Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge

So I've decided to join in Arlee Bird's A to Z Blogging Challenge this year. I heard a lot about it last summer when I dove into the blogging community, and so I'm excited to see that he (with the help of awesome bloggers Alex J. Cavanaugh, Jen Daiker, and Talli Roland) will be hosting it again this year.

The idea is to post every day in April except Sundays, which will then equal 26 posts, one for every letter of the alphabet. Each day's theme should somehow correspond to the letter.

So my plan is to post 26 writing-related pieces. Yesterday I began devising my topics. I don't have all of my letters assigned yet, and I'm open to suggestions.

So, is there anything you'd like to hear about? Not that I'm a definitive expert on any of these topics, but it might be fun to open some ideas up for discussion.

Also, click on the image to the right to join the fun. There's plenty of time to prepare yourself for an alphabet's worth of awesome blogging.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

ReEdited Again

So I got no reading done this weekend on my stack of novels and memoirs. I printed off my first WIP last Wednesday (11pt font, .5" margins, 1.5 spacing).  I hadn't looked at the thing since before NaNo and had honestly forgotten many things about it.

For reference, especially since a handful of you awesome readers are new after Alex J. Cavanaugh's awesome Top Ten Music Blogfest on Monday (Welcome! And thanks again to Alex for hosting :) I must tell you the brief history of me and this WIP. I started it on 18 July 2009 (don't ask why I know the date; I just do) and worked tirelessly on it and its two sequels until all three were written at close to 450K in March 2010 (don't know this date, though). And then I never let go. And I didn't let go. And I didn't let go. I didn't start anything new...

Well, no, that's not entirely true. I worked on something akin to garbage for about 10 days, which amounted close to 50K of stylistic nonsense. Even the plot was pretty boring. But even so, I couldn't take my mind off of the first WIPx3.

So, like every idealistic new writer, I put my first 250 words on Nathan Bradsford's blog for critique (my entry has not yet been selected), and my first 5 pages up on WriteOnCon.

A. Sobering. Experience.

After only one person critiques my first 5 pages on WriteOnCon, without holding back and essentially telling me the idea had merit but the execution stank like rotten composting roasting on an open fire, I snapped back to reality. I got involved in a critique group, found a fabulous individual critique partner from it, and rewrote the whole thing.

Then it sat. I stopped looking at it in the middle of October. I did NaNo, finished my semester, started another project, and then realized I could finally get back to the original.

On Friday I read 1 chapter. I didn't get any further than that.

That was enough. I realized how all entirely completely utterly horribly wrong some of the basic foundational material was. While the main plot works okay, I have to entirely rework my backstory. I need to make it more relatable.

People had made this suggestion before, but I hadn't been ready to hear it. Three months away from my WIP, and I think I'm ready. We'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, for the three of you who might have read a little bit of it, here's a shot of Emma Roberts (courtesy of EmmaRoberts.net), which is how I picture my MC, Anabelle (minus the blowing of the hair, of course, unless Olivia's around).

How do you edit? Have you had any editorial surprises? How long do you wait before you return to your WIP? How much overhaul do you take to your work? (Please don't tell me that it's perfect the first time! I might have a brain spasm.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nathan Bransford's 1st Paragraph Contest

Hey Folks,
I don't normally post on Wednesday's, but this week's been a little abnormal all the way around.

I just wanted to let you know, if you didn't know already, that Nathan Bransford's having his 4th Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge. The deadline for this is 4pm Thursday Pacific time. Finalists will be announced either Friday or Monday (or possibly 2032).

I got my entry in (#1004 or so). Have you entered yours?

Good luck!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Top 10 Countdown - BlogFest

Okay, I don't normally post on Mondays, but I thought this sounded like too much fun to pass on. I'll skip my typical Tuesday post and be back again on Thursday.

So, without further ado, here's is my top ten list, although they're not really in any particular order (and if you ask me again next week, it'll probably be a little different).

1. "Pretty Bird" by Jenny Lewis
There's just something about this song, even though the lyrics are uncomplicated. It obviously means a lot to me, or else I wouldn't have named my blog from the lyrics. :)

2. "Walk This World" by Heather Nova
Yup, Heather Nova was a one hit wonder, and this was that one hit, but I still own two of her albums. This speaks to me as both the romantic and, as my friend called me the other day, a gypsy who can't stay in one place too long.

3. "Man on the Moon" by R.E.M.
Okay, well, my love for R.E.M. even goes through Michael Stipe's Orange Crush/eyeliner phase, although I think this came earlier. I'm not sure I can pinpoint why I picked this song over anything else, but there's something in it that speaks to me, be it the references to Andy Kaufman or the midwestern/central plains charm.

4. "Gravel" by Ani DiFranco (the song starts around 0:50)
This is a song that strongly represents my college years, and my issues with men. Enough said.

5. "Supernova" by Liz Phair
A college icon of mine. I love many of her songs, but this one was popular for a while (many years ago), and I thought it might grab some attention :)

6. "Circles" by Soul Coughing
College years. There's a great story of my friends and I trying to see Soul Coughing in Chicago one winter January, going down a one-way street in a neighborhood looking for parking before the concert, and a massive firetruck barreling toward us with its lights and sirens going. Obviously we survived, and hopefully the house on fire (or the cat in the tree) were equally taken care of.

7. "Sugarhigh" by Coyote Shivers (from the Empire Records soundtrack)
My favorite movie in high school, and the song that plays during the happy ending. I just don't love sugar as much as I did back then!

8. The Witch's "Rap" from Into the Woods
This one goes back to my musical theater days in high school. I loved this show, and I adored Bernadette Peters as the witch. I couldn't find a clip with Bernadette Peters, but this one with Vanessa Williams is pretty good, even if the video quality is poor.

9. "15 Steps" by Radiohead
Aw, man, I love Radiohead. This song is great (and was before it ended up on a Twilight soundtrack).

10. "Measuring Cups" by Andrew Bird
Ah, our insecurities. I like this clip in particular because it gives insight into Bird's ideas for the song. Anyway, with my own academic and personal insecurities, this song is a must here. Not to mention that Andrew Bird is perhaps one of the most amazing and talented musicians I've ever heard of.

Counting down our top tunes of all time!
Music moves us. It inspires us! Now, tell the world YOUR ten favorite songs of all time. The Song, the band – why does it move you? Sign up below:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What I'm Reading

Let me say first that all this reading—along with my schedule being a complete mess still despite attempts to smooth it—is slightly detracting from my writing. I will find the time to write more, and soon, but reading is so much easier, and more passive.

Maybe I should be reading that WIP from months ago? Hey, that's an idea. Perhaps I'll print it and start reading it again this weekend.

Well, in the meantime...

First, I'm (still) reading, on and off Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. While I kind of enjoy reading his secrets from behind the swinging door, it kind of also makes me never want to eat out again, especially being a vegetarian with other dietary restrictions.

I'm also currently reading The Hating Game by Talli Rolland. I downloaded this to my Kindle App on my computer, and so far I've really been enjoying it.  I have been taking a few minutes to wind down between working and my evening class by reading a few pages of this. Definitely a fun read.

Substitute Me by Lori L. Tharps, which I won from a contest on Charity's blog. So far I'm enjoying it. I love the dual-character focus of the narrator, among many other things.

Finally, while I was working on the latest WIP, I realized that my MC is an avid reader, and she needed something apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic and relatively classic to read. So I've been sampling, mainly pulling from my own shelves. Currently I've got my paws in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. After that I plan to tackle We by Yevgeny Zamyatin and The Stand by Stephen King.

What are you currently reading? Do you have any other suggestions for classic apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic lit?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Art of the Outline

I used to fancy myself as a pantser. I truly did. Or at least about here:

I always had some kind of plan for the stories: a beginning, a couple crucial middle points, and a vague idea of the end. But after leaving point A, I could have gone through both Nova Scotia and Dubai before getting to point B. Editing then involved reducing the Trans-Siberian railroad trip to a transcontinental flight (no snacks included; please pay $25 per checked luggage item), and maybe my characters didn't really NEED to go to Dubai. I'll clip that and keep it for a later WIP.

This lasted until NaNo, I think. I was so excited to start on that new piece, I spent days outlining, character sketching, etc. I'm glad I did, because I don't think I would have finished NaNo otherwise. I needed that outline to remind me of where else I needed to go, and which overpriced-with-hidden-fees transcontinental flight could more easily get me there.

Then I started working on this latest project of mine. Can I just say for the record that my brain won't let it go ANYWHERE without an outline? So, what have I been doing this week? Well, besides avoiding my WIP since I don't know where it's going, I've started outlining (and then because I was excited about the outline taking shape, apparently now I'm blogging. Productive, huh?).

My goal for this week is to get this amorphous little outline into something resembling the outline I used for NaNo, so that by next week I will be less afraid of this new WIP.  I'm really happy with what few ideas have solidified in my mind regarding this WIP, but fumbling in the dark isn't my style anymore. I'm not sure if it's because I've changed as a writer—I did have that writing class last semester that could have also contributed to this change—or if it's particular to this WIP. Either way, I need this outline whipped into shape.

If you plan, how do you plan? What's your strategy for developing the sequence of events?

If you pants, how do you learn to trust your characters with each new WIP that they'll get you to the end in a decent fashion?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Social Networks

Yup, that's plural. This post is not about the movie (which I haven't seen).

I first heard about social networking (though it wasn't called that) maybe years ago with Friendster. I created an account, invited some other friends to join, and then had no idea what to do with it. I let it sit there, and finally closed that account about a year ago.

When we got to the university, I opened a Facebook account. This was back in the day when only people with a .edu email address could get an account. Back in the day when each status update automatically started with "is". It was fun keeping up with my friends and making up gerunds and bad progressive-tense constructions ("is liking" *blech*) to create sensible status updates beyond "is in the library". Posting pictures inspired me to take more pictures in the age of the digital camera. All in all, I could easily keep up with it, and was liking it quite a lot :)

Today, however, Facebook isn't enough. For me, I also have this lovely blog, a Twitter account, an account on Ravelry (for lovers of fiber arts), SparkPeople (for those needing a cyber fitness community... this is usually the first to be forgotten by me) and Goodreads. Each one is different (although, I swear I will never full understand Twitter) and serves a different purpose.

But recently, I've been getting more invitations to other networks. Select2gether (I'm pretty sure this one is just spam, though). LinedIn. Academia.com. But where do you draw the line? The people who invited me for the latter 2 are good friends and reputable people, but I can't figure out how these networks are any different from what I've already got.

How do you social network? Where do you draw the line? Or is there no line to draw? Should we all participate in everything with the hopes of inspiring those heavy book sales someday? And if you use a number of different networks, how do you manage everything?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

One Week Down

This week classes started at the university again. I'm trying to get my schedule in order, and the pieces don't seem to want to fit into the neat little slots I've assigned for them. Figures. It's just going to take some time to sort things out, I suppose.

The biggest problem with trying to reorganize is that writing tends to fall to the side. I need some time when I can concentrate and sit in personal-zone silence (meaning, I can be at a coffee shop as long as no one's talking to me), but when my life is a mess, I don't generally make that time for myself.

So my plan for the long weekend (which, since I only have Mon-Wed classes, means I have until Tuesday) is to work out a schedule in which I can:
  • get my homework done reasonably and without extra stress
    • use extra homework time to write
  • get to the gym 3-4x per week
  • schedule time dedicated to working on my freelance projects
  • read at least one hour per night
  • write at least a couple hours every day
  • have time to spend with my husband

Pulling off that schedule would be a feat of the invincible. If I can work it out still come out sane on the other side, I do believe I should transcend to superhero status.

How do you keep yourself organized? How do you find time to write if you have a job/school?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Notes on Revision

As you may (or may not) recall from December, I've been reading Stephen King's On Writing. There are two major reasons why I'm still reading it. First, I went on a reading binge over winter break—7 books in 19 days—which was amazing, but I limited my reads mainly to fiction. Second, every time I pick up King's book and read a section, I want to grab my computer and write! Not too helpful in keeping up the reading stamina.

My latest insight from Mr. King has to do with WHEN to revise. He suggests leaving your baby on the sidelines until you've all but forgotten about it. It's the writer's version of the "old" adage, mentioned in the movie Swingers—she won't call until he's completely forgotten about her. King suggests a minimum of 6-8 weeks apart from your latest prodigal work.

I had promised myself at least a month away from my NaNo work before revising it, but over the break I cheated a little. I tried working on it one morning and I'll tell you, it was PAINFUL. The whole thing continually frustrated me. I didn't get very far, to say the least.

King also suggests working on something else in between the original write and the revising. Something that can easily fill in the time slot between draft 1 and draft 2. Something that's completely different from the original project in question. So I've been working on this new dystopian, post-apocalyptic YA mumbo-jumbo that, unfortunately, for the first time for me, has no set ending in my mind. I mean, the mental outline is coming along, developing some decent plot twists, and the basic stuff at the beginning isn't going to make or break the ending, but I'm in personal uncharted territory. And it's scary. And it's hard.

I'll push through, though. Don't worry.

But with all of this, the funny bit is that I did set aside something before NaNo, and I have all but forgotten about it. It didn't even occur to me to go back and revise it until I read this section in King's book. My first big piece (that doesn't fall into the FanFic category) is sitting on my hard drive, all but forgotten, waiting for me to come back and edit it up. I can read it as if it had been written by someone else, rip it up, and decide if I want to market it or not. I might be able to do a better job with fresher eyes.

So, to summarize:
  • Monarchy's Lies (currently in search of a new title): ready for the knife.
  • Demon (also in search of a new title): desperately needing some time on the sidelines.
  • Underground (working title, but, knowing me, it'll probably change): causing pain and anguish; still working on the mental outline; trying my hand at chapter 4.

What's your strategy for revising? Do you wait until you can look at a piece with "stranger's eyes" before revising? Do you have any revision secrets you can share?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Goodreads Reading Challenge

One cannot be a writer without reading. But how much do you read?

I don't normally pay attention to how much I read. I read what I like (and things that I don't like—usually for school), but I don't think to myself, "Oh, it's already March and I've only read 27 books." Or whatever. I can't even tell you if that's a lot or a little. I also tend to read multiple things at once, which adds to the confusion.

I would like to challenge myself by setting a goal for the year, but I don't have any idea what kind of arbitrary number to assign myself for 2011.

So my question is this: If you were doing this for yourself, how would you decide the number? Just say 52, i.e., 1 per week? Through a dart at the board for how many you would read in a month? Pick a number from a hat? Or something more "scientific"?

Thanks :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year and New Beginnings


I'm going to try and tweak my system... if there was a system :)

I don't REALLY want to be thinking about this yet, since I still have a week left before the inevitable begins, but this semester I have very busy Mondays and Wednesdays. I've been trying to keep a regular schedule of posting on MWF, but then I can't seem to get back to participate in the comment-discussion.

So, in order to make it a little easier for me this semester, I'm going to try posting on Tuesdays, Thursday, and Saturdays and see how it goes—starting on Thursday. I'm hoping this will give me more time to discuss things with you guys as well as get over to other blogs as well.

Being a better blogger and blog-buddy falls into the realm of my New Year's resolutions this year. Other fun resolutions include going to the gym more regularly and eating better. After not being in control of my food for three weeks at my in-laws, but also learning the joys of reading while on a stationary bike, I think all of these should be achievable.

What are your New Year's resolutions?
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