WIP and Muses: Am I Writing YA?

This is a question I recently asked myself as I fleshed out a new scene for my story, and I’m kind of shocked with the answer. Yes… yes, I think I am writing YA. It’s not that I think YA is bad, not at all (as a matter of fact, I’m currently reading a YA book called The Dark Part of the Forest by Holly Black), it just isn’t my favorite genre out there. So I’m a little surprised that this is what it’s becoming.

Have you ever written something and it just fell into a specific tone and voice?

I think the reason it’s looking more YA is because the major arc is basically character growth and can be boiled down to a coming-into-your-own/ coming-of-age story. To me, that qualifies a YA novel… even though I do want to throw in racy and violent scenes. I’ve read some YA that’s a little darker than most, so maybe that’s the category it’ll fall into.

I’ve made some steady progress on my Sentinel Crooke and Company story. I’ve mentioned this story to you before, but I realized I haven’t given you a straight up synopsis. It’s about a boy and his best friend, a little otherworldly creature called Felonfleur. Together, they travel between worlds and help capture displaced animals and humans and return them back to their home worlds. They’re like animal control meets spiderman- doing good and helping others all while trying to stay relatively anonymous.

There’s also political intrigue, side plots about where Sentinel and Felonfleur came from, and a ton of great supporting characters. I kind of love them all. I think, if it ever comes down to it, if I ever try and publish this story I’ll at least self-publish. It’s such a fun world and I really think it’s a story worth telling.

(I wish I could say the same about the story I’m currently editing D: It’s a beast of an edit and yes, I’m still trying to polish this piece of coal into something coherent… but we’ll see what happens).

I’ve also decided to start ANOTHER little goal for myself. I am currently reading Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. I want to start writing short stories again and I think I’m going to shoot for a goal of one a week, just like Bradbury. It’s kind of a tall order, especially with blogging, work, and novel writing at the same time, but I truly think Bradbury is on to something. There’s a quote from Bradbury that goes like this:

 

“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

 

I like what he means here- I’m totally down with this challenge. Short stories are the stepping stone to novels, and writing so often not only develops your craft, but it also provides ideas. Let’s see what happens!

WIP and Muses: Am I Writing YA?

Exposition: What is it, How to Make it Work, and What to Avoid

“Oh my, your writing is so descriptive.”

Chances are, if you are reading this post, you’ve heard that accolade before. But is it really a compliment or is it just a thinly veiled criticism that you’re not that good of a storyteller?

Yep. No sugar coating today, folks.

But really… poorly done exposition isn’t bad writing, really, it’s just lazy. And lazy writing doesn’t make for happy readers. I’m going to tell you exactly why it’s so frowned upon and what types of exposition are actually expected in your stories and how to avoid bad exposition.

But first things first: What is exposition?

Exposition, as a literary device, is a passage that gives the reader information about the world, the characters, or the plot. Some examples would be: chapter openings in which the stage is set and the setting is described, or a dialogue between two characters that explains one character’s motivations, or flashbacks that answer the ever-present question- Why?


The thing about Exposition is that it is 100% necessary, but it’s also easy to mess up. Poorly done exposition is as conspicuous as if someone were to hand you a platter of flaming dog shit and say, “hey man, it’s just a prank.” You don’t want to be so heavy handed with your exposition that reading your book is like listening in on an awkward chat around a water cooler. Yes, there is a lot of exposition that needs to happen- especially if you’re like me and love to write fantasy novels. So how do you do it correctly?

 

What to Avoid

Info-Dumping Dialogue– If your characters are talking to each other about things that they should already know, you’re info-dumping. It’s not realistic, it’s not believable, it’s not fun to read.

Ex) Mel: Hey, Mandy, how are you? I haven’t seen you since you owned that traveling hat shop. I remember how successful you were until that accident with the thief and the three-legged dog. So, now you own a detective agency?

Mandy: I do. I opened it last year, and actually ended up employing the thief. That was Jericho out there in the lobby. How can I help you?

Mel: Well, ever since my husband died I’ve been having trouble with our neighbors. They hate my dragon-breeding business. It might have something to do with their sheep that go missing, but I doubt it. I think it’s personal. You know how I get. I’m not going to back down without a fight. I need those dragons for the upcoming trade show, so I’ll do anything I can to shut the neighbors up.

Mandy: I’ll see what I can do, but I doubt you can afford me, Mel. Since your business has been suffering and your husband isn’t around to help with your dragons.

Mel: You’re a lot meaner since I saw you last at the funeral, Mandy. Say… could you at least introduce me to Jericho? Is he single?

See? Don’t do expository dialogue. It’s boring. Even if you include dragons.

 

LOTS of Explanatory Text– I can practically hear you say, “But how do you know this is just exposition? What if I need it?”

Do you?! DO YOU?!

No really- ask yourself: “What other purpose does this passage serve?”

If you can’t answer ANYTHING besides world building, then we have a problem. Does it provide insight to the characters history? Does it introduce a plot point subtly? Does it foreshadow something you’ll see later on? Yes? Fine. Keep it. But if all it does is set a scene, find a better way to do it. All scenes should accomplish something. If describing all the pearly dewdrops on the flowers in your quaint town is there to “set the stage,” you can do better. You will do better.

 

What’s that? Was that a Coincidence?– Just stop. Stop right there. If you’re throwing info into your book in the style of coincidence, then I will just have to take your computer away. Or your notebook. Whatever.

Either way, providing information in such a way doesn’t add to the story and therefore should be SHUNNED. You can see coincidental passages take form in scenes that have: a fortuitously placed news article that includes the perfect bit of info the character needs, or possibly in passersby like NPCs in video games that drop that perfect tip your character needs, or side characters that were created just to pass this bit of info along.

Real life isn’t coincidental so don’t make your characters suffer that boring life… or your poor readers.

 

What to Do

Show Don’t Tell– This is an age-old piece of advice for writers, but how it applies to exposition is this: long blocks of text telling your reader what’s up is 1) boring, and 2) patronizing. Sure, we can all imagine each glittering scale on the dragon’s back, but instead of pointing out each one, simplify it. Pretend your readers can imagine it and let them fill in the blanks. Let them imagine the shape of the scales or the undulating belly as the dragon breaths. You don’t have to tell them it’s underbelly is a different color than it’s scales… they’ll probably figure it out themselves. Give your readers just enough to set up the scene and then -BAM- make them do the rest of the work. They’ll like it, I promise.

This immerses them more in the story than it would if you described every piece of info right away. Which brings me to…

 

Break it Up– Okay, you have a super involved alternate reality/fantasy/scifi world that just HAS to be described or else your readers will never understand. That spaceship? You need to give them a layout or it just WON’T make sense. There are passageways, and crawl spaces, and hidden doors—

Yes, I get it. Sometimes you have a world so expansive you have to describe it all for it to make sense. So break it up. For example: JK Rowling didn’t explain the Room of Requirement until the fifth book of HP (I’m pretty sure, don’t be mean if I’m wrong), but she alluded to it in the fourth. She didn’t wait to explain it until Harry came upon it even though he had been in the school for five years. Death Eaters weren’t explained right when Lord Voldemort was mentioned, Harry’s birth place (Godric’s Hollow) wasn’t mentioned until a couple of books in even though the series started with him as an infant coming directly from that home. Enough examples, you get it, just make sure you explain info that’s pertinent to the moment/direct story and you should be fine. Foreshadowing is cool, too, just don’t get too wordy.

 

Conflict Conflict Conflict– The long and short of it, is this: don’t allow any exposition if there isn’t any conflict included. You need to move your story forward with every paragraph, every sentence. Whether it is dialogue, scene setting, or a flashback, keep your readers guessing about what’s going to happen next. This can only happen if there is SOME sort of conflict. It doesn’t have to be a person vs person kind of conflict, either. It could be environmental (why are the flowers suddenly covered with ash instead of dew drops?), plot-based (he can only talk to the wizard about mundane topics because the wizard lost most of his sanity after a failed spell… or did he?), or character-based (when writing from a first person POV, the narrative says a lot about the character).

 

See? Not so gnarly. It’s totally doable. I know you can wrangle exposition into it’s useful, clever self. Just don’t let it run wild. It ain’t pretty when it’s wild.


Photos from pexels.com

Exposition: What is it, How to Make it Work, and What to Avoid

WIP and Muses: Video Games and Slippery Brains

Oh my gawd… PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, writerly friends, tell me about how you edit your first drafts. I am having a crisis.

I know what my end goal is, I know what I’m supposed to be doing, I know each and every little step I have to take to spiffy up this novel… but my story Dreamcage has completely lost any sort of appeal to me as I go through this first edit. I have no affection for it. I look at it and I spit in its general direction. What is going on here? Why is it so bad? I feel like an imposter pretending to be something I’m not when I see how much red is on the screen.

And hey, this isn’t even copyedits/line edits. This is just plot and structure.

Hold me.

Yes, I need a mood lifter and I need to hear how you guys go about your editing process. I’m honestly astounded at how un-fun this is for me because I LOVE editing (it’s my day job, too). I love tearing apart other people’s writing and figuring out how to make it really shine. But when it comes to my stuff? PFFTTTT NOPE IT’LL NEVER SHINE- IT’S DRIVEL… WORTHLESS… ugh. And it’s intellectually exhausting.

Me looking at the drivel I call a story.

This whole experience has made me a little gun shy when it comes to just running into a story. I started to plot my next story in a well-thought out outline because I’m kinda terrified of having such a mess of a story to edit again. I mean, I don’t think I’ll ever be a true outliner, I’ll always be a discovery writer, but what about a hybrid? I’m trying to make that transition into a better outliner because this editing is brutal.

Because of this, I haven’t gotten farther in any short stories or anything. I’ve tried a few soft starts and just ended up X-ing out of the document before my idea could come to fruition. Every sentence I type sounds so lame. So stupid. As I type, all I can see in the back of my mind is that sea of red track changes from Dreamcage, practically laughing at my ability to format a story.

But, on the bright side, I’m about 1/3 of the way through these structural/plot edits…

Give me strength…

I don’t have many muses this week because I’m so disheartened. I have fallen back into video games as a way to still my mind, because with my outlining and my editing I think my brain’s going to slip out my ears. I’m almost done with FFXV (WHHHEEEEEEEEEEE!) and I think I might try the new Friday the 13th game. Or something. I just need something calming. Something that doesn’t require too much thought (SEE YA BLOODBORNE).

Also, I’ve been reading Chuck Wendig’s blog a lot for inspiration and support. He’s such a cool writer. If you guys haven’t, check out his posts HERE. He has a ton of great ideas and musings and just wants to support the writerly community. He’s boss.

WIP and Muses: Video Games and Slippery Brains

Guilty Pleasure Reads

You only need to look at mainstream media/bookstores in order to figure out what a guilty pleasure read is. At a glance, literary magazines and websites can tell you all the things you should be reading, but a guilty pleasure read is one that does not make that list.

Where’s the fun in that? Life is genuinely too short to read things you don’t really like and just picked it up because that’s what the literary world is telling you to read.

I used to read books because they were different or because they opened up my world to new frames of thought/genres or, if I’m being 100% honest with you, because they were “bad” and I could learn how NOT to write a novel from them. But you know what? Good books (aka, books you actually want to read) can do most of that, too. Genre books can surprise you by actually teaching you something.

There are a fair few book types that I typically reach for or have been completely obsessing over because they just bring me so much joy. I consider them guilty pleasures because they’re not exactly in the top tier in conventional “literary marvels,” but to hell with conventions. I just want to read what makes me happy and so should you. Before I prattle on about my own guilty pleasure reads, let me know which books/genres/archetypes you look for in your guilty pleasure reads. I’d love to hear it 🙂

 

Hick Lit/ Country Noir

Lol.

Bet you didn’t see this coming. Because let’s be honest… who has even heard of this genre?

But for real, I adore hick lit(erature)/ country noir. It’s a throwback to growing up in the South… there’s nothing like a hot, sticky summer where people live in a small town and are (in general) not very well off. The few novels that I’ve read in this category are typically horror/ thriller novels. The most well-known would be Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell- it was made into a movie featuring J Law and takes place in a desolate, backwoods setting. Another accomplished author in this genre would be Cormac McCarthy. He’s a master at depicting just what it’s like to have to survive in the country- no frills, no pretenses. My favorite most recent reads would be The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis and The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock.


Fantasy Retellings

^_^ This genre makes me happy.

When I’m not in the mood for something gritty, I reach for a book based off of a classic fairytale or a fable. I’m a sucker for stories based on mythology, fantasy creatures, or old tales because despite all of the hardships the characters have to endure, you know they’re going to prevail. The book that got me into this genre is East by Edith Pattou, which is based on the fairytale East of the Sun, West of the Moon. It’s a beautifully written novel with as much courage, hope, and beauty as a fairytale can have.

The only issue I have with most retellings, however, is that they’re typically marketed to YA readers… and I understand the reason behind it, but sometimes I just want an adult read. So please let me know some good retellings that may be marketed more for adults 🙂 or if there are any YA ones that are really well written, please suggest them!

 

Dragons

I don’t really care what anyone says, but dragons are such a guilty pleasure of mine because I LOVE anything dragons. I read Eragon, The Hobbit, the Temeraire series, and obsessed over DRoP (Dragonriders of Pern, if you aren’t familiar) through my entire teenage years. Dragons are pretty much a staple in fantasy, but I adore them… and if I’m honest with myself, it’s hard to find a story that portrays dragons a bit differently. A lot of portrayals are essentially mirror images of McCaffrey’s Pern- to many that would be a problem… But to me, it just gives me more material to read. So thank you, dragon writers!

Guilty Pleasure Reads

WIP and Muses: Create-your-own-adventure App, 1st Drafts, and Metallica

Welp, my work day started at 6 am this morning… how about yours?

It’s been an eventful week and is going to get even MORE eventful come tonight.

I have a few writerly updates that I’m THRILLED to share with you.

I finished my first draft of my story Dreamcage. It’s still very rough, but first drafts are supposed to be. I’m figuring out my editing plan this weekend because boy is this baby going to give me a headache. I have to restructure a bunch of scenes/ the placement of the scenes and I finally, FINALLY came to the conclusion that the idea that birthed the story to begin with (the actual dreamcage bit) has to go. So, I’m reworking the title and killing off all my darlings and getting down to the nitty gritty of the actual story. I don’t feel like its publishable, but it’s possible this is just my reaction to the shitty first draft… or maybe it is actually shitty. We’ll find out. I’m still learning how to write a novel, so anything can happen.

I’m also working on a Create-your-own-adventure story/App to go with it and I’m THRILLED THRILLED THRILLED. This game is essentially a prequel to the Dreamcage story, but it lets you, the reader, actually make decisions that you’ll see in the actual novel story. I’m super excited about it. It’ll take a few months to finish it, but that’ll be the time I also edit the original story and will hopefully have them ready for the public at the same time.

I’m ALSO outlining another story/trilogy that I’ve been having fun imagining for months. It’s based off of a short story I wrote that I just kinda vomited out with my stream-of-consciousness aflowin. It was just fun for me, and now I have this whole world built around it. I usually like to know the ending to my stories before I start writing, and I’m genuinely trying to outline this because there’s sooooo much involved in it, but outlining kills the fun of the story for me. I don’t know… we’ll see how far I get with the outline, right?

Aaaand I wrote a short story this week. It’s a retelling of Cinderella, but the French version of the Fairytale called Mary-in-the Ashes. It’s very dark and the style isn’t as crisp as I want yet, but I only did the first draft. Here’s an excerpt of the story:

Mary would never forget the day her mother died. The air was prickly with heat and the static of an incoming storm. She was at her mother’s bedside that morning with a cool cloth in hand to fight the fever, and to wring in her hands as she prayed. When her prayers to God went unanswered, she prayed to her King. Such a good royal family, she had once thought, but no doctors came. Finally, she prayed to the woods that surrounded their beautiful home. She thought that maybe, after all the time she and her parents had spent in this land cultivating the woods and the verdant fields around it, that whatever spirits within would help. On that last day, as she sat by her mother’s bedside and listened to every rattling breath, something in her shattered. Her young heart was shaken by the shadow of a wraith that remained of her once beautiful mother, so she fled from their home and into the woods, calling, beseeching the forest for help.

But, as you know, being a writer isn’t all writing. It’s also experiencing the world, because that’s where our inspiration comes from. That’s how we build the words and scenarios bouncing around in our heads. To that effect, I have a weekend FILLED with fun stuff that will hopefully help me relax and absorb all of the things that keep writers writing.

I’m going to a Metallica concert (my second one, wheeeeee!!!!) with one of my best friends for a hard rockin girl’s night out, and I’m also traveling to Boston for a day to do couple-y writerly things with my guy. We are homebodies through-and-through, but sometimes we like to do day trips, and we’re celebrating his acquisition of an amazing new truck with a trip to the city on a hot summer day.

Let me know what you guys do to get your creative juices flowing! Sometimes a walk through nature, listening to certain types of music, or revisiting your childhood home is enough to awaken your creativity. I’d love to hear what you guys have planned.

WIP and Muses: Create-your-own-adventure App, 1st Drafts, and Metallica

Uplifting Fantasy Reads Book Club


Today I’m starting something new for a number of reasons:

  • I’ve totally fallen off the reading bandwagon.
  • This world lacks hope. And we’re going to find it in books!

I’ve seen a bunch of book clubs started since the past US election that revolve around dystopian themes. There’s Youtuber Sanna from Books and Quills “End of the World” book club in which they read post-apocalyptic, apocalyptic, or dystopian novels- they actually just read A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (which sounds really good btw). There’s also a bunch of dystopian-related book recommendation videos on Youtube ranging from YA to Adult Fiction, all because of the despondent atmosphere that has developed due to the political upheavals happening all over the world.

For me, it’s times like these in which I can’t bring myself to read such disheartening works. Being immersed in such dark, hopeless themes both inside of and outside of reality is depressing. It dampens my creativity and my soul. It might be because I’m just super sensitive, but when I’m constantly berated by such negativity it gets incredibly depressing. I already have enough of that in my life, thank you very much.

So, with that in mind, I’ve cultivated a list of novels that are some of the more hopeful and uplifting in the YA/adult fantasy world.

These include novels I have read and novels I plan on reading. If you feel like joining in and reading along with me (I’ll be posting reviews over the next couple weeks), follow me on Goodreads!

And once you’ve gone through the list, let me know which books you’d add/take away… I may edit my list a bit if you have some good suggestions 🙂

Uplifting Books I Have Read/ Can Vouch For:

Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein

The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Books I Plan to Read/Hope to Vouch For/Were Recommended:

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones

Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore

Redwall by Brian Jacques

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

Uplifting Fantasy Reads Book Club

May TBR and Comforting Reads

Hey there, happy May!

I can’t tell you how genuinely HAPPY I am that April is over- I don’t know about you guys, but April is probably the worst month out of the entire year for me.

I attribute its general sense of crappiness to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and to the world just being totally out of whack between seasons. Generally, spring is touted as this month of renewal, rebirth, and change… there’s Easter, you see the last bit of snow usually, and sometimes you can even start your gardens/start seeing little blooms and blossoms.

But really… everything/everyone just seems to die. Not to be morbid, but it’s just a month full of loss and decay. I got through the month reading a TON of books, actually, and all of them were more comforting than anything.

I started the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik and I also started the Discworld series by Terry Prachett. Both of these series are just so lighthearted and endearing. I read two books out of each series and fully plan on continuing both series into May.

I think this means my next two books will be The Black Powder War and Equal Rites.

I also plan to continue The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater. Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third in the series and the next in line for me. I didn’t expect to enjoy this series so much- I read Shiver by Stiefvater when I was younger (it was one of the two books my brother has ever given to me as a gift… I consider it an honor he went in and bought this UBER feminine looking book all by himself). It wasn’t to my taste really, but The Raven Cycle is a series I find myself thinking about a surprising amount. I love how fleshed out the characters are… and the Southern vibes of the book aren’t your typical backwater setting. It kind of romanticizes living in the South which is all right with me!

What are you reading this month? Do you have any “comfort” books that you could throw my way? I’d take any and all suggestions- after last month, I think we all need a good, long soak in a bath and a heartwarming novel between our fingertips.

Live,

Morgan

May TBR and Comforting Reads