08 April 2016

Gay Young Adult Romance Something or Other

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

Well, I could have always come out of the closet. That certainly would have made for an interesting day. 

I've always had a hard time figuring out exactly what type of book UL is. It always seems to be everything it's not. Because it's young adult, but it's not. And it's kind of a romance, but it's not. And it's also gay fiction, but not. I kinda want to pitch it as literary fiction, but I feel it has all these elements that may turn off some readers who are looking for something more straightforward.

One thing I've already decided is to not try to sell this book as young adult. Yes, it's from the point of view of a fifteen-year-old. And no, it's not from some future perspective. It sounds like a fifteen-year-old's voice. But there are some pretty adult moments throughout the book. I think the only part that really completely reads young adult is the subplot concerning Jordan's friends. I also wouldn't really want young people to read it. While an adult book written from a young adult perspective may be a tough sell, I think it's the right decision for this particular book.

Then there's the romance aspect. I've always called it a "demented" romance. There's the age difference between the characters, of course. Their relationship definitely isn't straightforward by any means. And your typical romance novel usually has a happy ending. While the end of UL certainly isn't some epic tragedy, it's definitely not happy, either. So while there are some romantic elements in the book, it definitely doesn't follow your typical romance novel structure.

I think out of all the things that it's not, the label that fits the most is gay fiction. My characters are gay, after all. But I've always thought that it's an important aspect to the characters, but not the story itself. I could switch out the genders and sexuality and still have basically the same story. Obviously some details would change and the dynamic between the characters would be different, but the same basic plot line would still be there. I wouldn't change it of course, because I've been with these characters for so long that changing them to something completely different would just feel wrong.

So does the story need that label? I think it probably does. If someone had no interest in reading a story with gay characters, no matter what it was about, they would probably want that label there so they would know not to read it. Same goes for the opposite--someone who wants to read about those characters. They want to be able to find those books more easily. But is that all I get to call it? What other label fits my book? Contemporary? Something else entirely? Or do I just call it gay fiction and call it a day? If I knew I wouldn't ask so many questions. But I guess I should worry about finishing it first.

Where does my book fit in? Have you ever written a book you couldn't figure out a label for?

07 April 2016

Family & Friends

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

I couldn’t even say the easy part, even though the timing seemed perfect. We seemed to be having a moment. It might never happen again. Mom, I like boys. I just took another spoonful of ice cream. 

Everyone has a certain group of people in their lives that they're relatively close to, who they probably see every day. This group is usually made up of family and friends. If you're writing about a fictional character, chances are he or she will come across these people every now and again throughout the story. How do you fit in these characters? How do the relationships enhance the story? 

The family aspect has always been an interesting one when it comes to my book. Jordan has exactly one family member: his mother. He never comes close to mentioning any other family member because they don't exist for him. I wonder if that will be strange for the reader. I just figure at this point in his life any questions he may have had are way in the past and he just doesn't care. Why would he take the time to explain something to the reader if he doesn't care about it? 

At the same time, the relationship with his mother is a huge factor in the book. With this story, there are obviously a lot of issues regarding a person's age and maturity, and her character highlights these as well. She was actually a teenager when Jordan was born, so that helps to show this idea of having to grow up too soon. But their relationship is also very dysfunctional. She's basically never around (making Jordan's secret relationship with Tom much easier) and even does a few things that help advance the main plot. So is she a vital character? I'd say so. But there are still some things I struggle with. 

I guess, like most things that happen in the last third of the book, it's something I still haven't figured out yet. I know Jordan's mom is flawed, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm just trying to figure out how to make that realistic and yet interesting at the same time. I know I'm going to end the book with their relationship incredibly fractured, possibly beyond repair. I wonder if that's something readers will be ok with. While this plot line will have an ending, it definitely is not wrapped up in a pretty bow. It's messy and open-ended. Things could change in the future or they could stay the same. There's really no way of knowing (unless I write a sequel...). 

And then there are friends, of course. Jordan's friends are more part of their own subplot than the main plot. Sometimes I wonder if I need them at all, because I'm afraid their scenes seem forced. At the same time, it would feel strange without them. Doesn't everyone have friends, particularly someone in high school who also claims to be popular? Even if he doesn't like them, they should still exist. I also worry that the end of this particular subplot is too over the top. Jordan has two close friends throughout the book, one of which he becomes even closer to by the end, the other he completely destroys, all while furthering his own agenda. I guess it shows his evil side, which is an important part to his character. 

So I guess family and friends are especially important when they're showing different aspects to your main character. How does he act differently when he's with them? How do they move the story forward? As long as they're serving a purpose, then they're important characters.

Do you show family and friends in your stories? Do they help show different sides to the main character?

06 April 2016


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

Today's post is also a tie-in for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Click here to learn more and sign up! 
I used to go out with girls, if you can believe it. Like, a lot. Crazy, I know. 

Most people don't stay the same over the course of their entire lives. You've probably changed a lot at this point in your life and will continue to do so as you get older. The same can be said for characters. They are supposed to be like real people after all, right? Sometimes the point of the story is for a character to evolve. But what if the characters or the story evolve without you even realizing or meaning to? 

I've noticed a ton of changes from the very first draft of UL up until now. And not just the ones I made on purpose. Because there were a lot of those (and more to come). I've noticed that not only have my characters evolved from where they started, but I've also evolved quite a bit as a writer. I guess that's just what happens when you spend over five years on the same story. 

My characters have changed quite a bit. In the very first draft, Jordan was basically a sociopath and was definitely bisexual (bwahahahaahaha...sorry, it makes me laugh). He's softened over the years (although he's still quite the manipulative little SOB) and although he's dated a few girls before the novel begins, it was just for show (there is a brief encounter with a girl about halfway through the book, but that is another post!). I know sometimes I complain about spending so long on the same story, but without that amount of time developing every single detail, I don't think he would have become the character he was supposed to be. He would have been a different person entirely.

When I first started this story, I thought it was the best thing I had ever written. It started as a short story (although it was a bit on the long side). Eventually I decided to change it into a novel, to be able to flesh out those parts that were rushed and add in more details. So the story was evolving from the very beginning. What I didn't expect was to eventually feel so differently about that first draft. Because now I hate it. 

I'm sure most people are frightened by their first drafts. They can often be a mess. Every time I look at that original story, I cringe. I can probably count on one hand the number of lines that have made it through all the drafts untouched (and they're probably all dialogue). So why did I think it was so good at the time? Maybe the answer is that it was. Maybe it was the best thing I had written up to that point. That doesn't mean it was perfect. It just means I was improving as a writer. I still had a long way to go. What was good about it wasn't necessarily the exact words on the page, but the story they told. And that was something worth working on. 

So my characters have evolved, my story's evolved, I've evolved. And I'm sure we're not done. 

Have your characters evolved as you write your stories? How have you evolved as a writer?

05 April 2016


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

Sometimes I hated words. There were so many better things you could do with your mouth than talk. 

You probably thought I'd share some witty snippet of dialogue, right? Well, that would have been difficult. I love dialogue. Loooooove it. Finding my favorite line of dialogue to share would have taken months. I'm a dialogue abuser. Sometimes (ok, most times), I first start out a scene by writing all the dialogue and then filling in everything that happens in between. Dialogue comes the easiest to me, especially if I'm struggling with the blank page. But why is that?

Maybe sometimes it's easier to think of what people would say rather than what they would do or think. Especially when you're only in one character's head; you can't actually say what anyone else is thinking. Only the narrator's thoughts can be told. So dialogue helps in finding out information from other characters.

My issue is usually using too much dialogue. If I write out a full page of it and try to fill in some exposition in between, there are only so many shrugs and sighs and reaction thoughts I can squeeze in until it just seems silly. So sometimes you have to cut back on the dialogue. Only show what is entirely necessary.

The weird thing about dialogue in a story is that it's kind of like real life, but it isn't. You want your dialogue to sound realistic, like it's something a real person would actually say. But at the same time, you don't want to fill your pages with the kind of boring, everyday conversations that fill most of our lives. You just want those juicy, interesting moments. You want dialogue to move the story forward. Maybe a character learns something new from another one. Maybe two characters figure out something together by talking. But they should never be talking about the weather or something that's going to put your reader to sleep.

My other issue is info dumping. There are quite a few times where my characters have to reveal something to one another. One character in particular has a secret that he first confesses in one chapter, and then as the story goes one, gives more and more details regarding this secret and how it came to be. These moments are usually filled with dialogue, and it's hard to work around it. My narrator doesn't know what's going on in the other character's head. So he can only get that information through dialogue. But sometimes I feel like it's still too much.

I guess the way to go about it is to always make sure whatever's being said is important and moves the story forward. If you can find a way to do the same thing with less dialogue or no dialogue at all, then you should probably do it.

Do you think less is more when it comes to dialogue? Or are you a dialogue abuser like me?

04 April 2016


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

I wasn’t some vulnerable child, and he knew that, too. But to him, it was completely black and white. Anything we could possibly do would be illegal and that was that. Final answer.

Not all stories are filled with happy fluffy bunnies and rainbows and unicorns. Some stories go to a dark or scary place. A place that makes people uncomfortable. And that's ok, as long as you do it right.

There are plenty of different kinds of controversies you could throw into a novel. You could write about war, politics, race issues. It usually involves something that people have differing opinions on. Or, you could write about something that most people would agree is wrong. But if you do, will they still want to read your book?

This is something I constantly struggle with. This is why I worry that people will hate my book, because some people aren't willing to give a controversial story a chance. So how do you stick with your idea but make it something that people will actually want to read?

My book is controversial because it centers around the relationship between a 15-year-old and a 28-year-old. As much as I say that my story chose me, I have to admit this is how it started. I wanted to write about a student-teacher relationship, with no other concrete details in mind. Then a few hours later all of the characters and details hit me like a pile of bricks falling on my head. But it did still start with my own little spark of an idea.

I've always been a sucker for a forbidden romance. The problem with this one, though, is that the thing keeping them apart is the law. Most people would agree that it's controversial, and that these people shouldn't be together, no matter how strong their feelings are. They should either walk away from each other or wait until the younger person is old enough for it to be ok.

So why would someone even want to read this story? It's not like it's the first book to feature such a subject. Actually, one of my favorite novels of all time is Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. But that's a book that's incredibly well written. What if my writing isn't good enough to make such a tough subject more interesting to readers?

What I really want is to tell an interesting story. I want people to have mixed emotions when they read it. To actually want the characters to be together one moment, and then pull back and think, "wait a second, no I don't!" I'm not trying to say that I think this type of relationship is ok, even if it's very clear my narrator thinks it is. I write from the younger character's point of view, and he's actually the more manipulative person in the relationship, which I think (or hope) is different from other stories like this. I think the voice is strong. And I know there are some people who will just have no interest in reading a story like this, and that's ok. I just hope the people who are willing to give it a shot will find it, pick it up, and hopefully not put it down.

Do you ever write about controversial subjects? Do you like to read stories that feature them?

02 April 2016

Bigger Than Me

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

“You can, if you want to. It’s not a big deal.”
“It is, though. It’s a very big deal.” 

A story can feel like a big deal. Sometimes writers choose their story ideas. Other times, the stories choose them. Well, what happens if you're not the right person for that story? What if despite all of your passion and desire to write it, it's just too much for you to handle?

UL has never been the right story for me, especially at the beginning. The idea seemed to come out of nowhere and was nothing like any story I had ever thought of before. Let's start with the fact that I thought I was done writing fiction. I was way more into poetry and hadn't thought of any new story ideas for a few years when this one came along. I'd never written from a male perspective, let alone a gay teenage boy's. Swears were a rare occurrence in my writing and sexual descriptions made me squeamish. It was weird and different, and yet I had never felt so passionate about a story idea in my entire life.

Of course at this point, I've been working on it for so long that it does seem normal, but that took time (and a stubborn muse). And I still don't think I'm strong enough to write it.

Let me explain. This is the kind of story that takes guts to write, and even more guts to publish. It's not a lighthearted story and it's not one that most people are going to respond to. I've already experienced negative feedback, and more than once. First, when I workshopped the original short story version in my fiction writing class, and then when I entered the novel into Pitch Wars. And this wasn't your typical "this needs some editing" feedback. People hated it.

I know this story isn't for everyone, and I'm ok with that. But I don't have the guts for the negative feedback. I take it hard. Super hard. I'm just a sensitive person. So why on earth would I be writing a controversial story like this? I really don't know. It's just that it popped in my head one day. I really had no say in it.

So if none of this is up to me, then who is it up to? Is it crazy to believe that the universe gave me this idea because it has bigger plans in mind? What if writing this story is just the beginning? What if there are other people out there who this story will affect or help? What if it leads to more--more books, a movie deal, who knows? Why am I asking you all of these questions??

If the universe does have bigger plans, what if I'm not strong enough to pull it off? I actually believe the universe sent me a sign about this, but that happened over three years ago. What if I've taken too long? I don't like to share the details because I feel like I'll jinx it, but there were just a lot of coincidences that lined up at once. I always thought I didn't believe in coincidences, but now I'm not so sure. What happens when time runs out on my dream? I don't even know how much time I really have. What if I can't finish?

I couldn't think of a picture for this post, but I immediately thought of a song that fits! So I'm going with that. This is a live performance of "Stray Italian Greyhound" by Vienna Teng, and this song definitely rings true for my mindset when I first started writing this story. And maybe it still does.

so what do I do with this/ this stray Italian greyhound/ these inconvenient fireworks/ this ice-cream-covered screaming hyperactive thought/ god I just want to lay down/ these colors make my eyes hurt/ this feeling calls for everything that I am not

01 April 2016

Attraction & Chemistry

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

He held out the pencil to me. I reached out to take it, making sure my fingers touched his. I didn’t expect anything, but he was much quicker to react this time. He held on to the pencil for just a few seconds, with this cute little smirk on his lips. I felt my face getting hot. I yanked it out of his hand, scribbled down my reason, then handed it back to him.

One of the things I constantly worry about with my characters is if they have chemistry. Does the attraction seem real or one sided? Is it even there at all? Will anyone care?

With any story involving a romance, as normal or demented as it may be (Like mine! If you didn't already know, you will definitely come to discover over the course of this month...), your characters have to have chemistry. If there isn't a certain spark between two love interests, then no one is going to buy that they would get together. Or worse, they won't care.

So how do you pull it off? How do you make that spark happen? I think it starts with attraction. Chemistry is going to be hard to come by if your characters don't find one another attractive first. There are different ways to show this. They could just come out and say it, if they're bold enough. Or, they can think it. My book is in first person, so when my main character, Jordan, first meets his love interest, Tom, he tells the reader pretty much immediately that he finds him attractive. This could work for third person, too, especially if you allow the character's thoughts to be known. Maybe you could even find out what both characters are thinking, even if it has to take some time to shift point of view.

So you've got attraction. Now it's time for chemistry. You'll want your readers to want your characters to get together, to ache for it until it finally happens and then they're jumping for joy (my story is a bit more complicated than that, but that's a post for another day). Do the characters give in to their attraction right away or do they try to fight it? Do they flirt all the time or do they just try to avoid each other? In my case, one character is an obvious flirt, while the other tries desperately to not give in to that desire, but occasionally he can't help it. So flirting happens. There are plenty of ways to show chemistry between characters, but it's important that every time they get together, that spark is still there.

Once that chemistry is established, the events of the story may change it. When they finally get together, does that spark get stronger or diminish? Do emotions get involved and change the dynamic? Does chemistry evolve into love or hatred? The possibilities are endless.

How do you show chemistry between characters? What's the most interesting way your characters have flirted? (In the above quote, my characters were also solving a geometric proof!)