Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Guest Post - Sasha Laurens, Author of A Wicked Magic

Today I'm hosting a guest post by Sasha Laurens, the author of A Wicked Magic which releases today! Happy publication day to Sasha!
Scroll down for Sasha's Top 5 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer and information on A Wicked Magic.

5 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

Read critically: Everyone knows that reading is the number one way you become a better writer, but it’s really more than just reading for enjoyment—it’s reading critically. That means thinking about how a book works from a technical perspective. If I fall in love with a certain character, get surprised by a twist ending, or feel like a romantic paring was insta-love, I think about the text again using my own knowledge of craft—including some things you learn in high school English class!—to analyse the choices the author made. I often find that things that seem effortless or surprising are painstakingly planned from page 1. That becomes a technical lesson that I can draw on when I sit down to write.

Read widely: For most of my life, I didn’t read genre fiction. YA wasn’t so much a thing when I was in high school, but if it was, I didn’t read it because I was interested in Important Books. In college, I studied Russian Literature, and I only read literary fiction. Everything I wrote had a lot of really fancy sounding language using words like “fenestral,” but nothing ever had a plot, because plot isn’t the focus in literary fiction. When I started reading YA, romance, crime thrillers, SFF and other more plot-driven works, it really opened a new world in my writing: characters could do things! Now that I read a lot more genre fiction, when I pick up a literary novel it helps me think about really nuanced characterization and complex themes. Reading widely helps you avoid getting so focused on the genre you write in that you lose perspective.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable: A universal experience among writers is how terrible it is to actually write. Terribleness arises at many points in the process: the anxiety of coming up with a whole new project, the fear of being unable to do it justice, the pain of writer’s block—but also the pain of actually writing!—and the horror of letting someone else read words you wrote (even though that was the point). If you get through all that, you’re rewarded with a ride on the publishing rejection merry-go-round. Writing, like all creative processes, requires that you make yourself uncomfortable. Sometimes the discomfort will be intense, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong—actually, you’re doing it right, because that’s just how the process is. It’s only by pushing through that discomfort, embarrassment and fear that that you get to enjoy cracking that scene, or having a reader connecting to your work. Plus, you’ve been embarrassed before and you were strong enough to survive it, so you really have nothing to worry about!

Your words are infinite: Do you ever stop to think about how during every conscious moment, your brain produces an unceasing, unstoppable stream of thoughts and it will do that until you die? Me neither, because it’s kind of freaky! Imagine if you tried to hold on to every single one of your thoughts because you were worried you had a limited supply. You’d be in a bad way pretty quickly. Writing and revising is like this. Sometimes we get so focused on making sure every word we add to a story, or even write in our journals, is perfect that we can’t write anything at all—a bad outcome. Then when we revise we want to be precious with our treasured sentences, because what if this was the best we could do? The reality is, you only need to find the words that work for the task at hand. If that’s writing “she smiled with her face” in your rough draft, so you can move on, great! If that’s cutting the world’s most perfect description of a sunset that’s slowing down the plot, sorry to this sunset! They’re just words, they cost you nothing, and you have an infinite supply of them.

Let your freak flag fly: I was going to call this point, “Write like yourself” but letting the freak flag captures the concept I’m after much better. You are a person with specific way of seeing the world. You express that in you the unique way you talk or text or laugh, in your clothes and music and the podcasts you listen to. It’s in where you’re from, where you live now, how you relate to your parents and your friends and your crushes and society in general. It’s your hard times and your victories. I am giving you permission right now to put as much of that into your writing as you want. You don’t need to sound like anything else you’ve read—or you can, if you want! But that’s a choice that you get to make. 

A WICKED MAGIC is a deeply personal book for me. I’ll probably never write another one like it. A lot of it’s based on the area where I grew up, my own teenage years, people I’ve known, and the weird things that fascinate me, like cults and caves and old ladies who run tattoo shops. Basically, it’s just one long inside joke to myself! But it’s not the first novel I’ve written. The novel I got my agent on was very commercial. I thought I could write something that was similar to other young adult novels I’d read and it would be good enough sell. But it wasn’t, and that project was always a struggle. When I started writing A WICKED MAGIC, my goal was different: I wanted to write a book that I loved, that was authentic to me, so it wouldn’t matter if it never got published. There is a story that only you can tell. Embrace it!

Title: A Wicked Magic
Author: Sasha Laurens
Pages: 368
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: 28th July 2020

Blurb from Goodreads:

Dan and Liss are witches. The Black Book granted them that power. Harnessing that power feels good, especially when everything in their lives makes them feel powerless.

During a spell gone wrong, Liss's boyfriend is snatched away by an evil entity and presumed dead. Dan and Liss's friendship dies that night, too. How can they practice magic after the darkness that they conjured?

Months later, Liss discovers that her boyfriend is alive, trapped underground in the grips of an ancient force. She must save him, and she needs Dan and the power of The Black Book to do so. Dan is quickly sucked back into Liss's orbit and pushes away her best friend, Alexa. But Alexa has some big secrets she's hiding and her own unique magical disaster to deal with.

When another teenager disappears, the girls know it's no coincidence. What greedy magic have they awakened? And what does it want with these teens it has stolen?

Set in the atmospheric wilds of California's northern coast, Sasha Laurens's thrilling debut novel is about the complications of friendship, how to take back power, and how to embrace the darkness that lives within us all.

Book Links:

If you've pre-ordered A Wicked Magic you can get a sticker through the pre-order campaign here.

About the Author

SASHA LAURENS was raised in San Francisco and Northern California, where she learned to drive on Highway 1’s switchback turns and got accustomed to the best weather in the world. She started taking writing classes at 826 Valencia in high school, and would have minored in Creative Writing at Columbia University, if the minor hadn't been eliminated. Instead, Sasha studied Russian Literature, and graduated summa cum laude.

Upon graduation she moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, and attempted to write a literary novel, unsurprisingly about Americans living in St. Petersburg, Russia. Returning to New York City, she earned an M.A. in Russian Regional Studies from Columbia University while working at the university. Since 2014, she been pursuing her PhD in political science at the University Michigan, and currently resides in Ann Arbor.

Writing and political science take up almost all of her time, but when she gets a break she loves boxing, watching bad reality tv, and traveling.

A Wicked Magic is her first novel (Razorbill, July 2020).

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