9 Ways to Put Off Writing Your Novel

1. One word: Tumblr

2. Actually, make that another word: Pinterest

3. Consider new ways of complimenting someone

The Surrealist Compliment Generator, man. It says the strangest, loveliest things. Go on, try it. Here are some of my favourites: 

If you were a camel your humps would be esoterically bald from overuse. 

Your soul contains all that is found in insects, pigs and vermin.

Your nasal linings will last as long as the skin of rocks, thrust enigmatically upon a distant shorline of mating beetles. 

I find your eye sockets to be a wondrous amusement park of neo-plastic pleasures and oncogenic delights.

Seven donkeys and a concubine cannot compare with the tarnished sheen left in your path of combustion. 

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Can you tell I’ve refreshed it many times. Ha!

4. Fangirl over other people’s writing

from Stay, by Deb Caletti
from The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

5. Clean your room

Because I’m a neat freak that way. Not because I’m trying to procrastinate. Definitely not.

6. Look for new music on Spotify and 8tracks

What? I’m making a playlist. FOR THE NOVEL, OF COURSE.

7. Read terrifying reviews on Goodreads

I go in there to look for book recommendations, only to end up reading snarky reviews that are equal parts mean (imagine if you were the writer!) and hilarious.

It’s enough to make you swear off putting your work out there ever again.

8. Write a blog post on how to procrastinate

9. And hello, Boxing Day sales!

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Really, who can resist? At the very least, it helps to take my mind off the fact that another year has come and gone and I still haven’t achieved shit.

Happy holidays, everyone!

when good books need more face time: in support of under-rated YA titles and genres

Over at her blog, New York Times best-selling author Laurie Halse Anderson talks about the popularising of certain genres in YA (namely, the dude-ification of YA – also known as the John Green effect) and the oversight of others.

 

And here’s her suggestion:

I’d like to see everyone who is pissed off about the uneven coverage of YA books (and authors) to call The Damn Media on the carpet and tell them what they are doing wrong. Gather the contact information of the reporters, editors, editorial boards, and corporate owners of media outlets that are writing skewed or under-informed pieces about YA literature and share them publicly. Share what you write to them. Contact Hollywood peeps and tell them about other great books that could be movies.

Then seek out and talk and blog and vlog and shout about the books and authors that The Damn Media is not talking about yet.

 

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Hear, hear.

 

Often, due to limited bookshelf space, bookstores only bring in popular titles or titles from popular writers or genre. For instance, Stephen King is a mainstay. So is Sophie Kinsella, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham and the like.

 

And in recent years, YA fantasy – particularly vampire novels – got a lot of attention, which I call “the Twilight effect”. After that, bookstores mostly brought in books centred around vampires and other supernatural creatures. Which is why most of the Young Adult section is filled with books in the fantasy genre. Veronica Roth, Carrie Ryan, Kimberly Derting, Suzanne Collins, Rick Riordan, Gayle Forman, etc.

 

 

Nothing wrong with those writers or their books, of course. We should all be glad there are now so much YA books out there as compared to ten years ago.

 

But demand begets supply, after all. If bookstores find that more people are reading vampire novels, they’d bring in more vampire novels. But then if vampire novels are the only sort of books found in bookstores, the only sort of books available, the only sort taking up most of the space on bookshelves, then where do the others go? There are many more books out there than those about vampires or angels or zombies or werewolves.

 

 

Of course, this is hyperbolic, since vampire novels aren’t the ONLY sort found in bookstores. I’m just saying, this narrows down the space available for other types of books, like contemporary. Unless you’re a stalwart like Sarah Dessen or Deb Caletti,

 

 

 

or a super-hot breakout author like Rainbow Rowell,

 

 

 

chances are your books aren’t going to get much exposure or reach out to your readers as much as you would like.

 

Kelly Jensen posits the same thing over at her blog:

 

Readers generally see the [New York Times] List as a status symbol, but it’s that status symbol that influences bookstores in terms of what they’re putting on shelves and what books get exposure and more exposure and thus more push and more face time and do you see where I’m going?

This isn’t about taking someone out. It’s about how to lift others up and have their stories and voices heard and seen, too. If what people see on shelves is the same thing, then we’ll continue to get the same thing through the market. We’ll continue to have those sold to us and marketed to us and while they’re not BAD, they’re reductive and limiting and offer us fewer and fewer choices.

 

So if there’s a book that you really like but you feel is completely under-rated, recommend it to a friend, and have that friend recommend it to another friend. Word of mouth is the best form of publicity when it comes to books.

 

Or, better yet:

 

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Fangirl/boy about it. If you love a book, go nuts about it. Trust me, you’ll make the author’s day. Plus, more people will get to enjoy that book and you won’t be alone in your fangirl/boying. That’s why I always rave about the books I love.

 

For some reason, there are a lot of best-selling titles I’ve never been into, like the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I have nothing against these writers – they’re obviously doing something right if so many people enjoy their books – but I’m just not into dystopian fiction or sci-fi.

 

 

What I do wish to see more of in bookstores, however, are books like those from Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti and Cath Crowley. Contemporary YA with flawed, REAL protagonists who learn to be strong and kind and accepting of themselves and others. Contemporary YA with quiet, beautiful prose that creates a storm of emotions in the reader. Contemporary YA that allows us to learn more about ourselves and the world.

 

 

from The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen

 

from Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti

 

from Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

 

from Graffiti Moon

 

And where YA fantasy is concerned, more character-driven stories like Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, or epic ones like the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor (but hers is just too perfect, in terms of plot and prose – practically in a league of its own – we can’t expect every writer to write like her) should totally get more attention. Not that they aren’t already. The writing speaks for itself, I always say.

 

But first, the books need to be able to reach their readers.

 

What are some books or genres that you think deserve more attention and appreciation than they are receiving?

8 swoon-worthy male characters in YA fiction

Yes, I am unabashedly in love with Young Adult (YA) fiction.

I think adolescence is a wonderful period to write about because the characters are at the most pivotal stage of their lives, still impressionable enough to change for better or for worse as they try to find and define themselves with a particular identity. In fact, some of the characters in YA have been the most memorable ones for me. Some of them also made me fall head-over-heels in love with them because of how layered and conflicted and real they are.

In YA fiction, as Laini puts forth here in this powerful post in defence of YA (it’s awesome – go read it!), “the subject matter is vast, and transcend all genre borders.”

Plus, as this post argues, “the attraction isn’t just related to the fact that young adult novels tend to have faster-paced narratives. Many of these crossover “teen” novels are satisfying to adult readers because they tap into ageless themes, namely the sense that each of us longs to know who we really are in a strange, confusing and sometimes otherworldly world. As it turns out, the search for self is a lifelong one.”

Okay, serious stuff out of the way, here’s a list of boys in YA fiction that I’ve swooned and gushed over, and been irrationally legitimately obsessed with:

1. Wes from The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen

Still my favourite Sarah Dessen book, despite subsequent ones such as What Happened to Goodbye and Lock and Key that are just as beautifully written. Forever is something special, maybe because I can relate to the protagonist, Macy, so well, since she’s really close to her father and afraid of meeting new people too.

Who? Wes is your regular boy-next-door who prizes honesty – to everyone else and to yourself – above everything else.

Why? He looks for imperfections, appreciates them, even craves them. This is evident from the art he makes. (Yes, a boy who makes art. What’s not to love, right?) He uses scrap materials like wood and glass to create beautiful display pieces that are perfect in their imperfection.

Plus, he’s infinitely patient with his nerdy, overwrought little brother, Bert. Oh, and he helped the protagonist, Macy, move on from the death of her father. Yes, he’s a patient one. Perhaps boys who make art are usually this way?

Also, he is everything Macy needs to break out of her comfort zone (albeit with baby steps). He is responsible, reliable, has a great sense of humour and never gives up on you. It doesn’t feel stressful in his company.

In short,

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2. Sam from Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater

Oh, Shiver. How I love you! I wish I could kiss you and have you turn into a boy as beautiful at heart and as sweet as Sam. The prose is honey and clove, bittersweet but not too cloying, and the setting just as heartbreakingly beautiful. I don’t think I’ve read another YA fantasy romance that made my heart swell and flutter and do all sorts of gymnastic feats the way Shiver had.

Quote from Shiver
Sam and Grace artwork for the book

Who? Sam is a sweet, soulful boy who turns into a werewolf when the weather dips and is desperately trying to cling on to his human form to be with the girl he loves. Also, he’s a little damaged: (*SPOILER ALERT*) when his parents found out he was a wolf when he was younger, they tried to slit his wrist and drown him in the bathtub. (Yes, lovely people, they are.)

Why? He writes poetry. He writes songs. He reads. He works at a bookstore. He reads Rilke (OH, RILKE!). He’s damaged, but is capable of love. He loves life, cherishes it, because of how fragile his humanity is. Need I say more?

3. Ian Waters from Wild Roses, by Deb Caletti

My favourite novel from Deb Caletti so far. Also the first one from her that I read. I loved the prose, the narrator’s voice, the romance, the drama of the entire story … but mostly, I loved Ian.

Who? Ian is the protege of world-renowned violin maestro, the brilliant but disturbed Dino Cavalli, who is also the step-father of the protagonist Cassie.

Why? He plays the violin. He has a great sense of humour, totally on the same wavelength as Cassie. He is never attention-seeking or complacent – much less cocky – despite his talent. He’s like snow that lands on the ground silently but beautifully. He’s the first character named Ian I had ever known, and his image will always go with that name for me.

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4. Mik from Night of Cake and Puppets, by Laini Taylor

Night is a novella from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini.

You would think I’d be all over Akiva, the seraph warrior who is pretty much perfection embodied. But human Mik was who I fell for instead. Particularly in Days of Blood and Starlight, the sequel to Daughter, where Mik and Zuzana traipsed through the desert to find Karou, Mik was always attentive to Zuze, and very concerned about her well-being (is she dehydrated? bone-tired? in need of a good sleep?).

Plus, he and Zuze ended up being pals with the chimaera soldiers, who are basically animal hybrids. Monsters. They play well with monsters. Well, which monster can resist Mik’s sweet looks and manners?

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Who? Mik is the violinist with the dark, soulful eyes and flushed cheeks whom Zuzana is crazy about, and who turns out to be crazy about her too.

Why? He plays the violin. (I’m sensing a trend here.) He surprises her with cake and tea on an impromptu date on a rowboat. He gets her quirks, loves her for them, and comes with a few himself too (peacock footprints, anyone?).

5. Cole from The Road of the Deadby Kevin Brooks

I read this book waaaay back in 2005, but I remember how smitten I was with him, because he was a bad boy who was very protective of his younger brother.

Who? Your quintessential bad boy, Cole is the older brother of the narrator, Ruben. He gets into fights often, but fights for the people he loves.

Why? Because we all love a bad boy with a heart of gold. At least in fiction.

6. Michael Moscovitz from the Princess Diaries series, by Meg Cabot

I know there are people who scoff at the series for being about a self-indulgent teenage girl who uses way too many exclamation marks, but this series was what made me start keeping a journal when I was 11 years old and for that I’ll always be grateful to Meg Cabot. There is nothing quite as cathartic as putting your thoughts onto paper.

Who? Brother of Mia’s best friend, Michael has had a crush on Mia forever, back when she hadn’t ascended to royalty status.

Robert Schwartzman, who played the character in the screen adaptation

Why? He wrote a song for her, Tall Glass of Water. He supports her in her writing endeavours, is always eager to read what she writes, and gives sound, thoughtful feedback. He’s really smart, but works his ass off to amount to something he deems worthy of Her Royal Highness, even if she doesn’t care about their status difference.

Plus, his name just rolls off your tongue.

7. Luke Brandon from the Shopaholic series, by Sophie Kinsell

Okay, this one’s not YA, but come on, isn’t Luke swoon-worthy?

Hugh Dancy’s pretty eyes aside, Luke has many qualities to love. I mean, he married Rebecca Bloomwood, for heaven’s sake! Only a saint has that kind of patience. (No offence to Becky – I love her, but she can be tiresome at times.)

Who? Luke is the boyfriend – and later, husband – of Becky Bloomwood, a shopping addict and a pathological liar, but also a very loyal friend.

Why? He doesn’t do grand gestures of love, but you can always tell he loves Becky. Besides, he puts up with Becky, LOVES her despite her crazy antics. Enough said, don’t you think?

8. Jace Wayland/Lightwood/Morgenstern/Herondale from The Mortal Instruments series, by Cassandra Clare

Okay, I watched the movie before I finished reading the book, so the first face that comes to mind is Jamie Campbell Bower’s. Which does not hurt at all.

Jamie + Lily = Jamily. They are SO cute together!

Who? Snarky, handsome, lofty and insouciant, Jace is a demon-hunting Shadowhunter. Also, a boy in need of love who failed to get any from his father.

Jace artwork

Why? He’s the unattainable golden boy at school, the one whom everyone loves or loves to hate. He’s gorgeous, strong, attractive and he knows it. But his confidence – though some would say arrogance – is to mask the broken, wanting boy within.

And as a shameless plug bonus,

9. Drew from Lambs for Dinner, by, um, me.

Who? Cole has a history of being abused by his father before he ran away from home. He is loyal to his friends and closest to his aunt, regards his best friend’s father as his surrogate father, but keeps everyone else at arm’s length.

Why? Because despite his (initial) belief that he is too damaged, too different, to love, that he is more Wolf than Man, deep down he desperately wants to believe that he is not only capable of it, he is also deserving of it. Which is why he gives his all to Skye, when he falls hard for her.

Also, because I wrote him. Ha!

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So that’s my list of swoon-worthy boys from YA fiction. Let me know if there’s anything I missed out, in terms of characters or the things they did to make us fall in love with them!

Who are some of YOUR favourite boys from YA fiction? :0)

too many books, too little time

With so many fantasy and urban fantasy series in the market these days, sometimes you just DESPERATELY crave for some good old contemporary fiction. With real characters you want to root for and real problems you can relate to and real insights you can apply to your own life and real lessons to live by.

So I scoured Goodreads (despite the flak on author-bullying the site has gotten recently, I still love it for its user-friendly layout, enthusiastic reader community and comprehensive info on the books) for some contemporary young adult fiction.

And those literary agents, book editors and publishers weren’t kidding when they said contemporary fiction is on the rise again. I found SO many enticing contemporary YA books I’m seriously wondering if I can ever finish them.

Here’s a list of the top 10 books I’m dying to read.

Contemporary YA books to read (click on the links to read the blurbs):

1. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

I’ve read only great things about this breakout author (she’s the 2013 Goodreads Choice Award winner for Best YA Fiction!) and after browsing her books in Kinokuniya last weekend I was SO tempted to buy all her books. The mood of the story and narrator voice kind of remind me of 500 Days of Summer – whimsical and light-hearted with a dash of poignancy.

Plus, FANGIRL. Hello, what better character to relate to?

Ahem.

Anyway, I have high hopes for this book.

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2. Where the Stars Still Shine, by Trish Doller

Gotta love a good coming-of-age story about a girl coming into herself despite the adverse conditions she was brought up in.

3. Love Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira

I’m starting to get into epistolary fiction. Letters are a great plot device for moving the story along and revealing insights about a character. In fact, my novel Until Morning wouldn’t be the same – or complete – without the letters Lexi writes to Night, or Sam writes to Lexi. There is just so much about a character you can reveal from the intimate letters he writes to someone special.

4. What I Thought Was True, by Huntley Fitzpatrick

I read her debut novel, My Life Next Door, and really appreciated her effortless writing style, genuine character voice, and the circumstances in the story that didn’t seem contrived or melodramatic. Some people say it’s too fluffy, and gets draggy towards the end, but I think it’s a sweet and refreshing voice. So, next book – on my To Read list!

5. Night of Cake and Puppets, by Laini Taylor

Okay, this is cutting it close, since it’s a spin-off novella from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, which is pretty much high fantasy as far as I know. Still, Zuzana and Mik’s love story should be monster-free, since they, unlike Karou, are completely human and don’t have a secret past (no spoilers here! This is a spoiler-free zone).

6. The Last Forever, by Deb Caletti

I mean, come on. It’s Deb Caletti. I’ve read pretty much every book she has ever written (aside from her latest, He’s Gone, which is adult fiction), and she has never disappointed. Sure, I have my favourites, and some that I love more than others. But Caletti’s prose is unpretentious, and her characters are so painfully real, their relationships at times so delicate and at times so explosive, they make the stories incredibly compelling. Wild Roses will always have a special place in my heart, but I’m definitely looking forward to this upcoming one.

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7. Wild Awake, by Hilary T. Smith

I think this excerpt is reason enough to read the book:

“People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.”

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I’M IN LOOOOOVE!

Also, mental illness, tonnes of imagery, coming-of-age story about a girl coping with her sister’s disappearance? I NEED THIS BOOK NOW!

So many books, so little time. Where to begin? Still, if you have any good books to recommend I ain’t saying no to them, because

Also, I’ve moved on to Act 2 for No Room in Neverland! Wheeee! The plot thickens and I can’t seem to stop cackling while doing the happy writer dance.

Okay, I’ll explain. Unlike what I’ve done for my previous novels, where I just plunged into the novel after drawing up a plan for the entire novel and plotted chapters all the way to the middle of the story, this time I decided to write the first draft in script form before rewriting it in prose form. For one, it saves time, since crafting prose takes me more time and effort than writing a script  – I can’t stop obsessing over each single word. For another, writing the first draft in script form allows me to visualise the entire story before I get down to it proper – it’s sort of like a testing ground for me to get to know my characters and the world they live in before writing their story.

I’m trying this method because of my experience with Until Morning. As you know, it started out as a script for my play-writing class. I wrote the first few scenes and then decided to turn it into a novel, and those chapters for which I had the pre-written scenes flowed much easily – I pounded out 10 pages (about 2500 words) in 3 hours.

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So hopefully writing Neverland will be a less angsty process than writing the others. At least I can tackle the mid-story goblin without worrying about prose. And goodness knows that sneaky little bastard is creeping up on me now.

Good times back in Act 1 Scene 11:

Still, I keep telling myself to dig deep. Gouge out everything inside your characters and serve them on a plate, innards and all, and then play with it. (Why yes, I’m PG-13 that way. Why do you ask?)

On a more family-friendly note:

If I had to sum up my main character, Gemma, in one quote, this would be it.

the feels you put me through

I told my dad the other day that I have no books I’m DYING to buy as of now, and he made no attempt to conceal his surprise or relief. But that’s only because the books I’m really dying to read will only be coming out next year.

List of books to look forward to in 2014:

1. And here we have … the synopsis for DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS (the finale to the DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy)!!!!!!


DREAMS starts where DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT left off, with Karou and Akiva discovering each other alive — although Karou is still not ready to forgive Akiva for killing the only family she’s ever known. And now, through an act of staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance.

When Jael’s brutal angel army trespasses into the human world, Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves – maybe even toward love. But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera, and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

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Publication date: 8 April 2014

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2. In a similar vein, Maggie Stiefvater, who produced the beautiful, dramatic trilogy that was SHIVER, has decided to write a spinoff called SINNER, starring Cole and Isabel:


SINNER follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling SHIVER trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole’s story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole’s darkest secret — his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel’s life. Can this sinner be saved? 

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Publication date: 1 July, 2014
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3. Also, The Merry Sisters of Fate, who used to post fantastic short stories on their website before their short stories got published in THE CURIOSITIES, have another anthology coming out! Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff (who wrote THE REPLACEMENT, PAPER VALENTINE) and Tessa Gratton (who wrote BLOOD MAGIC)

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Yes, please!

Publication date: all Maggie said was next year.

4. Deb Caletti, who made me fall in love with her books after reading WILD ROSES, has worked her magic again with THE LAST FOREVER:

Endings and beginnings sit so close to each other that it’s sometimes impossible to tell which is which.

Nothing lasts forever, and no one gets that more than Tessa. After her mother died, it’s all she can do to keep her friends, her boyfriend, her happiness from slipping away. And then there’s her dad. He’s stuck in his own daze, and it’s so hard to feel like a family when their house no longer seems like a home.

Her father’s solution? An impromptu road trip that lands them in a small coastal town at Tessa’s grandmother’s. Despite all the warmth and beauty there, Tessa can’t help but feel even more lost.

Enter Henry Lark. He understands the relationships that matter. And more importantly, he understands her. A secret stands between them, but Tessa’s willing to do anything to bring them together—because Henry may just be her one chance at forever.

After reading WILD ROSES, and later HONEY, BABY SWEETHEART, I was like,

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Which is why for THE LAST FOREVER, I’m like,
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Why do you do this to me, writers?! Still, if that means I – and all the fans – get to enjoy perfectly written books, then,

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