Monday, January 26, 2009

In Which I Set a Horrible Example

So the WIP I posted the beginning of in the last post is coming along swimmingly. I'm about 11k words in, and I even have a plot (!!) and an inkling of an ending. Oh, and I have a working title--The Support Group. Not as interesting as any of the suggestions (and thank you so much for them) but it has the convenient quality of actually relating to the book (not your fault, helpful commenters; you had no idea what the book was about.)

So you'll notice I've written over 10,000 words in less than a week. A lot of writers would balk at this. Typically, though, I actually write even faster than this.

The advice you'll see a lot advocates the BIC method--BIC meaning Butt In Chair (though I like how it makes me think of BIC pens, too). Basically, this means you sit down and you write a little bit every day.

I don't do this. I'll go weeks or months without writing. And when I actually do write, it's constant, in obsessive, unstoppable bursts. 3K on weekends before I'm allowed out of bed. 2K after school. At least 2K during the school day, which my Calculus teacher just loves, of course. Move move move.

Because if I don't finish it quickly, I get bored. And I don't finish.

BIC, ADD-style.


So here's my query letter for The Support Group. Granted, I won't be sending this query letter--and I haven't even shown it to my fabulous fabulous agent yet--but I do so love writing them.

Former prodigy Dustin, eighteen and peaked, looked forward to living alone on the last of his picture book royalties. Instead, his brother’s night terrors escalate to a breakdown, and Dustin’s stuck sharing the house with—and playing nursemaid to—fifteen-year-old Jeremy. It’s not as if there are parents to do it; Dad took care of Jer for awhile, but disappeared in shame after Dustin came out. Late Mom’s around only in Jeremy’s nightmares.

Carting Jeremy around to doctors, however, offers a very significant plus—meeting Caleb, a psych nurse who promises Dustin a lot of things, among them a solution to Jeremy’s nightmares. Dustin hasn’t had a clue what to do besides stress over the kid and offer him tea and anti-anxiety meds, so Caleb’s invitation to Jeremy to join his support group seems like a dream come true, and Jeremy flourishes. Dustin’s drive to help his brother—and to remain close to Caleb—makes it a snap to follow the nurse’s directions for Jeremy’s care...and to answer Caleb’s probing questions.

But as Dustin’s relationship with Caleb develops, so does his sense that this group’s using Jeremy for something far more sinister than support, especially when Jeremy’s improvement subsides to a wracking sense of guilt he won’t explain to Dustin. The truth is, Caleb’s on a search for information. And delicate, not-so-innocent Jeremy seems the perfect place to look.

THE SUPPORT GROUP is a 45,000 word YA novel.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Care to give this a title?

Fun fact: I rarely, rarely come up with my titles.

Started this evening:

Dustin learned a long time ago that the easiest way to control Jeremy was to remain close. He’d touch Jeremy—sometimes, not always. A hand on the shoulder, around his ankle, maybe palm-down on his forehead. Every once in a while, murmur something comforting. “It’s okay.” “Everything’s fine.” “You’re with me.”

Just after seven o’clock, when the light started to get pink through the trees. Dustin turned a page in the newspaper and wondered how long it’d been since he’d seen his name in print. Certainly not since he moved up here. To escape the fame, he’d said, but the truth was the fame escaped him ages ago, and this was just a cover for the rest of his pride. There was no more fame to escape by the time he bought the cabin—just the whole word outside afternoon tea, Jeremy and his nightmares, and Avi.

Only half an hour until Avi arrived. Dustin knew he should get up, make himself attractive. Make himself...something. Whatever. Avi knew every inch of him. Even when Dustin wanted to feel self-conscious, it was hard to feel anything but boring next to Avi. Avi, who had a tattoo of a tattoo gun. Avi, who had You were wrong—it’s just darkness in black ink on the sole of his foot. “For when they hang the toe tag,” he said

Jeremy shivered when he saw it. But Jeremy did a lot of shivering.

“Everything’s fine,” Dustin said, running his hand down his brother’s back..

Jeremy whimpered.

“I’m here.” A lot of good that ever seemed to do.

Just after seven o’clock—much too early for most sixteen-year-olds to sleep. Dustin cupped his hand around the back of Jeremy’s head and slipped his fingers into his curls. Seven o’clock was Jeremy’s worst time. Right when the drugs started to kick in. Strong enough to put him to sleep, not nearly strong enough to calm him down.

Jeremy bit down hard on his tongue.

“Nuh-uh-uh.” Dustin worked his fingers around Jeremy’s jaw until it loosened and pulled away just as Jeremy snapped at his fingers. “Hey.”

And Jeremy was so sweet when he was awake.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Should I Write Now?

Suggestions are welcome.

Oh God please someone.

See, this kind of thing would never happen if I were a singer.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

An Interview

I'm reposting this from lovely friend Kristin Briana's blog Acceptable Forms of Schizophernia (like here:

KB: When did you start writing? (You know, like books, not the alphabet.)

HM: I started working on my first long manuscript when I was ten. Around that time, my fifth grade teacher read us that (fantastic) Andrew Clements book, The School Story, which is all about how this middle schooler writes a book and her friend pretends to be an agent and gets her published. So my best friend and I, of course, decided that we needed to do this, and she would be my agent. I think that was the first time I ever wrote something with the idea that it would someday be a real book.

The first long manuscript I finished was when I was eleven; it was a hundred pages or so. I wrote my first legitimate (though awful) novel when I was fourteen, and since then I've written nine total.

KB: Describe your upcoming book in 20 words or less.

HM: BREAK: A boy is on a mission to break all his bones.

Nine words to spare!

KB: What made you decide to write a novel and try to get it published?

HM: I think I sort of figured it was the natural consequence of writing so many novels. I've queried all but one of those nine novels I mentioned---some more extensively than others. This was just the one that got picked up.

I've yet to develop a deep answer for "why I write." I think it's because I'm a masochist fast typist with too much time on my hands...but that's not usually what people want to hear.

KB: Describe the process of getting your agent and publishing your book.

HM: At the time I was querying two novels--Break and another novel, These Humans All Suck. I'd been querying both for almost a year when out of the blue I got four offers in one week--three for Break, one for These Humans. I went with the agent who offered for These Humans--Jenoyne Adams at Bliss Literary (and she is such a rockstar). After she read Break, we both agreed that was a stronger first novel and subbed that one first. I got an offer from Simon Pulse after about three months.

We're hoping These Humans will be my next novel released, since it's my and my agent's favorite.

KB: Did anyone ever tell you that you were too young to sell a novel?

HM: Oh yeah, people tell you that all the time. Mostly it's those "how to write" books--there are always a few paragraphs addressing young writers, basically telling us to accept that our stuff is crappy and stop trying to get published.

I don't think it has anything to do with age. It has to do with experience. And age doesn't necessarily equal experience. I spent several years writing crap, just like most adult writers too. I just wrote crap from when I was 9-14 instead of when I was 30-35.

KB: What inspired you to write "Break"?

HM: I had this vague idea in my head that I wanted to write about a seventeen-year-old on some kind of weird mission. I had no idea what I wanted this mission to be, but I knew I wanted it to be over-the-top, high concept, and interesting. Then, a few days before Halloween, I saw Into The Wild with my best friend. I tend to latch onto weird things when I see movies. For Into the Wild, I was fascinated by the image of Chris McCandless near the very end, when he couldn't eat because of an accidental poisoning. I was totally entranced by this idea of starving surrounded by food you couldn't eat.

That night, we met up with some other friends and participated in some general teenage mind-altering hijinx. And it just hit me--I want to write about a boy who wants to break all his bones.

And maybe he has a brother (I LOVE writing about brothers) with really bad food allergies who can barely eat and how would this affect my main character and let's name him Jonah and it could start like this and end like...and it could be like Fight Club and Into the Wild all rolled into...

I went home and wrote the book in six days.

KB: Are any characters based on friends or family?

HM: Based on? Nah. Inspired by? Yeah...

KB: Did you always want to be an author?

HM: No, when I was a kid I wanted to be a singer.

In fact, I kind of still want to be a singer.

But writer will do.

KB: Name your top five favorite books.

HM: Sadly, a lot of these aren't YA.

Hotel New Hamsphire -- John Irving
Fight Club -- Chuck Palahniuk
Looking for Alaska -- John Green
The Stranger -- Albert Camus
A Prayer for Owen Meany -- John Irving

I love almost all YA books. But my very very very favorites tend to be non-YA. It's weird.

KB: What is your favorite flavor of jelly bean? ( )

HM: Toasted marshmallow. Hell. Yes.

KB: What advice would you give to young writers who want to be published?

HM: If you're good, don't stop sending out query letters until you get an agent. Ever.

If you're bad, don't ever stop improving. Ever.

The problem is that very few people really know which one of these they are. That's why I recommend doing both. Never think you're not good enough, and never think you can't get better.

That's what I'm still doing.

KB: How cool is it to tell people they can buy your book at Barnes & Noble this August?

HM: People don't really believe me. Also, they don't understand what's taking so long. The book was accepted last summer!?!? Why isn't it out now?

I'm not sure I really believe it, to be perfectly honest. I still think someone's going to shake me and wake me up and remind me I can't spell, and I don't know comma rules, and I'm seventeen, for God's sake!

So ask me that once again when it's really happened?

So hi.

I'm used to blogging with a group.

In fact, I do most things in groups. I blog in a group. I write best with people swarming around me. I poll people about what outfits to wear, what classes I should take, what the name of my blog should be. The dedication for Break says:

To the Musers,
who knew this was a group effort.

Who the Musers are is an entirely different story, but the fact remains that, once a book is finished, done, in my hands, it feels hard to have just my name on it. I didn't name several of the main characters; I said, "Hey, what name sounds good with Jonah?" and listened for responses. My editor came up with the title. What's ironic is that the farther you get along in the process, the closer you get to having a book with YOUR NAME HERE, the farther that book gets from being just yours.

I'm completely okay with that.

That's why blogging on my own is a bit frightening.

I know my dedication word for word, by the way, because I received Break's typeset pages in the mail today. I didn't really understand what these were until I opened the package.

It's like a real book.

Okay, more accurately, it's like when your teacher is too cheap to get enough books for the entire class, so she makes photocopies of her own book. Except there's no black smudge down the middle from someone shoving a paperback against a Xerox machine.

The font, the page numbers, the "If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property" is all there. It's just on printer paper. Two pages per sheet. Divided by white space, no black smudge.

And my name's on it. On every page.

Jesus Christ.