Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just A Little Taste:

Since I'm all out of craft notes at the moment, I thought I'd include a snippet of the novella I'm working on, "Arabelle Wild." I'm not that great at summaries, so I won't include one here.

What you need to know:
It has been several years since Lady Arabelle Westmore has seen her family. The majority of the Westmores (except her late uncle and brother) only care about their standing in society and that they maintain their reputations as the most beautiful people in London. So when Arabelle was born with a deformity of her leg and foot (both are twisted unnaturally) she is abandoned to the care of her uncle. Her uncle died several years before the story begins leaving her Kilmridge Manor and a great fortune in his will. The story begins with Arabelle receiving a letter from Henry, her older brother. He's coming to the country estate to take Arabelle to London at their father's request.

Arabelle and Henry have been exchanging letters since he left for University, but he has not seen her since she was seven. Henry arrives in the company of his mysterious friend, Sir Ian Rittmore. This snippet is from Ian's point of view and it is the first time he's seeing Lady Arabelle. She and her companion Pita are returning home after Celebration, a festival held by the Romani (gypsies) who live in the woods outside Kilmridge. Arabelle feels that the Romani are her true family now that her uncle has passed.

The two women are drunk and it is around 3am.

Snippet from Chapter One:

"They clung to each other in the corridor near the stairs; their laughter now silent. Ian's eyes were drawn down to their feet again. Both were covered in globs of mud and dirt, which had likely been tracked into the house. Despite the mud, Ian could see that there was something wrong with the taller one's foot. It seemed twisted and turned-in, her toes curled. He hurriedly stepped away from the door. This was Lady Arabelle, Henry's little sister. He knew the consequences of her birth, but he hadn't been expecting such a sight. In truth, any time Henry talked about his sister's condition he made it seem grotesque, something worthy of the circus, should anyone of decent standing happen to see it. A person such as Ian. These were the words that Henry alluded to but never spoke. In Ian's opinion, now that he'd seen her with his own eyes, she was not at all frightening. He stepped back to the door and peered through the crack. No, not frightening, he decided as Lady Arabelle let her head fall back with laughter. Her black hair fell loose around her shoulders and her green eyes sparkled under heavy lids. She was lovely, and it took all of his resolve as a gentlemen of good breeding to no fling open the library doors and take her into his arms."

So, there's just a little taste. I'm probably about halfway done with the novella. I didn't get to write much this week because I had family in town. Tomorrow I start a part-time job (I got the offer this past week) and then on Friday I start another part-time job (but it's only a few hours each day). I hope that I can keep writing this novella in the meantime--No, let me revise that statement. I WILL keep writing this novella. I just don't know how long it might take me now. When I finish, I plan to start new edits on "Surrender" and start researching agents/publishers and working on drafts of my query letter. Lots of stuff coming up, that's for sure.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Book Reccomendations!!!

So, I know this is normally "craft note Monday" but I just finished the sequel of a series of books that I want to mention here as must reads: Kimberly Derting's "The Body Finder" and "Desires of the Dead." Both are in the YA supernatural category and are about a girl named Violet, who is able to locate dead bodies (both humans and animals). The stories are well written and engaging. I finish them pretty quickly and haven't been disappointed. Derting's a pretty new author as she's only got these two books out right now. I checked out Derting's website and saw that she's going to be in an anthology called "Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions" with a bunch of other paranormal/supernatural authors. I'm not usually excited about anthologies or compilation novels (you know the books with three authors in one), but I'm interested in this one because they are short stories.

I am currently reading "I Am Number Four" by Pittacus Lore (a pen name for Jobie Hughes (ghost writer) and James Frey). I saw the movie first while I waited for the book to arrive at the library. So far the opening chapters are like the movie, but we'll see how it turns out. I stopped reading it when "Desires of the Dead" came in, but I'm back to it now. I'm not really sure what to think of James Frey (check out this story about the book's origins), but I'm going to read it anyway. If the accusations against Frey are true then I hope that Jobie Hughes gets her/his recognition for other works. Up next: "Last Sacrifice" the final book in the Vampire Academy series (hopefully the last, she should have ended with book 5), and "War Dances" by Sherman Alexie.

I'll probably think of a Craft Note for later this week. I guess it's okay to change things up, as long as I'm posting more often. The writing of my short story/novella "Arabelle Wild" is going well. I think I'm up to like 18 pages. My brother is in town this week which may make writing difficult, but my goal is to keep working on it and start posting on FP in a few weeks. I'm looking forward to that and hopefully everyone else too!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Story in the Works

I have decided to use the rest of this month wisely, by writing a new short story/novella (probably more the length of a novella). It'll be like "My Darling Bunny" in regard to the setting, but new characters. And... I will be posting it on FictionPress. I feel like I need to get back into active use of that site, at least for smaller projects like this. Novel wise, I'm still on the fence. I'm thinking of more lucrative options in regard to my KM series. There are so many projects that I want to complete and I feel overwhelmed by the amount. But, I've found that I tend to work well if I set deadlines/goals for myself.

So far, here's the list of projects that I have:

1. Write novella, tentatively titled "Arabelle Wild" (to be finished by April)
2. Round 2 edits for "Surrender" (to be finished by May)
3. Submit "Surrender" to agents/publishers
4. Start writing sequel to "Surrender" (by April
5. Edit/revise KM1 (no set date)
6. Remove "Starter Boyfriend" from FP (and hopefully start editing - no set date)
7. Edit/revise KM2 (no set date)
8. Start writing literary novel "The Dead Shall Rise" (no set date, though I'd like to get started on this before the Christmas).

... and so on. Oh... I should probably add "find a job" between all of those steps.

My goal is to finish the novella entirely before I start posting chapters on FP. I wrote about 9 pages yesterday and I'm about to start writing more. It'll be a fun, light-hearted, not at all accurate story set in Victorian England. I am a HUGE sucker for books in this period (hence my love for Jane Austen and 21st century novelist, Julia Quinn).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Craft Note: Outlining

It's Craft Note Monday! (These may be harder and harder to do in the future, so give me some ideas if you feel game.)

I have heard two schools of thought in regard to writing and planning/outlining.

First, some authors believe in absolutely no planning and just write as it comes to their head (write it organically). To outline is to kill that creative side: You're no longer just going with the flow because your mind has already come to conclusions and climaxes.

Second, some authors believe in planning and outlining everything about their project down to the very last scene.

I subscribe to the second school of thought, but I didn't always.

When I first started writing stories (I've been writing since I was nine, but really got serious about it all at 13 when I was starting high school), I would just sit down and write what came to me. Outlining was a foreign concept. I would write and write and write letting the characters do whatever they wanted--which often included a lot of kissing and maybe a few nude scenes... what can I say, I was a bit naughty back in the day. I had no clear purpose or ending in view when I wrote, just two characters interacting. Making out or shooting guns and riding horses. (I was big into Westerns for a short amount of time. I blame the movie "Bad Girls".) I've been told that "just going with the flow" can produce the best kind of story (you'll often find that literary stories do this, focusing more on character than plot), but I quickly became bored out of my mind and ready to start the next great idea. I probably finished maybe one full project from the time I was 13 until my early 20s. I have dozens and dozens of 20-75 page stories that just kinda end, and maybe a handful that actually made it to "the end."

It wasn't until "Killing Memories" (the first Es and Moo novel on FictionPress) that I decided I needed to know where things were going. I credit my change into outlining/planning to the readers of KM1 who reviewed and showed their excitement for story. I didn't want to let anyone down. I needed to take KM some where and actually have an ending. So, halfway through that novel, I grabbed a piece of paper and outlined what needed to happen to get to the end. From that moment on, I've been a planner. I LOVE OUTLINES.

I tend to imagine my stories having around 20 chapters in them and list 1-20 on a page and start filling in the numbers (several will end up blank because I don't know everything that will happen). I have key areas that I know I need to hit and try to work my way to that spot. So, it might look something like this:

1. Beginning, introduce characters and problem
2. Build characters and story line
3. Introduce villain or main obstacle
6. Big Party at XXX's house leads to first kiss.
7. Aftermath of party
12. Villain starts to make things difficult for YYY.
15. Build up to main conflict.
16. Main conflict occurs (what is it?)
18. Conclusion - YYY and XXX break up and go to college.

This isn't any real story that I'm working on, just an illustration of what I usually end up doing. Sometimes I'm able to fill in all the blanks. And sometimes, even though I've planned for things to happen, as I write stuff will shift and change and I have to reorder the chapters or add new ones. A lot of things change in the writing process. Last week I worked out plot ideas for books 2 and 3 of my Fallen Guardian novels, just so I know what I'm working toward. I need to know how I want that final book to end. Outlines become loose guidelines that help me know that I'm working toward something, even if all the stuff in the middle flip flops, erases, or changes all together.

Here are a few links on outlining:
Fiction Factor - I tend to follow the chapter-by-chapter guide idea.
Pro Writing Tips - Just some interesting perspectives.
Advice on Novel Writing - Check out the "Ten Points on Plotting"

So, what school of thought to you follow in regard to outlining/planning?

Side Note: My heart goes out to all of Japan. So scary!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Movies and Books: Rango & The Lost Hero

I guess Thursdays might be review/what I'm reading at the moment days. I'm not sure, I might switch things up until they feel comfortable and natural.

So, last weekend, my sister and I went to see "Rango" the new animated Johnny Depp movie. It's getting decent reviews out there in critic-world and I love LOVE LOVE animation. I guess I'm still a kid though I'm way beyond kid years. I have a milestone birthday coming up in September... I think I get better with age, but I'm no kid. Still, my love for animation will never die. Case and point: "How to Train Your Dragon" is one of my all time favorite animation movies. It's just so cute. I could list more, but let me dedicate a few minutes to "Rango." I didn't realize that this was rated "PG" until one of the characters, a big scary rattle snake yells "Sign the damn paper woman!" Rango is a lizard (chameleon) who was once a pet but ends up in the Nevada desert. He moseys into a small, rough, cowboy town called "Dirt" and becomes the sheriff using his keen acting skills. Overall the movie was cute, but a bit slow in some sections (shocking for a animation in my point), and funny. And this movie was filmed differently than other animation movies. Check it out:

My rating: B. My recommendation: Maybe wait for it to come out on video.

I'm currently reading "The Lost Hero" by Rick Riordan, who wrote the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. This new book is a spin-off to the Percy franchise. (Did anyone see the movie? It was pretty good, but I was irritated that they aged the characters by a few years to put them in high school.) These books are classified as "middle grade" young adult (I believe that means 7-12?) although the main characters are 15 years old. "The Lost Hero" is a straight-up action/adventure story set around the ancient Greek/Roman gods. I find myself really drawn into the books and the characters. Riordan is a great writer and puts a lot of research into his stories. I like them because I remember nothing from having to read "Mythology" by Edith Hamilton in high school and feel like I'm learning something when I read (too bad I fail to remember anything). Riordan has hit upon a gold mine in a way. The books are original in there aren't many other books focusing on the Greek gods when the first Percy Jackson came out (there were a few other authors who came out with things after, I believe). I'm reminded of what J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter. She is the queen of magical kids right now and nothing will probably ever beat out HP. I'm not saying that Riordan is at J.K.'s level of fame or anything like that, but he plugged into a niche and is very successful.

It makes me wonder what else out there hasn't been done (or done well)? Angel/Demon stories have been very popular lately. There are a lot out good stories out there, but how can an author make the genre his/her own? This is something I thought about a lot when I wrote "Surrender": How do I make mine different from the rest? I feel like I have a very original idea (and an untapped villain). As writers, we should all struggle with this. To find a unique ideas and try to be successful with it before anyone else. It's so hard though. I remember reading one fallen angel novel recently and became so upset because the author had given the angels lavender eyes, an idea that I had come up with. It forced me to change the eye color because I didn't want to be perceived as copying someone's idea. But I do feel like I was forced to think out of the box to find a new and memorable eye color.... Hopefully this new detail will remain mine, but who knows. That's the crazy thing about being artistic or being a writer--how often our ideas overlap with other authors. I almost feel like all writers are connected at some deep cellular level and we tap into one another through ESP. Crazy? Probably.

* * *

Side Note: I love Barbara Kingsolver's writing and just received an email from a writing company (I guess that's what it's called) that included three tips on writing by Kingsolver. One really stood out to me as something I need to remember when writing and I wanted to share it here:

Question: What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?
Answer: "Your first sentence should make a promise that the rest of the story will keep." - Francine Prose (another good writer).

Monday, March 7, 2011

Craft Note: Writing Places You've Never Seen Before

So, I've decided that Monday's will be "craft note" days. I have yet to decide how many posts I'll plan for each week, at least two, I think.

Craft Note: Visualization

I have never created a world in my writing. Meaning: I've never created a place that is 100% different from Earth. A place called Borg, for example, where little blue people dwell and shoot lasers out of their eyes. I think that if I were to write science fiction a lot of world-planning would be involved. I like to stick with what I know and see and then expand upon that. But what do you do for fictionalized/make believe places set in "reality" but aren't a part of reality? Let's take my new novel "Surrender" for example. There is no such place as Falls, New Hampshire. It's actually based off two places in New Hampshire: Portsmouth, for it's quaint New England-y feel and Lincoln, a place that I only drove through, that's nestled in the White Mountains. I suppose when I really think about it, Falls is more Lincoln (because of the mountains) than Portsmouth (which is on the coast). At any rate, I merged the two places together to create something fictional. Another example is the school that my main character's go to: Stonegrove. I've never attended a private school before and had an image of my head (a cross between an English boarding school and a private school in Exeter, NH).

It can be incredibly difficult to create something from scratch and really "see" that place or have readers see it just as clearly. In order for me to do this, and be successful, I tend to sketch or draw. I make blueprints so I can see the layout as my character would see it. I've created whole towns like this. I don't know, there's something about visualization that helps me with the writing. And in order for these places to seem real, I have to believe they are real. Mapping them out helps with this, I think.

The top picture (click on all pictures to make them bigger) is the front of the school as I saw it. The most important feature to me was the large clock tower and the archway that the students walk through to get into the school. You'll also notice the cobblestone circular drive. The middle picture shows the basic region layout from the main town of Falls and up into the mountains where the school is. Lucas's house is also on the map, but not Cameron's. I'm surprised I didn't include the farmhouse, but on well. It's there. The bottom picture is another layout of the school (the entryway) that I wanted to put down. I accidentally cut off the big gate at the bottom of the school's "driveway." I really only describe the entryway once (Evelyn's first day of school), but it was important (not to mention fun) to get the image down on paper.

So, what about you? Do you just go on instinct and hope that all the details are right and believable, or do you get all crazy like me and start making maps and diagrams?

End of craft note.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Read Me: Surrender

Just wanted to make a separate post to notify everyone that I added a snippet of "Surrender" my new novel to the "Read Me" section of my blog (right under my fish). Please forgive me for the little typos that you'll see. I'll be editing for those next--the first round of edits was just to make sure the story was solid (I ended up adding 156 pages to do so). I hope that when I edit for typos I make the writing tighter.

Anyway... enjoy!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hello Character.... Do I know you?

So, I am determined to post more often... hopefully I won't slip up and disappear for weeks on end. :)

Sometimes I just don't know what to write about because my days are pretty much the same and nothing exciting ever happens to me. Except for awesome TV shows like Supernatural, Fringe, Modern Family, Vampire Diaries, America's Next Top Model, and American Idol (though this is likely the last season that I will be watching Idol. I do love JLo as a judge though). Anyway... let me also give a shout-out to my favorite TV show of all time: The X-Files dodo do do dododo <--start of the theme song. Fringe is a good "substitute" for X-Files, but nothing will ever replace it in my heart. So, I doubt that people want to hear "wrote today" or "edited today" in every post, so I'll try to keep it snazzy by talking about some random things as well as the craft of writing.

So, on to today's "craft" note: Character Development

After completing the first "readable" draft of "Surrender", I've decided to get to know my characters a little better by employing the use of character worksheets (check out an example here). I looked at a bunch online and decided to create my own with the help of several different sites. I'm even going to attempt to "draw" the character as I see them in my head. I'm a horrible artist though so they'll likely be stick figures. Anyway, my goal is to create as much detailed information about each person from the novel and put them in a binder so I can 1) remember who the hell I write about, and 2) remember fine details so that I don't give Jordan brown hair in one scene and blond hair in another (I've done this). I'm excited about this project, and I think it's important.

As I write, I keep a notebook where I write down character names as they're introduced, and where I map out basic outlines for the chapters/novel. This notebook is vital and important. During the editing process, once I was finished with a chapter I would write a summary, which I hope will help me when I start writing the synopsis of the novel. Sometimes, especially since I write so fast, I tend to forget small details and plot points of what happens, so I think this will help me overall. I hope it also helps me see the plot as a big picture thing.

End of craft note.

I have a new "must read" author to share. I picked up Daniel Waters' "Generation Dead" from the library last week on a whim and have already plowed through the first two books (book two is called "Kiss of Life") and am nearly halfway through the third ("Passing Strange"). This is an awesome series about zombies or "differently biotic" people. The concept is unique and original, and the books are well written. I've never really be into zombie movies or books (although I loved Simon Pegg's "Shaun of the Dead"), but Waters has really inspired me. This is definitely an area of paranormal/abnormal that isn't huge on the YA market right now. I'm not sure how well his books are doing, but they definitely deserve to be read.

A "must see" movie is "Temple Grandin" with Claire Danes. This made me cry and laugh and is a great movie about autism, humane livestock handling/slaughter houses, and the ability to be fearless in the face of your fears. Definitely rent/Netflix/or whatever. :)

Side Note: Although it may be a bit premature, I've decided to post the prologue and first chapter of "Surrender" here on my blog under "Read Me." If you feel like leaving a comment, please do so. But know that while I did edit these pages there are likely typos not to mention some wordy sections. I will be starting another round of edits in April to take care of these issues. For now, I just want to know if you'd read more (or if you even got through the opening). Thanks!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Three days late but....

today I finished the first round of edits on my novel! I now feel like it's ready to be read by others. I feel like the story/plot is solid (maybe a few holes, but hopefully not) so next I need to tighten up the writing. But, overall, I'm very happy with what I have.

The final page count: 572.

New title: "Surrender" (A Fallen Guardian Novel)

Let me tell you how hard finding the right title was. I'm not even sure if this is the right one, but this one is gonna be the final working title when I send it out to agents. It's better than "The Falling" in my eyes. I didn't really want something that had "fallen" in the title, because a lot of books about angels are 1) about fallen angels, and 2) have fallen in the title. I suppose "A Fallen Guardian Novel" sorts leans on the "fallen" thing, but OH well...

I'm not sure if I can summarize the story yet. Summarizing is a scary thing because so much leans on the summary or the book jacket. I know I'm not going to please everyone, but it's also about being honest and true to the story. Let me try... you'll probably read a few of these in the next several months.

"Surrender: A Fallen Guardian Novel"

For the last six years, Evelyn and her father have hopped from state to state chasing after his drug needs and running from a darkness in her past that she can't remember. Now, desperate for a little happiness and peace, she's returning to the only home she remembers with any joy: Falls, New Hampshire. But things have changed in Falls. As she starts a new school year at Stonegrove High she quickly learns that her world is not what it seems and she may never have a "normal" life. She can't find her best friend Lucas, she's being followed by a young man who she is frightened of and drawn to, catches the eye of a popular boy who constantly toys with her emotions, and then Lucas and his mother return and Evelyn's world tailspins. As her seventeenth birthday nears, Evelyn learns that she was created to be a vessel--either for good or evil--and that humans are not the only beings to walk the streets of Falls.

Soooo... there we go. It's difficult because I don't want to give too much away about the plot. So, this is another draft. Of course any suggestions would be welcome, just know that "it sucks" isn't very helpful. :) Oh, and I didn't change the name of the town because I couldn't think of anything better. I think I'll keep it the same.