Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Weak vs. Strong

I'm tired of female characters who make stupid decisions. Like going out at night, alone, when you know someone's been stalking you for weeks. I mean, really? Even if it's a technique to build suspense, I don't like it. My friend and crit partner refers to this as the BSS, or the Bella Swan Syndrome.

I prefer kick-ass female protagonists (picture Buffy or Katniss). Aren't those the models we want for teenage girls, ones who stand up for their beliefs and protect their friends and family? Yet, I keep reading YA books with female characters that make me want to hurl my Kindle across the room (don't worry, I love my Kindle too much to actually follow through with it).

As a writer, my characters don't start off strong. They have struggles. They're naive. They're unsure of themselves. But they grow into better versions of themselves as they face their fears and self-doubt. These are the kinds of protagonists I want to read about. 

But maybe that's just me. What about you? What kinds of characters do you prefer to read or write?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Hell I'd Like to Call Revision

I'm embarrassed to admit this: I don't know how to revise. I'm an English teacher. I encourage my students to revise all the time. So what's wrong with ME? Why am I struggling so hard to revise my novel and get it ready for submission this summer?

I don't think this makes me a terrible English teacher. I can help my students revise essays, especially the persuasive ones that the state and district seem so fond of using in writing assessments. But my novel? My baby? It's so hard! (And yes, I know I'm on the verge of whining. I can't help it!)

After spending an entire week feeling overwhelmed, I received an email that helped me see the light at the end of my revision tunnel. A couple of months ago I signed up for the Writer's Boot Camp at WIFYR (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers). The class will be taught by Ann Cannon, author of several books including The Loser's Guide to Life and Love. She sent a welcome letter yesterday that gave me nearly three pages worth of questions to think about during the revision process. Thank you, Ann! This was exactly what I needed. I have about three months to whip my baby into shape because 55 pages will be read by Ann and nine other strangers (I cringe just thinking about it!). 

But now I have direction, and I intend to approach each question one step at a time. I'd love to hear any suggestions about how you tackle revision.

Does anyone have any sage advice about revision? Tricks that have worked well for you? Website links of golden information? 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Am I a Literary Snob?

I've heard people say that being a writer takes away the joy they used to have as a reader. I thought, No! That will never happen to me! I love books too much. I never cared about whether or not the book I was reading would win any awards; I only wanted a good story that kept me turning the pages. 

Lately, though, I've had a harder time finding books that I enjoy. I don't focus only on an engrossing story. I look at the way the writer has crafted it. And then I express my frustration to my critique partner and wonder if she sees the same flaws I see! 

I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. It opens me up to recognizing the same kinds of flaws in my own writing, to see what I need to avoid doing. There's a reason why people recommend reading widely if you're going to be a writer. On the positive side, when I do find a book that I enjoy, I can look at it from a writer's perspective to see how the author succeeded with his or her craft. 

Do you look at books differently now that you're a writer? Is it a positive or a negative experience for you?