It’s a good time to think about what makes me love a book. This week I’ve been outlining Books 2 and 3. And rather than flounder around with a weak story and later have to mold it into something respectable, I’d rather create a solid outline, with a solid, surprising, wonderful story. Then when I revise, all I’ll have to tackle are line edits.

Because it’s that easy!

Okay, not really. But I’d like it to be slightly easier, so I’m working on a wish list of what I’d like to see in these books. As I outline, I refer to the wish list. Some parts of the wish list are specific: “A. worried that R. loves someone else.” Others are less specific: “Major supporting character dies here in valiant act.” And others are even less specific (that is, general): “Need cool setting.”

But, just in working with the general, here’s what I like to see in books (with select YA titles as examples):

  • humor (The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Flash Burnout by L. K. Madigan,Wisdom’s Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock)
  • gorgeous prose (The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, Gilt by Katherine Longshore, If I Stay by Gayle Forman)
  • strong voice (Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher, Blood Red Road by Moira Young, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly)
  • tension (The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams, Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins)
  • intriguing premise (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, Beauty Queens by Libba Bray)
  • unique setting (Feed by M. T. Anderson, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher)

How about I just buy extra copies of all those books, tear out the pages, turn the ceiling fan on really really high, then collect the pages and staple them together into a new book?

Because it’s that easy!

Portable Writing Workshop

What you see here are seven stalkers that haunt me during Z’s nap, after her bedtime, and all those hours in between. They follow me to the front room: “Don’t read to your daughter. Instead, zone out and think about plot.” They gaze at me from the nightstand while I try to fall asleep: “Why are you sleeping? You’re wasting precious writing time.” They lounge next to me on the couch in a way that says, “We’re watching you. Pick up that Nintendo DS and you can forget having a breakout novel.” They join me at the table: “Are you going to eat that? Should your main character eat things like that? If she doesn’t want to, will you put her in a situation where she has to in order to, say, save the world? Just how important is ice cream to your novel?”

From the top left, the stalkers are:

1. Idea notebook for The Black City (working title of my current project/new manuscript). Please note (and admire) the bright Post-it tabs adorning the top. They divide the notebook into the following sections: Plot, Characters, Setting, Creatures, and Magic. The Creatures tab is so far kind of pointless. I might replace it with Ice Cream.

2. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. The gimmicky title turned me off, but after being stalked by the title through various literary agent and writer blogs, I finally decided to give it a chance. (Much like Jacob in the Eclipse movie. Cringeworthy and excessively stalker-ish on the outside, but sincere and…never mind. The comparison doesn’t work at all.) (Really. Forget the Jacob comparison. It never happened.) Another bonus for this book is that it’s a library copy, well worn in, and I can prop it open with one of my other notebooks and have two hands free for eating…ice cream.

3. Manuscript book. I hate sitting at a computer and trying to create something, so I write by hand instead. At the computer there’s so much pressure. Most of it is behind my eyeballs somewhere, but also in my neck and back a little. Plus our computer’s in the basement, and I don’t want to spend that much time down here if I can help it. Unless I’m reading blogs and eating ice cream.

4. Black pen. Used for pretty much all writing. Diary. Notes. Manuscript. So far ineffective as spoon for ice cream.

5. Blue pen. Essential to snarky comments in margins of manuscript, and note-taking. It’s a pleasing color, a welcome relief from the Black pen. Also not a spoon.

6. Red pen. For heavy-duty editing. Great also for recording Unforgettable Fabulous and Difficult-to-Convey Ideas of Inspiration (example: DUDE. Make her have crush on old guy) that may never come to fruition, but probably will because according to #2 above, a writer needs to make things as difficult as possible for her protagonist. The red pen is also not a spoon.

7. My current diary book. Full of notes on Maass’s book. And the occasional glob of melted ice cream.

Everything a writing mother needs to get herself through the day. Notebooks, pens, a gem-book on the writing craft, and…stupid Twilight comparisons. No! Ice cream!

It’s the Friday before Labor Day, which means I’m in the mountains somewhere, or on my way at least. I won’t have internet access to moderate comments until Monday, so if you haven’t commented before and your wonderful words of wisdom don’t show up right away, they will soon.

Oh, ALSO. My writing “pardner” Seven and I have made a pact to write 1200 words, six days a week, so by the end of October we’ll have finished the first drafts of our works-in-progress. Does anyone out there want to join up? If you’re interested, you can contact me through my contact page, or leave a comment here.