Tag Archives: Verity

Boys reading about girls and the realities of the marketplace

I was in fifth grade listening to a girl give her book report about a Nancy Drew mystery. I loved mysteries, but I would never have been caught dead reading Nancy Drew. Hardy Boys, yes. The Alfred Hitchcock “Three Investigators,” yes. Nancy Drew, which warned away boys with its yellow spine, never.  I didn’t know that that was about to change in a matter of minutes.

The girl gave a very good book report. It was interesting. It was a great mystery. I wanted to know the ending.

But she didn’t tell the ending.

Foolishly, I raised my hand. “How did it end?”

The teacher jumped in. “Well, Michael, you’ll have to read the book to find out.”

Then I said the fateful words. “Make me.”

She did.

I was not allowed back into class until I read Nancy Drew: The Hidden Staircase. It took me a few days, but I would dutifully take my copy of Nancy Drew and read it in the sixth grade classroom across the hall. Oh the shame of it all.

But.

I liked the book. I may have even read more Nancy Drew, if it hadn’t been associated with a punishment. But I liked it. Shockingly.

I hated to admit it back then, but I enjoyed it. I shouldn’t have hated to admit it, though.

I have distinct memories of my mother fighting against sexism in the 1960s — such as when she went to get a loan at a bank and was condescendingly told she should come back with her husband. She didn’t. That bank got an earful and another bank got her business. Go Mom!

Shannon Hale recently wrote about her experiences with giving presentations at schools and how boys are sometimes not even allowed to listen to her speak because she writes about girls. This opened up a discussion about the topic of boys reading books with girls as main characters.

And now I am worried.

Orson Scott Card wrote about how he noticed the prejudice:

One thing I’ve been told ever since I began writing as a career — by librarians, publishers, editors, and booksellers — is that while girls are perfectly happy reading books with male protagonists, if you start a book with a female protagonist you had better make it a “girls’ book” because very few boys will ever read it.

I didn’t believe them, because I knew I read books with female protagonists and I always had. … Why should I abide by such a stupid gender rule?

Because, sadly enough, it’s true.

Ender’s Game, with a boy protagonist, is my best-selling novel. Speaker for the Dead, which won all the same awards, sells far less — but the first long section has a girl protagonist.

My Alvin Maker series is, in my opinion, better than Ender’s Game, but young male readers mostly never find that out because the opening chapters star a little girl named Peggy, and those boys never get to the story of Alvin Maker himself.

My YA fantasy novel, Verity’s Oath, begins with a female teen protagonist named Verity. There is also a boy named Conner who is a main character. All in all, the book is about them both, but the first chunk is about Verity. So, should I shift things around? Should I put in a prologue featuring Conner? Should I start with Conner and then use a flashback to tell Verity’s story?

I really didn’t know what is the best thing to do as far as getting boys to read my book (assuming it is published, of course). Then I remembered something.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

My all-time favorite books/movies have been Hayao Miyazaki’s works — particularly his “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” manga and movie. His movies usually center around a girl. And they have done just fine.

Sure, I’m no Miyazaki, but maybe seeing his success is just enough to keep my story the way I love it. I will start with a girl. She is a wonderful character and I just love her and want teen boys and girls to get to know her.

So you want me to write a book about a strong female main character, eh?

Make me. Please.

NaNoWriMo more or less

Not a ton of action yet in my NaNoWriMo leg of writing the novel. I’ve had several writing projects all hit me at the same time, which took priority.

That priority thing, however, is an interesting concept.

I give my all to my writing projects. People are paying me (or will soon) after all. This is good for my family, etc. I can’t even say that my heart isn’t in it, because often the work is fascinating and challenging. And right now, a lot of the work has been excellent for beefing up my resume as I look for more permanent work in communications, marketing, PR areas.

But.

But.

My heart longs to write this novel. I am quite surprised, to tell you the truth, how much I long to work on it and get so frustrated when I can’t. And mostly, lately, it has been can’t.

So, ten days into NaNoWriMo and I have a stunning 2,694 words total to show for it, written on Nov. 1 and Nov. 3. Ugh. That should be a daily word count.

According to the NaNoWriMo website, if I continue at this pace I will finish by May 5, 2015. I’m going to have to find a way to work on it more without lessening the quality of work I do for my freelance clients.

Onward and Upward!

Nanu Nanu NaNoWriMo

Everybody always sounds so excited about NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month which starts today. I never really got it until I started writing my novel last month. I knew it was coming up, but didn’t want to wait a month to start.

Well, I looked at the rules, and I can still enter, participate on a work in progress.

Also, I am at a point in my novel where there is a major break, so it almost is as if I am beginning another book, even though I am not.

So I will attempt to write the 50,000 words this month and keep track of it on the NaNoWriMo site. I also will try to connect with other people who are doing this. I’d like to be a part of a like-minded writing group. Eventually.

The challenges are that I just started a new full-time, albeit temporary, job. And it requires a ton of mental energy. I also have some other freelance work requiring immediate attention that will have to be done after the other work. And so forth. Family. Church. That sort of thing.

So, we’ll see how much I can get done.

Also, this post has no image. I thought I might post more if I didn’t feel like I had to post an almost meaningless image every time.

Now to see how much I can write today…

And so it begins

Everything was in place.

I had my outlines. I had my maps. I was about to begin the actual real writing of the actual first draft.

The document was open. At 3:48 p.m., yesterday, Oct. 7, 2014, I typed my chapter title and first sentence: Verity ran.

Then the phone rang.

Since I am looking for work, I can’t afford to not take phone calls these days. It was, indeed, an important phone call.

Then, I sat down again.

The phone rang before I could write another word.

This was a phone call to arrange an interview with Michael McLean with my daughter for her Deseret News “Connect 123” column, Ellie’s Bookshelf. Also important.

Then it was dinner. Doorbells rang. Etc.

It wasn’t until 7:28 p.m. that I was able write the second sentence. I hated everything I wrote. But I pushed through. Eventually, I seemed to get into the rhythm of the writing. Although I write for a living, this was very different. I can see right away where I need to develop the craft of writing fiction better.

But, as I said, it got better as I went along.

Because this is my first novel, I completely expect the first draft to be nauseatingly bad. I also expect it to get better as write more. My hope is, after revising, it will not be nauseatingly bad, but merely bad. Then, with advice and help, I hope to punch it up to passable, then good, then fantastic.

Well, that is my hope.

By the time I finished last night at a little before 9 p.m., I wrote a full first chapter with 2,494 words. That includes the seven words (chapter title and first two-word sentence) I wrote at 3:48 p.m. That isn’t so bad for a start.

Now, only 67,506 more words to go. At this rate, assuming I am able to put in four hours a day instead of just an hour and a half, I should be able to finish this up in, oh, about 10 working days. If I unplug my phone…

…and don’t eat, or shower, or work on my non-fiction book, or anything else, and if my wife doesn’t have any projects–like painting that stair railing, etc., etc., etc.

Mapping my world

The last thing I wanted to have in place before I began writing the novel, was some sort of map. This is a tool for me to keep in mind the various distances involved in the story.

I went through various world building ideas and figured out possible times, etc.

I used graph paper to calculate possible distances and sizes and then sketched out a rough map. Then I filled it in with more stuff — adding mountains, rivers, forests, and plains. I dropped in various cities and villages. I scanned it and made some copies. One copy I colored and added some huge lakes. Another, I put in political divisions. The names of the map are abbreviations or just placeholders because I haven’t come up with an awesome name yet. I still haven’t named the capital city, for example.

These maps are tools for my writing process. The information on them will be changed as I go along. It is interesting how the geography is changing the story. It affects how nations deal with each other. It determines different paths to take. It influences destinations. It also gives ideas. I purposely left the northernmost part of the map ambiguous. There is a peninsula that may or may not stick up. How far does it go? I don’t know. What is there? I don’t know. Are there other continents? Probably not.

My daughter declared that Verity’s world looks like Australia:

This is my working map to help me write my novel. It will, no doubt, go through many changes.

This is my working map to help me write my novel. It will, no doubt, go through many changes.

One last thing I did was superimpose a map of the U.S. onto Verity’s world. I placed my town over where the story begins. The protagonists, apparently, are traveling from Salt Lake City to Denver, more or less.

I’ve tried to imagine weather patterns and the interaction of mountains, winds, seas, plains, etc. I’m afraid I’m not that good at that yet. So any differences between real weather physics and my book are entirely due to, um, … magic! Whew, that solves everything. 🙂

Invasion of the 3×5 cards — creating a scene map

I took the story bible I created on August 20, 2014, and began going through all of the different notes, ideas, and sketches I wrote on 3×5 cards.

My first 3×5 note was about a year ago. Every time I took a note, I wrote the date on the card. So for this part of the project I had 12 piles of notes, one for each month to go through.

I took the story bible’s synopsis and pasted it into a new document. I then broke the synopsis up into 22 sections. These sections are NOT chapters. Some are scenes. Some are sequences of scenes. I used Microsoft Word’s Document Map feature to make it easier to jump around in the document.

I also, using the Document Map feature, added sections for each character, locations, religion, sayings, culture, politics, props and so forth.

Then I began going through the 3×5 cards, starting with the October 2013 pile.  Whenever there were any cool ideas, snippets of dialogue, etc., I wrote that information into the outline/synopsis or under one of the other sections such as character.

For example, one 3×5 card had a note about “mossglow,” a moss that dimly glows in different colors.  I added this information to the Props section: “Glowing moss, different colors. Not very bright, but useful. In some climates, people grow it on their roofs, giving villages a pleasant patchwork glow.”

Two different 3×5 cards mentioned ancient wedding vows. I wrote both versions down in the Religion section along with a funeral song, creation story, a festival description, etc.

I moved through each month. It took a few days to accomplish this.

What this gives me isn’t a perfect outline, but a general outline with snippets of specifics that could impact various scenes, or be totally ignored. It is just enough to begin writing.

Slow Days

I’m sorry to report that other pressing business has captured most of my attention for the last few days, limiting what I could do on the novel. I did, however, begin looking closer at world building. I also came up with a few other enhancements for certain scenes for the which I took notes on my handy 3×5 cards.