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Monday, September 30, 2013

When Doubt Attacks


I wish I had something as moving and powerful to say today as Sara Larson does. But I dont, so go read her blog post (on doubt and writerly fears and such) instead. Maybe its the sort of pep talk you need right now, too.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What’s Up Wednesday No. 6: The Best Talent in the World Edition

You know how every writer has that one strength that makes other writers politely and silently jealous? For instance, one of my critique partners, Lindsay Currie, and her partner in horror Trisha Leaver pretty much rule at creating suspenseful and horrific scenes that make me think they are both brilliant and somewhat totally twisted. (Proof: Their amazing book Creed, which you should definitely add to your to-be-read piles now and devour when it comes out because it is so very good.)

Anyhow, I pretty much figured out my talent: I rock at reading writing advice. I know, I know. You are all insanely envious and, I admit, you look good in green, but try to understand: I can’t help my genius. Seriously, as I’m adding more and more to my WIP (more on that below) I’m pretty much soaking up as much writing wisdom as I can.

Fact: There is a lot of smart writing advice out there.

Fact: Reading too much writing advice will make your brain explode all over your computer, and weeks later you will still be finding chunks of gray matter beneath your keys. (It’s possible I’ve spent too much with Lindsay and Trisha.)

There comes a time when I have to accept my mind is pretty packed and I’m only wasting time when I should be putting into practice what I’ve learned. And yet I’m constantly saving posts in my reader for later, when my addiction comes back and I think maybe… Maybe this will help me out of that plot hole or help me biggify my flat characters. So I wanted to ask you guys: How much writing advice is too much for you?

And with that prologue, here’s what’s happening with me:

What I’m Reading: Nada right now. It’s my busiest time at the day job and I’m working on my WIP, so books have been set aside for now. That’s the mandate at least. We’ll see if I follow through. THERE ARE JUST SO MANY AND THEY ARE SO PRETTY….

What I’m Writing: That little manuscript that couldn’t is coming along. Still sucks, but I can see how, with a lot of work, it might not suck in the future. That’s a plus, right? Right.

I also wrote a scene that was super fun because of the world-building. I had this image in my head of how this funeral would go, and for some reason I had a blast writing it. Which, I know, it was a funeral. But I generally enjoy scenes of pain for my characters. [Insert evil laugh here.]

The words aren’t perfect by any means, but I kind of like the image, so here’s a snippet from when she’s releasing her father’s ashes:
With a sob, I turn the urn upside down over the edge of the basin. The artificial gale sweeps my father into its current, whips him into a tornado that rises like a column over the basin. With the holograph I chose, he appears to climb the tree until he’s hovering just below the highest branch. 
And then, for the first time today, the sun appears. It lights the stained-glass ceiling, shoots multicolored shafts over the scene. He’d like this, the rainbow dancing over the field and his ashes suspended in midair as a butterfly flutters through them. If he’s watching, I hope he knows I tried.
What Else I’ve Been Up To: My sister might tell you that we spent the weekend camped out in front of my TV watching episode after episode of Dollhouse. You might hear I finished the two-season show. I admit nothing.

What’s Inspiring Me:

This has been my mantra as the enormity of revisions has given rise to fear that, as always, makes me want to hide instead of write. I am truly a wimp.

What have you been up to, friends?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What’s Up Wednesday No. 5: The Underdone Edition

For the uninitiated, What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to give writers something to blog about help writers share what they’ve been up to with other really awesome writers. Here’s what’s been going on with me this week:

What I’m Reading: Because I often hate myself and don’t consider hours of work without play punishment enough, I have been harboring a copy of Crown of Midnight for over a week. An unread copy. Do you know what this means?

It’s like a YA boy, all dark and alluring, sitting on my nightstand and batting its lashes at me like I’m some kind of cheap floozy. (That is, if YA boys spent their time sitting on girls’ nightstands. They might, but I always imagine they watch their prey crushes sleep from a comfy chair or something.)

Because I am a special snowflake gifted with super-human resolve, I didn’t even crack the cover while I was on deadline. Not even when my work became tedious and the clock passed 11 p.m. and the illustration of Celaena on the spine started to resemble a wraith with the ability to suck my soul from my eyeballs. Even then I resisted. (Also, I covered the book because with sleep depravation and an eyeglass prescription a couple years past useful, that is one creepy assassin girl soul-sucking ghost.)

So now my deadline has passed and my weekend is free and you better believe I’m faking a serious but not life-threatening illness so I can read in peace.

What I’m Writing: Over a week ago I entered this phase all writers go through called Absolute Bliss. It’s short lived and usually only achieved after multiple doses of self-delusion. Anyhow, I technically finished the WIP I’ve been writing this summer. And when I say technically I mean that, technically, I wrote about 50,000 words and finished with the end.

But I write wicked short drafts, so in this case the book is just as “done” as undercooked chicken. Right now I’m working out the chapters I need to add, world-building details I need to include, and other tasks related to de-suckifying this draft.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I started this raw diet where I’m basically eating fruits and vegetables and air. I’m still doing it because it seems to be helping my erythromelalgia and, let’s be honest, when your body gives itself second-degree burns there comes a time when you consider revenge in the form of a ban on nachos and pizza and red velvet cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting. NOW WHO’S THE BOSS?

In case you can’t read between the lines, The Boss would be my body because I haven’t hit that blissful moment when I will start craving fruits and vegetables instead of nachos dripping with cheese and sour cream or pizza with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil or BLEEPING RED VELVET CUPCAKES WITH BLEEPING CREAM-CHEESE FROSTING.

But, you know, figs. Mmmmm...

On the plus side, my food is awfully pretty. So there’s that.

What’s Inspiring Me: As a writer who struggles with pacing, this post by Kendra Leighton on visualizing the tension in your story is incredibly helpful. Once I’m done filling in the rest of this story, I plan to go back and map the tension. It will be tedious, but at least I won’t have the ghost of Celaena trying to siphon out my soul while I do it.

What I’m Laughing At: I know, it’s not a real What’s Up Wednesday category. High school Tracey would be ashamed at my rule-breaking.

Here’s the thing: Sometimes writing is really, really hard and sometimes my brain is like, “Hey, Trace, I might explode in a couple seconds. Might want to move away from your computer so The Man can still use it after you finish oozing.”

In those cases, I need a smile. Maybe you do, too. So here’s what I’ve been laughing at. They’re even literary, which makes me feel clever.



 What have you been up to?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bookanistas Review: The Dream Thieves

Given how much I love Maggie Stiefvater’s writing and how much I thoroughly enjoyed The Raven Boys, I wasn’t surprised that I loved The DreamThieves. It’s every bit as beautiful as the first book, the characters every bit as wonderful.

So instead of telling you about all the things I loved about this book—which is pretty much everything—I’ll give you my top four.

1. Ronan. In the first book, we got to know Ronan through the eyes of Gansey, Blue, and Adam, but The Dream Thieves is very much Ronan’s book. We still have the other three POVs, but Ronan’s is by far the largest. I knew he was a complicated character, but I loved seeing the world through his eyes, seeing how he loved others. (I was especially fond of him when we learn about something he did for Adam.) He’s not as easy to sympathize with as Gansey (who despite my affections for Ronan still remains my favorite Raven Boy), but he’s real and often raw and such a rich character.

2. Adam. I’ll be honest, Adam kind of irked me in the last book. He treated Gansey like crap because he’s a prideful boy, and turned his back on his best friends. In this book, Adam’s no saint. But there’s a point at the end when he finally knows who he is, when he finally realizes that nothing needs to hold him back—not even where he came from. There’s a line I won’t repeat because of spoilers, but another character speaks it to Adam and it’s a beautiful, beautiful moment of self-acceptance.

3. Noah and Blue. Oh goodness. There’s a scene in the book between Noah and Blue that I read twice because it was so adorable. I’m talking jelly beans and cotton candy sweet. The friendship between those two was a surprising and welcome addition to the story, and this scene? One of my two favorite in the book.

4. Gansey and Blue. My second favorite scene in the book is between the two characters I want more than anything to get together but who can’t because, as Blue knows, it’s doomed. There’s such a sweet scene between the two of them that made me smile a sad smile. My only complaint is that these two felt a bit sidelined by other storylines, and I found myself wishing I could have spent more time with them.

And there you have it. Of course, there are a million other reasons for you to pick up this excellent second book, but here’s all you need to know: This is most definitely worth a read.

Here’s what the other Bookanistas are reviewing today:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Q&A: Second Chance Summer Author Morgan Matson

Thanks everyone who participated in the August YA Book Club. If you missed the get-together, you can still post your review here. And if you haven’t read the book, Second Chance Summer, check out all of the great reviews!

So, like many of you I loved Second Chance Summer, and because she is nice and sweet, author Morgan Matson agreed to my interrogation interview. Here’s what she had to say about her writing process, Second Chance Summer, and her summer favorites:

The book touches on the importance of second chances, with which I couldn’t agree more. (I, for instance, am pretty thankful I gave calamari another go despite the fact that it looks like battered and fried sea monsters.) Is there a time when you took another chance on a person, thing, event, etc. to find you were glad you did?

Oh man, this makes me want to rethink my stance on calamari and give it a shot! I find that I tend to make immediate, snap judgments about people and they are almost ALWAYS wrong. But I know that about myself, so I’m aware that I’m doing it. I’ve had to learn not to trust my first impressions, since I’m apparently really bad at them. But one of the biggest examples was a girl I met in school. I just didn’t like her, no idea why, something about her just bothered me. One day, she e-mailed and asked if we could go to lunch. We had a great time, and she’s now one of my best friends. That revelation was really one of the things that made me rethink a lot of my first impressions. 

I hear you returned to the lake that you vacationed at when you were young before writing this book. Any ex-boyfriends show up? Kidding. Why did you decide to immerse yourself in that real-life setting versus creating the world from memory and research? Is this your typical method?

My friend Jessi Kirby (an amazing writer) calls me a “method writer” and it’s really true. I especially find it hard to write about places I haven’t been to. For my first book, which is a cross-country road trip, I traced the whole path across the country that the characters visited. And I just find it really helpful to go to the place I’m writing about and soak up all those sensory details it’s hard to get otherwise. And even though I’d grown up spending summers in the Pocono Mountains, I needed to go back—to remember how it felt, the visceral sense of it.  (I should note my mother thinks this is just an excuse to take vacations, and she might be right.)

Did you write the book there, or just visit for research purposes?

I had written the first draft already, mostly in Los Angeles, where I live, in the winter, which wasn’t helpful. I rented a house in the Poconos for two weeks, intending to revise there. But my notes were late, and I only got them the day I left. But it was actually perfect, because it meant I had two weeks to just live up there and soak it all in. I spent a lot of time by the lake and ate a lot of s’mores and ice cream, and I actually think it was more helpful than if I’d been trying to work while I’d been there. 

Obviously family is a huge part of this book. If you could adopt any of the Second Chance Summer characters into your own family, who’d it be and why?

Oh wow, I love this question! It might have to be Murphy the dog, only because I am desperate to get one right now! Puppy fever, big time. But in all seriousness, I had a soft spot for Warren. I could have written a whole book about him. I loved writing the guy who thought he had all the answers realizing he didn’t actually know much after all—but rather than running from that revelation, or shutting down (like his sister) embracing it and being willing to change. 

What was your favorite scene to write?

I loved writing the slumber party scene. It was a later addition—it came in the second revision, I think—but it was a blast to write. I liked being able to write an homage to the years of sleepovers I had growing up.

Which scene was the most difficult to write?

I found the last flashback scene—when you find out what Taylor did, and runs away—really hard. Those flashbacks were also getting tweaked late (originally there had been a whole different thing Taylor did) and by the time I was writing them, Taylor in the present story had grown so much—it was hard to write her making all these terrible mistakes.

Are you the heir to the Kleenex empire?

Ha! No, I swear! But I was talking with my editor about shrink-wrapping a mini pack to each book.  Let people know what they’re in for, right? J

I love the romances in your books, this as well as Amy & Rodger’s Epic Detour. How do you create believable chemistry?

Thank you so much! I’m glad you think I have! With A&R, it was very helpful to have two strangers trapped together in a confined space. I feel like so much of writing is getting people in rooms together—and with that, half my job was done. With them, I was also consciously thinking about opposites—about who would be the best person to put with Amy in that car. And who would be the best person for Roger, and his ex-girlfriend turmoil.

With SCS, the fact that there was a built-in (and contentious) history made Taylor and Henry really fun to write. It was almost like you could go from zero to 60, because when they first meet on the dock, they’re not meeting for the first time, and neither of them are happy about it. That scene was a lot of fun to write because of that.

What’s your writing process like?

I’ve found that it changes with every book! I used to proudly say I was an author who eschewed outlines, and figured it out as I went, but the book I’m finishing now ended up going through an outline process—so I’m not sure how to answer that any more! I tend to write pretty quickly, and I don’t go back and revise when I’m writing the first draft. I just power through to the end, and then see what I’ve got—and it’s usually a waaaaay too long draft that doesn’t entirely know where it’s going. But I always know at least some of the characters, the vague shape of the story, and one or two scenes I just can’t wait to write. If I have all that, I dive in, because I might just have a book (and sometimes I’m wrong about that).

What are you working on now?

My new book, Since You’ve Been Gone, is coming out in May 2014. It’s about friends, which was something I hadn’t really written about yet, and wanted to tackle.

What’s your best summer memory?

SO hard to pick! Most of them seemed to make their way into SCS in one form or another—so many of my best summer memories happened in the Poconos (which was probably the reason I wrote about it).

What are your favorite summer reads?

I always like to read Sarah Dessen books in the summer—and if she doesn’t have a new one, I’ll re-read an old favorite. I also love my friend Jenny Han’s books, and I always love reading a funny chick-lit like Sophie Kinsella.

Keep up with Morgan via her website, Tumblr, Facebook, or Twitter. And I promise she didn’t ask me to write this, but if you haven’t read her books yet, go buy them! They’re seriously good.