Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

I have to confess that I didn't really set goals for this week. :( I have a friend's wedding coming up this Saturday and a week-long vacation to visit relatives after that, so I've been a bit preoccupied.

However, I have been doing things! :)

What I'm reading

Needful Things by Stephen King. I just finished The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer and After the Snow by S.D. Crockett. They were both fantabulous and are now on my mental Favorites shelf. Needful Things is starting a bit slow, but I don't mind. Stephen King usually does that when he's writing about a small town. I personally thought the prologue was unnecessary, but I can see why he put it in there. So far, I'm enjoying the leisurely pace as I get introduced to the characters.

What I'm writing

Speaking of prologues, I just re-wrote the prologue for The Book. My intent was to clarify some points of confusion that my critique partner had pointed out, and to make the conflict clearer and more immediate. I think it's a step in the right direction, but I know this part will probably go through another ten revisions anyway.

I also plotted my first section of The Book as is and marked parts to change, cut, or keep. Then I plotted the re-writes I wanted to do for that section. Before, I was mostly editing for word count and sticking to the book I already had. Now that I have the word count down, I can afford to edit for, "how can I make this a better book plotwise?"

What else I've been up to

Like I mentioned, my friends' wedding is on Saturday. :) I've also been frantically watering my herb garden.

I'm still going back and forth with my critique partner. I am also really looking forward to Operation Diversity, which will be a group blog by readers and writers about all kinds of diversity in MG, YA, and NA books.

What inspires me right now

Photography. I've rekindled my relationship with Pinterest. Right now, I'm looking at all sorts of pictures of flowers and herbs, as well as nighttime photography of moonlit landscapes. It's calming. Sometimes I want my inspiration to get me up and moving; other times I need something to calm down.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What's Up With Me This Wednesday

It's Wednesday again, and this post is coming a little late. Sorry about that. First, let me check in with my writing goals:

- 1 review so far
- More of Contracted written
- Still haven't transferred those pages from longhand to computer
- Still need to start that Prologue edit.

What I'm reading

I'm finishing up After the Snow, and I'm about halfway through The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm. I also got the Nook book of Mrs. Cavendish's Home for Boys and Girls. Sometimes there are those books that you need to stay up all night reading. That was one of them. Also I was afraid that I would have nightmares if I didn't finish it (I may have nightmares anyway). 

I'm pretty sure it confirmed every suspicion I had as a child that there was a Great Adult Conspiracy and that Santa was really an evil taskmaster and if you weren't perfect and good, he would take you away and force you to work in his toy factory. (I at one point believed that his "elves" were stolen children who were forever frozen at that age, and who had been kidnapped for being "bad.") Not that Santa features in the book at all -- but if you read it, you'll know what I mean.

Sometimes there are also those books that seem to come into your life at a divinely appointed moment, because they help you with something that you couldn't have foreseen until you cracked that first page. I believe the ebook sale may still be going on over at the author's website. I strongly advise lovers of MG, horror, humor, and good writing to check it out. 

What I'm writing

I'm still working on Contracted, writing these blogposts, and writing my Examiner reviews. I'm thinking of adding a "My Writing" page to the blog, with links to my writing on this blog and outside. I've also started a "Saturday Sharing" series of posts, where I post excerpts of my writing. Hmm. We'll see how long that lasts.

What else I've been up to

I just came back from The Vacation From Hell (hence my late post). One of these seems to happen at least once a year.

I have also tried to up my standards on my cello practicing. I need to get rid of the defeatist attitude. No matter how many times I "learn" and perform a piece, I'll never be finished with it. So why try? You see where that line of reasoning leads. Nope, nope, nope. I have a senior recital, a Bach prelude, and a Chopin sonata to do.

What inspires me right now

Frankly? Not much. I'm in one of my I Hate the World and Everything In It But My Cat moods. However, this video managed to cheer me up/redeem my faith in humanity a bit.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Know Your Own Weaknesses

This week's writing goals:

- Write 2 Examiner reviews
- Do another page on Contracted
- Transfer longhand pages into The Other Book (which I did not do last week)
- Start editing The Book as per CP notes

Last week was not the greatest for meeting my writing goals. I did write a whopping 30 pages of Contracted and I resisted editing The Book, but that was it. I left everything else to the last minute -- but when I ended up doing yardwork literally all of Saturday, I couldn't finish them.

The weird thing is, it's a lot harder to write 30 pages of new material than it is to write a couple of 500-word reviews and copy some stuff down that you already wrote. I don't know why I avoid these seemingly simple and quick tasks. I think I assumed they'd be simple, so I left them to the last minute. That's a major flaw I have -- leaving things to the last minute.

"Know thyself" means being able to admit your flaws as well as take pride in your strengths. If you spend all your time playing to your strengths, you will continue to be good at the things you already know you're good at. But what about all those things you're not so good at? If you ignore them, they'll continue to suck.

This comes back to bite me in the butt in the form of critiques. I can't overstate the value of having a beta reader or a critique partner. Alyssa was all like, "this is where it is really vague" and "this is stagnant" and "but why?" and I was all like, "OMG why didn't I notice that?" and "OMG, I did notice that one part, but I was deliberately lazy and ignored it."

I always push myself to improve at things that I'm already good at. If I like a scene that I wrote, I will edit and polish and obsess over that scene. If I don't like a scene, I will do a halfhearted edit or two, tweak some grammar stuff, mess around a bit with description, and move on.

I don't know why. It's not like the scene will get any better on its own. I've been asking myself all the wrong questions. I should be asking, "Why don't I like this part?" and "What about this part don't I like?" And then figuring out how to improve them.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Flip-Out: Partials by Dan Wells

Currently Reading:

GUYS. OMG. Stop what you're doing and READ THIS BOOK.

Yeah, I'm wigging out a bit. This review will be more on the informal side.

I regret getting the ebook version only because I can't lend it to friends and family. I think my brother would like this book. I think it's a book that adults, young adults, and new adults (whatever that term is supposed to mean) would like. I'm flipping out this Friday because yes, it really is THAT AWESOME. I mean, look at the dedication:

"This book is dedicated to the rule breakers, the troublemakers, and the revolutionaries. Sometimes the hand that feeds you needs a good bite." 

My synopsis:

Kira Walker became a medic because she wanted to make a difference. But on the maternity ward, all she does is watch the future of the human race die, one baby at a time.

Most of humanity was wiped out in the Partial War, when the organically engineered supersoldiers called Partials rebelled and released the RM virus. Kira is part of the 0.04% of humanity immune to RM. What's left of civilization is hiding on Long Island, but even that is starting to crumble. The "Voice of the People" rebels object to the Hope Act, which requires every girl to get pregnant at 18 in the hope of having a baby that will inherit immunity. Kira's almost 17, and the Senate is dropping the age again. Her boyfriend Marcus wants to marry her, but she doesn't want a future of dead children.

Kira wants a cure.

Unfortunately, the only people immune to RM are the Partials. When Kira's best friend conceives, however, she gets desperate enough to try the impossible: capturing one.

My flip-out:

First of all, character. A lot of YA protagonists flip out and forget about everyone but themselves when they learn a devastating personal secret. Forget "strong female protagonists" -- Kira is probably the strongest and most empathetic protagonist I've ever read, period. Also, her strength doesn't magically disappear around her boyfriend or the hot new guy.

Like most post-apocalyptic fiction, Partials makes social commentary on modern issues. Materialism, the environment, teen pregnancy, fascism, terrorism, the military, medically approved rape, treatment of veterans, and race are all topics touched on -- but I never felt like I was being preached at.

Also, it's a relief to see a book that isn't populated entirely by the author's demographic (usually white). Because good luck getting me to believe that only white people were immune to the virus. I won't *hate* a book that doesn't have a diverse cast, but it is important. The representation of race in YA is really lopsided (aka, white).

And the science. YAAAAY SCIENCE. I know most of it is futuristic mostly-embellished science, but still. SCIENCE SCIENCE SCIENCE. As a medic and an aspiring researcher, science is very important to Kira. Her research on the RM virus is described in a way that even mostly-science-illiterate people (like me), would find cool and quite easy to understand. I think Partials is the closest thing I've seen to "hard sf" in YA. It's also fun to see Kira's scientific curiosity at war with her sense of ethics.

Disregarding all that, the story itself is fantastic. Talk about raising the stakes. Talk about suspense. Yeesh. I'm not sure how to describe it without giving away spoilers,'s probably safe to say that Partials has everything I like in a book (except for dragons. No dragons).
Just because.
I could geek out all day over Partials, but I won't. One last thing: I have friends named Kira, Marcus, Madison, and Yoon-Ji. They don't look or act like the characters in the book, but it was a fun coincidence. Now, if I also had friends named Isolde, Xochi, and Samm, I would start to be alarmed.

And I'm already flipping out enough.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: CP's and New Projects

It's Wednesday again. What's up, everyone?
 My writing goals for the week:

- Do 2 Examiner reviews (0/2)

- Keep working on Contracted
- Resist the temptation to further edit The Book
- Transfer my longhand pages of The Other Book to the computer version.
This is a bit less ambitious than last week's goals, thankfully. I've also met last week's goal of "write 5 pages on another project" with Contracted. Hooray!

What I'm Reading

I'm reading The Ear, the Eye, and The Arm by Nancy Farmer, an MG science fiction novel set in a future Zimbabwe. I LOVE it. I'm also still working through After the Snow, which I also love. However, I didn't feel as strongly about The Reformed Vampire Support Group, and I'll probably review that this week. It was one of those books where I felt betrayed by the ending. It had so much promise to both be hilarious and explore moral and existential problems...and it fell a bit short on both counts. I didn't hate it, but I wouldn't read it again and I'm not sure I'd recommend it.

What I'm Writing

I have a critique partner looking at The Book now -- hooray! Now that I have the insight of a new pair of eyes, I'm sorely tempted to start editing again according to her notes. I shouldn't, though. She's critiquing the WIP I have now -- not the WIP I have after sneakily editing ahead and then giving her more pages. Also, I need time to think and plan the next edit. It's a relief to take a break from my WIP. I need the insight that time and distance offer.

In the meantime, I've picked up Contracted again. You know how when you're on a roll and you're afraid to stop and lose the momentum, so you just keep going faster and faster? That's how it is right now. I hope it stays that way. Contracted is a long story about assassins, arranged marriage, and evil stepmothers -- a bit of an adult Red Riding Hood spin-off but with more gruesome death. No wonder I'm having fun!

What Else I've Been Up To

The family I babysit for has the most depressed-looking rescue dog ever. He is very sweet and friendly and tolerant of small children, but still scared to death of everything. Today, he decided he liked me. I was trying to lure him outside with some treats so that he could do his business in the yard, but he was afraid to come all the way down the stairs. So I finally scooped him up and put him outside. Apparently that meant that I had asserted my Alpha-ness, because he followed at my heels whenever I walked around or played tag with the kids. He even came when I called. Then when we went in, he didn't flee up the stairs. He stayed downstairs with me and the mom. Yay! This baffles me, because I've never been a dog person and a dog has never liked me before. But it's cute.

What Inspires Me Right Now

Last week it was Lindsey Stirling. She always inspires me, but this week it's The Piano Guys. This video will blow your mind.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Lose Some, Win Some

GUYS. OMG GUYS. You'll never guess what happened...

I finished Edit Round #4 of The Book! 

And not only that --

I reached my word count goal! WOOO ME!!!!!

What that actually means: Since late December, I've been editing a 113,591-word novel. My goal was to get it down to 100,000 words. Which I did -- it sits at 100k exactly. I successfully cut 13,591 words.

Holy shit.

To be honest, I had some serious doubts at the beginning of this editing process. Most of the words I cut were deleted or changed scenes, unnecessary dialogue tags, redundancies, and 13,591 other little things that really add up. To be brutally honest, it could probably be snipped and slimmed a bit more -- I bet I could take another 1,000 words off. 

If you ever embark on an editing adventure, I recommend you chart your progress with Excel. Every day, I put the date and the word count. Every tab was a different round of edits. When procrastinating, I calculated my average word-cutting rate per day, the differences between days, etc. I have a rather absurd love of graphs and stats and messing with Excel, but even if you're not me, you should do it.

I also posted here 3 times a week. Yay!

I also got the fantastic Alyssa of I Am Writer...Hear Me Roar! as a critique partner. Gulp. Giving my writing to someone else makes me really nervous, but I'm sure she'll do a great job. Her blog features very thoughtful and useful posts, and is a lot of fun to read. (Hint, hint *cough*FOLLOW HER*cough)

As for my other Ready. Set. Write! weekly goals, I didn't meet those. I started, but didn't finish, the outline. I only wrote 2 Examiner reviews. And I did absolutely nothing on any other project.

At least I partially completed some goals! Also, I have a valid excuse: I was speed-editing a long WIP. I did try to write other things, but it was way too distracting.

Since I met my 100k goal, however, I get to take a mini-break while Alyssa reads my pages. I get to read her pages (they are great), make notes on them, and possibly pick up a shelved project. I think I'll go back to Contracted or The Other Book. I am definitely guilty of WIP favoritism. Contracted is very fun to write. Lots of horrible people doing mostly horrible things. I think I'll feature it in a post about having unlikeable or problematic main characters. The chick from my zombie novella is annoying as all hell, but she's not problematic like this MC is.

Happy writing, happy reading. Have a good weekend and may you reach all your goals and beyond.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

Time for another Wednesday check-in post for Ready. Set. Write!

Writing Goals -- mid-week progress:
- I've written 1 book review.
- I'm about 2/3 of the way through my fourth edit of The Book.
- Haven't started my new outline. I'm waiting till the edit's done.
- I've written nothing on any other project. Oops.

 What I'm Reading

I just finished Archer's Goon by Diana Wynne Jones and Partials by Dan Wells. I'm halfway through After the Snow by S.D. Crockett, and I just started Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza. I need to get to the library soon and pick up I, Robot or just find my copy of Xenocide, which I had started years ago before losing. The reading theme lately has been post-apocalypse and sci-fi.

What I'm Writing

Let's do this a bit differently. You all know I'm on my fourth run of edits on my main project. But what about all those side writings I've had to put on hold? I'm not technically "writing" them right now, but I can introduce them here. The Other Book: it's the other book I'm working on (duh), a YA urban fantasy/dark fantasy. Contracted: my current favorite draft, a long story about assassins and arranged marriage. BRAAAIIINNNSSSSSS: That's not the title; it's just the file name. It's a novella about love and potheads in the zombie apocalypse. Mask: my NaNo novel. And lastly, various random other stuff.

What Else I've Been Up To

Nothing exciting -- just practicing the cello, cleaning my room (an ongoing process), playing video games, making tea, working, gardening, etc. My brother was complaining about a video game storyline, so I gave my theory on how it should have gone. He was impressed with my version. Apparently I'm a genius and should write for video game companies.

What Inspires Me Right Now

Lindsey Stirling, a violinist/dubstep artist. You can find her on YouTube. She very obviously loves music. It's inspiring when I'm trying to remember how I used to love music like that.

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...