Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Win a critique by moi

Yes, it's finally here! The moment you've all been waiting for!!!

Haha not really, but I still think it's pretty cool that the wonderful Krista Van Dolzer is hosting me over at her blog, Mother Write Repeat. I am offering a 20,000 word In-Depth Critique from Teen Eyes to my favorite entry. All you have to do is post the first 250 words of your story, along with a one sentence pitch.

Should be fun. If you're interested, pop on over and check out the contest. Authoress and Brenda are hosting the other Teen Eyes editors.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Winners!!! Plus a CP retreat

The winner of THE DIVINERS is:

Kathryn Purdie!

And the winner of THRONE OF GLASS is:

Sophia Chang!

Yaaayyyyy *throws confetti*

Thanks to everyone who entered! I'll be emailing the winners shortly to get their addresses. Imma have another giveaway later this week, so stay tuned!

This past weekend, my critique partners and I rented a room at the Alta Lodge so that we could have some undisturbed writing time. Although I didn't get much done on my own story, we spent a bunch of hours working through Melanie's plot and helping her brainstorm ideas for her characters and world building. By the end of the retreat, Melanie had an entire outline written up for her new story. She came so far this weekend and I'm super excited to see the finished product!

Our room

View from our room

Not only was it nice to get away for a while, especially in mountains where it's mercifully cool, but I feel like our retreat helped me to understand the power of brainstorming. Sometimes, you just need to talk things through with other people who understand your writing. Critique groups are invaluable. They can help you at every stage of the writing process - drafting, revising, or even outlining, in Melanie's case. 

Plus we got to eat Cafe Rio, and who doesn't love Cafe Rio?

Anyways, I'm off to go work my little butt off, because I have a 20-page paper due tomorrow that I haven't started. Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Guys! Guys! I am so excited to share this with you! As some of you are probably aware, my friend and critique partner Liesl sold her debut MG novel RUMP to Random House last year. It comes out April 2013, and today is the big cover reveal! I love this cover so much. Liesl is also holding an ARC giveaway, so hop on over to her blog and enter!











Isn't it pretty? I love love love love love it! Congrats, Liesl! I read this book long before it sold, and it's perfect for MG readers, boys and girls alike. So everyone go enter!!!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Unreliable memories

The other day, I was flipping through a book about writing by Gail Carson Levine. In it, she talks about the importance of writing things down during childhood. One particular quote from this book really struck me. I haven't been able to find it online, and I don't own the book, but in essence she talks about the mindset of childhood and how we lose that mindset during our passage into adulthood. Adolescence is a bridge that every human must cross, and the bridge burns behind us. Once we reach the other side there is no going back. 

Sure, we all have memories. We all remember being seven, and ten, and thirteen, and sixteen. But never again will we be able to insert ourselves into that childhood/teenage mindset. Now, I am still a teenager, and thus I still have access to the mindset of my YA characters. But that soon will change. With time, I will no longer be able to think and feel like a teenager thinks and feels. Having a memory of childhood just isn't the same.

As writers, we strive to recreate these mindsets as best we can, although it will never be possible to recapture childhood. During my last few years as a teenager I've done my absolute best to write everything down. I record my feelings and my petty desires and all the ups and downs of high school/early college. Hopefully, in a few years, I will be able to look back on these writings and use them in my professional work. 

But what about those people who are already adults, who have crossed that bridge? What if you possess no written recordings of your thoughts as a child? Many of us don't think to save these childhood scribblings, and thus we lose this temporary window to our younger selves. This is why it is so, so important to integrate yourself with your target audience. If you are writing for teens, you cannot expect to rely solely upon your memories, because memories do not really allow you to think like a teenager. When a frustrated thirteen-year-old yells "You don't understand!", in many ways, they're right. Yes, we were all thirteen at one point in our lives, but that bridge is gone. We cannot fully understand what it's like to be thirteen because we do not have the power to shift into the mindset of a child. 

So you must take every opportunity possible to spend time with your target audience. Really listen to them, and take the time to ask about their thoughts and feelings. If you compile your own memories with these careful, thoughtful observations, you can craft a character who is as close to a real teenager as possible. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Creative Collaboration

For THRONE OF GLASS and THE DIVINERS giveaway, click here.

With the advent of digital self publishing, many writers have chosen to release their manuscripts as e-books on sites like Amazon. People choose this path for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they write for a niche audience, or maybe they know a lot about marketing and think they can earn more money with e-books, or they could just be fed up with receiving rejections from traditional publishers. Along the way, some (certainly not all, but some) self published authors have developed a condescending and pitying attitude towards those of us who've chosen traditional methods. I read many comments along the lines of, "Those poor traditional authors, enslaved to the evvvuullll publishing gatekeepers, who obviously don't care about quality and just publish the same dry drivel year after year. If you're traditionally published, your book's obviously a Twilight-ripoff or unoriginal in some other way. Editors sap the life out of good books."

Make no mistake, traditionally published authors are condescending right back. But this got me thinking about so-called "creative control" when it comes to writing fiction. Many self published authors say they want to retain control of their material, so they don't have to make changes they don't want to make.

Quite honestly, this baffles me, and I think this is the main reason I would never dream of self publishing: I love working with my editor and agent. I love the collaborative creative process. Even the best of writers need input from a good editor, and I would argue that you can't buy an editorial relationship just by paying a freelance editor. My editor has a stake in my book, same as my agent. It's in her best interests to make my book the absolute best it can be, and if I haven't yet reached that potential, she'll tell me. She'll be brutally honest. And if you have an editor who is a good fit for your book, I guarantee you won't feel creativity stifled; rather, working with a good editor is a freeing experience, one that helps you grow as a writer.

(Btw, I'm not bashing freelancers. Hell, I am a freelancer! But I don't consider myself a replacement for the thorough, full-text content and line edits performed by traditional publishers, often over the course of five or six rounds of revision.)

It takes a village to raise a book. Having industry professionals who believe in me - enough to invest their time and potential income into perfecting my book - is a validation I wouldn't trade for anything. My editor points out problems and suggests solutions, but I don't necessarily have to accept her solutions. More often than not I come up with my own ways to fix plot and character issues. To me, this is the epitome of good creative collaboration: rather than wresting control of my book and stamping out the originality, my editor pushes me to be better, guiding the process instead of forcing it. When perfectly matched, the relationship between author, editor, and agent is truly a beautiful thing, and it leads to a type of creativity that transcends what the author is capable of on their own.

Now, my way won't be right for everyone, and I understand that. Some authors don't have such a great experience with their editors. But contrary to what those fed up with traditional publishing might say, I find that most editors at traditional houses are in the business of liberating new creative voices rather than silencing them.

Friday, July 6, 2012

ARC giveaway - Throne of Glass and The Diviners!

Time for an ARC giveaway! Since I returned from BEA, I've had the chance to peruse the ARCs I hoarded from various publishing booths. These are two of my favorites so far. Contest rules are at the bottom of the page.

Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.

Okay, seriously? Who doesn't love Libba Bray? This book was right up my alley. It's long, but I read it in just a couple days, and I thought it was fantastic. Libba is the author of A Great and Terrible Beauty, among other novels for young adults. This is one you won't want to miss.

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Where to even start? This is one of my favorite books of 2012. I had my reservations going in, simply because the plot didn't sound like something that would really hook me, but Sarah's writing grabbed me from the first sentence. Calaena was such a well-developed protagonist, with flaws and nuances that slowly revealed themselves throughout the book. She was tough and dangerous, but also girly, which I found rather refreshing; sometimes it seems like the two are mutually exclusive in YA fiction. 

I also found Sarah's fantasy world to be absolutely fascinating. Here's the thing: often, when I read a fantasy book, I feel like the author only knows the bare minimum about their world - in other words, they explore it to the extent that it serves a basic purpose, but they don't have any deeper understanding of the geography, politics, magic systems, etc. With THRONE OF GLASS, I could tell that Sarah had worked out the complexities of her world down to the smallest of details. This understanding lends itself to a richer and more fulfilling story. I try to avoid in-depth reviews on this blog, because I hate spoilers, but suffice to say I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves a well-written, intricate, engaging fantasy novel. 

How to enter:
+1 for following
+3 for tweeting/facebooking
+4 for blogging
+1 for commenting on this post with your name and email address
+1 for adding up your points and posting that number in the comments section

This contest is open to U.S. residents only (sorry, international peeps!). Open until July 20th.