Archive for May 2014

Liebster Award — aka Learn About Me

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What’s a Liebster?

There are a few rules for accepting the Liebster Award, they are: thank your nominator and link back to their website, answer your nominator’s questions, leave 11 facts about yourself, nominate 5 or more blogs with under 200 followers and give them 11 questions to answer.

I was “nominated” by Michael J. McDonagh, who writes hilarious and offensive and usually accurate writing advice at http://michaeljmcdonagh.wordpress.com/ So thanks, Mooky, for getting me to update my blog again at a time when anything more tedious than checking my email makes me want to take another 3-hour nap…

Mooky’s Questions

1.  Do you have a regular writing goal? If so, what is it? (Words or hours per day or week? Anything else?)

At the moment, no way. I was really proud of myself for writing 500 words over the entirety of Memorial Day Weekend. Plus, I’m in the polishing stage of one WIP and the “what the heck do I want to write” stage of my next WIP, neither of which I have goals for.

When I’m in the midst of a draft and I know where it’s going, I go for 1,000 words a day, but don’t always reach it. I recently started keeping a notebook for venting/deciding how I’ll spend writing time/checking in after writing time/giving individual goals by day for word counts, and that helps a lot. I don’t need an external motivator when I’m editing, and you really can’t quantify time spent figuring out what to write, so those I just do when I can.

2.  How far ahead to you plan or plot and how? (Seat of the pants? Detailed outline? Somewhere between?)

I create a detailed outline that looks only vaguely similar to the final story. But it’s always necessary. Two novels and two novellas down, and it’s been true every time. Although the detail in the outline has varied from a paragraph per chapter to pages and pages of notes. Time to quote Eisenhower:

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.

Seriously. There is so much truth in that. For instance, the novella I’m sort of trying to finish before my baby is born (unlikely to happen, but possible) is one of my paragraph-per-chapter outlines. And since it’s fanfic, and I’m publishing each chapter as I write it, I’ve committed to what’s essentially a first draft. At any rate, I haven’t updated my outline with changes I’ve made, and for the chapter I’m on, my paragraph outline was what happened last chapter. So far this chapter is the first sentence of what’s supposed to happen next chapter. But oh well. It keeps things interesting.

3.  Describe your most important writing relationship (A beta? CP? Your sister or mom, who reads your stuff? A spouse who’s brutally honest?)

On an individual level, and a current level, it’s probably Mooky. Mostly due to having read my MS the most often, and at the highest level of critique. But if we go back in time and let it be more of a collective thing, members of the HPFC forum I joined when I wanted to learn how to write fiction. Their critiques evolved into friendships and long Skype conversations and word battles and letting me brainstorm by typing to them meant a ton for my writing as a whole, and were my first writing-based friendships. So here’s a shoutout to them.

4.  When did you start writing fiction and how long have you been doing it?

Kindergarten, of course, when I co-wrote a story that I believe was titled The Elephant, the Tiger, and Jasmine the Princess or something to that effect. We didn’t get in trouble for including a licensed character in our story, which was fantastic. In sixth grade, I started to write a novel-type-thing about an 11-year-old with plain brown hair named Anna (idk why, but Anna was always my self stand-in… like, through high school) who moved to a farm in Tennessee and I think the horses were going to take her to another world where she met a unicorn. Maybe her horse was a unicorn in disguise. I got about 1,000 words in to that one, and I still have the notebook I wrote it in. 🙂

In high school and college I wrote short stories as required during school. Too many of them were memoirs in disguise, and since I led a boring life, they sucked. Then on a bus on the way to a winter retreat I got an idea for something like Fanfiction–a spinoff of one of my favorite books that asked an important what-if that wasn’t true in the universe. and I began to fill a notebook with ideas for a story about a blind violinist and a deaf painter who fall in love and try to teach the other about their art. Then I got home from the retreat and forgot about it. Ten-odd years later, that story looks nothing like my original scribbles… but it’s also finished.

(I’m really rambling today. Consider it a symptom of not wanting to read for work…)

5.  What are the last three books you read?

Uhm, this will probably be a boring answer for me but…

  1. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  2. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by, er, Ina May Gaskin
  3. [I can’t remember what I read three books ago, so I’ll tell you what I’m currently reading, instead] A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

6.  What was your favorite book from childhood?

The Giver by Lois Lowry. It was the first book that made me really have to think. Runners-up include Louis Sachar’s Holes and Harry Potter and the [anything].

7.  What is your biggest weakness as a writer?

I am not full of ideas. Characters don’t come to life for me as fully realized people, and story ideas and twists aren’t sitting around in my brain ready to be written down. I’ll happily write an idea someone else comes up with for me, but all my own ideas are carefully crafted, usually following a specific plotting technique, with characters who feel extremely made up. The book doesn’t usually come to life for me until I’m at least halfway through my first draft of writing it. And even then, it’s a shallow life.

8.  What is your greatest strength as a writer?

Sentences come easily to me. I can hear the rhythm of a paragraph pretty well and I’m usually pleased with first drafts on a sentence-by-sentence level, if not on a plot level. I still improve a ton when I revise, but I think I can start from a slightly more polished place.

9.  What’s the best line you’ve written?

That’s tough. I think the best lines come in paragraphs, or as a plot twist or wrapping up of a plot, so that something means something because of its context, not what the words say (e.g., is there a Potterhead who doesn’t get teary-eyed whenever they read the word “Always”? What about a Nerdfighter who doesn’t choke up at the exchange “Okay? Okay.”?)

That said, I think this has been one of my faves from my MS (I don’t even want to think about going back to review other work…):

I don’t think it’s very difficult to be a revolutionary, or even to be willing to die for a cause you believe in.

I think it’s difficult to love a revolutionary, because chances are, either they will die or you will.

I wonder what the odds are for Solomon and me. It doesn’t look good either way.

10.  What are some of the most embarrassing things someone else has pointed out to you in your writing? (List your face/palm moments here)

Best one I noticed myself: “I can feel a crowd fathering around me.” (I meant gathering, but I like my typo better.)

For the only other one I can think of, have an actual quote from an email to CP: “How did I miss self-created prisoners –> self-imprisoned? Ugh.”

11.  If you could choose between writing a great novel that stood the test of time (but didn’t return significant financial gain during your lifetime) or making a boatload of money on a novel that would soon be forgotten, which would you choose and why?

No-brainer for me–the former. I would love to write a great novel that stands the test of time. If I could be guaranteed that, the paycheck wouldn’t matter to me. As much as I would love to quit my day job, I can’t intentionally write novels I think will soon be forgotten. And I wouldn’t even if I was promised millions for doing so. Or at least… I’d like to think so. Maybe I’d try to get away with both, and earn those millions under a pseudonym. 😉

Eleven Facts About Me

  1. As of today, I am 37 weeks pregnant and very ready to meet my daughter.
  2. I have a mole on the left side of my neck, slightly bigger than a quarter, that was (and probably still is) confused for a hickey on more than one occasion. Because of it, I kept my hair past my shoulders until I was 19. I also kept it swept over my left shoulder when I have the chance, and had my engagement picture photographer Photoshop it out. Note my hairstyle in my avatar, on my wedding day. That was intentional.
  3. The reason I cut my hair off at 19 was because I’d gotten engaged to a guy who was totally wrong for me, and when we decided to end it, I got it cut really short because I knew I always wanted long hair at my wedding. With short hair, I couldn’t possibly get married. (With the exception of trimming it, I didn’t cut my hair again until after I got back from my honeymoon with my fantastic husband, nearly 4 years later to the month.)
  4. I first visited my husband’s (parents’) house in 2005.
  5. The car I got for my 16th birthday (1999 Oldsmobile Alero, was my grandma’s) broke down just after my 24th birthday. When I was cleaning it out to sell it, I came across the MapQuest directions I’d printed for that 2005 visit to my husband’s house. I’m planning on framing them.
  6. I’m a firm believer that our lives are stories–a mini-series with interwoven plot pieces and chapters and inciting incidents and denouements and everything.
  7. My favorite colors are purple and green.
  8. I love interior design and have a masculine design aesthetic–clean lines, dark woods, bright whites, and minimal yet colorful accents.
  9. The 18th has always been a good day for me. On December 18, 2009, I finished my last college class. On January 18, 2010, I started my first job. I moved into my own place on February 18, 2010, and got married on September 18, 2011. Our baby is due June 18, and we’re hoping for a due date baby.
  10. I have not outright told anyone in my family that I have written a novel that I’m trying to publish. I’ve been equally afraid of negative attitudes of “that won’t ever happen” and attitudes of “when you make millions, this is what I want you to do for me.”
  11. So far, I’ve set my life on a path to achieve the old American dream–graduate high school, start college, start dating awesome guy, graduate college, get job, buy house, have babies… and I feel guilty about it because most of my generation is all about finding themselves and not sticking into a mold about what society wants from you, etc., but it really is what I want.

I Am Also a Rule-Breaker

If you’d like to take on this award, please do! Leave a comment and I’ll “nominate” you. If not, enjoy having learned about me!

Rochelle’s List of Questions

  1. What about your life right now would surprise 15-year-old You the most?
  2. What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?
  3. Who is your writing idol?
  4. Have you ever felt more embarrassed than you actually needed to be? What happened?
  5. Describe the worst (or most hilarious, or otherwise not ideal) date you’ve been on.
  6. How much of your life makes it into your stories?
  7. a. Why did your parents choose your name? –or– b. Why did you choose whatever screen name you use most often?
  8. What do you find most difficult about writing?
  9. What’s the strangest ritual you do on a regular basis (writing-related or otherwise)?
  10. Do you think your Astrology sign matches your personality? Do you believe in them? Do you use them for characters?
  11. What’s the oddest phrase/word you overuse in your writing? (i.e., a word/phrase you have to go back to do find/replace for. For me, “at least” and “suddenly” are odd culprits.)

Thanks for participating! if you do decide to complete the chain letter award, let me know in a comment and I’ll link to you. 🙂

Social Science Fiction?

I’ve always struggled with labeling the genre of my novel. In many ways, I knew it could be considered dystopian. It takes place in a society in the future where things aren’t as perfect as the people living there seem to think they are.

But recently, dystopian novels have certain tropes, and I have a list of tropes I intented to avoid when writing my story (disclaimer: I don’t think these tropes are bad. I just didn’t want to use them.):

  • The Chosen One (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Divergent)
  • The Love Triangle (The Hunger Games, Matched, The Selection)
  • The Post-Apocalypse (The Hunger Games, Divergent)
  • etc.

I wanted to write something more in line with earlier dystopian works, like Fahrenheit 451 and The Giver–places where the hero isn’t looked on to save society, and where the world isn’t necessarily a better place when it’s over. I wanted the stakes to be personal. So I did. I’m really happy with how the story turned out. But then there was the matter of genre.

While dystopian fit in a technical sense, avoiding most of the tropes common in popular dystopians made me want to avoid classifying it as such. But there isn’t much new technology, so sci-fi didn’t feel right either. Alternate history might work, but the changes made aren’t based on any strong “what if this turned out differently” from our history, so that didn’t seem like a good fit either.

Finally, I did something I should have done a long time ago. I Googled the genre for Gathering Blue, the book that originally struck the what-if question in me that forms the backbone of my worldbuilding (which is, for the record, very different than that of Gathering Blue). According to the Wikipedia article on it, Gathering Blue is social science fiction set in a dystopian world.

I didn’t know what they meant by social science fiction, so I did what any good Wiki user would do and clicked on the little blue link. This is what I found:

Social science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction concerned less with technology and space opera and more with sociological speculation about human society. In other words, it “absorbs and discusses anthropology”, and speculates about human behavior and interactions.

“Yes,” I thought to myself. That is what I was trying to do. So I reclassified. Of course, it would be more helpful if it were a widely recognized subgenre, but Asimov wrote about it, and that means a lot to me.

So dispite its vaguely dystopian exterior, I’m very happy with my new subgenre of choice. Now only time will tell if it will help with requests.

The Writer’s Voice 2014 Query and First 250

I’m so excited to be participating in The Writer’s Voice this year! I am entry #92.

Query:

Dear Writer’s Voice Coaches:

Seventeen-year-old Nadari Clarke is a violinist. In 2170, that is a crime punishable by death. The televised artist shootings won’t let her forget it. The only thing more lethal is having a disability—being Damaged. So when a stray bomb from a brewing revolution blinds her, she should be dead, not loaded onto a train and sent away to a place that holds hundreds of people. They’re all Damaged and all masters at their art.

Her new home has harsh rules and a leader with a vendetta against her. Plus, being blind means relearning even simple things like how to walk and how to eat. But not how to play violin. She’s the virtuoso she’s always been. Solomon, a deaf painter and her only friend, says no one is ever Damaged wrong. There are no blind artists or deaf musicians. He insists the bomb that blinded her wasn’t accidental and warns her to avoid the revolutionaries, many of whom she is housed with.

Then her father disappears, and the revolutionaries are more enraged than Nadari is. Every step she takes toward finding out why takes her deeper into a conspiracy that shatters everything she thought she knew. Nadari must follow the revolutionaries if she wants to find out who her father really was, but now there are three reasons returning home is a death sentence.

DAMAGED is a YA social science fiction novel complete at 80,000 words. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English and work as a technical editor.

Per your guidelines, the first 250 words of my manuscript are pasted below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

First 250:

I am a criminal. It’s been ten years and I’ve never been caught, but every televised shooting reminds me the inevitable is just a bullet away. There was another one at midnight. They’re always at midnight and always at full volume. Muting the television doesn’t help. It’s impossible to sleep through them. Hours after the blast, I’m still shaken.

Thirteen, my favorite Blue, slips into my bedroom to clean. She does her job and I don’t do mine, staying perched on the edge of my bed, half-watching as she picks up my laundry. She runs a hand along her shaved head. “You okay?”

She practically raised me. I don’t acknowledge her.

When she leaves, my father, Aba, appears at the door. “Nadari? Are you ready yet?” He intrudes when I don’t answer. “Not even dressed?”

I glance at my closet. The Blues organize my clothes onto wooden hangers, shirts ironed, jeans folded evenly. To the far right are dresses I never wear. They block the tiny entrance to a room only my father and I know about. Inside is my violin. I think about the woman whose execution still rings in my ears. Hers was a flute. Close enough.

Aba follows my stare. “The police don’t go digging around Lair Hill,” he says. Lair Hill is our neighborhood, and the neighborhood of most upper-class citizens. “They don’t think we commit those kinds of crimes.”

He’s kept me safe from suspicion for ten years. I should trust him.

I don’t.