Friday, May 30, 2014

How to Write a Metric Fuckton Quickly

I've done National Novel Writing Month every November since 2007, when I was but a wee twelve year old who had to sneak onto the desktop after everyone else went to bed to get any real progress made on my first book. I've managed to hit the big 50k goal every year, sometimes doubling or tripling it.

Mostly I did that by writing a lot of words really, really fast.

Fortunately, that's easy to do. I'll let you in on my Super Secret Strategy. It only involves two steps, so that makes it plenty easy:

1. Plan what you're going to write.

This is self-explanatory. How are you supposed to rend a first draft out of your head if you don't know what the hell you're going to write? I usually plan at least the first third of my book out before I start writing and do the rest of my planning as I write and learn more about my characters.

But, in general, I never sit down to write without having planned it first.

2. Stagger your writing.

Everyone writes differently. Figure out what works best for you. I like to write in thirty minute bursts, punctuated by ten minutes of screw-around-on-reddit-time. Breaking up massive chunks of writing time has helped me write five or ten thousand words in a day with relative ease.

I feel like this Super Secret Strategy works for any stage of the writing process, even if you're revising. At the very least, it works for me.

Sorry there's not a longer bit today. I'm just worn out.

Monday will be less shitty.

Take care.

Book Recs and Writing Specs: May 29, 2014 (which is mostly certainly today's date)

hey guys pretend it's Thursday.

Am I going to call this series that? I think I just might. In fact, I will make a little banner for it.

Yeah, that's a good idea. I think I'll do this every Thursday from now one because why not.

Actually, both the books I want to talk about today are ones that I just finished last week. Radical.

Right, here we go.

1. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozaki

Ruth Ozeki's third novel, shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2013. In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine.

 Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.

 Full of Ozeki’s signature humour and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home

Quick and Dirty Review
I started this book a while ago, back in late April when I flew to San Francisco to see The National play at Berkley, which sounds like something to do a post about, come to think of it. Anyway, I finally finished it last weekend, a delay that I attribute more to finals than a lack of interest. I recommend this book on the off-chance that you're hungering for a dual narrative pseudo-memoir featuring quantum mechanics; Zen Buddhism; modern Japanese culture; cats; philosophical explorations of our concepts of Big Things, like heroism, life, death, time, individuality, human existence itself; cats; and dead French writers, all bound up with sublime imagery and compelling characters.

2. Until We End by Frankie Brown

It's been nine months since the virus hit, killing almost everyone it touched. Seventeen-year-old Cora and her little brother, Coby, haven't left home since. Not after the power cut out; not even after sirens faded in the distance and the world outside their backyard fence fell silent. But when a blistering drought forces Cora to go in search of water, she discovers that the post-apocalyptic world isn't as deserted as she thought when she meets Brooks, a drop-dead sexy army deserter. 

Fighting their way back home, Cora finds her house ransacked and Coby missing - kidnapped by the military for dangerous medical experiments in the name of finding a cure. Brooks knows exactly where Cora can find her brother, except he says it's a suicide mission. Cora doesn't care. But Brooks can't let her go...

Quick and Dirty Review
There are a lot of young adult post-apocalyptic novels on the market right now. And I don't have to tell you that about ninety-three percent of them are the same tired love triangles oppressed by an evil government that installed itself after whatever catastrophe.

Frankie Brown Until We End's is a happy exception. This book was so engaging to me because of the emphasis placed on the main character Cora's relationship with her brother. Rather than romantic love or revolution or saving the world propelling the story along, this plot is guided by the bond between a girl and her kid brother. And that's honestly refreshing.

Plus, Cora was a total badass.

As for my writing--which I get to talk about because this my blog ahaha yeah woo egotism--things are, you know, going. I've found a couple of people to beta swap with to work on the fourth draft of Dreaming of Crowds, my autistic werewolf book. I'll throw up a page about it and link it here later, so you know what I'm going on about. Today I'm reworking a couple of scenes and doing my last hardcopy edit before I send it along.

*cue hyperventilating*

Thanks for reading, gang.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On Writer's Block

Given that I'm throwing this post together specifically to escape working on my novel draft, writer's block feels like an appropriate topic to discuss this evening.

A few years back, I wrote a (long, self-indulgent) essay on how writer's block is this made up monster beast that's basically another name for some underlying problem within how you practice and perceive your own writing process. I called it, in a burst of creativity, "Writer's Block Doesn't Exist."

Cute, right?

I've had some time since then to think more deeply on the nature of what we identify as writer's block and have come to the conclusion that it absolutely exists. It's a thing that, for me, is conceived in self-doubt and fostered in a net of anxiety, avoidance, and simple fear, mostly of failure. The fact that this block is intangible and entirely self-imposed does not change the very simple fact that it's there.

And the usual advice--read a book, take a walk, watch a movie, start a fun side project--does roughly jack shit for me when I hit one of my slumps. And I tend to slump hard. If anything, all that time to myself to think and to reflect on other people's creative endeavors makes me feel even worse about where I am in my writing, not newly enriched with ideas. I get glum. And the writer's block gets worse.

If this sounds like your experiences with writer's block, then I commiserate with you totally and completely. And I'd also like to offer my strategies for divesting myself of the negative thinking that encourages our specific type of writer's block in the first place.

1. Make a schedule and stick with it.

Some people write every day. Others go every other day. I know some people who sprint entire books in a week or two and then spend months laboriously editing and rewriting. Figure out what kind of schedule your current project demands and maintain it. The simple force of repetition can be enough to get you through a sticky patch.

That said, don't beat yourself up too badly if life gets in the way once in a while and disrupts the schedule. It happens to the best of us. Or at the very least, it happens to me, so I'm fairly certain that the mediocre of us do that and that it's normal.

2. Learn how to reassure yourself that the world is not actually ending and you're not a massive fucking failure after all.

Often my bursts of writer's block are more like writer's crippling anxiety destroying any hope of productivity. I'm a worrier. It's true. I try to be a laid back person, but I tend to perseverate and overthink the things that matter to me. Writing happens to be one of those things.

So when that particular kind of writer's block overcomes me, I do one of two things.

Option one: I take a break from writing that night and do something that I enjoy (like working out or eating ice cream. actually just the latter. who am I shitting here) that is not related to reading or writing in any conceivable way.

Option two: I keep working, but I refocus my energy on rereading what I already have or more thoroughly planning what's going to happen next. I find it vastly reassuring to know where I've been and where I'm going on a project. It makes doing the middle bits that much easier.

3. Acknowledge if you're just being a lazy shit.

Don't confuse a lack of motivation with an actual mental block. There is an obvious distinction here, given that the former looks like me scrolling reddit for the millionth time, pretending to do research, and the latter involves staring at my ceiling feeling irreparably useless and incapable of writing anything worthwhile.

This post was a bit of a downer. Er. I didn't mean for that to happen.

I really am a chipper person. Ninety percent of the time my writing goes as well as I could possibly hope. It's that other ten percent of the time that I'm talking about here.

Til next time, friends.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How Am I Doing This?

This blog is going to look a little different than it ever has before, I think. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I'm about to plunge into this scary and insane world of querying and hopefully find some way to get published. And while I'm stupidly excited to do that, I also need to start thinking about different ways to present myself than I ever have before. Like, I have written some scathing book reviews, which likely won't show up again. Nor will my half-assed advice columns on writing.

I guess what I'm saying is that I want to be less fucking terrible. As an individual and a blogger. I'll still do writing advice and book reviews, but my hope is that they'll be much more complex and nuanced than they were before.

I'm also (bewilderingly) going to start a schedule and stick with it. This is not something I'm accustomed to, but I will do my best not to suck at it. The idea is to post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I don't know what those posts will look like. They'll either be about books in one way or another. Or maybe I'll just tell you stories about things that happened in my life, since I'm a flaming egotist and do enjoy that sort of thing.

Great. Cool. First real post will be hitting this page tomorrow-ish.

I think I'll post about my progress in my own writing on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Maybe. If it gets totally obnoxious, I'll stop.

If you have any preference on what you'd like to see, feel free to comment on this post, send me a tweet, start up a smoke signal. Whatever, you know.

As always, thanks for putting up with my shit.

Clean Slate!

This feels vastly overdue.

It's been literal, actual months since I posted on this blog. Holy smokes. In the meanwhile, I've been fairly busy, mostly with the writing thing and the life thing.

Big life things that have happened:

  • I asked my boyfriend to marry me, and he was on board with that, which was nice.
  • I finished up my first year of university, and the only weight I gained was from muscle. Like, real, palpable muscle.
  • Made friends in person and not on the internet.

Anyway, all those things, while awesome, have been excessively time consuming.

In the meanwhile, for Taylor-the-writer, things have mostly been rewriting and editing. Endless, constant rewriting and editing to get my autistic wolfboy story up to snuff for querying. Since #PitMad is on the horizon, I plan to attempt that before sending out proper and actual queries. We'll see.

For now, this is a post stating that I'm alive. Also, I'm removing the rest of the posts on this blog for a lot of reasons, the biggest one being that I just don't like them that much anymore. I'll make some new ones. They'll be radical and well-planned, just watch.

Hope all's well with you and whatnot.