Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to School Things!

Hello guys! I'm back at Ithaca! Woots!

I didn't so much miss my lovely concrete block walls, but my Doctor Who poster is another matter... ;)

In spite of the fact that it means I won't get any sleep from now until Thanksgiving break, and already have homework (which I should really start doing), I'm excited to be back. I'm really looking forward to taking some upper-level writing classes, especially my Historical Fiction and Editing & Publishing classes. I feel like this semester, what I want to write and what I have to write will be more aligned than they usually are, and I think it's going to be awesome.

I'm going to keep up my Tuesday/Thursday blogging schedule as best I can, although my 18 credits may or may not require a few gif spam posts or funny YouTube videos now and again. Teaser Tuesdays will return, although probably not every week - I'm enjoying keeping my current project a secret, as I'd like to use it to experiment with a few things and am just writing it for myself right now. (Although I'm sure I could be persuaded to share a few pieces of it later.)

If you are going back to school soon or have already gone back, best of luck for a good semester! Hopefully we can all keep our heads above the tidal waves of homework.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review: Jennifer Donnelly, Historical Fiction Writer Extraordinaire

So I don't think I actually gushed to you guys about my love for this book:

In any case, REVOLUTION is an absolutely amazing French Revolution story. Jennifer Donnelly truly has a gift for weaving multiple stories together, and this is one of those few "modern-day character falls back into the past" stories that does not make me scoff a bit. She makes it work. And both of the protagonists in REVOLUTION, the one in modern-day and the one in 1795, are both written in such a beautifully tragic way. They are both so broken, but it comes across as poignant rather than whiny.

The other day, I just finished A NORTHERN LIGHT, Donnelly's first YA novel.

Good God, but can she write historical fiction. This book also displays Donnelly's amazing talent for weaving together seemingly disparate stories, in this case the real letters of Grace Brown, who was murdered in 1906 in the Adirondacks, and the fictional life of Mattie Gokey, a girl who has to balance her love of words and learning with her responsibilities to her dairy farming family. The story bends history very slightly, but the whole thing melds into a seamless narrative.

Mattie also showcases Donnelly's gift with words. She's the kind of author who makes you just want to drink in every single word she says, and reread various passages over and over because they are just so beautiful. This is a style that I long to reach in my own writing - her words are poignant, fluid, pitch-perfect; she can pull the beauty out of tragedy in a way that amazes me.

Seriously, guys, go read Jennifer Donnelly's books. She's also written three historical fiction books for adults, and the next time I get to go to the library, you can bet I'll be hunting those down.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Beating Procrastination, Line-Edit Style

Unrelated side note: Lookit! I finally figured out how to put those tabby-things at the top of my blog! I feel so official! What do you guys think of them? Is there anything else you'd like to see up there?

So I'm getting beta comments back, and after the lovely rush of jumping up and down in my desk chair, grinning like an idiot and saying "they liked it, they liked it!!" to myself over and over comes the far more boring part: going through and making all those changes.

I'm sure many of you have felt the same - sometimes, editing is REALLY BORING. Sure, it can be really fun to rework things and get to write new scenes to replace old ones that didn't quite work out. I had a lot of fun with that earlier, cracking open the last draft to pull some things out and put new things in and shift a couple of things around.

But the kind of editing I'm doing right now is deadly dull. The kind where I have to go through and make sure my characters don't smirk as much as they originally did, or fix an awkwardly constructed sentence, or make sure that the timeline matches up like it should and isn't completely screwy due to earlier changes.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time yesterday procrastinating. I was reading, I was scrolling around on Tumblr, I was checking Twitter every four seconds - anything to keep from actually getting work done. But finally I just put on some Doctor Who and made myself keep working, and I got about halfway through the manuscript.

If you guys are anything like me, you need to pull out the big anti-procrastination guns to get through line edits. That's why I like writing or editing with a movie or tv show on - I can get built in breaks. If I'm watching something I've already seen a zillion times, like Lord of the Rings or Pride and Prejudice or Doctor Who, I can put it on just as a soundtrack and not actually need to pay attention to it. But at the same time, there are favorite moments where I'm going to stop writing and watch. I'm going to watch Eowyn kill the Witchking. I'm going to watch that moment where Lizzy rescues Darcy's sister from awkwardness and they share a LOOK across the room. I'm going to watch the bit where the Doctor's being possessed by Cassandra and says that he's "a little bit foxy."

I find I can focus on even the boring stuff like line edits if I know that I'm going to have a chance to procrastinate every so often. I can trick my brain into paying attention by waving the treat of watching for a few minutes in front of it.

How about you guys? What are your tricks for beating procrastination? Do you turn off the internet (I can't do that; I handle it the same way by telling myself I can check my email AFTER I write something substantial)? Do you work in complete silence?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

All the World's a Stage

As I immerse myself more and more in the world of publishing, talking to people on Absolute Write and on Twitter (yes I have a Twitter now. I caved at the beginning of the summer. I can be found here.) I have been pleasantly surprised to find that the publishing community seems to appreciate my favorite genre of music far more than the world at large. And yes, of course I am talking about musical theatre. For a person who constantly gets raised eyebrows when asked what music I like and I rattle off a list of showtunes, it is so refreshing and heartening to see agents talking about singing to Wicked in their offices and going to see plays and musicals sometimes on the weekends.

Now, this might just be an offshoot of the fact that so much of the publishing world is centered in New York City, just like so much of the musical theatre world is centered there. But I also think that musicals are the perfect things for writers and people who love books. What kind of music could be better for us than the kind that does our favorite thing - the kind that tells a story?

Incidentally, all of my favorite musicals were once books. The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, A Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Secret Garden, The Light in the Piazza, Jekyll & Hyde, Wicked... I think books adapt even better to the stage than they do to the big screen.

And of course I'm just biased towards the idea of being able to randomly burst out in song and have other people know the harmonies and the dance steps. Wouldn't that be awesome? I'm so glad that in the publishing world, at least, I'd have a few people willing to sing along with me.

Here's a video of some songs from A Tale of Two Cities. I just finished the book and I thought it was adapted very well - it's too bad it had such a short run.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Why is EVERYTHING in 3D???

So apparently, this has happened:

The Lion King. In 3D. WHAT IS THIS BLASPHEMY?!?!?!

So I might be a person who gets a little too upset about messing with Disney movies. I mean, I am still slightly miffed that the colors of the Beauty and the Beast DVD I have are about five times brighter than the VHS tape I grew up with. I mean, the scene with Maurice lost in the forest isn't that scary if everything is all pretty and gold, now is it?

But all neurotic tendencies aside, why on earth would anyone want to release The Lion King in 3D? Aside from the sheer fact that re-releasing it in theatres means more money... oh yeah. Disney likes doing that.

I have a huge problem with the recent 3D craze. And it's because I feel that 3D in movies brings absolutely nothing other than cheap thrills to the table.

In writing, introducing something to the story just because it is 'cool' does not do the writer or the story any favors. To me, the constant need to make every movie in 3D is kind of like randomly throwing a dragon into a contemporary novel. It doesn't make sense, it doesn't enhance the plot, and so it doesn't need to be there.

Digital effects in movies have been walking this line for a long time. Of course there are movies where the fancy special effects are kind of the point. Okay, sure, fine. But mostly, special effects should be blended in to the story. There shouldn't be a random explosion in every scene just because it looks cool and will be exciting. Pretty soon even that will get boring if that's all there is to offer - and then what do you do to keep audiences captivated?

When I went to the midnight showing of the last Harry Potter movie, my friends and I split up into two groups - I went to see it in 2D, and some others saw it in 3D. One of my friends who saw it in 3D said that all of the crazy effects were more distracting than anything else. It's like dangling something shiny in front of all of us and saying "ooh, look at this, look what we can do, isn't this awesome? Aren't you impressed?" Really, I'd much rather shove that shiny thing out of my face and be shown a good story with good acting. Special effects have their place, and along with the lighting and the soundtrack and all of the other elements that go into the making of a film they can really enhance a movie if done correctly, but they should not be the most important thing. The story should.

When there is a movie with 3D where the effects are actually blended in to the story, where it makes sense with the plot for the audience to be integrated more and for things to pop out of the screen, then I will say that 3D has found its purpose. But right now, the only thing I think 3D is good for is paying that extra three or four dollars for a movie ticket that comes with a flimsy pair of red and blue glasses.

And, Disney? Please keep this 3D silliness out of my childhood. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

WIP Madness

So right now I am approximately three thousand words into a new project. And I'll be honest with you: it's kind of terrifying.

I worked on the werewolf novel (now called A Terror of Darkness, what do you think?) for almost five years. I wrote Letters to Oliver in that time as well, but that was sort of an accident.

And now I feel like I've completely forgotten how to do this. A new world? A new set of characters? A new plot? What is this???

I have a feeling that this sense of being lost in a new work-in-progress isn't uncommon. After all, we do put so much of our lives into our writing that it's jarring to stop one project and begin another. It's like learning to walk all over again.

Add to that the fact that with a new project comes all of those mixed feelings. Part of me is jumping up and down (not literally) to be writing anything at all, and the other part is worried if this project is something that might ultimately turn out to be a huge waste of time. It takes place in a historical setting... sort of, and that's making me very nervous.

Basically, it's a historical in the same way that THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA is. That's set in a fantasy world that is very clearly modeled on Venice, I'd say roundabouts the Renaissance. It's modeled on Venice, but it isn't Venice. My city is basically Regency London... except not. The twisted history thing is making me quite nervous. I have no idea if it's a clever idea or a really stupid idea.

Which is why I won't be posting teasers from it for a while, until I can decide whether or not to trust it. Right now I am working on this for me. And I think that's important - I think while it's really nice to share wips and get feedback on them to fuel ideas while writing, at the same time I think this needs to be kept a bit secret. I need to write for myself, because after all I do this for fun, I do this because I love it.

And so I'm going to carry on this experiment in secret for a little while longer before I decide if this is a project I can love as much as the werewolf novel.

How about you guys? How do you feel when you start a new wip? Elated? Confused? Let me know what you think. :)

Also, anyone reading this from London: please stay safe. <3

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Such a Nerd

So, I'm guessing you guys know how it goes when you discover something new and exciting to watch or read or do and then you can't concentrate on much of anything else?


Awesome Firefly quotes courtesy of Joss Whedon. Awesome Firefly gifs courtesy of Morbid and Creepifying.