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Posts tagged ‘Seattle author of teen novels’

Writing The Kind Of Novel You Want To Write, by Lish McBride

About a year ago, I was teaching a workshop and one writer complained that she didn’t like her novel because it was dystopian and she didn’t really want to write that. She wasn’t writing it to chase a trend, it’s just that every time she sat down to write that’s what kept coming out. I understand the frustration.

I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret (and by secret, I mean not a secret at all). I didn’t set out to write YA urban fantasy (Horror? Comedy? I still don’t know how to classify my books.) When I was a wee little Lish, I wanted to write epic fantasy. You know, those really long series with cool maps and things – and swords, lots and lots of swords. I loved – and still love – epic fantasy. Every time I sit down to write, though, that’s not what comes out.

This can be kind of frustrating, but don’t fight it. Go with the flow. There’s a reason your brain needs to tell that story. Nothing may come of it. It might be a pet project forever, but sometimes you need to get things out of your system before you go onto other things.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the genre in which I’m writing just as much as epic fantasy and, just because that’s where I’m at now, that doesn’t mean I might not venture into a different genre sometime soon. Personally, I don’t think I’m ready to write epic fantasy yet. I don’t think I’m good enough. That statement is not a judgment on either fantasy or urban fantasy – I think as highly of one as I do of the other, it’s simply referring to the idea that I’m not sure how to tackle it yet.

Part of it, I think, is a planning issue. When you write urban fantasy, you can rely on things from the real world. Things like grocery stores, currency and the education system – those things already exist and that you can use. When you write epic fantasy, though, you have to decide/make up all those things. It becomes an integral part of the world building, and I don’t think I’m ready to cut my teeth on that just yet.

So when you’re sitting there stewing in your frustration, maybe you could think about why the genre, story, or character your brain chose to explore isn’t the same as the one your writing heart has picked to explore. Is there a reason why it’s picking this one first? Is that character the loudest in your head? Is the story the clearest? Maybe it’s the tone that’s beckoning to you? It could be that there’s something in the story that you need to process. Or, if you’re like me, it’s because you’re on deadline for something else and the siren call of the forbidden is just too strong. Whatever the reason, I suggest that you go with it. I see no reason why you should fight with yourself.

Homework: This is actually more of a trick than homework, and this is especially for those of you who are on deadlines, or who have limited writing time. I suggest you keep another project on the side. Work on what you NEED to work on (whether it’s your brain or a deadline pushing you) but take breaks to get a little work done on what you WANT to be working on. Personally I’m more productive if I have more than one fish in the fryer, so to speak.

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Lish McBride’s author website: www.lishmcbride.com

Lish McBride’s bio page

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Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Editing A Novel: The Necessary Evil, by Lish McBride

If you have ever read any interview I’ve done or any blog post I’ve written before, then I’m positive that you’ve heard me whine about editing.

I hate it.

I hate it so much that I want to stab things.

With spoons.

Then I want to rub salt into the wounds and deny them antibiotics when the wounds become infected.

Last time I complained on Twitter about editing my friend, and author, John Connolly (we’re friends, John, whether you like it or not) said, “What I admire most is your stoicism.” (Or something like that.) John’s little way of telling me to stop whining, because really I was being a big baby. Editing is part of my job and I need to suck it up.

But that’s what editing does – it reduces me to a tantrum-throwing child. Why does it do this, you ask? Is it because I disagree with my editor or think my novel is perfect? Absolutely not. I have been blessed with amazing editors. Not only have they been kind and gentle folk but they have also been really good at their job.

My current editor, Noa Wheeler, has always been great about reminding me that I can always argue with her, but the thing is I generally never want to. Sometimes I’ll come up with a different solution to a narrative problem that’s been voiced, but that’s about it. Every draft that my editor touches gets better. She’s good at her job and she’s amazing at seeing what I want to do. If she doesn’t immediately get what I’m going for, she asks me questions until she does. So no, I have no beef with my editor. I’m also lucky enough to have a hands on agent who does revisions with me as well.  (And I’m sure the idea of my producing a perfect and clean manuscript has him howling. He likes to point out all my typos and errors.)

And I most certainly pretty much never think my books are perfect. I work on them until none of us can look at them anymore and then we send them out into the world. Most writers would continue to fiddle with their books until the end of time if given the option, and publishers just can’t wait that long.

Editing is totally necessary. My books would be bad without it. So why do I hate it so much, then? I think it’s mostly because editing frustrates me. I don’t get the same sort of emotional exercise or whatever I get when I’m writing. For whatever reason, writing acts as a mood stabilizer for me. If I don’t write for a few weeks my family is basically shoving me back to my laptop. I become a huge, high-strung jerk. Believe me, it’s not pretty.

When I edit, that stabilizing effect doesn’t happen and it adds to my frustration of working on the same page over and over again and knowing that I’m not getting it quite right. I write another project while I’m editing, if I can, but that isn’t always an option.

There are some writers who love editing. They reserve the joy I have for first drafts for the editing process. They all seem like nice, well-adjusted people, so I feel like I shouldn’t tell them that they’re wrong, even if I think deep down that they are. When I tell them that editing, to me, feels like running in wet sand – a whole lot of energy expended and very little movement – they look at me funny. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

No matter what kind of writer you are, though, editing is always necessary. No one writes a perfect first draft. No one. So buck up, little camper, because you’re in for the long haul. I’ll give you a little example of how things work for me when writing and editing a novel:

  • Write draft.
  • Send to agent. He sends me edits. I rewrite draft. (Repeat process 3-5 times)
  • Cry. (Not really. Usually I just growl and complain, but most people cry, I think.)
  • Both of you throw up your hands and send it to your editor.
  • Editor calls you and you discuss the changes necessary and come up with a plan of action. (This stage is also generally repeated several times.)
  • Finally, you can move on to the next stage—hard copy of your book with notes from editor and copy editor. This stage is also repeated.
  • Manuscript is accepted for copyediting! Do a dance of happiness! Try not to think about the fact that you’ll have a few rounds of copyediting to do. Just dance instead.
  • Book has been formatted and looks great. Now copyedit it.  Again. And possibly, again.
  • Suppress urge to burn your novel.
  • The book is done! And if you’re like me, you’ll probably never want to read it again. You’ll just want to look at the shiny cover.

The stage where I edit with my agent might just be your own editing or editing with a group of beta readers. Also, my last book got kicked out of copyediting by marketing, which I didn’t know could happen, and so I had to repeat a few steps. All in all, I usually do 8-10 drafts of a novel. I’m a sloppy writer, though. You might take less. You might need more. It takes as many as it takes. I suggest getting one of those little stress balls. And maybe you should start jogging or something. You’re going to need it.

Homework: Look up your favorite authors and see what they have to say about editing. (Holly Black has a great blog post where she shows you a page diary of a book that she’s working on and it shows you how many times she deleted her work. It’s strangely comforting.) Many of them will talk about the drafting process and how hard it can be – and how necessary. Hearing other people’s stories can give you hope when facing your own editing woes. You’re not alone, friend. They might offer great tips as well. They might also tell you when you need to say no to an editor. I have a sweet deal with mine – we’re in sync, but that isn’t always the case. A poorly matched editor can do more damage than good on a manuscript, so keep that in mind. That being said, just because you don’t agree with an editing note it doesn’t mean it isn’t right. My agent likes to point this out to me all the time when I finally realize that he’s right about something. He’s nice about it, though.

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Lish McBride’s author website: www.lishmcbride.com

Lish McBride’s bio page

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Hold Me Closer, NecromancerNecromancing the Stone     Dark Hunter (Villain.Net)Across the UniverseBoys without NamesTracksShock Point

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

Why I Write Young Adult Novels, by Lish McBride

I get asked a lot why I write Young Adult fiction. My first reaction is always a split one – somewhere between humor and anger. I feel like I have to justify my genre because people don’t think it’s “real writing” or they think it’s “easy.” (Or quite often, they don’t even know what it is.) Sorry, friend, writing is writing. All of it is difficult. If it’s done right, it involves flaying open your soul and letting it pour out. Or, if you’re not into that kind of thing, at the very least it involves a lot of hours staring at a blank screen. The idea that writing for kids is easy is like the misguided notion that poetry is easier because it has fewer words. Really the opposite is true. You have to get every word exactly right in poetry. I’ve seen poets spend two hours talking about a single comma or the use of one white space. I don’t have that kind of patience or talent. Besides, my poetry is awful.

Mostly, though, I get angry on behalf of the reader. I’m sorry, but teens aren’t people? They don’t deserve good books and good writing? They don’t deserve to be taken seriously as an audience? That’s silly. Books when you’re a teen or younger have, in my humble opinion, more importance. At that age, stories form you. They make you. They change the way you think, the way you want to be. On some level, people know this. That’s why they try so hard to ban books for kids that harbor ideas they don’t condone. Kids internalize what they read on a level that most adults don’t. I want to ask the people that dismiss young adult and middle grade writing—didn’t you want to be taken seriously as a reader at that age? Didn’t it just chap your hide that all the “good books” were in the adult section and you had to wait years to read them?

It makes me so indignant, that it actually spills over the other side and I just start laughing. With every passing day I’m glad that my parents let me read whatever I wanted. That way when I ran out of the (then) small kid’s section, I didn’t have to wait to start reading the books for grown ups. You know, the books that aren’t dismissed.

I am jealous of teens now. They have some of the best stuff coming their way right now. The writing coming out of Young Adult and Middle Grade sections makes my imagination burn and my heart glow with pure, unabashed joy. There have always been writers and editors that take writing for kids seriously, but now they’re being let onto the playing field. It makes me happier than you can ever know to be part of that team. Someday, I would like to write some books for the adult section, but I will never, ever stop writing for teens. I love it too much.

Now, not everyone means to be dismissive of what I do. Some are honestly trying to be supportive…but they know so little about the genre that they don’t really understand what I’m talking about. So when I say what I do, they say things like, “Oh, like Twilight!” or “Maybe you’ll be the next Harry Potter!”

And yes, I would love to be a fictional teenage wizard. That would be amazing. Of course they mean J.K. Rowling, but I’m not going to correct them. I do correct them on the Twilight thing because, well, my book isn’t like Twilight. This is not a slight to those books—loads of people love them. Some loathe them. No matter how you feel, though, they got people to read young adult and fantasy and that’s a wonderful thing. I correct them, though, because my books aren’t even close in flavor to Twilight, just like they are leagues in a different direction than the Harry Potter books.

It’s not professional for me respond angrily when people get dismissive about young adult literature, and honestly, it’s just not in my nature. Being combative doesn’t make people change their minds. So I nod, smile, crack a joke, and then politely point out all the reasons why young adult literature knocks my metaphorical socks off.

I didn’t necessarily plan to start in young adult. I wanted to write for teens (and eventually, younger) but I thought you had to start out in adult and work your way into the kid’s section. I don’t know why I thought this, I just did. I was quite obviously wrong.

I’m glad the stories in my head are young adult. I’m even more thrilled that I get the opportunity to tell them. The teen audience has been great to me, as have the teen librarians and booksellers. Ladies and gentlemen, I tip my imaginary hat to you. You have let me do what I love, and I hope to keep doing it for a long time.

Homework: Think about a book that formed you as a young reader (if you are no longer a young reader). If you are a young reader, think about a book that has really influenced you lately. What made it so amazing? What can you do that is like that? What amazing story do you wish was out there for you to read? How can you write that book? Share that favorite read with someone. If you are an adult reader, has anything you’ve read as an adult had the same sort of emotional resonance?

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Lish McBride’s author website: www.lishmcbride.com

Lish McBride’s bio page

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United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

Australia (and beyond)

Hold Me Closer, NecromancerNecromancing the Stone     Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)SparkTarzan: The Greystoke LegacyAngel DustBlue is for Nightmares

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

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