December 31, 2010

Resolutions

Every year I have scores and scores of resolutions, most of which grow dusty and fat with disuse very quickly (and are only pulled out again around this time of year, to be recycled for the new year). This year, I'm determined to be different, to be focused, and to actually make it through my list.

Resolutions in Reading
  • Join the re-reading challenge. There's this challenge that has been going around the blogosphere that involves re-reading favorite books during 2011. (Unfortunately I haven't been able to find it again -- does anyone know who's hosting it? Help?) There are a number of books and series I've been thinking about re-reading recently (Harry Potter, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Sabriel, etc. etc. etc.), and formalizing it would go a long way toward actually making it happen.
  • Broaden my reading horizons. My favorite genres tend to be young adult, but this past year I've been making an effort to read more, especially nonfiction. For 2011, I'm aiming to further read outside my habitual reading zones.
  • Follow authors. I'm beginning to realize that I used to be pretty bad about keeping track of authors, even if I'd read a fantastic book by someone. In 2011, I'd like to make notes of the fantastic books I read, and immediately put their authors on my to-watch list. (Already there: Gail Carriger, Carrie Ryan, and Lish McBride, among others.)
  • Read 300 books. This year (so far) I've read 259. For no particular reason, my number for 2011 is 300. (Not counting rereads.)
Resolutions in Writing
  • Write every day. Even if it's just for fifteen minutes.
  • Keep a random writing journal for thought exercises and such, and actually use it.
  • Stop worrying so much about perfection.
  • Finish one full rewrite of my NaNo 2010 novel.
Resolutions in Blogging
  •  Make a schedule and stick to it. I've been a fairly unreliable blogger my first year in, but I think I've hit upon a fairly flexible schedule that will help me keep to a steady pace. Starting January 1, 2011, my schedule will be as follows: Mondays in Reading, Wednesdays in Writing, Fridays in Random (better titles to come).
  • Polish up the blog. I haven't given the layout, page information, sidebars, (etc.) of my blog nearly enough thought as I've grown and developed as a blogger over the past year. At some point in the near future, I'd like to go through an evaluation and revamp of the blog as necessary.
  • Be a better contributor. I read a lot of blog posts, by a lot of bloggers, but I'm not nearly as good as I should be at commenting on them, and commenting back to people who have commented on my blog, etc. etc. Resolution: reply to everyone.
  • Revive Lost Book Girls. Yes, I blog there...or I used to. I still think it's a cool place for book-thought. It just fell victim to busyness over the last few months. (A revamp there is probably appropriate.)
Anyone else have thoughts for the new year?

December 29, 2010

2010 in Retrospect

As we close the door (slowly, over a number of days) on 2010, I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge some big, life-changing events that happened in the last 363 days. In chronological order...

May 2010: I graduated from college.

July 2010: I attended the Denver Publishing Institute, which turned out to be a brilliant thing to do, as it led directly to...

August 2010: Getting a job. Like a real, salaried, full time job with vacation time and everything.

September 2010: I turned 21. As it turns out, this mostly meant surreptitiously sipping at other people's alcoholic drinks before making a face and spitting them out. (But I can do it legally now!)

November 2010: I finished a full rough draft of a novel, which is a: the second complete draft of a novel I've ever written, b: the first one I've done since middle school (eight years!), and c: the product of my most successful NaNoWriMo yet.

So it's been a big year for me. Here's hoping that next year will be even better, especially in the writing things category.

To all of you out there -- I'm so happy to have met a lot of you. I've discovered that the internet is far, far vaster than I ever knew, and I'm looking forward to knowing you more in the future. Happy 2010!

December 27, 2010

Top 10 of 2010

So I cheated a little. (And by a little, I mean I lumped some (many) series into one entry rather than trying to decide on the best of the series.) But here you go: my personal favorites of 2010, in no particular order.


White Cat (Holly Black)
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins)
Anna and the French Kiss
The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #1)The Dead-Tossed Waves (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #2)

Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, #1)Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate, #2)

Perfect Chemistry series (Simone Elkeles)
Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry, #1)Rules of Attraction (Perfect Chemistry, #2)

The Seven Kingdoms series (Kristin Cashore)
Graceling (The Seven Kingdoms, #1)Fire (The Seven Kingdoms, #2)

Twelve Houses series (Sharon Shinn)
Mystic and Rider (Twelve Houses, #1)Fortune and Fate (Twelve Houses, #5) 

The Queen's Thief series (Megan Whalen Turner)
 The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1)The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #2)

 Fables series (Bill Willingham)
Fables: Legends in Exile (Fables, #1)Fables: Animal Farm (Fables #2)

 Read them all! Know them! Love them!

December 16, 2010

Why yes, this is what revising looks like...

...and it looks like a whole lot of procrastination.

Okay, just kidding. There's a (BIG) difference between revising procrastination. It's just that where I'm at right now looks a lot like both. (It's revision. It totally is.)

So there are steps to writing a novel, and they're different for every writer. So far, step 1: write a really crappy first draft -- check!..............................

.....................Now I'm just having trouble moving past that. I took a break. And then that break turned into a longer break... And that longer break turned into revision. Really. My draft is a very very very rough draft. Some writers call that draft 0. In any case, that means I am sitting down to a LOT of changes, planning, insertion of subplots and characters. (Yeah, that's right. I am currently missing at least one major secondary character.) ...Where do you go from here?

There are lots of things that need to change about this story, but I wanted to make sure I had a foundation (a solid idea of my vision, at least, for the story) before I started tinkering with the drapes. With that in mind -- well, I'm sitting. Listening to some music, but mostly sitting and letting thoughts wander in and out. I'm not planning on doing this for too long (my next step is character sheets for every major character), but so far I've changed a major institution, sacked six universities, and made a god irrelevant (or at least, relevant in a very different way than he was previously) in my hunt for the heart of the story.

This, despite the fact that it appears to the outward eye like me sitting in my chair for an hour, doing nothing, actually counts. Yes it does.

December 15, 2010

November (Belatedly)

Yeah, this is late. It's almost time to be doing a December retrospective, but still! I read some really good books in November. Here's what I'd recommend:

Lips Touch: Three Times, by Laini Taylor.
Eerie, otherworldly stories. The first one I didn't love that much, but the second and third! My goodness, this is the kind of imagination that I wish I could steal. And the illustrations are gorgeous.

Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly.
This book has been getting a lot of attention. So there's history, foreign lands, some adventures... There's some solid French history, and a surprising amount of very interesting music history. Plus, the classic story of personal trauma and recovery. This book is in turns heart-tugging, entertaining, and informative.

A Spy in the House, by Y. S. Lee.
Another historical book, this one about Victorian England. This book also illuminates a part of history I had never even thought about (which I am not going to talk about, because it's kind of spoiler-y). But there's a feisty heroine, a delicious hero, some mystery and intrigue and plenty more to keep me waiting for the next book in the series.

Mistwood, by Leah Cypess.
Wow. Wow... This book may not be the best one I read in November, but it was certainly the one that surpassed my expectations by the most. I applaud Leah Cypess by coming out with original, compelling mythology, and a story I just could not call for much of the book. Unexpected, with some awesome girl kick-assery.

Well, that's it for me for November. All of these books are young adult... Hmm... (I don't read only young adult, I promise...)

December 13, 2010

Moment of Panic

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Yes, that is what a moment of panic looks like on paper. Much akin to what going down a very long drop on a roller coaster looks like. Except I'm telling you that this is not a roller coaster. This is a moment of panic. And I had one of those over the last two days.

Why? Well, I listened to half of an interview with the deplorably AWESOME Neil Gaiman. I am convinced that there is no one quite as AWESOME as Neil Gaiman, nor can there be. And the sheer AWESOMENESS and brilliance of Neil Gaiman really just makes me want to throw the towel in right now, because come on. With Neil Gaiman, who needs me-writer in the world? (This is not usually me -- I'm usually very confident that the world needs me-writer in the world. But Neil Gaiman is Neil Gaiman. AWESOME, but intimidating.)

The other thing that had me going was the prospect of revision. And the fact that I have never really revised a novel. Not really. Not if you don't count that one from middle school that I outlined neatly with my co-writer before going on to NOT revise it. Yes, it's been sitting, unfinished, for about eight years now. Anyway, I'm now facing the bottomless pit of revisions, and I'm really hanging on by a thread here.

I can identify problems. Identifying problems is not the problem here. The problem (which, of course, is really an over-simplification of a LOT of problems) is that I don't even know where to start. Plotting? Characters? Setting? Whaaaaa...?

Which is why I would love it if you all could suggest books to me. Books on crafting a story, and character arcs, and creating settings. Or -- they don't have to be books, by any means. But help? Guidance? Divine intervention? I take all the above, and more.

December 9, 2010

THE PLAN

I've come up with the final (and right) plan. The absolutely perfect plan to begin revising my novel. Yep, I've got it. I really do. And I'm going to show you... Err...

Yeah. So there's a vast world of revision to be done out there. And what am I doing? Putting it off, of course. But in a very responsible manner, I'm sure you'll agree. My reasoning is as follows: Yes, it's time to get started on revising. But before I do that, I should make sure my computer isn't going to die on me, right? (That has actually been a tricky thing for the past couple of months -- I've started saving up for a new computer.) So yesterday I installed some much better security software, and defragmented my hard drive. And today I'm going to be backing up my computer (yes, it's the first time in years...let's not dwell on that, shall we?) to my brand new fancy-shmancy external hard drive. And then I will be ready to write.

Tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow.

December 8, 2010

Hello, world!

So I've been on a bit of a hiatus. We can chalk that one (almost entirely) up to NaNoWriMo and Post-NaNo vacationing. Yes, the rumors are true. I completed 50,000 words on November 29, making me a NaNo 2010 winner. After clocking out on the website I promptly declared myself on a writing break for an entire week. No writing. All reading.

And I read some really good books this past week, including Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (Lish McBride) and Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins). It was a good break. A great break. A necessary break, to let my fingers recover from the incessant pounding of fingertips on keys. But now, it's time to get back to work. Work like writing. And reading. And blogging.

About NaNoWriMo. This year, 2010, has been without a doubt my best NaNo success ever. This is my fourth year doing it, and my fourth year "winning," as far as word count goes. But this is the first time I've a) stuck to a story the whole way through, without restarting; b) finished a rough draft (beginning, middle and end) in the month of November; and c) come up with something I actually plan on working on going forward.

In other words, it was awesome. I chalk this up to the amount of time I planned for this year's NaNo, because let's face it -- NaNoWriMo does not (and should not, and will never) work as a productive tool for all writers. But it does help a lot of them. And I really really really wanted it to work for me, so I switched up my modus operandi for the month of November.

The big things I changed in preparation for NaNo 2010? First, I spent about two months just thinking about the story, and then another month (October) doing a rough outline of it. Second (and perhaps more importantly), I concentrated on the story, rather than the words. I dropped my obsession with word count and instead made sure that every scene, no matter how painful or weird it was to write, actually moved the story forward.

And all that resulted in a really crappy first draft -- but it's a complete first draft, and one I'm actually looking forward to tearing apart.

In conclusion, NaNoWriMo? A success. Resoundingly so. (But it does not work for everyone, and if you want to do it you should first give some thought to how to make it work best for you.) Now on to the revision -- expect (many) more posts about that to come.