Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lessons from a Month of Writing

For the past 25 days, I’ve been engrossed in NaNoWriMo. I’m 42242 words into my manuscript. That means I’m 7758 words from being a NaNo winner! Here is what I’ve learned so far:

Plan ahead
To write a novel in a month, I had to be prepared starting Day 1. In October, I wrote a six page outline of my story. It wasn’t important that I stuck to this outline, but it was necessary that it existed if I needed something to fall back on. I wrote out character descriptions, came up with names and created settings from the ground up. I even bought poster board and drew a map of my fantasy world. I prepared the building blocks of my story (in a handy, travel-ready binder) so when November came, I could just write.
Don’t (over) think, just write
I stressed over word choice too many times this month. I let myself think over the word “walk” or “turn” or “like” for a few minutes before just typing it anyway so I could get on with the story. I forced myself to type out the simple, overused word so I wouldn’t get stuck. And I did it with this thought in mind: I can and will change it later, in edits. I realized that to write 2000 words a day, I couldn’t over think one or five or a dozen words, or I would never get anywhere. I just had to write.

Write even if you don’t want to
So many mornings I woke up and didn’t want to write. I wanted to go back to bed, hide under the covers or turn on the Today Show and zone out to Matt Lauer. Some days I woke up with a headache. Most days I had some excuse for why I shouldn’t write. But I had a goal to make, so I ignored the bed, the TV and the headaches. I put myself in front of my laptop (usually with the assistance of coffee) and wrote. If I hadn’t forced myself out of bed in the 7 o’clock hour every day this month, I wouldn’t be close to my current word count. I didn’t need the extra sleep, I needed the extra words.

You can still have a life and write
In October, I thought that to write everyday meant I wouldn’t do anything besides write and work. Reading would go by the wayside. Boyfriend time would be limited. And I could forget about being caught up on my Hulu queue. But, surprisingly, I slowly realized it didn’t have to be that way. If I did work, then I wrote before or after and still had a few free hours in the evening. If it was a day off, I churned out 2000 words before 11AM then had the rest of the day to read a book, watch Castle, hang out with my boyfriend or work on my blog.

This November, I learned about my writing habit. I discovered that waking up at 7AM and going straight to the computer works for me. I discovered that writing is an effort I have to make; it isn’t just going to happen by itself. And I thankfully realized that my life will not stop if I start a daily writing habit. Life and writing can co-exist. And I plan to keep up that coexistence into December and 2013!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Owl Always Love Owls

A photo essay of—you guessed it—owls

While I’m in the deep, dark caverns of NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d share my fascination and slight OBSESSION with owls. My first inkling at the greatness of owls was of course Hedwig, the bird with personality who sacrificed herself for Harry Potter. (Plus, owls are just so cute!) I’ve become somewhat of a collector of awesome owl figurines. Here are some of the owls that adorn my apartment:

Hedwig: The Original Owl

Welcome to My Apartment Owl

Coffee Owl (He's had too much caffeine.)

Festive Owl!

Fridge Owl

Plate Owl

Owl Towel

Yes, that is my shower curtain. (It makes me happy in the morningtime.)

Oh, and there’s a Mockingjay.

He felt left out.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why I’m Thankful for YA

This post has two inspirations:
1.       It’s the month of Thanksgiving, and I am thankful for the YA genre.

2.       Beth Revis’ awesome YA contest! She’s the author of the Across the Universe series, which is amazing. In a recent blog post, she challenged readers to write about why they love YA to gain entries to win a library of signed YA books.

I’m thankful for YA because the books are:
·         Action-Packed
                YA books get to the point. There’s not a lot of setting build-up or page after page of description/introduction. They dive right into the action and rarely let up. Sometimes I can barely keep up with all the twists and turns, and I love how novels like Insurgent by Veronica Roth and Unwholly by Neal Shusterman keep me on my toes. I adore how I’m always trying to guess what’s going to be thrown at the main character next and what they are going to do in response.
·         Boundary-Breaking
                Teen writers think outside the box. And the readers are an open-minded crowd who love super creative fantasy and every kind of paranormal that exists. There are an increasing number of diverse characters (though we still have a long way to go). Some teen books even address controversial issues such as bullying, sex, eating disorders, drugs, incest and suicide. Consider Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma and anything by Ellen Hopkins. The YA genre is breaking down boundaries, crashing open the box and talking about real issues.
·         Informative and Intriguing
                Even though teen books are usually considered more fun than educational, I do feel that venturing into the past and exploring history is informative and intriguing. I love books like Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak where history (alterative or otherwise) is a real character. When I read historical teen fiction, I feel like I’m learning something about that time period. My era of choice is WWII, which is why Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity is high on my to-read list.

Thanks to you for reading! (After all, it is the time of year to be thankful.) If you’re interested in entering Beth Revis’ contest, you can find more information on her blog. She is giving away a spectacular collection!


Please note: When I say that I believe the YA genre are these things, I am NOT saying that other genres are not these things. Every genre has its advantages!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Story of a Bookseller

(A fun, short something from a girl in the depths of NaNoWriMo)

At night, I’m a half-crazed, coffee-infused writer girl. During the day, I’m a bookseller. I know it’s not exactly a lucrative profession, but I do get to play with books every day. My life as a bookseller is defined by weekend shifts, odd customers and even odder questions. Oh, and hundreds of books in every size, shape, color and topic.
I help people find books when they only know the cover color. I don’t always succeed.
I read new, amazing picture books when I'm alone in the Kids section. I recently picked up The Quiet Book and The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska, which are fantastic.

I browse new teen and young reader books, constantly adding to my to-read (Snicket and Oliver) and to-buy lists (Roth).
I will run my finger down the spine of Ally Condie’s Reached the night before it’s released.
Oh, yes.
I help people find the perfect book, whether for themselves or for them to give as a gift. It’s one of my favorite things! And I especially love it when they are interested in teen books. 
                           YOU MIGHT SAY:

“I really liked the Hunger Games.”
“I couldn’t put down Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.”
 “I would like a teen book with dragons.”
                AND I’LL SAY:
                “Why don’t you follow me to the teen section? I’m sure we can find something you’ll love!"