Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oh, that crashing sound? Don't worry, that was just my fourth wall...

The end of NaNoWriMo is fast approaching - there's only a few days left until that magical 30th day of the month and the 50,000 word finish line. Although I'm not quite at that point yet, I'm pretty confidant I'm going to make it, and I'm happy with my novel and definitely eager to keep working on it into December. Overall, I would say this NaNoWriMo has been a success. Except for one tiny little thing...

I think I may have broken the fourth wall more times this year than last year.

Some of you may remember my novel from last year. Names like Katarina and Benjamin might sound familiar. And if you read my blog last November, you know my novel's plot: three characters, who are aware that they're characters, go on a quest to have 50,000 words worth of adventure in one month. They're confronted with obstacles such as evil wizards and the Inner Editor (I.E.) and aided by the muses Eleanor and Ferdinand. There are scenes showing both the characters on their quest and their author documenting it. The characters are aware that they have an author, and that author (me) is referred to multiple times. Basically, the entire point of this parody/humor novel was to break the fourth wall.

The problem is obvious, right?

Off to try and keep the fourth wall from disintegrating completely,

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What I'm Writing

It's amazing how when you're truly absorbed in a what you're writing, you don't notice anything else. And when you stop, you realize things that you were able to ignore for the past hour or more; your arm itches. You're thirsty. You have to go to the bathroom. But none of that mattered until now, because you had to write.

That's how I felt last night. I started off just trying to increase my word count for NaNoWriMo, since I was about six thousand words behind at the beginning of the day. Then I started writing some scenes that took on a life of their own, and ended up writing over 3,000 words in one sitting, adding a few more after that and bringing by daily total to over 5,000.

It's one of the most amazing things, when you can get that involved. There's no feeling like it, when you're so wrapped up in the story that you don't even have to think about what you're typing. Combining a bit of advice in with this week's writing update, I would say that if you're working on something that you really love, you should have at least one moment like that, one time where the writing comes as easily as breathing and the story takes on a life of its own.

I've been writing seriously for several years, so I know that sort of thing isn't going to happen every time you pick up your pen or sit down at the computer. There will be times when you can't think of anything to write, when you have to struggle through, maybe even start to hate your story. But when those times do come, they're magical, and it makes all the struggling worth it.

Feeling much more confident about winning NaNoWriMo after that last writing session,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Album Review: Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto

Coldplay's latest album Mylo Xyloto came out on October 24, to the relief of many fans (including myself) who couldn't stand another day of waiting. There have been both good and bad reviews of the album, and I've been meaning to throw my two cents in for awhile, but haven't had the time. However, I finally forced myself to sit down and finish my review (during NaNoWriMo season, no less), so here it is.

So...the thing that bothered me about the new album when it first came out wasn't that it sounded different than anything I was used to. It wasn't that there was a mix-matched array of upbeat songs with complex riffs, haunting songs with beautiful instrumentals, distorted electric-guitar songs and songs that included almost nothing except piano chords and vocals. It wasn't that there was also a duet with Rihanna mixed into this.

It was that it worked. It worked really, really, well. Every song fits seamlessly with the rest, and as a whole album, it's probably one of Coldplay's best, if not the best. In terms of continuity, it's definitely giving Viva La Vida/Death and All His Friends a run for its money. Needless to say, I am in the group of Coldplay fans who adore Mylo Xyloto, and have to fight my exasperation with those who don't. (To be fair, it did take me a few listens for some of the songs to grow on me, though I loved others instantly.)

Before I get into song-by-song-reviews, I'd also just like to point out that it's the only Coldplay album I almost immediately bought the complete version of. That just proves how well all the songs function together.

1. Mylo Xyloto
The title track is an awesome instrumental and a perfect introduction to Hurts Like Heaven. I like how this song starts off softly and gradually builds, with more sounds added as it goes on. It's a great opener for the album.

2. Hurts Like Heaven
I read somewhere that the new album was inspired by graffiti, and it's clearer on Hurts Like Heaven than on any other song. I love the chorus, the verses, basically all of the lyrics, and from what I've managed to decipher of the meaning, I like that too. A critic (I'm paraphrasing here) complained that it seemed as if Coldplay was writing about a dystopia where people rebel by spray-painting, but that's what I like about this song. It definitely has a non-conformist/unique attitude to it, but it's not angry.

3. Paradise
Awesome song. Just amazing. It's both traditional Coldplay and incredibly unique - a sort of Clocks meets Violet Hill meets something else entirely. I love the violins at the beginning. The lyrics are haunting and heartbreakingly beautiful. The concept is definitely something I can relate to, and I have a feeling this is going to be one of those Coldplay songs that's going to stick around for awhile.

4. Charlie Brown
iTunes described this song as a "Coldplay classic in the making", and they hit the nail right on the head. I think every Coldplay album has one song that is just so moving and breathtaking that it's impossible to describe, one that fully encompasses the whole theme of the album. For Mylo Xyloto, that song is Charlie Brown. From the first time I heard the instrumental, I knew this was going to be something spectacular, and it only got better with every line of the unforgettable lyrics. It's such an inspiring, amazing song, and I can't stop listening to it.

5. Us Against the World
The beginning of this song is really nice, with a softer acoustic sound. It's probably one of the songs on the album that sounds the most like earlier Coldplay songs, without being repetitive. It reminds me of songs on Parachute like Sparks or Don't Panic or Swallowed in the Sea on X&Y. I love the lyrics, too - very poetic.

6. M.M.I.X.
I don't have a lot to say about this song because I haven't spent a lot of time listening to it. It works well as a transition to Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, but it's not one of my favorite introductions on the album. It's short, like the other two, but doesn't really make the most of that time like they do.

7. Every Teardrop is a Waterfall
I'll admit that when it first came out I was a little skeptical - it sounded a lot more like U2 than the Coldplay I was used to - but it's definitely grown on me. The guitar riffs are phenomenal. I would love to be able to play them. The lyrics are catchy but still really meaningful; in fact, the entire song is like that. It has great fast-paced music and is one of the few Coldplay songs I actually want to dance to, but its meaning is miles above some of the other music that's out there. It was a great first single for the album.

8. Major Minus
Okay, I'll be honest: it's not my favorite song on the album. I do sort of like the guitar intro, but the opening lyrics, which repeat in some form or another throughout most of the song, seem kind of simple. The same thing could apply to the meaning - I don't mind it, but it doesn't seem as deep as their songs usually are. None of that bothers me that much, though. The main thing I like about the song is a bit farther in, at "I hear them climbing the stairs..." etc. I like the lyrics there, just not the way they're sung. The song isn't bad - after all, it's Coldplay - and there are several parts of the lyrics I really like, such as "but they don't believe a word, it's just us against the world" (which carries the theme from an earlier song) and "Hear the crocodiles ticking round the world" (which, if I'm not mistaken, is a Peter Pan reference.) It's one of those songs that will probably grow on me, but it's not one of the strongest songs on the album.

9. U.F.O.
I really like the guitar on this song - it's so soft and pretty. The sound is nicely layered without being too busy, and the instrumentals and vocals perfectly compliment each other. It's short and sweet, but definitely not too simple - it has just the right amount of everything, right up through the fantastic ending.

10. Princess of China
This was the song I was looking forward to hearing most, because the title was so intriguing; it was the one I was the most skeptical about once I found out it was a duet with Rihanna; and it's the song I've been the most surprised be. I'm truly shocked by how well it worked. The "oohs" are really strong on this song, and the parts Rihanna and Chris Martin sing blend together really nicely, even if I do feel like her voice overpowers his in one or two places. Overall, it's a fantastic collaboration between two awesome artists.

11. Up In Flames
At first I was sort of indifferent to this song - it didn't stand out to me at first. But I think this is one of those Coldplay songs you don't appreciate until you really listen to the lyrics. They remind me of songs like Sparks or The Scientist in their tone, and they're so heartfelt. You can tell he means every word he's singing. And even though it doesn't have the intense, sweeping sounds of some of their other songs, that sort of thing would be out of place here anyway. After a few listens, I've decided this song is definitely a keeper.

12. A Hopeful Transmission
Similar in sound to Mylo Xyloto, and really helps with the continuity of the album. It's also a wonderful transition between the softer Up In Flames and the more upbeat Don't Let it Break Your Heart. The title really fits, too, since it feels like it's getting more hopeful as it continues. Overall, it's a great song in the perfect place on the album.

13. Don't Let if Break Your Heart
I love, love, love, love, this song. It's right up there with Hurts Like Heaven on my list of personal favorites on this album. I love the synthesizer/whatever instrument is making those awesome sounds in the background. I love the lyrics. I love the message. There's not a whole lot to say about this song, other than that I love everything about it.

14. Up With The Birds
I really like the way this song starts off - it almost sounds like a hymn. It's also very dynamic, and the lyrics read like a poem. It swells a little, then gets quiet, and becomes yet another beautiful Coldplay song with perfectly matched instrumentals and lyrics. Although it's not the most powerful song on the album, I think it was definitely a sweet ending - it leaves me incredibly satisfied with what I just heard while at the same time wanting more.

So to conclude, while this album is different from their previous ones, if you really think about it, all of Coldplay's albums have something unique about them. If all the albums sounded the same, people would be complaining about that - and believe me, they have, even about this album. I don't think it's repetitive or too out there. I think it's Coldplay trying something new, and their success just about blows me away.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Reading Room (3)

The Reading Room is, as the title implies, an update on my reading list and what books I'm currently absorbed in. This blog feature was inspired by the Ren's On Myshelf at the amazing blog All By Myshelf.

This week has been an AWESOME one for gathering books I've been wanting to read. I finished The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud over the weekend, and I absolutely loved it. I didn't realize how much I missed reading about the antics of the wise-cracking djinni Bartimaeus until I checked out this book from our school library. If you've never read this series before, you definitely should. The Amulet of Samarkand is the first book, and if you're anything like me, once you start reading, you won't be able to stop.

The same day I checked out The Ring of Solomon, I also checked out Across
the Universe by Beth Revis. When I saw it, I was immediately intrigued; there wasn't a lot of information on the back cover, but it was enough to make me curious and make me want to read more. I'm only a few chapters in so far, but I think I like it. It definitely has some very familiar paranormal and dystopian elements, but there's also some sci-fi to it. And although it doesn't quite match up to Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It in terms of how lifelike it is, I definitely feel like I'm right there with the characters. Most of the time, I describe popular Young Adult books as "hit and miss", and while Divergent was sort of a miss, I have a feeling this one's going to be a hit. Hopefully I won't be disappointed.

My reading list only kept improving after that. I went down to the public library last night and realized that it had been far too long since the last time I was there. There were lots of new books I didn't recognize, all of which looked really good. I was just looking over the new book by the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret when the librarian called me over, saying she had something for me to read. She walks out from behind the circulation desk with nothing other than...

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. As she described it, my face "lit up" when I saw it. I've been wanting to read this book for well over a month now. I started reading it as soon as I got home - never mind the fact that I was already reading another book. (As any member of my family could tell you, if I'm not reading at least two books at once, there's something wrong.) It's amazing. I can't put it down. I was reading it all throughout school today, and can barely stay away from it long enough to write this blog post. While I was down there, I also grabbed The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. It's the second book in The Heroes of Olympus series, and while I don't think the series is as good as Percy Jackson and the Olympians, it's still worth reading.

Then, just when I thought things couldn't get any better, I was informed by a friend that they had the new Christopher Paolini book at a semi-local bookstore. And after I informed my mom of this, she was kind enough to pick it up for me while I was in school. I'm more than excited, although I'm still debating whether I want to reread the other three books before starting this one. It's what I did with Brisingr and it was nice to refresh my memory, but that's also what they have the synopsis for. Either way, I'm very excited to start reading this book...and to continue reading all the others that have come my way recently. I know what I'm doing over Thanksgiving break...

Off to go back to The Night Circus,

Friday, November 18, 2011

What I'm Writing

Hello, everyone! If you've looked at a calendar recently, you've no doubt noticed that it's November. And if you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know what that means for me: National Novel Writing Month.

Because I haven't given you a writing update in awhile, I'll start off by telling you a bit about this year's novel. It's a fantasy (what else?) about a girl named Audrey who goes to visit her uncle David as she does every summer. This year, however, she finds out that he's been keeping secrets from her: he's the guardian of a gateway into another world, the true heart of the earth. Here, the earth is flourishing, and everything related to it comes alive. This land is under the protection of Adaina, queen of the earth who rules over growth and new life, but is threatened by her former co-ruler Iresh, king of the earth, who rules over the other half of the earth's cycle, death. David steps in to help fight off the threat, knowing that if the heart of the earth is destroyed, it means dire consequences for his own world, and Audrey finds herself pulled in too.

This might sound like a really detailed idea, but I didn't start with this much. I started with "There's a girl who goes to visits her uncle, there's a gateway to another world in his garden; in the other world, stone and iron come to life, and everyone's fighting against some sort of dark king." I didn't even decide that this was the idea that I was going to write until October 31. As you can see, I'm "pantsing" it this year. (1)

Because of this, I've gotten off track several times in the last few weeks, and it's taken me awhile to really develop my idea and get the plot going. I'm still not entirely sure of my direction, but I've gained some momentum and I have a feeling that over this weekend and the last week and a half of NaNoWriMo, I'm going to be making a lot of progress and connections and overall making my novel into something halfway decent I can finish in December and edit at some later date.

Word-count wise, I'm about 5,000 words behind. This month has been incredibly busy. There have been things I just can't avoid (like school, homework, choir practices and dance class) and things I could avoid but really don't want to (like reading, sleeping, and playing the hunger games trailer over...and over...and over...) and all of that has caused me to get behind. However, I'm ready to get caught up and back into it. I've promised myself I can download a new Foster the People song if I'm on track by the end of this weekend, and some sort of reward if I complete NaNoWriMo for the third year in a row. Whether it will just be another winner's shirt, the "A Very She & Him Christmas" album or the new book in the Inheritance Cycle, (2) I'm not sure, but just knowing that there will be SOMETHING is enough to keep me motivated - plus the threat of never-ending shame if I didn't finish.

So that's my writing update for this week. Back to writing my novel...


Footnotes (3):
1. "Pantsing" - a NaNoWriMo term referring to jumping into a novel with little no plot and writing "by the seat of your pants"

2. It's not until I list the things I consider rewards that I realize what an Alternative Music Junkie/Bookworm I am.

3. Right now I'm reading The Ring of Solomon, the prequel to The Bartimaeus Trilogy. Hence the inclination towards footnotes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Reading Room (2)

Yes, I've finally come up with a name for my weekly reading updates! Incase you haven't read my earlier post, my new feature The Reading Room is an update on the books I'm currently reading and planning to read, and is inspired by Ren's On Myshelf at All By Myshelf.

So, this week: we're still reading To Kill a Mockingbird for English class, and I'm still loving it. As I mentioned earlier, I'd already read the book and its one of my favorites ever, and I love analyzing and discussing it. Today in class we each shared a favorite quote from anywhere in the book and discussed why it was significant to the story. It was definitely one of the most interesting things we've done - right up there with comparing and constrasting Atticus Finch and Bob Ewell and rewriting the trial from another point of view.

Otherwise, the list of books I'm planning to read keeps growing. A girl in my class let me borrow Fallen by Lauren Kate after I saw her constantly reading it in class and asked her if it was any good. Unfortunately, because it's at the bottom of my to-read list and I've been so busy, it's still sitting in my locker. Hopefully I'll be able to bring it home and read it this weekend. I'm not entirely sure what it's about, to be honest - but I'm more than willing to give it a try.

And here's another exciting book-related piece of news: the fourth book in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini is finally here. Appropriately titled Inheritance, it's the last book in the series, and I'm definitely excited that its finally out. Sadly, I have a feeling that this book's going to end up being my Christmas present, so I won't be reading it for awhile unless I can convince my dad that it will work better if we just both order it and read it now instead of worrying about who's buying it for who for Christmas. (We came very close to both buying Brisingr for each other two years ago. True story.)

Well, that's all for now. I'll be back next week with another update!

Off to do some reading,