Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Need to share some wisdom

This is from the blog of Susan Dennard (which is great and you should follow her). And here's her twitter. I'm copying her comment right into the post because I couldn't get the page to link to the specific comment, which is the important part.

She has a great post series on revising, but here's a good condensed quip that takes a lot of stress off writing the first draft:

I know I revised SS&D at least ten times before I got an agent. But, it wasn't a very good book the first few times around... The second draft was pretty much a complete rewrite of the first--almost nothing from the first stayed the same. The third draft involved  changing everything to first person (it was originally third), the fourth draft was more BIG was the fifth through the seventh-ish. I honestly have no idea HOW MANY TIMES I went through the MS and juggled the story around or cut/rewrote chunks that just weren't working. The final few drafts were after crit partners' comments, and then the very last draft (before I got my agent) was doing final line edits.

It was a lot, and the reason it was a lot was because I wasn't a very good writer at that point. I'd written only one book before (which was dreadful), and the first draft of SS&D was almost just as bad as my first book...but I refused to give up on that story.

Now, my first drafts are pretty darn clean, and for ADS&L, I only went through ~4 rounds of revisions (including those with CPs) before sending it to my editor.

Also, I should note that another reason I take so many rounds is because almost ALWAYS, the story I set out to write no longer works at the end. I have to reorganize things a few times before I finally settle on the "right" story--does that make sense? Other writers I know don't go through this insanity...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Musing Mondays

Sorry for the lack of new posts lately, life just got busy and there really wasn't anything new to talk about. Work on the WIP is starting to slow down a bit, but this is the usual slog I hit and I just need to make sure I keep going, even if it is painfully slow. I have so many ideas and so little brainmapping to sort through them all, I end up scrawling on a ton of post-it notes and just keeping myself focused on one scene at a time. Things like this would be so much easier if I were a genius. Pity.

I liked the question for yesterday's meme at Should be Reading, so here's my stab at it, mainly to let you know I'm not dead. And come on, there's a CAT SLEEPING WITH BOOKS on her blog header, how cute is that?

Do you read books that are part of a series? Do you collect all the books in the series before starting? What if the series is brand new, and the only book that’s been published so far is Book one? As subsequent books in the series are published, do you go back and re-read the preceding books?

Firstly, I love series. I prefer them over stand-alone books, although I like when the individual books in the series are relatively self-contained (which is the general thing, nowadays, unless you're reading the Wheel of Time series, which I am not). Since I spent the first book becoming emotionally invested in the characters, it's great when that can carry over to the second book in the series and I can start off running. I love reading new adventures of characters I already love. Like finishing Firefly and getting ready to slit your wrists then realizing there's Serenity and everything is okay in the world again.

Oddly enough, my favorite book of this half-decade is The Name of the Wind, the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. This book is not self contained at all, and actually has a really unsatisfactory ending for having to wait six years for the second one. The trilogy is all one book. I'm guessing it'll be 8-10 years for the final book to come out, as wrapping up plot threads always takes more work. It'll be worth the wait, though.

And come on, nothing beats the anticipation of watching the calendar tick closer to the release date of a new book. I'll never forget the midnight release of the Deathly Hallows, when my entire county was crammed into the Barnes and Noble, young and old, popular and goth, united over a BOOK for fuck's sake. People from my high school who I wasn't even sure could properly read were buying their copies, and everyone was excited as balls. For this reason, I don't wait until the whole series is out before reading the first book. I like the time to be excited and keep thinking about the last book, and besides, whenever I read a whole series in a row I end up burnt out by the end. I need those other, less-exciting books just as much as the uber-exciting books.

That being said, I don't like the philosophy of publishers lately forcing books into trilogies because that's the "in" thing these days. YA is especially guilty of this. Most of those books have their plots stretched unnaturally to cover three books, and nothing happens in the second book anyway so it should just be a duology, and many other books would be fine as a standalone or just leaving the arc to the first book. Fine, I agree that most teenagers don't have the attention spans to read a 300k book, but don't you think publishers should push the market towards the more-intelligent end instead of dumbing it down? And Harry Potter pretty much blew that theory out of the water, so don't say it can't be done. And don't say "other books aren't Harry Potter" and just hire a new marketing department.

If I loved the series, I'll reread the books. Usually I don't, because there just isn't enough time in the world. I read the early Harry Potter books at least ten times each (and I am not lying) and the later ones at least five times. More recently, I've read The Name of the Wind four times and The Wise Man's Fear twice. But I won't force myself to read through a whole series if I just don't care anymore. Just like any book, a series has to keep my attention. I've read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo three times, but I haven't even made it halfway into the second one and I don't care to keep going. But I ALWAYS read the first book in a series first, and never out of order.

And now to pimp some of my favorite series:
The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss
Chronicles of the Raven by James Barclay, then Legends of the Raven
The Mistborn Trilogy - Brandon Sanderson
The Demon Cycle - Peter V. Brett
John Cleaver Series - Dan Wells
Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr
Fablehaven - Brandon Mull
Tales of the Ketty Jay by Chris Wooding, a must for any Firefly fan

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Live Blog 2/18

12:58 I'm going to try this live blogging thing. I always like reading other people's, so here I go! I have an apartment to myself, so I'm turning off Harry Potter for a bit to get some writing done. My goal: 1k by 1:00!

1:16 374 words. Taking a brainstorming break and painting my nails. Actually, phone is ringing. Getting that first.

1:22 Nails are painted, back to work. I usually paint my nails while writing because I can type without messing them up. I'm slightly obsessed with nail polish. My sister gave me a few colors in this quick dry brand, and not only are they nice colors (and quick to dry) but they go one super thick so you only need one coat. Okay, now I'm procrastinating. BACK TO WORK!

1:58 I did pretty well! Made it to 18k in my manuscript, which means I wrote 1412 words in an hour. I've been doing that lately, instead of my usual wrist-slitting and bleeding out on the keyboard for three hours to get that far. And now, time for a nap, methinks. =]

I wouldn't be surprised if this is as far as my liveblogging goes, but if I'm writing again later I'll be back on!

5:40 Time for more writing! I finished Harry Potter 7 and watched half of Harry Potter 3, and finished sewing all my A blocks. I'm bored, I don't feel like going out because I'm apartment-sitting and it's far away from everything and it's been a sweatpants and t-shirt kind of day. Going to write some more. Goal: hit 19k by 6:30 (1000 words in 50 minutes). Go!

6:39 Ok, so around 6:25 I started browsing the internet and got distracted. I was distracted most of the time, and did most of the writing at the end. I have 175 words left; I'm going to finish them now.

6:46 Alrighty: finished! Manuscript is at 19,048, which means I wrote 2426 words today! And now I'm off to do other things. Later!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bird by Bird

I think it's interesting how my wordcounts are following a different pattern for this WIP than they usually do. Usually I'm pretty good at writing something almost every day during the week, even if that's only 200 words. But this time I'm writing between 2-3k in one night, but only about once a week. I really like those nights, but I need to work on doing that more often. Taking five or six days to refill the well is just way too long. But I like that I've really increased my stamina.

I've been making a list of books to read, to see how authors handled certain aspects of writing. Research, but more fun. =] Here is that list of books for WFR so far. Please note: there are some spoilers for WFR, if you care about that.

Terrorists in Love, by Ken Ballen:
This book is about Jihadi soldiers and their motivations behind all the violence create. It a character study, and a morality study, and it's all about how there is no black and white viewpoints on several issues. Good and evil are muddled together. This is for Visola, the good king that turns villain. What would make someone honest turn to violence? I imagine him as Jethro Gibbs turning against the government. What would have to happen to Gibbs to make him snipe the SecNav, say? Or run the director over with a car? Even though Visola is not the main character, in many ways the story revolves around him.

Blood Red Road, by Moira Young:
There are many similarities between Saba of BRR and Malin of WFR. Saba only wants to find her brother. Malin only wants to find her mother, though for very different reasons than Saba. Mountains are thrown in front of Saba to make a simple plotline more complicated, and I want to do the same for Malin. But most importantly, Saba is strong, and incredibly three dimensional. That's what I really want for Malin.

The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morten
Oddly enough, this was in TBR pile when my mom snagged it and read it before me. It jumps between several generations of the same story throughout the book, and this is how I plan the structure of WFR. (I try to make these things not complicated so I have a better chance of actually finishing something, and then they go and get complicated on their own! I guess I just don't do simple.) In any case, I've never read Kate Morten but each of her books sound so good—maybe this will push me to finally read one.

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
Because this book should influence everything.

Century Rain, by Alastair Reynolds
Two POVs in two drastically different settings. Reading this now, and already learned a few things! For instance, even though the two POVs have no idea about the other, they have already been linked for the reader. (What is this... dramatic irony?)

The Freak Observer, Blythe Woolston
Just discovered this today, and besides sounding awesome this book has PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and flashbacks, which may be useful.

A sidenote: I love reading stories about how writers became writers. I really love those stories when they say something other than "I've known I was going to be a writer since I was three." Puh-lease. If that's true, then great, but I've changed my career-mind about a thousand times. Sure, I always loved reading, but I didn't start writing until a year after I graduated college. I'm not saying I don't want to be a writer, because that would be really fan-fucking-tastic. But really, I just want to be happy wherever I end up. Anyway, mopiness over, the whole of this paragraph was to say check out Nova Ren Suma's Turning Points blog series, and that I'm finding writing a book is more and more like putting together a 3000 piece puzzle. Bit by bit, bird by bird. First you do the edge (the outline), then all the red pieces of the mailbox (the main character), then the little birdies (the subplots), then all the little remaining pieces that make it whole (the details). I love puzzles. I've done several 1000s, but never a 3000. Always a first time for everything, right? I'll take that as a good sign for my novel-writing career. =]

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The First Fucking Draft

Starting to get bogged down in all the things I have to remember. I have post-its on top of post-its on top of post-its, and I keep thinking of additional scenes and plotlines and I have to remember them long enough to decide if I should work on them or chuck them, etc. Characters are starting to need pinned-down histories because I need to start hinting at them, and having to stop, brainstorm, write down everything in some organized manner, and then keep going a) really disrupts my flow, and b) is immensely boring, even though it needs to be done. Jotting down notes in my notebook is not as simple as it was at first, and having something that's much more fluid will be useful, I think. I'm slowly gravitating away from pen and paper, and while that makes me sad, I need to get the fuck over it. I need to move quickly or I'll lose interest, and pen and paper slows me down. I'm thinking of plugging things into the Corkboard function in Scrivener, see how it helps. I have the 30 day trial, but other than working through some of the tutorials I haven't used it. That will mean I can only see my manuscript when I'm on my laptop, but if it works I'm sure I'll deal. I keep thinking about all the little colored pins that will help me track plotlines, and it sounds really appealing. I'm also really looking forward to revising, when I have a starting point and can focus on one thing at a time. I just need to drag myself through to get a framework, first.

Also, did you hear about Guillermo del Toro's resub of Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson? Sounds like so many kinds of awesome.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Blood Red Road

I discovered Blood Red Road by Moira Young on Emma Pass's blog. Don't ask me how I found her blog, because I don't remember. It's a great list, and of course it has Lisbeth on there, so how could I resist? I really want to check out This is England, as well. But I read the description of Blood Red Roads and was intrigued enough to snag it at the library. I just finished it, and I really enjoyed it. Just like The Hunger Games, it is different from the rest of YA right now. The characters have to deal with real problems, and it reads more like an Epic Fantasy than a Teen novel.

A synopsis, from BN: Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when four cloaked horsemen capture Lugh, Saba's world is shattered, and she embarks on a quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the outside world, Saba discovers she is a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba’s unrelenting search for Lugh stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Ok. So I have a problem with the currently-popular kick-butt females that are so ever-present in Urban Fantasy these days. They are so NOT believable I want to punch myself in the face. Saba, on the other hand... I want her to be on my side. We're in her head. We know exactly what she's thinking and feeling, and her emotions are raw. The entire book is written in dialect, and although it takes a little bit of getting used to, it really forces her voice into the reader's head. I would recommend this book for the use of dialog alone. Saba is the way I wanted Nix to be in God's War by Kameron Hurley, which if you can remember left me entirely pissed off at the end of that book. There was just something missing from God's War, a crucial bit, and the book felt empty. Not so with Blood Red Road. Saba has to fight for her life, and her sister's and brother's, and it doesn't come easy.

Saba comes from the middle of nowhere. Literally, she can count the number of people she's met on her fingers. Then all of a sudden she finds herself in a packed city, and there is absolutely no culture shock. Sure, part of that can be explained by the fact that she was kidnapped and dragged there and has other things to worry about, but there wasn't even a mention. She goes from town-girl to stone cold fighter, and there was no in between.

I felt bad for Saba. She's kidnapped to be a cage fighter, but she's cursed to be the best. Lose three fights and you're killed, so of course she wants to win, but the other fighters all stay away from her because she's the best, and so she loses her one support system.

Jack (the love interest) is awesome. Tough but not pushy, and pushy in all the right [supportive] ways. There was just the right level of romance to be palatable and realistic. There's more to Jack than we know, though. The sequel, Rebel Hearts (out September 30), has him on the cover, so I'm sure we follow his story more in the second book. I don't think he was all truthful about where he told Saba he was going. And to be honest, there is nothing to carry over into the sequel. It's going to be an entirely new story. If I hadn't of seen just the other day that there was going to be a sequel (by pure chance) I probably would have never found out. I would have got to the end and thought that was it. I'll definitely be grabbed the second book when it's out.

I couldn't find anything by way of a blog, but there's a really cool essay on the Simon and Schuster page about how this story came about.

Reading Next: No idea. I have several ideas, but nothing jumps out at me. I may try to really best through some writing, but I know that will only last so long (read: a few days, if I'm lucky) before I crack and need to find a book. May continue with The Name of the Wind again, maybe with The Black Lung Captain, maybe I'll start Tam Lin. What I'd really like to read is The Good Fairies of New York, which I got from Paperback Swap, but it hasn't even shipped yet. I have Terrorists in Love, but nonfiction never feels like anything but homework to me. I need me some fiction.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fantasy Series Booklist

The Mistborn Trilogy - Brandon Sanderson
   Final Empire
   Well of Ascension
   Hero of Ages
   The Alloy of Law: A Mistborn Novel

The Demon Cycle - Peter V. Brett
   The Warded Man
   The Desert Spear
   The Daylight War (forthcoming)

The Kingkiller Chronicle - Patrick Rothfuss
   The Name of the Wind
   The Wise Man's Fear
   Book III (forthcoming)

The John Cleaver Series - Dan Wells
   I am NOT a Serial Killer
   Mr. Monster
   I Don't Want to Kill You

Fablehaven - Brandon Mull (Middle Grade)
   Rise of the Evening Star
   Grip of the Shadow Plague
   Secret of the Dragon Sanctuary
   Keys to the Demon Prison

Tales of the Ketty Jay - Chris Wooding
   Retribution Falls
   The Black Lung Captain
   The Iron Jackal

Magical Realism Booklist

The Gargoyle - Andrew Davidson
The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova
Among Others - Jo Walton
The Real Fairies of New York - Martin Millar
Angelology - Danielle Trussoni
A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Hunger Games

I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins in a day. Well, a night and an afternoon. I don't remember the last time I did that. Although I did stay home from work yesterday so I guess that's cheating. But honestly, it sucked me in. Just like it has the rest of the world. I think its the plot and the premise. What can be more compelling than knowing someone like you (albeit a crafty You who can pwn a bow and arrow) needs to fight to the death, or die themselves? You root for Katniss because you'd want people to root for you, and at the same time you try not to get swallowed up in hoplessness.

I started reading this a long time ago and put it down because I thought it was too depressing. When I picked it up again the other day I flipped ahead to the spot where I stopped, and it was only the end of chapter one. So... maybe I should have given it more of a chance, but if a book doesn't catch me, I don't waste my time. Lately I've been doing this a lot, putting down twice as many books than I end up finishing. I blame life, and the commute. I don't have time to sit for hours to really fall into a book, so the really heavy books that make the reader think (that I love) I just don't have the emotional energy for anymore. Writing saps a lot of that out of you. Actually, now that I think about it, writing really puts you through the wringer. Speaking of, read this.

It was extremely refreshing to read a teen book with a main character that wasn't all swoony for love and gag-worthy. I may not be a teen anymore, but I'm definitely still trying to figure out my place in the world, so they're still appropriate. But I'm tired of characters where all they think about is romance. This was life or death, and there was a lot of death.

Katniss and her survival skills took me back to middle school, when I must have read My Side of the Mountain ten times. I find that stuff fascinating. One day I'll learn how to wrangle me a moose and field-dress a deer, but in the meantime I'll keep myself happy by reading about it.

I should say, I have no interest in reading the second and third books of the trilogies. I've heard a lot about them, especially the third (bad things), and I know I'm setting myself up for dissappointment. So I read the wiki summaries. And to be honest, they seem chock full of deus ex machina, and I'm not that interested. The first one was awesome, I'm excited for the movie, and let's leave it at that. I also think way too many stories are stretched out into trilogies because that's the popular thing to do right now, and a lot of the time it's not appropriate. This is one of those times. Leave the audience pleasantly murky on how the politics work out, and leave them wanting more. My favorite books are those that have incomplete and bittersweet endings. Um, The Gargoyle?? The Name of the Wind?? I don't know what that says about me, but I won't think about it. I'm glad I know how it ends, so now I can move on to other good books I haven't read yet.

Back to Katniss, she is totally kick-ass. I love how she took care of Peeta and did the hard things, like facing her fear of cuts and blood because she knows she had to help him. The best part of the book was how much Katniss grew through the games. Definitely one of the most dimensional characters out there. The book was full of good writing as well, something that falls to the wayside more often than not in YA. Crappy writing sucks. Doesn't matter how good the story is, if the writing sucks there's no redeeming it. Well, I shouldn't say that. A movie can redeem it (a la The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

Reading Now: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Last Night's Awesome

So, last night something awesome happened. My goal was to hit 8k, which would have been about 1,600 words for the day. That's a lot for me, especially lately. Around 7,500 I really started to slow down, and at 7,800 I was really pulling teeth. But somewhere between 7,800 and 8,000 something clicked and I wrote all the way past 9,000 and in about 20 minutes as well. It was a tense scene, the first action scene I've written for it. The other amazing thing is that it was the entire scene from beginning to end. I hope that happens more often. Although I did spend all night at my computer and most nights I won't be able to do that. In any case, IT WAS SO AWESOME.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January wordcount

Not as good as I was hoping. This story has been stubborn to get moving. Also, I've found that it's very hard for me to balance reading time and writing time. I don't know what it is, but they must work the same brain muscles because one will burn me out from the other, which usually means I can't get past the 30% mark in a book and I'm cranky 'cause I haven't had any good reading. And so: back to The Name of the Wind! Because that book makes me happy and I'm instantly hooked and I'm also not under any stress to finish it since I've already read it seven times (I think—I should count). It also gets me motivated to work on my writing because I want to write a story that will make someone as happy as The Name of the Wind makes me. Goal for February: 15k. Get back into the groove slowly...

January 5-11: brainstorming/outlining

Goal: 10k by January 31 (909 words/wkday)
Jan 17 = 264
Jan 18 = 244 (508)
Jan 19 = 1249 (1757)
Jan 20 = 758 (2515)
Jan 21 = 725 (3240)
Jan 22 = 0
Jan 23 =  410 (3650)
Jan 24 =  88 (3738)
Jan 25 = 411 (4149)
Jan 26 = 671 (4820)
Jan 27 = 820 (5640)
Jan 28 = 0
Jan 29 = 0
Jan 30 = 747 (6387)
Jan 31 = 0