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Digesting the Revision Letter, a pep talk

19 Jul

A Guest Post by Erin Bowman

~~~

You’ve written a book. Your agent has sold it. Your editor (holy cow, you now have an EDITOR) is working on getting you revision notes. They’ll come in the form of a “revision letter,” which will likely be long and single-spaced and full of big picture items that need addressing.

If you are anything like me, you will simultaneously crave and fear this essential document. So without further adieu, some things to keep in perspective as you read through your letter:

Remember that Editor loves your book

She had to love it enough to pitch it in an Acquisitions meeting. She had to get Sales and Marketing and Higher Ups onboard. She had to believe that your story was one the world should see, and then she brokered a deal that would make that possible. Remember this, because a revision letter can come with big and sometimes overwhelming suggestions. Things like: Subplot A should be cut, Character X feels flat, world-building is lacking, and oh, lets switch from first person present to third person past. You might not be prepared for it. So no matter how long your letter is, no matter how many characters are flat or subplots need cutting, remember it in no way correlates to how much (or little) Editor loves your story. She loves it. The end.

These edits will make your book better.

Stronger. Tighter. Un-Put-Downable. Everything Editor points out is done with the end goal of crating a better story. She might even ask a bunch of questions, offering no answers along the way, simply because she wants you to think about what these questions mean for the story and know that readers will be asking the same things as they devour your tale. As you read through your letter, there’s a good chance you’ll be nodding your head in agreement to 99.9% of the things Editor says. I know I did. You might even kick yourself for not seeing them first. Deep down, we know there are flaws in our books, areas that can be strengthened. Editor will find them, document them on paper, and then push you to man-up.

Take some time to digest it all.

There’s a rare chance it works for some people, but I advice against reading your letter and immediately jumping into revisions. I like to sit on my thoughts before any major rewrite. I let ideas marinate. I think about how one change here might affect twenty things there. I brainstorm several different options before I sit down to tackle the right one. I think this is a crucial step. Read your letter. Think about it for a week or two. Make notes. Think some more. Then start.

Ask Questions.

If something is unclear, always, always, always speak up. When I was younger, I never asked questions when I needed clarification. I thought it would make me look dumb, like I had no clue what I was doing. I am a firm believer that you actually look smarter when you say, “Hey, I’m not quite following this. Can we talk it over again?” And here is why I bring this up: Revising is hard. We all know this. You don’t want to spend weeks revising only to take the story down a path opposite of what Editor had in mind. If you don’t follow something in your letter, ask Editor to clarify. If you see what she’s saying but think it will drastically (and detrimentally) alter other points of the story, see if she can hop on the phone to hash it out. I’m pretty sure she’ll be more than happy to discuss things.

You have the answers.

You do. You envisioned the story, dreamed up the world, peopled it with characters. You have the answers even when you fail to see them. Remember this when you are knee deep in a scene, your story’s guts spilled because you’ve hacked it apart, and all you can think is, “I have no clue what I’m doing. How will I ever fix this?” You will. Maybe not that very day – you might need to take a break or go for a walk or come back to it tomorrow – but you will figure it out. You will find the answer and you will stitch your story back together impeccably. It won’t even scar.

Do it your way.

This has been more of a pep talk than an advice-centric post because I truly believe that writing (and editing) is an individual and unique experience. No two people will tackle it the same way. Only you can decide what works for your story, your situation, your process. Find those tactics and stick to them.

Happy Revising!

~~~

Erin Bowman lives in New Hampshire with her husband. When not writing, Erin enjoys hiking, giggling and staring at the stars. She drinks a lot of coffee, buys far too many books and is not terribly skilled at writing about herself in the third person. Her debut THE LAICOS PROJECT will be available Winter 2013 from HarperTeen. She blogs regularly at embowman.com.

Too Close For Comfort?

14 Jul

or

Why you are in love with your first novel

 A Guest Post by Aya Tsintziras

~~~

We’ve all heard the saying “you’re too close to your book, you need someone else to look at it with fresh eyes.” And while getting different opinions on your novel is an integral part of the editing process, no matter what stage of the path to publication you are at, what if being too close to your novel is a good thing?

I believe that it is.

Confession: I don’t have a CP. When I’m finished a draft of a book, I show it to my mom, who I consider my first reader, and she points out little stuff like typos and the bigger stuff like a plot point that doesn’t make total sense, or a secondary character’s boyfriend who has three different names (that happened in my current WIP). Then I revise. Then I send my book off to my agent. (Then more revisions, of course.) That’s it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have CPs. Whatever works for you. I don’t show my early drafts to more than two people, and that makes me very close to my work. In the case of my first novel, with each round of revisions I did with my editor, I started to feel more and more disconnected from my book, like it became something of its own, something that was less of a story I used to write in high school late at night in my bedroom or in my favourite Starbucks after school. It became something more like, well, a novel that would be published. (On August 26, 2011, to be specific.)

But I know the book so well I could basically recite it verbatim if you asked me. And this is a good thing, because if you get some comments on your novel during the editing process, for instance on changing a plot point, you can say, no, my character wouldn’t do that. You know your characters, because my theory is this: the relationship you have with your first novel is the most important relationship you will ever have with any book you write. Feel free to disagree with me on this – I’m not saying you won’t ever enjoy writing another book again. You’re a writer, so you love to write. But the first one is like your first love affair with a potential career, with the idea that you can really pursue the path to publication, with the fact that you are serious about this. And it’s probably true of every writer who makes the transition to author that their first novel is the one they will revise again and again for years upon years. I worked on my own first book for six years, counting before and after my book deal.

I don’t have the same attachment to my current WIP. Not that I don’t love working on it, not that I don’t think it’s another important story to tell. But it’s just not the same. And that doesn’t make me sad, it’s kind of bittersweet. Because my first novel is the only first novel I will ever have, and I feel a sense of real peace that soon it will make its way into the world.

So it’s okay to be “too close” to your novel, at least your first novel. You know the characters like they are your best friends, and you know what they would say and do in certain situations. And eventually, whether you’re sending off queries in the hopes of landing an agent, or waiting for the next round of revisions from your editor or agent, you will have to let go a little bit. And with each round of edits, you will let go a bit more. And when your book is on the shelves, that’s when you will let go the most, I bet. Because you’ve worked hard to make your dream come true, and now it’s time to work on your next book, and to continue living the dream.

~~~

Aya’s first novel, PRETTY BONES, will be published by James Lorimer on August 26, 2011. Aya lives in Toronto, where her days are filled with coffee, pop culture and, of course, writing. She is addicted to television, so it’s probably a good thing that come September, she’s off to grad school to study TV writing and producing. You can follow her on twitter @ayatsintziras and visit her website at www.ayatsintziras.com.

The Seven Stages of Writing a Sequel

12 Jul

or

AAAAAAAGH #*$#&$*#*&%# Sequels!

A Guest Post by Jill Hathaway

~~~

1. Elation – Your editor wants you to write a sequel! Everyone wants to know what happens next. They love your characters. They love the premise. They love you! O happy day!

2. Denial – It can’t really be that hard to write a sequel, right? People do it all the time. Never mind that they usually have an idea of what happens in the long run. You can figure that out as you go. You’ve done it once, and you can do it again. No sweat.

3. Hope – You have an idea. It’s the best idea evar, really. Just take your main character and send them to SPACE. Why didn’t you think of this before? It doesn’t matter that none of the other characters your audience loved from the first one will be in the sequel. Or that it’s a completely different genre from the first one. It’s brilliant, I tell you! BRILLIANT!

4. Grief – Your editor doesn’t think shooting your character into space is such a good idea? Your agent laughed in your face? Your critique partner actually threw rotten tomatoes at you? Well. It was a pretty dumb idea, wasn’t it? I mean, space? What were you thinking? You are so stupid. You’ll never come up with a good idea again. Just grab that tub of Ben & Jerry’s and retreat to your bedroom. Go wallow in your failure, dumbhead.

5. Thunder Bolt of Awesomeness – Wha? What was that? An even better idea kicked you in the head, knocking the Chubby Hubby right out of your mouth? Well, better grab a notebook! Write write write write write! Get so excited that you send your editor, your agent, your crit partner multiple unintelligible emails. WHAT? Everyone loves your idea? Then get your butt started!

6. Realization – Oh, yeah. This is what writing a book is like. The trek to the salt mines every day. The pages of uninspired prose just to get one little golden sentence. Still, you already know the characters. You already know the world. It’s just figuring out how to make something new without changing it TOO much.

7. Hope – WHAT? THERE CAN BE TWO STAGES CALLED THIS. You write “THE END.” You look over the material. It’s raw, but you think the clay is all there. You like it. You kind of love it. Your crit partner kind of loves it. You roll up your sleeves, ready to start the real work of revising. You can do this. You can. You’ve done it before, and you will again.

~~~

Jill Hathaway grew up in Iowa and received her MA in literature from Iowa State University. A high school English teacher, she lives with her husband and young daughter in the Des Moines area. You can visit her online at www.jillscribbles.blogspot.com. SLIDE, her debut, will be released from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in 2012.

Reading as a Writer

7 Jul

A Guest Post by Jodi Meadows

~~~

When I was a teen, I read anything I could get my hands on. Books, newspaper, cereal boxes, warning signs. Anything. If there were words, I read them. During this time, I was writing a little–not very well–but mostly I was reading, filling my head with stories from the library and whatever I could afford from a bookstore.

I loved books indiscriminately. I almost never left a book half-finished. I loved big, never-ending series because they were like going to a second home where I knew all the characters, might get introduced to new ones along the way, and I understood the rules of the world. I got to go on adventures without ever leaving school. (Since a lot of my reading time was hiding the book under the desk so the teacher wouldn’t catch me. . . .)

After I got married, I had the opportunity to write full time–so I took it. I joined the Online Writing Workshop and learned a lot about prose, grammar, structure, character development, my utter lack of logic when it came to character motivation . . . Oh, I could go on about everything I needed to learn, but, heh, let’s not. In addition to receiving critiques, the OWW requires members to give critiques. They say you learn just as much–if not more–from identifying and discussing what does and doesn’t work for you in others’ work. Anxious to do well, I did as many crits as I could possibly manage while still writing The Best Fantasy Novel Ever.

Over the next few years, I became sharply aware of all my failings as a writer and, as a result, hypercritical of any other piece of writing I encountered. Every time I picked up a book, the newly awakened editor part of my brain reared up and made me think about how I would have written that sentence differently. Better, in fact. And oh, look at that horrible use of passive voice. Or an adverb! Kill it with fire! (It was pretty dramatic in my brain for a while.)

I stopped being able to read books for enjoyment. I didn’t realize that was what was happening at first, only that there had been a book on my desk, half-read, for months. And I had no desire to pick it up again. It was a sad time. But still I wrote. Still I critiqued. As I grew more confident in my craft, and better able to turn off my internal editor (or at least shove her into the same dirty closet other writers were shoving theirs), I began reaching for books again. Sometimes they were books I’d picked up on my own, and other times they were books a group of friends and I had decided to read at the same time. Either way, I began to enjoy reading again. I had to. I love books, and being without– It was awful.

A lot of writers go through this. It’s normal. It’s easy to start feeling judgy when learning a new skill and someone does exactly what you were taught not to do. How dare they break the rules??? But there are no rules; there’s only what works. What we think of as rules are actually just things that typically work.

Eventually, you claw your way out of the unfun nonreading time. It gets easier to recognize that the story the author is telling may not be the story you wanted to be told, but that doesn’t make it a bad story. It gets easier to stop nitpicking every sentence because you would have written it differently. And it gets easier to remember that you didn’t write the book; someone else did.

Learning to tell the internal editor to shut up is an important skill if you want to be able to read a book without screaming. For writers, reading is an essential part of the job. (And often why writers start writing in the first place.) It’s important to know what books are out there, what’s currently selling, and what’s making readers swoon. Even more important than being able to tell what an author did wrong is being able to tell what they did right.

I wouldn’t want to go back to being able to read indiscriminately; it’s important to know the difference between good books and bad books, and keep a healthy diet of good books. As with food. But mostly, it’s important to read, because how can anyone who’s not feeding their creative brain hope to produce anything?

It doesn’t matter where you are in your writing: reading is part of the job, and great books will open your eyes and change the way you think. They’ll inspire you, entertain you, and stay with you long after The End.

~~~


Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut. Her debut, INCARNATE, is coming January 31, 2012 from Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

*A Kippy is a cat.

Using Method Acting in Your Writing

6 Jul

By Sammy Bina

~~~

The first time I ever acted on stage was my freshman year of high school, when I played a 90-year-old nun in the show (warning: terrible pun ahead) Nun of Your Business. I’d never acted before, and knew next to nothing about it. I figured it couldn’t be that hard to pretend to be someone else, but it proved to be more of a challenge than I thought. As a 14-year-old, I had no idea what it was like to walk around using a cane. I still had all my teeth. Hell, I wasn’t even Catholic.

Lucky for me, I wasn’t the only one feeling like a fish out of water. So, to help us get into character before rehearsals, our director would have us sit in a circle and ask us mundane questions like ‘what’s your favorite breakfast food?’ or ‘what kind of errands did you run today?’ And we’d have to answer them from our character’s point of view. Now, as a frigid old woman who could hardly walk, I didn’t run many errands, but I waxed poetic on my love of all things breakfast, particularly buttermilk pancakes. I still remember that. I also remember insisting that I did not wear dentures.

Writing, it turns out, is a lot like acting. You have an entire cast of characters, each of them unique, and you have to manage to keep them all straight. You have to make sure they don’t blend together, and that each has a very distinct personality. I’ve been hard at work editing my current WIP, and was having a little trouble with one chapter in particular, where I couldn’t seem to get the mother to sound like herself. Up until that point in the manuscript, she’d been kind of sarcastic and grumpy. In this particular scene, the main character was in need of some comfort, and I couldn’t figure out a way for this older woman to offer her support without sounding trite and completely out of character.

So what did I do? I went back to my high school days of method acting. I sat myself down, closed my eyes, and tried to envision myself as a 47-year-old woman who’s hiding a fugitive in her basement, whose eldest son has turned out to be a major disappointment, and whose world is crumbling around her faster than a leaning tower of Jenga. I may have considered even putting on a frumpy dress and an apron for this, but couldn’t find any. (But if dressing up helps you, then by all means, go for it.) I envisioned what she’d had for breakfast that morning, and what kinds of errands she’d had to run. Knowing the scene took place in winter, I thought about how snow might affect her mood. Then I read through the entire scene out loud, much like you’d do at a play rehearsal. The problem, I found, was that a script is all dialogue, save for very specific sections of blocking. In between my lines of dialogue, I’d have a paragraph describing the lump in someone’s throat, or how badly their head hurt. When the thing I needed to work on most was voice, all those extra words just got in the way.

How did I solve the problem, you ask? I opened a new Word document, copied and pasted the scene I was working on, and deleted everything that wasn’t dialogue. And after I read through that, I realized why I couldn’t get the mother to act the way she’s supposed to. The problem was that the paragraphs between the dialogue were concentrated on the main character, as she’s the one narrating. So her voice was pulling me away from the one I needed help with. Once I took away my MC’s narration, the scene began to fall into place. I had a much better grasp on the mother’s voice. Keeping those emotions I’d dug up at the front of my mind, I was able to rewrite the scene in a way that stayed true to who both the characters were.

I haven’t acted since I started college, but I’ve found method acting to be a useful took I like to keep in my writer’s toolbox. It’s come in handy on more than one occasion, and I hope you guys can take advantage of it as well. Just start with the basic question of what’s the best breakfast food, and see where your imagination takes you!

~~~

Sammy recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Creative Writing. She is currently in the midst of moving to New York City, where she hopes to find a job in publishing. Her free time is spent editing her YA dystopian, SILENCE, and you can find her on twitter, or follow her blog.

Interview with Tara Hudson, author of HEREAFTER

4 Jul

by Susan Dennard

You all may recall my gushing recommendation of Tara Hudson’s Hereafter a few weeks back. Well, I am now absolutely ecstatic to share my recent interview with her!

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Tara Hudson graduated with a degree in law, mostly because she believed all the horror stories about English majors and their careers in the food-service industry. Luckily, she soon remembered how much she loved telling ghost stories, particularly to her girlfriends who liked visiting abandoned cemeteries as much as she did. Tara currently lives in Oklahoma with her husband, son, and a menagerie of ill-behaved pets.

Let’s get started, shall we?

So, Tara, when did you first start writing HEREAFTER? Was there any sort of inspiring moment behind it (like dreams of sparkly vampires—ha!)?

I actually remember the exact date I started writing HEREAFTER – April 14, 2009 – because I still have the email that I sent my best girlfriends, asking them to read the first chapter. But my inspiring moment, or event, happened in 2000, when I drew “first straw” to present a short story in my college Fiction Writing Workshop. I always had a fascination with old cemeteries (their history, their eerie sense of watchfulness), so I wrote a story about the type of person who might wake up in one. That early story haunted me, and almost ten years later, it grew into HEREAFTER.

Wow! That’s…impressive–I love that it’s been an idea boiling in your mind for so long. And I gotta say, you pull of the cemetery-creep-factor really well! When you set out to actually write it, were you a plotter or pantster?

I was a plotter, especially for HEREAFTER. I wrote the entire original manuscript based off of an outline, that set out a chapter-by-chapter sequence of events. But with ARISE, the second book in the Hereafter Trilogy, I totally pants-ed it. And you know what? The spontaneity worked, because I think ARISE blows HEREAFTER out of the water!

GASP! Oh my gosh, Tara, now you’ve got me drooling for ARISE. If the author thinks it’s great, it must be fan-freaking-tab-ulous! Plus, how awesome is that title–ARISE!? Now, tell us about your agent. Who is she and how did you win her heart?

My agent is the fantastic Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management. She was my dream agent – she represents Markus Zusak and Becca Fitzpatrick, for pete’s sake! – and I didn’t think I had a snowball’s chance of landing representation with her. But she read my entire manuscript over the course of one weekend and liked it. She didn’t offer me representation right away because she wanted me to do some revising. Lucky for me, only two days after I started revisions, Catherine received a call from HarperCollins looking for something along the same lines as HEREAFTER. With my permission, Catherine pitched my manuscript and Harper loved it. Of course, I wasn’t surprised when my new editor – the equally legendary Barbara Lalicki – wanted the exact same revisions Catherine had suggested!

Wow. My jaw is kinda on the floor with that story… HEREAFTER is (as I have told everyone) amazing, but to hear the concept was so high that editors wanted it just like that… Well, go Tara! So now that you’re all published (wee!), what are you working on now?

Right now, I’m winding down revisions for ARISE and starting my outline for ELEGY, the final book in the Hereafter Trilogy. I’m also vacillating between two new projects – another YA paranormal and a YA fantasy – both of which I kind of love.

Awesome! I can’t lie that I’m really excited to hear you’re working on new projects–it’s my purely selfish desire to read them!! Finally, do you have any big words of writerly advice?

You can do this.

I get how that might sound trite, or like something your mother would say. But when I was writing HEREAFTER, I had a really demanding day job. Then, after I sold HEREAFTER and began revising it, I still had that day job as well as a brand new pregnancy. Then, after HEREAFTER was finished and I was under an intense deadline to write ARISE, I had the intense day job and a brand new baby.

And you know what? I did it. With all those life responsibilities, I wrote two books of which I’m extremely proud. So whatever you’re struggling with while trying to write or query or submit or revise, you CAN do this, mostly because you love it that much.

We can do it! I’ve been terrified of tackling my own book 2, and I gotta say: you’ve made me feel better, Tara. This is wonderful advice and so, so true.

Thank you for taking the time out of your very busy life to answer my questions, and I can’t wait to see your other books in stores. (No seriously, if there’s anyway you can hook me up with an ARC for ARISE… ::nudge, nudge::)

Now, for those of you Americans out there, Happy Fourth of July! Go out and read Hereafter–you won’t regret it!

~~~

You can learn more about Tara Hudson on her website , blog, or twitter!

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.


Researching Your Story – A Four-Step Strategy

30 Jun

by Julie Eshbaugh

~~~

Unless you’re writing a book about your own life, chances are you’ll have to do some sort of research before you can say your novel is finished. (Even if your book IS about your own life, you’ll probably have to refer to your family albums, at the very least!) Historical settings, legal proceedings, and medical conditions are just a few examples of story components that would require research. The object of this post is to suggest a strategy for research that will provide the authentic details you need without bogging you down in the process.

Step 1 – Make notes about the factual issues that you will need to research.

What will you need to learn to ensure that your story is authentic and appropriate for its genre? (I mention genre here because some genres have higher standards for accuracy than others. A “police procedural” mystery will require far more exacting details than would a contemporary fiction that includes an arrest in the plot.)

Once you’ve made a list of topics and facts you will need to research, divide it into two categories – “big picture” and “important details.”

“Big picture” knowledge is the information you need as you create the over-arching idea behind your novel and start your first draft. Examples would be:

  • In pre-Columbus North America, were horses a part of daily life?
  • Would a heart transplant be an option for a pregnant woman?
  • How long does DNA evidence last at a crime scene?

What qualifies an issue to be in the “big picture” category is the fact that it is at the heart of your story and essential for your concept to make sense. For instance, if your novel is about a crime that was committed aboard the Titanic, and how it is solved in the present day by the use of DNA evidence, you need to take the time to research these facts at the outset. What you learn about DNA evidence will have a huge impact on the course of your novel.

Step 2 – Attack the “big picture” issues and gain knowledge about the facts that will help form the spine of your story.

If you know that there is an area of study that is a major component to your plot, investigate that area as you form the seed of your story. If your story is set in Vietnam during the war, study up on the geography and the people. If your story is about an astronaut who makes an error that threatens to kill his entire crew, get an understanding of space missions and how they are structured and staffed.

Step 3 – Firm up your concept and dive into your first draft.

This is why you divided that list from Step 1 into two categories. The second category – “important details” – can be put aside for now. I’m not saying that you won’t have to look up those questions and answers eventually.  What I am saying is that you don’t need to know every detail of life in revolutionary France before getting started writing your rough draft. Authentic details will be required before you turn in your final draft, but you shouldn’t let research prevent you from getting started. If one of your characters lights a candle to read by, and you find out later that gas lamps had replaced candles ten years before your story takes place, that detail can be fixed in the revisions stage.

Step 4 – Firm up the details and make your revisions.

This step is where you need to add accuracy. What kind of gun would a pirate have used? Did matches exist or would the main character light a wick from the fireplace? How long did it take to travel from Glasgow to London by carriage in 1814?  Now that you have your first draft down, you can take the time to get the facts straight without interrupting the flow of your writing.

Do you do a lot of research for your writing? What process do you use? Do you have any ideas to add to the above? I look forward to reading your comments!

~~~

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

Show versus Tell: Macro-, Micro-, and When to Use It

29 Jun

by Susan Dennard

~~

Note:

This post has been UPDATED

and re-posted on

Pub(lishing) Crawl!

~~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. Her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, is now available from HarperTeen. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

Allow me to romance you while you question your sanity.

28 Jun

by Biljana Likic

~~~

Ah, l’amour!

Love, in any form, is pretty sweet. It’s why you constantly see me writing about it. I’m a hopeless romantic. And while I can’t consider myself an expert on romance, I do know a thing or two about it. My favourite part is the tension.

The thing that makes something exciting is the lead-up. You can talk all you want about how you hate waiting, but half of what’s making your stomach flip is anticipation of what’s to come. It’s like when you hear a crush will be at the same party as you. Your mind goes into overdrive. Will they see you? Will they talk to you? Will they, dare you think it, accidentally graze your arm as they reach for the punch they’re getting for your rival? Will you finally be poisoning it tonight?

The wonderful thing about that last question is that it’s only a half-joke.

In writing, it’s no different. If you want the reader to be rooting for two people to get together, make them feel like they’re part of the romance. Make their stomach flip when it looks like the boy will finally notice the girl. I’m not talking about endless woe-is-me from the protagonist, or secret, long-suffering proclamations. I’m talking about subtle things. Things that really show how every moment the girl spends in the boy’s company electrifies her.

What makes it doubly fun, is having her not know if the boy is doing it consciously or not.

She walks into the room with a glass of wine. Her eyes are drawn to him like magnets and she stares at his face. He’s sitting by the cake, already having eaten his dinner. She decides dinner isn’t important anyway and makes a beeline for the three-tiered confection, pretending to be considering the cake whenever she thought he looked over.

She’s there before she wants to be. Her sudden proximity to him is making her aware of every insecurity, from the slight tummy she could never lose to the fact that she isn’t very good at walking in heels. She watches him from the corner of her eye and jumps when he turns to look at her. She makes brief eye contact before taking a drink of wine to distract herself.

“Would you like some cake?”

She almost chokes on her drink. She clears her throat.

“Excuse me?”

“You seem to really want some cake,” he says.

A rush of embarrassment pours through her as she realizes she just spent the last few minutes seemingly entranced by white frosting and pink sugar bows.

She clears her throat again. “Is it any good?” she asks.

He doesn’t answer but stands, taking a natural step towards her, and picks up a cake knife. He’s unbearably close. He cuts a piece and hands it to her on a plate. She has to be careful how she raises her hand to accept it so that she doesn’t accidentally touch him. He’s watching her as she takes it, and she feels his fingers brush hers.

“Thanks,” she says quietly, not looking at him.

“You’re welcome.”

She sits down stiffly. A moment later, he retakes his own seat beside her, and as he pulls in his chair his thigh comes into contact with hers. Her grip tightens on her spoon as he starts to flirt with the girl on the other side of him, and it’s a good ten seconds before he moves his leg.

She sets down her plate, takes up the wine glass, and drains it.

Not once does it talk about how she’s infatuated, and nowhere does it outright say that she’s attracted to him. This is an example of showing instead of telling. Through her reactions, you can see that she’s attracted to him; it never has to be said. And it’s done with the little things, the tiny details: tensing up when he looks at her; staring too long at the cake out of nervousness; skipping dinner altogether for dessert she doesn’t want.

Scenes like these are what makes you want to scream. They make you want to either yell at the girl to grow a spine, or punch the guy in the face.

But, most importantly, when they finally get together, the event makes you squeal with delight.

What I love most about this stuff however is that they can lead to a happy, squee-inducing ending, or they can be the first sign of doom. As it stands right now, that scene can go in two directions: one is amusing, possibly frustrating, but ultimately happy; the other is degrading, miserable, and ultimately resentful. You don’t have to say right away right kind of relationship these two people will have. All you have to do is convey the immediate events. And though I would love for every scene like the one above to end in romance, it can always turn sour.

In the end, when it’s all said and done, the moment you leave the territory of maybe and cross into yes or no, the tension dulls considerably, and the conflict just isn’t as fun anymore. It is, after all, anticipation of the answer that keeps you at the edge of your seat.

And when it comes to romance, there’s nothing more exciting than maybe.

~~~

Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She’s going into her second 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 and follow her on Twitter.

Announcement! FREE online YA Writing Workshop!

27 Jun

Hey guys!

Susan and Sarah here!

In case you missed the announcement on our blogs, we just wanted to write a quick post to let you know that we’re hosting a FREE online YA writing workshop from July 5th-10th! You can check out the official announcements on either Susan or Sarah’s blogs!

Applications open TODAY (Monday, June 27th) at 5 PM EDT (2PM Pacific Time), and we will be providing links on our blogs to fill out the application form! We are only taking SIX students, so applications are done on a first come, first serve basis!

Here’s some more information about the workshop:

Writing For Young Adults Workshop

taught by Susan Dennard and Sarah J. Maas

with a special focus on Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Paranormal YA

Cost

Nada. It’s 100% FREE. Yeah, you read that right.

Dates

Monday, June 27th — Submissions for applications will open 5 PM Eastern Time (2 PM Pacific Time). It is FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE.
Tuesday, June 28th — Accepted students will receive notification via email
July 5th – July 15th — Workshop runs
July 18th — Final Assignment Due

General Information

The workshop will be conducted via Google Groups (in a forum style), so all Q&A will take place there as well as homework submissions. There will be “homework” assigned (it is, of course, optional), and additionally, you will be applying each lesson to your first 10 pages as the workshop progresses.

The first 10 pages of your novel will be due on the Monday following the workshop (July 18th).

There will be two Live Chats to discuss everything we’ve learned. The first will be Sunday, July 10th, and the second will be Friday, July 15th.

We will post lectures at midnight Eastern Time, and a day of discussion will be allowed until midnight Pacific Time the following night. In other words, each lesson (excluding the Introduction) will be allotted 2 full days of focus.

If you are an accepted student, you’ll receive a detailed syllabus upon acceptance.

Requirements

You MUST have at least 50 pages written of a manuscript, and your manuscript MUST BE YA. Though your novel may fall into any genre, keep in mind we will be emphasizing fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal genres because these are what we write.

We ask that you be familiar and comfortable with Google Groups. Because the workshop is brief, we won’t have time to deal with “technical difficulties.”

As stated, this is FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE. We are really sorry, but if you are not within the first 6 submissions, you will have to wait until the next workshop.

Lecture Topics

Lesson 1: Introduction to Young Adult Fiction (Tuesday, July 5th)

Lesson 2: World-building in YA (Wednesday, July 6th)

Lesson 3: Characters in YA and the Importance of Voice (Friday, July 8th)

Lesson 4: Pacing in Modern YA (Monday, July 11th)

Lesson 5: The Publishing Industry and Career Writing (Wednesday, July 13th)

Applying to the Workshop

On June 27th at 5 PM Eastern Time, a special post will open on our blogs. There will be a link that will take you to a submission form. You will fill out the form and hit send. We will wait until we have 6 suitable applicants, and then we will close submissions. (By suitable, we mean the author has a YA manuscript and has properly filled out the submission form.)

In case you want to prepare your answers ahead of time, the questions will be:

-Name?

-Email?

-Location (so we can coordinate time zones! Example: La Quinta, California, USA)?

-Length and status of your YA manuscript? (example: 30k written, incomplete manuscript; or 90k completed manuscript)

-Brief (a few sentences) summary of your YA novel?

-How/Where did you hear about this workshop?

And that’s it! Pretty easy, right?

~~

If you have any questions, you can email us:

Sarah: SarahJMaas AT (@) gmail DOT (.) com

Susan: Susan AT (@) SusanDennard DOT (.) com

OR you can send an email to our workshop email account: Nautilus DOT (.) Writing AT (@) gmail DOT (.) com!!

We are SO unbelievably excited about the workshop, and think it’ll be an absolutely amazing experience for everyone involved.

Thanks!

~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in fall 2012. Sarah resides with her husband in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.