YA Characters Free-for-all Battle

YA Character BattleAlright, here’s the scenario: Twelve characters from several popular Young Adult novels (mostly the same ones I mentioned in my other post breaking down bestselling YA) are pitted against each other in a Hunger Games-like competition. Each series will be represented by two characters. Instead of the actual rules from The Hunger Games, let’s say the characters are just tossed into the arena with their usual gear and are told they have to fight each other; only one may survive.

Rather than write a fancy narrative, I’ll give a sports-analyst-like prediction.

*SPOILER WARNING* Minor spoilers may appear (so, I hope you’ve already read Mockingjay).

The Contestants

1. The Hunger Games: Katniss; Gale
2. Divergent: Tris; Four
3. Harry Potter: Professor Lupin; Cedric Diggory
4. Twilight: Bella; Edward
5. Legend: June; Day
6. The Outsiders: Ponyboy; Steve

Play-by-Play Predictions: Continue reading

The DNA of Bestselling YA

What makes a Young Adult novel (commercially) successful? That’s a very important question for all YA authors, agents and publishers. Here’s my breakdown of five big-hitters of YA, considering author inspiration, premise, theme, and cultural context (note: I’m just another person writing stuff, and not proclaiming myself as some all-knowing god of fiction).

Warning, there may be some spoilers, but there aren’t many big ones, so read on!

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Everyone’s favorite oblivious-to-love heroine.

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins


Suzanne Collins has stated that The Hunger Games is “very much based on the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur” wherein the Athenians were required to send seven youths into a labyrinth where they are faced with the deadly Minotaur (no mention of Battle Royale, though I would assume that Collins at least saw the name while researching). The catalyst for the story came when Collins was flipping channels and seeing young people compete in reality shows, and other young people dying in real-life wars.

Work and Context

Commercial and mainstream fiction generally relies heavily on the premise. The Hunger Games‘ handles that quite well: the young, poor, and attractive are forced to fight to the death while Continue reading

Agent Query Critiques; Get Your Kyratique

Accueil Scribe Public Domain ImageKyra Nelson has read a sizeable amount of agent query letters from hopeful authors over her one-and-a-half years of interning for a literary agency (where she still works). She started her blog, Thoughts From the Agent Desk not long ago, on which she posts critiques on queries that are sent to her for public feedback.

I’ve read most of Kyra’s critiques and I think she provides rather useful information. This type of feedback is invaluable for novelists seeking representation. Really, when it comes to your query and manuscript, I think the general rule is: the more feedback, the better.

If you’re looking for help on your query letter, I’d suggest you: (1) draft a query letter and clean it up; (2) read Kyra’s previous critiques and apply what you learn to your current query; (3) then submit your query to Kyra for a critique; and (4) then find even more people to critique your query.

Note: Kyra is particularly into superheroes; do with that what you will.

Anyway, I’ve got some heavy editing of my manuscript to do before I draft my awesome query. Good times.

Temporary Placeholder Names: Not a Good Idea

Cristin Milioti HIMYM Sebastian Shaw Return of the Jedi

Cristin Milioti from How I Met Your Mother and Sebastian Shaw from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

Writing the first draft of my manuscript, I used about half a dozen placeholder names: boring character names and and way-too-descriptive place names.

I’m starting draft seven soon and, well, all these “temporary” names are still there. As you might’ve guessed, I’ve grown kind of attached to these names after having used them for so long. Still, I’m pretty sure I have to change them. Either that, or I can help a hundred agents stay on top of their eye-rolling exercises.

So, yup, temporary placeholders: (usually) not a good idea.

Planning to Attend the Southern California Writers’ Conference

Apparently, it’s a good idea for authors to go to writing conferences; and, supposedly, these conferences are extra useful for unpublished authors who have polished manuscripts and are still seeking agents (though the chance of actually snagging an agent at a conference is close to nil).

Well, I believe I’ll be going to the Southern California Writers’ Conference in Newport Beach this September. I don’t expect to secure representation, but I’m hoping to clean up my query and learn a few things while meeting other folks in the industry.

Should be fun.


Newport Beach Promenade. Photograph by Patrick Pelster, distributed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Chapter-One-Writing Advice I Wish I’d Read Earlier

Challenge AcceptedI finished six drafts of my novel before I realized that its opening doesn’t do its job as well as it should: it doesn’t immediately draw the reader in. It took me until earlier today (while discussing the matter with another writer) to realize that since I intend my novel to be commercial, it needs to hit the reader over the head with a hook as quickly as possible.

With that in mind, I went online and searched for tips on writing a black hole of a first chapter to suck people in. I wound up reading Chuck Wendig’s advice on his blog (warning: Wendig is awesomely foul-mouthed [I’m providing a “clean” translation of his advice below, in response to Ms. Hawkins’ comment]). I’ll be keeping his 25 suggestions in mind as I re-work the beginning of my manuscript.

I’m waiting for some beta readers to give me feed back, anyway; might as well beat the crap out of my first 15 pages ’til it’s awesome.

[UPDATE!] Here’s Wendig’s advice compressed and translated into nice-guy language for educational purposes (some of his advice may be lost in translation due to my failure to interpret or articulate, so please check out Wendig’s post if you don’t mind the cursing):

Continue reading

The Good Guys: Square Bear Heroes

The Good Guys: Captain America, Ned Stark, Cory Matthews, Harry Potter, Obi-wan Kenobi, Doug Funnie, Ross Geller, Rick Hunter, Superman

Some people have problems with a male character if he’s too much of a square bear. I personally think it’s rather important that we have these characters in our social consciousness. They are, more or less, the kinds of guys that boys and men should strive to be.

Here’s a list of some fictional good guys who go the extra mile (in no particular order; I’ll try not to drop too many spoilers to anything, if any):

Captain AmericaCaptain America

Steve Rogers starts out as a scrawny little guy who is rejected from service in the U.S. Army because he is too frail. He volunteers to undergo an experimental procedure which turns him into the super-soldier, Captain America.

What I think a lot of people miss about Cap is that, though he loves his country, he doesn’t blindly follow orders from the government; he fights for a truer sense of freedom and liberty, and for people who cannot fight for themselves. People who dismiss Captain America simply because of his name and the fact that he wears a flag are missing out on an awesome hero.

I also like how he’s so polite to everyone (when he’s not knocking their teeth out with his shield).

Eddard StarkEddard Stark

Ned Stark, the unfortunate protagonist of A Game of Thrones. The first word that comes to mind when I think of Ned Stark is “honor.”

While discussing Ned, someone once told me that Ned’s honor—and all honor—is simply for the sake of appearances. I was annoyed, but didn’t respond right away. Thinking about it later, I concluded that this person was simply wrong. Honor isn’t just about appearances; honor can drive you to do the right thing, whether or not anyone else is aware of it.

Though a lot of Ned’s honorable acts are public and preserves his family name, I believe Ned would do the honorable thing even where no one’s looking. That’s why he’s awesome and that’s why he’s on this list. There’s also some internet speculation as to Ned’s past that, if proven to be true in George R.R. Martin’s later books, would make Ned all the more awesome as it implies he sacrifices some of his own honor for others.
Continue reading

Of Art and Bravery

typewriter2Growing up, I was always into art.  I loved to draw and write, among other things.  For a long time, however, I thought of these activities only as hobbies.  It wasn’t until I was well into college that I started seriously considering being a novelist.  Even then, it wasn’t until I was studying for the bar exam (years after undergrad) that I finished the first draft of a manuscript.

The main reason it took so long for me to come around was fear: the fear of failure; the fear of ridicule.  How could I possibly succeed where so many fail?  Art is subjective–the chances you’ll be recognized as good or entertaining are slim.

So, why am I trying now?  Why do so many unestablished artists still practice their craft and lay out their work to be scrutinized?  It’s because our courage is at a point where it outweighs our fear (some people are lucky and/or awesome, and reach this point much earlier in life).

While I try to write a scoff-resistant agent query, it’s a safe bet that most agents who see it will either send me a form rejection or not bother responding at all.  Still, I try.  Still, we all try.  As Eddard Stark from A Game of Thrones says, “the only time a man can be brave [is when he is afraid].”

Be brave, baby artists.  The earlier, the better (well, assuming you don’t drag your own name through the mud with half-assery).

I was inspired to write this entry after having read a fellow blogger’s post, “The Other Side of the Fence…” in which Ms. ked (for lack of known surname) discusses the tendency for (high school) folks to rag on their peers who pursue art (e.g., singing, acting, writing, etc.).

[UPDATED] Ted Mosby Reacts to LeBron’s Return to Cleveland

LeBron James

King James back in 2007. Photograph by Dave Hogg, distributed under CC BY 2.0.

UPDATE: Entertainment Weekly’s Popwatch got a video from Josh Radnor showing Ted Mosby’s reaction: here! He cries for a bit as I suggested; not for 5-seconds, but still.

[Originally titled, “Would’ve been fun to see Ted Mosby react to LeBron’s return to Cleveland “]

On How I Met Your Mother, there was a running gag where Ohio native Ted Mosby is continuously bitter about LeBron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 to play for the Miami Heat (and supposedly up his chances of getting a ring by playing with other superstars).

With King James going back to Cleveland, I just find it a shame that HIMYM didn’t run a little bit longer so we could see Ted’s response.  A 5-second joke involving Theodore Evelyn Mosby crying might’ve worked.

Josh Radnor

Josh Radnor. Photograph by Jonathan Mauer, distributed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Writing Book 2 Before Book 1 is Agented

Book Stacks

Photograph by Toby Hudson, distributed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

It seems like common advice for unestablished novelists is that after you send your manuscript out, you should take a break from that novel and work on another project.  It’s also advised that you should not begin writing a sequel in a series until the first book is picked up (supposedly, agents and publishers prefer a debut author’s first work to be a standalone so they need not commit to a series; of course, I’ve heard the opposite as well–people love them some trilogies).

Anyway, getting to me—’cause that’s really why I have this blog, to talk about me doing stuff—I’m considering doing all of the following at the same time: begin writing a sequel to my currently unagented manuscript; begin writing a new, unrelated novel; and continue editing my older manuscript and drafting an agent query for it.

Good idea or bad idea?  I’ll think about it.

[Edit: I didn’t starting another project ’til a month or two after this post, and I only got about a quarter of a way through the first draft before I set it aside to start on another project that I’m much more likely to finish, referenced in this later post.]