Saturday, June 25, 2011

Writing Two Books at Once

In a previous blogpost, I said that I live to write, instead of writing to live. I suppose this is fortunate in that I don't have to churn out stories, articles, or poems on a daily basis to earn my bread. However, it's unfortunate in that writing is not a Top Priority. I don't have to do it, no matter how much I want or like to, and that means it can be shunted to the background in favor of more immediate, pressing activities. Mainly, schoolwork. I know, I know--this means I'm not really a writer, right? Just a college kid with writer pretensions (or, as I prefer to think of it, ambitions. Can I get a cheer for Slytherin?).

But school's out for the summer, and The Book has been chugging along remarkably. I just passed the 200,000-word mark...and was torn between doing a victory dance and killing myself. 200K is acceptable for epic fantasy, since the genre practically demands a multitude of characters, complex plotlines, and paragraphs upon paragraphs of world-building. So I wouldn't be upset with 200K as a finished project, but THE BOOK ISN'T FINISHED. In terms of plot, I still have about a quarter of the way to go, maybe 50-60K words. THAT'S A LOT OF FUCKING WORDS.

As they say in acting, though, it's easier to start big and then pull back. If you don't have the high emotion/lot of fucking words in the first place, you can't dig deeper because you're always struggling to build up. My writing tends toward the flowery (I blame my 10th-grade English teacher for introducing me to Faulkner), and while it's not bad writing, the flowers need pruning before they take over the yard.

First I have to actually finish. Despite my best intentions and summer productivity, writer's block keeps cropping up. Sometimes I'll finish a section and be too mentally exhausted to do anything but edit what I just wrote. Sometimes I need a while to iron out exactly how I want to start a chapter or introduce a character. Either way, there are these dead periods where I don't write anything new...until now. Until I had another IDEA. *bright lights and angels singing*

Many writers scream NO NO WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?! to people who work on more than one project at once. Since I started this second one in earnest, I've actually made more progress on BOTH projects than if I'd kept slogging away at just the one. Maybe it's a personality difference--works for some, doesn't for others. I've always been good at multitasking. However, I think the biggest help has been having something to fill the dead spaces. I'm stuck on The Book, so I work on the Other Book until I get stuck there, and then come back to the first problem refreshed and ready to think about something else. It at least gives the illusion of productivity, and I never have an excuse not to write.


In other news, I'm participating in Teen Writer Summer Blogfest (TWSB). Expect the posts to start in July!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Blog speed date

I lifted this idea for a blogpost from Jessica Faust at BookEndsLLC, which is, by the way, a fantastic blog about reading, writing, agenting, and publishing books. The concept behind speed dating is that you get a short time, say ten minutes, to sit down with someone and get to know them. While I'm nobody important, I liked the interview format on BookEnds--it's very, well, bookish--and thought you might want to know a little more about me. So...

Name or internet pseudonym: Laura Wise (hence the @Laura_the_Wise of Twitter fame :P)

Currently reading: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King, Lord Sunday by Garth Nix, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Next on the reading list: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman...and I'm probably overdue for a re-read of Harry Potter as well. ;) I also want to tackle a classic or two this summer, and I'm thinking about reading Vanity Fair.

Three authors living or dead you'd want to have dinner with: Stephen King, William Shakespeare, and...do I have to pick just three?? Oh fine, Philippa Gregory, because I'd want to talk to her about her historical interpretations of people like Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth Grey...

Glass half-full or half-empty: Well, that depends. Is it tomato juice or a frappucino? If tomato, half-empty. If frappucino, it had better be half-full.

Tea or coffee: While I love good coffee (two cream, two sugar), it's easier to get good tea than good coffee. So both, I suppose, but given the choice I'd probably take tea.

Live to write or write to live: A little of both. I get paid to write articles online, and will hopefully be paid to write other things in future. But mostly, since writing serves no practical purpose in my life, I live to write.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I'M IN A RAGE

There are a few things that get me this mad. This post will discuss one: BOOK BANNING. Also, an article in the Wall Street-fucking-Journal that I can't believe was published.

Read it and weep. The author states that YA (young adult) fiction is becoming far too dark for kids "12 to 18." Here are some of the other things she says:

"How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear" --> This sets up the maddenly condescending tone of the rest of the piece.

"A careless young reader [...] will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality, and losses of the most horrendous kinds." --> What "horrendous kinds" are we talking about here? Maybe if you want kids to find themselves surrounded by joy and beauty, you should stop trying to ban books and start trying to legalize marijuanna.

"No happy ending to this one, either." --> And this is objectionable how? Where are all the people who complain that happy endings to fairy tales and Disney movies give kids dangerous illusions about the world? Most teens can smell morality tales and contrived life lessons a mile off. They're no longer naive enough to believe that happy endings are the only kind out there.

"Alas, literary culture is not sympathetic to adults who object either to the words or storylines in young adult books." --> Condescending again. Young adults hate condescension. Perhaps that's why they read books that don't talk down to them--books that prove they are capable of dealing with tough subjects and tough language. What this author is saying is, "Don't touch that book, Jimmy, it's too grown-up." To which the young adult replies, "It's James, and I am grown up."

"In the book trade, this is known as 'banning.' In the parenting trade, however, we call it 'judgement' or 'taste.'"  ....*barf* *headdesk* *eye twitch* Can I move to Canada?

"Every year the American Library Association delights in releasing a list of the most frequently challenged books" (those free-thinking hippies!) "[...] including Suzanne Collins's hyper-violent, best-selling 'Hunger Games' trilogy and Alexie Sherman's prize-winning 'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.'" --> The Hunger Games? "Hyper-violent?" It has violence--but perhaps what she and the other challengers really object to is the idea of a dystopian world and The Government as the bad guy. As for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, it's a fantastic book and should, if anything, be read more widely instead of banned.

And finally, the last few sentences proclaim... "The book business exists to sell books; parents exist to rear children, and oughtn't be daunted by cries of censorship. No family is obliged to acquiesce when publishers use the vehicle of fundamental free-expression principles to try to bulldoze coarseness or misery into their children's lives."

As if the article itself weren't enough, Mrs. Gurdon goes on to offer a list of acceptable YA books--divided into "Books for Young Men" and "Books for Young Women." Censorship and sexism, folks. This is this kind of thing "responsible parents" promote.

Can you understand why I'm "in a rage," to quote A Very Potter Sequel? (And while we're at it, why not ban the Harry Potter books as well, for dealing with murder, death, magic, and -- OMG -- puberty?) I could go on and on and on ranting about this article and the views that inspired it; however, there are better people out there on the Internet who have responded much more maturely than I have.

For instance, a New Yorker article about the #YAsaves hashtag received three very thoughtful, reasonable, curse-word-free comments. The article, sadly, isn't anywhere near as thoughtful or well-written as the comments from 3 random people on the Internet.

If you're as interested/irritated by this debate as I am, you will definitely want to read these rebuttals to Mrs. Gurdon's article. I'm sure you'll agree with all of them--but these responses are so eloquent, clever, emotional, or sarcastic that it's worth reading all of them anyway.

Why The Best Kids' Books Are Written in Blood by Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Maureen Johnson, YA author, responds in The Guardian: YA shows teens they aren't alone
A snarky letter by a former bookseller
Another YA author who suggests WSJ and Mrs. Gurdon go fuck yourselves ;)
A literary agent talks about art and taking teens--and YA--seriously


In other news, I want to be an English teacher just so I can assign banned books.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Blogging Slump

This blog is in a bit of a slump right now...I haven't posted regularly. Sometimes I don't post for almost the whole month. Sometimes I write a burst of posts, then get depressed when no one comments. Then I don't post for a while. And the cycle continues...

I suppose it's to be expected. I mean, it is summer. And unlike other kids/people, I spend summers outside getting into shenanigans instead of inside playing video games or noodling around on the Internet. Or if it's hideously hot and humid like today, I at least spend summers getting into shenanigans inside. Or I'm in California with one of my best friends, eating durians and driving on the freeway (shudder). Or with the same friend, camping in the woods...naked. (KIDDING.)

But I did learn to embroider while in California. It's a time-consuming but rewarding hobby--especially now that that boring white jacket I never wear now has a flower design on the front in a lovely shade of purple. In addition to embroidering, I've also been scribbling away at that story, along with some other things. My evil plan for next semester's Writing of Poetry class is to write all the poems this summer, in order to minimize my future homework load.

The cello, which has missed me for two weeks while I was in sunny Cali, is getting major attention as well. I have pulled out every piece I ever hated and am making myself learn and re-learn them. Chief among them is the most annoying tune for cello ever written---Gavotte No. 2, by David Popper (YouTube link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbofp_eCNgU) Julian Lloyd Weber seems to take it seriously. My interpretation is a little more sarcastic...

Well, I'm off to practice, write, and apply for jobs. :P In the meantime, some other mad cello skills for your viewing pleasure: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJWjYLG3B7o

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Unfortunate Importance of Money

Money is important. Well, duh. But it's not until you get to be eighteen and your parents threaten to kick you out/disown you/stop paying for college that you realize how EXTREMELY important money is.

The parental threat(s) came with the stipulation that said threats would not become a reality if I got a job. And believe me, Mom and Dad, there is nothing I'd like more to do. Because then I could rent a cheap apartment for $250-400 a month, survive on ramen noodles and cereal, not pay campus housing fees, AND stay there for the summer (to avoid being a burden on my poor unfortunate white middle-class parents).

The main problem with me getting a job right now is that EVERY college student home for the summer is trying to get a job. And with me only being available for about 4 weeks out of the entire summer--a spread-out 4 weeks at that--my chances of being hired over kids stuck at home for the whole 2 to 2 1/2 months are slim.

Still, I have options. The site I write for has begun to offer up-front payments ($10 and higher) for book reviews. I can volunteer at the library or the SPCA, which gives me work experience if not money. I can write for local papers and submit to contests. And as a musician, I have the options of playing at weddings and giving music lessons. And if I'm tossed out the door to fend for my own broke ass, I'll take my cello and play on street corners for money. Kidding. I hope...