Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No-No’s in YA fiction

There is so much YA fiction out there right now that it’s not particularly surprising that agents and publishers and even readers are sick of seeing certain trends. One of the most obvious is of course sexy vampires. It’s been done to death, pun intended, and agents are prone to gag and throw the work out the window if they see it come across their desk.

This reaction makes a lot of sense. In order to sell something, you need to have a fresh, exciting and new product. Otherwise, what’s going to convince people to pick up your book in particular when everything around it looks exactly the same?

I get this, I really do. But here’s the problem. My book is full of current YA no-no’s. To the brim. Let me show you some examples. Please don’t get mad at me.

List of no-no’s for YA stories that I completely ignored and threw into my novel;

1-      Parallel worlds / Portal fantasy.
            This has been done, and done well (think Narnia) so most people are sick to death of seeing it. Also, a lot of writers start with a portal fantasy, which means that agents and publishers tend to see poorly constructed and amateur manuscripts of this type cross their desk regularly. See so many of them, and eventually the words “Portal Fantasy” are automatically associated with badness.

2-      Fantasy
            On the same lines, Fantasy is done done done. See that huge section of the bookstore with “Sci-Fi and Fantasy” written above it? Yeah, there’s where the fantasy stories belong right now. YA apparently has no room for this kind of story, especially things that are considered “high fantasy” (think Lord of the Rings). While I understand there is a full genre for these kind of books already, and most are geared toward a younger crowd anyway, I still find this the most frustrating no-no. Tamora Pierce was my favorite writer as a child, and I hated that there was nothing else similar to her at the time. While this has shifted significantly, I still see a barrier where fantasy is meant for boys, and they like the adult section just fine, while paranormal fantasy is for girls and they can find their sexy demons in YA.

3-      Magic
            Thanks a lot, Harry Potter. You might have opened up YA fantasy and helped to bring out some of the best books I’ve ever read, but you completely ruined magic for the rest of us. No one’s going to match your success, though many have tried, and most agents can’t be bothered with it anymore. They see magic and it’s an instant ‘yawn.’

4-      Paranormal romance
            Yeah, I get it, sexy vampires are so over. Way too much out there, just look at the shelves, yadda yadda yadda. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t still be done in really fun and exciting ways. Such as, maybe the guy isn’t a vampire who’s trying to be with the one he loves while fighting an uncontrollable urge to kill her. What if it’s a werewolf, or demon, or... yeah, okay I see the point. Overdone and completely predictable. I am properly ashamed.

5-      Retellings of fairytales
            Alright, this one is a bit of a stretch for my story, but the original idea was loosely based off a fairy tale. I also get why this is being frowned at right now, just look at what’s out there. Two Snow White movies in one year, Once Upon a Time (TV), Grim (TV), Cinder (book), Beastly (movie/book), Red (movie/book), and the list could go on forever. This is made even worse when you think about the fact that the story has already been done to death for hundreds of picture books before these writers take the idea and make it their own. Still, I for one could stand to see a couple more.

Does this mean I should print off a copy of my book just so I can crumple it up and eat it while crying about the fact that I’ll never do anything interesting or creative? Well, maybe, but I’m not going to. I love my book. I don’t write for trends, which also means I don’t write to avoid trends either. I write the stories that are in my head, and sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t.

Maybe this book won’t interest any agents or publishers, but that’s not my ultimate goal, and I hope it never is. I am my audience, and my only hope is that there are some other people out there that enjoy what I do as much as me.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day jobs and moving forward

Don't quit your day job.

Wise words that I've heard time and time again. As fun as writing is, it's never going to pay the bills. After all, every writer I know has had another job to supplement what little income they make from writing. However, most of the people who talk about how important it is to keep your day job, are also people who have good paying, enjoyable jobs. As much as they might want to have more time to write, they by no means dread going into work every day.

What's the advice for someone who has a part time, minimum wage job that not only doesn't pay the bills but makes the person miserable?

I've been doing the same crummy job for nine months now, and have been talking about quitting for about eight. It was a temporary thing, and at first it really did help. I had enough hours to scrape by and it got me out of the house regularly.  As the hours began to get cut (down to maybe 8 a week) and the atmosphere went from bad to worse, I realized I needed to get out.

The thing that has held me there for so long is the complete lack of opportunities. For whatever reason, it's been impossible to find a different job. I have a BA in history and a diploma in graphic design. I should be able to find something, from secretary work to a junior design position, especially since I do have the experience. However, after eleven years of working at seventeen jobs, not counting freelance work, I've come to realize something. I'm not satisfied with a job that simply pays the bills. If I'm going to be doing something that takes up the majority of my time and energy ever day, I need it to be something that I love.

After watching the commencement speech by Neil Gaiman, I made a decision. In his speech he talks about how the most important thing you need to do, besides making good art, is to always be working toward your goal. If your offered a job that doesn't place you a little closer to your goal, then it really isn't the right thing for you to be doing. For a long time I wasn't sure what my goal was. I was in denial. It seems so blindingly obvious to me right now that I can't believe I couldn't see it before. I'm a writer. That's what I love. That's what I've always loved. There will always be other things that I'll enjoy doing for a time such as drawing and graphic design, but writing is always what I'll come back to.

What does all of this mean?

Well, despite all of the wise advice, I've made the move and quit my day job. It's time to move forward toward my goal. I am well aware of how hard it's going to be. I know that there's a good chance I won't be able to pay my bills. However, I can't continue letting that fear keep me from doing what I know I should be doing. While this isn't the right move for everyone, for me I know that it's the step I need to take.

Now it's time to emerge myself in the terrifying and highly competitive world of freelance writing.

It's time for everything to change.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Week of Writing - Day Six

First off, sorry I haven't been updating my progress with my week of writing a bit more. My bad. At least the reason is because I've been busy writing, not because I gave up.

The writing stage of my three part plan became a bit more difficult than I anticipated when I realized that I needed another chapter before I could get to the ending. Therefore, what I thought was going to be about 9000 words turned out to be 12339 words.

But guess what?

I just finished the second draft of my novel. And unlike the first draft, I'm feeling really confident about this one. Of course it needs work. Some of that work may be major, but I'm really happy with the characters and the plot. All that remains is fixing any holes and making it pretty. Not an easy thing to do, but I'm definitely a step in the right direction.

I've been meaning to mention, since some people have asked, that this book is not a sequel to Magic High. I'm so sorry if that's what you were hoping for, but I'm really excited about this new book that I've been calling The Box. At some point I would love to revisit Tabetha's world, but I honestly think that you won't be disappointed by the new world and characters.

It may have taken me twice as long as I was hoping, but I am so pleased with what I've accomplished in the past six days. I probably won't be able to make it to steps two or three in the next day or two as life is going to be a bit hectic, but never the less, this is the best early birthday present I could have ever given myself.

And thank you so much for everyone who's been reading this and encouraging me along the road. There's still a way to go, but for now, I am one happy girl.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Week of Writing - Day Three

Alright. I'll admit it. I’m a little behind on my week of writing. But it’s still good. Still good. I can make a comeback.

My overall goal is to get around 9000 words written by tomorrow, which in theory will finish this draft of my book.

Day one I got about 2000 written. I’m really not a fast writer, so overall, that was a pretty good day for me. Not as great as I was hoping, but nothing to scoff at either.

Day two was a little less successful. The entire day was supposed to be dedicated to writing, since I knew today was going to be much busier. And what did I do? Flop around on my couch whining about how hard it is to write.

Poor me, I had to do something that I enjoy. I know, you all feel such pity for me.

And so the final result was only 1000 words, which brings my two day total to 3000 words. Hmm, wasn’t that supposed to be what I’d write each day? This leaves me with approximately 6000 words left to write by tomorrow.

I may be behind, but I’m definitely not out yet. I still have time to finish my goal, especially since I wasn’t very clear if I had to be done before May 24th or if I have that day as well. Very clever of me to have left myself some wiggle room.

But enough updating. It’s time for me to get back into the story and try and get those final chapters written.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Week of Writing - Day One

Ready to roll with just a little hint of the crazy in the eyes.
I love to give myself deadlines. I almost never meet these deadlines, but it's super fun to try. With that in mind, I have a new project for myself. I call it…

Finish Writing Your Book You Lazy Bum

I know, awesome title, right? I've always been really good with titles. *cough*

Anyway, the goal is to finish my novel to a point where I can send it to beta readers in exactly one week. Why May 24th? Well, there are two reasons. First, I believe it's possible for me to get the work done in that time while at the same time, it's not too far off that I can slack. Also, it's my BIRTHDAY! (Cash gifts only, 'kay thanks.)

I know there are a lot of people who don't understand the big deal about birthdays, but I'm not one of them. I love them. A full day every year all about me? Uh, yes please. For me it's a lot like New Years. It's a time to look back on the last year of my life and think, what did I accomplish and what will I do next? I really want to be able to say that I finished writing a novel, especially since it was one year ago that I released Magic High.

And so, here's the plan. I have about four chapters left to write. My chapters run about 2300 words long. I also have two or three chapters that need major edits in order for them to work. Finally, I'll have a full read through of the novel and make any final edits so that the book, while not perfect, will be readable.

My timeline?

Day One to Three: Write the final pages. (About 3000 words a day)
Day Four and Five: Make major changes.
Day Six and Seven: Final edits.

And just to make things a little more difficult for myself, I haven't been writing lately, so I'm really not used to sitting down and plunking out 1000 words a day let alone 3000.

Am I crazy? Yes. Can I do it? I have no idea. But I do think that either way, by day seven, I'm going to look a whole lot like this.

Honestly, what am I getting myself into?

Wish me luck!