The Teen Lit Haven

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014: The Year of YA Adaptations

Earlier this month I wrote an article for BTS eMag about it being the golden age of YA adaptations. This morning, I watched the first trailer for the film adaptation of Gayle Forman's If I Stay  - it looks awesome!and thought this was a topic definitely worth some more discussion, considering the number and variety of YA stories coming out this year.
The Golden Age of YA Adaptations 
(First published April 9, BTS eMag)

Book to film adaptations are nothing new, be they sci-fi cult classics based on the seminal works of Asimov or Philip K Dick, or the gooiest of romance films adapted from Nicholas Sparks novels. Since Harry Potter burst onto the scene and became a multi-millionaire dollar franchise, movie studios have been jumping on the YA bandwagon, eager to adapt the latest best-seller for the silver screen. Most recent smash hits include the Twilight saga adapted from the books by Stephanie Meyer and The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, which has so far only delivered the first two films in the planned 'quadrilogy'.
2013 saw a truckload of new adaptations including the movie adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s alien romance The Host, Cassandra Clare’s paranormal smash-hit The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones, and Orson Scott Card’s space epic Ender’s Game. This year, we’re in for several more YA book-to-film adaptations, from endearing contemporary tales of love to the bleakest dystopian tales, and let’s not forget the ever-present vampires.
Here are some of the YA film adaptations already out or still to come in 2014:
Vampire Academy based on the books by Richelle Mead
Divergent based on the books by Veronica Roth
The Fault in our Stars based on the book by John Green
The Giver based on the book by Lois Lowry
If I Stay based on the book by Gayle Forman
The Maze Runner based on the books by James Dashner
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I based on the books by Suzanne Collins
The vast majority of this year's adaptations fall under the speculative fiction umbrella, particularly into the science fiction genre. While I’m not completely vamped out yet – I’m an abashed fan of the blood suckers provided they don’t sparkle – it is refreshing to see so many sci-fi stories being made into films given the somewhat disappointing ‘adult’ science fiction films being churned out lately – films like Prometheus, After Earth and Pacific Rim. Say what you will about young adult literature, but the stories making their way into film have a lot more to offer than awesome special effects and adrenaline-soaked action sequences. There’s real heart in these YA stories, with relatable heroes and heroines who are resonating with viewers of all ages and genders. And this is a trend that isn’t limited to the big screen.
As an avid fan of CW shows like Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries (another YA book series adaptation!) and The Originals, it has warmed my geeky heart to see so many new sci-fi series eschew werebeasties in favour of aliens, genetically superior human beings and a radioactive, futuristic Earth. While The Tomorrow People and Star-Crossed are CW original series, the recently debuted The 100 is yet another YA adaptation, this time from the similarly titled book series by Kass Morgan. While all three of these shows boast incredibly good-looking casts – as we’ve come to expect from the CW – these three series are about a lot more than pretty people saving the day.
The Tomorrow People examines what it means to be a family, calling the old adage of ‘blood is thicker than water’ into question in every single episode. While this show is definitely science-lite, the main teen character’s struggle to come to terms with his new found powers and the responsibilities thrust upon his admittedly broad and buff shoulders, is a fairly obvious analogy for what most teens go through as they transition from child to adult in that search for self and identity.
Star-Crossed presents something rather different. Although this show features good-looking, tattoo’ed aliens, there’s a lot more going on than interspecies hook-ups. Again, this show presents thinly veiled analogies to ongoing social issues such as racism, xenophobia, intolerance, immigrant integration and cultural acceptance. Featuring a diverse cast including Asian, black, and even LGBT characters, this series has a lot of potential if it’s given the chance to develop a second season.
The 100While the science behind the premise is somewhat dubious, I can suspend my disbelief because this show has a real Lord of the Flies element to it that I find as engrossing as it is disturbing. Who honestly thought sending 100 teenagers to Earth unchaperoned would be a good idea? Still, here’s a show that doesn’t shy away from the brutality of teenagers, that doesn’t mince its words and isn’t afraid to ask difficult questions, like what would you be willing to do if the fate of humanity was in your hands? Not a question easily answered and yet this show expects a bunch of petulant, criminally-minded teenagers who are finally free from the constraints of guards, government and parents to step up to the plate and deliver humanity from impending doom.
Love it or hate it, the golden age of young adult is happening right now, and I expect – and can’t wait – to see a lot more adaptations of these exhilarating, heart-breaking, soul-touching books making their way on to the big and small screen in the future.

Which are your favourites? Which YA books would you like to see made into movies?

Monday, April 14, 2014

An Interview with YA author A.J. Hartley

Here we go again! This time I sit down with A.J. Hartley and interviewed him for MystiCon 2014!

Until next month!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Time: The Elusive Minx

Has it been a month already?

I tell you, lately it seems I'd have better luck finding Sasquatch over seizing free time to write or do anything else. If a writer writes, how does a writer write if the time to write can't be gotten?

Alright, enough riddles.

If you're a new parent like me or have mounting responsibilities at the day job or any other life event blocking your productivity, you know how much it can suck to reach the end of the day and have the tough choice of writing vs. sleep.

So, let's cover that first. Sleep should win nearly every time. Your work will usually suffer if you attempt to write while exhausted. Don't do it. You might get some words down, but the next day you'll be shot and will lose another day that could have otherwise been used for quality scribbling.

Next, you have to make writing a top priority. If you don't schedule it in, it won't get done. Your spouse and children may or may not be supportive of your passion for fiction but you shouldn't use that as a crutch. Be unrelenting but also realistic. If little Timmy is having his birthday party, you'll look like a real putz if you neglect him for time at the keyboard. At the same time, your family and friends should understand that you have a burning that can't be vanquished. You may have to wait until everyone goes to sleep or wake up before the sun to get your word count in. Heck, you might even have to leave the house and go find a library.

You may have to sacrifice rituals. I love to have quiet and refuse to stop until I've reached my daily goal. Get rid of your OCD and understand that you may have to do tiny sprints throughout the day. A hundred words here. Two-fifty there. You might have your cinnamon-infused mochachino go cold because you have to change a diaper or take someone to the doctor. Come back ready to attack the WIP once again.

Don't get depressed because you've missed a day. It happens. You may be so tired your eyes write you off and slam shut on their own. You may have to go out of town. Work around it if you can but don't be so hard on yourself if the writing doesn't get done. As long as you are persistent in trying to come back and get at it again, that's what counts.

Look into time management techniques and see what might work for you. Have a real heart-to-heart with the ones around you who might be zapping your time and energy. See if you can come to a compromise.

And relax. The book will be waiting for you. And like anything else, busy times will subside and you can get back to riding alongside your ninja elves or vampire tax attorneys.

Until next time (if I have any to spare),


Monday, April 7, 2014

Agentopia: Sandy Lu

Welcome to the April edition of Agentopia! For more information and to see other Agentopia posts, click here.

This month Sandy Lu from The L. Perkins Agency is in the spotlight.

Sandy Lu joined The L. Perkins Agency in 2009 and is actively building her list. She is particularly interested in fiction, including mystery/suspense, thriller, horror, science fiction/fantasy, historical fiction, and YA. Her non-fiction categories include narrative non-fiction, history, psychology, sociology, biography, science, pop culture, and food writing. She is looking for submissions that will draw her in with a unique voice, make her miss her subway stop with a pulse-quickening plot, and keep her up at night with compelling characters who stay with her long after their story ends.

How to Submit

Email your query letter to sandy@lperkinsagency.com. Include a brief synopsis, bio, and the first five pages of your manuscript. No attachment please. For more information, please visit www.lperkinsagency.com.

1. What are you looking for in YA submissions right now?

I grew up reading mystery, suspense, horror, action/adventures, sci-fi/fantasy, and martial arts novels. I’m partial to anything with a supernatural element, and I have a weakness for all things historical. I also love a new twist on a familiar story, such as a classic play or fairy tale retelling. Mix and match any of the above, and you have my attention.

2. What's an immediate turn-off in a query, something guaranteed to get the author rejected?

It’s an automatic rejection when an author obviously did not do any research, did not follow our agency’s submission guidelines, or did not bother to spell check their letter or get my name right.

3. What's the story got to have to make you want to represent it?

The writing is everything. I need to see enough raw talent, good instincts, dedication to the craft, and potential for growth before I take on a new client. I can help fix plot holes, adjust pacing, or enhance character dynamics, but I cannot advise someone on how to create a unique voice or develop an eye for details. It’s also important that the writer has read widely on what’s already been published and has something new and fresh to say.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Laundry Line: Story Structure

In last month’s installment of this novel planning series, I moved onto story structure, discussing the big-picture methods I find most useful. I work through each, ending with a handful of major plot points. This is a great way to start. But then I delve deep. Like oil drilling deep.

Because my ultimate goal is to create a scene-by-scene beat sheet, which incidentally, is why this series started where it did.

When I began, I assumed you had your kernel that you’d popped into three disasters because you can’t plot a novel if you don’t have an idea! But before we could get to structure and beat sheets, we needed to go through the steps: writing exercises, inside and outside story, characters profiles and the wound and a want, and setting.

With all these elements in place, we can fill in that beat sheet, right?

Not quite.

Because we now need to start thinking about the smaller picture. To ease us into this idea of breaking down our bigger plot points into bite-size scenes, I want to share an analogy that hit home for me: the laundry line.

Picture a wide open space, green grass on the ground, puffy white clouds in the sky. The sun is shining down on a backyard clothesline. One tall pole staked in the dirt on one side, a matching one on the other, and a long, straight rope in between.

Think of the first pole as your opening scene. Think of the second as your ending scene. And the rope is your story. Start “hanging” your plot points on the laundry line. Your inciting incident goes somewhere very close to that first pole. Your first “disaster” goes 20%-25% of the way in. Your midpoint dangles at 50% and your third at 75%. Do you have a climax yet? If so, stick a pin on that line at 85%-90%.

Step back and take a look. Start thinking about how you get from each element to the next. Think about the characters you’ve fully developed by doing character profiles. Think about the setting that you’ve placed these characters in. Think about their wounds and their wants that form the inside and outside story. Think about the points introduced last month like Story Engineering’s “pinch points” and the fifteen Save the Cat beats. Put all that hard work you’ve done so far to use by figuring out what additional big scenes you need to get the story to work, to go from disaster to disaster.

Start hanging them on that line and stringing them together. And don’t worry, you can move them around. But get them up there so you can see them. If a small scene comes to you, great, get it up there too. But for now, concentrate on the bigger milestones. We’ll get to the small ones next.

This is a great way to, literally, visualize your story taking shape. You can do this by hand on a long scroll of paper (rice paper or butcher paper works well); with physical index cards; with online programs like Scrivener. There are even apps for smartphones that mimic index cards. Or you can list them in outline form in a notebook or in a Word file. Do whatever works for you.

I’m a bit old school and I like the index card method. I sit at my dining room table and start filling out card by card and arranging them in a row. Standing there, watching my idea actually become a story is exciting and fulfilling — a reward for all the effort I’ve put in just “thinking.” But that thinking is why this clothesline method works as well as it does. I find once I start writing scenes on those cards, my hand can’t write fast enough. I’ve internalized who my characters are and where this story is going. The physical writing of one scene sparks my brain to move to the next and the next. When I get stuck, I do some laps around the house.

Free-Write Synopsis

Let me deviate here for a second, because there’s another technique I use right about this same time: I “free write” a long synopsis. Not one of those one- or two-page synopses we all dread. This is for my eyes only, which takes the pressure off. In truth, the order here varies. Sometimes I take my hook, my three disasters, all my other prep work on characters, etc., and dive right into this synopsis. Other times I wait and do the laundry line/index cards first. I can also be writing this simultaneously while working on the index cards. Figure out what works best for you, and like me, that may change from story to story.

In order to create this synopsis, I take the plot points and bigger picture scenes I have so far and simply write — anywhere from five to fifteen pages. I write down the opening image (which I decided on when I worked through last month’s Save the Cat method), expanding on it, sometimes even writing a very short scene with dialogue. I then plug in each plot point I have so far and start writing between them. It’s almost a stream-of-consciousness type of writing. I let my mind wander, and the synopsis is often full of questions. Would the character do this or that? If she does this, then later, what about that other thing? I don’t worry about answering these questions. I don’t worry if the thread doesn’t make complete sense. I let myself go tons of places and explore every random idea that comes to me — any and every route that can take me from one plot point to the next. If a full scene comes, I write it. If dialogue comes, I write it. I don’t stop myself until I’ve written that closing image (which again I decided on thanks to the Save the Cat exercise) and exhausted myself and my brainstorming.

(Side note: this “free write” synopsis that I did when plotting Becoming Jinn ended in a final closing image and what I thought would be the last few lines of the book. You know what? Those lines in my initial synopsis are still the final lines to my book, post my revisions, post agent revisions, post editor revisions. They’ll be the ones in the final, published book. Pretty neat, huh?)

The Clothesline

After I complete this long synopsis, I then go back to my index cards. I print out this rambling story my brain has strung together and figure out what parts should actually make it into the book, highlighting them and crossing out the others. The ones that stay, I then hang on my laundry line. I start with the big scenes and then add the small ones. I then do the same exact thing with each of my subplots. I plot the subplot disasters, free write the subplots into that synopsis, and then get those subplot scenes onto index cards.

Each time I hang something on that clothesline, I assess what comes before it and what comes after it. I make sure I have a transition into and out of each item pinned to the line. For the subplots, I figure out if they are evenly spaced and spread throughout the novel, appearing at intervals and not all clumped together.

Are all of these scenes complete, fully fleshed out? Absolutely not! There very well may be a card that says “need interaction with XYZ” or “need romance scene here.” But the very notion that I know something is needed makes sure it will eventually be inserted, and inserted in the right spot. This makes the initial writing and the subsequent revisions a heck of a lot easier. I’m not trying to find room to jam something missing into an already finished manuscript. I plan for it at the start (even if, at the start, I don’t know exactly what that “romance” scene will be).

I continue to hone my long synopsis, often it will reach forty pages or more. I leave my index cards on the table for as long as it takes — days, a week, two weeks, three? My husband and I have dinners in front of the TV while my story haunts me from the dining room, calling me to add another card and another and another. Until my entire story, main plot and subplots, is laid out before me.

It is then that I can translate this into a beat sheet. Which I’ll discuss next time.

Lori Goldstein is the author of Becoming Jinn (Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, Spring 2015, sequel, Spring 2016). With a degree in journalism and more than 10 years of experience, Lori is a freelance copyeditor and manuscript consultant for all genres. She focuses on the nitty-gritty, letting writers focus on the writing.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Writing IS Exercise

I came across this quote on Facebook and wanted to share it because it really captures how much exercise a writer gets.

Exhausting, isn't it? ;)

I find it ironic when people ask me what I've been up to. I usually say, "Writing," and shrug, because it's not like I'm ACTIVE, per se. On the other hand, I've been so immersed in another world, feeling what the characters feel, and utterly obsessed with where the plot is going that I feel like I've lived another life entirely. 

Does that ever happen to you?

* * * * * * 

Laura Diamond is a board certified psychiatrist and author of all things young adult paranormal, dystopian, and horror. Her Young Adult Paranormal Romance novelette NEW PRIDE and novel SHIFTING PRIDE debuted late 2012 from Etopia Press. A spin off short story based on the lions of Tsavo, TSAVO PRIDE, is now available on Kindle. In 2013, her Young Adult Dystopian series, ENDURE and EVOKE, are being published by Etopia Press. Her Young Adult Paranormal Adventure, THE ZODIAC COLLECTOR, is coming 2014 by Spencer Hill Press. When she's not writing, she is working at the hospital, blogging at Author Laura Diamond--Lucid Dreamer, and renovating her 225+ year old fixer-upper mansion. 

If you’re interested in reading more about me, or interacting with me on the web check out the following links:

Author Laura Diamond: www.authorlauradiamond.com

Hope to “see” you soon! 

Friday, March 28, 2014

How To Be A Good Critique Partner

The last few months I’ve been talking about critique partners, who, to me, are a non-negotiable must-have for anyone serious about writing. In January I talked about where to find critique partners and in February I covered what kinds of critique partners you might want to have in your stable. This month, I’m going to focus on how to give good critique (stay tuned for next month when I discuss what NOT to do in a critique).

Most of us would not invest our time and energy into reading purely for the sport of tearing down a fellow writer. But we could all probably stand a reminder on how to deliver tough news in sensitive ways. Yes, your CP is looking to you to help her identify problem areas in her manuscript. Basically, she is asking you to find fault. Which makes you a bit damned. Most writers describe the first draft as falling in love. We love our words, our concept, our characters. We have fallen asleep plotting their actions and woken up thinking of their worlds. When your critique of that beloved manuscript lands in a writer’s inbox, it’s akin to that writer discovering her dream date lives with his mother. Probably not a deal-breaker, but the bloom is off the rose. And you’re the one who plucked the petals.

There’s no way around that, but there are ways to deliver a thoughtful critique that will likely include some bad with the good. First of all, remember the compliment sandwich. Your CP doesn’t want you blowing smoke up his butt, but he would probably greatly appreciate if your notes started out with some things that are working well in the manuscript. This lets the writer know that the problems you’ll be mentioning next may exist, but overall the work has merit and potential. It’s also always nice to end with a brief note thanking the writer for sharing his words with you and reiterating your confidence in his ability to make the story even better!

Frame your critique constructively. Make comments designed not to tear down, but to build up the work. Phrases like “Have you considered…”, “It might be interesting to see what would happen if…”, and “I think you could solve this by…” are all helpful and kind ways to point out issues.

Admit your own subjectivity. Every reader brings his or her personal tastes and experiences to a story and sometimes it’s as simple as saying, “This could just be me, but…” For instance: if your best friend in high school had an eating disorder, which also happens to be the topic of the manuscript you’re critiquing, that is helpful for the writer to know because you may be both more attuned to the realities of the disorder and whether the author captured them realistically and also more sensitive to some of the content explored.  When CPs prefaces a comment by saying something like, “I’ll admit I’m kind of an overprotective mom, but this scene made me cringe because…” that’s actually helpful. By quantifying, you’re raising a flag that lets the writer know she should get some further feedback on this concern before making any decisions on a change.

Ask questions. “Would she be wearing that tank top if your manuscript is set in January?”, “If one of his hands is in her hair and another at her back, how is he texting his friend right now?” “Would she really do this/say this/think this here?” are all far better ways to point something out that “Uh, hello, it’s WINTER”, “Is he a three-armed freak or something?”, “The voice is wayyyy off here”. Often we’re so ensconced in the story that we dash off a quick note so we can get back to reading, and don’t take the time to think about how that note could be interpreted. If that’s something you do, take a quick scroll through your comments before sending back to the writer.

Remember to point out the good. It is every bit as useful for a writer to know what scenes, sentences, and word choices are working as it is to know the ones that aren’t. My CPs and I have all adopted the method of one, who uses a green highlighter to quickly mark sentences or scenes she loves to death. I get so happy when I encounter green in my manuscript, even if it’s in the middle of lots of comment boxes of issues that need addressing. I’ve found personal or funny notes can have the same effect. A quick “Oh man, that’s so embarrassing for the MC. Reminds me of the time I spilled milk on the Pope” or “Great, now I’m crying!” or “I wanted to go to sleep at the end of this chapter but, curse you, because now I have to know what happens!” is a welcome break from more critical notes and reminds the writer that you do indeed like her story!

How about you? What do you love to see in critiques you’ve gotten back? How do you frame your own comments to others?