Road Trip Wednesday: What In Real Life People Can You Talk To About YA?

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered.

This Week’s Topic:

What IRL people can you talk to about YA?

I haven’t met many of my current YA book buddies, since most of of them live in my computer, and I have yet to determine whether or not they’re just cleverly disguised Twitterbots. However, I did have the pleasure of meeting and lunching with several YA writers IRL at my local SCBWI’s annual conference, and since then, have had quarterly business lunches with a few of them to catch up on…business. 😉 So, I do have an occasional outlet to talk books.

I’m also grateful that I have a bunch of book nerds in my family. So even though they may not be up to the specific goings-on of Young Adult literature, we can always talk about stories in general and what great stories we have read recently, and why it worked for us, and what didn’t work. And, these stories can range from every genre of literature to the latest movie or television series. I know that I’ve been over-the-moon enamored of the CBS series, Person of Interest, simply because of the intriguing storyline that show offers every. Single. Week.

(Oh, and my siblings and I have been SO EXCITED that Legend of Korra finally started airing after years of following news of its release!  Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then, we probably shouldn’t be friends. Just click over HERE, and soak in all the Avatar-goodness!)

Maybe you don’t get to talk YA with people IRL (heck, maybe it’s not even your genre, so why would you?), but do YOU have anyone you can gush to about stories? What story has captured your interest lately?

[I’m celebrating my blog’s Birthday Month! Hop over HERE to read the deets, and fill out the comment form to enter for a chance to win a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble e-gift card. Remember, any additional comments on any post this month will earn you extra entries!]

SciFridays: The Green Float Concept

Seeing real life scientists and engineers work together to create collaborative projects as the Green Float Concept (and others–see THIS ARTICLE) makes me proud to be a science fiction writer (and, proud to be a big nerd, evidently).

To me, science fiction is more than just setting, like a post apocalyptic world or a spacecraft. Don’t get me wrong, those setting are still COOL, but it’s not the main reason why I love science fiction.

When I think “science fiction,” I think of Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert…those pioneers in the genre who used their writing to create new landscapes that evolved from current political/social climes or adventure stories that explored/explained the unknowable (at least in their day).

Science fiction is an ally to innovation and progress because it explores the “what ifs?” and lends itself to the “why not?” Why not create a rocket that can break free of Earth’s gravity and land on the moon? It sounds sort of like a beta test, right? I mean, alien conspiracies aside, I wonder how motivated we would have been to explore the moon if Jules Verne had not written From the Earth to the Moon.

It all brings to mind this Einstein quote: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” What an awesome gift to have, the ability to influence a whole generation with imagination and all the other possibilities (and power) inherent in creativity.

SciFridays: Jules Verne

From the Earth to the Moon

Image via Wikipedia

Jules Verne is my parent’s favorite science fiction author, and though it’s not obvious, is a partial namesake of mine (the other namesake being Liza Minnelli, which I hope is kinda obvious).

For most of my life, I didn’t appreciate my name as I should. Chalk that up to the constant butchering of said name (correcting people who think they’re pronouncing my name correctly gets really tiresome), and also that dreadful Ernest TV series/movie(s). However, the older I got, the more I appreciated my parent’s thoughtfulness in naming me. I like having an instant connection to the foundation of science fiction.

A little too recently (*cough like a few weeks ago cough*), I’ve come to admire Verne’s science fiction because his stories go a step beyond extrapolating current scientific trends to an imagined, yet inevitable, future. Verne seemed to prophesy when he wrote his stories. I mean, come on, From the Earth to the Moon? He practically predicted (or paved the way for?) the international space race that would come 100 years later, even placing the rocket’s launch site in Florida. In a world before gas-powered automobiles were invented and mass-produced, he imagined a story wherein his characters manned a rocket into space and orbited the moon, somehow navigating the gravitational field.

Of course, Verne didn’t just dump a bunch of scientific facts into his works. He wrapped them nicely into charming adventure stories, sprinkled with bits of romance and intrigue. Actually, the adventure aspect of his stories is really what hooked me to read his work, especially since several of them are similar to some of the motifs that run through my current work in progress (WIP2). Notably, The Child of the Cavern, The Propeller Island, The Aerial Village, and The Mysterious Island*, which also happened to be the main inspiration to my beloved TV series, Lost.

I’m happy to know that I have a lot in common with my namesake. Even though I’ve only scratched the surface of his life and works, it’s somehow motivating to me to know his writing journey and career. And, I’ll admit, even though, for all intents and purposes, we have no other connection other than our names, I’m oddly proud of the fact that Jules Verne is my namesake.

Has anyone else experienced this? Have you ever felt proud of a connection to someone you didn’t even know, yet has inspired your life choices?

{*I put links to these works just so you can read their summaries. And, I also thought WIP2’s alpha readers would get a kick out of it. Or not. *shrugs* 😉 }

Writing is a Sanctioned Form of Insanity. Embrace It.

Writing is an exercise in insanity. Day after day, I bang away at the keyboard hoping for brilliance, and getting mostly word vomit.

But, I keep writing anyway.

Because…

…I know that I probably have to throw down ten words, sentences, scenes, to get to the one worth keeping.

…I know that after the vomit leaves my brain, I won’t be distracted by it (even if more vomit threatens to fill the void that the previous vomit left behind).

…I know that each word, sentence, scene added to the WIP gets me closer to a finished story.

And, I know that sometimes, if I’m very, very lucky, I will write a scene that surprises me, one that just makes sense, and opens to many more possibilities and choices for the character.

The moral of the story? Embrace the insanity of this process. The muses may be fickle and capricious. But they can’t resist a working artist. Especially an insanely focused one.

Image: By Feuillu

Creative Limitation

Cover of "Story: Substance, Structure, St...

Cover via Amazon

{So, I decided to start yet another series of posts for the best reasons of all: because this is my blog, and because I can. It’s simply titled, The Magic of Writing—that indefinable, ineffable relationship between the writer and the muse.}

Over the weekend, I glutted myself on books on story craft and architecture as part of my ROW 80 goals. The book that I just finished yesterday was Robert McKee’s Story. I’ve read through that book last year, but it didn’t really speak to me then as it did now. Don’t get me wrong, I thought that book was genius last year, but I hadn’t finished my first WIP yet, and so I didn’t grasp the full significance of the principles then as I did now.

My main A-HA moment came from the principle of Creative Limitation. I’d been floundering for a while in my WIP2, not really knowing where I should go, and I’ve simply discovered that I didn’t know WIP2’s world enough. And, since I didn’t know the world (which is the first step toward a well-told story), I didn’t have internal laws of probability that my characters would follow (read: no conflict, stakes, or reason to read the story).

That may seem like a little thing, but once I started sketching out my world, possibilities, decisions, events started floating up in my mind’s eye. McKee wrote: “Talent is like a muscle: without something to push against, it atrophies. So, we deliberately put rocks in our path, barriers that inspire. We discipline ourselves as to what to do, while we’re boundless as to how to do it.” (We were all teenagers once. The more rules set before us, the more creative we were at bending (but not quite breaking!) them.)

So, you see, creating a world with a set of rules has allowed me to create a list of possible scenes and events that may happen (FYI, list is still growing). Finding the boundaries didn’t kill my imagination, it awakened it. Sure, I like the idea that On The Spot Inspiration can take me through a story, but if I’m honest with myself, I realize that ideas taken from the top of my head are probably regurgitated stories of what I’d seen or read recently, and will come off as cliched or unoriginal.

Really delving into the world, and finding scenes from my brainstorms that are truest to my characters, to their world, and which have never been done quite in the same way, are the scenes that I want to write into my novel.

What has inspired your imagination lately?

Thursday Thoughts: Just Get It Written

Fumbling Toward The End: The Reveal*

(*an actual “scene title” in my Scrivener App.)

Start as close to the end as possible.

–Kurt Vonnegut

So, I’m kind of in this little writing challenge that happens each November.  As a way to grow The Novel’s word counts and keep it interesting for me, I decided to dedicate my kamikaze-do-or-die writing days to the second half of The Novel.  My purpose for my kamikaze writing days (other than the fact that I needed to be realistic with my schedule since I work in retail for my FT AND PT paythebills jobs in the heart of the holiday season)?  So that I can race along to the finish, and then go back to the first half of The Novel and fatten up those scenes.  I’ve said this before, but success breeds success, and the more “wins” I can achieve, the more motivating it is for me to continue.

In these mad sprints to glory, I’ve realized a few things.  First, I have completely drowned out my Internal Editor and sent her packing to live with my closet trolls.  (Take that Internal Editor! Chew on some socks, and last year’s belts!)  Second, that in focusing on the end, I have a clearer grasp of my beginning.

Method Behind the Madness

When I tell some people that I aim to write 5,000, 7,000, even 10,000 words in a day, I sometimes get asked: “Is your story even coherent with that volume of writing?”  The answer: Yes; in a way.  It is to me.  Since I plotted, outlined and pretty much pre-planned The Novel scene by scene.  Is it anywhere close to being published?  Of course not!  I write better quality e-mails than this Story-As-Is.  I definitely wouldn’t send this drivel to any crit partners or beta readers.

Do I care?  No.

Because that’s the point of this beautiful, awesome thing called “NaNoWriMo” and my kamikaze-do-or-die writing days: I don’t have to get it anywhere close to perfect.  I just need to get it written.  THEN, the real work of revising, editing, polishing The Novel to the point where EVERYONE can actually read and understand it will come to play.  THAT is when I will beg and plead other writers to beta read, critique, and otherwise rip my work to shreds (but nicely, and with purple ink, rather than red please).

I don’t dwell on the fact that The-Novel-So-Far has  shifting points of views, perspectives, and a LOT of telling and not showing in the efforts to just get the story down and written.  Believe me, I’ll still go back and get to those points.  (I mean, there’s at least 20,000 words waiting to be born back there that I can add to my word counts 😉 ).  The value of them to me is just the idea that they exist.  Those words are already there, and all I need to do is tweak them.  This thought allows me to Just. Keep. Writing.  And really, as a beginning writer, that’s what I need.  Good habits.  Momentum. Progress in the right direction.  Writing a story straight through till The End seems like the right direction to me.

Little Darlings

I know that Faulkner said that writers ought to kill their little darlings, but I choose to categorize that little bit of advice to the “Revision” process rather than the “Just Get It Written” process.  I love reveling in the random phrases and words that my fingers type up so quickly, my mind wasn’t even conscious of it.  Besides, the Little Darlings need to get written first before we can kill them and give birth to True Genius (*cue angelic choir music*).  At least, that’s how I look at it.

In these sprints, I’m able to get to the heart of the matter.  Capture more essential, urgent things.  Hear more random tidbits and snippets that I don’t even realize I’m writing.

She laughed again. I need to stop being so hilarious to this woman. She’s starting to piss me off.

–A random line that I didn’t even know I’d written until after my break.  I don’t even use “piss” in daily speech.  Silly muses.

And, in the heat of the moment, I discover more intensity from my characters, my worlds, my words, that I wouldn’t have had I been plodding along.

Of course, there’s a time, place, and purpose for everything.  Do I do these mad dashes all the time? No.  I think I would crash and burn after not too long.  I believe in balance.  But, in the spirit of the challenge, in the spirit of motivation, and in the spirit of my compulsive need to reach all of my goals, I think these mad dashes bring me the most peace.  It affirms to me that when push comes to shove, I have the discipline needed to make writing my lifelong career.

I know that I can be good, even great, in a variety of roles.  But, stories…they are my passion, and I would love to see the day when my passion and paythebills worlds align.

Just keep writing, fellow dreamers.

Simplify. Focus. Young Adult Genre

Readers Read Stories

Confession: I don’t understand when I hear people say, “I don’t read that genre.”

I’ve been ridiculously addicted to reading basically my whole entire life.  (Hello, this blog used to be “Reading Makes Me Happy”, and my dusty Blogspot blog still claims the domain name: “readingmakesmehappy .blogspot. com”.)  I was THAT girl. You know, the girl whose parents checked on to see that she was sleeping, and, after they left, she would promptly break out the flashlight and read throughout the night, Never Ending Story style.  Seriously.  Addicted.  Still am.

So, I’ve basically confided some time ago, that I have read and loved stories in every genre.  EVERY genre.  Why?  Because I thoroughly enjoy stories.  Anyone’s stories.  Heck, I will hire anyone who has great stories during an interview.  Why?  Because the person who can entertain me during an interview can entertain future strangers when selling products.  Just sayin’.

Plainly speaking, readers (at least THIS reader) read stories, not genres.  And, a good story is a good story, no matter the genre (end of story).  I do understand that people have a need to label and categorize things into neat, marketable units.  Hence, genres.  But, just because books are organized in a certain way for selling and navigational purposes, doesn’t mean that consumers need to “read” that way.

Genre, What is it Good For?

I appreciate branding for what it is, but the one drawback to it is a misperception of what that brand could be. Same can be said with genres.

Take the Young Adult genre nowadays: whether paranormal, sci fi, or contemporary, 90% of it revolves around high school: classes, relationship dramas, etc.  Because of that, I never thought to seriously write a YA story, because I quite frankly didn’t want to stay in high school when I was there, and so why relive that as an adult?  My high school wasn’t hard, but I always felt like it was an annoying four years holding me back from my real life (I much preferred college.  If I could stay there forever…)

I was more of an observer of high school rather than a true participator.  Sure, I played the game, and was president or officer of at least three different clubs (depending on the year), active in electives, etc, but that’s all it was to me.  A game.  That I played very well.  However, I knew it was just a phase and not Real Life, and so I never really invested much in it.  (Sorry, but I got A’s without even trying.)

I don’t want to say that I was “serious” but I definitely wasn’t the typical 16 year-old I currently see on TV, chasing boys and defying my parents.  In my household, my siblings and I often seamlessly wove theology, art history, and the latest Star Trek episode into an argument about who should get the last bit of sausage and eggs.  That’s just how we rolled. THAT to me was Real Life.  The way I viewed my high school experience then is pretty much how I view my paythebills job now: a great diversion, but just a stepping stone to get me to the next phase of my Life.

Another misperception that I had about YA Lit stemmed from the fact that the characters tend to be right around 16.  From there, I assumed the stories must be flighty and without substance.  (Take a look at what the CW has been playing for the last 5 years, and tell me that I was off base to come to that conclusion.)  But, then I thought to myself, “Dude, I wasn’t flighty and irresponsible at 16.”  That thought led to a series of facepalm moments where I realized that I didn’t have to write about teenagers as portrayed by the CW.   I can write for the young adults that never quite fit in with the other young adults (which, evidently, is EVERY young adult’s story, no matter who you are).

I want to write for the one who unapologetically loves hammy sci-fi, kung fu, action movies;  who is addicted to comic books and anime; who secretly reads torrid romance novels, and cries at sad movies; who wears a three-piece business suit for a class presentation one day, and a ballerina tutu with combat boots and Sailor Moon hair the next.

Basically, I want to write for my 16-year-old self.

And, thinking about my 16 year-old self brought me to the real principle of YA Lit.  It’s not the high school or the agonizing over boys.  Not quite about fitting in or pleasing the parents.  It’s about identity.  The rest of it (high school settings and boy drama)  are just (replaceable) back drops and props in the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery.

Young Adult? Really?

The value of YA Lit, then, that I admire and am attracted to, and one that I always tried to write in my non-YA stories that never fit, is the idea of self-discovery with a sense of wonder.

I have felt that sense of wonder at 16.  I still feel it at 30.  I want to continue believing in and embracing that sense of wonder.

And, that is why, in the (hopefully near) future, I will be proud to bear the title, “Young Adult Author.”

Yes.  Young Adult.  Really.