Thursday, December 26, 2013

Good News, Bad News, and Lots of Words

The good news: Contracted just passed 100k words. 

That means that I finally reached my NaNoWriMo goal, which was to add 50k to this wip. It also makes me look back and laugh at when I thought it would be a quick and simple short story.

That also means that Contracted is the most words I've written on one project in the least amount of time. 

The other good news: My rewrites for Part I of the The Book just ended at 32,431 words. I think I may have added more to this section instead of cutting -- but whatever the wordcount difference, I managed to resolve some serious plot and character problems. I now have a solid foundation on which to build the rest of the book.

The rest of The Book which was originally 100k to begin with.

Now for the bad news:

Contracted just passed 100k words and still has more to go. Part I rewrites on The Book are nearly at 33k. 

The bad news is that I CAN'T WRITE ANYTHING SHORT.

I am the person that people roll their eyes at when they talk about bloated fantasy epics.

100k isn't so bad. At least Contracted is 100k of people doing things and stuff, instead of 100k of them sitting around getting nowhere with the plot (*cough*The Book*cough) and/or describing food (*ahem*A Song of Ice and Fire*hemhem*). The thing is that there's still quite a lot more plot to go. My scenes tend to average about 1,500 words. At this rate, 125k as a projected final wordcount is not unreasonable.

I confess -- I like long books. As long as the bloat doesn't feel like bloat, I will happily read it. I have the stamina to read a long book.

Many people don't. I know I shouldn't be worrying about potential future readers right now, but it's hard not to when I see the wordcount climbing day after day. I don't want my wordcount worries to keep me from writing what feels right and what's best for the story...but I can't help the anxiety. I have the stamina to read a long book...but do I have the stamina and faith to write a long book? I don't know.

So far, I have worked steadily onward and upward on Contracted. I've written a lot of things that I would normally hesitate to broach in another project, especially a YA wip. I've relished the freedom that comes with writing amoral, grey-moral characters and dark fantasy.

The thing that's finally triggering my doubts is a number.

What do you think about long books vs. short books? Which do you prefer to read, and/or which do you prefer to write? What's the longest (or shortest) thing you've ever written?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

College Writer Blog Tag!

College Writer Tag
I was nominated for the College Writer Tag by Patrice of Whimsically Yours, whose blog you should totally read. There are owls all over it, if that makes you more inclined to do so. (I like owls.)

Oddly, I don't seem to know as many college bloggers as I knew high school bloggers. Several of the blogs I used to follow in my age group dropped off the map during college. Luckily, this hasn't been the case for everyone!

The Questions:

What year are you?

I'm a senior. Ack. It's senior project and senior recital year. It's also "finishing up all the gen eds I didn't take before" year. I should have done the gen eds back in freshman or sophomore year, when I still thought that every class was a life or death matter. I recently got my grades in, and they were a lot better than I had expected. I really want to go on to grad school. I want to focus my studies in the area that I know I am interested in and good at. Unfortunately, I still have to take classes that fulfill my service learning and social sciences requirements.

What's your major(s)/minor(s)?

My major is Theatre, and my minors are Music and Spanish. My senior project will combine my music and theatre interests.

What types of writing do you do?

Right now, I am working on a fantasy wip, Contracted. It's around 95k right now. I'm also making extensive revisions to a YA high fantasy wip, known on this blog as The Book.

And I'm really...excited. About both of them. I did a mini-victory dance last night when I finally figured out how to solve a plot problem and what to rename a few characters. This is the wip that went through the wringer with a CP. I took some time off, plotted out some rewrites, and am now making major changes. And it's fun.

As for types of writing, I usually go for fantasy, horror, and supernatural. Though I have been known to attempt YA contemporary. I almost always write novel-length projects. That, or poetry. I have won a few contests. However, I'm in a "I hate all my poetry that I have ever written" phase, so it'll be a while before I write more.

What are your plans after college, both career-wise and writing-wise?

The usual response I hear after answering this question: "Well good luck finding a job/Hope you like working in fast food/Have fun living in a cardboard box/So what will you do for money, then?" Those and similar responses are all things that people have said to me, and they are never ok, nor are they clever or funny. 

I want to work in theatre. More specifically, Shakespearean theatre.

First, though, I want to apply to grad school. If that doesn't work out, I want to audition at theaters and get a job somewhere. 

I will definitely be writing the whole time. I hope to one day have a book published. Hopefully more.

What is one thing you've learned about writing while in college?

Your life experiences will change you and your writing in surprising ways. You will not be the same, and neither will your writing. And you know what? That's ok. That can actually be a very good thing. Sometimes it can be hard to accept, though.

I nominate...Brooke at Paper Mountain and Alyssa at I Am Writer - Hear Me Roar! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Last Wednesday Before Break

I like the new What's Up Wednesday banner -- winter wonderland edition. What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Jaime Morrow.What I'm reading
I'm wrapping up Proxy and Bess of Hardwick: Empire Builder. The first is for fun, the second was for class. I'm also frantically reading my history textbook as I study for my exam in...let's hour. Gulp.
What I'm writing after NaNoWriMo is over, it's hard to get out of the NaNo mood. I wrote a post about dealing with NaNo burnout. I wrote a review of MILA 2.0. Other reviews are in the works, but have been put on hold while I handle finals. I had to write a manifesto proposing a new aesthetic movement in theatre for one of those finals. Ack. And that was just one part of a three-part final.
I have also been trying to get back to writing normally as I work on Contracted. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not "done" with it just because NaNo is over...and that I can break the NaNo "rules" when I write...
What else I'm up to
Exams. Ugh. I finish my last one and go home today. This must be what they mean when they say "senioritis." I've never approached exams kicking and screaming like this before, even when I have been far less prepared. I am being asked to think about too many things. I have also been blatantly procrastinating and wasting time on the NaNo forums.
What inspires me right now
Pentatonix is helping me get into the Christmas spirit...which has thus far been eluding me. In particular, this:

If that doesn't make you feel at least a little Christmasy, your name might be Scrooge. ;)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dealing With NaNo Burnout

As happy as I am with my word count for NaNo 2013, there's still a "but." The same thing happened last year -- I'm suffering from NaNo burnout.

It's not as bad this year because I'm not sick as a dog like I was last year. Still, I'm definitely feeling the burnout factor. I opened up Contracted the other day, noodled a few plot notes, wrote a beginning of a scene and tried halfheartedly to continue it, but stopped. I could have pushed through and written more -- like I had to do for NaNo -- but, just, ugh.

Part of the issue is that the motivation offered by NaNo is gone. I now have to self-motivate. I'm still very much invested in this wip, but I have no tangible goal to work towards. Perhaps this is why so many people quit writing -- with no reward in sight, they aren't as motivated to continue. Perhaps this is why NaNo is so helpful: it stresses finishing, and it gives you a reward when you do. 

(I'm glad that NaNo doesn't offer a participation prize, banner, or award. Participating is its own reward. Finishing -- which so many writers struggle with -- is different.)

I want to let Contracted marinate in my mind-juice for a week or two. I'm not worried about being burned out on it (or on writing) permanently. I would still like to offer some humble suggestions for dealing with NaNoWriMo burnout, such as:

1. It is ok not to write. 

No. Really. I mean it. Give yourself a break. If the idea of pulling up your wip makes you want to scratch out your eyeballs and/or sob in despair, then don't force yourself to write just for the sake of doing it. That was what November was for. Set a timeline on your break: "I'm not going to look at this wip for a week." Or two. Or maybe even for all of December. Make December your "break month" if you have to.

2. Write something else.

If the idea of working on your NaNo wip fills you with dread, but you still want to write something, pick something else to work on. Start a new thing. Finish an old thing. Write some poetry, short stories, one-act plays, reviews, or blog posts (ah, the inevitable post-NaNo blogposts).

3. Play a creative game.

Play a role-playing game. Maybe it's a video game; maybe it's online or a tabletop game with friends. There are multiple gaming threads on the NaNo site: here, here, and here. 

To those of you whose eyebrows just shot up in scorn -- you know who you are -- my writing and plotting skills have improved drastically since I started gaming. Games run on conflict. They are basically a testing ground for any story arc you want to try out. You can always reload, start a new game, or scrap something. If you're playing a video game with a preexisting plot, then study how the writers built the world, the characters, and the plot. Play a game and learn how to "introduce a little anarchy" to your writing.

4. Edit something.

Editing is different enough from the writing skill required to NaNo that I don't find myself shuddering in horror at the prospect. In fact, diving back into something old and familiar sounds like a comforting break. And it still counts as work. You can edit your NaNo novel, I suppose, but I would prefer to return to something else.

5. Read.

Now that you have time to read instead of frantically writing, sit down with that book you've been meaning to get around to. You don't have to rush through it, either. Just enjoy it. Presumably you were introduced to writing through books. If you're bitter, exhausted, or burnt out on your own wip, sit down with someone else's book and remember what it's like to love a story.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cheerfully Losing NaNoWriMo

My final word count for NaNoWriMo 2013 was 38,644. Well, technically it was 39,948, but I didn't get the chance to add in my last few words written before the site closed.

It's 11,356 words shy of the 50,000-word goal, but I don't mind. November is not really the ideal month to write a novel in, particularly with my schedule. I am extremely pleased with what I've accomplished during that time. Especially compared to last year, my first NaNo attempt.

Last year, I began Mask, a YA contemporary novel about the captain of a high school girls' fencing team. There was much drama, but it would all have worked out OK in the end -- if I'd gotten to the end. Alas, I stopped at about 17k. This first NaNo taught me a lot, and I'm sure I have the beginnings of a good story somewhere in there. 

But I was never really meant to finish Mask, and I didn't expect to. It was a bad, stressful time. For one, I was sick a lot and tired all the time. I also hadn't been able to write much of anything without being stricken by an overwhelming disgust and hatred for what I'd written, where it was going, what I was going to write next, or any of it. That, or I'd just be too apathetic to attempt to write -- or I would try to write and fall asleep at the computer. 

NaNo 2012 was my last-ditch attempt to recover something that I had used to enjoy, by starting something completely new. Even though life got in the way of finishing, it renewed my faith in writing and reminded me why I enjoy the storymaking process.

On to NaNo 2013.

I decided to do NaNo because I wanted to finish a current wip. After last year, I knew that a completely new NaNo novel would be unmanageable with my schedule, and I didn't want to drive myself crazy. While reaching 50k would be ideal, I was also realistic. I judge my success this year based on what I wrote last year. 38,644 - 16,442 = 22,202 more words than I managed in 2012. So when I say I'm "cheerfully losing NaNoWriMo," what I mean to say is that I won it on my own terms.

Contracted isn't finished. Finishing the first draft may take a while. I can't believe that I originally thought it would be a short story...then a long story...then a novella...and it's now sitting at just over 80k, a genuine novel-in-progress. 

I started it around the beginning of 2013. 80k in a year is the fastest I've written any of my wips. I really love this one and I have high hopes for its future. And I really really really need to finish it soon because I can't read Throne of Glass until I do. I've put a self-imposed moratorium on all books containing assassins and/or fairy tale retellings. (I've been compensating by reading a lot of sci-fi, post-apocalypse, dystopian, and MG.)

In conclusion, I am pleased with what I accomplished this November.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: NaNoWriMo Catch-up

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly writerly blog hop hosted by Jaime Morrow.

What I'm reading

I'm loving Nick and Tesla's High Voltage Danger Lab. Middle Grade has been my favorite thing under the sun lately -- since the summer, really. I left behind some of my favorite YA reads over break, including Proxy, which I am just getting into and which was verrrry painful to leave because it is SO GOOD. But. I knew that if I took it, all I'd do was read it. I am definitely looking forward to finishing it once I come home for break.

What I'm writing (aka NaNo update)

At the risk of boring you all to death with yet another NaNoWriMo post, I'm a few thousand words behind the projected word count. Oh well. I am almost to 30k (words written since Nov. 1, not words total). That puts me a good 13k above what I had for last year's NaNo, which makes me happy. I will return to Mask some day...but right now, Contracted is my baby. 

When I'm not writing it, I like to conceptualize, daydream, plot, and imagine the makeover I'm going to give The Book. WIP multitasking. I have decided to regender/gender-swap a major secondary character. Compared to the plot changes I'm thinking of, that's nothing. Sigh...

What else I'm up to

Musical, musical, musical. Also, someone left a passive-aggressive sticky note on our door that said, "Stop stomping." I am still in a boot. I guess I don't limp quietly enough for some people. This is really perplexing because we don't live above anyone who would get annoyed at us for "stomping" on their ceiling.

What inspires me right now

The Word Sprints forum in NaNo. It always gives me an idea for a sprint, or a challenge to do.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It's Wednesday. What's Up?

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Jaime Morrow. 

What I'm reading

A biography for class, called Bess of Hardwick, Empire Builder by Mary Lovell. It's very good nonfiction -- engagingly written, informative, and about a very interesting person during a very interesting time in history. I'm also reading Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab and The Last Unicorn. I really need to read for fun and reviews more, but as I'll explain, I've been quite busy.

What I'm writing (aka NaNo update)

Contracted passed 70k last night/this morning. I'm technically behind on the NaNo stats chart, but only by a little under 2,000 words. I've been hanging out on the word wars, prompts, and sprints forum late at night when I should be doing homework, playing catch-up instead. I recently finished a major section, so huzzah! 

One thing I've noticed is that while I get a lot of words out during NaNo, the speed does cramp my writing and plotting style a bit. When I finish a major section in Contracted, I usually take a day or two to mull over what I've written. I'll play things over in my head like a movie, and envision scenarios for what happens next. I mean, I know what happens next, but I haven't decided when it happens -- or more importantly, what perspective I'm going to write it in. Do I continue with this plot arc, or switch over to the villain plot arc on the other side of the country?

But -- thank goodness -- the journey-through-the-woods montage is DONE. Actually, the entire journey segment of the book is over. That was a good 30k chunk in the middle of the story. FRICKIN AWESOME. Now I NEVER have to try and keep "characters clomping through the forest/along the road/past the town" interesting again!!!

What else I'm up to

I'm working on the crew for a musical, Ruddigore by Gilbert and Sullivan, that goes up this weekend. *stresses out* I ordered two pizzas in advance for this week because I know that I am always hungry after rehearsal, no matter how much I ate at dinner beforehand. 

What inspires me right now

I've talked about music and writing playlists here before, but I've been using certain videos to write to a lot. I'll listen to the same video over and over, because the repetition isn't as distracting as choosing a new song. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tag, I'm It! 10 Questions from Alyssa

Alyssa, fellow college blogger of I Am Writer - Hear Me Roar! tagged me in a blog-hop interview. You can read her list of questions and answers here. She asked me:

1. What in your opinion do you think YA (or fiction in general) needs more of?

A lot of answers to this question vary depending on what is trending at the time. If something is trending, people generally say "YA/fiction should have more of [whatever is opposite or different from the current trend]." I'll try to answer this more generally. I think YA needs more scary stuff. As much as I love paranormal, I have consistently disliked how it has been softened down for YA. I would like to see either paranormal that doesn't lose the horror elements, or just more pure YA horror.

Which leads me to...

2. What is something you would absolutely love to see a book about? (Be specific if possible!)

I want more horror retellings of fairy tales. I've had the genre on the brain lately thanks to my NaNo novel. I think fairy tales lend themselves particularly well to horror, since they were originally cautionary tales told to frighten children. Like paranormal, the original tales have been softened down and made more vanilla and less scary over the years. Let's bring back some of that fear.

3. How many non-American authors can you name? (List them!)

Ack. I don't know. I don't really pay attention to an author's country of origin. If I liked the book enough, I might read their author bio, maybe even visit their website or follow them on Twitter. But I generally don't bother to learn too much about the author. This might be because I write reviews. I feel like I can't be honest enough in my review if I research the author's personal life and background too much. I'm sure I know quite a few non-American authors by name, but I don't know who they are, if that makes sense. 

Margaret Atwood is Canadian, though. She's famous.

4. How many non-American YA authors can you name? (List them!)
The first three that come to mind are JK Rowling, Darren Shan, and Garth Nix. I liked their books so much that I developed a bit of an obsession and sort of Internet stalked them soooo...

5. What are books that have made you sob and/or cry out loud?

Oh, dear, difficult question. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch was the last one that reduced me to an "I'm going to throw this across the room and sob" wreck.

6. What is your favourite book from childhood?

Taggerung by Brian Jacques (another non-American author) got me into the Redwall world. I also started reading The Fellowship of the Ring when I was 11 and never looked back. Vivian Vande Velde and Tamora Pierce were also authors I enjoyed, Vande Velde more so because Pierce's books tended to tackle all that awkward sex stuff which I did not enjoy reading about. I still really, really like her Protector of the Small quartet, in particular the last book Lady Knight. Mostly because the protagonist was down to earth and sensible like me, and didn't bother with any of that silly romance and sleeping around stuff. 

I was probably too young for a lot of the stuff I read as a kid. But my older self appreciates that series in particular -- oh look, a virgin protagonist who has an interest in love but who doesn't seek out a man to complete her or feel guilty about not having had sex or children. It's not like Pierce is trying to preach abstinence; the character just has a very strong sense of self and doesn't have a romance or sex for the sake of doing it. That's something you don't see a lot of in YA. Romance taking the backseat in a non-romance genre??? Whaaaat?

7. What do you like to do that has absolutely nothing to do with reading, writing, or anything of the like?

I like to do theatre and I like to knit. :)

8. What does diversity mean to you?

Diversity is connected to the experiences people have with how their differences from others have shaped their perspectives and experiences on life.

9. How would you describe your style of clothing?

"Whatever I can wear that is clean and looks mostly decent for the activities of the day." 

10. What is your goal in life? (It could be at the moment or overall).

My goal right now is to finish NaNoWriMo. And to not have a meltdown while doing it. ;P 


To continue this blog tag, link back to the person who tagged you, answer their ten questions, then make ten more questions and tag ten more people. Now, my ten questions for you are...

1. Do you think NaNoWriMo works?
2. Have you ever done NaNoWriMo or are you doing it now, and how did it turn out for you?
3. You are trapped alone in a room for the next year with only one book to read. Which book do you choose?
4. Do you prefer e-readers or paper books, and why?
5. What is the hardest thing you have ever written?
6. What is your favorite book (or books) from childhood?
7. What book has had the most profound impact on your writing?
8. Do you have a favorite genre to read?
9. Do you have a favorite genre to write? Is this the same or different from your favorite genre to read, and why?
10. And lastly, a fun question...You can choose one of the Deathly Hallows. Do you choose the Elder Wand, the Invisibility Cloak, or the Resurrection Stone?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Pentatonix Edition

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly writerly meme hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. I'm reading

I got a copy of Nick and Tesla's High Voltage Danger Lab to review! This book looks like fun. I've been reading more Middle Grade lately, and I like it a lot. I also read and reviewed Asylum. I didn't like it, and only finished it so that I could write a fair review. Various aspects didn't really sit well with me, and the writing fell flat. Others might like it, but for me it was "meh."

I am also feeling the urge to re-read some of my favorites: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lies of Locke Lamora, All The World's A Grave, and even A Game of Thrones. There's a reason I put all these books waaaay up high on the shelf. I have no business re-reading right now when I have so much material to get through...

What I'm writing

Contracted is pushing 60k. My progress on this WIP continues to surprise me. I can't believe I started this thinking it would be a short story.

Right now, the characters are stuck in the dreaded journey-through-the-woods montage and I'm scrambling to come up with names of all these people that I have to introduce.

What I'm supposed to be writing

Ha. I feel like I should include this section because all the college coursework is coming crashing down right now. I have a paper due in a few weeks (that I should start now), and I have two contracts and bibliographies due...and ugh.

What else I'm up to

I'm beta-reading for the seriously cool Patrice Caldwell. I'm knitting a scarf (because if I ever hope to open a side Etsy shop, I need things to put there...) 

What inspires me right now

These lovely people!

Pentatonix, a five-member a cappella group. I'm a Pentaholic (a silly fandom name for a Pentatonix fan). Their album PTX Vol. 2 is available for pre-order! AND, the ENTIRE album is available for preview right now on billboard! You should listen to it. SERIOUSLY. Their vocal effects are amazing. All they do in studio is add reverb and mix the balance. It might sound like they use a drum machine...but that's just Kevin (aka the beatboxing cello guy). They always inspire me, and the quality of their music is always good.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

This Was a Weird Wednesday

It's Wednesday again. What's up with you?

What I'm Reading

I just finished MILA 2.0. It's a great book! I would probably give it four stars, because five stars for me is me jumping up and down and pestering all my friends to read it. I wasn't quite that crazy over it, but it's still good. And I cried at the end. MILA 2.0 also gets major points for one of the best mom-daughter dynamics I've read in a long time.

What I'm Writing

Contracted, as usual. Big oops. I kind of...accidentally reached 50,000 words. :P Before November. Bad me! Oh well; I was going to NaNoRebel this one anyway. Now my NaNo goal will be to finish the story, I guess. I have no idea how many words that will take.

What Else I'm Up To

Making ravioli. And, weirdly, crying a lot for no known reason. I did just get new contacts, so it's probably a reaction from the rest of my body to my eyes feeling watery and irritated a lot. I also just finished a stage role where I had to cry, so I had to practice making myself cry. And now I'm crying at everything (though MILA 2.0 was a valid thing to cry about). 

I cried during a commercial. I cried watching Legend of Korra. I cried when I was brushing my hair. WTF. There doesn't seem to be any emotion attached to most of these things; it's just a physical reaction. But I'm not the weepy kind of hormonal (I'm the bitchy kind). Oops, there I go again. I'm tearing up writing this blogpost. I don't get it. I hope this is a phase.

What Inspires Me Right Now

I'm knitting a pillow and it has turned out really nicely. It still needs more stuffing, though. Also, I had great heaps of fun writing a Sub-genre Party post, and it needs comment love. :) People sometimes assume fantasy is stagnant or formulaic, but there are so many angles you can take on it. I am reminded of why I love to read and write fantasy.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Subgenre Party!

Since signing up for NaNoWriMo, I've been spending a lot of time on the forums. They're a great resource. 

Because Contracted is fantasy, I've been hanging out on the Fantasy forum a lot. In the process, I've found out some things about the WIP that I didn't know myself. It fits into sub-genres I didn't initially realize, including some that I didn't even know existed. Such as:

High Fantasy: fantasy that takes place in a non-Earth dimension, alternate world, or universe. (Contrast with Low Fantasy, which takes place on Earth.) Lumped in with Epic Fantasy, and the terms are interchangeable (although I prefer to differentiate between the two because High refers to the setting while Epic refers to the nature of the story).

Epic Fantasy: lumped in with High Fantasy. Fantasy that features a quest, journey, multiple locales, a sense of sweeping scope and scale, or characters with epic stature, such as monarchs and heroes. More likely to have an episodic plot. The stakes are about Saving the World.

Dark Fantasy: fantasy where the gothic, horror, or gruesome elements are emphasized; fantasy where grim and scary themes, motifs, and characters are emphasized; sometimes called "horror fantasy."

Fairy-Tale Retelling: a retelling of a classic fairy tale or myth. May or may not be Fantasy.

Twisted Fairy Tale: May or may not be fantasy, but when it is, it's the Dark Fantasy or Horror version of Fairy-Tale Retelling. Many are fairy tales retold as horror stories.

Gritty Fantasy: a sister to Dark Fantasy, but where Dark Fantasy is more about horror/gruesome elements, Gritty Fantasy is more about amorality. Characters are often forced to be or become amoral/morally ambiguous in order to survive in a cruel, harsh world. There's a focus on character realism rather than heroic ideals. 

Political Fantasy: fantasy that focuses on political intrigue, where political conniving, scheming, and intrigue is central to the plot. Tends to have less magic.

Sword and Sorcery: fantasy crossed with action/adventure, taking place in a High Fantasy setting, often involving magic and a romantic element. The characters have many battles, fights, and adventures, but the stakes are less about Saving the World and more about personal battles. Has gained a bit of a reputation for being campy.

LGBT Fantasy: as I define it, fantasy where a non-hetero character or romantic relationship is central to the plot. Alternately, it's fantasy that is in discourse with LGBT issues and that seeks to create social change for LGBT people today (an "issue" novel). 

How useful are sub-genres, though? Does it matter whether something fits better in High/Epic Fantasy or Dark Fantasy? Apart from Feminist and LGBT Fantasy, which are used as vehicles for social change, the rest of these seem like sub-genres without a cause.

Sub-genres seem most useful for talking about books...after reading them. And after writing them. Genre is often more a marketing thing.
But none of that matters right now.

November is for writing, and it's nearly here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Government Shutdown Edition

What I'm reading

 MILA 2.0 has been sitting over in the sidebar since summer, and sitting sadly on my Nook for PC since I downloaded it. I want to get back into it -- I left off right when things started to pick up -- but I feel really guilty whenever I read anything that isn't related to class.

I also ordered The Weir and Other Plays and 'night Mother to read as possibles for my senior thesis. It's getting down to the wire and I can't really afford to read for fun right now.

"Senior year," they said. "It will be fun," they said...

What I'm writing

The action is picking up in Contracted. The characters are also developing in ways I didn't originally plan, and that I'm not sure I like. It's interesting, but at the same time I'm thinking, "Why did I write this scene?? She's not supposed to have feelings!!"  Feelings are hard. I don't like them. :(

Also, I don't buy the "My characters ran away with me! I'm just writing them how they want to be written!" line. I control the characters; I write the story. Writing different emotions and dynamics makes sense for where the story is now; however, it doesn't quite reconcile with my original ideas. And while I like these new developments, I don't want to totally sacrifice those. I'm afraid it will read as inconsistency. 

What else I'm up to

I am so annoyed that they broke the government like I can't even. Like if you lose a soccer game you can't just coerce the other team into giving you more points or else you'll ban soccer or something. I. Am. So. Annoyed. My parents both have government jobs, too. They won't "lose" their jobs, but they can't work/be paid until a budget is figured out, at which point they get all the pay they didn't get while the politicians were having a pissing contest. And on that note:

What inspires me right now
I'm playing Desdemona and Bianca in my friend's senior project. She's studying the villains of Shakespeare, taking the angle of, "What happens when you regender them from man to woman?" It's an extremely interesting project, and if you want to read more, my post What if Iago was a Woman? explains further. It might seem strange that I find this "inspiring," but as a Shakespeare nut I'm a sucker for tragedy, and also, good theatre is ALWAYS inspiring.

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What if Iago was a Woman?

For all that I'm a theatre major, I hardly ever talk about acting on this blog. But this project is so cool and fantastic and awesome and wicked that I just have to take a minute and tell you about it.

What if Iago was a woman?

For those of you who don't know, Iago is a villain in Shakespeare's tragedy Othello. He is considered one of the worst, most evil antagonists in all of Shakespeare. 

Plot summary: Othello is a Moor, which in those days referred to someone from Africa. He, a black man, marries Desdemona, a white woman. Society flips its shit, but they can't exactly do anything because he's the General of the Venetian navy and there's a war on. Desdemona, unable to stay with her angry father, goes with Othello to Cyprus, which is in rebellion. A storm sinks the enemy navy and our good guys arrive safely. Iago, though, is not happy. Because Othello passed him over for promotion (and assorted other reasons that all amount to "I just want to fuck shit up"), he decides to ruin Othello's convincing him that Desdemona is having an affair.

Enter my friend's senior thesis project. Her project is about regendering the villains of Shakespeare. Regendering is a theatre term for changing a character's gender. Example: King Lear becomes Queen Lear and you change all the pronouns. Or Mercutio (Mercutia?) is played as a woman by a woman, and again, you change the pronouns that refer to her. Some productions change women characters to men, and a friend once said she saw a production of King Lear where Lear appeared to have no assigned gender (though this production choice is rarer). The best regendering I ever saw was a production of Hamlet that turned Polonius into a woman.

It's different from cross-gender casting, in which someone plays a character notof their gender. Regendering changes the gender of the character. It's far more common to see a character regendered as female in productions of early modern plays, simply because there are so few parts for women but so many great actresses. Also, some people get really weird about cross-gender casting, to the point where they'd rather change a character's gender than see a girl pretending to be a boy or vice versa.

As you can imagine, this sometimes creates interesting implications for the play. Like with Iago.

Making Iago a woman adds the glass ceiling and the "woman in the military" factors. Female Iago must use different tactics to achieve her goals, and is much freer to use sexual manipulation of her male colleagues because she doesn't face homophobia. When Iago complains bitterly about being passed over for some desk jockey who has no battle experience and doesn't deserve the promotion, it takes a whole 'nother connotation coming from a woman. Similarly, when Iago tells Othello about Cassio kissing him and humping his leg in his sleep, our actress delivers it in a distraught tone holding back tears so that sounds like an attempted rape. That speech will often get a laugh when played by a man. I sincerely doubt anyone will think it's funny if played by a woman.

I don't think this necessarily makes Iago more sympathetic, but it makes her different. Apparently people hardly ever regender the villains of Shakespeare. The three my friend chose to focus on were Iago, a villain; Shylock, an outsider/anti-hero; and Tybalt, an antagonist and aggressive, all-around jerk. Iago is by far the biggest project because he has the most scenes; Shylock and Tybalt have only a handful each.

Currently, I'm involved in the Iago project. I am playing...drumroll, please...Desdemona (because of course tiny blonde me is playing Desdemona) and Bianca, because that is a BRILLIANT bit of doubling. It's also rather ironic, because I always get cast as either the sweet ingenue or the sex fiend. Don't ask me why. I don't know. (I'm not sure I want to.)

This project is an acting challenge I've never had before. The first performance will be with a male Iago, the second with a female. I have to rehearse the same scenes twice, once with the man and once with the woman, and my reactions change between actors. Some of it it just responding to different actors -- but the change does affect the scene in huge ways.

For example, there's a scene where drunk Cassio is making fun of male Iago and making an ass of himself. When drunk Cassio makes fun of female Iago, he says, "This is my ancient, this is my right hand" -- and he raises his right hand...and slaps her ass. Everyone in the room: "Well that escalated quickly."

I was put in that scene in a silent role as Bianca (Cassio's prostitute), and as you might imagine, my reactions are very different for each Iago. Me for male Iago: "I am bored and I wish Cassio would get drunk enough so we can go have sex." Me for lady Iago: "BITCH THAT'S MY MAN."

It's a very dynamic process and I'm super excited to be a part of this project.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I'm a Mess: College, Recipes, Bewilderment

I am determined to keep up this blog in college. Right now, I just don't have much to say because I'm a total mess.

My stuff has yet to be unpacked. I promise I'm not lazy. I can explain.

The saga of the dorm room:

I'm in a triple with my two roommates from freshman and sophomore year. Yay! :) Our room is not huge and there are three of us, so we've had to get creative with making space. Problem was, my bed was bunked on top of another bed. When I say "bunked," I mean someone thought it would be a good idea to just stack one bed on top of another. They weren't secured. There was no rail on the top bed or rungs to climb the bunk. The whole affair shook if you touched the top bed. No way in hell was I climbing up there to sleep.

So we pulled my mattress off and put it on the floor in the closet. This Tuesday, someone came in to un-bunk the beds. Yay! Now I can unpack the rest of my stuff! Except that my two big boxes are too tall to go under the bed, and we're not allowed to use bed risers. My bed is still in the closet, which I am referring to as the Bat Cave.

SIGH. I need to get my posters in the mail, too. And my coffeemaker. Otherwise, the living situation is nice. I'm not sleeping on the floor anymore.

...Then there's the senior project. ARGH. I don't even want to think about it. I'm going to audition and possibly do an acting thesis, but if I don't get that, well...I'd better start reading plays to direct.


On the plus side, I made mushrooms in wine sauce. It was super easy. I chopped up the mushrooms, put them in the pan with some olive oil and garlic-herb stuff, pushed them around the pan a bit, and then poured white wine on them and let them simmer for a while. The wine soaks into the mushrooms so they're succulent and OMG SO DELICIOUS. This is an especially good recipe for poor college students. It has a vegetable, so you can excuse it as healthy. It also has wine. The trick is to do it with a twelve-dollar bottle of wine (Barefoot brand is really good cheap wine) that you can either make more mushrooms with or drink the rest of later. (While eating string cheese and pretending to be classy.)
Not my actual cooked mushrooms. My friends and I ate them too quickly to take photos.

I'll probably be talking more about recipes for the college kitchen. Cooking helps me de-stress. And goodness knows I could do some de-stressing right now. I'm a mess.

I'm also nearing the end of the CP process for The Book, so I'm even more of a mess. In a...good way? I think? It's like I'm too worried about college and my senior year and my (as yet nonexistent) senior project to even care about it right now. My Give a Shit Radar is not broken, just...put on hold. Eh, that might be a mixed metaphor...but guess what...I don't give a shit!!! WOOO!!!!

*laughs hysterically, cries, drinks more tea*

I've been working on Contracted a lot, actually. It's new. It doesn't terrify me with the amount of work it needs (yet). My writing style for this one is slightly more elevated than what I use for my YA WIPs -- not that I simplify for YA; it's just that these characters are people who speak better and pay more attention to propriety than the average teenager. However, I've found that as I stress and stay up late to write, the writing deteriorates. Or I trying too hard?

British History to 1688 is my favorite class so far.

A friend posted on Facebook about how much fun she's having analyzing a poem for British Lit. I've taken the class. I can't wait till she gets to all the boner poems. I really want to see those status updates.

Because OF COURSE I went to college to study boner poems.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: I'm Not a Morning Person

My brother really needs to get his driver's license so that I don't have to drive him to college. That requires me to get up at 6:45 AM. I've never functioned well at that time. My morning classes even in elementary school were horrible because I was so tired and had so much trouble focusing my attention. I blame that for why I hate math. Nope, getting up early results in days like today, where I was completely burned out and frustrated by 6 PM. If I hadn't pre-written this post, I wouldn't WUW this week.

I took a nap. I wish I could retake all those naps I wanted to skip as a kid.

Me this evening.
Anyway, writing! I finished my Ready Set Write! side goal for the week: complete a scene from Contracted and start the next one. However, I'm worried that my voice/style will change as I get further into the story. I'm editing another WIP with drastically different characters, voice, and style. This is the first time I've been worried that working on two WIPs at once will affect them.

What I'm reading

I'm still working on Throne of Glass and MILA 2.0. I want to save MILA 2.0 for college so that I can pretend to be studying while I read it on my computer. Throne of Glass I'm taking slowly for a different reason: it's similar to Contracted in a couple ways, and I don't want it to influence the story I'm writing. They both feature assassins, and both are -- oddly -- inspired by fairy tales.

Sarah J. Maas got the idea for Throne of Glass from Disney's Cinderella. She apparently wondered how the "Cinderella flees the castle" scene would be different if Cinderella had done something really, really be an assassin who'd just tried to kill the prince. (Is that not awesome?) In the interview at the back of my edition, she says, "Throne of Glass has become more of an original epic fantasy than a Cinderella retelling, but you can still find a few nods to the legend here and there."

Meanwhile, Contracted was inspired by Little Red Riding Hood. I wondered, "What kind of terrible mother sends their young daughter alone through wolf-infested woods? ...What if she did it on purpose?" and it went from there. I also threw other fairy tale elements into the story, like an evil stepmother and the three brothers -- the youngest of whom is, of course, the most virtuous. The main character's name is also the heroine of a Russian fairy tale. My story seems to have stayed closer to the original tale than Throne of Glass did, and apart from those two elements, they have nothing in common. It just struck me that I would pick up Throne of Glass in the middle of writing a fairy-tale-inspired story about assassins.

What I'm writing

I like editing and rewriting, but I have to work on something new just to give myself a break. Contracted has become my primary project for now. I may have written a truly unlikeable protagonist. She's sympathetic from a certain point of view, but she also has the sociopath thing going on. It probably comes from not feeling like she could trust anyone in her childhood. 

Everyone in this WIP has mommy issues.

What else I've been up to

I mentioned last week that I was writing a review of Orange is the New Black. I posted it over the weekend. It's long, but I'd appreciate the thoughts of anyone who wants to take the time to read it. :) Several people expressed interest in it last week, so head on over there if you like! I'm aware that it was a book first, but as I haven't read the book, the review is strictly of the show. Fair warning, though: if you loved the show, you're not going to like my review. I didn't hate it, but neither did I fall down and worship at its feet like some of my friends have. Here's an excerpt:

Her bisexuality -- excuse me, I mean her "choice" between gay and straight; there are no "bi"  people on this show -- is presented as yet another aspect of her entitlement. Which reinforces the stereotype that bisexuals are entitled sluts who just want it all and can't "choose" like normal people. Or that bisexuals don't exist because "bi" people are really just "undecided."


It's not cringe-worthy, but it's not the ultra-progressive show some people seem to think it is.

What inspires me right now

I can't stop watching Pentatonix videos on YouTube. I think I'm officially a Pentaholic.

Also, I will take full blame for any hours of your life enriched by going to YouTube and looking them up. :)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Orange is the New Black: An Honest Review

I've heard a lot about this show. I've heard it praised to the roof. I've also heard the SPLAT of virtual tomatoes. And you know me -- always willing to weigh in with an opinion. 

I have a friend who always tries to tell me this or that about Game of Thrones -- how it's fantasy porn or how too many people die or how it's not literary or what the author's evil goals are -- when he hasn't seen the show or read the books. I can tolerate the hipsters who don't want to watch something because it's popular. I don't like the hipsters who refuse to watch something and pass judgment on it anyway.

So to avoid being that person, I sat down and watched Orange is the New Black. 8 episodes of it. [SPOILERS AHEAD] It's very easy to binge-watch. It's kind of like a train wreck -- I can't look away. My favorite character is Piper's roommate, Miss Claudette. I also like Susanne/Crazy Eyes, because she peed on Piper's floor, and Piper is awful. 

Maybe if the main character, Piper, wasn't SO ANNOYING, I would like the show better. I also can't stand her fiance, best friend, or best friend's husband. Think of every stereotype you know about rich white yogurt-eating yuppies, and then dump a canister of Wite-Out over all of that, and that's how white Piper is. They have some good moments, but most of it is stereotyped obnoxiousness.

I had sympathy for the fiance, Larry, until Piper was put in solitary unjustly over Thanksgiving. Then her counselor called Larry and lied about her cheating on him. Instead of calling Piper to see if she was all right and ask HER if she'd cheated, Larry decided to milk the betrayal for more career and fame points, going on NPR and telling all of America that Piper had cheated on him.

Also, Piper is the kind of bisexual/"hasbien" that lesbians and bisexuals can't stand. Just so I'm clear: if you experiment, that's fine...but ripping up other people and breaking hearts under the excuse of "I'm just exploring my sexuality" is low and mean and selfish. The other person should know you're just experimenting. Piper's portrayal is incredibly negative representation for bisexuals.

Here's Piper: "Nope, sorry if this was real for you, I'm just going to break your heart now. Oh, it's ten years later and I'm going to tell you it was real after all and start an affair with you. BUT WE'RE NOT HAVING AN AFFAIR, we're just being human because I need COMFORT. You see, my fiance is outside the prison, so you're my LESBIAN COMFORT OBJECT that I'm using for sex. But don't tell anyone, because once I get out, I'm going back to my fiance and dumping you in the dirt. Again. No hard feelings, right? I mean, I get everything I want because I'm so fucking entitled, so I can have you and him and fame and fortune and a book deal and a TV show, amirite?" 

She. Is. So. Annoying. The ironic thing is that the whole pitch of the show is "yuppie white girl in prison." But I would rather watch all the other characters and their plots. I like those parts of the show. If I'm supposed to be the audience attracted by a character like Piper, fuck it, I'm fucking insulted.

I would also like the show to decide what exactly it is -- comedy or drama. I know, I know, "dramedy" is a thing (but that doesn't mean I have to like it). I like the show when it's serious, but then it goes all "Look at me, look how funny I am! Hahaha!" and I don't feel comfortable with some of the things we're asked to laugh at. It's basically a prison soap opera, which is fine sometimes. Someone's pregnant now, so it really IS a soap opera. It's the Latina girl. 

Because OF COURSE the Latina girl is pregnant. The other pregnant woman in the prison is also Latina. As much as Orange is the New Black does to reveal and break down stereotypes, it does a lot to reinforce them as well.

Man, I don't know about this show. I want to stop watching. But it's the train wreck effect. Well, it also has great writing, plotting, and acting. Also, it has a lot more boobs than a train wreck, and everyone likes boobs, so that makes it harder.

I should probably mention that when they show the f/f sex, it's ALWAYS between two white women. No interracial sex partners. No same-race non-white sex partners. WHITE BOOBS ARE BETTER THAN OTHER BOOBS. Theoretically, TV shows sex scenes when it's relevant to the plot, but we all know they show the sex that people want to see. AKA, white lesbian sex. 

Also, the only interracial couple on the show has resulted in the aforementioned pregnancy. Yes -- they had sex -- but I'm talking about the sex that is shown. Nothing is shown and they cut to black. It's unclear if they even had sex until she gets pregnant; I had assumed it was a BJ in the closet. The same girl later has sex with another man, in an attempt to frame him for rape and protect the real father of her child (Wow, it really is a soap opera. Now all they need is for someone to recover their lost memory). He pulls out a condom, and it cuts as she leans over, both of them fully clothed. 

You can have an interracial couple, but you can't show them doing anything. You can have a bigger girl, but you can't show her naked -- because that would take screen time away from all the naked, skinny white girls, most of whose relationship subplots aren't nearly as important as your XL-sized, Latina girl's. THE FACT THAT SHE HAS PENETRATIVE INTERCOURSE IS AN ACTUAL PLOT POINT, not just filler, but apparently we can't show that. 

And sure, maybe the actress didn't want to film a sex scene or a nude scene. But let's go back to what I said before: her character arc is dominated by this romance and her pregnancy, but I didn't realize that she'd even had sex with this guy. Showing that she'd had intercourse with him is kind of important, don't you think?

Oh and another thing: Piper is either straight or a lesbian...there is literally no discussion of her being bisexual. The word bisexual is never even said. She describes herself as a "former lesbian" who went back to being straight. Alex says, "I should've known -- never fall in love with a straight girl." Bisexuals don't even fucking exist in the world of this show, at least not in a way that anyone talks about. Piper must "choose" to be lesbian or "choose" to be straight. 

See why I'm bothered by this? Sexuality is not a choice. For bisexuals, sexual partners are a choice, and Piper's choice between her male fiance and her female ex-lover is legitimate. But equating choosing a male or a female sex partner as "choosing to be straight" or "choosing to be a lesbian" is misleading and damaging to people's perceptions of what gay, straight, and bi mean.


I don't hate this show. I've just heard people laud it as the least racist, sexist thing that's ever existed -- which it's not -- and condemn it as the most racist, sexist thing that's ever existed, which it's also not. It does many things right. It does many things wrong. It is a step in a good direction for TV...though it probably only gets away with so much because it's not on TV; it's on Netflix. 

I also realize that some stereotyping is unavoidable...but they could have done a better job. Especially with the "choose your sexuality" arc. If it was presented in a different way, I wouldn't mind. Instead, her bisexuality -- excuse me, I mean her "choice" between gay and straight; there are no bi people on this show -- is presented as yet another aspect of her entitlement.


The show fascinated me enough that I watched 8 episodes, so that's a point in its favor. I liked how backstory was gradually revealed in flashbacks. But mostly, the main feeling it elicits from me is annoyance. There are plenty of other great shows I can watch that don't annoy me half so much, so why would I stick with this one?

On the other hand, I'm invested enough that I want to know what happens next. Pensatuckey is in the psych ward and Piper is trying to get her out. I predict she tries to murder Piper (because who wouldn't?). 

Let's put mental illness on the list of things Piper Gets Wrong. It does not matter if Piper was mean to her or if she manipulated her; Pensatuckey clearly needs help. Piper intends to take her away from that help -- OK, a prison psych ward is a shitty approximation of "help" but at least she'll get doctors, attention, and meds. But no, Piper wants to do another misguided good deed. She wants to "save" someone else. (The rich white savior complex has been a pillar of her personality from day one.) 

Here's yet another show/movie that portrays medicating mental illness as the worst thing you can do to a person, and I'm fucking sick of hearing that "message." 

Mental illness is real illness; it deserves and needs medical help. Not a Piper to "save" someone from it. 

Sigh. I would ARGH a third time but I'm done here. It's not a terrible show, but the gap between what it claims to be and what it really is is wide.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Why My WIP Is So Long'm sort-of-nearly to the end of my critiquing adventure. My Ready. Set. Write! goals have all been oriented on editing this WIP, my first WIP, which I started when I was a 14-year-old high school freshman and finished when I was an upcoming senior in college.

"Finished." Haha. I know, I amuse even myself sometimes. 

What I'm Reading

MILA 2.0 is going swimmingly. Apart from some weird wordage that occasionally throws me, it's great. I also like that it has an introverted protagonist. 

I'm also working on Throne of Glass. The captain of the guard seems like an interesting guy. The prince is a typical spoiled pretty-boy who probably will fall in love with Celaena and then think he's entitled to her love because he gets everything he wants all the time, and an affair with an assassin is something cool and dangerous outside the propriety of princely life. He's not quite Joffrey, but I will be REALLY MAD if Celaena chooses him. There was a similar love triangle in Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet. Alanna sleeps with the crown prince for a while, and dumps him when she realizes he's using their relationship as his personal rebellion.

Seriously though, I am sick of princes.
Hahahaha this never gets old.
What I'm Writing

The other day, I had a revelation about The Book and why it sits at 100k words. I was looking at that figure, thinking about everything my CP had said about tightening up the plot and introducing more conflict, and wondering, "How did I get to this point?" And then I realized...I wrote this when I was fourteen. A couple of us were writing "books" at the time, so we would print out chapters and pass them around to our friends in homeroom. I got a rise off of writing cliffhangers and making people beg me for the next part. 

It was like a serial story that you read in the magazine or newspaper every week. In other words, I got to 100k because I wasn't writing a book.


If you read it as a longer work with serial installments, then you don't mind the minor conflicts, the mini-resolutions, or the way the main conflict is spread out. It makes perfect sense that way. Nor do you care about the length because you're only reading a small chunk at a time. (Also, it would probably help if you were fourteen going on fifteen and didn't care about things like the craft of writing.)

If you sit down with a 300-page book, though, you get a sloppily plotted monster that gets wrapped up in pointless subplots and seemingly has no focus on the main conflict. And you have to wade through 100,000 words all at once.

The worst thing about it is that even after I stopped writing for the homeroom audience, I kept those characteristics. Once I realized this, I briefly -- briefly, mind you -- considered editing it as a series of shorter stories. And then I was like
...With pretty much that exact expression, too.
NO WAY am I going through this again. I would rather shelve it than try to force it into yet another shape. I'm not at that point yet. I believe that it can be a book -- a real book -- with time, effort, and help. When I was younger, I used to worry that if I didn't get it done by age 16 -- 17 -- 18 -- the age kept going up as I got older -- I'd be some kind of failure. 

Well, never mind publishing young. It works for some, but in retrospect it was never a practical path for me. I was not homeschooled, I did not have a supportive family or oodles of time or money on my hands, I took AP and honors courses all through high school and served in various cultish clubs, and STILL managed to write 215k. I say 215k instead of 100k because that's how long it was until I chopped it in half and called it two books. So while my WIP might suck at the moment, I'm still proud that I even wrote it at all.

I probably should not have had William Faulkner and Stephen King as my 10th grade writing idols.

What else I'm doing right now

Speaking of Stephen King and long books, I'm enjoying the TV version of Under the Dome. I've also heard so many mixed things about Orange Is The New Black that I started watching it just so I could decide for myself.

I've heard people laud the show as the most progressive thing that's ever happened in television -- which makes me wonder what show they're watching because clearly we aren't seeing the same thing -- and others condemn it as the most racist, sexist thing that's ever happened to television, and it doesn't deserve that either. It's somewhere in the middle, doing things right and wrong...but for me, it's definitely on the side of "uncomfortable." I had too many gets its own post.

What inspires me right now

Cats. Cats have a very liberating "don't give a shit" attitude. I'm more than usually stressed right now. I need to have more...cattitude. 

Also, can we all just look at this again?
Talk about therapeutic.

Review: Style by Chelsea Cameron

A book I read was good, and I want to share it with you all via a review! :) I'm reading more of Chelsea Cameron's stuff, and this...