Thursday, February 23, 2012

I'm Supposed to Blog, Huh?

I got back Tuesday from a long weekend filled with much extended family togetherness. This means I came home exhausted, with a massive headache, and the first signs of some sort of virus. Sadly, that means my blogging brain is pretty wasted. Hopefully I'll be back next week with something profound, but I've been thinking about kissing scenes a lot lately. So for today, please enjoy one of my more recent favorites.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Uh-Oh... Advice Gone Bad

One of the things writers are often told is "write what you know." It's right up there with using active verbs and BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard).  But... is it always good advice? What if you know doesn't resonate with your readers. One of the hardest things about writing YA is staying true to the characters while also staying true to the readers... all while often being (*cough* several *cough*) years out of high school. Sure some things are fairly consistent, but a lot changes over time.

And what about those things that were unique to your high school experience? What the hell do you do with those? (Personal example first...) I went to a high school that wasn't stereotypically clique-y. The cheerleaders hung out with the band people who hung out with the sports teams who hung out with the nerds who hung out with the choir people--and any combination you can think in there. (For example, I earned letters in band, choir, sports, and academics--and it was a pretty big high school, graduating class of 600+.) Now, I know a lot of schools aren't like that, but in some ways (in others it totally wasn't), I saw it as kind of an ideal situation, so I do use it in my work because I think a lot of people want that, especially if they don't have it. Sure, in the PRT stories, there are still jerks, but they aren't cliques of jerks--they're individuals.

(Now for a not-me example.)

One of my crit partners recently read a YA novel that gave her absolute fits. Mind you, she's in her early 20s, so not all that far removed from her high school years, and she loved the author's previous book. So what was the problem with this book? It dealt with sex... pretty much the book is about sex. Now, my crit partner doesn't have any problems with sex or sex in YA. But the way the female characters in the book acted and talked about sex was the complete opposite of her high school years, and I have to say...mine too.

(Details. I have not read the book, so I'm getting all of this from my crit partner...)

  1. The plot of the book pushes these girls to actually talking to each other about sex. Okay, I don't know about you, but at my school, I knew by the next day when my friends had lost their virginity. It wasn't some closely guarded secret. We talked about sex, a lot, and not in worried whispers in the locker room. It was normal conversation fodder (which is not so different from the way my friends and I act now.)
  2. Said girls are disturbed by the idea that they like sex. They think liking sex makes them sluts. First off... I have never in my life heard this as even a partial definition for slut. Certainly not when I was in high school. You know who got the "slut" label most often? Virgins with boyfriends. And the only people other girls called sluts were the ones who were known to sleep with anyone... and we knew this because of point #1. They were mainly labeled in a "keep your boyfriend away from ______, she's a slut." This wasn't even slut-shaming, because we didn't care that she had a lot of sex, we only cared that she didn't have it with our boyfriends while we were dating them.
  3. Does doing various sex acts (or liking it) make them weird? Again, see point #1. Unless all your friends were virgins (and therefore you were the only one talking about sex in more than theory), this stuff comes out. Sometimes girls would be all "Really?" when someone said they liked something, but it was never honestly thought of as weird. 

Society didn't rule our conversations at school, so what society thought never entered our conversations. What we though mattered. Now maybe the author when to a different kind of school. Hell, it may be the way things are at most high schools, but when there's a decade and a half (along with half a country) separating my crit partner and I, one would think the situations in the book would have resonated with one of us at least a little. I'm not saying the author should have written the book differently, but as a reader, I would wonder if she forced the school and the characters into that box just to suit the plot. And that would bother me.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

This Reminds Me Of...

Of the many places authors must find balance, one of the hardest for me deals with reading what I write. You see, an author should be well-versed in what is out already within the genre(s) they write, but they shouldn't read so much of it that it either stifles their own creativity or those other worlds start to invade theirs.

Because I write both YA and adult in an array of spec fic sub-genres, I let myself believe that I was self-moderating my reading in order to toe that line. I tend to switch things up a lot. A YA paranormal, an adult steampunk, a YA dystopian, an adult urban fantasy... It means I read a little of a lot of things, but not a lot of anything. It seemed like a brilliant way to do things. (Note: The book covers used for this post are just a few of the YA books I've read over the past year, and the one in question is not included--because I'm just mean that way.)

Until someone in the know read my manuscript and said (paraphrased) "It feels really similar to _________, but I'm sure you've read that." Uh... no. I hadn't. The book in question was in that spot on my TBR Pile where I'd looked at it, held it in my hands, and then someone (I honestly can't remember if it was a review or a direct comment from a friend) said something that made me think I wouldn't like it. So it was shuffled down the pile to be lost with dozens of other books I haven't made it to yet. I moved on to something newer and shinier in the same genre. 

But when the comparison was made, I dug out the book. And yeah. I never read it, but there are a lot of similarities, both with regard to some characters and some world-building issues. The stories themselves are different, but the parallels are there. Fortunately, parts of it will be addressed in the changes I'm making to my manuscript, but it begs the question of how to find that perfect balance between reading enough and not reading too much. 

Obviously this time, I erred on the wrong side. As soon as I have some breathing room between reviews, I'm going to spend it filling the gaps in my dystopian reading. Because just knowing the premise of the other books out there doesn't tell you the smaller things that matter--the little bits and pieces that might be too close to your manuscript. 

Plus... I didn't hate the book. It wasn't my favorite, but I enjoyed the writing and the romance angles. (I like more action than this particular book had in it. Plus, the fact that no reasons were given for why the society had become so regulated bothered me the whole time. I don't need a lengthy reason, just some hint as to why this is considered so much better or necessary compared to what came before.)

So, since I need more... anyone know of any great dystopians coming out soon so I can grab a galley to review them? :P

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pretty Souls News!

Not a big post this week since I'm hard at work on other stories, but I wanted to make sure everyone knew that Pretty Souls is on sale at Amazon. From now until February 24 (2012 :P), the Kindle version is only 99 cents (77p in the UK, .89 Euros in the rest of Europe)! If you've been waiting for it to be marked down, NOW is the time to get it!







There might be others too, but those are the ones I'm aware of at this point. If it's on sale where you are (and I haven't listed it) please add it to the comments!

I'll be back next week with a post on reading what you write.