Merry Christmas to Me!

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I got to open an exciting package yesterday from Blurb (a book printing company that I highly recommend). Blurb has been having deal after great deal after great deal since Thanksgiving. I took advantage of a 40% off coupon code and printed copies of my (very rough) works-in-progress. I was amazed at how awesome my books looked when I took them out of the box. I keep picking them up and admiring them. They look so professional. I feel quite proud for having completed a project, or rather, TWO projects. Merry Christmas to me!

I hope your Christmas is joyful and book-filled.

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My Writing Process

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Oh, what’s that you say? You’ve never read one of my books before? That’s because I am not a famous author. My books do not appear in any library or bookstore anywhere. It’s hard to get your hands on a book when it doesn’t exist! Even so, I’m going to talk a little bit about my writing process today.

Brainstorming/Prewriting:

  • An idea usually floats around in my head for awhile before it ever gets close to a piece of paper. Most likely, I have thought about it a lot while in the shower! And when I can’t get to sleep at night, I start plotting in my head. For some reason, this helps me sleep!
  • I like to write the types of books that I read, so my books have a YA vibe – fast paced, teen or college-age characters, with some humor and romance.
  • I’ll use some online name generators and baby naming websites to help name characters.
  • For some projects, I’ll have to do research. For example, one of my projects is a historical thriller à  la Steve Berry/Dan Brown that intertwines a modern day story with Queen Elizabeth I, so I needed to learn a lot about Queen Elizabeth. I printed copies of the information I found, highlighted them, and made notes of anything that was useful to me. I also printed off information about how succession of the crown works.
  • A very basic plot line will help me map out what I want the story to do, but this often changes as I start writing.
  • Jotting down notes of character descriptions and settings (sometimes even using Google Maps) helps me stay consistent as I write.

Drafting:

  • Even though I really love my laptop and tablets, I usually start out with a handwritten copy of my story. This gives me the ability to doodle as I get stuck, and keeps me away from the very distracting internet.
    • The exception to this was when I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2013. I didn’t have time to write and type it all up later, so I did all the writing on my laptop.
  • Writing a rough draft takes a LONG time. I’ll often reach a point and get STUCK. This makes me want to give up, but eventually I’ll figure out a way to get the story back on track.

Revising:

  • After I’ve written a nice big chunk of story, I type it up and print it out. Then I go through and mark it up. I add missing details or more interesting word choices, cut anything that isn’t necessary, and move lines around so the story makes more sense. I also continue writing and add on to the story.
  • I’ll basically stay in this revising/drafting/revising/drafting loop for awhile.
  • Another thing I’ve started doing is making my story available to read on my Kindle and tablets so I can see if I enjoy my story. Am I writing something I’d like to read? Am I writing something other people would like to read?

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Editing:

  • I don’t bother editing until the story is finished or close to being finished. Again, I print the document and mark it up. I especially watch out for verb tenses. And those darn adverbs that keep filling up the page!
  • I’ll also refer to grammar sites online to make sure my punctuation is correct and that my metaphors are worded correctly.
  • I also circle words that are overused and search for more interesting words with thesaurus.com.

Publishing:

  • Sometimes I’ll take a break when I get stuck and work on cover designs instead. This is a good way to feel productive…without actually writing!
  • When I’ve gone through the entire writing process and feel proud of the work I’ve accomplished, I use Blurb to create a real copy of my work.

So while I’m a long way off from becoming a bestseller, I really enjoy working on my writing projects. It also helps me understand and appreciate the talent and hard work that must go into all of the books I read every year. Writing a novel is not easy, and anyone who says it is probably hasn’t tried it themselves!   

What are your tips and tricks for writing a book?

Falling into Summer Books

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A Reading Update:

Since my last update, I finished reading a book and am 60% through another. I read the second book in Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty series called It’s Not Summer Without You in just a few days. I really enjoy Jenny Han’s novels and have read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You, as well as the Burn for Burn trilogy she wrote with Siobhan Vivian. The Summer series has three books in it, so I’ve still got to read that one, but overall, I feel like the Summer series is the weakest of Han’s works. The main character, Belly, is just a bit too juvenile and whiny. She adores two brothers and can’t figure out which one she should date. Their mom is dealing with cancer, so I was sometimes annoyed by how much Belly thought of herself. That being said, the (ridiculous) love triangle sucked me in and I have to read the third book in the series to see how it ends!

Currently, I’m reading Invincible Summer by Alice Adams. Since this book cleverly has “Summer” in the title, it was on a lot of “perfect summer reads” lists. The book is adult fiction and follows four friends as they navigate relationships and careers after college. There are parts of this book that I like, and even moments I can relate to because I’m similar to the character’s ages and places in life, but I’m still on the fence about it. I’m over halfway through the novel and I still can’t tell why the book is called Invincible Summer. Sure, the epigraph has a quote that uses the phrase “invincible summer,” but I thought more of the book would take place during the summer, or that there would be an epic summer that would impact the characters’ lives. I guess I’ll just have to keep reading to find out more.     

A Writing Update:

I went back to a novel that I had been working on years ago and discovered that I had written an ending AND gone through and edited it once. I was surprised at this! So I’m going to make the changes to the text and then print up a copy. I know it’s rough, but I can’t see what I’m working with yet. I think seeing it in its entirety will be useful. Also, I’ll feel like I actually finished a writing project.  

What are you reading and writing this Creativember?

Illuminae and a Letter

illuminaeletterA Reading Update:

Last night (or rather very early this morning, as my child doesn’t understand or appreciate sleep), I finished up Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I was intrigued by this book when I saw it in the library because instead of standard prose, the book is written in a series of documents, transcripts, and instant messages. I was also intrigued because I enjoyed Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s novel These Broken Stars. I had high hopes for the novel, and while I might have been a little bored during the pre-middle-ish part of the book, I was hooked at the end and felt very invested in the characters and the plot. I would recommend this book to people who enjoyed the These Broken Stars series, Under the Never Sky series, and Across the Universe series. So, Young Adult science-fiction readers!    

The book takes place in the future, where a company has an illegal mining facility in space. When a rival company finds out about it, they decide to launch an attack on the facility and the civilians. After a bloody battle between warships, several spaceships are able to flee with refugees. This is just the beginning of the story though. The main aircraft is equipped with an operating system that was injured during the attack and has gone a bit crazy. In fact, it launches an attack on one of the airships it is supposed to be protecting when it learns that there is a deadly virus infecting everyone on the ship. Some people from the ship survive, but that means they also carry the virus. Now, the people aboard the spacecraft have to deal with an enemy aircraft looking to kill them, as well as a virus that turns people into psychotic murderers, and an operating system that can destroy them at any minute. Meanwhile, readers follow the story of two teens who had just broken up at the start of the story. Needless to say, the traumatic events that occur pull them back together.

While I really liked the last 50 pages of the novel, I didn’t love it enough to rush out and get the second book in the series, Gemina. Then again, I might be tempted to read it if I happen to catch it at the library or find it on sale! I did, however, like Illuminae more than Across the Universe.

Be warned: if you read Illuminae as a Kindle ebook, you will miss out on several pages of the story. The pages aren’t missing, but the teeny, tiny text and artwork on a few of the documents are too small to view. Increasing the text size did not help and I could not zoom in to the images either.  

A Writing Update:

Yesterday, I finally wrote a letter that I had been drafting in my head for weeks. Now, I just have to put it in an envelope and mail it! We’ll see how long it takes me to do that. For now anyway, it feels good to have the words on the page. Isn’t it a relief to get the thoughts out of your head, sometimes?

To NaBloPoMo or No?

nablopomo2016It is the first day of November and I still haven’t decided if I’m going to participate in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) yet or not. I want to participate…but I’m not sure my busy, non-sleeping two-year-old wants me to participate! On top of that, our family is taking a week long vacation over Thanksgiving, so that will be working against me too.

But. I miss blogging and I miss reading other people’s blogs. So I’m sneaking a post in tonight, just in case.

Last November, I wrote a post about other challenges to try tackling in November. Looking back over that list, I feel like I don’t want to limit myself by just taking on one challenge. It gets rather repetitive and tough to do 30 days of one thing. I’d rather try a little bit of several things and see what really interests me.

I’d like to try reading some nonfiction.

I’d like to try writing some nonfiction.

I’d also like to blog more frequently here.

So the title NaBloPoMo doesn’t seem like it encompasses enough of what I’d like to do this month. What would be a more fitting name? No Boundaries November? NoBouNo? No Limits November? NoLimNo? Read and Write More Month? ReAnWriMoMo? Give-it-a-go November? Creativember? Yes, I think that one works. This November, I am going to stretch myself creatively — whether in reading choices or writing attempts. Creativember.

What challenges are you attempting this November?

Current Read: The First Five Pages

imageOnce you’ve written the rough draft of a novel, it’s hard to figure out what to do next. It’s a ROUGH draft, after all. It’s a long way from a finished product. How are you supposed to go about refining it? I’ve searched on the web for editing and revising advice and techniques, but I still felt lost. During a recent trip the library though, I came across a book that finally seemed useful to me. The book is called The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, written by Noah Lukeman.

Back of the Book Blurb:

Whether you are a novice writer or a veteran who has already had your work published, rejection is often a frustrating reality. Literary agents and editors receive and reject hundreds of manuscripts each month. While it’s the job of these publishing professionals to be discriminating, it’s the job of the writer to produce a manuscript that immediately stands out among the vast competition. And those outstanding qualities, says New York literary agent Noah Lukeman, have to be apparent from the first five pages.image

The First Five Pages reveals the necessary elements of good writing, whether it be fiction, nonfiction, journalism, or poetry, and points out errors to be avoided, such as a weak opening hook, overuse of adjectives and adverbs, flat or forced metaphors or similes, melodramatic, commonplace or confusing dialogue, undeveloped characterizations and lifeless settings, uneven pacing and lack of progression.

With exercises at the end of each chapter, this invaluable reference will allow novelists, journalists, poets and screenwriters alike to improve their technique as they learn to eliminate even the most subtle mistakes that are cause for rejection. The First Five Pages will help writers at every stage take their art to a higher–and more successful–level.

If you’re looking for a book that helps you plot, plan, and write a novel, this book isn’t for you! This book is more about how to strengthen your writing once you’ve put in the hard work. Even though I don’t plan on submitting my novel to an agent or publisher (I know my work isn’t strong enough), I still want to complete it to the best of my abilities. I like this book because I’m able to focus on topics where I want to improve but skim through other sections that I feel more confident about. For instance, I know that writers need to stick to a consistent point of view and narrative style, but I have a bad habit of using too many adverbs in my writing. I’m over two-thirds of the way through the 200 page book, and I’ve already flagged several exercises and tips that I want to apply to my own novel. I need to fix my overuse of adverbs and adjectives, and choose interesting, specific words and active verbs. So if you’ve got a novel manuscript sitting around and you can’t figure out how to refine it, this just might be the next book you need to pick up.

Do you have any books (or websites) on editing and revising that you would recommend?

Next November

imageMonth long challenges are a great way to test yourself and see what you’re made of. I’ve enjoyed participating in NaBloPoMo, and I’m already looking ahead to next November. I’m wondering if I should participate in National Blog Posting Month again, or try out one of these other challenges.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

I’m always tempted by this one, but I already completed this challenge in 2013, and I probably won’t have the time for this one for several years.

National Nonfiction Writing Month or Write Nonfiction in November: a challenge to complete a nonfiction writing piece in November. It could be an article, an essay, a book, a memoir, whatever – and there’s NO word count. This blog is the place to learn more.

A memoir sounds like a cool thing to tackle. I kept a journal (4 spiral notebooks) during college, which could really come in handy. Maybe there are some words of wisdom I can pass on to my daughter!

Nonfiction November: this challenge, co-hosted by several blogs, encourages people to read in November, and more specifically, to read nonfiction. The hosts blog about what they are reading, hold discussions, and offer questions for reflection. This is one of the blogs that hosts the challenge.

I’m interested in this one because I’d like to try reading more nonfiction. It’s not what I typically gravitate towards, but I know I’m missing out on some awesome books and learning opportunities.

Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo): this challenge asks you to jot down one picture book concept daily. At the end of the month, you’ll have 30 ideas for creating stories you can work on later. Official sign up at this website.

I like the sound of this one because you’re not actually writing stories, it’s just little ideas or beginnings of concepts. Now that I’m reading so many children’s books with my little one, I’ve got an interest in writing a children’s book myself.

30 days of Thanks: there are several ways to participate, but you either write a blog post, Facebook post, take photos, or journal about something you’re thankful for each day in November.

Planksgiving: a fitness challenge where you plank for longer and longer amounts of time as the month goes on.

Not a reading or writing challenge, but it doesn’t take up much time and would be a simple way to make fitness part of my daily routine.

  • Other Ideas: In case I’m looking for a year-round challenge or a challenge to complete in a month other than November, here’s a big list of timed artistic challenges.

Which challenges caught your interest? Or, have you participated in any of these already? Words of advice?