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11.09.2008

In Which I Read John Green's Paper Towns and Give Up Writing Forever


Okay, so I haven't given up writing. Obviously. But I contemplated it.

Because this book is so good, people. It's the kind of good that reminds me how woefully inadequate I am, how much smarter other people are, and how I will never, ever, EVER be as brilliant as John Green.

And I don't meant this in a "please compliment me" way (it's not like many of you have read my novel, anyway). I mean it quite seriously. Whether you're a pianist, a long jumper, a circus clown, or a window washer -- there will always be someone more talented than you.

And John Green is WAY more talented than me.

I actually had tears in my eyes as I finished. It was that perfect. To me, John Green is the Everest of American literature. Not even "just" young adult literature -- because I believe YA literature is the absolute best thing being written today, an essay for another time -- but the Everest of American literature period.

To me, he's the greatest.

His stories are deceptive. They're funny (ohmyWORD they're hilarious) and they clip along at such a pleasant pace that you think -- at first -- that they're just these quick little fun reads. But his ideas are so intelligent, his characters so well drawn, and he always packs this incredible, profound WALLOP at the end that is so perfect, something you realize he's set you up for the entire time . . . and GAHHHH!!!

Read him. Read him, read him, read him.

And it's not just me who thinks he is Seriously Hot Stuff. John won the Printz award (that's the biggie for YA) for his first novel, Looking for Alaska, and the Printz honor for his second, An Abundance of Katherines. And so far with Paper Towns, he's received four stars -- this is practically unheard of -- from various book review journals.

Did I mention you should READ HIM?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. He's so good it hurts. It physically hurts. Like ripping off a Band-Aid over arm hair hurts.

WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER WHEN THERE ARE PEOPLE LIKE JOHN GREEN IN THE WORLD?

I should throw away my laptop and my manuscripts and all my novel notes and start a bagel business. And I'll only sell salt bagels, because I LOVE SALT BAGELS. They're like soft pretzels, but with even more dough and even more salt.


I did not take this picture (this talented person did) nor did I bake them. But this is what they will look like. Only maybe even saltier.


Wait. What was I talking about? Oh yeah. Paper Towns!

Okay, I don't want to spoil anything -- his work is too good for that -- but let me just say, that if you like girls who dress like ninjas and kidnap boys in the middle of the night to get revenge on their mutual enemies, then you are going to LOVE this book.

Read it!

(And if you already have, let's snortle over THE THING about Radar's house for awhile, no?)

So perhaps I feel especially like quitting because of that whole pesky NaNoWriMo thing.

I know, I know. I love it right? I'm always like, "NaNo was the beeest thing that ever happened to me after my wonderful dear husband of course and I think you should all do it and who cares if it's hard because it's SUPPOSED to be hard yippee!"

I am seriously considering smacking my fingers with the wooden end of a spatula for that baloney.

Because it is SO MUCH HARDER THAN I REMEMBERED.

Oh fudgesicles. It's like the biggest pile of steaming rain forest gorilla poop that I could ever imagine. And I have a pretty good imagination. My characters are as boring as PBS telethons, their dialogue tastes like stale Cheerios, the plot -- slim at best -- skips like a scratched DVD, and for THE LOVE OF LENNON, why can I not pick a tense???

FIRST PERSON OR THIRD, STEPHANIE? FIRST OR THIRD?

MAKE. UP. YOUR. MIND.

Ughhhhhh.

So. I have been reading from my NaNo self-help book, aka founder Chris Baty's No Plot? No Problem!, for encouragement.




(I know. How embarrassed was I to buy a book with that title? It felt like admitting defeat. But it's seriously worth it for anyone struggling to finish a first draft. It's GOOD.)

Here are some choice ideas from said book helping me breathe right now. Perhaps they'll help you too, in preparation for the Dreaded Week Two (much harder than Week One, as all of the surprises and fun has evaporated and suddenly your characters actually have to Do Something):


* The Novel Check-in: On nights when you don't have the time or the energy for a full writing session, try sitting for a short stretch -- twenty or thirty minutes -- and typing out a quickie. Five hundred words or so. This will keep your "word debt" low and help you maintain a connection with your novel. Because the longer you stay away, the harder it is to come back.

* Don't Get It Right, Get It Written: Baty relates the story of mystery writer Julie Smith, who told of her days working at a newspaper. "Don't get it right, Smith," her editor once said. "Get it written." I don't know about you, but last week I spent waaay too long worrying about what was "right" for this novel. Which is ridiculous, because I don't even KNOW this novel yet. And I won't know . . . its truth . . . until I am done with this terrible first draft. So don't worry about getting it right. Worry about getting it written.

* "Lower the bar from best-seller to would not make someone vomit.": Now THIS I can do. I may never write a Printz award-winning novel, but I am reasonably positive that I can write something that will not make someone hurl their dinner.

Maybe they'll just hurl my novel instead.


And because everyone doing NaNo has such a challenging week ahead of them, how about a picture of James McAvoy, for old time's sake?




There. I knew you'd feel better.

He's shown here accepting his "Most Mentions on My Blog" award. Congratulations James! Gael Garcia Bernal gave you quite a run. It was a difficult race, and you should be proud of this fine accomplishment.


P.S. To the Very Nice Anonymous Person who recently commented here: Thank you for the compliment, and I'll look into the RSS feed shortly! (I am quite exhausted at the current moment.) How exciting. This pony always enjoys learning a new trick.

P.P.S. Did I just call myself a pony?

10 comments:

  1. I'm taking notes on your YA author recommendations. Might I suggest a "Top 10 YA Authors for the Uninitiated" for those of us who have dipped our toe in with Twilight but haven't otherwise found the YA goldmine? I know there are a lot of good novels out there just waiting for me to pick them up...

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  2. What am I doing at your blog at this very moment, Steph? Oh yah, that would be NaNo procrastination. I'm struggling right along with you. It's so hard to remember how bad it was the first time, that I made it through, and that it's okay for it to be equally bad this time. Thanks for the "Dont Get It Right, Get It Written" suggestion. That's exactly what I need to do. Like right now.

    So glad I have no way of running out and purchasing Paper Towns this very moment or I might.

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  3. I KNOW! John Green absolutely blew me away with Alaska and Katherine and I'm dying to read Paper Towns, but I am number fifteen on the hold list at the library. Sigh! Right now it's The Hunger Games that's my main distraction. NaNo is killing me one repetitive adjective at a time. Yet somehow, I'm still doing it.

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  4. (Gretchen: Hunger Games! Awesome!)

    Steph, ah, the insidious covet. It can be so demoralizing. Read a Nicholas Sparks book at once as an antidote. Or Dan Brown. Have you feeling like a miracle of genius and insight and prose-craft (which you ARE).

    As for John Green, I've only read Katherines and lurved it and am trying to convince Jim to read it now. I know he will lurve it too. As for the others, after the Cybils!

    And as for NaNo, you can do it! Ra ra ra!!

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  5. Stephanie, I stopped on by via Jolie's site to encourage you in your NANO aspirations. You encourage me, too. I'm with you - when I read something wonderful, I feel like my road lengthens a thousand miles. But then I'm glad that such wonders can be written and keep going.

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  6. It is hard, and I'm so much slower at writing than I used to be -- I'm already so many thousands of words behind where I should be by now -- and yet, I'm still glad I'm doing this. And it makes such a difference knowing that you and so many others are going through the same experience. Here's to surviving week 2!

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  7. I so know what you're talking about. No one else is allowed to publish fabulous books, because it's giving me a complex.

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  8. I'm reading the John Green Christmas romance book. That I can't think of the name of. At all. So good. A Wafflehouse figures prominently. What could be wrong about that?

    But yes, I love John Green. In fact, Looking for Alaska was the first YA book I'd read since I was a YA (besides HP and Pullman of course). And it convinced me to try my hand at YA. Whoo-hoo for Nerdfighters.

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  9. Is it wrong that I'm kind of happy you are all suffering too? HA!

    Holly -- Thank you for stopping by!!

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  10. Little did past Stephanie know that this post would help future Jade from having a total meltdown.

    It's been said before, but it can be said again: John Green is my superhero!

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