Book reviews & writing tips from a wannabe YA writer
Last week, I started reading the cobbled-together monster that is my NaNoWriMo 2008 novel. Let me just say this: WOW. It reminds me of what my dog might create if I gave her some blank paper and her own excrement to spread around. Anne Lamott was not wrong, no sirree:
Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts…I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Still, it’s hard not to be completely demoralized by the stark contrast between my novel and the fabulous creation I’m currently reading, Broken Soup.
But the awesomeness that is Jenny Valentine gave me an idea. You know how in middle school, to learn proper grammar your English teacher made you diagram sentences until your eyes crossed? It sucked, and I am totally not condoning such heartless torture of defenseless kids. But I have to admit—and please don’t tell any teachers this—that it kind of, sort of, maybe helped me learn grammar.
Could I “diagram” a great novel to learn how to de-suckify my own novel? Kind of like taking apart a car engine to learn how it all works together?
Leave a comment to chime in with your thoughts on whether this is viable:
Photo by miconian.
I decided to write the craziest sentence I could think of without judging it too much.
It’s such a simple idea, but the more I think about it, it’s frickin’ BRILLIANT.
Because when you sit down to write—after you’ve killed time on Facebook and used a toothpick to flick, flick, flick out the crumbs between the keys on your keyboard—what’s the biggest obstacle to getting words on the page? That pesky internal critic, right?
So if you start out by writing the craziest sentence you can think of, you’ve given yourself permission to let the craziness continue. You’ve set the crazy bar. That internal critic will still be there, of course, but that first sentence can be the shiny object you distract her with. Make it so crazy she’ll go on about it for days and days before she gets around to noticing what you’re writing after that.
Let’s try it. To start us off, here’s the first sentence of Savvy:
When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he’d caused it.
I’ll go first, but I know you can be crazier than this:
Okay, now go crazy! And please share your craziness in comment form!
Photo by barefootinfla1.
It seems like every writing how-to book I pick up says adverbs need to make like a tree and leave. (We’ll save lame metaphors for another day.)
I’ve been keeping an eye out for adverbs while I read, but I have a feeling that finding them is just the preheat part of the recipe for YA greatness.
It’s time to practice killing these puppies.
Let’s go back to the last book I didn’t finish, ghostgirl. The main character Charlotte is trying to sign up for cheerleader tryouts. Adverbs are in bold.
As she started writing the “C,” she was tapped harshly on the shoulder. Charlotte stopped writing and turned to see who was interrupting her first task of the day—no, of her new life—and then saw a line of girls who had been “camped out” all night waiting to sign up. The gathering resembled less of a tryout than a casting call.
The obnoxious candidate looked her over from head to toe, grabbed the pen, and simultaneously wrote her name in and Charlotte off. She then opened her hand and let the pen mercilessly drop the length of the string.
Charlotte watched the pen sway against the wall like a hanged man.
I don’t think these adverbs add much extra, but do you just get rid of them? Do you rewrite to make sure you don’t lose important meaning?
How would you rewrite this excerpt?