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Posts tagged ‘North Carolina YA novelist’

Writing What You Know, by Beth Revis

Probably the most clichéd and oft-used phrase for any writer is the old adage, “write what you know”.

So how did I end up writing a novel that takes place hundreds of years in the future, on a spaceship populated by genetically modified people heading to a planet that might not really exist? It’s definitely not something I “know”.

Typically, we don’t really “know” our stories. Or, at least, I don’t. I’ve never been the youngest person on a spaceship, but I do know what it’s like to not fit in. I’ve never had my parents cryogenically frozen, but I still remember that moment when I realized that I’d grown up and was no longer under their safe protection.

Many times, it seems that people who aspire to write teen fiction are more focused on writing teenagers than on writing characters who behave realistically. They will often do research on the outward appearances: clothing, slang, mannerisms. Very often, this is where they trip up, because that’s not the important stuff. Focus on the stuff you know – the stuff everyone knows. We have all experienced the same things every teen has experienced: first love, first heartbreak, betrayal and fear, joy, sorrow. This is what the writer must know – and if the writer knows this, then everything else: the characters, the plot, the world – will fall in place.

Find the beating heart of the story. Invention is a wonderful thing – a necessary thing when it comes to writing. You need to have invention but, somewhere beneath everything that you create, you also have to write what you know.

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Beth Revis’s author website: www.bethrevis.com

Beth Revis’s bio page

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Across the UniverseA Million Suns (Across the Universe)Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)    In Mozart's Shadow: His Sister's StorySaraswati's WayThe Night She Disappeared

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Dealing With Anxieties During The Novel Writing Process, by Monika Schroder

I just finished my last manuscript and sent it out to my editor. Now, during the long time of waiting for her response I try to relax and refresh my creative energy. But in the back of my head lurks fear, the fear that the editor might reject it, that the book is not good enough. While I wait for her phone call I keep myself busy with garden chores, long neglected errands and, after some procrastination, by writing these articles.

As I choose topics, I reflect on the process of writing and realize that this fear of being rejected is just one of the many anxieties a writer encounters along her journey. There appears to be another kind of anxiety every step of the way.

When I write the first draft I always worry if I will be able to finish it. While re-reading what I have written I often find it flat and bland and, by way of self-sabotaging, tell myself that it is no good and not even worth finishing. Then I have to remind myself that the first draft is supposed to be just that and a first draft will get better over the process of revision. Yet, I keep wondering, “Will this be good enough? Will publishers want to buy it? Will readers care?”

The only way to escape these worries without giving the project up is to push forward and to finish the draft.

But then there is the chaos of holding it all together. At times it feels as if I’ve lost control over the story. The manuscript becomes a ‘wild thing’ but the only way forward is to face the fear and to work on making the manuscript better. Annie Dillard describes this stage like this:

“A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight… it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room. You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, ‘Simba!’”

When, finally, the miracle happens and the manuscript is finished and an editor buys it, I feel elated and happy. For a while at least. Together with the editor and copy editors we perfect the manuscript and more than a year later they send me the ‘advance readers copies’. These handsome paperbacks look almost like the real book. I am glad to see them but another terror takes hold of me as I realize that the publisher is about to print the actual book and this is my last chance to make changes. Soon the text will be FINAL.

I call it ‘Galley Fright’ and, as with all the other fears, I am not alone but can find solace in the fact that other writers experience this as well. Eudora Welty, in a 1972 interview with Paris Review, said this about her feelings toward galley proofs:

“Proofs don’t shock me any longer, yet there’s still a strange moment with every book when I move from the position of writer to the position of reader, and I suddenly see my words with the eyes of the cold public. It gives me a terrible sense of exposure, as if I’d gotten sunburned.”

Yes, I also feel exposed when looking at the galleys, but I know I have to let it go and trust that, together with the wonderful people at the publishing house, I produced a good book.

Next, Launch Day comes - my book’s official birthday. This occasion is also filled with that bittersweet mixture of happiness and fear. Now my baby goes out into the world. How will the world welcome it? Will reviewers slight it? Will readers be disappointed? Will the world see right through me to the fraud I fear I am?

It helps me to tell myself that the reception of my book is out of my control. Whatever happens to it will happen. Instead of worrying about it, I try to turn my attention to writing my next book.

I soon worry if I will ever be able to pull it off, finish the story and make a good book out of it… and see above: the vicious cycle of fear begins anew.

Perhaps there is no remedy and these fears will always be part of the process. The only way to overcome these anxieties is to accept them, or even embrace them. I will carry on in despite them and I am able to convert the fear into excitement on most days, and find pleasure in the magical process of putting words on paper.

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Monika Schroder’s author website: www.monikaschroeder.com

Monika Schroder’s bio page

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The Dog in the WoodMy Brother's ShadowSaraswati's Way     GenesisAngel DustTarzan: The Greystoke LegacyTracks

Writing Teen Novels
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Markus Zusak’s ‘The Book Thief’ And What Makes A Good Teen Novel, by Beth Revis

Today, I want to take a moment to analyze what makes a good teen novel. One of the best books I’ve ever read, Young Adult or not, is Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. When I was a teacher, this was the single most stolen book from my classroom – a high honor indeed!

In case you’ve not heard of this brilliant book, The Book Thief is about a girl, Liesel, during World War II. She’s a foster child, and the family she’s staying with is hiding a Jew from the Holocaust. And also, the book is narrated by Death.

Here’s what makes this book stand out:

  • A totally unique narrator: Like I said, it’s narrated by Death. And the unique perspective gives everything a new light. Stories about the Holocaust have been done before. But stories about one of the greatest human travesties in history, told from the point of view of a character who has, literally, seen every death in the world in all of time casts a new shadow onto the way we, the reader, see this event in history.
  • Foreshadowing: Not only does Death give a unique perspective, he is an all-knowing character. Death knows the end of the story, and as the reader discovers it, he drops hints. This carefully layered foreshadowing enhances the story in an amazing way – we know what’s coming, not only from a historical level, but on a personal level, too, and it heightens our fear for the characters. It’s like Titanic – you know the ship’s going to sink, but you’re not sure if Jack and Rose will make it.
  • Bringing the historical to a personal level: In a similar vein, you have the fact that this story takes something historical – the Holocaust – and makes it extremely personal through specific characters. Elie Wiesel’s Night does this, too, in a different way. It’s hard for us, as humans, to comprehend the enormity of loss in the Holocaust – be we can understand an individual’s suffering, and that is what creates empathy within us.

The Book Thief is truly a book we can all learn from. A good teen novel tells a unique story through a unique perspective. In your own writing, write the story from the point of view of a character who can tell that specific story. Your story cannot be so vague that just anyone could narrate it – your narrator must be the one person who can tell the story in this way. Additionally, you need to know your story enough to add in the clues – foreshadowing and more – that give depth to the reading and make the book better to experience on a second reading. And finally, your narrative must be as personal as possible. Making it personal makes it true, and a true story (not necessarily a nonfiction, but a story that is true-to-life) is one of the most important things we as writers can do.

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Beth Revis’s author website: www.bethrevis.com

Beth Revis’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

   

Australia (and beyond)

Across the UniverseA Million Suns (Across the Universe)Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)     The Book ThiefRikers HighAngel DustNight

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

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