All right. Let's talk about it.
But first, we need a big fat disclaimer.
I am a writer. I am not an agent, a publisher, an intern, or anyone connected to the publishing industry in any way besides a writer. None of this data is scientific; it is based on my own experiences, the experiences I know of others, and a hefty dose of speculation. I am speaking ONLY of YA, because that is all I can even pretend to know. Any and all of the information from here on out may be, and probably is, completely and entirely wrong. Okay? Here we go.
--PEOPLE ARE NOT MAKING AS MUCH MONEY AS YOU THINK THEY ARE. The reason you think everyone and their dog is closing a six-figure deal is because, you guessed it, those are the ones people advertise.
If someone sells for a huge amount of money, the writer and the agent--somewhat understandably--want everyone to know. If someone's PM announcement doesn't say "major deal," you can pretty much assume they did not get a major deal.
And most deals do not say major deal. Most deals don't say what kind of deal they are. Those aren't million dollar deals just being coy with you. Those are four or five figure deals, which are the large majority of deals closed, even among most established authors.
--I'M NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE YOU HAVEN'T HEARD OF. People seem to think that the writers getting four or five figure advances are in some different, lower tier from the authors that you see on bookshelves or on the internet. Trust me. They're here.
--AND YOU DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH MONEY AN INDIVIDUAL WRITER MAKES. Even if you think you do. You seriously do not know. Books oversell or undersell their advances all the time. You could hold two books in your hand and never know that one sold for five times the amount as the other. You really do not know, and you will not know unless the writer tells you. Which he probably will not, unless you're sleeping with him.
--YOU DO NOT WANT TO GET A HUGE ADVANCE FOR YOUR FIRST NOVEL. This one is a matter of opinion, but I'm a BIG advocate of small advances for first novels. This is the advance you *need* to earn out. If you can get a tiny advance, promote your ass off, and exceed your publisher's expectations, you're doing great. And of course it's possible to earn out a huge advance too, especially because you'll get a ton of support from your publisher (more on that later), but I think there's time for big advances later. Just my opinion, though.
--AGENTS AND PUBLISHERS SUPPORT ALL OF THEIR WRITERS, REGARDLESS OF ADVANCE. Okay, I won't lie and say that I haven't heard of agents who support their big authors and ignore their little ones. But the good agents don't. And if your agent does, you have a problem.
And the mark of a good editor is she makes you feel like the only author on their list. And no matter how much money she's spending on you, she never forgets how much she loves your book. (Meaning, I have an amazing editor.)
--ADVANCES ARE NOT COMPARABLE BETWEEN GENRES. A contemporary author who compares herself to a fantasy author, in the current market, is setting himself up for major disappointment. Deals for fantasy authors are usually bigger than those for contemporary authors.
Please don't take this as me saying that the ticket to big money is to write fantasy. Because, from what I've seen, fantasy is a harder sell. And you have to write something very brilliant to stand out. But if you write a fantastic fantasy book, and it sells, you will probably make more money than the person next to you with the fantastic contemporary book. A big part of this is multi-book deals--more books obviously equals more money, and most (but by no means all) of multi-book deals are for fantasy.
Once again, these are all things that I've noticed based on personal experience. If you have information or even an opinion that differs from something I said, please let me know in the comments! I'll try to answer any questions, as well, but please don't forget that disclaimer above about how I don't actually know anything. I just get to make shit up because this is my blog. La la la.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
All right. Let's talk about it.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I have a real post coming at you tomorrow, but today is Tuesday, so have a teaser and a video. This video won't make much sense to you unless you saw Monday's (which is right here!) but you might enjoy it anyway. If you're into that.
From FISHBOY. Rudy is doing his homework. Teeth interrupts.
I'm only lying there for a few minutes before he bobs out of the water. “Hey.”
I try not to look surprised. It's been a few days since the rescue with not a lot of signs of him, and I guess I didn't think he'd be the one seeking me out. Maybe I didn't really think I was going to see him again unless he needed more saving.
I'm getting used to the look of him, at least, with his flaky scales and his millions of bruises. “Hey,” I say.
“Aren't you cold?”
I shrug. What else am I supposed to say, yeah, but I was hoping you'd swim up?
“What are you working on?
“I can do addition.”
I look at him.
“I'm very smart,” he says.
Still, I don't know where a guy like him learns addition, or where he even learns the word addition. And he speaks English really naturally, not in a way I'd expect from someone who's only ever eavesdropped and never spoken himself.
He leans his elbows onto the dock and watches me work. Then he sinks under the water, and I think he's gone for good for today, but a few seconds later he pops up behind me on the other side of the dock.
“What are you doing?” I ask him. He's back beside me again, this time with his elbow right next to mine. But now I can only see him out of the corner of my eye. He smells like a fish, I'll give him that.
He touches the numbers as I write them, then he turns his attention to the lines at the top of the page. He traces the date, then puts his finger on the word next to it. He writes the letters with one finger, trying and failing to curl up the rest of his hand. The webs between his fingers stretch so thin.
I stop working and watch his finger. He's left-handed.
After a minute, he says, “Rrrr.”
He's staring at the top of the page. “Rrr. Ruh.”
“Ruhd,” he says, after another minute. He's frowning hard, the skin wrinkling between his eyes.
“Rudy,” I say, kind of gently, I hope.
He's quiet for a minute. Then, “Oh.”
“Where the fuck did you learn how to read?”
“I can't read. You just saw me not reading.”
“Someone obviously taught you something.”
“Go away,” he says, in this small angry voice, the exact same one Dylan uses when he wants me to think I'm mad at him but he really isn't. It doesn't work any better when Teeth uses it.
I say, “You know, if you want? I can teach you to read.”
He studies me for just a second before he frowns hard and dives back into the water. He's really gone this time. He splashed my page, and now I can't read the math problems. The ink is all smudged.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
I know, I'm posting a lot lately. I have some things to say.
This is one I've been meaning to say for a while. And I apologize if this comes up as somewhat of a rant. And, actually, for probably the only time in the history of ever, I'm going to apologize if this offends anyone. Because, this time, it's actually not my intention.
Because ME ME ME this is about me. Yesterday I told you not to blog about yourself, today I'm blogging about myself. Welcome to Invincible Summer.
Do you remember when Mary-Kate and Ashley made that big announcement about how they didn't want to be called The Olsen Twins anymore? I guess this is kind of like that.
I've thought a lot about this, and I've decided I don't want to be called a teenage writer anymore.
This is a weird declaration to make, because it implies some sort of deceit or, at the very least, shame, that isn't at all what I'm intending. I'm fine with being referred to as a writer who was first published as a teenager, or a nineteen-year-old writer, or a writer who is a teenager, or, hell, a teenager who is a writer. So it's not the actual meaning of the term "teenage writer" that I'm trying to break away from. It's the three connotations this term has come to have.
The first one is the predictable one, and the one that is less of a problem for me. "She's good for a teenager." Yeah, awesome. That was cool when I was turning in papers in high school. It's not going to cut it now.
I'm obviously not the first person to experience it, and I think even people who haven't had this firsthand can see and understand that this is frustrating. And it is, but it is not my biggest problem with being called a teenage writer. Not at all.
The second is bigger. Let's use a story to illustrate this one.
So let's say you have this woman. When she was 27, she decided she wanted to be a writer. She was horrible at first--who isn't?--and she was fine with that, and had fun dabbling around and playing with different things. She started researching the possibility of publication when she was 30, long before she had anything of publishable quality.
She finished her first piece of long fiction when she was 31. That was the same year she got her "great idea," which took her until just after her 34th birthday to finish. This was her first novel. It sucked, but it was hers. But she knew she had a long way to go, and she continued working and working without trying for publication until she turned 36. And then she sent her first query letter.
She kept writing, and she kept querying. She finished projects and queried them and got requests and rejections and no offers. She kept writing. After completing six previous novels, she finally wrote the one that got her an offer of representation right before her 37th birthday. The book sold that summer and came out when she was 38, the same month she got a contract for two more books. She is now 39 and waiting for the release of her 2nd book shortly after her 40th birthday.
Yeah, did you figure out the punchline? Subtract 20 years from all of those ages, and you have my journey.
There's this idea that, because I'm young, this all must have happened very quickly for me. I must have skipped steps, or gotten really lucky, or come out of the womb a perfect writer. I must have slept with someone, or done the twelve-year-old equivalent of sleeping with someone, to get to where I am.
It's bullshit, and it didn't feel fast to me, and I'm not a prodigy. The only reason I got published a lot younger than other people is I'm a stubborn little shit who decided that she had a career when she was eleven years old. The fact that my journey became public when I was a teenager shouldn't lock me into that age. Fuck, call me a child writer, if anything; it's more accurate, in the end. That's when I started.
And here's the third problem with the term. My third problem.
I have slightly less than eight months until I turn twenty.
I'm not planning to be come irrelevant overnight.
I don't want my twentieth birthday, exactly a week before the INVINCIBLE SUMMER release, to be the day in which I'm stripped of something that makes me 'edgy' or 'interesting' or 'catchy.' 'Cause guess the fuck what, bitches. Eight months from now, I'm still going to be edgy and interesting and catchy, and I don't want there to be any doubt about that.
I'm not a child actress. I'm a career bitch, and I have my feet firmly planted in the ground and no no no I'm not going anywhere. And hannah in 8 months is still hannah. She's not any less relevant than this chick right now, just because she doesn't have that edgy little 1 in front of her age.
So I would like to lose it now, because I would like to prove--to you, to the world, and most of all to me--that I don't need it.
When I was a kid, I said I had to be published before I was eighteen, because if I wasn't, no one would care about me. I wasn't good enough, interesting enough, brave enough to run with the big dogs.
I'm calling bullshit on old hannah tonight. In favor of new hannah.
I'm a teenager. I'm a writer. I'm not ashamed of either one. And yeah, I'm fucking proud of what I've accomplished at my age. And my age is staying in my blogger profile. But it'll be there when I'm twenty and when I'm thirty-two and when I'm forty-six, too. Because I'm not here to fucking play games.
The bottom line is, yeah, I'm young, but I'm planning to be around kicking ass for until I'm really, really wrinkly.
And I want you there with me. And I don't give a fuck how old you are.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
This post has nothing to do with writing and absolutely everything to do with being a writer.
The stereotype of a writer--the middle-aged man pounding feverishly at a typewriter, cigarette in his mouth, sending hard-copy manuscripts to his agent and protesting the change of every word--has yet to catch up with the reality of what being a writer entails today.
We are not locked in our attics alone. We are not even the romantic writers of the '20s, drinking coffee and discussing literature. We are a legion of overworked, underwashed normals, pounding away at our laptops and shooing the kids to the next room.
And more importantly, we are not alone.
If you are reading this blog, you have obviously already met at least one other writer (hello there.) Chances are, I'm not the only one. Agent, editor, and writer blogs, facebook, forums like Verla Kay and Absolute Write, and God, above all Twitter, mean that, at the very least, most writers are at least a friend of a friend of yours. The term 'networking' is so appropriate here, because, in actuality, we--writers, publishing professionals, book bloggers--are a net. A web of interconnected people.
We know the same people. The truth is, this world feels very big sometimes, and God knows everyone is talking about writing a novel, but when it comes down to it--the people who are really out there, querying, editing, submitting, representing, accepting, rejecting, publishing, copyediting, waiting...well, the truth is, there aren't that many of us after all.
Which is why the act of being a professional writer has come to mean much more than it used to. Fifty years ago, all most writers had to do was avoid getting arrested and not respond to bad reviews.
You have a much bigger job to undertake. And it's stressful, and it's scary, but it can also be one of the most rewarding parts of this job. Somedays, my writing is absolutely shitty, and the house is a mess, and I'm crying because I can't find my socks, but I have 239 blog followers, Goddamn it, and I said something funny on Twitter today, so at least this day isn't totally for the birds.
You may think that I am the worst possible person ever to talk about how to be a professional. I'm loud and I'm obnoxious and I say fuck like it's a part of my name.
But I'm hoping all that will make me easier to listen to, because when people think 'professional,' they a lot of the time think boring, sanitized, safe. And that's not who you have to be. I'm living fucking proof over here. And I knew from the start that I was taking a big risk, but I hoped that people would find me interesting and remember me.
It's worked pretty well so far. And that, kittens, is the real reason you want to get out there and put on your professional face. So that people will remember you.
Now that I'm done fucking babbling, here are some guidelines. How to be a successful professional writer, by yours truly. And these are not big, life-changing rules. These are just tricks. Tricky little tricks.
--GET ON TWITTER. I don't care what your objections are. I objected too. But it is hands-down the best way to connect with people you would never have the balls to approach any other way. You can follow someone, which causes them no pain or trouble whatsoever, and you can talk to them in a completely neutral, undemanding way.
--READ ABOUT BOOKS. What do Hunger Games, Twilight, Lord of the Rings, The Da Vinci Code, and a hell of a lot of other books have in common? I haven't read them.
I'm not proud. But I know I don't have nearly enough time to read as much as I should, so I make a point of reading *about* books I wish I had time to read. Know enough about popular books to be able to fake your way through a conversation. I can discuss Twilight with the best of them, damn it.
--REMEMBER NAMES. I can't stress enough how important this is. You might have never read a book by this author most people haven't heard of, but you better be able to connect the book to the name in a second flat. You need to be able to talk about other writers like you went to high school with them. Memorize authors, titles, editors, agent. Know who goes with whom.
--DON'T ALIENATE. Or if you have to, choose one book or author to singularly alienate. People ask me a lot what my least favorite book is. Obviously I've read a lot of stuff I don't like, but I have one that I use so I'm not spreading the hate around too badly (and trust me, the author of said book is way too famous to give a shit what a plebe like me thinks).
You never know who you will need.
--DON'T TALK ABOUT YOURSELF ALL THE TIME. I know I've been a bad example of this one lately (though possibly not as bad as example as I am of the alienating thing) but God, I get bored of author blogs that are all me me me look where my book got reviewed look what I'm working on blaaaah.
Do me a favor and don't go and read my archives right now. I was very young. And I had nothing else to talk about.
But seriously. If you don't feel qualified to give advice (through trust me, if I'm qualified, so are you) find articles and other blog posts you find interesting, post your thoughts, and open your comments up for discussion. You'll find a lot more followers and a lot more interesting discussion than you will by posting boring shit about yourself every day.
--DON'T BE BORING. Unsurprisingly, this is my biggest point. Don't be boring. If someone else is saying what you're saying, people are only going to listen to one of you. Do you want a fifty/fifty chance of being drowned out?
Swallow your fear. I'm scared every day. I do this anyway. Because I love it. And because I don't want you to forget me.
Because I only have books coming out every so often. And I'm a professional, and if you forget me between books, I'm not doing a very good job.
And I mean, fuck. No one wants to be forgotten. Which pretty much leads me to the most important thing.
--REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE A HUMAN CONNECTING WITH OTHER HUMANS. You don't need to pretend to be Superman. It's boring. I told you. It's GOOD to show that you care about people, that you care about what you're doing, and that you care about your readers. Stop pretending that the ride is easy. You're not earning any respect that way. Show some of your vulnerability and maybe you'll do more than sell your product. You'll meet some very cool people.
You'll maybe even help them.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Okay, I'm sorry that all my posts lately have been ME ME ME, but it's been a very exciting week. I promise I'll have good posts for you next week (and if you have any topics you would like to see addressed, please let me know! I'm short of ideas at the moment.)
But I needed to share this:
I'll post the PM announcement when it's up (more me me me. sigh. I really don't like to do this, guys) but right now, I can tell you that my MG novel, ZOMBIE TAG, sold to Roaring Brook Press, a children's division of Macmillan, yesterday in a two book deal. It will be a hardcover, out in Fall 2011.
And I can tell you that I am ridiculously, ridiculously excited.
I hope the lovely Suzie Townsend doesn't mind if I steal her description of the book, since it is better than anything I could ever write. It's better than the book, in fact. :)
Thirteen year old Wil Lowenstein can't help wishing his parents would
stop ignoring him and go back to the way they were before. Before,
like before his older brother Graham died in a recent accidental fire.
Wil copes with Graham's death by focusing on Zombie Tag, a
mafia/capture the flag hybrid game he created for his friends. He, his
best friend Anthony, and their other friends fight off brain-eating
zombies with their mother's spatulas. What Wil doesn’t tell anybody is
that if he could bring his dead brother back as a zombie, he would. In
In fact, when he finds a bell that can summon all the dead within five
miles, he seizes the chance. Graham returns from the dead, but he's
not the same. None of the returned are. At first they're just
emotionless, apathetic - lifeless. But then some of the zombies slowly
start to get one emotion back - anger. And Wil is going to have to
find a way to fix zombie-Graham and turn him back into the angsty
teenager he's supposed to be before it's too late. Because some of the
zombies are banding together and plotting something. And Wil isn't
sure his mom's spatulas are really going to do the trick if the
zombies really do want to eat his brains.
I'm so incredibly happy, guys.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Despite the fact that I would like to keep my fabulous cover front and center on the blog forever, I have Tuesday duties to fulfill!
Teaser and Rebels video. Today's teaser is from the book I'm editing right now, ALL TOGETHER WITH FEELING!
“Personally,” he says. “I think you are faking acceptance of your stepmother in order to convince yourself.”
Sometimes he makes pronouncements like these, as if he thinks he is the only one who has figured these things out.
So I say, “Now now, Mr. Malik, you are being wildly inappropriate. Attributing motivations to my actions. I don’t believe that is characteristic of a good director.”
“My God, you’re pretentious.”
I grin and take a sip of my coffee. I offer it to him, and he makes a face and shakes his head.
“All right,” he says, “Than what about on the personal side? How are things with…what was his name, Zachary?”
Zachary is on the tennis team. The closest to a jock I've ever come. Once I caught him looking at me in the locker room; that was the extent of our relationship.
“Zachary is straight.”
“That didn’t seem to deter you originally.”
“It ruled out the possibility of a real relationship. I have a different target in mind now.”
“Anyone I know?”
I look down. “I don’t believe this is appropriate.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t intend to push you.”
“That isn't quite what I meant.” I raise my eyes.
He is quiet for some time. At one point, he glances at his watch exactly when I look up at the clock. I have the feeling we are checking them for different reasons. But I do not know for sure. I never know.
And this is all I get. A few seconds of touching, Identical smiles, and some of the best eye contact a seventeen-year-old homosexual ever gets. Maybe it is over for today.
He says, “I enjoy your company, Oliver. I enjoy that I can talk to you. I enjoy finding an adult in my life.”
“Mmm. I suppose I am an adult.” But it isn't as if he ever tells me anything about his life.
“More adult than I am, certainly.”
“You’re only about five years older than me.”
“Well, seven, but I understand your point. You’ve probably slept with men older than I am.” He closes his eyes. “I should not have said that. I’m sorry. I’m exhausted.”
I start laughing.
He says, “Well, don’t make fun…”
“I am a virgin, Samir. I am such a virgin. I have preyed on men older than you, but I’ve never slept with one. I’m a virgin.”
He looks at me.
I roll my eyes and smile. “Just. Like. You.”
He blushes and looks down. “All right. That’s enough.”
That is enough; this time he's right. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes I want more. Well, I always want more, but some days I want it specifically from him.
It will burn in my stomach a bit as I swallow a shared lunch, and I want to share dinners with him, dressed in tails and top hats and smiles, and breakfasts, dressed in bathrobes and bedhead and sleepy smiles. I should leave, go somewhere where I can catch my breath under the pretense of checking my makeup. I can tell that I am beginning to drown again in this. Winter break was too long. I have forgotten how to keep myself afloat above it all.
It comes in waves, like a bad trip, or the stomachaches after my mother died. It is not all the time, but it comes in distinct, peaked waves. Usually I can predict them before they hit their apex, and I can do something, something to control myself.
This one might have crested too quickly, or maybe I am still in the midst and it will get worse. It comes in waves, and I never know how big they will be. I hate not knowing.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
SO. Let's talk about point of view.
First, some quick stats, just so you know where I'm coming from.
--Of my recent (read: decent) books, two use more than one point of view (hereafter POV.) These two are THE ANIMALS WERE GONE and ALL TOGETHER WITH FEELING, both of which you will have heard of if you are a regular reader of this blog, but the latter only if you are a REALLY regular reader. Because it has been in hiding for a little while. If you're curious about either of these, they're tagged at the end of the post. Click on the link and you'll see all the posts about 'em.
--THE ANIMALS WERE GONE is my favorite of all my manuscripts, and I love ALL TOGETHER WITH FEELING, too (though I like INVINCIBLE SUMMER more. In fact, if I ranked my top three of my YAs, it would probably be 1. ANIMALS, 2. INVINCIBLE SUMMER, 3. ALL TOGETHER WITH FEELING. Am I allowed to say this shit?)
--Here are some of my favorite books written with multiple POV, some of which are epistolatory, which may or may not be the word I'm looking for: Will Grayson, Will Grayson, The Realm of Possibility, Love Is The Higher Law, Are We There Yet, (can you tell I love David Levithan?) The Kings Are Already Here, The Year of Secret Assignments, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, Caddy Ever After, P.S. Longer Letter Later, 33 Snowfish.
--Despite that long list, the VAST majority of my favorite books are written in one POV.
So. It is fair to say that I am far more experienced, both in reading and writing, in single POV than in multiple.
I love writing multiple.
I don't know. I just love it.
I wasn't planning to write THE ANIMALS WERE GONE in two POVs. In fact, I'd already considered and dismissed the idea. It was all going to be in Craig's POV. And then I finished the first chapter, hit enter a few times, and typed LIO at the top of the page. Because apparently it was Lio's turn.
Listen, I don't pull all that shit about how I'm controlled by my characters or my books have a mind of their own or something like that, because frankly, I think that stuff is stupid. I'm sorry if I offend anyone (but seriously, if you're reading this blog and you choose THAT to be offended by...)
I love the roles my characters play in my stories. I love writing them. I smile when I write good lines for them. I don't ever forget that they aren't real people. They are words on a page. I'm happy you like them. I like them too. But they're here to tell a story--my story--and, even though I'm a romantic (I am, damn it, don't laugh) I don't like to get stuck in that sensitive writer mode of thinking your characters are real people with real minds of their own. It sounds cold-hearted, but characters are tools. And point of view is a tool. And words are tools. All of these are tools to tell your story. Characters are not beautiful and unique snowflakes, etc.
So. Lio did not jump off the page and insist I write his viewpoint or anything like that. I just knew, in that second, that Craig's part was closed for now, and it was Lio's turn, or we were only going to get half of the story. But it was a revelation that came after I'd started writing.
ALL TOGETHER WITH FEELING, on the other hand, came into my head as four different points of view, because it's a story about four kids in a high school chorus--one soprano, one alto, one tenor, and one bass. (Yes, yes, girls, I'm writing girls.) The point of views, in this case, are a bigger toll for the story than the are in ANIMALS. They form the premise of the story, while, in ANIMALS, they're just making sure that you hear from both the quiet character and the loud character.
Which leads to another problem I'm having, now that I'm hardcore revising ALL TOGETHER WITH FEELING. Keeping voices distinct. This gets harder and harder the more POVs you have, and four is definitely in tricky territory for me. I'm concentrating a lot on speech patterns, rhythm, and word choice--my bass, if run through one of those scanner things, would result in a much higher reading difficulty than my tenor. But I'm still struggling with this. My alto and my tenor are still blending together a little, and sometimes my soprano starts to sound a little like them, too.
So. Let's wrap this up. What are your thoughts on multiple POV? Do you read it? Do you write it? If you do, how do you keep the voices distinct, and how do you approach revisions? (basically, HELP ME.)
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
But it's my first YA Rebels vid, and I want you guys to see!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Okay, so you know I love all of you, but today I want to direct all the gratitude I have in the whole world to a special few of you.
According to the poll from earlier this week, (last week? can't remember. too lazy) just under 1/6 of you are under the age of 18.
It's obvious that you and other people your age who read are the reason I have a career. But that's not entirely what this is about. I need you guys, definitely. I need you to pick up books and buy books and tell your friends about books and read more books by the authors you love. That's a given. That's how BREAK, a little paperback by a debut author that could have been lost in the shelves, is doing so much better than I could have imagined. It is thanks, hugely, to teenagers like you who have read it and told their friends about it, and I am so incredibly grateful.
But that's not really what this is about.
this is about--as much of my life is--the internet.
I started this blog *right* before I turned eighteen, and only because, rather stupidly, I thought it would help sell more books. I'm pretty sure that, all in all, this blog doesn't help sell that many copies of BREAK. It's not as if most of the teenagers in the world are reading this. The vast majority, like I said, of the teenagers who pick up BREAK are ones who hear about it from their friends or their teachers, or the ones who happen to stumble across it at the bookstore or while browsing for it online.
Most teenagers use the internet to a large degree. But the teenagers who read this blog--who comment, I've noticed, all the time, and who are very likely to have their own blogs--are a very very special breed.
You give a shit.
Teenagers who read are incredible. Teenagers who connect with authors and review books on their blogs and tweet and comment...God, do you guys know how much we love you? It's something authors discuss all the time, how incredibly grateful we are for the teenagers who come online and advocate for books they didn't write, or who take the time to talk to us, who understand that I am not just words on a page or on your computer screen, I am a girl in an armchair with a dirty laptop and a yellow tank top.
As a teenager, these are connections that are invaluable to me.
And it makes you so, so much braver and so much smarter than I ever was. Or than I am even now.
You are truly the future of publishing.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
For each book, I'm usually inspired by two specific things, often ones that have nothing to do with each other. And then my brain mashes them up and makes an idea.
BREAK: Fight Club and Into the Wild, first the movies, then the books.
INVINCIBLE SUMMER: A book of essays by Camus and The Hotel New Hampshire.
THE ANIMALS WERE GONE: Love Is The Higher Law and the 2002 Metro sniper shootings.
ZOMBIE TAG: How To Train Your Dragon (movie) and this comic.
FISHBOY: Peter Pan and Choke (the books).
For me, the experience of going to the movies always triggers something. There's something about sitting in the theater and just getting assaulted by someone else's ideas. Something, even something tiny, always hits me.
What are your inspirations?
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Thanks for the poll answers, guys! I'll post something analyzing the results in a little while, and by all means keep voting until then.
But here's something that's been on my mind lately.
I bet you think I'm going to jump around and be like "FUCK THE RULES!" but my opinion on this is actually slightly--slightly--more complicated.
I think there are two kinds of rules in this business that you typically hear--those about writing and those about publishing. The latter usually come from agents. Don't send attachments with your query letter. Don't forget your page numbers. Don't query two agents at the agency at the same time. Format your manuscript in this precise way. Although these rules sometimes seem like unnecessary hoops to jump through, they actually do have, and fulfill, their purpose. These are the ones that you should follow (though there is a time and a place to break them. More on that later.)
The other type of rules, the ones you probably get more and more often, are the ones from writers.
Write every day. Write in Courier. No, Times New Roman. No, Courier. Use MS word count. No, use 250 x number of pages for word count. Don't write a book below 40,000 or over 80,000 words. Set your manuscript aside for three months before you start revising. If you write too fast, your book won't be good. If you write too slow, you'll never finish a book. Don't use adverbs. Ever. Don't use anything other than 'said' for dialogue tags. It's impossible to write with other people in the room. Don't watch TV while you write--are you kidding? Write by hand. Write on a typewriter. Write on an Alphasmart. Write on a laptop. Read all the classics. Read everything in your genre. Read outside of your genre. Write high concept. Write whatever the fuck you want. Write for an existing market. Try to expand the boundaries of the existing market. Write for the lowest common denominator. Write for your mom. Write for yourself. Write for the MFAs. Get a day job. Spend your advance on publicity. Don't expect to earn out. Use a pen name. Write in the mornings.
And here, guys, is where it gets to be bullshit.
The only right way to write is however the fuck you get it done. People decide something works for them, or they read what Stephen King does that works for them, and decide that that's the only 'real' way to write.
I'm going to go over how I write, now, too, but let's be very clear before I do--I am not advocating my method for everyone. For anyone. I'm doing this so you can see how fucked up and crazy my writing method is, so you can see how possible it is to get shit written without following the Butt-In-Chair-Allow-Yourself-To-Write-Crap methods you'll see so often quoted. If that's what works for you, fantastic. But it's not the only way, at all.
--I do not even come close to writing every day. About 80% of days, I'd estimate, I don't write at all. I spend some of these days working on edits or blogging or plotting a new idea, but most of them I spend playing video games or going to school or sleeping or watching Queer as Folk or cooking with the shiksa. Not writing. Am I thinking about it? Of course. But it's not something I do every day.
--When I do write, really write, new words on new pages, I call that initial part "fast-drafting." That's when I get a first draft down as fast as I possibly can. This isn't (just) for the bragging rights; it makes sure the idea stays fresh in my head and I don't lose interest along the way, as I'm apt to do if I stretch the story out. I've tried writing over longer periods of time, when I'm not feeling the story as much. I rarely finish, and when I do, the stories are never as good as the fast-drafted ones.
Fast-drafting so far has taken me 5 (The Animals Were Gone, Fishboy), 7 (Break) and 8 (Invincible Summer) days. I was in school during both Break and Animals, and studying for midterms during Animals as well, so I do this despite being busy. Which means I do nothing else during any moment of free time but write. Nothing. Nada. I park on the couch like a fatass and I write. Eight hours a day, nine hours a day, whatever it takes.
I write my first draft in single spaced, 10 pt font. I am not kidding. This is actually something I recommend. Don't do 10 pt if it's going to kill your eyes. Do triple-spaced 30 pt Comic Sans for all I care. Do anything to keep your manuscript from looking like a real manuscript. Make it something you can fuck up. Double spaced 12 pt looks way too fucking intimidating for a first draft, if you ask me.
I flip to the internet every 70-100 words and screw around. Because that's how I roll. It still gets done.
I watch TV while I write, or I chat with my roommate or my boyfriend, if they're around.
--My fast drafts come out very short. BREAK was 27,000 words. INVINCIBLE SUMMER was 23,000 words. The one I just finished was 25,000. This comes with angst, every single time, that the book isn't going to be long enough.
--I start editing that draft immediately, as in an hour after I finish the first draft. I do not let it sit. If I sit, I'm going to hate the story. I'll start hating it halfway through the second draft anyway, so I might as well get the thing over with. (This is where I am right now. Someone stop me before I set the thing on fire.)
--After the second draft, I've lived and breathed this story for about two weeks, breaks, cereal standing up, sleeping four hours a night kind of living, and I don't want to think about it ever again. Off it goes to Suzie and betas.
--We work from there.
This shit. It is not typical. But it's how I work, and it's what works for me.
You will hear a lot of contradictory advice about how to be a "real writer." But the only ticket to being a real writer is to write. I know you've heard that a million times, but let it give you some freedom this time. You're released. You write words, how you want them, when you want them. You don't have to prove shit to anyone.
Do whatever you do to get it done, and smile and nod when people tell you how their way is closer to the "real thing."
Thursday, June 3, 2010
It's that time of year again when I start to think about the focus of this blog and how I can best help you through blogging. So I have some polls for you! I love polls, personally. So! There are two below. Answer both! Answer one! Answer neither and tell me to fuck off and stop prying into your life! Et cetera!
at 9:53 PM
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
And if I didn't start a new book every week, I wouldn't be me!
So here's a bit from the middle of a brand new book.
Mom sits at the table with me and beats eggs. She has the baby monitor pressed against her ear for Dylan's nap, like she's trying to use it to make a phone call.
I tell her, “I saw Fiona today.”
Mom shoves her hair off her forehead. “What are you paying attention to her for?”
Fiona is a ragged woman who lives at the end of the island. She tells fortunes.
“She was telling me this story about the ghosts who haunts this island. Not even just Mrs. Delaney. It's the whole island.”
Mom says, “Really, Rudy,” in this voice like she hasn't slept for days. Maybe she hasn't.
All the more reason she needs a good story. “It's a ghost of this boy they threw into the ocean, and he drowned.”
She looks up. “Why would you say something like that?”
“It's not my story, Mom, God.” Never mind.
Her eggs are all the same color now, but she doesn't stop beating them. Her whisk keeps tapping against the bottom of the bowl. I have this thought that she's going to keep going forever, like a wind-up toy that never winds down. Like her whole purpose in life is to beat these eggs.
Before Dylan was born, I never would have thought my Mom was the kind of person who could handle a sick kid. She'd cry that she was a horrible mother if I ever got a scrape. I always felt like I needed to keep her safe. Even when I was a kid. Dad would give me these talks about how we needed to protect her, and I would feel like a knight.
Now she's made entirely of steel, and Dad's the one who cries every time any little thing is wrong. He thinks every cough from Dylan or bad grade from me is going to be the breaking point, that we're just going to crumble in on ourselves at any minute.
The house creaks in the wind.
“Your father wants to take you fishing,” Mom says.
I wonder how hard dad would cry if he dipped his fishing line in the ocean and pulled out a boy.
Or a ghost.
Maybe he was a ghost.
I should have touched him. I missed my chance to find out what he was.
I can't believe I've turned into the kind of guy who wonders if people are ghosts. I guess that's what this place does to you.
A ghost is as good a guess as any for what he is, I suppose.
And now my father is trying to schedule time to be with me, acting like Mom is his secretary, and that feels even more unbelievable than a ghost.
We used to play ping pong in the backyard.
The ancient clock on the wall clicks with every second, but the hands are so springy that every click has two tones.
I'm trying to drink water, but all I taste is salt.
Mom gets up and goes to the stove. I say, “Mermaids can breathe underwater, right?”
She doesn't look at me. “Rudy, can't you do your homework?” She presses the monitor harder against her head.
“Can you look at me for a second?”
She turns around and does, of course. She has this soft expression in her eyes like I'm her baby. I'd forgotten that she still looks at me like that.
The fisherman was touching him, I realize. He couldn't have been a ghost. The fisherman had his hands all over him, kissing him, trying to...
“How do you have sex with a mermaid?” I say.
“Okay, sorry, God,” but I don't know if she even hears me, because she's holding that monitor like she wants it to be a part of her skull.