Shaky Confidence Thanks to James Dashner’s Eye-Opening Article

I completed my final edit/proofread on Monday, February 22. Now the 116,500 word novel is in the capable hands of my mother. While she isn’t a trained editor, she has an eye for mistakes and has been an invaluable helper over the course of my writing process. Not only did she help me hash out ideas for the novel, but this will be her third (or fourth…I may have lost count) read through. How she still enjoys it is beyond me.

I was feeling quite confident with the completeness of my book, and the fact that I was able to cut out 22,000 words. That is, until I picked up a book called the 13th Reality by James Dashner. I had read his novel The Maze Runner which I really enjoyed. So I decided to try his earlier work. And after about a chapter I realized that his writing style sounds a lot like my own. A lot of his phrases, word choices and character voices were the same as mine. So I googled his literary agent, thinking that if they enjoyed his 13th Reality series, they’d enjoy novel too. But I came across an article that pretty  much knocked the wind out of me.

It was written by James Dashner himself, entitled “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far.” And most of the things he mentions in this article are issues that I’ve already noticed about my own writing. The first point that struck home was his mention of characters. He says that in his early work, all his characters were the same person. All were him in disguise. And I’ve worried about that with my own writing. My secondary characters are all drastically different one or two-dimensional characters. But my four protagonists are the problem. They all have different interests, fears and motivations, but I feel that they’re all a part of me. And I’m sure that would be just fine as long as readers don’t pick up on that.

The next point that stood out was when he said his previous works were written in the style of a quick bedtime story. “This happened, then this happened” and so on. While I have tried to have more patience with my plots by adding more internal thoughts and emotions, I find that I often run out of words to describe what they’re feeling. If the my novel were written in first person, the internal dialogue would be much simpler for me. But I chose to go third person. And because there are four main characters (meaning four different perspectives), it really needs to be from third person.

Last he talks about heros and villains being more than two-dimensional. This is a lot harder than I ever expected it to be. Probably harder than anything I’ve had to learn. I read so much, and experienced so many three-dimensional heros and villains, yet its hard to translate that into my own writing. My original plan was to make my villain purely evil. But Dashner makes a good point about giving them strengths and weaknesses just like the hero. Readers need to experience hate and  love (or at leasy pity) for villains. The best example I can think of (and James Dashner mentions him in his article) is Severus Snape. Now that’s a guy that I went back and forth between love and hate 100 times.  Is he good? Is he bad? Good? Definitely bad. But maybe good? No, he killed Dumbledore. He’s as bad as they come. But he had to because of that binding oath thing. Would he have done it otherwise? All those questions rolled through my head in just one Harry Potter book. Maybe in one chapter. That is what I call a good villain. So now I’m rethinking my own villain and sub-villains.

Even though I’ve read these pieces of advice before, I’ve never taken them seriously. It’s because of Dashner’s firsthand experience, and the fact that he is still in his first few years of publishing, that I will take his advice to heart. And I hope that all the other aspiring writers who read this will do the same.


The Finish Line or The Starting Line?

Depending on how you look at it, I’m either two weeks closer to the finish line or two weeks away from the starting line. On one hand, I’m about to complete what I hope is my last read through of my novel before sending it off to my prefered agency. On the other, I’m about to start a new, ardous, potentially-heartbreaking journey. But I’ve faced rejection before, and I’m prepared for it. In fact, I expect it.

Personally, I think the rejection will be easier to handle than the criticism from editors once my book is accepted. I would be devasted if an editor said “I love your book, but I would like you to change it from third person to first.” Or worse, “I’d like you to write this book through only one character’s perspective instead of four.” That just can’t be done. And if they ask me to shorten the book, I won’t know what to say. After my first draft, the novel was over 138,000 words. WAAAAYYY too long for a young adult novel by a first-time author. Since then I’ve editted the book down to 118,000 words. And unless the editor can pick out something worth eliminating, I certainly can’t.

I tried to do what I admired so much about JK Rowling’s writing, by adding characters and references to the first book that will come into play and connect to the second, third and fourth books in the series. At first glance, some of my characters might not seem significant to the plot of the first book. But I’ve planted them here so they can flourish in other books.

Right now, I’m halfway through my final read. Then my mother will give it a final once over, and I’ll make any last minute changes necessary. Then I’ll send it off to agency number one. Hey, you never know. If one is going to accept me, it might as well be them! (Cross my fingers).

Harry Potter 7 (pt. 1) – Meh

I was disappointed by part 1 of the 7th Harry Potter movie. And what is even more upsetting to me is that I’m the only one who seems to feel that way. To me, the movie offered no real intensity or climax. Of course I’m saying this in comparision to the other  movies, not movies in general. After watching the first 6 films, I started to notice a pattern: each was much better than the last. Until the 7th.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is my favorite book in the series. But if you want to break it down into parts, the first half was my least favorite book, and the second half was my favorite. I felt that the first half, right up until about the Silver Doe chapter, was not very intriguing compared to the rest of the series. And the movie mirrored that. Even though I didn’t have high expectations going into part 1, I did feel like they’d do something to spice up the movie version. But it mirrored my memory of the book almost exactly (aside from the too graphic make-out scene between the Harry and Hermione, courtesy of the evil locket.)

The reason I expected more was because of the fifth movie. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix was my least favorite book as a whole. But when the movie came out, it became my favorite film. If they could create an awesome movie out of that book, why couldn’t they do the same for the 7th?

I’m not saying the movie was garbage. Compared to other movies, it was still good (because I hold Harry Potter in much higher regard that anything else). My negative feelings toward it is because it was exactly like the first half of the book, offering no extra oomph. Maybe I’m just the kind of person who has different opinions from everyone else. After all, I loved that JK added the epilogue to book 7, whereas most people I talked to didn’t. Nonetheless, I have high hopes for the final installment, and I’m positive it won’t disappoint.