Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Real High School and Fictional High School Years...




The first day of school.

Not my first day of high school. Oh no. That already passed. This is my first day of…[where’s the drum roll?]…sophomore year.

Oh. I can see why there’s no drum roll.

Who would put a drum roll in front of sophomore year? No one. I figured this out a few weeks ago. Of the four years of high school, three are ‘special.’ Freshman year is the first year, the new year, the nerves-inducing year, the getting-lost year, the awestruck year, et cetera. Junior year is the nose-to-the-grindstone year, the crazy year, the SATs year, (if you’re in PA, the moronic PSSAs year,) the college visits year… And senior year is the free year, the fun year, the already-took-SATs year, the awesome year.

So what’s sophomore year? The in-between year, the post-freshman-but-still-underclassman year, the PSATs year, the study-hard-because-next-year-will-be-even-HARDER year… I can see two reasons why it might be special. One, it’s the driver’s ed year (but most people aren’t driving independently until junior year anyway). And two, it’s special because it’s NOT special. I mean, the word “sophomore” means “wise fool.” Even the name is ambiguous. And probably very accurate.

This post is a combination of my first-day-of-school thoughts and the realization that very few YA contemp books have their characters starting sophomore year as the big catalyst. Junior year, definitely. Senior year, sure. Even freshman year. But few that I’ve read have been about sophomore year. And duh! Unless the book is about Driver’s Ed, I wouldn’t, either. (Except I have. But old stories. When 10th grade was big, man, BIG. Double digits and all. Yeah, this was in elementary school.)

But you know what? In the real world, I’m okay with this. I have so much going on, I’m kinda looking forward to the “nothing” year.



Monday, August 30, 2010

Too Inexperienced to Write?

There's something I've been thinking about a lot lately, especially when I start to daydream about my WIP being "The One".

Am I too inexperienced to write? How can I write about romance when I, myself, have never been kissed? Sure, I can get the feelings of crushing down, especially since that's something I'm more familiar with then I'd like to be, but what about when it comes to the dating part? Or the kissing? How can I realistically write that when I've never, you know, experienced it?

Sure, I know some of you are going to sit there and say "Well, do you think Stephenie Meyer ever loved a vampire?" or "J.K. Rowling never attended Wizard School or faced the Dark Lord but she sure made it realistic" or something like that. And I agree. But it's just...romance is so...basic!

A long time ago, I read a post by an author, one that I happen to love, about how she was beyond appalled that she'd just read a romance book by a teenager that'd never been kissed. I don't remember exactly what she said, because it was a long time ago and I lost the link, but even now, it's instilled fear in me that hey, I can't publish this or get an agent until I've had a boyfriend.

This fear doesn't just apply to romance, it can apply to everything. Sometimes I feel like I have no right to be writing when I haven't experienced very much at all. I live in a small town. There's not all that much to do.

Then another part of me is saying "So what? Most authors never experience half the things their characters do."

But that fear is always there, pushing me back from my dream.

Does this ever happen to you? What do you do? Any advice?

Peace & Writing!


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday's Rules For Beta Readers

Or: Saturday was almost a Sunday.

Saturday somehow managed to completely forget to write this post until 4am Saturday morning (aka "Friday night") when she had a minor heart attack she thought it was Sunday and stayed up way too late and overslept... and now I'm creeped out from referring to myself in the third person for so long.


I've been thinking about beta readers and critique partners a lot lately (and I'm not the only one). I think that sometimes, when we ask someone to beta for us, they might not know exactly what to do and we kind of throw them into the deep end.

So here are my "rules"*:

1. Be honest. It doesn't do us any good if you say things are awesome when in actuality, they suck monkey butt. But keep in mind

2. Be nice. Remember, this person put a lot of effort into writing what you're reading. Something that took you only a few hours to read might have taken them months of sweat, tears and blood to write.

Especially with characters. When you have someone essentially living in your head, you tend to care about them. If you're beta-ing for someone, and you don't like their MC (which, let's be honest, happens), flat-out telling them will probably do more harm than good. It's like telling someone their baby is ugly - even if it's true, you just don't do it.

But Laina! You say. You just told us to be honest!

(What, you guys thought I couldn't hear you? Of course I can.)

Be honest, yes, but not mean. If your friend had a kid so ugly that mirrors shattered from its very reflection, you wouldn't tell them, would you? (I'd hope not.)

Constructive criticism is key. If you don't like the MC, tell the writer why. Tell them (nicely! but honestly) what you had problems with.

And that brings me to

3. Point out the good stuff. Writers are generally beings with incredibly low self-esteem, at least when it comes to our writing. We doubt everything. If you really like a character or a joke makes you laugh, or a sad scene makes you cry, say so! A lot of the time, we won't know if something's good unless someone tells us.

But of course

4. Point out the bad stuff, too. If one of my characters mysteriously sprouts a third hand (*cough* not that that's happened or anything *cough*) and I don't notice, it's okay to tell me if you're my beta. I won't get mad or anything.

5. If the writer has a beta system that works for them, stick with it. I like to send the file to my beta, and have them use MS Word's comment feature (Insert, Comment) to leave comments as they read so I get their honest, as they read reactions. For me, this is like the closest thing to Post-Its stuck in the margins as I can get on the computer (and you all know how I like my Post-Its). Generally, I'll get their overall thoughts, too, but usually that's in an email.

I have no segue for

6. Respect the rules of their world. This one pertains most to any sort of fantasy/science fiction/paranormal writing. If they say something is so, that's how it is. Their world, their rules. Also

7. Don't try to change the kind of book they're writing. Respect their genre choices. If someone is writing a contemporary novel that's very serious, suggesting they write in a scene where the cast of The Vampire Diaries does a number with the cast of Glee and Damon makes Rachel a vampire probably won't be the most helpful thing in the world.

And remember

8. If you don't like the story/book/whatever, that's okay! You can't like everything and some books just aren't the book for you. That perfectly okay. Just respect keep rule #7 in mind.

9. Have fun. There are no real rules. Relax and enjoy yourself!

10. You tell me! I can't think of a tenth rule and 9 seems really uneven for a list of rules, so you guys tell me what you think a rule for betas should be.

Peace and cookies,

*The word rules is used very loosely here, since there are no hard and fast rules. More like suggestions, good ideas, etc. And of course, this is all my opinion.

P.S. Don't forget, I'm still looking for more questions! About anything, writing or just about me.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Plotting - Or Why My Notebook Makes Me Look Like a Criminal

I write my books in Word, like most sane writers - at least the ones without carpel-tunnel. My editing process is so insane, I couldn't ever write longhand. But my plotting is another story.

My plotting looks like it was ran over several times by a very heavy train. My notebooks also make absolutely no sense to anyone but me. And, reading over them, it's actually kind of embarrassing how lame I am. Half of my notes sound like top-secret undercover agent info and the other half looks very schizo.

For example:

"G finds J, she tells him what she knows." (What she knows is apparently VERY mysterious to anyone reading this notebook.) The following is literally word for word: "INTENSE convo here! Work it!"

Seriously, self? I can't believe I'm sharing this.

The rest is filled up with notes like "need more scenes with A" or "scene in warehouse," etc. I have one page that has a few random jostled notes, and then in all caps the word "INSECTS!"

At one point, I literally wrote, in a very rough outline for my WIP, "We need filler here that doesn't read like filler."


I also have pages that look like hit lists, full of people's names. Some are crossed out. It really doesn't look good.

Oh, and there's a page called "Death Songs" that I'm incorporating into one of my future WIPs. Basically, it's just a page and a half of copied poems about death.

If anyone gets a hold of this notebook, I'm gonna look like a crazy psycho emo conman agent.

Anyway. How do you guys plot*?

*Books. Not, um, death. That character list looks really bad.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Finishing a Novel

A lot of people have trouble with this. And I can understand why. I mean, it's hard to write over 50,000 words (the length varies greatly) and somehow manage to balance an exciting plot, controlled character development, and so much else. Descriptions, time lines, relationships.

So when you think about it, when someone finishes a novel, regardless of whether it will be published or not, we should applaud them. It's quite a feat. Even if the writing sucks! You stuck with something, you saw it through to the end. (It occurs to me I could sound like I talking myself up since I've finished a few books, but, really, I'm focusing on the world in general). But for those of you who are in that rut where you get excited about an idea and start a book, then get bored with that idea and get excited about a new one, and so on and so forth, I have some direct, probably unhelpful advice.

Just keep writing. If you really want to finish that book, here's what I suggest. If you get bored or stuck with it, sit down with a pad and pen and list all the possible directions the plot could go. Or write future scenes you would like to tie in eventually. Just don't force yourself to write out scenes you are uncertain about or feel no passion for, because the writing will probably come out as bad as you think it will.

And if you get that itch – a new idea banging on your door, calling out insistently – go ahead and answer it. But only for a short time. Write down this new idea, map out the plot if you want to, but go back to the book you're working on, and persevere!

Books are work. There are no illusions about that. "But, Kelsey, I really don't feel any more excitement for this book. I'm completely out of ideas." Try the method I suggested first, and, well, if that doesn't work, then I guess this project isn't meant to be. Maybe the next book will be the one. But you need to work your way out of the rut, someday, somehow. It might as well be now, right?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


While you're reading this, it's likely that I'm in the cardiology wing of the children's hospital. I'm one of the oldest patients there and there's always something about the semi-annual appointment that makes me see myself in a different light.

It's been years since my heart defect was really at the forefront of my life and my thoughts, constantly controlling what I did or didn't do, where I went, what my plans for the future were. I've had some hiccups, but for the most part the past six or so years have been relatively healthy. I've been able to accomplish a lot that I hadn't even imagined when I was younger. A lot that I now sometimes take for granted and have to remind myself not to.

I am not my heart, but it is a part of me. A very real, very personal, defining part of me. As much as we may not like it at times, the experiences we've had, the parts of ourselves that we wish we could change, the things that we avoid thinking about are some of the things that make us who we are.

These things that define us, that sit inside of us close to our hearts, that we think about when it's late and dark, they are the stories only we can tell. The relationships that have changed us. The past experiences that have shaped us. It's not the old friend whose name you can't remember that becomes a part of who you are, but rather the person whose name still makes you stop what you're doing for just a moment. That relationship is the one that helps define you. That is the story only you can tell.

So as a writer, you don't want to write about just any problem, experience, or relationship that your character has. You want to write about one that defines them, one that, no matter how old they get, is always going to be massively personal to them. You want to write about what changes their life or shapes their personality or makes them who they are. To take an example from the incredibly popular HUNGER GAMES trilogy (which I've only read the first book of, so no spoilers in the comments please!!), part of what makes this story so compelling is, in addition to the characters and setting and plot, the viewpoint and story is one that only Katniss can tell.

And the great thing about writing YA or children's stories is that so much of what shapes us, what defines who we are, happens during these years. Before we have careers, marriages, mortgages. Those are the stories I want to tell, because those are the stories that, when I read them, hit close to home and stay with me long after the last page has been turned.

ALSO: Today I'm sharing part of my current WIP here, and my friend Becca has started a music/tv/books/AWESOME STUFF blog over here. So follow.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Guess what?

You've probably already guessed what, but MOCKINGJAY is released today! Unfortunately, the state of Pennsylvania has not yet deemed that I am old enough to operate a functional vehicle, so I have to wait until this evening to get it. (Friday, be quiet.)

However, since Mockingjay is the final installment of a trilogy, it inspired me to write a post about trilogies and patterns I see and what are some really incredible trilogies and interesting tidbits like that.

First, I think trilogies are a pretty cool way to write a series. If they're done well they leave me feeling like the story was doublely complete. Think about it-- each story has a beginning, middle, and end, and then the trilogy overall is a beginning, middle, and end. Some of my favorite trilogies that I've read recently: the Heir Trilogy (Cinda Williams Chima), the Mortal Instruments (Cassandra Clare, and yes I count it as a trilogy right now. The other three to come are their own, I think), and Poison/Magic/Fire Study (Maria Snyder).

This works with movies too. Pirates of the Caribbean (as of now. Are they really making a fourth?) is a good example. Star Wars--the original ones, I mean. I count that. I haven't seen transformers, but #3 is coming out soon, so it's a trilogy.

With these I tend to like the first one best, the third one second best, and the second one the least. (Did you follow that?) I feel like the first one is the one where the most character development happens--probably because we're only just meeting the characters. The third one wraps everything up and I feel satisfied when long overarching plots finally come together. The second one always starts in the middle and ends in the middle, and usually I don't feel like the characters grow as much. Also, it's almost always a cliffhanger, which I love and hate at the same time.

For example, Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Wars? Yeah, the middle ones--PotC 2 and technically SW 5--end in a huge cliffhanger. (Does anyone else notice that both cliffhangers happen to be the awesome/funny/quirky/BA male lead in dire peril after being kissed by the female lead? Just saying.) However, Dead Man's Chest followed the pattern and was my least favorite of the three, but Empire Strikes Back was my favorite, which did not follow the pattern.

As for books, City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments 2) was my least favorite of the three. (I still loved it, though.) But The Wizard Heir (Heir 2) was my favorite of those books. Probably because Seph is my favorite character, and since he wasn't introduced until Wizard Heir--and because Wizard Heir is practically all about Seph, YAY.

I know, I'm making it sound like there actually isn't a pattern. But there is! Star Wars and the Heir trilogy just break it. What trilogy patterns do you see?


PS check out my sister's new book review blog, Winnie Worth 1000!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Critiques from Others

Okay, another super-short post from me because I'm still completely worn out from PAYA and can't form many coherent sentences in a row. (I promise a nice, long post next week!)

Since PAYA is over and school doesn't start for a while, I've decided I'm taking these next two weeks to dive in and finally critique the few manuscripts I've been saying I'll critique for months now. Personally, I LOVE critiquing. It's one of my favorite aspects of non-writing that improves my writing. I've yet to let anyone critique any of my things because it's just not ready so before I dive in, I wanted to get some other opinions:

What type of critique do you find most helpful? What isn't helpful? Is there anything specific you love when critique partners do? What type of comments do you want to receive? Any other thoughts/opinions/comments on receiving critiques?

Until next Monday,

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Looseleaf and binders and Post-Its, oh my!

Or: Saturday's feeble attempt at humour while introducing one of her writing processes.

This post is going to be kind of short, but it'll be another post with lots of pictures!! In my last post, I showed you guys this binder.

And I asked if you wanted me to explain the flower Post-Its. You guys said yes. (Well, a couple of you did. As for the rest of you, I’m putting the words in your mouth anyways. If you wanted to have your own opinions, you should have spoken up last week.) Each Post-It represents a scene that I’d handwritten but at the time of the Post-Iting, I hadn’t included in my WIP. Flower-shaped Post-Its were the only ones I could find at the time.

When I took that picture, I realized that needed to be tidied up, since I’ve finished my first draft. So I did this.

The green Post-Its are on scenes that I’ve written into the WIP. The yellow Post-Its are scenes that I haven’t written into the WIP. They’re all numbered and I have a list of the numbers with a short description of the scene.

Then this:

Each orange Post-It means I have a note (on an orange Post-It) on the page. That looks like this:

I also have a couple hot pink post-its, but I didn't at the time of the picture-taking. They just mean the note isn't numbered on my list. And as I’m revising, I’ll go through and incorporate some of the notes, work in some of the scenes that aren’t there… and that’s one of the things I do to try and keep myself sane.

I'm not sure if it's working...

Peace and cookies,

P.S. No questions? I'll take anything, doesn't have to be writing related.
P.S.S. I'm up at four am and playing around with the blog's layout, so don't mind if anything looks a little weird.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I scheduled this post yesterday. So I'm talking to you from the past. This is a little Henry DeTamble-ish, isn't it? But on to the point...

Today, (technically tomorrow, Past-Chelsea argues) I'm heading to PA to take part in PAYA (bringya2pa.com). I'm doing a writing workshop and signing. I have a feeling I'll be getting very little sleep the next few days, with the workload I have.

So I'm going to talk about something only semi related: writing when you're exhausted.

I find I like to write at midnight, with a cup of coffee by my hand. My mind thinks this is rational. It really isn't.

But writing when you're exhausted isn't always bad. For me, my personal editor shuts up and lets me write whatever I write. A lot of it comes out sounding like Virginia Woolf, but I get the words out there and the plot moves forward. And the next morning, there's stuff for me to sift through.

I'm a fan of crappy first drafts. You need to have words, even crappy words, to work with. For instance, you can take "I walked over to the other side of the room and tripped over something and landed on my face" and make it "I walked to the other side of the room, the one plastered with cheesy-looking wallpaper. I gracefully did a foot-shuffle when my shoe got caught in a section of carpet; the floor tasted like locker rooms." And, okay, that's not the best example of writing, but it's midnight. What do you expect? The point is, it's harder to make something out of nothing.

So, one day, when you're tired and you don't feel like writing, open your Word document anyway. Maybe even tonight. You might find you like sleepwriting more than you'd think.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Following Trends or Heart

I’ve been on a reading frenzy lately, and all the books I’ve read have got me to thinking. There are some pretty big trends right now: Demons, werewolves, vampires. And while some of the novels following these trends are good, others aren’t. A couple years ago, I tried to do the same and wrote that vampire novel I mentioned once. It turned out horribly. I was forcing myself to plow through and finish something I really felt no passion for.

So, since I always have a habit of overdoing anything I start to speculate about, I outlined the pros and cons to following the trends. I did some research. But the truth? The big negative? The one fact that outweighed all the points on my list? Trends never last very long. By the time you’ve written and edited a good book about werewolves, land an agent, and the book comes out on shelves a year later, people could be sick of werewolves. I know I’m tired of vampires and am not planning on buying another book about them. So if you or I do follow a trend, it could make things much more difficult. Personally, I think it’s better to come up with new, fresh ideas to write about.

But anyway, just to be fair, back to the list, the positive side of it, that is. (Yes, I’m a very scattered person.) Some of the possible good outcomes of following a trend (Even though I, myself, don't recommend it)! Well, first off, if you have a good book written, and everything happens really fast, you could be really successful. You could make the trend last longer. You could create some new elements about the creatures you’re writing about—a new angle—that no other writer has thought of. A trendy book could be really fun to write.

When you come right down to it, it’s really all about what we feel like writing. What feels right. As with all aspects of life, trends can be a good thing or a bad thing. What are you guys working on? Are you following the trends or your heart?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


First some housekeeping:
I moved the book blog to this url --> http://tencentnotes.blogspot.com. Finally a blogger address, so you should definitely click on over there and follow me. Definitely.

& now the post...

I want an agent.

I want an agent, a book deal, books that are stocked face-out in Barnes & Noble. (I want Barnes & Noble to not go under.) I want to sell out my advance. Have a bestseller. Have pretty, shiny covers and books made into movies and readers, omg, I want readers.

Most of those are just wishes though. Dreams. If I ever have a book stocked face-out I won't be able to stop myself from literally jumping for joy. And a bestseller? HA! Even an agent and a book deal are... well, they're not exactly happening for me at this moment in time.

Which isn't a happy thought. If I focus on it for too long things become fuzzy and I get grumpy and fall downward into that pit of self-loathing and pity and whyyy aren't I good enough?

Really though, more short-term than any of the above goals, there are smaller things that I want to accomplish with my writing. I want to write a chapter a day. I want to love my book and stop thinking that it sucks. I want to find a way to balance writing with school. I want someone, who isn't in any way related to me, to read my manuscript and tell me they wish it were on shelves right now. Bonus points if this person is an agent. Or an editor. I want to write something that people genuinely like. Something good.

Mostly, I don't have that much talent as a writer. What I have more than anything, I think, is passion. Or obsession, if you prefer to put it that way. What I have is that I want this. I want it so bad that I can't imagine doing anything else, so bad that I have to push away the possibility that it might not -- probably won't, even -- happen, because it just hurts too much. I want this enough to finish the novels I start, to not give up when it takes me a week to figure out a particular scene, to take a deep breath and not delete that file when it's all I want to do.

There are things I want more than this, yes, of course there are.

But not many.

I don't write every day because I have nothing else to do. I don't finish first drafts because I think they're masterpieces. Sometimes, I don't even do it because I love it. I mean, yes, I do love it. But sometimes -- often, even -- I keep writing, keep going, because it improves my odds. The more words I type, the more novels I finish and edit, the more queries I send out, the more I keep pushing myself, the greater chance there is that someone will fall in love. With my words. The greater chance there is that I'll actually be a writer.

That I might get what I want.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Things I Do For Stories...

Sometimes I think that half of my experiences and memories were originally rationalized as “research.” And I’m probably right in thinking that. Like the time in Belize when I made myself climb up those thin stone steps to the top of an Altun Ha structure because I convinced myself I might want to use it in a story someday. (I'm the one off to the side with the ambiguous hands-on-hips pose.)

Or when I had my friend Jeff over to my house because, being a lead, he could help me figure out if it is possible to swing dance to Bohemian Rhapsody and I want to use that in my current novel. (We didn’t come to a conclusion, because we got distracted with awesome swing songs like Jump, Jive, and Wail instead.)

(This picture is not Jeff and I. He wasn't wearing a suit, for starters.)

The “research” that’s had the most impact on me so far, however, is my decision to try Taekwondo.

I’ve mentioned that my novel, Rain, is about spies, right? (If I haven’t, then I’m telling you now.) In eighth grade, when I was about halfway through the first draft, my new friend Katie suggested I try Taekwondo at the school where she was currently a purple belt. (She’s now a black belt. Also, for anyone who’s read Rain, yeah, Katie = Caidy, except for she’s actually a lot nicer in real life. Usually.) I considered it for two reasons. One was that my “break” from my nine years of ice skating was reaching its anniversary and I needed to start looking for a new way to channel energy, and the other reason was that I was writing about a spy.

I already had my main character Mel’s attitude down. I knew her personality in and out. But what I did not know was almost anything about hand-to-hand combat. I figured going into the story that I could just Google some stuff, look at anatomy pictures, and ask my grandpa, who’s a black belt in Kung Fu, a few questions and I’d be set. But writing it? I’d tried a few action scenes, and I had more planned, and so far they didn’t feel real. And I knew that was because I hadn’t really felt it

So I took a trial class. And loved it. And signed up for more. And more. And still love it, two years later. Like, really love it. You should try Taekwondo, even if you aren’t writing an action thriller. I mean, there might come a time when your character needs to kick some butt. And you should be ready.




Monday, August 16, 2010

Inspiration from Books

(Just a short post from me today because PAYA is this weekend and I have 50 bazillion things to do before then.)

You know those books that, after you finish reading them, you just want to read them all over again? Or the books where you can't stop yourself from rereading your favorite parts again and again? Or the books that keep you up at night thinking about them? I love those books. They're the books that inspire me to write because I want to have that impact on a reader someday - keep them up at night just because they can't stop thinking about my book.

Whenever I get stuck, whenever I just don't want to write, I reread one of those books and I'm instantly reminded of why I write. There are 3 particular books I've done this over and over with.

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken. This book is pure genius. I love it so much. It's the first fantasy I've read and enjoyed in years. And while I don't write much fantasy, there's so much I can take away from the book, like developing characters and romance and boys (NORTH!!!) as well as pacing.

Bloom by Elizabeth Scott is another one. I love all Elizabeth Scott books but this one particularly inspires me. It shows how you can have a character doing something we should all hate her for but still have readers love her. It's also a fabulous example of realistic YA that's not over-the-top romance or depressing. The romance is realistic, the boys are great, and it's just an example of a nearly perfect YA novel.

Unlike the other two, I've only read Ballads of Suburbia once. Yet it's also my all-time favorite book. It fits on this list because it reminds me of why I want to write. Ballads of Suburbia changed my life. I've never been so emotional over a book in my entire life. If I ever write something that has half the impact on a reader as Ballads had on me, I will die happy. Not only is Ballads a major inspiration because of that, it's also fabulously written and unique, again showing and teaching me what goes into writing an amazing book.

What about you? Are there any particular books that inspire YOU to write? What are they and why?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Perfect Notebook

Or: A small glimpse into Saturday's insanity.

(Warning: This post is probably going to be a wee bit long. I'm feeling chatty today. But there'll be pictures!! And no laughing at my lack of photography skills.)

My perfect notebook has a blue cover with flowers and fines and things.

The cover is the hard cardboard kind, not the softer paper kind. This is important because then I don't have to put a binder under it or anything and the pages tend to stay in those better, in my experience. The pages have both binder holes and that perforated edge thing so that when the pages are torn out, there isn't that ragged edge. And there are only two lines less than a normal piece of looseleaf. All in all, it's perfect. :D

And this is it:
Pretty normal looking, right? So why is it so perfect, you ask? (I'm pretending that you guys care about my rambling about a notebook and haven't fallen asleep out of boredom by now. Play along, okay?)

Well, for starters, I can write scenes or notes or lists (or even blog posts like this one). This is especially good with my WIP. I have a fair few scenes that I've written in this notebook and then put in the WIP's binder because it already has binder holes* and with that perforated page edge, there are no ragged edges which just looks messy and bugs the heck out of me. Then, I can move things around as much as I want, like if instead of Scene A, B, C in that order, I want to have Scene C, then Scene B and Scene A.

Oh, and as an added bonus, if I fall asleep writing in Le Notebook (this happens more than I care to admit) I don't accidently roll over on it and break the cover like with some binders, and it fits easier on the pillow that I rest the notebook on when I want to write lying down.

And the last reason it's perfect? Because it matches the WIP binder**. See?

This was kind of a weird coincidence thing. I bought the binder probably a year ago at Walmart and I used it for the first few scenes of my WIP because it was pretty. Then, a few weeks ago, I fought Le Notebook at my mom's story (which is not Walmart) and bought it because it matched, not knowing I'd like it so much.

But it's pretty normal for me to have a colour theme. My werewolf WIP's colour? Pink.

No, seriously. Pick yourself up off the floor now. (In case any of you don't know, I'm totally not a pink person. Blue and purple are my colours. But here's the evidence:

I wrote a ton of the werewolf WIP in the black and pink binder. The pink notebook was my go-to notebook at the time I was writing the werewolf WIP. There are a couple scenes from that in there and notes and such. Finally, the Jack Sparrow and Pooh Bear folders hold my first and second rounds of printed stuff. (No laughing at the Pooh Bear. I luffs him.)

See? Pink.

The really weird thing is that I rarely do this kind of thing on purpose. Honest, it just happens.

What about you guys? Do you have any sort of colour scheme for your writing? Or are you all looking at me like I'm insane because I still write longhand, too? (I also have a rotary phone, but no cell phone. And a pet dinosaur.)

Peace and cookies,

P.S. Oh, does anyone have questions for me? I wouldn't mind doing a sort of "Ask Saturday" post sooner or later.

*I don't like punching holes in paper after I've written on it. I get paranoid that I'll lose part of a word and it'll be THAT word that I need... plus I'm not entirely sure where my hole punch is. I live in organized chaos. :P

**Should I do a post about the flower Post-Its sticking out of my WIP binder? Are you guys curious about that?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Shiny New Ideas

I have SIS (Shiny Idea Syndrome) - it's bad.

Say I'm 20,000 words into a WIP. I love my characters and every little thing in my life reminds me of them. It's kind of weird, really. I'll be at a coffee shop and talk about a minor character that works in my own fictional coffee shop. One that's not real. My friends give me blank stares. Or someone will mention piano and I'll instantly think of my main character. I'll be sitting in the park and thinking about how much my fictional friend would love it. So my characters are a part of me, to say the least. It's almost a little creepy.

But then I'll get SIS. A new character will pop in my head. Or, mostly, a new plot. And I have to write it. Generally, I can write some notes down and go back to my WIP. But some times, these new characters are egotistical brats and MAKE me write about them.

That's when SIS is bad. Because I feel like I'm cheating on my old characters/plot. I just recently started a new book; not only because I had a horrible case of SIS but because my old WIP (the 20k one) needs a full rewrite before I continue. And I needed a break.

But a "break" has turned into a long time. I feel like I abandoned kids, but at the same time this new idea is pulling me and I don't want to give up on it. I plan on eventually finishing both, but now it's going to take me a lot longer than I expected to finish my initial WIP.

When a new idea is tugging at you, what do you do? Listen to it, or remain consistent?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Haven't I Met You Before?

Today's topic is creating characters, mainly because this is what I've been focusing on myself. Lately in all my writing I’ve come across something, or rather, someone, over and over again. This character I’ve created. Always a girl, always in her teens. And even though her name changes by the novel, she’s always my main character. She herself never changes. This is what I’m working on: Creating separate personalities.

If you think about it, what we do as writers is pretty neat. I mean, we’re creating actual people. Sometimes people even more real than the ones we know in our lives. Characters with personalities, quirks, habits, beliefs.

Anyway, after I finally got tired of meeting this character over and over again in my books, I did some research. I looked up many different methods of creating those separate personalities. I discovered that it really helps making the character before even beginning the book or mapping out the plot, keeping in mind what kind of personality will best suit the story. Making a short biography for this character, first off. Then deciding the aspects that will make this person unique. Physical appearance, temperament, hobbies, fears, dreams.

It helps to find ideas outside of my own mind, browsing magazines, newspapers, anything that will feed the need. Reading and looking about and at different people. I even went all out and put post-its on the wall with traits and such on them as visual image.

But even all of this isn’t enough. This character needs strengths and weaknesses, possibly the most important part of a character because these are what drives the story, gives it turning points, ups and downs. So not only does the person have to be likable, she needs to be real. She needs flaws. She absolutely can’t be perfect; that’s dull. Flaws make things interesting. It’s the little things that matter, surprisingly, because in the end, they seem to make the most difference. Readers love characters that they most identify with. But in my opinion, this isn’t always what’s most important.

What’s even trickier is that this character has to grow and change throughout the story. Choices and decisions spurred on by the traits I’ve given her. Life is never easy, in this world or the ones we create, and there won’t be any plot if the character isn’t strong enough to face them.

Yet another side of the character that makes things complicated: Facing life. How would she react to certain situations? What would she say in confrontational circumstances? These have to reflect who she is. It’s all fun and goes to show that writing really is work.

So, yes, back to the fact that what we do as writers sounds daunting  and impossible, but every day we're doing this.

Those are my scattered thoughts for this Thursday. Thanks for reading. Now I must go back and figure out who this girl really is.

Until next week, guys.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Lyla Garrity annoys the heck out of me.

For the first two seasons of Friday Night Lights I felt like screaming every time she came on the screen. It was her voice, her mannerisms, the things she did, her oh-so-peppy attitude. Seriously, chick, just shut up already.

It's horrible. She's horrible. And for the first three seasons of this absolutely incredible show, I was forced to watch her and become invested in her storylines despite the fact that she annoyed me to no end.

This past friday, Friday Night Lights ended its fourth season and I've been rewatching the first three, watching them through the eyes of someone who not only loves the show and its characters (even Lyla, if it's possible to love and be impossibly annoyed by someone at the same time) immensely, but also someone who knows everything that happens. And in this rewatch the character of Lyla Garrity keeps catching my attention. I keep noticing her.

And I've decided that, as much as she annoys me, as much as I don't like her, she's incredible. She's an amazing character. Because Lyla Garrity doesn't stand still. Lyla Garrity always thinks she knows who she is only to find out she's wrong yet again. LYLA GARRITY CANNOT MAKE UP HER MIND, MY GOD.

For those of you who don't watch the show (and really, for shame!), Friday Night Lights is a drama focused around a Texas high school football team, led by the incredible Coach Taylor, who says more in three words than most characters (or people) say in a three page monologue. In the first episode, which sets up the rest of the series, Lyla Garrity's perfect, quarterback-headed-for-fame boyfriend (Jason Street) gets injured and becomes a quadriplegic.
And this is the catalyst.
Lyla, while still being the perfect cheerleader and girlfriend, cheats on her crippled boyfriend with his best friend, the always-drunk, white trash, Tim Riggins. After her boyfriend finds out and breaks up with her, Lyla sets out to win him back, eventually leading to the two getting engaged and then, at the same time as her parents get divorced, breaking up for real. Soon, Lyla quits cheerleading, becomes a born-again Christian and dates a nice boy from church. Only to disregard this lifestyle later on when, in our first introduction to her in season three, she's making out with Tim Riggins again.

YES, IT'S ALL VERY CONFUSING. And you know why? BECAUSE LYLA GARRITY IS A CONFUSED GIRL. She had her whole life figured out -- marry the perfect boyfriend, go to the perfect college, have the perfect marriage/family -- until her boyfriend got hot-headed on the football field and ended up sentenced to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. When his life fell apart, so did hers. And she had absolutely no idea how to put it back together again.

This is what happens in life, sure, but it's also what happens -- or should happen -- in fiction. Don't give your characters an easy ride. Don't let them have the perfect life, the perfect future... at least not at first. Your characters should make mistakes. Kiss the wrong boy, say the wrong thing, change who they are, struggle with who they are. This is what Lyla Garrity, annoying or not, does. And she does it with style. When she's perfect, she's all the way, a hundred percent, love-it-or-hate-it, perfect. She hangs cheery Get Well banners in her boyfriend's hospital room. She spends her birthday with him in the hospital instead of having a fancy dinner with her family and friends. She co-hosts a christian radio show. But when she's not perfect? She's hiding boys in her bedroom, sleeping with her boyfriend's best friend, and smashing the cars in her father's dealership.

There is no in between.

And I'm not saying your character should be such flip-flopping opposites. Of course not. Because not only is it incredibly annoying and a little confusing, it also breeds a certain amount of distrust when it comes to the characters words and actions. I mean, how are we supposed to trust that Lyla loves Tim Riggins when two episodes ago she was telling him she'd never speak to him again? IT'S PRETTY DIFFICULT. But what I'm saying is, don't give it to them easy. Make your characters slip a little, fall down a few times before they get to the end of their story. Make them work towards the life they want and the person they become. Don't let them be boring. If they know at the outset who they are, what they want, and what they stand for, make them forget. Give them obstacles. Make them doubt, and then, make them remember. If they don't know who they are? Let them discover that, but don't just give it to them.

This is life. Things aren't simple. We have questions, we have doubts, we have periods of fear and insecurity and not knowing who the hell we are or what the hell we're doing. We have questions and so do our characters.