Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursdays on Diversity

I am currently in a restaurant filled with white people. To be politically correct, I probably should say Caucasian people.
It's not like I live in a town without other ethnicities; those ethnicities just aren't here.
This is how I feel about YA. Other ethnicities are probably there just not in the parts written.
Diversity is a big topic right now in all genres of writing, so I might as well throw my hat into the discussion.
I am half Asian and half white. If you ask my parents, they will say I am 100% Asian and 100% white which doesn't make a lick of sense. I prefer to think of myself as 50/50.
I'm not one of those people who tries to find someone who looks like me to relate to them in a book. I relate to characters by what they feel and do.
I think the big key to diversity isn't what character look like but their culture.
I want diverse cultural backgrounds.
I don't care if the character is black, white, freckled, gay, straight, disabled, abled, Christian, Muslim, vodoo or whatever y'all consider diverse.
Sure they sound diverse, but if those characters aren't influenced by their culture, what is the real difference between all of them besides what they check off on the census.
I once read an author talking about religion saying that if its well written the readers will keep reading.
I believe that. I don't care about the facts. I want the real stuff even if I can't relate. I can't relate to going to a wizard academy, but I keep on reading because JK Rowling is a fantastic author.
My love interest in my WIP is black. Everytime his sisters or he do something wrong, his mother take them to a civil rights museum to remind them how far they have come and to live up to the dream their ancestor had for them.
I think the cultural part about the museum gives you a lot of information on the family and their values than if I just said "he's black".
BTW I consider this as a tradition which totally count for culture :)
Color and religion and everything else don't make up a person. What they do with all that does.
Sure diversity is great, but I think the true gems come from the culture behind their ethnicities.
A little change if color or religion or whatever is great, but I think a white character with strong culture surpasses a diverse character without culture.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday's Inspirational Message

No matter the obstacle, you can overcome it even if it is not in a way you imagined.
I just made that up. I'm sure some famous person has probably said something along those lines in better terms, but those are my words for it. 
You can overcome anything. 
Never forget. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thursday with a Real Thoughts

Plot Twist: The guy actually noticing the girl
Wait a second. That is only a plot twist in real life.
In book world, guy's thoughts revolve around "she's beautiful. *insert girly adjectives*. We should get married as teenagers since we have true love."
BOYS PLEASE DO NOT TAKE AFFENSE. THIS IS A JOKE. In real life, guy's thoughts are more like "oh you exist. sorry didn't notice you were alive let alone a girl. I think your apparent lack of boobage has something to do with that. I'm gonna talk to that hot person over there."
I know those are both extreme exaggerations, but it is something to pay attention to. Please don't over fluff boy thoughts because it sounds romantic. I don't think any guy has ever looked at me at thought what my imaginary book boy thought. If he did, it's kinda weird. Personally, I like to know a person beside how attractive they are before thinking about the lovey dovey stuff.
Guys please note the same thing.
In boy book world, girls think "I'm going to screw with you head, make out with you, then ignore you. On the bright side you will totally fall in love with me even thought I am just screwing with your head. LET'S MAKE OUT! Never mind I was just messing with you."
In real world, girls think "omg should I text him. Does he think I am annoying? I am so annoying him with all these texts. MUST NOT TEXT. Why won't he just text me first? Does he find me that repulsive that I don't even warrant a text? Why are guys so confusing? *Bangs head on table*"
Again more extreme exaggerations. I read a guys WIP, and the girl was constantly screwing with the guys head. Most girls I know don't intentionally mess with guys (there are exceptions).
Anyways real life thoughts are much more interesting and help the reader gain a more personal connection with your POVs/ actions.
Be real people.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday with the Anti-Bucket List

Skip this part if you don't want to read my lame apology
Sorry for the radio silence... again. This semester has been crazy both in school and my personal life.  That's besides the point. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving for our American people. If you live elsewhere, I hope you had a wonderful Thursday (without the Turkey bloating us Americans are dealing with).

Start here for the lame intro 
One of the neat character brainstorming things I've seen lately are character Bucket Lists: the things your character wants to do before they die. I have my own bucket list with little things (publishing is on that list).

I've never written a bucket list for my characters because my characters aren't the type to make bucket lists. Most of my characters face things when they come or do things now (instead of hoping they happen).

Now the awesome, fun part
Let's to the opposite of a bucket list. I want to write a list of things my characters hope never to do in their life... then make those things happen in their story. This is especially useful if you have trouble putting your characters tough stuff.

There are obvious things not to include in this list unless the fit your premise. For example, even though I would never want to die of the black plague, it is kinda unlikely since I don't live in the Middle Ages (wasn't there a House episode where a kid caught the Black Plague?). I am a slightly paranoid health freak, so I hope to never get a nasty disease, cancer or anything that would put my in the hospital.

I'm kinda glad I don't have an evil writer writing my life or else I might be in the hospital right slowly dying before writing my literary masterpiece that resides somewhere in my mind.

I hope this exercise is helpful :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday on How to Choose College in Five Steps


I've decided to make another helpful list for you today. I just visited Villanova University last weekend and I was thinking about what I'm going to consider when looking at colleges. It might seem like a daunting process, but it's really pretty easy to narrow it down. Here is a handy survey to help you decide if the college you're considering is the right one.

1. Does your college look like Hogwarts? Yes/No.
For an example of an appropriate amount  Hogwarts-ness, see University of Chicago (above) or Kenyon College.














2. Does the college have cute sweatshirts and/or do their colors look good on you? Yes/No.
Exhibit A: William & Mary sweatshirt in green and gold.




3.  Does the college have a good library? Yes/No. And let's be clear-- it has to look like a library and have pretty windows and stuff too. And a coffee shop downstairs wouldn't hurt.


Cough, cough, Johns Hopkins. Drooling over this picture.



4. Is the college's mascot stupid. Yes/No?

Stupid mascots

any type of insect
gophers
donkey
Scottie dog (sorry, Carnegie Mellon, it's just a little weird)
a Buckeye (why would you base your mascot off a type of nut?)
an orange
a tree (lol, Stanford)
a pilgrim (lol, Harvard)

Good mascots

Phoenix
Gryffin 
Tiger
Eagle
maybe other things that aren't stupid


5.  Are there more than ten course offered that would require you to read books you like and do fun things? Yes/No?

 (in other words, does their course catalogue sound like a christmas list or a homework planner?)


If you answered no to any of the above questions, you may want to reconsider your college options. Or just move to Paris and become a cat lady. That's my back-up plan,
 if anyone would like to join me.


Now that you have college figured out, you can relax. 

You're welcome.


Caroline 




















Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday NaNo VLOGS!

Hellllllloooooooo!

I made a vlog tonight! Hopefully I'm not too boring.


NaNo username = thatwritergirl1189

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wednesday Says People Should Buy Writers Nice Things

Writers should get nice things. With the holidays approaching, I decided to compile a list to point hapless relative/friends in the right direction for gift shopping.


  1. Anything from Out of Print Clothing. They have shirts, journals, tote bags, journals, and ebook covers featuring the cover designs of classic books (I own the Gatsby sweatshirt, which I wear approximately once a week. It's the warmest thing ever). Check them out here.
  2. The Writer's Toolbox, by Jamie Cat Callan. Comes complete with first lines like "It wasn't so much that I had been blind to the truth, but that I had seen the truth differently," and more weird prompts. The Amazon page.
  3. Novel Teas. English Breakfast tea bags with quotes from T.S. Eliot, Dr. Suess, and others on the tags. Perfect to consume while reading or writing. Caffeine can be found here.
  4. Demeter Fragance's paperback perfume. I don't care if it's silly. Books smell like heaven. http://www.demeterfragrance.com
  5. A personal library kit. This way you can lend your books to others complete with card catalogue and due date stamp. Go buy it for me.
  6. Journals/notebooks. One of my personal obsessions. Barnes and Noble usually has really nice ones.
  7. BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS (obviously).
The internet has more ideas for you here: http://pinterest.com/mental_floss/gift-guide-bibliophiles/

Caroline

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday Rambles



I don't know if this is just me, but sometimes I get on these kicks where I decide I'm never going to ever show my writing to anyone ever again because it's stressful and I don't like explaining myself etc., etc.

This is a very stupid thing to decide.

If I never shared my writing with anyone, I wouldn't be blogging right now. I wouldn't be having a semi-awkward (on my part, anyway) conversation with a former New Yorker staff member on Twitter. I wouldn't have gone to Chicago last April. I might not even know that Chicago is one of my favorite cities. I wouldn't be able to nag my friends/teachers/family members about helping me edit, or read their comments during study hall and fall out of my chair laughing.

I definitely would not be missing math tomorrow, if it weren't for writing. I get to skip the last three periods of the day tomorrow to crash a creative writing class at the college near my home. Afterwords, I'm meeting with the professor to share some of my writing. I've been waiting for this since June, so I'm a tiny bit excited. Just a tiny bit.

If you ever catch yourself wanting to keep your writing to yourself, think about it first. There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing just for yourself, but you may be denying yourself some incredibly fun opportunities. There are thing I've written that I hope to someday burn because they are impossible to read without throwing up. But there are things I've written that I love (for now). And I like sharing them, even if it makes me feel like tearing my hair out sometimes.


Caroline


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday on the Floor

Something that is always present in a setting--okay, I shouldn't say always, because perhaps some stories are set in space or a vacuum, but anyway--is oftentimes ignored: the floor. The floor is highly important. It not only keeps you from falling to your death (say, in a skyscraper), it might also affect the movement of your character or the possibility of death. Like, if your character is foolishly wearing socks and running down a staircase. This might not be terrible if the stairs are carpeted, but on marble, your character's chance of death via falling down stairs increases approximately 236.7%.

Floors also provide cool sounds--clacking, if heels are moved across hard surfaces. Shuffling, if the floor is outdoors and maybe gravel or weeds. Nothing at all, if the floor is carpet and allows the Bad Guys to sneak up on your oblivious character.

Definitely add floors to your settings--they also help create a nice 3-dimensional space.

Happy Tuesday!
Kieryn
www.kierynnicolas.com

By the way, I probably won't be blogging next week--it's GISHWHES!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Has Workshop Brain

Heya people.

So, in my creative writing class here at school, we've been workshopping for the past couple weeks. If you don't know what that is, we bring in short stories (3 groups that rotate) and read them, critique them, and then discuss them in class. The writer isn't allowed to justify anything and then they go back and revise the story for our final portfolios. Yes.

I adore workshop. It is so fascinating to hear people talk about your writing in person--especially in such a large group. The majority of the time I hear feedback about my writing is through the internet from my critique partners or my brother who basically reads everything I write (and he is literally the sweetest person ever when it comes to my writing). Whether it be bad or good, what they have to say is always interesting. I think it is a great idea for any sort of writer to just go to a workshop, whether it be through a school or arts center or random writing class, or if you just get a group of writers you know together to do one.

What's interesting to me is that the feedback on my stories isn't what has helped me most with writing this semester. It's reading other people's stories. I have to admit that there are only a very few exceptional writers in my class. Reading their work is so much fun and I've learned a lot from them. But I've learned a lot of what not to do from others, as well as how different writing can be when you've done it for years or you are just beginning. I know a lot of agents and people in general tend to look down on teenage or young writers because their work isn't that well developed. From reading more and more works of such young people writing, I've realized it's very true. A lot of the people in my workshop haven't been writing seriously for as long as a lot of the people I've met on twitter or here on blogger have, and it definitely shows. That being said, I've realized how strong (sorry, not trying to toot my horn here) my writing is compared to most other high school/college students, as well as the people I've surrounded myself with online's writing is.

So props to you guys.

Has anyone else been in a workshop class before? What are your thoughts on it?

IN OTHER NEWS. NaNoWriMo starts in just under two weeks!! Who all is doing it? I am for sure. NaNo is one my favorite things ever. *pumped*

Toodles for now!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday Says Good People Aren't All That Great

Hear me out on this one.

I think people feel like they have to write archetypes. You know, old men are either wise or grumpy. The bad guys are despicable. The good guys are saints.


While archetypes are cool and everything, they're essentially limiting. They're stencils. You can use them, sparingly, but wouldn't you rather have a painting, or a sculpture?

J.K. Rowling's new book The Casual Vacancy gave me the idea for this post. The characters in her new novel aren't essentially good or bad. Their role depends on the situation. They're all the antagonists and the protagonists because they all are living different stories. To different people, they represent different things.
When making a character, don't get caught up in making them likable, or creating a better version of yourself. Not everyone will like your character. Some people will probably hate them, and those people will usually have reasons for this, even if those reasons are strange, or nonsensical. Our own grudges don't seem nonsensical to us, so why would they to an antagonist?

Your character doesn't have to be objectively good or bad. It's more fun if they're a little bit of both.

Caroline

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thursday with how Sentence Structure Impacts Characterization

Sentence structure can reveal tiny hints to your characters. Please note that below are generalizations which you can totally break, BUT there should be a reason if you make a lawyer talk in long, preposition filled sentences or a creative type talking with short brisk sentences.

Sentence Structure in Narration

  • Short Sentences: These are for characters who get straight to the point. No flowy language to make it sound pretty. These characters want to get right into what's import (less likely to give long paragraphs of dialogue) and are very sure of themselves (think lawyers, doctors, over achievers in school, New Yorkers)
    • Ex: "The meeting. Don't be late"
  • Long Sentences: These are for characters who like details. These characters use a lot of prepositions and adjectives. Conflict possibility: information tends to get lost in all the details in long sentences. Long sentences tend to be more flowy and pretty than short brisk sentences. Characters who use long sentences tend to have more to say (think teachers, writers trying to explain their novels ;), love interests professing their undying love) 
    • EX: "Please don't be late for the meeting on Thursday in lecture hall by the office at 3:45 where we will talk about our upcoming service projects like Habitat for Humanity and the food bank." 


Sentence Structure in Dialogue (these can be used SPARINGLY in narrative)

  • Sentences ending with a dash: These are for characters who get cut of in their thoughts. These characters tend think fast and don't care if others follow their train of thought. Conflict possibility: information tends to be forgotten with these fast thinkers. These characters also don't tend to go back and finish their thoughts (think aggressive drivers, gossipers) 
      • Ex: "I hate this song it just- It's called a gas pedal. Use it. You would think- What do you think you are doing. Idiot!"
  • Sentences ending in an exclamation point: These are for characters who are very passionate. Be cautious with exclamation points. I have read that some agents consider exclamation points as a sign of an amateur writer. Even though I am an amateur writer, I think exclamation points with a POINT (did you catch the pun) and used sparingly can be super beneficial for characterizing a character with having to say that they are passionate. While using an exclamation point every sentence to show a passionate character is okay, but the occasion point after a line that is beneficial to the plot makes the reader recognize that line is important not only to the character but to the plot as well. Characters who uses exclamation points want to bring the point across (think cheerleaders, people in a fight, writers after they get "The Call", Bill Nye)  
    • Ex: "Are you ready writers! Give me a W! Give me a R! Give me an I! Give me a T! Give me an E! Write! Write! Write!"
  • Sentences with italics: These are for characters who are like to put extra emphasis on their words (we all know the types of people I am talking about). Notice: which word these characters emphasize can drastically change the meaning of the sentence.  Very often these characters like to emphasize something in every sentences they say (think stereotypical preppy girls, and... okay I can't really think of any other group of people who talk like this). 
    • Ex: "I love these shoes. They are so cute. Why do they have to be so expensive?"
  • Sentences with ellipses: These are for characters who aren't quiet sure of themselves or space out a lot (like me). The two types of characters I mentioned are very different, so I'll start with characters not sure of themselves. These characters might make up information to make it seem like they understand (like me on free response questions in chemistry). The ellipses signals a hesitation which these characters use to think of what to say next. Ellipses are great to show characters in a right here and now situation where they must make something up on the spot (think the kid in the back of class who wasn't paying attention and gets called on, new boss tying to make people like them). On the other hand ellipses can be used for characters who space out (similar to dash characters). I space out a lot. If you are talking to me, I probably won't retain a word you said. I even do this for myself. In the middle of talking, I will space out and lose my train of thought (think creative types, constant thinkers, people really passionate about what they are talking about). 
    • Ex for characters who aren't sure of themselves: "Well isn't the... we talked about this the other day after the thing on electronegativity right... the atomic radius larger at the... *makes left and right fingers* left side of the periodic table towards the... *looks up at the ceiling* top of the periodic table. That can't be right... or is it? I remember talking about... it's in my notes... the atomic radius is largest at the bottom left hand corner? Is that right... or... I know this. I promise. I just... yeah, atomic radius is largest at the lower right hand corner. Final answer. Right?... We have bonus right?"


    • Ex for characters who space out: "I found the cutest... OMG I totally forgot my homework... *digs through back pack* what was I looking for again?" 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday on Why Being Tired is Good

Who out there hates being tired?

(I see everyone raising their hand. Yeah, me too.)

Who out there is tired right now?

(No hands dropped? It's a big club, we should get t-shirts.)

My suggestion is this: use it. Own it. Take weariness by the horns and turn it into words. ...Dramatic and cliche advice aside, I'm telling you to write. I do my best (and most) writing late at night, when I'm too tired to be distracted by anything. And, also, when I'm too tired to care about every little mistake. Those can be edited out later, once the words are actually written.

Or sleep. Sleeping is good too.

Happy Tuesday!

Kieryn
www.kierynnicolas.com

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday Says Hi

Or: Oh, hey there!

Yeah, I haven't blogged in a while. I had the plague for a couple weeks and I kept forgetting and not having the energy and... well, basically, I just sucked.

Anyways, tomorrow is Thanksgiving in Canada so I don't really have anything to blog about today but I promise I will come up with a good post next week. Okay?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday is BACK IN THE GAME.

HELLLOOOOOO WRITING COMMUNITY.

I have been gone for far too long. Okay, not really, I have been gone for around a month. I've just been trying to settle into school and whatnot.

And every Friday I'm like, "Oh yes, YA Lit Six post, must do that." And then I forget. But I am here! I promise! I haven't died!

This is all jumbly. I'm sorry.

I'm rather short on writing news to share, apart from the fact I'm taking a creative writing class at my university. I've learned quite a bit from it. I've been wanting to make posts about it and relay the information I've been learning to all of you, but I'm such a slacker.

I would advise any writer to look into the book 'Writing Fiction' by Janet Burroway, though. There is some great advice and information for both amateur and seasoned writers. There are also some FANTASTIC short stories, and we all know that reading helps you become a better writer. Of course, there are some things that aren't necessarily true of writing and should be challenged (in my and others' opinions, at least). I have a lot of things highlighted in the book, so I think next post I shall share some with you!

Sorry for the shortness!

Toodles.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday on Problem Solving

Sorry for not posting last week. Some personal problems got in the way. I won't get into it because y'all probably don't care and it is hard to explain.
I wish I could say I took my personal problems as a reason to dive into my writing and find strength like my MC does. Nope. I didn't do that.
I tried, but the words would not come.
The problem is that my WIP is a historical, and I can not nail that era's voice.
I have been doing research, but nothing is clicking for the voice. I have great plot elements to add and all.
This got me thinking about what I was struggling with this time last year.

  • Biology (I still have no idea how I managed to pull an A in that class)
  • Boys (I still have not made any improvements in understanding the male brain- for writing purposes only ;) okay maybe for me too)
  • Books (I noticed I had two other Bs, so I thought I would end with another B)

My writing (or books for the B purpose) had its own problems.
I could not for the life of me develop a healthy, realistic, swoon worthy, unique romance. All of my love interests were carbon copies of every other swoon worth guy in the YA market. Now I have dozens of amazing guys swarming in my head (That sounded a lot better in my head). What I mean is that now I have (if I do say so myself) really amazing love interests in store for my MCs.
I also had problems with writing an accent for my characters voice. Now my MC's southern twang comes out full force, and it is a blast to write (I recently stored that story away because the plot was not working, but every now and then, I get hit by a witty one liner from that character).
I wrote a post a while back about how much I hate themes, and now I am starting to get them. We aren't quite at the friendship bracelet stage, but we are getting there.
I had other problems (some of which haven't been resolved yet), but I have gotten past a lot of them. With time everything worked its way out.
Summary: Everything gets better with time.
Whether its personal drama, school work, boys (okay this has not been proven yet), or your writing; it gets better.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Detailed vs. Still Detailed

As the author, you might have every last detail of your character and your setting in your mind. (Or perhaps even drawn out.) However, not every single one of those details needs to make it to the page.

But why? Shouldn't the story be as real as possible?

YES. And that's exactly why: because unless your character is Sherlock Holmes or Shawn Spencer, your character is not Sherlock Holmes or Shawn Spencer. Your character is probably a mere mortal. Which is why, sometimes, generality is key.

Humans think in generalities, and relate stories in generalities, which is why when specifics are introduced, we know they're important. If someone were to tell a story about one of someone's dozen cookies being stolen in an indoor market, they'd probably describe the indoor market as large and bustling, rather than 10,000 cubic feet with seventy-three independent conversations happening between a ratio of three females for every male present, as well as seven babies crying and... If you did that, the next part about how the cookies were arranged (which would differ after some were stolen) would be less important, and might go over the reader's head.

Besides, large and bustling gives about the same mental image, does it not? We humans share a language for a reason--words have meaning. We are readers for a reason--we have imaginations. Together the two can do wonders, so feel free to let the reader take the reins once in a while.

Happy Tuesday!

Kieryn
www.kierynnicolas.com

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thursday is Back with the Key to Emotional Scenes

Sorry for not posting for the last few weeks. School has been crazy, and Thursdays have become my busiest days. I'll try to post more often now that I'm getting into a routine.
I love movies. I use the excuse that it helps with noticing plot structure and characterization, but really I just watch them because they are fun. I watch a lot of movies from my cable channels, so sometimes I catch a movie 30 minutes too late.
One thing I have noticed is that I don't care about the characters since I missed the "oh look at me I am so relatable" moment they had in the beginning.
One of the big tips I learned early on to make characters likable was to make them relatable. No I have never had my best friend eaten by my alien dog who speaks Portuguese. I doubt you have either (but if you have, I would so buy your memoir), but I can relate to losing my best friend. That tiny thread can keep me attached to your character.
This is especially big in music. Some songs are so popular because people can relate. Airplanes wasn't just popular because of its catchy lyrics. I might not have thought about planes being shooting stars, but I have been desperate for something so strongly that I would bargain for it. People can relate. Think Taylor Swift. I think every girl can point to one of Taylor Swifts so and go "been there".
You want your reader to connect with your emotional scenes and go "been there" no matter how out there your story world is. Those "been there" moments can grow a stronger bond between your character and your readers.
Whether you are 2 pages in or 200 pages in, make your characters emotional scenes relatable to your reader.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday Loves Fall

So, I have a challenge for you guys. I want you to write me something (story, poem, song, whatever) about fall. Why? Because I love fall. If you're a daring soul who decides to take me up on this, I'd love to see what you've written. Post in the comments or send me an email at cfs14@scasd.org. Here's the catch-- it has to include one of these things:

✦ a spilled cup of tea

✦ exes accidentally meeting in a graveyard

✦ a boy who can't stop raking leaves

✦ a favorite sweater with a hole in the elbow

✦ hot chocolate & a walk through the woods

✦ a ghost haunting a Homecoming dance

✦ an oak tree

✦ a talking raven

✦ a book with the last ten pages missing

✦ a power-outage

✦ a Bon Fire


I will write something too, just to be fair. I'll post a link to it on here next week. Good luck.


Caroline





Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday on Song & Character

When I write, I don't listen to music.

When I do listen to music, I want to sing along.

When I want to sing along, I want to sing along for a reason.

When there's a reason to sing along, a song has character.

Therefore (and we have some transitive property happening here), I like to listen to music with character. (And I don't listen while I write because I need to focus on my own characters.)

"Character" doesn't necessarily mean that the song literally is about (a) character(s) (though that usually works--see Roxanne by The Police and Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles). For me, a song with character has some sort of meaning--whether I am intrigued by a story being told (see Skullcrusher Mountain by Jonathan Coulton and The Downeaster "Alexa" by Billy Joel) or the song reminds me of a favorite TV show (see "every song ever used in Supernatural").

And when I like a song and its lyrics I like to learn them and sing along, whether out loud (see "when I'm alone/with my sister in the car") or in my head (see "every time other than the aforementioned two circumstances").

The same characteristics that I find intriguing about songs I also find intriguing about stories. Character. Meaning. So what does your favorite song say about your favorite book?

Happy Tuesday!

Kieryn
www.kierynnicolas.com

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wednesday And Time Traveling Puritans (Not Really)

Now, don't get me wrong. The best thing you can do if you're really going to write that 800 page novel about a time traveling Puritan rock band is just sit down and make yourself write, but that doesn't mean you should spend an hour and a half staring at your blank computer screen crying. When you've first started a piece of writing and you get to that initial point (say, the second sentence or so) where you have no idea what to write, you should take a fifteen minute research break.

The research doesn't have to be historical research, unless you're writing historical fiction. In that case, you should do a lot of research. A ton. An enormous amount. For those of us whose books are set in the present, or in a different dimension, or in a futuristic dystopia, there are still things to research.

Start with your characters. I like to make profiles for all my main characters. I change them as I write, but they're a good basis to have so I feel like I'm writing about someone I know, not making them up as I go along. I try to know everything-- their scars from bike accidents, their favorite jacket, their favorite ice cream flavor, their pet peeves, and even their bad habits or weird mannerisms. Details like that can make a character seem more real.

If you're as weird as me, you can even take personality tests as your characters (try a Myers-Briggs test or the one on collegeboard.com). These are ridiculously interesting and give you new insight to why a character might do something, especially if the character is particularly different from you.

After you have a good idea of who your characters are and what drives them to do what they do, you can research setting. If your character lives in a real, currently existing city, they probably know it pretty well. That means you have to know it well too. Print out maps. Where are their favorite places? How do they get to school? If your setting is imaginary, make maps for yourself. I still have a box full of maps of imaginary neighborhoods and houses that I drew for every story I made up. I hid them under a post on our porch and found them years later looking as disheveled and creepy looking as 7 year-old me could have wished.

Sometimes, I have trouble fixing my characters' appearances in my head. When this happens, I'll write a paragraph just describing the way I see them in my head. Then I will sometimes find a picture of someone who looks like what I imagined to help solidify the image in my head.

I wish you all good luck in your researching and writing, but I'm going to have to end here to go do actual historical research for my actual A.P. U.S. History test on Friday. If I miss another post there is a 90% chance it is because of that class. Or maybe time traveling Puritans.

Sincerely,

(sleep-deprived) Caroline.

http://colossalvitalityofillusion.tumblr.com/

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesday on more school survival (aka writing for school)

Okay, I'll admit it:

I hate homework.

Oh, wait. If you know who I am, you probably already know that. I've mentioned it a few times.

(Or a few thousand times.)

But here's the thing--sometimes homework is writing. And in the midst of a million hours of homework for a million classes and the irony of not being able to keep up with news (like watch the RNC and the DNC because school's started and you don't have time for "current events"anymore) because you have to do other forms of dictated education during your free time in addition to the EIGHT HOURS ALREADY SPENT IN THE ACTUAL LEARNING INSTITUTE AND--

Wait, I lost my point.

Oh! Right. Sometimes homework is writing, and in the midst of the aforementioned homework, you might sometimes (always) feel like spewing random words on a page just to get it over with already.

I do not recommend this.

And yes, clearly, I see your homework pain and raise you some angst and complaining! But an opportunity to write is an opportunity to write--and you might just crank out something you're proud of and use it to enter contests or launch a novel or pound out your feelings in a lengthy, well-cited essay. (All have actually happened to me. I am the example here.)

So don't let homework win. Have fun writing anyway.

Happy Tuesday!

Kieryn
www.kierynnicolas.com

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wednesday on School Survival Skills

Hi, guys.

Over here in good ol' Pennsylvania, we have just started school, and I've spent the last two days listening to some horrifying pronouncements.

Case in point A --

"We won't be reading any fiction in this class."



I've spent at least twenty minutes trying to figure out if this was a red herring or a really weird expression I'm unfamiliar with, but I've come to the sad conclusion that it's just a (kind of unpleasant) truth.

Case in point B--

"There will be a lot of writing in this class, but it will not require creativity. It will be tedious, but you will get a better great if you simply regurgitate the information given to you."



Any one who has ever taken notes on a history textbook knows there are only so many ways to say "and then the Europeans killed them and took their land" before you want to throw the fifty pound book through the nearest wall.

Case in point C--

"Hi, welcome to your math class this year."



No explanation needed.


Even for people like me, who actually like school (I'm told this is rare), things can sometimes get tedious and frustrating. So, I have some suggestions.


  1. When you're in class that requires you to write in a dry technical way, it can be tempting to assume you're going to be bored to death. Try to focus on the language itself, or something you DO find interesting in that five thousand page U.S. History book. Maybe you'll discover you find rhetoric or linguistic really interesting. Or maybe you'll be fascinated by the Neolithic Revolution.
  2. If you wish your class had more castles/fiction/poetry/whatever, go out and learn about it yourself. No one said you couldn't read a classic novel out of class just for the heck of it. And just because the course you are in doesn't cover something, that doesn't mean you can't decide you want to know more. 
  3. Your dislike of a class doesn't mean it's not valuable. Learning anything about the world helps you become a more informed citizen of it. Even if the subject doesn't seem to relate to you life, it's still useful to know the basics, even if that's only because you want to do decently on the SAT or another standardized test that is looming in your future.
  4. Chill out. It all seems really, really important right now. Some of it is, but you have to prioritize. Worrying about everything is only going to bring you down.
  5. Go to sleep. You'll regret your late night movie marathon in the morning (I usually do).
Don't die. 

Love,
Caroline



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday on Audience

Do you write for yourself, or do you write for others?

Trick question--you probably do both.

Personally, my ultimate audience usually falls into the "for others" category. But I do plenty of "for myself" writing along the way. For example, storyboarding. When I storyboard I just blurt out strings of punctuation-less, grammar-less word jumbles that make sense to me because they trigger memories of writing them.

For example, a snippet of a storyboard from a short piece I wrote a few years ago:
@ drew k&k collaborate abt subjects note not much was exceptional about them except absent during lunch…
k&k just making up doesn’t seem real when seven comes in
seven informs them that she found location but not names
k&k make plans on when to talk to subs seven vetoes plans saying more time to scope out the situation and get into the group
K&k like         okay more observing   ......
(Just reading that again is making me laugh.)

But, see, I wrote it for myself, my eyes only. I had to transform it into something people would actually understand in order to make it acceptable in the "for others" category. It looked way different when I was done.

And that's okay! My point is, there are different stages. Writing is meant as a medium to convey an idea, a story, an emotion, whatever--and if you're just writing for, well, you, then there's no reason to use punctuation or capital letters.

Just thought I'd share that little revelation.

Happy Tuesday!

Kieryn
www.kierynnicolas.com

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday on Dialogue

Or: It's really windy and my allergies are killing me so I dunno how coherant this will be.

(Seriously, my nose is all chafed and it's just pathetic. Stupid allergies. And I took my allergy meds as soon as I woke up so I don't even want to imagine what today would have been like without them. But as it is... breathing is HARD.)

So a little while ago I asked you guys what you'd like to see me blog about (which I'd still like to know!) and an Anon asked this:

"When I was writing today I thought of something I'd love for you to blog about. When characters are having a conversation, sometimes I feel like the "tags" of the dialogue start to repeat themselves, and I have trouble coming up with new ones. Like their actions, for example. "He nodded", "she smiled", "his gaze was intense as he said", things like that. I feel like it should be easier to come up with a variety, but sometimes it's hard! I know it also depends on the characters and their situations, but I'd be interested to hear what you think, and what you do in your own writing. Thanks! :)"

Sorry it took me a bit to get to this (and also that you're getting it on a day where I'm probably pretty dumb from the snot in my head), but here's my answer, anyways.

My answer is... I have no idea.

No, no, I'm not done! But the thing is, dialogue is easy for me for the most part. For the most part, my rough drafts just tend to be dialogue.

So! I thought maybe I'd share a (very, very rough, it's pre-first draft still) scene with you guys, then talk about it a bit. Sound good? Good.

"Are you ever going to tell me your last name?"

Jack looked across the trailer at me and slowly grinned. "Maybe one day."

"You tell me everything else."

"That's because you never go away."

I stuck my tongue out at him. "Are you coming to dinner?"

"Sure. You gonna be there."

I snorted. "Duh. What else would I be doing?"

He shrugged, taking a shirt from the small closet. "Go out?"

"Pfft, with who?"

Jack slid his arms into the sleeves of his shirt. "There's always me."

"You asking me out, Pittsburgh?" I teased.

He didn't say anything.

I blinked, then slowly crossed the trailer until I stood in front of him. I drew the edges of his shirt together and slipped a few of the buttons closed without thinking about it. "Are you asking me out, Jack?"

"Maybe I am."

"Well." I played with the edges of his shirt. "I guess you do owe me dinner."

"Doing anything tomorrow?"

"Rehearsal. Same as today." I look down at his shirt and curse. "I'm getting chalk all over you."

"I'm used to it. Once in a while, I swear I sneeze soot."

"Gross." But I laughed. "You wouldn't believe the places I find chalk. It gets stuck under my nails and ends up everywhere."

Jack touched my cheek. "Sawyer."

I looked up at him. "Yeah?"

"Tomorrow night?"

I smiled. "Sure." 

Obviously, this is very skeletal. You don't get a big sense of the setting from this and the balance isn't quite right. (I don't know how to explain that better. There's just a balance scenes should have in my head and it makes things okay.)

So, Anon, the answer to your question is that a lot of the time, I don't tag my dialogue. Honestly, it can get a bit tedious if you over-do it, in my opinion, and I don't think it always needs it. I tend to rely pretty heavily on actions, though. (And I'm going to pretend I'm not paranoid about over-relying on them...)

If you're having trouble coming up with actions, watch people! Erm. Not in a creepy way. No stalking. I am not going to responsible if you get arrested for stalking someone. But when you're having a conversation with someone, watch how they act, how you act towards them. Watch people on TV (although keep in mind that TV is not real life). Give your character something to hold, like a cup of coffee, or a nervous habit. (Nervous habits are great.)

Okay, Anon, I'm getting a bit dizzy, so I really hope this answered you and helped. (If not, leave me a comment telling me what you're looking for, okay? Maybe I can try again.)

Leave me fun stuff in the comments!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday is Alive, but UNPREPARED

WELL.

In case I've been away for too long, I'm KT and I blog on Fridays.

Well, I did. *ashamedly walks away* I do apologize for my absence. I never expected my summer to be this busy on Fridays O.O. Nor did I expect to NOT spend all my time online. Rest assured, though, the school year is beginning and I will be online a lot more ;)

So. Yes. I leave for college on Sunday. COOOOLLLLLLLLEGE. I'm terrified, hence the 'unprepared' part of my title.

In writing news... well, I'm still revising Society Road. Just about finished, though! I'll definitely finish it before I go off to school. And then I'm not quite sure what to do... I don't have something I want to revise after this, but I don't know if I want to start a novel right before NaNo. Especially with it being my first couple weeks at school.

Ah well. I'll go with the flow. That's what I do when it comes to writing, really XD

I don't have much to come back with right now, really, but to get back in the swing of blogging, I guess I'll try and make up for a post I missed. As you all know, we just had the blog's anniversary and there were a couple posts devoted to that, so here is what I have to say in regards to that...

PAST
Well, two years ago... I was sixteen and had just moved from Connecticut to Illinois (where did the time go...?). I was very passionate about writing and was in the middle of revising a book I'd been working on since 2008. I didn't know anybody on the online writing world, and I had just begun a blog.

I was very much a newbie, and still am ^^.

PRESENT
As of right now, I can say I'm much happier than I was two years ago. Happier with the people around me and definitely happier with my writing (well, in most cases). The book I was revising two years ago is in shambles and I really have no current interest in fixing it right now except for the occasional pang I feel of abandoning the characters I still love.

I've written two and a half more books... that I love and are much stronger than what I was writing in the past.

As of right now, I just left my first job at the library, and it's definitely influenced me and my dreams. I miss it very much and I pretty much just want to work at a library from now on XD

FUTURE
It's like we're going through all the tenses!

For the future... well, I'm looking forward to Nano and churning out another book. I'm hoping to carry on writing another book outside of November, because I haven't managed to do that really in the past year. Sort of.

I also definitely want to get a manuscript ready to query. Soon, hopefully. I think that's really my main goal within the next year.

And college. Having a great year at college is one, too :)



Well, this was a bit longer than my usual post, but since I've been away, I think that's a good thing!

Toodles.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday on Remembering

I am right now in the middle of a book. This one scene just made me tear up.
As a writer and a reader, that's the real dream I think. A lot of people say their dream is to publish or become a mega best seller.
Me?
I want characters that touch poeple on an emotional level.
I want the tears. I want the smiles. I want the laughs. I want the heartbreak. I want that true love.
I just needed to say that. I feel like I get so caught up in the big picture that one of the reasons I write. I write to give people what many amazing writers have given me: the ability to get lost in a character
This is why I write.
I'm not sure if that made any senses since I'm typing this quickly so I can get back to my book, but I just want to say never why you write. If you forget, you might lose your love for writing, and I honestly can't imagine life without loving writing.
What do you want out of writing? What books have giving you every emotion? Why do you write?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday on location, location, location.

I am currently writing this while sitting cross-legged in the middle of my carpet, facing my bulletin board and using my pillow pet that Katie claims is a snowy owl but looks more like a hedgehog (if you ask me) as a desk. (Hedgehogs, FYI, are not preferable to snowy owls. Hedgehogs are scary.)

I point this out because usually I write at my desk, where my laptop hooks up to a monitor and a keyboard (so this keyboard feels strange, actually). Also to provide a little insight as to why my tailbone is currently killing me.

Murderous tailbone aside, though, this was a really good move on my part. The new perspective (literally) has increased my college-essay productivity by 304% (to use a general estimation). I think lately when I sit at my desk I settle into a mindset predisposed to procrastination. It's not a conscious decision, it's just something about that corner of the room that has, over time, turned into an escape rather than a focus point.

I may have to rearrange my furniture soon.

Anyway, I bring this up as advice of the motivational sort--if you're feeling blocked, get up and move. If you don't have a laptop, grab a notebook. Choose a chair in your living room and curl up there for a while. Flop on the floor in your basement. Perch on a pile of laundry. And if, for some reason that isn't possible, at least change your desktop wallpaper or write on a different type of paper (wide vs. college ruled, different size, etc.) Let a new perspective inspire you.

(I swear that alliteration was only 5% on purpose.)

Happy Tuesday!

Kieryn
www.kierynnicolas.com

PS -- I'm now on tumblr!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday on Our APAUs

I hate school with every fiber of my being. Don't misunderstand me- I LOVE English, Yearbook, Journalism, and AP U.S. History- but that only encompasses about three hours of my day. As for the rest- Chemistry, Latin, and Algebra II with Trig- I would love to just casually forget about them as if they never existed.

I started school two weeks ago, by the way. Just in case you were wondering where I was... You probably weren't, but I feel guilty nonetheless.

And just in case you're joining us for the first time, the only background info you'll need to understand my lovely anecdote is that I work at a grocery store here in my hometown!

I work with the most awesome woman ever (for the sake of her privacy, we'll call her Addy). When I have a long shift, she always comes up with ways to make me laugh, and she has great advice to pass on to me. In short, she's my mom away from home. I get seriously depressed if we're not placed on the same shift because I know it'll be long and hard without any fun and laughter. We have the same goals (travel the world, write a little, stay happily single for at least another 10 years or so) and we love to share them with each other.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Addy was what I call my "adoptive parental advice  unit," which we see a lot of in modern day (and older) fiction. Typically, they're the older people that the main character draws advice from in the novel. Think about every book you've ever read and try to remember if there was  an APAU (pronounced ah-pow). Here's a couple to jog your memory:


  • Cinna from The Hunger Games 
  • Dumbledore from Harry Potter
  • Gloria from Because of Winn Dixie
  • Marmee (Mrs. March) from Little Women (even though she's not technically adoptive, she's unusually attuned to her daughters' deeper needs)
Those were just a few of my favorites, but APAUs are used in many works of fiction nowadays. They do really well in bringing out the best in your MC- the good traits that readers are drawn in by, such as kindness and loyalty, which are often reflected in their APAU's personality. I think we'd all be better people if everyone had an APAU. They're often the most quotable people as well.

Do you have an APAU? If you have written your own APAU, what kind of characteristics did you give him or her?

“There ain't no way you can hold onto something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it.” - Gloria from Because of Winn Dixie

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thursday's Dogs Offer Writing Insight

STORY TIME!!!
I agreed to pet sit for one of my mom's friend's dog. Let's call the dog ND for New Dog. I took ND home and introduced her to my dogs. I have three. Let's call them MD1, MD2, MD3 for my dog #. Yes it does sound like all of my dogs are doctors, but they are not.
Anyways the main worry was that MD2 would bully ND. MD2 can be a bully around other dogs. MD1 was also a concern because he is the big boss. He is the guard dog of the group. MD3 is all bark with no bite.
One by one we introduced ND to the dogs. MD1 was first. They did the whole dog butt smelling thingy. A few barks were made, but they were okay. Good sign.
Then I brought out MD2. I put her on a leash just in case. Butt sniff, bark, etc.
Finally MD3 came out. She barked and barked and barked. Nothing less than I expected.
Over all it went way better than I expected. All the dogs are happy and relaxed.
Even though it all went well, ND was scared the entire time. Meeting my dogs was a very overwhelming experience for ND.
If you are like ND, you are probably a tad overwhelmed as well which is not surprising. I just introduced you to four dogs with names very similar to each other, random facts about said dogs that seem random, and also my mom and her friend.
All of that information can be overwhelming for a readers. 

Tips on Avoiding Overwhelming Your Readers:
  • Avoid introducing to many characters at once (this is the one I thought of because of my dogs)
  • Avoid characters with names that are similiar 
  • Avoid info dumping (even if it is all info the reader needs to know)
  • Avoid characters who are unnecessary to the scene or else they are just extra names to remember (I could have just said "I am pet sitting." and avoiding making you know two people who don't impact the scene)
I hope this post made more sense than my last few.  I need to stop trying to write posts when my brain is dead and only capable of watching NCIS reruns.

What overwhelms you as a reader? How do you prevent overwhelming readers?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wednesday On Fate

Does your character believe in fate? Make them a slave to it. Or make them be a trail-blazer who hates the idea of destiny. People don't want to read about a character who just kind of cares about things. If your character is passionate, the reader will be forced to think about whether or not they care. Sure, it may seem like a great idea to have your character be too cool to care, but it's not realistic. Even the people who seem like they don't care have something that matters to them. They just don't want to show it. When you give your character opinions, you make them both vulnerable (belief can get you hurt) and strong. The vulnerability will make them human. The strength will make them someone to admire.

I'm not saying you should make your main character take an extreme opinion on every issue. Reading that book wouldn't be fun. If I wanted to listen to someone argue about controversial things 24/7, I could ask that annoying kid in my history class to follow me around. My point is that every one has ideas or issues they feel strongly about. When you give your character a stance, you have a whole new story. They didn't form that opinion spontaneously. Maybe they hate purple because their father used to wear it before he died and their passionate hatred of this color will cause them get into a fight with a mysterious man wearing a purple tie. Or maybe they hate the idea of fate so much they go out of their way to contradict what people expect them to do. Use your characters' deep-seated beliefs to create conflict. When you have conflict, you'll have a story.

Caroline

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saturday on Scrivener

Or: I've been up since 3am and it's noon and that SUCKS.

Do you guys know what Scrivener is? It's a writing software that is awesome. I got the Windows version when they came out with the Windows beta version right before NaNoWriMo in 2010. (2010? *checks blog* Yup, 2010. Which, if you weren't around, I completely failed at it because I got sick twice in one month... I think? Although the way the blog reads, I was sick from September to November. I think I spent about a month sick. Yay sinus and/or throat infections and this is why if you're sick for more than two weeks, you need to go to the doctor because obviously it isn't better and man, I barely remember that fall.)

Anyways, for a couple years it's been that if you win NaNoWriMo, you get a coupon for half off Scrivener. I lost horribly, but KT won and she already had it so she gave me her coupon and I got it for 20 bucks which is a GREAT deal and I think might be an annual thing? And last year you could get 20% off just for participating. I'd say hold out for a coupon because it's a bit expensive and I'm generally cheap, but it's a really awesome software.

Since I don't think I use it like most people do, I thought it'd be interesting to show you guys how I use it. I don't draft in it, though. The formatting throws me off and messes with the little thing in my head that tells me when paragraphs are the right size and how dialogue feels and stuff... I realize how strange that sounds.

Anyways, I'm using the "novel" template that comes with Scrivener, but I tend to adapt it a fair bit to work for me. Also keep in mind that I'm using the Windows version and I'm pretty sure there are some differences between that and the Mac version.



(Just click it to make it bigger and see all the details and stuff because it'd look awful if I made it larger.)

I tend to write in bits and pieces. See that thing that says "Manuscript?" That is where are the bits and pieces end up. (They also go into a binder once I rip them out of my notebook. This is why my notebooks must have a perforated edge and binder holes.)

Then you see the "Character" and "Setting" folders with the "Sketch" thingies? Those are templates that are just in the Novel template on Scrivener but I might play with them a bit. Generally I don't use them, but I thought I'd leave them in case I wanted to.

After that, my Research folder tends to be insane. I like to make a new text document for each thing I want to take notes on per book. (The text thingies are the things that look like index cards. They're a document and you can move the order around on the corkboard and stuff. I think there's a demo video on Scrivener's website so if you're curious, go watch that, okay? 'Cause this is just how I use it.)

OH and the colourful things in the Research folder are pictures. And it's all in one place! How awesome is that? Basically, that's why I like Scrivener. All my insane little research things and all my random scenes and everything that would normally be all over the place and I'd forever be losing is all in one place. And bear in mind that this is a book that I'm not writing yet so this is kind of small for now.

See why I was willing to pay 20 bucks for it? I would never say that you NEED any special kind of software to write books (hey, I wrote on looseleaf for years before I even had a computer) but this one is VERY HANDY for me personally.

What about you guys? Got any fun tricks or tips like this?

Also, I'm still open to blogging requests and stuff. Anything you want me to blog about? (Anon from last week - I will do that post on dialogue, hopefully next week. I just had this on my mind and wanted to do it first.)

Have a great weekend!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thursday on the Secret About Writer's Block

In middle school (before I started writing), I wrote a few essays for English about writers magically having the words flow. Whether or not they really did, I didn't care. Flowing words sounded way better than "Such and such was a good writer. He strung some cool words together." Little did I know that words do NOT magically flow. 

Words are more like a sink. Sure everything might come out fine and handy when you first turn it on, but after you try to turn it off, the only water left coming out is the tiny annoying drips. Did that make any sense? Basically, words might magically flow at the beginning, but if you break the flow to watch Supernatural, getting the flow to turn back on is hard. The occasional word might drip out, but for me, those drips are the kind what make me back up and go "how is this even English."

Some people might call this writer's block. I call it the end of my sanity.

I wish I had a magic solution to the end of all sanity, but I don't. I am currently in a drip faze. Plot holes and word funks are messing with my sanity, and I wish I had a cure. I don't though. The best I can say is just keep writing. 

I know you're sitting there like "I knew that, so what's the secret. Please don't tell me the secret is up there with all that mumbo gumbo." Sorry for the mumbo gumbo. I am on writing funk, and my brain is figuratively dead, so writing a post that might make sense probably won't make sense. I do have a secret though. The secret is...

Just because you are a writer, you won't magically flow out words. I don't think anyone magically flows words. BUT because you are a writer, you will have something amazing to say even through the drips.

Maybe you already knew that, but it's good every now and then to remember, especially during the drips.

How do you get out of the drips? What is the big writing secret for you?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wednesday On Summer

Hey, guys! I know I've fallen off the radar for the past couple weeks, so if you thought I'd been eaten my sharks or something, I'm sorry to disappoint you. The month of July was kind of crazy for me, but I'm back (for the moment) and I hope you'll forgive me.

The last time I blogged, I wrote about my annual trip to the beach with my family. It was a great week. I bought a quilt, went on a scavenger hunt, wiped out a couple times, ate a lot of ice cream, and helped some toddlers dig a trench. One of my favorite things about writing, aside form the relationships between characters, is creating realistic places. Being in places that I love, like the beach, helped me think about how to create a place in writing that seems real. I can't say I came to any stunning conclusions, but changing my surroundings did change the way I wrote and thought, so if you're ever feeling stuck on a piece of writing, tell your parents to take you on vacation. Or you can just walk down the street to the park, if all else fails.

At the beach with my little brother. He's cute and also evil. 
 The following week I flew to Nova Scotia with my youth group. We started out in Cape Breton and I can easily say it was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Being a visitor in a different country forced me to look at things differently and it was nice, for the first few days of our trip, to be so far removed from the rest of society. None of us had our phones or computers. The nearest grocery store was about an hour away and the hostel we stayed in overlooked one of the largest salt lakes in the world.

My favorite part about Cape Breton was being able to write in nature. We would go sailing or hiking and then be given half an hour to sit and write. It wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but I loved it. I felt like I was sitting in the middle of an Emily Dickinson poem. The places we went-- Lake Bras D'or, the Cabbot Trail, and other places I forget the names of-- looked like the kind of places people write poetry about. It was incredible.

We left Cape Breton for Halifax, the biggest city in Nova Scotia, which was kind of a shock after our silence-and-meditation kind of deal. I loved it just as much, though. I'm kind of obsessed with cities. Halifax was just the right mix of charming history and excitement. It didn't hurt that it's a major port (I'm also kind of into water, hence the obsession with beaches, rivers, lakes etc.). I think the reason I love cities so much is because it seems like they have so many stories. You can't turn your head without wondering "What if?"

Cabbot Trail, Nova Scotia.
Halifax (or as we obnoxiously called it, "Holla Fax").
I wish I could have had longer in Canada. I miss Tim Hortons and I even kind of miss the hostels, despite the freezing cold showers. Those were not my favorite. Coming home was easier than it would have been, though, because I was looking forward to my penultimate adventure of the summer: Irish dance camp. As some of you may know, I have been dancing for almost eleven years and I'm certifiably obsessed with all things Irish. On St. Patrick's Day, I look like the Irish flag exploded all over my body. For the past couple years, I spend a week of my summer at Camp Rince Ceol. Rince is Irish Gaelic for dance, and ceol translates to music. It's your typical summer camp, except campers spend 8 + hours a day in dance classes with members of Lord of the Dance and Riverdance. The rest of the time we swoon over said instructors. I kid, I kid..kind of. We have a fake bonfire where we sing irish drinking songs, trivia night, and a final performance and party at the end of the week. I will never forget watching two former leads in Riverdance trying to break dance to Brittany Spears. It's basically a week of being obnoxiously Irish. I didn't get to write very much last week because I spent the majority of my time sleeping and dancing, but it is always one of the best weeks of the year. I'm majorly camp sick right now and I'm coping by crying, hugging my Riverdance poster, and going through the copious amounts of ridiculous camp photos on facebook. Thankfully, I'm driving to Baltimore this week to hang out a few of my infamous cousins, so I'll probably recover.

Campers dancing at CRC.


What have you guys been up to this summer? Where have you been that's inspired you to write? What was your favorite part?

Hope you are making the most of your last few weeks (or days, for some of you).


Caroline

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday on Other Modes of Transportation

Usually, when characters want to go places, they drive cars. It seems everyone has their license and everyone magically has a car, and if they don't, then their friends do. (Unless the main character lives in the city in which case they do that public transportation thing.)

And I'll admit, I drive a lot too, because my house isn't really walking distance from anywhere, and biking past the highway exits that follow my street is zero fun. But I've always been jealous of my friends who live in sidewalk-ed neighborhoods near downtown, because they can walk or bike or roller-skate or cartwheel to places without having to worry about parking and gas and other silly things.

Which brings me to an important point: take away cars, and you have an interesting new way to get to know a character.

Will your character strap on sneakers and walk/jog downtown? Or bike to a friend's house? Or roller skate to work? How about ride a scooter to pick up ice cream?

Here's how I would interpret the above:

Walking: this character is simple and independent.

Jogging: see above. Also, not afraid to show up at his/her destination covered in sweat.

Biking: this character is efficient and comfortable at higher speeds.

Roller skating: a daredevil who is also unique and maybe a bit loco.

Scooter: possibly wears a lot of skirts, but also efficient like the biker.

Of course, we could go on about cars and the kind of car your character drives and what that says about him/her. (Like, you know, the Impala.) Or maybe your character flies a biplane or hang glides.

What are the modes of transportation for your favorite characters?

Happy Tuesday!

Kieryn
www.kierynnicolas.com

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Saturday Shouldn't Blog Today

Or: Mostly I forgot it was Saturday.

But also the RSI (repetitive stress injury) in my left wrist is flaring up and I'm not really supposed to type that much and also ouch.

So this week's tip is: Go to the doctor when things hurt and don't stop hurting, okay, kids? Okay.

(I have a blog post planned but typing hurts so I'll write it next week. I promise and I promise I won't forget.)

Hey! Why don't you guys leave me writing questions or things you want to see me blog about in the box below and I'll see if maybe I can come up with blog posts about those things? Yes?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thursday Tries to be Quirky

Characters should have quirks to make them real. I feel like a lot of characters today sound like carbon copies of each other. Quirks make characters unique.

I used to think quirks were only for…
Zooey Deschanel
Conspiracy Theorists
Sheldon Cooper :)

It took me a while to realize everyone has quirks. Okay maybe not realize they had them. It just took me a while to realize what they are. I forget mine because I do it every day. 

My quirks would be that
I love tomato sauce, but tomato on salad or whatever gross me out
The top drawer of my dresser always slides open right after I turn off the lights (I know this isn't exactly my quirk, but it's a quirk about my room. IDK I am horrible at thinking of quirks)
I wear flip flops all year round. Maybe it's because I live in Texas wear it doesn't get to cold, but even when it's cold, I wear flip flops. 

My dog is kinda quirky.
She likes to drink out of water bottles
She candance to Thriller.  I am seriously considering buying her a sequined glove and post a video on Youtube. Maybe not.
She giggles in her sleep. I think she may have the dog version of sleep apnea. I might just being paranoid though.

Even the people around me have quirks.
Someone who dries only their Hawaiian shirts in their garage instead of a dyer
Someone with a flag pole but never puts up a flag
Someone who doesn’t like fish, but if you say it’s chicken, they'll eat it

None of these people are super quirky or anything. They are all normal people who just have quirks.
The quirks don’t make them. If you asked me to say three random things about those people, those things wouldn’t be listed, but their quirks kinda just make them them. 
I am more likely to remember the eccentric 80 year old song writer who is tone deaf than the MC's guy best friend who is in love with her for no apparent reason. 

What are some quirks you notice? Do you ever put them in your books?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday on Second Anniversaries

Or: I'll think of a subtitle later. (Or not.)

As Jewels said on Thursday, our second blogoversary (it's like an anniverary for a blog, get it?) was on Wednesday.

Two years ago when this blog started:

- I was seventeen.

-I had just written Spyder. (You might have heard me talk about that once in a while? The one I've been revising for, like, ever? Yeah, I wrote that two years ago. Surprises the heck out of me, too.)

In the last two years, I've:

- Written two more books. (And half a book that failed before I finished it, but, hey, it still exists. And also a 15k short story which may not seem that long but DARN IT, I do not write short stuff!! And it was contemporary! And it has no swearing! DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD THAT THING WAS TO WRITE?) (Okay, I'm done now. Honest, I'm using lower-case letters again.)

- Got a new job.

- Got an RSI. Which, hey, I should wearing my wrist brace to type this.

- Erm. Apparently that's all I've done in two years. I don't have an exciting life.

Future-y type stuff:

- I'm revising my second novel. Yay revision.

- I'm going to query that thing if it's the last thing I do. I hope.

- *mumbles something about a new book*

- I also go back to work in September, at the library and baby-sitting.

At least, those are a couple of my goals and things I'm pretty sure are going to happen, but who knows! Anything could happen.

What are your goals? What were you guys up to two years ago?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thursday: Past, Present and Future

The Past

If you asked me back in kindergarten what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said something impossible like
  • an heiress (I blame the Suite Life of Zack and Cody. It took me way too long to realize London Tipton was basically Paris Hilton. My friends said the dog should have been a clue)
  • Cupid (I am a horrible match maker though. Ask any of my characters.)
  • a dog (I am not sure why though since I was scared of dogs...)
But a writer never even crossed my mind (even though I wrote all of these "what I wanna be when I grow up"s in a book for story time as part of my autobiography).

About four years ago I started reading Harry Potter. I fell in love with the series and books especially YA (I was the kind of kid who lied on my reading logs, so actually liking to read was a shocker for everyone). With my love for reading, I fell in love with writing.

The Present

I still love writing and reading (I don't do enough of either though).

I'm currently writing a YA fantasy which is weird since I'm character driven instead of plot, and plot is kinda important in fantasy.

The Future

I don't know what my plans for the future really are. I know most writers hope to get published, but I never wrote to get published. I write because... well I don't know why. I've been retyping this line over and over again, but really I have no idea. I write because writing is a part of me. I think that best way I can explain it.

Of course I am not completely crazy. I have wondered what it would be like to be published and to have readers fall in love with my characters like I did with Harry Potter and countless other books. Maybe it's just a fantasy, but maybe one day it'll be a reality.

I don't know. I'm just starting my writing journey, and I just wanna see where I go. Whether I am a NY Times bestseller (probably not) or just writing for myself, I just hope I am happy and writing. That's all I really hope for right now, and I hope you too are happy and writing in the future.


But if the future is anything like the past, I am going to love every single maddening second.

Yesterday was our 2nd anniversary here at YaLit Six. I think I speak for all of us here when I say thank y'all so much for the amazing support. Y'all are amazing. Thank y'all for following (is that the blogger term?) us, reading our thoughts, commenting and being apart of our writing journey.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday is Incompetent...

...at simple things like cooking.

And knowing whether something goes in the fridge or the freezer. (I usually guess wrong.)

(Also, I'm working on it. Really. My sister is trying to help me, though she usually just laughs. A lot.)

Anyway. If you've been following YA Lit Six for a while, you've probably seen many a post about how main characters/love interests/best friends/pets/etc shouldn't be perfect.

(Perfection is boring.)

So, while considering my own, erm, kitchen incompetency, I decided to share a tip on characters not being perfect. And that tip is, expand on that imperfection. Make it part of the story. Toss your main character into the wilderness where she *has* to learn to prepare food, at least in its most basic form (cooked over a fire?) or she'll wither and die and get eaten by wolves or the like.

Or maybe something a bit less extreme, like she accidentally sets the cookies she has to make for her school/club/neighborhood bake sale (good way to add in setting there) on fire, and so she's late, and so someone gets mad at her or she gets in a car accident or runs into an old friend she would not have otherwise run into due to her lateness, and the plot gets rolling.

But then bring it back into play. Don't just mention this quirk and then drop it. Use it like a brightly colored ribbon on the overall story package--tie it together, even if it's just for decoration.

Happy Tuesday!

Kieryn
www.kierynnicolas.com

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday on Quirky Anger Releasing

Odd title. I'm aware. But we'll get there in time, my friend.

I was hit with a couple of realizations this morning, but here's a quick story first: today was just not my day. Nothing-- with the exception of a delicious chocolate milkshake-- contributed positively to my day at all. I'm not going to sit here and bore you with the many details, but you should know that I was operating under the influence of anger for the duration of Monday. Not the Oh my god I am so annoyed right now I don't think I can passively sit here and not whine about my life like a little baby kind, but the IMMA KILL YOU STAY OUT OF MY WAY kind. It was scary.

Realization #1 (that I've had over half a billion times): Mondays suck the life out you, whether you are at school, work, or just minding your own business on a remote island with no signs of civilization around. That's just what Mondays do. It's a universe quirk, I guess. I can't think of any other explanation for it.

Realization #2: I obsessively clean when I'm angry and need to think. You guys should see my room; it's so serene and peaceful that a deer might just walk through any second and mistake my bed for a nice little haven (I don't know where the heck that analogy came from... ignore it. Just ignore it.)

Since I try to turn things into deeper matters than they actually are, I stumbled upon...

Realization #3: MCs and other characters with anger quirks are pretty cool.

I've never written for an MC that had a weird anger issue tick, but I think it's safe to say that at some point in our WIPs, our characters get mad at some point or another. If they don't, that would imply that nothing in your story is wrong, which leads us to believe that your WIP has zero source of conflict whatsoever.

So I clean when I get angry, right? Here's another quirk: I had a horrible day at work a couple weeks ago, and I need to blow off some steam. In my blind rage, I bought a tube of cookie dough and drove over to the local park (this is at night, mind you), sat in the grass, and yelled everything I thought was wrong with the world at the sky.

...I am also a psychopath, if you couldn't pick that up from the last paragraph.

So the next time you come to a part in your WIP where your MC is visibly upset, don't just go the Clara clenched her jaw and and cracked her knuckles but swallowed her anger route; instead, think about taking the Clara got out her GPS and searched for the nearest lake so she could shoot her handgun at it path. It could be a stretch, but who knows? It could just add the depth you've been looking for.

"Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean." -Maya Angelou