Thursday, November 19, 2015

Regarding Rewriting and Reading

Instead of writing short stories set in my fantasy world for NaNoWriMo, I have ended up using November thus far to finish re-writing my fantasy novel. As it so happens, I am only ONE chapter away from finishing! Most likely, I will finish the first rewrite of this novel TOMORROW.
When I wrote the first draft, I was so fed up with all the plot changes that had occurred (and, let's face it, I was wiped out from handwriting 60,000 words during NaNoWriMo) that I didn't even write the ending; I only summarized it. Writing the ending has been wonderful, but, at the same time, I'm sad that's it's nearly over. I've been working on this story for nearly two years (I had to the first idea for this book in December 2013).
Yet, I know I need to step back from the story for a few months. I know there are countless character, world, plot, and prose problems to fix, but I can't pinpoint anything because I'm too close right now. I don't see problems and remedies—I see: AKSDKHAKLHASDJFLA.
It's like having the lens on your camera zoomed in too close. When you look through the view-finder, everything is blurry and you are left saying, "Huh? What am I looking at?" As soon as you zoom out and distance yourself from the picture, you say, "Ohhhh! So THAT'S what I was seeing!" I'm at the "Huh?" stage and it will take a few months to get to the "Ohhhh!" stage. Because I'm not sure what my novel looks like at this point, I'm going to postpone letting people (other than my parents) read it for awhile.

So what's next on the writing horizon after I finish this rewrite? Well, I've been asking myself a lot of writing-related questions lately, such as:
-"How much of writing is inherent talent, and how much of writing is learned skill?"
-"How much editing is too much?"
-"If I nitpick every detail to make sure that everything is textbook perfect, will the story be too formal to be enjoyable?"
-"Are books like Harry Potter so consistent in detail because of copious planning and brilliant editing, or because the author is a highly-organized writer, a genius of his trade?"
-"What makes two people into a 'ship*'?"
-"How can I present important information without dumping it into my reader's heads via a boring, page-long block of text?"
-"How do I describe perfume?"
I'm going to take the Sleeping Beauty retelling I wrote in June for the Five Magic Spindles contest and experiment with it, attempting to answer some of the above questions (especially the ones dealing with editing). It's important in a story for each scene to either advance the plot or the character arc*, so I'm going to take each scene in my Sleeping Beauty story and analyze whether it achieves that goal. I'm also going to work on evoking emotions in the reader by writing my characters a certain way (for instance, writing my two main characters in a way that makes the audience "ship" them), and I'm going to work on creating a comprehensive and descriptive world so that the reader can clearly picture what I write about.
I'm hoping that, through this experiment, I can refine my editing techniques so that, when I start working on the plot, character, and worldbuilding issues in my fantasy novel, I can have some idea of what I'm doing, instead of aimlessly blundering about.

So, what have I been reading lately, you may ask, glancing back at the title of this post.
Good question. I've been reading a plethora of fiction, though I haven't finished a lot of it. For instance, I started the final book in the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, but I couldn't get into it (I feel my friend glaring at me through the computer; sorry TMG!). Then, I started reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien because for the past few years, I've always read it in November or December in preparation for the movie coming out in theater. I couldn't get into that either and put it down.
I read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen a few weeks ago and started Mansfield Park by the same author. I've read both books before, but Jane Austen is worth a reread. I've gotten more than halfway through Mansfield Park, but the going is slow.
I'm also reading Winter by Marissa Meyer. Winter is the final book in The Lunar Chronicles, a Young Adult sci-fi/fairytale retelling that is very good (though each book gets steadily more romantic and the novella, Fairest, can be skipped entirely, in my opinion). My friends and I went to the Winter release party a few weeks ago since it was nearby. That was really fun, and we all ended up buying signed copies of the book! Unfortunately, we didn't get to meet Marissa Meyer because the line was too long.
Finally, I'm reading Vango by Timothee de Fombelle. (Jack made me do it!) This book takes place in pre-World War II Europe and is so random and crazy and wonderful. It has chases and escapes, pirates and a zeppelin (unfortunately, the pirates don't fly the zeppelin, like in a certain implausible series), and a very mysterious, very Tintin-like main character. It's fun, too, because it was translated from French and, occasionally, there is a really weird metaphor or a really weird, random sentence that makes me think that something was lost in translation. Overall, it's a fabulous book. And it has a gorgeous cover.
My reading challenge was going well until October when I had to read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I didn't get very far in, partly because I found out how it ended and I really don't see the purpose of reading a huge book written in a style I ABHOR (this is the style where every sentence is so beautiful and poetic that it would be really profound if I could figure out what it meant. Can someone hand me my metaphor-cracker and symbolism-index please?) only to have all the characters... well, for spoilers sake I won't say. I don't particularly care for World War II stories anyway, so I decided to put it off indefinitely. The last two books in my challenge are from the horror genre and, at the moment, I'm just not feeling like reading that. Maybe some day I'll get to Dracula and Something Wicked This Way Comes, but today is not that day!

So, what are YOU reading? If you are a writer, have you ever asked any of the questions that I have been asking myself? Do you have any answers for me?
Live long and prosper

*Ship: Fangirl language for two people that are either in a relationship, or are wished together by the fans.
* Character arc: How a character grows and changes over the course of a story.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Beautiful Books—The Writing Process

Beautiful People (Or, Beautiful Books during NaNoWriMo) is a linkup hosted by Cait at Paper Fury and Sky at Further Up and Further In. You can learn more about it on their blogs, but the general idea is to answer ten questions about your writing.

Here are this month's questions with my answers (dealing with my fantasy novel):

1. Is the book turning out how you thought it would be, or is it defying your expectations?
I'm not even sure any more. Half the time I love the story and the characters and half the time I despise the story and the characters because I don't think I'll ever be able to write them right. I suppose I thought that, by the second draft, I'd be a little more settled in the story so, in that way, it's defying gravity—I mean, defying my expectations.

2. What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?
Once upon a time, there was a Wicked Witch. Like most Witches of the evil persuasion, this Witch had big plans to take over the world. Only one simple question stood in her way: How? The other Witches and warlocks in her village by the seaside didn’t approve of her evil inclinations (having inclinations of their own, both Wicked and benign) and wouldn’t help her, so the Wicked Witch left them to search for power on her own.
Little did the Witch know, that her quest could have ended with the power provided by Energizer.
3. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you ever tried both methods and how did it turn out?
I used to be a pantser when I was younger, but my stories never got past the first chapter. It took a novel-writing class to show me that I could plan out my stories and know exactly where to take them. Since then, I have been a plotter, though I do leave things vague-ish so that if inspiration sends me a whimsy, I can follow it.
4. What do you reward yourself with after meeting a goal?
Usually with an episode of one of my favorite TV shows.
5. What do you look for in a name? Do you have themes and where do you find your names?
Whenever I see or hear a cool name, I write it down. Oddly enough, I usually find names on worship music when I'm on the worship team at church. There are some really weird musician names out there. If a new character shows up, I don't usually spend a lot of time searching for names, but instead pull one out of my brain that I think would fit the character. Sometimes I look on baby name sites.
6. What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?
I think I most like to write the middle of stories because that's where all the action happens. I'm always worried that my beginnings will be too slow. As for endings, I'm just terrible at writing those because I always leave things open-ended just in case I ever want to write a sequel in the future.
7. Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?
Ugh. I'm tired of them all.
Well, maybe Finn. I had the HARDEST time writing him both in the first draft and the first half of the second draft. Then, I changed one tiny detail about his life and he's become so much easier to write! Funny how that happens. He used to be one of my least favorites because I had no clue how to write him, but now I'm really enjoying his character.
8. What kind of things have you researched for this project, and how do you go about researching? (What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched?!)
I've researched various mythical beasts for this story—mostly sirens and alkonosts and another mythical bird-like creatures. I'm a terrible researcher, so my method is usually typing whatever I need into Google and reading the Wikipedia page on it.
9. Do you write better alone or with others? Do you share your work or prefer to keep it to yourself?
Definitely alone. I hate sharing my work with others until I know that it's semi-decent.
10. What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!
Hmm... I don't know if I have any writing habits. Or a specific snack that I eat. I drink a lot of water (and, as a result, have to get up to go to the bathroom a lot, which is annoying. Actually, half the time I just bring my laptop with me so I can continue to write... but you didn't need to know that).
I always listen to music while I write. Lately, I've been listening to Gustav Holst's "The Planets" and musical theater songs.
I'm not sure what time of day I write best either. Maybe early afternoon? Or the evening? Or maybe the morning? Any time I'm feeling productive, I suppose.
Feel free to answer these questions yourself and link up on Cait's blog!
Live long and prosper.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Dutch Braid for Addy

My friends and I are going to a fancy dress party on Tuesday and, since one of my friends has incredibly long hair, I jumped at the opportunity to give her a fancy up do to match her dress. Of course, I have to practice before Tuesday. So, out came the dolls!

First step: take out the braids in Addy's hair.

Second step: Dutch braid it. A Dutch braid is a normal braid, except instead of braiding the strands over top of each other, you braid them underneath each other. You also add in strands like a French braid. If that made no sense, here's a Youtube tutorial (if the lovely people who did this tutorial ever see this post: thank you SO much for teaching me how to Dutch braid!):

Third step: Stand back and admire your work.

For this particular hairdo, I did something called a "Dutch flower braid." Again, apply to Youtube for further instructions.
I hope you enjoyed!

Live long and prosper.