Sunday, August 30, 2009

All you need is love…. or do you?

It appears that a lot of YA books involve love. A young girl sees a boy at school and instantly feels a connection. Sometimes they hate the boy; sometimes they are immediately attractive to one another. Invariably that boy or girl harbor a deep dark secret that threatens their budding love. They undergo challenges that bring them together and in the end fall madly in love.

While I know this is not the main story line of every book, it seems to be a common thread in a lot of them, at least the ones I have picked up lately.

This is my question. Can you have a YA book where the relationship starts as a friendship and builds over time to something more or does the protagonist need to have an automatic attraction to someone in order for the book to sell?

What do you think? Do you need a romantic story line for a YA book to sell?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When to go back down the mountain

Every summer my family climbs a mountain. Why you might ask? Well that’s what I said when my husband suggested the tradition. “It’ll be good for us,” he said. I belligerently accepted his challenge and we began. After a couple of mountains, I came to the conclusion that my husband is brilliant, which is kind of hard to admit. Not only do we get some bonding time and we get to challenge ourselves. Now the kids have something to put down when they’re asked at school what traditions does your family have?

This year we chose Forget Me Not Mountain, which is only a 30-minute drive from our house. My brother in law, along with his two daughters joined us. He had climbed the mountain before and suggested that we could cut off 2 km each way if we traversed the river. So we packed our sandals and stepped into the cold, fast moving water. My brother in law carried both his kids across. My husband carried our daughter and I was lucky to get across without falling in.

We cached our sandals, thinking we wouldn’t need them again and continued on. To our surprise we came over the rise and saw a number of small creeks that we had to cross. Some we could step on dry stones to get over and there was one where we had to balance on a dead branch.

Finally we got to the trail and began the hike towards our destination: our seventh summit.

The trail was flat at first and we had to watch where we stepped due to the fact that we shared the trail with horses. After ten minutes it veered to the right and we started our climb upwards. It was okay at first, but then as the guidebook said we began an unrelenting climb at a 30% grade on loose shale. My brother in law pushed his kids up and my hubby carried our daughter part of the way. When we got past what seemed like the hardest part we took a rest and gauged our progress.

We had come quite a ways in a short time. The view was amazing.

We continued the trek up and criss crossed our way up through the rocky terrain. On the south side of the mountain the sun was shining, we were all sweaty and wondering when the steepness would end. When we came up over the ridge the sky turned. Clouds, which weren’t in the forecast, began to streak across the sky. Within minutes they covered the summit. We could no longer see our final destination.

We thought about hunkering down and waiting for the clouds to pass, but we were not prepared. I had forgotten windbreakers and had only stuffed a scarf and a pillowcase into my bag just in case. Well, we were now in a just in case scenario. I pulled out the scarf and wrapped it around my daughter, and my other son put his hands in the pillowcase. We trudge along for a while, but soon a bad feeling began to develop. Even though we were very close to the top, the wind was blowing hard and the temperature was dropping fast. It was not worth risking hyperthermia. I called my husband and we decided to head back down.There is suppose to be a mountain behind us.

This had happened to us before. A couple of years ago on a mountain near Canmore, we were so close to the top I felt like we could almost touch it. It would have taken us 15 minutes to reach the summit, but it would have taken us 15 minutes to come down and 30 minutes would have meant we would have been walking down in the dark.

So for the second time in our tradition we turned around right when we were near the summit and failed to complete the mountain. We took our time coming down as it was steep and had lots of loose rock. When we got to the river we looked back up and everything was covered in cloud. We traversed the now colder river and went back to our vehicles to warm up. We drove home cold, tired, hungry, and a little dejected because it meant we would have to try again on another day. We would have to start at the beginning all over again. We’ve already decided to try and climb the mountain in Canmore instead. Hopefully we’ll conquer that one this year.

I was going to relate this experience to writing and how you need to keep trying even if you have to turn around and start at the beginning, but I’m too tired to write any more. I’ll let you guys come up with some of your own analogies.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Do you like them?

Creating great protagonist characters is fine art. They have to be likeable and relatable. You want them to have flaws, but not too many. They have to grow and learn throughout the book and not remain static. It’s a tough order.

Last weekend I watched two movies. Both were romantic dramas with tragic ends.

The first one was brilliant. The characters were likeable, but at the same time flawed. They made mistakes, had arguments, and were a little manipulative. When they got together I was excited when tragedy befell them I bawled my eyes out.

The second movie the characters were somewhat likeable. The male was too static. He was nice throughout the movie, never judgmental and didn’t really show any emotion. The girl was selfish and spoiled. When they finally did get together I wasn’t excited for them. I didn’t feel any empathy after they split up. I didn’t shed one tear.

It was amazing the difference and it was a good lesson for me to try and develop characters that the reader will root for, have empathy, and most importantly want to keep reading about them.

By the way Brit had great posts about character last week go check them out.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Over Stuff or Under Inflate

I have a conundrum.

Since I've finished my current project, at least for the time being, I've started working on a couple of new projects.

WIP A: Is the second book to my current project (so far 15,000 words)

WIP B: Completely new book with new characters and plot (so far 5,000 words)

Sometimes the words flow like melted butter on popcorn. yesterday I wrote 2000 words in an hour. Other days I feel like I'm just throwing words on the page and hoping that later on I'll be able to put them together.

Having not written a first draft in a while, I think I've created a habit, which I'm not sure is a good one or a bad one. I'm finding I use a lot of brackets as I write. Things like (add description here), (expand more), (research this), and (check details).

For WIP A I think I have too much going on; too many plots and sub-plots. I’m finding it hard to balance it all. I'm not sure what to keep and what to get rid of.

For WIP B I have a better handle on which direction I want it to go. I'm not using as many brackets.

So here’s my question: Is it better to put in as much as you can on your first draft and cut later or write the bare minimum and add.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What happened to the character... and other stuff

I just read a book where the three main characters disappear half way through the novel and you get thrown into the life of a character that had only briefly been mentioned up to that point. I have to say I skimmed the rest of the novel because I did not care about that character. I wanted to know more about the three characters I had grown to like and have an emotional attachment to. The book ended without you ever knowing anything about the beginning characters.

Now I realize you don't have to tidy things up in a nice bow at the end of the novel, but I felt a little betrayed by the author. This book is considered literary fiction, but even literary fiction needs to have a beginning, middle and end. Or am I crazy.

Sorry that was my rant for the day.

Now on to something positive. Brit over at Dream the Dream (love that blog title by the way), nominated me for a Kreative Blogger Award.

Thanks so much. I just got back from holidays so my mind is fried. I'll try to nominate 7 other bloggers on another post.

As for the 7 interesting facts about me:

1. I started playing soccer when I was 30.
2. One summer I climbed 5 mountains in one month.
3. I signed up to run 5 miles in November and am now regretting it.
4. I could eat toast with peanut butter and honey at every meal.
5. I had never broken a bone in my life, until I broke my wrist this summer, playing soccer.
6. I'm afraid of water and heights.
7. I prefer Macs

Sunday, August 16, 2009

How do you know?

How do you know if your done?

I think I'm done. I worked hard all summer. I've read and re-read then edited and re-edited. I've tried to make sure I have good character development, good pacing, and well defined scenes that makes the reader want to keep reading.

Now I've handed it over to a friend and I'm not going to think about it for a month, but the question still lingers. Is it enough?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Older or Younger - which is better?

Actually I'm not talking about you, but your kids, if you have them. We all know it's hard to write with a family. The question is: Is it easier to write when you have younger kids or older kids.

I thought I’d list some pros and cons to writing when you have older kids as opposed to younger kids.

Older kids (mine are 7, 11 and almost 14)

Pro: I don’t need to watch them constantly.
Pro: They can make their own lunch, although that rarely happens.
Pro: Sometimes they’ll read what you’ve written.
Pro: They go to school all day. For me those days start again in September.
Pro: They can help clean, although it is like pulling teeth.
Pro: If you ask nicely they might leave you alone for like half an hour.
Pro: I don’t have to get up in the middle of the night anymore.

Con: They don’t nap anymore.
Con: They go to bed later, especially during the summer. Last night, for the first time ever, I went to bed early than my kids.
Con: You have to listen to them talk about video games. (maybe that one is for boys only)
Con: You spend more time worrying about them; the choices they make, who their friends are, and what sort of things they're hearing at school.
Con: There’s homework, basketball games, football practices, gymnastics, swimming lessons etc.
Con: They know how to make you feel guilty for spending all of your time on the computer.

Younger Kids (preschool and younger)

Pro: They typically nap.
Pro: They typically go to bed early.
Pro: Sometimes you can put on Sesame Street and you’re good for an hour.

Con: They demand a lot of attention.
Con: You have to change diapers.
Con: You have to make sure they’re not getting into the toilet or falling down the stairs.
Con: They wake up in the middle of the night and way too early to allow their parents to function the next day.
Con: Did I talk about having to change diapers.

Okay honestly I’m sure there are a lot more pros and cons, but it’s been too long and I can’t think of anymore. Did I mention I have a really bad memory.

What do you think? Do you think it would be easier to write if you have younger kids or older ones? What do you see as your pros or cons.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is it worth it?

For those who don’t know, I play soccer. Mind you, it’s over 35 soccer, but it’s still pretty competitive. I’ve played with the same team for the last three years and we’ve grown pretty close. About a month ago we were getting ready for a game; putting on our ankle braces and applying tiger balm and all kinds of ointments to our aches and pains. Soon the conversation turned to which chiropractors were the best, and who was a good massage therapist. In the middle of the conversation someone asked, “Why do we do this again?”

We had a particularly rough game where I incurred a few bruises and limped off the field, but in the end it was worth it (helped that we won and I scored). Later we decided that we love to play soccer for several reasons: for the exercise, the excitement, and most of all the friendship.

Looking at my bruises (yes, I know, I'm in serious need of a pedicure), and limping up the stairs on a regular basis made me think about writing and what makes it so worth it. For those who are published or have an agent there’s a tangible reason. For those of us who have yet to reach those milestones, what makes writing worth it? What makes those late nights, never-ending edits, and constantly wondering if anyone will like what we’ve written worth the worry?

For me it’s the feeling of accomplishment. I’ve written a novel. It might never get published and no one, besides family will ever read it, but I did it. Now as I start working on my second one the excitement of seeing if I can do it again is what keeps me going through the late nights, the sore wrists (from typing), and constantly carrying a notebook around.

What makes it worth it to you?

Monday, August 10, 2009

This is me...

I’ve never been very photogenic. My whole life I've searched for nice photos of myself. That is why I haven’t put a photo of myself on the blog. This summer I was determined to find one that was half decent and the photo to the right was the best I could find.

I may replace it if I could ever get my sister-in-law, whose a photographer to take my photo.

Tomorrow I'll write something more profound. Right now it's late, and I don't have any brain time left.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Brain Time

There's not enough time in the day. I don't have any time. Time goes by so fast.

These are all sayings that most of us say everyday, but I'd like to offer a new one: I don't have any brain time left.

What does that mean?

Well, I have to say that I'm not as busy as I might like to think I am. Yes, I have the usual dishes, laundry, three kids to feed and clean up after. I work three days a week, and now my boys have started playing football, which is four days a week. Even though I'm busy, there is still time to sit down at the computer and do a bit of editing. There's time to take a notebook with me to practice and jot a few notes while I try to decipher which kid is mine. I could sneak in a half hour here or there to write something new.

The thing is, by the time I get to these moments, my brain is done. I can't think anymore. I can't decide where the proper place to put a comma is. I miss spelling mistakes, and character development gets the shaft. Thus my new saying: I don't have any brain time left.

Am I crazy or does anyone else feel this way? Do you try to push through or give up for the day?

Monday, August 3, 2009

The dreaded red pen...

A while ago I went to lunch with a author friend of mine and we needed a pen. When the waitress handed over a red pen, my friend asked for a different color, "Red is very unlucky," she said.

I think we all remember the first time we were critiqued. I remember mine. It was in grade 9. I had joined the journalism class and wrote a story for the school newspaper. When I asked the upitty blonde (no offense) editor if she liked it. She stuck up her nose and said you printed half of it and used handwriting for the rest.

The second time came much later. After my second son was born (I said much later - the first one did me in for awhile), I took a creative writing class. I submitted part of a chapter that I had been working on for months. It got totally torn apart. It was all I could do not to sob in front of everyone.

A few years ago I took the first chapter of my current project and submitted it to my local library's writer-in-residence program. I was totally intimidated. He was an author. He'd written two books that were literary fiction, not just fiction but literary, and here I was asking him to read a chapter of my YA fantasy novel.

I drove to our first meeting not knowing what to expect, but I vowed that I would not get upset. I would not show discouragement or get emotional. When I got to the door of the conference room, which had a window on it, I saw my chapter. It was covered in red pen. I stopped for a second and regrouped. "This is good," I said. "This is how I'll learn."

Yes there was a lot of red but I learned so much. I continued going back to that writer and the following year I had another writer-in-residence read it, he had a color code. There was lots of red ink and a few other colors but in the end I learned so much from the red pen, but I still don't like to use them.