I’ve been reading a lot of YA books over the last several weeks (thanks for all the recommendations!) and I think I’ve made two discoveries:
1. My book is not YA.
2. I cannot write YA.
This is probably both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because, let’s be honest, most of the true “YA” stuff is kind of crappy. And some of it is really crappy. I don’t mean it’s not entertaining. It’s all entertaining. But it’s not very good. So if my books are destined to be closer to literary fiction, that’s probably better in the long run. That’s probably better for my soul.
But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I want to make a living. I want to write books that get published and that people read. YA is the hot ticket right now. That’s what everyone wants to publish and that’s what everyone wants to read. If I can’t do it, I’m at a serious disadvantage. It’s a curse. But there you have it. Sigh.
I recently finished a book called Divergent that I think is the epitome of what I can’t do. Continue reading »
“There have been at least 62 mass shootings in the US in the last 30 years, and 61 of them were committed by men.” (Mother Jones)
Today, we begin to take stock. Why did this happen? And what can we do to prevent it from happening again?
Like everything in life that matters, it’s more complicated than we can possibly imagine. And, at the end of the day, this one instance is probably unexplainable. But we can begin to look at patterns. If almost all mass shooters are men, let’s look at the lives of men in our country.
It begins at birth. Studies show that parents of newborn boys are less likely to go to them immediately when they start crying or to give them affection. This is ironic, because newborn boys are more vulnerable and actually need more care than newborn girls. As baby boys grow, parents are more likely to tell them to “suck it up” or “be a big boy” or “be tough” when they cry, get hurt, or are just frustrated about their relative helplessness. Boys learn that needing help is unacceptable, that showing their emotions makes them less of a man, and that the appropriate way to deal with problems is to hide it all inside. When they inevitably face emotional problems later (because emotional problems are simply part of life) they will have no learned ways of dealing with those problems. (Pink Brain, Blue Brain)
As soon as they start watching videos, children are exposed to violence, even if only in small amounts. Why does this effect boys differently from girls? Because most of the violent characters are boys and boys begin to identity with that. Even in Cars, a relatively harmless movie for young children, there’s a scene where the main character – a boy – is shooting up a field of victims. It starts early, and it only gets worse from there.
As young as eight (or maybe even younger for all I know) boys start playing first-person shooter games. These are not the games of our youth, where we shot ducks or tiny, pixelated monsters. These young boys are shooting people, incredibly realistic-looking people. And they’re often talking to others while they do it, shit-talking to the other guys as they hunt them down and kill them. All the while, inuring themselves to violence and fooling their mind into believing they’re capable of killing people. (Most people, even most soldiers, aren’t actually able to shoot another person when push comes to shove. But practice makes perfect, and realistic simulations (like video games) are even used by the army to help soldiers learn how to kill the enemy. (Live Science)) Continue reading »
“I’m so scared of getting mugged.” She was a little chubby, with skin so pale it was almost blue – except when she was blushing, which was nearly always – and bright blond, shoulder-length hair that always looked like it could use a good brushing.
I rolled my eyes and tried to ignore her, but she just kept going on about it, her voice plaintive and desperate. We had just arrived in Barcelona for a semester abroad and it was the first time we were all together; coming from different schools all around the country, most of us had never met before. Orientation was in a small building just north of downtown.
I looked at her nametag: Katie. She was from some university in Kansas and looked like she had probably grown up there as well. Amid the general chatter, I heard her mention that she’d never been out of the United States before. When she raised her fears with the instructor in front of the whole group, the instructor assured her that the crime rate was very low and she really had no reason to worry. But she just kept mumbling about it.
Less than a week later, the email from the program director went out to everyone: Katie had been mugged. Continue reading »
Well, I’ve escaped Dante’s Inferno. For now. I’ve done just enough to feel comfortable saying I have a “Second Draft” and I’m walking away. For at least four weeks.
Given my tendency to perfectionism, that’s really hard. I want to make the book perfect now. I want to keep working. But I know it’s better to let it breathe. Besides, I have some awesome people lined up to read it, and I know getting their feedback is going to make it way better. So I’m putting it away. I really am.
Now what to do with my time? I plan to go back and do some more work on my Mississippi novel. I feel like now that I’m in the writing groove, it will come much more easily.
But, I also want to do some structure and function research for this book. Which means, I want to read books and watch movies that I can learn from to help make my book better. This is where you come in. I’d love to get some recommendations from you for the following categories. (And honestly, even if you think it might be obvious, mention it, because, especially when it comes to movies and pop culture, I’m really clueless.)
1. Books or movies that are the first in a trilogy/series.
2. Books where the protagonist is entering a world he or she is not familiar with.
3. Dystopian books or movies.
4. Books or movies that have some action, but not a super-fast pace, and have proven to be at least somewhat popular. (Is this impossible?)
5. Books or movies where characters have special powers.
6. Books or movies where one person is fighting against a government/social order/etc
Thanks for your help! If your recommendation proves especially enlightening, I’ll put you in my acknowledgments once the book comes out
Writing the first draft of my novel was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. Pure adrenaline. Living in a fantasy-land of my own making. Turning off (almost) my inner editor and just letting the writing flow. It was fantastic.
But revision. Revision belongs as a punishment in one of the nine circles of hell. I’m sure Dante just forgot to mention it; somewhere between flames burning the feet, being stuck forever in a block of ice, being torn apart by demons, and being eaten by Satan, he meant to include a part where an author was forced to revise a piece, over and over, for eternity. Continue reading »