Backstory & Plotting Chapters | #AmWriting (07.29.2016)

writinghead710Today has been really productive and as it’s been a long time since I’ve felt this good about where I’m at writing-wise, I’ve decided to do a cheeky little writing post here on the blog. I’ve not properly worked on my story since before my vacation last week, and I was lucky that I didn’t lose the excitement I had then. My biggest motivation behind this great day was my writing pal Sara with whom I Skyped twice today actually!

Sara is visiting her sister in California, which means we now have a two-hour time difference between us and surprisingly it’s worked out in our favor today. We Skyped early enough (her time) that we decided it would not be unreasonable to try and Skype again in four hours time, giving us both some time and a deadline with which to try and be more productive than we had been the last time we spoke.

With my time, I ended up doing a lot of brainstorming of the backstory that would set the events of my novel into action in the form of a lot of summarization. Here are some of the major things I changed and established in the world of my story (please, excuse the vagueness!):

  • I changed my main villain into a woman. This character had been based a little on the Rasputin of Anastasia (1997) and I decided that it would work better for my story’s conflict for her to be female instead. It’s also forced me to reshape the origins of the conflict and think about how to categorize people like her in this world.
  • I developed a compelling backstory between the villain and two mysterious characters who will become significant characters in the future books of this prospective series.
  • I decided to set my novel a year after a thing that happens. So the world of my story in the midst of turmoil now, instead of coming to turmoil as result of my protagonist’s actions in this book. It’s a small change that has given my world a more ominous tone which is quickly established in the first chapter!
  • I’ve reintegrated a favorite character from past drafts of this story. I’ve always loved this character, he might even be my most favorite creation ever, but I’ve worried in the past that he overshadows my protagonist. I’m determined to fit him into this story, however, and I think I’ve found a way that makes him important but still sidelined, at least for this first book.
  • I’ve committed to three secondary characters! A struggle I’ve realized I had this year was that I had trouble envisioning companions for my protagonist, which is necessary for this story to work. Now my protagonist is starting the story with two friends and there’s a new older character who’s an ally that my protagonist will not immediately realize.

After I talked with Sara for the second time, I managed to do a bit more story work before dinner. This time, I prioritized scene development for the first three chapters I’d outlined two weeks ago. I’ve realized that I’ve been intimidated to write with such a loose outline, so it was really helpful to make a bullet-point list of the things I know I need to write in each chapter before moving on. I’m really liking being able to see what each chapter will look like, the types of settings I need to describe and characters to introduce.

I’m not entirely finished developing all the scenes I will need in each chapter. There are still some lingering questions I have about how I want certain key scenes to unfold. I do hope to get close to finished tomorrow so that I can maybe start writing, because there are some things I’m hoping I’ll learn as I write and then I can just adjust my course from there if I need to.

Homework

I won’t be able to Skype with Sara until next Wednesday at the earliest, so I’ve given myself some homework to do each night so I don’t loose interest or motivation in my story. I get so much excitement out of talking about my developments that I’m going to be emailing Sara every night with a progress report. That way she can also hold me accountable and make sure I’m working on this story, even if it’s just a little each day.

If I’m doing really good on time and progress, I might also try and do an #amwriting blog post everyday while I do this. It takes a little while to concisely summarize what my big bullet-point story developments are, but I do find it valuable personally to be able to see at a glance what I’ve accomplished in my writing each day, beyond word or page count.

End Note

Hopefully you’ll see another writing post from me very soon. That’s the plan at least. And with the end of July just around the corner, you should be seeing my July Notes this weekend at the very least because I’ve read so much this month! I think I’ll end with nine books read this month, which is remarkable for me! And since I’ve not reviewed most of these books I’m really excited to reflect on them there.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this post and are enjoying your writing as much as I am mine (finally)! See you soon. ^_^

Thank you for reading!
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Summer Vacation 2016 (The Beach, Pokémon Go, and the Lunar Chronicles)

I didn’t end up doing a pre-vacation post last Sunday, just because I literally stayed up until 5:30 a.m. reading Cress the morning we would leave. So my last hour at home after two hours of sleep and breakfast was spent packing for the next 5 days that I’d be out of town. Nevertheless, I wanted to do a vacation recap complete with some reading updates and pictures I took!

Monday

We left around 9 a.m. Monday morning after breakfast from McDonald’s. (I love the Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuits!) Then we drove for about 4 hours all the way to Port Aransas, TX where we decided to spend a few days at the beach there. It’s less populated than the beach to which we usually would go (South Padre Island), so that was a major perk. The only downside is the water is less clear and cold and the sand can have a lot of shells which make it scary to walk with bare feet.

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We chilled at the beach most of the afternoon and evening. I didn’t take the book I was reading because I didn’t want it to get all sandy and the point of the beach was to enjoy the water. So what ended up happening which might have changed my life for ever, or at least the rest of the summer, was I started playing Pokémon Go! I had downloaded the app earlier in July but never much used it at home because it didn’t suit my lifestyle. But I discovered it was great for vacation!

After my shower Monday night, I managed to finish Cress! It was by far my favorite book in the series and Cress is my favorite protagonist thus far. I immediately decided to order Winter from Amazon so that it would arrive when I got back home. After the struggles on trying to read with the T.V. on, which is non-negotiable with my parents, I did not really plan to read anymore this week even though I had brought some other random books literary fiction (Mr. Fox and The Kitchen Boy) in case I had the time.

Tuesday

Tuesday was spend almost entirely at the beach, except for the food scavenging at lunch and dinner. I did a lot of walking around with my mom, dipping my feet in the water, and looking for seashells (a lot of which still had living things inside them!)

I spend most of my time, however, catching Pokémon and learning how things worked. I accidentally ended up discarding an Incense the first time I tried to use it. I also discovered how PokéStops worked after learning the hard way that Poké Balls are not infinite.

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Wednesday

We went to the beach one last time before we left Port Aransas to go to La Feria to visit family for the second half of our vacation. Both of my grandmothers live there so we end up splitting our time driving from house to house, with visits to uncles and aunts interspersed between.

Wednesday was my paternal grandma’s 81st birthday and the true reason for this trip was to see her. My maternal grandmother has been slowly deteriorating over that past few years with dementia, and she’s practically already gone. So it’s really been important for us to go see them both while we still can. Here’s a picture of my paternal grandmother’s house and my dad trying to pull down a large tree branch.

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(He was successful and did not hurt himself! The branch did end up taking down the laundry line and one of its poles though. I can tell he was very proud of himself after that. )

Thursday

Thursday we unexpectedly ended up driving to South Padre Island before lunch! It was either that or go to the outlet mall and the beach won as it was hot and no one really felt like shopping! My parents had been in the midst of the FitBit Workweek Hustle challenge with some other family members, which meant they were more motivated than normal to walk. Which worked out in my favor as I was so addicted to Pokémon Go at this point!

Here’s some of the pictures I got of the beach. Notice the differences in sand and water from the Port Aransas pictures?

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Friday

We left pretty early on Friday because we wanted to beat the Friday rush hour traffic in Houston. It was a six hour drive so I read most of it. Thursday morning after breakfast, my parents had taken me to Target where I bought Fairest, the bridge book between Cress and Winter in the Lunar Chronicles series, and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry which I learned about from one of the people I follow on Goodreads. It was a random purchase I might return after I’ve read it if I don’t like it and it’s still in good condition.

I finished Fairest on the road and it was kind of disappointing. It was the worst written of all the books in the Lunar Chronicles because of the jumps in time that allowed for more story telling than story showing than normal. Also, I just could not integrate this new side of Levana to what I’ve seen in the first three books. Her psychological journey in this book was not satisfying for me in the slightest. I can’t wait to get Winter soon so I can see if Fairest was worth reading.

End Note

It is Saturday night as I write this post and I’ve just gotten out of the shower! My allergies have been horrible since getting back, so I didn’t manage to get much done today as I was asleep for most of it. I did go on my regular evening walk tonight which is roughly 2 km long and a good workout. I’m almost halfway through The Kitchen Boy, which I started last night before bed. It’s a short historical fiction novel about the life of the Romanov family as they are held captive in Siberia. I’m really appreciating the historical detail, even though the novel’s pace is quite slow.

I’m still playing Pokémon Go here and there, but we ran out of data on Friday and we don’t get more until August 12th (so ridiculous) so I don’t want to get caught playing outside the house because my dad thinks the game is the reason for running out of data. (It’s YouTube that’s actually responsible.)

So I’m going to try to post more regularly on the blog this week. I had wanted my Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising book reviews go up while I was on vacation, but I never ended up finish them! They should go up eventually though, as I will be prioritizing them. As for the Lunar Chronicles books, I’m thinking I’ll do a collective series review as soon as I finish Winter, which should be this week as it’s already been shipped!

Thank you for reading!
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#MakeMeRead It Wrap Up + #AmReading Update

In this post, I will be doing my #MakeMeRead Wrap Up and a general reading update. Since I don’t do many read-a-thons anymore, I rarely spend time reflecting on the books I read beyond monthly wrap ups (or as I’ve been calling them notes) or book reviews (which are probably the least read posts I spend time making). So I thought I’d squeeze a reading update into this post, as I’ve been thinking about my reading progress on my Goodreads Reading Challenge a lot lately and figure it is about time I assess my progress.

#MakeMeRead Wrap Up

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Today marks the end of the #MakeMeRead read-a-thon and I am happy to announce that I finished the first place book on my poll, Cinder! And two other books before that which were not on my poll…

At the start of the read-a-thon, I was still currently rereading Siege and Storm, the second book in the Grisha trilogy, and after finishing it I felt I needed to also reread the last book Ruin and Rising. Because of those delays, I didn’t manage to pick up Cinder until Thursday night, and that was a challenge because I did not want to leave the Grisha universe so soon again and was seriously considering moving right on to Six of Crows, which I read earlier this year.

Luckily I made myself a deal to read the first chapter of Cinder before officially deciding what book I would read next, because the first chapter definitely wooed me into the book. I found it a pretty fast, easy, and fun read. I did think the characters were pretty flat and wooden though. Not sure when you can expect a book review; possibly the week after next.

Reading Update

Because my reading goal is 60, I’ve needed to be reading at least 5 books per month. So by my calculations, to be on track by the end of July would mean I’d need to read 12 books by July 30th. Which isn’t going to happen! (Although, maybe by the end of August…)

GR Reading Challenge

I have consistently been about 9 books behind on the challenge all summer, which is kind of funny! Obviously progress is being made, but not at the rate needed to get me back on schedule. I would really like to be caught up with it by the end of August when I go back to Dallas for my final year of grad school. Which is why I’ve decided to prioritize more light, easy books, while also attacking my TBR pile of owned books.

So I’ve been thinking about what I could read over the rest of July. Starting the Lunar Chronicles was the best thing that could have happened to me at this point in the summer! I’m pretty sure I’ll plow through the rest of this series over the rest of month, if not over the rest of next week while I’m on vacation. I’ve already started to read Scarlet and can move right on to Cress from there, but I do need to buy Winter and probably Fairest too. And after consulting my Intimidating TBR Pile (which was supposed to double as my summer TBR which I kind of forgot), I’ve decided I could also probably finish The Graveyard Book pretty easily this month.

End Note

Tomorrow I will be posting writing update as well as forecast for the next week as I will be going on vacation but still plan to be doing stuff and being active online! I hope you enjoyed this post, if you managed to get to the end and still be interested. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read the Lunar Chronicles and what you thought. (No spoilers, please!)

I still need to read, write, and pack, so before I get too rambling I’ll say goodbye and see you tomorrow with another post! ^_^

Thank you for reading!
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So, I’m Doing Camp NaNoWriMo… | July 2016

CNW_Participant

At the end of June after months of dragging my feet with the weight of my novel looming over me, I decided I stop messing around and finally begin writing. Even if I didn’t know everything I needed to know, I just needed to start. Even I ended up scrapping everything I wrote from the final story, I needed to write something. I still feel like it shouldn’t have been such a difficult thing to do, but I’m proud to say I’ve been doing it. Slowly, but surely.

I didn’t want to announce my participation on July 1st, however, because I wanted to make sure this was not another failed attempt. I’d been telling myself I needed to write all of June and it just never happened. So I wanted to make sure it was indeed happening.

As of my writing of this post at 3 p.m. on July 13, 2016, I have written 2,914 words. Not a lot. But I’ve finally made a breakthrough I think is going to help me write the first real words of this novel very soon.

 What I’ve Been Writing

So you might be wondering what exactly has taken me almost two weeks to write in 2,914 words. Well, I’ll admit, I haven’t been writing everyday. More like every other day, as strangely enough as if it were planned. But my writing, if you look at my stats has mostly been a few hundred words here and there. Even though I’ve wanted my story to materialize, actually putting in the effort has been hard for me. Don’t ask me why.

So what I’ve been doing to try and be productive has write in journal-like entries my notes for potential directions the story could take. The most story-like writing I’ve done is 979 words of a prologue involving the villain of the story and her origin. It never got finished because I hit a fork in the road of what I wanted to happen. Since then, it’s been in limbo because I’ve…changed the nature of her villain-ry. I might rework these words later, but right now its just a block of text on my Word document with a strike through it like so, as during Camp NaNoWriMo you do not delete words.

I’ve written questions for myself that I’ve attempted to answer that has helped me make decisions that fixed problems I’ve had in my head. It’s been brilliant. One of the biggest problems I’ve had to this date is how all these ideas and characters I’ve had in my head (and in bits and pieces of past drafts and notes) connect. And in a burst of inspiration this morning, I’ve found a way to establish these connections in the first three chapters.

There are still some lingering logical questions and holes in my understanding, but I’m hopeful the answers will emerge as I write. I’m also hopeful that I have as much fun writing these three chapters as I had envisioning them. My writing pal Sara, who is much further along on the first draft of her story (see Wattpad for her story), told me that she discovered that the first 10,000 words of a novel submission are the ones that really count towards getting an agent/book deal/whatever, and that’s partially why I’m really excited to work hard on my first three chapters.

I’ve written many novel intros for this story I’ve been trying to write, but none have seemed so good as the ideas I now have. Even though I’m behind and should be working hard to catch up, I am probably going to devote as much time as necessary to writing these chapters right. I have a chance to really introduce the world and the conflict of the story here, and I don’t want to do a sloppy job. So hopefully this doesn’t have mean I’ll be going too slow.

All this being said, my main task for the next four days I have left until I go out of town is going to be writing these three chapters and doing a lot of work world-building. I have a rough idea of the world and the magic, I haven’t done a great job of naming or strictly defining anything so I’ll need to work on that over the next few days as well.

Goals

It has always been a dream of mine to become a traditionally published author one day. I don’t know how close I’ll be to finishing this novel by the end of the month, but it has been my year-long goal finish it by the end of December. I am, of course, also hoping to meet my goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month.

I am also hoping to be able to share my writing with you all, my dear blog readers, as soon as I can. I imagine I would like to publish the first few chapters of my novel on Wattpad when they’re as close to done as I can imagine them being. I don’t think I can promise that will be this month or the next, but I do see it happening this fall if all continues to go well on my end.

 End Note

According to my story stats on the Camp NaNo website, I need to write 2,479 words everyday to meet my 50,000 word goal for the month. But my personal goal is be all caught up with where I should be by Sunday night, because I’m going to be on vacation from Monday–Friday next week and I don’t know how much I’ll be able to write, but I do know I don’t want this whole thing to come to a screeching halt.

I’m hoping to do more regular updates on my writing progress for the rest of the month, not necessarily every Wednesday but whenever I feel inspired or have had a particularly good writing spree. I am thinking I’ll probably have another post up as soon as I’ve written the three chapters I was talking about above or Sunday; whichever comes soonest!

Thanks for reading!
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Shadow and Bone | Book Review

I bought this book for myself. This is an honest and spoiler-free review.

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Released: June 5, 2012
Pages: 558 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Magic, power, good vs. evil, loyalty
Genre(s): YA / Fantasy
Age Group: 13+

★★

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.

My Thoughts

Shadow and Bone was one of my favorite fantasy reads of 2015. I first heard of the Grisha trilogy from an older cousin who teaches English in South Korea. Then I heard talk of it, and Leigh Bardugo, again as the book blogging community began raving about the stunning debut Six of Crows last fall. After committing to a buddy read with Blaise @ The Book Boulevard, I unwittingly managed to marathon this entire trilogy in less than a week last October.

I decided to pick this trilogy up for the second time because my best friend Sara has started reading it for the first time and I wanted to be able to talk about it with her. I was also hoping to be as enthralled as I was the first time I read it and glean inspiration for my own writing, which recently has been suffering. Unfortunately, I found myself enjoying this book significantly less than the first time, even as I was able to appreciate more this time around.

I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.

The biggest disappointment for me the second time around with this book is that this book feels entirely like a set-up for the next book. This book is introduces the protagonist, establishes the villain, sets up the central “love triangle”, protagonist’s task to save the world. But other than that, very little real action happens in this book. Most of the pages are spent on building romantic tension and watching Alina waver as she learns to master her power. As result you can whiz through Shadow and Bone very quickly.

The main things Shadow and Bone has going for it is an incredibly unique world, considering the dominance of Western Europe-inspired fantasy, and a differentiated magic system. Also, there’s some really nice romantic tension between Alina and the Darkling, if you like that kind of thing.

End Note

Shadow and Bone while set in the same Grisha universe is no Six of Crows. Six of Crows is nothing short of amazing, delivering on EVERYTHING a reader could ask for in a novel: romance, adventure, danger, character development, plot, comedic relief, etc. Shadow and Bone meanwhile is a modest introduction to a complex world and a fairly standard YA fantasy fare.

In case you are wondering, it is entirely possible to read Six of Crows before you read the Grisha trilogy. I think Six of Crows actually helped me understand the broader scope of the world better than I did having just read the Grisha trilogy, as this trilogy is simply set in the one country of Ravka with several mentions of the other lands but no great examples with which to associate them. The only thing you will really miss is the small allusions to what happens in this trilogy between Alina and the Darkling.

 Thank you for reading!
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