Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Writing A Novel: Time For Revisions!

When I tell people I'm a writer, I usually get asked these two questions: How many pages is your book? or How long did it take to write it? The answers for both are: It depends and ... it REALLY depends.

Most books go through about a million revisions. My children's writing teacher recently mapped out just how many revisions he had to deal with when putting together his book... and this was a picture book with much fewer words. But by the time an author does several drafts herself, then goes through changes with an agent and then editor, you can end up with a much different -- and presumably much better -- book than the one you'd originally written.

That teacher suggested that if we have someone read our stuff, we ideally find a person who cares about you... but knows what good writing is. Your grandma may care about you, but can she really give you an objective opinion?

My goal is to make my novel as good as possible BEFORE I query agents so I had several writer friends read my first draft and then had another author do a thorough edit on my second draft. She came back to me with 15 pages of notes!

She was very encouraging and I LOVE her suggestions... but I have a lot of work ahead of me. It's work I enjoy, but I still need a day to process her ideas and figure out how I'll tweak my story. And this is why I'm procrastinating by posting in this blog, LOL.

I'm grateful to have writers in my life who will cheer me on but also be honest about my manuscripts. I believe in Novel No. 2 and know that with this friend's help, it's going to be an even better story than it was before.

We're going on vacation in about a month and my goal is to finish these revisions by that time. Then it will be time to chase agents... again.

Meantime, please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Writing For Children: A Kid's Point Of View

This past weekend, I spent time with my 6 1/2-year-old niece. She's extremely intelligent -- and I'm not just saying that because I'm a biased aunt; she already reads at a fifth or sixth grade level. She's way past picture books and has already devoured the Little House series. Right now, she's obsessed with books that follow girls from various periods in the past.

My niece also loves to make up and write her own stories. She has a wild imagination and reminds me a bit of myself at her age. She especially likes to create stories about magical creatures, such as fairies and unicorns.

Anyway, my children's writing teacher noted that one of the best ways to get ideas for kids' books is to simply spend time with kids. I took advantage of this and picked my niece's brain for the types of books she'd love to read. Here are some of her ideas: they're pretty interesting!

1. Have a story where the princess DOESN'T marry the prince. My niece is already very cautious about making stereotypes (and yes, she knows the word and what it means) and already has strong opinions about how women should be independent. Her parents are raising her well! She likes princess stories, but would like to see something that doesn't follow the typical formula. Frozen came close, but there was still a romance...

2. Lost jewels and imaginary animals. She loves the idea of a magical land filled with treasures and never-seen-before creatures. This idea has been done many times, but hey, a classic is a classic.

3. Poor and needy shepherds. She'd like to read a story about lower class characters who AREN'T secret royals or don't have special powers. She wants to read about people succeeding through hard work... or a story, like Robin Hood, where the poor are helped.

I don't know if my niece is going to end up becoming a writer herself. She's still quite young and insists she's going to become a vet or a paleontologist... or the President. I envy her for having so much hope for her future! I do hope she continues to write, though, and continues to be a cool, quirky, creative little girl.

Check out and review my YA novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Writing A Novel: Putting The "I" In Writer

My children's writing class is still going well. We have a very small group this time -- in the last class, only two of us showed up -- so we're able to get a lot of attention from our instructor and have many more opportunities to get our work critiqued. It's been interesting, to say the least.

A couple of weeks ago, I handed in an excerpt from my latest work-in-progress, which is a sci fi YA novel. Most of the comments were positive, but our teacher really didn't like that I'm writing it in first person. His argument is that whenever he reads something written in first person, he wonders who the narrator is speaking to and it takes him out of the story. If a novel is going to be written in this manner, he prefers it if the narrator is writing in a journal or speaking to a therapist, or sharing the story with a friend, etc.

I respectfully disagree. I've always assumed that the narrator is speaking with us, the readers. Yes, if you think about it, you do have to question how the fourth wall is being broken exactly, but it's just one of those things when you suspend disbelief. Even when a novel is written in third person, you have to wonder how the narrator knows all of these intimate details about "real" characters. Yeah, yeah, it's the author and he or she knows EVERYTHING, but the whole idea of reading fiction is to suspend disbelief!

I personally enjoy reading first-person novels because I feel as if I can truly get into a character's head. I like writing them for the same reason. I like third person, too, but first person is very intimate. One isn't really better than the other. It's just my preference.

My teacher suggested that I frame the story and have the narrator speak to someone or record his thoughts, but I really don't want to do that. There are some books where this works; for instance, the narrator writes in her journal in Sloppy Firsts and throughout most of Megan McCafferty's Jessica Darling series. This is perfect for that character, though, and doesn't work for my narrator. There are only so many times when a character can keep or journal or talk to a shrink. I don't want to have to depend on that literary device.

My novel isn't even a full draft at this point; it's a few sample chapters and a vague outline of things to come. But for now, I'm sticking with my original plan and keeping it in first person. I'm not sure where my story is going, but I'm secure with this choice.

Meanwhile, check out my other first-person novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.