Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
What was the best book you read in February?

Road Trip Song of the Week:“Leap Year" by Maria Taylor

Across the Universe by Beth Revis! What I liked most about this book was how well the author did her research. There really is another earth-like planet out there, Kepler 22b, and if a generation ship was built which could travel at twice the speed of light, then it really would take 300 or so years to get there. So even if the cryo technology didn't sound very plausible, the idea of a generation ship did.

Generations of people being born and dying on a spaceship without ever setting foot on land made me wonder if I would be altruistic enough to volunteer to be part of the first generation. And how I would deal with things like mutiny, population (and gene pool) control, and psychosis within the ship. To me, this is a sign of a great book: one which gets me thinking beyond the pages.

What do you think? What was the best book you read in February? Or, in case you haven't had time to read this month, what was the best book you read lately?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Blogfest: WIP - The Movie

Kyra at Write Here Write Now and Rachel at Writing on the Wall are hosting a Blogfest: WIP - The Movie and I've signed up! It's going to be so much fun. Here are the details (from Kyra's blog):

WiP: The Movie - March 9th
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to post a photo of the actors or actresses you would like to play the characters in your WiP if it were to be made into a movie. It can be just one character, or the entire cast!Secondly, we want you to soundtrack your movie! Head over to YouTube, and post a song that best describes one of your characters, or your story as a whole. Again, you can pick one song, or several, it's entirely up to you! All we ask is that you follow these simple rules:

1, Follow me
2. Follow Rachel (We will follow back)
3. Sign up using the linky list at the bottom of the page

4. Add one of our funky graphics to your blog to promote the event
5. Post your entries on March 9th, and hop around to see the other entrants on the list!

The PrizesRachel and I will each pick a winner at random, and we will be giving away a copy of one of our favourite books which were turned into movies!

Please note: If you write a blog post about this fest before March 8th, you will get an extra name in the draw to win a prize!

From me: Water For Elephants or Bridget Jones' Diary

From Rachel: The Princess Bride or The Hunger Games 

I've already got some good ideas and I'm excited to get started!

Monday, February 27, 2012

blood magic and other things writers might google

Writing a fictional novel means you get to make everything up, right? Well, mostly. But research is a big part of writing, bigger than I'd ever expected it to be before I started. You have to get the details right if you want the story and characters to have any credibility. When I open a book, I'm ready to believe the narrator's description of events and the world-building, but it's hard to ignore the blatantly impossible and ridiculous. Of course, if the author gives me a reason to accept the blatantly impossible as actually possible (maybe the story takes place in an alternate world where everyone is born with magical powers), I can accept that too.

DAUGHTER OF THE MOON is urban fantasy and so anything out of the ordinary which happens in the real world needs to be explained. And that's where research comes in - adding in the details which maintain plausibility.

Google and Wikipedia have been my go-to sources for research while writing DAUGHTER OF THE MOON and her sequel and I thought I'd take a look back at some of the more interesting things I've googled. Things like:

alchemy transmutation circle, Persephone mythology, conditions which mimic a vampire attack, committing suicide by drowning, porphyria, stages of death, lunar cycles, bus routes from L.A to Montreal, anticoagulants in mosquitoes, blood magic

Last night I watched an episode of Law and Order where a woman's google search history was used as evidence she'd committed a crime. But what if she was really just a writer? What's the strangest thing you've googled lately?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Weekend Progress Report

The Bookworm (Carl Spitzweg)
This weekend isn't turning out to be a very big writing weekend, but I am doing other things which are just as important. For example, I caught up on about 400 pages of reading (young adult fiction). I read a whole lot of unpublished work everyday for my critique partners so it's really important to make sure I read enough published material to balance it out and remind myself of the level of writing polish I'm aiming for. Plus, I love reading, so it's basically a win-win ;)

I also took another look at the first chapter of DAUGHTER OF THE MOON before sending it off to literary agent Gemma Cooper for the critique I won. I'm really excited to see what she thinks of my story!

And I am still working away at the first draft of the sequel to DAUGHTER OF THE MOON. So far, I'm at 20,608 words and I hope to have significantly increased that number for next weekend's progress report!
20608 / 50000 (41.22%)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

YA Oscars

The Oscars are here! And they've got me imagining the Academy Awards for YA novels. Wouldn't the red carpet coverage of characters from the Hunger Games (I know, I know, not from 2011), The Night Circus, and Divergent be amazing?

In the spirit of the awards, I came up with some YA Oscar picks for 2011:

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Elder (Across the Universe by Beth Revis)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Alex (Delirium by Lauren Oliver)

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Rhine Ellery (Wither by Lauren DeStefano)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Christina (Divergent by Veronica Roth)

Best Cinematography: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I was able to visualize the entire circus - from the wishing tree to the ice garden and fire-breathing paper dragon - as if it were a film playing in my mind as I read. I could even smell the caramel popcorn and taste the chocolate mice :)

Best Picture: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
This novel captivated me from the first page with its beautiful prose and unique story.

Do you agree with my picks? Which YA novel would you have chosen for Best Picture?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Scribophile Sci-Fi Writing Challenge No. 1

There is an online writing group I belong to called Scribophile where writers meet to critique each other's work and support each other's growth. In the spirit of this, we participate in writing challenges to hone our skills and inspire new ideas.

This week I participated in my first Sci-Fi writing challenge. And though this is the first (very rough) draft and hasn't been edited or polished, I don't think it turned out all that bad. So I'll share it with you :)

The Challenge:
A girl is walking through a corridor of a massive space ship when she comes to a large doorway which leads out into ________? Describe what she sees as she steps through the doorway in 200 words or less.

My Response (197 words):
Every day for the past four-hundred and twelve days, June had walked down the same corridor at the same time. The gleaming white corridor connected the ship’s cafeteria and observatory, with nothing worth pausing to look at along the way. Not until today.
       June ran her fingers over the perfect seam between the door and the wall and wondered how many more times she would have walked right by without noticing the door had it never been ajar. Her palms slipped on the door’s smooth surface as she pushed it open. She hadn’t been granted access to this room, but the temptation to unlock a secret in a place she’d thought to already know everything about was too great.
       Every muscle in her body tensed as she stared open-mouthed into the hidden room. The walls were lined with rifles, each clipped carefully in place. But one was missing; a gaping hole in a mouthful of teeth.
       Somewhere outside the room, a rifle discharged, the noise reverberated through every cell in June’s body. Her heart thudded and adrenaline coursed through her veins. As the alarms screamed, June knew none of them would ever make it to New Earth.

I've read a lot of Sci-Fi, but I don't normally write it. My writing ideas seem to remain firmly within the fantasy genre. But this exercise was fun! Maybe I do have a science fiction story in me ... if not a novel-length manuscript, then maybe at least a short story.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Contest Win!

I've won a chapter critique from literary agent Gemma Cooper at the Bright Literary Agency!!

On crits ... and making sense of it all

Critique: One of the most confounding and yet simultaneously rewarding steps of writing a manuscript. I love critting - and I love receiving crits of my work! (especially ones which use words like "love" and "well-written") But, when it comes time to make sense of the criticism, things can get tricky. Everyone has an opinion, and those opinions are seldom unanimous. 

When I first started writing, I doled out my words in pre-measured spoonfuls to one, maybe two people. And then I revised based on the feedback I received. Which was great! Except...the next round of critters didn't always agree with the revisions. Some even sent me back in the direction of the original manuscript. Yikes! So I joined online writing communities like Inkpop, Absolute Write, and Scribophile. I posted my work (after spending hours critting other people's work first, of course) for hundreds, thousands of people who didn't know me or care about hurting my feelings to see. And I nearly wore out my "refresh" key as the feedback came in. It was amazing - I had so many new ideas about how to fix the problems the critters were finding in my work. 

Only, some of the feedback was contradictory and I didn't know which comments I should toss vs. the comments I should take to heart. I fiddled with my manuscript, tried to please critter #1 without losing what critter #7 found so fantastic. And suddenly, I didn't recognize my own work anymore. I tossed the new revision and let the feedback simmer in the back of my mind until I was ready for it. And then I realized, some of the feedback didn't have anything to do with my writing at all. Some of the feedback was more about the reader. I can't always anticipate, or control the reaction a reader has to my work. All I can do is remain true to my main character's (MC) voice and perspective.

Here's a two-line excerpt from DAUGHTER OF THE MOON which generated wildly different reactions:

Original Text:
The dream still felt familiar, as they all did, but unlike any others before it, this dream had left an impression on her soul. Even the air felt heavy with significance.

Critique #1,  #5, #6 and #7: (No comments from the critter)

Critique #2:
The dream still felt familiar, as they all did, but unlike any others before it, this dream had left an impression on her soul. Even the air felt heavy with significance??

Critique #3:
The dream still felt familiar, as they all did, but unlike any others before it, this dream had left an impression on her soul. What does an impression on a soul feel like? I know we can all resonate with an impression on our minds, but what makes this feeling different? Even the air felt heavy with significance.

Critique #4:
It still felt familiar, as they all did, but unlike any others before it, this dream had left an impression on her soul (would she know it was her soul?), somewhere deep within. Even the air felt heavy with significance the lingering scent of mist, and something else, like charred matter (or something, you get my drift, I think 'significance' lacks significance here).

Critique #8
The dream still felt familiar, as they all did, but unlike any others before it, this dream had left an impression on her soul. (I think I can imagine what that feels like, though it does sound a bit cliched and melodramatic.)Even the air felt heavy with significance. (Similar to Poe's "The Raven": "Then methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer"...nice allusion...)

Critique #9:
The dream still felt familiar, as they all did, but unlike any others before it, this dream had left an impression on her soulThe wording here needs to be altered. Some people would scoff at the idea that 'one dream' could leave an impression on someone's soul. Even the air felt heavy with significance.

Nearly half of those who commented didn't seem to think it was possible for an experience to leave an impression on the soul. One didn't seem to think it was impossible, and the rest didn't mention anything about these two sentences. Personally, I don't know what I think about the human soul - but I know how my MC sees the matter. So I left the sentence alone.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:

February is Black History Month and it's also the month of Valentine's Day. So let's show some writerly love by answering the following question: Who is your favorite African American author or fictional character?

My Answer:

As far as fictional characters go it's got to be Rue from The Hunger Games! This was an easy answer because The Hunger Games series is still fresh in my mind and because I connected with Rue's beautiful, fragile character as soon as she was introduced. I realized though, I couldn't think of a single additional YA book I've read in the past year where one of the characters was African American. The next books to come to mind were "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Invisible Man" and I haven't read those since high school.

Visit YA Highway to see everyone else's answers too :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reverse Inspiration

Before I sit down to write a particular scene, I often google images and listen to music to inspire the mood I hope to capture with words. Recently though, the opposite happened. It's been almost a year since I finished a particular scene, but about a week ago, I stumbled upon a piece of artwork which could have been a snapshot of the image in my mind when I wrote this scene. The small details don't all match, but the mood is spot-on.

Here's the image:
Borrowed from Lilif Ilane

And here's the excerpt:

        The walls, velvety black and endless, were studded with what looked like diamonds of various shapes and sizes. The stones twinkled like stars in the soft light which bathed the cavern and fingers of mist trailed through the ghost-like ferns clinging to the water’s edge.
        At the far end of the lake, directly across from the cavern’s mouth, was an emptiness which swallowed the light. She waded toward the darkness, the rising water and lily pads fighting her every step. Finally Selina was close enough to make out the flawless shape of a woman emerging from the rock. She was submerged from the waist down, the upper portion of her body slightly preceding the lower half as she leaned out of the rock. Her long, flowing hair was draped forward over her naked torso and her open palms reached out to Selina, inviting her in. And though a hopeful smile was draped across her beautiful face, it wasn’t quite enough to distract from the scorn and fury in her frozen eyes. Selina shivered under the intensity of that stare.

It's not exactly the same, but close enough to be a bit eery. And close enough to make me wonder what it would be like to flip through an illustrated version of my manuscript. 

The mental image created by a piece of writing has a lot to do with the reader though and I wonder if the writing and the image pair up as well for everyone else as they do for me.

Sunday, February 19, 2012 one is reading any of this quite yet

This is my first blog post and it's a bit strange to be writing something when I don't yet have any followers. But the followers will come *I hope* and maybe someone will read this retrospectively.

I should have started blogging a long time ago, but I wasn't sure what to write and was afraid of putting myself out there and being rejected. I'm still not sure what to write and I'm still afraid, but I've reached the point where I'm ready to commit and do whatever it takes to realize my dream. And having an online presence is absolutely a requirement for anyone serious about being published.

So, here goes!

This blog won't follow a strict posting/topic schedule, but will jump into the journey I've been on for the past few years to write the manuscript (the one which I dream of being my debut), find the right agent for me, and become a published author. It might happen, it might not. But I don't think I'll ever stop working at it - it's something I'm driven to do and now that I've really started, I can't imagine my life without writing.

Currently, I have a completed work, DAUGHTER OF THE MOON, which I hope to find an agent for. I made the mistake of querying it too early about a year ago and may have ruined its chances with a few agents. I've learned from that mistake though and have since rewritten the entire manuscript twice, received CP and Beta feedback, revised (a lot), posted my Query on Absolute Write to be schredded by the squirrels, and am finally ready to get back into the slush pile. I've compiled a new list of agents and will start querying again in the next couple of weeks - wish me luck! To keep my mind off of the waiting, I'll be working on the first draft of the sequel to DAUGHTER OF THE MOON which is about half way done. And of course, I'll be critting on Scribophile and adding new posts to this blog :)

I can't wait to share my journey and am looking forward to the first followers...and comments!