Monday, April 30, 2012

My Poetry Month Post

Well you wouldn't know it from this blog, but April is National Poetry Month.

Why haven't I posted anything related to poetry this month? Well, firstly I'm not a big poet. And secondly because I've been pretty focused on either my gigantic paper that's due tomorrow (eep!) or my novel.

I write fiction and dabble in poetry either when forced to (say in a poetry class) or just when the mood strikes me. I also don't read a ton (if any) poetry. 

This is a major flaw of mine. Poetry is not bad. It's not boring. It's poetry. If you follow this blog you might know that I consider my description one of my weaknesses. It tends to be flat, cliche, or just no where to be found. I believe reading poetry (and different books) could help me with my description and make it sooooo much better. 

But I ignore all of this and continue to not read poetry and my description continues to be cliche and less than awesome. 

Stutts, my former college professor, does read poetry and his blog has been reminding me every week this month that it is (in fact) national poetry month. So, in honor of him posting a poem that I read and really liked (and having said all that about description this poem is not in that vein) and in honor of the end of April. Here is the link to the poem I enjoyed and plan on printing when I get more ink in my printer: "You Are Not Your Bookshelf"     

So, if you happen to have any poems that you're a super big fan of, leave a link in the comments box, share and care people. Share and care. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Step 2: Read Your Brains Out

Just Keep Reading:
Read like there's no tomorrow

Here we go. Another way to becoming a better writer. 

Apart from being told to write sometime everyday, another piece of advice that gets passed around a lot is that writer's need to read. Read all day every day if you can. If you can't, set aside some reading time. Instead of TV after work, curl up with a book and read for 30 minutes. Take a book with you to work and read on your lunch break. In his book On Writing, Steven King even suggests keeping a book with you at all times and read whenever you have a free second - in line at the grocery store, waiting for someone who is meeting you for lunch... Also, King suggests that audio books can count, so listen to them in the car. That's pretty much the reason I have a library card now. I can't afford audio books all the time, so checking them out is soooo much better.

But, why should you read all the time? Here's what our list master Chuck Wendig has to say: 

"The world is home to — *does some quick math on fingers, toes, testicles, nipples, and teeth* — 45 smajillion books. Each of them often containing somewhere north of 50,000 words. And new books hit the atmosphere every day. You do not need to read all of these books. But you should act as if that is indeed your task, carving your way through the world’s cumulative body of the written word one tome at a time. If you want to write, you’re coming in at the ground level of these 45 smajillion books written by 33 fnuhzillion different writers. You are a but a mote in the reader’s eye. You want to compete? Read. Learn what other writers are doing. Absorb it with that schnapps-laden sponge you call a brain."

See what others are doing. I mean, they are published so they have to be doing something right. Look at how these published writers weave their story together. To really notice that, if you're like me, you'll have to read a book at least twice: Once to get the plot and once to see how the writer builds and shapes the story. Try and pay attention to the logic within the story and how a particular author handles dialogue and characterization. Look at your favorite writers and try and figure out not only why they are your favorites but how they've accomplished that. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Who Do You Write Like?

I found this super fun, and super awesome web page: Who Do I Write Like? 

All you do is paste a few paragraphs of your WIP (novel, short story, or poem) into this web page and it will analyze it and tell you what famous writer your writing is most like. 

Here's what I plugged in...

I followed Foster down into the part of the court that was underground. The further we went, the more it smelled like freshly tilled dirt and reminded me of my mom. My mom is the kind of person who spends all day in the garden and always has this not unpleasant smell of sweat and fresh dirt around her. As soon as the thought of Mom came into my head, I had to push it back out again. Thinking about Mom right now would just make me cry. 

The tunnels were lit by huge glass jars, the size of my head, which were mounted on the wall. Inside the jars were hundreds of fireflies. I was in awe at how it felt like summer, even down here. The air was cool, but the same kind of refreshing chill that a summer breeze had. Our steps fell silent on the dirt floor that had been packed down by so many feet before ours.
Every so often, we would hear someone in the passage before, or a door closing, but we never saw a single soul. And that made me worry.

“Where is everyone?” I asked Foster in a horse whisper.

“Gettin’ ready for the Samhain festivities,” Foster answered. “We almost be there. Ye go on in and I’ll stand watch.” 

We stopped in front of a dark wooden door. There was a carving on it of a dwarf, like the dwarfs in The Lord of the Rings movies. The carving was so delicate and intricate I wondered who had done it. It was as if I could see every hair in the long bead that covered the dwarfs face. He was frozen, his mallet coming down toward an anvil where a sword was lying. It was so life-like that when I glanced back down to Foster, out of the corner of my eye it looked like the dwarf was moving. 

“Should I knock?” I asked. Foster scowled at me a bit.

“If ye goin’ ta be taking on the Dark Court’s kingling then ye need ta get a bit more courage.”

“I’m working on it,” I snapped back. My palms were sweaty and I wiped them off on my sweat pants. I glanced at Foster once more before pushing the door open and walking in.

And there was no one inside. 

Here's what I got...

I write like
J. R. R. Tolkien
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

(But I will say this. I plugged in a few different pieces of my WIP and also got Dan Brown... I liked Tolkien better so that's what I choosing to pay the most attention to...)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Step 1: Follow Up

Alright, so Tuesday I shared with you the first step on how to become a better writer. It's easy for me to sit here and tell you what to do, but harder for me to actually do it. So, I took my own advice, because if I don't who will? And did one of the writing prompts.

Describe a “first” (first apartment, first kiss, first time driving a car, first lie, first big success, first roller coaster ride, first time in this setting). Include as many details as possible, being sure to include an aspect relating to each of the five senses.

Okay, this is the first time Liam (the main man in my YA fantasy novel sees Brea, the narrator of the WIP) I know I didn’t included as many sensory details as I could, but I was just happy to write this scene. Writing prompts don’t have to follow all the rules/ directions… as long as you get something written.

Liam closed his eyes and took a deep breath, which he almost choked on. The metallic sent was heavy in the air and made his lungs feel as if they were full of smoke and ash. He understood why Rowan insisted meeting in the city, there was less of a chance that Ash’s spies would follow them into the heart of a city full of iron. However, it was still painful. Even though the medicine the court alchemist made for them kept Liam from getting iron-sickness, he couldn’t help but imagine the poison that surrounded him seeping into his body.

He hated the city. However, Rowan was his King and there was next to nothing Liam could do about it.
They reached a small café, The Village Cup. Lo had scouted it out earlier in the day for their meeting. It was out of the way, small, and deep enough into the city that wandering fey wouldn’t dare come close.

Lo opened the door. A string a bells that hung on the inside of the door jingled merrily as the three stepped into the coffee house. It was empty apart from the young mortal girl that was behind the counter. She glanced up at them and her mouth hung open slightly. They tended to have that effect on mortals. Liam wanted to smile but didn’t. Rowan didn’t understand Liam’s interest with mortals. To Rowan, they were playthings, exotic pets of sorts. But to Liam, they were simply fascinating.

The sound of ceramic shattering on tiles seemed to snap the girl out of her daze. She glanced down at her feet and winced. Yes, she had dropped her coffee cup. Liam imagined that her feet were now soaked with the bitter, dark liquid.

Rowan scoffed and glanced over at Liam.

“Liam, take care of our orders.” Not even telling Liam what he wanted, Rowan strode over to the back corner, and fell into one of the overstuffed chairs. Somehow, Rowan still managed to exert an air of authority even when he was sprawled out in a chair.

Lo made eye contact and slightly rolled his eyes. That was more of a reaction than Liam had hoped for. Lo was a fey of few words and even fewer readable expressions of emotion. His eye roll was Lo speak for “He’s our king, what can you do?” He then glanced at the chalkboard that was propped up on the counter advertising the new pumpkin spice latte. He nodded his head toward it and then went and joined Rowan in the corner.

Liam walked up to the counter. The strong smell of coffee was almost powerful enough to cover the stench of iron that hung in the air. The girl at the counter smiled at him. He wanted to smile back, but didn’t. His track record with mortals wasn’t very good. As much as he found them interesting and amazing creatures, they had a habit of dying when they spent too much time with him. No need to encourage this one.

But he so very much wanted to. She was beautiful in only the way a mortal can be. She had brown hair that was the color of chocolate and eyes that were the color of Forget-Me-Nots. And she had the subtle perfume of coffee and baked goods that clung to her.

“Hi,” her voice was a bit shaky and she tried to smile a bit bigger. It was downright adorable how nervous she was. “What can I get for you?”

Liam glanced down behind the counter and saw the pieces of the shattered mug and a puddle of coffee on the floor. Her dark blue tennis shoes were soaked as well as the hem of her jeans. She visibly shifted her weight and attempted to hide her feet under the counter. He bit back a smile.

“What were you drinking before we rudely took you by surprise?”
Her cheeks turned a pink color and she glanced down at the puddle on the ground. “Well, usually I drink whatever coffee is oldest and we can’t sell. Uh, but that was, that was a snicker-doodle flavored blend. It’s been a rough day so I treated myself. But I’m not really supposed to…” She trailed off and then bit her bottom lip.

“Is there any more?”

“Uhh…” She glanced over her shoulder back toward various coffee making machines that Liam didn’t even try to pretend to know anything about. “Let me check. I think so…” She started walking and slipped a bit in the coffee puddle. Liam finally let himself smile as she froze and kept her balance. She didn’t turn around but Liam could bet his sword on her blush growing deeper. She then proceeded to slide her feet across the floor almost as if she was ice-skating. She fiddled around with a machine and then skate/slid back across the floor.

“I’ve got enough for one more. Not enough for you and your friends.”

“Well, I know that they would each like one of those lovely sounding pumpkin spiced drinks you have here on the board.” Liam rested his elbows on the counter and leaned forward a bit. “How about you save that last mug for yourself and fix me a cup of tea?”

“Okay.” She avoided his gaze and punched buttons on the cash register. “Your total is six fifty seven.” Finally she looked up at him. He flashed her his best smile, and she bit her lip and looked down at the counter again.

Liam dug in the pocket of his pants, a pair of mortal jeans he kept for when Rowan required them to venture into the city, and produced a crumpled ten-dollar bill. Usually, he simply glamoured some leaves to look like mortal money, but he liked this girl too much.

“Keep the rest.” He smiled at her once again and then crossed the coffee shop to take his seat on Rowan’s right side. He half listened to Rowan drone on about the increasing tension between the Dark Court and his brother, Ash’s court, the Unseelie Court. Liam was too busy watching the mortal fix their drinks.
Liam settled into his seat more comfortably once she brought out their drinks and handed them out before muttering a thank you and scooting back to the counter. She then proceeded to sit on a stool behind the counter and plop her head down. Liam took a short sip of his herbal tea and grinned. Not only was she cute, but she knew what she was doing.

Liam decided, as he turned his attention to his King, that maybe he could get used to the city after all.            

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Dangers of Self Doubt

Self doubt is what causes you to lie on the floor, stare up at the ceiling and think, "What the hell am I doing with my life? Did I honestly think that I could _______ (fill in the blank)?" Self doubt is what causes you to curl up into the fetal position under the covers and try not to think. 

Self doubt gives you writer's block. 

Well, not that I am one to preach on the skills needed to kick self doubt in the teeth... But I do have a blog. And, if you ever suffer from self doubt you should know that you are not alone. See? Here I am. Typing away all about self doubt. Why? Because I'm freaking plagued with it is why. 

Being a writer is hard. It's not like other things you could do like... playing soccer. You write alone. Sure, everyone is ~~~alone~~~ but at least when you play soccer and you twist your ankle there's a sub waiting on the sidelines. No such luck with writing. We don't really even get cheerleaders. 

Granted, if there was a peppy girl bouncing around next to me while I attempted to write I might wind up stabbing her with the pen. So it's probably a good thing we don't get cheerleaders. 

Instead, we get other writers. We read their blogs, essays, books, whatever, and discover that we are in fact not alone. That I am not the only one with these thoughts of self doubt and dear God why am I doing this? Every writer gets those thoughts. 

So, I finished a first draft of my epic-ly long paper and instead of getting really excited I laid on the ground, stared at the ceiling and thought to myself "Who am I kidding?" 

And then I sat up. 

And then I opened up a book of essays that Ursula K. Le Guin wrote and read the essay "Talking About Writing." If you've never read it you need to. It is insightful, brilliant and funny. Everything I hope to be. (You can find the collection of essays on amazon even though it's out of print: The Language of the Night). I will share the last paragraph from the essay I just read:

You may have gathered from this that I am not encouraging people to try and be writers. Well, I can't. You hate to see a nice young person run up to the edge of a cliff and jump off, you know. Son the other hand, it is awfully nice to know that some other people are just as nutty and just as determined to jump off the cliff as you are. You just hope they realize what they're in for. 

Why is that uplifting in the least? Because she knows it's hard. She knows how I feel and she doesn't want me to feel that way if she can help it. But when it comes down to it - she can't help. No one can. Not when you're a writer, because there is just something inside of you that has to write. That has to jump. Self doubt holds you back. And there's no fun being held back.

So, just jump already. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Step 1: How to Become A Better Writer

Practice Makes Perfect:
Building and flexing those writing muscles

So here we go. The first of 25 posts that revolve on ways to make you a better writer. 
What's the one thing, the one piece of advice that every writer is told again and again? To keep writing. Write  everyday.  
Here's what Chuck says on his 25 list:
"The easiest and most forthright way to become a better writer is, duh, to write. Write, write, write. Write regularly. Get on a schedule, whether it’s 100, 1000, or 10000 words a day. Writing is a muscle, like your biceps, your heart, or your private parts. Don’t use ‘em, you lose ‘em. And then they fall to the ground and rot like oxidizing apples and are in turn eaten by hungry gophers. Om nom nom." - Chuck Wendig

Yes! This is something that I fail to do. I never make time for writing. And I should. I mean, yes, I sometimes count working on my blog as writing...but I don't make enough time for creative writing. Further more, when I do make the time sometimes I don't want to work on my WIP. Sometimes I just want to write something new, but I don't have any ideas. 

If this problem plagues you as it plagues me I have found the cure. Writing prompts. Just google writing prompts and you'll get a plethora of links. Here's one that I liked: Creative Writing Prompts from Warren Wilson College.

And below is a prompt from my weekly Writer's Digest e-mail. 

Writing Prompt
You’ve just moved into a new house and are fixing it up. In the process of painting you find an odd crack in the wall. As you explore further, you find out it’s a secret passageway—and you have no idea where it leads. You decide to grab a flashlight and go exploring.

So here's my challenge: by the next post we will all have written a response to ONE of these prompts. If you want to include what you've written in the comments space below feel free! 

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Sometimes I don't know how I get things done. 

I am over half way done with my frist draft of my paper (out of the nine pages of my outline I have three left to write) and one would think that all that progress would be invigorating. But it's not. 

Somehow the cursor looks heavier when I see it blinking there on my Word document; like each blink matches the slow beat of my heart. And I just can't get the words down on the page. They form beautifully in my mind. I know how to weave my web of ideas and scholarly research together with examples from the texts - and it's so brilliant in my mind. But then it all gets lost in translation. The words don't come out as well or as easily from my fingers. Dragging the cursor across the page is like pulling a load of bricks across pavement in the middle of July; almost impossible for my little noodle arms. 

BUT THEN! Then I change the front to Times New Roman and get the document doubled spaced, and I see so much more of what I've done. Yes, it still feels like a back-breaking load of work to get done, but it starts to feel just a bit lighter. 

As a writer there is only one thing to do: Just keep swimming. Thank you Dory.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Feature: 25 Ways to Become a Better Writer


Who doesn't want to become a better writer? I mean, I know that I am always striving to write something better than the last time, and there are books chock full of advice. How to write your novel in 90 days, in your off time, how to write a fantasy novel, how to have better characters, how to create conflict and tension... I could keep going but I wont'. The point is: there are enough people who want to write better that there is a market for it.

So, here is a new weekly post that I'll be playing around with: 25 Ways to Become a Better Writer. TADA!

Did I come up with this list? No. I did not. I found it here. 

What will this new feature include (you might be asking)? Well, I'll take each of the 25 tips Chuck Wendig proposes, show them to you, and then give you some resources that go along with the tips. 

It will be fun, and awesome, and you are more than welcome to share resources with me, and the other readers, in the comment boxes. I'm super excited. Feel free to check out the list before hand... I'll warn you, the first tip and corresponding resources have to do with practicing your craft. Something I am horrible at doing. So, we will grow together!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Anonymous Movie Review

Murder. Sex. Deception. Rebellion. And Shakespeare.

How can you not want to see the movie Anonymous? I mean, really, who doesn't love a good Shakespearian conspiracy theory?

I watched this movie for the first time yesterday afternoon and fell in love with it. Sure, it's a work of fiction. But it's a damn good work of fiction if you ask me.

Premise: Okay, so in real life very little is known about William Shakespeare. We can guess when he was born, we know when he died, we know what his father did for a living (a glove maker) and we know the name of his wife and children. But that's about it. So, this movie takes it into a whole new direction.

This movie claims that the "real" writer of all the plays and sonnets was actually a nobel man raised in a home where writing was thought to be a sin. He is compelled to write, but also compelled to influence the masses with his words. Political manipulation has never been a real intrest of mine, but I was not only hooked but could follow along with this one. The Earl of Oxford, our "real" Shakespeare, does not want James to be the Queen's successor and attempts to not only discredit his foster family (that plays advisor to the Queen) but to reach out to the Queen, the one true love of his life.


I really do think that this is a movie worth watching. I will warn you: there is a bit of incest in the movie and at first I was like, "that's totally unbelievable" but the more I thought about it the more I realized it wasn't that unrealistic.

Also, what I found to be the most fun was trying to see the bits of the Earl of Oxford's life that carried into the plays. For instance, there's a character that's a hunchback and the whole time I'm thinking, "Dude, that's like Richard III" and then BAM! We get to Richard III and hello, the appearance of Richard is totally based off the other guy. It was kinda like playing a scavenger hunt with Shakespeare.

Oh, and I totally left something out. Who is William Shakespeare? Well, maybe you should just watch the movie and find out.

Girls Who Read

I feel like this post speaks for itself.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Divergent Book Review

Alright, I never thought I would jump onto the dystopian train and enjoy the ride. But I have and I do. Granted, my dystopian literature exposure consists of 4 books (The Hunger Games trilogy and now Divergent by Veronica Roth).

I am a big fan of this trilogy already and the second one isn't even published yet.

Why did I like this book? Well, I originally downloaded the free sample on my iPad to see how I'd feel about it. I felt awesome about it. But I had to wait, there were other things on my list I needed to read first. So, I waited and finally, the time came when it was Divergent's turn, and it did not let me down.

I love this society. My blogger friend described the book as being a mashup of Harry Potter sorting hat and Hunger Games. You should totally check out her review here.

But I digress. Let me focus here. Why I liked the book:

  1. It was a quick read. I mean, it's over thirty chapters long, but I flew through the novel. HOWEVER, and what I think a strength of Roth's is (or seems to be from her breakout novel) is that not every chapter has to end in a cliff-hanger. That was one thing that drove me crazy with the Hunger Games series. It was like Collins never gave me a chance to breathe and digest what I'd just read. Yes, some cliff-hangers are good, even needed for great books I'd argue, but Roth has a good balance here. 
  2. The main character. It was awesome watching her grow and make all these serious decisions. I really don't want to go too in depth with it because then I'd have all these spoilers. But I will say this, unlike Katniss who is swept up by her handful of berries and the implications that that carries, Beatrice (the main character here - aka Tris) knows what she's getting into. 
  3. Also, like Hunger Games, the society is divided up. Huger Games had districts that spanned all of a country whereas Divergent has different factions of one society. This society is really limited to one city, and I really want to know what's beyond the farms that lie just outside the city. Is the rest of the world like this? I don't know. If this question isn't answered later in the series then I'll be very disappointed.    
  4. Lastly, the thing I think that I loved the most about this book (once I finished) is that while it does leave the reader in some action, the book could stand alone. Let me try and say this a different way. Yes, I want another book in the series, BUT if the series hadn't continued then the book would still be a satisfying read. 
Thing I did not like about the book: It seemed a bit (just a teeny bit) predictable. It was like when you meet a character it's almost like you could figure out their role in the book within a few pages. BUT, she did throw me some curve balls so that's why I say a bit (and not totally) predictable.

Here's how Amazon describes the book: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

Oh, and the best part: In the about the author section of the book, it tells me that Divergent was what Roth did in grad school (I think, maybe college) instead of doing her homework. Rock on girl.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Just Keep Swimming

Sometimes I feel as if I have just shot myself in the foot.

I mean, I've loaded the gun. Lined it up with my foot. Pulled the trigger. And POW!

Foot has been shot.

That's how this Harry Potter paper is making me feel. Like, I have all these ideas and plans and evidence from the texts and outside sources and a detailed outline all done. And then I sit down to write the paper and BAM! I run into a wall. I keep looking at my paper and get worried. All I see are quotes that I've strung together, my "original thought" sentences connecting the better phrased quotes together.

Sometimes I feel like I've tricked everybody into thinking I'm all brilliant and everything. Surprise! I'm not! Ugh.

But then I think: No. You can;t have fooled this many people. Not the acceptance board at my graduate school. Not my husband (who can read me like an open book). Not my parents. Not all these amazingly awesome teachers at my grad school. No. There is no way I fooled them all. So then the person I'm fooling has to be myself.

I am brilliant. I can write this damned paper. And it will be awesome.

So sitting here staring at the screen (not writing my paper), I think of some advice that author Ellen Kushner gave me this summer: Get the words on the page. Get a frist draft done. Let it be shit. Let it be a shitty first draft. Because that's what it is: a first draft. You can't fix nothing. If there are no words on the page - you can't refine them. But I can refine shit. I can take a piece of coal and turn it into a diamond.

And then I think of Finding Nemo...

Just insert "writing" for "swimming" and you could have my theme song.

So, what am I going to do?

I'm going to keep swimming. And so should you if you hit that awesome wall of self doubt.