Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Year in Blog: A Look Back at 2013

No, I did not get published in 2013, but that doesn't mean that exciting things did not happen in the ever-evolving writing world that is documented here on The Sunflower's Scribbles.

For one thing, in January, I decided that whatever number of posts I ended up with that month would be the number of posts I would aim for every month for the rest of the year. And I succeeded--eight posts every month. I'm not sure that I'll necessarily keep up that pace in 2014, but we'll see.

I think 2013 is the year that this blog grew up. I feel like my posts became better and certainly more thought-out. I'm really grateful and thrilled for the followers and the comments! Writing can be a lonely thing sometimes, especially when the people around you don't write, so the connections one gains through the Internet is truly invaluable. But I hope Blogger figures out how to let Apple tablet and iPhone users leave comments on the blog, too. And that more readers would, like, actually leave comments. Even on really old posts. It would make me incandescently happy. *ahem*

I won a Blogging Award.

I participated in a blog hop and a blog chain this year.

I read a lot of books in 2013, probably more than I've actually read in the previous two years because of my newest toy, my Kindle.

I saw 3 plays, 1 musical, went to a cabaret show at 54 Below, a dance show that my friend was in, 3 concerts and a Yankee game in 2013.

In terms of fiction writing, I completed the third draft of the WIP (yay!), edited it, sent it to a beta (the first time I've really ever had someone I don't know read my work, besides college), then realized that it was going to need a lot of thought, research, and shaping to get it up to where it is in my head. I'm in the middle of finishing up some reading for the book, as well as scribbling down ideas and outlines in an actual notebook before I dive into the fourth draft. I know I need to be precise about the plot and characters this time around. But--since it's a 4th draft--I doubt that the actual writing will take as long as the past three drafts have taken.

Also, I wrote a NaNo novel this year. It was amazing to have a new idea taking shape in my imagination. I tried my hand at writing two short plays, too. I think one of them might have some possibilities as a novel if I can get through this upcoming 4th draft without losing my mind.

I discovered that I actually do have the patience to outline, too.

So here's to 2014! Happy New Year everyone!


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!!


Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Updated to add: So tonight at the family Christmas gathering, my dad began telling a story of the one Christmas he remembers from his childhood. Christmas 1964. This is how he set the scene (I get a good dose of my penchant for storytelling from him, btw). Grandma was still depressed that Barry Goldwater lost the election. My uncle Tommy got a Beatles record. I'm not sure what Uncle Joe was doing, but let's say he was reading in the corner. Grandpa was grouchy simply because it was Christmas. The boys had gotten a Rock 'em Sock 'em robot set for Christmas, which was set up. My dad and Tommy began playing with it. Tommy hit the controls so hard that not only did the other robot's head come off but the plastic neck broke and the head could not be reattached. Cue Grandpa going ballistic. 

Anyway, Dad's secretaries bought him a Rock 'em Sock 'em robots set this year, which he brought to Christmas. We took turns playing with it.

My cousin @ilovetoread09 tweeted this earlier:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Of Dialects

One of my Facebook friends posted this link called How Y'all, Youse, and You Guys Talk. It's about how your mix of vocabulary and pronunciation identify your dialect. Try it out and let me know what you get. Does it correspond to where you're from or no?

I took it twice so far, just for kicks. Both times, the quiz has pegged me for the New Yorker I am--New York, Newark/Paterson (in New Jersey) and Yonkers, NY, to be exact. It's interesting, because I'm from Queens, which has its own very distinct accent.


You know Fran Drescher, the Nanny? Grew up in the neighborhood I grew up in. I think she even went to my junior high. I don't sound like her---I've lost the worst of the accent a bit, though I think I'm still distinctly New York in some of my speech patterns and vocab. I would have thought that a little bit of Boston would have rubbed off on my speech, having been to college there, but other than the fact that I can dip into Bostonian when I choose, apparently it has not.

The quiz says "sneakers" is the reason why I "sound" like a New Yorker. I love dialect quirks and accents.




Thursday, December 19, 2013

NaNo '13:Winner Shirt! (And hoodie)



So as you can see, my winner shirt came today! I bought the hoodie,too. Why not? It's not often that writers get writing-related clothing, right?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Downton Abbey Season 4 Q&A and a mini-rant

So, as any semi-regular reader of this blog knows, I'm a bit obsessed with Downton Abbey. The fourth season is going to begin airing in the U.S. starting January 5th on PBS. The cast have been out and about on American TV. I was settling in to watch the PBS Q&A. Pretty interesting stuff. The cast are pros at not spoiling things, so it's safe to watch.You can watch it here:


And catch some of the cast's other appearances at Downton Abbey Addicts.

Then I scrolled down to the comments. Few good things come out of YouTube or Yahoo comments (unlike on this blog, where clearly, comments are the Best Thing Ever), I've noticed.

You see, it's been mentioned that there's a new character (and I can confirm he's a lovely man) named Jack Ross, an African-American jazz singer, who meets and interacts with the Crawley family on Downton this upcoming season. I talked a little about him here.

But anyway, in the comments below the Q&A, you'll notice someone complaining about "Why does this show need to show interracial dating? They didn't do that back then! I watch this show so I don't have to watch modern-day issues."

And reading that reminded me of one of the many reasons why I'm writing and am determined to finish The Sailor's Daughters aka The Keegan Inheritance. Because we need more historical fiction (and, frankly, more fiction, period) depicting people of color and of particular interest to me, being biracial, we need more historical fiction and fiction period depicting people of different races interacting---whether the interaction is negative, friendly, romantic, in trade, in war. 'Cause guess what? It's been happening since the dawn of time! This isn't new, people!

I feel like I've ranted about this kind of thing, too. Oh, I have: Too modern? That whole post is about storylines in historical fiction dramas that people find "too modern."




Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Marshall Plan Workbook


So as I've been re-reading my notes and getting further into a very academic but decently helpful book about Bristol, England's port, I've also been casting around for ideas on how to better outline a story.

I seem to have a problem where I run out of steam on a novel, usually by climax time, and I don't ratchet the tension up enough and it falls apart toward the end. So, in order to not do that, as well as to get a sense of where the story is going before I'm two hundred pages in, I skimmed through a book I've had for a few years called The Marshall Plan Workbook by Evan Marshall.

Has anybody used this?

Not sure if it'll necessarily help me, but it was good to take a look through it again. The workbook has lived on my floor. My dad bought it for me when I was in high school and so, there are notes and questions answered on stories I didn't even bring around to the writing stage. It's kind of funny to read those notes now.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Filtering

Until I joined AbsoluteWrite, I had never heard of the writing term "filtering" before. But it turns out to be a technical term for something fairly simple in creative writing.

She saw him cross the street and approach.

He looks and sees her weave in and out of the crowd.

The children notice that their toys are missing.

None of those sentences are noticeably weird, right? There's nothing glaringly wrong about them.

Filtering is when you place a character between the detail you want to present and the reader. 

In other words, filtering is distancing the detail or image from the reader. I tend to do this in first drafts (and, ahem, maybe in parts of third drafts...), usually when I can't think of a way to introduce something in a more graceful way. I've noticed filtering more now that I know what it is, usually in third person POVs.

It was pointed out in several posts on AW that filtering can come across as lazy writing because, duh, in 3rd person POV, it should be obvious who the viewpoint character is. Therefore, if, say, a woman happens to be in a cafe or something and looks out the window and sees the guy she despises crossing the street and coming toward the same cafe, then obviously, she sees him.

Therefore, no need to say, "She saw him cross the street." Edit. Just write: "She gritted her teeth because Danny was crossing the street, his stride leading him to the door of the cafe."

This way, the reader sees him crossing the street, too, instead of watching her watch him cross the street. Get it?

Filtering aids in that old adage of "show, don't tell."

Here are some good sources on "filtering:"
Filtering
An Introduction to Filtering

So, have you heard of filtering? Do you do it?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

And the NaNo story is finally finished

Ahh...it's done. Finally. I'll admit to losing a bit of focus and motivation after November turned into December. I really just want to hibernate. I also want to get back into the research and re-aquainting myself with my historical fiction project again. December=research and outline to make sure the fourth draft turns out better than the third one did.

But back to the hibernation. This is not helped by the cold I'm getting over. Sinus blockages and constant nose-blowing do not make one want to write anything, even an "easy story."

I know I fudged the ending a bit. It's rushed. I seem to still have issues with the big build up to the Big Climactic Scene. Ugh.

But anyway, for the record, this story came in at 73,832 words. I finished NaNo with 67,003 words.

But it's done and now I can move on, satisfied with the knowledge that I didn't leave anybody hanging.

And by anybody, clearly I mean my fictional characters.


Friday, November 29, 2013

NaNo '13: Day 29


All right, dear readers. I validated my novel on Tuesday (63, 418 words), but since I wasn't finished with the story yet, I kept updating even after validating.

Still not done yet. Looks like it won't get finished within November, so I'll be taking the first few days of December to finish the story, then move on to reading about Bristol's ports as research for my historical fiction WIP ahead of re-reading, gnashing of teeth, and outlining.

But anyway. This is your last AbsoluteWrite NaNoWriMo Blog Chain excerpt. Enjoy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

NaNo '13: Day 22


So, as some of you may have read, I hit 50,000 on Sunday the 17th. I'm still writing and the word count is still going up because I'm now trying to finish this story.

This is excerpt four, part of the AW NaNoWriMo Excerpt Blog Chain.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

NaNo '13: Day 17: 50K words reached!

People, just a few moments ago, I put my Word doc back into normal viewing mode (I write it in full screen mode during NaNo so that I don't stare at the word count on the bottom) and waved my hands in the air and texted a friend and made a lot of squeaky noises.

I hit 50,000 words. I wrote 50,000 words of a book in 17 days, by far my earliest NaNo win. I don't have a winner's badge yet, because it's not time to verify my win yet.

In case you're wondering, this is what I reached 50,000 with:

"Being thanked for my patience always makes me feel impatient," Colin says. 

Hmm. Wonder what that's about? I may have hit the NaNo goal, but I'm not done with the story. I still have a climax to wrench up to and an ending to write.

But, oh, my God, does it feel good to hit the goal!

Good luck to all you NaNo'ers out there! Kick butt and write on!

Friday, November 15, 2013

NaNo '13: Day 15


For whatever reason, Week Two of NaNoWriMo is often uphill. Whether it's because every movie you ever wanted to see is released in November or because after writing so much stuff, you get that sinking feeling that it's really not very good, Week Two is not the best week of NaNo.

I hit a little bit of that lovely Week Two writing A.D.D. over the second weekend because I was working and then again on Day 12, also due to work and finding shiny things to distract myself with. I'm a compulsive word count updater and it irks me when I update and see that the paragraph I just wrote was only 400 words long and not, like, a thousand.

I'm still excited about the story. I'm at a good part of it, actually (they're finally going out together!) Then somebody told me that I'm ahead by a lot, so "calm down and enjoy the process."

Ugh. Just because I'm ahead doesn't mean I'm not feeling Week Two. And it doesn't mean that I'm NOT enjoying the process. The good thing is, if I have Colin and Emma in the same scene, their conversations go on for ages.

Also, I had an epiphany earlier. I thought Emma was turning into me, a recurring problem that I have with modern day female characters. But actually, though we share some of the same traits, views and problems, I am not Emma and she is not me. We only have similarities because a) she came out of my brain and b) we're both modern day young women.

So that's the rant. Here's the excerpt. As always, part of the AW NaNo Blog Chain:

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Song and a 9 minute beat poem

I just hit over 33,000 words (I've written 3,000 total just today) and I am taking a little break before I go back to finish this scene. I'm still pondering whether to post the story once it's finished on the blog, kind of serialized style.

At any rate, I think I'd like to do an "annotated" version. I did this once with a fanfiction I wrote about five years ago. It was never posted online, but because the fic was based on a real person and a (very) Mary Sue character, there were certain songs and clips on YouTube that I could refer to. I linked them within the document and emailed it off to my friends. It was fun.

I might have written it before I started this blog.

At any rate, I do have some clips and pictures and whatnot in mind that work as inspirations for this NaNo story. Including the reason why I'm calling it Inventing Shadows, which is the closest thing I could think of to be a title.

"Inventing Shadows" is a song by Dia Frampton, who was on the first season of The Voice. I didn't really listen to it after I downloaded it. But it came up on my iPod one day and I was thinking of this story and about Emma. I think "Inventing Shadows" sort of embodies Emma's struggles with herself:

So you keep on/ Inventing shadows/Where there are none

The full lyrics are here.

And then there's "Storm." So, you see, because I loved Matilda the Musical, I googled its composer, whose name I thought I recognized from somewhere. Then I fell into the rabbit hole of YouTube because Tim Minchin, who is a comedian, songwriter, and actor is hilarious. And one of my favorites of his is his nine-minute beat poem, "Storm."



Storm is what I based the very fictional new musical in the story on. It's the one in which Colin stars. Don't ask me the exact storyline, 'cause I don't know.

Friday, November 8, 2013

NaNo '13: Day 8


This NaNoWriMo is going differently to the NaNos I've done. That's an understatement. I remember my first NaNo being a challenge. I was not writing over a thousand words everyday. NaNo felt insurmountable at times.

My second NaNoWriMo in 2011 was 50,000 words of a first draft--in fact, the first draft of The Sailor's Daughters. Whatever black-hearted idiot said that writing is useless is wrong. Know why? You know how I've written three complete drafts of Sailor's Daughters? How I wrote, revised, edited, rewrote a 115,000-word manuscript three times since NaNo 2011? Yeah, doing that makes a huge difference when it comes to the discipline of sitting there and just typing.

I said before starting NaNo that this year's NaNo story will not go beyond November. Which is why I really want to finish it, hit "the end" at the end of November. I'm not going to revise it. I'm not going to submit it anywhere. I'm still debating on whether I want to post it on this blog, installment-style, the way I did with Book the First.

And what's the point of that? Well, I believe that with each project, a writer learns new tricks. With Inventing Shadows, I am learning how to write about a familiar environment (modern New York City) without inserting myself into it. It's a problem I've had in the past. I'm also learning how to get along with an outline. Am I following the outline I wrote in October? Yes. Am I giving myself permission to switch a scene or a POV around when I feel like it would work better? Yes. I'm playing with a new idea after a long time. And just because I don't intend to do anything with it after November doesn't mean I'm not writing the best I can considering the volume of words I'm producing.

Ow. Ear infections suck, by the way.

This post is part of the AbsoluteWrite NaNo '13 BlogChain. This is this week's excerpt. It's a wee bit long.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bubble, Bubble: Macbeth

A view of the MET, Lincoln Center


Tonight, instead of feverishly trying to get to 20,000 words on my NaNo project (you'll get another excerpt on Friday), I took a wee break to go see Macbeth, currently in previews at the Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center.

And I took the opportunity to walk around the west side in a way I haven't done in a long time. More fodder for the novel. My friend even helped me make a list of places I should stick into the story.

Macbeth is one of the numerous Shakespeare plays I read in high school. It was the one I remember as the most...malleable...when it came time to write comparison essays for the New York State Regents. I remember watching a Japanese film adaptation called Throne of Blood, directed by Akira Kurosawa, in English class, where Lady Macbeth was simply frightening because of the placement of her eyebrows and her entrances and exits in absolute silence.

This production stars Ethan Hawke as Macbeth and Anne-Marie Duff as Lady Macbeth. The set was very interesting; the stage is HUGE. I looked down and saw the stage in the round, but actually, it extends into a full stage that goes very far back. There was much jogging by the actors during scene changes.

The Three Witches were always one of my favorite parts of Macbeth. The witches were played by three men, with familiars crawling on the floor and making animal noises. Smoke, lights, and a very cool backdrop lent more to the eeriness of the witches.

My other favorite of Macbeth? Lady Macbeth. I love her when she's planning murder. I love her when she's taunting her husband. I even like her when she falls into guilt-ridden madness. I liked her in this production very much. (If you want to read something mystical and based on the historical Celtic queen that Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth is based, I highly recommend Susan Fraser King's Lady Macbeth).

I'll be honest, though: Donalbain and Malcolm and Fleance and all of them? Could not tell them apart. Only figured out which one was Malcolm when he was ordering his army to cut down trees in Birnam Wood (the way they did this was so cool, btw).

And now I have a list of places to potentially add to the NaNo, which is a total bonus.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNo '13: Day One



So NaNoWriMo has begun and I got out of the gate at midnight and wrote until about 2:30 am. Then I went to sleep, got up, wrote a little more and then was out of the house all day until now. As I started typing the beginning, I felt kind of rusty. Whether that's because I skipped last year's NaNo, because I've basically been working on The Sailor's Daughters for two years, because while I outlined this year's NaNo, I still don't have a handle on my main characters (not in the way I do after a first draft is written, for instance), or because omg!Colin got on the subway because this is a contemporary-set-story-wtf!, I'm not really sure. I hope it feels easier as I go on.

Still have some more Day One Word Count to go, but so far I am at 2034 words. Every Friday in November, I'll be posting excerpts from my NaNo project as part of the NaNo Excerpt Blog Chain 2013 on AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler. In between, I suspect I'll post about how my brain is melting, among other things. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

On Pearl, New Research, and a Bib

Before I dive into the madness and exhilaration of NaNoWriMo, I wanted to leave October with a hint of what I'll be working on come December, once the NewBrightShiny Idea is written and I have some time to think through what I want to do to The Sailor's Daughters, that ridiculous piece of work that is my historical fiction novel.

I say "ridiculous" lovingly.

This picture over yonder is a photo of some of my sources--those that I have in physical form. Aren't they pretty?

Yes, I am a massive nerd. Somewhere along way, these pesky Keegans went from a frothy turn-of-the-century, Jane Austen-ish story to something that requires a lot of facts and some sense of realism.

All I can say is, Thank God I'm not writing about real people who existed, y'know?


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Historical Context

So, as I'm outlining my NaNo, my characters do things that normal New Yorkers do: go to Starbucks, take the subway, complain about the subway, do a side-eye when a celebrity walks by but go on about your business, get stuck in crowds, bitch about how slow some people walk. I'm deliberately leaving the year that this story takes place vague, but it's definitely New York as I experience it now, you know?

It's different in my historical fiction, which starts in 1799 and kind of ends in mid-1801. There were several large-scale things happening at the time, like the continuous warfare between Britain and France that would last until Waterloo, the growing British abolition movement (though, in 1800, because of sedition laws passed as Britain entered war against France, abolition groups weren't meeting), King George III's intermittent madness.

Then there are the general things about the time period that apply when one is writing about a segment of the British aristocracy.

Estates, because the British upper classes owned them, sometimes several of them. Estates included not only a large house, parkland, and farms, but entire villages, too.

Primogeniture. The oldest son inherits the bulk of everything--title, money, land, house. This is especially true if there is an entail, an archaic piece of law that you may heard about four dozen times in the first season of Downton Abbey. An entail made it impossible for one lord, let's say, to sell his house or to sell too much land to cover his gambling debts so that the heir would inherit a house and land to earn his income. The daughters had dowries once they married. The younger sons? Bah. Here's your allowance and maybe a piece of unentailed land or a house, now go work. But not, like, work. Go into the army as an officer, which won't pay you enough to live on. Go into the navy, go become a lawyer or a politician.

How do you think a historical fiction author makes stuff like this clear? How does one get the time period and the intricacies of the time period across without veering into, "Well, you know, Lord Bob, when you die, your heir inherits..."

I'm thinking back on when I read The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick. It's about William Marshal, who rose to become England's regent after King John's death. So it takes place in the 1180s and the sequel covers the latter part of Marshal's life. Not a time period I really know anything about, but I soon got the hang of the period while reading.

I'll have to figure out what made it easy to slip into medieval England.

Friday, October 18, 2013

7 Things a Writer Should Do...

...after you get a beta's comments back on your WIP.

1. Read them. I took about two days to read and analyze my beta's very astute comments and then the rest of the time to read through the Track Changes in the document itself.

2. Have a drink. Not because the comments were harsh or bad, but because thinking about the amount of work that has to be done is simply exhausting. Plus, I happened to be out with friends in a place where drinks were readily available.

3. Thank your beta. I feel like this should be a given.

4. Process the experience. Can I just talk to you about college writing workshops for a second? They soured me on the whole workshop/critique/beta thing. Ask my college roommate about my state of mind after workshop---and that's mostly because in writing programs, they don't teach you how to approach workshopping someone else's piece. So then you have people telling you stuff like, "I don't like your main character." No explanation. No reason given. So really, having actual constructive crit on my work is mind-bending.

5. Make some decisions. Go on with the piece? (Yes). Take some time off? (I haven't read it since I sent it, so when I was re-reading it yesterday, I re-read it with fresh eyes.) Am I still feeling the characters or the setting or the initial story? (Yeah, but I'm also prepping for my NaNo project, so my attention is a little divided). Dive in now or later? (I'll go back to it in December, when NaNo is done. Gives me some time to think about my approach.)

6. Think about a new project. I've learned that I'm not much good when not working on a writing project of some kind. I get all tense and extra-anxious and kind of scary-emo when I'm not writing. In this case, the new project is my planned NaNo, which should be fun to write over November. Also, since I seem to be able to outline the NaNo in pretty good detail (something I've never had the ability or patience to do before), when December rolls around and I'm ready to get back to the pesky Keegans and their pesky Georgian England problems, maybe I can bring my awesome outlining skills to a new draft.

7. Read through the notes I took as I was researching the book. Mostly because there were details I've forgotten by this point, stuff about manumission and potentially bad harvests. Found some new things worth reading as research in the Kindle Store. Think about how much telling vs. showing one does to get a historical period across. Novels aren't textbooks, after all.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Most Famous Book Set In Every State

My friend Meta the Beta sent me this yesterday. It's a story on Business Insider.com and it's called The Most Famous Book Set In Every State.

Cool, huh? Scroll down on the link for the book summaries. What's the supposed most famous book set in your state?

From Businessinsider.com/Mike Nudelman

The Great Gatsby is on the list for New York, my home state. It might be the most taught book taking place in New York, but I'd counter that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is also a famous book set here. Or that Walden is hardly the only famous book written about Massachusetts. I had to read The Scarlet Letter, Ethan Frome, and The Crucible in school.

So. Agree or disagree with any of the choices?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chapter-by-Chapter Outlines

                                                   

I classify myself as a sort-of pantser. What I mean is that I go in to a first draft with main characters, backstory, and a basic idea of the plot and maybe some research (if applicable). And then I go off into the chaos and fury of a first draft.

For whatever reason, I already know what I want endgame to be in this upcoming NaNo project. So, to stave off any urges to cheat and dive in to my first draft, I'm writing my outline. I started in my usual way. Setting: New York City, roughly this year, but could be next year. Characters: Emma, Ailey, Colin, Lily and some minor characters. Backstory: Emma's family is political, she is not particularly politically-inclined. In fact, she's agoraphobic. Colin's an actor, the son of jobbing actors, and becoming a bit more well-known.

And then a weird thing happened. Because I decided on my NaNoWriMo project so early, I found myself thinking about my characters a lot. How did they meet? What were their impressions of each other? Then I started a chapter-by-chapter outline. I'm on Chapter 13 now. This is the first time I've actually done a chapter-by-chapter outline of anything I've written.

Not entirely true: I did a chapter-by-chapter thing for the very first incarnation of the Keegan Inheritance, back when I thought of it as a romance novel. But the descriptions were vague. For example:

Chapter 10: It is time for Madeline to call on Laura. Henry tells Madeline that the house belongs to a French spy. Madeline and Laura have an awkward visit. Louis comes home to find Laura saying good-bye to Madeline. 

Chapter 11 in the NaNo project looks like:
Susan, Lily's mom, has been busy organizing Vivian's house after the death. Vivian lived in a nice, suburban, smallish house near the Nassau/Queens border on the North Shore of the Long Island...The furniture and other stuff will have to be accounted for...Susan, Bob, and Emma's dad decide what they want to keep. The kids get to work organizing the basement and the attic. Emma, Bryce, and Robin are in the basement. All they find are boxes of grandpa's things, old Christmas decorations, broken stuff, old computer equipment. Bryce carries the boxes up.

It's actually more detailed that that, but who knows what'll change before November? I'm going for 80,000 words this year. I've already won NaNo twice with 50,000. Let's up the ante a little. I hope that organizing my story beforehand will help me fix necessary things before I dive in to the madness of November.

Do you do chapter-by-chapter outlines? How detailed are they?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

On Anna

This post contains spoilers for Downton Abbey, season 4, episode 3. Don't read this if you haven't been watching or actually care about getting spoiled.

Also, as Australian comedian Tim Minchin says, this is one of my rare (ha!) but fun rants.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

New Adult

I don't usually have a problem identifying the genre of my stories. If it's not blatant fanfic, then what I've written can easily be categorized as romance or historical fiction or chick lit.

But for the new NaNo, chick lit didn't seem to fit. I mean yeah, it's about a young woman and her...issues..., but there's also a guy's perspective in there, plus a little bit of a family background and whatever else comes out in the third week of November.

So then I thought, "Huh. What about New Adult?"

New Adult is a category I've been seeing more and more. And it's basically what I thought it was--and where I think my NaNo project (and indeed, a lot of my contemporary-set stories) sit comfortably. I doubt that people who aren't in writing or publishing know what it is nor do they care.

Sorry. You're getting a publishing education on this blog, too.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Retail Rant

People,

If you are going to call a store in another state to order an item to have shipped to your house, please don't be surprised by the shipping fee.

As in, yes, we have one. The fuck do you think this is, Amazon?

Yes, I'm sure the item total has to be over $50 to get free shipping. Really, I'm sure. No, really. It's 10:21 pm and we close at 10:30. Let's finish this off. What's your information?

The item you want to order doesn't accept coupons. But you know what? Even with shipping, this order is less than $20.

You want me to go fetch a random item to get your order above $50. Huh? How about I put it on hold for you and you can decide on an add-on tomorrow and call for the order then?

Oh, now you just want your original item. Fine. No, it doesn't take coupons. No, you don't get 20% off with your card. I'm sure you got free shipping with your last order, but no, it won't work on this one. Sorry.

Oh, now you want to put it on hold.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

The NaNo Idea: Setting



NaNoWriMo begins in a month and change. For the first time in quite a while, I have a shiny new idea developing.

I want the tone and impeccable characterization of a fanfiction I really love called Both Alike in Dignity (a Downton Abbey modern alternate universe. Don't even need to know anything Downton to read it) mixed with a dash of the Pistol Annies' "Hush Hush."

I'm not sure how my mind spins story ideas out of seemingly unrelated things.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Writer's Guide To Character Traits

                                                              

When I was starting work on Last Request, I knew that the story was going to have to be modern. The characters were genuinely messed up and since I had a habit of inserting myself and my friends into any modern-set story I wrote, I wanted to really get into my characters' psychology because they were shaping up to be original characters, very different from anyone I knew.

So I bought the Writer's Guide to Character Traits by Linda Edelstein. I took it out again recently in my quest to fill in the blanks of the male romantic lead in my upcoming NaNo project. I'm outlining it now. We'll see if I can avoid total first draft mess in November. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Backstory

Ah, backstory. That stuff that happens before your story starts. The reason why your character is so messed up and why he or she is in these circumstances in the first place.

I like backstory--that is, I seem to spin backstory more easily than I do plot, which is a problem. Your character's childhood, family, reason why he/she is afraid of spiders, where they grew up, what kind of education they received...

Unless any of this is the main plot of your story, then it is backstory--and should be revealed sparingly.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Downton Abbey season 4

Photo credit: Nick Briggs/Carnival Films


Downton Abbey season 4 starts back in the UK this coming Sunday. It won't air in the U.S. until January.

The series 4 press pack was recently released. Very veiled spoilers. You can see most of the characters who will be featured in the season.

Season 4 starts six months after last year's Christmas special. The Downton estate is once again in a state of flux after Matthew's death. Not only is Mary, his widow, still deep in mourning, but the heir to the estate is a six-month-old baby boy.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Post-Draft Emptiness

I've blogged a lot about what happens pre-writing, during writing, revising, editing...but never what quite happens after one is, for the time being, finished.

It's a curious feeling.

I finished revising my third draft in late July. Since then, I've been editing, which means that I've been reading it over and not extensively rewriting. I've mostly been clarifying where I thought the thing needed clarifying and nit picking over specific words and sentences. I cut out a character and overall, cut a thousand words. I took my time.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Semester of Infidelity

It's the first day of school for New York City public school students, which got me thinking about one of the oddest English class semesters I ever had.

I think it was English 6, the second semester of 11th grade, and we were finished with our English Regents. But we still had to take English class.

That semester was...different than the others. I haven't thought about it in years, but if there was a theme to that semester, it was infidelity.

Here's what we read:
The Crucible
Ethan Frome
The Great Gatsby
"The Storm" by Kate Chopin

Have you guys read these? Did you read them in school?

My favorite read of the semester is a toss-up between Gatsby, which sent me on a Fitzgerald binge not long after, and The Crucible, which I used to read aloud to myself (I performed that seeing spirits in the courtroom scene in my dining room.)

But, my God, Ethan Frome. I don't remember the book too well, but it definitely wins the Most Depressing Novel I've Ever Read Award.

I remember: snow. A sled. Somebody running the sled into a tree. Just grimness all around.

And "The Storm." As one friend put it during a class discussion: "This is like softcore porn!"

What kind of semester themes did you have in high school?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Goodbye, Lady Rossmore

Quick Note: For those of you reading this on an iPhone, iPad or iPod, Blogger's comment box and those devices do not go together. My phone freezes when I try to reply to comments and then won't post. Why? I don't know.

For whatever reason, somewhere during the first draft of my WIP, I wrote a few chapters with this one character, Lady Rossmore, in it. I think I created her to a) fill up the middle of my book and b) to contrast her with Mrs. Braddock, a saucy widow who lives in my village and is all up in my MC's business.

There's some chitchat about Lady Rossmore, who is a countess, the widow of a dead Irish earl who died during the 1798 rebellion possibly looking for a husband, and look, we have this widower in the parish, after all. Problem was, Lady Rossmore has 5 kids and as much as I loved writing the few scenes she was in (three, all told), I could never get her to come across as less-than-haughty and cold.

Monday, September 2, 2013

When Does Diversity Become Token?

I was reading some research the other day and came across this article written in 2011: Why Wuthering Heights Gives Me Hope. I haven't seen the last adaptation of Wuthering Heights and I haven't read the novel in more than ten years, but the article's point intrigued me because it's related to my novel--

Why aren't there black people in British costume dramas?

The article, by the way, was written by a black British actor. Apparently, in the version of Wuthering Heights that he mentions, Heathcliff was played by a black actor named James Howson. This isn't a case of color blind casting, since Heathcliff is described as "dark" and "a little Lascar" and "gypsy-like" within the novel, so the casting could very well be a legitimate reading. Didn't the father pick him up in Liverpool or something?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Romeo and Juliet




First, a message from my 17-year-old self: Oh, my God! Oh, my God! I was in the same room as Orlando Bloom! Breathing the same air! Oh, my God! I saw him act in person! Ahhhh!

Back to being 27 years old: As you can probably guess from the giant photo of a poster above, Orlando Bloom, he of elves and pirates, he of the endless (literally) volume(s) of fanfiction I produced from ages 17 to 19, is making his Broadway debut in Romeo and Juliet as, well, Romeo. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gossip

What's the last juicy bit of gossip you heard?

Somewhere along the way, gossip has become a theme in my WIP. I knew it was there and I knew it was an important theme because of the story--new neighbor moves into small English village. New neighbor has two kids of obviously different racial origins. New neighbor lives in 1800. Commence gossiping!

But then the gossip element took on its own life--one of the best things about novel writing--and it is a huge part of the climax and denouement, even if I think the ending is still a bit rushed.

I have these three minor characters in my book--Mrs. Henson, the innkeeper's wife; Mrs. Thomas, the wife of a naval officer whom we never meet; and Mrs. Brown, His Lordship's gamekeeper's wife. They all play a part in their friendship: Mrs. Brown, as the wife of one of the local lord's employees, brings gossip from the estate to her friends in the village. Mrs. Thomas clucks disapprovingly about everyone. Mrs. Henson hears everything in the inn. They were kind of inspired by the ladies in Cranford, who gossip and spread news around town.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Translating From the Rei, pgs. 200-432 (the current end)


You know you wanted part two of the Gloriously Awkward Sentences. I have finally finished this pass of editing (I'm not too happy with the last five chapters in that everything feels rushed, so I'll be bucking those up).

Part One is here.

In the meantime, take a look at more weird sentences, likely typed at 4 am.


Past her, on the blanket, the four little girls stood.
A prime example of Queens grammar if ever there was one. Notice the backwards construction.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Careful, or You'll End Up in My Novel


from Cafepress.com


This post stems from a conversation with two friends, Beta and Shar-Shar.

I was, as usual, updating them on the progress of Le Novel. They're not very good blog readers, my friends. Anyway, I was telling Beta about some of the new elements in the book since she read the finished second draft. She seemed satisfied that I was following her advice lol.

I told them how the antagonist, Mrs. Hamilton, is sort of based on several managers at work who get on my nerves. But actually, that's not entirely true. She is really based--in fact, her name comes from--this awful science teacher I had in junior high who didn't really teach, had arbitrary rules, and then made me stand in front of the class for three days presenting a science fair experiment, by the end of which I was in tears.

It's okay; I'm over it. (She says gleefully).

Monday, August 12, 2013

Translating from the Rei, pgs.1 to 200


I am editing my manuscript right now. Instead of endless rewrites, I'm reading through it in its entirety and making corrections--spelling, grammar, word choice, deleting repetitive phrases, deleting unnecessary adverbs, passive voice into active voice. Little nitpicky line editing things.

I often feel that my grammar is on shaky ground. As I've ranted about before, my high school English classes were almost exclusively about dissecting literature, always more about the New York State Regents Tedious Torture Exam. One of these days, I'll tell you about the Semester of Infidelity in 11th grade.

We learned verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, punctuation, predicates, and subject in elementary school, but a great deal of English grammar has come to me through osmosis--hearing other people speak, reading others' words.

Which is fine for everyday. Except that it reminds me of a time in 8th grade: I was doing homework. My dad read over my mini-essay and said, "That sentence is backwards."

"Huh?"

"No, honey, this is the way it should go. That clause first, then a comma, then that clause. They don't teach you grammar in English?"

"No."

My teachers and I shared a bizarre New York City dialect, which tends to shorten words and construct sentences backwards. My father grew up in Queens, too, but he's good at linguistics.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Matilda the Musical and Kids' Books



I went to see Matilda the Musical at the Shubert Theatre last night. It was about as magical as I thought it would be. Beta and I went in excited to see it and came out loving the show, quoting lyrics and lines to each other ("Maggots." "Hey boy!" "I'm a girl!" "My mummy says I'm a miracle." "Ian McEwan/ Ugh, I feel like spewin'"). So much of the story is about storytelling, reading and the power of imagination that it's pretty perfect for a writer in editing mode to see. Because stories are magic. 

Plus, since Beta and I both enjoy the anarchic songs of Tim Minchin, the composer, who is also a songwriter/piano player/comedian, we appreciated the wordplay in the lyrics.

Seriously--wonderful performances. Four girls alternate the role of Matilda. Our Matilda was Bailey Ryon. 

Matilda is based on Roald Dahl's book, which happens to be Beta's favorite childhood book. I don't specifically remember reading Matilda as a child, but I remember James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

I spent most of my childhood stuck in books--mostly Babysitters' Club and American Girl. I remember Bridge to Terabithia a little bit (so sad!) and Tuck Everlasting (where I declared during a group discussion that I would not want to be permanently 12 years old. Seriously. Why would I want to be pubescent for the rest of my life?)

Other childrens' book I remember, some of them very vaguely:

Number the Stars 
The Great Gilly Hopkins (first time I learned about Galadriel the Elf Queen)
Circle of Gold
How My Parents Learned To Eat (the first time I read a book where the protagonist was half Asian and half white, like me.)
A Family Apart

-What were your childhood reads? Did you read Matilda as a kid?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

On Editing


I've gotten through editing chapter one. It's mostly trimming sentences or replacing boring verbs with better ones or clarifying or realizing that I've used the same word twice in same sentence. Truth is, I wonder if it's too front-loaded---if there's actually too much going in the first ten pages or so that it might confuse readers.

I'll worry about that on the next pass, I think.

Instead of printing out the manuscript or immediately handing it over to a beta reader, I uploaded the document onto my Kindle. It's not quite as well-formated as a real e-book would be, but I find that the Kindle is great for reading--no urge to fiddle with my story every ten minutes.

So what I did and what I'm hoping to continue doing as I go through this editing stage is:


  • Reading through the book to see how it reads. Does it make sense? Is there too much of this, too little of that? 
  • Am I filtering? (i.e., do I have Miles looking at things when it's in his POV and therefore, obvious that he has to be looking at it or else why am I even mentioning it?)
  • Is there enough description? Can I picture the setting? (Since, you know, it's been awhile since I've read the first few chapters)
  • Can it be cut? Is it redundant? 
When I find something I want to change, I use the highlight or notes function to make note of it, then go back later and make the change in the document on my laptop. Otherwise, I stare at the words and analyze whether they make sense and do what they need to do. 

Honestly, writing involves as much staring into space as it does actual writing. 

Stuff I'm finding as I read through and make notes on my Kindle, then input said notes into Word: 

  • Too. Many. Adverbs. I feel like adverbs somehow fit well into early 19th century language, but in modern writing, too much of it is a no-no. 
  • Good God, why all the m-dashes?
  • Um, one word instead of three is better. 
  • Why do all my sentences use the verb "to be?" Lots of "was" and "were" going on. 



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tolkien and the Great War

I seem to be on a mini WWI kick lately, after finishing Birdsong. I don't remember covering the Somme in any great detail in school-- I guess because the Americans hadn't entered the war yet? Anyway, after seeing part of it depicted on Downton Abbey, reading about it in Birdsong and seeing it portrayed in the miniseries, I started flicking through the Kindle store to see if I could find anything about the Somme. 

One of the things about finishing a draft is that you get to read other people's books again and not just for research.

Friday, July 26, 2013

What's the sound of one hand clapping?


I forget which project it was for, but I wrote a post called What's The Sound of One Hand Clapping? ages ago. 

What do you know, someone answered that question for me. Skip to about 3:56 seconds in. Go on. I'll wait.




My bad ankle kind of sounds like that sometimes. 

Now, granted, that may resemble the hand gesture I just made a few minutes ago because...

It's. Finished. 

That is, Draft Three of my historical fiction is done being written. It came out to:

Word Count: 116, 653 words

Page Count: 416 pages

Chapters: 50

This is the first third draft I have ever written. I think I had decided to refer to this as the I Hope It's Okay Third Draft.

So, what next?

-I sleep.
-I catch up on DVR'ed TV shows and Netflix movies
-I badger someone to read bits of it and tell me it's not completely awful.
-I go back and edit it. Maybe add in more description here and there. But not a full-scale draft. Just line editing and other nit-picky stuff.
-I start writing a query letter.

And now, I shall collapse into bed.

Also, I think I might have a title in mind. Stay tuned.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Dear Book the First,

Dear Book the First,

The other night I started reading a multi-chapter fanfiction. I enjoyed it because it was cute, fluffy and light. And, of course, in the meantime, I'm writing myself into a stupor because I'm almost done with this third draft, so reading something else for a sec was a mental break.

But something about this fanfic made me think of you, Book the First, so the other day, I reread you in your entirety for the first time in years.

I'm sorry that I've called you "bad." It was the best I could do at the time and you're not actually that terrible.

I mean, yes, there were parts of it that made me cringe and roll my eyes at my own writing ignorance at the time. And there are things in there that are just shoehorned in for absolutely no purpose. And the POV leaves a little to be desired. But the point of writing you, Book the First, was to bring the story to a close and I did that. So I'll stop referring to you as the "bad one."

The "bad one" should only apply to that one truly appalling fanfiction I wrote that one time when I was 19. Something about France and Orlando Bloom. Anyway.

But back to you, Book the First. Granted, I didn't even bother to title you properly. And yeah, Lennon did come out being a wee bit too close to the real me, which is why I decided against writing contemporary-set stories for now. But I'd forgotten that I had subplots in there (ha!) and angst and the friendship-into-relationship trope that I seem to be so fond of. But most of all, I was surprised to read that Gabriel actually has his own personality because I had such a hard time getting him on the page.

My male characters like to morph into whomever I'm Google-stalking at the time.

Another thing--you're actually kind of funny, Book the First. There's a lot of autobiographical stuff in there, mostly from college, that came across well. It didn't come across as too inside jokey. But yeah, there are a lot of one liners in there that I laughed out loud at reading.

Which is awesome, but there aren't too many jokes in the current WIP.

In closing, I want to say, for a first completed novella thing, you're not too bad, Book the First. I mean, yes, you are kind of on the writing level of a better Real Person romantic comedy fanfiction, but you're not as horrible as I kept thinking you were. So I'm sorry that I almost considered deleting you from the blog or almost considered not tagging you correctly. I started the blog with you and now I think it's an important past step in my writing life.

Now, Last Request. That one might be as bad I think it is...

Love,

Michelle


Monday, July 15, 2013

Lazy Toward the End

Current word count: 108, 275
Current page count: 386

So I am definitely writing (mostly copy/ pasting) toward the end of draft 3 and I am sliding into my typical end-of-the-freaking-story behavior. I am copying and pasting scenes from the second draft in, because they fit, but instead of going through them and correcting them, fixing them up, I'm just leaving them there with minor corrections.

Why do I get so freaking lazy toward the end of a book?

This has happened with every book I've written, resulting in a hell of a lot of work after the draft is over and a really sucky last third of the book. And I don't want it to happen this time. I mean, I'm definitely heading toward 4th draftville after this, but I don't want 4th draft to be as rewriting heavy as this 3rd one has been.

Basically, I need this part to build to the climax and then end. That's it. Yet I can't seem to get my brain to agree with my logic and actually do it. I used to think it's because I get tired by the characters and the story at this point, but I don't think it's necessarily tiredness. I've been working on some form of this story for, like, two years?

Does anybody else come across end of the book laziness?

Friday, July 12, 2013

To New Adventures: 54 Below


I've said this before and I'll say this forever: one of the greatest, greatest benefits of growing up and living in New York City is the access to the arts. I would be a vastly different person without the museums, plays, musicals, and tours of historical landmarks I was taken to at a very young age.

My friend Jess drags me out of the house quite a lot--thank God, or else I would be a babbling, anti-social idiot--to go see things. We have similar enough taste when it comes to entertainment. Last summer, we saw Once The Musical. We loved it. We loved the leading man, Steve Kazee. We loved the jeans he wore in the show.

So, tonight (July 11th) we ventured off to 54 Below, a small venue under 54th Street in the city. It seems like 54 Below has a variety of acts, largely of the theater community, since it's in the theater district. Steve Kazee and his band, The Shiny Liars, had a run of shows this week.

54 Below is a bit, um, classier than the usual places my friends and I go to. We looked over the cocktail menu (there is a minimum spending amount per person) and were perplexed by the alcohol. We're not big drinkers in the first place and our taste in alcohol runs to rum and coke and beer.

So we chose cocktails (I can't even remember what was in mine, but it was yummy) and ordered our entrees, split a side dish and munched.

The set-up is interesting. It's not a very large room, so the bulk of seating is at long tables. It was a little cramped, but we made it work, and our server was AMAZING.

The stage area. 
By the time dessert was in front of us, Steve was on stage and began his set. He wrote songs that he wrote, singer/songwriter style, with lots of hilarious banter in between.

At one point, at the end of a string of banter, he threw in, "Blue Ivy!" To which some of the room cracked up. He explained that that is how he gauges the age of the room.

Other things I remember about tonight's outing:

-Jess and I both saying, "I feel like a grown up!" as we were seated.
-Man from Kentucky.
-"I'm not this cool off-stage."
"Monday night...I thought there was a dead body in here. It was like playing a wake!"
-Jess, about our neighbors, who were trying to think of a status update for Facebook: "Does EVERYTHING have to be on Facebook?"


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Period-Speak

No, this is not an exclusively girly post. Boys, you are safe to read on.

I called this "period speak" because that's my nickname for the type of dialogue I use in my book, dialogue that comes out of writing a period piece. Also, this was inspired by an involved Twitter conversation I had with my cousin, ilovetoread09, who tweeted that she was confused by a review on her medieval-set fanfiction, complimenting the language. To quote my cousin: "All I did was not use contractions."

Which made me think about the dialogue in my story, set in Georgian England. A few people have remarked that the dialogue sounds authentic, which is so gratifying because I would hate for my characters to sound like me.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Update

Just a quick fly-by update:

1) I changed the name I post under. It's the first time I've done that (I've changed the name of the blog four times). I decided to bring it closer to my real life name.

2) I've had a really productive writing weekend. I went from page 305 on the 4th of July to page 335 as I type. This portion of the book is definitely the home stretch, but it's also challenging, revision-wise. A storyline I wrote extensively in the second draft is getting cut out of this draft, so that better things can take over. Only thing is, those better things are either completely new to this draft or expansions of events that happened in draft two.

Also, I remember having problems figuring out La Climax in the last draft. I have a better idea of what it will be and I know how it's going to end now.

This last part of the second draft is choppy. Damn. Much rewriting necessary.

So, official stats so far:

Page count: 335

Word count: 94, 461 (this might make this the longest thing I've ever written)


Friday, July 5, 2013

My Favorite Book



I didn't have a designated favorite book until college. This strikes me as strange for a budding writer, particularly one who has had her nose stuck in a book since approximately third grade, and has been writing scraps of stories since I was nine years old.

I had favorite books but they were always supplanted by new favorite ones. Nothing that I could really point to as  my Favorite Book of All Time.

In Expository Writing in college, we had to do a quick presentation about our favorite book. I didn't have one, so I fudged it by talking about Amy Tan's The Hundred Secret Senses. Somehow, I didn't think that talking about my favorite romance novel of the time would have sufficed.

And then, over the winter of 2006-2007, in my last semester in college, I read Atonement by Ian McEwan and it became The Favorite Book and remains so. Not to say that having A Favorite means that I don't find other books to be amazing or mind-blowing in their turn, of course.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Very Inspiring Blogger Award :-)

I didn't anticipate starting July off like this, but...Krystal Jayne at The Narcissistic Rose has passed on The Very Inspiring Blogger Award to moi. Do check out Krystal's blog. Her posts are always engaging and interesting.


Isn't it gorgeous? This is my first blog award! Here are the rules:

The Rules:
1. Display the award on your blog.
2. Link back to the person who gave you the award.
3. Share 7 things about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award and link back to them.

So, for #3:

1. I started reading romance at 12 and historical romance at around 14. I always loved history and historical fiction. I read every available American Girls collection book during reading time in elementary school and I have literally become absorbed and obsessed with historical periods over time.

2. I love Monty Python. "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life" cheers me up on the worst days.

3. I'm actually 4 feet 10 inches tall. But I tell everyone that I'm 4 feet 11. In fact, all of my official documents say I'm 4'11".

4. I am half Japanese and half Irish. I speak Japanese, but I don't read it very well.

5. I do a pretty amazing (if I say so myself) Donald Duck voice.

6. I like to bake, but I'm still pretty hopeless at cooking.

7. I like going to the theater to see musicals and plays; definitely one of the great advantages of growing up and living in New York City.

And now, #4:

You see, Krystal nominated a singleton (me) and I'm not sure that I even know 15 other bloggers, so I'm going to nominate one person also. This blogger posts very thoughtful and insightful posts on a variety of writing-related topics and I always come away entertained and learning something new. So I'm nominating Diane Carlisle at Are We There Yet? for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Gender Guesser

I came across a tweet from a former supervisor of mine, Jessica Sinsheimer, who is a literary agent.





Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



I finished reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows recently. I was looking for some historical fiction to read in the Kindle store and remembered that I'd heard a lot about this novel in 2008, when it was published.

Guernsey is certainly a unique book.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What I'm Good At

I feel like writers--or artists in general--spend a lot of time improving their craft, convincing other people to believe in their craft, and then spend even more time mired in doubt and frustration. I think this is where "artistic temperament" comes from.

For me, at least, sometimes my writing matches up with what I want it to be and what it feels like or sounds like in my head--and those are the best moments. But most of the time, it doesn't quite measure up. Other times, it outright sucks.

So sometimes I have to remind myself about what I actually do well in my writing. Because if writing was all doom and gloom and hard graft and "ugh, this sucks" (the way I sometimes, admittedly, make it out to be, when I talk about it at all), then why do I keep doing it?

Other than being a masochist, that is.

So here are the things I think I do well in my writing:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks


I don't remember when I started Birdsong, but it was probably more than a year ago--whenever that miniseries with Eddie Redmayne was about to air--and as usual, I was determined to read the book before I saw the miniseries. I haven't seen the miniseries yet, but I finished the book last night.

I don't know if I particularly identified with the protagonist, Stephen Wraysford, an Englishman who visits Amiens, France before World War One and falls in love with a married woman, Isabelle. I think that may have been one of the reasons I put the book down and didn't resume reading it until last week. I couldn't help but compare it to my favorite novel Atonement, where I had immediately identified with Briony. But as for detailed, well-researched historical fiction...

Friday, June 14, 2013

An Excerpt

It's Friday, my stomach is being strange, I'm humming "When I Grow Up" from Matilda the Musical, I want to curl up and continue on with Birdsong (I'm at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme), but I want to write a little more.

So that's me.

My WIP's current stats:
Words: 67, 526
Pages: 238
Chapters: 24

This is a scene from my WIP. This is from page 30:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Underlining in Books

After a week apart, my laptop and I have finally been reunited. One of the fans inside went wonky and thus, my almost five-year-old laptop, which has already crested the hill of Obsolete, had to stay in the repair shop for a few days. So, I haven't really made progress on the draft. Today will be a writing day for sure--I'm raring to go after an enforced period of time away--but first, a wee post.

I took the time sans computer to read, both on Kindle and, you know, actual books. Because I don't have to worry about paperbacks losing their charge.

Every so often, when I'm reading, I'll come across a line or a paragraph that makes me react, as a reader and as a writer, and--I only ever do this in my paperbacks--I underline whatever it was that struck me. It's usually only a handful of words in an entire book and I always do my underlining in pencil. I guess they're just lines I want to remember or feel intense jealously over not having written first.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Interviewing a Fanfiction Author

I think this might be true of most writers--that moment when you are reading or watching a TV show or a movie and go: "What happened to that character? Why did it end that way? I can do better than that!"

For me, I was 12 and it was Titanic. I rewrote Jack not dying numerous times--surely Rose could have shared that door she laid on with him? Fanfiction remained a hefty portion of my adolescence. I wrote some (some of them endless), but I was mostly a reader. I never posted my fics (mostly because I never finished them) and they were usually more about my actor crush of the month rather than any character he played. 

I no longer write fanfiction, though I still read it a lot. Writing fanfiction, like writing anything fictional, can either be a starting point for aspiring writers or a break from more technical and serious writing or a creative outlet. 

I asked my cousin, ilovetoread09, a fanfiction author, a few questions. How is the writing process different when using existing characters? What kind of writing basics does a writer learn while writing for a fandom? And what about those immediate reviews? (The thought of those reviews terrifies me.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Strange 18th century British Taxes


In my research and because I read What Jane Austen Ate and What Charles Dickens Knew last month, I have come across some interesting things that were taxed in 18th and 19th century Britain, stuff that one would never think to tax.

All of the following would have affected my characters in some way--though none of this will be in the book. This is purely for my own edification. There was no income tax in Britain in the 18th century, so Parliament taxed imports and everyday objects in an effort to raise money. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Things People Don't Tell You About Your Twenties

I had a long chat with one of my best friends recently--she is usually sort of inaccessible, due to law school--but now she's on vacation.

We've known each other since high school, which is now 9 years ago, so we've shared, grown and discussed the often painful aspects of growing into our twenties.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

3 Up Blog Hop




One of the things I am enjoying about blogging and participating on a writers' forum and commiserating with my fellow writers and bloggers is the sense of community. Randi Lee organized 3 Up! to spread positive vibes over the blogosphere.

You can learn more about the 3 Up! Blog Hop at Randi's blog, The Emotional Process of Writing a Novel. My designated "Upee" is Carolyn Brown. I don't know Carolyn, but I launched myself into my very first blog hop by reading Carolyn's posts. Do check her blog out. These are my ups:

1) Carolyn likes to connect with her fellow bloggers and writers. Her blog's sidebar displays badges from many different groups, awards and blog hops, which tells me that she is a very participatory and friendly blogger, involved in the writing blogosophere community.

2) During the A-Z Challenge, Carolyn chose to write book reviews. Her reviews are astute, succinct and show enthusiasm toward reading and to giving authors some exposure via her blog. I thought that in itself showed a great deal of encouragement and generosity.

3) Unique layout. I don't normally like light text on a dark background, but I like the look of it on Carolyn's blog. The page contains a lot of information, but everything is in its own box and there's plenty of space to give the eyes time to process it. Also, I love the background pattern and the banner, with C.M. Brown's books prominently displayed.

To end my first ever blog hop, I thought I'd take a quote from one of Carolyn's posts: "I have no insecurities or other worries to complain about, except dramas at work, but hey, c'est la vie!"

Monday, May 20, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

I am not a Trekkie/Trekker/Klingon. I have only a passing knowledge of the Star Trek universe, that of a few episodes of The Next Generation (my dad used to watch it when I was a kid) and the 2009 Star Trek reboot. While I will go along with fantasy and sci-fi elements with glee, I am not a sci-fi fan. I've never read the genre.

But I really, really, really wanted to see Star Trek Into Darkness. Which a friend and I did. And yes, our reasons were mostly shallow.

Case in point:



And:


I love BBC's Sherlock. Love it. Cannot wait for the upcoming third season. I think Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant in it. I love the way the intricate plots come together with brilliant dialogue.

I enjoyed the overall theme of coming together as a crew and family and Kirk's arc of becoming worthy of his title of captain. Plus, there was tons of actions (it looked like a video game at times) and nice comedic moments.

This blog needed some eye candy ;)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Women's Fashion, 1790s-1800s

What did a lady wear in 1800?

Earlier in the eighteenth century, a lady of the upper classes may have looked like this:

Marie Antoinette and her two children
That portrait was painted in 1785. As you can see, Marie Antoinette has an enormous powdered wig with hair ornaments and a tightly fitted bodice on her dress. However, by the turn of the nineteenth century, women's fashion looked more like the Jane Austen heroines we know from films.

More like this: