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Taking the 2011 Debut Author Challenge

Twitter has been a time suck, no lie. But it's also been an awesome resource to find out about really cool things like The Story Siren's 2011 Debut Author Challenge.

The basic premise is that participants sign up to read and review 12 debut YA/MG novels, one for each month of the year. It's super easy to sign up and a great way to motivate myself to read more.

Here are my picks for the year, based unscientifically on what kind of buzz I've heard or how cool I think the title is. I haven't done any research, so unless I have already heard about it, I'm going on title alone. I may change my mind during the year, but this gives me a starting point.

January: Across the Universe by Beth Revis; I've heard some early buzz about this one and it sounds promising

February: How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen; funny title gets it picked

March: Entwined by Heather Dixon; sounds like it's a romance

April: Bump by Megan McCafferty; heard a l…

Why I Broke Up with NaNoWriMo and Decided to Just Be Friends

I know, I know. Last post I'm so cocky that I'll finish NaNoWriMo this year, even if it means I have to write 20,000 words in four days.

But as I was working on my NaNo manuscript, I realized something important. I wasn't having fun. Yeah, there are times when NaNoWriMo is as much fun as pulling a scab off, but it's still its own kind of masochistic fun.

The reason I'm not having fun is because my heart isn't into it. Last year, NaNoWriMo was exactly the kick in the pants I needed to write the YA novel kicking around in my brain. Trouble is, I'm still revising last year's manuscript. It's close to being done. Real close. So now's not the time to leave it at the party while I go off with the new manuscript. Not cool, man. Not cool at all.

And all I did with the new manuscript was tell it how great the old manuscript was. The new MC wasn't happy with that. She wants to speak with her voice, not some other MC's. She wants her story, not some r…

3 Reasons Why I'm Not Concerned That My NaNoWriMo Word Count Is Dismal

Maybe the end of October was a bad time to start screwing around with Twitter (I'm @YAWriterNews). Because now in November I find myself fiddling around with Twitter and tweets and whatnot instead cranking out those words.

But this is why I'm not worried (yet!):

1. I can write fast. Last year I cranked out around 5,000 words a day for the last 4 days of NaNoWriMo. While I don't recommend this for everyone, and I don't particularly want to repeat that feat, I can thank years of working in television production for the ability to write fast. Good is another thing. Good will come later.

2. I'm not afraid to rewrite (remember, good comes later). So I let myself go. "Dare to be stupid" was a great piece of writing advice I once read from Sue Grafton. And if there's any place to get stupid it's NaNoWriMo. This is not the time for self-editing. Good will come later.

3. I recognize that what I'm writing for NaNoWriMo is unpublishable. There's been som…

Dear Lucky Agent Contest Redux

Writers' Digest is hosting another "Dear Lucky Agent" contest for YA novels and tomorrow's the last day to enter! Guest judge Tamar Rydzinski at the Laura Dail Literary Agency will choose three winners who get a 10-page critique and a free one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com. Sweet!

Since I've gotten feedback on my YA novel, I've changed the title, the opening scene, and the tense that the novel's written in. I'm curious to know how the rewrite flies, so I'm going to submit and see how well it fares.

The rest of the novel still needs some tweaks, but it's pretty solid. This contest gives me the opportunity to give my novel (at least the first 150-200 words) a test drive before I do the serious agent querying.

The query is another thing I worked on during my hiatus. I've completely rewritten it at least a dozen times. Getting feedback on my YA novel really helped me articulate what the novel is about and now I'm pretty happy with th…

NaNoWriMo Rides Again

So I took a hiatus there for awhile. Spent some time rewriting a screenplay. Got some fabulous feedback on the YA novel. And now it's November again. Which means ...

NaNoWriMo!

I'm working on the fifth rewrite of the YA novel from last year's NaNo-extravaganza (which will be referred to from now on as YA1), but I decided to plow ahead and start on a new YA novel (which will referred to as YA2). It's an idea that I've been kicking around for awhile and I'm pretty excited about it. Although I have no idea what's going to happen. That's part of the excitement.

There are some cons to working on YA2 while revising YA1. Mixing voice and tone is the biggie. My character in YA2 is younger, but more jaded. I also was going to write YA2 in third person, but it came out as first person. Probably because YA1 is first person and that's what I've gotten used to. This will probably mean a huge tense rewrite in the future. (Has Word developed an Tense Change funct…

5 Time Wasting Websites You Should Visit

I've finished up the fourth draft of the NaNoWriMo novel. Well, pretty much. I make revisions on a hard copy and then I type them in, futzing a bit with it along the way. This should take me a week. At most.

But I'm almost 2 weeks in and still plugging along. I blame summer. I could blame lots of things, but let's stick with summer, with its sunshine and beaches and frozen lemonades.

Since I'm not working as diligently as I should, I thought I'd share some of my favorite time wasting websites with you.

1. Hot Guys Reading Books
I recently found this one through NPR's website. Way to go NPR! You're not as high-brow as I thought you were! The website offers exactly what it promises and makes for a nice diversion.

2. Double-Tongued Dictionary
Grant Barrett is co-host of A Way with Words, a great podcast about words and how people use them, and everyone should listen to it. They should also check out Grant's website on the latest words and phrases that are …

Free YA Audiobooks? Where Do I Sign Up?

Actually, you don't have to sign up. Or register. Or do anything but download free Young Adult audiobooks from Sync.

Sync is offering two free audiobooks this summer on their website from July 1 - September 1, 2010. Their selections are a matched pair, a reading list title with one fun read. A week later the next pair goes live. The 1st pair is James Patterson's The Angel Experiment with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which sounds pretty freaking awesome to me.

Librarians, educators, and bloggers are encouraged to spread the word. There's a PR tool kit with banners and posters and other goodies to help. There is also an audiobook community that you can join (if you really must sign up for something) to share ideas and social network with other audiobookphiles. Or whatever you call people who love audiobooks.

Happy listening!

Stop Words That Kill Fiction

I'm on draft 4 of the NaNoWriMo novel. Still some big stuff to go, but I've been looking at some of little things, too. Like the words that totally creep into my writing without me even noticing. But actually not the first couple of times I've revised. Draft 4, yeah, they're pretty much popping up a lot and now I just really want to get rid of them.

Did you notice the stop words in the above paragraph? There are at least half of dozen sprinkled in. Stop words are one of concepts I learned in library school. These are words so common they don't rate on a search (such as "the" or "a"). And as a writer, they're the words I don't even realize I've written. But stop words in fiction are like bits of gravel that choke the flow of the story.

Since I'm writing YA, there is a fair amount of "I totally couldn't understand" or "I just want to be left alone" because many of these stop words are specific to a type …

My First Rejection

So I didn't win the contest with the awesome prize of a 10-page read by Regina Brooks. Does this mean I curl up with a box of Ho-Ho's and cry uncontrollably? Or trash my entire novel because the first 200 words failed to grab the judge's attention? No and no (although don't me get wrong, Ho-Ho's are awesome). I've been doing this too long to let a blog contest get me down.

How long have I been doing this? Well, I won't get into actual years, but let's say it was before blog contests existed. Or blogs. Or the internets.

But this current rejection made me think about my first big rejection, and that's actually a pretty good story. So I'll share.

I was an English major at UCLA with vague plans of being a writer. I heard about a creative writing class taught by Irish author Brian Moore. This class was an audition class ... everyone had to submit a story and the names of those admitted to the class would be posted on a bulletin board shortly before t…

Enter a Contest to Test Drive Your Novel

I love contests! Back in my screenwriting days, I did pretty well with them. The biggie was winning a spot as a Disney/ABC Television Writing Fellow. But I was also in the Warner Bros. Writers Workshop, CBS Writers Mentoring Program, a finalist at Austin Film Festival, and a semi-finalist at Slamdance.

Am I bragging? Maybe a little bit. But these are my credits and they're on Google for anyone to see.

Now that I'm switching to children's/YA lit, I'm checking out the contests available in this genre. Because contests are a great way to test drive your manuscript. Of course, the manuscript has to be the absolute best it can be by the deadline. And for me, having a deadline was always a good kick in the pants to get a manuscript as sparkly as it could be.

I've noticed that there are a load of blog contests offered by agents or editors with a prize of a five or ten page critique. These contests have short entry times, usually a week, and contestants have to post about the…

Building a Platform. Who? Me?

Book Review:
Get Known Before the Book Deal
by Christina Katz

When I started this blog, it was with a vague notion that I had to had one. Because these days you can't be a serious writer without one. Or so I've read in blogs. So going back to the old chestnut, 'Write what you know,' I decided to blog about writing and library stuff. Platform done, right? Uh, no.

I came across Christina Katz's book at the library where I work, but decided to invest in a copy for my own personal library. It's mostly geared toward nonfiction writers, but there are a few nuggets that apply to the fiction writer, too.

Platform Building Golden Nugget #1: Christina's definition of platform makes gobs of sense, "The word platform simply describes all the ways you are visible and appealing to your future, potential, or actual readership." That could be the writer's blog, Twitter account, website, teaching, podcasts, articles, etc., etc., etc. Your platform should reflect y…

Rewriting the NaNoWriMo Novel

It hardly seems like it's been three months since I was cranking out 5,000 words a day to finish NaNoWriMo on time. But now I have a little more perspective about my novel and the pros and cons of writing a first draft during NaNoWriMo.

First of all, I knew there was a lot of junk in the novel. The needless lists and random song lyrics are all part of the NaNoWriMo ethos. Get that word count up by all means necessary. And in revision mode, that's an easy fix. Just delete. Done. No damage to the actual story.

And all the "something something to be filled in later"s were another easy fix. Now I've been able to go back and do the time-consuming research that I skipped over during that crazy month of November.

Much of what I skipped over were little personalization touches, the kind that can consume me because I need to get it just right. I knew that in an important scene, one of characters was wearing a band t-shirt. But which band? That can says tons about the char…

Character Playlist: What Would Keely Listen To?

My absolute favorite character building exercise was creating a playlist for my main character. It's good way to get into her head and differentiate hervoice from my voice (which can sneak in more than I like to admit). I have to remember that my MC is a contemporary 17 year old, which means she was born in 1993. Smells Like Teen Spirit is an oldie to her. So I've had to push myself and discover what kind of music she'd listen to.


Here's some background about Keely (my MC):
she considers herself to be emo-liteshe lives in a small town in Arizona with her mom and grandmothershe's a senior in high school and thinks a lot about the future
Based on that, I decided on these perimeters of her musical taste:
her favorite band is Green Dayshe likes Johnny Cash because her grandmother doesshe listens to a few '80s band because her mom listens to them (Police, Violet Femmes, The Cure, etc.)she likes songs that are a little rebellious but not too dark
Last 10 Songs Played o…