Monday, May 11, 2015

Writer Unboxed (Comfort Zones)

Hey friends, I know it's been a while. I miss interacting with you all, but during this time away, I'm happy to say I spent a lot of time writing, and learning, as a writer, how to step out of my comfort zone.

As you know, writing YA fiction has been my passion for the last few years. That was already a stretch for me, writing something I loved reading but didn't know much about. I was used to contemporary romance. The formulas, the POVs, the happily-ever-afters. And then I had to go and make my writing life VERY uncomfortable.

There's a lot about writing that comes naturally. Some people are just born storytellers. But there's so much about it that has to be learned, researched, practiced. To top that off, writing in a new genre is like starting that process all over again.

This winter I finished my first contemporary YA, and I have to admit, it was WAY out of my comfort zone after writing speculative fiction. However, I pushed myself to try something new and it was a wonderful experience. Here are a few things stepping out my comfort zone has helped me learn:

1) Your love for writing needs to be renewed sometimes.
I am a writer. That's part of who I am. But that doesn't mean it's not hard. Sometimes even exhausting. You need to take breaks, and sometimes your passion needs to be renewed. Stepping out of your comfort zone and writing something new or different can help with that.

2) Risks are worth it.
You never know what you're capable of until you try. The contemporary YA I wrote isn't something I ever thought I'd try. Not to mention it was done in dual POVs. It was a risk. But I loved writing it. I fell in love with the story and the characters. No matter what happens with it, it's a story that helped me branch out with my writing and taught me something about myself, too.

3) The world needs your story!
Yes, there are heaps and heaps of stories out there. Everything you can imagine. The market is full of something new and different, as well as the old fall-backs. The traditional stories from authors we're familiar with. But that doesn't mean your story doesn't fit in. Most of those authors started with something new and different to them. If they hadn't taken a risk, we wouldn't have their stories. And if we, as writers, don't step out of our comfort zones every once in a while, the world won't have our stories either. Let's be fearless writers!

Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone with writing or something you enjoy in your personal life? Was there anything you learned from it?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Writing Process Blog Chain

Thanks to Monica Mansfield for tagging me in the Writing Process Blog Chain last Monday. If you're curious about her process, you can visit Monica here.

The purpose behind this blog chain is to learn a little more about our fellow writers, so here are my answers!

1. What am I currently working on?

Oh, I can't tell you how excited I am by my new project. I've been mulling it over for months and I finally had the chance to start writing a few weeks ago. It's a YA urban fantasy and a retelling. BUT, sorry to say, I can't give much more information than that because it's a secret. I will tell you, however, that my MC is good at throwing knives, building things, and skirting authority--you know, until she gets caught.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I'm a big fan of character driven stories, and in a plot-driven YA world, I feel my stories delve further into my characters' psyche than most. Not all. But most. Also, it's a retelling, which is not unheard of but it's completely revamped. The MC is a different gender than the original story, and it's set in a completely different world. It's one of those "based on" stories rather than a very strict-to-the-original retellings.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Oh, because I can help it. Truly. I write more than one genre, but YA is my super-duper passion. I like it because it's relatable, because it appeals to all audiences, because it's okay to write outside of the box. And mostly, I write YA because I get to write characters who are learning about themselves. Who are old enough to make choices, but young enough to become completely overwhelmed with those choices and, well, cause a lot of drama. These characters feel like real people. And then I get to dump them into a fantasy world and go crazy. Love it!

4. How does my writing process work? 

It varies depending on the genre. I write both contemporary and paranormal romance as well as YA fantasy. For my contemporaries, I tend to plot a little more, but for my YA stories, I'm a pantser--for the most part. That said, I still have a process, which looks something like:

* Get an idea. It's usually vague, like "I want to write about witches." I develop it to the point where I know the ending, can think of three major plot points, and can come up with some pretty good conflict. If I can't do that, I either keep thinking or discard/set aside the idea.
* Flesh out my characters. I come up with character pics and back stories and GMC because I have to know what's driving my character. I add in more and think of more later, but I have to have the basics. I also like to think of something small my character is interested in, whether is mechanics like my current MC, or drawing like a character I've written in the past. I don't necessarily have to use it in the story, but I like having a better feel for my character and what he/she likes.
* Write! Yes, I know that's basic. But after that, I write. I'll mull over my current scene or chapter while I'm exercising or cleaning in the morning, and then try to write soon after that.
* Then I edit for basics, send it off to one of my CP's who gets to see my work first, and make changes she suggests.
* Next is another CP and beta readers. I like doing edits in stages so different things are caught and I get feedback as the story is progressively (I hope) getting better.
* Polish and submit!

Thanks for letting me share my writing process with you. I'm happy to pass this chain along to one of my very talented CPs, Jessica Hoefer who also writes YA fiction. Please visit her blog next Monday to learn more about her writing process.

Jessica grew up in the Seattle suburbs and moved east of the Cascade Mountains to start a career in broadcast news. While she no longer works as a television reporter, she freelances for Northwest magazines and business publications, but her true passion is writing YA Speculative Fiction.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Contests and More Contests! How to Stay Sane

I've been all about the contests the last few weeks. I entered Pitch Slam and Nestpitch and I might do another next month. It's a great way to get an agent or editor's eye on your work and perhaps get a few requests. But submitting to contests can be nearly as nerve-wracking as querying or submitting to publishers.

So how do you stay sane while you're waiting for results?

Keep busy - Yep. Put your mind to something. Either a task around the house, or even better, your story. You'll feel a lot better if you're productive while you're waiting.

Don't get your hopes up - I know this might sound harsh, but it's a good idea not to get your hopes up too high while waiting for results. Just like with querying, agents, editors, and judges have their own opinions. No matter how much polishing you do on your entry, it just might not be right for them.

Give yourself a break, even if you did just hit the refresh button 7 million times - Don't be too hard on yourself if you go a little overboard and stalk Twitter feeds or refresh your e-mail dozens more times than you normally would. It's okay to be excited.

Lastly, Congratulate yourself - It's scary putting your story out there. It's a representation of you and your hard work. No matter what the results, it's wonderful you had the guts to enter/submit in the first place.

So how do you stay sane when you're waiting for contest, query, or submission results? Have you done any of these lately? Is the waiting killing you?

P.S. I totally forgot that it's okay to indulge in lots of chocolate!

P.P.S. And you are allowed one day in sweatpants.

P.P.P.S. Without feeling guilty.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Should YA Novels Have Happy Endings?

I have to tell you, I'm very opinionated on this topic, but I want to know what everyone else thinks, too. I read a lot, mostly in the genres I write. Contemporary romance and YA (mostly spec. fic, though I like contemporary, too). I read because I want to keep up on what's popular in the genres I write. I read because it inspires me. And also, I read because I enjoy it.

Because of this, and because I don't have as much time to read as I like, I'm fairly particular about what I like to read.

If I'm reading a contemporary romance, I expect a happy ending. If I'm reading women's fiction or literary, I try not to expect a certain outcome because I know those genres don't always have happy endings.

But what about YA? See, most of the stories I read in this genre have a happy ending. And by this I mean the conflict is resolved, and (because most YAs have romances in them) the characters end up together.

Also, a lot of YA stories I read are part of a series. So, you're invested in a plot and characters for three or more books, I figure the reader deserves a happy ending. I figure the reader deserves a resolved conflict and characters that are in love (if the story had a romance).

I recently read a series despite hearing mixed things about the third book. I read Book 1, loved it, read Book 2, liked it, and then stopped before Book 3. I worried something was going to go wrong in Book 3. So worried, in fact, I read spoilers for the book so I could find out. And, upon reading those spoilers, decided not to read the book.

If I root for characters only for them to not fall/or stay in love, I don't want to read about it. If the character is going to die or not accomplish what they'd set out to do, I don't want to read it.

Basically, if this happens, especially at the end of a series, I feel betrayed. As a reader, I feel like the writer has betrayed me.

So, what do you think? Specifically in YA novels, do you think stories or series should have happy endings? Do you feel betrayed when you think there's going to be a happy ending and there isn't?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Worldbuilding for YA Fantasy

Photo by eamoncurry123
I'm working on a new YA novel which requires a lot of worldbuilding and this is very new for me. Intimidatingly new. I think at some point in the past I said I didn't know if I'd be up to the task of writing fantasy because creating a whole new world sounds like a daunting task. But here I am challenging myself with that task anyway.

So, what is worldbuilding?

Wikipedia says, "Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe."

The word universe makes this task sound even more daunting, but that's just what it is. A complete world in and of itself where your characters live and breathe and YOU or I in this case, have to make readers feel like it's real.

What does this entail?


And these are just the basics, because beyond this, it's necessary to make characters fit within these parameters like it's their natural way of life. And then, yes then, you get the job of making the reader feel like they're in this world as well--and not only that, it's a world that (no matter how upside-down or backward) still makes sense.

So I'm curious any of you worldbuilders out there or readers of fantasy (or even historical), what makes a world feel real to you? What do you want to see in a fantasy universe and how to do you go about creating one?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Do Book Covers Make a Difference?

I'm a visual person. Things that catch my eye make me want to take a closer look. Pretty book covers make me drool. Just a little.

Recently I was browsing at the library and spotted this cover.

I'd seen it before and remembered it. Remembered thinking how striking it was. Then I'd moved on and forgotten it for awhile. In the meantime, I made my to-read list on Goodreads (yes, I just joined. No, I don't really know what I'm doing, but it's fun) and this book wasn't on it.

Back to the part about the library. So there I was, browsing, because I hadn't requested any books to be put on hold but I wanted something to read. I saw this cover again. And I snatched the book right off the shelves and checked it out without even reading the summary.

Because it was P-R-E-T-T-Y and I like pretty.

Anyway, I read the book, loved it, added the next to my to-be read list and I still drool sometimes over covers.

My point?

I might never have read this book if not for the drool-worthy cover.

Book covers make a difference. I even asked people on Facebook (yeah, I joined that one a long time ago but Twitter still gives me the willies). They said they pick up books because of their covers, too.

Moral of the story?

A strong, eye-catching, professional cover is going to get people to pick up your book. The rest is up to you.

So, what do you think? Do pretty book covers help sell more books--or at least get people interested in the book in the first place?