Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Read to Write

Whenever people ask me what they should do to become a writer, my first answer is write as often as they can and write what they love.

My second answer is to read, read, read.

You can discover a lot about a writer by what they read. I love asking other writers this question: What are your favorite books? And if they start mentioning some of my favorites it's as if we are connected in some way.

When I went out for coffee with my editor, I thought it was so ironic when she asked me this very same question! Of course, I was so excited and nervous to be sitting with my editor (okay, so maybe I was kind of FREAKING out) that my first answer was something like, "I love that new fantasy book with the girl with those powers and it was so awesome."

* Yeah, that was the crazy in me because in my head I was really thinking: "OMG, I'm sitting in a coffee shop with MY editor! I've completely died and gone to writer's heaven."

** The book I was trying to talk to her about was Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.

Why is it important to read?

1. Read within your genre.

I try to actively read books within the genre I write. Some people say, "No, I don't want to do that because it will influence my ideas." And I do get that.

My advice is to segregate your reading time and your writing time. Either separate your mornings for writing and evenings for reading. Or do what I like to do where I fast draft a book for a month, then I take a week and read everything I can get my hands on, then go back to revising.

2. By reading within your genre, you are keeping up with the market.

The market is ever changing. As a mom, I love to read my boys the classics such as The Boxcar Kids and Little House on the Prairie. But I also read to them newly released books such as the Percy Jackson series and The Fast and the Furriest. Both types are brilliant, but the books of fifty years ago are far different than the ones being printed today.

3. Study the craft of other authors.

It always takes me longer to read books than my husband. Why is that? Because I'm studying the book's plot structure, analyzing why certain characters ring true to me while others don't, looking at how sentences are arranged and even how long the chapters are.

As an author, I'm always finding ways to make my stories stronger. So when I expose myself to great storytelling, I push myself to become a better storyteller because I'm seeing it in action.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on reading and writing and how the two are connected.

Christina Farley's debut YA, GILDED, releases spring 2014 by Skyscape/ Amazon Children's Publishing. She is represented by Jeff Ourvan of the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, LLC. She blogs and vlogs about writing and traveling, and is often found procrastinating on Twitter

Friday, April 19, 2013

Revising Too Much?

Last week I was re-reading Legend by Marie Lu and remembering again just how good it is to be caught up in a story that I just don’t want to put down. And how, as a writer, that’s the kind of story I want to create.

The problem is, there’s a huge gap between the story I envision in my mind and what I can manage to create using words on paper. Sometimes, I feel like all the work I do on my words to get them closer to that emotional vision is taking them further away. Oh sure, I’m getting the events in the right places to build a more compelling plot, to develop character, to improve the pacing and all the other things I need to do to build a story. But I can’t help feeling that sometimes my real goal—my dream of creating a powerful emotional experience— is getting lost in the middle of thinking about structure and other technical details (see Marcia Hoehne’s Of Fiction Writers and English Majors for an interesting perspective on this).  

I know that revising is supposed to make writing better, and it does. But stories are also a little fragile when it comes to the emotional side of things, and it’s so easy to forget to nurture that part of the story. To get caught up in where the characters are going and what they are doing instead of how they are feeling and how the reader might be feeling. Sometimes, it seems that revising some parts of the story too much, or maybe revising the wrong parts, drums the feeling right out of a story.

I’m holding onto the hope that as I get better at the structural and technical aspects of writing, I’ll be able to give the emotional side of the story even more space to grow.  
-- Andrea

Thursday, April 4, 2013

They were wrong

I don't normally share links on this blog, but this one is so moving. It's about the power of poetry - and mean words.

We know the power of words, don't we? Words are our job, after all. Many of us write about underdogs or those who have been hurt deeply. This includes me. I've been working on the revisions for my forthcoming book, ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER. It's a mostly funny story about a girl with ADHD who takes up taekwondo to prove she can stick with something. But it's also about how Eliza is lonely because she's different. There's a scene where Eliza talks about not having any "sleep over friends." My agent tells me this makes her cry every time she reads it.

Know what makes me cry? The parts about how some girls at school filled Eliza's lunch bag with trash and gave her the nickname Every Day Eliza because she wears the same clothes to school. Those things, along with the no sleep overs part, make me cry because they really happened to my beautiful daughter.

She is the inspiration for my book. The "real life Eliza" if you will. Like Eliza, my daughter took up martial arts and found a home. (She will be testing for her 3rd degree black belt this weekend.) And like Eliza, she is strong, smart, creative and amazingly kind despite being bullied so badly she had to change schools three years ago. She is happy now. But make no mistake, she still carries the scars.

So many kids don't make it to the other side. These beautiful, lost souls never learn -like it says in the video - They Were Wrong.

I will keep writing stories about those kids. For those kids. Because those kids are *my* kid.