I've been doing a lot of events recently and one of the questions people are always asking me is . . .
What advice do you give to people who want to become writers?
One of the answers I always give is . . .
Read as much as you can, as many different styles and genres as you can get your hands on.
Don't just read what you think you like. If you love paranormal, you can't just read paranormal. You must also read contemporary, science fiction, romance, historical fiction, biographies, autobiographies and the dozen other genres I'm missing. And don't just read books. Read newspapers, magazines, blogs . . . everything and anything. Doing this will open your mind to new styles of writing and will show you that there are so many different voices out there. You don't have to emulate another author or write a specific way to write something amazing and even publishable. You just have to stay true to yourself, work on your voice and your craft and you'll find an audience.
Now, I've been on panels recently with authors who have said they don't read a lot of YA because when they read a book it informs their writing and they don't want other people's styles getting into their heads. I get that. It happens to me, too. But I LOVE it. I love when I learn something new from a book I'm reading or can pick up on a cool way to spin a metaphor or get inspired to create a more unique voice for a character. It's basically my favorite thing. I don't think my voice has changed drastically over the years, but if it has, it has changed for the better and it has changed because I KEEP ON LEARNING. I keep on learning by reading authors as varied as E. Lockhart and Alexandra Bracken, Andy Marino and Cristin Terrill, Maggie Stiefvater and Stephanie Kate Strohm. I learn something new every time I read something new and my first book was published FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. Which is why my first piece of advice to aspiring writers will always remain the same.
Every day includes a little procrastination and today I googled myself (shut up. you do it, too), to see if there was anything out there I didn't know about and lo and behold, I found THIS! IMHOBooks is a channel on YouTube, featuring book reviews by two very poised young ladies named Catherine and Olivia. They had a review up of SHE'S SO DEAD TO US, so of course I had to watch it. (LOVE!) It was pleasantly short and sweet, so I went and clicked on a few of their other reviews and they just get better and better. The Ellen Degeneres review had me laughing out loud. You have to check it out and see if they've reviewed any of your favorites. Enjoy! I tried to insert the videos here, but it's not working, so I have to use links. (Apologies.) She's So Dead to Us Review Ellen Degeneres Review
1. That we could find a way to put an end to terrorism. 2. That we could agree to destroy every nuclear weapon on the planet and promise not to make more. 3. That there was no cancer. 4. That there was no AIDS. 5. That all children were born into loving, caring homes. 6. That cigarettes didn't exist (I know some smokers will vilify me for saying this, and you have every right. My mom loved her cigarettes, too. Until they killed her.) 7. That we could become more obsessed with building people up than we are with tearing them down. 8. That someone could write a gun law that made sense. 9. That it was cooler to be smart than to be cool. 10. That Brad and Jen would get back together.
Some of you may know that I recently ran this charity auction called YA FOR NJ to raise funds for Hurricane Sandy relief. I enlisted the help of over 170 authors to donate their autographed books to be auctioned off with all the money going to The Community FoodBank of New Jersey. It felt amazing to do something to help those in need, but there was also an unexpected bonus . . . .
I got to meet all these authors I'd never met before and hear about their AMAZING books. My reading list exploded as I read synopsis after synopsis, getting ready to post the items online, and I had to run out and buy a few of the more intriguing novels for myself. Well, let me just say, I've only just started the first one, but it is MIND-BLOWING.
The book is called UNISON SPARK and it was written by Andy Marino, who clearly has an imagination that is OUT OF BOUNDS. It took me a while to get into because my brain isn't wired for sci-fi (I like to watch sci-fi movies, but I don't think I've ever read a book that could actually be classified as sci-fi, unless you count GLOW, which was really more parable/romance in my opinion). I'm only on page 75 of UNISON SPARK, but I can't put it down. It actually took some effort to come to the computer to type this up and I'm already itching to find out what happens next. Not only has Andy created an incredibly rich, detailed world, but it's like he's created his own language. It's stunning and something I know I could never accomplish.
Clearly, I have no idea where this book is going, but so far it's a highly-satisfying read, people.
Kudos to Andy. I can't wait to read whatever you come up with next!
The main character is my new book is a drummer, which I know almost nothing about, so today I've been doing a little web-surfing/researching on the topic and I came across this crazy drum solo on YouTube. My husband was a drummer back in high school, and he's mentioned Neil Peart--one of the greatest drummers of all time--but I'd never actually seen him play. Now I can't stop watching this! I can't even keep a beat, so I'm duly impressed. And how the heck does he remember where each of the different instruments is positioned? Genius.
I wish I'd learned to play the drums. Maybe I could've been a Bangle. :)
If you follow me on twitter or facebook, you know I love to work out, but I don't always have time to go to the gym. Over the years I've found that Fitness Magazine and Shape Magazine often offer great, quick workouts that you can do at home with minimal equipment and this one is my current favorite (from the November/December issue of Fitness). You can do it in twenty minutes and feel like you've gotten a cardio and strength work out. What's that saying again? Oh yeah . . .
Last night I saw SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, which was an awesome movie based on the book by an awesome guy, Matthew Quick. (Who also has an awesome wife, Alicia Bessette.) I sat next to them once at the Collingswood Book Festival, and was jealous of the line of guys and girls snaking away from their table for an autographed copy of Matthew's SORTA LIKE A ROCKSTAR. I bought Alicia's book, SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH because it sounded like my kinda joint (baking and romance? sign me up!), and she did me the solid of buying MY book right back. I'm sure neither of them remembers this encounter, and this has become a total tangent, so back to what I was going to say, which was . . . .
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK did what almost no movie I've seen in the past five years has done--it stumped me! As the climactic scene got ready to begin, I was holding my breath, actually NOT KNOWING what was going to happen. Wait, back up. Not only did I NOT KNOW, I had NO INKLING. It could have gone one of twenty-seven different ways, and because of this, I had an experience I rarely have in the movie theater anymore--I was on the edge of my seat.
I won't ruin it for you, but I will say this. THAT is the kind of story-telling I strive for. The kind of story-telling all writers should strive for. And it's SO HARD to execute! We're all so programmed by years and years of novel reading and movie-going and tv-watching to pound out a satisfying arc, that we don't realize that what we think is satisfying has become the very opposite. I love a happy ending, don't get me wrong, but we don't all have to take the same path to get to the happy ending. If we all did that, how lame would life (and entertainment) be?
So that's what I'm taking from my movie-watching experience last night. Today, I will be unpredictable in my writing. And hopefully, every day from here on out.
And just FYI, on SILVER LININGS: I LOVED the ending. :)