Sunday, February 21, 2021

5 Concepts I Want More of in Young Adult Fiction

Ah, young adult fiction, that wonderful category that’s not quite a genre but has plenty of stories that practically anybody should find something they like. For me, it tends to be bittersweet contemporaries and well-developed fantasy and sci-fi stories. A couple years ago, I wrote a post about why I like the category, but today I’m going to talk about some aspects I want to see more of!

Though I no longer fit into the bookish young adult category (13-18 year old’s), I read a lot of YA fiction. That being said, I still have some opinions, and to make sure I wasn’t completely crazy, I talked with some young adults to see what they thought as well.

 


1) Novels with Art

*cough* pictures *cough*

Sure, we’ve got graphic novels, which are amazing. Then there’s some stellar cover designs, awesome maps that usually accompany fantasy, and even books with art that readers can buy separately. But I want to see more novels featuring art within the chapters themselves. Let’s be honest, I don’t really set aside money to buy art as well as books, so can we just put it inside the books? Please?

 

A few examples:

  • How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (arguably middle grade)

 

2) More Friendships

“Building up a friendship throughout an entire book instead of romance. Friendships can exist too.” –my sister, 17

Yes! Friendship is such a wonderful thing. It’s kind of frustrating how middle grade has more emphasis on friendship than young adult does.

 

A few examples:

  • A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole
  • The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

 


3) Military Brats

As a kid, I loved travel stories and the tropes with the new kid, so more often than not, I found myself leaning toward fantasy because it’s one of those genres where the characters are constantly on the move. When it comes to military stories, most of them focus on the grownups, the military personnel and their spouses, which is cool, but they have kids too!

I never really found any stories that told what it was like to be a military brat until I was out of college, and even then, it’s only been the one:

  • Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles



4) Contemporaries set outside America

Last year, I wrote a blog post on a bookish trip across the US, and I had a brilliant idea to write a post about books in Europe and… found very little. I mean, sure, I’ve amassed three books so far, and I have more to read yet, but there are so many books set in America.

When books aren’t set in the states, they tend to be historical fiction or fantasy. Yes, one of my own WIPs is a contemporary fantasy set in Germany, but I really struggle with writing realistic fiction. I want to read more realistic fiction though. There’s so much more to this world than just the States!

 

Just a few I’ve read so far (only one by an American author):

  • Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles (Germany and Spain. Can I list the same book twice? Eh, why not.)
  • The Boy Who Steals Houses by C. G. Drews (Australia)
  • A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Ōima (Japan)

 

5) And More!

“It would be great to see more strictly good characters and strictly bad characters instead of having a majority be gray characters.” –Zoë

I’m glad I’m not the only one. While I enjoy well-developed characters, sometimes, it can be confusing who to root for when everybody is morally gray. I like admirable characters!

 

“[I] would like to see more the villain’s POV more. Because it’s nice to have both sides of the story.” –Anonymous

Ooooh, yes! I think the Renegades trilogy does this really well, delving into the villain’s POV, so that you start wondering who’s supposed to be the protagonist/antagonist. I know this point seems to contrast the previous one, but who’s to say we can’t have more of both?

 

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Let’s chat! What are some concepts you want to see more of in YA? Have any recommendations for the above categories?

 

Similar posts: 6 YA Novels that Changed My Perspective, 7 Reasons I Enjoy YA Novels, and Recommended Reading: Military Brat Edition

Sunday, February 14, 2021

5 Reasons to Attend WriteOnCon

I had a whole post written and planned for this week until I remembered WriteOnCon is next weekend! What is WriteOnCon exactly? I’m glad you asked. It’s a three-day, online writing conference that’s super affordable. The baseline entry is $10, but I like the Full Admission at $15 for the Q&A sessions and the workshops.

Here are just a few reasons why I’m going.

 


1) It’s all online.

Which is, of course, perfect right now! When I was living in Europe, WriteOnCon was basically the only writing conference I could attend. Now that everything in person is closed for the time being, it’s still the only writing conference I can attend. I enjoy it nonetheless.

 

2) It’s focused on YA/MG/children’s fiction.

I love writing YA. For the longest time, it was my primary target audience, and I have only recently branched out into adult fiction. But I’m still writing YA and have several new ideas in the works, so of course I want to learn even more about it!

 

3) You can find your niche.

There are many overlapping sessions, which can make it difficult to decide which sessions to attend, but it can also make it easier to find your niche. You don’t have to attend all the sessions and can instead pick the ones you like.

Just starting out on your latest WIP by outlining your novel and developing your characters? They’ve got sessions for that!

Writing your first draft? Yes, that too.

Rewriting? Yep.

Querying? You bet!

 

4) You can meet people.

Authors, agents, fellow writers, you name it! Each year I attend WriteOnCon, I’ve met new critique partners through the site’s Critique Partner Match, one of whom has even turned into a pen pal (hi, Alicia!).

In some Q&A sessions with authors, I’ve even added more books to my TBR.

Note: they have live feedback sessions for query letters. If you want yours considered, you have to submit three days in advance. So, if you like one agent who will be reviewing queries on Friday, you have to submit by Tuesday.


5) It’s inspirational!

I always come away from a conference itching to write. Last year, I sent out a bunch more queries. This year, I’m hoping to have more energy to do more rewrites.


Hope to “see” you there! 


Let’s chat! Are you going to WriteOnCon this year? What writing conferences do you recommend?

 

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Similar posts3 Types of Writers You Should Know7 Facts about Critique Partners, and Why Writers Should Study Their Craft

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Poem: Do Not Dissect This Poem

The other day my sister told me she didn’t like poetry. *gasp* When she explained that she had to analyze a bunch of poems for school, and she said she’d make an exception for sonnets, I started to understand. Poems aren’t meant to be torn apart. When I look at a poem, I don’t think, “My, what consonance!” Whatever that means. Rather, I may think, “Wow, that was pretty.” Or even, “Huh, I never thought about it that way before.”

Poems are meant to be experienced, felt. The following poem is my response to schools sucking the joy out of words in what I hope is the spirit of The Dead Poet Society.

Here’s to the students struggling with senioritis.

Here’s for you, sis’.


Do Not Dissect This Poem

if you would, simply set aside the rhyme—
feel the rhythm, this ever-beating pulse.
Close your eyes and imagine the springtime
fresh with morning rain…

Can you hear it?
Listen closely.
closer
ba-dum
                    ba-dum
                                        ba-dum

the ever-thrumming heart
of a runner as his feet pound this earth,
the ever-expanding-depressing
chest of the bull that croons,
the ever-silent pad
of her toes
on the floor

ba-Dum ba-Dum ba-DUM
Shout! it out
Stomp your rhythm
Clap your song

ba-dum-ba-dum-ba-dum
remember the days you laughed,
the mornings you cried
the places you came from,
look to where you will go and see

hear me ask
Don’t dissect this poem, if you would
simply let it squeal
let it sing
let it be



***

Let’s chat! Without disassembling my lines, what did you think of the poem? What’s your take on poetry as a whole? Do you prefer form poetry or free verse?

Similar poems: Writing a Poem, Pronunciation, and The To-Be-Read List

Sunday, January 31, 2021

How to Balance Multiple Writing Projects

Hey, guys. Sorry, I ghosted on everybody last week. With much reluctance, I had to put down my beloved beardie, Thorin “Pancake.” I wasn’t up for much of anything, especially not writing.

Without further ado, on to this week’s post.

 

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Plot bunnies. Plot bunnies everywhere! A writer’s worst nightmare, right? Maybe not. Sometimes it’s an ideal when we just can’t get the ideas to come. Whatever the case, writers are often encouraged to pick one project and stick with it. After all, that’s the only way to actually finish the thing. Or is it?

Writing, I’ve found, is not so simple. Many concepts we often call “writing rules” are more like guidelines. Take the stick with one project rule. I apply it sometimes, but more often than not, I bend it. Look at my past projects. I took on two stories for NaNoWriMo last November!

Here are just some of the ways I balance working on multiple projects.

 


Don’t Chase Every Plot Bunny

Stick with you selected project(s) instead. I know it’s tempting to chase new ideas. It really is. Especially when I’m in trudging through the middle of a book and I come up with another interesting story idea, and I just want to quit what I’m working on and chase after it.

That’s not to say that you can never work on that project. Just that it’s better to finish whatever stage you’ve started, whether its outlining or the rough draft or editing draft 5. I do allow myself to write down the idea, so it doesn’t fully get away. Then, once I’ve finished my current stage, I may chase that plot bunny.

 

Have a Plan of Action

When it comes to finishing multiple projects, it helps to have a plan. For example, if I’m working on two projects, I’ll decide when I’m going to work on one, for how long, and when I’ll switch back to the other project. This way, when I finish the rough draft of one story, I can immediately start editing another. Besides, then I can put some distance between one story so when I come back to it, I have a more objective view.

It would be really cool if I could get into a rhythm of outlining one project, then jump into writing another, then jump into editing a third. Who knows? It could happen!

Ideally, I’d like a writing plan to look something like this:

 

January-February

  • Write rough draft of WIP 2
  • Schedule blog posts a week in advance
  • Write some poetry

March-April

  • Rewrite draft of WIP 1
  • Schedule blog posts a week in advance
  • More poems!

 

In reality, though, my plan ends up more like this:

 

January

  • Stuck on that one scene of WIP 2
  • Last minute blog post edits
  • Lots of poems

February

  • Slowly plodding through the rough draft of WIP 2
  • Forgot to write a blog post!
  • No poetry whatsoever

March

  • Finished the rough draft of WIP 2 in three days
  • Blog posts are scheduled for the next month and a half
  • That one week where I couldn’t write a thing

April

  • Two weeks of writer’s block
  • SCREAMING!!!
  • Back to WIP 1
  • I’m okay now

 

Whatever the case, there are some general timelines I apply to different writing stages. The following are estimates based on my past projects:

 


  • Outlining and research: 1-3 months
  • Rough draft: 1-4 months
  • Let it sit: 3 months*
  • Rewriting: 1-3 months
  • More research: 1 month
  • Editing: 1-3 months
  • Querying: 1-1.5 years

 

*This is the one I’m not flexible with. Ignoring a project so I can come back with an objective perspective is easy.

 

Shelve Projects

This step can be rather tricky. After all, how do you know when it’s time to set a project aside and call it quits? Honestly, it depends. By project, I mean a story I’ve completely drafted, not a partial. I’ll shelve projects for three main reasons:

 

  1. The rough draft was so bad I never want the story to see the light of day. Seriously, some of my stories are just plain terrible. However, writing itself is never a waste. We learn from experience. About half of my rough drafts get shelved.
  2. I’ve lost excitement with the story. That’s not to say that I will always be excited about every story at every moment, especially when it comes to editing the same paragraph over and over and over again. But if I no longer care about the story, it’s going to be far too difficult to make my readers care. I only remember shelving one such novel, but it was a while ago.
  3. I’ve reached at least 100 rejections from agents. Only two of my novels have made it to the querying stage, but both have been shelved.

 

If so many projects get shelved, then what is there left? New stories of course! Because I set aside so many projects, it frees to me up to work on something new. To chase that plot bunny. And because of the rest periods between drafts, I always like to have a second project to go back to.

 

So there you have it! Just a few of the ways I balance multiple writing projects.

Let’s chat! How many stories do you usually work on at the same time? Do you have any tips for writing multiple stories? What does your writing schedule look like?

 

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Similar posts: My Process for Writing Poetry, Stages of a Plot Bunny, and Three Methods for Outlining Your Novel

Sunday, January 17, 2021

5 Books with Surprising Plot Twists

Plot twists are funny creatures. On one hand, I enjoy putting together all the puzzle pieces and figuring out what’s going to happen before it does. On the other hand, I don’t. Honestly, I don’t fully understand why. Maybe there’s something appealing about an author who could outsmart me. Or a story that is strikingly original.

Whatever the reason, I love a good plot twist that hits me like a bus. Not an “oh, that’s cute” twist but one that makes me want to scream, “WAIT, WHAT!?!?!” Unfortunately, they’re not very common, especially after you start reading widely enough that you can see the patterns before they’re complete. Which is what makes a good plot twist, especially one that was hinted at throughout the story, all the more enjoyable.

The following books contain plot twists that surprised me. Not all readers may share the same sentiments. I’ve done my best to keep this post spoiler-free.

 


Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

This story is set on an island and written in letter format about the letters of the alphabet and how they influence a particular society. Although the blurb claims Ella as the main character, the book is actually told from several perspectives, and it works quite well. The way the climax wrapped up was both surprising yet incredibly satisfying.

 

Supernova (Renegades, #3) by Marissa Meyer

You think you know how superhero stories go, do you? Actually, you probably do. The Renegades trilogy plays with some of the usual tropes of good vs. evil while the lines between the two are blurred. Meyer threw in in some unusual powers, but overall, I found the books to be rather predictable. Until I hit the epilogue at the end of book three. I’m still reeling. I need a sequel or a novella or something! Please!!!

 


The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

When the series was rebranded for YA, the book was renamed Mistborn. Honestly, I like the original better.

Most every Sanderson book has surprised me in one way or another. This one surprised me in a plot-related way that I didn’t quite expect. In other words, I’ve read so many trilogies with the big bad villain, that I just knew how this story was going to play out. Right? Wrong. Absolutely delightful. Not to mention his latest book in the sequel series (Bands of Mourning) changed everything I thought I knew about The Final Empire. Six books later, and Sanderson is still surprising me!

 


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Two women—a spy and a pilot—embark on a mission in Nazi-occupied France. Not only is the writing style engaging, but one of the plot twists I didn’t see coming until the moment it happened, which is uncommon for a first-person novel. To make it even better, it’s first person told by two different women, and I never had difficulty telling them apart. There’s just so much to enjoy about this book, although it did rip my heart out.

 

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

This book. Zappia has such a way of writing neurodiverse characters that I really appreciate her contemporaries. This one in particular had a twist near the end that I didn’t expect. I’ve read other reviews where other readers were apparently smarter than I was at the time of reading and could see the twist coming. Whatever the case, the reader in me is still very pleased with the execution.

 

So there you have it! Sure, there are other books that have surprised me, but some of them I don’t remember well enough to talk about or the twist felt too contrived to mention.

 

Let’s chat! What are some books with plot twists that surprised you? Have you read any of these! (Please, if you can, keep the comments spoiler free!)

 

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Similar posts: 6 Young Adult Novels that Changed My Perspective, 7 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book-to-Movie Adaptations I Enjoy, and 7 of my Go-To Authors

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Poem: Open Water

Last year, my dad gave me the Christmas gift of a SCUBA certification. That’s right! I am officially Open Water certified, meaning I can go diving down to 60 feet deep and am familiar with many of the different ways the water and diving can kill you. Honestly, though, it’s about as dangerous as driving a car (not real statistics) but with fewer people, beautiful and strange fish, and stunning seascapes.

Yes, I’m a little disappointed that I don’t live in Hawai’i anymore, but now, if I ever find myself in the vicinity of Australia, I am qualified to dive the Great Barrier Reef. That and diving is the closest humans can get to experience weightlessness on planet Earth.

My next goal is to get my Advanced Open Water certificate. I’d also love to get involved with Project AWARE, a nonprofit organization that helps remove debris from the ocean.

The following poem is based on my last check out dive for my certification.

 


Open Water


I’m descending toward the sandy floor
like a leaf gradually twirling without wind
or a dust particle drifting past my window,
and I ask myself why I didn’t do this before.

When I first plunged my face beneath the surface in the pool,
I felt my breath catch—
people aren’t meant to breathe underwater.
But still, I remind myself to take a deep breath—
in and out—
like the way I prevent a panic attack.
All I have to do now is breathe, always breathe.

Now I reach the end of the line,
the minute anchor bobbing up and down with the waves—
I’m not even holding on, not this time,
which is good because I already have a rash
from where I tried to steady myself with my legs.

Another pound of pressure reminds me to exhale
through my nose,1 and a plethora of bubbles roars in my ears,
I’d almost forgotten what they sounded like—
if I stay here long enough, I’ve already begun to tune them out.

Before I quite reach the sand, I add air to my BCD2
and hang
                        suspended
like a satellite that doesn’t quite belong.
Yet I am here for a time, as an observer
to swim like the barracuda, glide like the ray,
relax like the puffer fish, and when I’m done,
I’ll hide between the pages of my book,
like the octopus and their shell-shaped door.3

 

***

 

1 Equalization. Removing air pressure on one’s ears to prevent their eardrums from bursting. Fun fact: it’s easier for women to equalize than it is for men.

2 BCD: Buoyancy Compensator Device. Basically, a really fancy name for an inflatable vest that divers strap their air cylinder to. When fully inflated, it also helps you float on the surface and can be partially inflated underwater to achieve a sense of weightlessness (neutral buoyancy).

3 I almost didn’t see the octopus until my dive instructor pointed it out because it was hiding in a cave-like structure and using a large shell as a sort of door. My theory is that the octopus was using it as a form of protection. See the Netflix documentary: My Teacher the Octopus.

 

Let’s chat! What is one of the most amazing things you’ve done? Do you prefer freshwater or saltwater? Any other SCUBA divers?

 

Similar poems: Sandcastles, Waking Up, and Riptide

Sunday, January 3, 2021

2021 Reading Resolutions

Happy New Year! What kind of disasters does 2021 have in store for us, I wonder…

I’m kidding! But not really. My To-Be-Read List has grown to 450 plus books, and it may be time to consider another culling. Sounds like a disaster to me.

In the meantime, this year I am trying to adapt my goals to be more achievable. For example, I had originally thrown on a book written before 1800 despite the fact that I always procrastinate reading such a book until somebody pointed out that maybe I don’t want to read that in the first place.

Without further ado, here are some of my goals, some achievable and others less so.

 


Goal: 1 Book 700+ pages

Do I mean: Rhythm of War? Yes, yes I do. At 1,232 pages, this one certainly fits the bill, and I want to read the latest book in the Stormlight Archives! Maybe if I have time, I’ll squeeze in The Priory of the Orange Tree (848 pages).

 

On my To-Be-Read List:

·       Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

·       The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

 

Goal: 2 Poetry Collections

Last year, I read a lot of novels in verse. This next year, I’d like to continue doing so, but I’d also like some more traditional poetry collections as well. And by “traditional,” I just mean a book with poems. I don’t really care about form when it comes to poetry. The more unusual, the better.

 

On my list:

·       Ballistics by Billy Collins


Goal: 3 Novels by Indie Authors I Haven’t Read

I might read more books by indie authors if I didn’t have the attention span of a goldfish when it comes to e-books. I have so many indie e-books because they’re simply easier to buy that way, but I just haven’t been able to read e-books lately.


          On my list:

·       Ahab by E.B. Dawson

·       The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder

·       Child of the Kaites by Beth Wangler

 


Goal: 3 Classics by Non-American Authors

It’s not much different from my goal of reading classics, if I’m honest. I don’t like American Literature except for Jack London, who’s works aren’t very literary. Sorry, not sorry. Give me world literature! And if anybody knows a good English translation of the legend of Mulan, I am accepting recommendations.

 

On my list:

·       Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

·       The Iliad by Homer

·       The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

 

Goal: 5 Books from the Depths of my TBR

I still have some books on my list that I added back in 2012-2016. I know that’s not that long ago, but still. Do I ever plan on picking them up? When it comes to picking books from my list, I usually pick the recent additions. But every now and then, I’ll go back. Actually, doing this a couple of years ago is how I discovered Brandon Sanderson, who is now one of my favorite authors.

 

On my list:

·       The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

·       Dune by Frank Herbert

·       A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

·       Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis

·       The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson

 


Goal: 5 Award Winners

I’m not talking about the Goodreads Choice Awards. Seriously, I really don’t see a popularity contest as an actual award, though I have found some good books by perusing past winners. Instead, I’m referring to awards including but not limited to the Newbery Medal (given to an excellent middle grade novel), the Printz Award (given to a stellar YA novel), the Coretta Scott King Book Award (given to a book that represents African Americans), and the Pura Belpré Award (given to a book that represents Latinos).

 

On my list:

·       The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

·       New Kid by Jerry Craft

 

Goal: 1 Nonfiction Book about a Topic that Interests Me

I have many interests whether its astronomy, the history of space travel, SCUBA diving, hiking, unusual animals, you name it!

 

On my list:

·       A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

·       We Seven: By the Astronauts Themselves by Scott Carpenter

·       Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

 

Total books: 20

 

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Let’s chat! What kind of books are on your list this year? Are there any books I didn’t list that I should consider reading?

Similar posts: 2020 Books in Review, Recommended Reading: Disability Representation, and 2020 Reading Resolutions