Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday-The Name Game

This week's YA Highway Road Trip topic: The list of top baby names in 2012 had us talking about naming characters. How do you decide on names? Would you ever name a character after a friend/family member/ex?

My character names usually come from the gut. I start writing. Then, when I need a name, I pause, dig deep, and write what comes to mind.
Not that these names always stick. I check my favorite site HERE, to make sure it's something a teenager might actually be named these days. And I sometimes have to switch out names if I have two (or more) starting with the same first letter or that sound too much alike. Most of these changes will be with minor characters since I'm usually too married to the original names of the main characters by the time I check these things.

Generally, I have a harder time coming up with last names. My gut technique doesn't work so well there, and I sometimes have to rely on the phone book for ideas.

Strange enough, I did end up with two appropriate last names for Cheater Beaters, though I didn't do it on purpose. My protag's name, who is sick of cheating guys and is taking a break from dating is Becca Freeman (as in, free of men), and her cheating, playboy ex is named Marc Fetters (as in, won't be fettered). Not on purpose. Really.

As for naming after real people, I have named a few very minor characters after my nieces and nephews. My goal is to publish them all that way someday in hopes they'll get a kick out of it.

What about you? What goes into naming your characters?  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- The number of books I don't read


This week's YA Highway Road Trip topic: About how many books do you read in a year? Do you want to read more? Or, less?

I read less than ten books a year. Some years less than five. Usually nonfiction writing research and fiction critiquing/beta reading.
But I listen to over a hundred books a year.
YTD for this year: 123
I can listen to books while driving, shopping, doing the laundry and cooking...all things I have to do anyway, so I might as well get some books in while I'm at it.
Do I wish I could read, read more? Sure. My dream for retirement is a recliner and a stack of books at my side. Until then, I'll have to fit in my reading the best way my life allows, by listening.
What about you? Get enough reading in? Ever tried audio?


Monday, December 10, 2012

Second Books in a Series- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Like sequels to movies, it seems like a struggle for second books in the series to maintain the luster of the first. Mostly, the second book often seems to stall some.

Things that don't work (for me):

Slow dancing at arm's length apart syndrome-When the budding relationship from the first book comes to a stand still or divide for some explicable or sometimes inexplicable reason that almost always feels contrived.

Stuck in Depressionville syndrome-When the character is stuck somewhere for a long period of time with little progress made, no new information and/or seemingly no way out.

Back to square one syndrome-When the character loses whatever ground they gained toward their goal in the first novel. This sometimes happens (ugh) at the end of book one.

What does work (for me):

-When the main character ends up in a new kind of worse predicament (like the Hunger Games trilogy).

-Repeating patterns with new challenges plus growing conflict/info gained in an overall arc (like Harry Potter and Ally Carter's Gallagher Girl series)

-New POV characters and/or subplots becoming main plots (Like Maggie Stiefvater's Mercy Falls series).

-A large amount of new world building/backstory in the second book (Like Cassandra Clare's Immortal Instruments series).

-Same world, totally new story and characters (Like Kristin Cashore's Graceling series).

-And, the book I'm listening to right now managed to surprise me with a new strategy. It's Pandemonium, by Lauren Oliver:

The main character is in a worse kind of new predicament, like I've enjoyed in other books, but there is also some needed but potentially boring time spent in Depressionville.

The author, very cleverly, overcomes this predicament by going back and forth between two storylines/times. It caused a little confusion for me in the beginning (mainly because it had been so ling since I'd read/listened to the first book), but once I got into it I looked forward to the switching, and the melding of the two timelines occured seamlessly toward the end. 

What about you? What works and doesn't work about second books in a series?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- Revising

This week's YA Highway Road Trip topic: For many, December is a post-NaNoWriMo revision haze! How do you approach editing/revising? Any tips or tricks or resources you can share?

Like the writing process, revising and editing are not one size fits all. Given that, here are a few things that work for me.

Revising and editing as I go:

I know this is contrary to the idea of NaNo and the writing advice and style of many others, but I do a little of everything, from big revisions to tiny edits as I go.

Not that it's perfect when I reach the end of the first draft. It's still rough. And I often end up chucking scenes that I've spent a great deal of time on.

I don't do it for efficiency. I do it because it feels organic to how the story is coming out of me. Mulling over a certain scene until it feels just right may give me insights on a character or give me some clue of where to go next with the plot. Even the stuff that gets cut or rewritten later is still part of what gets me through the story and makes it come right in the end.

Getting some perspective:

Putting some distance between me and my rough draft is a necessity for me, though it can take different forms:

-Sometimes, though rarely, a complete break from the work.
-Sometimes reading a book about writing, maybe in what I feel might be a weak area for that book.   
-Sometimes reading comp books to make sure my slant is different enough.
-Sometimes more research to beef up the book with during revisions.
-Sometimes, most often, getting critique partners and/or beta readers to read the book (though this often happens while I'm writing the first draft)

For big revisions, tug on the string to see what unravels:

I can't remember where I read this idea, but it's my favorite revising advice.

Changes have a domino effect in a story. Making revisions means seeing all those changes, both the obvious and the subtle.

So, I tug on the string and make a list of the changes. Then I go through and do them. I still miss things, but read throughs will take care of that. Meanwhile, I don't feel as disjointed as I make major changes.

I also have an overall list of changes needed, which gets added to along the way. I generally do the biggest changes first then work my way to the smallest.

Out Loud Read Throughs:

As the story begins to solidify, I start to do read throughs. Reading out loud. Again, I try to tap into the organic part of the process. If I get hung up on a part, it might mean that scene just needs tweaking, or it might be a sign of bigger problems. After four or five read throughs, I'm often to the point where I can do it in one sitting (most of the time not literally one sitting, but in a few hunks of time, whatever my schedule will allow). This is when I get a sense of the whole and start to feel like its done.

What about You? What is your revision process? Best nugget of revision wisdom?