Monday, March 31, 2014

Finishing Party, Camp NaNo Plans (or the Lack Thereof), and Another Frozen Parody


I am so thrilled to be done with this draft. It's just as holey and in need of fixing as the first draft, but the holes this time are slightly smaller and lots of loose ends have been cut away.

The final word count is 83,165, though there are several spots where I glossed over what happened by putting down [Stuff happens.] I'll fill those in later. I also broke my record for most words written in a day. It was previously somewhere around 6k, and now it is somewhere around 8k.

Many thanks to those of you who have encouraged me throughout this process, and extra thanks to Christophe Beck and Frode Fjellheim for the Frozen score. I think I must have listened to it half a dozen times last night. The pieces The Great Thaw (Vuelie Reprise) and Epilogue were perfect for finishing this story.

What's next for me, you ask? Well, the sequel to this book, brilliantly titled Book 2, which will be my Camp NaNo project. And which apparently I'll be pantsing, as I have very little idea as to what the plot is. Here's the basic blurb:

“For the last three years, Silla has run her father’s household for him while an illness slowly drained him of life. Now that he’s dead, the estate should be hers. But her father’s will says otherwise. He left it to her vile cousin, Mr. Snyder. And he’s just kicked her out of the house.
Homeless, hurt, and confused, Silla gets taken in by her second-least-favorite relative, Gwendolyn Copperstone. Silla's life looks like one doomed to misery until she hears about [crime], and she has evidence that Mr. Snyder did it. Unfortunately, revealing this evidence would mean revealing a secret she'd rather keep hidden. So she decides to take the investigation into her own hands. If she can prove Mr. Snyder did it, he’ll go to jail, and she’ll have the estate that rightfully belongs to her.”

So, I have motive for my MC, but I have no idea what crime is to be committed, or what that secret of hers is. The plot bunny that was the original idea for this book was "Hey, if I stick Gwen, Silla, and Merig under the same roof, there will be fireworks, as they all don't like each other. Cool! Let's do it!" It's changed a bit since then, but that's still the gist of it. I also know that I want Lord Delstone, the "nomantic" interest from Noxumbra to be involved. There are things about him I'd like to reveal.  Other things I've been thinking about with this are story telling bits I'd like to try out. More red herrings, a villain you really wish had done it but didn't, perhaps some political intrigue. We'll see. If I'm pantsing, who knows what will happen. 

In celebration of the slightly-panicked, plotless state I'm in, I wrote a short parody to the first verse of For the First Time in Forever from Frozen. 

"My plot folder’s empty, this is bad. What will I do without a plan? Camp NaNo’s gonna start in two days. For years I’ve plotted out my books, figured out the characters, subplots, and hooks, but this year all I have are ideas vague. I won’t know what’s going to happen, it’ll be totally strange. I am so not ready for this change. ‘Cause for the first time in forever, I won’t have any plans. For the first time in forever, I’m gonna have to pants. Don’t know if I’m nervous or crazy, but I’m somewhere in that zone. ‘Cause for the first time in forever, I’ll have my wits alone."

Good luck to those of you doing Camp, or any other writing project. 

And with that, I bid you adieu. I'm off to try and figure out Book 2's plot a bit more. Kirk out.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Some Thoughts on (Somewhat) Deceptive Back Cover Blurbs

This week I finished reading The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. It was fun and funny with some cool alternate-reality worldbuilding and I enjoyed it. However, the story I read was not the one the back cover blurb led me to expect.  Here's the blurb:

"Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is buisiness as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pates of Bronte's novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter a novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide."

Here's what I deduced about the story from this blurb:
- The worldbuilding is going to be lots of fun
- Jane's kidnapping is going to be the inciting incident
- We won't know who the villain is until the end
- Thursday is going to enter the novel fairly early in the story

Only one of my deductions was correct: The worldbuilding was really fun. Jane did not get kidnapped until around page 300, we knew who the villain was in the first five chapters, and Thursday didn't enter the novel until near the end (the novel is where the final battle took place.)

Now, everything the blurb talked about did happen. It wasn't that the information it presented was wrong, but the way in which it was presented led me to believe certain things about the story that weren't true. This took a little of the fun out of reading, because I was expecting things that weren't happening and weren't happening and weren't happening. As a result, the beginning felt a little slow. I kept waiting for the mystery to start, and it was taking it's sweet time. Who cares about Thursday's nutty inventing uncle? Why does it matter that she meets the werewolf-catching guy? Do I really need to hear more about that war she fought in? I thought I'd been promised Jane's kidnapping, so where was it?

As it turned out, the nutty uncle and the werewolf catcher and the war were all important pieces of groundwork that played huge parts in the climax (in fact, there wouldn't have been a story without one of the uncle's inventions,) but because I expected something different, they felt like they slowed the story down.

Here's what I think would have been a slightly better blurb (may contain mild spoilers, as it includes information not presented in the actual blurb, and I'm a not the best blurb writer):

"First the original manuscript of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit is stolen. All clues point to one man, Acheron Hades, a villain of the basest sort. Who is also invincible. After a showdown in which Hades supposedly died, Thursday's uncle and aunt are kidnapped, along with her uncle's Prose Portal, a device that softens the line between fiction and reality, allowing people from either side to cross to the other. Again, all evidence points to Hades. The official record may be that he died, but Thursday is sure he's alive, and that he has both the Chuzzlewit manuscript and her uncle's machine. If the Prose Portal is used on an original manuscript, the user could change the story forever. He could kill characters, and they would simply disappear, never to be read about ever again. Thursday and the other literature detectives must stop Hades before he does something to Chuzzlewit, or any other original manuscript he can get his hands on."

That isn't a great blurb by any means, but it is (in my opinion) truer to the story. We know who the villain is, so it looks like a "How're we gonna stop him?" as opposed to a "Whodunnit?", we know that Thursday's uncle's machine is involved in the story, and that the villain now has some serious power over what happens in Martin Chuzzlewit, or whatever other original manuscripts he can get his hands on.  And it doesn't mention Jane Eyre, who doesn't really make an appearance until the end anyway (though there is foreshadowing from the very beginning).

Now, that could be considered a good thing, in that it adds some surprise to the end of the story (Oh, no! Hades has Jane Eyre! What ever will Thursday do?!), however, from a marketing standpoint, it could be considered a weakness. Jane Eyre is far more loved that Martin Chuzzlewit. Readers, I should think, are more likely to pick up a book in which Jane Eyre is harmed than Martin Chuzzlewit. Chances are most people have never even heard of Martin Chuzzlewit, so who cares about him? Mentioning Jane instead of Martin raises the stakes by putting the more beloved book in danger.

From that standpoint, I can see why they'd mention Jane instead of Martin. But the cost of that is annoyed readers waiting and waiting for Jane's kidnapping. And possibly putting the book down when that doesn't happen soon enough. (At one point I read the first chapter of Brandon Sanderson's The Rithmatist because The Eyre Affair was too slow.) I'm no professional nor do I have any experience in marketing, but potentially annoying the reader seems like a kinda steep cost to me.

The Eyre Affair was still a really fun book, and I might pick up the sequel, but I do think there's a lesson to be learned from it in how readers interpret back cover blurbs: Don't make the book look like something it isn't, and by talking about the climax instead of the inciting incident, you risk annoying the reader. Readers are impatient and want to be thinking "What happens next?" not "When is XYZ going to happen?"

What do you think? Have you ever been annoyed by a deceptive back cover? What were your thoughts? 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Scholarships and Song Parodies

So, this morning I did something new. I applied for a scholarship to the Writing Excuses Out of Excuses Writing Retreat. If I get it, I'll be going to a week-long writing retreat in Tennessee in September. The chances of getting it are extremely slim, but a girl can dream, right?

In other news, I've written two writerly parodies of songs from Frozen, which I shall post below for your enjoyment.

Let it Go

The page glows white on my Word doc tonight, not a letter to be seen.
A kingdom of prose and plot holes, and it looks like I'm the queen.
The wind is howling like this new idea inside. Cannot keep it in, I won't even try.
No don't come in, just let me be, write the story inside of me. Put on some tunes and start to think, get in the flow!

Let it go, let it go! Won't hold it back anymore. Let it go, let it go! Turn the lock and slam the door. I don't care what my inner heckler says. Let the words rage on. Late nights never bothered me anyway.

It's funny how some distance, makes plot bunnies seem small, and the fears that once controlled me can't get to me at all. It's time to see what the story will do, to test the charries and hurt them too. They'll right the wrongs, just wait and see. I'll set them free.

(Demi Lovato version: Out here in my own new world, I'm finally free. Sometimes I like reality, but tonight I need to dream.)

Let it go, let it go, watch my words and fingers fly. Let it go, let it go, and make the readers cry! Here I'll sit and here I'll stay. Let the words rage on.

The letters fill the page with inspiration found.
My soul is flourishing in plot threads twisting all around.
And one thought crystallizes in an evil laugh.
I'm never giving up, I will finish this draft!

Let it go, let it go, I'll sleep at the break of dawn. Let it go, let it go, my story will be done. Here I sit in the light of day. Let the words rage on! Late nights never bothered me anyway.

Bonus lyrics from Connie Jean:
I don't care what beta-readers say
Let the charries die
Death threats never bothered me anyway.

Do You Want to Have a Word War? 
(Thanks to Robyn Hoode for giving me that line.)
(There are two characters in this song, who I've called Lizzie and Phillip.) 

Lizzie, at Phillip's door: Do you want to have a word war? Come on let's write away. There's not a single word on my page, I've been stuck all day, this scene I kinda hate. I've been procrastinating, on my Facebook wall, just watching the hours fly by. Do you want to have a word war? It doesn't have to be a long one.
Phillip: No, I have to study.
Lizzie: Okay, fine.

Lizzie: Do you want to have a word war? It's been an awesome day. I brainstormed nearly half the night, and I need to write, before my inspiration fades! I might have to kill an MC, but I'm not sure. Competition will help my flow. Will you please come have a word war?

*A scene of Lizzie at her computer. Her expression changes from neutral to horrified and sad.*

Lizzie: Phillip, I need your help please. I need you sage advice. This scene hit me in the feels. It really hurts. I think I'm gonna cry! I tried not to kill the MC, I really did, but the plot said otherwise. I don't know what to do now...

Later, Phillip, at Lizzie's door: Lizzie, I know you're in there. People've been asking where you've been. I know the end was really hard, and awfully sad, and left your heart in shards. But look your story's finished. You met your goal. Just look at what you can do! Do you want to have a word war? Here, I brought some chocolate.

Those were so much fun to write. If you have any of your lyrics to add, post 'em in a comment!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ten Books That Have Influenced Me (and a Free Ebook)

Hello, chaps.

Bethany from Ramblings of a Young Author tagged me in with the Top Ten Most Influential Books tag, so here's my list, in no particular order.

1. Embassy by S. Alex Martin.
This one is free this weekend on Amazon, which is why I put it first on the list. Go download it. It's fun.
I started reading Embassy last summer when Mr. Martin put out a request for beta readers on the Go Teen Writers Facebook group. I'd been thinking about reading someone else's story at the time since my dad and I had recently talked about critique partners, so I thought, "Why not? He only wants someone to read the first chapter, I'll give it a go." Three other readers and I worked with him over the next several months as he polished and polished and then published it. The book itself didn't influence me much (though it is a good book and I did enjoy it) but the process of working with Mr. Martin and the other betas was hugely influential and I loved it. So, go download Embassy while it's free. Read it! Enjoy it! Find my name in the acknowledgements!

2. The Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling.
When my parents read me the first one when I was little, I thought "I want to write books like J. K. Rowling does!" Did I write any stories then? No. (Though for a while I told my sister bedtime stories every night.) Writing was for the future, and why worry about that when there were imaginary friends to play with? I didn't really start writing until I tried to get out of writing a book report by writing a story instead. I think I was about twelve. Mom didn't go for that, but I kept writing that story anyway. That awful thing was the inspiration for my first, awful novel.

3. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede.
Dealing with Dragons and the following books were the first fantasies I truly fell in love with. I've read the whole series at least twice, and plan on reading them again someday.

4. The Trixie Belden books by Julie Campbell and Kathryn Kenny
My mom bought all but four of the Trixie books while she was growing up (34 total), and my dad read all of them out loud to my sister and I. (He read out loud to us every night for YEARS.) They are falling apart, especially the oldest ones, but I loved them and they fostered my love of mysteries. Same can be said for The Boxcar Children books.

5. The Hank the Cowdog books by John R. Erickson
These are some of the funniest books I've ever read. Or, listened to. The author reads the audiobooks and sings all of Hank's funny songs, and they are fantastic. Like plastic. (Bonus points if you get that reference.) Many a long car trip or day helping my dad at work was spent listening to Hank.

6. All the Shakespeare I read in middle school.
Gotta love the Bard and his poetic, if sometimes practically indecipherable dialogue. I know, technically these are plays and not books, but whatever.

7 and 8. Little Dorrit and Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Little Dorrit is actually the only Dickens I've read, but I've seen the TV miniseries for each a couple times, so I know the stories. As I've said before, I love the complexity of the plots and the characters and how everything ties in at the end.

9. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
I read the Mistborn series last summer, and was blown away by the characters and the plotting. Yes, the books are sometimes creepy and bloody and gruesome but they are AMAZING. I'm thinking about dressing up as Vin for Halloween. Mr. Sanderson was the first author in recent memory to do something I usually dislike in a story and make me love it anyway.

10. The textbooks I've read over the years, especially the science ones and my American government book.
Call me a nerd if you want, because I am one. These books have taught me so much and helped me understand the world better and write better. Pretty much the only reason I read the gov book after that class was cancelled is because I knew I'd be able to apply what I learned to worldbuilding governments. (And I was so right.)

Other books worthy of mention, because top ten just doesn't cover it: almost anything by Dr. Seuss, Eragon and following books by Christopher Paolini, the Bible, Laddie by Gene Stratton-Porter, Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright, The Blood of Kings series by Jill Williamson, and all that poetry Mom made me read in middle school.

I'm not going to tag anyone specifically, so if you want to participate in the tag, go for it! Or feel free to tell me about some of the books that have influenced you in a comment.