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February 26, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Writing Updates: February 2015

Even monthly, I forget to do this!

I feel a bit guilty. I’ve been doing a terrible job keeping up with reviews. But! I have what I’m going to say is a good excuse.

Amelita galli-curci.jpg

Amelita galli-curci” by Bain News Service, publisher via Wikimedia Commons.

The rough draft of my current work-in-project is going really well. I hit the climax, and now I just need to do the wrap up before this thing is all written. (I keep wanting to add on the qualifier “but I’m going to have to rewrite most of it”, which I should quit, because it’s a rough draft, if I don’t think I have to rewrite most of it then I’m not thinking right.)

Once that’s done, and typed up, I’m going to set it aside for a couple of months, to let some of the preciousness wear off, before I do a reread and figure out what needs complete rehashing, or has to go entirely. While that’s fermenting, I’m going to go back to the old middle grade fantasy manuscript I started doctoring up last year. I gave it out to some friends, and their criticism is trickling back in, so maybe with some other perspectives sitting at my shoulders I can really amp up this story.

I am running into another problem of wanting to do too much at once, though. I had written a middle grade contemporary also, which I liked, but I couldn’t figure out how to make the emotion, which I felt sat super flat through the whole thing, to come to the surface. (Also, it was way, way too long.) I have been reading some novels in verse recently, a format I really, really love, and I started wondering if that would be a better fit for this story. I’d like to give it a try, at least.

So now to decide…what the heck do I work on?

That’s me–writers, what are you working on right now?

February 24, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Writing Problems: Doing SOMETHING

As a writer, I know I’m not unique in having this issue. I sit down, and try to hack out a book or a review or something of that sort, and I feel like I’m doing little more than shuffling forward at hundred-year-old tortoise speed. This first draft is taking forever, I take ages between querying new agents, augh, I have to come up with another blog post.

This morning I decided to flip through a writer/artist book I haven’t skimmed in a while, The Artist in the Office by Summer Pierre. And I landed on this quote in the book:

How perfect. A reminder that writing, or any kind of creating, is a laying of bricks. You do these things one at a time, and it doesn’t seem like much, but you look back and you realize you’ve built a wall, a house, a skyscraper with each little addition.

It doesn’t matter that I only wrote a page this morning. I have one more page than yesterday. I entered a contest yesterday — one more contest. I’ll query an agent this week — one more agent. I’ll run today, and that’s one more mile. I’ll hit the Publish button, and there’s one more blog post.

It all adds up eventually, hopefully to something.

The Artist in the Office by Summer Pierre

Might be time to reread this book.

 

What’s one thing that you’ve done today? Did you read a book? Draw a picture? Outline a chapter?

February 19, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Writing Problems: And Then…And Then…

The above is one of my favorite writing quotes, because it applies almost directly to the way I write my stories. I outline only just enough to keep track of things that I’ve thought up that I think I want to get to at one point, though any scribblings I do is more brainstorming than laying down any sort of a map for the story. I think this is a great way to write, for me at least: it keeps me excited the whole way through, as I figure out what will happen in the next few scenes, and I discover things about my characters and their world as I go.

Of course, writing this way comes with some problems. Much of the world building and back story has to be put in after I’ve done the first draft, simply because I wasn’t aware of most of that stuff before I first started scratching away in my notebook. My “research” is done concurrently, or after the fact, since I didn’t know what I needed to read up on until halfway through the story, when the plot and theme became apparent to me.

Still, I love to write my novels this way — but sometimes it can put me into a bit of a panic. Such as, when I’m approaching the end of the story, and I have sort of an idea of what the conclusion should be, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how the heroine will actually achieve that goal. All the solutions I come up with are cheesy, or weak, or simply don’t fit with the character I’ve come to understand. And of course, I begin to worry: that I’m not going to figure it out, that I’m going to slam face first into a wall, and as I hobble away to tend to my battered self I leave the almost-finished-but-not-quite story behind never to be touched again…

Then, as I’m doing my as-I-go “research”, I come across one idea, a single word really, that sparks an idea, that blooms into a bigger idea, and suddenly…I know what my heroine does. I know how everything gets fixed, and how the story slides into its conclusion. I might change it (I’m certainly changing most of what happened before, this is a gross-messy rough draft), but now it feels solid, like something I can work on without having to worry about the whole thing collapsing.

It worked out. Just like it always seems to do.

How do you write? Do you just pay attention to what’s in your headlights and review the trip when you’re done, or do you need to map out the whole road before you can even get in the car? Let me know!

February 17, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Bookish Problems I Have

Though there are not ten listed here, this post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme: what are some bookish problems you have? Some of these are goofy, some have to do with space, and some are just weird ways I read.

  • Not Enough Shelves. Though I’ve done some culling in my book collection, I still deal with double-stacked shelves and books piled under desks (I’m kicking some right now). I’ve gotten my collection down almost to it’s purest form, so the next solution is more shelving! …Except that there are no more walls.
  • Too Many Books to Read. Sometimes, when I’m shelving books at the library, I look at all the new books and think, “Wow, I want to read a dozen of these.” Then I remember all the books on the graphic novel shelf, in the fantasy section, the classics, those children’s books, and then all the unread books back home…I have to stop touching the books then before I slide into a tear-soaked panic.
  • TSUNDOKU. I know I have books to read at home. And I have library books I’ve been renewing for weeks. But then I go to the store and suddenly I have five more books. It is a very real problem.
  • My Dog. Sometimes when I’m reading she starts licking the corner of my book, trying to figure out what’s more fascinating than she is. Or I’ll be dutifully rubbing her ears, but god forbid I stop for 1.5 seconds so I can turn the page, causing her to nudge my arm or whap me with her paws until I start again. (Yeah, much worse problems to have. And I realize, I made her this way, but she’s so dang cute.)
  • Can’t Always Visualize Characters. I feel like this sounds bad, but I don’t always manage to fully visualize people when I’m reading. If I slow down in my reading to think about it, I realize that most of the time people are like fuzzy outlines in my head, and unless I put a considerable amount of conscious effort into imagining them — THIS is what their hair looks like, THIS is what the dress looks like — they stay that way the whole time. Maybe that’s why I like comics so much…?
  • Flipping Ahead. I flip ahead through pages to see how much longer a chapter or an entire book is, so I can measure how many pages I have to go. Sometimes this is good — I don’t want to start 20 pages of unbroken text when I want to go to sleep in 10 minutes — but it makes me feel impatient about finishing a book, and I’ve even accidentally spoiled things for myself in the past, and I hate spoilers with a fiery rage. Reading on my Nook helps with this, since I can’t easily flip ahead, but then I find myself overcome by WANT to flip forward.

There’s my list — do you have any bookish problems? Let me know, or make your own list!

February 12, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Response: You Will Be Forgotten

Last week, Hank Green posted a vlogbrothers video titled “You Will Be Forgotten…And That’s OK.” This was in response to a popular Tumblr post where the original poster revealed a fear of living an average life and never doing something to be remembered by, and he was concerned about the fact that so many people seemed to share this anxiety.

Watch the video, definitely, it’s less than 4 minutes long, but here’s a gist of what he said: oblivion is inevitable, and it’s impossible to be actually remembered for forever. Besides that, the idea of being permanently successful is a myth; as he points out from his stance as a “successful” person, you can have many successes, but being successful and satisfied one hundred percent of the time just isn’t a thing.
Hank Green None of it exists

This struck me, because, I think, that’s something that bothers me, too. I want to be remembered, I want to be known. But…why?

It’s a hard thing to grasp, but I believe this feeling comes from not quite understanding my own motivations. I want to be a writer. Being a writer makes you sort of famous, so that seems like a “why”. But is it?

If I can be a famous enough writer, I’ll make enough money off of writing to be able to make that my vocation. I’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve done something well when other people like what I’ve done. When other people know that I’ve done this thing, and like it enough to pay me money for it, I will feel “successful” and “remembered.” With that as the seeming goal, having not reached that point yet is, well, kind of depressing.

Hank Green’s video helped remind me to not get caught up in this. Becoming known for my writing is a byproduct of what I want, writing for a living. It’s not what I’m actually aiming for. If I don’t ever become “famous”, or whatever, that’s not a problem, because that’s not what I’m trying to do.

Hank ends the video emphasizing that what’s important is the good things you have done, and the good things you will do, “…things that you’re gonna make and have already helped make.” Who cares if I won’t be remembered. I’m WRITING now, and I’m going to keep writing, and creating, and just doing things that hopeful add an ounce of happiness to the world (even it’s just my own world). That’s the thing that matters.

Here’s Hank’s video, embedded below. But check out the whole vlogbrothers channel; they’re really smart, sensitive dudes.

February 10, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Writing Problems: Passing Time in a Coffee Shop

Snow removal at my condo timed weirdly with a hair appointment, so instead of moving my car and then fetching it less than an hour later, I decided to pass part of the morning in the coffee shop alongside my hairdresser’s.  I crammed a notebook and book into my purse, ordered a croissant, and took up a big portion of a table, set to get some work done.

Mmm, croissants... photo credit: Castle Pantry - Croissant via photopin (license)

Mmm, croissants…
photo credit: Castle Pantry – Croissant via photopin (license)

I’ve left the house to write before. For a week when I still lived with my parents, I spent the better part of the morning in the local library editing away on the then current story. Since then I’ve pulled out the notebook on airplane trips and when I’ve waited in hotel rooms, but it’s been a long time since I left my house with the specific intent of writing.

In the course of an hour, I got quite a bit done. I picked up a momentum and got a few pages written. When I took a moment to pause there was plenty to look at: the town cops coming in for their regular coffee, an older couple saying grace over their egg sandwiches, a pair of teenagers yammering away, happy. At home I have the distraction of the TV, the dog (though I love her so), the mess of my house that really ought to be picked up, those novels that actually should be organized in a different way… I still had my phone to distract me a little, but all the pointless junk I usually look at becomes less important when I move myself to a different scene. A quick skim of Facebook became less a death to my productivity, and more a chance to breath before diving back into the deep end.

I’m lazy. Once I’m home, I have a hard time pushing myself out the door. But maybe I can try a little trip outside of my nest on a more regular basis, and who knows — maybe I’ll finish my work. (As long as all those buttered croissants don’t choke my heart.)

Writers and creative types, do you ever leave the house to get your work done? Do you find it helpful, or even more of a distraction than your desk at home? Do you thrive in coffee shops, or is a nice calm quiet library (oh, I crack myself up) more your thing? Let me know!

February 5, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Reasons I Like Winter

photo credit: Tree Of Snow via photopin (license)

photo credit: Tree Of Snow via photopin (license)

Winter is probably my least favorite season of the year. I don’t like being cold, snow sports are far from being my thing, my dog often refuses to pee because of the low, low temperature, and I get at least two awful colds before spring finally arrives (though this is less the fault of the season than of the public. The horrible, disgusting public.)

Even so, I get annoyed when people overly complain about the season, wishing for snow to never appear, that it should stay 60 degrees at all times. As much as winter drives me to madness, I feel like a lot of these people are really missing out on some pretty good things.

  • Snow storms. I’ve made it clear how much I love bad weather, the coziness of it as I sit on the couch with a cup of tea, or huddle at my desk with some coffee (always with the caffeine). When everyone else is freaking out and panicking about the possibility of snow storms, I scour the weather forecast hoping that a storm will come, that feet of the stuff will dump on the ground. I feel a little guilty when I think about it too much, since I know I’m lucky to not have to worry about shelter or food or heat or even entertainment, but I yearn for blizzards all the same.
  • The actual snow. It’s cold. It slows my car down. My dog’s too short to run in it when there’s more than 6 inches on the ground. But goodness it’s pretty, and there are few things more perfect than a swath of shining white as yet unmarred by boots and paws.
  • My dog loves it. It’s too tall for her now, and she gets cold way too fast, but one of my top ten favorite things to watch is her, bounding through chest high snow, as awkward as a seal on a beach.

Run, doggy, run.

 

  • The mornings. I like waking up when it’s still dark. There’s something calm and comforting about that, like the early morning is trying to wrap me up in a blanket. In the summer, the sun rises too early, and I basically have to be in a bout of insomnia to be up and moving around before the sun rises, but in the winter, the timing is perfect.
  • The appreciation. I’m human. As much as I roll my eyes at the complainers, by the end of February I’m done. Things are turning to gray slush, and I feel perpetually damp. After suffering through all of that, the spotty green of buds just starting to open on all the trees spreads a small simple bit of hope inside.

What do you like about winter? (Please don’t tell me nothing.)

February 3, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Fantasy Novels I Want to Read

For this list, I’m not talking children’s books or creepy magical realism. I mean hefty, high fantasy, the kind that are published in hardcovers that could be used as murder weapons and get reprinted in mass markets so thick that no matter how much you don’t want to crack the spine I’m sorry if you want to get through the middle you’re going to have to crack the spine.

After reading the Mistborn trilogy, and now finishing up Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson, I have a hankering not just for his books, but for fat fantasy in general. I used to gobble those books up as a teenager, with Anne McCaffery’s Dragonriders of Pern and the first several volumes of Terry Brooks’ now seemingly-infinite Shanara books. There’s a lot that I want to get into, and a lot that I feel I’ve missed.

  • Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. I just said that I love Sanderson now, so this should be obvious. Elantris is not as long as his other books (I’ve seen it side-by-side on the shelf) but it’s his first one, and also a stand-alone story, which would be nice to read.
  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Yeah, two Sanderson books. But, this is the first of an epically long series that, currently, is only two books deep. They are monstrous books, but here’s a chance to get in at the beginning on something that could be big and wonderful.
  • Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn. Nothing particular drawing me to this book (except for dragons maybe), but I picked up this and its immediate sequel from the library when the fantasy section was going through a weed, so now those books are taking up a lovely little chunky space on my shelf. Like I’ve said, I need to get through the backlog, and I’ll probably love it besides.
  • Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. I feel like I did something wrong, having never once read anything by Robin Hobb. Am I missing out? Am I a bad fantasy fan? I want to amend this.
  • Something by Mercedes Lackey. I’m even more positive I’ve done something wrong by never reading a book by Mercedes Lackey. She’s written so many, I’m not even sure where to start. Any ideas?

If anyone reading this has any other suggestions for wonderful fantasy novels I may have missed, let me know — I am wide open for ideas. And if you have read anything on my list, please tell me, are they worth it?

This post was written as part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme on The Broke and the Bookish, where they asked if there were books in a certain genre you felt you needed to read. Do you have any books you want to get to, or feel like you’ve missed out on?

January 31, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Weekly Finds: Princesses, Agents, and Delicious Food

I saw on, of all things, a People magazine article that Disney will be coming out with a new Disney Princess, Elena. This will be Disney’s first Latina princess, which I think is a good step towards diversifying their lineup. It’s a TV show, not a movie, and it will be on Disney Junior, so I probably won’t watch it personally, but it’s nice knowing this will exist. (Maybe now Epcot’s Mexico can have a character meet up other than Donald in a Sombrero.)

Literary agent Janet Reid wrote a nice post about what to do about unresponsive agents. Basically, if you’re waiting on someone who’s holding your manuscript, a polite email to check on it from time to time isn’t out of line, and that you shouldn’t feel beholden to someone just because you’ve been talking to them. I have not had someone who I’ve felt like is holding my book baby hostage, but it does make me feel better about double checking the status with people who have shown interest.

And just to make sure that everything on this list is completely unrelated, this week we found an Indian restaurant nearby, and despite the fact that they sat us directly next to the door on the windiest winter night ever, it was excellent and delicious, and pretty quick. There’s still a pile of items I’d like to have tried there, but I had just enough restraint to not go too (too too) crazy with my ordering. We’ll be back, just hopefully not anywhere near the door. (Now we just need an Ethiopian restaurant to roll in…)

What have you found this week?

January 29, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

My Favorite Graphic Novels (As a Kid and Teen)

As I finished off my list of favorite graphic novels last week, I realized something: I was listing my favorite comics now, books that have meant something to me as an adult, or at least into adulthood. Even some of the ones that I think would have been important to middle school me, like Smile, did not exist then, and if there were manga series being sold in bookstores before I hit high school, I never saw them. Comics have branched into my specific tastes more and more over the years, but I always knew it was a medium for me, and I managed to find some graphic novel stories to cling to. Read more…

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