Thursday, May 31, 2012

Step Four: Don't Discriminate Any Written Word

Read All Forms of The Written Word:
Books aren't the only thing out there...

I feel like as a writer I get very pigeon-holed in what I read. I usually read YA fantasy and not much else. It's lame. I tell myself that I need to be aware of the market and what's out there and what's not... and I do. But I need to do more than that.

Chuck Wendig makes a very good point, one that's never even come up on my radar:

"Those who write books are occasionally “book racists.” They pump their fists and espouse Book Power while denigrating other forms of the written word. “TV will rot your brain,” they might say. As if the Snooki book will somehow do laps around an episode of THE WIRE. Books are not the only form of the written word. You may not even want to write books. Branch out. Watch television. Watch film. Read scripts. Visit great blogs. Play games. Don’t be a book racist. The storytelling cults can learn much from one another."

Fantastic advice! I mean, I think writers tend to forget that there are other forms of the written word out there that have lots to offer. I think watching TV (and not reality TV) is a good way of studying dialogue and characterization. I mean, I don't know about you, but when I watch a Shakespearian play as a movie (you know with the original text - like that version of Romeo and Juliet) I can understand it so much better than just reading it. 

Like prose writer's reading poetry, I totally agree with Chuck on this one. There are so many different forms of the written word out there and each has something different to offer. How can reading a script help your fiction? That's not for me to tell you, but give it a shot and see what happens. I know I will.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Think I Can! I Think I Can!

Well, I'm getting ready to head off to my MFA program for the last time. I have super mixed feelings about it. On the one hand...

  1. I am beyond excited to get up to school and spend time with my Nerd Herd (I don't think they know I refer to them as that, but they probably will now. And I think they'll like it.)
  2. I love the classes and can't wait to be in a physical classroom again learning.
  3. I love the location of my program and just feel so at home there. I mean, where I live now it awesome, but there is soooo much more up there. 
  4. And I'm really excited to be nearing the end of my degree and all that means.
But on the other hand...

  1. I'm going to be done with my degree before I know it. No more fun classes. No more going to Nerd Camp.
  2. I have to leave my new husband for 6 weeks.
  3. I will miss my husband's birthday... 
  4. Did I mention that I'll miss my husband?
  5. I won't have any income for 6 weeks.
So there's a lot swirling around in my mind. The lists above only scratch the surface. But don't take away the wrong idea. I'm not unhappy, just conflicted. 

But my ramblings are not the full focus of this post. This post is about writing, believe it or not. And my own writing to boot. 

I'll go more into this in a future post, but I've been tracking my word count, day by day, for almost a month now. I have been forcing myself to sit down at the computer and just write damn it. Some days I'll only get a few hundred words. Other days, I'll get a couple thousand down on the page. Are they all the final words? Hell no! They are my road map. I know that there are blanks that I need to go and fill in, but that's for another draft. 

This draft will be my first, complete draft of my novel. I have been working on it for around five years now. Why has it taken me that long to write one full draft? 

Here's why:

  • I didn't force myself to write as much as I have in the last few weeks
  • I've been working on this for several different workshop style classes and in those classes people want to read your stuff, critique it, and then see the changes. I'll tell you I've had countless drafts of Chapter One, but only one draft of chapters 10, 11, and 12. 
  • I'm lazy
  • I'm not pushing myself to be a writer. <------ THIS IS BAD
So, the whole point of this is to pass along some more advice to you. Don't be like me. Or, well, the old me. Don't over edit a few chapter while never writing any of the others. Be like the new me. Write as often as you can and take notes on what you know you need to add in later. 

However, this way might not work for everyone. What's your writing style?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When You Need A Bit More Harry Potter In Your Life...

Well, as if I didn't have enough Harry Potter in my life, they finally launched the long awaited Pottermore.

If you don't know what Pottermore is (and if you're any kind of HP fan you should know) here's the video of Rowling announcing the webpage...

I remember watching this video when it was first released and not only squeaking but also jumping up and down. I was sooooo excited and was bummed it took so long for it to get out of beta testing. 

And honestly, I was not disappointed.

As of right now, you can only explore the first book, with the other books on the way. 

So, what do you do? Well you sign up and are given a user name (want to friend me? I'm NightWizard1517) and then you're free to explore the book. What's awesome, if you want to, you can read the book in conjunction with the webpage. Or not. The webpage is interactive and pretty fun. For me, it was a bit boring until I got to the Diagon Alley chapter. Once there you're given an account at Gringotts and not only get to go shopping, but you also are matched with a wand. 

Later, you get sorted and also learn how to brew potions and cast spells. The better you do on potions and spells the more points you earn for your house. 

But none of that is even my favorite part. What I liked the best is all of the insight that you get to unlock. Rowling has added information about various characters (giving full backgrounds, birthdays, and favorite hobbies) but also talks about her writing process. 

In short, AMAZING.

I have spent so much time playing on the webpage and just exploring, and believe me I still haven't found everything. 

There were a few things that I didn't like:

Reading the Books: As you go along you get to collect various text books and whatnot and store them in your trunk. That part is fun. However, I wish you could read excerpts from the various books. And you might be able to and I just don't know how to do it. 

Sorting: The sorting is super fun. However, what I think would've been fun was to see how you ranked in each house. I got sorted into Slytherin (which I was so not expecting) but I'd liked to have seen if I was hardcore Slytherin or slightly more Slytherin than another house.

AND... if all of this wasn't enough, check out the Pottermore Insider. I haven't explored it too much but I foresee me spending many hours reading through it. So, take my advice and go play.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: Insurgent

So, while I was on vacation, Insurgent the sequel to Veronica Roth's Divergent hit the virtual and physical bookshelves. I made the mistake of downloading it on my iPad to read (click on her name to go to her webpage and get all the news first - I'll also be adding her to my blog roll!)

Why was this a mistake? Because I was on vacation at the beach. I'm not going to take my iPad down to the beach.

I wound of devouring Insurgent between meals, while the TV was on, and while others took showers. So, pretty much any spare moment I was inside, I was glued to this book.

After reading Divergent I said that the only super huge issue I'd have with the series was if Roth never really explored what was beyond the fence that surrounds this dystopian Chicago. Did she tell us in this book? Nope. But, I think she did one better; she gave us some hints about the history of how the factions came to be.

I really loved this book. Now, I feel like if I'm really going to give it a critical reading I'd need to go back and read it again. Usually on my first read through of books I'm paying attention to the plot (and if I'm not then I start paying attention to why I'm not hooked).

For the most part I think that the strongest aspect of this book is the characterization. Tris, the narrator and main character, is put in some really touch situations and I think she deals with them to the best of her ability aka her characterization is strong and consistant.

One thing that I did notice was that there was one bit (involving her brother) that seemed a bit cliche/ predictable. However, having said that, since I was so caught up in the book, I didn't see it coming. Once it did though I was kinda like, "Well, of course that was going to happen..."

Now, one of my blogger friends wasn't thrilled with the way the book ended (dropping this huge plot twist at the very end) but I disagree. I think it was annoying, yes, because I wanted to keep reading. But isn't that the whole point? Keep the reader wanting more. Make them crave that final book? I feel like the Huger Games dropped a pretty huge plot twist at the end of the second one. But you should check out what my buddy said for yourself here.

Here's a little book trailer. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Step Three: Read What's Not Your Style

Read What Scares You:
Read Anything and Everything

This step goes hand in hand with the last step. Step 2 was all about reading all the time. Seriously, read more than you sleep if you can help it. This one is more focused on what you choose to read.

Let me start off with what Chuck has to say... 

"Here then is the prison that writers build for themselves: it becomes harder and harder to read purely for pleasure. Reading for pleasure often means sticking to a few genres, with a few authors — “Oh, I like fantasy, so I only read fantasy fiction,” or, “I love the Detective Cashew Pepper series by K. J. Staplebottom, and I’ve read up to #47 in the series.” That privilege has been revoked. You now must read widely, weirdly, wisely. Read everything. Move outside your desired library. Read obscure British literature. Read poetry. Read non-fiction. Read science-fiction even though you hate science-fiction. If you want to do what everybody else is doing, fine, read only in your pre-existing sphere of influences. But this is about improving your work, not treading water like a poodle who fell off a boat."

This is a amazing advice and something that I don't think enough people hear enough. Like I mentioned before, writers are always told to write everyday. I mean that's advice that's across the board good to know and good to pass along. And yes, writer's are also told to read a lot. However, I think people (me included) pigeon-hole themselves when it comes to the content of what they choose to read. Me? I'm not big on realistic fiction. I tend to read just fantasy. And that's LAME! If I never read realistic fiction then I would never have found John Green (whom I love and I tend to study his dialogue like no one's business). But see! If I never read him, I'd never have seen how awesome his dialogue is, and my dialogue might be a little less awesome. (Writer's tend to know what they're good at and where they feel like they suck: I'm good at dialogue and super sucky at description...) 

So what I'm going to do is include some various reading lists. I don't think I'll have a chance to read any of them by next week, but I think we could all get started on a new book. Pick one from a genre that is totally opposite what you typically read/write. See what makes it awesome and what you can learn from it.

Check out these lists:

  1. 100 Essential Reads for a Lifelong Learner 
  2. The Top 10 Banned Books of All Time
  3. College Bound Reading List
  4. 53 Books Every College Student Should Read

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Just a quick update!

I'm so glad that so many of you have found the 25 Ways to Be A Better Writer so helpful. It's been fun to put together and I've been learning a lot myself. Look for the next installment next week sometime, probably on Tuesday.

For those of you that have been following this blog for the last several months you'll know that for my MFA I was working on  a paper that focused on Harry Potter. Since you all were so awesome to put up with my ranting, moaning, and various other Harry Potter posts, I thought you might like to know the outcome.

I got an A!

AND My professor suggested with a bit more revision that it could be publishing ready, so woo! Also, I know that I was pretty hush hush about the focus of the paper on here. So I feel like I can finally reveal what I was working so hard on: I was looking at how the characters of Harry and Voldemort relate to one another in the terms of Jungian critical theory. TADA! 

At the moment husband and I are on vacation (with my parents) and are not only relaxing but having a great time celebrating the conclusion of this past semester. Look for regular blog posts next week as well as the review for Divergent's sequel Insurgent.