Thursday, May 31, 2012
I have a friend who hates puppies. True story. She hates dogs, actually, which is just weird anyway. One day, I asked her, "Okay, you hate dogs. I can kind of get that. Some people are scared of them, or were bit by one, or whatever. But what about puppies? Cute little wiggly puppies with waggly tails and puppy kisses."
"I hate puppies, too," she said.
Just like that. "I hate puppies, too."
I mean, COME ON.
"But the book is about so much more than that," I told her, trying to get her to read on.
"Oh, I know--there's magic and Hogwarts and shizz," she said. "But I don't really care about that."
MAGIC AND HOGWARTS AND SHIZZ BUT I DON'T CARE ABOUT THAT.
My own husband hates chocolate. I didn't find this out until after we were married. That's the kind of thing that should be discussed, I KNOW, but it didn't even occur to me that anyone COULD hate chocolate. He's not allergic. I have a friend who's allergic to chocolate, and that's bad enough. But the husband? He just doesn't like it. And I'm married to this monster, y'all.
There are people in the world who hate bacon. Seriously. Not for any religious or ethical reason. They just think it doesn't taste good. There's a Facebook fan club that is just about hating bacon. There are 28 members (SO FAR) and they have BADGES. According to one online source, 11% of America's population HATES BACON.
There are what? 7 billion people in the world now? Statistically speaking, there has to be at least one person in the world who hates puppies, Harry Potter, chocolate, AND bacon. *shudders*
My point? If there are people in the world who hate puppies, Harry Potter, chocolate, and/or bacon, then there are people in the world who hate your book. Put in that perspective, things aren't so bad, huh?
And if a negative review really gets you down? Here's what to do: think about your absolute favorite book of all time. We all have one. A book we love, one that's practically perfect in every way.
Got the book in mind? Now go to GoodReads. Look the book up. Filter the reviews for 1-stars (because I promise you, it does have one stars). And smile. Because if people can rate your favoritest book in the whole world with one star, then of course people can rate your book that way, too.
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (my fave of the series) has 2,843 one-star reviews.
- A Wrinkle in Time, one of the best science fiction titles for teens and young people, has 4,359 one-star reviews.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is funny and insightful and a classic, has 11,212 one-star reviews. Eleven thousand, two hundred, and twelve.
- Hamlet, written by Shakespeare, arguably the most popular work by the most influential writer in the English language, has 2,198 one-star reviews. King Lear, my personal favorite Shakespearean play, has nearly a thousand one-stars.
- Okay, okay, okay. We can all agree that some of those above titles might have elements that some people don't like. But who can dislike a classic children's picture book? Let's say...Where the Wild Things Are. I'm not sure, but I'd wager that's the most popular children's book in America. And it has over 2,000 one-star reviews. Curious George? Nearly 1,000 one-stars. The Cat in the Hat? Over twelve-hundred.
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Monday, May 28, 2012
Recently someone on my Facebook page asked me if I paid for editing on my novels. The short answer: no. Of course my novels are edited, but that's something that comes with the book deal. And I did self-edit my novels when I was submitted them, but I didn't pay for an editor.
Instead, I got critique partners. And I have to be honest--I think finding the right match in critique partners might just be one of the very best things a writer can do for herself.
And the quote above definitely exemplifies that. Having a good critique partnership means that you give and take. Your work is critiqued--but oftentimes, it's not the critique itself that is valuable. It's the critique you're doing for the other person.
Example: I would often get a critique that I overuse a phrase or word. Then I would look at it in my manuscript and all I'd see is that I used it maybe three times. What was the big deal? But when I read other manuscripts, and see a very specific phrase used three times within that many pages, I realized how annoying it was. By seeing it in other manuscripts, I really started to understand why something small like an overused phrase makes a big difference.
A good critique partnership will definitely put you on the path to writing better manuscripts from the start. You want someone who can challenge you, point out the things you can't see for yourself--but someone whose work you can be challenged by. Helping others really makes you help yourself.
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Friday, May 25, 2012
Um…wow. I am gobsmacked by the positive response you guys
gave me from yesterday’s post. I have to admit, I’m a little ashamed every time
I have to confess that the book of my heart never sold (and probably never
will), but it’s something I feel needs to be said, especially for people who
aren’t published and think that’s the end. Because, obviously, it’s not.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
There is a phrase I'm hearing more and more: "book of my heart." It's a term writers are using to explain to others that the particular project they're working on is one that is very personal and dear to them. All books are works of art and take some of ourselves to write, but a "book of your heart" is one that is ripped from your very soul. It's the important one, your baby, the one that you wrote with blood, sweat, and tears; the one that means more to you than any other.
And it's a beautiful sentiment. If an author tells me she's on submission with the "book of her heart," then I know it's a particularly important time in her life. If an author tells me he's just finished the "book of his heart," this calls for more than a toast--it's an all-night celebration of joy.
But I also think there's an important thing for everyone who's a writer (published or not) to know.
The book of your heart doesn't always sell.
I have a book of my heart. I wrote it in college, and it was my third (unpublished) novel. Writing it was like magic. The world consumed me, and despite the fact that I was working on my Master's thesis and writing academically nearly full-time, I would give up sleeping and eating in order to keep working on the book of my heart.
I loved that book. It had everything I loved: magic, a touch of romance, excitement, mystery, family themes, heartache, tough decisions.
It was the first book that was mine. The other two novels I'd written before were not really good, and they were basically copy-cat novels of other books I loved. But the book of my heart was all me. It is still, I think, the most original thing I've ever written.
But it never sold.
Not for lack of trying. And it came close--very close. Thanks to a connection at a writer's conference, it got to the acquisitions table at one of the Big Six publishers (agentless), and I even got a revision request and a ten-page edit letter. I thought the book of my heart would break me into the market; I thought it would be my debut. And--after about a hundred rejections from agents and a rejection from the Big Six publisher I'd been working with...it didn't sell.
I eventually moved on to the next book. And the next. And the next. And as I wrote each subsequent book, I worried that I would never write a book as good as the book of my heart. That that book had been The One, and since it didn't sell, nothing would.
That's why I'm writing this post today. Because I'm starting to see this phrase, "book of my heart," more and more often, and a lot of times it's accompanied by a corollary: "it's the best thing I can ever write."
And too often? People will only write the book of their heart.
Don't do this. Don't do this. A book of your heart comes rarely--and sometimes you'll only ever taste that magic once--but publishing isn't just about the magic. And sometimes the book of your heart? It isn't that good. Despite the fact that my book of my heart is my mother's favorite thing I've ever written, I can look at it objectively now and realize why it didn't get published and why it probably never will. It slips between the cracks of genre, it doesn't really have a home on any shelf, even in YA. It's too weird. Maybe one day I'll be able to revise it, but for now, it's more like "Jabberwocky" than Alice.
If you're a writer who is unpublished, then I hope and pray you will eventually write the book of your heart. It's a wonderful thing, and the closest I've come to touching magic. But I also want you to know something very, very important: the book of your heart is not the apex of your writing. It is not necessarily the best thing you've written, and it's not necessarily your only shot at getting published.
Very often the book of your heart is a practice novel--you've written it too early in your career, and the quality isn't there (even if you can't see that). Or it's so close to your heart that you can't properly edit it. Or it's a story important to you--but not the rest of the world. Or it was easy to write, and the next thing isn't. Or it was hard to write, and you don't want to think of writing the next thing because that will be hard, too. For whatever reason, chances are that the book of your heart just isn't meant to be published. But that doesn't mean it should be the last thing you write.
And also? The magic will come again. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE was not the book of my heart. I know of no writer that has more than one book of her heart. But I felt the magic when I was writing ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. Maybe the point of writing the book of your heart is to open your eyes to see the magic in everything you write, to find the scenes that speak to your artistic soul.
My point is this: don't weigh all your dreams on one book. Don't think you've only got one chance. If you write the book of your heart and it doesn't sell, remember this: not all of them do. And the important thing is not to stagnate at that point, but to try to find the magic again where you can.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
So yesterday I tweeted this:
And I so meant it. As of right now, I've listened to the song 237 times. (I told you I get slightly crazy while rewriting...)
Anyway, soon after this, my friends over at @FigmentFiction tweeted me a link to Paradise Fears, a band that did an acoustic cover of the song.
The song is addictive as-is, but the cover as it's own sort of addictive quality. So, during writing breaks, I'd watch the video of them playing again and again.
One of the things I loved about it was the way the main singer gets totally into the song. Check him out at about the 1:40 minute mark--he is totally in that song.
He's in the zone.
Yesterday, I got to a point in the story where I totally fell into it. (It was the source of this status update, btw.) I was typing so fast that my fingers were skipping words as I trying to get the words in my head onto the computer screen. When I was finished, I was breathless and literally on the edge of my seat. And just like that, 2,000 words were written in about a half hour.
That doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's magic.
Whatever you do that you love--sing, write, paint, build--whatever it is, there has to be a moment when you enter that zone.
That's what I live for. That's why I love writing.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Monday, May 21, 2012
If you follow my Twitter feed, you might have noticed that I have been tweeting links to a new artist I found online, Australian Gavin Aung Than, who creates Zen Pencils, a series of comics that illustrate inspiring quotes and poetry.
His work is lovely, and an evening spent reading the archives is time well spent, in my opinion (I've done it twice recently!). I don't think I could possibly pick a favorite (oh, wait, YES I CAN), but I think one of the most stirring and inspiring has been a series that follows one protagonist through three different poems.
The first is this one: a dramatization of "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley. It's a wonderful poem to start with, but the story that Gav puts with the poem is...stunning. (There's a link at the bottom of the pic for you to see a full-size version. Do that, don't squint.)
"Invictus" is beautiful no matter what, but Gav puts a face to the poem--literally--and grounds us in a situation that I think everyone can relate to.
Here's the reason why I love graphic novels and books that use images (like LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES by Laini Taylor)--the graphic adds something to the words. A graphic should not just be a literal interpretation of what is happening. You, the reader, need to gain something more from seeing the picture. You should walk away with the idea that the illustration added a new depth, new understanding, new meaning to the words. This is what Gav does so well. "Invictus" is about fighting, and standing up after being knocked down. Gav's illustration of the poem tells a story within the story. And that, my friends, is brilliant.
Next, Gav took a favorite of mine, Rudyard Kipling's "If," and continued the story started with "Invictus." Not all of Gav's illustrations are linked (in fact, most aren't), but this one is continued through a new poem. And this was the moment when I really sat up and paid attention to the story Gav was telling with his illustrations. He's linked two poems together that have nothing to do with each other--they aren't written by the same person, they aren't written with the same historical background. "Invictus" is about standing up again--"If" is about being the person you should be in a world that encourages cowards.
And the story Gav tells weaves in and out of these two disparate poems.
Now when I finished "If," I thought Gav's work was done. He'd told a complete story--one of downfall and redemption. There's a whole circle here.
But there's another poem.
For the next (last?) in the series, Gav brought in Walt Whitman's "O me! O Life!" You can make and argument that "If" and "Invictus" are linked in theme, if not in background, but you'd be hard pressed to find such a link with Whitman's poem "O me! O Life!"
But Gav did a brave thing. He illustrates not just the fight and the hero's resolution. He shows the aftermath. It's nice to see the hero rise up; it's lovely to see the reconciliation with the father. But in real life, your story keeps going. And you have to wake up the next day, and learn to live with the choices you've made.
It's the last one that brought tears to my eyes (although I'm not really a fan of Whitman). I think the easy interpretation of this poem is one of striving to make worthy art, but I love that Gav took it in a different direction--that learning to live with yourself and to be yourself despite others is contribution enough.
Like I said before, I highly encourage you to read all of Gav's archives. And buy a print, why don't ya?
Today's question: what poem or quote most inspires you?
Thursday, May 17, 2012
So, I'm currently working on edits for SHADES OF EARTH. It is starting to be in real book shape, and I am very excited and extremely terrified by this. I am physically restraining myself from running up to strangers and shouting "THIS BOOK I AM WRITING IS MY GIFT TO YOU I HOPE YOU LIKE IT PLEASE LOVE ME."
My husband tells me I should avoid going out in public until edits are done, and I think he's probably right. Also I tend not to bathe regularly while editing, and I eat a lot of string cheese, and I wear yoga pants and holey t-shirts, and all in all, I'm just not fit for public right now. If I had a butler, he'd actively tell all the society people that "Madame is not in at the moment, please leave your card."
Meanwhile, I have been working rabidly on SHADES OF EARTH. And I know that I'm working rabidly on a project by my music-listening habits. People have often asked me for a playlist, and that's not really my sort of thing. I don't keep track of what I listen to--and often, I will actively listen to music that I can then tune out. Also, I'm boring. I tend to listen to one song over and over and over and over on repeat. Really loudly.
Right now, on the SHADES rewrite, the song I'm listening to over and over and over and over and over again is this one:
The musician here is Alex Day. I found his music in a rather circuitous way. I started off as a nerdfighter, which led me to the hilarious Charlie McDonnell (better known as Charlie Is So Cool Like). Charlie's roommate is Alex Day, and they did a few videos together, so I started looking into his videos, too. This led me to Chameleon Circuit, a Doctor Who fan band, and I discovered the song that I listened to obsessively while writing the first draft of SHADES:
Given the title, it seemed really appropriate for the third and final volume of my book. I love the duet style of this song, and it's just, simply, gorgeous.
Anyway, this all ultimately lead me to downloading all of Alex's songs, where I discovered "The World is Mine," the first song I have listed here. It's got the perfect tone and the most beautiful lyrics. Also: it perfectly fits the final volume of the AtU trilogy.
What songs are you listening to obsessively now? Do you have any fun stories about how you discovered a new musician or song?
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Just found this great article on the evolution of e-books, and wanted to share. Click through for a larger graphic and more info:
I can only speak for myself, but here's what I've noticed in my own reading practices:
- I have bought the same number of print books since owning an e-reader as before
- But I have also bought an increasing number of e-books
- I will typically buy print books from authors I know I like, books I want to get signed, or books I know I will want to re-read and/or complete a set (for example, the final book of a trilogy)
- But I take chances on e-books--I will typically purchase an ebook that is written by an author I've never tried before, is outside my typical reading comfort zone, etc.
- If I like the ebook, I will sometimes also then purchase the print book to keep
- Price is rarely a factor in my ebook purchases. I will sometimes take a chance on a book that's $3 or less that I wouldn't normally, but I buy just as many $10 ebooks as I don't buy $1 ebooks. I care more about whether or not it's a title that I want to read than the price.
- That said, I've only ever paid more than $10 once, and that was for an "enhanced edition" because I was curious about what made it "enhanced." I was disappointed; I will be more cautious with future "enhanced editions," particularly over $10.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
I love this beautiful, poetic video about life and death. The images are stunning and so evocative.
Anyone else reminded of Kirsten Miller's THE ETERNAL ONES with some of the imagery in the video?
The video itself was inspired by an Edgar Allan Poe, and I originally found it through this fascinating article about Poe and a specific artist-illustrated version. If you like Poe--or are just a fan of 20s art, creepy stuff, etc.--I encourage you to click through. I have already purchased my own reprint of the book :)
Monday, May 14, 2012
All last week (Monday through Saturday) I did an interview with a different author--and every single interview was paired with a giveaway.
I will close the contest at 7pm EST, and announce winners sometime before midnight. So you've still got a little time left to enter six different contests! You can enter any or all of them, and all you need to do to enter is leave a comment at the interview post, linked below.
Winners are now announced! Thanks so much for entering!
- Win a copy of Cole Gibsen's debut, KATANA
- Winner is Lena!
- Win a SIGNED copy of Marissa Meyer's debut, CINDER
- Winner is Kayla!
- Win a ARC of Saundra Mitchell's most recent title, THE SPRINGSWEET
- Winner is Susan!
- Win a SIGNED ARC of Marie Lu's debut, LEGEND
- Winner is Julia!
- Win a SIGNED ARC of Robin LaFever's YA historical fantasy, GRAVE MERCY
- Winner is Alyssa!
- Win a ARC of Angie Smibert's THE FORGETTING CURVE
- Winner is Drina!
Saturday, May 12, 2012
- Angie Smibert's debut, MEMENTO NORA released last year to critical acclaim, and she's following it with the sequel, THE FORGETTING CURVE
- She is also a fellow writer in The League of Extraordinary Writers
- Her books' website is chock-full of fun stuff, including inspiring art, lesson plans, and more!
- Angie has links to NASA that I'm quite envious of...
As a kid, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?
Friday, May 11, 2012
- Robin LaFevers is the author of GRAVE MERCY, a YA Historical, as well as two middle grade series: Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist; and the Theodosia books
- Related: Robin has some of the best cover art around. I'm personally a fan of the Theodosia covers, but the Nathaniel covers are gorgeous and interesting, and the cover for GRAVE MERCY just kicks @$$.
- She has one of the prettiest website around. This is what an author website should look like, y'all.
- Robin is also extremely smart, and knows her history.
- Robis is the co-writer of the Shrinking Violets blog (a must for any author) and blogs at Writers Unboxed. She claims to be introverted, but she dealt with my obsessive fangirling rather well :)
As a kid, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?
For that kind of story, I needed a big, sweeping canvas with high stakes and lives and kingdoms at risk, and a time when teens were in a position shape the world around them. That search brought me to the middle ages and a world full of sacred relics, patron saints, and lots of social turbulence.
Which taught me an important lesson: experiment with tenses and POVs in the early stages of a book—just don’t set your POV choice on default mode.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
- Marie Lu is the debut author of LEGEND
- The sequel, PRODIGY, will come out later this year, and I cannot wait!!
- I was lucky enough to tour with Marie, and I totally kept trying to steal her computer so I could get a sneak peek of PRODIGY
- Marie's hero, Day, originally had three sisters and first appeared in novel Marie was writing in high school. You can learn more about it here: http://marielu.org/story1.html
- Marie also has excellent taste in tights. Just saying.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
- Saundra Mitchell is the author of THE SPRINGSWEET, as well as THE VESPERTINE and SHADOWED SUMMER.
- She is also the author of BREATHKEPT, which you can download for free here
- Saundra does interviews on her blog, too, and one of the interview questions she uses came from iCarly, which immediately makes her 20% cooler in my book.
- If you're an aspiring author, you must check out Saundra's resources on publicity and marketing