Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Fun

Look what I found in a box of junk my mom dropped off at Thanksgiving. It's a response to a fan letter I wrote to Ann M. Martin, author of The Babysitter's Club books. The letter's date is 1992.

Sure, it's just a form letter, but isn't it kind of cool that authors write back? Nowadays things are so easier--you can just post on an author's blog or follow them on twitter. But back then, a letter was so meaningful!

Hopefully, I can bust through the remaining word count I need to finish NaNoWriMo. Even if I don't, I have a great start on a new story. Happy Friday, everyone!

Friday, November 16, 2012

NaNoWriMo Check In!

If you're taking part in National Novel Writing Month, we're at the halfway mark! Ideally, you should have about 25,000 words in your project. I'm right over that point and I'll need to do some serious writing this weekend to keep ahead since I'll lose some writing time over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Nano Complications
So, I've had these nagging thoughts that I might not have enough story to reach 50k. Techinically I do because I (thankfully) wrote out major plot points ahead of time. But since I'd purposely focused on writing shorter chapters, I'm wondering if the pacing is too quick at the start. Here's where the fast and furious pace of Nano is a drawback. All the advice says, whatever you do, DON'T GO BACK! It's all about churning out wordcount and making it to the end.

Yesterday, I did the dreaded Go Back. I reviewed the first few chapters and added more detail, thinking this would add to my day's wordcount. A good strategy, no? Only, it's really really tough not to edit while those extra details are added in. If I'd used that time to write totally new scenes, I probably would have turned out twice the word count. The real question is, would it be quality? Or would it just be cut later?

So, is your goal just to get 50k words by the end of November, or do you want quality material you can work with and edit?

What is your Nano strategy? What have you tried--and possibly failed at--and what works for you?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: The List by Siobhan Vivian

The List
Siobhan Vivian
YA Contemporary
Published: April 2012

Image: Goodreads
The premise immediately caught my eye: every year, a list is posted at Mount Washington High featuring the prettiest and ugliest girl of each class. No one knows who creates the list, but everyone expects it, and it changes each girl for the rest of their high school existence. The concept was based on a real life incident that the author read about in a news article. She wanted to explore why girls are so cruel to each other and what those affects might look like.

The book follows all eight girls--the ugliest and prettiest for each of the four grade levels. You might assume being named prettiest isn't all that bad, but the story shows how each girl is affected and how it relates to their friends and families. The prettiest girls either don't feel pretty, or lose friends because of it. One girl is named ugliest for the fourth year in a row and determines to wear it like a badge of honor, even though she's hurting inside. A strength is that each girl has her own voice, and the chapters include a heading so you know who's story you're in for the moment. Given there are eight girls, it read a little different than if it were just about one girl dealing with the whole list. Some of them read a little cliche, and it probably came off that way since it's tough to get nuanced with eight main characters in one book. It's definitely a fascinating look at the dynamics of bullying and popularity, although I wish it had gone a bit deeper in some aspects.

The concept is engaging, and the format is different enough that I'd recommend this for teens, and definitely for those who work in schools or libraries. The cover is great and completely captures the book's essence. I read the author was involved in the photo shoot for the cover, which is really cool that they didn't just use stock photos.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Last night was the Get Real tour at Anderson's Books, with four YA authors: Miranda Kenneally, Laura and Lisa Roecker, and Janet Gurtler, who all write contemporary young adult fiction. I'm never sure what type of turnout these events will have. Last night, Anderson's was double-booked (nice pun, eh?) with one event in the bookstore and this one in the gift shop Two Doors East, which might have contributed to a smaller crowd.

I met Miranda, who read a partial of my manuscript a few months back (I mentioned this in yesterday's post). She introduced me to her editor, who's name I recognized from work judging RWA contests. Small world! Sourcebooks, the publisher for all of the above authors' books, is headquarted in Naperville so they had a bunch of people there. I love talking books and picking the brains of industry folk, so it was a great night.

On to my book review!

Stealing Parker
Miranda Kenneally
YA Contemporary
Published: Oct 2012

I loved Catching Jordan in the same way I loved watching Friday Night Lights; it's about football but not really about football. In fact, I was amazed to hear the author say last night that she knows nothing about football and consulted with friends and family for all the terminology. Who knew?

Stealing Parker is set in the same universe--Jordan makes a few appearances--but the story involves Parker and her love/hate relationship with softball (which the author confessed she knows a LOT about). Parker quits the team after her mother leaves their family--for another woman. The memories of her mom taking her to baseball games and practicing with her made it too painful to stay on the team. At the start of the book Parker is known as a flirt, a girl who's friends with all the guys, and not with too many girls, which we all know spells trouble (jealous girls, guys spreading rumors about her reputation). Parker gets talked into helping out with the boy's baseball team, which fuels the bad-girl rumors, especially when she starts flirting with the new assistant coach. He's straight out of college, and hot.

I was impressed by how the different issues were handled; Parker's feelings of betrayal by her mother, her frustration with a father who turns to church to solve his needs but is blind to the struggles she and her brother are facing, and the distrust among her girlfriends. Parker is relatable, just as Jordan was in the first book. This one takes on a more serious edge, which is fine, but it's not quite as fun a read as Catching Jordan. I really like the sports angle and the guys-as-besties themes in both her books. The pacing is pretty quick--sometimes I felt like certain issues and scenes were rushed. A lot happens in this book, so maybe that's why. I'd recommend it for fans of Catching Jordan.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Kidlit Cares Hurricane Sandy Relief

Kidlit Cares is going on over at author Kate Messner's blog, where you can bid on donated auction items, like writing critiques, and the money is donated to the Red Cross for hurricane Sandy relief. What a cool idea! Read more about the cause here via Publisher's Weekly. To bid on an item--there will be another wave of bids opening next week, see Kate's blog here. I see some really great authors (Laure Halse Anderson! Veronica Roth!) and equally excellent agents offering services. Check it out if you were planning to donate to the Red Cross anyway.

Auctions are a cool way for writers to not only donate to charity, but to potentially win a service like a manuscript critique. I bid on a 30-page critique for Brenda Novak's diabetes research auction last spring. That auction is huge, and some of the items are fun stuff like ARCs, books, gift baskets and even some trips and writer's retreats. I won a critique from a YA author I was really excited about--Miranda Kenneally, who wrote Catching Jordan. I'd had other writers critique my story, but beyond the story mechanics, Miranda also had an eye for what the industry is looking for and how I could shape my story to make it marketable. I'm all about improving my writing, but I am pursuing publication, and that type of feedback is invaluable. She even took the time to chat with me on instant message and we exchanged several more emails.

And, I get to meet her tonight! She'll be at my local bookstore for the Get Real Contemps Tour. I'll post about that either tomorrow or Friday, along with a review of her new book Stealing Parker.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

National Novel Writing Month 2012!

NaNoWriMo begins today, November 1st! There's still time if you want to try your hand at writing 50,000 words toward a novel in one month. Here's a link to Nano's website.

I did National Novel Writing Month in 2010 and finished the 50,000 words. It showed me I had what it took to write a novel, I just needed to do some homework on things like plot and structure and character development. And Point of View and pretty much writing craft in general.

What's really cool about it is that people all over the world are going through the same writing challenge, and you can find lots of support (and distraction!) on the message forums. Regions have volunteer coordinators, so you might even find writers in your area who are participating. My local region is pretty active. After the fact, I found out they'd had a program the library branch right over by my house. I'm not sure if I'll meet up with anyone face-to-face but it's nice to chat on the local forums.

Over the past month, I've had the best intentions to map out an outline for my next writing project, complete with plot points and story arcs. Doesn't that sound lovely? I'm not sure that will ever work for me. Closest I may get is writing notes and some character outlines. I need to start writing before I can figure every detail of what's happening. Although, I'm reading Jeff Gerke's Plot versus Character now to help me bridge the gap between character and plot development.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Care to share any tips?

Good luck everyone!