Do you have what it takes?

January 16, 2010 at 8:00 PM | Posted in Editing, Reading, teen fiction, Writing, Writing Advice | 5 Comments

Are you supposed to be writing?

Now, don’t expect a happy encouraging post here. The job of this little post isn’t to assure you you can “do it.” It is to make very clear that some people just can’t.

We’ve all come in some kind of contact with them. We either know them personally, have heard of them, or… shock… read their (sadly) published novels. They are the ones that make us say “Hey, listen, the people who are meant to do this don’t need you taking up our agents’, editors’, publishers’, readers’ time. We have a hard enough job as it is.”

These are the people that have no business writing.

They are the ones who have grand ideas of what writing a novel is. They proclaim to the world that in a year or so they’ll have enough life experience to write the next great American novel but, in fact, it is simply that they don’t have the natural inclination to start as soon as the story hits them.

They pretend that the moments of writing must be perfect… the laptop computer must be new or the notebooks unsullied with grocery lists or the new pens have the smoothest writing in dark bold ink.

They bring hot beverages and soft music, to smother themselves in the writing mood they pretend must be there.

They are the ones who think writing a book is an easy way to make money from home, just write and submit. Unfortunately for the readers, these non-writers sometimes succeed.

Their ideas of writing fiction are simply fictional.

These are fakes who want to get noticed, not writers who live and breathe their characters, and how these characters are affected throughout a novel. We talk to our characters as if they are real, play the music that fits their moods, torture ourselves for hours at the desk chair telling their stories. We are the real writers, be we published or not.

Take this quiz to see if you are really a writer or are writing a novel for reasons other than ones you should…

And I say it here: I’d rather be a real writer and never be published, than a fake one who forces the readers out there to read my garbage. But that’s just me… sadly.

A Message from Monica Gellar

January 15, 2010 at 7:05 PM | Posted in Life, Writing, Writing Advice | 5 Comments

Who is this lady that is not you? you all may ask. That is Monica Geller. And she has a message for all you college writers that are returning to school. She knows that you have your time cut out for you. You’re probably taking four (or five, if you’re really insane) classes. You might have a job that sucks ten hours out of your week. If you’re really cool, you probably have to go to the gym at least once a week. Then there’s friends (please, tell us who invented them?). And papers. And studying. And of course, your highest priority, the writing.

But how do you plan on balancing such a hectic lifestyle. How will you do all of that, sleep, eat and keep a tight grip (or loose, your choice, really) on your sanity.

Monica Geller is here to solve your problems with a simple suggestion. PLAN. Preferably with a color coded schedule that works in bathroom breaks, snack breaks and eating times (sleep is flexible). Because if you do not plan, at least a little, you will never have time to do anything of value or merit. Your life will be one huge mess after another  and you will never get anywhere.

So Monica Geller implores you to planSchedule. Have a vague idea of what your day is going to be like. Or all is lost. Really.

Posted by Sumayyah (Cross posted to The Raven Desk)

What’s in a name?

January 15, 2010 at 12:37 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Imagine this.  You are at the racetrack and two horses come out.  Both look exactly the same.  Same size same gait same everything.  For the sake of argument lets say that they are genetically modified clones of each other.  The announcer comes up and labels the first as Bandit’s creed and the second as Slow and Steady.  This announcer tells you nothing else but his name but you’re already building conclusions.  You will be one of two camps.  You will either go for Bandit’s creed assuming that he is the fastest thing since overnight express mail or you will remember the old story of the tortoise and the hare and give Slow and Steady a chance.  Without knowing anything about them you have formed a judgement on them.  Now in reality horse racing is far more sophisticated but none the less a great deal of betting revolves around the name.

This is an asset that can be used to give your reader an immediate gut feeling about the character.  Think about star wars.  Say Jabba the hut and my mind thinks large, bubbly, and gross.  Hear the name Han Solo and I think about a guy who is an individual who always follows his own way (at least initially).

You could use this phenomenon to your advantage in the opposite way.  You could reverse it you it as a way to trick the reader.  Remember in Buffy when we were introduced to a vampire called Angel?  The reader wonders is this guy a good guy or a bad guy and you immediately have them hooked.

But names alsp clue the reader into so much more, ethnicity age, date of birth, or surprise the readers when they learn their actual data.  It’s all about hooking people and getting them to think that a character will behave a certain way before ripping up their preconceptions and keeping them riveted the whole way through.

Now far be it for me to tell you that a name will be the be all or end all for a book.  But next time you go through your manuscript looking at your characters names ask yourself are you using the names pre-conceptions to its greatest advantage.

So Twfities and loyal readers… How do you choose names for your characters??


Outta the Mouths of Babes

January 14, 2010 at 7:05 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

When it comes to the Young Adult genre, language is important. In a book, you can’t have a teen talking like a 30-old-year-old woman, just like you can’t have a 30-year-old woman talking like a teen. It’s weird. So you have to use the right teen wordage – otherwise, it doesn’t sound authentic. As an example:

What? Oh, my god. Seriously? Crap. Yeah, I’m pretty much screwed. Life is, like… lame.

Let’s see how these words can transform a piece of literature into a truly great piece of YA literature.

It was pretty much the worst time ever and, yeah, the best time ever, it was like an age of wisdom, but everyone was stupid, it was the epoch of belief, but it didn’t make any sense, life was great, life was lame, everything was totally perfect, everything was made of crap, and oh my God, it was seriously screwed up.

True, I’m exaggerating here. Do teens really talk like that in everyday life? Most of us skew towards the more adult side of the spectrum. Ever-hyper narration can get annoying.

Nonetheless, experiment with inserting some verbiage like this into your writing if you don’t already. Especially with contemporary, a casual phrasing here or there (or everywhere, if that’s your style) is great. As long as you don’t overdose, yeah – it helps with nailing down the teenage voice, an area in which even teenage writers sometimes encounter problems.

Pretty much, you gotta like, get this lame thing. Seriously, right? What do you think?

~ Emilia

Handwriting Vs. Typing

January 9, 2010 at 9:49 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments
Tags: ,

We’re living in the technological age, where everything is computerised and everything pretty much grinds to a halt if that technology fails or there’s a power cut. It seems technology has become a big part of the publishing world, too: e-books, agent blogs, facebook and twitter, writing forums. But when it comes to the actual writing – BIC (Butt In Chair), pounding out the words – time, what do you prefer? Typing your masterpiece, or sitting down old-style with a pad of paper and pen?

I’m really interested. Are teens more likely to use the computer, or does it depend on personal preference? Personally, I think it’s all about what works best for you. For me, typing is almost always my preference. I type faster than I handwrite most of the time, and I can barely read my own handwriting at the best of times. I also find the words flow much better when I sit in front of my laptop. Sure, the temptation to self-edit is always there, but I just have to make sure I don’t angrily delete any words when it feels like it’s all going wrong. There’s also the plus that it’s easier to edit once you’re done if it’s typed, and easier to print or email to betas/agents/publishers/random friends who bug you for excerpts etc.

I can see the benefits to handwriting novels too, though – although if you handwrite the whole novel you’re almost definitely going to have to type it all up at some point, which adds time onto the whole process. Handwriting is great for focused, no-distractions writing – the problem with using a computer is that old evil The Internet. It’s ever-so-tempting to just check up on facebook/twitter/absolute write/wordpress etc – I’m definitely living proof of that. With a pen and paper it’s much harder to be distracted. It’s also often more versatile – it’s easier to take a pen and paper on a train, to write on it during your lunch break, to take it on long car journeys (those where you’re a passenger, not the driver, of course.)

So, those are generally the two options for those who are crazy enough to decide to write a novel. (I’m going to class using a typewriter as being typed…although it’s kind of like handwriting since the temptation of the internet isn’t there.) But which do you prefer – and what are your reasons? I’m sure I haven’t covered them all in this rambling post – which, for the record, I typed rather than handwrote – so maybe comment and let us all know. You never know, you might persuade someone to try the other method!

~ Becky

Book Club ~ We All Fall Down

January 5, 2010 at 10:59 AM | Posted in Life, Reading, teen fiction, Uncategorized, Writing, YA | 2 Comments

Now, I know some of you have been looking forward to a review of We All Fall Down for this month’s book club post. Perhaps a Twifty will post one in the review section of this site soon. But for this post I thought we should instead take a moment to remember the author.

Robert Cormier, born in Leominster, Mass., once described himself as “a skinny kid living in a ghetto-type neighborhood wanting the world to know that I existed.”  For writers like us, getting the world to know we exist is pretty darn important, but I don’t think anyone should take Cormier’s quote and think that is all writers desire. There is power in the story that is stuck in your head, stories like We All Fall Down, an edgy read that leaves nothing out in pursuit of telling the story Cormier imagined. Sometimes, there is nothing we can do but let that out on the page. And very few of us do it as well as Cormier.

As to why he tunneled this energy into young adult fiction? He wanted to show us the “strength of young adults—their resilience, their ability to absorb the blows teenage life delivers.”

Mr. Cormier died on November 2, 2000, but he’ll be forever remembered by young adult writers everywhere.

On the lighter side, some things you might not know:

He wrote a book called “I Am The Cheese” and thus wins Race’s award for most fantabulous book title.

The Chocolate War, one of his most beloved books, has a sequel, called Beyond the Chocolate War.

When you try to Google his name and first start to type “Ro…” Google Chrome immediately assumes you want to search for rotten tomatoes.

Now, this is a book club post and when you end your moment of silence for Robert Cormier take a look at this book down here. I know for a fact is it a popular read and I hope you all have fun with it. Look for the next book club post near the beginning of March!

The Book Thief.

Photos from here and here.

Quotes and info taken from: site.


Purple Prose

January 3, 2010 at 12:20 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

I have been there, done that and have a horrible book as proof.

Purple Prose:  a term of literary criticism used to describe passages, or sometimes-entire literary works, written in prose as overly extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to it.

Experimenting, and dare I say it, having fun with prose is fun. We all love the good metaphor, simile, and those random sprinkles of pathetic fallacy.

Sometimes it can truly make a book stand out. The words are so beautiful, the sentences are so amazingly crafted that it stays with you long after your read the last page. The words have made an impact on you.

But, there is a line. A very fine line that can be easily crossed. A line that separates effective prose from purple prose.

When you crossed the lines, the words begin to fail you.

Here is an example from the winner of of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which honors bad writing:

Nigel lifted his Mont Blanc pen and held it in brief repose as he gazed past the conflagrative crackling of the fire in the hearth, through the triple-plate bay window, watching the incandescence of the twinkling stars like the detonation of a million flashbulbs, and the preponderance of frothy snowflakes blanketing the earth as creamily as marshmallow fluff, then, refreshed and inspired, he began to compose his annual Christmas form letter[1]

The problem?

I’m swimming in a sea of clichés, adverbs, adjectives, and awful similes. That whole paragraph, describing a character about to write a Christmas Letter. Nothing else actually happened! This just drags on, and most of the description is so unnecessary.

Flex your writing fingers and dabble in some prose fun. But, don’t get carried away, or try to show off. You are a storyteller; prose helps you tell your story in an interesting way.

Don’t ruin that.


Self Doubt

December 23, 2009 at 2:14 AM | Posted in Life, Writing, Writing Advice | 3 Comments

I usually don’t blog on Tuesdays aside from the teasers, but I’m not writing either, so I figure, why not, right? I’m sitting in my friend’s room, blasting music, and staring at a scene chart that was going so well until recently. I’ve been staring at this scene chart for the past two days. I’ve been trying to restart The Scion for the past two weeks. Up until a couple of minutes ago I had no idea what my deal was.

Then it hit me: I’ve been slumming in the ghetto of self doubt. -faints in shock-

I’m not one to doubt my writing abilities – and I don’t say that to sound braggish or pompous. But I’ve always firmly avoided self doubt because it’s crippling. It’s so crippling, in fact, that some writers become drug addicts and alcoholics to drown it out. So I block it out, and just write until I send my work to betas. Then they send me comments and I improve my work,  because I know it’s in me to make the work better.

And while this isn’t the first time I’ve been hit with self doubt, it’s the first time its been so insidious. It took me two weeks to figure out that it was burrowing its way into my skull and blocking the Muse and the Voices. But now that I know? Now I can fight it, now I can do breathing exercises and now I can look into the mirror and do corny self confidence exercises. Because, self doubt is a writer’s worse enemy. Too many commas is fixable. Too many adverbs is fixable. Run on sentences are fixable. Not having faith and trust in your own ability to not only write well, but improve (always improve) is something that will stop you in your tracks. It makes a difficult occupation nearly unbearable.

So do what you have to. Listen to self esteem cassettes, sing your own praises, have lengthy conversations with yourself. But whatever you do – never,  ever lose faith in your ability to write well and to improve what you may not have written so well!

contributed by sumayyah daud and cross posted to the raven desk

Bad Romance

December 21, 2009 at 11:46 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

“You and I could write a bad romance.”

Lady Gaga knows the insecurities of writers, it seems. What makes a bad romance? Is my book a bad romance?

Pitfalls and booby traps are so VERY hard to avoid when I’m writing. Sometimes I get lost in the flow of my MC and her LI, that I basically keep re-writing the same scenes over and over again. But real-life relationships aren’t like that. They make progress. They have beginning, middle, and (sadly, it’s true) end points. And at each stage, the characters act differently around each other. They’re not static. And static characters make for a bad romance.

Other notorious screw-ups I catch myself making (and when I don’t, my betas catch–thank you betas!):

1. No more chemistry. The MC and her LI start out strong at the beginning, exchange witty witticism, tease each other, and their hearts pound when they catch a glimpse of each other. But once they’re together, it becomes dull, monotone. There are no more mysteries. There are no surprises left waiting for the LI in his locker. Yes. This does happen to crumbling relationships in real life. But are those interesting to read about?

2.  Lack of conversation. You know you’ve got a problem (and the relationship does) when your characters are talking about the weather. About other characters. About last night’s homework. Anything but the good stuff.

3. Cheesy one-liners. While on the other hand, the guy’s lines and the girl’s lines appear to be scripted. We have joke books and the internet for that.

4. A too-perfect couple? Creepy. Give me the cracks, the imperfections. Perfect people are depressing enough in real-life.

5. Super implausible pairings. Paris Hilton will not date a cashier at Subway.

What do you think I may have missed in my defining of a bad romance?

– linda

Writers drought

December 18, 2009 at 11:44 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

For those of you who follow the blog often you may or may not have noticed that I attempted Nanowrimo this November.  The good news, I was able to push through my blood. Sweat and tears and hit that magic number emerging a victor of Nanowrimo.  The bad news; I experienced a phenomena that I like to call a writing hangover.

For about a week after Nano I just couldn’t write.  I would sit at the computer flicking between both my works in progress and would be at a total loss.  In my mind I think I put it down to the fact that I had used every trick every percolating plot in my Nano novel that my brain decided it would go on strike while it waited for my creativity to re-boost.  Now at first I thought I would wait it out.  However after almost three weeks of writing absolutely nothing it seems I have lost all motivation to write.

I’m sure we all have this problem at some stage.  Life sometimes gets in the way.  Prior to Nanowrimo I had a schedule, I was still in school for the year and all my friends understood when i had to tell them that I was unable to catch up with them because of school, exams or even netball finals.  However as soon as the holidays start you have to catch up with everybody, and when you’ve neglected everybody for a year that takes some time.  But back to my problem.  At this point I look at my laptop with a sort of lost longing feeling.  I know I should write, and I want to write, at least i think I do.  So starting today I am enacting a twelve step program (conveniently downsized to three steps) to get me and anybody else who is out there out of writers block.  I will no longer wait for this sucker to pass; I am going to attack it vigorously.

Step 1:  I will write words every day.  It can be for anything, any work in progress, and every day after this I will write 100 more words than I did the day before.  I will do this until I reach an average daily word count that is sustainable and continue it until my novel is finished.

Step 2:  I will not go to the start of my novel and decide that editing the first few chapters will count as some progress towards the day.  This is of course optional for those of you who can restrain themselves long enough to get back to writing.  Unfortunately I know full well that i have no restraint and long periods of editing will require ice cream, shortbread biscuits and a large amount of reassurance from my mum about how I haven’t wasted months of my life.  That situation will not help my finish my novel, especially when it probably only needs 10,000 words or so to finish it.

Step 3:  I will set a deadline with another person, my critique group or my writer friends.  They will know what is happening and by sharing my problem perhaps it will be halved.  Even if it is not halved I will have people telling me to write every day.  People who will through there caring and understanding will give me a swift kick up the behind if I not met my daily quota.

By doing this I will (It is not a question of might, it will happen whether my brain wishes to cooperate or not) drag myself out of the desert where all good ideas go to die and once again be a writer to be reckoned with.  Well that is the plan anyway.

So good reader what is it that you should take from this?  Perhaps the simple fact that we all get writers block.  Some of us even get stuck in quick sand and need help to get back out of it.  I’m sure you have all experienced this at some point.  What methods do you find work for beating back the monster that seems to drain all the creativity directly from my brain?

~ Alyce

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