Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The book I read

You know how I said I checked out a bunch of Middle Grade books to avoid YA for a while? Well, I lied, sort of. I did check out that one YA book, that was decidedly not dystopian or sci-fi.

The Storyteller, by a German author named Antonia Michaelis. 

It begins the day Anna finds the child's doll on the floor of the student lounge. When it's claimed by Abel, the school drug dealer, Anna becomes determined to learn more about this mysterious boy with the military haircut and deep blue eyes. She follows him after school and discovers a secret: Abel is caring for his six year old sister Micha, alone. Anna listens as he tells her a fairy tale , the story of a little orphan queen pursued by hunters across the oceans for the treasure she carries: her pure, diamond heart.

It's a story with parellels to reality. Social services and Micha's abusive father could take her from Abel if they discover the truth. 

Despite friends' warnings, Anna is drawn to Abel and Micha, and falls under the spell of the story of the little queen and her desperate voyage. 

But when people Abel has woven into his tale turn up dead, it's Anna whose heart is in danger. Is she in love with a killer? And has she set out on a journey from which there is no return?
Antonia Michaelis has written a spell-binding tale of suspense, danger, and transformative love.


I don't even know where to start.

It was a new idea, a combination of fairy tale and dark reality, scarred and edgy to the core, but beautiful and lyrical. Antonia Michaelis truly pulls out a beautiful, original tale and executes it almost flawlessly. I wanted to cry and laugh and cry, but I could only stare on in stone silence, at the simple, haunting cover, and wonder how it could hold so much power in the pages and words. The book caught me, held me, and when I closed the it, I felt that aching, gut-wrenching bittersweet feeling, the hollowness that settled in my heart. It was not fangirling or gushing over characters--describing it as that would be almost sacrilege. I felt a deep love and heartbreak in finishing it, and it would only be the utmost appreciation I could ever offer as a reader.

The combination was perfect. Please read it. I love it so much, and hope that you will too.

Greetings from Revisionland

It is rather confusing here. Sprawling, lush hills with roads that twist about, jungles you get lost in, and when you emerge, a searing hot desert.
In short: it's fun, overwhelming, and hard. 
So many ways! I have seen outlining scenes with index cards and writings 20 page outline and highlighting and color coding.
I am also deep in research--something I did not go deep enough, and now my brilliant friend (and writer) has pointed out that my supposed "fantasy" world is like sheer strands of thread that cannot form a tapestry rich enough. 
(She also very rightly pointed out that I needed description. As you hopefully tell, I have been practicing that in this blog post.)
It's really a lot to take in. Because though I rewrote my novel two times already, I wrote them in a Nanowrimo-style madcap dash to the end. And while my plot improved SO much, well, my prose? My characters that sound all the same?
I think I may need to do another kind of rewrite--the scene level rewrite. 
I went to an Office Depot and got myself some index cards. And sticky tabs. And I did not really know what to do with them. 
But just I was getting lost in all these index-cardy tricks and highlighting fashions and color-coding I felt like I had stumbled upon this unwelcome pit of quicksand--
Just as I was writing the title of this post, I was thinking of this very word--revision. Revision. Re-vision. It kind of hit me, made me think for a second. 
I am re-visioning my novel. 
Creating higher standards. Ratcheting up stakes. Making characters move and dance and make crushing mistakes, and pay for it. I am seeing it not in the flat, two-dimensional plot arc I have had for too long. 
I may have to rewrite most of my scenes--but this time, the plot structure is there. I have the foundations and the supporting beams. 
Index cards may help, but what matters most is my vision. 
See y'all,

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Approaching Revisions and Reading Miscellany

 I am already in revisions, but as I see the mountains looming ahead, I find myself looking at a map.
Several maps, actually.
I am in severe confusion. Because my novel right now is sound in plot--but it is not good or near finished, by any means. It needs characters that aren't just a bunch of talking heads. It needs worldbuilding--I based mine off of Imperial China, but I need it to not feel sound like it so the reader would make take on a unique vibe for the place and country, instead of being an alternate China. My improvement; I've put jewels in the women's hair and introduced Persian rugs.
Aside from that, and back to my first point; I have so many ways of revising right now. I am trying to get myself to an index card, and I might very well make it and actually revise like what an Official Writer does, while my muse wants loll around and eat Danish cookies and watch some more Sailor Moon. (Long story short; Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder, talked about it so much on her blog that I decided to give it a try--and guess where I am now.) I want to do the index card, planning-out-each-scene method, but I feel it is needless and redundant.
I don't know what the mountains are like. I fear they contain dragons.
It is summer, and while I have been traveling for weeks (hence the long gap) yesterday I got back and went to the library.
I walked straight past the YA shelves and went straight for the middle grade, Juvenile fiction.
I don't know why. I don't write middle grade. For the past year or so, I've walked past to the YA section, where I would read and, I don't know, learn, maybe?
But I realized that I've been narrowing my scope. I've begun to see that reading only YA has not freshened my perspectives on writing, but quite the contrary. YA fiction has begun to be--and I never thought I would use this word in literature--conformist. That's crazy, but it's true. I realize that every YA book has essentially the same elements. I'm either reading dystopian or sci-fi or some watered-down version of a fantasy that served its purpose to include--no surprise here--a love triangle. I feel like I'm burdening myself each time I read a flap cover.
So I'll take a break. I checked out two middle grade fantasy novels, one of which was a favorite I read long ago and still remembered, and one of which was on gothic Hamburg and sounded really interesting. I now return to the shelves that once were and still magical for me. Children's books, I feel, have a much broader collection, and each book is not a copy of another, but they are refreshing and unique.
And they have such clear themes, such good characters. I feel like though the content is less mature, and I am more knowledgeable about YA than children's, I have a feeling that the standards for children's fantasy are higher, in a sense. Each journey is so different. 
And as I enter high school, I would love to be a child again. For a summer, yes?

Friday, June 7, 2013


I'm back! It has been an amazing week of traveling!
First up, BookExpo America--I woke up on May 31st at 4:30 AM for my 6 o'clock flight, but I wasn't a bit tired--I think I was being super hyper or something. And then the whirlwind of the convention took me up. The place was so huge, and there were so many people. I met amazing authors--namely, the Young Adult authors I had been following for a bit of time: Erin Bowman, Sarah J. Maas, Susan Dennard, and Kat Zhang!
This is them! I am second from the right (Sarah wasn't pictured.) 
I also met Robyn Schneider, whom I long admired, and was super sweet. 
But best of all, I met Grant Faulkner,the director of Nanowrimo--and I think I was kind of fangirling (which, by the way, Blogger wanted to correct to fang idling--which doesn't make any more sense). He was amazing. Being the nice and humble person he was, he agreed to take a picture with me, and when I told him how much Nanowrimo had helped me, he seemed to be surprised and happy at the same time. 

After my two-day explosion of BEA had ended, my dad and I went down to Baltimore, and then to Philadelphia to meet author Andi Buchanan!
I emailed Andi back when I was 9, and her Daring Book for Girls book had come out. Eventually, we established a great friendship over email, where she is a brilliant mentor and we talk about books and writing and piano--I have been learning it for a long time, and Andi herself was once a concert pianist. And 5 years later, I was so incredibly glad to finally meet her!

And then there was the stack of books that I acquired. I think the picture speaks for itself. 
I just have to get through them all...
But I cannot express in words how INSPIRING this trip was--to connect with industry professionals, to meet the authors I wanted to meet for a long time, to tell them thank you. 
I wasn't sure about this trip, because I wasn't anywhere in the industry yet--after all, I still was an unknown writer. But BEA went above and beyond all my expectations, and I returned with a suitcase of books and a heart literally bursting with the energy and inspiration--just what I need for the next stages of my writing. 
Speaking of which, I will have another post up shortly, about the ongoing journey into Revisionland.