In Which: Nanowrimo Ate My Soul Once

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I remember it like it was yesterday: It was 2005 and I was dead set on writing that 50,000 words in 30 days. I only let myself eat as a reward for finishing that days word count, and even then sometimes I forgot to eat or drink anything. Still for all my effort I only got to 25,000 before  the slow burn of writing so much everyday got to me and buried my willpower under the gravy of Thanksgiving.

Now years later, I think I know what truly beat down my willpower: For all the talk of silencing my internal editor, writing with the unspoken dedication to whatever I produce being bad by default just wasn’t me. It’s one thing to have a first draft that’s not polished and pretty awful. (Goodness knows my dyslexia helps with that XD)  But trying to shut off any remnants of critical thought to the plot and characters of a story just for the sake of writing it as fast as I was able felt off somehow.

I actually really love Nanowrimo in theory is the saddest part. I just wish more energy was put toward teaching participants that speed does not always have to come at the price of quality, salvageable writing.

There have been a number of published Nano novels in the past few years so I know it is possible in my heart of hearts to have more at the end of national novel writing month then you started with and something to be proud of at that. Here’s to 1667 words a day (even outside of November)!

PS. I’m very sorry for not writing an update in so long. From now on I promise to at the very least write two blog posts here per month over the holidays. My family is much older now and so I’m trying my best to spend as much time with them as I possibly can 🙂

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In Which: Maybe I Start A New Thing?

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I was thinking of starting to do ‘old-books- I-have’ haul posts since I don’t get new books as often as I would like (And haul posts seem to be all the rage lately). These would be supplemented with new (used) books I get now and then, some background about why I picked the book, and a very short review if I’ve already read it….

I’m still getting use to wordpress as a blogging site, since I’m more accustomed to the very informal journaling format of livejournal and tumblr.

In Which: Overwritten is Unwritten

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I remember when I got my first review that really hurt (as an adult). It was about a year ago on one of those online pieces that every member of an online forum has written at one time or another, and while it was nothing truly official, it still stung. My writing was called ‘pretentious’.  Something about that word hurt more than a reviewer just saying my writing might be boring or  sloppy. But why was that I wondered? I thought back to all my early english classes in grade school where my dyslexia was still so bad I could barely write a sentence the teacher could understand. I remembered the joy I found when things finally started clicking in college and I could express myself in academic essay format and tone.

And then it hit me : The word pretentious troubled me so much because somewhere in my mind it meant my tone was now getting in the way of my writing being understood  in the same way my spelling use to. My writing was eating its own tail and I wanted so much to fix it. But what to do?

I still haven’t answered that question. Writing very bare bones doesn’t come naturally to me, but I also don’t feel like the John Green level of literary YA is in me either. Stylistically, I’m a bit stuck between a rock and a hard place.

What do you do to keep your writing relatable? Do you care about style? Would being called a ‘pretentious’ writer get to you at all or would you shrug it off?

In Which: Plots Are Favored Part 1 of 5

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I admit it, I’m a reader of habit. I try my best to read out of my zone of favorite themes and plots, but always return to them. Maybe it’s the warm and cozy feeling they give me of knowing how something might play out, maybe it’s because the new trend toward ‘the future is grim and then our great great grandchildren all die’ isn’t for me. But whatever the case here are some of my favorite elements and plots in no real order…

  • The sympathetic (anti?) hero vampire that actually loves being a vampire.

There are vampires that spend their time crying about their fate into wine glasses of blood and vampires that want to go to high school for all of time. This vampire is neither of these and yet I can’t help liking them. Normally they are bloodthirsty monsters, but done with just the right balance and they are blood thirsty monsters who think humans are nice but wouldn’t want to be one (if they ever were human to start with).  But they still have emotions, they simply don’t use them to mope about the hand they were given. Well fed and taken care of this interesting mix of old and new vampire myth is pretty rare, even in romance novels. Even rarer than that is them being the hero of a story and not the villain. Where’s the love?

  • Main characters that react positively to supernatural and weird happenings in fantasy novels.

I’ll say right away that this favorite element did not come from a happy reader place for me. I swear if I had to read one more novel where the hero mumbles to everyone and her Aunt Bess about how she must be dreaming/going crazy/losing it/ she’d miss school/a date/she was so unlucky etc over finding a hidden magical world I was going to scream. Doubly so  if the only one who reacts with joy at finding a magical world/discovering magic in our world/finding a talking unicorn is only the goofy nerdy sidekick of the book. For that matter why aren’t there more books about the goofy nerdy sidekick as the hero character? I feel like in this day and age we outnumber the sensible ‘I’d rather be in my nice boring world feeding my goldfish’ adventurers five to one 😉

In Which: Writing Is And Isn’t Work : Rant List #1

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Random Writer Rants #1

  1. No matter how much I write everyone always thinks it’s ‘just a hobby’.

1.1.These remarks always seem to happen when I’m working my hardest and getting more done than ever, leading to my being needlessly grumpy.

2. Somehow it is entirely possible to write most of a story in what I think is breathtaking detail only to find that I never actually told the reader important exposition that the whole plot doesn’t work without .

3. Writing five pages always feels longer than reading five pages….

4. Except when that five pages is one of the ‘fun parts’ I have been looking forward to writing.

5. …Yes I know, if I am a ‘real writer’ every part should be the fun part. But I’ve come to find out as much as many books on how to write say that every part of writing should be a joy, the day to day reality of it is that sometimes it *gasp* actually feels like the work it is, and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean I love it any less.

6. Sometimes I can put blood sweat and tears into a story and it doesn’t show on the words on the page…Or, maybe it is there and my own writing isn’t to my own reading taste? Wouldn’t that be ironic. Oh well, back to work…

In Which: Young Adult is Still Adult

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While on one of my journeys across the internet for info into the inner workings of writing young adult fiction (which somehow ends just as often in Facebook as it does in my opening a FocusWriter document) I came across a few interesting articles. The common consensus these days seems to be if you are over 18, or worst yet, the dreaded 30,  and ‘still’ read YA novels, you should have your ‘I am a sensible adult wise in the ways of the world having no happy endings’ licence revoked. Or, on the other end, that not liking YA novels as an adult makes you a member of the ‘Bitter, old, dusty literary book lovers and puppy kickers’ club.

I’m not sure if either side is totally right or wrong. As I get older though I actually feel like I enjoy young adult and even *gasp* children’s books more  than I even did when I was their target age group. Part of that isn’t because I somehow grew up without learning how unrealistic these stories are, but really, because I did. The same goes for the other worlds in classic scifi or the happily ever afters in a good romance novel. Of course love doesn’t last forever, of course the hero doesn’t always get rid of a government that is corrupt and killing people. But for the short space of a novel or a series it does an adult heart good to believe in that impossible thing. Maybe, so if someday we get even a small bit of that impossible in our real life we will still be able to recognize it , and turn the page to something wonderful.

In Which: Romance: Love is UnLoved

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I love romance novels. There seems to be some inherent reluctance to admit that online, most of all if you also read  classic novels like I do. After all romance novels are a dime a dozen, easy reads, and hardly memorable, right? (Note: I don’t agree with any of this, but that’s a topic or two for my next few blogs). 

But of all the hate aimed at romance, no subject seems to get more internet flames fired up than the romance sub-plot in a normal novel. The common gripe is that romance is unneeded and hurts a story rather than helps, most of all in YA. Sometimes even in books where romance is the actual stories sub-genre, front and center, with no frills or theme masks to hide behind.  But, why? Rather than focus on how romance is a failing in of itself to a story like I’ve seen ranted about many times before, I thought I’d talk about the topic from  my romance fan reader\writer pov of:

Reasons Why Romance Fails To Be Feel Necessary In A Romantic Plot 

1) Characters Are Unrelatable.

This is a big one. Romance is about two characters getting to know and love one another. If the characters are not somehow enduring to the reader, how can they be the same to each other? This doesn’t mean, of course, that the reader has to know first hand about a character’s favorite hobby or pastime. But the basic human emotions and failings that ground all of us should be there somehow in fictional form. Speaking of emotions….

2) The Only Emotion Characters Show Is Love\Love Related

Characters are little fictional people. People are more than just love\lust even when they are in love. When the only thing that the characters talk about\angst about is love, most of all if other things are happening that are equally important that have a long standing in the characters life years before they met their lover, something feels off. Of course, there are cases where they forget everything swept up in the moment, but what makes those moments so great is their momentary coming and going , just like in real life.

3) The Romance In The Story Does Not Match In Tone

A war is raging, soldiers are dying, rebel fighters are firing elemental arrows from their crossbows, and the couple of the story is fighting over a package of jerky in a foxhole because the hero looked at another girl once.  This problem is probably the one that gets to me most in YA fiction with a subplot. I understand a case can be made (and a good one to) for characters acting their age, but I also see it in romance subplots with adults. The main plot is placed on a grand scale, while the romance subplot is treated like a cheerful Saved By The Bell episode of the week. The drama and cold, hard, reality of maybe dying, or at least being badly hurt, seems to have no bearing on how the lovers act or value one another. They could as easily be sharing a milkstake at a diner fighting with each other and the scene would play out no differently.  

4) A Character Says ‘I love you’ But Shows ‘Meh’

The characters say they are in love. They have sex. They call out for each other whenever they’ve been away too long. But that’s it. They go through the motions, and have long talks with themselves in silence about their true love, but their actions fall flatter than a pancake with the word ‘love’ written on it in crayon.  Sometimes the plot tries to throw in characters fighting  over and over and over as a placeholder for hidden passion but this only ends in more sex, and little else. While sex is great, it can become wearing if it is the only gesture of affection characters ever use to show that they are in love and not simply lust. 

5) The Characters Don’t Grow 

Growing up is hard to do. Most of all when you find out that no matter your age you’re still a work in progress. A good romance should foster growth in someway, adding to characters knowledge of not only the other person, but themselves. When romance is at its best it makes people into a newer, fresher, better version of themselves somehow, at its worst, weaker and scarred. Sometimes this growth is so dramatic that even after a romance ends the character will carry  that changed, matured version of themselves onward in life always. But the problem comes when the character we’re introduced to at the beginning of the story is already a fixed personality that never changes. They are already great at everything they try, self assured (even if they have bad self-esteem) and unswayed by any actions of the surrounding world, much less their romantic  partner. The characters spend time with each other and their mindsets are never  challenged. They fight, but afterward act like nothing happened. They have realizations late at night, only to wake up, shrug them off, and  go right back to treating their lover the same way they did on page 5 as page 355. While a ‘perfect’ character can be a placeholder for the everywoman/man reader to see themselves as while reading, this perfection and unchanging pov can also be a placeholder for ‘boring’.

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Feelings on what is good writing and what isn’t varies, of course :). But I still like thinking about it now and then. I will be doing a couple more romance themed posts . One I’ve been stewing on for a while is vampires, which I’ve been a fan of long before they sparkled like snow. Back in my day they sparkled like gold and were half elf! But that’s another story…