Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reflections: Harry Potter (Part One)

Okay, so as of today I am about half way through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (yay!). I've been reading Harry Potter non-stop since mid January and I'm finding it not as easy as I thought it would be. I mean, I FLEW through these books when they first came out. I'm pretty sure I devoured each one within 24 hours of the midnight release.

It has me thinking, why aren't these books as good as I remember them being?

I think I have the answer.

I'm not the same person I was when I started reading them. I've grown-up and began reading other things. My approach to fiction is no long strictly for pleasure - now I look at how the story is crafted, what the writer did to make the characters memorable, how they drove the plot. I look at things like an academic. Has that ruined Harry Potter for me? (Because at the way I'm starting to sound you might think so). But no. I still love the books.

I have such great memories with these books. When I settled down to start Goblet, I remembered being 14(ish) and the outfits my mom made me and my best friend. I remember waiting in line in our costumes and running out to the car as soon as the books were in our hands. I remember my best friend sitting on the bottom bunk (several pages ahead of me because she's a faster reader) while I sat in a beanbag chair on the floor - her giggling at Pig the owl when I was stil pages away. I remember being enchanted by these books and the characters. I wasn't thinking of the balance of magic or the plot structure.

Sure, now I am a bit annoyed with the world-building of the HP series. Look at LeGuin's stuff for example. Magic is all about balance. You use magic to make your ship go faster (by calling up the wind) and you've created a hurricane someplace else. That makes sense. This whole wand motions and incantations is fun to read about - but still, it's not the artful magic in other places.

HOWEVER having said all of that stuff up there, there is something indescribable about these books. Was it that they were just written at the right time for the right audience? I don't think so. If that was the case than it wouldn't be the world-wide sensation the books were. I mean, how many books are there that have not just launched an 8 movie series but also a theme park?

Yeah, I'm drawing a blank too.

So, there is something magic about them. They speak to all ages in all countries. And this is something that I hope you all will ponder with me as I keep up my project. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting some Harry Potter Reflections posts where I look at different aspects of the series. Will any of them shine light onto my paper topic? Maybe. You'll just have to read and find out.  

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Checking In

Not much has changed since the last post...

Except I've read much more Harry Potter, done mounds of laundry, and been working a ton. Seriously, when you work between 35-40 hours a week and try and read all the Harry Potter book in two months there isn't time for much else.

I have found time to "window shop" on my favorite webpages (Etsy and Wanelo) and I found a shirt with this image on it...

Needless to say I 1) agree and 2) want that shirt. And while there may be no such thing as too many books, there is such a thing as not having enough space to store them all.

Whats a girl to do?

Well I am now 1,228 pages into the 4,100 pages that I need to read by February 27th. I think that's like 30%...

I will say this. I am not the biggest fan of this whole *fingerwiggles* independent study thing. At first I thought "Sure, it'll be hard but not that hard." It's not the reading that's difficult. It's the research. Ugh. The public library only has so much of the type of research materials I need and I have to pay $50 to join the local university's library (that is just illegal if you ask me) and the library on my campus can send me things but I'm getting tangled in all of the red tape I have to get through to get the books and documents. 

*Sigh* I am done freaking out/ venting/ whatever-ing at the moment. 

I promise that I will be back sooner (rather than never) with new and exciting blog posts. My friend's blog is really starting to show mine up and I'm super competitive - so we can't have that now can we? ;-) 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Big Mistake

So I made a mistake.

It happens. I will be the first to admit that I'm not perfect. Far from it actually. I mean there are days where things just come out of my mouth (usually really dorky things at work) and I'm not "Just stop talking!" to myself.

But that's the the mistake I'm talking about this time.

No, this time, I decided to calculate how many pages there were in the American editions (hardback) of the Harry Potter series. I mean, I have to read all seven books by Feb 27th so I might as well figure out what I'm getting into.

Do you want to know how many there are?
4,100. On the nose.

I'll let that sink in a bit.


In a little over a month. Sure, when I fist read the Harry Potter that would be no problem. But now I work and have a grown-up life.

PLUS! I have to do research.

See, it was a mistake. I have to read 96 pages a day. On off days that's a piece of cake, but on days I don't get home till 7:00 pm... Not so easy.

If you could see me now I'd be puffing my bags up.

It'll be okay though.

Granted, I've only read a little over 730 pages so far. So that's like...18%. Or not. I'm not so great at math.

But I'm going to keep on keeping on. I adored Harry Potter growing up, and how many people get to spend an entire semester writing one paper that focuses on something they've loved since they were in 6th grade (maybe more than I think) but it's still awesome.


Friday, January 20, 2012

I Feel Like a Zombie...

So I think I know what a zombie feels like. Apart from the wanting to eat human brains and what not... But yeah, the half-awake half-asleep thing.

I've been spending most of my waking hours working, doing house work, or studying. Yes, school is back in session people and I'm doing an independent study. My goal is to write a 15 (conference length) - 22 (article length) paper this semester focusing on a Jungian archetype in the Harry Potter series. Sounds like fun right? I mean I love the Harry Potter books. I was part of that generation that grew up with Harry. When he was 12 I was 12... with each new book we became adults together. So, one would think it would be awesome to spend an entire semester focusing on something I love.

And to a degree it is.

But I have to read a book a week. For me, that would normally be easy. But not when I've been working closer to full time these last two weeks. It's been hard.

I think I finally understand this song by Sister Hazel (my sometimes favorite band) the hook (or part of the refrain or whatever) in the song is "life got in the way." I come home from work (tired but not exhausted) and see all the things that need to be done at home. I mean, it's not fair to ask Husband to do all the chores, not when he's in school too. And by the time I feel like I've done my share (or part of it) I'm too tired to read essays on Harry Potter or even the books themselves.

BUT! I will say this. My New Year's resolution was to be better to myself by writing more and cooking more. While I haven't written a word in my novel, I have been cooking. The other night I made my own ranch dressing and some challah bread...all from scratch. Boo-freakin'-ya. That my friends is the bright side to my little freakout/ tirade.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

How To Map Your Story

As promised a few posts ago I am getting back to the Creative Writing business. Also, as promised is the post on How To Map Your Story.

There is a strong possibility that you already know how to map a story. I was forced to learn all about it in high school. Rising Action. Climax. Falling Action. But I never really considered using it as an outline for my own stories. Duh right?

But, there is also a strong possibility that you haven't really heard about how to map a story (yours or others) or maybe you did learn in school but forgot. Never fear! I have drawn you an awesome diagram!

Awesome right? I can't take all the credit though. I do want to mention that this awesome diagram is heavily based on the one that Nancy Dodd did in the January 2012 issue of Writer's Digest (my new favorite magazine). I like to think that the diagram is pretty self explanatory. The only issue is that you might not be able to read my handwriting. If that's the case then, I'm sorry!

So, how can this help you map out your own story? Well, it shows that any story (short or long) is made up of certain elements. You need to have these elements in order to have a story that takes a solid shape and keeps readers interested (however, like everything in writing I'm sure there are exceptions to this rule -- like the resolution doesn't always have to have a pretty little bow tied up but you do need something). Here's my advice: Either join the Writer's Digest webpage for free and download your own blank worksheet OR use my beautiful diagram above as a rough outline and draw your own map. 

Even if you don't like outlining I think it's a good way to get the barebones of your story down. Sometimes that's all you really need. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Post for the New Year

Well, here we go. January. It's the time of year where people make resolutions to better themselves during the upcoming year. January is usually the month where people tend to stick to them. And then they stop. Maybe not everyone, but me for sure. I don't even remember last year's new years resolution. Possibly to workout more and tone up what God gave me. Did I do it? Probably for all of last January.

As a writer I made the resolution to finish at least two drafts of my WIP by 2013. Will I do it? I hope I do. My WIP is my thesis and I need to have at least one draft done by this summer when classes start back up again. I should be like my buddy over at Hughes Reviews and make a bigger effort to write everyday (and then I read her most recent post and felt a bit better about myself). Writing everyday is hard. That's what makes being a writer work and not just a hobby.

So anyway, here's a link to a webpage that I think I should print and hang up on the fridge: 25 Things Writer's Should Stop Doing. Yes, there is some profanity so that's my warning. But look past that and hear the good advice the blogger gives.

I think another thing (and she touches on this) is that I need to stop reading finished novels, like Maureen Johnsons' The Name of the Star and Libba Bray's Going Bovine and think that that's just the way it came out of their fingers and onto the page: all publishing ready. NO! They had to work hard on it. THey had it write many drafts and be told that the voice of the narrator wasn't okay here and that readers got bored there.

Okay. Now, this year will be a different year. I've resolved to be better to myself. To cook more (because I like doing that. It bring me enjoyment) and to write more (because it's what I love). This year I will keep up with my resolution.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Reflections and Resolutions

Growing up my family had dinner together at the table every week night. We'd gather around and then have a POW-WOW. A POW-WOW is where everyone tells their low points (pows) and high points (wows) of the day. It was pretty fun. I mean it was different than just the usual way of talking about your day. 

So I thought I might have a POW-WOW for 2011. We'll start with the pows...
  1. A year ago yesterday Uncle Perrin had his first massive stroke and then died in early November 
  2. The end of April this year mad 100+ straight line winds tore past our apartment and through my parent's neighborhood. Later that day three tornadoes ran through the state.
  3. Our little parakeet Buddy "Boo Boo" died in October 
And some wows...
  1. I got married!
  2. My husband and I were lucky to get to honeymoon in Maui
  3. I am much further along on my degree
  4. I have a job that pays well and that I love
  5. We got baby Beaker 
Is this POW-WOW list comprehensive? Not at all. But those are the ones that come to mind.

So now some resolutions. I am not going to resolve to loose weight or get in shape because I never stick to those resolutions. Instead I resolve three things that I hope will be easy...
  1. Finish at least 2 rough drafts of my novel by 2013
  2. Cook more
  3. And treat myself better (ie, doing more things I like to do but am always "too tired", eating better or at least making healthy choices, and making an effort to keep the apartment more organized) 
Also, incase you are wondering I do have some (hopefully) helpful posts planned out for soon. One that you can look forward to is how to map your novel. I even drew a picture :-) It's going to be awesome. So, loyal readers, keep coming back this year! Your comments make me happy!

Here's wishing you a fantastic 2012!

Picture by Arden Photography