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For the last week, I’ve been digging through my old chapters and re-writing them. My first two chapters were over 7000 words each, and quite frankly, I don’t need even half of what I had written. I trimmed away the fat, fixed some scenes, and have moved on. The first chunk of my novel is almost rewritten, and I’m still not happy with it.

I know the first few chapters of the pages should accomplish several things:

  • Introduce the plot.
  • Introduce the protagonist and her personality.
  • Give the readers the setting, tone, and overall mood.
  • Start with a catalyst that immediately changes the character and forces her to work.

So far, the only thing I’ve accomplished is the plot. I’m writing a novel about changing, being narrated by a control-freak who refuses to acknolwedge change. Naturally, she should change right from the start of chapter one. Cross that off the list.

I think I hate my main character. I hated her before, and then she and I got along for a little while, and then I hated her again. I feel like she’s too stagnant and too boring, and as a result she’s not very realistic. She’s in denial about everything- she’s the sort of person who will be in a sinking submarine with water spewing in, but completely calm. “It’s all under control,” even when everything is clearly not okay. She intentionally isolates herself because she can’t control what other people do and she does a good job of pretending she’s not lonely.

How the hell is anyone going to relate to her?

Sure, when she changes she opens up, discovers that it’s okay to care about other people, that it’s okay to ask for help when things go out of hand, and maybe admitting she’s wrong isn’t such a bad thing.

I worry that no one is even going to get to the point-of-change. It happens pretty quickly; by the end of chapter 5, her personality has already shifted while she copes with the events of the plot. Act 1 is mostly action- this happens, then this, then this, now BOOM DEAL WITH IT- but the changes feel a little too subtle. Protagonist in Chapter 1 and Protagonist in Chapter 4 are different, but only barely. Protagonist in Chapter 1 isn’t very likable. Protagonist in chapter 4 isn’t very likable, either.

I don’t always want a likable character narrating a story when I read, but I do want someone relatable. I guess she isn’t struggling enough, but it’s hard to acknolwedge a struggle when she won’t acknowledge anything else.

It’s also hard to scrap her and get a completely new character when it’s her voice I hear telling the story.

Even though it’s a re-write, these are still technically rough drafts. I don’t expect them to be perfect, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting.

The 2011 Favorite List

Favorite Book Read in 2011:

I thought for sure Maggie Steifvater’s conclusion to the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy would have been my favorite. Instead, this riveting story of races, choices, and the ocean kept me awake at night and lingered in my thoughts for weeks. Image is linked to my goodreads review.

Favorite Game Played in 2011:

I usually have the choice between sleeping and playing video-games. 99.9% of times, I will choose sleep. Skyrim is the exception. This is my favorite game of 2011 even though I’m still technically playing it. I have never been so excited to chase butterflies and fight dragons.

Favorite Moments of 2011:

I met the author of Blood and Chocolate. This is Annette Curtis Klause, ambushed at an escalator at fairiecon.

Yes, that is a dead fox around my neck. No, I do not have any photos of myself dressed normally while meeting authors.

I have read Blood and Chocolate at least once a year for the last 12 years of my life. Whatever ‘it” is, she gets it.

Favorite Song of 2011:

The Calendar Hung itself Youtube

I’m cheating a bit here, because this isn’t my favorite song of 2011. It wasn’t even released in 2011. This is really the most listened to song of 2011, because this is the song that sums up The Project the most. It was stuck in my head every time I wrote. I listen to metal and alternative rock- this shouldn’t be what I focus my novel on.

Biggest Accomplishment of 2011:

I finished my novel.

It was hard to pick one considering I’ve accomplished quite a bit this past year. But on a blog focusing on my attempt to write a novel, I think this should come as a given.

 

New Years Resolution

Down under, in Australia, my critique partner will have already celebrated the start of the new year. I’m celebrating the fact that I finally started Skyrim (the real reason why I haven’t posted all week) and that I matched all the socks that came out of the dryer.  It seems like a good way to end the year.

I completed all 12 of my resolutions in 2011.

Instead of deciding on a huge amount of resolutions in the beginning of the year, I pick one thing I really want to do the entire year (finish my novel) and keep that in my head. I try to contribute to this resolution a little more each month. Each month, I also try and come up with a small resolution that I have roughly 30 days to complete. This year, I had resolutions that were mostly exercise related. Some of my resolutions were very personal, but here are a few I’ve completed:

  • Finish my novel before 2012
  • Go to the gym regularly for 4 weeks
  • Read at least 10 non-fiction books
  • Use 8lb weights
  • Go to Skirmish and Survive

I always have an optional resolution, one that I treat as a bonus round. If I complete this resolution, I reward myself with something nice. If I don’t complete it, no big loss. In 2011, my bonus-round was to learn a dance. I was delighted to find out that my college was offering a 2-weekend course with salsa and waltz dancing. Unfortunately, I ended up with mono and missed both the deadline and event.I’m thinking about keeping this resolution for my bonus-round in 2012. We’ll see how it goes.

My all-year Resolution for 2012: Pull back by Bow before the end of the year.

I have arms like twigs. (Alright, twigs with some fat on them, but for the most part they’re still twigs.) My lack of arm strength has prevented me from doing a lot of things in my life: climbing ropes, lifting the serving trays at work, dealing a good punch, helping people carry in large amounts of groceries, water ski, and so on and so forth.

About two years ago, one of my father’s friends dropped off his son’s old hunting bow. His son is now  a strapping giant and I’m still a terribly short, twig-armed half-elf. Father took me outside, handed me the bow, pointed to the target, and in delight I pulled back on the string and—-

nothing.

Because I couldn’t pull the bow back. Even on the lowest setting, I lack the arm strength and the right stance.

So, for 2012, I want to pull back my bow.

And maybe dance.

 

Finishing a book in ten Days: Day 6

I’m done.

It’s official.

I’m not thrilled with the ending, but that’s what rough drafts are all about. I’m staring at the last line on the page, and even though my brain and fingers both know I’m done, I can’t really believe it. This is a rough draft. I’ve got editing to do. But I did it.

I feel a lot like I did when my college acceptance later came in the mail. My fingers tore open the envelope and my brain registered what the paper said, but I didn’t get it at first. It had to sink in.

I wanted to write a novel since I was 7 years old. I wanted to do this before I turned 20. Then, I wanted to finish it before 2012.

I did it. I wrote a novel.

I celebrated my reading the second to last chapter in my critique partners novel, then blew up her facebook page demanding the last chapter. This new year will mark the end of so many things in my life, and I’m vastly excited about seeing what’s in store for next year.

I want to write another novel. I now know my pitfalls. I’ve done it once. I can do it again.

The Complete Rough Draft:

18 Chapters.

68,088 words; Approximately 70, 100 words due to missing chapter.

 

You’ll notice I skipped day three. That wasn’t supposed to happen. I had planned on skipping Day Five, since that’s Christmas, but some unexpected events mean that I’ll be on my computer tonight and tomorrow.

I started Chapter 16 Thursday night and nearly finished it until I realized something.

I had deviated from my outline.

While not necessarily a bad thing in itself, it meant that I skipped some explanation and events I really can’t do without. I spent most of yesterday trying to figure out how I could remedy this. I like the new parts, but I need the old parts.

The new parts are extremely short, too. If I kept the chapter as it is, it’d be under 2,000 words. While not a bad thing, that means my super epic awesome climax has only 2 pages of action. The fight scenes in the middle of the book are longer than that, and the stakes are higher. I hate books with bad climaxes, since I feel like I (the reader) was just jipped.

Two of my favorite YA books, Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver and Barry Lyga’s Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and GothGirl, don’t focus so much on action. The climaxes in these books had little to no fighting, but I was turning the pages as quickly as I could to see what happened. Since these books had little action, I found myself looking back to R.A. Salvatore’s Legacy of the Drow collection. In these books, the climaxes center around action. The whole books have fighting, but the last fight is the biggest and the stakes are the highest.

Honestly, I can’t remember jack shit about how Drizzt or Cattie-brie fights. I knew they had to fight, even if they didn’t want to, because they’d hate the alternative. I knew Fanboy was fighting to save Kyra by using his intellect. I remember Grace was fighting the weather to save Sam. I don’t remember every single sword stroke or path they took to reach the end, only that they did.

I suppose it doesn’t matter if everything catches on fire or happens on the edge of a cliff. It just has to happen.

Chapter Sixteen, Version Two:

Progress: 10%

 

Update, 10:58 pm EST

Progress: 100%

Onto chapter 17!

I completed Chapter 14 last night.

Technically, it was at 1 am this morning, but since I didn’t go to bed I considered it yesterday.

Today, I need to finish chapter 15. My usual 3-5000 word chapters are now averaging about 2000 words. I’m okay with this, since not only does it make the chapters easier to label, but it makes them easier to send to my critique partner, Anjulie. I feel more motivated when I can call something quits after 2000 words. I don’t get hung up on feeling like I need more words then, either.

These last 15,000 words or so are all part of the climax, so this should be my favorite part of the story. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay for these last few chapters to not be as polished as the first few. These are rough drafts. All I need to focus on is getting the words on the paper.

1000 words now, then I’ll bake some cookies for Christmas this weekend, then 1000 words tonight. It’s a lot easier to sleep knowing its finished.

Chapter 15:

Progress: 2%

 

Update:

9:54pm, EST

Chapter 15 Progress: 100%

Goal reached. Chapter 16 started.

Finishing a book in Ten Days: Day One

Back in November, I toyed with the idea of trying to finish my novel in a month. If people could write an entire rough draft, surely I could finish a few chapters. Unfortunately, I had other priorities, such as teachers realizing we only have a few weeks until finals, so let’s cram everything into these few classes. Finals week came up, I scraped by, finished my lats catering shift, hung up my uniform, and went to bed.

Now, it’s officially the first day of my winter break. I want to finish this novel before 2012.

That gives me ten days, though it’s technically less than that thanks to Christmas Eve, Christmas, and new Years Eve being large family/party days. I wonder if I can host a party and somehow still type out the last 15,000 words.

So my plan for Day One:

Correct and finish Chapter 14.

My progress: 20%

Here we go…

 

Rabbit Kick-Ball

Today, I watched Rabbits play kick-ball.

In an attempt to fill the big, empty feeling in my gut when I walk into my living room with my shoes still on and then realize I don’t have a dog to take out, I signed up for the SPCA. I figured I can cram my exercise and community service into one bundle: I can walk dogs a few times a week. I promised myself when I signed up that I wouldn’t take any animals home with me. I’m there to volunteer, not adopt.

But those damn bunnies.

I came in, went through the orientation session, and was shown the small animals room. A wall of fluffy bundles of fur with huge eyes and droopy ears looked at me. Stuffed animals come to life.

There are two on the floor.

Immediately, they stop what they’re doing and rush up to us. The man in front of me stares down awkwardly as both rabbits hop onto his shoes and viciously sniff him. Behind me, a rabbit is making a strange affectionate sound in his cage. The man in the room who was handling the rabbits rolls one of those blow-up childrens balls I see in the grocery store all the time.

The rabbits batted it back and forth together.

I had to look away and remind myself that I’m a broke college student with two cats, two turtles, and a very obese goldfish.

 

 

The Scorpio Races Review

Maggie Stiefvater makes horses scary.

This is The Black Stallion with fangs, a book that’s ready to sink its teeth into your shoulder and drag you kicking and screaming through the pages.

Stiefvater’s use of imagery leaves readers with a frantic drumbeat in their head and the insistent feeling that one should be checking for sand in their shoes. This book is dubbed a love story and rightly so, but the love readers will find here won’t be in stolen kisses and awkward gropes on the beach. Instead, Stiefvater’s words stir up a mixture of feelings that will have readers looking at the ocean in a whole new way.

This is not a book for cynical adults. For people who look around and hate the world, hate their job, and have too many obligations that a 404 page journey through Thisby is about as impossible as jumping on a plane and trying to find Thisby, put this book back.

Highly recommended to teen readers, fans of The Black Stallion, and bad faeries.

My favorite book of 2011.

Original review found here

This Isn’t Halloween

This is the first year I didn’t dress up for Halloween.

Actually, let me elaborate: This is the first year I didn’t wear a costume for Halloween.

Remember the scene in Mean Girls where the narrator learns that Halloween means wearing lingerie, adding a pair of animal ears, and calling it a costume? Apparently, people think this is serious business. I slapped on a pair of cat-ears on my regular black corset/skirt/boots ensemble and got quite a few compliments on how “awesome” my “black-cat” costume was. I listened to the other goth chick complain how everyone thought her outfit was a costume and being insulted but hey, a compliment is a compliment.

I was getting a little disheartened that I simply didn’t have the time or even the reason to do zombie make-up on myself this year, so the PennState Gals came to the rescue. The trio was volunteering at a local haunted house thing and cheered me up by letting me make them into zombies. I realized halfway into the make-up that I was missing a core ingredient.

I had no fake blood.

Not having fake blood for a zombie costume is like having no water for soup! I dug through my kit frantically and finally found one of those generic CVS tubes of red dye that pretends to be fake blood, but I think it worked out okay. I finally made it up to party city post-Halloween for a container, just in time for Faeriecon.

Luckily, you don’t need fake blood to carve your dead dog onto a pumpkin.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!