Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Accepting Limitations...And Failing...

This week feels like a month. I'm not sure exactly why. Too many balls in the air, I suspect. Too many things I want to do. I had to break down and hire a babysitter for this afternoon. Partially, because I have been messing around with book trailers and my 9yo has started asking "How come all those dudes on your computer never have shirts on?" Oops.

In trying to juggle so many things over a summer where my three children are under foot, I have run into failure more times than I can count. And I have had to learn to accept my own limitations. This includes trying to delegate (*snort*) things to others. And also accepting there are things I am just not good at:

1. I am not good at responding to comments from people who are following my blog but aren't plugged in. I can't tell you the embarrassing number of times I have written a pithy response to a comment only to send it to ""

2. I can't seem to master GoodReads. I have only 5 friends on GoodReads. These are friends who have requested to be my friends. I have no idea how to request to be friends with others. Add to that the fact that I am rather delayed in inputting my books and you get one big fat GoodReads disaster. Don't even get me started with LibraryThing.

3. I seem to only be able to respond to people in positions of "authority" with sarcasm or inappropriate ribbing.

Example: My financial planner left a message at home and on my cell yesterday about his decision to move to a new company.

I emailed him back thusly:

Hey Murphy--
I am very busy and important and unless you can help me sell romance novels, we are going to have to table your need to emotionally process your job change over the phone. Suffice it to say, I trust you and our money will continue to follow you as long as you are breathing. Just don't get rid of your assistant. I have no doubt she is doing all the work around there anyways.

He responded to thank me for my "kinda kind words."

4. I cannot manage to call my sister or my parents on a weekly basis. I am a complete failure at over the phone communication. My sister has learned to text me. My parents have learned to shame me. I still can't get it together to call.

5. I would like to be Mary Poppins with my kids over the summer.  I am instead Miss Hannigan. Sigh.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Crossing the line in Dark YA

My brother-in-law tells me, "Christa, you don't know where the line is until someone tells you you've crossed it." In real life, it's very easy to see when I've crossed the line because usually, everyone gets sort of quiet and averts their eyes. And also my friend Octavia will announce, "Well, that was awkward, Christa." Octavia is not shy about calling me out.

To me, it is more difficult to figure out in writing. Especially writing dark, edgy YA stuff. WSJ article aside, dark YA novels deal with some really intense themes. And yes, there is frequently underage drinking, drug abuse, sex, and swearing in YA books. I'm not getting on my soapbox about this because others have before me (Kody Keplinger does many a blog on this issue). I will say that when a friend asked me what was the point of swearing in a YA book, I mentioned to her the authenticity of voice and she conceded my point.

But still, even if you have all those messy things included in your YA book, you may be fine and ready to submit. Or there may be a scene/paragraph/sentence where you've crossed the line. Yesterday, my fabulous friend Heather read my WIP MANHOLE and showed me where I crossed it. Heather loves dark YA, she reads a lot of it. And I've read her book, it's Dark (capital D) and Awesome (capital A). So she's a very trustworthy source.

I know what you're thinking: Er, did you cross the line at the first page??? (That was, after all, where my sister had to stop).

NO. In fact, it was not (although Heather did suggest a little trimming on that page). It was much later. Heather told me I crossed the line with two simple words:

"Deeper, Ben."

And of course, she's right. Because THAT scene while important in the overall plot, does not need to be more graphic. "Deeper" does not move us along (although I might argue, it makes us see my MC girl in a new and more broken light). It doesn't work hard enough. And as my book straddles the line of upper YA enough as is, I decided to cut and rewrite that part.

With MANHOLE, I constantly have to ask myself: "What does this buy me? Do I need to include it?" Not just the racy stuff, but every part. I want so desperately to get this right, for me as a writer, and for all the rape survivors I have seen in hospital ERs over the years. So "Deeper" goes by the wayside. And something raw and more painful replaces it. Hmm...

Have you ever had someone point out where you've crossed a line in your writing? Did you agree with them? Did you change it?

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Book Is Too Short...What Now?

I am basically finished with the first draft of MANHOLE with the exception of the epilogue. It's coming in at around 20,000 words. When I saw this word count, I started to panic. As if this book wasn't going to be tricky enough to sell as a YA, now I was going to have to sell it as a YA novella??? Is there even a market for that? But then I read the Mood Man's blog about first drafts and felt much better.

Of course it's going to end up more than 20,000 words. All my books grow after the first draft. Some people write massive first drafts and then cut cut cut. I write the bones of a story and then add add add. (I like to avoid descriptive language in my first draft bc as you know, I sort of hate it). Gestapo's first draft was 40,000 words, it's currently at 55,000 and may end up even longer when all is said and done. Radio Station's first draft was 36,000 words and with only the first 25% edited has grown to 45,000 words.

And of course with MANHOLE, it is intentionally sparse with a fairly straight-forward plot so I would like to keep it shorter anyway. Really, could any of us have gotten through PUSH or SPEAK or PLAY IT AS IT LAYS if it had 100 more pages??? Eeesh...

Plus, I'm writing from a dude's POV and it has been pointed out to me (ahem, Carrie and Mood Man) that dude's don't spend a lot of time describing the type of pants a girl wears or the color of the flecks in her eyes. Which brings me to my Mars/Venus story of the day...involving my return home from vacation:

Me: Yeah, so we had this really funny incident involving a Brazilian wax.
Hubs: WHAT? Do women talk about that kind of stuff?
Me: Of course.
Hubs: Bah. I can't ever imagine talking to a guy about those things.
Me: Really? What do you talk about?
Hubs: Uh... sports, work, guy stuff.
Me: Well, what if the guy doesn't like sports?
Hubs: (shrug) Then we just drink and watch what's on TV.
Me: What do you do about the awkward silence?
Hubs: Guys don't have awkward silences. Women made that up. There isn't such a thing as an awkward silence.
Me: Huh.

So tell me, do you draft and cut or draft and add??? And have you ever worried about the length of your manuscripts because they don't fit the traditional guidelines one way or another??

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Teen Self Revealed

Alexis waxed nostalgic last Friday on her blog about herself as a teenager and I loved it so much I'm totally stealing the idea from her.

What I looked like (sorry, it's grainy but I had to get it from my yearbook):

Yes, even then I spent most of my time reading although it sadly wasn't hot gargoyle books (what a different experience that would have offered me in HS!)

What I Read:
Books about Anorexia

 And Serial Killers

What I Ate:

Who I Wanted to Marry:

My love of vampires started early

The Movie I Couldn't Stop Watching:

Now, hit me with your teen favorites...I love seeing people's "other" selves.