Writing

How I Met Your Sad, Incongruous Ending

by sarahenni on April 2, 2014

Spoilers be here, for both How I Met Your Mother and the SHATTER ME series by Tahereh Mafi (there’s a connection there, I swear).

So, like a lot of the internet, I spent yesterday, and today, being a bit wound up about the finale of How I Met Your Mother, a show I never could quit, even though it became a sad parody of itself for the last two to three seasons. What’s upsetting is that the very reason I stayed – the characters – is exactly what was undermined in the series finale. Ultimately, the show betrayed the characters it worked seasons to build into dynamic, real-feeling people, forcing together in the end two people that had simply grown apart.

What HIMYM got exactly wrong in its final hour is exactly what Tahereh Mafi’s SHATTER ME series got right in its final iteration, IGNITE ME.

In SHATTER ME, Juliette struggles to come to terms with her own destructive power, and is presented with two men she has romantic chemistry with – ‘good guy’ Adam and the villainous Warner. Through the first two books, the interplay between Juliette and Warner made him a dark-horse candidate to actually end up with her – certainly he was a favorite of tons of fangirls. In those books, Tahereh explored other facets of Warner’s character, showing us a depth and complexity that wasn’t immediately apparent, and showing how Warner fundamentally changed as a character. Adam grew a lot, too – we saw that there was a lot of bad to go with the good. Tahereh adapted to her characters’ organic changes as they endured gun fights, explosions, breakups – things that change a person.

photoAnd in the end, Tahereh pairs Juliette and Warner — something that a few friends of mine were shocked to hear when I related it to them recently. But by the end of IGNITE ME, it was the only choice that made sense for those two characters. At that point, shoving Adam and Juliette together would have been nonsensical, and whatever narrative hoops Tahereh would’ve had to jump through to make that palatable for the reader would have completely broken our suspension of disblief.

That is where HIMYM went wrong. Its writers were so wed to the idea of Robin and Ted as end-game, they ignored the last 4-5 years in which the show made a convincing case for Ted and Robin as two people who were compatible as close friends but horrible for one another romantically. It also totally submarined Barney and Robin, a relationship so stilted and ungainly that the showrunners spent literally the entire last season focusing JUST on their wedding to make us finally, eventually, begrudgingly accept that they were a couple that could work. 23 episodes of that, and then they announce their divorce halfway through the finale and we’re still expected to be cheering for Ted and Robin when they get together?

HIMYM was a great show for a lot of things, especially early on: tracking the Chosen Family relationships many make in the post-college, pre-full-on adulthood time frame; treating real and difficult subjects with poignancy and unblinking realism (losing a father, finding a father, infertility). In the end, though, the show’s creators ignored the characters’ organic growth over 9 seasons, instead expecting the audience to be pleased that they got the finale we all wanted at the end of Season 1.

It’s silly, short-sighted, and frustrating as all hell. It can be difficult to step back and see your characters with clear eyes, but creators ignore the shifting nature of their work at their own peril.

In the process of writing a book – and most especially, a series – there can be unpleasant realizations. Some characters end up being different than you thought, the plot has to shift away from what you originally planned to accommodate revisions. Maybe two characters you wanted to get together (characters whose romance kept you writing through the hard times! The ones you were desperate to see live Happily Ever After) simply can’t wind up together – because at the end of the book/series, they aren’t the same characters anymore. Be true to the people actually on the page. Do right by them, and your audience will respect and appreciate it, even if it isn’t the story they would choose.

As for HIMYM, I have already accepted this altered ending, by YouTuber Ricardo Dylan, as headcanon.

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I Get By With A Little Help

by sarahenni on March 31, 2014

It’s been a bit of a stressful time lately, with life and with writing. I’ve been trying to get some momentum behind drafting a new book (well… a new version of an old book, if you want to get particular), and the best way to do that is to spend some time with fellow writers. Thankfully a few confluent events brought a bunch of YA Highway ladies together in SoCal.

Our lovely San Diego host Kirsten Hubbard, and the delightfully pale Kate Hart

First thing? The Divergent movie, of course!

Debra Driza, Amy Lukavics, Stephanie Kuehn, Kate Hart, Yours Truly, Kirsten Hubbard, Sumayyah Daud at the movie theater’s bar avoiding actual teenagers until showtime.

I think it’s okay to admit now that I was super nervous for the movie. There was a lot of (well-deserved) hype! But I can honestly say the movie did right by my girl Veronica — and Insurgent already got the green light!

The settings were amazing, and Shailene rocked (the scene with her mom at the end? Tears). And, Theo James? Mmmm Hmmm. There was just a *teensy* bit of pressure on the guy (realizing a fandom’s perfect Four? Good luck!), but he completely nailed it. Also, his face.

Bye bye Pamuk, hellooooo Four.

Did you catch Veronica’s cameo in the movie? Neck tats! In a theater full of girls gasping and sighing over Theo (I managed to keep my fangirling [mostly] internal on that count), our row screamed in unison when she burst onto the screen. Such a badass!! So freaking proud of Veronica this weekend it hurts.

After loving the movie and toasting to Divergent’s success, we navigated north to L.A. to see the always gorgeous Tahereh Mafi, who was celebrating her recent marriage to fellow YA all-star Ransom Riggs!

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Me, Kate, beautiful bride Tahereh, and Sumayyah!

I don’t think anyone needs me to tell them that Tahereh sweats style and breathes grace, so of course an event planned by she and Ransom was completely gorgeous, with personal touches that made the night totally unforgettable. And okay, I totally embarrassed myself with how hard I was crying, but all I have to say is: Two NYT best-selling writers crafting their own wedding vows? If you didn’t cry, you were basically the Terminator. I stand by my creys of joy. By the end of the night, everyone in the place was ready to marry either or both of those crazy cute kids.

Wedding Gif 4

Also, there was cake.

We stuck around the city of angels for another night to see The National perform at the Shrine Auditorium — an incredible venue to see a band that is ever-present in my writing playlists. Added bonus: they were debuting a documentary about the band, “Mistaken for Strangers,”  which was totally fantastic. The band managed to make a 5,000+ capacity theater feel intimate, and also, lasers.

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Bloodbuzz Ohio

Live music is one of those things that never fails to energize me. Musicians get to connect to their audience in a one-on-one way that authors can only dream of, but being swept up in a 5,000-person singalong to “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” is the kind of transcendent moment that keeps me writing.

In fact, it’s a good thing I’m not a musician, because I’d just cry my way through that, too. Turns out I’m a big softie.

Anyway, the point is: There is just nothing that recharges the creative batteries like seeing fellow writers and kindred spirits, and remembering collectively what human experiences keep us plugging away at our laptops. It was a kind of alternative writing retreat; not a single word was written, but progress was made nonetheless.

What about you?? Have you been hanging with other writers lately? Seen or done something that reminds you why you keep writing? I wanna know!

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Give Up A Little, Gain A Lot

by sarahenni on March 5, 2014

Today is the first day of Lent, a Christian remembrance of sacrifice, where they give something up for a 40-day period. It happens to come along just as I was hoping to recommit myself to my New Year’s resolution 1: words, words, words! So I’ve decided that for Lent I’m giving up excuses.

Take that, lethargy!

It’s been a weird time over the last few weeks, and I’ve had a crazy hard time committing myself to put in just a little bit of time every day. Of course the worst thing about that is how it makes you look back regretfully, instead of forward, with hope. And that’s pretty dumb, since I can’t change my past lazy self. In fact it’s quite possible I just needed that time – a fallow period.

Either way, the brief glimpses of sun we’ve had lately – fleeting promises of a spring that is basically never going to happen, making daylight savings this weekend nothing but a cruel joke – have got me feeling more optimistic. Sun! Rebirth! Growth! Words!

And it just so happens this recommitment decision comes with a perk: a trip to the Paper Source! Total coincidence. Swears. Anyway, I bought a 2014 calendar for 50% off (as I’d intended to do before January but got too lazy … oh well! Discount!) and some heart stickers, and I’m going to try the method Jessica Spotswood has been raving about for a long time.
photo 1

On each day I get a sticker for every 1,000 words I write. (And, per my resolution, words for this here blog post count. Woohoo!)
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How about you? How are you doing on your resolutions? Have you tried the sticker method? Do you know anywhere I can get amazing stickers??

  1. Oh god how ridiculous to link to two posts ago. Oy. Post more, Sarah!

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Goals For 2014

by sarahenni on January 6, 2014

photoMan, I love the New Year. I like being able to put the events of my life in context, even if it’s the somewhat arbitrary cycle of the Gregorian calendar. This year I was excited to reflect on my reading from 2013, which I tracked better than any year of reading before. The results weren’t great, but I have some fantastic goals to work toward in 2014: reading more diversely, with more purpose.

I’ve got a couple other forward-thinking goals or contexts for the year ahead. Firstly, I continue to keep my motto for 2012 in mind, always, because it has the perennially fashionable effect of keeping me calm.

And, following the lead of the lovely Erin Bowman, I’m boiling down my hope for 2014 into one word:

Create.

I’ve set a goal (inspired by Karen Kavett’s “Don’t Break The Chain” calendar) to write 1,000 words every day this year.

Yes, that’s crazy ambitious. That’s 365,000 words. That’s just 116,103 short of The Lord Of The Rings!

But the impetus for this goal is that for most of the last two years I’ve been revising one project. As a result that project is the best thing I’ve ever written, but dear god. After all that revising, when NaNoWriMo came around this year, it felt like an oasis in the desert of the same 60,000 words I’d been tweaking for 24 months. I wrote something brand new, and it was scary, daring, wonderful, fun. I realized that I didn’t ever want to feel so distant from the raw, make-it-from-scratch feeling of drafting ever again.

So, a thousand words a day. And those 1,000 words can come from anywhere, and go into any project. A hair-brained shiny new book idea, a short story I’m intrigued by, a blog post, writing in my personal journal. Anywhere.

Words. Words, words, words.

It’s already been difficult. On Jan. 1 the pressure of this new goal drove me to write a new scene in my WiP (the one I’ve been laboring over for two years), and it was glorious. Then, Jan. 2, I freaked out and watched Silver Linings Playbook instead. I’m 50/50 on my goal and January has barely started.

But that’s okay! I have a very good idea of what motivation works for me, I know that more often than not having that goal hang over my head will work. I’ll get it done.

And by the end of 2014, I’ll have so many words. All words I was capable of writing, but at a volume I’d never challenged myself to before.

I can’t wait.

Gratuitous picture of self credit: Megan

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Style and Voice

by sarahenni on February 11, 2013

I admire people who have a distinctive look, a personal style. For years I worked to find that same effortless thing for myself, trying and failing, always ending up trying too hard to force something inauthentic. It was only when I found what felt right and worked with it that I started to feel like I had any style of my own.

There’s a very apt writing tie-in to this (I promise!), and it’s the elusive quality that, though every agent and editor says they’re looking for it, is so hard to define: voice. It seems like every interview with a publishing gatekeeper includes the term, and they all put it way, way up there on lists that will push one writer’s work from rejection to request, from sub to sale.

Just like style, voice is something innate that isn’t so much discovered as nurtured. And in light of New York Fashion Week this week, I thought it might be helpful to provide some examples of YA authors out there right now who have some of the most distinctive voices around, and ask the most stylish person I know, fashion blogger and certified bestie Megan (a.k.a. Step Brightly), to help me relate those voices to the world of fashion1.

Voice/Style example 1

Smart and thoughtful. Doesn’t back away from intense, philosophical considerations, but careful to also include levity in some wit, winks, and nods. Definitely an established mainstream name, but has a hugely dedicated cult following.
I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.
— John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
Megan’s style association: Elizabeth & James. 
JohnGreenOlsenTwins
Owned by the extremely popular, yet ever quirky Olsen twins, Elizabeth & James is a clothing line loved by everyone from pop icons to indie rock stars. Mary Kate and Ashley have created a high end sports-wear line that makes basics look fancy. Their website is ridiculously cool and somewhat intimidating, but Elizabeth & James will also pop up at mainstream stores like Madewell from time to time.   The thing I like best about the pint-sized duo’s line is that the clothing is mature and made for a sophisticated woman.

Voice/Style example 2

Poetic, focused on beautiful, intricate details. Something out of a fairytale, but the nuanced, sad, complex original Hans Christen Andersen kind, not the Disney kind. Takes traditional ideas and makes something beautiful and refreshingly new from them.

“That’s how you get deathless, volchitsa. Walk the same tale over and over, until you wear a groove in the world, until even if you vanished, the tale would keep turning, keep playing, like a phonograph, and you’d have to get up again, even with a bullet through your eye, to play your part and say your lines.”

— Catherynne Valente, Deathless

 

Megan association: The Character Sweater

 DeathlessSweater

You have seen them everywhere at this point, am I right? From bulldogs on cashmere to owls on wool, the ‘Pictionary sweater’ is making its mark on year – end fashions.  The fact of the mater is none of these characters are cutesy and many of them are quite the opposite. The melodramatic themes and romantic undertones come across in this crazy lady and this French bulldog.

Voice/Style example 3

Playful but clean. Relatable for the average girl, but brighter, sharper, more whimsical. Unique; an instant classic. Something you want to give as a gift to everyone.
Just because something isn’t practical doesn’t mean it’s not worth creating. Sometimes beauty and real-life magic are enough.”
—Stephanie Perkins, Lola and the Boy Next Door
Megan association: Kate Spade. 
LolaKateSpade
To me, this line of bags, clothes, shoes and accessories is the definition of happiness. Every girl who opens her Kate Spade bag to find an inspiring quote from Kate  feels special. It makes complete sense that Zooey Deschanel is spotted in the line time after time. Whether it be 50s glam, 60s art deco or 70s pops of color, Kate Spade’s classic trends are bigger and brighter than average. This circle of friends exclusively gifts Kate Spade to one another.

Asking, “How do I develop voice?” is almost exactly the same as the question I’ve been asking my closet mirror forever: “How do I develop style?” You study the great ones, the icons, and try everything on until something feels comfortable.

What do you think?? Is style, or voice, as elusive for you as it is/was for me? What other great YA voices deserve a shout out?

  1. descriptions of the voices are mine

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Next Big Thing

by sarahenni on January 4, 2013

Now that I’ve managed to cobble together a draft of the WiP I feel pretty proud of, I finally feel confident enough to answer questions about it! I was tagged for this forever ago, by the lovely Caroline, who borrowed them from Miss Snark!

(Also! I’m blogging about fun accessories to kick off a year of glorious reads at Bestie Megan’s lovely style blog today! Check it out if you dig reading and pretty things.)

Q&A

What’s the working title for your book? Uuuuugh I don’t know! The title I’ve been working with for more than a year is simply terrible. I need to work on the title and the query next… blerg! (Right now the working title on the draft is HATERS TO THE LEFT. I may stand by that.)

What is the one sentence synopsis for your book? A girl who can see auras uses her ability to start a matchmaking business at her high school, and in the process gains—and loses—more than she ever expected.

What genre does your book fall under? Contemporary YA

What other books would you compare your story to in your genre? This is sort of a nerve-wracking question! I’d say that books I emulated in tone or setting would be The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins.

Where did the idea come from for your book? I was thinking of myth retellings, and I wondered how a modern-day Cupid would fare in love. The idea of a high-schooler who could tell what people were compatible raised all kinds of questions: What would they think about fate? How would they deal with the fact that incompatible people fall in love all the time? I took the idea from there and ran with it.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Ooh! Fun question. Creepily enough, I based my mental image of my main character Anya on these photobooth pics of Zooey Deschanel from high school—but Anya wears big glasses, like Zooey does now. However, until time machine casting becomes a very real and amazing thing, I’d have to say my favorite is always Kaya Scoledario, a.k.a. Effy from the BBC’s Skins.

For the love interest, Paul, casting would be a little tricky. Paul is half-Japanese, half-Italian. There aren’t a ton of actors I know of who fit that description (and I just got sucked into a rather dangerous NSFW internet wormhole searching for one). I have a friend who matches the description (but I’m not putting his picture here because awkward) and there are some similarities, strangely, to the not-Asian-at-all Garret Hedlund in that one specific picture–mostly Garrett’s fantastic hair. Paul definitely has the hair. If anyone has casting suggestions, please share!

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I plan on seeking agent representation for this book in the (very near) future, so my hope is to go that way. But never say never, right?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? May we see an intro? FOR-EV-ER. But really, about a year and a half. I had what I consider a “zero draft” (technically a complete manuscript, but so poor that it had to be completely rewritten) after about six months. The rest of that time was spent rewriting and revising my heart out.

As for an intro, here’s the first paragraph as it stands now (these things are always, always revised or scrapped completely but hey):

       There are a couple dozen ways I’d prefer to heartbrokenly wallow after being dumped by world-class douchenozzle Shane Curran. They all involve eating Marianne’s horchata ice cream with my best friend Rainer. None, not a one, has me driving two hours inland to California’s Central Valley to help my mother arm a bunch of computer engineers with Segways and heavy polo mallets in the name of fledgling romance. And yet, here I am.

What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest? If you like stories about keeping Santa Cruz weird, high school rock bands, female friendships,  dreamily witty nerd boys, or orange Vespas, (see also: this Pinterest board) I think you might enjoy my book!

And I’d love to pass the torch, so I’ll tag my ladies Kate Hart, Jessica Love, Jessica BS, and Linsdey Culli!

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Alec Baldwin and Self Improvement

by sarahenni on December 10, 2012

I’ve spent a good amount of my time lately thinking about what “growing up” has been and/or meant to me, post-college. Once those training wheels of organized education were gone, I gained perspective on how I really learn best: trial and error. And failure. When I try, fail, and get ready to try again, I tend to prepare myself better. Preparation includes research and observation.

I was reading Tina Fey’s memoir a few weeks ago and the glowing praise Fey gave her 30 Rock co-star Alec Baldwin caught my attention:

Anything I learned about Real Acting I learned from watching Alec Baldwin. … Alec knows how to let the camera come to him. He can convey a lot with a small movement of his eyes. He speaks so quietly sometimes I can barely hear him when I’m standing next to him, but when you watch the film back, it’s all there. It may not have made me a better actor, but at least now I know why what I’m doing is terrible.

Tina Fey, Bossypants p. 188

Tina Fey may not feel as though noticing what made Alec Baldwin great helped her improve, but she knew, in specific, what he was doing that was different. Making that observation was her first step to improvement. It’s hard to try to be better without identifying what “better” is.

What art form besides writing is as amenable to trying, failing, and editing to improve? First drafts simply don’t get published. I have a special shelf filled with books that gave me those “Alec Baldwin” moments, so I can go back to reference them later. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins when I want to get inspired about voice. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor when I want to study how to pull a reader into a setting. Where She Went by Gayle Forman for pacing and male POV and so many other things.

What about you? What books or authors give you Alec Baldwin moments? How have those books helped your writing process?

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RTW: A Time To Write, A Time To Revise

by sarahenni on December 5, 2012

Welcome to Road Trip Wednesday day, a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway posts a weekly writing- or reading-related question and anyone can answer it on their own blogs. Check out the original post for links to other Road Trippers’ answers!

This week’s topic is: How do you approach editing/revising? Any tips or tricks or resources you can share?

Funny that this should be this week’s topic; I recently sent my manuscript off to beta readers, and I started asking myself this very question. How do I revise? I felt the need to have a system, so I read some wise words from Veronica Roth, and this week’s post by Kristin Cashore, with interest. Eventually, though, revisions boiled down to something quite simple. In flipping through the scenes and individual notes my readers left me, I realized I hadn’t read my book in a while. That sounds dumb, because I’m rereading scenes constantly. But not in order, and rarely more than one or two at a time. My book was, in my mind, a bunch of jagged pieces. I had to find the way to fit them together.

So I printed my book out and read it all the way through. It was painful (so painful), but I forced myself through the flimsy, poorly-written sections knowing I’d subjected my beta readers to it, so I had to be brave. (Eeep!) Then I went back and started a new outline, from scratch, based on my notes and my beta notes. It’s the fourth major overhaul to this WiP’s outline, and somehow I doubt it’ll be the last. So what I’m doing now is tossing the scenes I don’t need (15,000 words, phew!), rewriting the entire beginning (blerg), and revising every single sentence.

It’s time-consuming and can be mentally exhausting (creating a revision goal requires a lot of concentration and extended careful thought), but I can say with only the slightest eye twitch that revisions are definitely my favorite part of writing. Every sentence I tweak, all the words I toss aside, and the plot changes and twists that come about in this stage improve the book exponentially.

What about you?? Any tips or tricks for making revisions work (please)??

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Before You Write, Visualize

by sarahenni on December 3, 2012

When I first started writing, I was a pantser all the way. Not that I knew what ‘pantsing’ was—I just wrote what I wanted to, when I wanted to. As all you pantsers know, that’s really super fun until about 75 percent of the way through a project. Then you get to transition scenes that are boring as all get-out, and finally the hellacious task of fitting all the scenes in the right order, like the most frustrating and unknowable jigsaw puzzle ever.

Then I read Rachel Aaron’s very epiphanic break-down of how she increased word-count by streamlining her writing process. One thing in particular stuck out to me: Aaron’s advice to “know what you’re writing, before you write it.” Seems simple enough. But uh, I was so not doing that. Each day I’d open up my Work In Progress and think: “What happens now?” Reorienting myself to my book was sucking up precious time during each writing session.

The first thing I adjusted was my initial approach the the story: I outlined. I hate endings (they are scarier to me than a pit of snakes in the dark) but getting a general idea of what I was writing toward helped my brainstorming sessions become more specific and productive. On a scene-by-scene basis, Aaron says she would write down what happened in each scene before she wrote it. That was helpful, too; I now have bullet points for each scene that remind me where the many interweaving plot points are in their arc during every scene. But I have another suggestion that has helped me get motivation to crank out scenes.

Before You Write: Visualize

Australian psychologist Alan Richardson performed an experiment with performance and visualization using free throws. You can read more about the details of the experiment here, but the end result was that a group of participants who practiced free throw shooting over a period of days and a group who had minimal physical practice but spent time each day visualizing shooting free throws showed similar levels of improvement in free throw shooting. Simply by imagining the free throw shots—the sound of the ball bouncing on the hardwood, the look of the ball rotating in a rainbow arc—a group of people improved actual performance.

Before I start writing a scene, I pause a moment and visualize the action. What is the setting, who are the characters present, and how will their interaction create tension, arrest reader interest, and further the plot? Sometimes I arrive at a scene I’ve had planned for weeks, only to realize during that short visualization period that what I thought had to happen doesn’t actually make sense. When the original plan simply won’t work, visualization becomes problem solving. What can be tweaked to make the scene work? I try to “see” how the scene changes with each tweak, and usually after a few minutes I find a solution that I have a clear image of. That gets me excited to start writing and get the scene down on paper.

I know not everyone is highly visual, but I recommend trying to run a scene through your mind once or twice before beginning to write and realizing halfway through that the original plan isn’t working. Using the power of visualization, you can work out many of those problems beforehand and have a stronger scene before any words even hit the page.

What do you think? Do you visualize the scenes in your WiP? What about while you’re reading? Do you always know what will happen in a scene before you start to write it?

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Be the John Clayton of Your Book

by sarahenni on November 19, 2012

Oh, hi there! Let me dust this thing off… Ahem. I’ve been gone a while, but it’s been productive! There’s something about fall, and specifically football season, that gets me more motivated. Something about the sense of teamwork, the emphasis on hard work paired with passion, and of course the raucous family tail gates, just energizes me.

Watching all that SportsCenter has more perks than just highly-entertaining Princess Bride quote wars. The other day while watching “The Professor,” an NFL reporter named John Clayton, I started to think about niche expertise.

Clayton isn’t an athlete; he never played a down of professional (or college or high school) football. But he’s in the NFL Hall of Fame because he knows everything about the league, backwards and forwards.

Similarly, as an author you may not know first-hand what it’s like to be a medieval nun-assassin, but you can bet your fanny pack that R.L. LaFevers researched the hellfire out of 15th century France. And it shows in the product—Grave Mercy oozes authenticity of time and place. Similarly, Kristin Cashore knew the details of her most recent book, Bitterblue, so well that she could recognize the handwriting of a minor character. And when my fellow YA Highwayer Phoebe North was asked about the generation ship setting for her forthcoming book, Starglass, she sent her publishing team a hand-drawn layout of the entire vessel.

When you know your story and its characters to such a minute degree, it shows. The story is richer and truly draws the reader in to its fully dimensional world. So I suggest you be the John Clayton of your book.

But how do you gain this level of knowledge? Do you need to research until your eyes bleed and fill out 50-age character sheets for every speaking member of your WiP cast? No, not necessarily. Over time, as you draft and revise (and revise and revise), the details have a way of revealing themselves. But keep it in mind, and every time you wonder, “Why would Character X do that?” or “What makes Love Interest react this way?” spend some time solidifying an answer. That could mean research, or brainstorming, or who knows, it could mean rewriting a huge portion of your work. But no matter what, it will always benefit the end manuscript.

(And if you’re interested in witnessing how awesome John Clayton is, check out the video below!)

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