Book Review: THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE by Sarah Harian

Photo credit: Goodreads
I’d been looking forward to reading The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian since I first heard of this epic-sounding NA novel, and now, having read it, I can say it definitely lived up to my expectations and more. 

As per usual, here’s the Goodreads summary:
“Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room—an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice. 
If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent. 
Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random. 
She doesn’t plan on making friends. 
She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.”
What immediately caught my interest about Wicked was that it’s not a typical Contemporary Romance New Adult novel—not to speak badly of Contemporary Romance NA, (I’ve read some excellent CR NA such as this one and this one) but I, for one, get very excited when I see some variation in the NA market.

Being that I love edge-of-your-seat-type novels, I was pretty psyched about this one—and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

What I loved about Wicked was how it kept me guessing—every page had me wondering what would happen next, and how Evalyn would survive, or if she even would. Not only that, but I found myself sympathizing with some truly dark characters, and even growing attached to them—something that I adore, because it’s a sign of really fantastic character development and building.

What’s even more exciting about this already thrilling book is that it really fits the New Adult category. Evalyn isn’t a typical college student—she’s practically on death row—but she still deals with many of the same struggles, fears and insecurities as other NA-aged characters. Her voice fits the category beautifully, and to me, Wicked serves as unequivocal proof that NA Speculative Fiction can definitely be successful.

I’m giving The Wicked We Have Done 5/5 stars and recommend it to anyone interested in trying out a different side of New Adult, who also loves thrilling, edge-of-your-seat novels.

Have you read Wicked? Also, I’d be happy to take some SpecFic NA recommendations! 

Twitter-sized bites: 
.@Ava_Jae gives 5/5 stars to THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE by @SarahHarian. Have you read this thrilling SpecFic NA? (Click to tweet)  
Interested in reading some excellent NA SpecFic? Try THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE by @SarahHarian. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: What Relationships Would You Like to See More Of?

Photo credit: Kamila Gornia on Flickr
Relationships! I do love reading about them, and writing them is quite a joy as well. But as I’ve been reading, I’ve been thinking lately about some relationship-types that I’d like to see more of—not because they aren’t already well represented, but just because I haven’t come across them quite as much as I’d like. So.

Here is my mini-list of relationships I’d love to read more about:

  • Healthy relationships. Easy (Tammara Webber) is a perfect perfect perfect example of this. I never realized quite how much I love a love interest who respects consent and boundaries until I read this book—now I need more.

    Also, there can never be too much representation of healthy relationships, am I right? (I am). 

  • Bromances. I do love me my bromances, whether it’s Sherlock & Watson, Captain Kirk & Spock, Professor X & Magneto or James Potter & Sirius—bromances just don’t get old. And sadly, most of the favorite examples I can think of immediately are from movies and TV shows, because I really haven’t read enough of these. 

  • Relationships that aren’t forever (and it’s okay). I read one book somewhat recently that did this beautifully, but I won’t say which because I don’t want to spoil anything. Point is, I think it’s important to represent relationships that don’t last forever, and the characters move on and survive and are even happy, because not every relationship is happily ever after. And that’s totally normal. 

  • Relationships with antagonists. I don’t know about you guys, but I never tire of this, and I definitely don’t see it enough (recommendations are more than welcome). Antagonist relationships not only make for uber-interesting reading, but they also reveal a lot of depth in the antagonist, which complicates the whole plot and to me, makes it insanely amazing. (For examples of this, by the way, check out The Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo and Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge).

    NOTE: This does not mean abusive relationships. Relationships with antagonists don't have to be unhealthy. Unhealthy relationships are not preferable. Ever. 

Now what about you? What relationships would you like to read more about?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Bromances, respect, antagonist love & break-ups are relationship elements @Ava_Jae would like to see. How about you? (Click to tweet)  
What relationships would you like to see more of in books? Join the discussion at @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

John Green is Awesome (But So is the Rest of YA)

Photo credit: Say It Aint SO! on Flickr
With the massive success of The Fault in Our Stars and the recent announcement that Paper Towns will be hitting the big screen, there’s been this shift happening online. And it’s a shift that, quite frankly, needs a massive attitude adjustment.

Before I go on, I’d like to establish something.

First and foremost, I love John Green. I think TFiOS is a wonderful book and I’ve been a fan of vlogbrothers for a while, and I am so very happy to see how successful he’s been. It’s always wonderful when there’s a big success in books, and when it’s a YA success, I’m even happier. So go John Green. You’re awesome.

What I’m not loving so much, is this idea being perpetuated by the media lately that John Green’s books are worth so much more than the other YA trash out there like Hunger Games and Twilight and maybe now some real value will come out of YA because Green’s been so successful.


I’m not going to link to the article that basically said as much, because it doesn’t deserve the traffic. But there are so many things wrong with that message, and it makes me rather ragey.

To start, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, but no one book is worth more than anotherTwilight and Hunger Games are not garbage, nor are any other books out there, regardless of whether or not you read them or enjoyed them. It’s perfectly okay if one, or all of those books aren’t your thing, but that by no means indicates that they’re somehow worth less than TFiOS or any other book out there.

Secondly, the insinuation that there isn’t any value in what’s been published in YA thus far just tells me that someone hasn’t been reading very much YA. Some of the most powerful books I’ve read about love, sacrifice, betrayal, responsibility, power and self-discovery were YA novels. YA is showing teenagers that they’re not alone, that what they’re feeling and experiencing isn’t just them, that it’s wonderful to love and live and yes, sometimes life is hard and yes, sometimes loss is horrible, but we move on and become better people for our experiences. And sometimes stories with those messages have vampires and fights to the death and magic and demons and princes and faeries, and you know what? That doesn’t make them less valid.

YA is a beautiful category. And John Green is certainly a part of that, and his work has spoken to loads of teens out there, but you know what? So has Stephanie Meyers’s work, and Suzanne Collins’s work, and Tahereh Mafi's and Veronica Roth’s and Beth Revis’s and Cassandra Clare’s and Julie Kagawa’s and Lauren Oliver’s books. So have countless other YA authors, both male and female, writing in genres across the board from Paranormal to High Fantasy to Dystopia to Sci-Fi to Urban Fantasy to Thriller to Horror to Magical Realism and yes, even to Contemporary.

They're all equally wonderful, so rather than insinuating one book is worth more than the others, let’s celebrate the wonderful category that is YA equally and leave it at that.


Twitter-sized bites:
Writer @Ava_Jae says no one book is worth more than another. What do you think? (Click to tweet)  
"Some of the most powerful books I've read about love, sacrifice, betrayal...& self-discovery were YA." (Click to tweet)

So You Want To Write YA High Fantasy?

Photo credit: Lisa Brewster on Flickr
So this is the first entry in a new series I'm starting here at Writability! Yay! If all goes well and you guys like what you see, I hope to cover many genres and categories, including ones I don't write, which should be interesting. I hope you all enjoy! :)
“So, high fantasy isn’t dead. If you say it is, you’re not looking in the right places. Perhaps the good stuff doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves, but it’s out there, changing perspectives and broadening imaginations, reminding us of what it is to be human, and daring girls who love nail polish and boys to dream of something more.” —Sarah J. Maas ("Is High Fantasy Dead? (Um, No.)")
What is it? 

Royalty, medievalism, magic, sword fights, evil wizards, elves, orcs, trolls, dragons and very little technology are a few of the elements you’ll see when reading high fantasy. In Young Adult, it often means princes and princesses, or young powerful people (whether highly skilled, gifted with magic or otherwise special), lots of action, great pacing and romances. What’s not to like?

Pros/Cons of Writing YA High Fantasy: 


  • You can do just about anything. Everything should fit in the world you create and make sense for your book, of course, but other than that, the sky’s the limit. Want a dragon made of fire? Go for it. A character who can control lightning? Write it and it’s yours. 

  • Medievalism is the bomb. Let’s face it, sword fights are often way more fun to watch than shootouts, royalty never gets boring to read or write about (to me) and that low-tech I mentioned before means you have to work around lack of technology obstacles, sometimes with magic, sometimes without. 

  • Young adults tend to have more independence. This varies, of course, but in medieval times, young adults were often viewed as mini-adults—they have way more responsibilities and pressure on their shoulders than teens today. And that makes for great book fodder. 


  • World building is tough. To me, this is kind of a pro, too, because world building can be insanely fun. But it can also be a massive headache. You’re building an entire world from nothing, and it can get complicated and exhausting, but it’s also pretty rewarding. 

  • A lot of it’s been done already. This to me is also in a way a pro—I’m starting to see a call for high fantasy based off non-western European cultures, which I think is fantastic (i.e.: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and Prophecy by Ellen Oh). There are so many cultures out there who each had their own medieval-like periods and mythologies that I think could be really interesting in high fantasy. So while it’s a tougher market because we’ve seen a lot of similar high fantasies, I think it also pushes us to try new things, which isn’t such a bad thing after all. 

  • It’s a tough market. Yeah, well, so is the rest of YA. If you love high fantasy, this shouldn’t deter you. 

Recommended Reading: 

Reading is important! Really. Whatever genre you’re writing in, you should be pretty well versed in what’s out there.

Note: I’ve read and enjoyed all of these except for the last one—but I’ve heard good things about Finnikin.
For more, check out this Goodreads list of YA Fantasy novels, which includes books that aren't High Fantasy, but Fantasy nonetheless, and this Goodreads list of High Fantasy novels, which includes books that aren't YA.

Helpful Links: 
Do you enjoy reading or writing YA High fantasy? Share your experience! Also, should I continue this series? Let me know what you think!

Twitter-sized bites: 
Thinking about writing YA High Fantasy? Writer @Ava_Jae shares some tips, recommendations and more. (Click to tweet
Do you write YA High Fantasy? Share your experience at @Ava_Jae's new So You Want to Write series! (Click to tweet)

Book Review: EASY by Tammara Webber

Photo credit: Goodreads
Yes, yes, I know, so many reviews, but I regret nothing because these books are fantastic.

So if a certain YA series involving vampires is an example of how not to have a healthy relationship, Easy by Tammara Webber is a beautiful example of relationships done right. But first, the Goodreads summary:
“Rescued by a stranger. 
Haunted by a secret. 
Sometimes, love isn’t easy… 
He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior… 
The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart.
Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth—and find the unexpected power of love. 
A groundbreaking novel in the New Adult genre, Easy faces one girl's struggle to regain the trust she's lost, find the inner strength to fight back against an attacker, and accept the peace she finds in the arms of a secretive boy.”
So Easy has a reputation of being the NA book that made many people love NA books, and I definitely understand why. Easy is one of the books that kicked off the category and made people pay attention, and it is totally deserving of its praise.

Like many other readers have said, I don’t usually gravitate towards Contemporary Romance novels, but Easy still caught my attention right from the beginning and kept it until the last page. It took me all of a day to read it, and I have to say, it features one of my favorite relationships ever.

Besides being super attractive, smart, artsy, badass and kind, the love interest Lucas respects boundaries. This, to me, is what made him so incredibly fantastic, because his relationship with Jacqueline is a perfect example of what a healthy, respectful relationship looks like.

Not only that, but Easy does an excellent job portraying and speaking out against rape culture—but it does it in a way that isn’t at all preachy or lecture-y.

Easy kept me flying through the chapters, smiling very often and has a wonderful message to boot. 5/5 stars for sure.

Have you read EASY?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Curious about New Adult novels? Try EASY by @TammaraWebber. (Click to tweet
.@Ava_Jae gives EASY by @TammaraWebber 5/5 stars. Have you read this book? (Click to tweet)

How to Sprinkle Background Info into Your WIP

Photo credit: glassghost on Flickr
Once upon a time I wrote a post on how to avoid writing info dumps, and while I discussed the importance of sprinkling information gradually over the course of a MS, I didn’t really cover the how as far as spreading out said information goes.

So here we are.

Revealing history and/or background information in your WIP can be tricky—if you reveal too much at once, it’s an info dump, but if you don’t reveal enough, readers may be left with a lot of questions, or the world of your novel may come off as flat and unfinished. The right amount is somewhere in between, and oftentimes it takes quite a bit of tweaking to get it right.

The good news is there are several methods that you can use to sprinkle in whatever information you need to convey without dumping it all at once:

  • Dialogue. This one is pretty easy. Your characters are having a conversation, and whatever background information you’re trying to convey comes up. Maybe it’s a bit of world history, or information about one of the characters (or another character), or something else entirely. Whatever you choose, just make sure it sounds natural—your character shouldn’t start spouting off pages upon pages of world history in mid-conversation, no matter how relevant. The key here is to use as little as possible to convey what you need. 

  • Thoughts. Similar to dialogue, all this requires is your POV character thinking about the background information you want to convey. Of course, this only works if your POV character knows the background information. But even if he/she doesn’t know, this could be a way to start making your readers wonder about said information by having your POV character think about it. 

  • Relate to current scene. If you’re writing in first person, then this most likely is going to happen within your POV character’s thoughts. In third person, however, this can sometimes work as a sort of related aside. For example, when describing a certain building, you may, if relevant, mention a little about the history behind the building, or the area, or a certain aspect of a building (for example, a statue or architectural aesthetic). Again, brevity is your friend here.  

  • Flashbacks. Flashbacks are often a favorite, but they should be used with caution. While they’re absolutely wonderful for showing us some of your character’s background without info dumping, flashbacks can sometimes be jarring to the reader. The key here, is to choose the right place to put them, and not use them too often. A few flashbacks are okay—twenty in one WIP are not recommended. 

So those are just a couple methods to sprinkle background information into a MS, but now I want to hear from you—what methods do you know of for revealing background information gradually? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Struggling to reveal background information without info-dumping? Writer @Ava_Jae shares some tips. (Click to tweet)  
Writer @Ava_Jae shares four methods for revealing background information without info-dumping. Have you used these? (Click to tweet)

Young Adult vs. New Adult: What's the Difference?

Photo credit: emma@vanillasplash on Flickr
So I’ve been doing this thing where I binge read a bunch of YA novels, then NA novels, and back and forth. And it’s been a blast, and I’m really enjoying it, but the best part about it is I’ve been able to get a better idea as to some of the differences between YA and NA novels.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the similarities and differences between the two categories, but I like to think it’s a start. And hopefully helpful for those who are having trouble differentiating between the two.

Both YA & NA:

  • Young characters. YA tends to feature main characters aged 14-17 while NA tends to feature protagonists aged 18-mid twentiesish. These aren’t set in stone of course, but the point is, both feature relatively young characters.

  • Voice is king. This is one of the major reasons I love both YA and NA—the voices you find in these categories are fantastic. For real, truly and honestly, voice is so incredibly important in YA and NA, and some of the best voices I’ve ever encountered have come from YA and NA lit.

    And because I feel like recommending some wonderful voices, for YA I recommend the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi and for NA I super highly recommend Only the Good Die Young by K.K. Hendin. Both have incredibly awesome voices that I adore.

  • Fast-paced. Self-explanatory, and yet another reason I love YA and NA novels.

  • Language. Guess what? Some teenagers cuss and some new adults cuss. Cursing is equally acceptable in YA and NA, though I’ve noticed there sometimes tends to be more frequent cursing in NA if that’s the POV character’s voice. Either way, cursing is allowed.

  • Sex. Yes, both YA and NA novels are allowed to have sex. The main differentiating factor here is how graphic said sex scenes are allowed to be, which is explained below.


  • Still dependent. Characters in YA novels are minors, and thus almost always still dependent on someone. It could be their parents, a guardian of some sort, the government, etc., but they’re not usually at a stage in their lives where they have full independence.

  • Coming of age. YA novels are coming of age novels. They’re about surviving the terrifying, confusing years of being a teenager and starting to learn who they are.

  • Thinking about the present. I believe I saw Agent Sarah LaPolla say this on Twitter a while ago, and I have to say I completely agree. YA protagonists are very much focused on the present—how they feel now, how their lives are now, what their relationships are like now, etc. They're not usually thinking about the future—they just want to get through the now.

  • Teenage audience. While it’s true that many many many adults read YA, ultimately the target audience for YA is indeed teenagers.

  • Emotional focus in intimate scenes. Like I said above, sex is completely allowed in YA—the difference, is rather than focusing on the graphic physical details of intimacy, YA tends to gloss over it and focus on the emotional aspect. How this is handled varies greatly—in Cruel Beauty, for example, the kissing and sex is mentioned very briefly and barely described at all. In Unravel Me and Ignite Me, on the other hand, there’s much more physical description that then shifts to more introspection as the scenes become more heated.


  • Independent. Characters in NA novels are often finally independent. Or trying to be independent, at least. Whether they’re away at college, leaving home for the first time or something else, these characters are trying to embrace independence while juggling all these other new adult-ish experiences.

  • Adult responsibilities. New adults are facing adult responsibilities for the first time, whether it’s paying the bills, taking care of kids, stepping into adult-like roles or simply trying to figure out how to handle being treated like an adult when they don’t yet feel like adults, the responsibilities are there and they can’t depend on anyone else to take care of them anymore.

  • Physical and emotional focus in intimate scenes. Unlike YA, characters in NA novels are very aware of how certain situations or characters make them feel physically. They know when they’re aroused, for example, and they’re not afraid to say it, but the focus isn’t 100% physical, because there are emotional aspects to consider as well.

    When writing NA fiction, you have the option of removing the glossing over so-to-speak that you often see in YA—it’s perfectly acceptable for sex scenes in NA to be explicit. This ties back to that awareness—for example, when make out scenes are no longer fully focused on the emotional aspect, but how they feel physically as well, the scenes naturally become more graphic.

    That being said, this doesn’t mean that there has to be sex. Sex is not and will never be a requirement for NA novels, and fade to black, if that’s what you’re comfortable with, is just as acceptable in NA as it is in YA and Adult. You just have the option of writing explicit sex if that’s what you want, unlike YA. :)

  • Thinking about the future. NA protagonists have their eyes on the future—whether it’s trying to find a lasting relationship, thinking about settling down, trying to figure out career direction or something else, new adults are realizing that the present is important, but they need to figure out how to survive the future, too.

  • Adult audience. While I’m sure there are teenagers who will inevitably pick up NA novels, the primary target audience for NA are adults.

  • What does it mean to be an adult? This is the big question in NA. NA-aged protagonists are now officially adults, the world views them as adults and everyone says they’re an adult, but they don’t really feel like it. They’re trying to handle everything the world is throwing at them while at the same time trying to figure out what being an adult means and more specifically, what role they fit into in the adult world.

What similarities and differences can you think of between NA and YA novels? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Confused about the difference between YA and NA novels? Writer @Ava_Jae breaks it down here. (Click to tweet)  
Unsure how NA & YA novels differ? Writer @Ava_Jae shares some similarities & differences (hint: it's NOT just sex). (Click to tweet)

Book Review: ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG by K.K. Hendin

Photo credit: Goodreads
So I’ve been breaking out of my default genre choices for pleasure reading and picked up this wonderful book on release day, March 11. And promptly finished it in 24 hours. 

This book, you guys. I loved it so much.

But before I start blabbering on about how wonderful it is, here’s the Goodreads summary for Only The Good Die Young by K.K. Hendin:
“The first year of college is supposed to be about parties, parties, and getting the hell out of Texas. Instead, Milcah Daniels is spending her eighteenth year in and out of Houston's hospitals. Her hair is falling out, they’ve cut off her boobs, and if she makes it to nineteen, she’ll consider it a personal miracle. 
Breast cancer really has a way of messing with a girl’s social calendar. 
When Milcah’s temporarily discharged from the hospital, she’s determined to get a tattoo for every medical procedure she’s had. Her quest leads her to Skin Stories, a new tattoo parlor a block from her apartment. And to it’s infuriatingly sexy artist, Callum Scott. 
Callum is everything Milcah wants, and everything she shouldn’t have now. A new relationship when the official prognosis is one to five years is a terrible idea. But Callum doesn’t know about the breast cancer, and Milcah’s not running to tell him. 
But when the doctor says things are actually looking positive, her entire life turns upside down. How is she supposed to start living again when she’s finally learned to accept her death?”
So as I indicated at the top of the post, I don’t usually read a whole lot of contemporary romance, but it didn’t matter, because Only The Good Die Young kept my interest from first page to last.

Basically, this book was adorable.

Milcah’s voice is fantastic. It’s absolutely perfect for NA—full of snark that made me snicker on more than one occasion, and yet completely honest and real. Her thoughts and attitudes aren’t always pretty, and she isn’t even always a perfectly likable character (in fact, she was kind of infuriating several times), but I honestly didn’t mind because her worldview was so interesting and her voice made everything super fun to read.

Then there’s Callum.

Callum has jumped onto my list of favorite book boyfriends. He’s sexy as hell (I mean, hello gorgeous tattoo artist), and also adorable, and also thoughtful and basically I loved him from the start and didn’t stop loving him ever.

Overall, Only The Good Die Young is a fantastic example of NA fiction and one that I’ll be recommending basically forever to anyone curious about the category. So go read it.

I want more NA recommendations. Throw them my way, people! 

Twitter-sized bites: 
.@Ava_Jae gives 5/5 stars to ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG by @kkhendin. (Click to tweet)  
Looking for a great NA read without a college setting? Check out ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG by @kkendin. (Click to tweet)

On Writing Dead Genres

Photo credit: anne symons on Flickr
So this is a purely 100% opinionated post. I’m not the final word on this topic (or any topic, for that matter), nor will I pretend to be. These are just my thoughts, pure and simple.

Okay? Okay.

So once upon a time I wrote a couple YA Paranormal manuscripts. Six, to be exact, though some of them could maybe fit under other sub genres, too. Not the point.

Point is, out of those six manuscripts, one of them I fell so totally in love with. That’s not to say I didn’t like the others—I did and still have hopes for some of them—but this one manuscript I spent years refining. I wrote it and rewrote it and changed POVs and switched out characters and doubled the length and you guys, it was the best thing I’d written at the time. My CPs loved it, I loved it and I was really hoping it’d be The One.

Except it wasn’t the one. It garnered a little interest (meaning that one fabulous small press showed interest, but alas passed in the end). And that was it. No partial requests, definitely no full requests, just years of rejection letters and disappointments.

Looking back, I’m happy all of that happened, but this post isn’t about that. This post is about dead genres.

Like YA Dystopian, YA Paranormal is still largely considered a dead genre—meaning, it’s a genre that was over-saturated to the point of drowning and now is extremely difficult to break into. Not impossible, mind you (in fact, one of my lovely CPs found and agent and sold her YA Paranormal MS the same time I was looking for representation for mine), but really crazy difficult. Because most editors have seen enough YA Paranormal to last them a rather long time, so selling YA Paranormal or Dystopian manuscripts is very difficult, which means finding representation for those genres is equally difficult.

This is why people in the publishing world often advise writers seeking traditional publication not to write to trends. Because unfortunately, the time between a manuscript being sold and ending up on the shelves often takes years, so by the time a writer sees a trend, writes it, finds representation, gets it sold and the release date arrives, that trend is way long gone.

That doesn’t mean, however, that if you adore YA Paranormal or Dystopia (or any dead genre, for that matter), that you shouldn’t write it.

I don’t regret that time I spent working on that manuscript that I had to put away. I learned so so much from it, and I still hope one day to be able to share it with the world.

But I’m not going to pretend that it was an easy experience to get over.

I will forever and always advocate that writers write what they want to read (and, for that matter, want to write), and if that’s another Paranormal or Dystopian or otherwise difficult genre, more power to you. Write it, make it awesome and don’t be afraid to dream.

But at the same time, it’s good to be aware of the market and know if you’re trying to break into an especially crowded area. It’s good to know that you love your manuscript, but maybe things are really tough right now for that genre, and you might have to put it away for a time. It’s good to try anyway and hope for the best, but in the meantime, consider working on another project. Because what you’re doing is tough, and it’s only tougher if you don’t have another manuscript dream about and hope for.

Agent Sarah LaPolla gave some very relevant and concise advice couple days ago:
So if you’re writing in a dead genre, I think it’s awesome and brave and if that’s what you love, then keep at it. But make sure you’re open-minded when considering future projects and always always keep a close eye on the market, so at the very least, you know where you stand.

What do you think? Have you ever written in a dead genre?

Twitter-sized bites:
What are dead genres and how do they affect writers? @Ava_Jae shares her thoughts on this publishing phenomenon. (Click to tweet)  
Writers, have you ever written a dead genre MS? Share your experience at @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: Do Short Chapters Make You Read More?

Photo credit: Fey Ilyas on Flickr
So I’ve noticed something a little peculiar about my reading habits, lately.

I read Ignite Me not too long ago, which, like the other Shatter Me books, has very short chapters. It has 416 pages and seventy-eight chapters, which averages about five pages a chapter. And I noticed, while reading, that I had a tendency of saying “one more chapter” over and over and over again because they were so short, it was easy to read another chapter without worrying about a major time commitment.

A few days ago, however, I was reading a book with 377 pages and twenty-five chapters, which averages about fifteen pages a chapter. And it was a good book, and I enjoyed it, but I noticed when I reached the end of the chapter, I was way less likely to read another chapter if I had any time constraints whatsoever.

I imagine this is partially because I don’t like to stop reading mid-chapter (though I will if I have to for some reason), so before starting the next chapter, I sometimes have to consider how much time it’s going to take me to finish the chapter. And if it’s getting really late, or I’m getting tired, for example, chances are I’m going to put it down for another day. (Note: This only applies to print books, because I don’t usually go through the trouble of checking with e-books).

But not so with short chapters. I’ve been known to breeze through three or four short chapters (even though it’s the equivalent of one long chapter) because psychologically I guess, it just seems like it’s not going to take me too long. Which is silly. But I do it anyway.

So I’m curious to see if anyone else does this, too. Do short chapters encourage you to read more, or is it just me? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Do you tend to read books with short chapters quickly? Join the discussion at @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Plot Essentials: Inciting Incident

Photo credit: justonlysteve on Flickr
As over the years I’ve become a definite plotter, I thought now was as good a time as ever to write about some plot essentials, starting with my favorite: the inciting incident.

The inciting incident is the moment or event that changes your character’s life and sets them on the journey that is the rest of the book. It’s when Harry begins receiving acceptance letters to Hogwarts, when Clary sees the Shadowhunters kill a demon in a club, and when Tris’s faction test results are inconclusive, making her divergent.

The reason I love the inciting incident so much is two-fold—firstly, it’s the very first thing I figure out when plotting. Usually the inciting incident is where my story idea comes from—it’s the spark that sets off the rest of the brainstorming that uncovers the rest of the book. Second, the inciting incident is the first real taste of what to expect from the rest of the book.

The inciting incident is, by no means, an optional plot point. Without a life-altering event to catapult our characters in one direction or another, there isn’t a story. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the examples above.

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (J.K. Rowling): If Harry was never accepted into Hogwarts, he would have continued to live in the cupboard under the stairs at Privet Drive, hidden from the rest of the world, in a rather boring, depressing life. Hogwarts-free Harry, as it turns out, isn’t really epic seven-book series fodder. 

  • City of Bones (Cassandra Clare): Had Clary never seen the Shadowhunters, she never would have begun to question the reality she knew, nor would she have encountered the hidden, paranormal world of Shadowhunters and angels and demons and werewolves and vampires and mages and all of that exciting stuff that makes The Mortal Instruments series so interesting. 

  • Divergent (Veronica Roth): Had Tris’s test shown expected results (that is, that she belongs in Abnegation, or another single faction), she would have chosen a faction and lived a normal life in whatever faction she chose. The end. 

As you can see, without their respective inciting incidents, the above stories aren’t really novel-worthy stories. But with the incident that changes the protagonist’s life comes the fascinating stories that we all love and adore. And that’s the power of the inciting incident.

What examples of inciting incidents can you think of from your favorite books, movies or TV shows? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Working on a plot for your WIP? Writer @Ava_Jae discusses the importance of the inciting incident. (Click to tweet
Do you know your WIP's inciting incident? Here's why it's so important to identify early on. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: What are Your Favorite Titles?

Photo credit: cheri228 on Flickr
I’ve been thinking about titles a lot lately.

There was once a time when I loved single-word titles. They were snappy, cool and easy to remember, and in my head, basically the bomb. Some of my favorites included Saint and the sequel Sinner by Ted Dekker.

But over time, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been gravitating more and more to longer, more evocative titles. I’ve realized I really love titles that create interesting images, titles that intrigue and echo elements of the book in an interesting and haunting way.

Some of my favorite titles include:

Interestingly, I haven’t actually read any of those books (yet!), but I’ve found their titles to be particularly memorable.

But now I want to hear from you: what are some of your favorite titles and why? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
What are some of your favorite book titles? Join the discussion at @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet

5 Dual-POV Writing Tips

Photo credit: kurichan+ on Flickr
So as many of you already know, I love dual-POV narratives. Reading multiple perspectives to me, is fascinating when done correctly, and writing it just never gets boring.

Writing dual-POV narratives, however, can be a little tricky, particularly if you haven’t done it before. Before you start, you’re going to want to make sure that having multiple perspectives is the right choice for your WIP (quick way to figure this out is to determine if you need more than one POV to tell your story. If you don’t, then stick with one POV). Even after you decide it’s the right option, multiple POVs can be tricky to manage, and so I’d like to share five tips to make your lives a teensie bit easier:

  1. Make sure the voices are distinct. This one can be a killer if you don’t get it right. In any multi-POV novel, you should be able to flip to a random page, read a couple sentences, and know which character is speaking. If you find yourself reading and having to check back to the beginning of the chapter to see whose speaking, then that’s usually a blaring sign that your voices aren’t distinct enough. Which leads me to the next point… 

  2. Really get to know your characters. This is the number one way to get two distinct, interesting voices—you need to know your characters inside and out. Level of education, slang, language choices, how their backgrounds affect their perspectives, temperament and values all play into perspective, and you need to know every one of those elements and how they affect your character’s voice.

    Even description varies in POV—what one character notices, pays attention to, and what they think about their surroundings will all vary depending on their individual perspectives. (More on that here).

  3. Pick up where the other character left off. I’m not going to say that I’ve never seen a successful flashback-like format where we went through the same event (or parts of the same event) from multiple character perspectives—I have, and it can work if the perspectives are enormously different. But most of the time, the most effective multi-POV method I’ve seen involves one character picking up where the other left off.

    The reason this works so well is because it avoids redundancy—if two characters are in relatively similar situations, then we really don’t need to see both of them eating lunch together twice from each perspective. By picking up where the previous POV character left off, you keep the story moving without giving readers a sense of massive deja vu. 

  4. Carefully consider why you’re choosing one POV for a particular scene. Dual-POV narratives often alternate back and forth with every chapter—but it doesn’t have to. The most important thing to consider when plotting out your dual-POV book, is why you’re choosing that particular POV for that particular scene.

    Generally, the POV we want to be in is the POV most affected by the events unfolding in that scene. So, for example, if a character’s house catches fire, we want to be in the POV of the character in the house, experiencing the fire—not the neighbor walking down the street outside. If a character is being arrested, we want the POV of the arrested character, not the friend watching from the sidelines, etc.

    Sometimes this can be a little tricky because both characters are affected by the unfolding events. When this happens, you’ll want to think about who is most affected, and if that’s equal, then consider which POV would be the most interesting. 

  5. Read books with multiple POVs. This almost goes without saying, but before you even start thinking about writing a multi-POV novel, you’re going to want to pick up some books with multiple POVs to see how it’s done. Some of my favorite multi-POV novels include the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, and Faking It by Cora Carmack. I also recommend Every Day by David Levithan, which doesn’t have multiple POVs, but one POV in several bodies, which brings to light a lot of really interesting points about perspective. 

So those are my dual-POV tips—now I want to hear from you: what have you seen that works (or definitely doesn’t work) in effective dual-POV narratives?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Working on a dual or multi-POV WIP? Writer @Ava_Jae shares five tips you may find helpful. (Click to tweet)  
Five tips you may want to keep in mind when writing a dual-POV novel. (Click to tweet
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...