Let’s Talk About Love Triangles

Is it just me, or is it not YA if it doesn’t have a love triangle (or rectangle, or trapezoid if you’re Cassandra Clare)?

I think the first successful love triangle that sparked this whole theme was The Hunger Games trilogy. Since then, almost every YA novel I’ve read has had some version of this. And quite frankly, I’m getting tired of it.

Very few times does it work in favor of the story. Usually it’s just to add tension. But writers, let’s not get lazy. There are other ways to add tension than make the main character have feelings for multiple boys or girls or both with opposing characteristics.

Oh, he’s so sensitive and really understands me. But he’s a rebel and pulls me out of my comfort zone.

Why do we have to define our characters by their relationships when we fight against this so hard in real life? Can’t the main guy or gal go through their story fueled by something else?

Believe me, I’m not downplaying love at all. Love is wonderful. I’m married and I absolutely adore my husband.

But I also didn’t have a boyfriend the first 20-something years of my life and I survived. Quite well, actually. Because you know what I was driven by?

Myself.

My dreams. My goals. My passions.

Can’t our characters have those, too? And can’t they be inspired by something other than a significant other?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just crazy. Anyone else out there feel this way?

~Taylor

Rejecting Rejection

Life is funny sometimes. I planned out my blog posts at the beginning of January, and for today I wrote:

Life Update
-What’s going on in life (EG Update?)
-Talk about experiencing rejection

I think initially I just wanted to throw down a couple ideas because I was already running out of them (planning blog posts is not my favorite thing, surprisingly), but little did I know those words would mean so much more.

I applied to the Elizabeth George Grant for New Writers (that’s the EG Update reference above) last June. Since, I’ve made it to the second round, have spoken with some lady in their office, emailed with Elizabeth George herself (I assume it was her, anyway), and have waited patiently for the snail mail process they insist on using. You could ask for any amount of money through this grant, though of course you have to show writing samples and defend your request for x number of dollars.

pexels-photo-209641Remember when you applied for college (or watched nearly any movie where the character applies for college), and you knew before you opened the envelope if you got in or not? Skinny envelope equaled rejection, fat envelope equaled acceptance.

Last Friday I got a skinny envelope.

To say I was crushed would be an understatement. After I cried for an unseemly amount of time, I remember laying on the floor, staring at the wall while my dog snuck kisses in an attempt to cheer me up.

I’ll be honest, I thought I was going to get it. If not the “it” I requested, at least some of it. I mean, I at least assumed I’d make the $25 back I spent applying to the competition.

But alas, the $25 and who knows how much I spent in postage was never to be repaid.

If you’ve ever experienced rejection as a writer, you know how crippling it can be. While the letter or email or phone call may just be a simple “no,” writers hear

You aren’t good enough. black-and-white-person-woman-girl

You’re not right for this.

Do something else with your time.

Or much worse.

I know all that and more ran through my head Friday evening.

But then my husband reminded me of something. Sometimes the plan we make is not the story that’s being written. Don’t get me wrong, I would have LOVED having graduate school paid for. I mean seriously, no debt? Yes, please!

When I write a story, my goal is to make my character’s desires as hard to achieve as possible. What is a story without conflict? What is life without a little rejection? You have to experience the downs in order to appreciate the ups.

And boy did I have an up today.

It was a small up to most people, but huge to me.

I’ve been emailing my professors (I just finished graduate school you guys!) for letters of recommendation, when I received a response from my favorite professor to date. In short, his words were that I beat him to the punch. He had already written me a letter of recommendation before I even asked and said that he is sure I will find success in both writing and teaching.

I think my heart exploded in that moment.

I did not receive a glowing email from Elizabeth George asking me how many zeros to put on my check. I did not make back my $25 and change. I did not get to write an overly excited blog post to you all about how they renamed the Elizabeth George Grant after me.

But what I do have is a champion in my corner. I have people who believe in me. I have people who know without a doubt that I am a writer, grant money or not.

I can’t tell you how important it is to reject rejection. Maybe the rejection leads you to revision, and that’s totally cool. It’s quite normal, actually. Rejecting rejection is not allowing it to keep you on the floor, paralyzed while your dog licks your face. Rejecting rejection is saying “Okay, thank you for your time,” picking up your things, and moving on.

Because no one can stop you but you.

~Tay

 

Short Stories Are My Kryptonite

Oh, short stories. How I loathe thee.

I don’t like to write them. I usually don’t like to read them (I can count the short stories I actually enjoy on one hand). And yet, somehow, I have to publish them in order to get this thing called a “following” in order to get this thing called an “agent” in order to get this thing called a “book deal.”

So if you’re anything like me and don’t want to touch short stories with a ten foot pole, here are some ways around writing them.

pen_and_paper

Write Flash Fiction
I’ll be covering this in more detail next week. But here’s the beauty of flash fiction: where a novel is a cross-country drive and a short story is a day trip, flash fiction is like a high speed car chase that zooms past you and is gone. It’s wonderful. Try it.

Write Backstory for Your Characters
You get to write a short story AND work on character development all in one! You’re welcome.

Take it From Concept to Concrete
This is just about the only way I can write a short story. First, I think of the concept I want to drive home with my readers (ex: heartbreak, illness, love vs. power, etc.). And then I let my mind drift. Whatever it happens to land upon, I try to make it work into a story. If it doesn’t, then I lather, rinse, repeat, until I get it right. This method is not for those in a time crunch. Sometimes I’ll spend a week on a concept just to toss it out the window in vain.

The main thing to remember as you struggle with your short story (because struggle you will) is that there is no harm in scrapping the whole dang thing and starting over. That doesn’t make you a bad writer. That makes you a bad short story writer.

Just kidding. I think I was supposed to end that last one with human.

2-chocolate20chip20cookies-anne20peterson-flickr

Regardless, I don’t know of any writer who can whip out short stories like place and bake cookies. So what if it takes you longer than most. The end result is still the same. (Side note: you’re welcome for the cookie pic. Now you’re craving some, amiright?)

What short story are you currently working on? I’d love to read/critique any. Just give me a shout in the comments below!

~Tay

 

2017 Goals

new-year-new-goals

Like every other slacker in the blogosphere, 2017 equals a new me, which means more organization, more success, and more blog posts. Yay for you!

I wanted to kick off this new year with something totally unique – my writing/blogging goals.

Really the main reason I’m telling you this is so you can perhaps come up with something similar and *key word here* achievable. And let’s be real, maybe, just maybe, if I write it down and make it public I’ll actually stick to it.

So without further ado…

Blog Goals
-Consistently write two posts a week. The beginning of the month I will outline ALL blog posts for that month. (Guess who’s starting out strong? This girl!)
-Teach myself ways to increase blog traffic through other social media outlets and actually keep up with it. (Today I started learning how to utilize Pinterest to direct traffic back to my blog. Quick revelation: all social media exists to point Internet users to other social media. What happened to just having MySpace?)
-Don’t try so hard to please everyone.

Writing Goals
-Submit two new short stories to at least ten potential literary journals each month. (I’m about a quarter of the way to this goal for January already!)
-Find an agent for my current almost-finished middle-grade novel, The Gatekeepers. (This goal has several sub goals that I won’t bore you with. They include finishing editing, beta readers, more editing, etc.)

I usually hate committing to goals (I don’t like the saying “New Year’s Resolutions), but since I’m about to graduate with my masters (YASSSS January 9th!!) I think it’s time to stop resisting and get serious about my writing career. Who’s with me! What are your goals for this year?

~Liz

NaNoWriMo 2016: Day 1

First off, no, I am not going to write a blog post every day. Sorry not sorry, ain’t nobody got time for that.

But I will be writing every day, I’ve just decided. Whether I work on my thesis novel or a short story, I will get some words down on digital paper.

That being said, what are your goals for NaNoWriMo? I’m a big fan of writing down your goals and breaking them down into bite sized, achievable chunks. So while I’ve only just decided to participate in NaNoWriMo in some facet, here are my improvised goals for you to hold me accountable on:

  1. Write at least 500 words a day. – Reward: a feeling of accomplishment and maybe one of those mini Reese’s in the fridge.
  2. Write at least 2 blog posts per week. – Reward: nothing, because I should already be doing this.
  3. Write at least 3 short stories this month. – Reward: buy a book I’ve been wanting, because short stories are the worst and I need to entice myself to write them.

I’ve written before about rewarding yourself, so make sure you do that this month as you type or scribble away furiously.

And for a little inspiration, here are a few NaNoWriMo authors like yourself who got their work published:

  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Wool by Hugh Howey
  • The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough
  • CinderScarlet, and Cress by Marissa Meyer

If you want to read more about these books, click here.

Have fun this month, friends, and break a pencil!

~Liz

Croissant, Coffee, and a Cafe

Is that too much to ask for? I mean, really.

I’m going to be blatantly honest with you guys for a minute, so please, don’t laugh. I recently downloaded the app Disney Enchanted. You know, the one where you build your own fairy tales on a quilt. Of course I chose to build Belle’s story first. What book nerd wouldn’t? Your little characters can do actions and my bookkeeper can dine in the cafe for an hour. Did you hear that? AN HOUR!

And the sad part is, I’m jealous of him.

A good coffee shop is my writing paradise. Starbucks is okay, but there are too many giggling girls talking about their boy drama for me to stay there for longer than thirty minutes. I prefer the locals. There was one I was obsessed with in college. It had a back room for us quiet studiers that had a ratty old couch, which of course I always sat on. I practically slept there one week when I was between apartments. I literally wrote my name under the cushion in permanent marker. That’s how often I was there. That’s how far I’d fallen from normal society.

Anyway, I’m craving that kind of home again. My best writing usually happens at a coffee shop, with a warm chai tea (I know I know, I go there and I don’t even drink the coffee…I like the smell, just not the taste) and nondescript music playing in the background. The occasional yelling of a customer’s name. It’s like I’m really there.

Except I’m not. Right now all I can hear is my AC turning on, my dog snoring in the living room, and the crunch of chips and salsa.

But home has its own kind of beauty, too. I may not get my best work done here, but I get some work done here. Nearly all of my work this past term, anyway. People may scoff at this, but you can develop a relationship with a place. Certain places will bring back intense feelings within me. For that reason, there are some places I refuse to return to, and others I can’t wait to revisit.

It’s the same with books. A book is more than just words on some pages. It’s a place you go to. It’s a place you feel you belong. It’s a place that draws out your honesty.

Now that I’ve gone on sentimental on you, where’s the place you belong? It is n a book, in a coffee shop writing, or sitting between library shelves perusing your options? Is it all three?

~Liz

Follow me @wethewriters on Instagram and @liz_tampa on Twitter.

The Popular Kid: Joining MG/YA Writer’s Groups

So this is something I periodically struggle with and then subsequently forget about after checking my empty wallet. A writer with his or her ducks in a row would probably be in all the right writing groups/clubs/associations/etc. A writer just trying to get through grad school and work and puppy life doesn’t even know where his or her ducks are. Raise your hand if that last one is you.

Don’t worry, me too.

So I decided spur of the moment to give you a list of some of the major writer’s associations that you should at least consider. And by consider I mean look at your wallet. If you can do it, do it. If you can’t, don’t feel bad. There isn’t a secret rule that keeps us loners out of the publishing world. But you will make lasting friendships in these groups that will support you on your road to publication.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to at least take a look.

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

This organization is huuuuuuuge (in a good way). They also work on the regional level so you don’t get lost in the shuffle. Obviously it’s for children-young adults, and the plus side is it’s not too expensive to join. Students even get a discount! You’ll have to check out the conferences/opportunities for each state individually to see if it’s right for you.

http://www.scbwi.org/

Young Adult Chapter of the Romance Writers of America

Like the lovey dovey stuff? Check this out. This group includes a mentorship program which is awesome and rare along with the usual discussions and support.

http://yarwa.com/

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

So this one is pretty exclusive because you have to already be a published writer to join. They have a special group within the organization specifically for MG and YA writers that focuses on sharing knowledge on this particular audience.

http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/sfwa-middle-grade-and-young-adult-writers/

Hopefully these will get you started on your search. Don’t forget to look at your state associations as well. They don’t have to be MG or YA focused to benefit your writing.

And if after all this research you feel like an organization is not for you, then I definitely encourage you to look into going to a writer’s conference, specially those with agent panels and pitch sessions. Those experiences are invaluable and some of my best memories as a writer.

~Liz

Follow me @wethewriters on Instagram and @liz_tampa on Twitter.