Ready for something crazy?

After posting on WARBREAKER last week, I did a little research and guess what?

Brandon Sanderson posted drafts of the book online, starting with the roughest, as he was writing it. For all the world to see. To pick apart. To criticize. To look for holes in that intricate plot. To freely broadcast it to others who could do the same.

This is a brave man!

Keep in mind that he was not an unknown trying to gain a few fans or the attention of a publisher. By this time, he had already published his New York Times best-selling MISTBORN trilogy. He had a reputation. And still he was willing to risk that so that he could give his readers an inside look at how a novel is created. You can read more of his reasons for involving his readers in the writing process — and drafts!– online.

Sanderson is not the first to share early drafts before publishing the final product. On Twitter a couple weeks ago, Alvina Ling, executive editor at Little Brown, introduced me to Figment.com, a website that encourages writers to post their novels as they are written — one chapter at a time. Figment has created a very large, supportive community of writers based on this principle of involving others in your creation process. (You really ought to check it out.)

Now me? I’m a total wuss. I’m hesitant to share my work with even my writing group. I always feel like I have something to prove. That if it’s not good enough the first time, no one will give me a chance to fix it.

Then I came across this post, from YA author Ann Dee Ellis, and I remembered something I had forgotten.

I had lost sight of the magic of the process. How cool is it to see something transform (with plenty of hard work) from a big sloppy mess into a story that gets even your heart going? How rewarding is it to send a much-improved revised chapter to a reader who thought the first version was already pretty good? And, how often are we writers too hard on ourselves? To the point that it makes us want to hit the delete button and quit writing forever?

Involving others in your craft not only provides you with much needed feedback to help you improve, but it also gives you motivation to continue writing. Someone to tell you your idea is worth something. We all need a little encouragement, don’t we?

Are you an open book when it comes to sharing your writing? Who is your most trusted reader? What is the best/scariest part about sharing?

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I’m a big fan of Rick Walton, not only because his books are so fun and memorable, but also because of his strong commitment to supporting aspiring writers. He recently guest posted over at Throwing Up Words on the Today Show scandal (is scandal too strong a word here?) and what we can do to increase appreciation for books. I liked what he had to say, so I’m reposting it here. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The children’s book world recently went to a minor convulsion when the Today Show decided that for the first time in several years they would not have the winners of the Caldecott and the Newbery. It felt too many like a slap in the face, and a blow to literacy, and books. There has been much talk about what should be done. How do you address this problem?

I love to tackle impossible problems, and I have been trying to think of the solution to the Today Show problem.

But then I realize that I need to figure out what the real problem is.

Is it that the awards don’t get enough attention? Only, I believe, in the sense that the main value of the awards is that they draw attention to books and reading.

Is it that writers aren’t glitzy enough to be seen as celebrity? I’ve never liked the idea of authors as celebrities. It’s the books, it’s reading, it’s literacy that matters.

Is it even more fundamental, that kids aren’t reading and writing? Actually, with computer gaming, texting, and social media, kids are reading and writing more than ever.

So what is the real problem? Read the rest of his post here.

I don’t believe this book was actually marketed to young adults, but I have ulterior motives for calling it one. Ryan’s been on a Brandon Sanderson kick lately, and he’s been dying for me to read one of his books. One of the main characters in WARBREAKER is 17, so I finally gave in, calling it YA writing research. You know. Training.

So glad I did.

Brandon Sanderson is a freaking plot genius. This book is told from 3-4 very different characters’ viewpoints, but he weaves their stories together so expertly by the end. There are many twists and turns, and I love that each character is flawed–that ultimately a hero and villain can be found in the same person.

I’ll admit that it took me awhile to get into the book. For about 2/3 of it, I was interested by the details of the world, its peoples and religions, but it was easy to put down.

However.

Right at about the 2/3 point, everything that had been building up started exploding–I finished the last third of the book in one (late) night. Couldn’t put it down. The conflict became so great, while every plausible method for overcoming it failed, that I just didn’t know how it could end well.

Oh but it does. Don’t you just love books like that?

Anyway, here’s the info. Check it out for a fun standalone fantasy novel.

Title: WARBREAKER

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Synopsis in Sanderson’s own words:

In many ways, this book is a companion—yet opposite book—to ELANTRIS. Though set in separate worlds with very different systems of magic, both take the same concept, then run different directions with it.

And so, we are introduced to four characters. Lightsong is a God of the Hallandren people—a regular man who died in a heroic way, and was therefore brought back to life by the magic to rule as a god. (Or, at least, that’s how the Hallandren people interpret it.) We have Siri, a rebellious daughter sent by her father to marry the tyrant god-king of those same Hallandren people. We have Vivenna, sister to Siri, who goes to try to rescue her sibling from her fate. And then, there’s Vasher—whose motivations and goals are his own.

Win Holly Black’s white and red

Posted: January 27, 2011 in giveaway!

If you love YA fantasy, you’re about to love me too. Cindy Pon is hosting a Holly Black giveaway over on her blog for both the WHITE CAT and RED GLOVE, the next book in the Curse Workers series. If you think that’s good, just wait.

Did I mention that the copy of WHITE CAT is signed by Holly Black? And that RED GLOVE, which hasn’t yet been released, is a coveted arc?

I’ve heard so many great things about these books and have been feeling series withdrawals ever since MOCKINGJAY, so I think these need to be next on my list.

Click here to enter. Winner announced on Groundhog’s Day!

I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired to write at 9 o’clock every morning.
~Peter De Vries

If Peter De Vries can do it — and believe me, with 23 novels, plus 5 decades’ worth of poems, short stories, essays, and a play to his name, he did it — then you can too. You just have to start stripping away your excuses, one at a time.

There was quite the debate at #litchat on Twitter yesterday on discipline’s place in writing: can discipline and creativity coexist? I do believe they can. I also believe it’s easier to say they can’t. But we’re getting rid of excuses today, not creating them, and today’s quote kills two of my best — I don’t have the time, and when I do, I’m not always feeling it.

Turns out I do and I can.

What’s your best (or worst) excuse for putting off writing? Or better yet, what’s the worst excuse you’ve ever used for anything?

I shy away from the tough stuff.

Not in life — I love me a good controversy — but in my writing. I know so many writers who can’t wait to tackle the death scene or their thriller novel idea or that scene so thick with suspense that you almost can’t breathe, but me? I’d much rather insinuate that all that happened and then leave it up to the reader’s imagination. I’m no expert, but I think that’s what they call “lazy writing.”

I’m just not an intense person.

I discovered this after letting my Ryan, lover of all things action and epic adventure (+ me), read a scene I wrote about a 12-year-old girl in a middle school play. He read it, quiet and slow. Then he took a long breath and said That’s really nice. What age is this for again? He was right to ask. Because at what age would you rather read something quiet and slow than exciting and fast-paced? Even so-called “quiet” books have a level of intensity to them, manifested through mystery or concern or curiosity.

I had a pretty intense dream last night. I was a witness to the murder of my next-door neighbor, committed by my other next-door neighbor, Glenn Close. (I think those Damages commercials are getting to me…)

Come to think of it, I probably have a murder-related dream once or twice a week. Disturbing? Possibly. But they turn into really exciting dreams. The type that I don’t want to wake up from because I have to know what happens next. The type that I can’t wait to wake up from because it feels too real in that moment.

That’s what we’re aiming for as YA writers, no? For a plot so compelling, characters so rich and complex, that our readers don’t want to wake up from the reality we’ve created. Stories that will keep them turning the pages, flashlights under blankets, well into the night.

That’s one of my personal writing goals this year. It’s time I got intense.

When I first started this blog, I had just attended a writing conference where Little Brown editor Jennifer Hunt spoke. She recommended practicing the craft by reading news articles or watching documentaries that involved kids and then writing a YA or MG scene inspired by the article or documentary. I loved the idea and decided I would do it weekly as a fun creative exercise.

And now, months later, I begin.

Each Monday, I’ll post the article I’ll be using as my inspiration. If you want to play along, and I hope you do, you can either use the same article (I think it would be fun to see how different the end product is) or pick another article that came out in the past week. On Friday we’ll post our results — be sure to share the link to yours in the comments!

I’ve done a few of these on my own, and it’s always been fun to see where the story leads me. It helps me to explore characters and issues I never would have thought to before. Maybe one of these days I’ll find a character I’d like to spend a novel with.

This week I’m doing a YA scene using this article as my inspiration: http://bit.ly/gLGvNj

Thanks for playing!