Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Fiction Feed - Weather Woes

Disclosure: this is my favorite time of year. I love the cooler weather, the wind, pumpkin goodies, and the promise of the holidays coming. I love that tons of books come out and new television seasons start and good movies are around the corner. It's just all so wonderfully exciting.

But the weather is a big part of that. I love windy days. I love the first few drops of rain. There's a taste about autumn weather that's just so satisfying. Autumn days seem to satisfy a craving that every other season ignores.

So, I've been thinking about weather. Weather can be a great plot device. It can force characters to pause, bring them together, cause them stress, force them into action. Weather is beyond everyone's control, which means that it is purely at the discretion of the writer.

So change up the weather in your story. Have a sudden storm or drought. Create a tornado. Have a hurricane hit. See what happens when something uncontrollable happens.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Fiction Feed - Freudian Slip

Something fun this week!

You've probably heard of a Freudian slip--when someone accidentally says something that they didn't mean to say. These are usually sexual in nature (I mean, it's Freud here), but they don't always have to be.

So what happens when a character slips? DRAMA. That's like free, fun character times! So have a character slip something out about how they really feel, or what they really want--or, maybe, what they don't want to want. Create a little bit of drama for your weekend writing.

Slip out!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Monday Musings - Carry On by Rainbow Rowell Review

Two on-time book review in a row, what what!

This week, we finally got to read Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Fangirl, the original book that this is essentially a spinoff of, is probably now in my top ten favorite fictional books ever. I loved it; I loved everything it made me remember, regarding my freshman year of college and Harry Potter. I loved the characters. I loved the story. So when I heard that Carry On was coming, I was excited to rekindle that love.

In retrospect, the cover should have been a clue.
Make no mistake, I've enjoyed other Rainbow Rowell books. I thought Eleanor & Park was cute and heartbreaking, although Landline was merely okay (I still haven't got around to her debut work, Attachments). But Fangirl was my favorite by a long shot, and I was hoping that we might get back to it through Carry On.

The book itself, though, is more akin to Eleanor & Park in terms of structure, with multiple points-of-view that would change sometimes in the middle of a chapter. While there are definitely nods to other Chosen One narratives, notably Harry Potter, there's also nods to fanfiction, which makes sense given what Carry On was born out of. But what was missing in the book was that natural sense of whimsy and awe that you get from a fantasy book.

Good fantasy is grounded; it might replace or add some things from our society, but it's still our society at its core. Harry Potter might have magic, but the society is still going through the same struggles Muggle society is. Buffy may kill vampires, but she's also a teenaged girl dealing with teenaged problems. Frodo is going on a journey, but the Shire still seems familiar. But the World of Magick (ugh, I hate it when people add a k) doesn't seem familiar or realistic at all; it feels fake. I didn't get the feeling that Rowell knew what every building looked like and what the usual foods were or any of that. The World of Magick felt small, and not at all a World.

Perhaps that's what happens when you are only reading the final book of the series. Carry On pretends to be the eighth book of the series, and all of the flashbacks to previous books take time away from world building. That's the other flaw of the series; while the backstory ultimately wasn't needed, the constant references to it got boring after a while. We get that Simon had lots of adventures. We get that there were other books. But when you spend so much time on the past, the book is going to lag.

And it did. The plot is slow and clunky most of the time. Characters seemed to disappear until we needed them. There was really just a main plot (will Simon defeat the humdrum?) with the romantic subplot, with the majority of the emphasis going towards the romance than the plot itself. This wouldn't be a problem if the book was a romance, but it definitely was trying to be plot-driven, and it didn't work. There was not a good balance between the two.

At the end, then, Carry On is really just a romance novel about two wizards. It isn't a novel that takes place in a huge world, or a story about a Chosen One--it's a story about choosing one. Many people are going to love that, but for those who were excited for the fantasy aspect and immersion, it's going to be a little disappointing.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday Fiction Feed - Clean Up! Clean Up!

I hate cleaning. Have I mentioned this? I probably have. I hate cleaning. It takes so much energy, and yes, it's nice to be in a clean room, but if I spend that energy writing, then I have something forever! The room will get messy again.

(And yes, I spend a lot of my time just playing Candy Crush or Angry Birds or whatever. But I'm thinking when that happens! Cleaning means I can't think.)

But cleaning helps me find lost things. Money is always nice, but sometimes a television remote, a receipt...a checkbook...there's always something. Sometimes what I find gives me something to do, like a gift card lets me plan an adventure, or a memento reminds me of something I want to do.

Have a character clean up, but have them find something to do through it. Go on a side quest! Find something new, something fun. So what if it all ends up on the editing room floor? It'll help you learn more about the character too.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Weekly Writing Wrambling - NaNoPrepMo, Week Two!

We're getting close to NaNoWriMo 2015--yay! NaNoPrepMo is now in full swing, and after discussing ideas last week, I wanted to turn my attention to logistics.

NaNoWriMo is not an easy thing--never call it easy! It can be fun, wild, hectic, stressful, silly, lonely, social, and over-caffeinated, but I would never call it easy. The reward is well worth the investment, but it is important to accept that there will be an investment, and to take that investment seriously. Because of this, some preparation might be needed to stay on track. A few tips:

1. Figure out your Word Count strategy

The backbone of NaNo is that word count. Most people suggest 1,667 words per day, which will definitely get you there, but there might be other things to take into account. Are you going to be super busy on Thanksgiving? Is there no chance that you are going to be able to write on Tuesdays? You don't want to be into November and realizing this; you want to prepare now.

One way that I've done NaNoWriMo is to write 2000 words a day, and get one day off a week; this helped me take a day off for Thanksgiving (always busy!) and my birthday. If you're a commuter who is planning on writing on the train or in the carpool, perhaps it would be easier to do 2000 words each weekday and 1000 words each weekend. Perhaps you need to start off each morning by writing 600 words before work, so you only have to write 1000 when you get home.

One benefit of NaNoWriMo is that it gets you into the practice of sitting down on a regular basis and writing. Prepare for that new habit now!

2. Write-Ins and other social NaNo events

I used to never go to write-ins because I was too shy, but as I am now an ML I have to attend several a week, and I love them. One of the huge perks of write-ins are that they are times solely for working on your novel, with no distractions from your home. Use that time!

Most regions have their write-ins scheduled by this time of year--look them up and see if you can attend. If not, perhaps it would be a good idea to get on the forums and plan your own write-ins. They don't have to be anything formal; a simple "I'll be writing at Starbucks on Wednesday nights; feel free to join" can suffice. Once there, you can use @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter for some help if you need it. But put some writing time on your calendar now--you'll appreciate knowing that you have those blocks of times already set aside come November 1st!

3. Outline

I'm not going to get into outlining much since I just did a series on it, but now is the time to work on an outline if you feel you are going to need it. Figure out what you are going to be writing, and if you're really feeling ambitious, make a list of what you want to do each day. Maybe something like:

Day 1: Introduce dragonstone
Day 2: Amy finds the dragonstone
Day 3: Amy turns into a dragon
Day 4: Amy terrorizes the village as a dragon, and kills her horse on accident.

Et cetera. The month will be a lot less daunting if you know what you are going to be writing each day.

4. Fun preparation!

It's not all boring logistics--you can have some fun preparing as well. If you've got an idea, maybe you can start working on a playlist for your novel that gets you in a wordy mood. Perhaps you want to choose a type of gum and make it your "Novel Gum" for the month--the one you only chew when you are writing. Do you want to bedazzle your computer so you can show it off in public?

If there's anything you need to do to make you excited to write, then start it now. You'll appreciate it later.

5. Read More

Writers need to read. Read a book this month--maybe of the genre you're planning on writing. Get into the reading and writing mood ahead of November!

And remember--have fun!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Monday Musings - The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley

Hey, look! A book review that is somewhat timely! Go me.

I loved the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and really enjoyed the novelization, so I was quite eager to get my hands on The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet. More Lydia! Would that mean more Lizzie? More Jing? Will I hear about weddings and babies? I WANT BABIES AND WEDDINGS, PEOPLE.

So, perhaps because the Lizzie Bennet Diaries focused quite a bit on the lives of Jane, Lydia, and Charlotte, I assumed that The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet would focus on the other characters as well. Perhaps the focus would be on Lydia, but there would be a good chunk on the others. However,  Lizzie is in maybe three scenes, Jane is in maybe six scenes, and Darcy, Fitz, Mr. Collins, and Charlotte don't even appear. We do get a good bit more of Mary, and some nice bits with Mrs. Bennet, but this really is Lydia's story.

The author's discussion at the end of the novel mentions that Lydia's story never really finished on the vlogs, but I never thought that was the case. I thought that Lydia had more healing to do, yes, but that she really was beginning something good in her life. It made sense that it would take place offline and that we wouldn't get to see it. So the book's arc really feels a little unnecessary, as we follow Lydia around during the summer after the vlogs end. She's taking classes, she's trying to figure out life, and she's healing.

But while that make sense from a plot standpoint, it isn't the most interesting thing to read. The title promises adventures, but Lydia's adventures are much more internal than anything else. She's learning how to be the "new Lydia" instead of the "old Lydia", but reading about she isn't enjoying drinking and how she's falling for jerks isn't that compelling. The end of the book promises an adventure, much like how the end of Lizzie's blogs promised adventures for Lizzie and Jane, so perhaps we are brought full circle with new adventures for Lydia. But her getting there isn't as interesting as Lizzie and Jane's growth. While reading the book, I just sort of wanted it to end so Lydia could get her adventures.

I think part of it might be the format. The savior for Lydia, really, is the actress Mary Kate Wiles, who just makes Lydia so lovable despite her difficult portrayal in the source material. The authors of Lydia's vlog and who assisted on LBD are back, but their script definitely falls flat without Wiles to make it buoyant and effervescent. Lydia's trials were heartbreaking with Wiles' portrayal; her recovery without it just seems so flat and listless.

Now, Wiles narrates the audiobook, so I wonder if that is any better. But the book is (unfortunately) a bit of bore, which is quite disappointing for our beloved Ly-di-ah.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Fiction Feed - Description Time

Hair is a funny thing. It's slightly different for everyone; the colour, the texture, the smell. After that, it's styled, dyed, chopped, and changed again. Hair is always changing for a person.

Because of that, it can be useful to use hair to describe character growth. A sporty person will tie their hair back or chop it off, and might have a greasier, sweatier texture. A popular person will load their hair with product and maybe iron it straight. Everyone is going to treat their hair slightly different.

What is your protagonist's hair like? Your antagonist? The best friend? The love interest? Describe some hair--either what it is, or what the character wants it to be. Hair can be revealing.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Weekly Writing Wrambling - NaNoPrepMo, Week One!

It's October first! NaNoPrepMo is finally upon us! Let the bells ring, let people dance in the streets, and let me dust off my chicken hat.

(Well, I wear my chicken hat year-round. But it is especially important during NaNo season. Ooooh, should I let my hat sprint during NaNoWordSprints?)

While I have been discussing plotting versus freestyling for the past few weeks on this blog, this next series is going to be particularly about preparing for NaNo. Maybe it will be more pertinent to those who like outlining, but I would still suggest that you have an idea of what you want to write about, particularly if this is your first NaNo. This week, I'm going to discuss the idea process, so that should help for you no matter what camp you are in.

Day one can be daunting, or exciting, depending on what sort of idea you have. As such, I have a few proposed guidelines for you about your idea. I should add, while I'm putting the NaNo lens on this idea, it's a good checklist for when you start a book regardless.

1. Am I Excited About This Topic?

If you aren't excited about your book, your next month is going to be miserable. If you can't stop thinking about your book idea, if you keep on coming up with subplot ideas, if you want to start writing now, then you're fine. If you have an idea, but sitting down and making an outline sounds like a chore, then you might not have the best idea. Remember: it doesn't matter if the idea has been in your head forever. It matters whether you want to write it now.

And that means this book. If you are excited about future books, about future subplots, about becoming the new George R. R. Martin...that's not excitement about this idea. Maybe you're close to the idea. Maybe you should think about writing the sequel first, a la Star Wars. But make sure you are eager about this upcoming month and this book, first and foremost.

2. Is This A Big Enough Idea?

Writing about a picnic on Mars might sound like fun, but that is really only one scene. You want to make sure that your idea is big enough to take up a whole book. Writing about how two characters ended up have a picnic on Mars will take a while; writing about how an innocent couple are suddenly transported to Mars during a picnic will take a while. But that actual picnic? Unless you're being really existential about things, that's not going to take 50,000 words.

Sure, if you're freestyling, maybe you want to just know your first scene to start off. But make sure there are avenues to continue exploring. Colonization on Mars, earthling invasions...just start thinking about some places to go after day one. If you only have an idea that will take a few days, you need to start expanding your idea.

3. Is It A Small Enough Idea?

This was the issue my first year. I wanted to write about a girl disguising herself as a man and fighting in tournaments in the Middle Ages, but the problem was that it didn't take too long to get to that first tournament, and then I had no idea where to go. Winning tournaments? Taking over a country? What happens next?

If I had shrunk my idea to a girl preparing to fight in tournaments, that would have worked. If I had shrunk my idea to just one tournament, that would have worked. But I had bitten off more than I could chew, and had no idea where to go. Take some time to make sure your idea has a clear progression. You want to talk about earthling invasions on Mars? What happens after the first invasion? Once you can answer a few of those questions, your story is big enough.

4. Do I Know What I Need To Know?

Research if you need to. I could have (and should have) done more research into tournaments before I tried to write a book about it. Maybe you need to write the Martian Bill of Rights (as long as that isn't part of your novel, that's fine!). Maybe you need to come up with character names. Maybe you need to double-check whether surgeons go to the same schools as doctors. But if you have any questions about your topic, start looking into things now.

If you can say yes to all of these questions, you're in good shape for NaNo. If any of these are no? You might still be okay, but you're going to have a harder time unless some sudden inspiration hits. Once I took my tournament team time travelling into modern-day Europe, I was able to write and love it--I just needed to tweak my idea. That's what NaNoPrepMo is for: to prep! Start thinking about your idea, and how it is going to become a story.