Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: October 27th 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, GLBT, Realistic Fiction
Mattie shouldn’t be at the bonfire. She should be finding new maps for her collection, hanging out with Kris, and steering clear of almost everyone else, especially Jolene. After all, Mattie and Kris dropped off the social scene the summer after sophomore year for a reason.
But now Mattie is a senior, and she’s sick of missing things. So here she is.
And there’s Jolene: Beautiful. Captivating. Just like the stories she wove. Mattie would know; she used to star in them. She and Jolene were best friends. Mattie has the scar on her palm to prove it, and Jolene has everything else, including Hudson.
But when Mattie runs into Hudson and gets a glimpse of what could have been, she decides to take it all back: the boyfriend, the friends, the life she was supposed to live. Problem is, Mattie can’t figure out where Jolene ends and she begins.
Because there’s something Mattie hasn’t told anyone—she walked away from Jolene over a year ago, but she never really left.
Poignant and provocative, Marcy Beller Paul’s debut novel tells the story of an intoxicating—and toxic—relationship that blurs the boundary between reality and fantasy, love and loyalty, friendship and obsession.
10 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer
This is the one and only condition of being a writer. You must write. This means you actually put words to paper (or screen). Sure, it’s great to read about writing and tweet about writing and follow authors on Instagram and Tumblr and follow their blogs and buy books about writing and tell your friends you’re going to write, but unless you are actually writing, you are not a writer.
2. Write Some More.
In his book The Outliers, bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to become a master in your field. Let me repeat that: 10,000 hours. Think of The Beatles. Stephen King. If you put in the time, you will get better.
Read in your category to know what’s there. Read outside your category/genre to see what’s possible. Read fiction and non fiction and fantasy and thrillers. Read only contemporary. Whatever you do, just read. This is the way you will figure out how other authors handled transitions and dialogue and structure and pacing and plot. Each book you read is a class in itself. Even the things you find that didn’t work will help you improve your own writing.
4. Be vulnerable.
Sometimes even when it’s just you and the page—even when what you’re writing is basically a secret—it’s still easy to hide things. From your characters. From yourself. You have this character on the page, but you haven’t opened her up. Her dialogue doesn’t say much. Her feelings don’t come across. This is because you haven’t opened yourself up.
5. Be guarded.
This seems like the opposite of #4 but it’s not. This is why: don’t be guarded about your feelings, be guarded about your work and your time. There will always be laundry to do and friends to call and things to clean and parties to go to. But if you don’t protect your writing time, you won’t be writing, and if you don’t know why that’s a problem yet reread #1 and #2.
6. Be open to criticism.
You may not be ready for criticism right away and that’s fine. Get your ideas out. Write 10 pages, 50 pages. Go ahead and write a full draft if you need to. But when you’re ready, don’t go straight to querying agents. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Go to writing friends, or find them. Get their opinions and comments. Not only because if you’re going to be a writer you will always be taking criticism from agents and editors and using it in your revisions, but because you have the story in your head and in your head it all makes sense. You need someone with perspective who can tell you what actually made it to the page.
7. Know your work.
A caution about #6: you do not have to implement every line of criticism you get. Some things are just subjective. If you know what you’re trying to do and that comment doesn’t jive with you, maybe it’s not one you take for now. However, if you have five critique partners and they all say the same thing, probably best to listen.
8. Give Yourself Time.
Some days the words come easily. Some days they don’t. Maybe you need to stop and outline and figure out what comes next. Maybe you need to go for a run and think about your characters without writing anything. Maybe you need to take a shower (this is where I get my best ideas!). Maybe you need to freewrite or write from another character’s perspective or ask your character some questions. Either way, don’t get frustrated. These are just the things you need to do to better understand your story and your characters.
9. Take a break.
There are times when you need to step away from the story. When you have lost all perspective and are so close to every word and plot turn that you’re basically pressing your nose to it. This usually happens after you finish a draft or an intense round of revisions. These are the times when you need to step away. You’ve done all the work you can do for now. A few weeks or a month will give you enough perspective to stop looking at those two words you spent an hour selecting and instead see the bigger picture of the story.
10. Be willing to make the big changes.
After your break, when you go back to your first draft, don’t begin polishing the sentences—that’s for tenth and eleventh drafts. Instead, read through the entire thing. That’s how you’ll find the huge plot holes and unnecessary characters. Maybe that’s when you’ll find the one scene you’ll rewrite your entire book around (hey, it happened to me). Either way, be open to making the big changes. Be ready for what Victoria Schwab lovingly refers to as the Hulk Smash Draft. After reading the first draft of UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING, I changed a main character, rewrote the entire second half of the book, and heavily revised the first. It hurts to let go of paragraphs and chapters you love, but if they don’t serve the story, they’re useless.
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Marcy Beller Paul is a young adult author, former editor, and full-time mom who still has all the notes she passed in seventh grade (and knows how to fold them).
She graduated from Harvard University and lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children. Underneath Everything will be published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, in Fall 2015. It is her first novel.
Prize: Win a signed first edition of Underneath Everything by Marcy Paul (US ONLY)