Thursday, March 26, 2009

the 14 week novel - week three: beginnings and voice 1

Are you ready to start writing? After the crisis this week, I realized I can’t force an outline (although it may work for me later in the process). Answering questions about my characters and figuring out where to begin the story did help, as well as thinking of a possible ending or two. How did the homework pan out for you?

Here is the assignment for week #3: Start writing! The goal for this week is 5000 words.

* 5000 words per week is based on a 50K novel in 10 weeks (the last 2 weeks are reserved for catching up if needed). If your novel is longer or shorter, adjust your weekly writing goals.

* Feel free to join in even if you’ve already started writing. Adjust the assignments to work for you. See Nora’s post for an example of how she made it work for her.

* Rewriting / editing as you go – some people like to do this, including me. My suggestion is to try to write the 5000 words for the week before you go back and edit, but only if it works for you.

* Backstory and world building can be used for your word count, as long as you realize that they might need to be cut later.

Excerpts for this week are all about voice. (Next week I’ll include links and quotes on voice.) Voice is what editors look for, but it’s really hard to nail down. The first paragraph can tell you a lot about the Main character and the story they have to tell you. The first paragraph (YA) excerpts below are from some of my favorite novels with strong voices. They show a range of successful voices for different ages. (There are a ton more I’d like to include. However, this post is already too long, although hopefully helpful. See chapter book to older MG/tween excerpts here.)

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
(young YA, pulls you in with an engaging teen girl voice and NYC as a character in the novel, not to mention the concept that an ordinary girl is really a princess. Read more about the book here.)

Tuesday, September 23
Sometimes it seems like all I ever do is lie.

My mom thinks I’m repressing my feelings about this. I say to her, “No, Mom, I’m not. I think it’s really neat. As long as you’re happy, I’m happy.”

Love Among the Walnuts by Jean Ferris
(young YA, pulls you in with a quirky title, voice and opening paragraph. It promises to be a funny and/or wacky story, and it is. Learn more about the book here.)

Once upon a time there was a very wealthy young man named Horatio Alger Huntington-Ackerman. When he was a little boy he liked the fact that his initials spelled HAHA, because he found that in spite of some problems with his family, there was a lot to laugh about. But as he grew up and made his vast fortune and dealt with the world, it seemed that there were fewer and fewer things to feel HAHA about.

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier
(solid YA, great concept, unique voice, pulls you in on the first page. I didn’t realize how much I’d love this book, the voice of the MC, and the world that JL created. Get a better feel for the voice and story by reading an excerpt on the author’s website.)

Days walking: 60, Demerits: 4, Conversations with Steffi: 5

My spoffs looked funny in the top, which is odd because my spoffs are tiny. I pulled the top up and tried to push them back where they belonged. Didn’t work. Somehow the top was pushing my right spoff under my armpit and my left toward my neck.

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers
(edgy YA, one of the strongest voices I’ve ever read, pulls you right in with universal emotions, even if you haven’t experienced what Parker has. Just in this short part from the beginning, you get the feel and emotion of the book. It’s definitely edgy YA. The dialog is even better, which you can read on Courtney’s website. She posted an excerpt of the first two chapters.)

Imagine four years.

Four years, two suicides, one death, one rape, two pregnancies (one abortion), three overdoses, countless drunken antics, pantsings, spilled food, theft, fights, broken
limbs, turf wars–every day, a turf war–six months until graduation and no one gets a medal when they get out. But everything you do here counts.

High school.

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
(YA with adult crossover potential, serious, literary, pulls you in with curiosity. Read an excerpt from later in the book on her site to get a better feel for the voice and choices the MC makes.)

SOMEONE WAS LOOKING AT ME, a disturbing sensation if you’re dead. I was with my teacher, Mr. Brown. As usual, we were in our classroom, that safe and wooden-walled box – the windows opening onto the grassy field to the west, the fading flag standing in the chalk dust corner, the television mounted above the bulletin board like a sleeping eye, and Mr. Brown’s princely table keeping watch over a regiment of student desks. At that moment I was scribbling invisible comments in the margins of a paper left in Mr. Brown’s tray, though my words were never read by the students. Sometimes Mr. Brown quoted me, all the same, while writing his own comments. Perhaps I couldn’t tickle the inside of his ear, but I could reach the mysterious curves of his mind.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
(adult with YA crossover potential, literary, MC looking back on when she was younger, pulls you in by making you feel like you are there with the MC. Learn more about the novel on the author’s website.)

At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin. I watched their wings shining like bits of chrome in the dark and felt the longing build in my chest. The way those bees flew, not even looking for a flower, just flying for the feel of the wind, split my heart down its seam.