Saturday, March 19, 2011

Show Me the Voice Entry

I'm participating in the Show Me the Voice contest Brenda Drake is hosting. More information is available at http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/2011/03/its-on-show-me-voice-blogfestcontest.html.

My thanks to everyone who stops by and critiques!

NAME: Dustin
GENRE: Contemporary YA

Three pairs of hands fumble at the cords and tubes connecting me to the machines around my bed. The first one they remove is the tube down my throat, the one helping me breathe. If this one goes badly, the whole plan gets scrapped. The hands pause while I take a shallow, ragged breath. It's not pretty, the first time my lungs work on their own in two weeks, but I'm okay.

"Hurry," I say, but my voice is so raspy the word is impossible to make out.

They understand what I'm trying to say, though. The hands go to work again, disconnecting more of the imprisoning machines. The equipment beeps and complains as it separates from me.

"Hurry," I say again and this time the word comes out stronger.

The last thing they remove is the heart rate monitor. As soon I'm free from it, an ear-pounding blare erupts, announcing it can no longer detect my heartbeat. Outside my room, a matching blast sounds from the nurses' station. Any second now, they'll pour into my room and wreck my plans.

A pair of hands lifts me and tosses me over a shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

"Be gentle," Chelsea, my best friend, admonishes her boyfriend.

I shake my head. Gentle can wait. Right now, I need to escape. I'm tired of the hospital, tired of the doctors and their tests, and tired of being sick. So I'm leaving, even though I know what that means.

Today I'm going to die.

Goodbye Productivity

As much as I love March Madness, it's putting a serious dent in my daily word count. Instead of concentrating on my new WIP, I'm watching games. Having every game available on TV makes it too easy to flip from one to another to follow the action. Plus, during the day, the games are available on the internet so when I have downtime at work, I'm not writing, I'm checking out what's going on in basketball.

Luckily, the games are only on Thursdays and Fridays. I'll have three distraction-free days at the beginning of the week to write. And then my writing will go on another hiatus.

Not to mention, I filled out a couple brackets and most of them are already shot. But, that's what makes the tournament so much fun to watch. If everything went according to plan, the games wouldn't be nearly as interesting.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy March Madness

March Madness is now underway. Hooray! It’s my favorite sporting event. I’ve always been a huge basketball fan and I think this tournament is the perfect way for a season to end. I grew up in North Carolina before the state had a professional football team or professional hockey. College basketball ruled the state and we always had multiple teams involved in March Madness.

One of the best aspects is the amount of unpredictability in the tournament, especially the first two rounds. (And, despite what CBS and the NCAA says, I’m not counting the games from tonight and last night as the first round. The first round starts Thursday.) I love watching little-known teams upset powerhouses – as long as they aren’t beating one of the teams I’m rooting for.

While I was thinking about that, I realize many of my favorite books incorporate a lot of the same unpredictability. The Harry Potter books in particular have endings I never saw coming, even after I began looking for clues in the later books after I was so amazed by how the climaxes unfolded in the early books.

I like being caught by surprise when I’m reading, but only if it makes sense. Basketball doesn’t have to worry about that – the team that scores more wins. You can watch the game and see it happen. But books require a logical progression and when authors do that well, the payoff is fantastic.

That’s one of the things I’m working on in my own writing – creating endings that are surprising, but that readers can see why events unfolded the way they do when they think back on the story. Basically, I want to write the books I’d enjoy reading, but it’s harder than I expected. The challenge makes it more fun, though. When I struggle with a scene or chapter, I take a step back and examine the book as if I were reading it instead of writing it. Where would I want the book to go if I was reading it? What would I expect? What wouldn’t I expect that would make this a better book?

As I watch basketball the next few weeks, I’ll be hoping for upsets, for the unexpected to happen. Well, as long as my favorites keep winning. I do want a happy ending.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Genre Jumping

In a very small sample size, my recent manuscript is doing well so far with agents. Much better than I expected. The genre for this MS is YA Contemporary. Prior to this, I’d only written some sort of fantasy – YA Fantasy, MG Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal. There was always some element of not-normalness in my writing. But those rarely did well with the agents I submitted them to.

Now though, I’m beginning to question my genre choice. Have I been a YA Contemporary writer masquerading as a fantasy writer? Or, have I developed my writing skills to the point where I am a good enough writer that agents like my work now?

I’d like to think it’s the latter. Writing is certainly easier now than when I started and I’m more conscientious of what to do and what not to do. My first MS was an epic failure and I’ve progressed significantly, not that it was hard to get better than that. My characters no longer change personalities three times in a chapter. There’s a coherent tone from beginning to end. Half a dozen adverbs don’t litter every sentence.

So would I have been doing as well if I’d decided to write Fantasy again instead of venturing into new territory? I hope so. But doubt nags at the back of my mind.

The question is important because I’m trying to figure out what to write next. I’m bouncing around ideas from a couple genres. Would Contemporary YA be a smart choice because I’m playing to my strengths? Or will my next MS be more successful because of my growth as a writer?

I have some time while I tweak my query and take a brief break from writing and editing. Next week, though, I’ll be back at it and starting work on a new WIP. And before then I need to decide what genre I’ll be doing when I open my word processer to type that first sentence.

Has anyone else had a similar circumstance where they switched genres and discovered new success? Any advice?