Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Recommend the Most

Recommending books can be stressful–especially when you’re continuously trying to win over converts to the “Written Word.” But this week’s Top Ten Tuesday assignment asks for our go-to recommendations and our commentary that go with them. Here are mine:

10. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein – If you’ve wanted your whole life to read The Lord of the Rings but seem to never get around to it, try The Hobbit. Honestly, it’s my favorite of the 4. Is that blasphemous? It’s just a good time read with lots of adventure at a quick clip. And I’d choose Bilbo over Frodo any day.

9. Looking for Alaska by John Green – If you want to read another John Green book, but aren’t sure what, this is a good go-to. It won the Printz. It’s beautifully written with one of Green’s signature tropes. Basically, you won’t regret it.

8.  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein – If you love dogs you have to love this! Even people that hate to read love Art of Racing in the Rain. Plus it’s relatively short so people will fly through it unexpectedly.

7. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – So much less fluffy than it sounds. Perfect beach read. Perfect read period. Especially if you’re contemplating any European travel.

6. Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan – Literary zombie book. I mean, even the title, right?

5. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – such a great high concept premise, it sells itself. Suicide note, a message for each person that contributed to said suicide on each side of the cassette tape. I read this in one sitting. A great YA read for our generation of YA.

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth – If looking for high action and want to get on the YA dystopian bandwagon, this is a great place to start. You and your friends will be talking about which faction you belong to for weeks.

3. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver – This is my writer girl crush. This book is so unexpectedly good. Honestly, you wouldn’t expect a Groundhog’s day premise to take on such meaning. But Oliver captures high school perfectly. It’ll certainly bring back memories–though maybe not fond ones.

2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Unreliable narrators, a dissection of relationships, plus a thriller. Unputdownable

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – If you don’t cry during this you may be a robot.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Ficitional Romances

It’s Valentine’s Day Week and it’s been awhile since I participated in a Top Ten Tuesday hosted weekly by The Broke and the Bookish, so I thought this week would be a perfect one to jump right back in. This week’s Top 10 list is…

Top Ten Favorite Fictional Romances (see? how fitting)

But before I dive into my list, I wanted to point out an awesome contest going on at my friend Mandy’s new website, The First Reader. Mandy is launching her new website and blog. You might remember her from Headdesk for Writers. All you have to do is go comment on this post and then you can choose to tweet, follow, etc. for more points. Here’s what’s up for grabs:

Prize Pack #1

  • Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor
  • The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
  • The Line by Teri Hall (ARC)

Prize Pack #2 (isn’t it so pretty?)

  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis (original hardcover)
  • Wings by Aprilynne Pike (paperback)

Prize Pack #3

  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
  • Perception by Kim Harrington (ARC)

I’ll just go ahead and assume that you’re already thanking me for giving you a heads up. And now…onto the list!!

10. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark from Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

“Remember, we’re madly in love, so it’s all right to kiss me anytime you feel like it.”

9.  Noah Calhoun and Allie Hamilton from The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.”

8.  Miles Halter and Alaska Young from Looking for Alaska by John Green

“Sometimes I don’t get you,’ I said.
She didn’t even glance at me. She just smiled toward the television and said, ‘You never get me. That’s the whole point.”

7. Amy and Nick from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (okay, so they aren’t the loveliest of couples, but…)

“And if all of us are play-acting, there can be no such thing as a soul mate, because we don’t have genuine souls.”

6.  Travis and Mary from Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

“Suddenly, all I can think about are all the things I don’t know about him. All the things I never had time to learn. I don’t know if his feet are ticklish or how long his toes are. I don’t know what nightmares he had as a child. I don’t know which stars are his favorites, what shapes he sees in the clouds. I don’t know what he is truly afraid of or what memories he holds closest.”

5. Sam and Kent from Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

“Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it.
But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.”

4. Tris and Four from Divergent by Veronica Roth

“You think my first instinct is to protect you. Because you’re small, or a girl, or a Stiff. But you’re wrong.”

3. Anna and Etienne from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

“Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place?”

2. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

“There was a clatter as the basilisk fangs cascaded out of Hermione’s arms. Running at Ron, she flung them around his neck and kissed him full on the mouth. Ron threw away the fangs and broomstick he was holding and responded with such enthusiasm that he lifted Hermione off her feet.”

1. Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”

“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

Reading ADD

I don’t know what’s gotten into me, but I’ve had some serious reading ADD as of late. With books I like, too. I’m in the middle of 4 books and I just started another one tonight. Oh well, I’ll finish them and I’m just kind of reading whatever I’m in the mood for at the moment. Last time I checked that wasn’t a crime, but still sort of weird since I’m usually a read in one sitting kind of girl.

I figure this might be a good thing, though, since I am in the middle of writing and usually I typically don’t read a lot while writing. I’m truly enjoying both right now, though, so maybe reading a bunch of books at once will keep me from soaking up someone else’s voice and squelching it out all over my own manuscript.

Here’s my abbreviated TBR list.

I’ve got Vampire Academy in there, Dead-Tossed Waves, Heist Society, Living Dead Girl and Wondrous Strange. My Soul to Take and Shiver are currently residing in my car. Nice variety, at least.

Oh yeah, and I tweeted this the other day, but it’s kind of funny. Here is me reading The Dead-Tossed Waves before going out on Saturday night for my friend, Emily’s, b-day. I’ve got my boot, my cute shoe, and my book. That about sums me up, I’d say.

Any bets on which book I’ll finish first?

I started Shiver in January.

I started My Soul to Take in the fall.

The Dead-Tossed Waves this past weekend

Heist Society a couple weeks ago

Living Dead Girl tonight

My money is on either Living Dead Girl or Dead-Tossed Waves

It’s Saturday.

Here are some things you should do on a Saturday, specifically this one, in case you were confused.

You should subscribe to Fumbling with Fiction, aka this blog. You can clicky over there —> in the right hand corner and then I’ll be sent right to your email address. Thrilling, huh?

You should write at least 1,500 words with me today because you’re never too old to be peer pressured a little. Am I right or am I right?

You should also read something. I mean for fun, not for work or whatever. Because it’s rainy and cold here and while I have no reason to assume it’s rainy and cold where you are, you should still read something. I tend to get all busy and distracted with life, etc. etc. that I forget how much I miss reading good books until I’m mid-zombie apocalypse, like today. If you’re looking for a suggestion, I’m reading The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan (hence the zombie reference), so you could read that too…if you wanted…then we could talk about it.

While you’re at it you could discover a new blog or two. I’ve got suggestions on that front too in case you were wondering. I’m really into Invincible Summer right now, which is Hannah Moskowitz’s blog if you didn’t already know. I went to go get her book, Break, last night at Barnes and Noble but the store was sold out of copies, so bummer… I’m ordering it from B&N.com, but it does lack the sort of instant gratification I was craving.

Okay, well, I’m going to get back to the zombies or to the writing. Let me know if you do any of these things or plan to do any of these things today. Or all of them, I mean, if you’re feeling ambitious…

Sunday Six

Couldn’t get that seventh point, so Sunday Six it is! 

1. So excited about the movie deal for Forest of Hands and Teeth!!!  I can’t imagine how crazy-slash-awesome that must be for Carrie Ryan. She’s been a big fan of zombie movies and to now have her own? That has to be fantastic. Also the question of  the “A-list” starlet set to play Mary is killing me with suspense! Unfortunately, looks like we have to wait until 2011 for that, but as things go, I guess that is pretty fast. 

2. Finals are done Friday, so I’m already thinking of my reading list, of course. Sitting on my desk is my signed copy of Fragile Eternity, so I know that will be first. But next in line I’m thinking: Wifey by Judy Blume and The Shifters Series by Rachel Vincent. <–Note: those are two *adult* books. I’m as shocked as you are. 

Any other must-reads for the summer? I’m particularly looking for an excellent non-Neil Gaiman MG book. (Love Neil but I’ve already picked up Coraline and Graveyard Book).

3. I have a fairly daunting idea for a rewrite. But right now, I’m leaning toward going for it. I’ll be running it by my agent first to see what he thinks. Scary, but exciting. The plan still needs a bit of, well, planning. I’ll let it sit in my mind the next few days and make sure I still like it, but crit partner has given the green light, so that’s a good sign. 

The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn is editing with an open mind. Even when you think you’re being openminded sometimes you’re only thinking within the four corners of your manuscript. It’s hard, once the story is down, to see the things that aren’t there, but need to be. It’s even harder to realize whole story elements need to be changed and/or added. 

4. In (sort of) the same vein, does anyone have some worldbuilding tips. I know some folks out there love, love, love the worldbuilding aspect of writing.  I’m not someone that sits around, draws out maps, and is constantly thinking of rules. However, I think embracing that wouldn’t hurt. So, I’m looking for tips on making a cohesive, living and breathing world. What do y’all do that works for you?

5. I really liked this blog post on Agent Kristin Nelson’s blog. This is almost exactly how my agent submits and I’m personally a huge fan of it. If you’re looking for a sort of outline on how the submission process should go (i.e. if you are interviewing agents, etc.) this is a great article to review. I can speak from experience that this is a very smooth metho–at least for the author. I love how Kristin says, “Well, I’m a control freak. That means I’d want to know everything. So that’s what my author’s get–whether they like it or not!” Works for me!

6. Happy Mother’s Day! To my mom, of course! And to all the other mothers out there. I was talking with someone the other day about how unbelievable it is that all these moms with small children are able to write! I don’t know how y’all do it, but color me impressed. 

Also, Happy Mother’s Day to one of my best, best friends who is expecting! Yay! She is the first mommy-to-be of our group of friends so I am thrilled for her and it’s crazy to think that she’s going to be a real, live mom.

First Person Drawbacks

 

As cool as I think writing in first person is, there are, of course, some drawbacks. (Wow, a lot of commas there, huh?) So, before you get 30k into your brand spankin’ new WIP, let’s consider a few of our favorite POV’s shortcomings. 

 

1. Suspense killer. Usually, if the person is narrating the story, you know he or she is going to be alive on the other end. Now, there are creative ways to get around this. Carrie Ryan wrote Forest of Hands and Teeth in first person present. The narrative could have stopped any time, no problem with suspense there. Some writers might try alternating a POV if the MC died during the story. That is tricky, but can be done if handled with care. Jay Asher, in Thirteen Reasons Why, had alternating first person narrative. One of the narrators was Hannah Baker who the reader knew would be dead at the end of the story. [It's a story about her suicide. She's dead at the beginning of the book, too. Not a spoiler, people.] 

2. Claustrophobia. First person is the most restrictive point of view. It’s easy for a writer to feel boxed in. Especially when trying to lay clues and the groundwork for what is to come. How can you highlight clues that the narrator doesn’t catch? Again, this can be dealt with by having a very sleuthy MC who does pick up on the clues, but doesn’t piece them together. But the reader can’t know anything the narrator doesn’t. Very tricky…very tricky, indeed…

3. The almost-autobiography. There is a temptation, in writing first person, to inject yourself into the narrator and into the narrative. After all, you’re throwing around all these “I”s and “mine”s. It can be difficult to separate. But, as interesting as I’m sure you are, the story you’re trying to tell might be more so. Moreover, as I mentioned yesterday, the key to first person voice is consistency. If you’re randomly inserting your “in person” voice for the narrator’s you are going to be left with an inconsistent and artificial-sounding voice. 

4. Still have to show not tell. We know that the cardinal sin of writing is telling rather than showing. But, in writing first person it can be so easy to ignore because you think: how would my character describe how she is feeling right now? Oh, well she’d say she is tired. So you write on the page, “I felt exhausted.” Or some derivative thereof. But no! We still can’t do that. She has to feel like she has five-pound rocks dangling from her eyelashes, or blocks of dried cement around her feet. We need to feel the weight of her exhaustion even if the character really would just say in her own head “I’m exhausted.”

5. Varying sentence structure. In first person, it’s hard not to write “I [verb]. I [verb]. I [verb].” And so on. That is what is most natural for the writer. But, a book with that kind of repetitive sentence structure isn’t exactly going to be a feast for the discerning reader. So, while you might be used to different types of sentences flowing easily from your fingertips, expect to have to make the effort when writing from the perspective of your MC.

 

*If you’d like to check out yesterday’s post on building fenceposts for your first person narrative, click here.

Fenceposts for Your First Person Narrative

This week I’m going to be talking about writing in first person. I know that I struggled with the idea of writing in first person. I don’t find it the most natural mode of storytelling and always feel a bit of “Why is the character telling me this?” 

But, I’d say the vast majority of YA novels are written in first person and I’ve come to love it. First person adds voice and sympathy for the protagonist. There is no closer narrative form than that of first person. So embrace. I did.

The first work I switched over to first person landed me an agent. Of course, that’s not to say that everyone should write in first person. I love Melissa Marr’s works, written in alternating 3rd limited POV. 

Rather this series of posts is meant to help those interested in a foray into first person. And please, feel free to leave your tips and comments below. Thanks!

 

So today I’m talking about fashioning fenceposts. *So much alliteration, I can hardly handle it!* Anyway, fenceposts are something I use before I start writing. If you want to outline before this point that is more than fine. But, fenceposts are there to help you find your voice. 

I think I can explain this best through illustration. 

From I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You by Ally Carter, narrated by Cammie:

“We waited two weeks. TWO WEEKS! Do you know how long that is in fifteen-year-old-girl time? A lot. A LOT, a lot. I was really starting to empathize with all htose women who talk about biological clocks.”

“Okay, so I didn’t know the Jacksons, much less how Granny way feeling, but Gradma Morgan had taught me that Chinese Water Torture is nothing compared to a grandmother who really wants to know something.”

 

From The Forest of Hands and Teeth (because it’s fresh in my mind) by Carrie Ryan, narrated by Mary:

“But there are times when I stand at the edge of the Forest of Hands and Teeth and look out at the wilderness that stretches on forever and wonder what it would be like if it were all water.”

“Inside it feels as though the stone walls drain the heat of the day and the hairs on my arms stand on end.”

 

Or from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling [Not in 1st person, but definitely a fencepost for Hermione's voice]:

“Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.”

 

Ok, so of course, I don’t know what these authors did or how they started or anything like that. But what I do, prior to beginning, is talk in my characters voice. I get out a notebook and just think of random things that my narrating character would say. These become my posts. 

Naturally, the focus is not so much on what the character says, but how the character says it. 

I started with an opening line: “If the gnashing teeth ten feet behind didn’t kill me, my dad would. But that was a problem for Future Scout.” 

That was fencepost #1. 

One of my other earlier fenceposts was: “The fact that my eyes hadn’t burned crop circles in place of his nostrils felt like a small miracle. Of course God would be on his side.”

We’ll call that fencepost #2. 

 

After the creation of several more fenceposts, I’m left with a bunch of supporting structures jutting out vertically. That’s good. I’ve got them written down in no particular order, but I’m going to work with them. Because to build the actual fence, I need to constantly link back to the posts. 

Voice is about consistency. The character has to own the voice you give him or her. So these fenceposts you create are there to refer and link back to. Each sentence you write in first person has to be close enough to attach to one of the vertical posts. 

That’s the real danger with first person, I think. You want to go into some beautiful description about what the passage of time feels like, but Cammie Morgan is just going to say that it is A LOT of time in fifteen-year-old-girl time. Yanno?

Or you might want to describe the setting really eloquently. If you are writing from Mary’s perspective, you can get away with the pensive, lovely description. If you are Cammie Morgan, you can’t. Not ever ever. Never. Seriously.

So, start out by writing your fenceposts and in every sentence ask, Is that too far away from one of my fenceposts to link back to?