Tuesday, May 10, 2011

For Writers - Reading Aloud with Micol Ostow

This week's tip comes to us from Micol Ostow, author of 12 YA books, including POPULAR VOTE, EMILY GOLDBERG LEARNS TO SALSA, twin Simon Pulse comedies, a couple of SASS titles, and her newest release, family.

Told in episodic verse, family is the story of seventeen-year-old Melinda Jensen, who hits the road for San Francisco, leaving behind her fractured home life and a constant assault on her self-esteem. There, she meets Henry, the handsome, charismatic man who comes upon her, collapsed on a park bench, and offers love, a bright new consciousness, and—best of all—a family. One that will embrace her and give her love. Because family is what Mel has never really had. And this new family, Henry’s family, shares everything. They share the chores, their bodies, and their beliefs. And if Mel truly wants to belong, she will share in everything they do. No matter what the family does, or how far they go.

family is a fictionalized exploration of cult dynamics, loosely based on the Manson Family murders of 1969. It is an unflinching look at people who are born broken, and the lengths they’ll go to to make themselves “whole” again.

Here's the chilling trailer:

Micol is half Puerto Rican, half Jewish, half editor, half writer, half chocolate, half peanut butter. When she's under deadline, she's often half asleep. She believes that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts except in the case of Chubby Hubby ice cream. She lives in New York City, where she practices liberal consumption of coffee, cheese, and chocolate.

You can find her online on her blog, blogging with The Contemps and Readergirlz, and by following her on facebook and twitter.

Micol says:

Writing family was such a vastly different experience than writing any of my earlier novels – in terms of content, style, structure, and process – that it’s hard for me to narrow it down to just one tip for any of you out there trying your hand at something completely new.

I could tell you not to be intimidated by subject matter that seems overwhelming, and to just take your story scene by scene. That seemed to work for me. I could tell you to read – a lot, and write – a lot. I could tell you to physically force yourself out of your comfort zone – write early in the morning if you’re used to working at night, or vice versa. Find a new corner of the house, or corner cafe, to work from. Oh! And don’t be afraid to write stinky first draft pages, and then toss those pages out. Don’t look back!

But one thing I haven’t talked much about is a technique that I’d truly never tried before this project: reading my work aloud to myself as I went along.
It can feel pretty silly, sitting at your desk, essentially talking to yourself. And I know the dog definitely thought I was nuts, based on some of the looks she gave me. But family is written in a very lush, lyrical style, and writing poetry was very new to me. Hearing my words out loud helped me to capture hiccups in the cadence and rhythm, or to locate repetitions that weren’t working. It also served almost as a character-building exercise, in that reading my work out loud often got me “in the zone” to write more, and helped me to channel my character’s voice. It was vital to the verse-writing process, for me, but I’m certain I’ll be using it for many of my books to come.

If you haven’t tried reading your work out loud, give it a try! Let me know how it goes. And if you’ve been doing that all along – well, why didn’t you tell me about this fabulous technique?!

This week's link roundup:

20 Minute Workout for your MS (Seeing Creative) I love this. Bonus: links within the link.

7 Ways to Up your Story Game (Cheryl's Musings) How games in MG can connect with readers.

5 Tips for a More Balanced Writer's Life (Publetariat) Bonus: excellent links within the link.

5 Tips for Becoming a More Disciplined Writer (Jody Hedlund) Advice I need to heed. : )

5 Tips for Writing Picture Books (A Way With Words)

5 Tips on Writing Backstory (Cheryl Renee Herbsman) The answer to "why bother?"

4 Tips for Finding Authentic Voice (Rants and Ramblings) The effort is worth it.

3 Characteristics Great Characters have in Common (Buried in the Slushpile)

3 Edgy Little Tips to Make your Plot More Compelling (Story Fix) It's all about the little things.

POV and Opening (The Other Side of the Story) Real life diagnostics.

"Characteristic Moment" (Wordplay) Why opening with one is so important.

Character Intros (The Kill Zone) Setting the scene for first impressions.

Planting Clues (Writer Musings) Know your story.

MG or YA (WOW) How to tell which one are you writing.

Motivational Reaction Units (The Character Therapist) Excellent post.

Plot Development and Navigating Mazes (Cheryl's Musings) Insight to tackling plot problems.

Key Story Elements: Inner and Outer Desire (The Dark Salon) Have I told you before what a treasure Alexandra Sokoloff's blog is? Seriously. It's gold.

Symbolism (Writer Unboxed) 4 ways to pack your manuscript with more meaning.

The Problem of the Eureka Moment (Beyond the Margins) Are epiphanies true to life?

Perseverance - the Hardest P (Adventures in Agentland) The author's job is to believe in herself.

What is your book about? (She Writes) "Your own sincerity is your best marketing."

Successful Queries (Guide to Literary Agents) Example: Sara Megibow's query for SCORE.

The Acquisition Process (underdown.org) Why it takes so long.

Signing with an Agent (Ryan Writes) Perseverance pays off!

The Dirty Business of Writing (Seeking the Write Life) "Suck it up and act professional."

The Flip Side of Self-Promotion (Writer Unboxed) Cautionary advice.

Note: I will be away without consistent Internet for the next two weeks, hence taking a break from the Tip Tuesday posts. They will resume when I get back. (I'm taking my daughter to Italy and Greece - and especially excited since Greece has been a dream destination forever... and it's where PAPARAZZI - the second Cassidy on Camera* book - is set.) Since I won't be able to keep up with great writing posts in the next couple of weeks, if you come across a good one, please email the link to me at gerb (@) lindagerber (.) com and I'll include it in a special roundup when I get back. I'll also try to update the blog with trip photos whenever I can, so stay tuned.

*(my MG series that launches next spring)

Now go. Write!