Thursday, April 29, 2010

Look! Invincible Summer!

On Goodreads!

You should add it. It makes me happy, as a Goodreads whore.

Also, I have no idea if it's really going to be out in April. I just put that in because I like April. As soon as I have a release date, you guys will be the first to know. Although for BREAK, I just found out because it was up on Amazon. So anyone who saw it first me knew before I did. So if you stalk me hard enough, you might ACTUALLY be the first to know. In which case please let me know.

I shouldn't blog at 2 AM.

Oh also I'm judging this contest and today (Friday) is the last day to enter and you should enter it and here is the link. Riiiight here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Animals Were Gone

In honor of Teaser Tuesday, here's the first bit of THE ANIMALS WERE GONE, that sniper-shooting book I teased with a month or two ago. You'll see the title here, or a conjugated version of it--and yeah, it did come from that Damien Rice song.

A fun fact about that song--which is beautiful by the way, and highly recommended. It has one of the best lyrics in history: "Waking up without you is like drinking from an empty cup." So a lot of you know that about 6 weeks ago I was in a pretty bad car accident. I walked out of the car, but logically shouldn't have, given the state of my car. The police who found me kept shaking their heads as they looked at the scene, saying, "I can't believe you're alive." You can imagine that's exactly what you want to hear after an accident like that.

When I crashed the car, I was listening to the song "The Animals Were Gone," by Damien Rice. I haven't been able to listen to it since.

It's the same song that, a few months prior to the accident, so graciously lent its title to a book about how you can die at any minute.

It's weird how things work out.

(Note: despite the use of the word 'zombie' in this excerpt it is not, in fact, my zombie manuscript.)


I wake up to a quiet world.

When I do sleep, the only thing that wakes me up is this kind of still, the sound of a million things and thirty-four bodies not here and one boy breathing alone.

I open my eyes.

I can't believe I slept. I sit up and stare at my shoes on the floor. They're black canvas high-tops from Target. My mom got them for me, not for my birthday or anything, and not even because I needed shoes, just because she thought I'd like them. My dad said the last thing I needed was another pair of sneakers, and soon they'd be covered in shit anyway, so what did it matter?

I sleep in the basement, now, and I can feel how cold the tile is. I can feel it through my shoes.

I make kissing noises with my mouth. Nothing answers. My brain is telling me what is different but I am not going to think it, I won't think it. They're all hiding. They're all upstairs. Somehow they're out of their cages, but they're not gone.

I think it says something about you when you don't even untie your shoes to try to go to bed. I think it's a dead giveaway that you are a zombie. If there is a line between zombie and garden variety insomniac, that line is a shoelace.

I got the word zombie from my brother Todd. He calls me zombie, sometimes, when he comes home from work at three in the morning—Todd is so old, old enough to work night shifts and drink coffee without sugar—and comes down to the basement to check on me. He walks slowly, one hand on the banister, crinkling a page of the newspaper in his hand. He won't flick on the light, just in case I'm asleep, and there I am, I'm on the couch, two cats on each of my shoulders and a man with a small penis on the TV telling me how he became a man with a big penis, and I can, too. “Zombie,” he'll say softly, a hand on top of my head. “Go to sleep.”

Todd has this way of being affectionate that I see but usually don't feel.

I say, “Someday I might need this.”

“The penis product?”

“Yes.” Maybe not. I think my glory days are behind me. I am fifteen years old, and all I have is vague hope that, someday, someone somewhere will once again care about my penis and whether it is big or small.

The cats don't care. Neither do the dogs, the birds, the gerbils, the hamsters, not even the one bird I call Flamingo because he stands on one leg when he drinks. None of them care.

The vaguest of vague hopes of a deflated heart.

My bedroom is the basement because the basement is tile because I have thirty four animals total, and animals shit. And tile cures all evils.

I look around the basement. My alarm goes off. I should have slept through it. I shouldn't have heard it over the crowing, the barking, the crying and baying. This morning, five-thirty AM for school, my bedroom is a quiet, frozen meat locker because the animals are gone.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Guest Post!

I did a guess post at the FABULOUS Kathleen Ortiz's blog about what to do when you get an offer from an agent. Check it out here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Teaser Tuesday!

Remember that zombie book?


Even before Graham died, I had nightmares all the time. I used to sleepwalk, too, and sometimes I’d blame that when I ended up in Graham’s room after a nightmare, even though most of the time I walked there fully awake and shaking.


He cracked his eyes open. “God, Wil, what?”


He’d think about it for a minute, watching me. “I have a test tomorrow.”

“I’ll be so quiet.”

“You’re getting kind of old for this.”

I gave him my smallest smile. “I’m a kid forever, remember?”

He chuckled and sighed and pushed back the covers so I could get in. I crawled into bed next to him and snuffled against the mattress until he gave me a corner of his pillow.

“Tell me a story?” I asked.

He nodded and rolled onto his back, his eyes still closed. “Once upon a time there was a magical world where nobody ever got lost.”

“Nobody ever.”


I lay awake and let that sit in my head, while Graham, too tired to finish the story, stroked my hair until he fell asleep, his palm pressed against my forehead.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Anyone who was on twitter today knows what went down and does not need specifics explained to them. If you don't know, I apologize--you won't find specifics here, because I care less about the incident itself and more of its existence as further evidence of a common problem.

I've talked before about how published authors are not better than unpublished authors, and published authors who act like unpub'd ones aren't worth their time make me sick.

Well, here we are. And I realize this is a post that won't win me any fans.

Publishing is not a hierarchy.

Unagented authors are not at the bottom.

Agented authors are not above them.

Agents are not above them.

Editors are not above them.

Publishing is made of a series of symbiotic relationships. Everyone is necessary to EVERYONE. Agents need editors. Editors need agented writers. Writers need editors. Agents need unagented writers. Publishing needs my agent. It needs some other agent who isn't my agent. It needs the editors at FSG and the editors at Simon Pulse and the editors at the indie press you haven't heard of. It needs me. It needs you.

You are important.

You don't have to suck up to anyone.

If you see someone abusing a position of authority, you do not have to go along with it. You can speak up. You should speak up.

You are not insignificant.

But you are responsible for everything you say.

Take responsibility. Speak up. Take risks.

As A Softer World put it, be the trouble you want to see in the world.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm ooooooold

so very oooooooold

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

how a book becomes a book--writing a synopsis

So next in our "how a book becomes a book" series is something a bit earlier in the process.

If you're anything like me, when you query agents you avoid, definitely, the ones who ask for a synopsis with the query letter. Like, I'm sure they're perfectly good agents, but synopses are horrible and no one should ever have to write them.

There are a few reasons they're so horrible. A lot of people have trouble with query letters, and, for them, synopses are understandably even more evil. You have to sum up the entirety of your book without taking away its voice and without making it boring as fuck, and you don't have the pleasure of using 1st person, if that's your thing, and there is very little room for error. If you love query letters, like I do, you can STILL hate synopses. And there's a very clear reason why I do.

In a synopsis, you can't lie.

Query letters are like commercials to me. You shouldn't lie, and underneath every lie you do tell, there has to be some truth. But...I've always been a little liberal with my query letters. I say what I need to say in order to get the book read.

Obviously you don't want to write a query for an entirely different plot. But if it's actually Stacey's great-aunt's dog that drags the magic locket out of the garbage and shows it to her? It's okay to say "Stacey finds a magic locket." Let Stacey take the credit. Make your query snappier. It's okay to fudge the truth a little if it makes the query look good and read well.

Not so with synopses.

Helllll no.

Synopses need to say exactly what happens in your book and no more. There is no lying. And that's what makes them so scary.

BUT do not think, for a minute, that I'm saying your synopses needs to have ALL of what happens in your book. No no no no. Knowing what to leave out is what keeps it from getting voiceless, confusing, and boring as all fuck.

So. Here are my guidelines to writing a synopsis.

1) HAVE AS FEW CHARACTERS AS POSSIBLE. Aim for five or less named characters in your synopsis. BREAK named Jonah, Jesse, Naomi, Charlotte, and Will, so I was pushing it a little. Don't give your reader more names to have to remember. Have you ever tried to read the summary of a Shakespeare play on Wikipedia? Too many fucking names.

The first time a name appears, CAPITALIZE it.

2) GIVE AWAY THE ENDING. The whole ending, the entire ending, every speck of the ending. And more than just what happens, try to set up the feeling of the ending. If it's happy, make it feel happy. If it's open, make it feel open (and shame on you.) Etc etc.

3) START IT AS A CHAPTER-BY-CHAPTER OUTLINE. This is the only way they get written for me. Start out summing each chapter up in a paragraph, then go through and cut EVERYTHING you can for the thing to still be cohesive. Sometimes you can cut entire chapters from your synopses, which is always really exciting. It doesn't mean you have to cut them from the manuscript. Maybe they're full of nuanced and beautiful character development. But, in the synopsis, Jesse didn't come visit Jonah at the psychiatric hospital, and Jonah didn't have a nice phone conversation with Charlotte's sister. I don't think the video store was even mentioned. Cut out as much as you can so the synopsis is still cohesive.

4) DON'T FOCUS ON SCENES. "Jonah and his family are sitting around the dinner table discussing..." Fuck that. The reason you can cut down from your one-para-per-chapter structure is that you don't need to write a synopses in scenes. This is not a book.

5) INJECT IT WITH VOICE SERUM. Voice. Voice voice voice is SO important. Your synopsis should read like your book, not a dried out raisin version of your book. Make it all the good parts smushed together. It should be EXPLODING WITH VOICE.

This does not mean that you can write it in 1st person or 2nd person or whatever person you like (unless that person is 3rd). You need to adhere to synopsis rules. And that's tricky. But YOU CAN DO IT.

I'll leave you with the first paragraph of BREAK's synopsis. It started as "one paragraph per chapter," then I cut cut cut cut. This first paragraph sums up the first four or so chapters of the book.

JONAH falls off his skateboard. He and his best friend, NAOMI, confirm he’s broken his right wrist, his jaw, and a few ribs. This is great news. Jonah’s on a quest to break every bone in his body. His theory: the more he breaks, the stronger he gets. He sees the power of overcoming challenges everyday through his younger brother, JESSE, whose horrible food allergies have forced him into a better person. And Jesse’s practically a candidate for sainthood. He’s also the only one in the family who knows about Jonah’s mission. He thinks it’s stupid and self-mutilating. Naomi calls it an act of artistic integrity. His parents and ‘not-girlfriend,’ CHARLOTTE, are too idealistic to suspect their Jonah’s a secret wackjob.

Questions? Throw 'em at me.

Friday, April 2, 2010

how a book becomes a book--copyedits

Hello everyone, happy April. I'm going to be nineteen in ten days, which is ridiculous.

So as you should know, last week I was working on my edits for INVINCIBLE SUMMER. Basically, my editor sent back my manuscript (this time it was electronic and hard copy--for BREAK it was just hard copy. It's fun to watch things change) with a letter summing up the basic things I needed to do--add about 40-60 pages, draw out a minor character and strengthen her relationship with the main character, slow down the ending (you're going to like this ending, goddamn it), etc. In the manuscript, she'd marked specific lines she didn't like or places where she wanted me to add more.

Somehow all these edits translated into me being like "MOAR SEX" and stuffing the book full of the dirty bits, so if you're scandalized by the nakedness when you're reading INVINCIBLE SUMMER, please remember MY EDITOR MADE ME DO IT.


So, she emailed me yesterday and essentially said "Good work, hannah." (Actually she said I'm a genius and a rock star and I made her sob through the last fifth of the book, but even I'M not egotistical enough to post that kind of praise on my blog, hello.) We don't have to do another round of edits, which is exciting, because I hit all the points she wanted me to hit (and I'm a rock star) so now we're going straight to copyedits, the next part of the process.

Copyedits are cool. For BREAK, they were hardcopy, and I have a feeling they will be for IS too. Basically, you get a passage, and inside is your manuscript, all crazy marked up. It's already been through the hands of at least two people--your copyeditor and your editor. These edits are all small. In BREAK, there was a lot of changing "Seven-Eleven" to "7-Eleven" and making sure the therapist's name was spelled consistently (I had like twelve different versions of her name) throughout her scene. The copyeditor will also make sure that a character who you said was sitting down isn't suddenly standing up. Copyeditors freakin' have your back, basically. I love it.

Some of the changes might have "STET" next to them already--that means your editor saw them and disliked them and vetoes them. My editor didn't like capitalizing "popsicle," even though it's technically supposed to be, I think, so that stayed lowercase in BREAK.

You have veto power too, which is fun. I can't remember specific examples for when I wrote STET for BREAK, but I know I did it at least a few times. If there's something you don't like, you just write STET next to it. The other changes you leave as-is. You don't have to go into the document and make the changes the copyeditor gives you; that's the typesetter's job. You just look the edits over and approve them. It's one of the first times you really feel like you're working with your publisher as a member of a larger team, and I really like that feeling. It stops being just you and your editor and becomes you and your editor and your copyeditor and your typesetter and your art designer and your marketing director and your publicist and your everythingelse and that's pretty cool.

So I'm anticipating those! Any questions about the publishing process (or anything) let me know.