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Monday, May 21, 2012

Coming Home

I started writing my first "serious book" when I was 12. I'd written other books before then (with the term "books" loosely defined as any Word document between 5 to 30 pages), but when I got the idea for Giving Light, I KNEW. It would be big. Epic. Bigly epic, in such a way that I instantly started dreaming of publication and being adored by fans who would be amazed that such a masterpiece was written by a mere teenager. Or preteen, as it were.

But it kind of sucked. The story itself was pretty good, the characters alive enough for something written by a twelve-to-eighteen-year-old, but in the end it WAS my very first novel. And first novels are rarely good, no matter how much I desperately wanted/needed/KNEW it to be good. So after a few years of slowly coming to this conclusion, I put it aside in favor of newer, shinier projects.

The story, though, has never left me. I still have all of my illegible notes, my story maps, my (very, very bad) sketches depicting various characters. I pull it all out every once in awhile to reminisce about Little Author Me, and where I started, and to chuckle at how CERTAIN I was that this book would be IT. A few months ago I even started rewriting it in the offhanded hope that I could make it not suck. Got about two pages in before Ghost Book distracted me. (In Ghost Book's defense, it is pretty awesome.)

But I finished Ghost Book (or, you know, "finished long enough that I can start getting distracted by other things") and wanted something new to start on. Something epic and beautiful, something I could totally lose myself in. It's been awhile (since STREAM PIRATE, really) since I've had a book like that -- Ghost Book, while freakin' wonderful, isn't a lose-yourself-in-a-completely-different-world kind of book. And I desperately missed getting so wrapped up in my own head that I stay up into the wee hours of the night writing at ferocious speeds and get so lost in Laptop that I completely miss conversations going on around me.

So I pulled out all my old Giving Light goodies and shuffled through them in the hope that I had some random, forgotten note for a story idea I could expand. Some blip of a thought that sets off like wildfire. And while I was perusing my many, many, MANY notebooks, I remembered how lost I got in Giving Light, how beautifully, hopelessly in love I was with all my characters. And I decided -- it's time.

It's time to resurrect it. At the time, it served its purpose -- to propel me along on my writing journey and help me hone my craft. But now, I have a lot more experience with the whole writing-a-book-that-isn't-quite-horrible thing, and I think Giving Light (or Snow Like Ashes as I'm calling it now) deserves it's best chance.

So be prepared, Bloggerites. It's been a few years since you got Lost In A Novel Sara and with any luck, that's exactly what's about to happen. Coming back to this story is like returning home after a long, long absence. Everything's just how I left it yet gloriously filled with potential.

Monday, May 14, 2012

This is a blog post

And I am WRITING IT. Because I promised I'd blog more and be more entertaining and other such nonsense.

As of last Friday, I am currently working on edits for SHUTTER, SHUDDER (Ghost Book). Nothing super massive (as in, I am not yet ready to pull all my hair out and run around my apartment screaming "YOU WIN. YOU WIN. DON'T EAT ME PLEASE."), but one of the things I am adding is the one thing that I always, always, ALWAYS suck at. Always. I am now so aware of my suckiness at this that I expect it with every book, and wait with growing dread for someone to say this simple sentence:

"*insert MC's name here* needs more development in his/her personal character arc."

Character arcs. Oh, character arcs. I did a post awhile back about my struggle with character arcs. In it I tried to dissect the parts of character arcs in order to make it simpler in my head. It didn't help.

BUT, this time around, Sophie (Ghost Book MC) has an emotional struggle that I at least could put a name to: grief. And we all know those famous steps that (supposedly) everyone goes through whilst in the throws of grief. So I decided to apply them to character arcs too and found --

It kind of worked.

I'm trying not to get too excited with this discovery (we'll see if I can apply the same principles to my next book), but guys -- I HAVE MAPPED OUT SOPHIE'S CHARACTER ARC. I have never, in the history of writing, been able to sit down and map out a character's emotional journey before. It was always a barrage of "She did this -- and then -- oh wait, that happened too, so that first -- but with this other guy -- on a hilltop -- and then over there -- "

Until neither I nor anyone I tried to talk it through to could figure out what was wrong with this character. But now, I have a MAP. I have something to FOLLOW. And, dare I say, it might even be GOOD.

So if you're struggling with character arcs, give the Five Stages of Grief a whirl. Or, in more applicable terms, the Five Stages of MC Emotional Roller Coastering.

1) Depression. A common lead-in, I think. A lot of MC's start the books off a little rundown by whatever emotional problem they have. It's usually something they've been dealing with for awhile/their whole life, and when we meet up with them, they're cresting the point of Don't Know How To Fix It.

2) Denial. Usually the next step, when the MC is forced to confront whatever problem he/she has and they are so fed up with having said problem that they deny it, fight it, struggle with accepting it.

3) Anger. Towards the middle of the book -- the MC's problem is definitely surfaced by now, and they are forced to face it. Forced to in such a way that they're still wanting to deny it, unable to, and thereby pissed that they have to actually deal with it.

4) Bargaining. The MC realizes how dire their situation is. They also know what they need to do fix said emotional problem, but as a last resort, they throw caution to the wind and have a mini-breakdown of "I'll do ANYTHING else BUT that."

5) Acceptance. The climax -- the point where the MC realizes what he/she really has to do and does it. Emotional baggage is unloaded, hearts are mended, confetti is thrown.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Status Change

Spring is an excellent time for new things. For instance, The Boyfriend and I just transplanted all of our wee sprouted veggies into the Real Outdoor Garden, where they now sit, looking quite petrified and windblown. Alas, poor veggies, the Real Outdoor Garden is a bit windier than your cushy indoor windowsill, but it is infinitely sunnier and will, ultimately, be the best thing for you.

Yes, this is metaphorical. You know me so well.

A few weeks ago, I made a decision. A decision I had been rolling through my head for a long, long while. A decision that was in no way, shape, or form easy, and was so preposterous that it took me a few months to even realize it was something I could do. Much like my poor wee veggies, now shivering in the bright Outdoor Garden light, I was terrified of what the repercussions would be and that I wouldn't survive the transition and that I wasn't cut out for the results of my decision.

I left my agent.

Now, I could go into the how's and why's and WHAT WAS I #@%$ THINKING's, but that's not what this post is about. This post is about new things.

When I left my agent, I did so with the full knowledge that STREAM PIRATE would probably never again see the light of day. At least not for a long while. And what I had instead was my Ghost Book, which made me giggle and shudder and hope people still believed in ghosts. I took Ghost Book and I walked back into a world I hadn't seen in more than two and a half years -- the world of Querying.

Querying is -- still pretty horrible. In case anyone was wondering.

BUT. But. Oh, the But. Querying can also be thrilling and energetic and ignite in you a kind of hope that you hadn't felt in years. It can make you bounce in your cubicle at work and WISH SO HARD that at least ONE of your coworkers could understand the GRAVITY of a FULL REQUEST.

And it can especially make you wish that at least one of your coworkers could understand the gravity of a full request becoming an offer.

After a whirlwind of a query session, a number of jaw-dropping requests, and so much interest my head spun for my snarky, quirky, delightfully creepy Ghost Book, I officially accepted an offer of representation on May 1st from Charlotte Sheedy of Charlotte Sheedy Literary.

Charlotte and Mackenzie are, in a word, FANTASTIC. They are enthused and bubbly and so freakin' passionate about Ghost Book that my head rings a little. I could not dream up more perfect representation for SHUTTER, SHUDDER (seriously -- there are so many similarities between Charlotte, Mackenzie, and Ghost Book that I giggle helplessly every time I think about them).

Though the decision I made a few weeks back was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, I know, like my wee veggies, that it is ultimately the best decision for me.

And the logo on sheedylit.com looks like a mustache, which is just so MADE OF WIN, it'd make them fantastic anyway.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Question of Culture

I read a rather thought-provoking article today. Observe:
I'm not sure how many authors are aware of this problem. I'll be the first to admit I wasn't even aware of this problem until about a year ago, when I started writing SHUTTER, SHUDDER (Ghost Book. Yes, I'm using Ghost Book's real name. SERIOUS STUFF, PEOPLE). In SHUTTER, SHUDDER, the MC, Sophie McKay, is a fiesty, rather loud teenager between her senior year of high school and her freshman year of college. She's a photographer, obsessed with color and pictures. And she's Jewish.
Sophie's Judaism was never a question -- she sprang into my head colorful and loud and declaring quite passionately that she was who she was, and this was her story, and I'd better start writing because she wasn't going to repeat herself. I thought "Hey, cool! I don't know anything about Judaism beyond the Star of David and Hanukkah, so this will be some interesting research." I bought (I kid you not) Judaism for Dummies, did a lot of Google searches, and let Sophie tell me all about her culture.
It didn't really cross my mind that Sophie's Judaism might be something unique until I started seeing articles like the one linked above, and paying more attention to culture in YA, and I realized -- there is very little culture in YA.
Now, I'm still developing this in my head (SHUTTER, SHUDDER is my first book to ever have an MC with a culture different from my own), but it's brought up some interesting questions, and I'd like to hear your thoughts:
1) Have you written a YA book with a multicultural MC? How was it received (if it was published, if it was read by your close family, if it was read by betas, etc etc, in whatever circles it swam)?
2) What multicultural YA books have you read in which the culture of the MC was not the main plot of the story, yet more of a background detail (in other words, where the book was about X and the MC just WAS a certain culture, not a book that is wholly about a different culture)?
3) Do you think (purely opinion, guys) that if Bella Swan or Katniss Everdeen were, say, Japanese or Middle Eastern or Muslim or Hindu, and that fact was woven into the story as background detail (ie, it's a story about a Japanese girl who falls in love with a vampire, not a story about a girl who is Japanese and falls in love with a vampire, if that makes sense), that their books would have sold just as well?
(I hope I'm explaining the background thing well -- when I say "background detail" I mean that the MC is Asian or African American or whatever, and it isn't the focal point of the story. Nothing in the plot changes because they are of a different culture, only bits and pieces of their culture are subtly woven in alongside the major plot, whatever it may be.)
(I realize that bringing issues of race and culture up can be a call for Slimy Internet Trolls -- I mean this as a serious discussion, and want to reaffirm how TOTALLY and COMPLETELY pro-culture, pro-uniqueness that I am. This is something I'm starting to feel really motivated by, and am curious how the rest of the YA community feels, especially those who are in the same "boat" as me -- white, middle class family, etc etc.)