Goals and Good Reads


This week I started reading The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff. These three Young Adult authors and critique partners (known as the Merry Sisters of Fate) committed to writing short stories and posting them on their blog. The posts made their way to publication in this awesome collection, along with handwritten notes, doodles, and commentary on the creative process. It’s been an inspiring and entertaining read–especially with Maggie Stiefvater’s awesome freehand drawings. I find writing short stories and flash fiction a really challenging but beneficial exercise in learning to get to the heart of a story in as few words as possible.


On the ROWing side of things, it’s been *meh* week. I hit most of my goals, but just barely.

SOCIAL MEDIA: 

  • Blog for ROW80. Check.
  • Encourage other ROWers. No check.

WRITING:

  • Finish my work-in-progress. Closer, but probably not going to happen this round of ROWing. 23k words in now and nearing my midpoint.
  • Write ~3 scenes per week. Check. These were short scenes, but kept the momentum going.

READING:

  • Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress. Almost finished.
  • The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life! It’s also a blog roll. Click Here to read other participants’ entries.

WAVERING TONES

keatonMy biggest struggle last week was maintaining a consistent tone as I switched between multiple points of view. My WIP involves transforming a tragic myth for adults into a middle grade comedy. A big leap, I know, and sometimes I trip up along the way. Some of my characters are humorous, but some are tragic beings who demand to be taken seriously. I’ve been trying to take a step back after I write each scene, and comparing how it supports/distorts the overall tone.

I have a habit as a writer (not just with this WIP) of setting a story up as a comedy, then getting bogged down in the weighty middle, and then leaping back into funny-land in the end. It leaves readers (and my characters) with emotional whiplash. So I’m working at establishing an even tone, playing it straight and funny consistently enough to ground my readers in a reliable world with consistent characters.

 

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the “writing challenge that knows you have a life.” You can join or visit other participants here:

SOCIAL MEDIA: 

  • Blog  for ROW80. A day late, but complete!
  • Encourage other ROWers. If I can’t remember, then I’m guessing it’s a fail…

WRITING:

  • Write ~3 scenes per week to make this work. Finished this goal early this week, but only because of the retreat. I’m gonna have to step it up to keep my momentum going.

READING:

  • Critiques for my crit. buddies!

ROW80 CHECK-IN

Week 3, Check-In 2

Back home and preparing for the real world tomorrow! I covered a lot of ground during my writing retreat this week. Working with huge blocks of time granted me a big-picture perspective of my story. But working in short spurts can help keep the tension high and the writing tight. Hopefully I can transition into mini writing sessions to keep the momentum going as I shift back to the daily grind. I’m thankful for my ROWing community. I know you folks will hold me accountable.

SOCIAL MEDIA: 

  • Blog. A day late, but yes, did blog twice.
  • Encourage other ROWers. Missed the mark on this. 

WRITING:

  • Write 3-4 scenes per week. Squeezed in three more scenes!

READING:

  • Read a chapter in Life, Animated
  • Did critiques for my crit group

 

Three Minute Interview!

Lucy Christopher is the author of Stolen and Flyaway.  She has lived in both Wales and Australia, where she pursued being a nature guide and an actor, among other things, before finding her calling as a writer.  Currently living in Wales, Lucy spends much of her time lecturing, blogging, and reading books (when she’s not writing, of course).   To learn more about Lucy, visit her website at www.lucychristopher.com

 

1.  Nature and teens seem to be intrinsic parts of your novels so far.  What is the connection you feel between the two?

I think there are loads of connections between nature and teens.  Firstly, it’s a question of space … when you’re a teenager, there aren’t all that many places you can go to hang out, or to be private with your friends or your boyfriend.  Natural spaces, such as the local park or woods, are often used as social spaces for people growing up.  I know they certainly were for me.  So there’s that.  I also think there’s a subconscious connection between the ideas of growth and wildness and with the process of being a teenager.  The wildness of a natural space often works well as a writing metaphor to express the wild, loneliness of sometimes being a teenager.  In Stolen, Gemma’s growing appreciation of the natural world around her directly leads to a growing awareness of herself and an understanding of her place in the world. 

2.  Your book Stolen has a lovely, cinematic feel to it.  Having tried acting first, how do you relate to the idea of the ‘writer as actor?’

Interesting question!  I think I do approach my writing very much from the perspective of character – for me, character is more important than anything, and when I have my character right, my plot seems to flow much easier.  This focus on character and character-led stories may well have been inspired, or helped along by, my time as an actor.  I spent quite a lot of time learning about Stanislavski’s method, and perhaps that focus on character motivation helped too. 

3.  Who would you identify as some of your strongest literary influences?

Definitely John Marsden!  John is a fantastic Australian writer for teenagers and his books inspired me hugely to read, as well as write, when I was a teenager and beyond.  I love his series of books entitled ‘The Tomorrow Series’.  In terms of others, probably also the magnificent (adult) writer Tim Winton with his clever and evocative use of language, and the beautiful and lyrical David Almond.

SAFETY LAST

So, we’ve all heard the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  It’s sort of laid the ground work for social equality, drawn the baseline of morality, and has helped keep all our egocentric selves (especially when we’re children) in check.   Those who follow the Golden Rule are helping to maintain a safe society for all.  And safety, in real life, is a good thing.  It’s what we want.  Safety First.  Safety First is what they say.

But in the world of fiction, it’s only when rules are broken that things get interesting.  And when it comes to creating believable characters, we must throw the Golden Rule out the window.  For our characters it must always be Safety Last.  Do unto characters what you would never dream of doing unto yourself.  

But perhaps Mr. Lloyd took this concept a little too far...

Ever since my undergrad years, I’ve heard folks chanting the same mantra: Throw your character up a tree. Throw your character up a tree. Throw your character up a tree.  And they mean it.  Run your little darlings up the tallest tree you can find, and then throw stones at them.  Have birds come along and peck at their faces—gouge their eyes out if you can stomach it (metaphorically speaking, of course…sort of).   

I don’t know about you, but giving my characters a hard time is one of the hardest parts of writing for me.  Here are some of the ways I’ve made it even harder on myself than it should be:

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I prefer “real” books

As a Children’s/YA Library Assistant, I read a lot of books within the youth market.  Sometimes I read certain books because they were recommended to me, or so that I will have recommendations to share with others; but for the most part I read because Children’s and Young Adult Fiction is the body of literature that resonates with me the most. 

So when adults ask me for a book recommendation, my fingers immediately flit to the Young Adult shelf.  “Oh,” they say, frowning.  They shift their eyes, run their fingers along the edges of the book, and then hand it back to me with a shrug.  “I prefer something a little more…real.” 

I blink my eyes.  Stammer. Do a double-take.  I’m not necessarily presenting them with a book about prancing unicorns or mind-chomping zombies (though sometimes I am).  The book I am currently holding is about ‘real’ life.  So what do they mean? 

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