Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sour Grapes?

Students have a half day of instruction today, meaning only about a third show up and it's a scheduled "work" day for my classes anyway (they are writing), so I fell down the rabbit hole of Goodreads and found my already high levels of frustration growing ever so slightly, so this may be a short rant.

I'm sure that what I'm about to post can easily be translated as sour grapes, but I hope not. It's just me wondering out loud.

When I first conceptualized the book that became WINTER'S DISCORD, I wanted it to be a YA GAME OF THRONES(properly titled A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE because this was pre-HBO show) and it was partially inspired by the great THE TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASY LAND. (A book that is buried in a tote somewhere and I feel like I have to find again.) I've chronicled how I started it...much like the aforementioned A GAME OF THRONES (book, not TV show), the first scene popped in my head the same way it did for GRRM. It's very different now than it was then, but the concepts were the same. Ben was Toby. Jeremy was always Jeremy and Jess was known as Cat in that draft. The Princess's name was Isabella not Luciana. And I didn't have any idea where to go from that first scene. When I finally did, I looked at all the things I liked about THRONES and tried to loosely duplicate them, throwing in elements and tropes from Tamora Pierce's ALANNA series along with callbacks to the ever present DRAGONLANCE. This was 2006ish. I finished a full first draft some time in late 2007 and prepped it for it's first round of submissions in 2008, around the time my daughter was born. So I've been at this for a while. And this is the root of my frustration with the whole "YA GAME OF THRONES" thing.

Since the explosion of the show, it feels like every epically flavored YA fantasy that comes out has the lable of "YA GAME OF THRONES" slapped on it and when I read them, I find that few of them are anything like the books (and show) that I love. There was one, that I won't mention by name here, that pushed the "YA GAME OF THRONES" thing big time, so I was excited and read it. It was crap. It read like someone just read the Wikipedia entry on GAME OF THRONES, saw incest, used that as a major plot device only to undo it later while using every terrible, cliched YA writing trope  along the way. I often joke about the COVER ALL YA fantasy/dystopia bingo game in a lot of these books and this book had it. In droves.

To be fair, there have been many books that are worthy of that title. Cinda Williams Chima's SEVEN REALMS (we call that allusion in the literature business), Marie Rutkoski's WINNER series (I have to get book two), Tamora Pierce's ALANNA (even though that predates THRONES by decades), Abercrombie's SHATTERED SEAS (though that seems to get shelved with mostly adult fantasy), Jennifer Nielsen ASCENDANCE trilogy (though I thought that would've been better with some 3rd person POV in it) and Sarah J. Maas's THRONE OF GLASS series all come to mind.

Has this become a flooded market? Has the YA GAME OF THRONES become the vampires of today?

I hope not.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

That In-Between Feeling

Feels like it's been a while, as if I extended my social network embargo into my blogging space all the way to November. I assure you that this was not intentional, it just worked out that way.

I'm in the process of painstakingly guiding my seniors through a real, honest-to-goodness, upper level literary analysis right now, so that it takng monumental amounts of energy that may or may not be wasted considering I'm probably doing more work on it than they are, but this is the life I chose and when I started this blog I swore that I would not muddle it up with me whining about my job, so that's all I've got to say about that.

This fall has been all about SCION and cleaning that project up so we can get it out into the world. I came up with some new twists and focus to make SCION a very different book (and series for that matter) than I originally intended. I wound up playing with some tropes and in turn making the world much bigger than I think I wanted to. As I've stated before, much less adventure-y and vastly more epic. It's also the first book that is being positioned as stand alone, though that was always my tought about the series: readers would be able to access the series in any of the books and then back track if needed. We'll see if that philosophy works.

The problem with this is I'm experiencing a severe post-project hangover. I kind of don't want to write right now. This is a horrible thing for a writer and English teacher to say, but I'm just kind of tired tight now and it has me thinking about why I'm feeling that way. I have some thoughts.

First, I haven't realy written anything new in a long time. I've been doing a ton of rewrites and revisions, so I have to wonder if I'm feeling a little stagnant. Another thing that's bouncing around is self-doubt. This is a fairly recent phenomenon and one I'm not usually succeptable to. I'm questioning myself a lot lately and I don't like it one bit. Then there's the question of what's next and that's what's really got me messed up. I just don't know which direction to go. It's not for a lack of ideas, it's just I'm in that weird place where I'm questioning if a project is worth it based solely on the question, "Is this going to sell?" That's not a good look. Then maybe I'm just fatigued, but even that feels like a lame excuse.

So, I'm trying to slump bust a little. I've been working on a short story or two and a novelette, but I can't get traction on either of them. I've got some big projects bouncing around that I think are near the top of the WHAT'S NEXT file: a YA thriller, a traditional (as in not YA) epic fantasy and a few things I've mentioned in the blog before (YA prank war, MG monster book and a couple of YA sci fis). And since several of these things are things I've never really written before, I'm doing research via reading. First is the thriller and some middle grade books so I can figure out the voice, I think that if I catch the spark right I can really rip through the monster book over Thanksgiving and most of December. The prank war is a far off project that may be closer to middle grade than YA and I'm okay with that. The sci fis I have to decide what I want them to be. One is a Heilien-esque adventure while the other is something else more akin to a completely different genre. The epic fantasy needs LOTS of planning but I think I can figure it out, it's just going to take loads and loads of time. And then there's always the niggling feeling of wanting to write a good old fashioned fantasy adventure romp, though that will require a degree of planning as well.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Lots of reading to do and I'm sure I'll find the spark again sooner rather than later.