Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas

I'm a part of the weary world, just like you. But Christmas does have a special place in my life.

O' Night Divine, indeed....



May your holiday season be full of love, and may your soul feel it's worth.

Thank you (seriously) for coming along on my ride this year.

See you in 2013!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Best of 2012 (aka I Bees in Yer Hed Now)

And finally, coming in at number one post for the year with a whopping THREE TIMES more hits than the closest follower, I am proud to give you LOL CATS GO LITERARY...

I wuz crusin the internets for laffs and found sum funny lol cats who share our jurney. Enjoy.







Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Best of 2012 (aka Get Thee to the Bestselling Authors Table)

Continuing our Best of 2012 trip down memory lane, here's the second highest rated post, BESTSELLING AUTHORS ON CREATIVITY AND WRITING...

Elizabeth Gilbert (Author of Eat Pray Love) on creativity




Christopher Hitchens (British Author & Journalist) on being a writer (and the perils of alcohol)




Stephen King and Audrey Niffenegger on leaving things to the imagination (best part at 4:24)




Your Turn: Do you have any favorite author interviews or clips? Share the link in the comments.


Monday, December 17, 2012

The Best of 2012 (aka "Oh, How You Loved the Inessential Penis")

Since it's the last week before Christmas and everyone is running scared (*cough cough* I mean, super busy) we'll continue the character development series in January. Instead, for a bit of fun and nostalgia, I thought it was time to revisit the best of the year here at Seeking the Write Life. So this week we're turning back the clocks on our favorite posts as voted by you (courtesy of the total views).

And so, without further ado, I give you the third ranking post of the year, YA FICTION AND THE INESSENTIAL PENIS (May, 2012):

If you haven't had the distinct pleasure of reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, I won't ruin it for you with spoilers, but if you're any kind of fantasy lover (urban or not), I'd highly recommend it.

And now I'll tell you something I learned about writing sex for young adults by reading this wonderful book.

First, a quote.

The Wishmonger's voice was so deep it seemed almost the shadow of sound: a dark sonance that lurked in the lowest register of hearing. "I don't know many rules to live by," he'd said. "But here's one. It's simple. Don't put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles -- drug or tattoo -- and... no inessential penises, either."

"Inessential penises?" Karou had repeated... "Is there any such thing as an essential one?"

"When an essential one comes along, you'll know," he'd replied...

Trust me, it's both funny and thought-provoking in context.

I'm not here to start a morality debate. But having recently finished this book and entered the Rumination Phase of enjoying the story, I found it interesting to see the author taking this advice not only into the story proper, but into the story's construction.

You see, I read a lot of YA fiction. Some good, some not, some meh. One pattern I've discovered is that YA authors have a habit of choosing sides when it comes to sex. Either we're really quite open  -- at times almost graphic -- about it all, or we artfully allow the scene to fade to black before things go there.

We also like to swing for the fences in the emotional realms of sexual encounters -- either allowing the characters casual, inconsequential interactions, or creating a great deal of angst and negative pay-off.

Neither approach is wrong in my opinion. But Ms. Taylor has managed the sexual encounters in her story in a way which I really enjoyed: a character who understands sex and sexual desire (as much as a teenager realistically can), but whose thoughts and actions on the subject sit somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. And whose story is depicted similarly.

You see, the protagonist is not a virgin and the reader is given a clear idea of her experience (and inexperience). However, she narrates the backstory with just enough detail to make the encounter realistic without coloring it in shades of judgement to one side or the other.

The protagonist has both enjoyed sex and been hurt by it. But she doesn't shy away from her sexuality. Sex isn't something she's taken off the table. It's just something she's considering using with caution. (The hero has also been sexually active).

In my opinion, Ms. Taylor has achieved something rare to see in this day and age: simultaneous honesty about sex and sexual desire, without swinging to pure description (which can at times encroach on fantasy or gratification, as opposed to realistic characterization).

There were several examples, but I think this is the best:

...Sometimes he'd felt her pulse spike with jagged dreams; other times she'd murmured and reached for him, waking as she drew him against her and then, silkily, into her.

That's the extent of the mental image, but it's quite... er... comprehensive. No?

So today I just want to applaud this author's ability to be real and true to an aspect of life many teenagers have a lot of questions about, while not shying away from the potentially damaging consequences of these relationships at the same time.

She's also managed to depict sexual encounters in a way that is very comprehensive, without being graphic.

In my opinion, Laini Taylor has struck a true balance. Something I hope to emulate in my books.

Your Turn: Have you read a YA book which you felt approached sexual relationships particularly skillfully, or uniquely? What worked well? What didn't?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Getting the Call from Kate Testerman

I know it's fun to hear other writer's stories of gaining representation, so I decided we'll check in with a few authors to see how their experiences compare. Look for more "Getting the Call" posts in the next few weeks! Today we're starting with Liz Briggs, Intern to super-agent Jill Corcoran, and repped by... Well, I'll let her tell you:



VITAL STATS

Name: Elizabeth Briggs
Genre you write: YA sci-fi
Agent Name: Kate Testerman of KT Literary
Length of time you've been represented: Since March 2012

How did your Agent first get your material? (i.e. query, conference, referral personal network, etc): Slush pile query

Timeframe between them receiving your full manuscript and offering representation: 
Query Sent - September 2011
Partial request - October 2011 - Right after I sent it I got an R&R from another agent.
Revised partial sent - December 2011
Full request - January 2012
Offer - March 2012

How did your agent approach you for that first talk? Was it anything
like you imagined?

She emailed me and asked if the book was still available and if we could chat about the book and my writing career. I was very excited!

During The Call, were there any questions you were asked that scared
you? Or questions you wished you'd asked at the time?

No, nothing she asked me scared me. I didn't ask too many questions, but I did a lot of research before the call about her sales, her clients, etc.

What were your initial impressions of your agent? And were they correct?

I got the impression that she loved my book and that we had a lot of similar interests and would get along well. And we do! She also came across as very professional, but also friendly and approachable. This has definitely proven to be true.

Do you have any advice for writers who might receive The Call in the future?

Try not to worry so much! Don't be upset if you don't get to ask every question on one of those "preparing for the call" lists. (And do your research on the agent first so you don't have to ask a million questions). Just relax and have a conversation and try to get a sense if you'll like working with this person. You can always ask more questions later.

Thanks for stopping by again, Liz! Can't wait to hear your publication story!

Your Turn: Any questions about getting the call? 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Character Development Series: Question #2 and an Exercise

For the next few Mondays I'm offering a series of questions to help you get to know your characters better, and offering exercises for understanding how they'll relate to your story. These can be helpful for primary and secondary characters. Use them to make your characters breathe - and maybe to spark inspiration if you're struggling...

QUESTION #2: What is the primary impression your character gives to others the first time they meet?

Yes, yes, I can hear you thinking "But isn't that just the flipside of question one?"

Yes, it is. But this question is even more importanto because this is the impression that absolutely must drive the first appearance of your character on the page.

That's important enough for me to repeat it. With screaming caps:

THIS IS THE IMPRESSION THAT ABSOLUTELY MUST DRIVE THE FIRST APPEARANCE OF YOUR CHARACTER ON THE PAGE.

Why?

Because as the story develops, so will your character. But in order to show your character arc, you must first demonstrate the primary impression they give as a foundation.

EXAMPLE (AKA: Why this is important):

In the first manuscript I ever wrote, the hero and heroine were struck by "insta-love". Now, the insta-love had a magical spark, but it was insta-love nonetheless. And the insta-love was going to have a marked effect on the hero's attitude to life.

In other words, it was about to change him dramatically.

In the first iterations of the story, Carl (an extremely tall, athletic, powerful, arrogant and cool-to-the-point-of-cold, kind of guy) didn't appear on the page until he met Dani (a much less polished "every-girl" type).

Unfortunately, because meeting Dani sparked an instant change in Carl's thoughts and feelings about himself and the world in general, his felicitous manners, softer humor and self-doubt-covered-in-fake-confidence gave the reader the impression that a very gentlemanly, socially cool guy had met a girl he liked.

When in truth, a near-ruthless and old-for-his-years guy had just been struck dumb by meeting the love of his life.

Because I never laid the foundation of Carl's strength and emotional detachment, the shock of his meeting with Dani didn't come home to the reader.

Now, in the eleven-thousandth draft of that manuscript, Carl first appears to the reader in a scene wherein he manipulates his best friend (who is a girl), handles his powerful father, and generally demonstrates a very attractive, but very self-assured and emotionall devoid attitude to life. The primary impression he offers to everyone on first meeting prior to the moment when he meets Dani and his entire life changes.

Now, when he meets Dani in the second chapter, it's clear to the reader what an earth-shattering moment this is. Zeus has been knocked out of the clouds and become very, very mortal.

But the skeleton of steel remains underneath...

Now it's your turn:

***EXERCISE ONE***

For whatever character you're working on, write a short scene that occurs the day / week before the beginning of your book. Write it from the point-of-view of someone who isn't the character you're developing. Make that person meet your character for the first time.

The purpose of the exercise is to show your character's foundational state of mind, physical appearance, and attitude towards life (in particular, to strangers).

This isn't the time to focus on plot or backstory. Write this for yourself. Show yourself what impression your character gives to someone who hasn't met them before. Then compare that to the impression your character is giving the first time they appear in your book.

Do the impressions match?

Your Turn: Any questions? If not, tell us how your protagonist appears to strangers on first meeting.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Putting Your Blog / Website in the Spotlight

Part Two of my interview with Katherine Amabel over at Beyond the Hourglass Bridge is up. We're talking about how to blog successfully, and how not to be annoying...

 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Character Development Series - Question #1

For the next few weeks I'll be offering a series of questions that will help you get to know your characters better, and also offer exercises for understanding how they'll relate to your story.

These questions can be helpful for anyone from your protagonist, to your villain, to the lady at the corner store who only shows up three times.

Use them to make your characters breathe - and maybe to spark inspiration if you're struggling.

QUESTION #1A: What kind of impression does your character think they give to others the first time they meet?

QUESTION #1B: What kind of impression do they they think they give to strangers when they walk into a room? (i.e. whether or not they speak to them).

Keep in mind: the impressions we think we give colour the impressions we aim to give, and may or may not match the impression we actually give. So this question focuses on what the character thinks of themselves. You can then extrapolate that into how they act as a consequence.

EXAMPLE:

In the book my agent is currently editing, the protagonist (Stacy) is extremely insecure. She's been bullied significantly since the age of twelve.

Stacy believes that when she meets peers for the first time they'll already have heard of her reputation and think she's uncool and annoying. It makes her nervous and self-deprecating in her humor. However, when she meets adults, she believes she's good at communicating and appearing "mature", so she demonstrates a lot more confidence.

If she walked into a roomful of strangers she'd be scared. She'd think her clothes weren't right and might spur people to make fun of her. She thinks that people might meet her and decide they don't want her there. So she'd draw a lot of attention to herself, hoping to impress others so they would like her. She wants to be seen as the life of the party, so pushes herself out there and tries to be funny in the hopes of making others feel comfortable around her so they'll like her.

Your Turn: Any questions? If not, tell us about one of these answers for your protagonist.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Character Development: Getting Real

When I get stuck on a draft, sometimes the best way to find a second wind is to work on making my characters come alive. That's because "real" characters will drive a story forward without need for vehicles or plotting tricks.

But how do you make your characters come to life? How do you make them breathe?

You ask the hard questions of them. You get to the core of who they are, what drives them every day, and how the answers to those questions will affect their reactions to whatever is going on in your book...

Go here to view the rest of the post.