WHY YOU HAVE TO WRITE THE HARD STUFF

I wrote this post a while back as a guest spot on the Antithesis blog tour. Now, more than ever, I think it’s important to remind myself why I write. Plus, it’s a good post. It’s over a year later and it’s still relevant. I spent the afternoon Googling myself, and this is what I came up with. Won’t go into detail, the post speaks for itself. Enjoy!

WHY DO YOU HAVE TO WRITE THE HARD STUFF?

Originally appeared at: YA Midnight Reads

It’s an ongoing fear of mine. I’m standing in front of a crowd holding a novel—I’ve just done a reading and now hands shoot into the air. They have questions—questions about my story that I don’t want to answer.

They want to know which character I am.

They want to know which horrible thing happened to me.

I want you to close your eyes and think back on your favorite books. I can list mine off the top of my head. The Fault in our Stars by John Green. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. The list goes on and on—now you’re trying to figure out what these books have in common. All of them deal with hard issues—and the best fiction does.

When I finished The Fault in our Stars, I thought I’d never be the same. My heart was torn out and stomped into nothing. It made me think. It made me appreciate. I cried for days. There were moments of sheer brilliance in that book, some of them quiet and beautiful, others loud and energetic. All of them heartbreaking. All of them.

Clockwork Princess. You’re wondering why this is on my list. Didn’t it have a happy ending? Yes. It had a very happy ending, but it explored things that are so important to me. Cassie has a way of portraying friendships between males that you don’t see in fiction. Beautiful love for one another that would be scorned in the real world. It makes me hopeful. It makes me cry. It makes me want to be a better writer.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Where to begin with how epic this novel is? It explores drugs. Suicide. Self-harm. Homophobia. Discrimination. Molestation. Sex. First love. The bittersweet taste of hope and second chances.

Writing is not a dissociative process. I find myself steeped in my stories. I cry when I write. I laugh. I let go. (And sometimes I just write for fun—I mean, we can’t be angst filled all the time.)

So often authors are afraid to step outside their comfort zone. There’s a scene coming up in my current work in progress where a girl finds her father after he’s killed himself. I initially wrote this story a long time ago—back before life turned me upside down. To tell you the truth, I’ve delayed rewriting this story because of that one scene. I picture it in my head and I’m terrified. I know exactly how it looks—how it smells. I know the sound her hands make in the blood. I know that she will never be the same. I know that she will always ask what if?

And then I cry.

For so long I told myself that I couldn’t do it. I had to let the story go because I couldn’t bring myself to write this scene that had become so close to me.

Now I’m looking forward to it. That sounds macabre, I know, but it’s not for the reason you think. The suicide, the horror, it’s something that I need to let go of, and when I put it on paper, I’m releasing it into the world. And if I share it with thousands of people, maybe each of them will take a tiny piece of the burden.

I know I have to write it—and I know it will hurt.

There are authors who refuse to write about rape or drugs or teenage sex or death. They skirt reality as if it doesn’t exist. But if we lie in our writing—if we pretend that real issues aren’t there—what are we really accomplishing? Lying in writing is lying to yourself. If you aren’t emotionally involved, you’re doing it wrong.

Sometimes writing a scene is so hard that I have to walk away.

You have to write the hard stuff. You have to face the fear of the unknown—that’s where the good is, that’s where the things you say will affect people. If your writing starts to scare you—if you find yourself questioning your sanity and wondering how you found these awful things inside of you—you’ve found where you need to be. Write. Let it out. Feel lucky that you have an outlet.

My words are like scars. I see them and I remember. Sometimes they still hurt. Sometimes I see them and I smile, because at least I had the courage to show them to you.

IS HAPPILY EVER AFTER NECESSARY?

I’m up to my neck in my latest rewrite and it’s got me thinking. What do readers REALLY think about happily ever after (HEA)? What are the rules of the classic HEA? What about a happy for now (HFN)? How do readers feel about an unhappy ending?

 

I did a quick poll of my Facebook and Twitter followers, and the answers may surprise you. (Or not, that was my blatantly obvious attempt at suspense.) The HEA may not be as necessary as we think, and readers want, what’s this? An ending that makes them think? Who knew?!

 

Warning! There are spoilers from Allegiant in the next paragraphs.

 

Sara says, “I don’t like when it feels unnecessary to the story. Romeo and Juliet needed that ending… I just finished the divergent series… And I was not a fan of the ending…”

 

Me neither, Sara. What is it about killing off a main character that makes us so angry? Especially when we spent three books growing to love the absolutely kick ass Tris. While Veronica Roth promises she wrote the ending she saw for the story, I have to wonder, how could she put her characters through all that turmoil just to let her die? It hardly seems fair or necessary. Sorry, Ms. Roth. I think you’re fantastic, but we’ll never see eye to eye on this.

 

Jacci says, “I don’t like them because they ARE like real life. Some people read to escape to a “happier place” than what their life is about.”

 

I’m down with this, but it kind of limits the genre of books you can read. And…what about that dreaded, unexpected unhappy ending? Sometimes they take you by surprise (see previous rant about Allegiant). Sometimes you go into a book expecting a character to die, why hello, every John Green book ever written. Sometimes the author gives you the heads up, thanks Cassandra Clare. And sometimes, you know EVERYONE’S gonna die.

 

Lana says, “If it’s an unhappy ending in the first book, then it’s really not necessarily an unhappy ending. So long as you don’t continue these unhappy endings in all of the books! Because then you would be Game of Thrones.”

 

I’m about a quarter of the way through A Clash of Kings by good old George RR Martin and I already know not to get attached to anyone. Spoiler alert: Everyone dies. Don’t believe me? Behold the series, with every death tabbed.

 

It seems closure is important:

 

Angela says, “I would prefer happy endings, but if they are not necessarily happy but at the end I feel like I had closure, then I’m okay with it. If it’s for the best, you must do what is needed!”

 

Leah says, “First book, ok, overall, not a fan. There’s Harry Potter where everything was resolved, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it happy. We lost a lot of good characters in the fight for peace. I was good with the closure.”

 

Of course, we had to bring up Harry Potter. I’ll admit, while it was a semi-happy ending, half of the characters died. Damn, there’s another spoiler. Sorry. I’m fifty-fifty on the end of Harry Potter, only because I didn’t even care about any of the characters until the end of the fourth book. I wasn’t ready for them to die yet. And, she didn’t kill any of the main three characters, so, can we really count it as unhappy? Harry got Ginny. Ron got Hermione. Good won. Sounds pretty darn happy to me.

 

Jeff says, “If the ending is unhappy because that’s just the way the story was going to go, that’s fine. If the ending is unhappy because the author just decided to be mean spirited, then no. I’ve seen stories end where everything went to crap at the last minute for no discernible reason, and I hate it.”

 

A mean spirited author? Well…I’ve never! I have to agree with Jeff on this point. Some writers employ the “I’m God, therefore, this can happen,” approach. Need your character to fly? Suddenly they have powers. Need them to turn invisible? They amazingly discover this ability. Same thing goes for endings. If you can’t give me a legitimate reason…I’m probably not going to buy it. (Want an example of this? Read anything by Alyson Noel.)

 

Kristin says, “First of the series = good story telling. You’ve sucked the reader into an unhappy ending and now you HAVE to read the next book, because naturally we secretly want resolution.
And in the case of a single novel with an unhappy or uncomfortable ending…… Sometimes the moral of the story is the hard lesson we take away from the book. Maybe the death or catastrophe needs to happen so that the character learns something, or the reader learns something. I like a variety. Some happy, some not.”

 

Yes. Yes to this so much. Want a perfect example of this? Read The Fault in our Stars by John Green. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. If something makes you uncomfortable, then we’re probably headed in the right direction.

 

Pat says, “I’m thinking of Grapes of Wrath . . . a happy ending would negate the whole premise of the novel. Some people read for entertainment only – they read the same romance novel a hundred times (only the names and a few details are changed) – they know how it will end, and like it that way. I want the ‘end’ of a novel to work – it’s great when it’s happy, but not always necessary or ‘good’ for the reader.”

 

You mean it’s not okay to be oblivious to things like pain and suffering? This is a novel idea (pun intended).

 

Lastly, we go to Twitter for my favorite response.

 

Kevin Moore says, “I feel happy endings are the end for characters. Endings with a bit of disarray let characters live on in the mind”

 

Right on, Kevin, right on. I mean, who watched Inception? Who is still wondering if that damn top is still spinning?

 

So, what’s the verdict?

 

It seems to me that it comes down to planning, plotting, and weaving the perfect story. The ending may be awful, but if it’s necessary, go for it. Now, hold on a minute, don’t be killing off characters for sport (also don’t randomly give them magical powers), you must have reasons. And these reasons the reader must understand.

 

What say you, readership? Do you like HEA, HFN, or the necessary unhappy ending? Sound off below!

 

All the best,

Kacey

THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2014

I tried to write a witty introduction to this post. Maybe my brain is fried from the manuscript I just finished (literally five minutes ago) or maybe I used up all my wit in 2013. Perhaps it’s best if we just get to the point!

2014!

What is happening?

Drum roll please. Here is the Officially Unofficial List of THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2014. (In no particular order.) It’s a YA list. I know this doesn’t shock any of you.

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

May 2014

Everyone who knows ANYTHING about me knows that I’m obsessed with Cassandra Clare. Coming up in 2014, we will finally find out WHICH MAIN CHARACTER WILL DIE. Thanks for that hint, Cassie. It’s given me an ulcer for a year and half now.

Erchomai, Sebastian had said. 

I am coming.
Darkness returns to the Shadowhunter world. As their society falls apart around them, Clary, Jace, Simon and their friends must band together to fight the greatest evil the Nephilim have ever faced: Clary’s own brother. Nothing in the world can defeat him — must they journey to another world to find the chance? Lives will be lost, love sacrificed, and the whole world changed in the sixth and last installment of the Mortal Instruments series!

Want my guesses? Magnus, no, Alec, no…Simon? For the love of glitter, let’s just kill Jocelyn. Luke can do better, anyway.

Divergent

The Movie, March 21, 2014

Holy muscles, Batman. Have you seen Theo James as Four? HOLY MUSCLES. (Wow. I think I just had a fangirl moment.) This book rocked my world when it came out. I might have been quoted saying, “This may be the best book I’ve ever read.”

Since then, I’ve had a bipolor relationship with Veronica Roth, the author. While I still love her for creating this beautifully tragic world, I still have sleepless night over Allegiant. This is one of those times that I hope the movie industry takes artistic license and changes the story line. I’ll keep it spoiler free, folks. Just for you.

Divergent is an emotional roller coaster that I can’t wait to experience in theaters!

Beatrice Prior, a teenager with a special mind, finds her life threatened when an authoritarian leader seeks to exterminate her kind in her effort to seize control of their divided society.

 

The Fault in Our Stars

The Movie, June 6, 2014

Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort must’ve won the lottery to not only get to be in Divergent (as brother and sister) but also appear in The Fault in Our Stars as the tragically doomed Hazel and Augustus.

This book. Where do I even begin?

I reviewed it. (There are spoilers in that review, by the way.) Oh thank goodness I don’t have to go over it again. This book TORE me to SHREDS like I’LL NEVER EVER EVER EVER BE THE SAME.

Thanks, John Green. (I seriously love you. Call me.)

Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group.

The Maze Runner

The Movie, September 19, 2014

This is going to be awesome. This series is unique, from beginning to end. I can’t wait to see how they pull it off.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, young Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape.

 

Extraction by Stephanie Diaz

July 22, 2014

WAAHHHHH! The cover for this book hasn’t released yet. Suffice it to say that I’ve read some of Steph’s work and she is FANTASTIC. Look out YA, you don’t know what’s coming!

Clementine has spent her whole life preparing for her sixteenth birthday, when she’ll be tested for Extraction in the hopes of being sent from the planet Kiel’s toxic Surface to the much safer Core, where people live without fear or starvation. When she proves Promising enough to be “Extracted,” she must leave without Logan, the boy she loves. Torn apart from her only sense of family, Clem promises to come back and save him from brutal Surface life.

What she finds initially in the Core is a utopia compared to the Surface—it’s free of hard labor, gun-wielding officials, and the moon’s lethal acid. But life is anything but safe, and Clementine learns that the planet’s leaders are planning to exterminate Surface dwellers—and that means Logan, too.

Trapped by the steel walls of the underground and the lies that keep her safe, Clementine must find a way to escape and rescue Logan and the rest of the planet. But the planet leaders don’t want her running—they want her subdued.

With urgent writing, fluid dialogue, and a cast of unforgettable characters, Extraction is a page-turning, gripping read, sure to entertain lovers of Hunger Games and Ender’s Game and leave them breathless for more.

Well, that’s it guys. The Completely Incomplete List of THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2014.

I LOVE CASSANDRA CLARE

I’m sure most of you have realized this before, as I talk about her ALL THE TIME. First, I loved her for her writing, then I loved her because of how she interacts with her fans, and then it was because she tweeted my blog, and then because of how she’s just so down to earth…and now it’s because she’s just plain awesome. For those of you that don’t follow her blog and updates, she’s been the victim of hate bloggers, but that’s not really why I’m blogging. In her response to the hate bloggers which I encourage all of you to read HERE, she says something about writing and writers that I think needs to be repeated and splashed all over for us to see. She’s one smart lady, after all. I think as writers we tend to be very critical of ourselves and our work. That’s fine. We all do it. But what resonates with me is when someone with as much success as Cassie posts about insecurity in her own work. See? Famous authors are just like us. They were right here, struggling to make it in a big, scary world full of amazing authors. Truthfully, and don’t make fun of me, I teared up a little reading this because it gave me SO MUCH HOPE. I’m not really someone who gives up, but we all struggle through the ups and downs as writers. One week I’m on a roll and the next I feel like I couldn’t write something decent if someone handed me a million dollars. Anyways, I’m just going on and not really saying anything important. So here’s the snippet that I loved from Cassie’s blog:

“There is no book out there that someone doesn’t think is bad. I try to write good books, to make them the best they can be, but (like almost all other writers I know) I am sure I suck a lot of the time.You write books, you put them out in the world, and the world forms opinions about them. We all have to remind ourselves that we are works in progress, our writing isn’t perfect, and there is something to be learned even from the harshest criticism. I don’t mind being called racist/sexist, either: I am sure that I am, in the sense that we are all products of our conditioning, and we are conditioned by a racist/sexist society that works on us from the day we’re born. I try to be aware, and fight that conditioning, to remember my privilege, to tell fair and truthful stories but that doesn’t mean I’m not a work in progress myself, that I’m not going to screw up.”

I just love her.
That is all.

Kacey

TAG YOU’RE IT

The wonderful Melissa Keir tagged me in the game, and I thought, why not, I’m always looking for something to blog about and you get interesting little tidbits about the things I’m working on. If you’d like to participate (since I’m not gonna tag anybody) just copy the questions and do your own version.

What is the working title of your book?

Shade of the Poison Tree

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Shade of the Poison Tree is actually the second book in a planned series, with the first book being Through the Reflection Pond. The initial idea started with a girl falling through a reflection pond and ending up in a faerie world.

What genre does your book fall under?

Young Adult Fantasy. My favorite.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

First off, I want all of you to know that I agonized over who to choose for the main characters. I searched and searched and Googled and Googled, but it’s SO HARD to choose someone else when you have such a clear image in your mind. Who I found is a close approximation.

Callie: Annasophia Robb

Rowan: Ian Somerhalder Okay- so Ian is a little (forgive me, because he’s just SO pretty!) old to be Rowan, but unless you can show me a male actor that’s around 20 and is a mix of Ian and Jared Leto, Ian will have to suffice for now.

Ash: Jeremy Sumpter

I’m going to stop with just the three main characters, because as of right now, my character list has 20+ people on it and I already spent at least an hour trying to drum up those three! Oh, the hardships of a writer!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I’m unprepared for this question, so I’m going to skip it. Don’t hate me—this is just another thing I’ll agonize over. I’ll have a synopsis eventually.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I plan on seeking agency representation for the series.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I think the draft of Through the Reflection Pond took me between three and four months to write. I’ve been working on Shade of the Poison Tree for a two months now and I still have a long way to go.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I really hate these questions. I’d love for people to compare it to anything by Cassandra Clare or Holly Black. Enough said.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

When I started writing Through the Reflection Pond, I hadn’t read many books about faeries. Since then, I’ve read a lot, and I’m surprised at how many things I’ve gotten right (or some version of right! Artistic license and all that.). I think I just wanted to try something outside of my comfort zone.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s a series. The most exciting thing, I think, is that the story revolves around three faerie cities, all of which are very different in what they stand for and strive for. Eirensae is a city that is the closest to “human.” Fraeburdh is very traditional faerie, dark and scary. Macántacht is somewhere in the middle. Traditional faerie, but with higher morals. Then there’s the Fallen, who are excommunicated fae that have been stripped of their powers. Throughout the series, the characters will spend time in each city, so the surroundings will vary drastically depending on where they are. It’s a lot of fun to write.

Now Tag! You’re it!!

All the best,

Kacey