Friday, May 27, 2011

I seem to have missed this week completely...

Sorry for the silence this week. I've been battling sinus issues and some late-night assignments for work, so I've either been too exhausted or felt too crappy to put together posts this week.

I need to get myself organized and pre-write posts. That's my plan for the weekend, anyway.

Anywho, there is a bit of good news: my plants, while not particularly pretty from the cat-smooshing they endured, do actually seem like they will be all right.

Now I'm just hoping I'll be able to tell which is the basil and which is the catnip...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Miscellaneous Day!

My sister has been driving me crazy to post this video of my cat on YouTube for about a month now. She says it'll make me a YouTube star.

I'm not so sure about that, but the video is pretty funny so I thought I might as well share. I was home alone cleaning my apartment with my cat zipping around like crazy. So I started playing with him and he got even more hyper.

This is the result. (Make sure you have your sound on.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writing Progress

Wannabe Writers is a meme started by Sarah of the blog Confessions of the Un-Published!. I am using her wonderful idea to help track my progress as I wrestle with my novel manuscript.

Where I am in the writing process: I've got a rough draft of an about 62,000-word novel aimed at teenagers. It's a retelling of the Perseus myth for teen readers. (You'd think this had been done before, but I wasn't able to find anything in my research aside from the Percy Jackson novels which are modern-day world mixed with Greek mythology.)

I'm also trying to be as historically and culturally accurate as possible (or at least as historically/culturally accurate as one can be when also having Greek gods/goddesses/creatures involved.)

I'm into heavy rewriting/editing now and have about four chapters more or less done. Starting on the fifth now.

My characters will wear more clothes than this.
And my sea monster will not look like a wet dog.

My current problem(s): Had a mini panic attack last night when I realized all my characters are finally arriving in Greece now and I have to now nail down the general time period this takes place in, what's going on there that would probably affect the story (like wars between Sparta and Athens) and how long it would take my characters to walk from Point A to Point B.

I got so overwhelmed that I just closed my laptop. But, having had last night and today to mull things over, I think I'm over the panic stage and ready to calmly start researching the information I need and then start moving forward from there.

Sarah's Question: Thoughts on e-publishing books?
My answer: Although the e-publishing does appeal to my control freak nature, I think I'm still leaning more towards traditional publishing if I can get it. If I really think about it, I'd rather have professionals editing my stuff, creating my cover and getting it in the major bookstores, even if it takes longer. Plus I don't have to shell out loads of money up front.

My Question: Do you get more done when you try to write a little every day or set aside a whole day (or significant part of the day) to write? Or is it about the same?

I'm finding I seem to be more liable to get sidetracked during the week when I'm trying to squeeze in an hour or so before bed. I've been making more progress on Saturdays when I can just more or less tie myself to my chair and make myself write all day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Completing the Scene

I'm what I call an under-writer, not an over-writer.

After I've written my first draft of a novel and then go back to do edits, I often find myself adding more instead of cutting excess out. I tend to neglect describing much of my characters' surroundings and instead focus intently on their dialogue and the emotions/personalities that are in conflict at that point.

I've found I even do this when I read other people's work. I skim over any long bits of description until I can get back to what the characters are saying or doing.

Usually I can just go back during editing and fill in the "blank spots" in my stories, but sometimes I just get stuck. Recently I hit a part in one of my chapters where a couple of characters were arguing, but somewhere along the way I'd forgotten to add in any description and so the chapter dissolved into nothing but their dialogue. When I tried to go back and edit, I just stared at the screen. I couldn't think of any way to fill out the scene.

Luckily I've devised a solution that works for me every time. I take out a piece of paper (though I'm sure this could be done on the computer, too), and start making lists. Like "What does their surroundings look like?", "Any smells here?" "What kind of sounds would they hear?" And then I go on to questions like: "What is Character 1 feeling/thinking at this point?" "What does he/she WANT people to think he/she is feeling?" "What about Character 2?"

From this, I get a list of physical surroundings that I can start to weave into the narrative. But even better, I get a clearer idea of what's going on in a character's head. So, for example, if I found that a character was nervous about something but didn't want the other person to know, I could weave in details like "She tapped her fingers on her leg" or "She fiddled with her necklace again, but dropped it when she realized the motion was drawing too much attention to herself."

It seems like a simple thing, but it really helps me nail things down instead of trying to keep up with everything I need to remember in a scene.

Do you have the same problem with under-writing? Or do you normally over-write and have to cut? Or are you awesome and do it just right? (Tell me your secret!) Any similar tricks for working it all out?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Miscellaneous Frida- er... Sunday.

Sorry for the belated post. I blame my procrastination Blogger's downtime.

Well, I was pretty excited to be showing off the start of my new herb garden that I was so thrilled about last week.

It looked like this this morning:

Close up!

However, moments after taking these photos, I set the container down on a table and thought "Hmm. I'm hungry. I need lunch!" And as I was making myself a tasty grilled cheese sandwich, I heard a crash in the other room. I hurried in to see my new plants spatted on the floor, dirt everywhere, and my cat giving me a look like, "Dude, somebody totally knocked over your stuff and made a mess. I tried to stop him, but it was just too late."

I nearly cried.

I scooped up my tiny seedlings and tried to put them back as gently as possible, but I fear it is a lost cause for most of them. I do still have extra seeds, but I was so excited to finally be seeing some green, that this was just really disappointing.

I guess I'll give them a few days to see if they're going to bounce back. Somehow the catnip is the only thing that looks relatively unharmed. You'd almost think the cat planed it that way..

Got rid of the basil. Now she has more room for catnip!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Spoken Word

Sorry for a belated post this week. I spent Monday being lazy and uninspired and then Tuesday I left immediately after work to see Young Frakenstein the Musical, which was totally awesome and which also made me get back home at about 12:30 a.m. So I was a little too tired to be sure I was posting something coherent.

So! Onto my mostly coherent post!

I've discovered that I really enjoy hearing novels read aloud.

Not too long ago I listened to/watched Neil Gaiman read his book "The Graveyard Book" aloud at a series of taped book readings. (Which you can listen to here, if interested.) It was fabulous to hear his characters speak exactly how he imagined them (plus everything sounds better when read with an English accent, right?).

Then last year on the way home from a 11 hour or so drive from visiting out-of-state relatives, I got bored and started reading, A Game of Thrones aloud to my husband. I'd already read the book, so it was fun to hear my husband laugh or look surprised at the appropriate parts. After I lost my self-consciousness, I really got into it, trying to do different voices for the characters and speaking with their emotions. I got through about seven chapters in between breaks to rest my voice. I was almost disappointed when we reached home and I had to close the book

These past few months my friend and fellow YA author Shalena of Writer Quirk had been mentioning how she listened to books on her iPod frequently, and I decided to give it a try. I checked out "Jane Eyre" from my library's online selection and have been listening the last week and a half during every spare second. I've listened to it while running at the park, while cleaning my apartment, even for a little while after climbing into bed.

Hearing the words read aloud really seems to reveal the flow of a story and bring into focus the personality of the characters. I've found reading my own novel-in-progress aloud to be incredibly helpful in highlighting what's not quite working. I've found it also brings attention to words I use too often or other mistakes I'd never noticed before.

I still laugh over one particular error I found in my first attempt at a novel that has since been put in a drawer to wait until I think I can do it better justice. I must have read this certain passage a thousand times, but it wasn't until I'd read it aloud that I suddenly noticed I had a character drinking from a gauntlet instead of a goblet. I laughed until I cried at the mental picture of a knight drinking from a glove instead of a glass, and vowed I'd read everything of mine aloud at least once from then on so I would be sure to catch similar blunders.

I love the written word (I read almost anything set in front of me — pamphlets, business cards, ketchup packets...) but I'm starting to really appreciate the spoken word as well. I even read a few chapters from the sequel to A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, to my husband on the way to the theatre yesterday.

Maybe someday I'll get to read my own work to an audience. I'd probably be self-conscious at first, but I'm sure I'd get over it as I went on. I'd might even do the funny voices and everything.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Miscellaneous Friday!

Fridays are going to be my random day, when I post things that don't necessarily deal with writing. After all, authors do have something fun going on in their lives that doesn't deal with writing. Sometimes.

I took a day off this past Monday to take a break from the hectic pace of work and just have a day to do necessary yet often neglected tasks at my apartment like cleaning, doing laundry and buying food. ("No, I'm not making dinner tonight, dear. I'm too busy working on my novel. There's some slices of cheese in the fridge. Help yourself.")

Anyway, I went out to do some early morning shopping and had to pick this up.

There's basil, catnip and mint. Kind of a weird combination, but I'm still excited. I've never really tried growing things before. I mean, when I was a kid, I watched my mom grow amazing flowers like it was the easiest thing in the world, but aside from a a bamboo I recently killed on accident (hey, I'd had the thing for like a year and a half), I've never really tried growing anything.

So, I'm looking forward to seeing if I can grow these. So far they've been in the dirt for five days and I don't see as much as a hint of a sprout. I think my seeds may be defective.

Or maybe I'm just too impatient.
Or the world's worst gardener.
Or both.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Jumping in!

I had another blog before this, which I kept up for maybe three weeks before it piddled out into nothing. I got overwhelmed with trying to make it the Most Awesome and Incredible Thing Ever, that I psyched myself out.

I got discouraged because I couldn't think of anything to post that hadn't been done before (and probably done better). So, I quit and resigned myself to just reading other people's blogs.

But I keep getting this urge to want to join in the author blogging community. It looks fun here, and I want to play too!

I realized that I'm going to have to tackle this blog like I have to tackle my writing. Just start playing with words -- and though a lot of boring things will come out, sooner or later I'll find my groove and fun things will follow.

So, my blog may be a little scattered for a while as I figure out just what I'm doing here in the blogosphere, but at least I'm playing in the pool now and not sitting on the sidelines watching everybody else have fun without me!
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