Friday, October 8, 2010
As usual, I'm going to rant about myself for a few sentences before I get to the important stuff.
So, what's up in my life? Well, this weekend I am going college-visiting! Yay! I feel so grown up.
Next weekend I'm going to the Boston Book Festival; a ton of authors are going to be there (and some agents, too) so that shall be quite exciting and I will post about it. :) If you live in the Boston area you should definitely check it out. (It's free!) http://www.bostonbookfest.org/
Now, on to the fun part of this post.
So, a long long time ago, when this blog was a wee little baby, I wrote this rather long and annoying post called Sooo How Do I Write a Book, Anyway??!! which was probably way too long and rambling and confusing for anyone to want to read. So I thought I'd write another long––but more organized––post on the same basic idea, using a little something my Writing teacher showed us in class the other day.
Frequently people ask me: How do you write a book? Seems like a simple enough question, but a great number of aspiring writers have a problem with pulling together a novel. Luckily, author John Dufresne wrote the simple but useful Ten Commandments of Writing, in which he basically says a lot of the things I said in that annoying earlier post, only in a more concise way. So I'm going to post each of his Commandments and add my personal interpretation/notes to each of them, and hopefully that will be useful.
If you are uber-religious and this offends you … sorry. But then again, I didn't write it. :) Also, the first one has a very mild swear in it. Just warning ya. So here goes.
1. Sit your ass in a chair.
I apologize for the mild profanity. However, it certainly gets the idea across. And it's true. If you want to write a book … you've got to sit down and physically write it. It's easy enough to walk around with ideas floating around in your head, but it takes real dedication to actually sit down and write. It might seem like "No, DUH!" but it's not as simple as it sounds. We all procrastinate. Just give yourself at least a few minutes a day to write. If you have difficulty getting the words out, try out a site like Write or Die. Getting out those few words a day can make a bigger difference than you may realize.
2. Thou shalt not bore the reader.
True that. I know I've said this a billion times before, but DON'T BE BORING–-especially when you get into the later drafts. Sure, it's inevitable that the first draft will be at least a little dull. The first time you write something, there will probably be a lot of needless descriptions, dialogues, inner monologues, etc. and the pacing will be a little awkward since you haven't seen the story clearly as a whole, yet. But once you start editing, you have to let some of those things go. Oh yes, that's a lovely description of a teapot––but I'm sorry sweetheart, it doesn't add much to the story.
For me, this is a very difficult part. I admit, I am often afraid of letting things go. To cope with this … a) Save the original draft, just to make yourself feel better. b) Have someone else (someone trustworthy!), who is not emotionally attached to the writing, chop out words for you. and/or c) While you're editing, thoroughly consider every single word/sentence/paragraph/chapter. On a small scale, does that word actually add to the sentence? On a larger scale, does that chapter actually add to the story? Try to find the important parts and make them stand out.
3. Remember to keep holy your writing time.
You have to be dedicated. If it's really a struggle for you, just write for five minutes every day. Write something––a sentence, a paragraph, an outline, a random description, a journal entry, a blog post. You can always write something, even if it's not necessarily your book. There is inspiration in everything you write.
4. Honor the lives of your characters.
Yes yes yes. This is very important. This may be a matter of opinion, but I think good characters are the most essential part of a book. I've never felt drawn to a story unless I sympathized with the characters. Note: that does not mean, necessarily, that the reader has to relate to the characters. Sure, your main character can be an axe-murderer, but somehow you've got to make the reader understand the character's motivations.
Now, some authors will argue that characters are your tools, and that you can boss them around and control them like puppets. Others will say that you have to be, like, BFFLs with your characters and have long heartfelt conversations with them to the point where you get very emotionally attached. I would say, you have to balance the two. For me, I feel like I have a very distant kind of friendship with my characters. They walk into my mind one day, they pour out their stories to me, and then they leave. They're like … foreign exchange students. They come and visit for a bit, then they return to wherever they came from and I never see them again. It was long enough for me to get to like them, but not long enough that I feel devastated when they go.
So yes, I do think you should have some "conversations" with your characters. Get to know them. Fill out character inventories––even the tiny little details that might not seem to matter. You'll probably find out a lot about your characters that you didn't know before, and that will inspire you with new story ideas. Really, if you just go and Google "Character Outlines" I assure you that you will find something useful.
5. Thou shalt not be obscure.
Aaah … I suppose this one could be interpreted in a number of ways. The way I see it is, writing fiction is not the time to show off your wonderful knowledge and/or vocabulary. It's about telling a story and getting your idea across. If the reader doesn't understand the words or historical references you're using, they're not going to be interested and they'll walk away. So try to keep it simple. No thesaurus-raping allowed; the first word that comes to your mind is (usually) the right one to use!
6. Thou shalt show and not tell.
Oh, joy. I'm sure you've heard this one a million times. I know I have. And I probably have screamed it at you before. And I probably have already said that it's something I struggle with. But anyway … SHOW, DON'T TELL. Three simple words, yet it is one of the hardest parts of writing. Don't tell me "I was scared", "He was confused", "The tree looked creepy" … Think of unique ways to describe these things. If you just say what the character is experiencing, the reader can't really relate. What does "scared" feel like? What does "creepy" look like? Be specific! Get into the details!
7. Thou shalt steal.
Wait … what? JOHN, ARE YOU TELLING ME TO PLAGIARIZE? No no no. "Stealing", in this case, is different from plagiarizing. The point is to try out different styles. Try to imitate the voices of your favorite authors. It may sound strange, but in exploring the techniques of other writers, you will hopefully find a voice that makes you feel the most like … well, like YOU.
I remember reading a quote by Phillip Pullman once that I really liked, where he said that authors are like bees. The books we read are like flowers. The bee takes pollen from each flower and uses it to make its own honey. The writer takes something away from every book he/she reads and reflects in it his/her own writing. :)
8. Thou shalt rewrite and rewrite again. And again.
… And again, and again, and again. AGH. Yes, I know. It's frustrating. But nothing is ever perfect the first time. In fact, no story will ever be perfect. But if you keep rewriting, at least you'll eventually find what feels right to you.
9. Thou shalt confront the human condition.
Well, this one's a bit tricky. I'd say, you might not even want to think about this until after you're done writing the first draft. Every story has a purpose. Yes, your story does have a purpose, even if you don't realize it. There is some reason that you felt compelled to write it. Something nudged at your conscience that made you itch to write down those words. Maybe it was a story in the news that made you particularly angry/depressed/shocked. Maybe it started with a simple "What if … ?" question. Whatever it is, it should give you some idea of a theme.
In my opinion, this is the part of the story that you shouldn't plan in advance. The plot and characters make up the story itself, but the theme at the heart of the story can only emerge when you actually write it. Sure, you might have a vague idea of a theme throughout, but if you decide too early on about it, you might end up being a little too preachy and forcing it out of the story. Let the story speak for itself, and eventually you will find out what you are trying to say about humanity.
10. Be sure that every death in a story means something.
I could rant about this for an hour. I could probably write an entire post on it. (Maybe I will, someday.) Frankly, character deaths tend to piss me off. Once in a while, they really get to me and I can actually see the purpose behind them. But so many authors––from published authors to unpublished teen writers––seem to think that the only way to end a story is to kill someone. Why? I dunno … Just because they can!
Look. Killing off a character does not automatically make your book deep and meaningful. In fact, it can do the opposite; it can really bring out the weakness in your writing. If a character dies, it has to be heavy. It has to affect the entire story. It can't just be, "Oh, he died. I am sad." And then ten pages later: "By the way, I am still sad that so-and-so died." I mean, you have to think about all the stages of grief––the denial, the anger, the acceptance, etc. And if you haven't experienced grief, this is a really really hard thing to pull off realistically. Grief never completely goes away and it changes who you are entirely. So if you're not willing to make some major changes in your characters, and if you're planning to kill off a character "just because", you might want to reconsider. Often, killing a character (or characters) is taking the easy way out––instead of coming up with something more creative and/or realistic.
When my Writing teacher explained this point to us, he said "You should equate the decision to kill a character with the decision to kill a real person." It may sound intense (and yes, a bit exaggerated), but it's true. You have to be really REALLY sure that killing off that character is something you really must and really want to do. Think long and hard about it.
Hopefully these Ten Commandments illuminated something for you. As always, if there's any confusion ask away in the comments! :)
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Well, I guess since my last teaser was from Edge, I will now post a snippet from its sequel, Jump. It might not make perfect sense in context, but I think you'll get the gist. As always, if there are any questions about it you can ask in the comments. :) And just to clarify (since no one seemed to understand this from the Edge excerpt) the main character, Max, IS A BOY. I guess I'm just not very good at being boy-ish? Or everyone assumed that I only write from female point of views? Well, I don't know. But here it is! Enjoy! :D
“Max,” Lacey said. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” I answered, but I couldn't look up at her. For some reason, I didn't want to see the sympathy on her face. “Why?”
“I don't know. Something seems … off.”
“Yeah, well … Everything is pretty screwed up right now.”
Lacey was quiet, like she didn't know how to respond. Finally she said, “I'm sorry about, you know, your portal thing.”
I didn't answer.
“What are you going to do?”
I sighed, feeling the headache pound deep in my skull again. “I don't know. I'll have to find another way back.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Lacey fiddling with her hands, knotting her fingers together and releasing them again. “How soon will you have to go back?”
Oh, no. This was what I had been dreading. I finally looked in her direction, but now she was the one who refused to make eye contact.
I took a deep breath. “Soon,” I said. “I––I don't know when. But soon.”
Lacey continued to stare down at her lap. Her voice became even softer, almost a whisper. “Do you really have to go, Max?”
I tried not to wince. “I'm sorry. I mean, I wish I could stay longer. But, there are so many things I have to do, people I left behind. This is just … a transition, sort of. You're …” I stopped, feeling like I wanted to punch myself in the face. “This is coming out all wrong.”
“It's okay,” Lacey said, before I could continue. “Really. I get it.”
She finally looked up at me, and I couldn't deny that there was a wounded expression in her eyes––something so deep and so sad that it almost physically hurt just to see it. Yet, she was still trying to smile.
“I do,” she said. “I mean, I've known all along that you weren't going to stay forever. Of course I know that. It's just …” She trailed off, blinking, like she was trying not to cry.
“It's just … what?”
“Forget it,” Lacey said, looking across the water again. “It's nothing. I'm being dumb.”
“No, you're not.”
“Max, you don't even know what I was going to say.” There was an edge to her voice now, almost like a threat. Then she sighed, like she could hear the hostility and was trying to make it go away. She laughed, but there was nothing happy in it. “Even I don't know what I'm saying.”
“You can tell me,” I said, without thinking. As soon as the words came out, they just hung there, waiting to be acknowledged.
Lacey ran a hand through her hair, only glancing at me briefly. “I …” She spoke the one word and then stopped, wiping the back of her hand across her eyes. “I don't know. I'm just really confused, right now.”
Well, that made two of us.
“I know I complain way too much,” Lacey went on. “I mean, compared to most people in the world, my life really isn't all that hard. But it's just been … empty, you know? It's like, I feel like I've worked so hard for everything I have, but what I have is still … nothing. I've always wanted something out of life. I've always wanted to find some kind of happiness, and I just can't.”
She fell silent again. I kept watching her, waiting for her to continue. I didn't know what else to do, whether to say something, whether to try to comfort her. I felt like it wasn't the time for me to talk yet. She still had more to say.
“I really thought I'd found something,” Lacey whispered, “with Garrett.”
I stiffened upon hearing the name. “Garrett?”
“I know. It's stupid. But I thought that would be the turning point, that I'd actually found that joy I'd been searching for. I mean, he was nice at first, but when he got more serious …” She swallowed, closed her eyes. “You know, I––I lied to you about it, about how bad it was. He wasn't just pushy or anything. He was … cruel.”
Lacey bent over, covering her face with her hands like remembering it was suddenly too much. Silently, I put an arm around her, and she leaned against me.
“I've never told anyone this, how bad it really was.” Her voice was shaking. “He talked down to me, made me feel like dirt. He got drunk. He'd … He'd hit me. More than once, he tried to …” She stopped, as if choking on the words.
It was at least a minute before she continued. I waited patiently, just holding her, watching the calm water in front of us.
“Every day, it was like a nightmare,” Lacey said at last. She seemed to have collected herself a little more, her voice steadier. “I was always terrified, not knowing what he was going to do next.” She paused, took a deep breath. “And yet, I stayed with him. I thought maybe it was my fault, for not loving him enough or something. I just had to try harder. I really thought I could change him. But, it's like I said before … People don't change.”
The words still scared me a little, but I nodded.
“Once I realized that,” Lacey went on, “it was like I … I sort of lost hope for the world. It was the point where I thought nothing was ever going to get better. I've spent so long, thinking that way.” She lifted her head again, pulling away from me and still avoiding eye contact.
I looked at her, and it was like I was seeing her for the first time, for who she really was. She'd always worn such a brave face, but especially after what she'd just told me, it was becoming clearer to me that she wasn't as confident as she appeared. She was beaten, she was scarred … in places that couldn't heal, that couldn't fade with time. There was no way I could imagine what it was like, to go through the things she'd endured, but in that moment I felt as if I carried all her pain. I felt the enormous, overwhelming weight of it all, and I knew I didn't have the power to lift it.
“I'm sorry,” I said.
Lacey finally looked at me, probably out of surprise. “For what?”
“I––I don't know. For everything. For how hard it must be … And the way Garrett treated you …” I couldn't even think of words to express the rage I felt. I'd hated Garrett to begin with, and this just made it worse. Why had I ever felt guilty about beating up that guy?
“Max, you don't have to apologize,” Lacey said, taking hold of my hand. “That's what I'm trying to say. I'm saying that you … you're different.”
“Different?” It was the only thing I could say.
Lacey smiled. “Not in a bad way. And I don't mean just all the superpowers and whatever. I mean you, as a person.” She shook her head, her face becoming serious again. “I know, this is all pretty ridiculous. It's like you said before … I don't even know you, not really. Or, not in the way you normally know people. But somehow, I feel like I––like I'm actually worth something. And no one has made me feel that way since … ever.”
She let go of my hand, touched my shoulder. A strange feeling seemed to pour through me, tingling inside my veins, and I wasn't sure whether it was a good feeling or not. It was just unexpected. I stared at Lacey, surprised, and I found that I couldn't look away from her. It was something about her eyes, how they held a world of feelings, of so many things that I wondered how she could contain it all. And, I realized, she was saying that she felt all these things … because of me?
“I know it can never happen,” Lacey said quietly. “But I just don't want it to end. I don't want you to go away.”
Her hand slid up to rest against the side of my face. I didn't move, didn't react, even though there was a storm of clashing emotions inside me. I suddenly didn't know what I wanted or what I'd expected. The panic started to settle in. What could I do? I tried to say something, anything. But I couldn't find the words, because I didn't even know what I was thinking or what I was feeling.
“Max,” Lacey said. “You're the best thing that's ever happened to me. And I can't … I can't lose that.” She leaned forward, resting her forehead against mine, and I stiffened. I could feel her hand shaking. “Please,” she whispered. “Stay.”
Saturday, October 2, 2010
First of all, I changed the blog (again). I was getting tired of the old one. Ooh, pretty picture of me with FAIRY WINGS -->
Yeah, I know I've skipped like two Tuesday teasers in a row. That is because I haven't really written anything and I'm in a "all my writing sucks" mood so I don't want to post anything old, either. And I'm still working on the cliché-post thing. Sorry to disappoint my thousands of adoring fans! *crickets chirp* Well, you know. More or less.
So, news for today.
Not much has gone down (or up, or sideways) in the publishing world. I still need to revise Walking Shadow and send it out again. :/ Meh. BUT … I did win second place in literary agent Natalie Fischer's "Hilariously Horrendous Query Contest", and she is going to critique my query, synopsis, and first ten pages. *dies of happiness* This will be great. :) You can read my entry and all her great advice on her blog! I shall inform you of more happenings … when they happen.
More importantly …
I TURNED 18 YESTERDAY! YESSS. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!! I am now a legal adult. So I can buy cigarettes and lottery tickets and go to jail … which coincidentally are all things I don't want to do (well, lottery tickets maybe) so I guess it doesn't really matter. Guess I should change my blog to "My Life as an Adult Novelist"? Nah, doesn't have a good ring to it. :P
Now for THE ACTUAL TOPIC OF THIS POST WHICH IS …
NOW THERE IS ONLY A MONTH UNTIL NANOWRIMO. HOLY TALKING MUSHROOMS.
I assume I've talked about NaNo before, right? Well, if you are an ignorant fool, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month––an annual challenge to write at least 50,000 words of a novel between November 1st and November 30th. More details on the NaNoWriMo website.
So that means … there is less than a month until NaNo begins. O_O !!! Oh crap. I need to plan. A lot. So far, this is what I have …
My novel is called Zenith (which is pronounced "ZEE-nith", btw. I just found this out since I started taking Astronomy heh heh). It's one of those futuristic/dystopia/sci-fi things and it should be a lot of fun.
I have a cover for it. But I don't own the image so I suppose I can't post it. I assure you, though, that it is awesome. Really.
Um. I need to create some kind of polished synopsis. But here is a glimpse of what it's about:
The Great Incineration: a devastating explosion with an unknown cause.
Project Regenerate: a scientific feat that saved thousands of people from the Incineration by replacing their organs with machinery.
Autohumans: a new race of people that forms from the victims of the Incineration––viewed as a miracle by some and an abomination by others.
Zenith: a mysterious gang of Autos who cause chaos and destruction wherever they go.
Michael Lewis: a 16-year-old boy torn between two worlds, constantly struggling with a single question: Is he still human … or is he a machine?
I am rather excited to write this. I hope it doesn't blow up in my face. Wish me luck! :)
So, anyone else doing NaNoWriMo? If so, add me as a buddy! Here is my profile. :D
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Sorry I haven't really been posting anything besides teasers lately. I think my next non-teaser post will be about clichés. Hopefully that will magically appear in the next few days.
Since lately I've been depressing you to death with my teasers, here's something from Edge. I've probably brought it up before, but it's a sci-fi I wrote … ehhh … a year and a half ago? And I just finished writing Jump (the sequel) not that long ago––like, two months ago or something. So here's a fun little part from the beginning-ish of Edge. I need to edit it, sooo I know it's not perfect. But ahh well. For the record, Max is my favorite character. Like, ever. (Of my own characters, that is)
By now, the sunlight had diffused through the sky, bleaching it with pale gold. The city almost looked beautiful – in a sad, disturbing kind of way.
I walked the deserted streets, without knowing where I was going. But at the same time, I didn’t feel lost. In fact, I felt confident that I was going in the right direction. That didn’t mean I wasn’t still afraid and bewildered; I still felt like I was striding through some unreal, nightmarish world. It simply meant that I had a feeling that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing – or what the voice wanted me to do, anyway. It seemed to have some kind of power over me; that is, it could not only speak into my head, but it could also control my physical actions, to a certain extent.
I hoped that it was trustworthy.
Everything was still, making prickles go up and down my spine. I kept expecting someone to jump out and attack me, kept hearing the voice’s ominous words: “Most of the ones left are your enemies.”
Speaking of which, the voice hadn’t said anything for a while. In a weird way, I sort of wanted it to come back. It was the only company I had, the only thing I could depend upon.
“Still there?” I tried, cautiously.
“We’re always here.”
“Right,” I croaked, and then didn’t know what else to say. “Um … So, I’m guessing you’re not going to tell me who you are?”
“We can’t do that.”
I rolled my eyes. “Didn’t think so.”
“But you can trust us.”
“Yeah, yeah. You’ve already told me that.”
The voice fell silent, and I actually started to feel bad that I had gotten so impatient. Of course, it’s not like it wasn’t expected that I felt impatient. Anyone would have been, if they’d found themselves in my unimaginable position: wandering through some post-apocalyptic world, without a clue as to who I was or what I was doing, with no company but the voice inside my head that wouldn’t answer any of my questions. It was a little frustrating. Just a little.
“Look, I’m sorry,” I sputtered, “but you’re kind of driving me crazy. You keep saying that you can’t tell me anything, that I’ll find out all the answers soon, but I need some answers now. Why can’t you give me one hint?”
“What sort of hint did you have in mind?” the voice asked, surprising me.
I frowned. “I – I don’t know. About anything. About who you are, about who I am, about what my purpose is.”
“You may want to be more specific,” the voice advised. “And start with something simple.”
I breathed out a long sigh, and tried to keep my patience. “Okay … How old am I?”
“You are eighteen years old.”
Okay, so I had guessed correctly on that one. “So, how old was I when I … fell asleep?”
“You were seventeen. It was about half a year ago.”
Half a year. That wasn’t so bad, I told myself. It could have been worse.
But why did I even care? It’s not like I could remember what I had left behind in that time. It’s not like I had anything or anyone to worry about, except for myself. So what did it matter? I could have been asleep for a century, and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
The thought irritated me, for some reason, filling me with bitterness. I kicked a piece of broken brick as I walked, watching it skip ahead of me on the littered pavement, over and over again. It was like my mind, my memories: right there, right in my reach, and yet always getting away from me, always a step ahead.
“Okay,” I said again, realizing that I hadn’t spoken for a whole minute. “So, you keep telling me that I have some special ‘destiny’ or whatever, all this save-the-world crap. Right? So, I assume, then, that I have some sort of … abilities, to help me with that.”
“Clarify,” the voice instructed.
“Fine, fine,” I exclaimed. “I know this is a stupid question. But I guess what I’m trying to ask is: Do I have superpowers?”
The voice paused. “Something like that.”
“Yay,” I said, with no enthusiasm. “What can I do, then? Can I fly?”
“Shoot lasers from my eyes?”
“Uh … Do I have telekinesis?”
Darn. Telekinesis would’ve been cool.
“Can I turn invisible?”
I was running out of ideas. “Can I drink an entire gallon of milk without puking?”
The voice’s tone remained serious, impassive. “Why would you want to do that?”
“I wouldn’t!” I exclaimed. “But you’re not really helping me out, here. Are you going to tell me what I can do or what?”
Right then, I got that feeling again: the feeling like I was losing control of myself. I stopped, suddenly, and looked at the ground. I saw the piece of brick that I had been kicking, and felt compelled to pick it up, which I did. I felt its rough edges, its coarse texture, its weight in the palm of my hand.
Then my fingers curled around it, lightly at first. I narrowed my eyes, and a strange, blank emotion washed over my thoughts. At the same time, an irresistible adrenaline shot through my veins, tingling at my fingertips. My fist grew tighter and tighter, closing around the solid object I was holding.
In the back of my mind, I wondered what I was doing. I wondered what I expected to happen, or what the voice expected to happen. Nothing was supposed to happen … Right? I was squeezing a piece of rock – or whatever brick was made out of. Big deal.
Only, instead of resisting, the piece of brick gave way. When I should have stopped, unable to close my fingers any more, they kept going, closing, crushing.
Then the only thing left in my hand was a crumbled mess, a dull red gravel that slipped through my fingers and fell to the ground.
I stared and stared, coming back to my senses with a jolt. “Oh,” I said.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
But first I quickly want to say that I have become addicted to Inkpop. If you know what Authonomy is, it's the exact same thing but for teen writers. That is, you post writing and people review it and "pick" it. At the end of each month, HarperCollins editors read the five most popular stories. I've recently set up an account, so if you have one look for me! My username is Brigid.Rose and so far I've posted Unraveling. My rank is like 746 right now, so yeahhh my story could use some love! Thanks :) And if you don't have an account, I recommend getting one. It's a great site for getting/giving feedback. Seems like the people on it are online pretty much all the time––so if someone says they'll do a review for you, they usually do it pretty fast. Check it out!
NOW IT'S STORY TIME!
Today I am going to share a bit of Sky-Fall, since I haven't yet. I've only written a chapter of this story so far––except that one chapter is like 10 pages long since there are four points of view and soooo … Never mind. I'm rambling.
I know I've mentioned it briefly before, but just a reminder that this is a sci-fi/dystopia about four teenagers living in this world where people fight with giant robots. There are no giant robots in this part though because it focuses on Avery, a girl who is currently trapped in a concentration camp––inspired by the Holocaust and Japanese Internment camps. (Hooray for history class.) Enjoy!
Avery had grown very used to the sight of her shoes. She had watched their condition deteriorate every weary day for the past three years. Once, the leather had been smooth and brown. Now the color had faded to a dull gray to match the dusty ground. Her feet had once been too small to fit in the shoes; now she had to curl her toes, and they ached from being crammed up inside. She knew it was only a matter of time before the shoes fell apart and she would have to walk the Camp barefoot … that is, if she survived long enough. She wasn't even sure if she would survive the next five minutes.
She held her breath and watched the guard's boots trudge by. She was standing next to her older sister, Elisa. They were holding hands, and she couldn't remember who had reached for whose hand first. A story ran through her head––a story her parents had told her years ago. The story was about two sisters stuck in a tree, and at the roots there was a demon singing “Don't look down, don't look down” and the girls knew that if they looked down, their souls would be sucked into darkness. Yet, even knowing what would happen if they slipped for just a moment, they had still been tempted. It was how she felt right now––knowing that she was dead if she looked up, and yet feeling this rush of curiosity.
The black boots passed, but she heard them as they crunched against the ground, moving down the line. The silence made her ears ring, made her want to scream. Why couldn't someone speak already? She didn't care what horrible news it was, but she needed to hear a voice, something to assure her that she wouldn't be standing here forever.
At last, the sound of footsteps came to a stop. The guard spoke, and he spoke words that had chased Avery through her nightmares ever since the day her parents were killed.
“Someone escaped last night.”
No one said anything. No one screamed, no one sobbed, no one made a sound. But Avery knew, without looking, that almost everyone was crying silently in fear. She felt the tears sting at her own eyes, and she had a sick feeling in her heart.
“There will be no protest. There will be no accusations of who ran away or who let them run away. You all know the rules.”
Of course she knew the rules, just like the rest of them did: If someone escaped from the Camp, one other person would be killed at random. It always made her feel like screaming in rage, to think of those who escaped. She wished that she could get away; everyone wished for that. But how could you be selfish enough to actually do it, knowing that some innocent person would have to die because of your actions?
Avery was aware of a pounding headache blossoming between her eyes, like nails being driven into her skull. She swayed on her feet, but she didn't move. If she made one small movement, if she caught the guard's attention for one second …
“You.” The bark of an order jolted all of her nerves alive, making her so tense that she felt like she was sculpted out of ice. Even though the voice had come from the other end of the line, she still felt that rush of horror, waiting to feel a hand grab onto her arm and shove her down onto her knees in the dirt. But she was still standing, still alive, and she could hear a woman screaming, “No, no! Don't take him! No!”
Avery dared to look up, just out of the corner of her eye. She saw a young man kneeling on the ground, his head bent in submission. The woman screaming was probably his wife. Two other women were holding her back, whispering to her––probably reminding her that if she kept screaming, the guard would shoot her, too.
Again, there was a demon-voice in Avery's head, singing “Don't look … Don't look …” but she couldn't look away. She saw the guard step behind the man, raising a gun and holding it to the back of the man's head. But all she could think about was when her father was in the same position, and then how her mother had been killed in the same way, for the same reason. She heard the crack of the bullet as it was released, the noise that always ended her dreams and made her wake up sweating and sobbing in terror. She saw the man drop to the ground, not making a single noise. He was probably dead before he knew it.
Avery stared at the eyes turned towards her––lifeless, like a pair of glass marbles. Blood spread around his head, appearing black as it seeped through the gray dirt. The dead man's wife let out a choked noise, holding back her screams. Avery remembered how Elisa had covered her mouth after they'd watched their parents die, how her sister had whispered fiercely in her ear, “Don't scream, don't scream.” But she'd heard Elisa's voice shaking, and she'd known that her sister was stifling screams of her own.
She had lost track of how many deaths she'd seen by now, but she knew the pattern––first she felt the numbness, then the ache of weariness and hopelessness as the day dragged by, and finally, at night, she would cry in the darkness. She would see the injustice of it all.
The only reason they were here was because they were Eversio. Even before she and her family had been taken to the Camp, she'd seen the way people looked at her parents and her sister, how people spat on the ground and called them scum, called them Hostilis. It hadn't been until she was about nine or ten years old that she understood: People thought they were enemies, just because of the darker shade of their skin, the black hair, the brown eyes. They came from the same land as the Hostilis, as the enemies. That didn't mean they were spies, but Avery had learned from an early age that when someone called you Hostilis, you didn't defend yourself. You kept your eyes on the ground, and you kept your mouth shut.
For Avery, it had always been less of a problem, because she confused people. Her skin was a few shades lighter than that of her parents and sister. It still had that darker tint to it that betrayed her Eversio blood, but it was light enough that she could pass as Moenian––as one of the city people, as someone who belonged here.
Elisa had suggested several times that if Avery could escape, she would actually have a chance of surviving in the city.
“One look at me, and they'd just send me back here, right back where I started,” she'd said. “But you could be mistaken for one of them. You could make a life for yourself.”
Avery had never quite believed it. She would never live a life free of discrimination. Maybe no one would ever outright call her Hostilis, but she was still just a little too dark to automatically be considered Moenian. People would always look at her twice. People would always look at her with that hardness in their eyes, biting back insults just in case they were wrong about her––but nevertheless, the taunts and the accusations would always be there … at least until the war ended.
But she had a feeling it wouldn't be over for a long, long time.
Friday, September 3, 2010
I know what a lot of you are thinking … Eew, an outline? Why should I write an outline? I know what I'm going to write! and/or I'm just going to wing it and see what happens!
Well, I'm not going to tell you there is one "right" way to write a book. You can do whatever works best for you. But if you never outline, I strongly urge you to try it. I find that if I have a full outline––or at least most of one––I'm more likely to finish something and to produce something I like.
I didn't discover the beauty of the outline until about two years ago. Before then I always made up stories as I went along, but this led to a lot of boring parts where I didn't know what to write, to plot holes … to overall messiness. All rough drafts are going to be very messy, outline or no. And outlining isn't going to make writing a book "easier". But at least, if you plan carefully, you can find a sense of direction in your story and be aware of where its gaps are.
So, how do you go about outlining? Well, you can break it down to three simple things––the setting, the characters, and the plot.
Decide where the setting is. Is it in a city, a town, the middle of nowhere? What time period is it? Does it even take place in our world? How does the location/time/world affect technology, how people dress, how people act, how people survive, etc. ?
Decide on a main character. Male or female? How old is he/she? What's his/her objective in the story? What's his/her personality like? You can do more detailed planning on your MC using character inventories or character interviews (You can easily find ideas for character outlines/interviews via Google or another search engine). What are the supporting characters like? Friends? Family? Love interests? Plan out the most important characters. (And make sure none of your characters are Mary Sues, please!)
There are several different techniques for plotting out your story. I always start by writing down the basic premise––a few sentences, maybe a paragraph, about the story. Then I write a more detailed summary––something two or three paragraphs long similar to something you'd read on the inside cover of a book. And then I get to the real dirty, extensive outline. There are a few approaches to this, and everyone has a different method. Here are three pretty common/basic ones that might help you.
1. The detailed outline: Write what's going to happen in every chapter, paragraph by paragraph, down to the very small details. The pros: You pretty much know everything that's going to happen, including dialogue and descriptions. The cons: You sacrifice some freedom/spontaneity, and you might end up feeling constrained by this type of outline.
2. The rough outline: Write a bullet point for each chapter––only a few sentences at most for each point. The pros: It leaves freedom but still gives you a sense of direction. You can simply figure out what to write but not necessarily how to write it. Sure, you're free to put in specific descriptions here and there But it's not necessary to plot out every single little detail. The cons: In this case you might end up with more "holes" in your outline, which can be frustrating. Sometimes you just have to wait for inspiration to strike. But of course, that's better than starting to actually write a novel, only to find that you have no idea where it's going.
3. The Snowflake Method. This is like a combination of the rough outline and the detailed outline. That is, it's a method where you start with a rough outline, and then you keep adding details until it's a detailed outline. It uses the idea of a fractal to explain how to go about doing this––starting with a "triangle" and ending with a "snowflake". The whole thing is explained better here. I've never tried it and it looks a bit time consuming, but if you have the patience it looks like it would be helpful!
An outline template that looks useful :)
Thanks for reading! Hope the advice was useful. As always, post questions if you have 'em.
Tuesday Teaser tomorrow! :)
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
So here is a very short bit from Glass Flowers, a story that I probably will not get around to writing again for … well … a few months. I have a ton of things waiting in line to be written. Plus I need to finish editing Walking Shadow (again) because now three agents are waiting to read the 100,000-word version of it. Just 33,000 more words to cut. O_O Well anyway, here's Glass Flowers!
My father once told me that the sea always gives back what it takes. I remember how I used to run along the shoreline, bringing back treasures from the journey and dropping them into his hands. He would run his rough fingertips over the sea-smoothed stones and one time he told me, “You know, some of these rocks might have traveled across entire oceans to get here.”
I stared, disbelieving, at the white stone that sat like a tiny moon in the palm of his hand. “How?”
“Well, there's no telling exactly how it got here. Maybe one day, a long time ago, on some island far away, there was a little girl like you who threw this rock into the ocean. And the motion of the water tossed it around, carried it across the ocean floor all the way here, to where we are.”
I looked out across the tossing waves, squinting as I tried to find this imaginary island my father spoke of.
“The sea always gives back what it takes,” he said. “Maybe it takes hundreds or thousands of years, but sooner or later, each little stone finds its way back to shore.”
The words were forever imprinted on my mind. From then on, whenever I picked up the ocean's gifts from the sand, they felt heavier, as if I held the weight of the whole soft, glowing world in my hand. I imagined each round stone making its treacherous journey, tumbling over the ocean floor––then finally, at the end of a hundred years, finding a place to rest in the sand. The thought always made hope bloom inside my chest, like a flower opening and tasting sunshine for the first time.
The sea always gives back what it takes, I would tell myself.
But the sea never gave back my mother.
Friday, August 27, 2010
"I am jealous of other writers. … My question to you is: Is jealousy healthy for a writer, or even justifiable in any case? As long as I am not angry with the person, could this strengthen my writing in some way?"
This is a question that I've asked myself many times, and now I see that it is on the minds of other writers as well. So, can envy towards other writers "healthy" and/or justifiable? It's a tricky subject, but I think it's also an important one that should be addressed.
My answer: Yes––I think that a certain kind of jealousy can be very healthy for a writer. There are some cases in which it would be bad. But I think that, if you understand how to channel that envy into productivity, it can make you a better writer.
Let's face it, jealousy is bound to happen. I've never met a writer who said, "I'm the best writer ever!" In fact, writers tend to be really down on themselves (myself included). If you're on any writing forums, it's inevitable that you'll see something along the lines of:
Writer A: Gosh, I suck. I wish I could write like you, Writer B!
Writer B: Noooo. I'M the one who sucks! I wish I could write like YOU, Writer A!
Fact of life is, no writers totally like themselves. We criticize ourselves constantly. We see the flaws in our own work and agonize over how to fix them. Trust me, I've hated my own work with a burning passion before. Then you might look at someone else's writing and say, "Dang, this is perfect! How does he/she do it?!" But the truth is, that writer is just as––if not more––critical of him/herself as you are of yourself.
Good writing takes a lot of self-discipline. Someone may seem to write effortlessly, but probably (unless the writer is some freak of nature) they have not always been great at writing. And they may have gone through tons of drafts before they produced what you're reading. Just like you, this writer has been envious of other writers. He/she has tried and failed and tried again.
So ask yourself … What do I envy so much about this writing? The style? The characters? The world? The dialogue? And then see if you can learn something from it. Set goals for yourself. Maybe you need to study your characters more. Maybe you need more dialogue. Maybe you need your writing to be more concise or more descriptive.
In short: if this jealousy you feel is a form of admiration rather than hostility––if you learn something from it––then it can be a positive thing.
Of course, jealousy can also be bad. It's not good if you say to yourself, "Gee, I'll never be as good as so-and-so! I GIVE UP." Or if you say, "Gosh, I'm so jealous! I'm just gonna steal this idea and then everyone will like me. Teehee. 'ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A GIRL NAMED STELLA AND HER VAMPIRE BOYFRIEND, FREDWARD …'"
In both of these cases, you're giving up on yourself due to jealousy. While other writing should inspire you, you have to remember that originality is important. This "so-and-so" writer isn't "better" than you, necessarily. He/she just has a different style from you, and you shouldn't see that as a bad thing and/or feel the need to steal ideas in order to be "good". You have your own, unique style too. Good writing should motivate you to find your own voice, not to hate it. Be patient. Developing a personal writing style takes time and practice.
So, I urge you to ask yourself which writers you envy. Maybe make a list, and then write down what it is you envy about them. Then decide how you can channel these skills into your own writing (without becoming a plagiarist, of course!).
Thanks for reading! STAY GREEN!
(haha, Get it? It's like "Stay gold!" but with "green" instead because … you know … "green with envy". Wow. Outsiders reference + bad joke = not funny. But I couldn't help myself. I love The Outsiders, btw, but that's off-topic. PEACE!)
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
So now, it's Tuesday. I almost forgot. Not that it's Tuesday, but that it's TEASER DAY! Luckily for you, my dear ninja-friend Amy reminded me. And also recommended (took me three tries to spell that right) that I post some of Rage.
Rage is my creepy fantasy-dystopia version of Beauty & the Beast. Enough said. Here is a snippet from it. ENJOY, AND THANKS FOR READING. :)
It was morning, but it was as dark as the dead of night outside.
I woke up to Caroline's voice, hissing my name. "Natasha. Natasha!"
I opened my eyes, which quickly adjusted to the dim light. My sister was shaking me, and I could see that her eyes were wide with terror. Right away, my heart started thudding. I heard the distant crackle of thunder, and my fear was confirmed. Like always, it was a feeling that came out of nowhere, a sensation that couldn't be defined. It was like a snake slowly coiling around my neck and choking me.
I couldn't breathe. "Today?" was all I could manage to croak out.
Caroline already had a shawl wrapped around herself. Her teeth chattered. She nodded.
I sat up, rubbing at my eyes, running my hands through my hair. My head reeled, trying to clutch at my own fluttering thoughts and pin them down.
Today. Today was the Sacrifice. Caroline and I were fifteen years old now, and that meant that, for the first time, we were in danger.
As I got out of bed, the chill of the early morning seemed to sweep around me in a cruel embrace. I noticed that our mother and Brandon were up, too. They were both standing at the cottage door, my mother crying and Brandon trying to comfort her.
I grabbed a simple blue dress from the closet. Caroline turned away, and I hastily got dressed, my fingers fumbling with the buttons. I could hear my own loud pulse in my ears, my breathing coming out thin and shaky.
I couldn't believe this was happening. Me? And Caroline? In danger of being Sacrificed? I wasn't sure whether to feel terrified or angry about it. Of course I feared being chosen, having to journey by myself into the unknown. But I was also furious. How dare that Monster demand this from us! And why did we obey? Why did we choose to do so without protest?
I hopped over to the door, still pulling on one of my shoes. Caroline handed me a shawl, which I draped over my shoulders.
I tried not to look at our mother, but I couldn't help it. One glance, and I could see how devastated she was. She had always been fragile and emotional, which probably had something to do with the death of our father; he had died when Caroline and I were babies, so neither of us could remember him. Lately, things had seemed to get worse for our mother. She kept getting paler, skinnier, until she almost looked like a child. Right now, tears were running from her dark eyes, streaking down her thin face.
“No, no,” she was sobbing, wild with fear. “Girls, you can't … I won't let them …”
Brandon had a hand on her shoulder. “Mother, don't worry. They'll be fine.” He gave me a pleading look, like he was begging me to say something. He probably didn't trust Caroline to comfort our mother; she was the kind of person who would only break down crying and make everything worse.
“We'll be fine,” I echoed my brother. I tried to force a reassuring smile onto my face. “Now, come on. We have to get to the Meeting House.”
Walking outside, I felt like I was experiencing the end of the world. Black clouds rolled across the sky, roaring with thunder, lightning branching down from them like electric blue veins. Rain lashed into my face right away, and I had to keep blinking in order to keep the water out of my eyes. In seconds, we were all soaked.
Meanwhile, the other Villagers were emerging from their cottages and scurrying towards the Meeting House with their hands over their heads, as if that would shield them from the downpour. Some people were shouting, crying out in fear. Others were murmuring to each other in anxious tones. I couldn't clearly see the expressions on anyone's faces; everyone kept their heads down to avoid the assault of the rain. The only comfort I felt was the brush of Caroline's shoulder against mine, as we walked side by side towards our unknown fates.
“Natasha.” My best friend, Michelle, came up behind me, out of breath. Her face was flushed; she had the type of fair skin that blushed easily. She brushed her dark brown hair, which was limp from the pouring rain, out of her face. She clutched at her wet shawl, pulling it tighter around herself. “I can't … can't believe this is happening.” Her voice was hoarse, almost a whisper.
“I know,” I answered in a mutter. I swallowed, feeling like I was going to be sick. “Neither can I.”
We didn't say anything else. The Meeting House had come into view. It was a simple, sturdy building built out of stones. It had small, round windows that didn't provide much light; on the inside it was always dark, giving the place a gloomy atmosphere. Especially on a day like this one, it didn't improve the mood.
Inside, everyone was crushed together, like every person was trying to get lost in the crowd. I held my breath, staying between my sister and my best friend. My mother and Brandon came in behind us. My mother was still crying, but more quietly now.
I searched the faces of the people around me, searching for the girls who were in danger. I saw parents trying to comfort hysteric daughters. Or, in some cases, the girls were trying in vain to console their parents. Everywhere, there were voices whispering that everything was going to be all right. Every girl seemed confident that she wouldn't be the Sacrifice. But it had to be someone, I wanted to scream at them. One of us has to go. One of us has to die.
As if in a dark reminder, thunder rumbled through the sky, and it sounded like deep laughter.
At the front of the round room, there was a wide platform. An elderly woman in black robes stood on it, as still as stone. Her snow-white hair was pulled back in a tight bun. Even though we all knew that she was very old, there was still an unusual hint of youth in her face, a sparkle of wisdom and intelligence in her eyes that made her appear younger. She was the leader of the Village, the one who watched over us all. We all addressed her as Mother Dearest.
Mother Dearest raised her hands, her white palms outstretched towards us, to calm the unsettled crowd. The voices around me fell obediently. Caroline and Michelle both reached for my hands, and I squeezed their hands in return. Like everyone else, I turned my face up towards Mother Dearest to listen. I couldn't help but feel a burst of blind hope: she would make everything all right, just as she always did. I trusted her, and she wouldn't let anything happen to any of us.
But I knew, in my heart, that she was powerless against the Monster. As many times as she had saved us all, she could do nothing to prevent the Sacrifice from happening.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
You can't kill someone with words. No matter how scathing they are, no matter how much hatred they contain, they're nothing more than a handful of syllables, a jumbled mess of letters.
Maybe they seem to lash out, like someone is slapping you across the face.
It's an explosion inside your head, a sensation that could almost be mistaken for pain.
Yeah, so maybe they can hurt. But a word is not a physical blow. It can't make you bleed. It doesn't hold up a gun to your head and pull the trigger. It doesn't wrap a noose around your neck and strangle the air from your lungs.
It's all words, words, words. Nonsense. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
At least, that's what I keep telling myself. I have to believe it.
I have to believe that I didn't kill Claudia Anders.
Karina is sitting on my bed. I'm standing at the window. We're both completely still. I don't know what's running through her mind, but mine is replaying the message we heard over the intercom this morning.
Claudia is dead. She killed herself––went home after school and hung herself in a closet, just like that. I remember how in Health class last year, we learned about how afternoon is when most suicidal kids choose to do it. It's unexpected, your parents are at work and they don't get home until it's too late.
I also remember this retarded thing we did with a paper doll in Health class. We had to pass it around the room, and one by one we had to insult it and then fold up a little piece of it.
No one likes you.
By the time the paper doll had made its way all around the room, it was crumpled into a ball. The teacher held it up for us to see, saying, “This is what happens when you throw insults at someone. Maybe you don't mean it, but it folds up a little piece of them. And they just keep folding and folding in on themselves until there's nothing left.”
Karina was in that class with me, and I remembered how she looked at me right then and rolled her eyes and how I rolled my eyes back at her like I always did––because Health was stupid, because we never learned a goddamned thing from it.
But there was something about that scrunched-up mess of a paper doll that secretly got to me. I tried to crush down the stirring of fear inside, that part of me that opened and exposed the secret part of my soul that I had always hated––the part of me that always split open when I saw the hurt deep in Claudia's eyes.
Now it's ripping its way through again, like an evil demon leering at me.
You did this. It's your fault. She's dead because of you.
I was one of the people who folded her up, who crumpled her. She wasn't strong enough to withstand it, the constant flow of words that tore her apart piece by piece, that wore her down like a stone eroded into dust by a rushing river.
Karina says, “It's not our fault.”
But I don't answer. I want more than anything just to nod, just to tell her she's right. But there's that demon still inside of me, grinning in my face and threatening to kill me if I lie.
Maybe you can't kill someone with words. But you could have the thickest muscles in the world, and no physical strength could protect you from the brutal slap of insults. One word could still make you collapse in tears.
“It would've happened anyway, you know? She was messed up. She would've done it anyway,” Karina says.
I look out the window, watch each car go by, watch my whole vision start to go blurry.
“Damn it, Hilary. Talk to me. You know we didn't do anything. It's not like we murdered her.”
Shut up, my mind snarls at her. Shut up, shut up, shut up.
“She just did it to get attention. She knew no one would care about her unless she was dead. She would just love it if it messed us up.”
My hands are curling into fists and I want to scream at her, words that I've always been too afraid to say to her. Words I still can't say now.
“You're not crying, are you?” She chokes, sniffs. “God damn it, Hilary. You better not be crying.”
But suddenly, I'm as calm as can be––floating over the world and feeling nothing.
The funny thing is, she's the one who's crying.
Thanks for reading! :)
Monday, August 16, 2010
Anyway, on to today's topic!!!
So, I was randomly surfing around on the internet the other day, and I stumbled across this blog post by author John Scalzi called 10 Things Teenagers Should Know About Writing, the first point being #1: Right Now, Your Writing Sucks, in which he claimed that teenagers lack the grammar skills, knowledge, experience, etc. to produce good writing. Now, this post had a lot of good advice in it, but he made a note about how most kids reading the post automatically stopped after the first point and wrote him a long angry note in the comments section. He then wrote a second post called On Teens, and the Fact that Their Writing Sucks in which he basically shot down all the comments he received; this irked me more than the original post.
To be fair, I read the entirety of both these posts, and I understood what he was trying to say. Furthermore, I actually agreed with most of it. The thing is, he said it in a way that was angering teens instead of helping them, so they wouldn't listen to his good advice.
It's not fair to tell teenage writers that their writing "sucks". Inexperience does not equal suckageness. That's like telling some little kid on a tricycle, "Dude, you SUCK at riding a bicycle!" Then what's the kid going to do? Will he feel like riding a bicycle ever again? Or is he more likely to feel discouraged and offended? Hmmmm?
So, I thought I'd make this easier by explaining it teen-to-teen. None of that condescending crap. Yes, I am learning and growing as a writer, and I know what it's like to constantly be reminded of it as if I didn't know. Yes, teenagers lack life experience and possibly the basics of English grammar, but that does not mean that we "suck". We just need practice! In my opinion, the adolescent stage is one of the best times to be a writer, and I'll tell you why.
WHY TEEN WRITING DOES NOT SUCK/WHY IT'S AWESOME TO BE A TEEN WRITER IN THIS DAY AND AGE
1. You don't have to worry too much about publishing, so it's a good time to practice, practice, practice. Yes, of course I support teens who are trying to get published––I'd be a total hypocrite if I didn't. But I know that many kids are just starting to experiment with writing at this age, and I completely support that too. If you're a teen writer, it's not like "OH CRAP, MY EDITOR NEEDS MY MANUSCRIPT IN TWO WEEKS!" There are no deadlines, so you can write whatever the heck you want. You can try out all different kinds of styles and genres, and there's no pressure to make it "good"––not that teens can't be critical of themselves. But if you are critical of yourself, you can also edit/rewrite as many times as you want to.
2. You have the time. Sure, you have school and homework––maybe some after-school sports or a job. But (hopefully) you don't have a bunch of kids to take care of or a full-time career. It's easier for kids to find time in their schedules to just sit down and write. Finding the time to write is the first step of becoming a good writer, and time is something that most teens have a lot of.
3. There are a lot of ways teens can get published nowadays. I'm not talking book-publishing necessarily, but there are great literary magazines where teenagers can get short stories and poetry published––such as Stone Soup, Cicada and Teen Ink, to name a few. There are also a lot of websites where writers can put up work and get feedback, like Mibba, WEbook, Goodreads, etc. It's a good idea to start small when it comes to publishing, because it's not too overwhelming but you still get a glimpse of what the publishing experience is like. I used to enter Cricket magazine story contests all the time; I got third place once for a lovely little story about singing mice. :) But Cricket also sent out little form-rejection postcards to the entries that didn't win, so I learned what that was like, too.
4. You're in your "prime suffering years". Okay, so one of my favorite movies of all time is "Little Miss Sunshine", and here is one of my favorite quotes from it:
Dwayne: I wish I could just sleep until I was eighteen and skip all this crap––high school and everything––just skip it.
Frank: Do you know who Marcel Proust is?
Dwayne: He's the guy you teach.
Frank: Yeah. French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he's also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh... he gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, those were the best years of his life, 'cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn't learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you're 18... Ah, think of the suffering you're gonna miss. I mean high school? High school-–those are your prime suffering years. You don't get better suffering than that.
A little off-topic I guess, but the point is, you learn a lot from your suffering––and as teenagers, we suffer a lot. What's great about teens is that we are brimming with angst. Now you're probably wondering, "Why is it a great thing that I'm full of angst?" Well, when you are a teenager you become very questioning about life. You start to wonder what the point is and where you're going. It gets to the point where you're so confused and stressed out that you feel about ready to explode from it. And that's why a lot of teens write––to get out their ideas and questions and relieve all that stress. So yes, this may produce rambling and/or choppy prose, but it helps you to get out a lot of ideas. Maybe not all of these ideas will be useful to you now, but they may be inspiration to you when you're an adult. I know I get inspiration from my old writing all the time, and I'm predicting that my writing today will inspire me in the future.
5. There are teenage authors out there! Now, I suppose this point is kind of a cheat. Just because some teenagers have published books doesn't necessarily mean that they're "good". In fact, most published teens seem to have stories that go along the lines of, "My mom's neighbor's grandma's cousin's friend happens to be a literary agent and heard about my book and wanted to read it! What a crazy random happenstance!" But oh well, at least these teenagers had the integrity to write full novels in the first place, and some of them have talent. Teen authors include S.E. Hinton, Mary Shelley, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Isamu Fukui, Flavia Bujor, Nancy Yi Fan, Alexandra Adornetto … and I suppose I have to include Christopher Paolini but … ah, let's not talk about him. I'm sure there are lots of others that I don't even know about, but as you can see there are already quite a few that come to mind. And even if these teens haven't produced flawless books, they all write a lot better than a majority of adults. If they can do it, so can we!
To make myself clear, I'm not saying that all teen writing is publishable. I have to agree with John Scalzi that a lot of young adults still have much to learn about grammar, about style, about originality, etc. That doesn't mean that they SUCK, but it means that they have to keep practicing. Write every day, get feedback and take it into consideration, and (as corny as it sounds) keep believing in yourself! Don't expect it to be perfect, but don't be too hard on yourself either. Polishing your writing and finding a voice is very important, so keep at it. ;)
** Now, to be completely off-topic, I would like to advertise one of my best-friend-ninja's blog since I promised her I would. So HERE IS SELLA'S BLOG in which she gives out "free advice on life and fiction". :) Sella is amazing, I love her, and she needs followers. So check it out! Thanks :)
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Here is a snippet from Unraveling. Yes, it's supposed to confuse you, even if you've read the whole thing. Haha. But just to give you a little bit of context, Mia––the main character––is going back to her hometown to visit her ex-friend, Emily. Some mysterious thing happened that broke their friendship part, but the reader doesn't know what it is (yet). The whole thing is narrated as if Mia is speaking to Emily, just to clarify why a lot of it is in second person. CONTAINS SOME SWEARING (nothing too heavy though, just if you're uber-sensitive about that kind of thing, I thought I'd give you a little warning.)
Shannon stares at me like she expects me to disappear. I probably look like crap; it's a wonder she recognizes me. I run a hand through my hair, trying not to cringe at every snarl that my fingers encounter. “Hi,” I manage to say. My voice probably matches my appearance: worn down, exhausted, defeated.
“Wow. Oh, my God. Hi.” Her freaky blue eyes look about ready to burst from her head. Her mouth twitches, like she can't decide whether to smile or not. “This is … whoa. I can't believe you're here.”
“Neither can I.”
She bites her lip, pulls the strap of her purse up further onto her shoulder. “So, um. Mind if I sit down?”
“No. Yeah, it's fine.”
She shuffles over to the seat across from me, her flip-flops slapping against the tiled floor. She sits down, right in that chair where you always used to sit. I guess, if I was looking out of the corner of my eye, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. She has the same color hair as you, Emily, just a little lighter in shade. She doesn't have a single freckle on her face, though. And her eyes are too bright. But, you know, no one can be you. I know, because I tried.
Shannon immediately starts picking up sugar packets and fiddling with them, turning them over and over in her fingers. She puts her purse down on the table, picks it up again. “Uh, you know, I should go buy my coffee first. I'll be right back.”
She comes back a minute later, plastic cup of iced coffee in hand. I watch as she dumps about five packets of sugar into it and stirs it with her straw.
“So, you're on vacation now?” she asks.
“Yeah. It's the first day.”
“Cool. We got out on Wednesday.”
I don't look at her. I watch droplets of condensation bead up on the glossy surface of the plastic cup and run down its side, pooling on the tabletop.
“So. Are you okay?” Shannon says.
That's always the question these days. I started realizing there had to be something wrong with me, when people never asked me “How are you?” anymore. It's always “Are you okay?” now, like they don't even have to bother to inquire whether I'm in a good mood or not.
I shrug one shoulder, heat rising to my face.
“I'm sorry,” Shannon blurts. “I know, that was a dumb question.”
“It's okay.” I sit up a little straighter in my chair, clear my throat. “I've, uh, been getting better.”
“Good. Well … That's good.” Shannon picks up her coffee and takes a sip, before setting it down again. The silence stretches out like a fathomless ocean between us, dark and deep.
“You know, I––I'm really sorry,” Shannon says.
My eyes sting. I swallow. God, I'm just so … tired. And I'm sick of people apologizing. It's the only thing people seem to be able to do.
“Don't be.” I finally gather the courage to look up, and Shannon is staring back at me like she's afraid I'm going to slap her. She sits at the edge of her seat, and I almost expect her to get up and leave without another word.
Shannon looks down, stirring her coffee again. The ice cubes rattle against the plastic interior of the cup. “Mia––you shouldn't be mad at her.”
Something stirs in the pit of my stomach, and I don't know if it's just because I'm hungry. I still haven't taken a bite of my muffin, but I don't really feel like eating. I feel like you're standing behind me, Emily, waiting for me to speak.
“I know. I'm not,” I lie.
Shannon sits perfectly still, like it's too hard for her to think and stir coffee at the same time. “It wasn't her fault.”
I nod, and I hate myself for it. Your phantom-like presence is still standing behind me, smiling in triumph.
Shannon seems to lose interest in her coffee. She leans back in her chair and gazes out the window. She laughs, but not happily. “Shit, Mia. I don't know … Maybe you don't believe it, but it wasn't just her. It wasn't the things she said or did, or what you did. It wasn't your fault, either.” She lets out a shaking breath, rubbing her hands over her bare knees. “It wasn't just the two of you. It was the whole damn school. It was all of us. You know?”
Shannon shakes her head. “I'm just saying. You know how people get. They just want to, like, fit in. And then there's that whole 'mob mentality' kind of thing. They go along with everyone else, just because they don't want to be outcasts or whatever. And, you know, it's not like anyone tried to help you. No one stood up for you. But I'm saying, that doesn't mean they believed everything she said.”
You'd be happy to know, Emily, that I doubt that. I think they all believed it. You've always had that ability to turn everyone in your presence into a helpless little puppy dog, looking up to you for guidance. All you have to do is say the word, and they hang off of every syllable like it's sacred. All you have to do is widen your pretty blue eyes and the world bows at your feet.
“I'm not saying that people don't talk about it,” Shannon goes on. She reaches for her coffee again, drinks some more, swirls the cup around absently. “They still say things. But, you know, don't take it personally. I've just always felt bad about it. I would've stuck up for you, except I was just as scared as anyone else was. But Emily … she lied. I know that, and I think everyone knows.”
It's the first time I've heard someone say your name out loud like that in a long time. It shocks me back to reality. I haven't seen you in such a long time, sometimes I forget that you're a real person. I forget that you're still on the face of the planet. And I'm not sure whether remembering makes it better or worse. It feels like a pound of ice cubes are sitting at the bottom of my stomach.
Shannon lets out a long sigh, before she continues. “Hell, it's been––what? Two years by now? That's the sad thing, you know. People don't realize how stupid they were being until afterwards. I don't know about everyone else, but I think the whole thing was so dumb. And I'm sorry I went along with it.”
Shannon makes another attempt at a smile. “I'm sorry. Am I being totally weird?”
“I know. Sorry. It's just, you know, I figured I might as well say something before you go off and disappear again.” She picks up her coffee and examines it like she's never seen it before. “So, what are you doing here, anyway?”
I shrug again. “Nothing. I just thought I'd come back. I haven't been here in so long.”
“Yeah.” She takes another drink of coffee. “It's like you totally disappeared from the face of the earth. Where have you been?”
Shannon rolls her eyes. “Well, obviously. But you also, like, cut off all contact from the rest of the world.”
“Yeah, well. I kind of wanted to just get away from it. Away from … this town. From everything.” From you, Emily.
“Right,” Shannon says. “Makes sense. I mean, I see where you're coming from. I would've done the same thing.”
I always hate when people say that. Would have. Could have. Should have. I could make a list about ten miles long of everything that could have happened, of everything I should have said and done. And what's the use in thinking about something that didn't happen and never will? When it's too late to turn back, the only thing you can do is let go. But we're so stubborn that way, holding onto things that could have been. It's one of those things that makes life so unbearable.
Besides, it's not like Shannon knows me. She can't put herself in my shoes. She can't imagine what I went through. She was just one of the people standing on the outside, watching from the sidelines. Now that everything is over, of course it's easy for her to step forward and say that she's sorry, say that she sympathizes with me and understands what I did. But that's because she's a coward.
I don't mean that as an insult. Not really. I mean, everyone is like that. Everyone wants to fit in, to be a part of the majority, to follow everyone else and stand in line. Like Shannon just said, it's that mob mentality. When someone lays the blame down, you point in the same direction as everyone else, because it's the only way to protect yourself, because people fear what they disagree with and what they can't understand. And fear is the origin of hatred.
So, I'm not saying that it's wrong of her. It's just typical, almost clichéd.
“Anyway,” Shannon says. “How long are you staying around here?”
That's a good question, one I haven't really thought about yet. “Until I feel like going home, I guess,” I answer. “Or I mean, after … I really only came here to …”
“Emily,” Shannon says.
I cringe on the inside. There's that name again. Her name. I mean, your name.
I take a deep breath. “Yeah. I just want to … talk to her first, you know?”
I expect to get an incredulous look in response: one of those “Mia-are-you-out-of-your-freaking-mind?” looks. But Shannon just nods, likes she thinks she understands.
THANKS FOR READING. PEEAAAACE. :)
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Sunday, August 1, 2010
ions that other people usually ask me, plus the questions people never ask me that I want to answer anyway! By the way, I'm REALLLLY high on caffeine right now, which may have influenced this decision. So yeah, now I'm going to ask myself some questions, trying to mostly focus on Walking Shadow and writing. Although there will some random stuff thrown in there. ((Thanks to my Ninja friends for giving me some ideas for extra questions, btw))
Q: Hi there Brigid! How are you?
A: Great. I guess.
Q: Who's your favorite Teletubby?
A: What an odd first question. But anyway. My favorite Teletubby is Tinky Winky, because his name makes me giggle. Also he's gay and carries a purse, which is awesome.
Q: Where do you get ideas?
A: From your MOM. Just kidding. From the Idea Fairy. Psh. Unless your mom IS the Idea Fairy! O_O No, seriously. I don't know where I get my ideas. No writer does, as far as I know. That's the annoying thing about them. You just have to wait for them to come along. Usually they come from something totally random––like a snippet of conversation that I overhear, or a line from a song, or a picture I see, or a magazine article or something. And then it's like BAM! There are suddenly these weird images in front of me and voices talking in my ear. It's like a drug trip, mannnnn. Really, it's kind of a bizarre experience. I think all writers are a bit insane. Creativity is psychologically similar to schizophrenia, you know.
Q: Where did you get the idea for Walking Shadow?
A: The idea for Walking Shadow came from multiple things. It was one of those ideas where it actually started as two ideas, but it turned out that neither of them worked without the other so I put them together. If you're not familiar with the story, there are two main characters: Cassandra and Jason. Originally it was just about Cassandra, and I tried to write it and it failed––mostly because I had no idea who/what she was. I knew that she had weird visions and stuff; at first I thought it was a ghost story. But I knew it was missing something so I put it aside. Later on I had a glimmer of an idea about a boy who kills everything he touches, but I didn't know why. The two ideas merged when I was reading Macbeth in sophomore English class. I read the line "Life is a walking shadow …" and I was like "Oooh, now that would be a great book title!" And with all ideas, there was that inexplicable moment where the whole thing suddenly just worked. The two ideas clicked together and I was like *HAPPY DANCE*. So I wrote the idea down somewhere and I wrote it for NaNoWriMo '09––started it in November, finished in early January. No idea how I managed to write it so fast, it being Junior year and all …
Q: Do you have any wonderful covers you've created for this book?
A: BAHAHAHA. Yeah. Lemme show you. I've made some pretty kick-ass covers using images I don't own … so I guess I can't share those because then someone would find them and be like "OMG I'M SO OFFENDED" and then I'd have to take them down from my blog and burn them and stuff. So, I'll just show you the ones I drew myself. Basically I drew a pretty rose and then I used it to make pretty book covers like THESE:
Q: What authors inspire you?
A: Lots and LOTS of authors! But I'll try to narrow it down.
Markus Zusak (The Book Thief), Patrick Ness (CHAOS WALKING TRILOGY!!!! *I'm a little obsessed*), Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, Kane Chronicles series), Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments series), Neal Shusterman (Unwind, the Skinjacker trilogy, Downsiders, The Schwa was Here), Libba Bray (Gemma Doyle trilogy, Going Bovine), Maggie Stiefvater (Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Books of Faerie series) … And probably a bunch of others that I'm forgetting. Woohooo. :)
Q: What music inspires you?
A: *Takes deep breath*
Acceptance, Adele, Blue Foundation, Boys Like Girls, The Cab, Civil Twilight, Cobra Starship, Corinne Bailey Rae, Dashboard Confessional, Daughtry, Death Cab for Cutie, Dido, Elisa, Evanescence, Fall Out Boy, A Fine Frenzy, Five for Fighting, Florence + the Machine, The Fray, Glen Hansard, Goo Goo Dolls, Gratitude, Hey Monday, The Hush Sound, Imogen Heap, Jason Mraz, Kate Voegele, Kelly Clarkson, The Killers, Kings of Leon, KT Tunstall, Lifehouse, Lights, Linkin Park, Marina and the Diamonds, Matchbox 20, Meg & Dia, MGMT, Michelle Branch, Muse, My Chemical Romance, Nelly Furtado, Nickel Creek, Nickelback, Owl City, P!nk, Paramore, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sara Bareilles, The Script, Sia, Snow Patrol, Taking Back Sunday, Third Eye Blind, The Ting Tings, Tokio Hotel, Train, U2, Vanessa Carlton, We Are the Fallen, Within Temptation
Q: What are you writing right now?
A: Well, I could tell you. … But then I'd have to kill you.
Um, I'm writing four things at the moment. One is a short story sci-fi/dystopia/romance thing that I'm writing for a collection of Ninja-Writer stories. I'll post updates on that. Other than that … I'm writing Unraveling, which a realistic fic that is basically a teenage girl ranting about her hatred for her ex-best friend and remembering everything that led to them becoming ex-friends. I'm also writing Rage, which is a fantasy-dystopia retelling of Beauty & the Beast. And lastly I'm writing Sky-Fall, which is this epic sci-fi thing about people fighting each other with giant robots! I'm sorry, I'm terrible at describing my own stories. Heh heh.
Q: What book are you reading right now?
A: Runaway by Meg Cabot. :) heehee
Q: How do you choose character names?
A: Behindthename.com <-- best thing ever Anyway, answering the question. It varies. Sometimes I want them to mean something or be an allusion to something. Like Cassandra can see the future and the mythological Cassandra was a prophet. Sometimes I like the names to mean something in an ironic way; like how Jason means "healer" (or something to do with healing) and my character Jason kills everything he touches. A lot of the time I just choose names randomly though. The right name always "clicks", like it was meant to be. :)
A: MAXWELL COLLINS. He's a superheroooo!!! (according to Acacia) He's the main character of Edge and Jump … and the third book, Crash, which I have not yet written. I, uh, don't know what much else to say about him. He has superpowers and he's adorable and he kicks ass.
Q: How do you get titles for your books?
A: Heh, I have no idea. The only one I really chose was the title for Walking Shadow, since I got it right out of the Macbeth quote. The rest of them were either really obvious or they just occurred to me and seemed to fit.
Q: What's the funniest typo you've ever made?
A: One time I was trying to write "I sense danger", and I had written "I sense d-" when my sister ran into the room and said "We're having doughnuts for breakfast!" And I looked down and saw that I had written "I sense doughnuts."
Q: What is your computer named?
A: Frederick the Second. He is descended from Frederick the First, who is a ninja.
Q: What do you think makes a good book?
A: It depends. Good and distinctive writing is a plus, characters that are both realistic and believable, unique world-building if it's a sci-fi/fantasy, showing instead of telling, etc. I like books that are either really original, or a book that takes a clichéd idea and makes it unique somehow. My favorite books are ones that can be terrifying and/or depressing in some parts and hilarious in others. Because life isn't just funny or just depressing, ya know?
Q: What is the purpose of Walking Shadow?