Saturday, July 25, 2009

You Know What I Mean

If you are reading this blog, chances are you've been there. It's the darkest time in that hellacious novel-writing process, the one that makes death by fire seem like a balmy day on the Florida Keys in comparison. It stinks. It sucks. It resembles death of an emotional sort except that death would mean that the suffering would end.

I'm talking about round one of revisions.

Let's break it down in nifty list format:

1. Sophie is contented with her life and her future prospects.
2. Sophie decides it's time to write another book.
3. Sophie takes out her super artistical tools of the trade (Microsoft Word)
4. Sophie composes a brilliant novel filled with breathtaking characters and deathless prose.
5. Sophie retires, leaving the novel to its own devices for a week or so, in order to rest her genius mind.

Now things get ugly:

6. Novel gets evil glint in its eye.
7. Novel conspires with its sociopathic friends Computer and Word to delete the genius and add the dreck.
8. Novel cackles manically.
9. Sophie opens Word after one week, prepared to make two or three edits to her amazing novel.
10. Sophie reads first sentence.
11. Sophie sobs.
12. Sophie runs to the fridge and opens up a new gallon of Rocky Road.

I'm currently in the middle of a massive rewrite and overhaul of this novel. I explained my pain best to my fellow YAYAs: "Editing ST is like sleeping with that really hot guy who's also a total dickwad. It feels so good when it's happening and you think you're in love but when it's over all you have left is shame."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Contest on Hannah's Blog

Hannah Moskowitz, YAYA contributor and author extraordinaire, is holding a contest on her blog.

In a few hours, it will officially be 1 month until BREAK.

I can't believe this is happening.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I want to hear any funny injury stories you have. Bonus if it involves a broken bone, but it's fine if not--I've never broken any bones myself, so I'm sympathetic if you don't have a story to share...

Give me your stories, I'll choose my favorite and the winner gets to name a character in the next chapter of ATWF. Male or female, doesn't matter. I need some names!

Click here to enter! And don't forget to look for Break, from Simon Pulse, available on August 25th.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Do the Genre Hop! (Hop Hop Hop!)

Or, you know, don’t.

Fans of authors expect a certain voice or genre from an author after buying their first book. After all, say Meg Cabot (wonderful lady and author that she is) wrote a horror-erotica, violent Victorian-era YA novel. Her fans would be shocked, because that’s not something they expect from the author.

So it comes down to this: How much does the author owe the reader, and the market? If a voice is chatty and cutesy in the first novel, set in a high school, can the author “genre-hop” with their second novel (say a murder mystery set in medieval times?) Well, no. Not quite.

Often publishing contracts will include a clause stating that the publisher has the first look at the author’s next work. Maybe it’s only the author’s next work in said genre. There are even situations where, unfortunately, the author must have their next work be in the same genre regardless of their future plans for writing.

I’m going to make up a pseudonym here. Say Wright Author only planned on writing one young adult fantasy book their whole lives, and the manuscript got them a literary agent. Awesome, right? However, if their voice and genre aren’t consistent, their marketability down the road plummets. Authors are creating a name or “brand,” and readers expect something from that brand. Authors may well be forced to churn out another young adult fantasy book to fulfill the clause. Wright Author is stuck without a home for their loveably witty adult mystery.

I’m not saying this is how the world works—no, of course not, there are always exceptions and there are always restrictions. However, as a reader, would it bug you if your favorite author wrote something in a genre you don’t normally read? Would you “follow” the author over into another genre, or would you pass in favor of a new favorite author in the same genre you love?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

First Sentences Revealed

It's been a bit more than a week, but here's the list of books to match the first sentences I posted!

1. The day begins in the middle of the night.
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

2. Marly was dead, to begin with.
Marly's Ghost by David Levithan

3. It wasn't supposed to be this hot and humid on Cape Cod.
The Secret Circle: The Initiation by L.J. Smith

4. "Sex and religion don't mix," my grandma once told me.
The God Box by Alex Sanchez

5. Even the woods are burning.
Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

6. After midnight, the apartment waited, still in the moonlight and the heat.
The Spellbook of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty

If you liked any of these first sentences, maybe you should go and check out the book, too!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Interview: Eileen Cook

Eileen Cook's WHAT WOULD EMMA DO? is her first YA novel, but we hope to see more of her writing in this genre. WHAT WOULD EMMA DO? chronicles (isn't that a fun verb?) the coming of age of the titular Emma as she grows up in her small, religious town. Eileen was willing to do an interview with YAYA and, as you can see, she had a lot of fun answering our questions.

YAYA: How did you start writing?
Eileen Cook: Both of my parents are big readers. Weekly trips to the library were a part of our family routine and we’d come home with stacks of books. I’ve loved books and reading as long as I can remember. As soon as I understood that there people who got to make those stories up I knew that I wanted to do that. My parents saved an English homework assignment I did in second grade where the teacher wrote at the bottom “Someday I’m sure you will be an author!” When my first book came out my dad hunted down this teacher. She was over 90 years old and lived in a nursing home. We went out to visit her and my parents were hoping for a big meaningful moment- but she spent the whole time talking about her bunions.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
1) Read- read a lot. You can learn so much about writing this way. Read books you like and books you hate. Break them down to see what works and what doesn’t. Underline or highlight passages/dialog you really like (assuming that this isn’t a library book). It isn’t about trying to write like someone else, it is about discovering the process of what makes a story work.

2) Keep Writing: A lot of people talk about writing, but don’t do it. With every thing you write you get a bit better, you learn a bit more. If you give up then you won’t be published. If you keep trying- then who knows?

3) Seize the day: You won’t have anything to write about if you never leave the house. Try new things, meet new people, travel, you never know what will lead you to the next story.

What’s your writing schedule like?
People have a schedule? I really should get one of those.
I love the idea of having a set routine or process, but I find my life keeps getting in the way. Sometimes I write at home and other times I like to be in a coffee shop or at the library. I write in the morning, afternoon, or evening- depending on when I have the time. I still work another job part time so writing has to fit in with everything else. The only consistent would be that when I am in the middle of the story I find I need to write at least a small bit every day or I lose track of the story.

You tackle some pretty big issues in your novel -- especially religion. Did you experience any feelings of trepidation?
Here is a wishy washy answer for you, yes and no. I know that some of the topics I covered are very important to people and I didn't want to offend anyone. However, when I'm reading the books I like are those that have something to say on big issues. I don't mind if people disagree with me, but I think it is important that we have the discussion. If we don't how will we ever see different points of view?
Some of my favorite books are banned so if WWED is ever on the list at least I'll be in great company!

Have you spent a lot of time in a small town?
I grew up in a small town in Michigan called Traverse City. It isn't that small anymore! It's grown a lot.

Do you have thoughts on the growth and evolution of YA as a genre?
I am HUGELY impressed at what is now available in YA. While there were some great books when I was a teen, there were also a lot of books that clearly had "a lesson." You would be reading along and suddenly it would be all "...and that is why young reader it is important to always think of the golden rule." It used to drive me nuts. I started reading more adult fiction because I wanted books that didn't always have a nice tidy outcome. YA books now reflect that teens are aware and facing a range of situations. There don't appear to be any topics that are taboo. It lets the reader decide what they want to pick up.

I want to ask our readers: What questions do you have for future interviews? Any authors you'd like to see? Email us! Our address is on the right-hand side of the page.

Monday, July 6, 2009


Agents, editors, and the like frequently write/speak/blog about the importance of 'firsts' in novels: the first chapter, the first five pages, the first page, the first paragraph, the first sentence.

But how important are these things to actual readers?

Of course the first chapter would be important, since a boring first chapter would get you nowhere. And the first five pages should probably include something more than aimless dialogue or incessant exposition and back-story. But what about the first page? Or the first paragraph? Or, especially, the first sentence?

Usually, in my experience, by the time a reader opens a book to read the first page or two, they know at least a bit about the novel either from a friend, a magazine/newspaper article, a poster, the back of the book, or whatever. While the reader might put the book down if it just isn't for them, I question whether a first sentence, paragraph, or page will sway someone one way or another given what they already know about the book.

So I wanted to ask YAYA readers and contributors: Do you ever put a book down after reading the first sentence? The first paragraph? The first page?

I definitely understand putting a book down when the actual writing style doesn't mesh with your personal likes, but that would be true regardless of what the author put in that first page. Does the actual content ever sway your decision?

I took a look at the limited number of young adult books I have on my desk next to me and decided to write down some first sentences. Would you keep reading?

1. The day begins in the middle of the night.

2. Marly was dead, to begin with.

3. It wasn't supposed to be this hot and humid on Cape Cod.

4. "Sex and religion don't mix," my grandma once told me.

5. Even the woods are burning.

6. After midnight, the apartment waited, still in the moonlight and the heat.

Which of these sentences make you want to keep reading? Any of them? All of them? None of them?

Can you identify any of the books these came from? (Answers will come next week. I'll be surprised if anyone gets these(without using Google!), as the books are an eclectic mix spanning the last several years.)

One last question: Do you have any favorite first lines?