Wednesday, July 16, 2014

If people acted like cats

If any of you own cats, this video is HILARIOUS! Enjoy.

Monday, June 23, 2014

How to Write a Book

One of my author friends says she gets a lot of emails, "How do I write a book?" Her answer, and I agree, "You sit down and write it." Because if you're looking for something more; you need to ask a more specific question. Like...

Q: How do I write a young adult novel?
A: Open a blank Word Document and start writing about vampires with chiseled jaws and fantastic hair.

Q: How do I write a children's book?
A: Put together pairs of rhyming words and match them with pictures of kittens.

Q: How do I write a memoir?
A: You don't. Trust me when I say your life is not that exciting.

But all kidding aside (or some kidding aside) I'm going to do my best to answer this question using my own personal experiences.*

Step 1: The Concept
Before you can write anything, you need to have something to write about. You need an idea, but more than that, you need a concept. It's true what they say, "Ideas are a dime a dozen." Everyone has them, what you need is a plot to go with it, what agents often call, "the hook."

A futuristic world where children are put into an arena to fight to the death is an idea. The story is about a girl who volunteers to fight to save her sister, and while she is fighting, she becomes an unwilling leader of a rebellion. That's something to write about.

Step 2: The Players
Okay, you've got your idea. You've fleshed out a concept. Now you've got to pick your players. This girl who's the center of your story...what does she look like? How old is she? What's her temperament? Who are her friends? Boyfriend? Family? What are they like? Who is going to tell your story? God? The girl? Her mother? Before you sit down to write, you need to make these decisions. I find it helpful to come up with some backstory for my main characters. Whether it makes it into the final manuscript or not; it helps me make decisions later, about how my characters will act and what they will say.

Step 3: The Path
Once I have an idea and some characters in mind, I start plotting. I'm not an outliner, but before I sit down at my computer, I spend some time thinking about how things are going to go. Where do I want to start my story? Where am I going to end my story? What are some key plot points along the way? How is my main character going to change throughout the novel?

Step 4: Read
I know I'm writing a YA dystopia in a first person POV. So now I pick up or re-read every YA dystopia I have that's written in first person POV. And while I'm reading, I mark places where I like or didn't like what was done. But you know what? My story has some romance in it too. So I'll read a couple of romance novels too and see how that author made us fall in love.

We learn from other writers, and one day, writers might be learning from you. I feel like newbie writers always want to skip this step, afraid they'll end up copying someone, or they're deluded into thinking they don't need help. But you do. You really, really do.

Set 5: Sit Your Ass Down and Write
You've got the basic pieces you need to write a novel, but the thing will never come together until you actually write it. A lot reveals itself in writing. Since I don't create an outline, there are often holes in my plot and characters that I patch when I let my players take over the page. In black and white, I can see what's working and what isn't, and many, many times, I'll write 100 pages only to scrap them and start from scratch at the top of a blank page.

And here's where we really separate the men from the boys. (or the women from the girls)

If I had a dollar for every time I was at a party and overhead someone say, "I should really write a book," I would be writing this post from the deck of my yacht. Because anyone can talk about writing a book. It takes patience, dedication, and hard work to actually write one. So for anyone who's done that, Bravo! Whether you're published or pre-published that is a huge deal.

For everyone else who's just in the talking about it stage (which I did for about 2 or 3 years, fyi.) Read. Keep your eyes and ears open for that hook, and then sit down and write it.

*This is my own personal process. This is not by any means the only way to write a book, just something to help people who might not know where to begin. If you have anything to add, please put it in the comments.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Making the Switch to Digital Books

I think I've done it. I think I've finally become a convert to the digital book age. For a long while I hovered over the line, appreciating paper books for their cover design and for having something to hold in my hand after shelling out $10. But now, my stack of paper books in my TBR pile is remaining stagnant, while I rip through digital books one after the other.

Here's why I made the switch.

1. I read on my phone. I don't have to remember to bring a book with me because my phone is always there, like the fifth limb I never wanted. And if I finish a book, a new one is just waiting for me to download it.

2. Price. If you wait for book deals, you can get digital copies for less than $2.

3. Books are big. One of the paper books I have sitting on my shelf is GONE by Michael Grant. Every time I see it, I want to read it, but then I notice how thick it is and my mind mentally starts adding up the hours I'll have to invest in it. What if I hate it? And how the hell am I supposed to fit that in my purse with all my other crap? Digital books aren't as daunting, and they certainly weigh less.

4. Annotating. I always feel like a criminal when I make notes in a paper book, but with digital books, I can make all the notes I want and delete them without leaving a mark.

5. Sequels. When I read PRETTY LITTLE LIARS by Sara Shepard, the end left me with such a hunger for more, I had to immediately read the sequel. Now, I could have rushed to my local bookstore, hope they had #2 in stock, shelled out the $10, drove home and started reading it OR I could click two buttons and have it in front of me in 10 seconds. I'm impatient. I chose the digital download.

Of course there are exceptions. Graphic novels need to be on paper, along with my son's picture books. He likes to have something to hold, pages to turn. And when I have the chance to get a signed hardcover, I'm doing it.

But what about you? What do you prefer? And who is a fan of Audio books? I've had yet to cross that bridge. Are they incredible? I want to know.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Real Problem with Dystopias

I recently read this post about the problem with dystopias. I'm not trying to pick on her or start an Internet battle, I'm just providing a counterpoint. I see this a lot on Goodreads, Amazon, book review sites, articles, blogs, etc...where people dislike a dystopian novel because they find aspects of it "unbelievable."

Well, of course they do. It's fantasy. It's not intended to be real, so I think the real problem here is that the people who nitpick the validity of a dystopian society just don't get the genre.

Obviously, no one really thinks that society will put children into a fight to the death, or that one day we'll be eating ground up people, or that a virus will turn humanity into flesh-eating monsters. Dystopias aren't meant to be realistic, they are meant to magnify a problem of today by putting it far into the future and making it into the worst case scenario. It's a practice of exploration. A satire of sorts.

Americans today watch a ridiculous amount of reality television. Amazing Race, Survivor, Fear Factor...those are all shows that place people into exciting and dangerous situations, and while the contestants struggle to find food, or transportation, or chow down on a scorpion, we're sitting on our couches, munching popcorn, with our eyes glued to the television. How could this possibly get worse? Oh I know, make it a show about children trying to kill one another. What happens then? You can find out in the Hunger Games.

Or 1984. One of my favorite dystopias, which was the focus of the article above and is often said to be true to today. Obviously not all of it is, and Mr. Orwell did not intend it to be. It was inspired by the Tehran Conference. But take a look at some of his ideas in the novel: people subjected to constant advertising, a shrinking middle class, being constantly watched by the government...um, hello, Patriot Act.

Granted, this post is completely biased. I love dystopias. I love to read them, write them, and watch them. That's kind of why I'm writing this. It hurts me when I see bad reviews for books I loved simply because the reader found it, "unbelievable." It's fine if you didn't love the plot, or the characters, or the writing, but don't hate it because you can't stretch your imagination.

To you I say, "Give dystopias another chance," and quit trying to look at them as fortune telling. They're not. They're science-fiction. If you can allow for fairies and vampires and aliens, then try to make room for dictators who watch your every move.

*getting off soapbox now*

Monday, May 12, 2014

Writing Exercise: Explaining Bad Behavior

I wanted to share a quick writing exercise with you that everyone can do most of the time. Living in Rhode Island, a place where driving borders on anarchy, I frequently get the opportunity to stretch my character development skills and keep myself from launching into road rage.

When someone cuts me off, or runs a red light, or tries to change lanes into me, or cuts across three lanes of traffic to make a freeway exit, instead of cursing and honking, I make up a story as to why they might be driving so badly.

Maybe the woman driving the BMW, weaving in and out of traffic, just remembered she left the stove on. This is the third time she's done it this month. Not to mention yesterday when she left the garage door open, or Thursday, when she forgot to clean up the orange juice she spilled and came home to a swarm of ants on her kitchen floor. She just can't seem to get her head together since her father died, and if she doesn't get home before her husband to turn off the oven, assuming her house isn't already on fire, she'll get a bruise on her ribs to match the one already on her arm.

See? Not only have I exercised my creative muscles, now I feel bad for that woman, and I'm rooting for her to get green lights all the way home instead of shaking my fist out the window.

And you don't have to wait until someone blows through a stop sign in front of you to do this. You can do it for the anonymous commenter who leaves a nasty message on your blog, or the woman in the grocery store who cuts in front of you in line, the man who blatantly slams the door in front of you even though your arms are loaded with bags.

Just take a second, breathe, and try to come up with an explanation for why he might have done that.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What is Feminism?

Did you guys see what Divergent star and soon-to-be the Fault in Our Stars star Shailene Woodley said about feminism?

Oy vey.

"I don't consider myself a feminist because I love men, and I think the idea of 'raise women to power, take the men away from the power' is never going to work out because you need balance."

Although Shailene has excellent taste in movies, she has no idea what she's talking about.

From Wikipedia: Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women.[1][2] This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.[3]

Feminism isn't about dragging men down. It's about bringing women up, to, um, reach a state of equality. All I can do is sit here and shake my head and hope young ladies do not use Ms. Woodley as their source for information about women's rights...or fashion.