Head Colds & NaNoWriMo

Usually I write posts on writing on Mondays, but I have a couple things to address so the post on writing will be swapped with personal musings this week.

Onto the things…

No. 1 – My apologies for the random hiatus! I had an ovarian cyst burst followed by a massive head cold/sinus infection thing. No worries! I’m fine. 🙂 Still got a couple sniffles, but I’m feeling good and am excited to return to y’all!

No. 2 – NaNoWriMo Update!

Despite my body not working with me, I still managed to crank out words for the WIP each day. You can thank the meds I was on… insomnia was a side effect. Then yesterday happened.

Yesterday, I sat down at Starbucks for the first time since November 1st and fell into the zone. I came out a few hours later having met 20k words (started the day at 13k). Returned to the MS after dinner and knocked out another few thousand. I guess my brain had stockpiled all the words while I was sick, so when I felt better, it just sling shot them onto the page. *shrug* I am okay with this.

But coming up on the “midpoint” of the NaNo word count goal, I had the horrifying realization that I’ve [barely] dug into the story. Don’t get me wrong I’ve written a lot of scenes that are pivotal to plot and character development, but I’m looking at my outline, seeing everything that has YET to be written along with my notes of additional things that need to happen and I’m feeling like Frankenstein.

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I’VE CREATED A MONSTER!

You see, I’m currently working on book 3 of a 5-book series for this year’s NaNoWriMo. It is the midpoint of the overarching plot, which means there’s a lot of things to tie up as well as groundwork that needs to be laid. Also, because I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ve structured the series similar to the Avengers’ movie franchise. (Book 1 is Ironman, Book 2 is Captain America, etc.) Each book has its own protagonist who goes through her own character development, but pieces from each book advances the overarching plot until the big hoopla in book 5.

For those of you who’ve read the Lunar Chronicles, it’s structured like that, but with singular, first-person POV’s and without the fairy tale retelling bits.

Anyhoo, on top of the challenges of writing the middle book of a series, I’m dealing with a snarky character who can manipulate time and space. In order to properly develop the characters and attend to the plot and story necessities, I had to cut the book into three portions: Part One, Part Two, and The Fall Out.

Part One is all the character development and relationship building fun and games for Meredith. She gets into some serious trouble, but most of it is “real world” problems. Part One ends with worlds colliding and character deaths (Cue maniacal laughter), which paves the way for “fantastical” problems in Part Two. But because I’m introducing a whole new protagonist, certain scenes with her abilities have to take place in Part One in order for y’all to accept her competency in Part Two.

Also, Time and Space manipulation is really difficult to make tangible. Water in book 1 was so much easier because it has a molecular structure to use as a jumping off point. Time and Space? I feel like I’m in limbo between awesome and cliché. All the time. Now I know why The Doctor has the TARDIS.

Tardis

My saving grace is one of my other characters is a descendent of Sif (Nordic Earth God, sometimes depicted as Thor’s wife, all around mythical badass), so many jokes to be had.

For more info on my NaNo WIP, read the intro post here. If you’re doing NaNo, add me as a writing buddy, here.

Happy Writing!

Overcoming Fear & Moving Forward

So I have one scene left to flesh out before printing out the new version of Guarded and buffing out the hard edges, but I am dragging my feet. Seriously I can’t tell if it’s the fact that NaNo starts in a few days or the undercurrent of fear for what comes next. Mind you, I WANT to query, I WANT to publish, I WANT to share this thing I love so much with the entire world.

But the impending, soul-crushing rejections.

I know that fear is the reason why I’m struggling with crossing the finish line of this draft. Because if I don’t finish, then it can’t be rejected.

This post may be more pity-party than I intended it because I recognize that I’ve already come quite far in terms of creating something that people may [hopefully] want to read. But that god-awful fear. I don’t consciously fear much, so when those pesky subconscious ones rise up, they can be quite the little devils.

I imagine fear as a Gremlin, and my MS is poor Gismo.

I imagine fear as a Gremlin, and my MS is poor Gismo.

Like Gismo, I know my MS will kick fear is its arse, but right now, in this moment, I’m looking at my notes, then at my computer screen, then at my notes, then I walk away.

So in an attempt to get my mojo back, I went to the YouTube’s. Ya’know, like ya do. I spend more time on YouTube than I should for entertainment anyway, but I do a lot of research on there as well (especially in terms of what dislocating an elbow looks like – spoiler alert: it’s vomit-worthy).

Anyhoo, last year, Under Armour launched its “Will What I Want” campaign, which IMO was one of the most positive and inspiring campaigns created by an athletic clothing’s company. But they did this brilliant thing by launching the campaign with Misty Copeland as its first spokeswoman. A ballerina. An artist. A black woman who defied the standards of her industry to become the first black female Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre.

Here’s the ad.

She’s an inspiration to people across the world, and even though I have no way of properly empathizing with her struggles, her work ethic and determination motivate me to keep chasing my own dreams.

So here’s me mowing over my fears and willing what I want.


Featured image via Hard Body News via Under Armour.

Last Minute Plotting: Because I’m a wimp & can’t pants.

Alright, so I thought I was going to have to pants this year’s NaNoWriMo. My MC had only given me bits and pieces of the story, so when the calendar kindly reminded me that I had less than a week before the challenge started, I began to freak out about the in-between scenes (the stuff between the major plot points).

Here’s the thing, I am a plotter through and through. I like having a plan/map to guide me through a draft because I have an awful habit of writing non-linearly, which is a fancy way of saying I like to jump around. Last year, I wrote all my fight scenes within a week (I had a lot of tension to work out I guess). And the idea of not having that freedom scared me into finishing my beat sheet for my NaNo project.

For information on the beat sheet, you can check out my post on outlines here. And if you’d like to see what fresh hell I’ve cooked up for myself for next month, you can check out my NaNo Q&A here.

I know plotting isn’t for everyone. Some writers can just start writing and come out the other side with a finished, coherent MS. I am not one of those people, so I’ll be taking my beat sheet and expanding it to a heftier outline between now and November 1st. I know, I’m working at the last minute, but characters don’t always like to reveal their secrets. Side-glances at MC

But regardless of my inability to pants a novel (pants: write a story by the seat of your pants without any outline or plan), I’ve learned how incredibly useful having a MS’s blueprint is post-drafting.

In the past year, I wrote what is now book 1 of a [slated] 5-book series, revised it, sent it to beta-readers, demolished it then rebuilt it. During that demolition/rebuilding stage, I was able to look at my previous outline and build over it with something that may [hopefully one day] be worth reading. Having that reference point kept me anchored during the process, so I didn’t go off into crazy, hair-pulling, head:desking la la land.

Basically, this…

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So instead of driving myself to insanity later (basically the equivalent of running away from cannibals), I will be last-minute outlining between now and November 1st, like that habitual little plotter that I am.

What about you? Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

If you are doing NaNoWriMo, add me as a writing buddy here!

Happy Writing!

BOOK REVIEW: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

The next three weeks are going to be devoted to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor.

Never has a trilogy left me so conflicted. Overall, I truly did love this series, and I had a really bad case of the mourning’s when I turned the final page of book 3. But for as many things that I absolutely loved about these books, there were also things that had me second-guessing whether or not I would finish the series.

This trilogy is definitely a in-it-for-the-long-haul read. If you’re looking for something that will give you a quick resolution, this probably isn’t for you. You do get your resolutions, but Taylor makes you work for them.

BUT if you want an epically unique world to get lost in and explore, you need to pick up this trilogy. It is expansive and expertly developed and each character has his or her own needs/agenda.

So without further ado: My thoughts on Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone

NON-SPOILER-Y REVIEW

Daughter of Smoke & Bone is a YA Fantasy that takes place in Prague. The MC, Karou, already leads a spectacular life, having been raised by chimaera and traveling the world. But when angels start burning handprints into doors, Karou’s life gets a whole lot more complicated.

There are so many reasons to pick up this first book, but my top has to be the magnificent prose with which Taylor delivers the story. From page one, Taylor’s skills with imagery trap you in the story, and her characters are so vibrant that you feel like you’ve known them forever.

Taylor manages to write an epic-fantasy-level story while straddling the hum-drum human world, but even her human characters are far from stereotypes. She does a brilliant job at giving us fully developed characters from their first introduction as well as laying layer upon layer of mysteries and secrets for us to unravel throughout the series.

And that’s it for this non-spoiler-y section. Don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoiled.


SPOILER-Y FANGIRLING

Okay, so I said it above, but I’ll say it again. OH MY GOD, THE WRITING! NO, SERIOUSLY, THE WRITING!

One of the main reasons I absolutely adored this trilogy was Taylor’s incredible talent and skill with prose. Every metaphor, every visual, every description, everything was just ON POINT!

I loved how fearless and curious Karou was. Overall an incredibly compelling character. Actually, all of Taylor’s characters were compelling. Karou, Akiva, Brimstone, Zuzana.

Also, the world that Taylor creates is fully-realized from the get-go. So even though we have a BAGILLION questions, those questions are due to necessary built-in mystery rather than a lack of world-building.

And before I move on, did anyone else laugh hysterically at Brimstone’s “non-essential penis” line for days on end like I did? No? Just me? Mkay…

Alright, now for the not-so-fangirling bit.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVED this trilogy and will sing Taylor’s praises as a writer all day long, BUT I had a really big issue with the chapters of flashback post mid-point. It felt like I was moving along at a swift pace with Karou and Akiva, then suddenly, “We’re going to interrupt your current story for a massive interlude of backstory.”

That may have been a little harsh.

I do agree that we needed that information for the rest of the series. I just wish it would have been incorporated in a way that didn’t totally press pause on our girl Karou. Even though Karou is Madrigal. But still.

Like I said, I truly do love this story and the characters and the world and the writing. But for whatever reason, I am hung up on that silly flashback. *throws toddler tantrum*

What about y’all? What did you think about the flashback? Did you expect Brimstone to be using teeth to conjure chimaera?

Next Friday, I’ll be reviewing Days of Blood and Starlight, book 2 in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor.

Timey-Wimey Snarkitude: My 2015 NaNoWriMo Novel

Okay, so that’s not the actual working title of my NaNo WIP this year, but it is pretty much the gist of the piece.

This post is brought to you by the incredible link-up, Beautiful Books, created by Sky of Further Up, Further In and Cait of Paper Fury. For more information on the link-up, check out the original post, here.

Below are ten Q&A’s about my upcoming NaNoWriMo project. I’m so excited about this project, guys! The story and characters have been lingering in my head for years, but it’s the third book in my series so it had to wait… :,(

BUT NOT ANYMORE! MUAHAHAHAHA (Did I mention I was excited?)

No. 1 – How did you come up with the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
When I was developing the series as a whole a few years ago, I mapped out all the different elements of nature that I wanted to play with for each protagonist. I had physical elements like water, earth, air, and fire, but I also wanted to bring human nature and the encompassing universal elements like time and space in as well.

So book 3’s protagonist Meredith was assigned the ability to manipulate Time & Space, which of course is never as easy as it sounds. I mean even The Doctor has trouble with it sometimes. (Fun fact: I developed this idea before becoming a Whovian… my fangirl game used to be super lame, but that’s since been rectified.)

I also knew that I wanted to write a character with the same brash intelligence and humor as Wesley from the Princess Bride, so Mer inherited that as well. After those two pieces were decided, the story and other characters began filling themselves in. My story-development brain basically works like an avalanche: starts off with one snowball then everything falls off the side of the mountain.

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No. 2 – Why are you excited to write this novel?
Time-Wimey-Wibbly-Wobbly Awesomeness and Snark… What’s not to be excited about?

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But seriously, this story has so many twists and turns and is harboring so much set-up for the last two books in the series that I NEED IT TO BE A DRAFT ALREADY! Plus it’s the first time that one of my protagonists gets to spend any time in a world that isn’t our own. So that’s exciting for me.

No. 3 – What is your novel about, and what is the title?
The working title is Enveloped, and the really shabby synopsis on my NaNo profile is:

Meredith Wilson hasn’t seen her home in four years. Instead she’s been shuffled around from boarding school to boarding school, never staying anywhere for very long, never hearing from her mother, never getting any explanation for her ability to manipulate time.

And so she makes use of it by keeping herself out of trouble. And getting into some.

All she has to do is finish this last semester of school before she can travel where she will, but this latest destination, Duluth, MN, offers love and friendship. And answers.

No. 4 – Sum up your characters in one word each.
Mind you this is at the beginning of the novel. Some of these change as soon as the midpoint… Did I mention this plot is twisty? *cue maniacal laughter*

Meredith – Snark

Wyatt – Badass

Peter – Chivalrous

Lena – Smart

Chuck – Adorable

No. 5 – Which character(s) do you think will be your favorite to write? Tell us about them!
Mer. Definitely. She’s smart and spunky and isn’t afraid to let people know what she thinks of them. Think Veronica Mars, but without the need to solve murders and such.

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No. 6 – What is your protagonist’s goal, and what stands in the way?
Mer wants to be able to find “her place” in the world. Not in the “who am I?” sort of way, but an actual physical place where she can finally lay roots and make friends without the fear of being shipped off to the next boarding school the moment she’s settled in.

This is her final semester before she turns eighteen and no longer has to obey her mom’s orders. Unfortunately, Mer finds out that all that moving around was for a reason: to avoid being abducted by the Council and used to tear open the veil between the magical and human worlds.

Of course it wouldn’t really be a story if her mother’s plan succeeded. Oh no, the Council finds her and Mer’s life – as fragile as it was – is dumped upside down.

No. 7 – Where is your novel set?
DULUTH, MN. It’s gorgeous up there, guys. So green and the air is so clean… it’s also right on Lake Superior, which is also quite lovely. 🙂

No. 8 – What is the most important relationship your character has?
Her relationship with Wyatt. They balance each other out and he’s the first friend that Mer can count on for the long haul.

No. 9 – How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
Good question… I mean she lets go of a lot of the anger she had toward her mom. She also finds “her place” in world, even though it doesn’t end up being a specific place, but a close-knit group of friends.

No. 10 – What themes are in your book? How do you want your readers to feel when the story is over?
Themes… So I’m bad at this one because I don’t really go into the first draft thinking remotely of what “themes” are supposed to be picked up on. My concern is more about the MC’s journey and what’s needed for the plot to move forward.

As for how I want my readers to feel when the story is over: emotionally exhausted. Like they just went on an epic, nonsensical rollercoaster of heartbreak and feels that they “can’t even.”

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If this series ever does get published and makes it to book 3, I’m looking forward to the responses to a specific scene in the MS where I’m sure more than one reader will chuck the book across the room. Again, *cue maniacal laughter*.

BONUS! Tell us your 3 best pieces of advice for others trying to write a book in a month.
1. Just keep writing.
It doesn’t matter if you get in your 1700 words for that day in description, just make the time to write those words.

2. Don’t worry about the quality. This is a pretty common piece of advice for NaNo, but don’t worry so much on the eloquence of a metaphor, just get down the meaning you’re aiming for then move on. Editing is for later.

3. Don’t be afraid to go off the rails. If you lock yourself in a little box, saying that you’re only going to write in sequential order, you have a higher likelihood to fail. So if one day, you look at your outline and feel like writing a scene a few chapters ahead of your current spot, do it! Enjoy what you do and you’ll have a better chance of avoiding burnout.

What about you? Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Join the link up and tell us about your NaNo project!