Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Thursday, April 26, 2012
My FAVORITE kind of post.
So once upon a time I wrote a book about a magic gay fish...
I don't have any official cover copy for this yet and fuck if I actually know how to describe it, but the basic idea is that this kid Rudy moves to an island with magic fish that are supposed to cure his sick little brother (HI I AM HANNAH MOSKOWITZ AND I WROTE THIS BOOK). And then he meets this half-fish half-boy who is ugly as all fuck and is this angry, fantastic vigilante and they have this kind of hesitant unspoken romance and there is DRAMA AND INTRIGUE. INTRIGUE, I TELL YOU. Basically it's very strange, very magically-realistic, and altogether very ME so if you like what I do and you're not squeamish about fish sex, you will like this, that's what I think. AND NOW IT HAS A COVER. My goofy blog layout won't let me post it too big, so CLICK CLICK CLICK!
You can add that shit on Goodreads right here if you want to! As you can tell by its 3 review average of FIVE STARS, it is an important piece of literature already. GET ON THAT SHIT.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Apparently I've never shared this excerpt, which surprised me!
From the magic gay fish book! Happy Tuesday, everyone.
“So I know where you came from, by the way,” I say.
“Humans and a house and all that. Yeah, I know.” Fishboy isn't even looking at me. His eyes are busy tracking something under the water.
“That house. The big one, right there.”
“You must think I'm an idiot.”
“What are you looking at?”
“I'm--” Then he dives and emerges with a tiny fish in his mouth. He spits it onto the deck. “Look at that! Check that out! Oh, man, Teeth is the king. Teeth is the king. I am the king of the seas. Look at that.”
I squirm away from it. It's flopping around like my brother during a bad night. “What is it?”
“Minnow. Oh, God, look at this minnow. Mmm. It's beautiful.” He kisses it and cuddles it against his cheek, then he neatly slits its head off with his teeth.
“Oh, Jesus, Fishboy.”
He looks up, a laugh, halfway through, frozen on his face. “What did you call me?”
“Fishboy.” But I didn't mean to. Shit. “It's, uh, what I called you in my head before I knew your name.”
He shrugs and nods a little. “Fishboy. Yeah, that's cool.”
Thank God. This would have been such a stupid fucking thing to fight about.
He's really grossing me out with this fish, licking the blood off its neck, so I shake my head quickly and say, “You know how I found out where you're from?”
“I don't care.”
“I made out with your sister.”
“What's made out?” He's looking at me with these huge innocent eyes.
“Ew,” he says. “You kissed a fish?” Then he buries his face in the minnow and rips it to pieces.
“This is so gross.”
He comes up with a mouth full of flesh. “Oh my God. Rudy, this is the best minnow in the world. You have to try this.”
“I'll save you the liiiiver.”
At least now I know he's screwing with me. “Do fish even have livers?”
“You're a liver.”
“How do you know that word?”
“I'm very very smart.” He licks the skin clean. “Oh my God. Minnow. You are a beautiful minnow.”
“It doesn't speak English anyway. Oh, lovely, lovely minnow.”
“You're the one kissing a fish. Sicko.”
“Your human sister.”
“I knew what you meant. Seriously. You think I'm an idiot, don't you?”
I lie down on my back, as far as I can get from the remains of the fishboy's lunch. He's chewing on all the little bones.
Eventually he finishes eating, and I don't say anything, and he doesn't say anything. He reaches up to the dock and walks the fish bones back and forth like they're people. I half-watch his hands and half-watch the sky. It's the first time we've been absolutely silent together when it doesn't feel like we're fighting. It almost feels like we're tucked in to go to sleep. The silence must last nearly five minutes before he looks up at and smiles at me.
It doesn't matter what side I'm on and what side I'm on, for a minute. For a minute, it's just me and that smile. It's this kid.
“If you're done telling me my family history,” he says, “I have a mission for us.”
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
If you recall, yesterday I had some pretty huge news.
To celebrate, I am having a hideously amazing contest. The prizes, which will be revealed MOMENTARILY, are, I think you would agree, completely over-the-top in number and shipping charge. Which is why, in order to win, you have to do something fairly intense and VITAL TO THE SURVIVAL OF HUMANKIND.
You have to design a new cover for Invincible Summer.
As many of you know, there has been considerable drama over the Invincible Summer cover! While I think it's a beautiful cover, the opinion has been raised that it doesn't fit what the book is about. So let's make a game out of it!
Design a new cover. Use stock photos, use MS paint, take photos, scan a drawing, use all text, however you want to do this. Please do not use copyrighted images or otherwise do anything to hurt someone in any way (no real blood, etc). Make a cover that you believe represents what the book is really about.
This is obviously going to be an easier task if you've read IS, but if you haven't, PLEASE don't let that keep you from entering! I recommend reading a bunch of goodreads reviews, here, both positive and negative, and checking out the Invincible Summer tag (at the end of this post) for excerpts from the book and my own commentary on said excerpts. You can find a LOT in the soundtrack posts especially about what I think the important parts of the book are. And you can always ask around! You can always ask me! I'd be happy to answer questions.
Since this is a fairly intense thing I'm asking you to do, I am giving you ONE MONTH FROM TODAY. That means that, on August 13th, I will post a to-be-determined number of my favorites on the blog and we will vote on the winner!
Here's the big thing. I am really terrified that no one will enter. So in order to entice you...the prize.
THE WINNER WILL RECEIVE:
--a signed copy of my first book, BREAK.
--a signed copy of my second book, INVINCIBLE SUMMER.
--a signed arc of my first MG book, ZOMBIE TAG.
--a signed arc of my third YA book, GONE, GONE, GONE.
--their cover, printed up on pretty photo paper, signed by me (if you want me to? It's your art, you might not be into that. Let me know.)
--however many bookmarks I have lying around (three?) signed by me.
AND. MOST IMPORTANTLY:
--the first chapter of my just-sold novel, FISHBOY, printed out and signed. This is pre-edits! Who knows if this chapter will even EXIST in the final draft?? This is a first look that ONLY YOU WILL RECEIVE.
In the words of my hero, worth playing for?
This contest IS OPEN INTERNATIONALLY, but if you are not in the U.S. and Canada, the prize is a little less exciting: You will get Invincible Summer and Break via Book Depo and preorders of Zombie Tag and Gone, Gone, Gone. But still good, right? Three books? Eh?
You have until AUGUST 13TH to submit your covers. Please EMAIL THEM TO ME: email@example.com. And please please spread the word.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
You've had that name for a long time.
A bunch of you probably don't know why the followers of my blog and my followers on Twitter are called magic gay fish.
The truth is, that before there was you, there was a manuscript.
The magic gay fish manuscript.
It was always called Fishboy, but I wanted to be funny, and, well...the thing is about a magic gay fish, after all. Well, a magic gay half-fish, half-boy. Named Teeth. Who, I've got to say, is a character unlike any I've ever written and one that I adored writing in a way I've never really loved anything.
So it's this manuscript. I wrote it last July. If you hit the tag "Fishboy" at the end of this post, you can see some of the excerpts I've posted. It's just this manuscript, except that it's this manuscript that's special to me in a way I can't really explain. It's this way that makes me feel like one of those floaty sensitive writers that I never really thought I was. I don't know. I just know that this manuscript was my weird, crazy long shot book about a magic gay fish and a dusty, dreamy boy named Rudy who loves him, and a girl named Diana who teaches Rudy about Roald Dahl, and Rudy's parents who love the shit out of him. And his sick little brother, because, let's be honest, it's a hannah book.
It's really as hannah as any of my books have ever been, really.
It's the only manuscript I would have ever considered naming my fans after. It's THE book.
So here's the deal, my beautiful, beautiful, amazingly magic and amazingly gay fish.
You are immortalized.
The deal closed yesterday, and I am honestly the luckiest girl in the planet.
Sometime in 2013. Consider it my love letter to you.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Motif is easier than theme, and even less necessary. This is one that you can really ignore if you feel like it. But it's also a fun thing to play with if you like. It's something that I focus on a lot more in some books than in others, but it ends up creeping in most of the time anyway, and I bet it does in your stuff, too, more often than you might know.
The definition of a motif is really simple. It's a reoccurring element in a story that serves to tie parts of the story together. Cool?
A really obvious example of motifing (made that word up) is something like what I did in THESE HUMANS ALL SUCK, the manuscript that has been gently laid to rest. I did a lot with colors, particularly with the color blue.
If something was blue, you could pretty much bet that it was important. I didn't hit you over the head with it, I'd just casually mention that it was blue and move on. If you weren't looking for it, you probably wouldn't have noticed that blue was important. But it was there if you felt like it.
A more common example is a line or phrase that's repeated in the story. This is one I use A LOT. A character will say a line of dialogue early in the story that gets echoed in different ways--in the main character's thought process, in his own dialogue, something like that. And it immediately brings the reader back to the first time it was used.
Using your motif is like cross-referencing one part of your book to another. This is very much an English class element. If an AP English kid ever writes a paper on your book, there's a good chance he'll go in looking for motif. I'm not saying you should write your book with that goal or anything, but it's a good way to think of motif. It's something that works on an analysis level. If it's something that's very blatantly part of the story, it's probably too obvious.
I have weather as a motif in #magicgayfish. The mentions of the ocean are all in there to echo Rudy's emotional state. He projects his emotions onto the ocean (which is called a pathetic fallacy, if you're a fan of even more fancy terms). So if you were to go through and write down the different ways the ocean is described throughout the book, you would actually have written down Rudy's exact emotional arc through the book. Which is pretty cool, I think, and definitely not something I did unintentionally.
Almost done, but I want to do a quick reminder; I'm not writing The Great American Novel over here. I'm not writing anything that I could see a class analyzing in English. So this isn't something that you need to be writing literary fiction in order to worry about. Some of my YA books trend towards the more literary, and others towards more commercial, but they all have theme, motif, and allusions weaved into them, the same way they have plot and character and all that good stuff you're already used to thinking about.
Are these things I'm talking about comparable to plot and character in terms of importance? Well, it depends on the book you're writing, but almost definitely not. This is veering too closely to the literary/commercial debate for my taste (and I'm so, so sick of this debate) but just keep in mind that I'm not suggesting you stop writing dynamic, hooky plots and start writing stories of impotent old men staring out to the horizon or whatever. Write what you want. Be aware of your options.
Even my killing zombies with spatulas book has themes and motifs. And probably allusions, I can't remember. I'll talk about those next.
Friday, September 3, 2010
This post is more of a question than most of mine are. I fully admit that this is all speculation. But it's something I've been wondering for a while.
Has the internet community changed YA?
Am I right in thinking that YA writers are the most active online? We tweet word counts and deadlines and what our main character would eat for breakfast. We friend each other on Facebook and leave each other rep points on AW. We have blogs just for posting excerpts and shit like this. We know each other's names, agents, and editors like we're all related. We're The Contemps, the Debs, the Tenners, the Elevensies, the Musers.
The word "blogosphere," ugly though it may be, is so appropriate. We're our own little biosphere. We have staked out our little corner of the internet, and we're loud and social and crazy and God knows I'm part of the problem.
And lately I've been worrying that it really is a problem.
To put it plainly, I'm starting to wonder if YA is turning into something written by/for the internet community under the guise of writing for everyday teenagers, and that who likes you on the internet is more important to your career--or, if not to your career, to your psyche and your perception of your success--than if teenagers are picking up your book.
Is the gap between "successful" author and "author teenagers want to read" getting wider and wider as our main audience to impress becomes bloggers and librarians instead of teenagers themselves?
(For the record, I realize and acknowledge that some of us are teenagers ourselves. But if you're reading this, you're not the average book-reading teenager. You know too much. We've relinquished our right to be considered the average YA reading teenager.)
Are we getting too self-referential to be relevant?
I don't know. But recently, YA has started to look very clubby to me, and I'm wondering if that's really fair for the readers. If we're writing to be social, are we doing our readers a disservice?
We give each other biased Goodreads reviews because we don't want to piss anyone off. We tell people we love books we haven't read just because we're friends with the author. We're so loud about the books we love--which should be a great thing!--that we might be fooling ourselves into thinking that our tastes reflect those of a teenager.
We hear so much about publishing trends. Vampires are in, vampires are out, zombies are in, zombies are out, angels are in, angels are out. But a teenager who loves vampires wants to read more about vampires. She doesn't give a shit whether it's out or not. So is our perception of a "saturated" market affecting her? I'm not saying, obviously, that we should all be out writing vampire books, but wouldn't it make more sense if we did stuff steadily instead of in trendy slews? And wouldn't that be possible if we weren't so intent on responding to and competing with the authors we follow on Twitter?
I think the reason I'm posing these questions is that lately I've felt very disillusioned and overwhelmed. I still love YA. But when I'm writing stuff like #magicgayfish, I start questioning my own relevance really, really easily. I love that you guys are all over it, and obviously I hope that teenagers would have the same reaction, if the thing gets published.
But how closely does our taste reflect that of an actual teenager?
Are the boys we swoon over the ones THEY find hot?
Okay, I'm asking a lot of questions. So here's what I think.
What was initially cool about YA, in my opinion, was that it had the least adult influence from the shelf to the hands of the reader. YAs pick out and buy and read their own books. Their parents don't screen them first. And obviously [adult] publishers still have to decide to publish them (and that's a HUGE thing, but we really can't change that) and the bookstore or the library still has to decide to stock them, but it was still more direct than other childrens' books. It's the kid's wallet, the kid's choice.
And now for some reason, it looks to me like we're letting it become books about teenagers and for adults rather than about teenagers for teenagers, and the way we're going, I don't think that's going to change.
WE'RE the ones counting down the days 'til the next big YA comes out.
WE'RE the ones fantasizing about ourself and the Next Hot Boy.
WE'RE the ones trend-chasing and trend-hating and jacking up the Goodreads reviews.
I think in the future, people are going to equate expecting YA to be only for young adults to expecting science fiction to be only for scientists.
I don't know. I've had very many emotional crisises lately where I'm like I DON'T KNOW WHAT TEENAGERS WANT. So maybe I'm just projecting. But I still think the market shift is noteworthy and worrisome.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
So I'm on the phone, holding my breath, and Agent 2 says, "I got a job offer as an editor."
"...Oh." Yeah. I knew what was coming, but I was still gripping to a tiny bit of hope. Maybe he was about to say, but I said, screw you, bitches, I'm staying with hannah!
But no. He said he'd decided to take the job and he was really excited. But he was quick to say, "I'm not leaving you all alone. We've had a lot of meetings here, and we decided the best fit for you would probably be Suzie Townsend--"
"Oh, I know Suzie."
I guess it made some sense that he was surprised, since at that point, Suzie was fairly new. But I'm a ho on the internet, as you know, and I already knew Lisa Desrochers and knew Suzie was her agent. But because Lisa was the only one of her clients I knew about, my mind jumped to paranormal romance and I went WHAT ARE YOU THINKING in my head because, lovely though it may be, paranormal romance is pretty much the furthest thing from what I do. Except for the magic gay fish book. But whatever.
But when Agent 2 said, "So, can Suzie call you?" I said "Absolutely." Because what harm could it do? If it didn't seem like we'd mesh well, I could always query other people.
And then I congratulated him, and I hung up and cried my eyes out.
And then Suzie called.
Suzie is lovely on the phone, guys. Like, she's lovely in all capacities, but I feel pretty lucky that my first introduction to her was on the phone, where I could actually hear how excited she was and how much she liked my work. She thought this was going to be a great thing for both of us. I thought she was a little delusional, but at least she sounded like she liked my stuff.
I realize this part of the story makes me sound like a total bitch. But imagine you've been dating this guy for six months, and you're crazy about him, and he dumps you out of nowhere. If someone new comes along, no matter if she's super super hot and awesome and sweet, are you really going to believe her when she tells you she's your one and only true love?
Well...maybe you just need to give it a few weeks.
So I did.
And I can't really remember what happened. We started working on different stuff and re-evaluating where my career was going. I dove into Invincible Summer revisions, and her love of MG encouraged me to try my hand at it. We went on sub together and sold together. But even before that, weeks and weeks before that, I was smitten.
I think it was her ed letters.
God, nothing gets me going like a good ed letter.
So Agent 1 promised me revisions and rarely gave them. Agent 2 barely revised at all. Suzie, as some of you know, gets out her scissors and cuts your ideas into pieces and puts them back together the way they were supposed to be, you idiot.
I'd never had an agent who'd done that before. I wasn't sure I wanted it. I wasn't even sure I needed it. But the first letter Suzie sent me, on a project I'd finished years before (remember the manuscript that got me Agent 1 and didn't sell? that one) hit me in a way no critique had. You know how usually you have to get defensive first, then deal with that, then open yourself back up, before you can really see the points a critter gives you? Suzie's invented some kind of crazy magic formula that completely bypasses your defensive zone and hits you straight in the OHHHHHH part of your brain. The second she suggests something that's going to make the manuscript better, it's like I can already see that improved version of the manuscript in my head. Like I can envision all the words I'll need to change or add or take out to get there.
Writing with Suzie is different from writing without Suzie. And I never would have known that, or suspected that I was missing anything.
I'm a better writer now. I'm a different writer now. If I'd stayed with Agent 1, I'd probably still be stalled at the gate. If Agent 2 hadn't left, I'm sure I'd still be wildly happy and would probably have met a lot of success as the two of us continued together, but I would have ended up a very different writer.
But I'm with Suzie.
And I really, really like the kind of writer that's making me.
So there you have it. The complete and total agent story.
In some ways traditional, in some ways not.
I'll take questions, as always, and thanks for following along.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
You're all crazy, you know that? I invent some weird #magicgayfish hashtag and you all LIKE it. And I ask which book you want to see a teaser from, and you're like I LOVE MYSTICAL HOMOSEXUAL SEA CREATURES. You guys are sick. Sick and wrong.
Also my video this week is funny, and you should watch it.
The fishboy is pulling me down as hard as he can, and he's going to kill me, fuck, my parents are going to actually fall apart, but I manage to kick him in the ribs and free myself for a breath. My foot brushes his tail. It's rough like sandpaper.
“Get off me!” I push myself away from him, panting. I grab onto the edge of the dock and pull myself up, into the air. Safe. I'm huddling against the wood like it's my mother. I don't know if I'm strong enough to haul myself back onto the dock, so maybe I'll just stay here forever. This is my new home.
He's panting too. Probably from the kick in the ribs. He was already pretty bruised.
I say, “You're not a fish, you're a fucking maniac.”
He laughs, hard, his face up to the sky. I see all his teeth, must be a hundred of them, as thin as pine needles. He has a loud, piercing laugh. Like a whistle.
I know that voice. He's the screams at night. He's the screaming and the crying that my parents told me is the wind.
He spends hours screaming. Goddamn. Either he really is a maniac, or he's got to be the saddest fishboy in the world.
Then he grabs me by the front of my shirt. “I don't want to see you killing any more fish, you got that?”
I pull away from him. “My brother needs them.”
I really didn't think this would concern him, but he lets go and looks at me. He keeps his eyes narrowed. “What's wrong with your brother?”
“You're a shitty spy.”
“What's wrong with your brother?”
“He's sick. Cystic Fibrosis.”
“Cystic whatever.” But he doesn't say it cruelly, but like he's trying to figure out what I meant. ”Whatever fibrosis.” He tilts his head like it will help the words roll around in his brain.
“Yeah. The fish are making him well.”
He keeps looking at me for a long minute. “They're working?”
“Well. Good, I guess.” There's this pause, then he goes, “The little one, right? Who was with your...you know.”
“That's the one.”
The fishboy rubs the back of his head. “My hair used to be really long. It was awesome. Fisherman cut it off, said I looked like a girl.”
“Your brother's cute. How old is he?”
I can tell he doesn't like this answer, for some reason. “Oh. He looks younger.”
The way we're balanced in the water right now, I feel like he's a lot shorter than I am. And his frown makes him look suddenly younger.
“Good luck with that, then, I guess,” he says.
I say, “Thanks.”
“But stay the fuck away from my fish.”
Fishboy mumbles, “Sorry about your brother,” then he pushes off from me and swims away. He's faster than I could ever be, but he doesn't get out very far before he has to stop and pant while he treads water. His silver-spotted chest is heaving. I should have kicked him somewhere besides his chest.
Then he dives back under the water and he's gone. And I wait a few minutes until I can pull myself back on the dock. I walk home shivering and trying to think of what story I'm going to tell my parents about why I'm all wet, but when I get there, Dylan's coughing so hard that they don't even notice me come in.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
My ARC contest is open until midnight, July 17th. Please enter here.
Because people ask me a lot: websites and books that I highly recommend for writers. In no particular order.
WEBSITES FOR INFORMATION:
ABSOLUTE WRITE--I pretty much assume that everyone I meet is an AW member, but if you aren't, you should be. Besides offering a wealth of information--a serious, serious wealth--being part of AW is fantastic for networking and offers connections with a ton of people. Being able to say "I'm an AWer" can get you a lot further than you'd expect. Don't miss the Share Your Work section--free critiques! You can find me there a lot--my username is Shady Lane and I'm all over the YA forums.
TWITTER--You've heard it before. Get on Twitter. Delete your facebook if that'll help motivate you. Twitter. Talk to people. I'm @hannahmosk.
GOODREADS--I'm obsessed. Librarything and Shelfari and I'm sure others provide the same basic service, but Goodreads is the most user-friendly in my opinion. No easier way to keep track of what you've read and what your friends are reading and enjoying. I'm, well, Hannah Moskowitz.
WEBSITES FOR INSPIRATION:
CRACKED--Hilarious articles on things you never would have realized you didn't know. Articles like "The Six Creepiest Places" are begging to be novel fodder.
SNOPES-Urban legends, myths, and outlandish stories. It doesn't matter whether they're real or not; a ton of them would make great stories.
TV TROPES--You can lose your life here, and I'm sorry. But there's no better place to find cliches. The article about mermaids inspires Fishboy--How do mermaids breathe underwater when you don't see any gills, and how are they sex symbols when they don't have genitals? Tada, magic gay fish.
POSTSECRET--I can't imagine you don't know this one.
ON WRITING by Stephen King--A classic. Don't take the rules too seriously. I like it as a version of the journey that we all, in a way, go through, and the personal parts are very brave.
CHARACTERS AND VIEWPOINT by Orson Scott Card--Very useful. I've read this one several times. Keep in mind that it is somewhat out of date, and certain parts might strike you as a bit...well, offensive, to be completely honest. And remember, take it all with a grain of salt.
For great blogs, check my blog roll right over there ---> Nathan Bransford's, Jacket Whys, Pimp my Novel, and Editorial Anonymous are some I never miss.
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.
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."
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.