Month: November 2015

Like Knows Like

I spent Thanksgiving at a recovery house visiting my beautiful, 16-year-old relative, Maria*, who’s working through severe depression and anxiety. After several weeks of very hard work on her part and intensive therapy at this great facility, Maria is blossoming into the person we once knew and so much more. She and I hugged and talked as several other girls and their families milled about. In the far corner, on the floor, sat a girl reading a book.

Like knows like.

“Who’s that?” I asked Maria.

“Trish*,” Maria said, introducing us. “She just got here.” Of course, I asked Trish about the novel she was reading, and then we spoke of other books and trilogies. I was mightily impressed when Trish revealed she’d read the entire Harry Potter series in under two weeks. Before entering this recovery house, Trish hadn’t left her home in over three years. Being around people gives her dizzy spells.

The next day, I returned to the recovery house to visit Maria again, but she hadn’t yet returned from an outing with the other girls. So I waited in the kitchen and chatted with the counselors. At one point, a counselor turned toward the living room and called out, “Hey, Trish, you okay in there?” The back of the couch was to us, so I’d had no idea Trish was there. I was happy when I heard her name, so I peeked over the couch, said, “Hello, Trish,” then returned to the kitchen.

The counselors and I had just resumed our conversation when Trish popped up onto her feet and said, “Dizziness gone!” She joined us at the table, and we picked up where we’d left off the day before, discussing more books–her favorite is high fantasy. I asked if she’d been to the Renaissance Faire and she said, “Many times. I’ve worked them!”

And we were happy. We were friends. We were family.

All because of a book.

— Eve Messenger

*Names and details have been changed to protect the awesome.

Magical Writing Day #amwriting #nanowrimo

During NaNoWriMo 2015, there’ve been moments after writing a scene when I pump my fist and go, “Damn, girl, that was goooood.” (Yes, I say things like that to myself sometimes.) But for the most part I’ve felt a sort of resistance to working on this novel. I don’t know why, and I’ve decided to stop trying to figure it out because it doesn’t matter.

All the writing I do takes me where I need to be. Even if I’m working on a story that doesn’t feel like it’s going to the exciting places I thought it would, I am still writing. I’m improving my ability to craft words, to tap into my imagination, to make realizations about myself as a writer—weaknesses, strengths–and it’s all okay. I recently learned, for example, that a one-week slump won’t end me. I keep writing because I love it and because there is nothing else I’d rather do.

During the month of November 2015, I will write at least 50,000 words on this novel, making me a “winner” according to NaNoWriMo. Novels are like people; they surprise you. This book I thought was going to be a fabulous new friend is turning out to be a bit aloof. If this novel in progress decides to take off and become a project I’m passionate about working on and eventually completing, great. If not, fine.

In the meantime…

Today was a magical writing day.

“Idea bank” is a Google docs file in which I jot down random story ideas. Snippets–like lines from a character’s unusual point of view, a scene, a title, a concept–might sit dumbly in my idea bank for years or, as happened today, suddenly thrum to life and demand to be brainstormed and written about until they become big, fat novels.

It’s hard to say exactly what morphs an idea into a story. I think it has something to do with the combination of ideas. The idea that popped into my head this morning started pretty much with just a word, how the word “snap” can mean when a person snaps from sanity into insanity, and also how a hypnotist snaps his fingers as a signal to induce suggestions planted in a hypnotee’s (?) subconscious. Combine that with a title I jotted down a while back, plus a recent interest in writing an alternate reality story, and the witch’s brew was complete.

Now I’m super excited to work on this new story and see where it leads. It’s the kind of novel I’d love to read.

Be Outlandish. Write Books with Wings #amwriting #nanowrimo

fox2bsmelling2bflower

Photo credit: front-porch anarchist 2012

 

As a writer, here are some things I try to remind myself.

Reach out for, and welcome, scary, crazy ideas because those can be the most brilliant. (Ask Vincent, Sylvia, F. Scott, and the gajillion artists who’ve come before us.)

Don’t be afraid to be outlandish. Think outside the box. Believe there is no box. When writing, allow yourself the freedom to freewheel unfettered through a galaxy of creativity. God, I love that part.

Revise with confidence. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t immediately get things right. Big, scary, daunting, multi-faceted, novel revision is a marathon, not a sprint–a marathon during which you get to stop and smell flowers, daydream, listen to music, and read other books (how cool is that?), with the ultimate goal of crossing the finish line with a novel you can be proud of.

Polish your novel until it has wings to fly: to overworked literary agents who perk up because you’ve written exactly what they’re looking for; to readers who are moved by your words, excitedly turn each page, and feel a sense of loss when they reach the last word.

Then write more novels to make those readers happy again.

–Eve Messenger

YA Books – Recent, Current, and Upcoming Reads

Today I’m feeling especially aware of the BIG CRUSH I have on novels, and November is turning out to be a particularly good month–every read is like striking gold. For this, I am grateful to book bloggers and their excellent recommendations.

RECENTLY READ: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
This book. The first few chapters of Vanishing Girls did not at all prepare me for what was to come. Oh, me of little faith. This is Lauren Oliver, remember, Eve? Your possibly-new-favorite author.

 CURRENTLY READING: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
When researching literary agents and the kinds of YA manuscripts they’re looking for (in preparation for the day when one of my novels is FINALLY ready to query), I often read that agents are looking for “voice-y” novels. “Voice-y,” I get it, but then along comes Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and now I really get it. Simon has SUCH a voice. He is REAL. With his wry wit and honesty about himself, Simon is so relatable.

I’m only 55 pages in, but so far this story has a compelling premise. Simon is gay and has yet to come out of the closet, but he shares his secrets in email communications with a boy who goes by the alias Blue. Blue attends Simon’s same high school, but they’ve never revealed their true identities to one another, so with every male high school student that’s introduced, you (and Simon) wonder if he might be Blue. I also can’t help but wonder if maybe Blue isn’t really who he claims to be, and I love Simon so much already that I’m afraid he’s going to be disappointed.

ABOUT TO READ: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
At last, my first Patrick Ness novel!

Vanishing Girls and Good Advice

Embedded image permalink

Thank you, Lauren Oliver, for posting this on Twitter today. With twelve excellent published novels under her belt, Lauren knows what she’s talking about. I will write and not let doubt stand in my way!

Another thing: I just finished reading Lauren Oliver’s Vanishing Girls, a novel that blew my mind. It’s difficult to properly review Vanishing Girls without giving away spoilers, so I’ll just say it’s not what you expect, and you will feel compelled to re-read the story. Trust me.

— Eve Messenger

That Which You Fear Most, Face First

I feel this overwhelming resistance to working on my current novel. Once I start writing (which I still do, every day), the words flow, but for the past couple of days sitting down to write feels like forcing myself through quicksand. I want to understand why so I can overcome it.

Could it be because choosing to write–or not to write–is something within my control, while other things feel pretty out of control right now?

Or maybe I’m feeling unworthy of writing this particular story.  I want to write a story that’s as good as the fantasy novels I’ve loved, and I’m stunted by that thought perhaps.

When creating a first draft, I usually let the story flow the way it wants to, and I don’t read back through it until the second draft stage. However, today I wanted to post a line from my work in progress on Twitter for #1lineWed (one-line Wednesday), when writers from all over tweet a line or two from their manuscripts in response to a weekly theme, this week’s theme being “action.”

As I skimmed through my YA fantasy novel for an action line, I found myself really liking much of what I’d written so far. Did this encourage me? Maybe a little, but like a cranky toddler I’m still resistant to returning to write more.

As I struggle through these feelings, I have to remind myself of a kind of epiphany I had after many years of young adult procrastination–like forgetting to pay my car registration then getting pulled over for expired tags, and other self-sabotaging attempts to control things by NOT doing them. Here’s the saying I try to live by: That which you fear most, face first.

When I started doing this, my life became less chaotic and much more livable. I still stumble. For instance, I have a major project to complete at work, which I’ve been putting off for, um, weeks now, so today have to go in to work–on Veterans Day holiday–to complete (okay, START)  the project.  The stakes are high, the work must get done, so I just need to face it.

About writing, the irony is that when I give myself permission to NOT write, I still do it because there’s nothing else I’d rather do. And whatever the writing crisis might be, the advice I always get from established writers is: WRITE THROUGH IT.

So now I’m off to complete that project at work. And I’ll also put in more work on my new novel. Yes, I’ll probably have to force myself to sit at my desk and get started, but eventually the writing resistance will pass– as it always has before.

–Eve Messenger

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way Into NaNoWriMo 2015 #amwriting #nanowrimo

I discovered that my writing habits during NaNoWriMo are pretty much the same as they are during the other eleven months of the year; every day I squeeze out writing whenever I can. However, NaNo does push me to work toward higher word counts, and the write-ins and online word sprints make the journey a bit less lonely.

Though I was tired after a long week, I was proud of myself tonight for getting out of the house and driving to a write-in. Laptop in hand, I settled into the coffee shop with some friendly local writers I remembered from last year. Problem: throughout the entire write-in these writers gabbed with each other like a gaggle of geese. None of them wrote! It got to the point where I went online and did word sprints with people on Twitter and the NaNoWriMo website. The woman who runs this particular write(not TALK)-in is actually a nice, smart lady, but I think she was just off her game tonight. Anyway, at one point, one of the gabbling writers said, in reference to me, “I’m impressed with how well she can concentrate on her writing while we’re all talking.” Ask me if I responded. Yes, I did.

Okay, so tonight’s write-in was a bust, but at least it gave me something to talk about on my blog. And there are other, better-organized write-ins (including a write-in on a train, which I LOVE), so I’ll hit up some of those later this month. In the meantime, my new YA fantasy novel is up to 16,000 words, and one of the characters busted out with a cool surprise tonight.

Have a great November!

October Reads Flash Reviews

Here are quick reviews of seven novels I read in October, along with their individual “awards.”

Written by Possibly My New Favorite Author – Before I Fall (Lauren Oliver)

I loved everything about Before I Fall. Lauren Oliver might just be my new favorite writer, and she recently posted on Twitter that Before I Fall is being made into a movie, yay! 5 stars out of 5

Most in Need of Better Editing  and the Whoah, What’s Up with that Cover Award – The Truth About Forever (Sarah Dessen)

The Truth About Forever could have been thirty pages shorter and wouldn’t have missed a thing. The older sister was a really good character, but I’m a bit miffed that one of the key plot questions was never answered. I’m not usually too picky about covers but this one looks like Grandma’s needlework pattern. 4 stars out of 5

Set in the Place I’d Most Like to Visit (Sort Of) – Exodus (Julie Bertagna)

Writer Julie Bertagna hails from Scotland (the #1 country I’d like to visit), and her story is set in post-apocalyptic Glasgow. Exodus poses important questions that I’m not sure I was prepared to think about. 4 stars out of 5

Most Adorable Love Interest – Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell)

Levi is the sweetest. I love his confidence, loyalty, and passion for life. Before reading Fangirl I had no idea the main character Cath was a twin—I always like a good story about twins. In my humble opinion, the Simon and Baz excerpts didn’t add much to Fangirl, but I am curious about their full-length novel, Carry On. 4 stars out of 5

216363

Most Controversial – The Man in the High Castle (Philip K. Dick)

This book was recommended to me by a work associate who knows about my connection to Japanese culture. The Man in the High Castle is an alt history exploring what might have happened if Germany and Japan had won World War II and ended up occupying the United States. There is genius in this story (and it gave me an idea for something I’d like to use in novel I’m currently writing), but the characters exhibit a lot of racism, which was tough to get through. 3.5 out of 5

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Backstory Extravaganza – The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender (Leslye Walton)

Set-up is important; I get it, but the first third of this book reads like backstory. Also, one of the dangers of writing magical realism is that it can easily veer into ludicrousness, which this book only did a couple of times, and only early on. When the real story begins around page 80, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a highly imaginative, compelling, and emotional read. Whoever designed this gorgeous cover deserves an award (Do they give out awards for book covers? If so, I’d love to see the winning work.). 4 stars out of 5

Best Ending – Six of Crows (Leigh Bardugo)

Yes, I like the characters (the Grisha! The Wraith!), and the world building was incredible, but maybe because I’m not a big fan of caper stories, this book felt like it took a really long time to read. That being said, the ending BLEW ME AWAY. 4 stars out of 5