Friday, November 20, 2015

Beautiful Books: November 2015

You know how when you promise to post more on your blog, there tends to be this thing that happens, which includes not posting more? Yeah. I'm in the final month of my last semester of undergrad. Forever.

So I apologize for my continual absence. Fingers crossed I'll be around more in a month. I'm still writing for The Fangirl Initiative every week. And I'm thick into my novel for NaNoWriMo.

Since it's NaNoWriMo, I'm here to answer the next month of Beautiful Books questions! You can find out more about Beautiful Books here and participate yourself by answering this month's questions here. Since the questions are about writing processes, you don't necessarily need to be participating in NaNoWriMo to join in!


In the words of Disney's Peter Pan, "Here we go!" (I will be answering the questions for my NaNo novel, The Secret Library Society, which you can learn more about here.)

Is the book turning out how you thought it would be, or is it defying your expectations?
Yes and no. It's going along the same vein I had originally hope, but it's definitely given me some surprises and twists I didn't see coming. Plus, it's becoming something better and more important than I thought possible.

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?
Arthur Benedict Williams was a very special boy. And he definitely deserved it.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you ever tried both methods and how did it turn out?
Panster the whole way. I've tried plotting, but I lose interest or don't stick to it. So I usually write with some ideas of what will happen (important plot points, scenes, or the ending/beginning, etc.) and let the rest just take over as I go. This is why lots of surprises and twists end up popping in and shocking me.

What do you reward yourself with after meeting a goal?
Sleep. Food. More writing? It's hard because I just sit down to write and stop when I'm finished for the day. So far it hasn't been hard for me to sit down and write. It's hard to stop and go to sleep or get ready for the day (or do the things I'm responsible for).

What do you look for in a name? Do you have themes and where do you find your names?
I'm not sure what this question is asking. I usually just come up with a character and write down the first name that comes up. Sometimes I do go looking for names to fit specific characters.

For example, I've got two Pages in my novel (not like pages in a book but the people who shelf books). They're part of the Secret Library Society and their jobs are like "police officers" of the Library. They protect the Library. So I cleverly named them Recto and Verso, which mean the right hand side and left hand side of a book, respectively. (Oh, how I love play on words.)

Other names are taken from people I know who work in libraries.

What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?
This is so hard to answer. It truly depends on the story for me. Sometimes I like the beginning because I get to launch myself into the story and into a  new world. Other times I like the ending because it's satisfying to write those final words, which wrap up the whole novel. But I've been enjoying the middle of this particular novel because I knew the beginning and end before I started. But I didn't know the middle. I've been having a blast exploring the middle.

Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?
This is also so hard to answer. I adore Arthur because he's just this adorable little baby of mine. But Recto and Verso have been fun to write, as well as the other Inkling Arthur meets.

What kind of things have you researched for this project, and how do you go about researching? (What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched?!)
I've been researching a lot about books and libraries from before 1960. The book is set in 1960ish, so I can't have Arthur reading books that weren't out yet or weren't popular enough yet. Plus, the library system was quite different in the 50s-60s than it is today. I've also been looking up book covers of books for different years (though, I will probably need to fix this during edits).

I think the weirdest thing I researched were tools used in a library that could be used as a weapon. Hey, this is a fantasy! :)

Do you write better alone or with others? Do you share your work or prefer to keep it to yourself?
Definitely alone. I can generate ideas with others or talk to them about what is happening (like, oops Arthur just book-jumped to Narnia) but I can't write with other people around. It interrupts my flow. I will shares this with people eventually, but I like to keep first drafts--especially incomplete first drafts--to myself. When I started editing and need feedback, I'll share.

What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!
I don't have many habits. I don't write the same time every day. Sometimes I eat, sometimes I don't. I usually do have a cup of water nearby but I also usually forget it's there and never drink it. I like to listen to instrumental music to help the flow (8-tracks playlists are the best). But sometimes, I get so into the zone, I don't even realize the music has stopped playing for twenty minutes!  I also tend to write wherever I am (provided there are no people to bother me; dogs are ok). So my writing space is the WORLD.

Well, that's all of them. I hope you enjoyed. Let me know something interesting about your writing process in the comments. And tell me if you're participating in NaNo or Beautiful Books!

My current word total is: 38,085 (with plenty of time to spare!)

-Jaime

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson--Book Review

In Melanie Dickerson's later fairy tale re-telling, The Golden Braid, Rapunzel is on her way to Hagenheim with her mother, Gothel, after a village farmer proposed to her. All her life, her mother told her to be wary of men--that they would only hurt her. She's learned to throw knives to protect herself, so when they are attacked on the road, she does her best to save her mother. But they still need rescued from a local knight, Sir Gerek. This encounter thrusts Rapunzel into a high-stakes adventure full of love, learning to read, and dark secrets.

My first reaction upon finishing this book was mixed. On one side, I thought it was a decent re-telling with some interesting points. First off, Rapunzel can throw knives. Knives, people. She isn't afraid to defend herself or the ones she loves. Plus, her desire to read is touching. She also likes to paint and sing, which give her character fuller development.

The setting, of course, is lovely as ever. The details, the dialogue, the actions, they all fit into the medieval-esque world seen in Dickerson's other novels. This was the strongest development for the novel. The story also closely connects with the other re-tellings as well, specifically the events in The Princess Spy (book five). I would advise reading her others books before dipping your toes into this story.

However, I couldn't look past some of the obvious flaws as I read. Some of the plot fell into place too easily. I would have liked more build-up for Rapunzel being the lost princess (since it's such an obvious reveal if anyone knows the Rapunzel story-line in any form). There are a few cliche moments scattered throughout, such as the "beauty at first sight" moment even when she's covered in dirt, blood, and sweat. A lot of writing is bogged down by Rapunzel's thought processes instead of her doing something. She spends a lot of time avoiding asking the important questions.

Overall, this is an enjoyable and decent re-telling of a beloved story. Sure, I still think I'll choose the Disney version as my favorite still, but this one does a decent job (especially without magic). I'd definitely recommend it for middle grade and early high school students (it is YA after all) and anyone who'd enjoy a simple tale of love, adventure, and danger.

And hey, it's a fairy tale! It's allowed to fall into place easily.

-Jaime

I received this book for free through BookLook from Thomas Nelson publishing to give my open and honest opinion of the story, nothing more and nothing less.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Dear NaNoWriMo 2015

It's currently 12:27AM (according to my computer). Or it's 11:27, depending on time change (though my good friend told me time doesn't change until 2AM so technically I've legally begun).

Yet, I haven't written anything. No words. No thoughts. Nothing. Heck, I didn't even write the title or my name anywhere yet.

It's daunting, starting a novel. It's a task not easily accomplished. And for some reason, the excitement level to write this novel isn't high. Sure, I love my characters, I adore the story line, I drool over the world I've developed, but I'm not itching to write. I'm not itching to do anything (except maybe itch my kneecap from talking about itching).

So I feel like I've failed already. And I hate failure. Perfectionist that I am. I want to win. I want to batter through the skeptical beginnings, swoop through the middle, and run the home stretch full-force to stand atop the mountain of a manuscript, bloody, sweaty, but smiling fully. I want to hit 50K and the chapter of November 2015 with delight.

But I feel tired. I feel drained. And I'm worried I will fail. Already a half-hour of my time has been lost by this procrastination. Already, I feel the burden gaining heaviness upon my pen. Can I do it?

Between school, work, papers, projects, and many other things, I don't know if I can. I've done it in the past. But those years I've had a clear idea, a clear spark of what I wanted to write. How I wanted the story to unfold.

But for this story, I've got a handful of unknown characters and a tangled web of a plot holding it all together. It's thin; it's wobbly; it's stretched. It's hanging on by a thread of a though birthed long ago. The spark feels dull, faded, almost extinguished. How can I possibly write this novel? Or any the other dim thoughts in my brain? Where is the one thought jumping up and down in excitement and anticipation?

Since my brain feels like goo slathered across the floor, I want to start the novel in the morning. I'd like to think I could get up and write, hit a few hundred words before breakfast. But I've come to understand that is not how my process works. Nighttime feeds my creative juices. Half-asleep, I stumble through worlds, encountering creatures and characters. People tell me my writing is good--when it's a first draft, on the spot, struck with inspiration. I don't know how it works, but I'm counting on it helping me with this story.

I don't want to abandon it before I've begun. But I don't want to fail. My inner editor wants to claw its way through, to nitpick the beginning I've written in my mind. But then it will win and it'll come crawling through into my writing. So instead, I'm to push it back into the dark corners of my writing soul and I'm going to start with the first line of NaNoWriMo, the beginning:

"Arthur Benedict Williams was a very special boy."

-Jaime