The Trouble With My WIP . . .

Girl Asleep On Her Notebook Computer

The euphoria at having written 64k words in 33 days is past. Long past. Now I’m faced with a WIP I’m not sure what to do with. It has problems. Many problems. Maybe outlining them here will make them less daunting. Or more. Who knows, but here goes . . .

Problem #1: This is probably the second biggest problem, so definitely not listing in order, but that’s okay. Free flow thinking, right? So the problem is POV. Actually it’s more like the tense of the POV. I’ve already written the rough draft in the view point of four characters, and I have every intention of it staying that way. But it is written in 1st person present. It seems to be how I like to write these days, and I think worked very well for my last YA novel. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s right for this one. It’s been done before, but writing multi-POV in 1st person can be difficult, because you need to make each character very distinct. The reader needs to know at all times whose head they are in. It’s only a rough draft, but I’m not sure I’ve achieved that. So I started writing in a close 3rd person past tense. That way the reader is in the character’s head, but only one narrative voice is needed. But I’m still not sure. More on that later . . .

Problem #2: There are some plot motivation holes. I don’t see this as a big deal, because I know why the characters have done what they did, I just need to sell it to the reader. It’s a case of writing fast to meet that psuedo-NaNo goal, and missing important motivations and characterization. It’s just another part of revision and I’ll add it to my list.

Problem #3: Showing and not telling. My writing style tends to be “telly”, which on my last WIP wasn’t all that bad. That character was a matter-of-fact to the point kind of person, and for her in 1st POV to wax elegantly on her surroundings would have been ridiculous. But I do want this novel to have a less stark, concise feel to it. So this doesn’t come naturally to me, but I can do it. I just have to work harder at it. And it kind of ties into Problem #1, as well as the final problem at the bottom of this list.

Problem #4: Since this novel is a YA Science Fiction re-telling of The Last of the Mohicans, I wanted to incorporate some of the Mohican culture and language into the story. There aren’t actually any Native Americans, but rather aliens on another planet that humans have discovered. But I am very worried about native appropriations. Though I allowed the Mohican language to inspire the words of my alien nation in my book, and it was done from a place of respect and in an effort to honor the Mohican Nation, it may not be seen that way. I have contacted the Mohican Nation with no response, but I will try again when my novel is finished. There is a good chance if they are not in agreement with my use of their language, I may have to make some changes.

Problem #5: So this is kind of all the other little problems that every novel faces, and therefore not a real big deal. Filter words, grammar, typos, etc. They are in every rough draft and so not particularly daunting to fix. It just has to be done and will take time.

Problem #6: So this is kind of the big one. I haven’t found my voice. It kind of ties in with the tense of the story and whether I’m inside a character’s head or just hovering over it. And it has a lot to do with my natural style of writing in a more telling fashion than showing. I want this novel to have a lyrical flow, beautiful imagery, and intense emotion. So it’s going to take work. I’m not afraid of that. I love writing, and I love learning and growing as a writer, but it does bring up all those writerly doubts we constantly have hanging over our heads, no matter how many books we write. This sounds like crap. I’m a failure. I’ll never pull this off. You know, that little voice inside your head that encourages you to throw in the towel before you’ve even started.

So I’m fighting that voice, and looking for direction. All the little things will fall into place and iron themselves out with hard work and a lot of time and devotion, but the voice, tense, POV, etc. is where I am struggling. Once I get that figured out, it’s just a matter of applying the effort to the work.

So any thoughts? Do you prefer 1st or 3rd person in a multi-POV novel? Does showing instead of telling come easy to you? Or like me, do you have to fix that tendency on edits? What about voice? Does that come naturally in the rough draft, or is it something you add as you revise? Let me know in the comments!

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Let’s Keep the Science in Science Fiction!

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Recently I’ve been reading YA Science Fiction in preparation for writing my own. I’ve also been researching all the science I will probably abuse profusely once I start writing that novel. For some reason, I feel like I owe it to my reader to actually know what is required for a spacewalk or blast off or how radiation actually affects organic life before I decide to make up a whole bunch of crazy shit about it.

But this has drawn my attention to something I haven’t thought about a lot before. To be honest, I haven’t read a lot of Science Fiction, and what I have read seemed pretty convincing to me. I’ve seen plenty of movies and TV shows: Star Trek, Star Wars, Back to the Future, Independence Day and I could go on, but I won’t. What never occurred to me was the science behind it all. Because I had zero clue about science. I learned just enough to pass the tests in school and promptly forgot all of it. I hated science. It was boring. What would I ever need this crap for anyway?

Uh, yeah, who knew I would someday write a Sci-fi story and need some of that info I so blatantly discarded as a kid. So, I started researching. Turns out, space travel and exploration is actually pretty cool. The how and the why of things is interesting. No, I’m no expert and I couldn’t care less about the chemical composition of a star, but there were some very basic pieces of knowledge I learned during my research. My husband said, “You’re going to know every possible way the world can end by the time you’re done.” Yes, Honey, I will, and it doesn’t help me sleep at night!

But doing all this research has made me wonder, do other authors do this much research? And if they do, why do they completely ignore what they’ve learned? There’s a particular series I read recently that I’ll be picking on anonymously through out this post. If you’ve read it, you’ll recognize it. If not, don’t worry, it will all make sense. And trust me, I get that writers have to take license with actual facts for a variety of reasons: 1) It’s good story telling. No one wants a science lesson when they pick up a YA 2) We don’t know what the future holds for scientific advancement, so making it up is all part of the job. 3) Most people don’t know the difference anyway.

Still, I’d like to at least acknowledge the facts, even if I bend the future a little bit. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here are some fallacies I’ve experienced in Sci-fi novels that I felt could have been handled better.

1) Space Walk: Your characters need to go on a space walk to escape the bad guys or fix their ship or save their companion who’s in danger outside. Often, and this is fairly common in Science Fiction whether movies or books, the character throws on an annoying suit that takes them a few minutes to fit together, grumbling all the time, then pop into an airlock and immediately exit the craft into space. Let’s talk about how this goes in the real world. It takes an astronaut 6 hours to prepare for a space walk. 6 hours! They have to get the oxygen level in their blood higher, and the nitrogen level lower, in order to avoid getting the bends. It’s just like in deep sea diving. This process takes some time, and they also have to get their bodies acclimated to a different pressure. Then of course, there’s that suit, which takes a lot more than just a few minutes to don. 6 hours, did I mention that? So yeah, yeah, this is one of those, “But science in the future will develop a way that a suit which is far less cumbersome than current models will regulate your temperature perfectly, create the perfect pressure environment for our bodies and make that silly nitrogen in the blood system a thing of the past.” Maybe. And I know this is the premise most authors work with, but is it just lazy writing? Why can’t the time factor and all the steps you need to take be part of the story? Agonizing every second as your chances of saving the world/boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend slip away while you’re waiting. Honestly, I’d probably abuse this one too, but can we just acknowledge it? “Boy, Bob, this situation would be a lot worse if we lived 500 years ago back in the early 2000’s. We’d never get out there in time!” Okay, maybe not like that, but still. Science people. Real science.

2) Space Travel: Your characters are preparing to blast off into space, or maybe re-enter earth’s atmosphere. They take a seat in their space shuttle in their everyday clothes and head out into space. Why is this odd? Well, I’m not positive about re-entry, but the blast off requires astronauts to wear a full space suit. They’re locked in place and have cooling systems to ward off the intense heat from the lift off. Okay, so here’s another one that can be explained away (except they never explain it) and I will most definitely abuse this one in my novel. I already have the scene played out, but it’s re-entry, not lift off. Anyway, it’s easy to say that future technology will find a way to make space travel more like an airplane ride. Heat shields will be so advanced we’ll never notice the change, and our shuttles will have the ability to gently coast in and out of our atmosphere as if you’re simply taking a trip to Tahiti. So while this is probably pretty unrealistic, it’s one of those Sci-fi tropes we’ll probably never abandon. Space travel has to be easy, or chances are good our characters won’t get to use it.

3) Back on earth where nuclear war raged 300 years earlier, we find a two-headed deer. Of course, the radiation triggered genetic mutation, but don’t worry, you’ll be fine. The radiation dissipated ages ago and this is just evolution. This one is just blatantly wrong as far as I can figure out. First, radiation will trigger genetic mutation, but it’s on a case-by-case basis. Radiation will make people sick, cause cancer, or possibly genetically alter a fetus, but it isn’t an actual change to the DNA they pass along. Meaning, their children won’t be genetically mutated if they remove themselves from the radiation. And if that deer was mutated by radiation, not genetic evolution, then it is not safe for humans to be traipsing around the same woods. Plus, while mutation doesn’t necessarily follow the “survival of the fittest” scenario, evolution generally does. Mutations happen all the time (think cancer), and we do pass some of them down to our children. The idea behind evolution is that mutations that make us stronger and more able to survive are passed down more often, thereby creating an evolutionary change. For example, around the time we started domesticating animals and drinking their milk, only a small percentage of humans could digest the lactose in milk. The ability to do this was passed down to more people because people who were not lactose intolerant lived longer and had more children. People who were lactose intolerant died more often and had a less healthy life because they couldn’t digest one of their major food sources. So that two-headed deer? Even if it was a genetic mutation that could be passed down from mother to baby, I would think giving birth to a two-headed baby would be difficult. So difficult that many babies and mothers would die in the process, thereby eliminating that gene from the gene pool. I’m no scientist, but these are the observations I’ve come up with. If you’re going to have your animals be evolutionarily changed, there has to be a case for why, not just because it’s cool. Oh, and one last thing, the fastest known case of human evolution (maybe evolution in general) is 3000 years. It took people living in Nepal 3000 years for their bodies to change (they produce fewer red blood cells) so they were better adapted to live in high altitudes. Evolution happens, but it doesn’t happen fast.
* NOTE:* Since writing this, I have come across further research that indicates evolution in some plants and animals has been observed at a markedly increased rate due to climate change. I’m talking birds laying eggs earlier to coincide with the earlier hatching of worms, squirrels who give birth earlier in spring, drought resistant mustard plants in California and a few other examples, all happening over 30-40 years. To look at them, they are the same as their counterparts, but they each contain genes that allow them to survive better than others. Still no two-headed deer, but evolution can take place on a small scale over a quicker time-frame and in response to extreme situations of outside pressure. But such mutations only become an evolutionary change if they help the species to better adapt to their environment and become the norm instead of an exception.

4) It’s 300 years in the future (yup, same novel) after a nuclear war has ravaged the planet and people live in space. We don’t know how much radiation will kill a person so we’re going to test it on orphan children, because hey, no one will notice, right? Um, I call bullshit on this one. We know right now how much radiation will kill a person. We know what it will do. This, in my opinion, was just to make the “government” evil and for shock factor. After Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Cherynobl and other disasters, we have the data, and since they have knowledge of so many other things on their space ships, why wouldn’t they know this? This story doesn’t take place 300 years into our future, but 300 years past the time they had space ships big enough to fit thousands of people and launch them into space for safety. So the idea that they would have no idea how much radiation it would take to kill a person and what it would do to the human body is ludicrous.

5) Your space ships are failing and you need to know now whether the planet is safe after 300 years on its own. Let’s send a bunch of criminals with monitoring bracelets. If they die, then we know it’s not safe. Okay, so we have space ships that have held thousands of people for 300 years in space, we have monitoring bracelets that send data back to the mother ship about vital signs, and there’s countless other instances of body scan technology, the aforementioned space walk abilities, the aforementioned space travel abilities, but we don’t have a geiger counter? Or anything else that detects levels of radiation? How is this even possible? If you had these big ships that were shipping off into space to save humanity, but you knew wouldn’t last forever, wouldn’t you take the equipment you needed to some day return? Or make it? They make everything else. And as for those monitoring bracelets, they can transmit data, but the people dropped off on earth have no way to communicate with the ship. What kind of an ass-backwards way is this to re-colonize the planet? It’s like they’re trying to fail!

6) We are losing oxygen in our space station, so we must shut down a huge section, let those people die, and prepare to evacuate and return to earth. This one was a little confusing to me. I wasn’t sure if these were space ships that were docked together, or a space station with different huge sections, or what exactly. But let me tell you why I think this whole scenario was ridiculous. First, currently space shuttles and stations are built in manageable sections. If there is a breech or problem in one section, the astronauts can shut that section and hopefully fix the problem, or at least isolate themselves from the problem. It is unrealistic to me that this would change. Space is a hostile environment and humans must take every precaution to survive. Those stations or ships or whatever they were, would have been built so a problem could be isolated, and I don’t mean allowing thousands of people to die in a huge section. There would be smaller sections. Second, it would have been built in a way that allowed them to isolate the problem and determine where the problem was so they could fix it. They wouldn’t just say, “Oh damn, we have a leak. Too bad we can’t fix it.” Plus, and this I’m not really sure of, I have to believe the space stations we currently have must produce or recycle oxygen in some way. I don’ think it would be feasible to send up oxygen to them. Like I said, not sure about this one, but I would think a future space ship has to have a way of providing oxygen to it’s inhabitants.

7) When people die, we will place them in metal coffins and shoot them off into space. So here’s why this one is a problem. Space junk. The sticker off a space shuttle part that says MADE IN CHINA can rip a hole through a space suit, ultimately causing death. Anything “floating” in space is going so fast a small piece could take your head off. Just imagine what a metal coffin could do! I’ve seen this in a number of Science Fiction mediums, but I just don’t see it happening. Everything we eject into space becomes another projectile that could cause catastrophic damage to us or the ship/station protecting our life. Writers need to come up with a more realistic, less poetic, way of sending off our dead.

So that’s it for my rant today. I’m considering a post about stupid things characters do and why they make no sense, but I need a little more fodder, so we’ll see. Basically, I think it’s okay for authors to change or disregard science for the sake of a work of fiction, but keeping within reasonable parameters or at least acknowledging science in some way will make our work more believable. Weigh the science you wish to break with why you want to break it and how you can explain (at least to yourself if not your audience) why it’s viable. And don’t be afraid to allow science to give you realistic parameters to work with. Sometimes having to deal with reality and how to solve a problem in our books brings out a much better thought out plot with more engaging action. At the very least, learn the rules and laws you want to break. It’s kind of like the rules of writing. You can break them, but you have to learn them first.

For more insight into this topic, please visit Dan Koboldt’s blog and his Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy blog series. I haven’t read all of these, though I plan to. He uses real experts to de-bunk myths and shed some light on topics we writers don’t always know a lot about. Definitely worth the read!

And look for a future post on all the rules of science I plan on breaking myself. Yes, I am a hypocrite!

Book Review: Too Far from Home: A Story of Life and Death in Space by Chris Jones

Too Far From Home
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Title: Too Far from Home: A Story of Life and Death in Space
Author: Chris Jones
ISBN-13: 9780385521901
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 3/6/2007
Sold by: Random House
Pages: 304

In the thirty-seven years since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, space travel has seemed more and more a routine enterprise-at least until the shuttle Columbia blew up, and the Challenger before it, reminding us, once again, that the peril is all too real.

TOO FAR FROM HOME vividly captures the dangerous realities of space travel. Every time an astronaut makes the trip into space, he faces the risk of death from the slightest mechanical error or instance of bad luck: a cracked O-ring, an errant piece of space junk, an oxygen leak….There are a myriad of frighteningly probable events that would result in an astronaut’s instant death.

Yet for a special breed of individual, the call of space is worth the risk. Men such as American astronauts Donald Pettit and Kenneth Bowersox and Russian flight engineer Nikolai Budarin, who in February 2003 were on what was to be a routine fourteen-week mission maintaining the International Space Station.

But then the shuttle Columbia exploded beneath them. Despite the numerous news reports examining the tragedy, the public remained largely unaware that three men were still orbiting the earth. With the launch program suspended indefinitely, these astronauts had suddenly lost their ride back to earth.

TOO FAR FROM HOME offers a vivid and detailed portrait of the odd life of the people who live in zero gravity. The book chronicles the efforts of the beleaguered mission controls in Houston and Moscow as they work frantically against the clock to bring their men home, ultimately settling on a plan that felt, at best, like a long shot.

Latched to the side of the space station was a Russian-built Soyuz TMA-1 capsule,the rocket equivalent of a 1976 Gremlin. (It made headlines in 1971 when a malfunction left three Russian astronauts dead.) Despite the inherent danger, the Soyuz became the only hope to return Bowersox, Budarin, and Pettit home. Their harrowing journey back to earth is a powerful reminder that space travel remains an incredibly dangerous pursuit.

Written with immediacy and an attention to detail, TOO FAR FROM HOME rivals the finest contemporary adventure-driven narrative nonfiction.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

I feel as if I don’t need to give much of a review after that blurb. It pretty much says it all, but I do have a few things to add, so here goes.

The reason I read this book was for research. I don’t read non-fiction a whole lot. It’s not that I don’t like non-fiction, but there are only so many hours in a day and if I’m going to read, it’s going to be YA for learning and enjoyment. The only time I really read non-fiction is for research. My local library is a little low on space related books, so when I found this account of the Columbia disaster and the events following, I figured it was my best bet at learning what it is like to live in space. I was right.

This book was exactly what I needed. I wanted to know what it was like for humans living in space, what it was like to blast off, what concerns and precautions were there in relation to space travel and space living. Some of it is obvious, but I learned so much just from reading this novel that I realized I really didn’t know anything about space exploration. Even better, it was a personalized account of the astronauts, their past, what they dealt with and how they related to each other. If you are going to do research on space, even for futuristic science fiction, I highly recommend this book.

The prose kept me enthralled from the beginning, despite the fact I’ve never had any interest in space travel. Seriously, not even as a kid in the Shuttle Era, did I even entertain a thought about wanting to be an astronaut. It has never appealed to me. So for me to say I was completely engaged by this story is a testament to Chris Jones ability to stick to the facts, impart non-fiction knowledge, and still tell a good story. I cheated for the last third of the book and skimmed, but not because I was getting bored. I just knew I had a lot more research to do and this is a long book with small print. Though I enjoyed the personal stories of each astronaut, I needed to move on to other parts of my research.

One thing it did highlight for me shortly after I concluded reading was the utter lack of acknowledged science in Science Fiction. I don’t read a lot of Sci-fi, so I don’t want to judge all of it, but I have read a few YA books lately, and they, and this book has prompted me to write a Keeping the Science in Science Fiction post you can look for next week.

In conclusion, if you enjoy non-fiction adventure chronicles without a ton of action, or if you just like reading about space and astronauts, or if you are researching for a space related novel, this is the book for you. Maybe someday when time isn’t so pressing, I’ll go back and read every word with the rapt attention I gave the first 2/3’s of the book. But for now, I have a huge list of research to do, so it will have to wait!

My Review: 4 stars

Book Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi


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Title: Under the Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Series: Under the Never Sky Trilogy (Book 1)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (January 3, 2012)
Language: English
Age Range; 14-17 years
ISBN-10: 006207203X
ISBN-13: 978-0062072030
Amazon Review: 4.4 stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon:

Fighting to survive in a ravaged world, a Dweller and a Savage form an unlikely alliance in New York Times bestselling author Veronica Rossi’s “unforgettable dystopian masterpiece” (Examiner.com).

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive. A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption.

It took awhile to draw me into this book. To start with, Rossi begins with 7 named characters within the first couple of pages. I wasn’t sure who I should care about. And since it is Science Fiction, there’s world building too, so all-in-all, I was slightly overwhelmed. Which is to say I was underwhelmed. I like to be drawn into a character’s life with subtlety and hints, and to be emotionally invested in whether this person lives or dies or get’s what they want. I just didn’t feel that with Aria right away.

And then there was the fact that we were plopped right into the sort-of action from the start. Which normally isn’t a bad thing, and in fact is becoming more and more common in YA novels, because let’s face, who wants to read 3 chapters about a person going through their day-to-day life so we can get to know them? So what am I asking for here? Well, a balance I guess. I need to be invested in a character before I care about them and I need to be cognizant of their world before I can move through it. That’s hard to do in Science Fiction, and Fantasy too. So yes, a balance, which Rossi did okay, but it could have been a little better.

So move forward in the book, and eventually I did care what happened to Aria. Perry I was connected to very quickly, but that may have been because he was more real and his life situations were more immediate than Aria’s. It’s easier to connect with the emotional and physical struggle of someone who has to fight for his life everyday, than some spoiled kid who lives in a virtual reality world. It’s not until Aria is thrust into the “real world” that I began to connect with her more.

The premise was fairly interesting, though I wanted to know more about the Aether and what happened to the world to make it that way, but I’m guessing that will come in the later books. I thought the world building was well done and the developing relationship between Aria and Perry played out nicely. At first, you never thought there was any way these two people could form a bond, but Rossi did a great job of connecting the dots, humanizing both characters and drawing them closer. There was enough sexual tension to push the story forward and written in an appropriate manner for the target audience. The action was non-stop and they were rarely out of danger, which keeps you turning pages to find out what happens next.

The ending was reasonably satisfying, while still setting up for the sequel with unanswered questions and plot to develop. So basically a good read. It won’t change the world or anything, but it was enjoyable entertainment. I’m kind of running out of things to say, because though I enjoyed this book and I’ll read the sequels, it was just for fun, I guess. I don’t remembered being awed by the writing, but I wasn’t annoyed by it either, so that’s good. The story didn’t inspire me or anything, but it was entertaining. I guess basically, if the premise sounds interesting, you won’t be disappointed. But if not, well, you’re not missing anything.

My Review: 3.5/5 stars


Buy Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky Trilogy) on Amazon
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Buy Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky Trilogy) on Amazon
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Buy Roar and Liv (Under the Never Sky) on Amazon.com
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Buy Brooke: An Under the Never Sky Story on Amazon.com
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Book Review – The Here and Now by Ann Brashares


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Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
Print Length: 258 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385736800
Publisher: Delacorte Press (April 8, 2014)
Sold by: Random House LLC
Language: English
ASIN: B00ERTDJKS
Amazon Review: 3.6/5 stars

I borrowed this book from my local library

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

This book started as a solid 4 stars for me. I loved the premise. The characters were intriguing. And the writing was good. I liked some lines so much, I’m going to share them, though maybe they won’t make sense out of context, but the way the words mix together sang to me, so here goes:

The gap between what we say and what we feel is so big and dark that sometimes I think I’ll fall into it and just keep falling.

***

Already he is the drip, drip of water that carves a canyon right through the middle of me.

***

“If it was okay for me to kiss you,” he whispers, “would you want me to?”

I know I should lie. I should make this easier on both of us. But I’ve begun to tell the truth, and I am drunk on it. “The most of anything,” I whisper into the seat.

***

I am getting the hang of this, spending my questions like a millionaire.

***

Ethan claims he is some kind of supergenius expert at Gin, so when I beat him in our second game, he is so beset by rage and disbelief that he makes us play three more times, and writhes in psychological pain as I beat him every time.

***

Down goes the bucket again, into the long-abandoned memory well. I surprise myself with what comes up.

Okay, that’s all. But I loved those lines enough to write them down verbatim in a notebook and type them again for this post. I feel I do enough ranting about “bad” writing, I should give some cred to good writing as well.

On to the book!

The beginning was enticing, doling out morsels for the reader to nibble on while they progressed through the beautiful prose. There were a lot of abstracts and half-truths and opinions meted out to keep you reading to find out the whole picture. And then there was the forbidden love story between Ethan and Preena (loved the name!) Their romance was believable and progressed naturally through years of knowing each other. You wanted them to be together, even while knowing it was impossible, and seeing that it really was impossible. The sexual and emotional tension was palpable.

But then we got into specifics. This is where time travels books usually fail. I really enjoyed this book from start to finish, but my analytical-brain just wasn’t buying it. If you’re going to write a time-travel novel, you better think it through, and most in my opinion don’t. I don’t want to ruin it for you, (I’ll do that in the spoiler at the bottom) but let’s just say if you follow the time line, or even the time circles, or whatever you want to call it, then the things that happen in this novel couldn’t happen. Changing one thing changes another which changes another which means the first thing wouldn’t have happened at all thereby not affecting the other things. See what I mean? And just to be clear, once you time travel, you’re stuck. No going back.

There were a couple of other minor, minor problems. Like the fact the book is set in 2014, and Preena comes from circa 2090, but in the future people don’t understand Christmas and they talk differently. I’m not sure 80 years is enough to change things that much.

And when Preena appears in 2014 for the first time she is naked, but other people brought boxes of belongings. That was never explained, like at all. Seemed like a big hole.

Oh, and I’m getting really tired of random teens with mad hacker-skills. Ethan comes through with some pretty amazing computer hacks to save the day, but I’m just done with teens that have whatever magic skill is needed to complete the task at hand.

And Preena sees Ethan’s obituary in the paper that is brought from the future, but it’s printed the day after he supposedly dies. Pretty sure obits aren’t printed the day after your teenage son is murdered.

And last, but certainly not least, Preena’s “people” came from the future to try to stop the plague that wipes out the world. So a thousand people travel through time, but get so comfortable in their current life they no longer want to save the billions of people who die in the future? Preena’s mom lost two sons and she’s willing to stand by and not work her ass off to save them? That was probably the hardest thing to swallow. There is no comfortable life possible for me that would stop me from trying to save my kids.

Really, I did like this book. I know I talk about the negatives a lot, and just wait for the spoiler at the bottom, but the prose was beautiful, the premise was interesting and the romance was pure and emotional. I liked the characters and rooted for them. Even the “bad guy” you kind of understood where he was coming from. So I would still recommend this book, because not everyone is as picky as me when it comes to plot. If you just want to be swept away by a story, then by all means read it, but if you want things to make sense at the end, well, maybe try something else.

My review: 3/5 stars (I’d have given it a 4 if it weren’t for plot holes)

And now for the spoiler!!!

***SPOILER*** So let’s just walk through this a little bit. If Preena changes the future and they stop or alter the plague that kills billions, then Preena will have no reason to come back in time and then she won’t change the future. Time travel novels always do this and it drives me insane. Why can’t they just mention, “Hey, when we get to the future we have to tell our future selves that we will be forced to give up our lives and time-travel or everyone dies.” Because, if some old woman showed up claiming to be me and told me that I’d jump right in the time travel device, right? But whatever. Say Preena is more gullible and noble than me, so she does. Supposedly when Baltos time-travels, he kills not only Mona so he can protect his family’s oil wealth, but also kills Ethan, who invented time travel. If Ethan dies, he can’t invent time travel, so how does Baltos time travel in order to kill him? Not to mention, if Baltos kills Mona, saves his family’s oil wealth, then he won’t have a reason to time travel either because he only did it to save his family’s business. Oh, and you can’t go back, so forget that. You’re stuck. And you can only travel back to 2010 for some reason, so Baltos hangs around for 4 years until he finally kills Mona? Why? This is where I think time-travel novels trip up. They place too much importance on the changing of time, thereby negating the believability of their premise to begin with. Limit what you change, and the reader will believe it. Alter too many things and you run into a hornets nest of possibilities. ***SPOILER OVER***

What Do YA Readers WANT?!!

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Wouldn’t we authors like to know! Preferably, a good two years before YA readers actually want it, so we can write, edit, publish and market just in time to reach your ever changing moods, er needs. Just kidding. I read as much YA as the average teen, possibly more, so we’re in the same boat. I have wants of my own, and I also want to write a book that will resonate with readers.

Lucky for you, we have a little—just a little—insight into this very question. Recently Teens Can Write Too! ran a blog chain entitled What kinds of published books would you like to see more of? All of the respondents are teens who blog and write beyond their blogs. In fact, quite a few of them have some pretty amazing things to say, so when you’re finished reading this, check out their posts too.

While I was patiently—or not so patiently—waiting each day to read a new teen’s perspective on what they’d like to see published, I was also following a thread on Absolute Write entitled What would you like to see more or less of in YA? Between the two I was reading some great ideas about what books should be published in YA.

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Light bulb moment: I should compile the information and write a blog post about it!

Stress. Woman stressed

Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The sheer mass of data was daunting. It’s taken me hours to compile it into any sort of usable format. You can check the data here if you like. But I’ll try to make some kind of intelligent response, since I promised I would, and I always keep my promises!

Part of the problem is that I didn’t really know what I was doing while compiling the data. Now that I’m finished, I might have done it a little differently, but there is no way I’m doing it over again! It’s like having a term paper almost finished two days before it’s due, and realizing you should have taken a different approach. No ‘A’ is worth the work it would take to start over. Sorry, but I have a life. 🙂

And what everyone wants is as diverse as the respondents themselves. I saw everything from wanting fan fiction traditionally published to requesting a book from the POV of a toddler! Funnily enough, I did have the idea to write a novel about babies and toddlers who turn into teens when they fall asleep and wake up in a fantasy adventure. Yeah, I haven’t written that one yet.

But there were some clear winners, and losers, so if you want the nitty-gritty details, check out the data, but I’ll give you an overview of the most common responses in this post.

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22 teens responded to the question: What kinds of published books would you like to see more of? on the TCWT blog chain, while 40 respondents of an unidentified age responded to the question: What would you like to see more or less of in YA? on the Absolute Write Watercooler forums.

 

Dragon

Fantasy received the most votes for a genre with at least 34% of respondents requesting more in some form. I say at least because it was one of those cases where I would have tallied the votes differently in hind sight. I might have missed a few votes asking for a specific aspect of Fantasy without actually requesting Fantasy in and of itself. Anyway, you get the point.

There wasn’t any one type of Fantasy that was a stand-out winner, but many different kinds were mentioned. In fact, I got the impression that readers would like to see more pure, traditional fantasy, not other types of stories posing as Fantasy, i.e. Romance set in a Fantasy world, Dystopian set in a Fantasy world, etc. The one thing they did not want to see was more Fantasy worlds based on Medieval Europe or books based on Western (Greek/Roman) Mythology. Japanese, Chinese, Egyptian and Celtic were mentioned (I know Celtic is Western, but at least it’s something other than Zeus and Poseidon!)

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On a similar note, Science Fiction, which 17% of respondents requested more of, also seemed to center on more pure forms of its original genre. Readers especially seemed to dislike Dystopian disguised as Science Fiction. They want to see robots, cyborgs, cool technology that’s not the bad guy, and fun adventures that explore new worlds and revel in the joy of future technology and uncharted worlds.

Dystopia was a mixed bag with 9 readers wanting more while 5 wanted less or none. One thing was fairly clear though. Readers want something different than the tried-and-true Dystopia we’ve been experiencing over the last few years. Diversity, LGBTQ+, new settings, and most importantly, move away from the cliched tropes. No big, bad, government that’s outlawed something as the end-all of society and the rebel character fighting against it.

Re-tellings as a category received 10 nods, with respondents asking for non-traditional and non-European fairy tales, classics, Shakespeare, mash-ups and even re-tellings of Anne of Green Gables. One interesting note: only 1 of the 10 votes for re-tellings came from the unidentified age group. Clearly, teens are more interested in re-tellings than their older counterparts who read YA books.

Other than specific genres, another winner was seeing more Families in YA. 26% wanted to see healthy family units in some form, whether it’s present parents, quirky families, complex sibling dynamics, big families and any of the aforementioned relationships being the main emotional stake of the story.

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One of the clear losers was Romance. Not so much the genre of Romance, but rather romance in YA books in whatever genre it happens to appear. 26% of readers said they are completely tired of or would like to see less romance in YA books. 18% said they’d like to see fewer or no love triangles and no “insta love” stories. 9 respondents asked for healthy teen love relationships with a wide variety of realistic relationship requests from LGBTQ+ to mutual breakups to relationships that end and the characters actually learn from them.

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While there were many other responses I could talk about, the last one I’m going to discuss is Diversity. This was another category with a broad scope that I wish I had compiled the data differently. For example, 12 respondents requested diversity in all forms, while 16 specifically said they want novels where the diversity is not the issue of the book. I could have tallied all respondents that called for diversity in any form and had a large number of people wanting something more from their YA, but I didn’t do it that way. And since some readers requested multiple kinds of diversity, I couldn’t just add up all the specific requests because the number would have been inflated.

Anyway, over and over again I heard YA readers saying they wanted to read more about people of color, characters of all sexual orientations, people with physical disabilities and chronic illnesses, neuro-diversity and ethnic people living their culture in contemporary and futuristic settings. The one overriding theme to all of this was the diversity needed to be a part of a character’s life, and the readers want to see how it affects their lives, but it can’t be the point of the book. They want to see people of color in fantasy, a teen detective with Chron’s disease, a wheel chair bound action hero, and romance between characters of all sexual orientations. Those examples are made up based on some of the comments I read, but they’re pretty spot on from the types of diverse ideas they want to see written. They want to see a cross-section of America, and in some cases the world, that isn’t white, Christian and straight.

So, how do we use this information? Well, first of all it would be great to see agents and publishers take a look because my agent research has indicated that agents are looking for Contemporary right now. Yet that had extremely low response numbers from this completely unscientific poll. Unfortunately I don’t have any agents or publishers that follow my blog, so chances are slim for that. 😉

I guess, if you see your book in these results, then congratulations! Get working and get it published! If you see some inspiration in any or several of the requests made by these responses, then once again, get busy! You’ve got some writing to do! But, if you see your book in some of the requests for NO MORE!, well, don’t despair. Even these YA readers couldn’t all agree on what they wanted, so there are readers out there for all kinds of novels. Just keep writing what you love. It’s all any of us can do!

What Do YA Readers Want? – Data

22 teens responded to the question: What kinds of published books would you like to see more of? on the TCWT blog chain, while 40 respondents of an unidentified age responded to the question: What would you like to see more or less of in YA? on the Absolute Write Watercooler forums. This is the data.

The responses are organized and tallied as close as possible into pertinent categories with relevant subheadings. If a response has two numbers, the first is from the teen respondent group. If it has only one number, it could be from either group. If it has no number then it is either just a heading that no one specifically requested, or only one person requested it. Though I put things in my words for clarity, sometimes I used the respondents exact words. You should be able to tell!

Check out my post What Do YA Readers WANT?!! where I discuss the results.

22 Teen Respondents + 40 Unidentified Respondents

  • POV
    • Male (2) + (3) = 5
    • Multiple POVs (1) + (4) = 5Less first person POV (3)
      • Third person with multi POVs (4)
    • No series where each book is from a different person’s POV
  • ROMANCE – (Existence of, not genre)
    • Tired of Romance or less romance (7) + (9) = 16
      • More topics about things kids deal with
      • Sexual uncertainty and ambiguity
      • Characters embrace singularity
      • Tired of great stories being steamrolled by romance
    • LGBTQ+ Romance (4)
      • Not just 2 guys: explore other couple dynamics (2)
    • Less or no love triangles (5) + (6) = 11
      • Unless done well
      • At least change 2 boys after one girl formula
      • Don’t have girl end up with the guy who treated her like dirt
      • Make MC be the one who is chosen, not the chooser
    • Real love triangles with LGBTQ+ characters
      • a likes b, but b likes c, and c likes a
    • Clean Romance
    • Healthy teen love relationships (3) + (6) = 9
      • Romance done well w/ a slow build and deep commitment (2)
      • No abusive relationships with happy ending
    • Less “one true” or “insta” love (11)
      • See relationships fail
      • Be happy alone
      • Romances that don’t have happy ending
      • Relationships that end mutually
      • Stories where you learn from failed romance
      • Accepting flaws in partner and learning to live w/ problems
    • Books without romance, or at least where lack of romance isn’t central issue (2)
    • More romance
    • No more romances between “good girl” and paranormal “bad boy” (2)
      • At least reverse the cliché
    • Less glorified first kiss, first time having sex, etc.
    • YA satire of teens and their multiple forever-love affairs
  • DIVERSITY
    • Diversity in general (9) + (3) = 12
      • All forms
      • Not secondary characters
      • Asian or half-Asian
      • Help those of us who don’t care about seeing diversity have an opportunity to see it
      • Chronically ill
      • Physically disabled
    • LGBTQ+ Characters (4) + (5)
      • Romance
      • Explore all kinds of orientation
      • Question sexuality and don’t necessarily resolve by end of book
      • Gay older mentor characters shouldn’t be stereotypical
      • Friendships between LGBTQ+ characters and also straight characters
      • Asexual characters
      • Honest-to-God Lesbians
    • LGBTQ+ Series
    • No diversity issues (8) + (8) = 16
    • Characters w/ diverse hobbies
    • Diverse group of misfits
    • Ethnic Americans living their culture (5)
      • Contemporary stories
      • Futuristic stories (2)
      • Afrotruism (3)
    • Diverse authors writing about their own culture
    • Characters of color where color is not the issue (4)
    • Translations of international YA books
    • Characters with disabilities (2)
      • Disability not the issue
    • Neuro-diversity (2)
      • Important to character development but not the issue of the novel
      • Like Carrie in Homeland – bipolar, but not the story
  • CHARACTERS
    • Detailed character descriptions – paint a picture
    • Female
      • Smart nerdy girl who gets the hot guy
      • Diversity in female fantasy characters
      • Believable females – not always kick-ass, can be weak, intelligent, have to deal w/ emotions, solve problems w/ intelligence not brawn
      • Strong female characters (4)
        • Bad-ass girly girls like Buffy (2)
    • Well developed characters
    • White characters should get sunburned
    • More anti-heroes who carve their own way to hell (2) + (3) = 5
      • Morally ambiguous
      • POV of antagonist
      • Don Draper
      • Walter White
      • Also females
      • Use chessmaster skills to achieve their means
    • Homeless characters in a big city
    • Books from POV of toddler
    • Families (4) + (12) = 16
      • Big families (2)
      • Present parents (1) + (5) = 6
      • Healthy family units
      • Quirky/original family dynamics (3)
      • Rich, complicated sibling dynamics
      • Relationships focused on friends/siblings/parents not LI (4)
    • Characters who step out of their bubble
    • Large cast of characters with secondary characters we care about (7)
      • Quirky secondary characters
      • No more lame secondary characters who only exist to highlight MCs perfections/purity (2)
    • Fewer quirky characters who only like media from past generations
    • Quirky fun characters
    • Characters who learn from mistakes; especially communication
    • Complex adults – less stock or cardboard adult characters
    • Less sarcasm, snark and characters who try too hard to be funny
    • Less “chosen ones” in stories that don’t follow the structure
    • Less angst ridden orphans with black hair
    • Characters from the southern United States
    • Normal, likable religious characters who are not hypocritical
    • Kind-hearted/nice/benevolent rich/privileged protagonists
    • Characters who aren’t rich or privileged
  • PLOT
    • No books w/ open endings
    • Tired of MC has to change the world
    • Plot like National Treasure where unconnected clues lead to big finale
    • Less commercially viable formulas and more unexpected (3)
      • MG quirkiness
      • Unpredictable plot twists
    • Well researched and not cliched or stereotypical
    • Road trip stories
    • Realistic deaths
    • Less characters being confronted by overwhelming odds only to be saved by someone else at the last second
    • Deal with social topics (4)
      • Politics
      • Ethics
      • Religion
      • Real issues that aren’t afraid to be dark
      • Male POV
      • Characters who suffer from slut-shaming and bullying is actually addressed (2)
        • Victim responds by becoming successful and moving on
    • Less depressing books (4)
      • No grief/suicide as main issue (2)
    • Optimistic fun adventures (2)
    • Family as main emotional stake (2)
    • Plot driven books with twists and turns (2)
    • No megacorp/government bad guys and resistance good guys (6)
      • or reverse it, how about average citizen comes in conflict with more than one-note government
    • Unpredictable twists, especially in mysteries and thrillers
    • No more mean girls/bullies against MC (2)
  • SETTINGS
    • Unusual settings (2)
    • Locations other than U.S. (1) + (6) = 7Settings in the southern United States
      • Obscure countries
      • Coming of age stories in obscure countries
      • Stories about people of different cultures in those cultures
      • Scotland
      • Asian location with Asian characters
    • Vivid settings that pay close attention to details (2)
      • Not average American town with no distinguishing features
  • GENRE
    • Fantasy (9) + (12) = 21
      • LOTR
      • Dragons
      • LGBTQ+ (2)
      • Sea stories
      • Diversity (2) + (2) = 4
        • Non-white MC
      • High/epic (1) + (2) = 3
      • Mermaids (1) + (1) = 2
      • No vampires
      • Non-Greek/Roman mythology (2) + (1) = 3
      • Egyptian mythology
      • Celtic Mythology
      • Non-western mythologies
        • Japanese
        • Chinese
      • More books like SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series
      • More Arthurian legend books like Gerald Morris’
      • Second world fantasy with well-constructed world
      • Not medieval England-like setting (2)
      • Diverse Settings
      • Multiversal
      • Powerful female characters
      • Cool magic systems (3)
      • No more steampunk
      • Lady pirates (could be historical fiction too)
      • No more fantasy or speculative fiction
    • Magical Realism and Paranormal
      • Cool magic systems (3)
      • Less paranormal
      • New paranormal beings besides vampires, werewolves, angels, etc.
      • Less realism and more surrealism – cross-over contemporary with paranormal (2)
      • Less supernatural academies
      • Urban Fantasies (2)
        • Settings other than NY
        • Settings in Europe other than Victorian London
        • Everything but the kitchen sink – not just one supernatural being
    • Science Fiction (4) + (6) = 10
      • Pure sci-fi
      • Cyborgs & robots (1) + (1) = 2
        • Giant robots
      • LGBTQ+
      • Diversity of all kinds
      • Not dystopia (1) + (2) = 3
      • Space opera (2)
      • Diverse Settings
      • Multi-planet, plane or dimension
      • Fun adventures where science and technology are desirable, not the bad guy
      • High powered settings with flashy powerful magic or technology
    • Contemporary (2)
      • More books like John Green’s
      • More books like WONDER
      • Less issue books
      • Realistic summer camps
      • Less John Green clones
      • Less Eleanor & Park clones
      • No more contemporaries based on a big secret that’s revealed later in book
    • Dystopia (2) + (7) = 9
      • No or less dystopia (1) + (4) = 5
        • Especially post-apocalyptic cliche
      • LGBTQ+ especially w/ romance subplot
      • Well-constructed worlds that pass logic test
      • Outside U.S. Settings
      • Move away from tropes and cliches (2)
        • Controlling government
        • Ceremony signaling adulthood at beginning
        • One-not government tyranny (love outlawed or something)
        • Use other forms of dystopian
    • Re-tellings (10)
      • Fairy Tale (5) + (1) = 6
        • Non-typical fairy tales (2)
      • Shakespeare (2)
      • Classic literature
      • Mash ups (2)
      • Anne of Green Gables
    • Historical Fiction (7) + (1) = 8
      • Based on an event, not romance
      • French Revolution
      • Braveheart
      • Asia
      • LGBTQ+ (2)
      • Diversity of all kinds
      • Historical mixed with fantasy/immortality/time travel
      • Fiction books on The Monuments men and how they recovered the art
      • All kinds
      • Include 20th century
      • More 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and centered around music
    • Mysteries (6) + (4) = 10Post-apocalyptic
      • Agatha Christie (2)
      • Dorothy Sayers
      • Irene Hannon
      • Dee Henderson
      • Prolific
      • Teen detectives that aren’t Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys
    • Thriller/Suspense/Espionage (3)
      • YA books similar to Tom Clancy’s books
      • More Ian Fleming/John Gardner type James Bond (less girls, more guns)
      • Books like those written by Jill Patton Walsh (detective?)
    • Horror (2)
      • Contemporary
      • Psychological
    • Creative genres (1) + (1) = 2Alternate histories
      • mix it up with sub genres
      • Don’t just stick to establishment
      • Like Grasshopper Jungle
    • Classics (2)
      • Oscar Wilde
    • Literary
      • Books that focus on word craft like Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower
      • Not purple prose
  • RANDOM
    • Fan Fic/Books by friends/Books by me (4)
    • More series (2)
    • More humor (4) + (1) = 5The last of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place books
      • Hitchhiker’s Guide
      • Clean
      • Subtle and intelligent
      • Absurdist but meaningful
      • Puns
    • Groundbreaking books
    • YA with illustrations like Miss Peregrine’s
    • Scrafy in the Middle
    • A YA novel/series akin to Welcome to Night Vale Podcast series
    • Stand alones
    • Stories influenced by anime/manga
    • No clones of anything already big
    • Unique format like Where’d You Go, Bernadette, or Lover’s Dictionary
    • Originality
    • Weirdness/ambiguity