Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You know you're a writer when ...

- In your dreams you think, "This would make an awesome story." (Although usually the dream is about something stupid, like talking zebras.)

- You look in bookstores/libraries for the place on the bookshelf where your book would be if it were published. (At my local library it'd be between a book called A Taste for Quiet and a collection of short stories called Gothic!)

- You say to your sister, "I need a stupid boyfriend name and a bunch of gay guy names" and she automatically gives suggestions without questioning.

- You're talking to your writer friend in public and say something like, "I don't know, I might kill him. I just have to think of a good way to do it." And then you realize the people around you don't know you're talking about a fictional person.

- When someone asks you, "So how's that book you're reading?" you give them a long speech analyzing the plot and characters that they really don't want to hear.

- ... But when someone asks you, "How's that book you're writing?" you respond by banging your head against the closest inanimate object––preferably against something large and solid like a wall or a table. Or you burst into tears. Or you do both.

- Whenever you watch movies/TV you're always on the lookout for actors/actresses who look like your characters.

- Your computer is full of documents containing stories, outlines, and character inventories.

- Everything inspires you––people, places, songs, books, movies, photographs, paintings, plants, animals ... Heck, LIFE inspires you!

- You write because you exist.

So, tell me. How else do you know you're a writer? :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Editing. It's all about letting go.

I used to think editing was just about fixing typos, adding in a few more details here and there, and calling it a day. Ha!

If anything, I've been taking things out of Walking Shadow, not adding them in. Originally, the manuscript was nearly 170,000 words long. Now it's a little under 98,000 words. That means I've taken out approximately 72,000 words, which is about the entire length of Unraveling (the shortest novel I've written). And I'm still word-chopping. Yikes.

I used to think a bigger word count would make me look more impressive or something. The truth is, a huge word count makes you look unprofessional. It means you're afraid of editing and letting go.

But you have to let go. You have to kill your darlings.

Last year I tried querying Walking Shadow when it was still nearly 150,000 words long. (Oh God, what was I thinking?) The first time an agent suggested cutting it down to 100,000 words, I just about had a heart attack. Cut out 50,000 words? When I'd already cut out 20,000? NO WAY!

But then I started reading through my manuscript again, and I realized there was a lot I could cut out––adverbs, dialogue tags, the hideous word "that", needless descriptions, telling instead of showing, statements of the obvious, etc. After going through the whole thing again, I managed to cut it down to about 99,000 words.

And I'm still going. Recently I've been taking out 300-word chunks of my manuscript and chopping them down to about 250 words. This forces me to refine every sentence, reshaping them so that they have the same meaning but in fewer words.

But editing is more than fixing typos and cutting out unneeded words ...

This morning I cut an entire scene. It was a good 1,500 words or so. I'd been debating over whether to cut it out or not for a long time––because I always thought it was a fairly well-written scene ... but, well, it was a scene where the main character starts cutting herself, and in the end I decided it was too melodramatic and clichéd. Not only that, but it seemed uncharacteristic of her since she was kind of doing it over a boy, and I didn't want her to seem all whiney and pathetic. There are too many of those girls in YA literature these days, and I don't want Cassandra to be one of them.

So that's something else important to think about when editing: creating meaning. What are you trying to say? What message are you conveying?

Nothing is going to be perfect the first time you write it. The first time you write something, it's just like talking; you write whatever comes to mind. And like the brilliant Lemony Snicket once said, "If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then al;dkfj;dsf;jsd."

Okay, that didn't really have anything to do with anything. I just really, really like that quote.

Anyway, if you want to read a longer rant of mine about editing, you can check out this older post.

Anyone else have editing tips and/or methods? Please share!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

First Page Contest with Victoria Marini

So, here's what's up.

Fellow blogger and YA writer Shelley Watters is hosting a contest on her blog, "Is It Hot In Here Or Is It This Book?". The idea is, writers submit the first 250 words of their manuscripts, and the entries will be judged by literary agent Victoria Marini of the Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency. The winner will receive a full request from Victoria, as well as a partial critique. Victoria will also select runners-up, who will receive partial requests.

Awesome, right?

Full contest rules are here.

As part of the contest, writers are posting their entries on their blogs for critique. So, without further ado, here is my entry. Critique away!
Walking Shadow
YA Fantasy
99,000 words

Everything is a lie––their faces, their words, the books on their desks, the clothes they wear. It's a barrier as fragile as a bubble. Underneath it, there is only emptiness.

I know their fears, their secrets, the feelings they hide. I know their loneliness; it emanates from their minds, building from a whisper to a murmur to a scream that ricochets around in my skull.

One of the shrieking souls is my own. I may not be normal, but I'm still human. I share their pain. On the inside, we're all screaming.

But I've learned that I'm different. I accept the scathing mess of words their minds throw at me: freak, girl, freak, witch, goth, freak. I don't care what they think, as long as they never know the truth. They can think I dyed my hair blood-red, that my reflective eyes are contacts. They can think I wear long sleeves because I cut myself, even though I'm hiding something very different from the furious red slashes they'd expect.

I don't blame them. It's human to make judgments. If I had a choice, I would make them, too.

Instead, I have to know everything about everyone––who hates who, who's sleeping with who, who's doing drugs, whose parents hit them. Thoughts and dreams and memories and fears all burst inside my head like fireworks … and someday, I won't be able to take it anymore.

I never asked for this. I sure as hell never wanted it. My whole life, I've kept it inside. And it's killing me, crawling through my veins like a disease.

How long before it takes over––before it takes me, like it took my mother?

Friday, June 24, 2011

What I learned from Query Shark

In case you've never heard of it, Query Shark is a wonderful blog created by literary agent Janet Reid. The idea is, writers send in their query letters, and some of them get critiqued on the blog. A literary agent critiquing query letters, you say?! Yes. Very useful stuff. It's an extremely helpful and eye-opening blog.

Ms. Reid suggests reading through all the posts––which I did, and learned a lot of things about queries I didn't know. I recommend looking through the blog and reading all the posts if you have the time. But I figured that most people didn't have the time, so I thought I'd give an overview of the notes I took while I read through the blog. Some of these things I already knew, but others I'd never thought of before.

I know I said I'd try to cut down on such lengthy posts, but, this one required a lot of detail. And trust me, I cut it down a LOT. A lot of stuff goes into query-writing.

So, here we go. The rules of writing a good query letter.

- Remember: the query letter should not only tell what the book is about, it should also show how well you write and how your professional you are.

- DON'T put contact information at the top of the query letter, and don't include it in the query letter. Put it at the bottom, after you sign your name. (Include your full name, address, and phone number.)

- Don't put your title at the top of the query letter. It will be included within the query letter.

- Start off with a normal salutation. Not "Greetings!" or "Good evening!" Just plain old "Dear Mr./Ms. [agent's last name]. And NEVER "To Whom it May Concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam"; these just show you don't know who you're querying, and therefore you did not do your research.

- Immediately get into the story. Don't start with an introductory paragraph; don't put the title and word count in the first paragraph. Put this information in the last paragraph. Agents seem to be split about this, but according to Ms. Reid, "A quick drop into cold water is EXACTLY how you want to start a novel (and thus a query.)" She says the very first word in the query should be the main character's name. Describe what he/she wants and what is preventing him/her from getting it.

- Don't start with a log line––aka, a one-sentence summary of the entire plot.

- Don't start your query with a quote or random fact. (i.e. "Did you know that a thousand elephants turn purple every year?" ... Obviously this is just an example, and not actually true.)

- Don't start with a rhetorical question. (i.e. "Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be a purple elephant?")

- Don't start with clichés. (i.e. "In a world ...")

- Don't start off by saying what kind of agent you're looking for; if you're querying an agent, it's understood that said agent represents the genre of your book. (i.e. "I'm looking for an agent who represents fantasy.") Yes, it's good to personalize queries, but you should cite specific articles/blogs/interviews/etc., not just mention what genres the agent represents, because that's vague and impersonal.

- Open with the important event, not with backstory. Don't start with a setting. Start with a character and an action/choice he/she must make. Also, don't start with a clause rather than the subject. (i.e. "Prancing through the daisy fields one day, Mary Sue makes an unexpected discovery.")

- Don't quote the book in the query letter.

- Make it clear who the main character is; don't mention too many characters, or it becomes too confusing. Focus on one or two characters; mentioning three or more characters is pushing it. Query Shark says, "Think of characters as headgear. One thing on your head is fine, two might work, and but three is too many. Plus three and you're past calling the Fashion Police, we're calling the guys with nets."

- Don't put the names of characters in ALL CAPS or put their ages in brackets; that's the format for scripts, not for query letters.

- Don't write in first person point of view of your characters. Avoid this and all other gimmicks. To an agent, a gimmicky query signifies crap writing; that is, you have to write a "quirky" query because your book is not good enough to speak for itself.

- No second or first person in the plot summary. Don't use "I". Don't use "we". As the Query Shark herself says, "There is no 'we' in querying, much like there is no crying in baseball."

- Make the main character sound like someone the reader can sympathize with, even if he/she is not a "good" person. If his/her motivations just don't make sense, the agent will lose interest. And if you can't make the motivations make sense, there might be something wrong with more than just your query; there could be something wrong with your book.

- The reader of the query should feel a connection to the main character. You have to do more than tell "what" the main is. (i.e. "Mary Sue is a teenage girl.") You have to show what the main character is like. (And I mean show, don't tell! Don't write, "Mary Sue is a very determined person." It should show, through her actions, that she is determined.) But don't spend too long describing what your main character is like. The letter is primarily focused on plot.

- Show and don't tell, and be specific.

- Only mention characters' choices if they are relevant to the central plot.

- Focus on the plot in the query letter. If you can't describe an actual plot, then there is something wrong with the novel itself.

- Sense of stakes and sense of choice are important. What choice does the protagonist have to make, and what consequences will follow?

- Basic form of the plot summary, provided by Query Shark: - Basic form provided by QS: "What does the protagonist want? What's keeping him/her from getting it? What choice/decision does he/she face? What terrible thing will happen if he chooses ____; what terrible thing will happen if he doesn't." OR "The main character must decide whether to ____. If s/he decides to do (this), the consequences/outcome/peril s/he faces are ____. If s/he decides NOT to do this: the consequences/outcome/peril s/he faces are ____." And don't just fill in the blanks; use it as an outline to get your information in the proper order. Don't give a list of events.

- Entice readers with what happens at the start of the book, not the end. That is to say, don't give an entire plot summary and definitely don't give away the ending.

- Keep it short and sweet, but long enough that the agent feels a bit of a connection with the main character (that is, understands why readers might sympathize with the main character). It should have a clear sense of voice.

- Story comes first. Don't sound as if you're trying hard to make a point or convey a certain message.

- Don't put random words in quotes. Query Shark says, "Quotes imply something is NOT what you say it is. Example: Oh yes, Cruella DeVill is a real 'dog lover'."

- Write in present tense, and don't switch tenses!

- Don't use showy, overcomplicated writing. Write in short, declarative sentences. Start by writing sentences that are 10 words or fewer, then revise into longer sentences only for the sake of clarity. Avoid rambling, jumbled sentences. And try not to use metaphors.

- Write the title in ALL CAPS (not in italics or underlined or anything like that) and try to avoid punctuation in the title besides commas. Don't say your book is "named" anything. It is either "called" or "titled". Also, do some research and make sure your title is not too similar to other popular titles.

- Read a lot of books in the category you're writing in; understand the audience. Make sure you know your genre. For example, YA books have teen protagonists. If your book does not have teen protagonists, don't call it YA––especially if you just want in on the YA market because it's hot right now.

- Genres should be one or two words, no more. Don't say your book is a "paranormal romance thriller", for example––choose either "paranormal romance" or "thriller".

- Don't say your full manuscript is "complete" or "immediately available"; it's expected that if you are querying, your manuscript is complete and available.

- Agents are skeptical from the start with unusual word counts. It varies based on genre. But generally, under 70,000 words is probably too short, and more than 100,000 words is probably too long. Some agents might even auto-reject based on word count alone. So before you start querying, check out your word count. You might not be done editing.

- Don't try to excuse or justify your word count. (i.e. "I know it's long, but ...")

- Writing credit has to be relevant. Publication is writing credit; nothing else is. Writing for your school newspaper and such is not enough. If you don't have any credit, it's fine. But don't struggle to make it sound as if you do. If you have none, don't mention anything, and don't tell the agent that you are inexperienced.

- Don't mention self-published or vanity-published books. Like it or not, agents generally don't respect self-publishing.

- You don't need to be qualified to write a novel; that is, you don't have to go through the same things as your characters in order to write about them.

- Don't tell the reader what your book will make them think or how it will affect them. And don't make your novel sound like a self-help book. That is, don't talk about how much it will "empower" readers.

- Don't compliment your own book. Query Shark says, "Telling me your novel is an altogether soaring tale is like telling me your kid is good-looking. I'm sure you believe it (I hope you do in fact) but I'm not going to believe you until I've seen the kid myself. In other words: show me, don't tell me."

- Don't mention test/beta readers. Sorry, but the agent really doesn't care what they think.

- Don't say how you think/hope readers will respond to your work. Don't say your book will appeal to both male and female readers. You don't actually know these things.

- Don't compare your book to other books; that's someone else's job.

- Don't say your book is part of a series––or if you must, say it's part of a "potential" series. Saying you've written a series makes the agent think you've written several "okay" books; it makes you sound less focused on revising one, good novel.

- Don't write about how your own story makes you feel, or about how attached you've become to your own characters. You think it will show the agent how passionate you are, but instead it makes the agent think you will take rejection too personally and that you are not a serious writer who will be willing to make revisions.

- Never offer exclusivity. And you don't really want exclusivity, either. It's best to query widely.

- Don't "recap" at the end of the query. It's not an essay, so you don't need a "concluding paragraph". Never repeat what you've already said.

- Don't dismiss yourself. Don't say you would be "humbled" if the agent asked to see your novel, etc. Just a plain old, "Thank you for your time and consideration" will do.

- NEVER, NEVER attach materials unless it's in the agent's guidelines to do so. Copy and paste excerpts, synopses, etc. into the body of the email. Attaching anything might make the letter end up in the agent's spam folder. Also, agents just plain don't want to have to open anything.

- Proofread. Don't misspell anything. Have other people proofread your query to make sure there are no stupid mistakes. Or at least read your query out loud to yourself a few times.

- Keep queries short but not too short. Around 250 words is a good length.

- Cut down your word count as much as possible. Start off by taking out all the uses of the word "that" which you don't need. Then change all the instances of "was [verb]-ing" to "[verb]ed" and you'll probably cut out a few thousand words. (Use Ctrl+F, aka "find") Take out adjectives and adverbs.

- Never use emoticons in queries. Ever. :)

- Only use plain text. No italics, no bold, no underlining. No weird fonts. No weird colors.

- Don't send in a huge-ass block of text. There should be double spaces between paragraphs, and there should be about 3-4 paragraphs, with the plot summary being the longest one. Make sure there is a lot of white space. Query Shark says, "White space is CRUCIAL."

- For e-queries, don't use weird subject lines. Include the word "Query" and your book's title in the subject line. Email to different email platforms to make sure the letter doesn't show up in a weird color.

Well, folks, that's about it. Of course, you don't necessarily need to follow all these rules, and sometimes breaking them might work in certain cases. This is just a general guide. I know it's overwhelming, but after drafting your query a few times you'll realize it may not be bad at it seems. I wish you luck!

As always, I appreciate your feedback. So if you thought this was helpful, or you have any comments/questions, let me know! :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Gave My Blog a Makeover

So, I decided I should make my blog look a bit more interesting––hence the new background, layout, heading, etc.

As you can see, I also added a couple new pages (because I just figured out how to do that). So now you can read about me and my writing. :)

I now have over 150 followers and almost 10,000 page views (yikes) so I'm thinking I should start taking this thing more seriously––which means I hope to post more often, and to make my posts a bit more concise so no one has to drown in my rambling.

Thoughts on the new blog design? Suggestions for topics to write about?

You have a brain. Use it to comment. :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Romance Rant

Greetings, writers!

I realize I haven't written on many "random" topics lately––besides my rant about the Wall Street Journal article. So today, I thought I would give my ROMANCE RANT!

I do a lot of (rambling, informal) book reviews (on Goodreads). And especially with recent YA books, I find myself ranting a lot about the romances. Especially because so many of them are the same ... and not very interesting.

Lately, the trend seems to be:

1) The main character is an awkward, and/or insecure teenage girl, who lives in a small town and thinks no one will ever like her and nothing will ever happen to her. In other words, she's a Mary Sue.
2) A mysterious, sexy boy moves into town from some weird foreign place and ends up in one of the girl's classes at school. (And for some reason it always seems to be science class––I guess because ... chemistry? Nyuck nyuck!) OR vice versa: the girl moves into a new town from some weird foreign place, and meets a mysterious, sexy guy at school.
3) Mr. Sexy stalks the Mary Sue for a while, showing up absolutely everywhere she goes. And she's like, "Hmm, that's kinda weird. Lolz. Whatevs." (Because it's not like he's a stalker or anything ... I mean, he's HAWT!)
4) They eventually start making out with each other, usually in a very short period of time. (No need to develop a relationship after all, because they're soul mates!)
5) Somehow the girl ends up mixed up in all the guy's weird problems, and he's all like, "Boohoo! I should have never brought you into this!" ... etc.

I think you get the idea. And we can all probably name about ten (if not more) recent books which follow this outline. But I don't want to seem like I'm pointing fingers here, so I won't. I also see a lot of teenage writers writing this type of story. No, these books/stories aren't necessarily bad ... but they could be less clichéd. And more realistic.

So why is this type of story so popular? Well, because it's what teenage girls wish would happen. I mean, hey––I'm an insecure teenage girl. If some random sexy guy appeared in my life and suddenly fell in love with me, that'd be pretty cool. (Although, I'm not sure I want guys climbing through my window and watching me sleep ... Errrm.)

I guess there's no harm in giving insecure girls hope that one day they'll be in relationships. The only problem is, these types of romances don't happen in real life.

Which is why I prefer much more drawn-out, developed romances. I don't like this idea of "soul mates"; really, it's just an excuse to not adequately develop a relationship between two characters.

I want to care about both characters involved; I'm tired of these stories where the guy is an object to be drooled over, while the girl is just a prop. They both have to have flaws and insecurities. They have to be unsure about their feelings. They have to struggle and argue like normal human beings do––yes, even when/if they officially become a couple. The more you make readers wait, the more badly they'll want the romance to happen ... which is why it pays off more in the end, when it finally does happen! If the two characters get together on page 50, it seems way too rushed and unrealistic.

Some YA books/series with great romances in them (in my opinion):

1) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
2) The Darkest Powers trilogy by Kelley Armstrong
3) The Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
4) The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness
5) The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
6) North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
7) Graceling by Kristin Cashore
8) Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (Well, she has several good romance books, this one's just my favorite.)
9) Unwind by Neal Shusterman
10) The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
11) The Host by Stephenie Meyer

So, anyone else have an opinion about YA romance? Have an other reading recommendations? Please share! :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

First Paragraph Critique - an untitled story by Cara

Hello everyone!

It's time for another first paragraph critique! Hooray!

A reminder about my critiques:

You can email paragraphs to me ( or if you have a Goodreads account you can post them in this thread.

Before you submit, you might want to read this post on what I think makes a good story beginning (and revise your paragraph accordingly). And try not to go over 100-200 words. That might not seem like a lot, but I try to be very thorough. Also, I will always get your approval of my critique before I post it. :)

This paragraph comes from my Goodreads friend Cara. Hope you all enjoy this and find it helpful! :)



"The night is quiet and snow softly falls around me. There's a thin layer of it covering the road I walk on. There are no stars out, no moon. The lights of the big white houses are all out. No lights are allowed on after midnight, except for the streetlights. The air is cold but it's not too bad and there's no wind. It would be the kind of night Pax would call perfectly beautiful, except she is not here and the beauty is ruined by the remnants of a burnt down house."

What works:

1. This opening instantly puts the reader in a clear setting––on a dark street, lined with big white houses, and it's snowing. Right away, the reader has a clear picture of where the beginning of the story is taking place.

2. There are surprising and mysterious elements in this paragraph which create an air of intensity. There's something "off" about the whole thing that grabs the reader's interest. There's not much explanation, but there doesn't necessarily need to be ... because it shows a lot without telling, while still leaving room for curiosity. The reader gets the feeling that we're in some sort of creepy futuristic/utopian society. ("No lights are allowed on after midnight, except for streetlights.")

We don't know who Pax is, although it can be assumed she is a friend of the main character––and the narrator pointing out that "she is not here" adds to the creepy feeling. Who knows––maybe I'm reading into things too much, and Pax is just not there because she's at home. But the fact that her absence is mentioned, alongside the sudden mention of a "burnt down house" seems to suggest that something bad might have happened to her. Either way, the reader is immediately engaged and has several questions in mind: Where is this taking place? Who is Pax? Why is she not there? Why is there a burnt down house?

What could be improved:

1. "The night is quiet and snow softly falls around me. There's a thin layer of it covering the road I walk on. There are no stars out, no moon."

--> This doesn't immediately grab my attention because it's just a description of snow. I don't feel engaged/interested in the paragraph until "No lights are allowed on after midnight ..." This is the first striking sentence to me, because it's unexpected and original. I suggest rearranging the sentence so that you start with this sentence and build the rest of the paragraph around it:

"No lights are allowed on after midnight, except for the streetlights. The lights of the big white houses are all out. The night is quiet and snow softly falls around me. There's a thin layer of it covering the road I walk on. There are no stars out, no moon. The air is cold but it's not too bad and there's no wind. ..."

2. "The air is cold but it's not too bad and there's no wind."

--> "Not too bad" is a bit vague. What exactly do you mean by that? If the air is cold, why is it "not too bad"? Does the narrator not mind the cold, or possibly even like the cold? Or you could even cut out the "not too bad" and leave it at, "The air is cold, but at least there's no wind."


You do an excellent job setting a tone and setting. I recommend grabbing the reader's attention just a little sooner, and being more specific in places, but over all this is a pretty solid beginning. Great job!

Good luck with your writing endeavors! :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

YA Saves! (A Response to the WSJ article "Darkness Too Visible")

I thought I should bring attention to a recent issue. I don't normally do this kind of thing, but this time I just couldn't resist.

So, yesterday Wall Street Journal released an article, Darkness Too Visible in which they deemed modern Young Adult fiction "rife with explicit abuse, violence, and depravity". The author goes on to point fingers at books such as The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Scars by Cheryl Rainfield, and Shine by Lauren Myracle.

The article suggests that you can't go into the YA section of a bookstore without being faced with "lurid and dramatic covers". There's one quote from a 48-year-old mother, who leaves the bookstore empty-handed because apparently the YA section "was all vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff." Well, first of all, not all YA books are about vampires, suicide, and self-mutilation. Secondly, the latter two are a regular conflict in teen life––like it or not. What are you going to do, hide your kids in a box and never let them glimpse reality? Adolescence is a transition between childhood and adulthood––and how can you expect teens to become responsible adults, if they are never exposed to adult material?

"The argument in favor of such novels is that they validate the teen experience, giving voice to tortured adolescents who would otherwise be voiceless. ... Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people ..."
Seriously? The author of this article obviously does not understand the concept or purpose of Young Adult fiction. At least she's right in saying that YA fiction gives voices to the voiceless––but implying that books about self-harm encourage self-harm? What?

Look, Wall Street Journal. Just because something happens in a book does not mean that the author encourages it to happen in real life. In fact, usually it's the opposite. In literature, harmful actions result in consequences. That's what a story is. It needs to have a conflict. Furthermore, the purpose of dark YA literature is not to rape the minds of innocent children. Firstly, teenagers are not children, and they can make decisions for themselves. Secondly, YA fiction is not focused solely on darkness; it's about hope. I know I, for one, don't read YA books because I have some kind of morbid fascination with bloodshed and self-mutilation––no, I read these books so I can discover characters I love, so I can see how their relationships and their strength prevail even in the darkest of conflicts. I walk away from most books feeling inspired, not depressed.

I'm graduating from high school today. Somehow I've managed to survive the past four long years, and a lot of credit goes to reading and writing. Without both these things, it would have been near impossible to cope with stress. Reading has helped me become more knowledgeable about the world, to realize that life can be terrible but that things can always get better. Writing helps me release any of my inner turmoil, and to expose truths and issues that I care passionately about.

Maybe I'm a bit biased, being a teenager, and quite an open-minded one at that. But on the other hand, this Wall Street Journal article is extremely biased as well. Besides the first sentence in the above quote, there is almost no support for dark concepts in YA fiction at all throughout the article. There are no quotes from teens themselves, or even from YA authors––except a brief quote from Sherman Alexie, which the author of the article basically ridicules.

As a writer of YA fiction, this article made me very nervous at first. When my work is published, is it only going to be shot down by a terribly closed-minded world? Luckily, I was given hope by the wonderful Maureen Johnson––who is one of my favorite authors, and also a very awesome person––who immediately started a protest of this article via Twitter. She started a hashtag, #YAsaves, in which people share stories of how YA fiction has helped and inspired them. #YAsaves is currently the #1 tag trending worldwide, and has gained support from YA authors such as Scott Westerfeld, Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Laurie Halse Anderson, Malinda Lo, Sarah Dessen, Gayle Forman, and Shannon Hale ... and many others, I'm sure. I'm only naming ones I've seen thus far.

So in a way, the release of this article is almost a good thing. It started a very important conversation, and it also encouraged readers and writers everywhere to voice their love for YA fiction. I was furious at first, but seeing such a strong backlash against the article has given me so much hope.

Any thoughts? Opinions? Stories? Do you think YA fiction is too dark? And/or has YA fiction helped you any way? Please share! (Or better yet, share on Twitter! #YAsaves!)