Saturday, December 18, 2010

Revision Blues

THESE REVISIONS WILL BE THE DEATH OF ME!

If you're a new follower, you may not know the whole epic saga... basically, I had a phone call with an amazing literary agent and she loved my manuscript, but thought it needed more developing. She gave me lots to think about, and since every one of her editorial ideas was spot-on, I really want to please her. Of course, the improvements are what's best for the novel, too. I've been working on it for the past three months and today I'm hitting a rough spot.

Oh no, what if I don't weave in this teensy bit of information here? Does that through this other scene off-balance, into unbelievability territory? Does this POV character sound different enough from the other one? Will the whole thing suck if I don't find a place to develop this aspect of the character? *insert hair pulling and tears here*

I might just be nit-picking. The revisions I've done really are awesome, and all this stressing is just over throwing the manuscript into "phenomenal" territory. I really want her to read it again and think, "Whoa, this author hit it out of the park!"

Any tips? Anyone want to be a cheerleader?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book Blogger Hop!

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop is a meme hosted by Jen at Crazy for Books.

The question today is:

What do you consider most important in a story: the plot or the characters?

My answer: Definitely the characters! If the characters are lacking, the plot will be, too. Although you can't have a plotless book either. I define plot as "what happens to the characters," so basically as long as you have characters you're going to have plot... but I digress! Stellar characters are most important!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Books in 2010!

Everyone is doing a post like this, but I'm bored and procrastinating studying for my history exam tomorrow. I also just have a lot to say about the books I've read this year! I'm going to concentrate on books I read in 2010, not just books that were released this year. I got this survey from Audrey at holes in my brain.


BOOKS OF 2010


Best Book of 2010: Wow, might as well smack me over the head with this question. I read so many amazing books this year, and 2010 isn't over yet. But I'm going to go ahead and give it to ICE by Sarah Beth Durst. This book took me by storm and is now one of my absolute favourites. I'm so sad that it's not more well-known.

Worst Book of 2010: There were a few books I didn't read all the way through because they just didn't click with me, but the one that I did finish that I thought was bad was HUSH, HUSH by Becca Fitzpatrick. Even though it was written by a fellow Becca, the anti-feminism, pro-rape plot developments in this book were, I thought, just offensive.

Most Disappointing Book of 2010: I'm going to get some hate mail over this one, but - MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins.

Most Surprising (in a good way) Book of 2010: This one's a tie between PAPER TOWNS by John Green and THE LUXE by Anna Godbersen. I discovered John Green this year, and I was totally unprepared for how hilarious and deep this book was. As I wrote in my review of THE LUXE yesterday, I completely underestimated this book by passing it off as just an old-fashioned Gossip Girl. It was so much more!

Most Recommended-to-Others Book of 2010: As it has been for a few years now, I AM THE MESSENGER and THE BOOK THIEF, both by Markus Zusak. I'm constantly pushing these books all over the place, I should be credited as Markus Zusak's publicist!

Best Series Discovered in 2010: Oooh... probably The Agency series by Y. S. Lee. They're so fresh and exciting, and have helped rekindle my love of mysteries. I literally shed a few tears last night when I found out the next one won't be out until 2012. 20-freaking-12!!!

Favourite New Authors Discovered in 2010: Perhaps Kody Keplinger, of THE DUFF fame. I think she's going to continue being a fixture on the YA lit scene for a long time. John Green, too. Anna Godbersen. Lauren Oliver. So many.

Most Hilarious Read of 2010: HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins. So very funny, and totally original!

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book of 2010: THE CHOSEN ONE by Carol Lynch Williams. I read it in a few hours, could NOT put it down.

Most Anticipated Book of 2010: MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins and ASCENDANT by Diana Peterfreund.

Favourite Cover of a Book read in 2010: Probably the cover of David Levithan's LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW, even though it makes me really sad to look at.

Most Memorable Character of 2010: For me it was Margo Roth Speigelman of PAPER TOWNS. I've never wanted to be a fictional character so bad!

Most Beautifully-Written Book of 2010: Wow. ICE. LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW. THE CHOSEN ONE. Take your pick. All of those were so beautiful it almost hurt to read.

Book that had the Greatest Impact on you in 2010: Again, wow. PAPER TOWNS perfectly captured some of the feelings I had about my graduation, and that really put things in perspective.

Book you can't believe you waited until 2010 to read: Haha! THE LUXE, hands-down! I can't believe I'd ever turned my nose up at it before.


There we have it! But 2010 isn't over yet, I still have plenty of books in my TBR pile that may change the above answers! ;)

Sometimes I'm not so good with the words...

My sister, Grace, is 12 years old and a fellow YA lit lover. I pass on everything I read to her, and often we'll sit on my bed late into the night and talk about books. Last night, after a particularly lively discussion about what might happen in Rachel Hawkins' upcoming DEMONGLASS, the following conversation took place:

Grace: Wow, we're nerds.

Me: Yeah, but better that than... lying outside. On the ground.

Grace: ...what?!

Me: I dunno, I was just trying to think of something worse than being a nerd.

Grace: And you came up with that?! You're a writer!

Me: Aww... writer fail.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thoughts on The Luxe

Yesterday I finished reading THE LUXE by Anna Godbersen. This book has been out for a while, I think it was published in 2007, and I'd seen it around on book store shelves but was always hesitant to pick it up. It was the cover - almost too beautiful. It had to be disguising an awful book, right?

Or so I thought. Last month I caved and bought the book to read while supervising my little sister's birthday party. I read the prologue and first chapter, and then set it down. I read it casually, here and there, for a few weeks until really getting into it last week.

And OMG. What a ride.
The adage "don't judge a book by its cover" goes both ways. Just because a book has the most gorgeous cover ever, don't assume it's only there to cover up a sloppy, awful book! Sometimes good books get amazing covers, too!

I was completely sucked in. THE LUXE is about two high-society sisters in turn-of-the-century Manhattan, Elizabeth and Diana Holland, who rule the social scene. Their father has recently passed away, and it's becoming ever more clear that to save their family financially, Elizabeth has to make a good marriage. The pressure is on.

I don't want to say much more than that - there's a lot I could spoil very easily. There's so much drama (New York rich girls, hello?), the tension makes the book impossible to put down. I'll admit that I wasn't really sold on it in the first quarter of the book, but let me say that this: once you make it 1/3 of the way in, THE LUXE will not let you go!!!

The characters are what make it so amazing. Writers and readers are always harping on about how the characters are the most essential component of a novel, yadda yadda, and I agree with them, but I never really got it until this book. The five main characters, Elizabeth, Diana, Penelope, Henry and Lina, are so incredible real. I loved all of them, but that's not to say they don't have flaws. They have huge flaws, but are unbelievably loveable because of those flaws. I feel the same way about these characters that I feel about my best friend - I don't like how she obsesses over her boyfriend and is never punctual, but I love her anyway. These characters lie, cheat, keep terrible secrets, but I love them because they're so real.

I care so deeply about what happens to them that I rushed out and bought the second book, RUMORS, yesterday... and I'm almost halfway through now. Why didn't I buy books 3 and 4, too?! How could I have been so stupid?!

I also have Anna Godbersen's brand new novel, BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS, in my TBR pile, and I'm so, so much more excited for it now!

5/5, for shizz.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Songs on Saturday (6)

This week's song is a blast from the past. I've been listening to it basically since it came out in 1998, hearing it on the radio even now. But just recently I've noticed how profound it is, how much hope and solace are in that chorus.




It's been on repeat for me this week, and it corresponds so perfectly with the wistful, sad-but-hopeful ending I've been revising in my manuscript.

What songs have you been listening to on repeat this week?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Teaser Tuesday!

Being absorbed in my revisions and unable to think of doing anything else, I decided to do a Teaser Tuesday for ya. I haven't done one in many moons!

This is from FAKE. So, in this excerpt, main character Jen's older sister Carrie is back from being a missionary in India. Since Carrie's been gone, Jen has realized that she is transsexual. She told her younger brother, John, this and was promptly disowned by him, so she's hesitating about telling her secret to her favourite sister.



“It’s so good to be home,” she says. “I missed you so much.”


We collapse in a heap on my bed, and rest in silence for a moment. I smile, breathing in her delicious Carrie-ness.


“I missed you, too,” I whisper. “How was the mission?”


“Fine,” she sighs, her eyes closed. “India is amazing, Jen, but I’m exhausted.”


We lay there, just listening to each other breathe. I’m so, so happy she’s here. I can’t take the smile off my face. Finally Carrie sits up, cross-legged.


“Tell me everything that’s happened since I left!”


I open my mouth but the words are like lead in my mouth. Not lead -- more like rusted iron keys. The big old-fashioned kind. And my heavy heart is the lock, and if I explain myself to her, give her the keys, she’ll open me up. I can’t do that. Not yet.


Remember what happened with John.


“You go first,” I say. “Dad sent you away because he caught you kissing a guy?”


“Oh, yeah.” She laughs, sweeping her voluminous hair over her shoulder. “It was kind of random. He was Marianne Helmsley’s cousin, just in town for a week, and we hit it off. Sucks that Dad caught us.”


Whoa, info-dump. I blink.


“So, you’re seeing this guy?”


“No way. I haven’t seen him since then. But there was this guy I met in India. He was also a missionary. But he’s Mormon.”


“Dad is going to murder you, you know that, right?”


“Well, not murder.”


“Near-fatal wounds, at the very least.”


She shrugs, leaning back against my pillows.


“I don’t really care,” she says. “It’s just for fun. Anyways, what have you been up to?”


Again, the rusted keys pile up behind my teeth. I can almost feel them clanging and bashing up against each other. I swallow hard, tasting blood.


“Nothing.”


“Pfft, yeah right! Look at your face! You’ve got a secret!”


That teasing tone has crept into her voice, just like when we were little. I wipe my face of all emotion and fake my innocence.


“No, seriously, nothing. Just the usual. School and stuff. Being violated by cameras in my own house. The usual.”


She narrows her eyes in suspicion, but she grins. I’m off the hook for now.


“Okay, whatever,” Carrie says. “Do you want to go have fun, then? Do something crazy?”


I drown in relief. Once an idea has taken over Carrie’s head, she’ll be distracted for a while.


Just for a while.

Monday, December 6, 2010

First Line Battle!

After the cover and jacket blurb, the first thing we encounter with a book is the first line. Not all first lines are created equal - there are almost as many ways to start a story as there are stories to tell! So, because I was bored, I decided to grab two random books out of my gigantic TBR pile, read the first lines, and compare them. The reason I'm comparing the first lines of two books I have not yet read is so the judging is totally blind and I know nothing of the story other than the line I've read.



Competitor #1: Jane by April Lindner

Jacket copy: Forced to drop out an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.

But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing revelation from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?

First line: "The chairs in the lobby of Discriminating Nannies, Inc., were less comfortable than they looked."

My reaction: Modern take on Jane Eyre? I am so there. No bells and whistles in this first sentence, but it sets the scene. You can pretty much picture exactly where the main character is, what she's doing (shifting around in the chair, trying to get comfortable?) and why she's there, all in one neat, tidy little sentence. When I first read it I thought it was lack-lustre. Nothing fancy happening, no shocking proclamations or anything. But after a little more thought... this is actually pretty genius for what it accomplishes in such few words.




Jacket copy: Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Gray escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star...

Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined - and more dangerous. It's a life anyone would kill for... and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie. But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls' fortunes will rise and fall - together and apart.

First line: "It is easy to forget now, how effervescent and free we all felt that summer."

My reaction: Wow, is that line ever classy! For me it conjures an image of some beautiful woman, smoking a cigarette glamourously and telling us this scandalous story. That's my favourite thing about it, the retrospection of it. You can tell that this story will be told by someone who was a participant in the events, and that they are looking back on these events now with a lot more insight than they had at the time. This will (probably) set the tone for the way the whole story will be told. I love the word "effervescent," too. That word might feel really out-of-place in a lot of YA novels, but it totally fits the mood, tone, and time period of this book.


The winner: Bright Young Things

Although I love the instant setting Jane's first line gave us, I'm afraid I'm a sucker for the more intricate language and sophisticated tone of the first line of Bright Young Things. I'm still really excited to read both of these books, and will definitely be posted reviews when I've finished!

Friday, December 3, 2010

5 books that changed my life

Everybody has favourite books. Personally, I have hundreds of favourites. But then there are those books that are above and beyond the scope of the word "favourite." Those books that changed your life.

These are those books for me.

1. Harry Potter
Duh. But seriously, from my very first reading of the first book, I was transformed. I can't even begin to explain how - I can barely remember the years I spent without this book. Not only was I swept up in the amazing story and characters for a good 10+ years of my life, but I also found out what it felt like to be completely immersed in a world that somebody had written. I've never wanted to be a part of something so much as I've wanted to be a part of J. K. Rowling's world.

2. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Inkheart confirmed what I had already believed my whole life: stories are a form of magic all on their own. This is a totally original book that inspired me to devoted my life to storytelling.

3. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Besides being an utterly sweet and heart-wrenching romance, Boy Meets Boy presented me with another world I wanted to be a part of: a world where everyone was accepted and loved. This really spoke to my 14-year-old oddball self. This is one of the books that made me want to write.

4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The first adult book to make this list! I read this when I was 17 and obsessed with superheroes. The characters are so human it's hard to believe that this isn't a biography. I loved how Sam Clay and Joe Kavalier's struggle for their American Dream wasn't glossed over - it was hard as hell for them to climb the ladder from poverty to affluence, from obscurity to comic book creator legends. I also loved the epic scope of this book, taking Sam and Joe from age 18 to well into their 30s. I think their long, hard struggle spoke to me on a writerly level - everyone feels like they're talentless hacks sometimes, even Sam and Joe, and they ended up at the top.

5. Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery
L. M. Montgomery is better known for Anne of Green Gables, which I was never able to get into. But Emily - wow. Obsession. I discovered this book when I was 8 (same age as HP... this was a crucial literary year!). My best friend was reading it, and I was a bit of a follower so I picked it up too. WOW! The story of a poor little orphan writer girl really, really got to me. I was her age! I was a writer too! I was Emily! This is the first book series I ever read that had a romance in it, and I was hooked. I read that midnight kissing-in-the-graveyard scene over and over again. Over the course of three books, Emily goes from an 8 year old orphan to an 18 year old published novelist, and I was convinced that was going to be my path, too. It was after reading this book that I really started to write, and really picked that as my "destiny." I was so dramatic.

There you have it! These books are all highly, highly recommended.

And now, I want to know what books changed YOUR life!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Literary Debate of the Century (so far)

Today on Nathan Bransford's blog, his You Tell Me feature is taking on the debate of our generation: ebooks versus paper books.

Where am I in this debate? Firmly on the side of paper books, and I'll tell you why.

Paper books have been around for a very, very long time. They're one of the only things I can think of that have carried over from the Medieval Ages and earlier with barely a change at all. They are timeless. They smell incredibly good, and they can be oh-so-beautiful. For my high school graduation, my carpenter father made me two six-foot-tall bookshelves, stained to a rich, dark colour, and they are the central feature in my tiny bedroom (to my chagrin, they are almost full already - I foresee having to give away a lot of books soon...). These bookshelves, and the books in them, are without a doubt my most prized possessions.

I buy paper books (and a lot of them!) for more reasons than just the love of reading. For one, I love how they look on my shelves. The random heights and colours of the spines, the way I can stand in front of the shelves and look and them and think of the memories each book gave me. I also love how anyone who comes in my room and sees the shelves, and the piles of books stacked on my desk and floor and bed and chair, can see just how big a part of my life these books are. My friends, too, know they can come over any time and I'll be sure to have something they can borrow that they'll love. I'm like the book matchmaker.

There's also the sheer emotional connection you can make with a paper book. I have so many books that I just physically love, with their fancy-edged pages, gorgeous covers, and interesting textures. I am content to just look at some of these books for ages, just feeling them and flipping pages and just being with them. I probably sound kind of crazy but I don't care. Often these books just make me feel better.

You can't do that with ebooks. While I understand the argument that ebook readers save a ton of space, in my mind the space my books take up is well-used. I feel comfortable being surrounded by tons of books; if I didn't have books, what would my room look like? It would be cold and empty. I couldn't make that emotional connection with an ebook reader, either. Technology can never be as cozy and comforting as something real (I love my computer, don't get me wrong, but I do not see it as a friend the way I see my battered old copies of the Harry Potter series).

I know that a lot of people love their ebook readers, and I'm not knocking them for it. If it works for them, great. They'll probably have a much easier time adjusting to our increasingly digital world than I will. As much as I've embraced downloaded music and rarely buy CDs anymore, I just can't let technology consume my reading.

Paper books are holy, and I just can't let them go.

Where do you stand on the debate between paper and digital?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Was it good for you, NaNo? 'Cause it was good for me!

I just won NaNoWriMo 2010.

:D

I never had any doubts about this. (Well, maybe a few on the days I skipped writing because I was annoyed with the main character and the monotony of some of the story, but we'll just pretend those days didn't happen.)

I'm so happy to be able to call myself a third-time winner... but I decided I hate this novel and want to bury it in a drawer and never see it again. And that is okay. Even if I never put it through revisions and put it on submission, and even if no one else in the world ever reads it, it was still really good practice for everything else I will go on to write.

And now I can go back to my revisions of FAKE!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Music time!

KT posted this little iTunes shuffle game and I just love doing stuff like this :)

Open your iTunes. Turn it on shuffle. And write down the first 15 songs that come up.

I'm cheating a bit, because there are definitely songs on my iTunes that I hate/don't care about/don't want to share with you guys! And KT said it's okay to cheat!

Here's my random 15:

1. A Little Piece - The Jezabels
I discovered this song last week when it was on the soundtrack for this amazing video. It has a larger-than-life sound, perfect for what I've been writing this week.

2. The Old Apartment - The Barenaked Ladies
I love, love, love The Barenaked Ladies. They have such an iconic sound, and all of their songs are so evocative of Vancouver, my home city. Anytime I hear their music on the radio it reminds me of home. "The Old Apartment" is especially like that, totally has that Vancouver sound. Also, it reminds me of my own feelings for the place I used to live - I really wish I could break in and see what the new people did with it, even though I know it would make me really sad. But yeah, this song totally has that rainy city feeling.

3. Oh Comely - Neutral Milk Hotel
Oh, crap. This song had to come up, didn't it? Neutral Milk Hotel is fantastic, very unconventional and strange but I could (and have) listened to their album In An Aeroplane Over the Sea on repeat. "Oh Comely" is haunting, slightly disturbing song. Don't quote me on this, but I'm quite sure it's about Anne Frank. That's what I imagine it's about, anyway. But it's totally haunting and powerful when that's the context you use to think about it. My favourite line, and probably the creepiest, is "50 years later I wish I could save her in some kind of time machine."

4. Into Your Arms - The Maine
This song is a complete 180 from "Oh Comely" - it's bubbly and fun and romantic and doesn't take a lot of thinking about. Still pretty and nice though. Actually very good to write to. Plus the guys in the band are gorgeous!

5. Air Dry - Teddy Geiger
One of my favourite songs from one of my favourite artists! Teddy kind of fell of the edge of the earth, I think he was supposed to have another album out but it kept getting pushed back or something - but his first album is still perfectly great to listen to. This particular song is underrated and adorable!

6. I Woke Up In A Car - Something Corporate
Favourite band ever. Not my ultimate favourite song by them, but it's a good introduction to them.

7. Tell 'Em - Sleigh Bells
Totally random electronic/rock. I actually really like it though. Super fun to drive around town to!

8. Kiss Me When You Come Home - Hanson
Other favourite band ever. This is off their newest album, Shout It Out, and it mixes piano and gospel choir-esque harmonies with rock. Loooove.

9. 1984 - Anaïs Mitchell
Creepy, creepy, creepy George Orwell-inspired song by an under-appreciated singer-songwriter. She opened for one of my favourite artists when I saw her last year, and Anaïs stole the show!

10. Could I Be Your Girl - Jann Arden
Love me some 90s girl rock. This song is the best.

11. Only Ashes - Something Corporate
My favourite thing about Something Corporate is that they can be rebellious punks on one song ("If U C Jordan") and they can sing melancholy, heart-wrenching rock ballads like "Only Ashes."

12. A Journey to the Past - Anastasia Soundtrack
I adore animated movie soundtracks, and this song is particularly beautiful.

13. Beauty in the Breakdown - The Scene Aesthetic
If FAKE were a movie, this song would definitely be on the soundtrack. As it is it's featured prominently on the FAKE playlist in my iTunes. I love the singer's voice. So emo but so gorgeous.

14. Musical Ride - Hanson
Another Hanson song off the new album. When I saw them live in September they said they wrote this song for the people who had supported and loved their music since the beginning, so I can't help but feel that I have some ownership in this song.

15. As Long As You Love Me - The Backstreet Boys
1990s pop FTW!


And there you have it! :) This was fun. Thanks to KT for the idea!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thoughts on TRICKS

I LOVE Ellen Hopkins. I love how she is completely fearless. Not at all afraid to write about the ugly stuff, whether it's sex, violence, drugs, incest, she's written about it all, completely unapologetic. She knows that this stuff happens in real life, and that no good will come of covering it up and pretending it's not there. Any time there is any controversy over her books (like earlier this year when her invitation to a book event in Texas was revoked) my heart breaks for her and the readers that censors are depriving of her books.

As well as being fearless in the topics she chooses to write about, Ellen Hopkins is also not afraid to experiment with the way she tells her stories. Her novels-in-verse are groundbreaking in both the stories they tell and they way they tell them. She's made the YA novel-in-verse what it is today.

Tricks, which was released last year, is about five teenagers who fall from grace in various ways and all end up as teenage prostitutes. Eden ran away from her controlling religious family. Whitney was lured away from her upper-class family by a manipulative older man. Ginger, the daughter of a prostitute, ran away after being raped by one of her mom's johns. Seth leaves his conservative Indiana home and becomes a kept boy for a rich older man. Last but not least, Cody turns to drugs and prostitution after his stepfather's death to support a gambling addiction. At first each teen's story is isolated, but they start to weave together and overlap at the end.

The characters were, for the most part, very three-dimensional, but I found that they started to blur together. I had trouble keeping Ginger and Whitney separate in my mind. Five POV characters is a lot, and it's commendable that Hopkins was able to do it as well as she did. Their stories were extremely realistic, in a heartbreaking way. At times the downward spirals of the characters were predictable, but I think that's what made it so sad. You really started to like the characters in the beginning, and when they started to slip into drugs and promiscuous sex, it really breaks your heart.

Although I still like Burned better, Tricks was a great read and I really recommend it to readers that aren't put off by drugs, sex and violence. Since I really like all those things in a book, Ellen Hopkins gets my support 100%!

4.5/5

Monday, November 22, 2010

Welcome back, Sanity. I missed you.

Last night I finished the last of my term papers. Yay! Now I just have some homework, a quiz and a final portfolio to do before my two exams and then term is over. Wow, it feels like term just freaking started. Not complaining, though.

So hopefully I will have a lot more time for reading in the coming weeks, and returning to my revision of FAKE.

In other news, I was a few thousand words behind in NaNo, but last night I managed to catch up! I hit the 35,000 word mark around midnight. I love hitting 35k - it's almost as satisfying as 50k. The end is in sight! Except not really, because I still have no idea how the story's going to end.

I'm sure it'll all turn out all right. Anyway, soon the pressure of school will let out and I'll be blogging more. I'm really looking forward to diving into my big TBR pile and posting some reviews :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Deathly Hallows, Part I

Yes, it's almost 3am. Yes, I just got back from Deathly Hallows part I.

Yes, it was amazing.

The next few months are going to be torture.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Halfway Through November

It's November 15th, and that means I'll be hitting the 25,000 word mark sometime today. It also means my term papers are coming up due this week (I should probably start those...)

But anyway, on a more silly and fun note, my query is on Evil Editor today!

I've done this a few times, and the minions never fails to give some great insight. I'm usually so close to my story that I can't see the forest for the trees, and hearing what the minions think about my query and my general idea really helps. Go check it out if you want to see what I'm writing about. It's for How To Be Ruthless, the WIP that's on pause for NaNo but I'll be working on again once December hits.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Leah Clifford's amazing contest!

Leah Clifford, one of the YA Rebels and author of A Touch Mortal (coming out in Feb 2011), is having an amazing, unique contest on her vlog this week.

What you have to do to enter: suggest a boy's name for her to use in the sequel to A Touch Mortal and tote it all over the internet.

What you can win: a signed ARC of A Touch Mortal, your suggested name used in its sequel, AND Leah will include your name in the acknowledgements of the sequel!

Isn't this awesome? What are you waiting for, go enter!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNoWriMo, Day 9

The past few days I fell behind, and this morning I calculated that I needed to write 2,946 words to catch up to the goal.

I was discouraged, but promised myself that after every block of 500 words, I could eat an Oreo.

Guess what? I hit the goal. My word count is now 15,012, well into the awkward teens. Actually, halfway through the teens.

This bodes well. I'm completely rejuvenated and back on track! :)

Although I'm also enormously stressed. I have two major essays due soon, one next Thursday and one the Monday after that. And I haven't started either one. I usually thrive when I have to work last-minute, but I think my sanity is starting to erode.

I wish I wasn't so good at procrastinating!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Yay, blog award!



KT gave me the Honest Scrap award! Thanks, KT! I'm very honoured :) So now apparently I'm supposed to share ten facts about myself. This will be fun!

1. I love Hanson. Yes, the band of long-haired blonde brothers from the 90s. I first became a fan when I was seven years old, and last month I saw them in concert and realized my childhood dreams. Have you heard their latest stuff?! Amazing.

2. I wrote my first novel at 13. It was a thinly-veiled School of Rock fanfiction. I also wrote a lot of Harry Potter fanfic. Who didn't?

3. I'm terrible at poetry, which is bad because I have to write a lot of it for my creative writing classes.

4. Despite being thoroughly not-Catholic, Catholicism is one of my biggest interests. Go figure.

5. I drive a 1999 Saturn SL that kind of sucks but I love it anyway.

6. I don't want to move out. I love my parents too much.

7. I loooove silly words. Especially IKEA brand names. Like I love how this lint roller here is called a Bästis.

8. I've read all of Jane Austen's novels.

9. I don't like ice cream. It's too cold on my sensitive teeth.

10. My favourite TV show of all time is Friends.

Woohoo! Aaaaand now I get to give the award to other people! And I pick:




Yayy!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaNoWriMo, Day 4

I was originally hoping to do a daily post on NaNoWriMo, but that's proving difficult. School is amping up and it's all I can do to stay on top of everything!
That being said, I'm making sure NaNo is a priority. I love it that much. I don't want it to suffer just because of some lame schoolwork. Seriously, if there's one thing I'll willingly cut to make time for writing, it's my social life. Luckily I have understanding friends.

It's going pretty well. I was a day ahead but it caught up to me today, when I didn't have much time to write. I'm just getting to an important part - the first mermaid sighting!

Oh, by the way, I'm writing about a lesbian who meets a mermaid. It's called AN ELEGANT NOISE, and that's all I really know about the plot so far :)

So far, though, loving it. NaNo rocks.

Monday, November 1, 2010

And they're off!

So it's November 1st, and you know what that means!

I only just got home from school (where I managed to rack up 300 words during class), so NaNoWriMo begins for me... now.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Accuracy: Does Fiction Need It?

I'm struggling with one simple little problem at this current stage in my edits. This is where I'm combing through, looking for stylistic and voice problems, but I'm also looking for... accuracy.

Dum, dum, duuuum!

Yeah, it's scary. I mean, it's fiction. By definition it isn't gospel truth. But in contemporary YA, it should reflect the real world, for the most part, as it is. My novel, FAKE, takes place somewhere I have never been to. The character's family is of a religion I do not belong to. And while I know enough about both the location and the religion to write pretty confidently and truthfully, I do not know certain, very specific details.

Google is my friend.

But where does "research" cross a line into utter time-wasting distraction? Is it really vitally important that every speck of the story be grounded in absolute truth, or is it okay to take a few liberties? I'm obviously trying to depict the religion as sensitively as possible, and I'm trying not to cast it in a totally negative light (there's a lot about this religion I respect), but when the story is about religion-gone-wrong, is it okay to write it the way it needs to be written? Should I really worry about offending an entire group of people? Do I care whether or not the book is banned?

My heart tells me no, I shouldn't worry about offending people, and no, I shouldn't give a damn if they want to ban it. But my head tells me it's a valid worry and to get all the facts right that I can.

What do you think? Does anybody else write about controversial topics and worry about censorship, or just plain getting stuff wrong?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Becca's Tips for Conquering NaNoWriMo!

I've been wanting to do a post on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated) for a while now, but lately a carpal-tunnel, muscle-spasmy thing has been happening in my right hand and writing/typing has been really hard. Luckily it feels a little better today and I am going to make the best of it!

So... NaNoWriMo. If you're a participate, most likely you're a rabid fan and you laud its amazingness to all your friends and violently urge them to join you. If you're one of these friends, you probably think it's totally crazy. Writing a novel in a month, pssh! Can't be done!

Well, it can. The thousands of people who complete the 50,000 word challenge everywhere are a testament. My favourite thing about NaNo is that it turns wannabe writers into real writers. I know so many people that say they envy me because I "have the time" to sit down and write all these books, and I just want to shout at them, "TRY NANO." Seriously, all the time you need to write a book is an hour a day. If you sit your butt down and write for a whole hour, you can make the 1,667 words, and if you do it every day you'll have a whole novel in 30 days. Really, it's not that hard!

With that said, it's not that easy, either. I have a few tried-and-true tricks I've used to help me win NaNo the past two years.

1. Just sit there and freaking write. I can't stress this enough. Don't type a sentence, then go back and delete a word, then contemplate the theme and meaning of said sentence. You will get nowhere if you take it phrase-by-phrase, trying to craft a work of art. Seriously - your novel will not be a work of art the first time around. It will be an absolute shambles. The sooner you can accept it, the better.

Just write. Write the first thing that comes into your head, and then build on it. It's the equivalent of a band jamming together, just riffing on each others' sounds. Learn to riff with yourself.

Besides, there's always December for your editing.

2. Use Write or Die. Dr Wicked's Write or Die is a godsend. It's the kick-in-the-pants you need if you just can't concentrate. Set your goal relatively low (that way you really feel like you're accomplishing something when you make the goal!), and set the time pretty high. Then just write, as fast as you freakin' can. You'll be amazed at the amount of material you'll be able to pound out when a clock is counting down on you.

For maximum effectiveness you can pretend a bomb will go off if you don't get to 500 words.

3. Try really hard to pound out a beginning, middle, and end. This is really important, and something I failed on the past two years. I wrote two superhero sci-fi epics, and both times I got to 50,000 words without reaching the end of the story. Both of these novels I went on to finish in December, but at a much slower pace and while having much less fun than I did in November.

Even if it cuts out giant chunks of your story, try to finish the novel. The goal is for your final two words to be 'The End.' I'm going to be working hard on this one.

4. Start a brand-new novel on November 1st. Don't bring an idea you've been building up in your head for months - or years. Don't bring a half-finished manuscript you've been wrestling with. These are against the rules, and if you commit those crimes rabid monkeys will come after you.

Bring something completely new to the table. Or don't bring any ideas! You could start with one character, one inciting event, and start off into the Great Noveling Beyond with not a clue where it's going.

Closely related to that...

5. Have fun. Write something that excites you. Write something that ignites passion, something that brings a manic smile to your face. Something that you just can't wait to share with the world.

Whether or not you're participating in NaNoWriMo, stay passionate. Good writing can come later.

Monday, October 18, 2010

This Post is About Race

I hope I've articulated all this correctly and not offended anybody...

Today in my Contemporary Women's Literature class we discussed Toni Morrison's story "Recitatif." It's the kind of story I'm not very good at reading -- it's very literary, doesn't have a linear plot line, and it's full of obscure symbolism and literary devices you study in English classes.

When I read it by myself this week, I wasn't really sure what to make of it. I was a little confused, but discussing it in class made a world of difference, and it made me start thinking about the issue of race in fiction.

In "Recitatif," two young girls, Twyla and Roberta, meet in a kind of orphanage, and then again ten years later, and they basically have an encounter every ten years after that. One of the girls is African-American and the other is caucasian, and there are a lot of racial tensions between them that affect the way they see the world.

The thing is, though, that we don't know which girl is black and which is white.

There are hints dropped all over the place, but they are very contradictory. On the second page Twyla refers to Roberta's enormous hair -- could this mean that she has big, curly, African-American hair? Or could it just be that she has a perm, since it takes place in the 70s? Later on, the two women are picketing on either side of a debate related to segregation in schools, but we don't know who is on which side! We don't know who is opposing segregation and who is supporting it; all we get is the way the women interact from either side of the issue.

It's really a remarkable story. ANYWAY, the point of this post was something that my prof brought up: since we get a contradictory physical description of both Twyla and Roberta, so we don't know who looks like what, what does that show us about the way people of different races are depicted in fiction?

In my experience, and this happens often in YA, if the main character isn't specifically described as belonging to a certain ethnicity, he/she is assumed to be white. If the description we get of our female lead character is that she has dark hair and dark eyes, couldn't she technically be African-American, or Asian, or Hispanic, or European, or Black Irish, or anything? And if she is supposed to be a certain ethnicity, it's mentioned right away, using semi-offensive terms like "coffee-coloured skin" or something. She's labelled right away as being THIS type of person.

This is really making me think about how my own writing could be more diverse and inclusionary. But at the same time, I don't want to make it so multicultural that it's unrealistic!

It's a slippery slope. But I'd definitely like to fill my novels with lots of different types of people. Isn't variety the spice of life?

Friday, October 15, 2010

I'm Wide Awake, It's Friday

Happy Friday, everybody! Except that Friday actually heralds the beginning of my work week, so I'm actually in for a weekend not of relaxation but of torture...

Anyways, I've been working on my revision almost all day so far, from the time I got out of the shower at 9:30 to about an hour ago at 1:00. I'm pretty happy about where it's going - the agent that gave me all the edit notes totally, absolutely understands the story. It's incredible how much stronger the changes she suggested are making the novel.

The only thing I'm struggling with today is trying to take it one thing at a time. As I'm working, I keeping finding myself thinking about scenes coming up, or scenes I've already read through, and it's wrecking my concentration. I really have to make an effort to focus and remind myself that those scenes I find myself obsessing over will still be there when I'm done editing the current scene!

Also, today I started reading Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund, which I've been waiting to read since last year! Today is a good, good day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

First Person vs. Third Person

Most novels, YA and otherwise, can be divided into two groups: those written in third person, and those written in first. I'll talk primarily about YA in this post, but it applies to adult novels as well.

Third person, in case you need a quick brush-up, is when books are narrated like this:

"Sally ran up the stairs. Her heart was pounding as she threw open the door."

First person is when it's narrated like this:

"I ran up the stairs. My heart was pounding as I threw open the door."

We see both styles all the time, but I think that third person POV is more common in the literature world at large. First person is common in YA, but used less frequently in adult novels, I find.

So... which is better?

I'm going to make my case for first person.

In first person narration, we experience the story right along with the narrator, who is almost always the main protagonist. When they see something, we see it. More importantly, when they feel something, we feel it right along with them.

This allows us a more intimate view of the story, and a closer relationship with the protagonist. In YA novels, this is important. The main reason *I* read fiction is to develop close friendships with characters. Even if they're fictional people, their feelings and experiences make me feel less alone in what I feel and experience. When I read a book in first person and spend a lot of time in the head of a character I really connect with, everything in the book just comes to life and reading is fun as hell.

Third person, however, creates a greater distance between the character and the reader. This is tremendously important in some genres (for instance, I'm reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo right now and the third person POV is fantastic), but I don't think it works in most YA novels. I think the thing that makes a lot of YA shine is unique character voices, whether it's sarcastic and blasé or erratic and hilarious, and third person takes away the opportunity for the development of fantastic character voices.

Unless you're trying to create that distance from the character, which can work if you're going for a literary feel to the novel, you're better off using first person POV in YA so we can achieve those close friendships with the narrator.

That's my $0.02. What do YOU think?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

How do you make character voices distinct?

So I'm deep in the trenches of my agent-requested revision.

One of the main things said agent wants to see in this revision is my second viewpoint character, Orlando, to appear much earlier in the narrative. She basically wanted to see much more of Orlando, as he's a pretty interesting character (paraplegic, wheelchair-bound gay boy, anyone?).

In the original version of FAKE, Orlando appeared about halfway through the narrative, in epistolary chunks. Journal entries, emails from him to the MC Jen, stuff like that. But what the agent wants is for him to have his own chapters right from the beginning, his own story arc right alongside Jen's.

So I've ditched the epistolary thing and I'm now writing new first-person POV chapters for him right from the beginning.

But the hard thing about this revision, so far, is trying to make Jen and Orlando's voices different. Before it was easy. Jen was first-person present tense, Orlando was writing in a journal. Very easy to distinguish who was speaking when you started reading a chapter. But now, when they're both first-person, how do I make them sound different?

I have basic things. For example, Jen is more pessimistic, swears more, uses more sentence fragments. Orlando is usually bright and sunny, and he categorizes a lot of things in threes (makes lists of pretty much everything). But other than that, I'm having a hard time developing a "voice" for him. Should he use less description? Be less "poetic"? Should I have distinctive chapter headings, like Chapter One: Jen, or is that too obvious?

I think I might be profoundly overthinking this.

What do you guys think I should do? I need heeeeelllppp!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Songs on Saturday (5)

This week's song comes from A Rocket To The Moon, a band I recently discovered. They opened for Hanson (yes, that Hanson) when I saw them last week, and I've just been unable to get this song out of my head since I heard them perform it.




It's just so catchy! And pretty! And cutesy! And that makes it a perfect song for writing contemporary slightly-romance-y YA. I'm using this song to help me write a few scenes I'm writing for my revision (that weren't in the first draft... yeah, the revision is kinda like that), wherein we have some lovely unrequited love and that's basically what I feel this song's about. It's also kind of emo, and my scenes are all about two emo boys, so all the more perfect!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thoughts on The Chosen One

Yesterday I finished reading a book. So, having some more time on my hands, I grabbed another one from my TBR pile - The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams. I started it, not expecting to totally fall in love with it. But that's what I did.

The Chosen One is about a fourteen-year-old girl, Kyra, who lives in a polygamist cult compound with her father, mother, her father's two other wives, and her twenty siblings. Basically the inciting event of the novel is when the leader of the compound, Prophet Childs, tells Kyra that God has shown him a vision, and that Kyra must marry her sixty-year-old uncle Hyrum.

Yeeeeah, this book is pretty intense.

Carol Lynch Williams' writing is AMAZING. I recently read her newest novel, Glimpse, which is a verse novel that I really loved and that's the reason I picked this one up. I was expecting The Chosen One to also be a verse novel. It isn't, but Williams' writing style and Kyra's voice are so poetic and so deeply descriptive that they sometimes break the mould of traditional narrative and turn into short bursts of raw crazy poetry.

This book was so engaging, so emotional and suspenseful that I finished it in a couple hours. I haven't done this in a very, very long time.

This book is absolutely amazing, I just want to lend it to everyone I know!

5/5, easily!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Writing Sleek Sentences

I'm a college student majoring in Creative Writing, and as such, I see a lot of grammar stuff. A lot of bad grammar stuff that makes my head hurt. Some of my fellow students (and not just in writing classes, in every kind of class) write really bloated sentences with lots of thrown-in adjectives and adverbs to add description. But let me tell you...

adjectives + adverbs + extra words good description!

A lot of people also tend to beef up their sentences with extra words that mean nothing in an attempt to sound important or smart.

I'm no English teacher. I've been known to write many a clunky sentence. But I've also fixed a lot of my own mistakes, so maybe I can help you to write sleek sentences.

Let's have an example of that adjective-heavy kind of writing I mentioned above.

[talking about apple trees] Their usually crisp red fruit and radiant green leaves no longer hold their glory.

This is really pretty. You can totally visually picture it, can't you? But... I think the most beautiful part of that sentence is the "no longer hold their glory" part. By saying that the fruit is "crisp" and "red" and that the leaves are "radiant" and "green" and THEN to say that they actually aren't those things right now, I think is misleading.

My correction: The dead fruit and leaves no longer hold their glory.

By cutting out the extra adjectives, we've taken the sentence down from 14 words to just 10. If you skimmed every sentence in your work and evaluated whether or not every adjective needed to be there, you can make your novel or story a lot more concise, and no less beautiful!

Then there's the clunky, extra words that sometimes plague sentences. For example:

The rain hasn't stopped in days and today is no exception.

"...and today is no exception" is just a repetition of what was said in the first part of the sentence! Why don't we just take it down to "The rain hasn't stopped in days" or better yet, "It's been raining for days"? The meaning is intact, it's just a sleeker, more aerodynamic sentence.

So comb through your writing when you're at that editing stage. Look for adjectives and adverbs you can eliminate. Look for places where you're using multiple words instead of just one (why call it a "crisp red fruit" when you can just call it an apple?). Your word count, editor, and reader will thank you for it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In My Mailbox (3)

video


I've never done a vlog before! But I liked doing this one and will probably do more!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Songs on Saturday (4)

On the occasional Saturday, I bring you a song I've been listening to recently that's inspired my writing and/or reading!

This week, the song is...




This song is deliciously creepy. Great for writing or reading atmospheric, emotionally-tense scenes. I first heard it in the book trailer for Holly Cupala's Tell Me a Secret, and was unable to get it out of my head. I hope you enjoy it, too!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Post-Call!

OMG YOU GUYS.

No offer of representation - yet. She gave me a long, in-depth critique and a lot of things she'd like to see in a revision. So I'm to resubmit after revising!

I'm really stoked. I have like a million revision ideas zipping around my head. And I can't believe that it was actually the most comfortable phone conversation I've ever had. She emailed me the readers reports about my manuscript and I'm completely in love and I'm going to work hard x a billion on this revision.

Now that I've had a taste of this, I want it soooo much more!

Could it be "The Call"?

Breathe in... breathe out... breathe in... breathe out.

That's how you calm down, right?

Okay, I am very calm.

In about half an hour my phone is going to ring, and on the other line will be an agent who read my full and scheduled this phone call.

Who am I kidding, I'm not calm at all. My heart is beating so fast that my chest is jiggling with each heartbeat! I'm not even good at talking on the phone with my best friends, I get so nervous.

But at the same time I'm excited as all hell. Will the call bear good news? Will I have a heart attack and die before the phone even rings? Stay tuned for the post-call blog post to find out.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thoughts on Love is the Higher Law

Today, as you probably knew, is the 9th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Centre. Living far away from NYC, my experience on that day was definitely not the dramatic, emotional story so many people in the blogosphere have been sharing today. I was 10 years old, I woke up to the radio, and my mom and I listened to the emergency broadcast.

I went to school, and our teachers were told to explain to us exactly what had happened and what was currently going on to the people of NYC. But we were kids, and we were far away, and the day was pretty much a regular school day. Of course, in the weeks and months (and basically years) that followed that day, the media continued to dissect the event over and over and over. I'd say that mainstream media everywhere was changed forever on that day.

So today I thought I'd present my thoughts on David Levithan's novel, Love is the Higher Law, to commemorate the event.

David Levithan is one of my favourite authors on the planet, so when I found this book on the shelf at my local library a few months ago I freaked out. WHAT??!! A DAVID LEVITHAN BOOK I'VE NEVER HEARD OF?!?! GIVE IT HERE!!!

I read it in a day. And, holy crap, what an emotionally charged day that was.

Even if you didn't experience that day first-hand, even if you're from the other side of the world from NYC, even if up until now you never really thought 9/11 was that big a deal, like I did... you should read this book. Being non-American, I always thought of 9/11 in terms of the big, sappy, patriotic memorial commercials on American TV, where they blared that Sarah McLachlan song (even though she's Canadian, from my hometown, but I digress). I always thought of the whole tragedy as another thing the U.S. was all woe-is-me over for no reason.

But after reading Love is the Higher Law, I feel like I understand. Of course, I can't really understand the true horror of what it must have been like to actually be there, but I've come a lot closer. David Levithan's story evokes all the sadness the reader has ever felt, all the feelings of loss, fear, shock, and absolute terror, and ties it to the event of 9/11 to rouse your compassion. Even if you weren't there, you'll feel like you were, because you have experienced a taste of what it was like, through David's incredible writing.

In terms of characters, I loved Jasper and Peter. They broke my heart. Didn't so much care for Claire's part of the story, thought she was a bit too saintly... but this book defies its flaws.

5/5. Seriously, buy this and read it now.

The cover always gives me chills.

Monday, September 6, 2010

19!

Today is my 19th birthday.

Which, where I live, means ALCOHOL AND CIGARETTES.

(I don't usually smoke or drink at all... but I'm going to today because I can, and the government can't stop me anymore)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Rejection on a Partial Today...

Which is a little disappointing, for sure. But in her big, long email, she did bring up one issue I think might be a genuine concern: the manuscript may need to be "Americanized." I mean, it's pretty obvious that I'm Canadian. Besides just using British spelling, there may be other subtle grammar issues.

If the other agents who have the manuscript bring it up, as well, I'll have to do a substantial revision for this. /Sigh.

Let's hope for better news on my other submissions!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

At Last... Mockingjay

(Post is spoiler-free)

I waited. Since finishing Catching Fire, I'd counted down the days. Expectations built in my head.

Oh, expectations. Good seldom comes of expectations, especially when books are involved.

Mockingjay was...

I'm having trouble groping for an adjective right now. And I'm a writer. Words are actually escaping me right now.

I got it at midnight, the minute it came out, basically. I had the next two days booked off work, so I could blaze through it. But by the time those two days were up, I wasn't even halfway through. I only finished it yesterday, more than a week after starting it.

How is it that the book I've been anticipating for so long didn't grab me and BEG me to finish it?!

I'm still asking myself this question, and here's the answer I think I have: Mockingjay was good, a satisfying end to an amazing trilogy, but it was not the book I thought it was going to be.

I was expecting an explosive story, an incredibly fast-paced, uber-complicated plot with an earth-shattering revelation at the end. Something that twisted everything we'd previously believed about Panem and the Hunger Games on its head into something completely different.

And what I got was... a whole lot of Katniss.

Katniss is a great character. But Mockingjay's focus was not on Panem, or even the revolution as a whole. Mockingjay was more of a character study than the action/suspense thriller the series had me expecting. It detailed the psychological repercussions of surviving as terrible an ordeal as the Hunger Games beautifully. It was far more literary than the previous two books in the series had been, and that made it feel somewhat separate, for me, kind of out-of-place.

I wasn't disappointed with the ending. I feel like the ending came naturally from the seeds sown in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. (*spoiler alert*: Although I was a bit vexed that Suzanne Collins took the same route as J.K. Rowling with the epilogue, hers was better because it stayed vague and wasn't cheesy)

I did enjoy Mockingjay, just to find out how everything played out. While I do respect Suzanne Collins' choices in regards to her story, I was a bit disappointed.