Thursday, March 31, 2011

This is why

So I finished I Don't Want to Kill You, and man does it make me want to keep writing. This is why I write, because I want to give people this feeling. I want people to be in awe at the story, to fall in love with the characters and bite their nails waiting for the next installment. I want to be the book on the shelf with the broken spine and ripped pages that's been read a hundred times, the kind of book you read after you've had a bad day. No collector's edition for me, that's not why I'm doing this. I want to tell stories. The kind people fall in love with.

I want to keep feeling this fucking motivated all the time.

And the first 10 of the year goes to...

I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells. I just finished it about five minutes ago, actually. It's the third book in his serial killer series, and Dear Mr. Dan, you just keep getting better and better. I'm really sorry that this series is over... but wait... what's that I hear? Another possible series? Mr. Wells, I love you.

The difference in Wells' writing is astounding from his first book, I am Not a Serial Killer. I'll be honest, that first book took some effort to get through, but only until the midway point when it got interesting. One of the biggest criticisms of this series is that it reads like straight fiction until halfway through, when it gets supernatural. If you didn't know it was coming, I could see why that would shock some people, but the story he set out to tell was not a straight fiction story. It was a supernatural story. And it rocked.

The main character of these books, John Cleaver, definitely makes list of favorite characters of all time. He is badass, he is funny, and right when you start getting comfortable with him he starts thinking about embalming his girlfriend and you remember that he's a high-functioning sociopath—and then you get creeped out, and then you remember how awesomely Wells crafted his story.

The third book had a finesse to the writing that the other books have lacked. It fit together beautifully. And even when I could see through the foreshadowing from the beginning (read: girlfriend) I still had no idea HOW Mr. Wells was going to do it. And then he had me cringing the entire time waiting for attacks around every corner.

I've listened to Writing Excuses religiously since the sixth episode, so I have followed Mr. Wells' career from writing part time to getting the book deal to quitting his job and forever since. I don't mean to get sappy (ok, I do), but I'm so glad he has really grown as a writer and hasn't stagnated with his subsequent books. Each one really is head and shoulders above the previous. If a little iffy about his YA series coming up, but I can't wait to keep reading his adult books. And let's be serious, I'll read the YA one too. Mr. Wells, you have me hooked for life. Don't you ever stop writing.

I know I sound like a major wash from this blog post, but you have to understand that this is the third book of the series. I'm already in love with the characters and the story, and I'm eager to see how it ends and if Wells can pull it off. I've read the conclusion to a couple of series recently, and this is the first one that didn't leave me lacking. And that makes me pretty damn happy.

Check the blog
Elitist Book Reviews

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

OMFG!

!!!!!

Dear John Scalzi,
Thank you.
Sincerely,
Me.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Very appropriate for my last post

Just read this article on Science Fiction and Fantasy Novelists blog about critical reading. I thought it was very appropriate when I want to re-read White Cat for writerly advice. I'll have to look into some of the other books mentioned in the post and comments. And did I mention that H. G. Wells is one of my favorite authors?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

White Cat

I finally read a book by Holly Black. I thought that was going to be her Tithe series, but I was following her blog about Black Heart—the third book in her Curse Workers series—so I picked up the first book, White Cat. Needless to say, I was hooked. I blew through the book in two days. It's nice to read a teen paranormal that has a different kind of premise, because frankly I am really sick of all the But-mine-are-different knockoffs. Sick of it enough that I am tired of mentioning how sick of them I am.

Unfortunately, I totally saw every plot twist coming from a mile away. But it didn't bother me. It was what needed to happen, and it was a great story. The last paragraph was a doozy though, THAT one I didn't see coming.Good set up for the next books.

I really liked this book from a writer's perspective. I don't know if it's unfair to mention this in a review, but I will anyway. I could see the structure of the book as I was reading it, and while that may turn people off I thought it was really interesting. I want to read it again specifically to focus on that, and see if it will help me out any in my own writing. I think structure is difficult (hell, WRITING is difficult), so really going through a book to see how someone else did it—successfully—sounds like a good idea to me.

Short post. Moral of the story: read it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

- Insert Clever Title Here -

So, my Nook died. Not really died, just decided to become a bratty teenager, as I haven't even had it for a year now. It'd happened before: the Nook de-registers itself somehow and I have to register it again before I can access my library. But I would just plug in my e-mail and password and everything would work again. This time, for whatever reason it would not accept the log-in info, and I am absolutely positive I was typing it in correctly. It wasn't a big deal because I could still access the book I was currently reading, but when I finished that book I pretty much couldn't do anything. I tried wiping it to factory settings, but it kept prompting me to UN-register my Nook before doing that, while in the meantime I couldn't REGISTER it to UN-register it. Very confusing. You'd think if something broke it would have the decency to break itself consistently across the software? No dice. In any case, they are sending a new one! They were so nice and helpful too, so kudos to BN. And yes, I am Pro-Nook and Anti-Kindle. I have beef with Amazon, but that's a post for later.

I am thinking of revamping my Links page.  A while ago I had an Extras page, but I ended up taking it down. I want to take all the writing links and put them onto a Writing Resources page, along with some explanations and extra-special blog posts that I have found useful and maybe mentioned in my blog. Then I can take the Other Links at the bottom and combine that with the Extra stuff, and voila! This isn't actually important, but you know you were dying to know.

In other news, Christopher Paolini has finally sold the fourth and last book in the Inheritance Trilogy, Inheritance. And far more important, Ian Fleming's estate authorized a sequel to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! I hope they make it into a movie. PS, I am eating sushi for lunch and it is oh so delicious! If it wasn't so damn expensive (and such a hike from my office) I would eat it several times a week. But I even walked in the RAIN to get it today. And they don't have a frequent buyer card either, which is a total bummer.

Monday, March 21, 2011

1200 words!

My goal has been 300 words a day. Pretty meager, but I wrote everyday last week, minus the weekend. It's manageable. Today, I wrote 1200 words! Really happy about that. I was thinking today that some of my problems sticking with it stems from the fact that the process is so slow for me. I need some kind of framework that I can build on, but looked at the entire project ahead of me is daunting. Maybe it would be better if I tried to cram a huge amount of writing in a shorter span of time? Want to try this for this week, but it may not work even for tomorrow because it's a gym day. The bane of my existence. In any case, my goal is to try and write more per day. More than I think is even possible for me. Maybe this will keep me excited, and it will be easier to get it all down when I can remember it. I also typed today, instead of writing. I think that helped, as much as it pains me to say it. I would take a few minutes to sprint through a paragraph or two, and by the end of the day I had 600 words! Not to mention it's wonderful to have even five minute break, and to just allow myself to get completely immersed in the scene, even if it is only for five minutes. This blog post is a little scattered, but I'm okay with that. I wrote 1200 words today. =]

Also, a note: Saw two great movies over the weekend that oddly enough were pretty similar. Black Snake Moan and Kinky Boots. Don't let the horrendous movie poster scare you away from watching Black Snake Moan (I didn't want to see it at all when it came out), and the movie made me like Christina Ricci a lot more. Both movies were great, and I was going to write a blog post about them but I don't feel like it anymore. They're both on Netflix.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I will be the first person to tell you that holy freaking crap the beginning of this book is horrible. If it had ended up in any slush pile, the book would have been scrapped immediately. Thank god for the editor who stuck with it. The reader has no idea who the characters are, and even though they are actually intriguing people, we don't know that yet. You have to sit through 50 pages (likely even more, I forget) of one of Blomqvist's college buddies telling his stories about some financial giant, and there is no reason for you to care.

I bought this book years ago, before they really became popular in the US. It had a cool cover, what can I say? I started reading it and immediately put it down in disgust. It was really horrible. I picked it up honestly five times, finally succeeding this last time when I just started at chapter five. And even then, it takes sooo looong for the story to get going. But I stuck with it because I loved the movie and knew that it had to get good sometime.

You reach a point about halfway through the novel when you go THIS IS AWESOME and it starts to consume your life. It's one of those "Did I remember to eat? When did I last shower?" type of books. It makes me wish I had been reading them as they were released in America so I could get all excited about them like the good ol' Harry Potter days. There aren't too many series where I finish one and then immediately want to read the next one, but I made a special trip to get the second book last night and am already on chapter three.

The book is all about the characters. They are amazingly deep, and even though they are dangerously close to falling into cliché because of their character types this never happens. Lisbeth has so many layers, and the thing that sets her off from other clichéd social outcasts is her reactions. She is cruel, and has no remorse, and yet can still get embarrassed about simple things and can still have recognizable emotions, all while exacting her cruel revenge on assholes that deserve it. She's the vigilante we all wish we could be. Blomqvist is cool too, but he doesn't stand a chance against Lisbeth. She's the reason I kept reading through all those awful beginning chapters, for the tiny two-paragraph snippets of her life that just kept me turning pages.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An update of blah

This past week I haven't gotten any writing done. Granted, I was sick over the weekend, that that cuts out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but over Wednesday and Thursday I wrote not even a page. Awesome. I haven't done any editing either, but I'll just keep blaming everything on my stomach bug. =/ And tonight I have things to do after work, so I'm not sure I'll get anything done tonight either. I am itching to write at this point though.

I read a great post on Holly Black's blog (who I am liking more and more) that made me feel better about how much I write everyday, but I still have to seriously get moving on it. The post is here. There is also a page of writing advice on her website. Did you know that Holly Black is in a writing group with some other major haunchos? Jeez, I can't even imagine being in a writing group full of NYT bestselling authors. I need a writing group. I really don't know many people who write in my area to get one together though. =/

It's hard to post a goal when I am not writing this story chronologically. I can't use my old standby of "a chapter a month." Even though that's not much writing, I could still meet that deadline. Even saying a page a night is too much, because then I skip two days and mentally everything gets all out of whack. I will try that though. Tonight: I will write one page.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

They've done it again!

The folks over at Writing Excuses have put out another stupendous podcast. I can't tell you enough how great these guys are. They're entertaining and knowledgeable and just downright awesome. Check out this weeks episode on Perseverance. It makes me love all the horrible wrist-slitting that occurs during writing. There was a great quote in the comments:

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” (Richard Bach)

And of the course the wonderful companion to this episode (and pretty much every episode, actually): BIC HOK. And yes, Howard Taylor's ego rocks my socks. Makes me say "Screw this, I'll post some stuff online."

From bookshelfporn.com: 

"Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habit, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for secondhand bookstores to smell like good quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us."

Why secondhand bookstores smell good 
Perfumes: The Guide (via YMFY)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Genre worries

Even though I didn't write anything over the weekend, I did a bit today. The "not writing chronologically" is helping (at least for now). I keep a list of scenes to write, and I just pick one when I have a few minutes and at the very least start outlining it a bit.

Dan Wells' Story Structure has been helping me a lot. Plot was always my weakness, even in short stories for school, because I would be chugging along great and then get to the ending and just freeze. My endings sucked. But with this, I know what I am working towards the entire time, and even though the ending won't be outlined in detail until I get around to it, just knowing what's going to happen is still better off.

In any case, I was planning a side plot tonight, and I realized that I have a lot of viewpoints. Too many, for a teen book. It doesn't have to be a teen book, but I think the plotline is too naive for an adult book. But teen books usually have one, maybe two viewpoint characters, depending on if it's romance or action. Not that I am writing this book with the intention of selling it, but it tripped me up a bit. As of now, I have four viewpoint characters along with the usual cadre of side characters.

What I need to do is just ignore this and keep chugging through with the writing. Who cares about genre? At the very least, write the first draft, and then revise for genre during revision. I NEED to remember to just KEEP WRITING! That's the most important thing.

I will name this story "Projekt MERPEEPS" for now. Blogs about my floundering will have the tag "Merpeeps," for those of you who want to keep up. If you haven't guessed, there are Merpeople in my story. And Golems, but I haven't gotten to them yet. They will require some research since I don't know much about them, but picked them for the bad guys (opposing elements, and all that). If I'm in a sociable mood I may post some writing, but don't get your hopes up. I'm still self-conscious.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Darkest Mercy

And speaking of tweeners, this leads me to Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr, which I finished last week but haven't posted a review. This was a great finale to the series, but it just seemed to be... lacking. I don't know why. Maybe it's because there was so much fighting and death in this book I expected to see more gore, but there was nothing there. And it's not even that, it's like she had originally written the book with all the gory parts in, but then the editor said "This is a teen book. Teen girls don't want to read this." So she took it all out but didn't smooth over the parts that should have been gory. Seth is in a cage that falls from the ceiling, and she says he's hurt, but we don't see that he's hurt. Aislinn stabs a pile of dirt surrounding Bananach, and she says that Bananach is now dead, but because I didn't see it I found it hard to believe. I half expected B to jump out from behind a corner and spear someone. But all that aside, this was a teen book, so it was probably more MY expectations that threw me out of line for this one. I wanted it to be more adult and mature, and darker like the second and fourth books.

As a series conclusion, it fucking rocked. The characters plots were exactly what needed to happen, and nothing seemed fake. **Spoilerwarning** I was so happy when Keenan gave up Summer to be with Donia, it's about freakin time, man! But I knew something was going to happen, because they were way too happy. But the way MM crafted what happened, it wasn't what I expected so it was awesome. Keenan finally did something BIG that wasn't for himself, that was for his love, so he finally grew up right then. And i may have teared up a little at the end there.

But what was with the epilouge? So he's not mortal anymore? Although that makes me really happy that they ended up together forever after all, it cheapened the sacrifice Keenan had made to save Donia's life. I'm glad Aislinn and Seth ended up together, but to be honest I wasn't much a fan of Seth in the beginning. He's okay. Sure, he made amazing sacrifices to be with Aislinn, but I guess he just wasn't my type. Maybe he was just too nice. I guess I'm an asshole like that.

The whole time I was reading DM I was sad that the series was ending. The series will be one for the re-read shelf, for sure. I can't wait for Graveminder this summer!

Diligently brainstorming

Last night and the one before I have written pages of notes for this new story. I'm pretty excited. And they seem to be more coherent, which also has me excited. I'm still trying to find the little process-helpers to give me a boost.

First of all, I have a defined Beginning, Middle, and End all played out. It's not detailed, but it's something I can work towards. I've previously found that I need the extra help with plot, and it's already a bit more composed than my previous attempt. Another change I'm making is that I am NOT going to write this in chronological order. I have a page with a list of scenes, and I'm going to go, pick one, and write. No more am I going to have a scene stuck in my head, but I don't write it down because I'm only on chapter three so I just jot down some notes but then never get to it. I have a couple scenes in my head that have backed up because I wanted to get some worldbuilding done before I really dove into writing, but I would like to write scenes quickly when I first think of them, before they are constrained by what I've already written. When I first see the scene, it's so vivid it's like I'm watching a movie, but when I'm trying to think back on it to write it down it's all muddled.

I've also given up on a couple of plot arcs that seem cliche. First of all, who cares. Just write the damn thing. And second of all, having two huge groups of people going against each other is not a cliche plot arc! It's called WAR people, and between all the numerous wars through history I'm pretty sure none of them were between Merpeople and Golems. I don't know, I could be wrong. I guess that would have happened before Atlantis sunk into the ocean. And no, my book does not take place in Atlantis. So far it's a tweener between a teen book and an adult book, which is fine because I will most likely never send this to a publisher so who cares what genre it's stuck in. Which makes me think, how do authors sell books that are between age groups?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Oh look. Another story.

Fade in whiney voice: Oh, but I'm on chapter three, it's too hard...
The smart half of my brain: Suck it up.
WV: But I don't know what happens next.
SB: Just keep writing.
WV: Oh look! Something new!
SB: Don't you even think about it!
WV: But it's so shiny. I can't help myself.
SB: Don't do it! Think of your tattoo!
WV: Too late, it's been did.

And that was how I convinced myself to start thinking about another story. See how little I had to twist my arm? It's really awful. I always do this! I get three chapters in and things have to start fitting together and making sense, and that's when it gets hard and my thinking stops. This is why I never finish anything.

But, in my defense (even though it's a lame one), I'm going to try prewriting with a specific structure. I've never done this before. I've usually just kept a notebook of random notes and bit that float through my head, and more recently I've just taken a hack at the page. Obviously, neither of these methods have worked because I have yet to finish a story. This time I am going to use the 7-point method, outlined by Dan Wells and shamelessly stolen from a role-playing book, and I'll also use Lynn Viehl's novel notebook, which does the same thing but gets a little more in depth.Since I used to do this type of thing during school to outline papers it should be helpful. The biggest thing is that I will know the ending going into it, and thus have something to work towards. I may also not write the book chronologically, like I usually do. Just switching it up a bit.

And the reason for my whole-hearted abandonment that I had so much faith in three months ago? L showed me a book she's reading about mermaids and she was telling me how they're cool because they zap people with tridents and have scales on their skin, and instantly the wood started burning and I had all these ideas! It'll be a teen book, by the looks of it so far, but that's ok. And I am going to keep it SIMPLE. As much as I can, at least for the first draft. Insert my usual Thisisit! -here- and now I'm off to do some brainstorming.