Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--THE DUFF

My pick this week is THE DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger. I read the ARC last year and loved this book:

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.
But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Kristi's take: I think everyone can relate to The DUFF, because it taps into those teenage feelings of not fitting in (regardless of whether you were "fat" or not). I also liked that it addressed the issue of teen sex in a realistic, but not glorified, way. There are teens out there having sex, and I know that some people think if teens don't read about sex, they won't do it. I'm not going to touch that one, so I'll just say that in my experience working with truckloads of teenagers, the most educated ones make the best decisions. Also, I should mention that this is a contemporary book with nary a paranormal creature in sight. For those of you who know how much I love me some zombie fae serial killers, you know what a high recommendation this is.

Anyone else read The DUFF? What did you think?  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

3 Common Mistakes I Found While Judging a Writing Contest

I was honored when asked to return as a judge to a regional writing contest this year. After judging for several years, I've noticed a trend in things that I've found with contest entries. And let me start off by saying that it's WAY easier to judge than to write. Just because I observed these things in the writing of others doesn't mean that I'm not guilty of doing them myself. As anyone in a critique group knows, it's easy to be objective about a book...when it's someone else's book!

Here are the 3 most common mistakes I found:

1) Starting the story in the wrong place. In the contest entries I reviewed, the writer often started out by showing the MC (main character) in their ordinary world before getting to what made the story unique. The result was, well, ordinary. This isn't the place for the character to sit and reflect on their life, or to start a normal day. Cut this part out and get to the unusual part. If you don't hook the reader in the first paragraph, you probably won't, and you definitely won't hook them by describing how the MC brushes their teeth. (NOTE: None of the contest entries began with a character brushing their teeth--or any other body parts. Any examples are fabricated entirely by moi.)

2) Telling instead of showing. This is something that every single writer out there has struggled with at one time or another. If you haven't, please leave a comment below and let us know your secret.
Telling: Jack was so angry that he threw his glass of orange juice at me, then emphatically stormed out the door which slammed loudly behind him.
Showing: Jack's hand tightened around his glass of orange juice. I ducked as the glass shattered against the wall. "There's your daily dose of Vitamin C," he said as he walked out the door. (Not perfect but you get the idea)

3) Over-writing. Adding multiple modifiers to your sentence does not make it stronger. In fact, excess adjectives and adverbs take away from the impact of what you're trying to convey. Remember Stephen King's quote, "The road to hell is paved with adverbs." It's a case where less is more. (TIP: use the FIND function in Word to search for -ly words. This catches a ton of adverbs)

Over-writing: The scorching, sizzling sun blazed brilliantly overhead, causing a cascade of sweat to drip down my already overheated body.
Simplified version: It's flippin' hot out.

Do any of these ring a bell with you? Any other common errors you've noticed in your own first drafts?