Thursday, 31 October 2013

NoNaNoWriMo


With everyone getting ready for NaNoWriMo, I thought I should give it a go for once. The idea has never appealed to me before because my writing process goes against it, and believe me, I’ve tried going against it, but somehow I just can’t write and not look back. 
New ideas take over old ones, characters get slashed and worlds change. I always end up going back so I can go forward, which just slows things down, even with thorough planning.

NaNoWriMo, however, encourages a forward only approach. All it asks it that you write 1,600 words or so a day in order to reach 50k by the end of the month. It’s intended to be a rough draft (not to say people don’t rush to submit it afterwards) but at least it’s a complete one. So I definitely thought it was worth a try, if only to prove I could go forward without looking back. 

Unfortunately, at the moment, I’m currently stuck between two worlds.

I have two incomplete manuscripts and a third novel idea that I plan in my spare time. I’ve put one WIP to rest while I concentrate on finishing the other, but my original WIP constantly plays on my mind. It’s not the worst position to be in; my brain is always busy, always flittering between characters, scenarios and colourful worlds. I’m never alone - which is just writer talk for "I'm Crazy", in case you didn't know.

The downside comes when I wake in a cold sweat not knowing which of my two WIPs I should be paying more attention to and that, as they’re both incomplete, I may never accomplish anything. EVER. 
Basically, I would have liked to participate in NaNoWriMo this month but I have to pass. I have things to complete, not start. So that’s two boats I've missed this year. On the bright side, the idea behind NaNoWriMo shan't go to waste. I’ve planned out most of my current WIP and there’s no harm in using the NaNoWriMo's daily word count to finish it.

Until then, to all you go getters, I pray your quills give you thrills!


Angry Robot Open Door 2013

All summer I’ve been obsessively watching Angry Robot’s webpage and I made sure to keep an eye on their Tweets too. I was waiting for their Open Door.

They seem to have one every year and I like their attitude; serious about their job (presumably!) but still up for a laugh. I like the quality of the books they produce and the types of books they push. 

And maybe it’s just me but I tend to judge a publisher by its cover. I once had a partial request from a publisher (I won’t say which one) and I wasn't liking the look of their books or webpage. Now, I understand rejection is part of being a writer, but I’m not into collecting rejections from publishers who, given the chance, would throw someone's book into Mount Shyte and then tell them it's their version of a polished novel. In fact, I'd rather take brutally honest feedback from a reputable publisher than that. 
So anywho, I checked these guys up on Preditors and Editors and they were not recommended. Strongly. Which was why I let that boat sale...

On the other hand, I really wanted to participate in Angry Robot’s Open Door. I had my MS ready and pol - oh wait, no I didn’t. But I’ve always known this. The word count is too low. Still, I know publishers vary in what they consider to be novel length, but my word count isn’t too low because of what a publisher (or any publisher) wants, it’s too low because, if I'm honest with myself, it ain’t finished. 

I cut my story short in an attempt to make a stand alone novel as a potential debut author. But a stand alone shouldn’t be dictated by a perceived, perfect word count, it should be dictated by the goddamned ending. That’s right. The ending. You can cut stuff later, but at least give it an ending, a closed-with-a-hint-of-something-else ending. A proper ending. 

See where I'm going with this?

You can have a story too long and break it up, but you can’t do a damn thing with a drop-off disguised as a cliff hanger. There’s a big difference between a cliff hanger and simply stopping in the middle of a story.
So I’ll say it again: a stand alone shouldn’t be dictated by a word count, it should be dictated by the goddamned ending. 

Or, as Chuck Wendig says: 

“Finish your shit…”


Saturday, 19 October 2013

Let's talk originality

How unique is your story?
Just in case you didn’t know: Nothing is original. Or so I keep getting told.

Someone once compared one of my WIP’s to Orwell’s 1984. I’ll just go ahead and take that as a compliment even though the person used the words “ripped off”. That person later admitted my story wasn’t that similar but regardless, it was said. And after he said it he reminded me that “nothing is original anyway”.

So what do you do when you’re writing something and you discover that your premise is spookily similar to something else out there?

You try and do it better.
That could mean adding a unique spin to it, but in truth, most people will take it if it’s simply done better. Take the light bulb for example, it's not original. The sun was there first, only it had a tendency to disappear at night. Now, the sun will always be loved for its multitude of abilities, but when night falls, the light bulb will be admired in its wake.

The light from the light bulb isn’t original, but to a degree, it’s done better. Firstly, you can control it, and you know how us humans go crazy for control, so it’s already a fantastic idea. But again, the light itself? Done before, though not like this…
I know it’s easier said than done, but if you find your amazingly unique story isn’t that unique, you don't have to kill it with fire, just go find that exact same story on Goodreads or Amazon and read all the reviews. 
Find out what people liked about it.
Pay attention to what people hated about. 
Then do it better.


Thursday, 17 October 2013

CRaZy?

You're Not Alone

I have a confession to make… *inhale* …I’m delusional. 

But I’ll have you know, most writers are. We need to be. Without our delusions we’d give up, for these delusions are usually about our own work. If we weren’t spending hours a day lavishing over our words, we'd have caved in to self-crippling doubt and accepted our scribbles were nothing but that.

And so, deep down, we’re all Smeagols stroking our pages, and when someone tries to take that away from us, we either bite back (both metaphorically and some literally) or sit and cry for some time.
These are the two extreme emotions a majority of us keep in check so we can remain on good terms with the general public, but when no one’s looking, we’re either laughing manically at our glorious work of art or sharpening our fountain pens for the latest person to leave that one star review.

The balance comes when we want to improve. In that short space of time (and for a short space of time only) we’re open to feedback and change. We’re at that stage where we think maybe our work isn’t that awesome or that it is good but could be better. Though maintaining this balance isn't easy. We all secretly stroke our egos and we all secretly break down when someone rips our stuff to shreds. We go through bouts of literary exhilaration, depression and then skeptical numbness. All you can hope for is tougher skin, other than that, there's no cure.

I just wanted to let you know you’re not alone.


Friday, 11 October 2013

Book Review

When Stars Die
by
Amber Forbes

*WARNING: SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD*
Click the pic to check out the book!

When Stars Die is a pretty gritty para/romance, something I don’t really touch. But don’t expect too much swooning. There’s darkness in this novel that I just don’t see in very many NA’s or YA’s at the moment, and for that, at least, it has my thumbs up.

Here's that blurby blurb:

Amelia Gareth's brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims. However, in order to become professed, she must endure trials that all nuns must face.

Surviving these trials is not easy, especially for Amelia, who is being stalked by shadowy beings only she can see. They're searching for people they can physically touch, because only those they can touch can see them. Amelia soon learns why she is being stalked when she accidentally harms her best friend with fire during the third trial. Fire is a witch's signature. The shadows are after witches.

Now Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves?


Now, I really wanted to like this book but felt the characters and plot/pace really let it down.

Characters: I felt the MC, Amelia, and the other characters had a flatness to them, especially in regards to their dialogue, and this hampered my attachment to them. Cathedral Reims - where the opening of the story takes place - is where Amelia hopes to become professed in order to get her little brother, who is a witch, and perhaps herself, into paradise. The catch is that the trials involved are littered with varied forms of torture. My issue with this was that although Amelia showed many signs of indoctrination, she also displayed a strong level of common sense. Perhaps this was intended for inner conflict, but instead made for a frustrating read.

I’ll say it again, I'm not keen on this kind of genre (romance), but there have been books (even ones I've disliked like "Fifty Shades") where the characters, regardless of how obnoxious, come to life. Here, I just couldn’t feel that happening. The flat-ish dialogue and half expected type of speech they used quickly began to make them sound like cardboard cut-outs.

Having said that, Amelia’s determination kept me holding on. There was strength in her that I really wanted to see blossom, but that was where I felt the plot tripped up.

Plot/Pace: I think there’s a lot here, some very interesting concepts that, if more YA and NA had going on, I'd be more inclined to pick them up. The first few chapters really pulled me in; they were gritty and very striking. There was immediacy there. Unfortunately, this did not continue to hold my interest as once the shock factor died down, I was looking for a plot, and although I stopped reading (shortly after chapter 15) I had a feeling it was coming just around the corner…it was just taking so long to get there. At 50% in on my Kindle, for me, there was still no clear grounding in regards to plot. Or stakes, to be exact.

1. Amelia wants to become a nun but must suffer all forms of torture first.
She doubts the necessity of the suffering she and her friends must go through, allowing the reader to doubt if this is the only to get into “paradise” or if it even exists. Because of this, this part of the plot stopped becoming interesting and the stakes no longer seemed real. (Though I think the sewing seeds of doubt was intended here.)

2. Amelia burns her best friend Collette with magic (?). However, other people in the convent either don’t see this or refuse to accept it. Only Amelia is aware, meaning there are no consequences. (Although this implies Amelia is also a witch, without anyone taking note, there are no stakes except the possibility of one; “paradise”, being thrown out, etc.)

3. She may be/is a witch and can see shadowmen. These shadowmen were not explained for a long time, neither was their intent. The men began to grate on me and I wasn’t sure if they were good or bad. So these were unclear stakes. (I was actually starting to hope Amelia would show signs of madness as there was some real stakes there in terms of her being sent to the madhouse!)

4. She is later removed from the cathedral for failing a trial (not for being a witch). This should be a major stake, but considering the very questionable “paradise”, for me, her leaving just felt like a relief. Here is where I hoped Amelia’s determination and strength would have come into play, BUT

5. She then wants to go back to the cathedral….

6. Amelia is also in love with Oliver but is not allowed to express it physically - being a wannabe nun and all (nice!). Her love for Oliver is her own inner turmoil which was interesting, but in light of everything else, her pondering about whether to kiss him or not was a little distracting. There was tension there, and I felt it coming, but it would have been so much better, in my eyes, if it came soon after Collette was incinerated and if he began to consider, then and there, that the girl he’s “into” may just be a witch.

This seemed to be what 50% of the book was made up of. Great set ups but no real stakes.
The worst thing that happened was that Amelia burnt her best friend, but seeing as no one notices…

Now, I have a theory that…where I put the book down? S**t was about to get real. Having read some other reviews, there are implied situations that are going to happen to Amelia which sound very WTF?! There was also a hint, I think, of a possible relationship with the antagonist, as though he may be a good guy. Or maybe not?! With what I’ve read so far, I reckon there was a large possibility that I was in for some twists and turns, but having chugged through 50% already, I just couldn’t go on. So I’m putting the book down for now, but one day, I may just pick up from where I left off and have more to say…until then, I can only say three stars out of five.

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