Journal, Writing Discussion

Writing:

Well it was back to the 3rd draft of my gothic novel. Draft 2 was a complete rewrite and I was a bit terrified to see what I had to work with this time around. It was a relief to find that the plot is mostly working, but it took more time than I expected to get back into the swing of it.

Momentum really is a thing. Taking 6 + months away from this story meant that it took almost all of June before my subconscious started cooperating on this story . By that I mean: random lines, dialog, and character improvements started coming to mind, and I was no longer preoccupied with the previous book I’d been working on.

But also it’s summer and I’ve got a bit of travel interruption coming up. I hope I don’t lose it.

Devouring:

Sometimes reading feels like eating vegetables (good for me, but I’m not always in the mood), but every once in a while you can find a streak of books that are  just what you needed at that time.

This month was heavy on the romance, so it’s time for some random craft analysis…

In terms of plot, romance can be a very powerful story tool: a way to raise the stakes, and make them more personal. Falling in love with another character, or beginning to care for another character deeply should always change something in both the external story, and the main character’s personal motivations.

Sometimes romance is just a B plot, but if it’s the A plot, then the two main characters should be thrown together in every chapter or think about one another in each chapter, because that is where the main tension comes from. Maybe they weren’t planning on running into each other, but they do (tension). Maybe they don’t want to see each other, but they do (tension). Maybe they do want to see each other, but they can’t (tension).

But how do you get people  to believe that two characters are made for one another? Wow romance writers do a lot of psychological heavy lifting. Translating a nebulous idea like compatibility into something concrete is difficult business, and I find that non-romance writers sometimes cheat and use physical attractiveness as a shorthand for compatibility. My favorite take is when it feels like something about the other character just does it for the other. When it’s combo of personality and physicality, and it feels like personal taste — that no other person could ever be a better fit for the other (Roni Loren is very good at this).

I’m not an expert, but I’ve observed three components that make character compatibility feel realistic:

A) Strong physical reactions and observations. For example, ‘his hand was hot on her back’, ‘she could almost feel his eyes tracing across her lips’. Even if the characters are confused, or perhaps may not realize their attraction to one another. (Alyssa Cole  and Stephanie Garber do this brilliantly.)

B) Complimentary character traits.  For example, he is a snob that only respects a superior mind, and she is clearly brilliant, willing to engage him in scientific or philosophical debate (A Hope Divided). Or they are both uncommitted flirts, who enjoy tormenting each other, but never ever plan to get together (Legendary). You know they’d be so good together if they just got over themselves (conflict).

C) Moments of intimacy / sharing / bonding / trust. For example, characters could be dealing with similar past traumas they haven’t quite gotten over (The Ones Who Got Away). A character confessing her fears of the future, because a fortune teller told her she’d never find love (Legendary). Or a character taking his love interest to see his ailing parents, when he never introduces them to anyone (Warcross).

Reading:

  • Warcross by Marie Lu
  • A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole
  • Legendary by Stephanie Garber
  • Archangel’s Viper by Nalini Singh
  • Quackery by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen  (Non-Fiction)
  • The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean
  • Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh
  • Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary Pearson

Wow June felt like it lasted forever… is it just me? I really don’t know how I managed to fit in that much reading.

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Journal

Writing:

After I turned in my novel, I took a three week vacation. It wasn’t really a choice (scheduling issue), but it happened to come at the perfect time. I spent most of that time at home sewing, and playing toddler herder.

The time between projects or drafts always feels really odd. I was so worded out that I couldn’t even stand to look at books. But by the end of the three weeks, I turned in another minor revision of the novel and my brain was spitting out new ideas. That’s usually a good sign that I’ve rested up enough to move on to the next thing/stage.

Know thyselves, writers. Whatever your process is, whatever you need, respect it and don’t be ashamed of it. I need a hard stop from time to time, but I always come back to the words because creating is still my happy place.

Mulling Over: 

I’ve been chewing over some well meaning, but cringe worthy  comments I’ve gotten when I’ve told other writers I’m writing YA novels. And it’s not that they’re completely wrong, but that they’re reductive statements that I worry that people take at face value.

1) You have to be politically correct when you’re writing YA:

Political correctness isn’t at all the goal, though the end result might look like it. Lately there’s been push back on representation done badly, but the reason is to protect kids from damaging narratives (or even kill a kid’s love of reading). This is not the same thing as political correctness.

And diverse writers are not a monolith. They have different experiences/worldviews that frequently do not agree with one another. There’s no single experience, and to reduce their work to only perfect characters a) Doesn’t reflect reality b) Is limiting c) Who gets to decide what is correct?

Moreover, teens these days have more language about gender and sexuality, than many of us did growing up, and I think that’s wonderful! I wish I could have had the words to express myself and have an easier time coming to terms with my identity. As YA writers these are all things we need to learn and be aware of, because they’re relevant to our audience.

There are still too many many harmful books being published, but if you really care about the people you’re writing for, I hope that you do your best not to purposefully do harm.

2) Diversity is so hot right now!

First off, I’m SO glad there’s more awareness these days and that diverse books keep hitting the bestsellers lists.  #WeNeedDiverseBooks has done a ton of work to champion the need for diversity in publishing, but if you look at the 2018 Lee and Low Diversity Report, the numbers are still pretty dismal.  Most books written about diverse/marginalized people, are not written by diverse/marginalized people.  Yes I’ve seen agents and editors asking for diverse stories on social media, but if you look at the people they actually sign, and the books that actually get published, it tells a different story. Unless there’s diversity up the chain (agents, editors, marketing, sales) we’ll just get the same stories with more colorful casts. This is nice, but it’s not meaningful change.

Diversity is not a trend. It’s the reality of the world, and publishing has a long way to go to start reflecting it.

And I’m not angry or mad about either of these things. I’m hopeful, because there are people working for change, and authors who really care about their audiences, and there are a so many people out there starving for stories that they can identify with.

Reading:

    • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
    • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
    • The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren
    • Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

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