Friday, December 31, 2010

My Big, Fun, Scary List 2011

Hey everyone! It's New Years Eve, which means that across the country, people are coming up with lists of New Year's Resolutions. But I prefer to think of them under the name they are given on the NaNoWriMo website: "Big, Fun, Scary lists". It's not so much a list of resolutions, because I've noted that MOST lists are of all the bad habits people want to break. My BFS (Big Fun Scary) list is something different, I hope. It's a list of all the exciting experiences I want to have during the year 2011. Some things might be scary and some things might not be easy, but I hope that everything on this list will help me broaden my horizons, step outside my comfort zone, and become a better person.

So, without further delay


1. See Coldplay in concert.
2. 10,000 hours.
My uncle read this theory that the secret to success is 10,000 hours of work. I want to try it, and although I KNOW I won't get 10,000 hours of time in one year (are there even 10,000 hours IN a year?) I want to get started, and make a dent. I want to put aside an hour or two each day to dedicate to something. It'll probably be writing, but who knows? It could be something else entirely. We'll see.

3. Submit a novel that I've written and revised to a publisher.
4. Make a list of songs to learn to play on the piano and/or guitar, and learn them. (I'll post this list later, once I've made it.)
5. Begin the awesome 365-day devotional book that my friend Katie got me for Christmas. Stick with it and finish it by next year. In general, become closer to God and figure out where He wants me to go.

Wishing you the best of luck with your own big, fun, scary adventures,


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Book Review: The Book Thief

The other night, I finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and it is one of the most exquisitely written books I have ever encountered. The prose gave me chills; the metaphors and imagery were beautiful. The narrator was amazing, and the voice of the book, although not entirely humorous, was still amusing in its own dark way. The emotion was raw and unfiltered, the scenes at the end so powerful they made me cry.

I want to point out that the last book I truly bawled over, like I did this one, was Aslan's death in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which I read when I was nine or ten.

Markus Zusak is truly a master, and this book goes beyond all levels of a must-read.

Okay, now, for the less exciting stuff - ratings, because I know it's nice to have a heads up.

This book is definitely meant for upper-grade/mature readers, but that's mainly because of the subject matter. The book is set in Nazi Germany, and some really heavy issues are dealt with. War and death are main themes, and most of the books that the main character reads are pretty dark. There's also a suicide by a supporting character and a refusal to leave home during an air raid but another minor but recurring character. The main character has repeating nightmare's about her brother's death. It took me three nights to start the book because I didn't want to read it after dark, after I'd started the first page, but once I became familiar with the characters, I was fine. Still, a little creepy at first.

Violence - prominent. None of it's EXTREMELY graphic - some pretty gruesome things are mainly mentioned and not described in detail. Air raids, losing limbs/fingers (a supporting character); dead bodies.

Sex - a nonissue, really. A (somewhat detailed) description of a boy forced to strip down to be examined for Hitler's supreme race of Germans, and then later a character thinking about that boy, naked, but only once or twice, and not graphic. No actual sex at all.

Swearing - mild swearing, but mostly in German; a translation is given once or twice, but after that it's just the German version.

Overall - these things should NOT deter you from reading the book. They all fade into the background compared to the beautiful, amazing, wonderful story.

Monday, December 13, 2010

On Surveys

Before I begin, for the record - I won NaNoWriMo. Barely. But I did, and so now I get a 50% off coupon on Scrivener, the most WONDERFUL writing software in the world. Ever. Seriously, you need to go check it out if you're a writer. It's amazing. It totally aligns with the way I think - I plan on index cards and write in scenes, and it allows me to do that. Plus, it has setting and character sketches and folders for research, and scriptwriting templates that I know I'm going to adore during Script Frenzy.

Okay, now, onto the actual post.

I am freakishly fond of surveys.

I know that sounds weird, but it's true. I LIVE for the day when the NaNoWriMo survey goes live. I just completed it - and I'm sad, because there were only nineteen questions and now I have to wait until April - May, really - for the Screnzy survey. At the beginning of the month, the ML for my region sent out surveys for where the best places to have write-ins were, and I had a blast taking them. I also had fun taking the survey she sent out at the end of the month.

I don't know WHY I like surveys so much. I get excited to see all the new ideas that are possibilities for next year's NaNoWriMo, and I guess I think that by taking the survey, I'm doing my little part to improve the site. I want to let Lindsey and all the others at OLL know that they are running the most awesome event in the world, and they should continue to do so, and I'll do everything I can to help them.

Oh, and I like giving my opinions. So much so, that I've actually formed opinions on the survey. So, I think there should be a survey on the survey. Of course then you get into a downward spiral about whether there would have to be a survey on THAT survey, and it would be endless surveying and ticking little round boxes. Now, I would just have a BLAST with that, but I understand that other people might get bogged down. So here's the only thing I feel is important to say about the survey -

I think there should be a few more boxes where you can give original opinions about ideas - not just checking how strongly you want them. For example, a program that lets you do NaNoWriMo in other months of the year is great, but I think that, for THAT, you should be able to set custom goals. I also think that it shouldn't be as big of a deal as the actual NaNoWriMo - You should be able to set a word count goal, but you shouldn't have to validate and you shouldn't get winner goodies - it'd basically consist of a graph, statistics, and your winner bar turning green when you completed your own custom goal.

Of course, the only reason I want an alternative-month NaNoWriMo is for the graph. I haven't found a suitable alternative in any of the softwares on either of my computers - my current one, a Mac, or my old PC. The daily targets in Scrivener might do it for me, when I buy the actual version; or, I think my best bet would be the website where you write 750 words a day, but I wish there was a slightly higher goal than that - not as high as NaNo, something like an even 1000.

If I was a computer geek, I'd just write my own software that would give me a graph and a customizable goal. (Or, perhaps, it exists. If it does, alert me to this fact immediately, I shall go buy it. Actually, ask for it for Christmas.) But unfortunately, the only thing I can do is a bit of halfway-not-so-terrible CSS and HTML.

I've gotten completely off topic, haven't I? Oh well. Post can be summarized as follows -

Scrivener rocks, go buy it, now.
NaNoWriMo is awesome and I want to steal their wordcount graph.
I have an unhealthy obsession with surveys.


Monday, November 15, 2010

The Greatest Thing Since...well, the greatest thing ever. WRITE OR DIE!

For those of you not as deeply ingrained in NaNoWriMo culture, Write or Die ( is a way to force yourself into writing. You set a goal and a time limit, and then, depending on the mode you choose, it forces you to write by turning the background a very angry red, blasting an annoying noise, or - in the mode I have yet to attempt - begins to erase your writing every time you stop typing.

I come to you fresh out of a Write or Die session, in which I wrote 400 words in the ten-minute time limit. I set my goal for 200, since I was currently at 25,810 and enjoy seeing my little blue progress bar above the purple graph after so many days of being behind.

Need I tell you of my overjoyed-ness? I wrote DOUBLE what I intended. Considering that there have been 15-minute word wars where I've only managed 300 words, Write or Die is my new best friend. I used it a few times last year, during my first NaNoWriMo, at times when I couldn't find the motivation to write and needed something to keep me going. And I liked it. But now, I know I couldn't live without it. In my 2010 NaNo, I'm fighting to resist the sophomore slump, and Write or Die is keeping me out of it.

Plus, I wrote a hundred more words than I average in a fifteen minute word war. In less time.

The only thing I have left to do is to get my typing speed of something like 60/70 words a minute aligned with my brain-functioning-and-thinking-all-the-things-I-want-to-say-in-my-novel speed. If I did that, then ten minutes could mean 700 words, and I could get my daily wordcount requirement out in less than a half hour.

Well, I'll work on that. For now, I encourage all of you Wrimos out there to try write or die if you haven't already. Don't be fooled by the name - truly, it's a lifesaver.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Carrots. (Or "Plots, and the funny things they do in November")

I'm writing a humor/parody story. I always knew that things were going to be absurd. I even planned for the appearance of a carrot and wasn't all that surprised when a dare about an insane seer proclaiming my main character the "chosen one" screamed out my name. But THIS?

Let me backtrack. I had found a funny line on the Adoptables forum of the NaNoWriMo website - "Did you really think a carrot could save the day?" I knew I had to fit it into my novel somehow, but I had no idea how. Later, I saw a dare to include an insane seer who proclaims your MC "The chosen one" but is later seen as proclaiming that random objects such as a chicken, a fence post, or a goat was also the chosen one. There were various levels of bonus points, one of which was "cookies if the goat saves the world."

I have taken it one level farther into the insanity.

The seer was introduced in one of the more recently written scenes, where she proclaims my main male character, Benjamin, the chosen one, saying that she's seen it in the glass, and that he must go through "fire and water, stone and air." The entire prophecy sounds a little off-beat, but he believes it. In the next scene, I showed the insane seer proclaiming to a carrot, a goat, and a fence post that they are also the chosen one. My plan was to have these things be completely ridiculous and have someone say to the seer, later, "Did you honestly think that a carrot could save the day?"

But then I broke the scene down into three sub-scenes and began writing.

Sub-scene 1. My character Ferdinand is trying to locate Benjamin, and he visits the produce stand where he encountered the seer while he was buying supplies. While Ferdinand is grilling/bribing the person selling the vegetables to give him information, the insane seer, who frequents the alley nearby, comes up to Ferdinand and tells him that she has seen Benjamin. A few moments later, though, she lapses back into insanity and is vehemently declaring a carrot the savior of the world. She tries to take the carrot, but the vendor says he won't give it to her unless she pays. She accuses him of kidnapping the chosen one and holding him for ransom. To end the madness, Ferdinand pays for the carrot, earning the old woman's unending gratitude. He is now a hero in her eyes, and although he knows she's insane, he's flattered by it.

Sub-scene 2. My character Eleanor is searching for my other main character, Katarina, and she sees the insane seer, who fled the cruel produce man to take the chosen carrot to safer ground. The insane seer declares a nearby fence post the chosen one, and gets so worked up that she almost collapses. Eleanor prevents her from falling. The woman has a moment of sanity and confesses to Eleanor that once she was a great seer but is now losing her wits and going mad.

Sub-scene 3. Katarina shows a rare display of generosity whens she visits a shop selling blankets and socks (the socks are a result of a writing challenge also. Take your character's name, multiply the letters times ten, and then write that many words about their socks. I really should not have clicked on that thread.) owned by a struggling family. She buys some of their more expensive merchandise and pays more than the asking price. As she leaves, she passes the family's small flock of goats and sheep and sees the insane seer proclaiming that a goat is the chosen one.

The ramifications:

The carrot is, in fact, the chosen one - in a very convoluted way. Somehow, the carrot will end up going with the group on their quest and in a battle with the two wizards chasing Benjamin, which will likely form some of the climax, it will get hit with a blast of magic. This will alter it, turning it from an inanimate object into an animate one. It will save the day; it may be able to defeat the other villain, Inner Editor, simply through its sheer absurdity.

The carrot, extremely grateful to Ferdinand, will return home with him in the aftermath of the climax. Ferdinand, a retired author, will be inspired to write about the carrot, and one of the ending scenes will contain him presenting a children's picture book manuscript to Eleanor. The carrot will then, in a way, become HIS muse.

The seer will somehow regain her sanity, because in the scene where she's talking to Eleanor she made me sympathize with her.

When Katarina returns to her home - which just so happens to be the palace - she will tell her parents - who just so happen to by the king and queen - about the woman and her son selling the blankets and socks. They will either be given incredibly amounts of money or a job at the palace.


So are the affects of NaNo on my novel, I suppose.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

9,596 words into NaNoWriMo - and there's the plot

Despite the surprisingly sinister turn my villain decided to take when I saw the line mentioned in the previous post, my novel is going along well. I was terrified because when I started today I was several thousand words behind. I'm still not quite where I should be, but I'm only about 400 (give or take a few hyphenations) words behinds and I wrote around two thousand words today.

And also, my plot is finally developing fully, and I love it. I have a direction for the rest of my novel, and the adventures that my characters will be having are no longer incredibly disjointed and annoyingly separate.

My original premise was this: my three main characters, who are rather cliche, fantasy stereotypes (a rebellious princess, a mysterious ranger, a runaway slave) would unite for the ultimate quest: to have fifty thousand words worth of adventure in one month. The idea was that they knew about me - or rather, the fictional me and the fictional personifications of my muses (trust me, sorting out the levels of reality and how much the characters actually knew was a pain) and my inner editor - who was the villain, and wanted to stop them from having the 50,000 words of adventure.

A few snippets of a plot appeared in the first three scenes I wrote, but my character Katarina was uncooperative and I had no idea what the wizards chasing Benjamin wanted from him. And Aoyam just completely refused to show up. But I managed to get through the scenes that incited the plot at the last write-in I attended, and after finding a way to end that scene and determining what was going to happen next, I had a plot breakthrough. Then another. And another. And finally, I know where my story is going.

As it turns out, it breaks down to these main threads:

-The overall quest; that is, the quest of the characters to have 50,000 words worth of adventure in one month. Actually has taken a backseat to the other plotlines.

-Benjamin running from the two wizards who are chasing him, who want to reclaim an object he stole from them.

-Katarina being reluctantly forced into the adventures.

-My two muses trying to find and encourage the characters to keep going so they don't lose a bet one of them made with my Inner Editor, known as I.E.

And, what really clears the plot up, is the fact that my three main antagonists and sources of opposition for my characters have clearly emerged.

1. I.E., the Inner Editor, who made a bet with one of my muses for five hundred dollars that my characters cannot have 50,000 words of adventure all within one month. His plan is to find the characters and turn them against me. I mean, the fictional personification of me.

2. The two wizards who are chasing Benjamin at the beginning of the book and later chase him and Katarina away from Katarina's camp. They want the object that Benjamin stole from them. They are basically all around evil. So far, they have said nothing. They may go through the entire novel mute. We'll see.

3. A group of [enemy soldiers, or bandits, or land-pirates of some sort; what they are has yet to be determined.] They also want the object that Benjamin stole from the wizards, and when the object falls into my muse's hands, they begin chasing them. Whoever they are, they are ruthless and wield the Traveling Shovel of Death.

Other things that have happened because of my plot breakthroughs - my muses have become very wise, apparently, and have appointed themselves the guardians of the object that Benjamin stole - a glass orb that swirls with color and is, so they say, very powerful. They're being stubborn, though, and won't tell me what it does. Katarina and Benjamin are plunging headfirst into their romantic subplot, which surprises me as I thought they'd resist. Aoyam has come out of hibernation. My half-crazed seer has determined when she will put in an appearance. The lines I accumulated in preparation for this novel are finding homes. My word count it climbing. Things are good.

Hoping everyone else is finding their plots as well,


Friday, November 5, 2010

The place where my novel takes an unexpected turn..

Five days and 7,000 words (I'm a bit behind) into NaNoWriMo, and it's happening. Something unexpected happens, and suddenly the entire direction of my novel is completely changed.

Until now, everything was going well. I wrote 2,000 words at a write-in last night, my novel is finally sorting itself out, and I had managed to write a scene that I'd been putting off for two days. But then, I decided to take a look at the "Adopt a villain catchphrase!" thread on the NaNo website, and I stumbled upon this line:

"You wish I were like a villain from one of those books you love so much. Willing to leave you in a death trap, as I go about my evil plan. No. You will remain, tied to this chair, while I destroy everyone and everything you've ever loved, before your eyes. Then, I will kill you. Slowly."

The ramifications of reading this line were numerous. I raced to the document that stores all the lines I have adopted to use in my novels, and copy and pasted this piece of genius. My villain, who was meant to be more of an annoyance, has taken a sinister turn. The comedy elements have run away from my novel as fast as they possibly could. My supporting character Eleanor is going to end up tied to a chair. My heroes are furious that my villain now poses an actual threat. They are planning to revolt. My writing no longer has anything that might possibly be considered a contraction.

Well, that's a ramification of NaNo, not that line.

Anyway. So, now, my novel is charging off in an entirely unexpected direction, and I have to run like mad to catch up. Wish me luck...I'm going to need it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

NaNoWriMo - the only upside of the crappiest Halloween, ever...

The amount of candy I got wasn't great, and I still haven't looked to see if I got anything decent. My entire afternoon went badly. Nobody got my costume. My best friend bailed on trick-or-treating. (She had a legitimate reason. But, it still wasn't fun.) I had a fight with my dad. I have a headache.

But NaNoWriMo starts at midnight, and I am now completely determined to write the most kick-butt first thousand words ever, because this day needs an upside, and I'm going to give it one, if it's the last thing I do. (Which, the way today has been going, it may very well be...)

Off to sort through the Halloween candy (I know I got at least one Kit Kat and one Twix...)


Friday, October 29, 2010

To do lists, noveling software, and NaNoWriMo

Well, I think I've managed to actually do most of the stuff on that massive list. Most school stuff - done. Just today and maybe a bit of weekend stuff on Saturday, and then I'm clear. New Macbook arrived in mail. Most important stuff transferred from old computer. Scrivener downloaded and experimented with. Friends convinced to participate in NaNo with me and get-togethers tentatively planned. NaNo playlist made.

Room, still a mess. But I'll get to that.

Pumpkins bought, but still not carved. I'll probably end up doing that Sunday afternoon, just like last year.

But overall, I think I'll be able to survive this year's NaNoWriMo, barely.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

...I'm sorry, what?

...There's only a week left until NaNoWriMo?

I need a miracle. Because there's no other way I'm going to get done everything that I have to do before November 1 rolls around. Last year, I wasn't this nervous, or stressed - but this year, it just doesn't feel like NaNoWriMo season.

But back to the orignal dilemma - I'd like you to take a look at all of the things I have to accomplish before November 1st in order ot actually have a chance at suceeding at NaNoWriMo.

Monday - piano lessons, dance class, begin massive US History assignment, turn in English essay, finish reading section in Biology. Buy pumpkin for Halloween.

Tuesday - more Bio homework, continue massive US History assignment, start reading for English, insane amounts of Math. Begin outlining essay for Writing class that's due - GET THIS - at the end of November. My teacher assigned that and I stared at the paper for a minute and a half going, are you kidding me? DURING NANO? UGH. I may have to use some of my essay material as novel filler if I fall behind. (said grudginly) - school comes first. Pray new laptop arrives via FedEx. Begin making Halloween costume. Carve pumpkin?

Wednesday - English and Bio and Math homework, continue massive US History assignment, finish reading for English, continue outlining essay, guitar lessons. New laptop better have arrived by now - install software, transfer files. Finish Halloween costume. Carve pumpkin?

Thursday - Finish weekly English homework, more Math and Biology, begin the end of massive US History assignment, continue essay. Finish updating/getting used to new laptop. Begin huge cleaning of room. CARVE PUMPKIN.

Friday - More Math and Bio, finish Massive US History Assignment, play with new laptop, continue huge cleaning of room. I haven't carved the pumpkin by now - CARVE THE DARN THING!

Saturday - Do all weekend homework, continue cleaning room.

Sunday - Finish cleaning room, decorate writing space, (try) to enjoy Halloween. Stay up till midnight.

Then, on Monday, I have school, piano lessons, dance class, AND I promised to try and write 5k words. Actually, I'm the one who started the thread for people who wanted to write 5k words, so I'd BETTER get there.

...Yeah. HELP.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Homework, Noveling, and life in general

My brain is incredibly scattered right now. I can't seem to focus on one thing for more than a minute. I mean, right now, I'm supposed to be finishing up my book report on A Wizard of Earthsea that I have to turn in tomorrow. Why aren't I? I don't know, because something somewhere sparked the thought of writing a blog post in my mind, and because when I'm in this state that's all it takes.

Also, my room need cleaned. I'm always more disorganized when I need to clean my room. I should just log off now and start cleaning, but it's more important to get my homework done, but I won't be able to focus until I clean, but I don't have time to clean until I get my homework done, and then it all just spirals out like that.


So I'm busy right now. (I don't even have time to write this blog post, but remember, scatter-brained-ness.) And to add to that, NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. Normally I would be excited about that, but right now, I'm still in the middle of revising another novel, one that I'd really hoped would be finished by the end of October. And it should have been, but I allowed myself to procrastinate. Actually, it should have been finished at the end of August, but now I barely have enough time to hit the halfway point before I have to take a break to write another novel in November. Help.

And now I'm going to go. That was probably the most boring blog post ever and not even worth your time to read. Maybe I'll have something more interesting to say when my brain can focus on one thing at a time.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's right, the NEW NANOWRIMO site is UP! I'm super-excited, as you can tell. The first thing I did upon realizing that this new wonder had appeared was check out the pep talkers, and oh my gosh - Lemony Snicket is going to be pep talking!

Right now I'm updating my profile with all of my 2010 information, and then I'm off to check out the new features. If there's anything else particularly noteworthy on the new site, I'll post more later.

It's Here!

Yepp, if you go to, you will....not see the site! Instead, you'll see a nice little message from the Offices of Letters and Light, saying that the site is under matinence and will be back up "in a jiffy."

And why is this such a wonderful thing? Because it means that the 2009 NaNoWriMo website is being removed, the slate wiped clean for the 2010 version. Forums will be removed, author profiles cleared, and basically everything made ready for a fresh start.

And why is this so exciting? Because, for the thousands of us NaNo Geeks out there, it signifies that the wait is almost over! Soon, we can once more embark on our quest for 50,000 words.

If you haven't joined NaNoWriMo yet, now's the perfect time! As soon as the site's back up (tomorrowish, I hope - although I'll be checking again tonight after I get home from the football game, just in case) go to and click "sign up." You'll be opening the door to awesomeness.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Plot Bunnies and NaNoWriMo

For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's an event that takes place in November, where participants try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It's really awesome and I highly encourage anyone who can to give it a try; the website is, and if you wait a couple of days before clicking on that link, you'll the shiny new 2010 version of the site.

I took part in NaNoWriMo for the first time last year, and I absolutely loved it. It was an amazing expirience, allowing me to create an entire novel - with a plot and characters and everything! In one month, plus a little extra time for finishing up after the month was complete. I'd written a novel before, but never like this! I was able to connect with other writers, get feedback and critiques on excerpts and characterization, get my questions answered, and push through writer's block in an entirely new manner. This was even more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writing than I was used too.

As December rolled on, however, I found that without the excitement of NaNoWriMo, I didn't have much enthusiasm for my project. Most of this, I later realized, was beccause of my eagerness to begin the editing of my first novel, which I had been brainstorming for ever since I finished it in late October. So I finished it, wrote one of my best epilogues ever (I was very proud of that, since I struggle with endings) and put it in a folder on my computer, thinking I wouldn't do much with it again.

Sometime in early spring I dragged the dusty old document out of my computer files and gave it another once-over. You know, I realized as I read through some of my favorite chapters, this wasn't half bad. The concept was original and I created some of my best characters yet. Maybe I'll give this another shot and edit it over the summer.

Let me tell you right now, THAT idea went entirely out the window. I'm going to be lucky if I finish the edits on the first novel, which I started revising in January, before the end of October. I am going to be very, VERY lucky. So I revised my writing schedule and figured that I'd move the editing of NaNoWriMo 2009's "The Kingdom in the Stars" to AFTER NaNo '10. It didn't seem like a big deal. After all, it wasn't as if ideas had been abounding like they were for the revision of "Battle for the Throne." (I know, I have a long-titles problem. I'm working on it.) I could put it out of my mind for the month of November at least.

So, I put thoughts of 2009's NaNoWriMo out of my head. We were getting a shiny new site; the forums were going to be wiped of all my silly questions about archery, my profile was going to be transformed into a clean slate where I could post my new novel synopsis and title, and my word count would be reduced back to zero, ready for me to start tracking my progress on November 1. I started writing down a few characters and a tentative setting, searching websites for good character names, finding a folder to dedicate my notes too. Everything was good. Kingdom in the Stars? What kingdom in the stars? What awesome elf-like beings who draw power from their constellation, which is also their namesake? That's ancient history!

Uh-huh. Sure. It was, until my mom turned on the National Geographic Channel.

The first thing you need to know about me is that ANYTHING will spike an idea. An entire plot took shape from remembering a book I read as a little kid and staring at the lines on my hand and wondering why they're like that. And one thing that has always given me ideas for, at the very minimum, a short story - shows on the History, Discovery, Science, and NatGeo channels. Short stories derived from snippers of MythBusters episodes? You bet. My 2011 NaNo plot entirely based off the show Life After People? Heck yeah. Fantasy worlds inspired by watching MonsterQuest and superhuman races formed by watching The Most Extreme? Well, duh. Religons that combined the best of Egyptian and Mayan mythology, gathered by late-night History Channel marathons? Well, you get the picture.

But I wasn't thinking about this when my mom switched the channel. The extent of my thought process went to "Ooh! Stephen Hawking!", because I'm just that much of a geek. But as soon as they started talking about expanding universes, orbiting planets, and colliding galaxies....Oh, yeah, THAT kingdom in the stars. THOSE elf-like beings who drew power from their namesake constellation. Heh. It's all coming back to me now.

So now, the plot bunny that has been silent since...I don't know....January? Decides to poke it's fuzzy little nose out of it's dark little hole, JUST when I need it to go into hibernation. I swear, I need to send all of these nasty little brutes to Plot Bunny Obidience school, because they have a nasty habit of popping up right when I need them to go away, and then going away right when I need them to pop up.

Although I guess I learned my lesson. No Stephen Hawking before NaNoWriMo. :-(

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fighting Your Way Through Battle Scenes

This blog entry is inspired by a post the wonderful author Gail Carson Levine wrote about writing action scenes. I'm not a proffesional writer and I don't claim to know anything that she doesn't, but I write a lot of battle scenes in my books and so I thought I'd throw my two cents in.

To get an idea of how I write high-action scenes, I went back and reread a few of my battle scenes from the original (and very rough) draft of my novel. A few things immediately jumped out at me.

If you struggle with writing character's specific thoughts and actions during a fight scene, if the battle is more of a takeover - one side is clearly going to win - or if there's a lot of leadup to the battle that you want to include in the same scene or chapter, one option is to write the battle in more of a summary format. I did this with the second battle scene I wrote, where the army from one country, Sevania, is taking over Alandia's biggest trade city. I got inside the head of one of the people fighting - in this case, the only girl involved in the battle - for the leadup but the actual battle was written in a few short paragraphs. You can try this approach, throwing in, as I did, snippets such as "enemy soldiers were falling like dominoes" and how she could "see flashes of golden light from Miveerna's magic". If you're going to write this way, it's generally better to have it be a shorter, more one-sided fight that doesn't require as much detail. I closed with sentences including "the battle was over almost before it had begun" and how "within two hours, they had taken Yalda." (Keep in mind, this was a VERY rough draft, and so the examples here aren't my best work.)

For longer, more drawn out battles, I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Levine's advice about creating a map. If the battle takes place in a castle, draw up a floor plan - nothing fancy, just the major walls, rooms, secret passages, et cetera, that will affect the fighting. If it takes place in a forest, you don't need to draw every tree - that's the fun of writing forest scenes, you can add in a fallen log or a stream whenever you need to - but you should include major landmarks like rivers too wide and deep to wade, cliffs or dropoffs, and major trails.

Once you've created your map or floorplan, I highly suggest making several copies, either on a copy machine or with tracing or carbon paper. It helps immensely. If you know how many scenes you're going to have in the fight or how many times characters are going to move, make one copy for each so you can plot out your character's locations.

One of the hardest things when writing a battle scene can be keeping track of where everybody is. Before you even set pen to paper you need to be able to answer the following questions.

How many characters are going to be your POV characters during the battle? If you're writing from third person omniscent, you still ned to know this, even though your POV characters may be more numerous. If you're writing from several close-focus third person or first person POVs - switching only at the end of a scene or chapter - then you should generally limit it to the people whose POV you've been using for the rest of the book. Adding a new POV character in the middle of a battle scene may confuse readers and slow down the pace. Introducing a new character altogether should just be illegal.

Where are all your POV characters when the battle starts? On one of your maps or floorplans, pinpoint the location with a seperate colored pen or pencil for each POV character. Write "Beginning of Battle" or "Starting Point" or "Scene One" or whatever you want on the top of the page. Write "The-Place-Where-The-Whole-Darn-Thing-Gets-Started" if you want, but just make sure you know that this is the beginning of the battle.

Are any deaths going to occur in the battle? Who is going to die? Where is the death going to take place? What other characters are going to be present at the death scene? On another map, mark the place of death of the character who's dying his or her own color. (If they're a POV character, use the same color you did before; if they're not, use a new color.) Add in the people who are going to be present at the death, again, assigning each character there own color. Don't add any other characters yet, and don't number this map. You can write "So-and-so's Death Scene" if you want, but don't number it. Set it aside.

Where is everyone going to end up at the end of the battle? If it doesn't really matter and no one needs to be in a certain place for the plot, you can wait and see how it works out. If only a few characters need to be in a certain place, mark them down and leave the rest to end up where they will. Write "end of battle" or some such name on the top and set it aside.

Okay. Now, you have some things to work with. You know where everyone is at the beginning of the battle, where you need to get them for the death of so-and-so, and where you need to get them from the end. Decide when any deaths you've planned will fall as far as time, and then use your remaining maps to chart the significant movements of characters as you get them where you need them to go during the battle. Add in supporting characters, if you want. Have characters moving in groups. You should end up with a wonderful color-coded conglomeration of charts. (By the way, I hope you've got a reference somewhere for your colors, as in, green = bob, purple = dave, blue = phil.)

So, now you know where everyone's going to be, and now you have to write the thing.

Obviously, you can't use the summary format for something so big and that you've spent so much time on. You're going to have to get inside character's heads more and describe specific actions. This can be tricky, so don't worry if you don't get it right the first time around. Every time you try again or rewrite it you'll improve, until writing battle scenes becomes as easy as any other aspects of your writing.

One of the things that I find the hardest about writing battle scenes is avoiding repetition. Before you begin, I reccomend doing a synonym search ( is a good place) on words like sword, armor, soldier, blow, stab, block, and other words that you'll be using frequently. Make a list and save it as a new document or write it down and put it where you can easily see it while you're writing.

There are other things to avoid repeating, too, such as sequences of events or character's thoughts. Every oponent shouldn't be dispatched with the same tactics - mix it up and describe different strategies, movements, and methods. If you're writing a large battle scene with relatively equal forces on both sides, you can devote more time to describing the action between two people since most soldiers won't have to worry about fighting more than one or two people at a time. If one side outnumbers the other four to one? You're probably feeling overwhelmed trying to keep track of all the people bearing down on one character. Don't worry, that's exactly how the one character feels as he tries to block blows - it's going to be easy for you to slip into his mind, now. Write about blows coming so fast that he can't tell where they're coming from, about all his enemies seeming to merge into one ubitiquous force, to cut down on having to keep track of whether Soldier #1 or Soldier #3 was cracking his ribs while soldier #2 kept him distracted.

Action scenes are primarily composed of, well, action; however, if you're feeling like you need some dialogue, fear not! This can actually be a very helpful tool. If you allow the specific jabs and swordthrusts to fade into the background, it can take some of the monotony out of depicting each one. Remember when you decided that Character A and Character B would fight together for a brief span in Scene 7? Well, that was sheer brilliance on your part, because you've got two characters who, presumably, can communcate - hey presto, dialogue! If they're old rivals facing each other in battle, they can trade insults in the same breath as blows, and as long as you imply that they're fighting, you only need to point out a few specific moves. If they're friends, they can discuss how they're going to get out of this situation or what they need to do next as they hack through rows of enemies.

Another tip is to imply swordfighting through onomatopoeia that punctuates dialogue. One example of this is a scene I wrote in one of the first battles of my book. My character switched sides in the middle of a war, and ends up facing the queen he betrayed - who's also his ex-lover - in battle.

"They always turn on you when you least expect it.” Wham. “And Flamefoot, I thought maybe you cared.” Clash. “But, then again, they always say it’s the ones closest to you that you have to watch.” Bang.

It's clear that they're fighting, but I don't have to describe each individual move.

As for keeping things fast-paced, I only have two pieces of advice. First of all, if you're like me and are addicted to description, don't worry. There have to be some adjectives in there besides the ones used to describe the force behind a sword. Just remember that when writing description, if well written, short sentences comprised of a few adjectives, a verb, and a subject, can pack just as much punch as a collosal one like this.

My other piece of advice, which will help battle scene writing all around, is to get into and excited about what you're writing. If you get really into your story, then you'll be just as anxious to finish writing the end of a chapter as your reader will be to finish reading it, and so you'll naturally shift into a faster pace of writing. Basically in writing, whatever you as the author feels as you are crafting your book, the reader gets a watered-down version of, so make sure that above all else you're keeping yourself on the edge of your seat.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Creating Religon

Oh yes, this is always fun.

When you write primarily fantasy, as I do, you can of course create the basic aspects of your world and stop there. I've seen this done well plenty of times, and there's nothing wrong with it. But, maybe because I have a tendency to get over-involved in projects, I love delving further into my world's culture by getting into myths, religion, Creation stories, and more.

Make no mistake, this can be hell. Wait! Is there hell in my fantasy world? Heaven? A God? Many gods? Deities of any kind? Religion? Myth? Help!

Yepp, that's pretty much how the entire process goes. However, I've decided to offer some tips and tricks that I had to learn the hard way in an attempt to make the grueling journey less painful for you.

1. Decide how much you need to know from the outset.

How much you need to decide depends on how much you're willing to revise later. At the beginning of the first draft of my novel, I had little culture and no religion. Now, halfway through my second draft, both are fully developed. I don't mind major revisions because I usually scrap countless chapters anyway, so it wasn't a big deal for me to work things in as they came to me. If you don't like to majorly overhaul your plot, however, you might be better off deciding at least some things before you start. Write things down until you feel comfortable with what you've got, and the begin your novel.

2. Things will come to you if you need them

When you started your story, you had an idea, right? And if you've written anything of significant legnth before, you know that ideas tend to develop as you write them. The story you end up with might not even be in the same genre as the idea you started with, and that's okay. In fact, when you're trying to create history and religion, sometimes it's better just to let things fall into place.

For example, if your idea involves a young man who wants to become a hero and earn the favor of the gods in the hopes they'll reward him by healing his dying sister, then you already know that the gods are going to play a role in your story, if only a background one. You still have to decide smaller things - how many gods are there, are they kind or cruel, involved in human life, how are they worshipped, etc - but the major one's already done. Yepp, you have gods.

If your story, however, is about an older man who wants to write a "Magic will" that leaves all his power to his grandson, but has to struggle against a jealous son who wants all the power and complicated laws that he doesn't understand, then maybe religion isn't important. Or maybe it is; as your story developes, you'll find out whether the main focus is about the old man trying to be fair, or if it's about him trying to give his grandson one last gift before he dies. If you find that the old man's death is involved and becomes central to the plot, then where he goes after death could be important. Just write your story, and elements of religion, myth, or superstition will turn up if you really need them.

3. Know what you're doing before you revise

After you've written the first draft and have what you think could be an inkling of a story - this is when you should nail down some concrete facts, so you know what's important in the second draft. Here's a brief list of things that I think are important. It's not all-encompassing, and if you think of other questions, feel free to add them.

-Do you have gods, creators, spirits, or other deities?
-What kind of power do they have?
-Are they worshipped in any way? How?
-Is there magic in your world?
-What part, if any, does it play in religion? How is related to the gods if you have them?
-Is there an afterlife?
-Heaven? Hell? Different places for good and bad people, or doesn't it matter?
-Is there superstition?
-Do people worship any gods that don't exist?
-Are there multiple religions?
-Is one true?
-How do the different religions treat each other?

You should be able to answer most of these.

Well, that's all I have to offer. Best of luck, if there is any; may the gods be with you, if they exist or care; and may your magic, if you have any, never fail, if that's possible. ;-)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Writing From Older Character's POV

One thing I've always been good at is writing from adults point of view. It's probably because I spend so much time around them; only children tend to be more comfortable around adults, and I'm no exception. During a volunteer job I spend a lot of time at the Senior Center in our town, and so I'm very comfortable around older people. My dad has a lot of business trips and I usually go, and at the receptions and dinners I'm generally the only fourteen-year-old, so I've developed a skill for conversing with people in their thirties, forties, and fifties. I think I could probably pull off a businessman in his forties pretty well.

However, the difference is less noticable in fantasy, because while characters are definitely important, a lot of fantasy books tend to be more plot-driven. Also, in an alternate world, the twenty year olds aren't dealing with life in a tiny apartment and the forty year olds aren't dealing with putting their kids through college. Instead, they're dealing with battling the dark overlord or whatever. (Although I hope your story is a lot more original than just that.)

Still, because I tend to think of myself as writing young adult fantasy, I never let my characters get too old and I usually have one protagonist whose a bit younger. In the novel I'm currently revising, for example, I have four POV characters: A sixteen-year-old girl, who comes across as very naive because she's inexpirienced, two fire-elementalists, both in their mid- to late- thirties; my oldest POV character is the king of one of my countries, and he's thirty eight. I'd say that my supporting characters are pretty even as far as younger ones (say, 14-20) and older ones (say, 30 and up.) Oddly enough, I have very few characters in their twenties.

But anyway, I want this to be a novel that young adults can read, which is one of the reasons that I'm going to keep the 16-year-old a POV character in the planned sequel. There are many other characters who's heads I want to get inside, but if I didn't have her, I don't think I would be able to say it was young adult fantasy anymore, and while it wouldn't be any different, the thought of writing adult fiction sounds a lot scarier.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Coffee Lover's Survey

Here's a nice, light topic after my previous iTunes rant [EDIT - I deleted my 'iTunes rant' on 5/29/11] - coffee. The idea for the post came from all those email forward messages - I love the surveys with questions like what's your favorite drink, what are you wearing right now, etc - but they all sound the same. So I decided to create a new one, based on - you guessed it - coffee!

Without further ado - here's my survey, with my answers below. Post your answers in a comment, send it to friends in an email, whatever. Maybe some day it'll get forwarded back to me.

1. What roast of coffee do you normally drink?

2. What do you put in your coffee?
Cream, and a little sugar

3. Alternative coffee drink of choice? (latte, cappucino, etc)

4. Do you do flavored coffee? What's your favorite flavor?
Yes! Vanilla, caramel, or cinnamon

5. Iced Coffee?
Sometimes, if it's sweet.

6. What was the best non-flavored coffee you ever had, and where did you have it?
On vacation in Maryland. The hotel's coffee was really smooth and not too strong.

7. Best flavored coffee/coffee drink?
St. Michael's Mocha - again, in Maryland. They have really good coffee in St. Michael's.

8. Decaf, half-caf, or regular?
Usually decaf

9. Starbucks or Seattle's Best?

10. Weird coffee quirks?
I don't like it too hot. That's why I usually put milk in it.