The Sunshine Blogger Award

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Hello, fellow book junkies! Well, I’m enjoying home-cation this weekend while my family’s away, so I’m reading and writing like a nut and now get to answer “Sunshine Blogger Award” questions from one of my favorite bloggers on the planet, Shannon @ Clockwork Bibliophile . Not only does Shannon hail from the #1 place in the world I want to visit (Scotland), she has a very pretty blog with tons of insightful posts about books, and she’s so nice and friendly, too.

Rules

  1. Thank the people/person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions from your nominators.
  3. Nominate eleven other bloggers and give them eleven questions.

Shannon’s Questions

  1. What was the very first book you read? (if you can remember)
    I totally did not expect this question. Let’s see. . . I’m pretty sure there was a Mother Goose collection of nursery rhymes pretty early on in my childhood. More than anything, I remember carting around an activity book full of mazes, coloring pages, dot-to-dots, etc. I loved those things.
  2. Why is your favorite genre of books your favorite?
    Another good question! My favorite genre of books is YA fantasy because I appreciate great imagination so much, especially magic in all its variations, and I enjoy heights of emotion found in YA stories. I also like watching characters grow, making connections, finding themselves.
  3. If you were to write a book, where would it be set? (place, time period etc)
    The stories I write are usually set in some blended version of America and Japan, either in the present day or some mythological past. I’ve set stories in suburban neighborhoods, towns, cities, and often in natural settings like mountains or woods.
  4. Have you ever felt connected to a character because they have experienced something you have?
    For sure. I’m too shy to specify the book and character, but in a book I read not that long ago I definitely related to the emotional pain the character suffered.
  5. What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
    To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s spot on true to the book.
  6. What is your favorite book-to-tv show adaptation?
    Though I haven’t read the actual books–and probably won’t–I think Game of Thrones is pretty spectacular.
  7. What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it?
    The last book I read was The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. “Appreciated” might be the most apt word to describe how I felt about reading it. It was a brilliantly written, four-star read. If I’d felt a little more invested in the main character it would have been a five-star book for sure.
  8. What’s your least favorite book that you’ve ever read?
    *stall, stall* While I get that he’s a skilled writer, I’m not a big fan of Ernest Hemingway’s minimalist, testosterone-fueled stories.
  9. Who is your favorite blogger and why?
    Oh, gosh, there are so many bloggers I adore, for myriad reasons, but I’m going to say Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories is my favorite blogger because she’s been with me since I first started blogging, she’s taught me so much about YA books, and she makes me laugh.
  10. What’s the prettiest cover on your shelf?
    The cover of The Star-Touched Queen catches my eye from across the room all the time.
  11. What is a random fact about you that people might not know?
    I speak fluent Japanese.

I Nominate…

Sabrina Marsi
Nazahet @ Read Diverse Books
Michelle, Books and Movie Addict
Dee @ The Bookish Khaleesi
Stephanie @ Your Daughter’s Bookshelf
Astra @ A Stranger’s Guide to Novels
Cristina @ My Tiny Obsessions

My Questions –

I hope I don’t get into trouble with the Sunshine Blogger police but Shannon’s questions were SO GOOD I’m sending them out again to the next round of Sunshine Bloggers.

  1. What was the very first book you read? (if you can remember)Why is your favorite genre of books your favorite?
  2. Why is your favorite genre of books your favorite?
  3. If you were to write a book, where would it be set? (place, time period etc)
  4. Have you ever felt connected to a character because they have experienced something you have?
  5. What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
  6. What is your favorite book-to-tv show adaptation?
  7. What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it?What’s your least favorite book that you’ve ever read?
  8. Who is your favorite blogger and why?
  9. What’s the prettiest cover on your shelf?
  10. What is a random fact about you that people might not know?
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What I Learned as a Writer in 2015 #writerslife #amwriting

In pursuing my ambition to publish great YA novels, here are some things I learned over the past year:

  1. Beyond the thrill of being able to express my passion for writing and books, there are great benefits to blogging, the best of which is getting to know creative, supportive fellow writers and book lovers, many of whom I now consider friends. I see you, Tracy L. Jackson, Beth @ betwixt-these-pages, Kelly Deeny, Elena Johansen, FamilyRules, Wallace CassAnnika Perry,  Pat Sherard, The Glitter Afficianado, Stephanie @ Eclectic ScribblingsMelanie Noell Bernard, Nate Philbrick,  Sabrina Marsi BooksJennifer F. Santucci, Mackenzie BatesStephanie @ yourdaughtersbookshelf Karen @ MyTrain of Thoughts,  Amanda d Bat,  Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand StoriesErica @ Books the Thing,   the bookwormgirls123.
  2. I am better at editing a first draft on the computer than on a hard copy, even though a lot of advice-givers recommend against it.
  3. A style sheet is helpful, especially for tracking important plot dates.
  4. Literary agents are regular folks and book lovers just like us.
  5. To write first drafts without censoring myself.
  6. To create headers for each scene in Word so I can easily find them later using the navigation screen.
  7. To  keep a “book blurb” Word file for when I feel especially excited about my novel and get ideas on how to pitch it in future query letters.
  8. Short stories are not my preferred medium; what I truly love is writing novels (and I’m sort of learning it’s okay to be better at some things than others.)
  9. Flash fiction is fun…and challenging.
  10. Collecting images for novel inspiration boards on Pinterest is a blast and really does stimulate ideas.
  11. It’s still great to be able to hold a book in my hands, but reading novels on electronic devices won’t kill me.
  12. I want to get more into #bookstagram and #booklr.
  13. Saving the previous draft of a story before making editing changes avoids a lot of lost good writing.
  14. All writers, even the most successful ones, find writing novels to be really hard work.
  15. When I stay away from my novel for too long, I forget I’m actually good at writing it.
  16. Even when I’m afraid to work on my novel, I do have the discipline and faith to always return to it.
  17. Daily writing goals and rewards make me a much more productive writer.
  18. My writing really does improve with practice.
  19. Beta critiquing other people’s novels makes me a better writer.
  20. Google Docs is a really handy tool that allows me to work on manuscripts on my phone, home computer, out-of-town relatives’ computers, and hotel lobby computers. . . but I still always keep multiple back-up copies of my work.
  21. A change purse is a great place to keep a flash drive.
  22. I really am dedicated to publishing YA novels and maybe, just maybe, I am worthy of success.

How to Weave Plot Threads Without Going Insane

Recently, I’ve had to face the cold, hard fact that I do not write simple plots. Very “not simple” plots, though I will stop short of calling them complicated. In coming to terms with this, my first instinct is to get very, very nervous, as in: how in the hell am I going to weave all these plotlines together into a cohesive story? Sure, the plot makes sense in my head, but piecing it all together on the page is another matter entirely.

So how do I avoid getting tangled up in plot threads?  Since I don’t personally know any professional writers To ask, I turned to my good friend Google for advice.

One of the first things that pops up is “Calendaring Your Story,” an article by writer Mindy Obenhaus. One of the things she says that really pops out at me is that she is “a visual person, not to mention somewhat detail-oriented.” That’s me, too. I am most comfortable processing information visually, so when it comes to plotting a novel, it makes sense to create a visual representation of my plotlines, a timeline that shows all the major plotlines side by side.

But how?

Obenhaus apparently uses a calendar, a large, desk-sized one. Other writers create Word tables or Excel spreadsheets. Still others use flashcards, a different color for each plot thread. And there are surely plenty of other methods crafty writers have come up with for calendaring their plotlines. (If you have any ideas you’d like to share, please feel free to comment.)

Then I remembered that at a company I once worked for we entered departmental events into an online calendar, with each department displayed in a different color, a multi-person event calendar, something like this:

Maybe this could work for calendaring plotlines, thought I.

So I tried it.

  • First, I found a decent online multi-person calendar at TeamUp.com, a free version that allows you to calendar up to ten different people/plotlines.
  • Then I got to have fun deciding which color best represented each of my major characters/plotlines.
  • After that, I started entering major plot points and, right away, the process got me thinking about my novel in new ways. For instance, I realized that my original plan didn’t logically allow enough time between a couple of key events.

Now the “heavy lifting” begins. I’ll need to really think about each major milestone and decide precisely when it should occur so I can put it on a calendar. I KNOW (as hard as I try to resist this) that calendaring my plot lines will make me much less confused than I was with my first two novels. As convoluted as those first drafts were, I’m thinking surely this will be an improvement.

Reading While Writing – Is it a Bad Thing?

NTSNBN

There’s this YA dystopian thriller I’ve been dying to read.  Very hyped, mentioned in lots of blogs, highly ranked on Goodreads. I won’t mention the title because — call me superstitious, or maybe respectful or polite — I won’t publicly write negative things about another writer’s published work. Who knows, maybe you’ll guess it from the references I’m about to make. Anyway, I was excited to read this book, but I stopped myself.  I stopped myself from reading any fiction.  Why? Because I’ve heard from other writers that reading while you write can be detrimental.

But reading is the shizzle!

So two days ago I picked up this hyped novel-that-shall-not-be-named (henceforth known as NTSNBN), and I began to read.   Even though I’m working on my own novel.

And it’s been really helpful!  Possibly because NTSNBN is in a different enough genre from my own YA fantasy adventure. Or maybe because it’s a good book but not so brilliant that I’m utterly intimidated. Or maybe (and probably most significantly) because the plot and characters of my own novel are well-formed enough that reading someone else’s novel — both as a positive and negative example — gives me ideas on how to enhance what I already have.

Back when I was tapping and scribbling out the nucleus of a plot in coffee houses, libraries, and all the other free places writers and homeless people hang out, reading someone else’s novel might have been detrimental to my process. Consciously or subconsciously, another writer’s plots and characters could have crept their way into my own writing.   (Though I probably will take the chance and try it while writing the next novel.)

After two days of reading NTSNBN — while working on the 2nd/3rd major revision of my own — here’s how reading someone else’s novel has been beneficial. Throughout the narrative, NTSNBN gives a very clear sense of the main character’s emotional state. It contains too much a lot of internal self-talk. With a keener awareness of this, the next time I sat down to work on my own book, my characters started spilling their emotional guts a lot more.

I like that.

The author of NTSNBN also employs several quirky stylistic devices, such as replacing number words with the alphanumeric, as in ‘2’ instead of ‘two.’  Also, there are long passages that deliberately avoid commas. Thirdly, there is a lot lot lot of  too much  striking out of lines and words, which signify the MC censoring his/her own thoughts.   Though I probably won’t use those devices in my own writing, the stylistic experiments definitely inspire me to try new things.

Lastly, NTSNBN reads really fast. All the chapters flow really well, each with its own grabber that takes you right into the heart of the scene and an ending that propels you further into the story. All wonderful things to keep in mind while revising and polishing my own work.

E.B.M.

Just Say No to Cliffhangers

Angry about cliffhangers

I hate cliffhangers.  There, I said it.  I don’t mean cliffhangers in the middle of a story, of course — those are great.  I mean a cliffhanger ending to a novel — it’s a cheat, a crutch, a convenient device.  Inherent in every novel there’s a silent contract between writer and reader, included in which is a proper ending!  What should drive readers to want to read the next book is compelling characters and great writing, not — I repeat — a cliffhanger ending.