Friday, July 29, 2011

Gotta Be In It to Win It

The truth about contests, as in Life or anything else you want to succeed in, is that you've got to be in it to win it. Yeah, I mean that figuratively in the "if you want something badly enough, it'll come to you!" way, but, really, what I'm want you to get away from this post is that, you've literally got to put yourself out there if you hope to get what you want.

Have you ever heard the old saying, "ask and ye shall receive?" If you've read the Bible or know anyone whose spiritual, you've probably heard this a lot in your youth. At the core of this philosophy is the thought that, if you really want something, you'll request it. (I'll tell you a story about that in a little bit.) There's nothing wrong with asking. You won't be penalized for commenting, or filling out a form, or querying, or whatever. Because before you asked, you had a 0% chance of getting what you wanted, but as soon as you put yourself out there, you increased your chances of getting a yes by 50%. Of course... depending on what you've asked for, your chances could increase or decrease statistically speaking, but... uh... I'm gonna jump into that story now.

There was some gift giving holiday coming up. I forget if it was Christmas or my birthday to be honest. But there was a book I really wanted and my mom knew I wanted it. She asked me, though, if there was anything else she should "keep her eye on" while she was out, but I (thinking she'd already picked up Charlie Bone Book 5) told her that there wasn't anything else I could think of. You see where this is going, right? I open my gifts to find said book missing from my loot pile. I was disappointed, sure, but my mom just said, "Well you didn't ask!" as if that was an excuse for not getting the book I was really looking forward to reading.

I've been having a lot of luck lately with contests and things, but it's because I put a lot of faith in the "ask and ye shall receive" mantra. God handles the things that need to be handled for me; and all I have to do is ask him to.

Deserae McGlothen

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Writing Independence Project--- Another WIP

Crazily, people assume that a writer is free to do whatever he or she wants to, and what they don't realize include the following:

-Getting words on paper is not the same thing as getting the right words on paper.
-Revising is about 70% of the process. There is writing (yay!) and then there's revising (aww!). Writing (woot!)... and then revising (shoot!).
-Our strengths don't often outshine our weaknesses, and we are fighting, continually, to grow while trying to move forward, too.
-We have characters who are trying to take over our brains, lives, and plot, even though we keep telling them, "You crazy Fool! I'm the writer!!!"

So the truth is, finding some independence is kind of hard. At least, it is for me. I mean, the day I say writing feels like a job, I promise, I'll throw in the towel, but what I'm saying is, the most freedom I have when it comes to any one manuscript is the creative license of coming up with the idea that sparks the story and gets a book from point A (the start) to point B (the finish). I know it sounds stupid to say that what comes in between is a result of fervish first drafts and cooky characters, but that's kind of how it works. Sorry if that doesn't make sense, but I had to flesh that out before I got to the point.

THE POINT is this: I'm trying something out. As you know, I'm working on my latest WIP and, right now, I'm in love. I say that because I have the habitual habit of falling out of love when I think the project's getting hard, and that usually happens when I'm getting to something that's theoretically "the good part." What I LOVE about first drafts is that none of it is permanent. What I HATE about first drafts is that it never comes out right the first time! So me and writing?... we're something of a paradox. I'm learning to break those walls (my writing blocks. Get it?! Ha! I'm so unfunny!), and this thing I'm trying out is giving myself some independence when I write. Letting my story know that, for the first draft at least, I'm the boss.

It's hard because of two things. The first is, I'm afraid I'm going to be hindering a certain fluid-like something in my manuscript. Honestly, when the story writes itself, that's when you know the world has taken shape and your characters have gotten a chance at a life in it. What I'm hoping, though, is that getting the words down to just shape the dang thing will be enough to give the characters some ideas. If they don't like mine, they can change them in revisions, but at least we'll have a backbone, you know? You don't know? You might know?

The second thing I'm afraid of is the Disney effect. Don't get me wrong. I love Disney (the channel and the Walt!). But they have this mechanic way of setting up jokes, movement, and plot progression. I don't want to play puppet master as I go through the first draft, just for the sake of getting words on the page, but what I'm hoping is that knowing that's something I want to avoid will, you know, help me avoid it. And if it doesn't, I'm thinking positively of revisions. This manuscript CAN be resurrected if I screw up, I tell you! Yeah!

I just realized my biggest fear is that I'm going to mess everything up, and need to rely on revisions to pull me out of a hole. Revising, as you may have guessed, is a bittersweet part of the process for me. Bitter because it's the hardest bit of work I have to do--- analyzing, judging, and reevaluating every word I've written makes me a little self-conscious, I'll admit it. But it's also sweet because I can literally see improvement happening as I go. So as I work on letting go, I'm also going to be learning to trust myself to mess up. Remind me this: You can always fix it later.

Deserae McGlothen

Friday, July 1, 2011

On Morals and Consequence

Welcome to July, everyone. I hope the year has treated you well thus far. I've been away from the blogosphere for a while now, so I've been catching up on my "reading" and came across this post by a gal who is wise beyond her years (even though she won't admit it). The thing is, it's got me thinking about YA and where I fit into it. And if I have the guts to write for that audience. And whether or not writing for that audience is really about guts at all.

You see, I'm a Christian. I love the Lord and follow the commandments of his Word. So it's true that a lot of the times, my own beliefs and values--- my own morals and my own view of the world--- comes into and effects my writing. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing. In fact, I think that if you're going to be a writer, it's probably because you A.) have a story to tell, or B.) have an opinion/ view of the world to share. My perspective is unique and therefore isn't a bad thing to want to share, but... do you ever notice the people who have an opinion and are, like, adamantly and passionately intent on you sharing it with them?

The post kind of touched on the fact that, on the one hand, YA aims not to be preachy. It wants to reach as wide of an audience as it possibly can. It doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. It wants to make everyone happy. But, on the other hand, most YA comes with the hidden message that, if you do bad things, there will be bad consequences. And I admit it--- a lot of the time when you're reading YA, you come across these things that sound like your mother. "Don't have sex or you'll get pregnant!" "Don't do drugs or you'll overdose!" "Don't drink alcohol or you'll get in a car accident!" "Wash your hands or you'll die of malaria!"

Here's the thing: I don't believe in sex, drugs, and rock and roll as a lifestyle choice. I have never tolerated the "it's just one time!" approach, or the "live every day like it's your last!" method. I'm never going to write about unprotected sex or getting high "wid da homies." I can't. Partly because I wouldn't know what it was like, but also because, yeah, I have these moralistic ideas that prevent me from wanting to write about it. But let's say I did write about those things. Do you honestly think that just because my characters want to have sex, get high, and die in car crashes, that I, personally, am endorsing those things?
Heck to the freaking no.

And double heck no.

Just because an author writes about these things, doesn't necessarily mean they think you should go out and do them. When a writer is good, their characters take on lives of their own, and it's then that they start making their own choices and shaping their own existence in a fictional world. Personally, the reason I think most authors bring "bad ends" to characters who do these things is because the people who publish the books are afraid that readers are going to get the idea that an author is saying it's A-okay to do X, Y, and Z. The truth, though, is that, when an author can acknowledge that not all actions have (as Vee says) an "explosive" consequence, they're just writing the truth. The truth is, the truth can be rough for people with a moralistic way of thinking, but those people (the ones like me) don't have to pick up the books that talk about the things they are uncomfortable with.

 Opinions can be dangerous and that's why there are people out there who hate dishing out advice. But for the open-minded person, I'd like to present you with an opinion. It is my belief that the only way to write YA is to write the truth. The truth about unprotected sex is that sometimes it leads to pregnancy, and sometimes it doesn't. The truth about sex, in general, is that some people are having it and some people aren't. The truth about drugs is that some people do them and some people don't. The truth about doing them is that most times it ends in addiction, and sometimes, it doesn't. If you can write about the truth, then you're ready to write about young adults. But if you can't handle the truth, you're better suited for younger readers who have stories to tell, too, without all the craziness of reality clouding the air around them.

If you can handle it, then congratulations! You've entered the Wrilight Zone. Do with your stories what you will, because, the awesome thing about writing is this: we don't all have to write the same stories. Some will be serious, others entertaining. Some will preach and others will mock. Some will contain violence and others will be about peace, love, and other drugs. You don't have to have thick skin to write for the big kids. You just have to write a story worth telling, and, since that's the hardest part, I suggest putting your energy into that side of the process now, and all these other sheningans after you've got your polished, ready-to-go manuscript waiting for a chance to see the sun.

Whew! Glad that's settled,
Deserae McGlothen

P.S. "I give my readers what I can. Instead of offering all the right answers, I offer, I hope, all the right questions." -Vahini Naidoo

P.P.S. Go read that post!