Friday, 28 September 2012

I'm Back! (With A Thank You, Book News And Info About A Good Cause)

A MASSIVE thank you to Ellen Oh, April Tucholke, Mindy McGinnis and Amy Tintera for stepping in and keeping this blog alive while I finished off my WIP. I hope you enjoyed their guest blogs as much as I did.

Book news: The first draft of my WIP is now with my editor *chews nails*, and yesterday, I got my proof pages for ACID - squee! 

Don't they look fab? I love the fonts they've used for the titles and section and chapter headings, and as for the bits where… aha, well, you'll have to wait and see. I can't wait to start reading through them. And I may have ARCs - Advance Reader Copies - soon too!

And now for something completely different. Some Twitter friends of mine, headed by the lovely Nettie Thomson, are collecting jokes to be published in a book which will raise money for the mental health charity SANE. Mental illness affects many people from all walks of life, and charities like SANE campaign to encourage awareness and understanding and initiate vital research into conditions such as schizophrenia and depression, as well as supporting people affected by it, along with their families and carers. 

So how can you get involved? Firstly, go here to find out more about it. Then, if you're not on there already, sign up for Twitter, and tweet your favourite joke, plus the hashtag #TweeHee, in 140 characters or less. There's 3 days left to contribute jokes, so get tweeting!

See you next week!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Lucky 13s Take Over, Week 4: Amy Tintera - Writing Advice I Ignored

It's my final week in the writing cave before I send my WIP to my editor (eep), so today, Amy Tintera is guest blogging for me. Take it away, Amy!

There’s a lot of good writing advice out there. So much, in fact, that I’m not going to talk about it. Instead, let’s talk about the advice I totally disregarded.

(But first, a quick note: Everyone is different. No one can tell you how best to write. Just because the below didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Try a few of them!)

And now, the Writing Advice I Totally Ignored:

1. Don’t rush just to get words down. There’s no point in writing words you know you’ll delete later.

            Nope, sorry, this one doesn’t work for me. I’ve moved away from word count a bit, and I do focus more on producing quality words, but I still need my messy first drafts. In fact, they’re not even first drafts. Their messy messy messy rough drafts I maybe don’t even finish.  I recently wrote 45,000 terrible words of Reboot book two. It was insanely helpful in figuring out the story.

2. Find a critique group to read your work as you write it and help motivate you to finish.

            Critique groups that meet weekly (in person or online) are not for me. I can’t have someone else’s opinion on my work when I don’t even know what I’m doing yet. My beta readers (basically crit partners who read the finished second draft) are very, very important. But I like to keep early reads to my agent and my sister (and even then, on a very limited basis).

3. Read your draft out loud.

            This one will probably come back to haunt me. I’ll probably be standing up in front of everyone at my book launch, reading from Reboot, and realize it’s terrible. But still, the idea of reading 80,000 words out loud sounds exhausting and terrifying. No thank you.

4. Publish a short story first.

            This is really great advice for people who write short stories. But I don’t. I write novels. Short stories sound very, very, hard to me. You have way less words to build character arcs and your story. (Although, I would consider writing a novella. But I haven’t tried that either. Yet.)

5. Get a professional editor to look at your manuscript before querying agents.

            I actually saw this advice on an agent’s submission guidelines and I don’t like it. I think writers do need outside people to read their work - critique groups, beta readers, your (honest) friends - but I do not think you need to pay a professional before even submitting to agents. (This, of course, does not apply to self-publishing. If you’re self-publishing I think you really do need a professional freelance editor.)

6. Print out your manuscript when it’s time to edit. It will make it easier to catch mistakes.

            It might be easier on my eyes, but that sounds like a waste of paper and ink to me. And I’m really bad about replacing my paper and ink. Let’s not make my life more difficult.

7. Write first thing in the morning, before you go to work or start your day.


8. Don’t plot the ending in advance. You have to earn it.

            I can’t remember where I read this piece of advice, but it’s always stuck with me because it provoked a major WHAAAAAAT response. Of course you have to earn your ending. But for me, I need to know where I’m headed in order to figure out how to get there.  

9. Keep a diary or a journal.

            Spending that much time with myself sounds terrifying. I’d much rather hang out in my character’s heads.

10. Don’t start out writing novels.

            Why not? 

Amy Tintera is a full-time writer living in Los Angeles, CA. HarperTeen will publish her debut novel, REBOOT, in Summer 2013. Visit her website and blog: or follow her on Twitter: @amytintera

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Lucky 13s Take Over, Week 3: Mindy McGinnis - Sex in YA - You Know You Want It

While I'm in the writing cave finishing my WIP, some of my fellow Lucky 13s are stepping in to guest blog for me. This week, I'm handing over to Mindy McGinnis. 

"... and you know you want me to give it to you." Biff's words to Lorraine in Back to the Future had me totally flummoxed for a looong time. What was it? How could Biff give it to her? And why was he trying to touch her panties in the front seat of the car during the dance? Why was Lorriane talking about Marty's Calvin Klein's in their meeting scene? What's the fixation with underwear?

I remained in the dark about these topics for awhile. I knew sex existed, but I didn't have the whole Tab A, Slot B mechanics of the dance figured out until er... well... later. Not so today's teens. Blame it on the media, blame it on the culture, blame on parenting, blame it on the rain (how many 80's references can I get in here?) Let's just set blame aside and focus on the fact that it simply IS. My opinion - kids aren't having more sex, or earlier than before - it's simply no longer a taboo subject.

So, because it's not taboo, because they do know the mechanics - what do we write about it? Do we write about it?

It's up to you. I've read some really graphic sex scenes in YA. I don't find them offensive. I have a hard time believing there's anything in there that the average teen hasn't already been exposed to. However, I do monitor content in the books that I give out to junior high students - not necessarily because I think they're about to have their minds deflowered - but because their parents DO believe that, and they might have my ass in a sling. And I need my ass. I use it everyday.

My own philosophy runs thus; I have always believed that less is more. Why does Jaws work? 'Cause you don't see the shark. I typically refrain from physically describing my characters because I want my readers to fill in their hot guy, their hallway bitch, themselves as the MC. So when it comes to those backseat moments, or when my MC invites a guy over to "watch a movie," (yeah right, I have yet to see the end of Ferris Bueller's Day Off), I want them to fill in slot B on their own. Something happened. Unless it's imperative to the plot, does it matter what? Do they need the description? Do they need to see that shark?

Here's a great example from Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix: (I know you're saying "What!  An HP makeout scene?") Oh yeah... it's there. A meeting of Dumbledore's Army has just ended. Everyone has filed out except for Cho and Harry, who are kinda hanging out there in the Room of Requirement... and who didn't guess that thing had multiple uses? pg. 456-457:

"I really like you Harry."
He could not think.  A tingling sensation was spreading throughout him, paralyzing his arms, legs and brain.
She was much too close.  He could see every tear clinging to her eyelashes...
He returned to the common room half an hour later to find Hermione and Ron..."

Hey! Wait a second!! Half an hour later? Gee... what were they doing? Now, obviously Rowling had a duty to her young readers to keep it clean, and to her older readers to keep it interesting. Not so for all writers, certainly. But I think it's a good example of letting the reader take it to their own level - of comfort, of familiarity, without being told what happened.

My own writing gives a little more detail than this highly gratuitous page break, but you get the idea.

One last thought - what do you want your readers to take away from your book? I haven't read Breaking Dawn, but I know that Edward and Bella break the headboard, cause that's all anyone wanted to talk about. Other than that - zero clue what the plot is about.

I'd love some feedback! What are your thoughts? Show the shark, or keep him underwater?  :)

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut dystopian, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, will be available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins Fall, 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Lucky 13s Take Over, Week Two: April Tucholke - The Mystery Notebook

While I'm in the writing cave finishing my WIP, some of my fellow Lucky 13s are stepping in to guest blog for me. This week, I'm handing over to April Tucholke. 

When I was 14 I flew to CA to visit my cousins. I read a lot, a lot, of Agatha Christie that year, and made a MYSTERY NOTEBOOK to put clues in. It was just a regular lined notebook that I wrote MYSTERY NOTEBOOK on. I took the notebook with on my trip, fully expecting to find, and solve, many crimes with it. Um...yeah.

April Tucholke's debut novel, BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, is out from Dial/Penguin in Summer 2013. You can find her at

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Lucky 13s Take Over, Week One: Ellen Oh - Swan vs Eagle

While I'm in the writing cave finishing my WIP, some of my fellow Lucky 13s are stepping in to guest blog for me. This week, I'm handing over to Ellen Oh.

So since Emma invited me to share something with her blog readers, I thought I’d share a story about my Mom and how she kept me sane during the time I was querying PROPHECY. I had just left my previous agent and was in that phase of wondering if I’d ever get representation again and I was a nervous wreck. I stressed about everything, I checked my email box hundreds of times, I stalked agents online, wondering whether or not they were reading my MS, I second guessed myself all the time.  I was not rational.  And it didn’t help that it seemed like all my writer friends were getting book deals while I still labored in the trenches. I couldn’t see clearly. Until my Mom gave me the smackdown.

My folks came down for a visit during the height of my submission craze. They'd known that I'd been under a lot of stress and were worried about me. The first thing my Mom said was to turn off the laptop. "All that computer does is give you stress. Turn it off and come sit down and talk."

I turned off the computer and sat down, heart sinking for the lecture that I knew was coming. It won't matter if I'm 60 years old, my parents will always lecture me. That's life.

"Ellen, why are you so stressed about this book?" my Mom asked. "Why don't you forget about it already."

"That's impossible, Mom. I just can't forget it."

"Not forget forever. Just for a little while," my Mom said. "Listen, don't be stuck on your book. Let it go and be happy. When you are happy, really happy, then go back to it. Nothing works when your brain is filled with stress." She rubbed at the crease between my eyebrows. "Your brain is all filled with worry and stress and miserableness. Why you want to put that in your book? You put that in your book - who will want to read it? Happiness makes you healthy. Healthy makes your brain happy. Then you write your book."

I nodded and sighed. "It's not that easy..."

"Of course it's not easy." My Mom shook her head at me. "You and your sister got your writing gene from your Dad. He's a great writer. Great newspaper columnist (my Dad had a column in the national Korean American paper for years). But then he writed 3 books and they don't do good. He's depressed and gives up writing. That's why he's worried about you girls. But I'm not worried. I know one day people will applaud me just for being your mother. You will be great one day. But don't rush it. You don't have to. I will live until I am 110! You have plenty of time. Don't rush."

I began to laugh. "Thanks Mom. Maybe one day then it'll all work out for me. It's just hard when I see all my friends succeed and I wonder when it will happen to me."

My Mom smiled and grabbed my hands. "What kind of writer will you be? Some writers will write 10 books that are all forgettable. You will be the writer that writes one book, but it will be unforgettable. I believe in you. Some people lay eggs that turn into chickens - others lay eggs that turn into eagles. You are no chicken. You are an Eagle. One day you will soar."

"Funny - I thought you were going to say swan, but I like the eagle analogy better," I said.

"Swan, BAH! Only look good on outside. Open its mouth and the ugliest sound come out. Eagle is better. Look strong, look powerful, be strong, be powerful."

"Thanks Mom, you're right."

"Of course. I'm almost always right."

Ellen Oh's debut novel, PROPHECY, will be released January 2nd, 2013 by HarperTeen. Visit her at, like her Prophecy Series Facebook Page or follow her on Twitter -