Thursday, January 28, 2010

Let's get complicated.

First off, sorry for the lack of posts. I've been busy and having a hard time. Yay college and drama. Woo!

So everyone's been talking a lot about queries lately and how to be concise and to the point in your writing, which is great. Go for it. You should be able to sum up your book in a single sentence or even two. You should be picky with your words; don't use too many adverbs!

But sometimes it's good too take your writing to the extremes.

It's good to know what too much and too little is so that you can find that happy medium. (I could relate this to music again but no one seemed to care for I won't do that again, I guess.)

I think bad writing, like bad movies, has its usefulness. Both teach you what not to do, and knowing what not to do can be a lot more helpful than knowing what you should do. It's like trying to talk about what you liked in a book. Sometimes you love it, but putting it into words can be really hard; the same goes for disliking a book. There's just something about writing that's hard to actually describe; you just know when something works or even harder when it doesn't.

A bad movie is great for a laugh. It has over the top dialogue and most of the time some seriously cheesy acting. (One of my favorites is Vampire Wars: Battle for the Universe [Yes, you read that right; space vampires.] Or if you don't want vampires, there's always Garuda, which should be watched with subtitles AND dubbed [subtitles first, please].)

Over the top writing, however, is just obnoxious. It isn't funny; it can ruin a book, and can keep me from going back to an author.

So what is over the top? Excess. A little bit of everything is good, but too much of something (the word "like" for example) can get ugly and old fast. Don't believe me? Even typos can ruin a book. But let's forget typos and look just at word choices.

(A lot of this also comes down to taste. You have to be your own judge.)


1) Billy rode a bike through the rain to the grocery store. (Meh. It's pretty straight forward; you could use it and be fine.)

Let's get a bit more descriptive.

2) Billy pedaled hard and fast through the rain hoping to make it to the grocery store before he got soaked to the bones. (There's a little more to the story now. Billy isn't just taking his time and enjoying the rain as he rides to the store. He's got a task to do, and he doesn't want to be out in the rain any longer than he has to.)

3) Billy pumped the pedals of his father's too large bike through the pouring rain to get to the grocery store, not caring that his jacket was already sticking to his back and water was seeping into his shoes. (More description adds another layer to the story. Billy isn't just trying to get to the store, it's starting to seem important that he gets there. Why else would he take his dad's bike even though it's too big for him and ride it through a storm just to get to the grocery store? What is so important? The reader will start to wonder, possibly without even realizing it. We're gonna have to break this sentence up soon!)

4) Billy pumped the pedals of his father's too large bike with the short, chubby legs of a child. He pedaled hard through the torrent of rain that stung his face and made his clothes stick to him; his shoes squelched with every pump of the pedals. He struggled up the hill towards the grocery store. (Alright, this is good. At least I think so, and I even think we're starting to hit the point of no return. Let's see how much further I can take this.)

5) The rain beat down on Billy as he slammed down on the pedals of his father's awkwardly large bike. His jacket stuck to his back, and his wet jeans made it hard to maneuver the bike up the hill. Rain pelted his face, stinging his eyes and making it difficult to navigate. Billy ignored the sound of his socks squelching inside of his soaked shoes and the raw blisters that were forming; he pedaled on. The grocery store was close.

Are we getting the picture? 'Cause this is getting hard haha, as well it should be. It should get harder and harder to write like this and keep adding details without really changing anything. Which shows that your inner editor knows something is not quite right, and sooner or later you'll start cringing. It'll be too much. I'm not going to keep going because frankly just writing number 5 up there hurt me; I kept catching myself revising it.

Now if you find a paragraph like- or more extreme than- number 5, try to work back words until you've got something a little more manageable. Find out what the core of it is; in this case: Billy rode a bike through the rain to the grocery store.

So that's my two cents for the week. I hope it made sense and that it might actually help someone. Good luck with your writing, and let me know if you give this a shot (and how it works out for you)!

What techniques/tricks/exercises do you use to tighten up your writing?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Writers: Driven or just plain Insane?

Great post from Michelle McLean today about why writers do the things they do, and whether we're all nuts for writing. So head on over and check it out!

(Even if you don't agree, the pictures are good for a laugh!)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Marching Band = Sport = Writing

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a college student. I'm actually a junior English major, a horn and cello player, and a worker at library circulation desk. I am a very busy little bee.

I have class every day, with Mondays and Tuesdays being my busiest days and Thursday coming in a close second. I work 7 hours every other week and 21 the opposite weeks as well as having 5 classes, an hour horn lesson every week, and a 30 minute cello lesson every week. I am also a member of a women's music fraternity which meets every Tuesday night for at least 2 hours, and has smaller meetings every now and then as well as events.

I do my best to find time to write, but lately I've just been exhausted trying to make it through a day at a time. I'm not writing this post to make excuses or complain; I just want to get all of that out there so you all know what I'm working with.

Writing takes time. It takes effort. It takes a whole lot of determination. Writing is a sport. No really, it's like marching band (which is totally a sport and should absolutely get PE credit. I mean if cheerleaders get to call jumping around and shouting a sport, then so should the marching band. I don't mean any offense to cheerleaders, but I lost 15 lbs when I got to college and started marching. It's intense, and it was just as bad in high school and junior high. No joke.).

So, marching band and writing, right. In band you get a drill sheet, which is basically the outline for a picture the band is going to make by reaching the right spot at the right time in the music. You drill this over and over and over until you no longer need to leave a marker in your spot. You just go to it. Every time. And you do it over 20 times (usually for a single song and you'll play a good 3-4 songs for a show). This is completely separate from the music at first, but you can't have a show if you don't have music, just as you can't have a show with music only. They're both essential. Just like so many things in writing.

You can tell a story all you want, but if you don't have great characters, real characters, you don't have a book. You can have the best characters in the world; real, flawed, deep characters, but what good are they without a story. You need plot and setting and characterization and all kinds of things to make a piece of fiction (or non-fiction for that matter) work. And if you're missing just one of those things, or you're weak in one spot, it will throw the entire piece off balance.

If your trumpet section is weak, more than likely your melody is going to get lost in a sea of other parts. If one trombone player is out of step, it will throw someone else off, or it will look bad to someone watching, especially a judge. If the interval is off between two people, not only is there a gap in the overall formation, but it means that person is either going to have to work even harder to get to their next spot, or they're going to miss the next spot too, and the next one...

My point is that writing is complicated. It's hard work. It's a sport in and of itself. And it takes practice to get good at. You have to work at it every chance you get. You have to want to write. You have to love it, because if you don't then why are doing it?

Now then, I'm going to go watch the latest episodes of Bones and Supernatural (squee!!) and then try to get some more writing in myself before I call it a night. Happy writing, or just have a good weekend (whichever works for you).

PS- I think that's the first marching band analogy I've ever seen haha. :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Head on over to...

...Steph Bowe's for an awesome YA Paranormal Romance book package. The contest is international and includes Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, and Intertwined by Gena Showalter. Prize may also contain bookmarks and other little goodies, so head on over and enter to win!

Good luck to everyone!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In Which I'm Having A Bad Day

I'm having a few bad days in a row and to avoid ranting and taking things out on my lovely followers (that's you), I'm going to post a few quotes I like. Because who doesn't like sharing and getting little insights into who a person is by the things they like. Also, I've hit 40 followers! (This makes me very happy :D)

So without further ado, I present some of my favorite quotes about anything and everything:

You know what music is? God's little reminder that there's something else besides us in this universe, a harmonic connection between all living beings, every where, even the stars. - August Rush

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. -Dr. Seuss

There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil— a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome. - Pride and Prejudice

I looked perfect up in one of my etymological dictionaries and found that the word perfect comes from the Latin and means "to do thoroughly." So perhaps we need to redefine perfect. If it really means "to do thoroughly," then one might say that it means to be human, to be perfectly and thoroughly human, and that is what is meant by being perfect: human: not infallible or impeccable or faultless, but human. -Madeleine L'Engle

The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it. Resist it and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden itself. -Oscar Wilde

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi

Have any quotes you want to share? Feel free. Any happy news? I'll take anything today, guys. :) I hope wherever you are, you're having a wonderful day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Resolution Fail

It's 11:19pm on Thursday January 14, and I have officially broken my promise to myself that I would not work on any Shiny New Ideas until RotP had finished the first round of edits. Technically it wasn't a resolution, but it was a personal goal, and I didn't even last a month into the new year (though I have been avoiding this project for many months already).

On the bright side, I'm super excited about said new project! I've also decided that I'm not actually going to write on this project. I'm just going to work on plotting it out, something I've never really done before. We'll see how that goes. As it stands, I've got 3/4 of a page that resembles a query summary of the book-to-be.

Once I get the whole thing outlined or something I'll put it up so you can get all warm and fuzzy and excited and wonder why you didn't think of it first. :P I kid, I kid. It's going to be paranormal YA though, just fyi. And I don't even know that there's going to be any real romance in this one either...huh. Well, that's all for now. Just wanted to share.

Have you already broken your New Year's resolutions? Did you make any? Did you have any goals you made?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

WiP Wednesday

It's that time again; school is in full swing, and I'm trying not to get behind. In facet, I'm actually ahead! I'm going to try to keep it that way. I've read my 8 chapters of Emma for British Literature since 1800 and I've still got all of tomorrow and part of Friday to get my reading done for Cultural Anthropology and Biology. Woo!

What with trying to get the hang of my new schedule, writing has been pretty slow. I did manage to get in over 650 words the other night, but haven't been able to make any progress since then. But, I have had another Shiny New Idea. This makes 3 books I have floating around in my head that I'm not currently working on. At all. I'm thinking I might have to soon... but who knows.

If all goes well tomorrow at work, I'll be able to get some editing done. Yay for working in a library! :D

In other news, I want to say that my heart goes out to those in Haiti. I've seen pictures of the damage that bring tears to my eyes and that make me incredibly thankful for everything in my life, even the things I wish were different right now. Drama and material goods become meaningless in the wake of such destruction. If you haven't already, take a moment to look at your life and think about what your thankful for, and be sure to tell the ones you love how much you care. Time is precious and life can be short.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Books, books, books

Well, it's only the one book really. Rachel K. Vincent's My Soul To Take (from Amazon because I ran off and left my copy at home):

She doesn't see dead people, but…

She senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally.

Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about her need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who'll be next…

I've been meaning to buy a copy of this since I found Rachel's blog, and I just found one for cheap at my local Walden Books (which will sadly soon be closed). I'm so glad I bought it. I read the whole thing that night and stayed up past 1AM to finish it.

My Soul to Take is about Kaylee, a girl with "panic attacks" that are actually death omens in the form of uncontrollable urges to scream. Kaylee is a bean sidhe (banshee), and she doesn't even know it. On top of wailing at inopportune times, Nash, the hottest guy in school, has taken an interest in Kaylee for some unknown reason. And as if things couldn't get worse, she has a "panic attack" in front of him, effectively ruining what little social standing she had, or so she thinks. Suddenly pretty, popular girls start dropping dead, and Kaylee blames herself for not being able to warn them because of her screams.

MSTT is fantastic. I couldn't put it down. Kaylee is a compelling narrator and her interactions with Nash made my heart pound as much as it did hers. I felt her fear and heartbreak when her life started falling apart and girls started dying. But bean sidhes aren't the only things running around in MSTT; there are grim reapers too, and one of them, Tod, is as much of a hotty as Nash is, only he's got the bad boy thing working for him too.

The lore was incredibly iteresting. I'd never heard much about bean sidhes, but Rachel describes everything without preaching or shoving information down your throat. In fact, I'm completely taken with bean sidhes now, and can't wait to get my hands on the next one to find out what's new with Kaylee and Nash and to learn even more about them.

MSTT is a hauntingly beautiful YA novel with unique descriptions and characters who resonate. If you can't get the book or aren't sure if you'll like Kaylee, I recommend checking out the prequel to the series My Soul to Lose. If you've read the book and didn't know about the prequel, that's ok, it isn't necessary to understand the rest of the books. But it is a good, short read that introduces you to Kaylee and her... condition.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Grad School vs Work

I have this dream of working with books. Yes, I'd love to get paid to write them. Obviously. :P But I really want to help bring other people's books into the world as well. Now, I always assumed I would go to grad school and then try for a job, only now I'm beginning to wonder if I should just jump right out there.

I'm torn between Texas Tech (they have a cool Book History program that would go with publishing) and Purdue (it's Purdue...I mean it's pretty awesome) for grad school but I wouldn't be able to work at a lit agency until after I was finished with school.

So, do I wait another 2 years (after graduation in May 2011) or do I move off and become an intern and work my way up or try to get a job with only a BA in English? Anyone know any agents who might have advice? I follow a lot on twitter and on here but I don't know if they'd mind these types of questions. *sigh*

On a writing note, SNI keeps trying to tempt me when I'm trying to go to bed at night. I don't think I'll be able to stay away until I'm finished with edits...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I like books. <3

So, I meant to post for Teaser Tuesday, but that didn't happen. And then I was going to do a WiP Wednesday... that didn't happen either. So, umm, sorry? No, how 'bout I just try to do snippets of both now? I mean it's barely Thursday here, no really it's like 12:30 AM. I can do this.

Teaser (from the very beginning so all you've missed is familial interactions and now he's on a diving board on a yacht):

Tom peeled off his shirt and dropped it on the wooden floor at the foot of the diving board. He let his eyes roam over the dark water and watched the breeze move through the branches of the nearby trees and across the surface of the lake. It was gorgeous. Tom climbed the few small steps to the small diving board and closed his eyes. The light breeze swept over his bare chest and through his short hair and eased the tension out of his muscles. He breathed in the fresh air and bounced lightly a few times to get a feel for the board. For an instant he froze. Tom had always been terrified of drowning, and staring at water that was so deep he couldn’t see the bottom momentarily took control of his nerves. He took a deep breath to steady them, bounced a little higher on the board, and dove.

There was a flash of bright red light as he flew through the air, and Tom automatically threw his arms up to shield his eyes. He kept his eyes closed tight against the harsh light and took a deep breath, bracing himself for the sharp pain of a belly flop that never came. Tom would have been shocked to find a hard floor beneath him instead of the lake if he had seen it coming. His head hit the ground with a sickening crack, and he rolled onto his back automatically. Tears welled in his blue-gray eyes, and he gasped in shock and pain.

The air was cold and thin; the floor was like ice against his bare skin, making it feel as if his skin was tearing away from his bones with every move he made. Tom had difficulty breathing. His lungs felt tight; he choked trying to breathe in, but the air filling his lungs was not the oxygen that his body needed. His lungs were on fire, his head felt like it was splitting apart, and his entire body ached from the impact of his landing and the frigid temperature of the room. He shifted onto his side and tried to ignore the sharp pain in his head, while his lungs screamed for air. Tom clutched at his chest and opened and closed his mouth repeatedly like a fish out of water. He twitched and shook uncontrollably. He held himself tight and curled into a ball in an attempt to reclaim some semblance of control over his own body. He could feel the pressure rising in his head and eyes, and he slipped on to his back once more, gasping for air that would never come. Within seconds he was unconscious. His body was tense for another moment, and then he relaxed. The struggle to breathe was over. Tom had lost.

Alrighty, now then, a WiP update: I am working on editing chapter 2 now and almost finished (I think). Chapter one was 31 pages but I went back and cut it around pg 24 and tagged the rest onto the beginning of chap 2 (obviously). Now my chapters are all going to be out of whack so I have to keep an eye out for new chapter breaks as I go.

Also, did I mention this draft is basically a rewrite? The 1st draft is in 1st person but it wasn't working so now the whole thing is changing to 3rd. Woo! Fun stuff this writing business. :)

In other news, I will be moving back to school on Sunday and resuming classes the very next day. Luckily I don't start working in the library until Tuesday (I am such a nerd haha). This semester is gonna be good. I can feel it... honestly, it just really needs to not suck.

Hopefully (because I have fewer and easier classes), I will not be taking another 3 month blogging hiatus. AND, if all goes well, I might start doing reviews, because I just bought 4 new books and I plan on buying more. :)

Today's book purchases were: Dune, Ender's Game, Wicked, and Stray. I. Cannot. Wait.

That's all for tonight/today/whatever. So what about you, buy any new books lately?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Why I write.

Last night, I was spending time with a few friends from high school who are all incredibly smart and going off to big colleges to do extraordinary things, when we got to talking about life. Now this wasn't the usual this-is-what's-happening-with-me thing, no, this was the what-do-you want-to-do-with-your-life talk. As previously stated, I want to work with books.

Now, these friends actually know that I write, and that I want to be published. Naturally, one of them started to ask me about writing, and he had one major question: Do you care more about the language or the plot?

A good question for any writer, I think. The problem was, he didn't want to accept my answer of "both," he believes that one has to be more dominate than the other. He may or may not be right. Honestly it's not something I think about quite like that. He wanted to break things down into the typical Literature/literature way, and frankly that bothers me. I don't want to write something that looks or sounds beautiful or will be studied for symbolism later on in a classroom -though I wouldn't mind any of those- I want to write a book that will suck someone in and keep them reading. I want to write that book that you have a hard time putting down. So, I guess I focus on plot.

But honestly, I want to write a story that people can go back to over and over again and maybe learn something new about themselves or the characters or life. I want to write a story that people care about. I want to write something that will impact at least one person, even if that's just making someone's day better because they read my story.

I don't know if I've answered his question. I don't know if I ever truly will (I told him plot when I was having a hard time articulating myself). But you know what? I know what I want to do as a writer, and I don't know if I'm any good at it, but I sure as hell try.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hello, New Year!

The last few years have not been the best. They've been littered with betrayals and lies, hardships and tight wallets, and many other not so lovely things. But the last few years have shown me my true friends, and have helped me figure out who I am, who I want to be, and what I want to do with my life. These last few years have also given me even more things to write about.

Life isn't always a walk in the park. In fact, in my experience every day can provide you with more obstacles. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying life is all pain and heartbreak, but I do think it can seem that way. We have a tendency to look back on our lives and remember all of the bad things, all of the things that went horribly wrong, or the things we wish we would have done differently. I've made it a personal goal of mine to look on the bright side of life. To try and see the good things in spite of the bad.

This has become increasingly difficult, but getting to spend time with the people I love has helped me the last couple of weeks. After high school, we all went our separate ways, and now we hardly ever see each other. I got to college and I thought it would be so much better than high school, but it's worse. The people are more immature and even more vicious. I lost all of my friends after the first semester and had to make entirely new ones. Recently, nearly everyone who was there for me after that first rough patch has deserted me. But I've made new and better friends, and just like those select few friends I've managed to keep since high school, they're there for me. And I can't imagine how things would have turned out if I hadn't met any of them.

On a writing note, last night was a big one for me: I finished editing the first chapter of Rise of the Phoenix, and I couldn't be more excited. It still worries me though; I think I might have to split it, but I'm not sure yet. It grew, a lot. The 1st person version is 18 pgs; the new 3rd person rewrite and edit is 31 pgs and 8,200 words. =)

It's a new year, and a new decade. I've never been one for resolutions, but I'm a fan of goals. I mentioned before (a couple of times actually) that I want to be query ready by graduation, May 2011. I want to move it up. By January of 2011, I want to be finished with edits, and have a query and synopsis ready. I want to write more often and on a regular basis. And I want to start playing with my Shiny Idea.

I'm determined to have a fantastic year. So, here's to 2010. May it be filled with happiness and success for everyone.

I've given you my goals. Now, what're yours? Do you want to find the perfect agent? Finish that story you've been writing? Meet new people? Let's hear it!


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