Archive for March, 2015

31 Mar

From First Draft to Real F’ing Novel

In Editing,Writing Process by MK England / March 31, 2015 / 0 Comments

perfectI’ve only written two full novels, but I seem to have already developed a standard editing procedure. Both novels were drafted using completely different methods, but the editing process has been (thus far) nearly identical. Everyone has their own process that works for them. Some people swear you should only focus on one thing for each pass of editing and ignore all else (i.e. focus on fixing the plot and ignore line edits, character issues, phrasing, etc.). I am wholly incapable of doing that. If I notice something wrong, I have to fix it immediately. I do have a method though. Once the book has been drafted, here’s what I do:

Let it sit. I have no particular length of time I shoot for. Longer is probably better. For my first novel, I think I was only able to hold out for two weeks. Maybe four. I was excited. My second book was written during NaNoWriMo, so my brain was crispy fried disaster by the end of November. December was full of holiday planning and travel, January was full of depression and terrible short story attempts, but sometime in February I finally picked it back up. I don’t think the exact length of time is important, but I believe conventional wisdom says six weeks. If you need a number, I suppose that’s as good as any.

Print read-through and markup. I always print the book for my first read-through. My eyes catch things in print that they tend to skip on the screen. I do a lot of traditional markup along with my own brand of circling, arrows, notes in the margins, angry faces, and self-deprecating memos.

First-round revisions. With the manuscript still in Scrivener, I fix everything I noticed during my first markup while also doing a full second read-through. I do a lot of hopping between chapters to check consistency of details during this phase, something that Scrivener is excellent at handling. I fix absolutely everything that I notice as I go along, but I do turn my analytical brain particularly toward large-scale concepts like plot, flow, pacing, and characterization during this phase.

Compile scene and chapter wordcounts. Once I’m done with the major revisions, I’m about 90% sure that all the scenes that need to exist, do. I may still add more based on crit partner feedback, but at this point I make a list of all my scenes and their wordcounts to look for strange outliers and get a sense of how many words are in each chapter. A really long or really short chapter or scene isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a tipoff that I may need to break something up into two scenes or flesh something out. I re-number all the chapters once I’m done.

Ctrl+F revisions. While I do catch a lot of my bad habits and red flags during my first two read-throughs, some always slip through the cracks. Sometimes I let them go intentionally for the sake of tackling something bigger, knowing that the find feature in Scrivener or MS Word will catch them later. Either way, this is one of my favorite steps because it adds a nice layer of polish to the manuscript without having to read through the entire thing yet again. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I have two Ctrl+F lists I work from: one generic list for all my writing and one list specific to the work-in-progress. I hit both lists before moving on to the next step.

Critique partners and beta readers, round one. At this point, I’m usually tapped out on big-picture things I can fix on my own. I’ve plugged up the plot holes and smoothed out the character arcs as best I can, but our brains always fill in the gaps for us. It’s time to bring in critique partners and beta readers, which I talk about in this post. This is also where I like to bring on any applicable cultural beta readers to ensure I’ve done my due diligence with regards to representations of marginalized groups of which I am not a part. Not gonna lie–this step is the one I love and hate the most because I so badly need and want the feedback, but I am So. Very. Impatient. And. Anxious. It’s hard for me to do anything other than be constantly terrified during this stage. (This is where I’m at with Space Academy Rejects right now, hence this distractingly-long post.)

Draft query letter and synopsis. To distract myself while I wait for feedback, I move on to drafting my initial query letter and the hated synopsis. The query letter will almost certainly be utter shit and get scrapped immediately, but queries are hard and a million drafts are necessary to get it right, so may as well start the process early. More importantly, though, I think queries and synopses are important story analysis tools. If you can’t boil your book down to a 250-word pitch with a clear main character, conflict, and stakes, you probably have a bigger problem with your story. Similarly, to write a synopsis you must distill your story down to its core events and turning points. My crit partner Lisen Minetti recently wrote a post on how her synopsis revealed a few important weaknesses in her story. I’m sure this step could be moved earlier in the process for maximum effect, but it’s a convenient time-filler here.

Second-round revisions. A fourth read-through, still in Scrivener at this point. Time to analyze all the stuff my crit partners and beta readers brought up, figure out which feedback I want to incorporate, add in what I learned from writing the query and synopsis, then make it all happen. At the end of this round, all the big-picture stuff should be fixed and the final polish is starting to show.

Critique partners and beta readers, round two. Same critique partners, different beta readers. Crit partners: did I fix it all? Is it working better now? Any more fine-grain edits? Beta readers: Is this an enjoyable read? Did anything jump out at you that needs fixing? Did you get bored anywhere?

Final polish and line edits. One more read-through, this time with a fine-tooth comb. Any last feedback from CPs and betas gets addressed, and a final layer of polish gets added: thematic elements, symbolism, additional description, stylistic choices, etc. Every word in gets examined to make sure it’s the right one for the job.

Polish query and synopsis. Time to finalize both and ensure they reflect all the changes made, including style and voice. I love to do query/synopsis/first page swaps with other querying writers, both because I really love to dig my talons into query letters and because hey: this is it. This is what will get you in the door. The more eyes, the better. But yes, critiquing query letters gives me a fierce sort of joy. Maybe I’m ill.

Query and revise. That’s it. It’s go time. Send out those queries. Let the rejections roll off your back and stay resilient, but also don’t be afraid to take a break to re-examine your novel and carefully consider the feedback you receive. You may need another round of revisions. That’s fine. Do what your novel requires–but don’t get stuck in the loop of endless revisions!

So that’s my process, creatures. What’s yours? Did I skip any vital steps? Let me know in the comments.

 

24 Mar

Writer Friend Feature: Mara Fitzgerald

In Writer Friend Features by MK England / March 24, 2015 / 0 Comments

TBR list small

The Writer Friend Feature is back this month with guest star Mara Fitzgerald, pictured to the right with her TBR list on her head because she’s good like that. I met her through the YA Buccaneers Spring Writing Bootcamp in 2014 when we were assigned to the same accountability team, later named the League of Antagonists. I knew I had to keep in touch with her when I saw a description of the YA novel she was querying: a magical plague-ridden ocean liner with a lesbian princess and the servant girl who has to save her? SIGN ME UP YESTERDAY. I know you’re terribly intrigued now, so I’ll let Mara take it from here:

1. Okay, basics first: Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself.

First of all, thanks for allowing me to run my mouth here! Having my ego fed is always lovely. I’m an avid YA writer, Libra, and Slyther-puff. I have East Coast sensibilities, but I currently reside in Tennessee, where I work as a molecular biologist and eat barbecue. The good thing about working in science is that you meet a lot of strange people, and occasionally thinly-veiled versions of them end up in your stories. The bad thing is: good luck explaining to most of them that you write stories for young adults about queer kids with magic powers.

2. What’s the earliest story you can remember writing?

In fifth grade, I had a bit of a nemesis. We were the two biggest nerds in the class. My teacher decided that my nemesis and I were just SO talented that we should collaborate on an Epic Story Adventure. The story ended up being about a group of kids–idealistic versions of our friends, made with their heavy input–who find a door that leads them to ancient Egypt and have to rescue a prince from a pyramid, which for some reason contained a giant seahorse that breathed fire. At this point, due to…creative differences, we broke up and each wrote our own ending. My ending was cute and happy. Pretty sure everyone in his version died.

3. What do you think is the secret to balancing writing pursuits with a busy life?

I tend to be a binge writer, so my secret is clearing as many hours as you can, one day a week, and hurling words onto your keyboard. Whatever your style, I think working with the people and commitments in your life to designate writing time–and respecting that time with everything you have–is extremely valuable. Even if it’s ten minutes, which, let’s be real, is sometimes all you have if you want to sleep at all. (Alternate plan that always ends poorly: never sleep). Also, I find one of the biggest things that blocks my writing is difficulty getting into the headspace. If you can figure out how to jump right into the headspace and stay there, your ten minutes here and there will be super productive. I’m still working on that one, but I find music and rereading a chapter or two of what you last wrote helps.

My secret for clearing a block of writing hours once a week is not having kids. People with kids who are also binge writers…I Hunger-Games-salute you.

4. What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

When you’re editing and realize you accidentally did something super clever in your story, and for a split-second, the skies part and you KNOW you’re a genius. (We shall say nothing of the other 98% of the time when you’re convinced everything you touch is horrible and you should never be allowed near a keyboard again). Second to that is when a story idea first lights a fire in your brain and leaves you burning to put your fingers to the keyboard.

5. Tell us something useful. A piece of advice, a link to an article you found valuable, a writing reference book you love, etc.

I recently picked up Donald Maass’s book, WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL. It’s like boot camp for your manuscript. In the text, he describes it as getting your PhD in novel-writing. It’s not kidding around and it made my brain hurt. It’s excellent for writers who have been writing long enough that online articles about the basics of writing start to feel like they’re not deep enough for your needs. (That being said, I’m still working on the basics and revisit them every time I start a new project!)

My other piece of advice to writers querying or on submission is to stop checking your email so much. HAHAHAHA just kidding, that’s impossible.

6. What are you working on right now?

I’m querying a YA fantasy manuscript (Unofficial Title: Queer Girls with Magic Powers) and plotting a YA contemporary (Queer Kids Cheating on Standardized Tests) and a YA sci-fi (Queer Kids Doing…Stuff in Space, IDK Yet). During this plotting process, I’m also trying to read more and keep up with the ridiculous amount of amazing YA coming out!

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You can follow Mara on twitter (@mara_fitzgerald) and on her blog at marafitzgerald.wordpress.com.
Thanks for joining me today, Mara! Give her some love, creatures.

20 Mar

More Ctrl+F Editing (First Person, Present Tense Pt. 2)

In Editing,Writing Process by MK England / March 20, 2015 / 0 Comments

On Tuesday I posted about my Ctrl+F editing technique and gave you the generic list I use for everything I write. Today you get the list specific to my current work-in-progress, Space Academy Rejects. I also posted last month about first person, present tense novels and my past issues with them as a reader. Spoiler alert: I got over it. This week, you get my issues with first person, present tense as a writer, which are very much ongoing.

I never intended to write a novel in first person, present tense, but when I sat down to word-vomit the first chapter of Space Academy Rejects, that’s what came out. I was so weirded out by it that I went back and rewrote the chapter twice more: once in first/past and once in third/past. I shared the versions with a few trusted writer friends to see if I was losing my mind, but they all agreed–the other versions lost something. The voice wasn’t quite the same. I decided to stick with it, and if I really hated it I could always go back and change the tense in revisions.

I’m just about done with my first round of revisions now, and I’ve decided to keep the first/present. I’ve also decided that this style of writing brings out TONS of bad habits that aren’t an issue for me when writing third/past. Below are the major issues I’ll be Ctrl-F’ing for this weekend. Here’s a hint: they mostly have to do with getting rid of the letter ‘I’. Here we go.

john with computer

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Filtering phrases — I never do this in third person, so why why why do I do it so often in first person? Filtering phrases are sentence constructions based on sense verbs: I see, I hear, I smell, etc. By constructing the sentence in this way, I’m filtering all of the sensory detail through the narrator’s senses, rather than simply describing them. Compare:

I smell burgers.
vs.
The scent of burgers hangs heavy in the air.

This is a heavy-handed example I made up right this second, so it may be terrible, but you get the point. The first one might have some dry, comedic value in certain situations, but the second is more evocative. We don’t need the ‘I’. In first person narration nothing is described that isn’t being sensed or experienced by the narrator, so the ‘I’ is redundant. See more examples of rewritten filtering phrases on this excellent Publishing Crawl post. I actually find filtering phrases to be somewhat distancing; the ‘I’ puts you in the character’s brain rather than experiencing the world through their senses.

Thought verbs — This is really a specific form of filtering phrase, but I think it deserves its own line because it’s such a pervasive problem. Earlier this week I linked to Chuck Palaniuk’s article on this topic, and I’m going to do that again: right here. Click it, read it, follow it. He explains far better than I can. For your Ctrl+Fing purposes, hunt down all those instances of “I know, realize, notice, understand, wonder, remember, think” and any other word relating to your brain’s inner workings.

When you’re using Ctrl+F to catch these filtering and thought phrases, don’t forget the sneaky constructions that slip under the Ctrl+F radar: I can see, I can hear, I suddenly realized, etc.

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In addition to my big picture first person/present tense bad habits, I also made a list of smaller bad habits unique to my current word-in-progress. I give you this brief list as an example of how you can use Ctrl+F editing for clarity and consistency in addition to correct grammar and style.

Earth – Why do I never capitalize our dear planet?

Bridge vs. Cabin vs. Cockpit – Pick one and stick with it, Self. What the even.

Hijab – One of my characters is a hijabi, and I believe I mention the hijab too often. I want to make sure I’m not othering her by pointing out her hijab more frequently than I mention prominent visual characteristics of other crew members.

Acronymns – I created several fictional organizations for this novel and often refer to them by acronymns. But. BUT. Did I ever actually define those acronyms? Ctrl+F to find out. 

A-jump – The terminology for rapid interstellar travel in this novel. I need to make sure the jump technology works the same way throughout the whole book. It’s entirely possible that I decided to alter the laws of physics at some point and promptly forgot about it.

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That’s all for now, but I’m sure my critique partners and beta readers will give me many more red flags to search. Until then, I have plenty to keep me occupied!

 What are your bad habits, dear creatures? What red flags show up constantly in your work? Share them in the comments so we can all commiserate–and promptly Ctrl+F everything we’ve ever written.

 

17 Mar

Ctrl+F Editing

In Uncategorized by MK England / March 17, 2015 / 0 Comments

john typingLast week, my awesome critique partner Lisen Minetti posted about whittling down the insignificant words during the editing process. You should read what she has to say; it’s delightfully cheeky. She’s been indulging in a technique I like to call “Ctrl+F editing”–using the find feature of your writing software of choice, usually accessed by the hotkey combo control+F (command+F on a mac). This is my favorite editing technique for making quick and efficient work of bad habit words and red flags.

I have two Ctrl+F lists: a general one I use for every novel, and one specific to my current work in progress. My current WIP list has a lot of bad habits I tend to fall into specifically when writing in first person, present tense, so they’ll be getting their own post soon. In the meantime, here’s my general Ctrl+F list for your novel-dissecting pleasure. Get out your red pens, scalpels, and chainsaws as necessary.

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That – “That” is an evil word. It sneaks in EVERYWHERE. I’ve already resisted typing “that” in this blog post about five times. Lisen’s post has several good examples. This is one of my biggest bad habits. Kill it. Kill it with fire.

Just – Another word that wants to be everywhere. We use this word a lot colloquially, so it may have a place in dialogue, but cut it from your narrative whenever possible.

@ – This one might seem strange to you, but it makes sense, I swear. @ is my universal signifier for “there’s something you need to fix here”. When I’m drafting, I’ll often put @DETAIL HERE or @FIX LATER when I don’t want to lose my momentum by stopping to research something, or @NAME when I can’t think of a good name on the spot. The @ symbol rarely occurs in fiction writing unless you’re including a lot of e-mail communication in your story, so it’s a perfect candidate for Ctrl+F editing. Any rarely-used symbol will do.

It – Obviously “it” will need to be used occasionally, but it’s always good to double-check each usage to make sure it’s entirely clear what “it” refers to.

Started/Began – Usually a red flag for lazy writing. Reserve this for when an action begins suddenly, interrupts another action, or when the “starting” of the action is otherwise notable in some way. Otherwise, there’s no reason to “start to start”–just let your actions happen! Describe what’s going on.

Really/Very/Extremely/etc. – These are empty modifiers. I’ve beaten this habit out of myself, so I rarely find them in my own fiction writing outside of dialogue. I’m sure they’re all over the place in these blog posts, though.

There is/are/were/was – Watch out for all those forms of the verb “to be”. They’re often an indicator of telling instead of showing or passive voice, both of which can be problems. Anytime you see this in your writing, ask yourself if the sentence could be stronger, more descriptive, or more active.

Suddenly – I must love it when things happen unexpectedly, because I use this word way. Too. Much. The intensity of the word is diminished with each usage. Be sparing, and whenever possible make your “suddenly” apparent through jarring transitions, paragraph breaks, and em-dashes instead. Much more dramatic.

-ly – Words ending in -ly are adverbs, and everyone has an opinion on them. Here’s mine: adverbs are lazy and unnecessary about 95% of the time. Once in a while I like to throw one in where I think it adds to the voice, but most adverbs can be cut and replaced with more descriptive language.

Filter Phrases – I’ll be talking about this one extensively in a post later this week, so for now I’ll leave you with a link to this article by Chuck Palaniuk.

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Later this week I’ll post my list for my current work-in-progress, Space Academy Rejects, with some helpful notes on how to not write like I did during that first draft.

Learn from my horrific mistakes, creatures. Ctrl+F is your weapon. Use it. Be ruthless!

Got any other words or phrases that lend themselves well to Ctrl+F editing? Please share them in the comments!

FURTHER READING:
Chuck Wendig — Edit Your Shit, Part One: The Copy-Edit
297 Flabby Words and Phrases That Rob Your Writing of All Its Power

 

12 Mar

Critique Partners and Beta Readers

In Editing,Writing Process by MK England / March 12, 2015 / 0 Comments

winnie-the-pooh-readingI am so, so lucky to have several people who put eyes (and in some cases, teeth and knives) to my manuscripts before they ever see the light of day. These people, my critique partners and beta readers, are so valuable (and patient, and kind, and merciful). As writers, we are too close to our manuscripts to see a lot of potential problems. Our brains fill in the gaps for us–plot details, character motivations, foreshadowing, and more. Are those details clear to someone who didn’t write the book? No way to know without asking an outside reader. I can’t recommend outside readers enough–and you really need both crit partners AND beta readers. But what’s the difference, and you do you find them?

Let’s get the definitions out of the way first:

Beta Reader — A beta reader (or simply “beta”) can be anyone who reads and enjoys the type of material you’re writing. Their purpose is to read your work purely as a casual reader would, noting large-scale issues like plot issues, pacing, and characterization. They’ll give you some general feedback along the lines of “liked it/didn’t like it” and will note any major issues they saw and places they were tempted to put down the book. At least some of your beta readers should be people who won’t spare your feelings–people who aren’t your mom or your best friend.

Critique Partner — A crit partner (or CP) is typically someone who is well-versed in the mechanics of writing and storytelling–usually a fellow writer. This person will give much more detailed feedback. They’ll catch the same kinds of things your beta reader will, but will also comment on things like style, word choice, point-of-view and tense, conflict and motivations, etc. Your CP is the one who will nitpick your story to death to make sure it’s the best it can possibly be. It’s best if your CP is very knowledgeable about your chosen genre and age category.

The critique partner relationship is much more intense and demanding. With a beta reader, there is typically no expectation of a relationship beyond them reading the one thing you deliver to them, unless they are a fellow writer or you arrange things otherwise. There’s also not necessarily a requirement for reciprocation. A critique partnership is almost always a two-way street unless you specifically agree otherwise. Most writers don’t have more than one or two critique partners because of the sheer amount of work involved. Both beta readers and crit partners are necessary. Remember, to receive you must also give! Be generous with your time if you want others to be.

There are lots of places where you can connect with fellow writers online to form beta and CP relationships. However, I recommend setting up some ground rules and doing a trial run before committing to anyone long-term. Here’s how my local writing group runs our CP/beta connection:

The Rules — When someone agrees to read your work, start out by sending them the first two to three chapters or 25-50 pages only. Partners should agree on a deadline for delivery of feedback. After the feedback has been given on the first few chapters, readers/partners have the option to walk away from the relationship for any reason whatsoever, no hard feelings and no strings attached. The reason does not have to be stated; “I just don’t think we’re a good fit” is perfectly valid. If both people are happy, the relationship can continue.

This should go without saying, but just to cover all the bases: by accepting someone else’s work, you acknowledge that the work belongs to them and agree to never post, submit, plagiarize, or otherwise claim their work as your own or distribute it without permission.

Should my work be complete before I submit? — Not necessarily. Some people like to send their partners one chapter at a time as they write. Some prefer not to send until the work is complete and has been edited. As long as you and your partner agree on the terms, anything goes.

If you feel ready for a beta or CP, reply to this thread with the following:

Your Name:
Title of Work:
Genre:
Age Category:
Approx. Word Count:
Is the work complete?:
Crit Partner or Beta Reader?:
Preferred Communication Method:
Content Warnings:

If you prefer in-person relationships, check with your Friendly Local Writing Group and see if they have a method for connecting partners. There are a ton of excellent places to find both beta readers and critique partners online, too, and they’re pretty much all listed right here for your convenience. If you’re a twitter user, you can also check out @critiquepartner.

Good luck, creatures! I hope you all find the CPs and betas of your dreams.

09 Mar

Addicted to Progress

In Editing,Goals,Writing Process by MK England / March 9, 2015 / 0 Comments

give_it_to_me_stephen_colbertGive me a wordcount hit, I need it! Need the rush, need that high, need the validation–I can do this, I will do this.

Like most people, I get into awful ruts where it’s nearly impossible to force myself to write, edit, or be in any way creative. For me, it’s often rooted in anxiety or depression, which still flare up now and then. No matter the reason, though, the solution is almost always the same:

The more I make progress, the more progress I make.

What the hell does that even mean? It means, dear creatures, that progress is a snowball rolling downhill, gathering speed and mass until it crushes unsuspecting critique partners at the bottom of the mountain. It means the first few words are painful, slow, and make me hate myself. Then I write a few more. And a few more. And after a few days, I’m spending hours on my work-in-progress. And then when I get a day off from work? ALL DAY. Hope the house didn’t need cleaning. Hope there wasn’t food needing to be cooked. (Uh, that’s what takeout is for).

Once I start, the validation becomes the reward. Every time I put my butt in the chair and make progress, whether it be writing, editing, or research, I’m proving to myself: I can do this, I am a real writer, I do have the mental fortitude to put in the hard work required. Writing is 1% talent and 99% hard work, and I’m crushing it like a boss.

In the drafting stage, it’s easier for me: I watch the wordcount tick ever upward, perhaps with a satisfying little meter on some tracking site or another. I creep little by little toward some goal: 50,000 words, 70,000 words, whatever it may be; I revel in the knowledge that every single word puts me closer to the magic number, even if that word is terrible. All forward motion is progress. The first draft is supposed to be awful. All I have to do is reach the magic number and make the story end somehow.

For editing, it’s worse. I have a hard time building that initial momentum to get me going, because the first step in editing is facing the monstrosity you created during the drafting stage. It’s ugly, misshapen, full of holes and flat characters and tiny, rare moments of something great. It’s not until I see how the puzzle fits together that I start feeling the pull toward the end. And if the book doesn’t have a solid ending? I can’t do anything until that’s written. I have to know where I’m going before I can figure out how to get there in a way that is meaningful and resonant.

Right now, I’m at the point where I’ve finally hit my editing stride with my second novel, Space Academy Rejects. I’ve done my first read-through and markup, written the ending, added a few scenes, and am currently blowing through my chapter-by-chapter revisions and line edits. Because this book has a cast of five characters, I’m also making a ton of work for myself by marking every line of dialogue or bit of action for every character in their own highlighter color. This is so I can go back and read each color individually to make sure that 1) their voice and personality stays consistent throughout, and 2) their individual character arc is successfully portrayed from start to finish.

I’ve set an insanely ambitious deadline for this round of edits because I’m dying to get it out to my critique partners and cultural beta readers for first impressions and feedback. This book makes me geek out in all the best ways. I hope I’ll get the chance to share it with you all.

Okay, time to take another hit dive back into editing. Until next time, creatures.

 

03 Mar

Read All the Things: 6 Novels for Superhero Fans

In Reading,Recs by MK England / March 3, 2015 / 0 Comments

Superheroes are being found outside the pages of comic books more and more often lately. From what I hear, literary agents are being swamped by superhero manuscripts, thanks to the success of the Marvel Comics movie universe and the DC comics TV universe. It’s not totally new, though; superhero novels have been a thing for several years, though they’ve never quite acquired trend status. Regardless, there have been several good offerings that are certainly worth your time, whether you’re a comic book fan or not. Below are six superhero novels (YA and adult) published within the last six years that you may want to check out:

The Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson
(2013-2015, Delacorte Press — Young Adult)
The author of the acclaimed Mistborn Trilogy has turned his worldbuilding prowess to the realm of superheroes. The Reckoners series begins with Steelheart, the story of the dark days following the rise of the Epics, humans with powerful abilities and intriguing weaknesses. The second entry in this series, Firefight, was just released on January 6th, 2015. The series has a tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating humor that really appeals to the man-creature, who rarely reads anything that isn’t a Redwall or World of Warcraft novel.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
(2013, Tor Books — Adult)
You won’t find any black-and-white heroes and villains here. This noir-style novel follows two brilliant college roommates who turn to archenemeses, each with their own twisted plan for revenge. Victoria Schwab has written several books for both teens and adults. Vicious was one of Publisher’s Weekly Best Fantasy Books of 2013.

Hero by Perry Moore
(2009, Disney-Hyperion — Young Adult)
Thom Creed has three secrets. He has superpowers. He’s gay. And the league of heroes that kicked his dad off the squad have invited him to join. He wants desperately to keep it all from his disgraced father, but heroes who want to do good can’t hide for long. Hero is the only original novel written by screenwriter and director Perry Moore before his death in 2011.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu
(2014, Putnam — Young Adult)
Shelf Awareness called it “Game of Thrones meets X-men”; a 14th-century historical fantasy take on the exile and persecution of super-powered mutants. Marie Lu is the powerhouse author behind the bestselling YA trilogy Legend.

Soon I Will be Invincible by Austin Grossman
(2008, Vintage Books — Adult)
A supervillain super genius and a rookie cyborg super hero co-narrate this story, populated with stand-ins you’ll quickly recognize. All the usual themes are here — power and responsibility, etc. — but with a healthy dose of realism and emotional honesty. Grossman is a game designer and comic connoisseur, and his love for the medium shows.

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld
(Forthcoming Sept. 2015, Simon Pulse — Young Adult)
This novel was co-written with Westerfeld’s two Australian author friends, Margo Lanagan and Deb Biancotti. They all met at a pub every Thursday to talk about how to make superpowers a fresh and interesting concept, and Zeroes is the result. Six teens, all born in the year 2000, possess a new kind of superpower that makes them anything but heroes. Pre-order it today!

In addition to the above, rumor has it that Marissa Meyer, famed author of the Lunar Chronicles (which I love), used NaNoWriMo 2014 to begin work on a new superhero trilogy with the working title The Gatlon School for Vigilantes. Everything about the project is subject to change, considering it hasn’t even been drafted yet, but you can read her initial announcement here.

Got any other superhero novels you want to share with the world? Post them in the comments, my dear creatures!