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November 19, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Sometimes It’s Nice to Just Go with It (Some NaNoWriMo Thoughts)

We’re into week three of NaNoWriMo! While I’m a little behind the official marker, I did start  eight days late (Thanks, Disney World, I regret nothing) I’m clipping along pretty well, to the point that I think I’ll catch up by the weekend (just in time to fall behind over Thanksgiving, yes).

I’m following the outline that I slapped together before starting pretty well, and I’m pouring out words, plugging along forward. And the result so far? A big, steaming, snarled up mess. And I am so happy with it.

Sometimes when I'm on the couch, clacking away...

Sometimes when I’m on the couch, clacking away…

The whole point of NaNo is quantity, getting as many words out as you can before the month dries up. Quality, coherence, that’s not the point. This, of course, always feels really wrong. When I hit a snag, or realize I took a wrong turn in chapter two, or realize halfway through that no, this is a world where the Internet doesn’t exist, I’m tempted to go back and fix it. Or, if I’m really frustrated, I imagine stuffing the manuscript in a drawer and pretending I never had this awful idea.

But it’s NaNoWriMo. You’re supposed to keep pushing through, and so I do. And I’m glad, because when I keep going with it, I start to like it again. Yes, I keep finding things I want to change, or add, or snip out entirely, and it’s definitely not forming into its final shape. But this method, of just rolling through to the end, is a road of discovery. With each rambling paragraph or nonsensical plot turn I learn about the characters and the story and the world. I realize that one person’s motivations have to change because she’s not who I thought she was at the beginning, or that technology has to be different because it better suits the story and the world view of the characters.

Maybe my story doesn’t have a good shape yet, but writing in this way, not stopping until I discover my middle and my end, is helping me to plot through all the different bits so I start to see what that shape will be when I’m done.


Hey WriMos, find me and friend me! I love stalking other people’s progress.


November 3, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

It’s NaNoWriMo Tiiiiime!

NaNoWriMo Logo

As of this posting, it’s the third day of NaNoWriMo, in which a slew of crazy-crazies try to write a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month. Time is limited, so every day matters…which means I’m in a little bit of trouble. Because also as of this posting, I’m in the middle of my Disney World trip, and I just know I am doing little, if any, writing.

To prepare myself for this, I decided to spend a lot more time plotting out this novel than I normally do. This way, I figure, I won’t get hung up on wrong turns in the story, and that I’ll know enough about what’s coming next to motor me through to the next scene. We’ll see if this helps me with my writing speed next month. But definitely one thing it’s helping me do: visualize my whole story.

I’ve generally been a pantser with my writing, coming up with a few vague ideas and then running with the story from there. I’ll scribble down future plot ideas in notebook margins as I go, but I rarely spend time figuring out the big twists and turns my character will take. I love doing this — I stumble across awesome ideas this way — but I’m also super likely to crash into a wall, or spend all day on a tangent only to scratch it all out and drop my head on the desk.

Not that I don’t think I’ll do some of these things with an outline — a couple of bullet points can look awesome, while the paragraph itself is garbage. And it’s not as if I plan on having every single detail hammered out; there’s still plenty of room for my character to walk into this house, talk to this stranger on the street.

But I know what my beginning is; my middle has a gelatinous form; my ending is a mountain peak that I can see in the distance against the sky. My story has a shape, vague as it is, and while I know I have the freedom to change every point on a whim, it’s comfortable knowing that I have a path, that I’m very excited about, laid out ahead of time.

Other WriMos: how do you do it? Do you write by the seat of your pants? Or do you plot out your novel meticulously?

October 28, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Airplane Bag (Walt Disneyworld is Trip is Coming!)

Mickey Wink Wink Pin.jpg

We go to Walt Disneyworld on Friday — that’s only two more sleeps away! Which means I’ve been packing. My suitcase is most of the way there, stuffed to the brim with enough shirts for a trip three times as long (I like to layer my tank tops…also I really like tank tops) but I have to make sure my carry on for the airplane is all set, too.

My Animal Kingdom Bag. It’s a little small, but I like to use this as a park bag, so I keep it on hand on the airplane. It can fit quite a bit inside of it, and I’ll have our tiny suitcase for things I like to have on the plane that I won’t be using during the flight.

Nook and Notebook.jpgNOOK. Having a Nook has been really handy for trips. I can buy books, load library eBooks, and basically carry a whole library to suit my reading whims while I’m in that metal tube for a few hours.

Paper Book. Of course, technology fails us sometimes, so I like to keep one paper book in case my Nook freezes, or if I need the feel of a “real” book in my hands. Pictured below is a Terry Pratchett novel, but I might bring something else from the library book sale…

Notebook. Gotta have one of those! NaNoWriMo is coming up, and I’ll be behind when I come back, so I want to get as much of the plot hashed out as possible, and I may need to write some of the story by hand.

Water Bottle. This is also more specifically for toting around the parks, but a Hank Green video also gave a good tip about bringing an empty water bottle through TSA and filling it up at a bubbler once you’re in the terminal, so you don’t have to buy expensive bottled water before boarding.

My Personal Pharmacy. Not pictured. But, my husband and I have a history of feeling…ill…on the first day of a trip (traveling, dehydration, lack of sleep…hooray!) so I’ve got my ibuprofen and a whole slew of stomach meds packed away. I’ve also got my sunscreen so I can shield my pasty, pasty skin after we land, and hand sanitizer since other humans are disgusting.

wpid-dsc00108.jpgMy Phone. Duh. But really, I use this for podcasts, audiobooks, music, games…it’s an entertainment necessity.

Portable Battery. New addition! On our last trip my phone konked out before the end of each day. While I won’t be using it for pictures this year (yay new camera!) I still want to use the Disney app and creep on Twitter if we’re stuck in a line. Plus that first day, we likely won’t be able to charge our phones after playing podcasts for 3 hours, so we’ll need to keep the phones alive somehow.

So, is this overkill for a flight? What do you stuff in your airplane bag?


October 26, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Teen Lit: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (There’s Still a Fangirl Deep Inside…)

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Last week I finished reading Rainbow Rowell’s newest book, Carry On. I’ve talked about it before, but to recap, this novel is the fanfiction that her character Cath is writing in the wonderful wonderful book Fangirl, about her favorite series, Simon Snow. So it’s a fanfiction of a fictional story inside of a fictional story.

Following still?

The book itself was pretty good. This is supposed to be Cath’s imagining of the final novel in a series, and in a lot of ways it reads like that, as if I’ve picked up the last Harry Potter book without having ever touched the other six. Rowell does a great job of feeding enough background information that as a reader I never felt lost, and I really enjoy the unique magic system she came up with just for this book. Still, it didn’t really grab me by the ears…until about halfway through, when the really slashy/fanfiction bits come all the way to the front of the story. Then I truly stopped feeling like I was reading the last book in a series I never read — instead I’m reading a fanfiction of a series I never read. And that made it wonderful.

I used to read a lot of fanfiction, mostly from upper high school through right past college. Most of the fic was slash, which is when the fanfic writer imagines characters who don’t get together in the series pairing up, particularly male characters (at least in my reading). Fanfiction, both reading and writing it, is this way of delving way, way deep into the fandom, where you love the thing so much that when you run out of stuff to read, or characters won’t do what you desperately want them to do (like kiss), you either scour the earth for more, or you invent your own stories.

I fell out of reading fanfic, part because I felt I had enough to read on my own, and part because unless you can find an author, or at least an aggregated list, it can be exhausting to dig around for something decent (most fanfiction is written so badly, oh, so, so bad). And I also haven’t had a lot of things that I’ve been that particularly obsessed with. Some of my favorite stories, like Fullmetal Alchemist and Harry Potter, I’ve never been particularly motivated to find fanfic for, and it’s been a long time since I’ve read something new where I felt a fanfiction was absolutely necessary.

This has fed a little into my worry that there isn’t anything I’m enough of a fan of anymore (which is ridiculous, I’m a giant nerd bomb, but anxiety’s gunna do what it’s gunna do). There’s not a lot that has given me that little twinge in my gut that let’s me know my inner fangirl is shaking and flailing. Some things have given me that right level of obsession (Steven Universe, Steven Universe, Steven Universe) that makes it feel like my fangirl’s waking up from a deep slumber…and then reading Carry On basically ripped off the sheets and kicked her out of bed.

Carry On is a fun book on its own, though I probably won’t ever go back to reread it like I will with Fangirl. But I love what it is: a book written for nerds of a certain type, my type, who finally saw themselves so purely on the page with Cath’s character, who know the thrill and nerdy importance of fanfiction. And I appreciate what it did, reminding me that there is a little fangirl vibrating inside of me, just waiting to break into the highest pitched squeal you ever heard.

Thanks, Rainbow Rowell. I needed that.

October 23, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

These Gray October Days

I love these gray October days. When the clouds form a tattered blanket over the sky, and the leaves that have turned orange stand bright against the dull. Bare branches carve their way upwards.

There’s a damp, because maybe it just rained, and the air is clean. It’s cold enough that you can wear gloves if you want to, a hat if you’ve been waiting to pull the knitted yarn over your ears. Or you can go without, and feel the skin on your fingers and cheeks come alive.

Then you come inside, where air that hadn’t felt so warm before wraps you in a soft cocoon, and you sit on the couch with your tea and a dog worn out from too many smells, and you look out your window on a day that seems to stand perfectly still.

October 13, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Animated Distractions: Disney’s Bambi

Before heading out on a Disney trip, I like to take tie to rewatch some Disney animated films. This gets me in the mood for the parks, and also reminds me of the characters I’ll see and the songs I’ll hear. One of the films I just watched is Bambi, an endeavor partly inspired by the recent PBS biography of Walt Disney. It’s one of the classic films, something he had a hand in, and, because of that, special.

I didn’t have a huge connection with this film as a kid. In part I’m sure this is because I was too obsessed with the films of my time: Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and, oh goodness, The Lion King. But also I think Bambi was almost too ingrained in popular culture by that point. I knew his mother died before I ever sat down to watch it, and the shock and sadness I felt at the moment came more from intention (I’m supposed to be sad here, right? Okay. Okay, got it. I am sad.) than from any real feeling. I certainly wasn’t sitting at the edge of the couch, gripping my knee caps, and suppressing a strangled cry like I was during a different animal-based Disney movie…

Watching it now, there are definitely things I appreciated about it. The animation is lovely, and I got the same delight out of young Bambi tangling up his gangly limbs when Thumper teaches him to hop as I did when I was little, and I didn’t remember the scene of Bambi running through the snowy woods looking for his mother being quite so eerie. There are some classic quotes from that are just associated with the Disney brand (“Man is in the forest.”), and the owl gave us the word twitterpated! And of course, there’s Flower. How can you not love flower?

Still, while I appreciate it, I don’t love Bambi. The story jolts for me, jumping from one season to the next, and aside from the fire and the escape from the hunters at the end, there’s not much in the way of danger or drama, to keep really grab me by the ears and make me pay attention. It’s a sleepy film, and while that’s not always bad, it doesn’t have much of an effect on me here.

I’ll likely see this movie again, watching parts of it when it appears on TV, or sitting with my hypothetical future children when they watch it — because anyone who grows into a Disney fan, or more broadly an animation fan, should see it. But it’s certainly not one of my favorite films.


What other Disney films should I watch? I recently played Lilo & Stitch (maybe I’ll write a post about that) and I’ve got a rented copy of Snow White waiting to be watched. And I have to watch Lion King before I go. I have to. But what else can I squeeze into 2 and 1/2 weeks?

October 6, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Romance Stories I’ve Quit

This post is part of Top Ten Tuesday, although you’re going to notice, there’s only two things on the list. Maybe because I dislike these things enough for five each?

So, I like romances in my stories. Not all of them, but they’re nice, and when done right create a little warm spot in my chest. But sometimes they frustrate me. Here are those times.

Young Woman and Older Man

I’m not against this on principle. I know people who have married older men, and they’re wonderful together. And there are stories where I actually like this, like Emma. But in books that don’t do it well, I feel a little icky and uncomfortable about it. Often because there’s a weird thing with the power dynamics in the relationship, like the man is the teacher and the woman is the one developing feelings (lookin’ at you, The Paper Magician). Plus, I can’t think of a book (off the top of my head at least) where the reverse happens and a young dude in a lesser position must win the older lady (though I have a feeling that the dynamics would be different in that situation..). Maybe I’m being unfair, but knowing that’s part of the story is enough to put me off altogether.

My First Love, My Only Love

I say this as a woman who went out with one guy ever in college and then married him. I can’t stand it when the romance revolves around a girl who has gone out with one person ever in her life, and now they’re soul mates and want to spend the rest of eternity together (*cough* TWILIGHT *cough*). I think the issue I have with this is that it usually comes up in young adult novels, and how often does it really happen that you stay with the boyfriend you met in your Sophomore science class? (I know it does happen…but how often??) I prefer it even if she recently broke up with someone, or even, at the very least, had other crushes. But your first boyfriend ever?

Again, in some cases it does work out okay (Graceling) but often that’s because there are other circumstances, more of a point to the story than simply the romance. I do get very excited when young adult novels twist on this a little bit, where the main character thinks she wants to be with that one person forever, but then maybe she meets someone new. Because that’s actual life, even if it’s in a world with magic.

What do you think? Am I just being grumpy? And what kinds of stories have you sworn off? Let me know!

September 29, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Obsessing Over a Trip (Anticipation is Part of the Fun)

In about 30 days, my husband and I will be going on our next Disney World trip. Since the circumstances of this trip are a little different from last time, I was able to spend more time planning everything. That meant digging around for travel agents, booking reservations and Fast Passes, making an itinerary to make sure we fit in the things we’re most excited about, and overall just obsessing over the whole thing.

I took the lead on planning the trip, which my husband was fine with (he’s usually in charge of planning trips, so this was probably a nice break for him) but at one point, during my tweaking and rambling and restaurant review-reading, he had to ask me — was I okay? Was I stressing myself out too much?

Part of the answer was yes, I was making myself a little stressed about it (I’ve always had a deep fear of being prevented from doing what I want to do, even though this is a trip with two people controlled by me). But, part of the stress was from the excitement. As I looked things up and watched videos, anticipation for what we were going to do grew more and more. I got myself excited about the restaurants, and the rides, and the things we plan to see that we’ve never checked out before (we’re heading to Trader Sam’s for a big ol’ overpriced souvenir cup drink). Thinking about the fun I’m going to have is part of the fun, and as much as I stress over whether a lunch reservation should be at 12 or 12:15 (really) knowing that all the bits I don’t want to miss are accounted for with plenty of time to spare gives me a way to calm myself down when my anxiety tries to override, and also I know will help me feel relaxed about the whole thing once we’re actually there.

I’m looking forward to my trip, and that, I’m realizing, is half of the fun of it.

Do you obsess over plans and trips? Do you do it too much? Does it make the trip more fun, or do you keep ruining it for yourself?

September 22, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Books On My Fall To-Be-Read List

I looked at my summer to-be-read list, and saw that I only got to half of those books! Woops! Which is why you’ll see some repeats this go around. But I got through some of the nice big thick ones, and even an extra monster book, Words of Radiance, the second in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series, so I think I did pretty good.

Here’s what I think I’m going to read this fall — but we’ll see!

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. This fall is actually made a little easier, since there are some books coming out I’m looking forward to. One is Carry On, the oversized fanfaction that that Cath writes in Rowell’s Fangirl. I have to read this one, because if I don’t, I just failed as a version of my own self.

Ice Like Fire by Sarah Raasch. This is the sequel to Snow Like Ashes, a majorly fantastic YA fantasy. I devoured the first one, and I look forward to slurping this down when it comes out in October (right after Carry On!!)

Fairest by Marissa Meyer. This was there last time! But I really do need to read it, because in November I’ll have to get…

Winter by Marissa Meyer. The last book in the series! I can’t wait! Exclamation points!!

Saga volume 5 by Brian Vaughan. Saga is one of the greatest comics I’ve ever read. Period. Done. I only haven’t read it because I’m getting it through the library, and it hasn’t. Come. In. Yet. Blargh.

Jingo by Terry Pratchett. I actually got to Feet of Clay, and now I’m back on my Terry Pratchett / City Watch kick. Next bookstore stop, I’m grabbing this.

Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton. Kate Beaton is hilarious and smart and beautiful. I’m going to buy this one and it will sit so pretty next to Hark! A Vagrant.

These are the books I know I’m definitely going to read — I mean it! What’s in your pile?


This post is done as part of Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish.

September 8, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Moving In, Settling In (and Not Writing At All…)

We finally moved our stuff into our new house on Saturday! This was tiring, stressful…and very time consuming.

Because of that, I didn’t do much of any writing over the weekend, aside from some quick journaling scribbles to sort out my stressors. Even today, I can’t really access my desk, thanks to book box mountain…

If you notice to the right, you’ll see that the boxes partly obscure my desk, so that I can’t even settle in there to try and restart my routine.

I’m going to try and kick myself back into gear today. But I’ve also got some unpacking to do, a nervous dog to comfort, and, well, I unpacked Fullmetal Alchemist last night so obviously I need to reread all 27 volumes of that.

Right now I’m looking forward to my routine improving, after a couple of months living in someone else’s house, and maybe I’ll get my writing (and my querying) on a more productive track.

Has anyone else had their life disrupted by moving? How do you get back into the swing of it? How does your new routine differ from your old one?


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