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: There Are Notes Of Books

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The orange mini-note is my traveling notebook since it’s built in pocket makes sure I always have something to write with on hand. I’m pretty sure needing to write but having nothing to write with is one of those dark circles of afterlife punishment. (Most boring DOOM level idea ever)

I don’t have a problem…

Okay, maybe I do. Today, since I am sick with a bug that is going around through my hometown countryside, I thought I’d do another small post. This time to share my notebook collection. This is only about half of it, but I think you can see my slow slide from ‘Writing must be serious every step of the way’ to ‘Darn it if I’m going to be writing for hours and hours I want something that makes me happy.’ Back to school sales always fill me with a renewed drive to write more, so those newest two sparkling silver and black books were just too good to pass up.

 In my case, I use notebooks to get out certain scenes and bits of dialogue that need to come into being right this moment, and then my laptop to slap them into place in the bigger scheme of things, plotwise. 

Do you have a favorite notebook? (Or if you don’t write on paper a favorite program or app?) What gets you fired up to write?

Do you have something you’d like to hear me talk about on my blog? Drop me a line below!

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…