HOLY CRAP, IT’S DONE!

After a couple of months of ardent struggle over the last few chapters of my first draft, I kind of hit a break through this weekend.

Went to a “Shut UP and Write” group through meetup.org where a bunch of writers get together to not talk and write for a straight hour in a coffee shop. This may sound like some sort of writer’s cliche, but honestly I really recommend trying this for anyone out there who has hit a wall. Maybe I respond well to peer pressure, but I wrote more in that hour than I have in months. And best of all, I wrote the (what seemed last week/month/year to be an impossible feat) climax.

So the first draft is, well, close to done. Really I have a few updates to do, and maybe a final chapter. But it’s… well, not so impossible anymore.

Clearly, I’ll be hitting up this writing group again next week. Afterwards we all sat around and talked writing and literature, and for once I didn’t feel like the most inept person in the room. In fact, I actually felt like I’d accomplished something. Like I actually knew what I was talking about!

Woah, that’s a new sensation.

So anyway, no matter what’s happened in my life since January, I can always remember this as the year I wrote my first book.

Now… for editing. Erk.

Advertisements

Book Review: Cuckoo’s Calling

20140727-090801-32881340.jpg

Review of Cuckoo’s Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
Thoughts: I Guessed The Ending, Not My Genre, Good Beach Read, (Sadly) No Harry Potter

I read a quote recently about Rowling’s writing style that described her as an average writer but a spectacular storyteller. I have to agree whole-heartedly. When you really technically break her style down, it’s unremarkable, lots of cliches, dreaded adverbs, basic sentence structure. But Rowling is probably the best story teller of a generation.

I read Cuckoo this week out of obligation and curiosity. I felt I owed it to the childhood version of myself to read every word Rowling has written because she’s changed my life, but, in all honesty, I was unenthusiastic. Noir/Mystery is not my genre, but I stole this from my senile grandmother and I had to get it back to her before she noticed the theft so… I read it pretty quickly.

I think what bothers me about Mystery is how formulaic it is. But the end of Cuckoo there’s really only two characters it could be (even Rowling’s narrative admits that to you), and, based on the genre, clearly she would go for the more shocking of the two. No one ever picks the guy they suspect all along as the bad guy in the novel. So… I called it.

As for Strike… I like him in his charmingly-gruff way, his whole tough guy routine, refusing to admit to being crippled. But I couldn’t help but think that Strike has been done before. I think, in honesty, Robin is the real gem in this novel. Aside from a cliche fianc√© with a jealous bone, Robin is just a good woman. She’s feisty and smart and, mostly, fairly average. There’s a push for a romantic connection with Strike (obviously), but I find it weirdly feeble. I think it’s Rowling herself that loves Robin. She’s the Hermione of Cuckoo (the Rowling then, by extension). She’s the unsung hero.

So… I’ll say it’s worth a read if you need an easy read, but I’m not sure I’ll be following Strike to The Silk Worm.

Book Review: What’s all the Fuss About Divergent?

20140717-200020-72020046.jpg

Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Rating: Two Stars
Thoughts: Readable, but not life-changing; Another dystopian romance; I’m just not buying it (Literally)

I felt compelled to read Veronica Roth’s Divergent, mostly because I’d heard rumors that there was a rape scene and, well, when a book sweeps through the YA world, a young girl gets curious.

Roth has a very matter-of-fact way of writing, nothing unusual for her genre, which made for a quick, action-packed read. The premise is a bit thin (strong/fearless means you must be fairly dumb and cruel; intelligent means you must be greedy; caring means you must be meek? She doesn’t even talk much about the other two factions, at least not in this book) but enough to keep the pages turning even without much historical justification for this world. Her protagonist, in my personal opinion, was fairly lackluster though. The draw of seeing a young girl capable of great physical feats was done better in The Hunger Games, and by a more compelling narrator, too (and I’m not even a huge Hunger Games fan).

So what, I wondered, as I eagerly (yeah, I’ll admit it) flipped the pages of this book looking for the answer, had everyone so up-in-arms about this book?

Four, of course. It may be just me, but does anyone else find it a bit sad that the only thing that keeps young girls reading are feeble, unrealistic romantic connections? I liked Tris more before Four became her white knight. And I never quite saw what was so special about him, too. I mean, the boy hardly ever speaks. If she’s so badass that she’s top of her murderous, selfish class then why does she even need a protector?

But I’ll admit I was into it all until the ending. This books packs some biblical allegory with a tough punch, but Tris watches both her Mother and Father die with little more than a page of mourning and we’re supposed to believe it’s Four that she just can’t stand to kill?

How did we go from a girl remarkable for her ability to conquer her fears to a sniveling love-bug, making out on a train in 2.4 seconds? Serious thought: Has anyone ever witnessed this sort of teen-love in all these novels in real life? And while we’re at it, why are the intelligent people the bad guys? And if they’re so smart, why do none of them question this whole murder-plot except Tris’s brother, who has to be told to do so?

So I’ll just say, not worth the hype, but still worth a read if some 16-year-old loans it to you, but I won’t be seeing the movie or reading on. Sorry, Roth, but more power to you (Good luck with all the money!)!

Onward to York!

Am finally, ginormous cup of coffee in hand, sitting down in my friend’s living room for a bit of writing. No excuse why I’m not doing this until 8:30 at night other than the fact that I have recently become addicted to looking for apartments to rent in San Francisco that would be in my budget (also, fajitas)… Which is a fun game in that it’s a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack and stabbing yourself repeatedly in the eye, in that it’s both impossible and (did I mention?) really fun (no, a microwave and a minifridge do not count as a kitchen!).

I know it’s too early to find and August lease… I just can’t stop looking. I have the irrational fear that I’m going to miss something amazing.

Or maybe that’s perfectly rational. I don’t want to live in Buffalo Bill’s living room!

Anyway, I’m on the 9:00 a.m. train to York with my friend to visit her second most beloved British city. I’ve never been so it should prove an educational experience. Then back to Edinburgh for a few days, Croatia for a long weekend, two days t bid Edinburgh adieu before Dublin Part II (Revenge of the Irish) and a one-way plane back to Florida.

I won’t even get started on the epic birthday roadtrip I’ve planned thereafter. I’m like Carmen Sandiego, one never should know where I’ll pop up next (also I look a bit like a flasher in a trench coat).

But for tonight… I believe I have a book to write.

20140529-203415-74055564.jpg

Day Seventy-Seven: Mastery

God, the response to my article has been amazing. Over 1600 Likes and a barrage of shares. I feel like I went tiny-viral and, honestly, it feels good. The Submissions Editor even emailed me to thank me and ask for anything else I’d like to submit.

I needed that stone-cold reminder. To remember that words I could string together could be worth reading. I write and write and work on this book, and I feel isolated with it. Trapped in a desert on my own mind.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to become a master of ¬†topic. That means, 10,000 hours slugging away with words (either my own or elsewhere). It’s pretty clear what my mantra is these days: Just Keep Writing.

Anyway, in response to my article, I got a lot of people commenting that I should be a writer. I’m working on it. I’m putting in my 10,000 hours right now. A very nice lady shared a link to a video series about creativity, which I’d like to share with anyone interested. I watched the one I’ve put up this morning and I think it says exactly what I’m trying to convey in my book. That young people don’t have to give up their dreams just because society demands it

Writing isn’t practical. It’s passion. Writing probably isn’t going to pay the bills (Hopefully, but even if it doesn’t…). All the time when I say I’m going to Grad School for Creative Writing people ask that dreaded question:

“What are you going to do with that?”

Hah. What do you think? Writing or not, I don’t care that much about money. Those things are easy to fix. Money is everywhere. But this question hurts in a whole different way… Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to be a princess or a fireman or whatever you wanted to be? I didn’t think I wanted to be anything. I always knew I was a writer. And maybe you had to give up that dream and become a lawyer or something because “princess” isn’t much of an addition to a resume, but I didn’t and I have absolutely no regrets.

Do I sometimes wish I could have been passionate about something that paid better? Yes. But do I honestly believe myself naive or stupid for chasing after my childhood intuition? No freaking way. Not even for a second.

I’m not a master yet, but it was never a question about what I wanted to master. There’s a difference though, between a slap of reality and, well, just being a jerk. I know practical advice means well, but, sadly, it’s nothing but discouraging.

I will become a master of this desert… It doesn’t really matter what anyone says. So why not just say you’re with me?

Day Seventy-Six: Anatomy of an Awesome Bookshop

20140401-223307.jpg

I grew up in a bookshop. I mean that quite literally.

My parents separated when I was about 5 and my siblings and I went to live with my mother. Every Monday and Thursday (and “every-other weekend” a phrase well-know to children of divorce), my father would pick up my siblings and I and take us to (at the time) the only restaurant in my home town, a sports bar where we ate buffalo wings bi-weekly, that shared a shopping center with a Barnes and Noble (which was also the only place to get coffee in my town).

I bought my first chapter book at that Barnes and Noble. My father would let us all run wild we would spread ourselves across the shop with our novels (back when Barnes and Nobles still had cosy chairs and couches). We were allowed one book a week, two if we bought one of those B&N classics because they were cheaper (and why, to this day, I’ve read mostly classics).

I love bookshops. Even chains. I know it’s cheaper these days to buy online, but the bookshop was a founding principle of my literary career. I hold on to them with romanticized nostalgia that no longer belongs in the digital world.

When I moved to New Orleans, I discovered a couple of really cool bookshops that have really worn a hole in my heart, but by far my favorite is an eccentric little place, crammed full of books called Blue Cypress Books. This place has every great aspect of a bookstore other than a reading room… Plus it’s adorable. So I thought I would break down the Anatomy of an Awesome Bookshop for you guys:

1) A lot of books. This is important because… well, obvious reasons. I want to feel like, when I’m in a bookshop, I am drowning in books. If an earthquake suddenly happened, I would like to think I’d be buried alive in there. I want all genres. Blue Cypress has an entire extra room just crammed full of Fantasy and Sci Fi (with a little bit of travel and, oddly, memoir squeezed in), a whole nook of Children’s Lit, and even a case or two of collectibles.

20140401-221006.jpg

2) A really awesome staff. The thing I love most about Blue Cypress is that, while it’s so small it’s mostly staffed by it’s owner, she knows a lot about books. An adorable blonde woman who has read every book I’ve ever come in asking for, she and I never run out of literary subjects to discuss. They also do this really helpful thing where the staff all labels their favorite books. Once you get to know their tastes, it’s like a huge flashing sign telling you what you’d like to read next.

3) Some sort of adorable animal. I used to take the children I babysat to Blue Cypress to help me regain my sanity momentarily. They have an adorable cat there that the tots would chase around to their hearts content while I actually got a moment to pick books. Aside, from the one time I had to peel the terrified cat off the littlest’s head, this was my favorite thing. Plus, there is nothing like a cat rubbing against your ankle while you peruse the poetry section.

20140401-221549.jpg

4) Fair pricing. I switched to used books soon after becoming poor. Let’s be honest, books are insanely expensive. (Plus, I love a well-loved book!) Even still, some used bookshops charge almost-new prices. No thanks… I want to fill my life with books, not empty my bank account. Bonus points if they offer rewards programs for book addicts like me.

5) Ideally, a couch. I used to sneak into my college library to take naps because they had chairs more comfortable than my dorm bed. I’m not saying, if my bookshop had one, I’d be snoozing there or anything (possibly, though), but I’m the kind of person who always reads the first chapter before they buy. An awesome, little reading room would really seal the deal for me.

6) Coffee. I don’t know why, but coffee and bookshops are inextricably linked. They just seem like they belong together–or maybe that’s just coffee and everything (or, better yet, books and everything). Granted, this is a bit of stretch for small bookshops, but I think coffee would turn a bookshop into my heaven.

7) Secret rooms. Another awesome bookshop in New Orleans (which, sadly, recently downsized and lost this feature) was in a cute little house that twisted its way towards the back. This was great. Nothing like getting lost in a little shop and finding yourself in the parallel universe that is Avant Guard Architecture or whatever random special interest you happen upon. Plus, this is the best place to hide with your shameful reads.

Bookshops will always be akin to my home, but if I had a bookshop with all of these things… I think they’d have to drag me out of there every night.

What about you guys? Can I ask you just one question: Do you feel literary? Well, do you?

Day Seventy-One: Just Stop Editing

I’d let my book get stuck in my head and, other than a few measly scenes that were all wrong, I hadn’t written much of use this whole week.

So I sat down and–in a text-only version and therefore unable to edit–I read my entire book today.

You know, these things get so mental and detailed, that you forget to just enjoy your story. Could my sentence structure be better? Yup. Were there plenty of cringe-worthy typos? Of course. But was the story there? Did I manage to read the whole thing in one sitting? Yes.

It doesn’t matter as much what other people think. I genuinely enjoyed reading my book today. I enjoyed reading it as if someone else entirely had written it. I found myself worried for the characters, even! Worried about the characters I wrote! Can you believe that?

It really helped get me back on track, to fall in love with my own story all over again.

So, a week after finishing Chapter 17, I started 18. I wrote 1,300 words in the past 45 minutes (more than I’ve written all week… at least on this project) and completely rearranged my ending. The ending is still there, I just need to write it and now I see why it had been causing problems, clear as day.

I’ve also figured out a huge detail at the beginning that will solve my two biggest problems. A) It’ll add a bit of excitement to the beginning and really up the stakes for my protagonist (thank you to Amy for pointing out how much potential this detail could have) and B) be a really good motivational factor/bonding point for my protagonist later.

All hope is not lost.