Archive | April, 2011

Saturday Grab Bag: Mashup

30 Apr

Mashup:

Here are some great links on writing, the industry, and all things book related. Some are serious, and some are just downright hilarious. We highly recommend you read them!

-An incredibly inspirational post about what REAL writing success means.  A must read!

-A thought provoking post about writing attitudes.  Do you fall into these extreme categories?

-Kiersten White (author of Paranormalcy) offers great suggestions for amping up your story’s pacing.

-An amazing post by Libba Bray (author of A Great and Terrible Beauty) about self-confidence while writing–essentially, we all have our low moments…and they always kinda suck.

-Sooz’s Query Day for the month of May will go live on Monday at 5 PM EST.  If you’re within the first 10 submissions, you’ll get a free query critique!

-You don’t have to have a book coming out to appreciate the message behind this post: don’t be afraid!

-Read this post first!  She does a great job of laying out those first critical steps.

-Want to get your novel critiqued AND help a good cause? Writer Kat Brauer offers a critique of 250 words for every $1 you donate to her charity: water fundraiser! Plus, she has a HUGE line-up of agents and authors offering critiques! Be sure to stop buy–it’s running for the next 2 months!

-Our very own Kat Zhang interviewed on the teen-writers website Noveltee(n)–thanks to Taryn for the link!

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Quotes:

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“”To those who will see, the world waits.”

Libba Bray

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Happy Saturday everyone! Let us know what’s up in the comments!


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QOTW: Favorite Books

29 Apr

This week’s question is from Chantal, who asks:

I’d like to hear what each LTWF girl would choose as top 5 best books they’ve read in the past year, minus the one’s that have already been mentioned in reviews.

We didn’t all manage to come up with five, but here are our favorites!

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In no particular order:

TEXAS GOTHIC by Rosemary Clement-Moore (not out until this summer)

FIRELIGHT by Sophie Jordan

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman

SOULLESS by Gail Carriger

ARCHANGEL by Sharon Shinn

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11 Scandals to start to win a Duke’s heart (Sarah Maclean)

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys

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LIFE AS WE KNEW IT by Susan Beth Pfeffer

WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks

TOMORROW, WHEN THE WAR BEGAN by John Marsden

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver.

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THE BOOK THIEF by Marcus Zusak, THE CHEESE MONKEYS by Chip Kidd, JANE EYRE by Charlotte Bronte, THE ATONEMENT CHILD by Francine Rivers, WHEN YOU ARE ENGULFED IN FLAMES by David Sedaris

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INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher

THE POISON DIARIES by Maryrose Wood

I AM THE MESSENGER by Marcus Zusak

FARENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury

PERSUASION by Jane Austen

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Finnikin of the rock, Game of Thrones

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A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett

In the Hand of the Goddess, Tamora Pierce

Night Watch, Terry Pratchett

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Mine would be ON THE JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta, REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly, LIKE MANDARIN by Kirsten Hubbard, FALL FOR ANYTHING by Courtney Summers and THE PAIN MERCHANTS by Janice Hardy.

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I always recommend my faves, but there ARE a few I’ve read recently that I haven’t yet had time to write reviews for: THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE by Alan Bradley and THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin

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Oh, gah…this is always so hard!! Ummm…I adored THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE (yes, I did review it but I have to put it anyway!) I liked CEREUS BLOOMS AT NIGHT a lot (very beautiful language. Very not YA). To be honest, I haven’t done as much leisure reading as I would have liked this past year…Need to fix that! Ooh, yes THE BOOK THIEF. I second that one.

Man, I know I’m going to come back to this post tomorrow and rage about how I forgot like twenty books I loved. I always forget the books I’ve read when people ask this sort of thing 😦

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Which books have been your favorites this past year?

The Procrastination Queen

28 Apr

By Sammy Bina

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I’ve been trying to think of something to write for today for a while. I made a list of potential topics I could discuss, but none of them seemed quite right. I considered writing you guys a book recommendation, or talking to you about all the exciting novels coming out this summer. I thought about comparing books vs. their television counterparts, but I decided to save that for a day when I’m more coherent.

So what did I decide to write about?

Procrastination. (Even as I write this, I’m putting off a paper that’s due tomorrow. I know. It’s sad.)

I’d like to take this moment to go on record as saying I’m a huge fan of Glee. Yep, that’s right. I’m a Gleek. But I’m sure I’m not the only one, so how many of you watched last night’s episode, Born This Way? For those of you who didn’t, the premise was to come to accept something about yourself you cannot change. Then the kids wore t-shirts with those things written across the chest. I rather liked the idea, and decided this would be mine:

(Yes, my photoshop skills are boss.)

(Not.)

The last few weeks have been insanely busy for me, due to the fact that I’m graduating soon. In the midst of all the school chaos, I had to worry about applying to grad school, jobs, and finding somewhere to live. I got so wrapped up in worrying about things that were going to happen that I forgot about the things I currently had to deal with. Like papers and that one thing we all have in common: writing.

It’s funny. It seems that whenever I have time to write, I put it off and work on other things, and when I have absolutely no free time, I find myself glued to Word. It’s a horrible, vicious cycle of me procrastinating. I never seem to want to do the things I have time for until the time to do them no longer exists. It makes for a really awkward, unreliable writing schedule, and it’s proven to be quite the inhibition.

I love writing. This should go without saying. But as many of us here at LTWF have expressed, we have our doubts. And when I doubt myself, I procrastinate. If that scene isn’t turning out right, I put it aside and say I’ll come back to it later. Only later stretches further and further until I’ve psyched myself out so much, I don’t want to even look at it anymore. Even if it isn’t that bad.

Sometimes I have a hard time nailing a character down. I can see them in my head just fine, but they don’t come out on the page that way. So I rewrite everything. And then I do it again, because I’m still not happy. Then I get frustrated and walk away, come back, and tell myself I’ll just keep writing and fix it all later. Which proves to be a problem because then I end up with an entire story written with one majorly flawed character. And not in a good way. By procrastinating, I’ve given myself even more work to do.

I’ve been waiting for some free time (or lack there of) to come up so I could get back into my current WIP. The problem is, I’ve been away from it for over a month, and now I’m almost too scared to go back and look at it. What if it’s not as good as I remember? What if those scenes I left hanging are even more of an enigma? What if that one character I couldn’t get quite right remains a total mystery? By putting things off, I’ve psyched myself out. I’m left feeling rattled, and I haven’t even seen the manuscript in weeks.

The point I’m trying to make, dear readers, is that procrastination is not your friend. This may seem obvious, but somehow I still get wrapped up in it from time to time. I let doubt push me toward other, less productive things, like baking or marathoning 90s British TV. And while baking and television are all well and good, they aren’t the thing I love the most. I’m not trying to make a career out of cookies or laziness. So this week I decided to put a note beside my bed that simply says ‘WRITE! (Even if it scares you.)’ Because putting it off hasn’t done me a lick of good. I’ve been stressing myself out needlessly over a story that I love. That I hope, one day, other people will read and love. So I’m going to dive back in. I’m accepting the fact that I was born this way, that I can be a major procrastinator when I want to be, and am trying to overcome that and all the doubt it instills.

And on that note, I’d like to leave you with some parting words of wisdom:

Procrastination: don’t do it.

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Sammy Bina is finishing up her last semester of college as a creative writing major. She’s currently revising her YA dystopian, SILENCE, and is an intern for the Elaine P. English Literary Agency. You can follow her blog, tumblr, or find her on twitter.

Discouraging Decisions

27 Apr

Sometimes shit happens.

Sometimes shit happens and it really sucks.

Sometimes shit happens and it sucks so much you just give up.

But other times, shit happens, it really sucks, but you grit your teeth and keep on pushing.

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As some of you know, I recently received an incredibly discouraging blow (I lost a giant chunk of my first draft, and it is utterly and completely irretrievable).  Trust me when I say it sucks.

DAY 1:

OH NOOOOOOOOO!!! MY LIFE IS OVER. I’M GOING TO BINGE EAT THIS CHEESE, CRY MYSELF TO SLEEP, AND NEVER LOOK AT THAT STUPID MANUSCRIPT AGAIN.

I HATE MY LIFE.

DAY 2:

Wait, huh? Oh snap…yesterday sucked.  I’m going to gorge on those gummy bears, watch mindless TV, and feel really sorry for myself.

DAY 3:

I still hate my life.  ::gives sideways glance to remainder of manuscript::

DAY 4:

Okay. Life = crap, but you know what? Maybe it’s not the end of the world.  Let’s take stock of the damage and figure out what needs to be done to fix it.

DAY 5:

Yeah, that’s a lot of pages lost, but…I did it once. I can write it all again. I’M NOT GONNA GIVE UP.

DAY 6-12:

I’m taking a break from the manuscript. I’ll work on all the other crud that needs doing in my life and in my work, and I will deal with that later.

DAY 13:

My heart has mended enough that I can approach this fresh.  LET’S DO THIS.

Dealing with discouragement takes time–you need a few days or a few weeks for your heart to heal.  But there is a simple solution, and you know what that is?

Hint: it’s a decision.

It’s the decision to NOT GIVE UP.  You are deciding that ultimately, your writing or your painting or your cooking or your marathon training matters more than the crap thrown at you.

It’s the decision TO LET IT GO AND MOVE ON.  You choose to push through that stomach cramp, to take the negative critiques and learn from them, or to throw out the crappy cake and start over.

You love what you do, you have a goal, and you will do whatever it takes to reach it.  I’ll be honest–I gave up on the painting and the marathon training.  Discouragement won.

But give up on writing? Never.

Writing matters to me.  Seeing my name in bookstores matters to me.  Sharing my stories with readers really matters to me.  And as such, I will not give up because of some bump (or enormous collapsing bridge) in the road.

So here’s the deal: sometimes, shit happens and it really sucks, but because you love this–because it matters to you and you have GOALS–you are going to grit your teeth, decide it is worth the pain, and keep on pushing.**

You’re not going to give up.  And neither am I.

WE CAN DO THIS.

Have you ever dealt with something discouraging that almost made you quit?

Are you feeling discouraged now or have you recently?

**And you might also consider binge eating cheese–I swear, it works wonders for the aching soul.

The Greatest Series You’ve Never Read

26 Apr

by Savannah J. Foley

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GAME OF THRONES. The title is in the air. The four-book-long (and soon to be five) series called A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE from George R. R. Martin was recently turned into a (fairly fantastic) HBO series, and since then everyone’s been talking about the books: when is the next one coming out, why has it been so long of a wait (7 years!), the subculture fandom, and even the people who stalk Martin to complain about him not writing.

For a series so huge, you’d think that we’d all have read it already, or at least have heard of it. But until a few months ago I never had. How can that be possible? I’m an avid reader. In high school I read two books a day! I’m a fantasy fan. I hung out with people who are fantasy fans, as well! WHY didn’t anyone tell me about this fantastic series sooner?!

That’s the point of today’s post. If you’ve never heard about GAME OF THRONES, or if you have and are curious to learn more, or even if you’ve heard and think it’s not for you, let me tell you about it and hopefully convince you to run out right NOW and buy the book!

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First of all, the series is classified as high fantasy, but it is NOT boring, dusty, or nerdy. It’s beautiful, violent, sexy, surprising, and witty. When I first heard the generic description: multi-POV, war-based, 700 pages, etc., I thought to myself ‘Greeaaat. This is going to take months and I’ll have to skip a lot of chapters.’ Not to offend, but I was expecting Tolkien.

Boy was I wrong. I could (and have) sat and read all day, as fast as I could, absolutely dying to find out what was going to happen next. The multiple POVs was rarely taxing or boring; most often I would be exasperated that the next chapter wouldn’t continue where the previous left off, yet at the same time thrilled to return to a previous character. These books are an excellent example of multiple POVs done right.

As for the plot itself, again, the basic description did nothing for me: a clash of great houses, all trying to claim (or reclaim) the throne of the Seven Kingdoms. Meh. But then I got to know the characters. The deal with this story is that, for all its sweeping plot, it’s a character-driven story. I care what happens because these characters are fascinating and entertaining. They plot and love and lose their tempers, both betray and are betrayed, sacrifice and thieve. And I was rooting for them at every turn. The most interesting about this multiple perspectives is that we follow people on all sides of the clash, and can’t be quite sure who we want to win.

Is it the Stark family, protectors of the North, whose six children all claim direwolves as pets, scattered to the four winds and trying to find each other in a maze of battles, imprisonment, and uneasy alliances? Arya, the little girl who passes for a boy to stay safe, wielding her own sword and fighting with rocks when she has to, Sansa the beauty, caught in a court of lies and cruelty, trying to survive without being forced to betray her family, Bran, the young boy who slips into his wolf’s skin, Robb, who might be king if he can stay alive, and John Snow, their father’s bastard child, sworn to chaste and life-long service on the Wall, a gigantic barrier barring the North from the South, keeping both wildlings and the mythical Others at bay.

Or are we cheering for the Lannisters, wed to the royal family? Cruel, conniving, incestuous, and murderers, yes, but what about Tyrion, the black sheep of the family, a sarcastic, whoring dwarf alternately trying to protect his family from themselves while holding the kingdom together and wading through the web of lies and secrets of the past. I love Tyrion; he’s tortured and witty, brilliant and jaded, yet oddly naïve in the matters of the heart. Every time I get to read another of his chapters I nearly burst in excitement, because I know it’s going to be packed full of plot development.

Then we have Daenerys Stormborn, blood of the dragon. Sister of the murdered former King, exiled beyond the sea as a baby, and recently married to a horse-riding barbarian king, she is the rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms, but struggling to raise her army to return and claim her throne. At fifteen she becomes a queen of barbarians, but the only way to victory is through tragedy, black magic, vast, conquering armies and the rule of threes: Three loves, three betrayals… and three dragons.

In this world, when winter comes it stays for an unknown number of years, but always longer after a long summer. And it has been a very long summer. With the throne up for grabs and five contenders for King (or Queen), the world ignores a plea for help from the Wall. The ancient legend of the Others is proving true: undying snow mages who make the dead walk and only arrive in the dark and cold. And as the Stark family motto says, Winter is Coming.

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 If you haven’t yet, you MUST read this series. And then watch the HBO show, because it’s fabulous as well. A word of warning: I had a hard time getting past the prologue in GAME OF THRONES, mostly because I didn’t have a grip on the world yet, but you need to read it because it foreshadows something really important. Additionally, there’s a tragedy that happens early on, but you need to keep reading past it. Just trust me. 🙂 Give yourself five chapters and you’ll be hooked. I promise.

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Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal. She is currently working on editing Nameless to go out on submissions. You can read an excerpt from Nameless here.

Coping with False Starts

25 Apr

 

by Julie Eshbaugh

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It happens to every writer.  An idea comes to you, and you are floating around the ceiling with inspiration.  For a day or two, or maybe even a week, you’re ecstatic with the beauty of this concept.  You write with an enthusiasm you rarely feel, until…  the good feeling is gone.  

 You can’t say why, but you know this idea has lost your fancy, at least for right now.  That initial spark might rekindle later, so you tuck the work you’ve done so far away somewhere, whether it’s in a folder on your desktop titled “Graveyard,” or a trunk at the foot of your bed full of partial manuscripts.

 What causes this phenomenon, and how can you avoid it?  I can only speak for myself, but here are some things I’ve learned by examining my own short-lived “false starts”:

 You don’t have a story as much as an “idea.”  An idea is a concept or a premise that sounds cool, but has nowhere to go.  “A girl is born with gills” is an idea, but not a story.  A story requires a goal, motivation, and conflict.  The best ideas in the world fizzle out quickly if there’s nothing for the characters to do.  (A good idea can become a good story, of course!  But the process of pulling the story elements together is often the task that reveals that your feelings toward this idea are just infatuation, not true love.)

 You have a story, but you don’t like the person it’s about.  You know that good friend who gets on your nerves so thoroughly, at times you wonder how you stand each other at all?  Generally it’s common experience and loyalty that will see that strained friendship through.  Unfortunately, those factors don’t exist if your characters get on your nerves.  You don’t have a history with your MC.  You can walk away at any time.  And sometimes, that’s exactly what you do.  I’ve gotten to a point with a character where I’ve said, “Why am I wasting my time with you?  I could delete you and create someone brand new!”  Unfortunately, the whole story usually dies with the main character.  A new MC generally takes the story in a whole new direction.

 You come to the sudden realization that you are rewriting your favorite book.  No one sets out to be derivative.  But your favorite (and not-so-favorite) stories have taken root deep in your subconscious mind – the very same place you are trying to coax that next idea from.  It’s possible you didn’t recognize Harry Potter because he was masquerading as a girl born with gills, but when it’s revealed that she is the only one to ever face the evil villain and come away alive, having been protected by a now-dead loved one, Harry can be glimpsed beneath the disguise.   And once you realize you are reinventing a very well worn wheel, you have to walk away.

You thought it was the real thing, but it turned out to be a passing phase.  If you’re going to write a novel, be ready to live with it every day for several years.  Committing to an idea is like committing to a romantic relationship – it’s not enough if you really like it most of the time, you need to (almost) never hate it.  You can get tired of it sometimes, and maybe other times you see that it has faults, but if you find that at times you loathe it, you should move on.  Bad feelings tend to snowball, and the things you don’t like about your story can overshadow its strengths rather quickly.  If you have doubts about a story early on, there’s a good chance you fell in love with the idea of a new idea, and not with the actual idea itself.

So what’s a writer to do?  Can the “false start” be prevented? 

I don’t think false starts can be prevented, because every idea needs to be tested.  In my experience, the best ideas and the ones that flame out quickly seem the same in the earliest stages.  It’s only after putting the idea on paper that I’m able to see if it has staying power.

More importantly, I don’t think false starts should be prevented.  Experimentation is vital to discovering new things.  Testing ideas is a big part of being a writer.  Sometimes, you look at what you’ve started and feel relieved that you haven’t shown it to anyone, but even your worst writing is writing.  You took a chance, and maybe you ultimately shelved the project, but somewhere in that experience,  you most likely learned something.  Something that will inform your next project.  Something that will make you a better writer. 

Writers write.  Not all of what we write will see publication.  Some of it will turn out to be practice.  Some of it will turn out to be false starts.  But none of it will turn out to be wasted.

What are your thoughts on false starts?  Do you think they have value, or do you think they only waste your time?  Please post your thoughts in the comments!

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Julie Eshbaugh is represented by Natalie Fischer of the Bradford Literary Agency. You can read her blog here and find her on Twitter here.

2011 books I NEED RIGHT NOW

22 Apr

In lieu of a QOTW today, I’m posting a few 2011 books I am *DYING* to read.

Here goes:

 

DEARLY, DEPARTED by Lia Habel

It’s not often I fall for a book based solely on the cover. But this one? It had me at hello.











 YOU AGAINST ME by Jenny Downham:

I LOOOOVED Before I die by Jenny Downham. I was *balling* by the end of it. This one is set up to be one of those romances in which is seems positively impossibly to find a happily ever after. Will they? Won’t they? I must know









   Audition by Stasia Kehoe.

It’s about a ballerina. Does it take anything else? no, it does not. oh, and it has romance. Yeah, that’s all it takes for me.












   Want to go Private? by Sarah Littman

  Basically? I want to get my hands on this NOW. It has *Exactly* the sort of issue-based concepts I go for.  Dark and scary but oh-so real. WANT.











So…. what are YOU dying to read??

~Mandy Hubbard is author of Prada & Prejudice, You Wish, and But I Love Him (written as Amanda Grace) She’s also a literary agent with D4EO literary. Visit her at www.mandyhubbard.com

Book Cook Episode 1: A Novel Creation

21 Apr

by Savannah J. Foley

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Hey guys, today I thought I’d do something a little different and post this cooking show parody I call Book Cook; where we show you how to ‘cook’ a concept. Today I’m baking a novel. Watch to see how it’s done 🙂

PS: The video/audio quality isn’t the greatest, but I just got a new Macbook so the next one will be awesome!

[youtube.com/watch?v=uVq1RIDyi5M]

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If you could cook a concept, what would you make?

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Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal. She is currently working on editing Nameless to go out on submissions. You can read an excerpt from Nameless here.

Doubtlessly, there is doubt.

20 Apr

by Biljana Likic

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I have to brag a little bit; I’m surrounded by some amazing writers. Not just here at LTWF, but at school, on Twitter, blogs, people who I hardly even know aside from the random and tentative internet hello. And it can be intimidating. Friends left and right of me are getting agents and book deals, and while I am extremely happy for them, screaming like an excited fool over long-distance Skype conversations, there are times where impatience sets in; impatience with myself, with how much time school is taking up, and with how I know I lack a lot of the discipline needed to balance my studies with revising my manuscript. But it’s important to remember that I’m still young, and that everybody has their stages of development, and I’ll get to where I get to in my own time.

It’s also important to remember that the fear of being inadequate is hard to get rid of. We all have our moments of doubt, and right now I’m seeing more in my friends who have agents and books deals than in those who don’t. What if my book never gets sold? What if I’m not satisfied with the final revisions and the book I publish embarrasses me? What if I’m unable to fix it? What if, after this book, I can never write again?

To this I say, yes, it’s possible. You might never sell your book. The story you love might get so twisted and warped that it’s published into a story you hate. You might lose all inspiration after your first book because you’ve simply exhausted all your ideas. Each one of these is possible. It’s why they exist as doubts. If everything were guaranteed there’d be no stress or drama in the world. There’d be no stories to tell.

Things like these are hard to swallow. To make things worse, we’re all so caught up in how others perceive us that half the time we don’t even voice our problems. That would be whining, and nobody likes a whiner. So we bottle things up within ourselves and turn to Internet for guidance.

The Internet is a place of self-diagnosis, not only for your flu symptoms, but for the worries you have about your novel. Blog upon blog is filled with the do’s and don’ts writing, LTWF included, and the information is so overwhelming that suddenly you don’t just have the flu anymore; you have pneumonia, or an ulcer, or you’re in the early stages of sepsis. You start going through the symptoms until they blur into a mass that seems unmanageable. You don’t think have a stomach ache, but now you see it’s possible, you feel one coming on. You get to the final few things listed, about fast heart-rate and high fever, and suddenly your heart is pounding in your throat and you’re burning up. You have to go to the hospital. You have to get cured. Because the next symptom is a little harder to get rid of: death.

It isn’t until you get there that you realize you’re making yourself sick.

There are so many rules about writing. Rules about tension, plot-building, characterization, word count… There are so many things that you can read and start panicking that you’re doing exactly what they’re telling you not to. Sometimes, it is a real problem, but a lot of the times it’s simply paranoia caused by that unshakeable feeling of inadequacy.

So here is my piece of advice, coming at you from an un-agented, book-deal-less, anxious girl who knows the doubts will follow her long after she has her break, if she even gets one:

Have faith in your writing. You know your plot, you know your story, you know what you’re doing. If you’re in a place where you’re out of questions, and you truly believe there’s nothing more you can do till you get word back from your critique partner, or your agent, or your editor, then stop looking for answers. Illnesses only get worse after a trip to Dr. Google. Let the hiccoughs pass, and have patience. Worst thing that happens, you get your feedback and you’re re-inspired.

Most importantly, voice your doubts. It’s amazing how much lighter you feel when you share that weight with somebody. Talk to people. And if they accuse you of whining, tell them to stick it where the sun don’t shine.

~~~

Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She is in her first year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

Fictional Time Travel That Won’t Make a Physicist Cringe

19 Apr

by Julie Eshbaugh

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A while back I discovered a fantastic article about time travel on Slate.com.  The author, Dave Goldberg, both a physicist and self-proclaimed science-fiction geek, wrote the post back in 2009 in anticipation of the film adaptation of THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger.  In the article, Goldberg takes a broad look at time travel in contemporary books and films, from BACK TO THE FUTURE to LOST to THE TERMINATOR.  Ultimately, Goldberg takes the position that, at least to a physicist, THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE gets the science the closest to what might be considered scientifically sound.

If you’re writing a time-travel story, I highly recommend a full read of Goldberg’s article.  It can be found by clicking this link.  Below, for a more general overview, I’ve shared the four rules Goldberg says are necessary for scientifically sound, fictional time travel.

1) This is the only universe you’ve got.

Most of us have heard of the major scientific breakthrough of the last century known as quantum physics.  One researcher in quantum physics, Hugh Everett, took the theories of quantum mechanics and imagined that perhaps the universe was constantly multiplying.  He proposed the theory that, as electrons and other particles moved, the universe made almost perfect copies of itself.  Since electrons and the like move constantly, these universes would be constantly multiplying, with no limit to the universes created.

This “many universes” theory lends itself well to the type of time travel depicted in BACK TO THE FUTURE, where characters travel between times and different realities are possible.  A change in behavior in the past can lead to a different future.  But according to Goldberg, this type of theory is at odds with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the very theory that suggests that time travel may be possible in the first place.  Goldberg asserts that, to make your time travel fiction scientifically sound, you need to stay within the one universe you’ve been given.

2) You can’t visit any time before your time machine was built.

In Einstein’s universe, time and space are closely related to each other.  Therefore, time travel could be imagined as a trip through a tunnel in space – a tunnel that has a way in and a way out – an entrance/exit at each end.  The rule that follows, then, is that both ends of the tunnel need to be in a time when time travel exists.

If you think about it, the application of this rule would help explain why, if time travel is indeed possible and will one day be perfected, we don’t receive visitors who are time traveling back to us from the future.  Since time travel hasn’t been “invented” yet, time travelers from the future cannot come back to our time.  (I suppose it follows that, once it is invented, we can expect to meet people from the future as they come back to take a tour of our time.)

3) You can’t kill your own grandfather.

This rule concerns the consistency of history.  It looks at something known as the “grandfather paradox,” which goes something like this:

Imagine you possess a time machine.  You go back in time and decide to kill your own grandfather.  Now what?  Well, if you kill your grandfather, you will never be born, and if you are never born, you won’t exist to come back and kill your grandfather, which means you will be born.

In the mid-1980s, physicist Igor Novikov used quantum mechanics to develop the “self-consistency theorem,” which demonstrates that there is no actual possibility of changing history with a time machine.  The events of history cannot be altered, according to Novikov.  Even if you went back in time and tried to kill your own grandfather, you wouldn’t be able to, because the events of history are fixed.

4) You don’t have nearly as much free will as you think you do.

Novikov’s “self consistency theorem” can be frustrating and difficult to accept.  Don’t we all like to believe that we control our own destinies?

But what about the destiny of an inanimate object?  Instead of your grandfather’s life, what if we were dealing with the movement of pool balls?  Imagine a time machine set up so that a pool ball shot into the time machine came out a second earlier.  Shouldn’t it be possible to aim a shot so that, when the pool ball emerged from the time machine a second in the past, it blocked the original shot that sent the pool ball into the machine in the first place?

Kip Thorne and his students examined the paradox of the “impossible pool shot” and came up with a compromise. They propose that, no matter how hard you tried to line up the shot perfectly, there would be some unplanned angle to the original shot.  The ball would then come out of the machine at a slightly askew angle, thereby clipping the first ball just enough to send it into the time machine slightly askew, and the whole thing would continue in an endless perfect loop.

In other words, a physicist would argue that once you’ve seen your destiny by traveling to the future, there is nothing you can do to change it.

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What do you think of Goldberg’s four rules of time travel?  Do you think time travel fiction should follow rules?  Do you believe that writers of science fiction should keep the “science” in mind while plotting?  Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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Julie Eshbaugh is represented by Natalie Fischer of the Bradford Literary Agency.  You can read her blog here and find her on Twitter here.