Saturday, January 30, 2016

WIP Marathon - January

Last check-in: 600 words into chapter 2 edits

Current check-in: finished re-writing chapter 2, trying to figure out chapter 3

WIP issues this month:

I've been too overwhelmed to prioritize writing during the last few months. It mostly happens when I'm in the mood, which is happening more and more often.

Editing is still a challenge. I've more or less broken even with words cut vs words added. The new chapters are different, but I don't know if they're necessarily better.

Things I've learned in writing this month:

1. Writing prayer feels so tacky.
2. A lesson I learned in reading
3. While reading The Unbound: This book made it very clear that the protagonist is, well, not the brightest bulb in the basket. You would think that this would be a detriment to the story, but it actually isn’t. The character’s bad decisions make sense in context, and they drive the plot. (And if she had gone about things the safe, smart way, it would have taken all of the tension and suspense out of the story.)
4. Your writing style changes over time. You might think a chapter was "one of the ones I got right the first time" but that chapter is also older, which means it's stylistically inferior to the one you had to rewrite a hundred times.

Distractions:

I started the month by blocking social media sites during certain hours of the day. It worked really well for the first couple weeks, but I spent the last two weeks on a subrotation with long hours and not much for me to do, so I've been cheating a lot lately.

Also, something they don't tell you about med school: You spend 90% of the time standing around with almost nothing to do. You're usually the dumbest person in the room and always the most useless. Then, when you come home, you're too tired and emotionally drained to do anything productive. Another problem is that you can't really talk about your feelings with other people, because those who aren't in med school don't understand and those who are in med school are either too busy to talk about it or don't want to talk about it. Even seeking mental health services is kind of a pain, because you never know when you'll have time to make an appointment.

I also started going to the gym every other day. I hate the gym, and I hate the elliptical, but it's a good time to get reading done and it's supposed to keep my anxiety under control.

Books:

Finished:
-The Second Mango - meh
-Sorrow's Knot - cool worldbuilding, but it was very hard to connect with the characters
-The Ocean at the End of the Lane (audio) - really liked it
-None of the Above - really informative, but I didn't care much for the story itself
-Wither - I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it
-Black Dove, White Raven - a slower book, but worth it
-The Archived - excellent characters and worldbuilding
-This Is Where it Ends - sad, but really good
-The Unbound - not nearly as good as The Archived, but still readable

Currently reading:
-Feed (Mira Grant) - I like it
-Fall for Anything - not bad, but I can definitely see why this is Courtney Summers' least talked-about book

Sunday, January 10, 2016

My new reading system

There are fast books and there are slow books. The fast books are the ones that grab you immediately and force you to finish them in a day. The slow books generally take much longer. You might have to plod through half the book before you're officially hooked. Other books never hook you at all.

I know some people who only read fast books. If they're not hooked by the end of the first chapter, they put the book down and never touch it again. I hate the idea of this. Yes, some books are slow (or start out that way), but if I put down every book that didn't hook me immediately, I would miss out on a lot of great books.

The thing about slow books is that you have to learn how to read them in a way that fits your schedule. When I was younger, I didn't believe in leaving books unfinished. I also refused to read more than one book at a time, unless one of them was for school. I would stagger the fast books and the slow books so that the fast books would motivate me to get through the slow ones faster. This only worked marginally well. I would sometimes spend weeks or even months trying to get through a slow book, while the fast books taunted me from the shelf.

After a while, I decided to compromise. "One book at a time" was still the default, but If I'd been reading a book for a few weeks and with no hope of finishing it any time soon, I would throw in another book. If by page 100 or so, the book was still boring and there was nothing redeeming about it, then I would DNF.

This year, however, I came with a new system--one where two books is the default setting. Based on the pace of the book, I set a certain page goal or chapter goal for each day and follow that until the book speeds up. Since I'm reading two books, I can still get a lot of reading done. It works even better if I partner a fast book with a slow book.

I've been using this system for the last 10 days, and I'm currently on my 5th book (and about to start my 6th). I'm expecting to finish 7-9 books during this month alone. (Confession: It also helps that I've blocked certain social media accounts for several hours a day.)

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 Reading Round-Up

In 2015, I finished 20 out of the 28 of the books on my to-read list, as well as four other books that weren't on the list. I also DNFed two books that weren't on the list (Gone Girl and The Casual Vacancy (audio)) and started another book that was on the list (Black Dove, White Raven) but didn't manage to finish it in time.

Here is the final list of all the books I finished. The books I loved or really liked are in bold.

1. Dark Places -- Gillian Flynn
2. Blue Lily, Lily Blue -- Maggie Stiefvater
3. Some Girls Are -- Courtney Summers
4. The Lowlands -- Jhumpa Lahiri (audio)
5. Charm and Strange -- Stephanie Kuehn
6. Otherbound -- Corinne Duyvis
7. The Martian Chronicles -- Ray Bradbury
8. Red Queen -- Victoria Aveyard
9. Pointe -- Brandy Colbert
10. A Picture of Dorian Gray -- Oscar Wilde (audio)
11. We Were Liars -- E. Lockhart
12. A Darker Shade of Magic -- V.E. Schwab
13. An Ember in the Ashes -- Sabaa Tahir
14. Under a Painted Sky -- Stacey Lee
15. The Dirty Streets of Heaven -- Tad Williams
16. Pantomime -- Laura Lam
17. Wild Awake -- Hilary T. Smith
18. Made You Up -- Francesca Zappia
19. In the Shadow of Blackbirds -- Cat Winters (audio)
20. Star Cursed -- Jessica Spotswood
21. Seraphina -- Rachel Hartman
22. The Second Mango -- Shira Glassman (ebook)
23. Sorrow’s Knot -- Erin Bow
24. The Ocean at the End of the Lane -- Neil Gaiman (audio)

24 books isn't a lot, but it's also been a really busy year.

I made a good choice in prioritizing books I was excited about. The fact that 15/24 of these are bolded is really new for me.

Genre breakdown:

9 YA fantasy/supernatural
6 YA contemporary
3 adult fantasy
2 literary
1 historical YA
1 adult suspense
1 adult SF
1 NA fantasy

Gender breakdown:

20 books by female authors, 4 books by male authors

12 cis female POVs, 5 cis male POVs, 1 intersex POV, 6 male and female POVs

Diversity (books in bold are "own voices*"):

5/24 by authors of color:
-Sabaa Tahir (South Asian American)
-Jhumpa Lahiri (Indian Begali American)
-Brandy Colbert (black American)
-Stephanie Kuehn (black American (also Polynesian, I think, though I couldn’t find the post where she mentioned that))
-Stacey Lee (Chinese American)

8/24 with POV characters of color**:
-Otherbound (one Hispanic American, another from a fictional race)
-An Ember in the Ashes (unsure about this one, as these are fictional races, but people often include it in POC lists)
-The Lowlands (Indian and Indian-American characters)
-Sorrow’s Knot (based on Native Americans)
-Pointe (black American)
-Under A Painted Sky (Chinese American)
-The Second Mango (based on Jews of different ethnicities)
-Red Queen (Word of God says the protagonist is mixed race, but let’s be real, the actress that plays her in the movie adaptation probably won’t be)

7/24 with a queer POV character:
-Blue Lily, Lily Blue (strongly hinted as bisexual)
-Otherbound (bisexual)
-The Lowlands (bisexual)
-A Darker Shade of Magic (confirmed as bisexual by Word of God)
-The Second Mango (lesbian)
-Pantomime (bisexual)
-A Picture of Dorian Gray (first chapter from the POV of a man attracted to another man)

10/24 with POV characters dealing with disabilities and/or mental illness**:
-Dark Places (debilitating depression/PTSD, digits amputated)
-Otherbound (one character with an amputated leg, another with an amputated tongue)
-The Lowlands (one character in therapy, another with strong hints of depression)
-Some Girls Are (character previously in therapy, with continuing psychosomatic illness)
-Pointe (anorexia nervosa)
-We Were Liars (debilitating migraines and drug addiction)
-Wild Awake (bipolar disorder)
-Made You Up (schizophrenia)
-The Second Mango (food allergies)
-Charm and Strange (trauma-induced delusions)

*In the case of "own voices," I only counted authors who were open about their sexuality and mental illness.

**I counted whether a certain demographic was represented, not whether that demographic was portrayed well or even accurately.
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