By: Danielle Rollins
Published By: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Reading Level: Young Adult
Buy the Book: Amazon
Goodreads Summary: Prep school gets a twist of supernatural suspense in this commercial YA thriller.
Charlotte has always been content in the shadow of her two best friends at the prestigious Underhill Preparatory Institute. Ariel is daring and mysterious. Devon is beautiful and brilliant. Although Charlotte never lived up to the standards of the school—or her demanding mother—her two best friends became the family she never had. When Ariel and Devon suddenly commit suicide within a month of each other, Charlotte refuses to accept it as a coincidence. But as the clues point to a dangerous secret about Underhill Prep, Charlotte is suddenly in over her head. There’s a reason the students of Underhill are so exceptional, and the people responsible are willing to kill to protect the truth…
Suspenseful and scintillating, with hints of the supernatural, this fast-paced thriller will keep readers hooked.
~ ~ ~ GUEST POST ~ ~ ~
I’m twenty-one-years old, and sitting at a table in a café. Two older, more established writers sit at the table with me, casually sipping their coffees and reading my pages. It’s my first real critique group, and I’m so nervous I’m about to wet myself.
Finally, Sharon puts my pages down. “It’s a good chapter, but you use too many adverbs,” she says, with all the confidence of someone who actually took writing classes in college.
I stare back, dumbly. “Oh?”
I’d never heard that rule before. Unlike Sharon, I didn’t go to writing classes in college (it was a timing thing, they were usually in the morning, when I had to work) so I’d missed out on juicy little nuggets of wisdom like adverbs = bad. Over the course of the next hour, Sharon would proceed to spout out a lot of rules I’d never heard before, and I would feel increasingly like a fraud. I’d never gone to creative writing classes. I felt like I was years and years behind.
Now that I’m a fulltime, professional writer, I can tell you that it wasn’t true. I wasn’t years behind just because I missed a few creative writing classes, but there were a few tips and tricks I didn’t learn. It took me a while to figure them all out, but you don’t have to go through that same pain and struggle, because I’m going to write them down here, in a neat and easy-to-read list.
Sharon was right about the adverbs. All my uses of words like “adorably” and “scathingly” and “waspishly” weren’t spicing my pages up, like I thought they were. They were watering them down. For an easy way to immediately improve your writing, try doing a document search for “ly.” Highlight those nasty adverbs and try to find ways to cut them out.
2. Just, that, very
While you’re on a search and destroy mission, include the words “just,” “that,” and “very.” Most of the time, cutting these words doesn’t even require you to restructure your sentence. You can just delete and move on.
3. He said/she said
Writers have mixed reactions to dialogue tags. Some writers think the only tags you should ever use are “said” and “asked” while others happily include “whispered” and “screamed” and “shouted,” among others. I’m in the middle on this controversy. I like to sprinkle a few exciting dialogue tags into my writing, but try to keep it to one or two a page.
If you aren’t one for dialogue tags at all, you can try out something I like to call blocking. It’s when an author doesn’t tell you who said a line of dialogue at all, but uses clever descriptions to imply who’s talking. For instance:
“That’s insane.” Lucy placed her coffee cup on the table too hard, causing a dribble of brown liquid to slop over the edge.
Now you not only know that Lucy said the line of dialogue, but that she’s getting worked up enough to spill her coffee.
5. Say it simply
Most of the time bad writing isn’t exactly bad, it’s just complicated. The writer is trying to do something clever and fun with words, and it comes out confusing. This type of writing makes a reader stop and scratch her head, which completely takes her out of the story.
I was often guilty of this early on in my career, so much so that I came up with a rule for myself—say it simply. Whatever I was trying to say, whatever feeling I was trying to get across, my goal was to write it in the simplest, most straightforward way possible. Then, if I wanted to dress it up later, I could go crazy.
I used this little trick a lot in my book BREAKING, which comes out June 6. BREAKING is sort of like STRANGER THINGS meets THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, and I desperately wanted the first chapter to have an eerie vibe without being outright scary. I knew the mood I was going for when I read it, but I had no idea how to accomplish the task myself. I took my own advice and, instead of trying to come up with something complicated and beautiful, I challenged myself to do the opposite. Write short, clear sentences about what was happening. Focus on small details—leaves beneath feet, wind on the back of the neck—rather than big, overarching themes. The result was a chapter—and book—I’m deeply proud of!
Now I want to hear from you! What are your favorite writing tips? Tell me in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter or Instagram @vegarollins.
~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~
Author of the best-selling MERCILESS series, SURVIVE THE NIGHT, BURNING, and BREAKING. I'm currently working on the last installment of the Merciless books, & starting a new series to be announced later this year.
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