Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Monday, November 30, 2009

Nano-Oh No!

Workout Song of the Day: "MK Ultra" by Muse

So tonight ends the worldwide writing phenomenon known as NaNoWriMo. This is basically when writers devote the whole month of November to write a 50,000-word novel. This was my very first year to sign up for the event, and I was eager to bring the pain. I knew exactly what I was going to write about, I outlined chapters, I fell in love with my characters...and I stalled at just over 20,000 words. Yes, I still have until midnight to meet my goal, but I don't love my characters THAT much to spend 30,000 words on them in one evening.

I'll even be honest--I cheated a bit. I didn't start a novel from scratch, which was part of the rules. Which could also be why I couldn't meet the goal. You see, I was too invested in my novel. I cared so much about what would happen to the characters that I just didn't want to write "junk." Not to say that what I did write wasn't junk; I just didn't want write junk intentionally.

But I have that problem with all of my writing. Even though I know that a story still needs to be revised tremendously, I linger on every single word that I type. That's right. Every. Single. Word. My cousin has this gift of finishing a short story in like a day or two. Me, give me about 2-3 weeks. I tend to over think instead of just getting it all out on paper first. I think that's why I get a little defensive during workshops. I'll slave away for days on a project, all while not turning off my internal editor. And then, when I receive "constructive" criticism (and I use this term lightly), I won't write for days because I can't understand how my workshop members don't see all of the effort that I've put in my story.

Maybe I'm too sensitive. Maybe I don't play well with others since I'm an only child. Or maybe I just need to shut up and write--forget about meaningful metaphors and subtle foreshadowing until the next revision. What do you all think? Do you prefer to edit while you write, or just get everything out and fret over the details later?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What ELSE Do I Do?

...besides write and obsess about my weight.

Workout Song of the Day: "Again" by Flyleaf

It's time to answer YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday question. Today it's all about having a life. Something that I haven't had in the past year ever since I've become more active about this whole "living your dream" thing. But the YA Highway crew has questions, and damnit, I'm going to give them an answer...or many. So, what else do I do besides write?

Not a whole lot else. Besides working full time as a school counselor. And returning to school for my MFA in which I have to read, write, critique, and annotate until my eyes cross. Oh, and trying to pencil in time to actually pry away from my laptop to exercise. Not to mention to emptying out my TiVo to catch up on all the antics of desperate housewives, dancing C-list celebrities, and a bunch of classy ladies vying for the love of Ray J (you know, Moesha's little brother).

In all honesty, I have no social life--and it'll probably remain that way until I complete the first draft of my WIP (I'm shooting for mid-December). But when I start to miss human interaction, my cousin and I run off to see a matinee movie. Since we get off work early today (you rock, Thanksgiving!), we'll be making a trip to see Precious--and I do plan on reading the novel it's based on. It's sitting at the very top of a pile of books that I haven't had time to crack open yet (which is what I also do besides writing; reading for pleasure, that is, not cracking things open).

So, there you have it. Nothing really interesting. But I'm willing to sacrifice sunlight and a steamy romance in hopes of becoming published. And once I become a bestselling author, I can buy a tanning bed and the perfect man. :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mini-Blog: Weekly Weigh-In

(Is it sad that I'm jealous of this cartoon's bottom?)

No weight loss this week, kiddos. I know, I know--I'm weeping as well. Oddly, though, I'm not as grumpy about that as I usually am. I think it's because my cousin and I have decided to tagteam once again and kick some jiggly ass! Last time we were really serious about improving our eating and exercising habits, we collectively loss...okay, I won't insert the number out of sheer embarrassment (but it was HUGE people).

That was about 5 years ago. Since then, our writing productivity increased with our pants' sizes. But we're getting down and dirty again--doing the whole Weight Watchers thing, and may even (gasp!) get up early enough to exercise BEFORE going to work. We both work in education, and after hours of yelling at other people's kids, the last thing you want to do is slap on some Reeboks and powerwalk.

I will keep you posted on our wacky adventures. Until then, send some good vibes our way. BTW, it's ridiculous how I consider this a "mini blog."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Review: Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Workout Song of the Day: "Closer" by Ne-Yo

Side note: Yes, today is supposed to be my weekly weigh-in day, but I've decided to take advice from one of my devoted commenters and change it to Wednesday. That way I can work off the personal pizza that I ate this weekend while I watched things blow up in 2012.

As my devoted followers may know (cricket sounds may now commence), I have decided to delve into the world of YA. When I was told that there was such a thing as edgy YA, I rolled my eyes. What's so edgy about skipping school to meet up with a boy? How foolish of me.

Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl is so edgy that I practically cut myself while reading it (yes, paper cuts do hurt. A lot.). I have to admit, I was a little thrown off by the title, which shares the same moniker as a Rob Zombie song. I was expecting something in the same vein as one of his movies (needless to say, I wasn't thrilled by this possibility--yet I was surprisingly fond of the Halloween remake), but I was in for a complete surprise. The story follows a girl named "Alice" (read the story to find out why her name is in quotation marks) who is kidnapped right before her 10th birthday. For the past 5 years, she has been under the supervision of a monster named Ray, who withholds food from her and forces her to get waxed down there in order to maintain her girly innocence. Alice even has to slouch when she's around him to stunt her growing frame. Things get even more disturbing when Alice agrees to find a new "Alice" for Ray; the internal and external conflicts that arise from this decision will leave you gasping for air.

What's most haunting about LDG is Scott's subtlety. Readers are able to share Alice's horrible experiences, but are not subjected to vulgar language or descriptions. Believe me, I can handle obscene--after all, I am a fan of Brett Easton Ellis--but in this case, less is more. The implications of what Alice has to endure still sends a shiver down my spine--mainly because it's up to the readers to paint the actual images in their own heads.

I read this book in a few hours, and I have the urge to pick it up and read it again. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but Scott's prose completely captures the mindset of a pedophile--how he/she makes excuses for their unspeakable acts. LDG is definitely not for the weak at hard, but for all those readers who think that YA is just about swooning for some unattainable guy.

My rating: 5 out of 5 Cookies (Yes, cookies. I don't like stars. You can't eat stars.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What Do I Read?

Once again, it's time to answer the Road Trip Wednesday question from my peeps over at YA Highway. They want to know: what are we reading aside from YA?

That question actually makes me chuckle since I am just now starting to read YA (of course, I read the Twilight series last year, but everyone was reading it so I didn't officially feel part of the club). In fact, the last novel I read was Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl (three words: Oh. My. God. Stay posted for my review!). But before that, I usually read works from my favorite authors--Jodi Picoult, Stephen King, Brett Easton Ellis, and Tawni O'Dell.

When I started my MFA program this past August, I had to read novels to "annotate" (I won't go into details since the process is too painful for me to relay). The last two I read were Josh Bazell's Beat the Reaper and Larry Doyle's I Love You, Beth Cooper. Beat the Reaper kicked all kinds of ass: the concept was brilliant (a former hit man who enters the witness protection programs and is now a doctor), the dialogue was witty, and the characters were, oddly enough, relatable. I cannot wait to see what Bazell does next.

Beth Cooper is an interesting story because it could, in fact, be considered a YA novel. I mean, the main character was an awkward, smelly nerd who just graduated from high school. Doyle has this uncanny ability to enter the mind of adolescents without being condescending or preachy. He just gets them--as if he just finished high school himself. And I laughed out loud at so many parts that I'm sure my neighbors thought I was on something.

But what I think what makes Beth Cooper so cool is that I didn't "enter" the novel trying to define the genre--sort of like my writing. I just dive in and see where the characters take me. I think when you're not conscious of what you're reading (or writing), it makes the outcome so much more enjoyable. Kind of like an element of surprise. I hate roller coasters, but I'll take a literary thrill ride any day. And now I will return to wallow in my own geekiness.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Let's Try This Again...

See that poor schmo to the left? Well, that's me. Except that I'm a tad darker. And have slightly different sexual organs. But I have no "Workout Song of the Day" because I haven't been, what do you call it..."working out." I have been so pressed to complete my WIP by January that I only peel myself off the couch to go to my day job. And to grab something to eat, of course. Here's a list of all the naughty snacks that I've indulged in during this weekend alone:

1. Two small, but decadent, slices of peanut butter and chocolate cake (have you ever met a more sinfully delicious duo?)

2. A sausage and egg biscuit from Bojangles (though I did give the last few bites to my cousin because I wanted to spread the guilt)

3. A double-stack, regular fry, and regular Sprite from Wendy's (but, in my defense, that burger isn't nearly as big as it looks on the commercials--but it was still delicious. Please don't sue!)

4. Cinna-sticks from Domino's.

5. An oven-baked sub from Domino's (but I did have to order this so they would actually deliver the cinna-sticks. Pretty pathetic, huh?)

I'll be honest, I love to eat just as much as I love writing (though there's nothing like some hot wings to cure writer's block). So when I'm able to do both (laptop on my lap, bag of baked chips to my right), I'm in pure ecstasy. I'm not trying to starve myself, but I know I need to be a bit more health conscious so that I can reap the benefits of what I'm certain will be a fruitful writing career (fatty foods decrease--inflated ego increases).

So, as I sip on my yummy concoction of coffee and hot chocolate, I am now declaring this my new Day 1. Is this cheating? Absolutely! But I am now vowing to make every Monday morning my weekly weigh-in. Now that I've put it in writing, I have to follow suit.

Now you tell me--what are some of your favorite guilty pleasures to nibble on while writing?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How Do You Choose Your Genre?

Workout Song of the Day: "Radio" by Beyonce

I just stopped by one of my new fave blogs, YA Highway, and saw that they have this weekly item called "Road Trip Wednesday." It's a format so that bloggers from all over can answer a weekly question. My first time participating in this "trip" couldn't have come at a stranger time.

The question at stake: how do you choose your genre?

Oddly enough, I've never considered myself a "genre" writer. I just write what I know--and as a school counselor, what I lately "know" most about are the constant mood swings of teenagers. But, as I mentioned in my last post, I never considered myself a "YA" author until it was suggested by an agent I'm currently courting. :) I guess my answer to that question would be: I don't choose my genre, the genre chooses me. Original, I know--but at least I'm being sincere this time.

I'm still in my pursuit of digesting all things YA to get a better understanding of this genre, and I'll fill you all in on what I learn. I just ordered Freaks and Revelations by Davida Wills Hurwin, which I think may have the same amount of edge as my WIP. A book review will be up shortly!

The perfectionist in me says that I need to end with a strong conclusion, so I leave you with this: don't enter your writing with a genre in mind. Let the characters guide you--they'll tell you how everything needs to work out in the end. And if those voices get a bit too loud, at least I'm trained to help you quiet them down. Or at least snicker uncontrollably behind your back.

Monday, November 2, 2009

YA Vs Adult Lit

Workout Song of the Day: "Charmer" by Kings of Leon

So I've submitted the first few pages of my WIP to a very respectable agent, expecting to receive another "Thanks, but no thanks" email in my inbox. Needless to say, I wasn't too thrilled when I saw a response from said agent. However, after reading the email, I received somewhat good news.

The agent was playing catch up with her current clients and could not take on anything new. But she was impressed by the few pages that she had seen, and asked that I try her again some time in January. If I could've done cartwheels at that moment, I would have been flipping across the floor--but I usually pull a back muscle just from sneezing.

Then she added something quite interesting--she suggested that I consider turning my work into a YA novel. I scratched my head. One of the main themes in my novel deals with homosexuality--would I really be allowed to sell this to teenagers?

Apparently so, as YA is getting edgier these days. My cousin and I started researching all of the information that we could find about this genre, and noticed that it doesn't just involve babysitting snafus and possibly crazy boyfriends (yes, we were fans of Ann M. Martin and R.L. Stine). YA now delves into much heftier issues, such as suicide, cutting, and yes, homosexuality. This should make perfect sense to me; as a middle school counselor for the past 4 years, I have dealt with all of these issues. Why, then, do I feel that this topics are too "dark" to write about for a younger crowd?

As I consider revisions (and start catching up on YA reading), I leave with you more info on YA literature. I would also love it if anyone could provide me with reading suggestions for any YA novels that really push the envelope.

Vandergrift's Young Adult Literature Page
YA Literature Review
Young Adult Literature Resources
YA Highway