Saturday, December 26, 2015

December + End of 2015 WIP Marathon Post

Things I'm glad I did in 2015:
-finally completed a draft
-finished reading 21 books, 2/3 of which I either loved or really liked (unusual for me)
-started making serious headway in planning my medical career
-had a few really meaningful patient interactions - there's not much I can do for many of them, but it turns out listening and empathy go a long way
-made an entire dress with a hoop skirt by hand, without a pattern


In 2016 I'd love to:
-finish editing the novel
-read at least 30 books from this list
-publish a few research papers
-get good at interviewing
-finish a super secret sewing project inspired by one of my favorite books from 2015

***

Last check in: figuring out how to edit chapter 2

Currently: about 600 words into chapter 2 edits

WIP issues this month: By the end of last month, I decided to edit chapter 2 in a way that would make it a lot simpler and probably more boring. The problem with boring is that it's a pain in the ass to write. I took a night to brainstorm and I think I figured out a way to get through it.

Things I learned in writing this month:

1. The best way to get through the boring scenes is to make them as short as possible.

2. I'm SO over books and movies where the primary focus is on "misunderstood artistic genius." (My mom wanted to see Youth yesterday, and it's basically Guy in Your MFA for old rich people.)

Distractions:

I was rear-ended at the beginning of the month, and dealing with it was both time-consuming and very stressful, especially because the other driver was uninsured and was acting kinda sketchy. (Lesson learned: always call the police at the scene. Although filing your own police report is legally considered the same thing, it will save you a lot of mental anguish if you take care of everything right then and there. Luckily, I remembered to get all of her information, including her driver's license number (which sounds obvious, but when you're shaken up after a car wreck you tend to forget things like that) and my insurance company is coming after her now.) Everything is mostly dealt with now, but I still don't have my car back.

I was hoping to get a lot of writing done this week, but I was sick for two days, and I'm so out of the habit of writing that it's hard to get back in.

Also, Jessica Jones is quite possibly one of my new favorite things. (Warning - it's pretty dark)

Books:

Finished:
-Seraphina - I loved it, minus some cheesiness at the end

Currently reading:
-The Ocean at the End of the Lane (audio) - I like it
-Sorrow's Knot
-The Second Mango

Saturday, December 5, 2015

2016 Books

So far, I have finished 17 out of the 28 books on my 2015 reading list. I'm currently in the middle of reading 3 more and have another one checked out of the library.

At this point, it doesn't look like I'm going to finish the list. My goal for the end of the year is to finish all the books that I'm currently reading or have checked out of the library (Sorrow's Knot, Seraphina, The Ocean at the End of the Lane (audio), and Black Dove, White Raven.)

All of the books that I do not finish in 2015 will be moving to the 2016 list. These include:

ETA: BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN - finished!
FEED - finished!
FALLING INTO PLACE - already own
THE GIRL WHO NAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING - currently reading
WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER - finished!
FIENDISH
NONE OF THE ABOVE (ebook) - finished!
WATCH THE SKY

Here are the rest of the books on my 2016 list:

Previously published books by authors I've read before:

FALL FOR ANYTHING - finished!
MODERN MONSTERS (ebook) - finished!
A SENSE OF THE INFINITE - finished!
SHARP OBJECTS (audio) - finished!
THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS (audio) - finished!
THE ARCHIVED - finished!
ETA: THE UNBOUND - finished!
ETA: THE NEAR WITCH - finished!
THE WATER KNIFE (audio) - currently reading
COMPLICIT
THE CURE FOR DREAMING
SISTER'S FATE - finished!
ETA: WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE (audio) - finished!
ETA: SHADOW SCALE

Previously published books by new authors:

WITHER (ebook) - finished!
ADAMANT (ebook) - finished!
THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY - already own
GEORGE - finished!
THE OTHER ME (ebook) - currently reading
MARTYR (ebook) - already own
DOLLHOUSE (ebook) - finished!
AMERICANAH - already own
A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD (audio) - finished!
STARGLASS
SNOW LIKE ASHES - DNF
THE GIRL WHO COULD SILENCE THE WIND
TRUST ME, I’M LYING - DNF
FAKE ID (ebook) - bought!
FAR FROM YOU - finished!
ETA: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (audio) - finished!

Books that are coming out in 2016:

THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS - finished!
A GATHERING OF SHADOWS - finished!
ON THE EDGE OF GONE - bought!
PLEASE DON'T TELL - finished!
THE RAVEN KING - finished!
REBEL OF THE SANDS - finished!
THE THORN OF EMBERLAIN
CLOUDFOREST - no longer available

This list is much longer than my 2015 list, so I don't expect to read them all, but whatever doesn't get read will be moved to the 2017 list. (If everything goes according to plan, I will be traveling a lot during 2016, so hopefully that will mean a lot more reading.)


Friday, November 27, 2015

November WIP Marathon post

Last check-in: 2000 words into chapter 1 re-write

Currently: mostly finished chapter 1 re-write (3249 words), editing chapter 2

WIP issues this month:

My goal with editing is to cut out about 30,000 words, and so far, I have added 500. I do however, like my new first chapter a lot more than the previous one, both in terms of tension level and more thorough introduction to the characters. (The two complaints with my first chapter were that a) it wasn't gripping enough, and b) secondary characters were half-hazardly introduced, to the point where they didn't stick in anyone's memory.)

I am in the middle of chapter 2 edits, and I realize now how much I need to cut it down. In the last draft, I wrote with a "go big or go home" mentality and turned it into a pseudo-action scene to make it more interesting. However, the exciting elements of the scene did not contribute much to the plot. Now that I made chapter 1 more interesting, I can probably afford to take chapter 2 down a couple of notches. That will also allow me to focus more on character development.

If I rewrite chapter 2, I can probably cut it down by at least 1000 words, and then combine it with chapter 3. I can always use the old version of chapter 2 as bonus content.

Distractions: I spent the last month on elective rotations, which I loved. There has also been a fair bit of Angst About My Future, but I'm in too good a mood to write about that right now.

I'm also considering taking a long-term break from certain forms of social media for the next year or so (starting in January, probably). I would still blog, but I'll probably give up Twitter. It's too distracting, especially in regards to social justice and current events. While I think it's important to be aware of these issues, I'm at a point in my life where there's not much I can do to fix the world's problems, and spending hours thinking about them just prevents me from being as productive as I should be.

Books:

Finished:
-In the Shadow of Blackbirds (audio) - highly recommend
-Star Cursed (sequel to Born Wicked) - I liked it

Currently Reading:
-Sorrow's Knot - still plodding through it
-Seraphina - just started reading
-The Second Mango - not really my thing

Saturday, October 31, 2015

WIP Marathon October Update

Last check-in: 2220 words into chapter 1

Currently: 1997 words into chapter 1

WIP issues this month: In the original draft, I didn't include the scene where the protagonist convinces her friend to come to a magical world, but after further consideration, I decided the scene belonged here. I started that scene a month or two ago, but it wasn't until this month when I decided the scene wasn't working. I was hoping to use it to introduce more characters, but it turned out to be lengthy and word-count inefficient, so I started re-writing it. This does mean I'll have to wait until later to introduce one or two characters, though.

Things I learned in writing:

1. If you get bored and frustrated every time you sit down to write a scene, you need to go back to the drawing board.

2. Sometimes (usually) the simplest way is the best way.

Distractions: My 12-hour-a-day trauma surgery rotation left very little time for writing. I also spent most of my week off working on my Halloween costume and watching Reign and iZombie.

Books:

Finished:
-Made You Up - okay if you ignore the fact that it gets schizophrenia horribly wrong

Currently Reading:
-Sorrow's Knot - still having trouble getting into it
-In the Shadow of Blackbirds (audio) - really liking it

Did Not Finish:
-The Casual Vacancy (audio) - boring


Saturday, September 26, 2015

WIP Marathon September Update

Last check-in: started new version of chapter 1

Currently: 2220 words into chapter 1 (I'm not sure how much of it I wrote this month. I think I've looked at it maybe once.)

WIP issues this month: The problem with my original first chapter was that it was too confusing and not engaging enough. Both versions start with a conversation between my protagonist and her stepfather. In the original chapter, the conversation is tense, but it's a very ambiguous tension. This version, however, is much more in-your-face about the abusive nature of their relationship. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I tend to prefer early subtlety, but I think readers will respond more to this version.

Distractions: Surgery. I really like surgery, but it's pretty draining from both an hourly standpoint and an emotional standpoint. I spend too much time feeling stupid and wondering whether or not I should be taking more initiative, and not nearly enough time writing or studying. (Also, I've been watching Sense8, Orphan Black, and Strange Empire, all of which are really good.)

Books:

Currently reading:
-Sorrow's Knot (It's hard to connect with the characters.)
-Made You Up (I enjoy reading it, though I'm not sure I buy the depictions of schizophrenia and autism)

First 300 words: (I don't usually include this, but I wanted to get some feedback)

            Hitchiking is for idiots, was all Paula Jumiere could think as the third car in a row drove past her. Almost an hour had passed, and so far the only person who had stopped for her was a scraggly old man in a pickup truck that looked too beat up to make it to the next town. She’d made up some excuse about needing to go in the opposite direction, and he’d driven off, leaving her to stand there with her feet aching and her shoulders sore from the weight of her backpack.
            She’d been planning her escape for two months, and it wasn’t supposed to involve waiting by the side of the road like a prostitute. If everything had gone right, she would have waited until the end of the school year, when she had saved up enough money, and then drove to Pittsburgh. There, she would abandon the car and bribe someone to buy her a train ticket to a city large enough where Nathaniel would never find her.
            She had nearly five thousand dollars hidden in her dorm room—two months’ worth of blackmail. It was impressive how many secrets floated around in a school of four hundred girls—drugs, plagiarism, active sex lives, secret girlfriends, carefully-scheduled trips to the one bathroom on campus where no one would hear you vomit. There was even a kleptomaniac in the senior class, though she was hardly good enough at it to make things worthwhile.
            The trick was to find the girls with the strictest parents and the greatest net worth. Confront them alone, gently, and then sit through the tears and the excuses. If Paula didn’t already have photographic or video evidence, she would record the conversation. Then she would lay out the deal.

            The best part was that every single one of them was convinced she was the only one Paula was blackmailing.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

WIP Marathon August Update

Last Check-In: Finished the first draft and the first read-through. Identified chapters that needed editing.

Currently: Started writing a new version of chapter 1.

WIP Issues: I haven't had much time and energy to write. I'm not very satisfied with the small amount of writing I did do--too much narration and not enough description.

Distractions: I spent most of this month on my Internal Medicine rotation. In addition to working 50-60 hours a week, this particular rotation required a TON of studying. I started Surgery this week, which involves longer hours, but considerably less studying.

I'm not expecting to get much writing done before the middle of October.

Books:

Finished:
-Pantomime (I liked the worldbuilding and characters, but the plot was unsatisfying.)
-Wild Awake (I LOVE the narrator's voice.)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Regarding Daughters of Other People

(Note: My post is in response to this article.)

I am a property manager's daughter*. I am an ex-doctor's daughter. I am an immigrant's daughter*.

(*Actually, both of my parents are property managers and immigrants, but I adjusted the wording in order to echo the titles.)

The thing is, I never think of or identify myself this way. When I identify myself, it's usually as a medical student, or as a fantasy writer, or as a millennial, (or as someone who spends way too much time on the internet). I never identify myself based on my parents or what they do. Even when I identify myself ethnically/nationally, I am much more likely to identify as "a second-generation Israeli" rather than "a daughter of Israeli immigrants" even though they technically mean the same thing. Even though my parents' identities are a huge part of who I am, I always identify myself first.

So why is it different with fictional characters? Why is it so important for someone to be "the daughter of _______"?

If any of you have ever read or written fanfiction, you're probably aware of how 90% of original female characters (including most of the ones who fall into Mary Sue territory) were the daughter of some important (usually male) canon character. You often see this trope in originally published books too.

Obviously, there is a lot of fascination with daughter tropes, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why. Being the daughter of someone special means that, by default, you are special. Likewise, being the daughter of someone infamous or controversial means that you too are likely infamous or controversial. And if you don't already know that you're the daughter of [insert name of royalty figure or villain here], then you get an awesome self-discovery plotline! (But seriously, for once I'd like a character to discover that their real parents are farmers or bricklayers or accountants or something, not royalty.)

This isn't a bad trope, and I would be lying if I said I never use it. but it irks me when people use it as a title. From the outset, you're defining your character not based on who she is, but who her parents are. Is that really what's important? Is that how your character sees herself?

Because honestly, I'm not sure if that's a character I want to read about.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

WIP Marathon July (and June) Update

I didn't post last month, mainly because I was dealing with a major life transition, a lot of stressors, and jet lag. But I've finally reached the point where I'm caught up on sleep and in a good mental headspace.

Last check-in: Working on chapter 38 (word count = 126,742)

Currently:
-Finished the full draft (word count = 134,498)
-Finished my first read-through
-Filled in the holes in some chapters
-Identified some major changes I want to make (11 chapters will need re-writes)

WIP issues and things I learned:

1. I always thought that once I reached the last chapter, there would be a huge adrenaline rush and words would flow onto the page. Didn't happen. It turns out the last chapter is just as difficult to write as all the others. It took me forever just to get through the first three paragraphs.

2. Word count is no longer a priority. Right now, I just want to get the novel into a state where it feels complete.

Distractions:

I was out of the country for a few weeks in June, but I still got a good amount of writing done that month.

I started clinical rotations four weeks ago. I was on subspecialty rotations this month, so my hours have been very relaxed, but this rotation requires a lot of studying. Also, I spent most of the month feeling tired, depressed, and overwhelmed, so my motivation wasn't high.

Books:

Finished:
Under a Painted Sky - it's good
The Dirty Streets of Heaven - meh

Started:
Pantomime - it's okay

Goals for next month:

Next Monday, I start a difficult sub-rotation. I'm also behind on studying, so that will take up a lot of my time.

I still have some holes to fill out in the later chapters before they're ready to be sent out. I was planning on doing that this weekend. I also want to re-write some of the early chapters and go back to chapter 25.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

VERY VERY IMPORTANT NEWS!

I have finished the first draft! As of this morning, the WIP is now complete at 134,500 words.

I wrote the last scene this morning. We got the day off because our board exam scores were supposed to be sent out, so as soon as I woke up, I started writing. I told myself I wouldn't check my score until I finished the book, but I was still checking email, and you can imagine how jittery I got when the email came at 11 and I was still figuring out what to do with the last few paragraphs. (No, I didn't read it until I was finished.)

I finished the scene about thirty minutes later. I don't think I'm very happy with the scene, but that can be fixed in edits. I still have a long way to go before the book will be polished and complete, but I finally accomplished something that I've been trying to do for 12 years: finish a draft!

I'm meeting a friend for dinner later, during which time we will celebrate my finished draft and my board score.* She is starting her first original novel soon, so she asked me to give her advice.

*I'm really happy with my score.

I guess now is the time to start thinking about edits. I've already thought of some things I want to change, so I guess the next step is reading through the entire draft (!!!) and figuring out how it all works together and what needs to be cut. There were also some scenes that didn't get fully written, so that's something else I have to do.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

WIP Marathon May (and April) Update

Last check-in: Finished re-write of chapter 34. Wrote chapters 35 and 36. Started re-writing a scene for chapter 37. (120,893 words)

Current check-in: Finished chapter 37. Wrote about half of chapter 38.

current word count = 126,742

WIP issues these last two months:

Chapter 38 was really difficult to write. There's a lot of background fighting in it, which means I have to figure out a lot of setting and description and the magical powers of characters who only appear for a few seconds. That, as well as time constraints, set me back a lot.

I was hoping to have time to write in the evening or on Saturday during my study period, but studying required a lot more time than I expected. Some days I didn't come home until nine. Saturday was supposed to be my easy day, but it ended up turning into my catch-up day.

I only wrote two days during my study period--one day was when I made minor edits on chapter 33. The other day was at the beginning of week 4. I had completely overloaded myself on studying the day before, and all I could think about was the novel. I ended up writing for four hours that day, and took the rest of the day off.

Things I learned:

1. There are some chapters that flow right out of you, and some that need to be written in very short intervals. Really intense conversations are usually the ones that I can write in a single sitting. Description-heavy scenes or those with a lot of characters are the ones that need to be written in short bursts. (Chapter 38, which I'm working on now, is a little bit of both.)

2. "The only girl in the army" or "the only girl on the football team" isn't a feminist trope. It's even worse if the story goes to great lengths to show that the girl is better than all the boys. Why? It's like telling girls that if they're not naturally awesome at something or exceptional in some way, they don't have a place in the story and might as well not even exist.

3. The first step to showing that a character is smart is showing the character trying to be smart. Intelligence isn't just the stroke-of-luck brilliant idea you have. It's the brilliant idea you have AFTER observing, asking a lot of questions, and sorting out your options. There's a lot of work, as well as trial-and-error, that goes into intelligence. What do I mean by this?

Game of Thrones spoilers (highlight to read): I'm not bothered by the fact that Sansa was raped. I'm bothered by the fact that Sansa specifically agreed to marry Ramsay Bolton in order to get revenge for her family, and yet she has done nothing to actually make that revenge happen. Just because it's too early to put a plan in motion, doesn't mean it's too early to start brainstorming and gathering information on how she can make the Boltons fall apart. Instead of showing Sansa walking around the grounds of Winterfell with no particular direction in mind, why isn't she eavesdropping on people or going through their papers? Why isn't she the one initiating conversations with Miranda and the other servants, especially when one of them specifically promised to be loyal to her? Even if she doesn't gain any useful information, the fact that she is making an effort would show her intelligence. But the show doesn't seem to be interested in making Sansa intelligent. So far, all she's done is beg Theon for help and pick up a set of keys that someone mistakenly dropped. Picking up the keys isn't scheming, it's luck. When you promise me an empowered female character, I expect her to be empowered by more than just dumb luck.

Distractions this month:

Oh, where to begin? I finished second year, which involved three exams and a lot of random little assignments and responsibilities that are somehow more anxiety-inducing than the tests.

I went on a weekend retreat with my friends.

Then I spent six weeks studying for the board exam, which is a seven-hour exam that covers two years' worth of material (and yes, it's the same exam that Ifeoma took a couple months back). Study period, for the most part, was a lot less stressful than medical school, since I only had to focus on one thing, but it was also its own special brand of hell consisting of all-day study marathons and lots and lots of practice questions. I barely saw any of my friends, other than my roommate, and some days I would just shoot off random emails to people because I was feeling really lonely. It didn't help that  my med school's campus isn't the most beautiful place in the world. There are barely any windows and you get really depressed after being there all day. The few occasions when I took time off to go to the gym didn't help my mood much, since all they play is Top 40 music, and one of the TVs is always set to Fox News.

Luckily, many of my classmates discovered a different campus near my apartment that has a beautiful library, so I spent the second half of study period there (which significantly improved my mood). I also tried to study more at home, to break up the monotony. I also read a lot more.

My board exam was yesterday, and I am still recovering. I got sick three days ago, and it's been seriously fucking with my ability to sleep. I didn't get any sleep the night before the test, despite warm milk and Benadryl, and I seriously considered re-scheduling, but then I decided that I just wanted to get the damn thing over with.

It's done now, and I'm slowly re-adjusting to real life.

Books:

Go figure that all the library books I put on hold came in during this time.

Finished:
-Pointe (a quieter book, but really good)
-A Picture of Dorian Gray (audio)
-We Were Liars (really liked it)
-A Darker Shade of Magic (loved it - also, my new life goal is to become Lila Bard)
-An Ember in the Ashes (I liked Laia's chapters, but Elias' chapters are going to require their own separate rant)

Currently reading:
-Under a Painted Sky (I'm not crazy about the prose, and the pacing is too fast.)

Started and DNF-ed:
-Gone Girl (I wanted to read it so that I can finally read everyone's blog posts about it without being spoiled, but I had to return it to the library before I could finish it.)

Goal for next month:

Like always, the goal is to finish the first draft.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Quick update

Tomorrow, my official study period begins.

I haven't yet finished the novel (though I have made a lot of progress on a difficult chapter this weekend), so I will try to continue to work on it during the study period.

I was originally going to make my final WIP Marathon update this weekend, but I changed my mind. I'm going to write my update on Saturday with everyone else. (I'm taking Saturdays easy, so I should be able to find time to do it.)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Motivational Issues

I know I'm supposed to work hard to be a writer and finish a novel, but the major problem I have is that for me, hard work does not result in good, productive writing days.

***

The problem with my motivation as a writer is that most of the writing I get done happens when it's going well and the ideas are coming and it doesn't feel like work.

And then, most of the time, when it is hard and it does feel like work, I can barely get any writing done.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

WIP Marathon March Update

Last check-in: Finished chapter 33. Wrote most of chapter 34, but decided it needed a re-write. Figured out some backstory stuff. (word count = 115,255)

Current check-in: Finished re-write of chapter 34. Wrote chapters 35 and 36 (most of 36 was copy-paste). Currently re-writing a scene for chapter 37. (I've decided to take a break to write this post.)

current word count = 120,893 (does not include chapter 37)

WIP issues this month: This book will end up with 41 chapters. I've finally caught up to where I ended my longest draft.

Most of my issues this month are timing-related. I have three more weeks of school, and immediately afterwards, I have to start preparing for my first board exam. This will involve six weeks of full-time studying, and I do NOT plan on doing any writing at that time. Since I only have five more chapters, I want to be finished before my six-week study period.

However, I'm also behind in school and this week has been horrible for both studying and writing. I was really overwhelmed for a while, but then I scheduled everything out, and realized that I would probably be fine.

Up until school ends, I've decided to prioritize writing on the weekends. (I'm actually taking a break from writing to compose this post.)

Things I learned this month:

1. When I'm in school, the most appealing books are those with a lot of plot. I've been having some trouble getting through slower, character-driven books like Charm and Strange and Pointe. Both of them are really well-written, insightful books that I absolutely recommend, but they don't have that addictive plot factor to keep me desperate for more.

2. I have also been losing my interest in reviewing books. Writing reviews these days feels like a chore. I might stop.

3. Late afternoon classes and/or responsibilities are practically a guarantee that I will get nothing done for the rest of the day.

4. It's really surprising and awesome when a scene comes out of nowhere. Some of these scenes have been planned for months and I know more or less exactly what's going to happen before I write them. That was how chapter 34 was. However, there was one particular conversation that was completely unplanned. I had met with my friend that morning for our weekly writing sessions and was working on that chapter when I this particular confrontation popped into my head. I started writing it shortly before we parted ways, but the minute I got home I sat down and wrote the rest of it, even though I had an exam that week. I'm not usually a compulsive writer--most days my brain starts kicking and screaming at the thought of sitting down to write, but that day, I absolutely had to continue writing that scene.

Distractions this month:

I had two exams during the first couple weeks. Then my friend and I drove to Indiana for a concert. My friend really wanted to meet the band, so we snuck into the VIP section. Long story short, not only did we get to meet them, but they also offered to put us on the VIP list for their show in Chicago two days later, so what was supposed to be a 2-day road trip turned into a 4-day road trip.

After that, I had a week of spring break, which was when I got most of my writing done.

Right now, I'm back in school. I have a lot to catch up on, not just in terms of classes but also in terms of requirements and responsibilities, such as shadowing and looking for research opportunities.

This week, I've been a lot better about turning off the computer at midnight and getting exercise. I hope to continue doing this for the next two months.

Books:

Finished:
-Otherbound (highly recommended)
-The Martian Chronicles (meh)
-Red Queen (pretty good)

Currently reading:
-Pointe
-A Picture of Dorian Gray (audio)

Goal for next month:

On April 20th I officially start studying for the board exam. Between that date and the day I finish my test, I do not plan on writing or using social media. Therefore, I will probably post my WIP Marathon update on April 17th.

Friday, February 27, 2015

WIP Marathon February Update

I'm writing this post a day early because I need to focus on studying tomorrow.

Last check-in: Mostly finished chapter 32. Working on chapter 33.

Current check-in: Finished chapter 33. Wrote most of chapter 34, but I figured out a way to streamline it, which means it'll probably need a rewrite.

Also, I finally figured out the backstory! Yay!

current word count = 115,255

WIP issues this month: It's been a really good month in terms of productivity. We had almost an entire week off because of bad weather, so I wrote almost every day that week. Also, one of my RL friends randomly decided to write a book, so he and I have been meeting at a cafe once a week to get work done.

I finally reached the good chapters, but they've been more challenging to write than I expected. The problems mostly involved small but important details - How do I get my characters from Point A to Point B? How do I steer a conversation so that the characters do what I want them to do? How do I justify what these characters do and do not know? And how do I do all of this efficiently?

Things I learned this month:

1. Sometimes, changing tiny mechanical details can make a story flow more efficiently. Character B can follow character A and catch up to her somewhere along her trip, or maybe he knows a side route that will allow him to surpass her, thus catching her by surprise and saving me the trouble of writing a scene where she hears him coming and then has to hide in the bushes.

2. I don't like writing romance scenes.

3. The biggest pain in the ass is a character who knows everything. One of my characters can literally look back in time (not more than a few days). She's not a very important character, but with such a useful power, it's impossible to justify not using her. So I have to give her a reason to stay silent for a while.

4. Writing at this level of perfectionism is really exhausting, but I don't know any other way to write. This is why I plan on having a day job.

Distractions this month:

The usual: school, friends, reading, internet, TV (I discovered that I like historical dramas--even when they're bad, they're still full of pretty actor/actresses with pretty accents and pretty clothes and pretty hairstyles.)

Books:

Finished:
-Charm and Strange
-The Lowlands (audio)

Currently reading:
-Otherbound
-The Martian Chronicles (for a book club)

Goal for next month:

Try to finish the WIP, though that seems to be going a lot slower than I wanted. Also, get better about taking care of myself. Once the weather's better, I'll have more motivation to exercise. Also, I need to actually make a habit of going to bed before midnight instead of staying up and dicking around on the internet.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Book Recommendation: Some Girls Are



This is a difficult book for me to review. The problem is that the thing that the elements of this book that made it good were also elements that made it difficult for me to relate. I never went to a school with named cliques and outright bullying, but that's exactly what this book depicted.

I still enjoyed reading this book. I thought Regina was a great character, and even though I didn't relate to her experiences, I absolutely related to her on an emotional and reactive level. I think this book will really resonate with other people who are familiar with bully culture.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Summary Reactions 3: Red Queen

"Summary Reactions" is a (very short) series of posts where I analyze the Goodreads summaries of over-hyped books I plan to read. Today, I'm looking at the summary of Red Queen, a YA fantasy novel that came out a week ago.

***

"The poverty stricken Reds are commoners (The poor people are the commoners? Really?), living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow (I still can't get over the fact that her name is Mare), a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?"

This summary lacks anything in the way of detail, so there's not much I can do with it. Honestly, the idea of a caste society divided by the color of blood sounds gimmicky, but it sounds like a lot of people loved this book, so we'll see.

***

I reserved Red Queen through the library so hopefully it will come in soon. Hopefully, it will not be nearly as generic as this summary makes it out to be.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

WIP Marathon January Update

Last check-in: Wrote (complete or incomplete versions of) chapters 26-31. Working on chapter 32. (105,580 words)

Current check-in: Mostly finished chapter 32. Tried to write some new scenes for chapter 31, but will probably hold off on them for a while. Working on chapter 33.

I'm not really sure what my word count is at this point, because I'm still trying to figure out what's going on with these scenes.

WIP issues this month:

I've had two main issues this months. The first is that I'm simultaneously brainstorming and writing and revising and mentally-revising multiple scenes. Part of this involves ironing out backstory details so I can decide which of my characters knows what and how that affects their relationship and future interactions with other characters. Part of that decides figuring out if additional scenes are necessary to fill out certain story arcs. Part of it involves brainstorming ways to make early chapters better, so that the worldbuilding is richer and more clear, but the story still moves forward.

The other issue is fear. I wrote a lot during winter break and the first week of school, but then I practically stopped. I'm so close to being finished that the idea of publishing this thing might actually become a reality, but I don't know if I'm ready for that reality. I love writing, but I also like being able to write at my own pace. It has taken me years to write this novel and I don't know if I can finish the next one in a matter of months. I won't have the time to write every day, and I rarely have the capacity to write more than one chapter in a single sitting. I also don't know if I can keep up this level of perfectionism, because it's really overwhelming.

However, the nice thing about not writing for a really long time is that eventually, you get sucked back in.

Things I learned this month:

1. I found a really good resource on complex regional pain syndrome caused by gunshot wounds.

2. If I love a book enough, I am willing to ignore minor logical inconsistencies or overly-convenient plot coincidences.

3. When it comes to making plans, I really want to show my character's thought process. That means letting her weigh the options and reasoning through bad ideas before settling on something that works. It does not mean getting a brilliant idea as a result of some other character's unrelated throwaway comment. Intelligence isn't just about knowing what works--it's also determining what doesn't work. (Not saying that all of my characters' decisions are intelligent, but I at least want them to arrive at those decisions in a believable manner.)

Distractions this month:

School. Reading scientific articles and emailing researchers. Tumblr. (I don't have a tumblr, but I follow a lot of people.)

Books:

Finished and loved:
-Dark Places
-Blue Lily, Lily Blue
-Some Girls Are

Currently reading:
-The Lowlands (audio)
-Charm and Strange


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book Recommendation: Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Maggie Stiefvater)

Book 3 in The Raven Cycle

I really want to hear this Murder Squash song now.

***

(contains some minor spoilers)

I especially loved the growing relationship between Ronan and Adam--not just the possibility of romance between them, but also how their powers and everything else are bringing them closer together. Blue/Gansey is also getting a lot more intense, and I love how much of a smart-mouth Blue is.

This book is one of those "leaves you with more questions than answers" books. It works well within the series, but I don't think it would work well by itself.

The villains were also somewhat of a letdown (as usual). Greenmantle was set up to be way more threatening than he really was. His wife was pretty cool, but I don't feel like I really got a grasp of who she was or why she did things. I'm also not totally sure what Mallory's role in the story is yet, other than to deliver some vague Gansey backstory.

I'm not going to delve into any logical inconsistencies, because this is one of those books that is so beautiful and mystical that it would ruin my reading experience to do that.

I loved this book, but I also feel like I should reserve judgement on it until the final book in the series.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Recommendation: Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn

This book was amazing. The voice, the deeply disturbed characters, the way it was both horrifying and disgusting. I will most certainly be reading more Gillian Flynn.


Note: I should probably add a trigger warning - this book contains gruesome depictions of violence, borderline pedophilia, and violence against animals.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Books

It's that time of year where I reflect on all the books I read in 2014. I am proud to say that I finished The Twistrose Key yesterday and Arclight a few days ago. I decided not to review them on this blog since I didn't have much to say about either, but if you're interested, I posted my reviews on Goodreads.

The full list of books is at the bottom. I only included the books that I completed (30 books).

Genre breakdown:

8 YA fantasy
6 adult fantasy
4 YA SF
3 NA contemporary
2 NA SF
2 historical YA
1 adult SF
1 adult literary
1 adult horror
1 YA contemporary
1 MG fantasy

Gender breakdown:

25 books by female authors, 5 by male authors

17 female POVs, 6 male POVs, 7 male and female POVs

Diversity:

3/30 Authors of color: Lydia Kang (Korean American), Okey Ndibe (Nigerian), N.K. Jemisin (black American)

5/30 Protagonists of color:
- “The Bitter Kingdom” -- Rae Carson (darker skinned, Hispanic-based)
- “Foreign Gods, Inc.” -- Okey Ndibe (Nigerian)
- “The Extra” -- Kathryn Lasky (Sinti)
- “The Broken Kingdoms” -- N.K. Jemisin (black-based)
- “Infernal Revelation: episode 1” -- Michael Coorlim (black)

2/30 LGBT Protagonists:
- “Made of Stars” (bisexual)
- The protagonist of one of the books I critiqued realized at the end of the book that she hadn't quite figured out her sexuality yet. This is so incredibly realistic and yet something that you almost never see in literature (unless of course the protagonist is going to end up with someone of the same gender.)

9/30 Protagonists with disabilities/chronic illness/mental illness*: 
- “Control” (respiratory defect)
- “Foreign Gods, Inc.” (hinted at epilepsy)
- “The Painted Darkness” (PTSD)
- “All the Truth that’s in Me” (tongue cut out)
- “Her Dark Curiosity” (graft rejection)
- “The Extra” (forcibly sterilized)
- “Half Bad” (dyslexia)
- “The Broken Kingdoms” (blind)
- “Arclight” (injured leg)

*I noted if a protagonist had a disability, but not whether or not the disability was portrayed well or realistically. (I don't feel qualified to evaluate that.) It's also worth noting that two of these books used the "instant cure" trope, which is considered extremely problematic.

Here is the full list. My favorites are bolded:

1. Control -- Lydia Kang
2. The Bitter Kingdom -- Rae Carson
3. The Republic of Thieves -- Scott Lynch
4. Vicious -- V.E. Schwab
5. Foreign Gods, Inc. -- Okey Ndibe (ARC)
6. The Painted Darkness -- Brian James Freeman (ebook)
7. The Wicked We Have Done -- Sarah Harian (ebook)
8. The Night Circus -- Erin Morgenstern
9. All the Truth that’s in Me -- Julie Berry (ARC)
10. Her Dark Curiosity -- Megan Shepherd
11. The Extra -- Kathryn Lasky (ARC)
12. Half Bad -- Sally Green
13. The Secret of Isobel Key -- Jen McConnel (ebook)
14. The Broken Kingdoms -- N.K. Jemisin
15. Premeditated -- Josin L. McQuein
16. Infernal Revelation: episode 1 -- Michael Coorlim (serialized ebook) (indie)
17. Incubus: episode 1 -- Rachel Bateman (serialized ebook) (indie)
18. unpublished manuscript #1
19. The Spirit Rebellion -- Rachel Aaron
20. unpublished manuscript #2
21. Born Wicked -- Jessica Spotswood
22. The Queen of the Tearling -- Erika Johansen
23. A Vault of Sins -- Sarah Harian (ebook)
24. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children -- Ransom Riggs (audio)
25. Entangled -- Amy Rose Capetta (ARC)
26. Made of Stars -- Kelley York (ebook)
27. Shameless -- Nina Lemay (ebook) (indie)
28. The Thief -- Megan Whalen Turner (audio)
29. Arclight -- Josin L. McQuein (ebook)
30. The Twistrose Key -- Tone Almhjell (ARC)

I plan on starting Dark Places today. Yay!
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