Monday, March 25, 2013

Break Time (Or Maybe the Opposite)

Spring Break has started for all the local schools, elementary through college, so all of my tutoring students and many of my teacher friends are off on vacation. Sounds like a good time to be RIDICULOUSLY PRODUCTIVE. (If I type it in all caps it will totally happen.) This past weekend was monopolized by job applications and pet issues (okay fine and hours and hours of March Madness but COME ON did you see some of those amazing upsets??), but now I’m ready to rock the reading and writing. 

First I rounded up some books (because they're due back at the library soon, or on my Off the Shelves list, or high priority for some other reason) that I’d like to finish over break:

Hahahahahaha just kidding. I’d be thrilled if I got through a third of these. But it’s nice to dream (and to show what a strange, strange variety of books I read).

I also plan to outline and draft my WIP like a fiend. First because I'm finally rolling on the fresh draft with 12K down but the quicksand of the not-really-plotted middle looming, and second because I gave into one of my addictions yet again… Oh, NaNoWriMo and your shiny Progress Bars. 

Check out Camp NaNoWriMo. It's like normal NaNoWriMo but in April with fewer rules and more marshmallows.

April seemed like a good time for an enforced writing boost, plus one of my local writing friends had never tried NaNoWriMo and this was the best way to trick break her into it. Camp NaNoWriMo is a bit more flexible than the main event, and I’m taking advantage of that and setting my word count goal to 30,000 words, or 1000 a day. Sure, I’ve successfully hit the full 50,000 all three years I’ve done NaNoWriMo, but man did that involve some delirious nights, blind stubbornness, and incomprehensible hot messes of thrown together words. I’m hoping that a less insane word goal will be better for me and my book. But I still need to improve the rest of my rough and holey outline during this RIDICULOUSLY PRODUCTIVE week so that I'm ready for April 1st. 

The final item on the list: I also have two short stories that need to be re-polished and re-subbed, and I'm not sure why I'm dragging my feet when they're so close to being ready.

I'm trying to keep myself publicly accountable as always, so you can see my progress on various projects under the Reading and Writing tabs. Feel free to cheer/goad/heckle me, and let me know what you’re up to and if you’re joining Camp NaNoWriMo!

Monday, March 11, 2013

YAY Kiersten White and Dark Days!

Four years ago when I decided to return to creative writing, I had no idea that blogging about writing was even a thing, that there was this whole amazing online community I could join. One of the very first author blogs I discovered was Kiersten White’s helpful, heartfelt, and hilarious creation, which broadened my blog horizons and is still one of my favorites to read. I love her voice in her posts, in her books (Evie’s humor is irresistible, and I just read newly released Mind Games and ohmygoshsogood!) and, I can now say, in person!

This past weekend she came to Eugene as part of HarperTeen's Dark Days Tour, which was a great time all around. Kiersten was charming and freaking hilarious, as expected, and really so was everyone else on the panel: Lauren Oliver, Dan Wells, Debra Driza, and Claudia Gray. Such a sharp, entertaining group! I especially enjoyed Dan Wells’ insights on covers (“They're less a part of the book itself and more like mating plumage”) and on having flexibility when you’re drafting from an outline (“No plan survives contact with the enemy”). There were also some good takeaways for writers that came up multiple times from different people on the panel:

~ Keep challenging yourself in new ways for each book project; even within a series, try a POV or chronology shift or SOMETHING. It makes your writing better, keeps you engaged, and makes you less likely to want to kill off all your characters. Also it leads to Kiersten announcing “Kiersten White is a masochist who hates her readers and herself!”

~ Each author has a different process… and so does each book. I’d already read a great post by Victoria Schwab on this subject, but it was interesting how many authors on the panel had found the same thing to be true – each of their books, even within the same series, involved vastly different timelines, habits, difficulties, and solutions. Except maybe for Lauren Oliver, who is crazy disciplined and sticks to predetermined word counts that depend on how many projects she has at the time. It really does come down to doing whatever works for you, now.

Afterwards, Kiersten wielded her collection of cover-color-coordinated sharpies to sign all of my books and even a card I’d printed for my writing quotes board.

The signing photos are thanks to my *new writer friend* Emily. Yay! Though actually our friendship isn’t that new, just the realization that we both half-secretly write YA fantasy and should really get around to talking about it and becoming critique partners already. We both left really inspired to whip our current WIP into shape, even if it required taking another piece of the panel’s advice: looking like a complete crazy person at the local coffee shop, muttering lines and acting out character gestures to figure out a scene, possibly after not showering for a while. 

Hmmm, that “complete crazy person” sounds a lot like “stereotype of many people in downtown Eugene,” so maybe this won’t be as hard as I thought…

Just kidding, Eugene. *Head pat* You know I love you, especially your great library events. Yaaaay Dark Days Tour, Kiersten White, writing friends, and great books!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Success From Branching Out

I am a fan of March already. The days have been crisp but sunny enough that it almost feels like spring, and I have two exciting pieces of writing news to brag about share. 

My poem “Uncanny” has been published in the latest issue of Spellbound, a speculative fiction e-zine for readers 8-12 years old.

Lovely cover, right? More info on the issue here.
Wait, a poem? Since when do you write poems? asks my imaginary reader who keeps track of such things.

I actually used to write poetry all the time, and even won some awards as a kid before digressing to angsty teenage poetry that fortunately never saw the light of day. (And not even just angsty poetry. Angsty SONNETS.) And as an adult I’ve written a few humorous poems as gifts and done two freelance poems for an educational company, but I still usually see myself as a prose writer. And I was fully planning to write a story for the Spellbound prompt. But when the first line came to me and the concept started to trickle after it, I knew it wanted to be a poem, and I’m very glad I listened!

I also just found out that my story "Cast Away" was a finalist for the String-of-10 contest I blogged about a little while ago. No prize or publication for the finalists, but still, Woohoo! I'm especially excited because the story was my first real foray into magical realism, so it's nice to know I'm on the right track with it (though I guess it's not too much of a stretch from my usual genre of "weird mostly fantasy stuff"). 

I’m glad branching out to try newish things paid off this month, and I'm really hoping I take this momentum and ride it through the rest of March, subbing more short stories and hacking away at my novel draft at a faster pace. How's the month going for you so far?