Of a 400+ page book.

-- I decided to give it one more shot. And then, at 142 pages, I closed the book, marveled over its dark, spooky cover one more time, and did something that broke my heart: I threw in the towel.

This reading experience really gave me a new perspective when I opened up my own WIP. It made me think, "Am I into the meat of the story yet, or am I diddly daddly'ing around because I love my characters and their world too much to let them go?" This is something I'll address more in the editing phase, but it's also helped me to pick up my first-draft-writing pace as well.


(Most) readers are not impatient people. We love books. We love falling into world after world after world. And we will stick with you through 700+ pages if that's how long it takes to tell your story. (If you don't believe me, just ask Steph Meyer.) But, you must give us a reason first. Mundane, day-to-day activities, at least in my humblest opinion, does not a reason make ... even if you throw us a bone and introduce us to The Love Interest. It is not necessary that you plunge us headfirst into scenes with blood, guts, and drama (in fact, that can be a little overwhelming when we have no concept of who these people are yet), but you must give us something to hang on to, something to make us care. And don't wait until Book 2 of the series to bring it. We don't have Book 2 in our hands yet. And, if we can't connect with Book 1, we probably never will.

With muchest love,


Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Madness (a.k.a. random awesomeness for writers)

First off, Steph Bowe over at Hey! Teenager of the Year is hosting an amazing contest. Steph is giving away 5 (or maybe more) first page critiques to aspiring writers. So get your butts over there and sign up, if you haven't already! (For those of you who don't know her, Steph is a 15-year-old YA novelist with her debut novel coming out in 2010. So she's not only someone I'm totally jealous of; she's also my target audience!)

Now, on to random nuggets of wisdom that I saved in a draft ages ago and forgot to share with you all. Perhaps it'll be a nice refresher.

1) Janet Reid, wise as ever, tells everyone here how to get no more rejections, EVER. Seriously, never ever ever get rejected again. The solution is simple as store bought chicken pot pie: All you have to do is stop writing. That's it. Presto. Doesn't sound appealing, does it? Then do what Janet suggests, and learn to take the good with the bad. Rejections aren't fun, but they're part of being a writer. So we can (a) suck it up, or (b) quit writing. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm putting on my big girl pants and sticking with (a). (Janet really has a way with words, so definitely check out her post, if you haven't already.)

2) Have you ever wondered whether you've committed some fatal error in your WIP that will make teens stop reading? If so, then go here. As I mentioned above, Steph Bowe knows teens well. She doesn't just write for them, she is one of them. Which makes her an amazing resource. Her list of what makes her stop reading a YA book is very thorough and a great resource for anyone coming up on an editing phase of a WIP.

3) Awhile back, Lauren (over at Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf) had an amazing guest post from author L.M. Preston. The subject? Whether teens can really fall in love. The answer? Love isn't reserved for old farts like me. Teens feel it, too, with an intensity that will probably keep me reading YA until my eyes fall out. Not only is teen love real, but if it could be bottled, Preston would call it "Love Potion #9." (Dangerous idea, bottling teen love. It could send the world into a frenzy.)

Wishing you all a Monday full of madness, but only the good kind.

Monday, January 4, 2010

In my wrapping paper (and in other places)

My husband reeked of awesomeness this Christmas. Don't believe me? Here's what he got me (granted, I gave him a wishlist with all of the books in it, but still!):

Willow by Julia Hoban
The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum
Need by Carrie Jones
Before I Die by Jenny Downham
Secrets, Lies, and My Sister Kate by Belinda Hollyer
David Inside Out by Lee Bantle
Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
The Missing Girl by Norma Fox Mazer
The Devouring by Simon Holt
Cracked up to Be by Courtney Summers
Wake by Lisa McMann
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
In Your Room by Jordanna Fraiberg
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
The Maze Runner by James Dashner (Okay, so I bought this one for him, but my reasons were at least half selfish, so I'm adding it to the list.)

And then, when my mother-in-law asked what she should get me, he told her about these:
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

AND ... if that wasn't enough, I ordered a few from Amazon (I know, I know, I definitely already had enough, but I realllly wanted Beautiful Creatures, and it was half off at Amazon at the time. Half. Off! I couldn't resist. Of course, I couldn't just get that one, because I needed to qualify for free super saver shipping. You understand. Right?):

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
The Midnight Twins by Jacquelyn Mitchard
If I Stay by Gayle Forman

And, pre-Christmas, I bought a few from Borders (their coupons always get me!):
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (got tired of waiting and waiting for the paperback and finally decided to bite the bullet)
The Everafter by Amy Huntley
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (may be the coolest title ever, and the first page is hilarious)
Paper Towns by John Green
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

ANDDDD ... if all that wasn't good enough, I won a signed copy of:
Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

And that's about it! Well okay, not really. Not even close, actually. In truth, I have several more on my bookshelf upstairs that I haven't had the chance to read yet, but if I add those, I'll just look like some book buying crazy that needs an intervention.

I must warn you all: if you come to my house and try to take my books away and say that you're doing it because you love me, expect retaliation.

Happy New Years to all!