Write Without Really Knowing

I will openly admit that I have become a plotter. And there’s a part of me that’s really sad about that. Because I feel like plotting constricts spontaneity for a writer. It’s great for getting your plot solid, but limits the creative playing field if you catch my drift.

I wrote my first two manuscripts without having a super clear direction, just a concept. I drafted each of them with the full knowledge that there would be loose ends that would have to get fixed later. And you know what? It was fun.

I wrote my current manuscript with no direction the first time around too, and finished it in a month. Then I started outlining and asking what made the most sense, which scenes were there just for shock value? Which were really important? And trying to find the core tot he story itself.

That’s when I started outlining.

It’s those questions, essential ones albeit, that pigeonhole us as writers sometimes.

So I want to get back to writing without really having a clear direction. I think it’s the most freeing way to draft–to get a concept and cling to it and see where it takes you in the end. If you hit a wall, start over. But that’s definitely something I want to return to.

So, how do you write without a plan?

1. Ignore Everyone.

Literally. Tune out the world and do whatever the fuck you want.

2. Ask yourself “Why the Hell Not?” when considering what happens next.

Seriously, just wing it.

3. Write it already.

Just go write. That’s all you have to do. See where the words and your characters and their story takes you.

Tweetables:

(Click the birds)

Why it’s important to write without knowing on #WritingWednesday #writingtips via @hannahhuntwrite

Why #writing without knowing is the most freeing, creative experience… via @hannahhuntwrite

Don’t Leave Your Readers Guessing About How it Ended

I just finished a book, and I loved the concept but the ending left me hanging as to what really happened to the MC. And this isn’t one of those “they walked off into the sunset” endings, let me tell you. This is an ending like, “MC makes a choice and you can’t tell if they went to sleep or died or gave up or what happened and so you’re confused for the rest of your life and no longer enjoyed the book because of it”.

That kind of ending.

So let me make one thing clear here:

It’s really frustrating for me as a reader when I can’t tell how a story ended after reading it and puzzling it over for the last four days. Like, really frustrating. Because I like closure — like the rest of the world.

Open-ended endings are fine: where there’s a moment of walking off into the sunset and all that jazz.

But this is not okay when I can’t figure out if the MC is dead, asleep, or just gave up entirely making the entire book near-pointless to read in the first place.

So please, make sure your readers understand what’s happening in your books through the final pages. Please.

Tweetables:

(Click the bird)

Don’t leave your readers hanging after the end-all-be-all ending of your manuscript. Please. … via @hannahhuntwrite

Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien

VAULT OF DREAMERS
By Caragh M. O’Brien
Genre: YA Dystopian
Pages: 418 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Holtzbrink 

The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success: every moment of the students’ lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students’ schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What’s worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

I liked this book for the most part. The concept was super interesting, a bit of a reality show/survivor aspect that’s been really popular lately with a dash of some Frankenstein-esque science going on in the background. I have to say, Caragh M. O’Brien really did her research from video editing to brain surgery as far as I can tell. Like, wow. It wasn’t overly technical either. Just those spots of information were really well done. The plot was unique too; but the ending threw me for a bit of a loop and I have to say I was disappointed by it.


Character: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

I think O’Brien does a nice job of having a full cast. Each member seems to have their own worries, but they don’t extend very far into the book. In the opening, it’s clear it’s every student for him or herself until they can fortify a friend group to rely on. After that, those outside worries (concerns of the minor characters) seemed to disappear. Which I thought was kind of sad because they were set up so well in the opening few chapters.

I think Rosie is certainly her own person and super-relatable being an artist myself. I liked her imagination a lot as well. She was a bit angsty and temperamental but with good reasons in this book, unlike the random MC who get angry over nothing, Rosie had reasons.

Linus is interesting as well and the typical teenage boy. Trust me. You’ll understand.

The Dean was fascinating, but confusing, as I guess he’s supposed to be given his overall roll. But it almost felt wrong, like O’Brien stayed too mainstream with her antagonist despite her conceptual twists.

Plot: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

I liked the plot. The reality show made it hard for the characters to be themselves, and conversations were really had through passing notes and not the dry stuff that got sent over the feeds, which I thought was really nicely done. It kept readers and some other characters in the dark about who knew what parts when and how that all worked out. The ending of it took a really sharp twist thought, and while I understand why it did, it was still really jarring. And to be honest I’m not sure I understood what happened overall to Rosie in the end….

Style: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

O’Brien definitely has the teenager voice down. It was an interesting read about a world set slightly in our future but there weren’t any super-strange names for technology, so it wasn’t quite science fiction because they still had video cameras, etc. I just know it happens after 2040-something. So it’s also not that big of a time-jump.

I really didn’t have any complaints per say with this one, other than the jarring bit at the end.

I’d recommend this book to someone looking for an interesting book that questions the differences between imagination and reality and just how far we can push the boundaries of both.

Tweetables:

(Click the birds)

@hannahhuntwrite gives 4/5 stars to #VaultofDreamers by Caragh M. O’Brein #yalit #dystopian #imagination

Want a read that pushes the boundaries of reality and imagination? Check out #VaultofDreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien

Sachael Dreams Release Day!

Happy release to Melody Winter and REUTS publications with SACHAEL DREAMS! I’m so excited to be a part of this release tour. Check it out!

SACHAEL DREAMS
By Melody Winter
Genre: NA Fantasy
Publisher: REUTS

Twenty-two-year-old Estelle Bailey has had enough of busy city-life and her hot-tempered ex. She escapes to the seclusion and peace of her family’s clifftop home in Ravenscar, where the soothing solitude whispers to her soul as strongly as the sea itself does. But her newfound contentment is interrupted when a mysterious man—a Sachael, master of seduction—joins her midnight swim unexpectedly. 

Estelle struggles against his charm and the overpowering attraction she feels for him. He offers her a life she never could have imagined, a life beneath the waves . . . but at what cost? Before she can decide, she’s captured, ensnared by the Sect, a secret enemy of the Sachaels, becoming a pawn in a war she knew nothing about. 

Now, she’s left with a new choice—escape the clutches of the Sect and flee into the ocean, or side with her alluring, intimidating captor and destroy the Sachaels forever. Can she turn her back on the man she might love, or will the secret of her heritage change everything? 

Set against a picturesque backdrop, Sachael Dreams is the first in a new series, exploring themes of romance, love, and identity, and the struggle that happens when all three collide.

Get Sachael Dreams Today (nook)!

About Melody Winter:

Growing up, Melody Winter showed a natural ability in art, a head for maths, and a tendency to write far too long English essays. Difficult to place in the world when she graduated, she pursued a career in teaching, but eventually ended up working in Finance. Melody is convinced the methodical time she spends working with numbers fuels her desire to drift into dream worlds and write about the illusory characters in her head.

Melody Winter lives in North Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two sons. When not dealing with football, rugby, and a whole plethora of ‘boy’ activities, she will be found scribbling notes for her stories, or preparing for another trip to the beach. With an obsession for anything mythical, Melody revels in reading and writing about such creatures. In fact, if she wasn’t such a terrible swimmer, she’d say she was a mermaid.

Sachael Dreams is her debut novel, and the first in her New Adult Romantic Fantasy series—the ‘Mine Series’.

You can view more of Melody Winter on her website, Twitter or Facebook.

Tweetables:

(Click the birds)

Happy BookBirthday to SACHAEL DREAMS by @MelodyWinter! Come check out a full blurb. #NAlit #fantasy

@hannahhuntwrite helps celebrate the release of SACHAEL DREAMS by @MelodyWinter! @REUTSPub #NAlit #fantasy

How to Not Write

There is a point where you’ll realize that sometimes you just don’t have anything to say. And that’s okay. This post isn’t about how not to write (bad writing). It’s about knowing when you need to take breaks and that breaks can be really good things (unless you’re working on a deadline, then at least talk to your agent/publisher before you decide to take six months off).

1. Accept that sometimes you just don’t have it.

 

Sometimes there isn’t anything to say. Everyone goes through it. I’ve been writing for almost seven years and I’ve hit those walls where there simply are no words. Don’t try and force it. Sometimes it’s workable–like when you’re on a deadline. Sometimes, like when you have all the time in the world, it’s a good idea to just let an idea sit and simmer.  

But you have to accept the sheer fact that you have nothing to say when it hits you.

2. Accept the fact that our brains–even our creative-side–need breaks.

 

You’re not going to be able to be “on” all the time. Sure, people talk about how your subconscious mulls over everything all the time, or that you’re puzzling out the day in your sleep. But your imagination needs some rest too. 

3. Start looking for inspiration.

 

It’s not “easy” to get inspired. It’s something that just happens. Your lack of opinions or words in general could be from a lack of inspiration. Maybe the project doesn’t feel right anymore but you know you’ve still got a ton of creative juices flowing. So start looking for other projects. Go places that inspire you. Where you’re allowed to think and let your mind wander. 

I get a lot of my inspiration through Pinterest; but also by going on walks around campus. Being outdoors can be really helpful.

4. Take the break if you need to take it.

 

Last semester I took, essentially, a six month break from my writing. I finished off a new version of a MS in July, and didn’t touch any creative work again until this past January. It killed me to do it, but school got in the way of my creative time. So it had to happen. I accepted the break, and it was difficult to bounce back from because the timing simply wasn’t right.  

But now I’m sitting here mulling over this new draft I’m working on and I’m realizing that my brain still needs time to think about everything that’s going into it. And that’s okay. I can take the break now, fiddle with a handful of side projects, and know that this new MS will work itself out in the end. 

So if you feel like you need a month or six off, take it. 

5. Don’t get jealous of your friends who are still writing.

 

It’s easier said than done, I know. But it’s important to be supportive of anyone and any amount of progress. Evevn if you’re not exactly making your own. Karma will catch up with you eventually and you’ll get that boost you were so looking for while everyone else was writing new manuscripts and signing with agents and getting published while you took your mental vacation.  

Even if you have to pretend you’re not jealous for a while (been there done that), in the end you’ll realize that you have no control over the fate of other people–or even your own half the time. What happens will happen and it always has a reason.

Tweetables:

(Click the birds)

This is how to not write… via @hannahhuntwrites #amreading #notwriting #breaks

There is a point where you’ll realize you have nothing to say. And that’s okay… via @hannahhuntwrite

Birthdays as Bad Omens

There’s something bugging me about YA lit, and in light of my own celebration yesterday, I’m going to complain about birthdays in YA literature. Because, let’s be real, no one really does anything huge for their birthday unless you’re turning sixteen, and even then you’re lucky to get a fabulous party.

I mean, I spent all day yesterday getting fat on good food and basically playing video games with friends. That’s all I did on my birthday.

But it seems like you ask any fictional character what they did on their birthday, and you get the extremes: either it was totally awesome and the party of the year and everything went perfectly and they had their first kiss with the person they’re going to be partnered with for the rest of their life–or it sucks.

And the apocalypse happens. Or there are zombies attacking the joint, or their mother dies, or they find out their parents have lied about what species they belong to for the last decade and a half. (I don’t know about you guys, but if my parents told me I wasn’t human after fifteen years, I would freak the fuck out.–Sidenote: Totally pulling this on my future children. I’m such a troll.)

Anyway, you see what I mean? Birthdays are a day of extremes in YA lit, used more as a cruel or beautiful irony than treated as any normal day–which tends to be how my birthdays play out in reality. So why don’t we do that? Why is there never any small party with just family or a handful of friends where all the problems in the book melt away for a solid twenty-four hours?

Because that’d be too realistic? Not interesting enough? What? It would really lull your MC into a false sense of normality/security, and then everything would be so much more interesting when shit hits the fan later. I promise. So don’t bring the apocalypse to the birthday party. Save that for the day after, because we won’t be expecting the party to go well or normally. And then it will, and as readers, we’ll say, “Oh, guess I was wrong. Everything’s fine.” and then you can be like “NOPE GOTCHA, SUCKERS.” and pull a fast one.

It’ll work so much better and allow for a realistic birthday for your special character who’s life you’re about to destroy.

Tweetables:

(Click the birds)

birthdays in #yalit are weird and #extreme. You either have a perfect party, or the apocalypse happens.

@hannahhuntwrite can’t understand why birthdays either aren’t mentioned or go horrifically/awesomely in #yalit.

Learn to Take Your Own Advice

There’s a simple truth in writing: no one can write your story but you.

And no one should.

It’s imperative as a writer to recognize when someone is providing constructive criticism or simply brainstorming your plot for themselves, and it takes a while to figure out.

I’ve spent the last year writing and rewriting projects because I know I’ve grown as I’ve worked with a good number of critique partners and entered contests in the past. I’m constantly learning, and I knew these rewrites were coming. So did my CPs.

Most of them are really good about making sure they communicate that something is just a suggestion. And, inherently, everything they tell me about a manuscript should be nothing more than “just a suggestion”, but my brain gets into this mode where I start to separate things. Suggestions vs. actual, technical critiques of things that should be changed.

Sometimes things get put into the wrong category. It happens. But it’s even easier to do when you really respect the other person or they’re farther along than you are, as if they hold some sort of secret wisdom you haven’t gotten yet and if you ever met them in real life you’d be all like:

So you want to believe every word they say, take all of their suggestions, and change your entire story.

Don’t do that. (Trust me on this one. It’s not fun to fall into this trap.)

Your story is the way it is for a reason. There are themes and threads from your original draft that will and should hold true to every draft you write. You may not be able to list them now, but they’ll keep reappearing regardless. One of mine is trust and the importance of family.

And there are going to be points where people make suggestions that totally work against those themes or main ideas that you have for your MS. If they rub you the wrong way, don’t listen to them.

You are the one who ultimately has to be happy with your manuscript. Write it for you; not someone else. Sure, you’ll get critiqued on characterization, world building, awkward jumps in pacing, but those are all technical elements that can be fixed and still maintain the integrity of your story as a whole.

If someone suggests that “it would be cooler if _______ happened here”, don’t listen to them. They’re brainstorming your plot for themselves and it will do nothing to help you. Feel free to ask for brainstorming help when you need it, but just because something sounds cool, doesn’t mean it has to be included in your MS if it doesn’t fit. You don’t have to make everyone happy.

Your real responsibility is to you. So take your own advice and follow your gut. Obviously, think about the advice you get on your past drafts and reflect on what needs to change/stay the same between this one and the next. But shut out your CPs and beta reader advice when you start rewriting. Otherwise there are too many writers fighting for the pen.

So follow your gut and take your own advice. Because if you love your story, chances are someone else will too, and that’s all that matters.

Tweetables:

(Click the birds)

Take your own advice when it comes to #writing and #rewriting… via @hannahhuntwrite #writingtips

It’s important to get feedback, but just as crucial to know when to take your own advice #writingtip via @hannahhuntwrite

Sense of Time in YA Manuscripts

I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve read a good handful of published books where I literally can’t map out a timeline for their plot. There’s no way to tell how much has passed between chapters and that’s something that really bugs me as a reader.

Has it been five days since you’ve seen the mysterious bad boy you’re not supposed to fall in love with? Or two years? Or twenty minutes? I couldn’t tell you.

And this lack of a timeline tends to leave me floating as a reader. I don’t like not being as solidly grounded in your characters’ realities as humanly possible. I don’t like unmeasured time gaps because you always have a sense of how long it’s been from an event, even if it’s not exact.

Long-lost childhood friend reappears randomly? Well, when’s the last time your MC’s seen them? Last year? Twelve years ago? I don’t know.

My one plea is that authors take the time to make sure the timelines of their story come across clearly. You may know it as the writer, but your readers have to understand it too.

Tweetables:
(Click the bird)

@hannahhuntwrite talks about the importance of #timelines in #yalit #writingtip

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

CRUEL BEAUTY
by Rosamund Hodge
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 342 (Hardcover) 

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny. 
Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.
But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.
As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

Overview: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

I really didn’t mind this book at all. I wasn’t sure about the ferocity of Nyx’s hatred at first, or the way Rosamund Hodge flipped Nyx’s world on its head at first, but I think she did a wonderful job of telling the story in a very surreal way.

Characters: ★ ★ ★ ☆ 

I didn’t mind the characters, but I felt like Nyx moved from one extreme to the other more often than not. One second she’s fine spending time with Ignifix and the next she’s Hell bent on destroying him; I’m not sure I got what was going on beneath the surface. Ignifex was consistant, as was Shade, his shadow, which I liked. They were wonderful foil characters and played off each other well, but I’m still not sure I quite got how their story ended about three quarters of the way through. It went by too quickly.

Nyx’s sister is also easily fooled, which I didn’t like. Because Nyx got one chance to go home and the sister’s determined to kill Nyx’s husband since she hasn’t yet, and wouldn’t exactly let Nyx get a word in edge-wise, which was frustrating for me to listen to as a reader.

Plot: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

I really liked the plot movement in this story. I think it was an interesting take on Beauty and the Beast, definitely taking it further from the main story than I had expected. So props to Hodge for keeping the entire thing super original. I’m not quite sure I liked the idea of the demons and the Greek/Roman gods that were involved, but I can understand the mindset.

The one thing that really set me off was the Day of the Dead celebration because to me it played out as being more hispanic in origin than Greek–but that might just be that I’m more familiar with the Mexican/Spanish customs than the Greek.

Style: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Hodge has an interesting writing style. There were brief moments when Nyx sounded way too old for her own good, and others where she was very childish. I guess that kind of encapsulates being a teenager, but at the same time it threw me for a bit of a loop when her voice would get a little loftier than normal. I also think the world building could have used a little more work, as I felt floaty going through Ignefix’s house in my head. I couldn’t quite get a sense for where everything was–even if rooms could move, which I’m still not sure about(?).

I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a bit more of an abstract fairytale retelling. It was definitely interesting.

Tweetables:

(Click the birds)

An abstract retelling of Beaty and the Beast and a great read! @hannahhuntwrite reviews #CruelBeauty by @rosamundhodge


@hannahhuntwrite gives 4/5 stars to #CruelBeauty by @rosamundhodge #yalit #fantasy #amreading

Turn off Kfuck Radio

Anne Lamott is a writer I recommend reading. Her book Bird by Bird is something I’ll be revisiting pretty soon here as I look to really take this rewrite of an old project in a totally new direction; but I wanted to share her advice about KFKD today.

To summarize, you all hopefully remember having to turn the dial on the radio to scan for stations, right? (If you don’t I’m going to feel so old.)

Well, she uses this metaphor of dialing into a radio station to talk about that little voice in the back of your head that critiques everything you do. Especially the one on your writing, but it can apply to everything in life. It’s that little voice of constant self doubt that we all struggle with. It’s even harder in writing when you have beta readers and a people-pleaser personality like I do.

Anyway, the quick and dirty of it is that you’re always tuned into that channel of self-doubt, that Kfuck station, and in order to get anything done you’ve got to turn that station off.

I’ve been staring at this project for the last six weeks and essentially slamming my head against a wall. Why? Because every time I open the document, I sit there and wonder what Beta Reader A will think about this part. Or if this backstory and character introductions for so-and-so will make Beta Reader B happy. Or if Beta Reader C will like the new direction my MC’s voice has taken, or if I like the direction that MC’s voice has taken.

And I need to stop.

It doesn’t help that this rewrite is going toward earning me class credit. That was a dumb idea in and of itself. But aside from that, my personal Kfuck station is slowly killing me, and I can feel it.

I keep looking at the Twitter hashtag for literary agent wish lists that trended with last week’s Manuscript Wish List chat. (#MSWL for all you interested). Now, these things are good to follow and Twitter chats are fun to participate in. But I shouldn’t be looking at the wish lists when I still have work to revise, and new work to just plain write. Because I know as a people pleaser, my KFKD station will prompt me to write for those people what asked for that one, specific thing, and let’s face it:

No one really knows what they want. What they expect.

It’s all generic, and mostly find a good story.

So turn off the commentators on your Kfuck station and write that good story.

Tweetables:

(Click the birds)

It’s time to turn off the critics of Kfuck in your head and just #write already. @ANNELAMOTT via @hannahhuntwrite

Turn off the voices in your head; stop being a people pleaser, and write that good story. …via @hannahhuntwrite #amwriting