On Writing Nuanced Relationships

Photo credit: alhussainy on Flickr
I've been thinking a lot lately about how people are complicated. How we can still love people who have hurt us—even repeatedly, even without apology. How one person can do wonderful and terrible things, how they can hurt someone without intending to and intentions don't matter when they do; how apologies don't have to be accepted and even when they are it doesn't always mean things will go on as they were.

I've been thinking about all of that and how that affects relationships, particularly when those relationships are between family members.

While I'd never claim complicated family relationships don't exist in kidlit (YA included), I do think depictions tend to happen along a good/bad binary. Either families are lovely and wholesome (the Weasleys) or they're downright awful and abusive (the Dursleys). But when writing about families, I've increasingly wanted to depict something more complicated, more nuanced. Families who love each other, but also sometimes lash out, or make damaging mistakes. And sometimes those mistakes can't be undone with an apology.

It's a hard thing to write. Hitting the balance between bad and good in a way where the bad doesn't outweigh the good (at least, unintentionally) can be a challenge—and like most things in writing, it takes a lot of feedback to figure out if you've hit the mark. But it's a challenge I'll continue to tackle with different characters in different ways.

Have you written complicated character relationships? What was it like? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Author @Ava_Jae blogs about the challenge of writing complicated character relationships. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: About Your Rights When You Traditionally Publish

In which I respond to the many writers I've had tell me they're afraid of traditional publishers changing their book to something they don't want.




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Do you lose creative control when you traditionally publish? @Ava_Jae breaks down this myth & talks your rights. (Click to tweet)

End of Year TBR List

We have less than ten weeks of 2017 left! I know, I could hardly believe it either when I counted—twice—to make sure I hadn't missed, like, two or three weeks in there somewhere. But somehow, the end of the year is rapidly approaching.

100% thanks to grad school (and picture books) I've already met my 2017 Goodreads reading challenge. But I'm nowhere near done reading what I want to read before 2018, so I decided I would make a list of books I want to prioritize reading before the New Year.

If I'm being realistic, I will probably not actually be able to really start on this in earnest until the semester is over (in early/mid December) but, you know. Helpful to do this now anyway.

So in no particular order! Here are the books I'd like to read before 2018.

Adult:


YA:



MG:


If you're looking at that list and going fifteen books is a lot to read in, like, three weeks, Ava! you're right! I will probably not actually read all of these before the end of 2018, but I like having a long list of options. Winter break, I think, will be full of books and visits to the library. :) 

What books do you want to read before 2018?

Twitter-sized bites:
What books do you want to read before 2018? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Writing Doesn't Get Easier

In which I talk about revising my 17th manuscript and how some things in writing never really change.


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What do you think?

Twitter-sized bite:
Author @Ava_Jae vlogs about revising their 17th WIP & how writing doesn't really get easier. (Click to tweet)

On Over-Ambition and Rebalancing

Photo credit: Mike Gabelmann
I'm an ambitious person. Always have been, for as long as I can remember.

I was the kid in class who always had to get As. Who wrote novels in math class (and still aced math tests), who took AP classes and was only satisfied with a 4 or 5 score on the test at the end of the year, who wanted, more than anything, to get published again, and again, and again.

So I guess it's not surprising I'm also the person who, in August, thought, yeah, I can do grad school, launch a book, and do thirty hours of part time work at the same time. It'll be fine.

Spoiler: it has not been fine.

As of this blog post, I'm nearly a month behind on Book 3 revisions. I've had to, on multiple occasions, not finish my readings for class. For the first time ever I had to e-mail a professor and ask for an extension on a paper. I have publishing deadlines this week I'll be diving into as soon as I finish this post. In short: October has been a tough month.

October was also the month I realized what I was doing wasn't sustainable and took action to lighten the load for me this month by cutting back on my part time hours. And though it was touch and go for a while, it does look like things will be fine after I get through another weekend plus week of overwork. All because I got a little (well, a lot) overly ambitious.

Ambition is great—it encourages you to dream big and push yourself to get there—but it can be a flaw if you're also a workaholic, like me. I learned that the hard way over the last two months, and it's a lesson I'm pretty sure I'll never forget. And while I'm feeling a little better knowing the light is at the end of the tunnel and soon I'll be able to breathe, I will fully admit it's been A Lot.

But I like to be honest about that, because sometimes you can give the impression online that you're a superhuman doing All The Things and everything is fine, fine, fine, and I don't want to give that impression because I've always found it comforting when authors I follow online say, "Yeah, this is hard."

So yeah, this is hard. But it's good, too. Though I've been overwhelmed, I've been overwhelmed with things I enjoy. And once I get a little better balanced, everything really will be fine.

Just got to push through until then.

Twitter-sized bite:
Author @Ava_Jae gets real about being overambitious and rebalancing. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: INTO THE BLACK Unboxing!

I was going to do a Halloween vlog but then I got a package in the mail... :)


RELATED LINKS: 


Twitter-sized bite:
Watch @Ava_Jae see the finished copy of their 2nd book for the 1st time + a sneak peek inside INTO THE BLACK! (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #40

Photo credit: vpickering on Flickr
November is nearly here! Which means the holiday season is so close you can already hear the music, the cooler weather is on it's way in the northern hemisphere (in theory) and, of course, it's time for the next fixing the first page feature!

As usual, I'll start by posting the full first 250 excerpt, after which I'll share my overall thoughts, then my redline critique. I encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques in the comments (because I'm one person with one opinion!), as long as it's polite, thoughtful, and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be unceremoniously deleted.

Let's do this.

Title: ONE MORE SAD SONG

Genre/Category: YA Contemporary

First 250: 

"Zeke Williams had had his first wet dream about his best friend when he was thirteen years old. It had been one of his first wet dreams,period, definitely the first one that he remembered, not one where he just woke up sticky and feeling a little bit grossed out, a little bit satisfied, a lot bit totally unaware what had just happened. In this one he’d been with Kevin and they’d been skating, going up and down the cul-de-sac Kevin lived in, doing rudimentary tricks on the makeshift ramps Kevin had managed to cobble together, and then Zeke had taken a pretty bad spill and then while Kevin was patching him up… 
He’d never forgotten about it, and now, four years later when they were going into their junior year of high school, still trying to do stupid tricks off of a cobbled together ramp, as he fucked up his balance and ended up skidding pretty far on the rough asphalt, tearing the hell out of his forearms, he had a brief flashback to the dream. Kevin kicked up his board and came for him. 'I’m good,' he said. He pushed himself up to sit and poked at his arm. Some good-looking roadburn, but nothing broken, and it was just his arm. He didn’t skateboard with his arm. 
'I’ll go get some gauze,' Kevin said. 'Gotta wrap that shit up, son.'"

Hmmm okay. So, I definitely feel like you could show Zeke has a crush on his best friend without immediately diving into, like...wet dreams. Not that there's anything wrong with wet dreams, but it's very personal information for a character we are meeting right this second. It also kind of treads a little into fetishizing territory, which I know was not the intention, but yeah, that's a thing.

I think, instead, it'd be more effective (and less likely to immediately turn readers off) if you showed Zeke's crush through his interactions with Kevin in the moment, through his thoughts and internal reactions. Maybe he briefly considers how embarrassed (or whatever) he is that he's had those kind of dreams about his best friend, which is fine, but I wouldn't recommend starting with that.

So that's what I'm thinking overall right now. Let's dive into the line edits.

"Zeke Williams had had his first wet dream about his best friend when he was thirteen years old. It' had been one of his first wet dreams,[space]period, definitely the first one that he remembered, not one where he just woke up sticky and feeling a little bit grossed out, a little bit satisfied, a lot bit totally unaware what had just happened I find this bit hard to believe. Even at thirteen, he'd know what happened. Even if his school didn't do sex ed, he would've heard from his peers, or the media, etc. In this one he’d been with Kevin and they’d been skating, going up and down the Kevin's cul-de-sac Kevin lived in, doing rudimentary easy tricks on the makeshift ramps Kevin had managed to cobbled together, and then Zeke had taken a pretty bad spill and then while Kevin was patching him up… 
He’d never forgotten about it, and now, four years later when they were going into their junior year of high school, still trying to do stupid tricks off of a cobbled together ramp, as he fucked up his balance and ended up skiddeding pretty far on the rough asphalt, tearing the hell out of his forearms, he had a brief flashback to the dream. 
[new paragraph]Kevin kicked up his board and came for him. 
[new paragraph]'I’m good,.' he said. He pushed himself up to siat up and poked at his arm. Some good-looking road[space]burn, but nothing broken, and it was just his arm. He didn’t skateboard with his arm. 
'I’ll go get some gauze,' Kevin said. 'Gotta wrap that shit up, son.'"

So most of the changes I'm suggesting here are just to condense wordiness, which is a super common critique and something I think we all need to weed out of our work at some point. Overall I think the most important thing is to just reconsider how you open this project. As is, if I saw this in the slush, I would pass.

I hope that helps! Thanks for sharing your first 250 with us, Aurora!

Twitter-sized bite:
.@Ava_Jae talks reworking openings, wordiness and more in the 40th Fixing the First Page Feature. (Click to tweet)
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