Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What I've Been Reading -- August 2017

Hey everybody!

School's started up again for me, which means less free reading time, but because I have No Chill, I'm going to be trying to keep up this series.  In the meantime, here's the last of the summer!  It went by waaaay too quickly, and in all honestly I'm really happy to start classes again.  I need some kind of routine in my life.

We'll see how I feel about that in a few months.

So on to books:


The Winter of Our Discontent
John Steinbeck

This is a book that you have to commit to.  While the beginning had amazing character development, and the internal monologue of the main character was intriguing, you had to get to the second half of the book to really get into the action.  The first large portion of the book is all set-up.  Once it got going, though, it really moved, and the ending had me holding my breath, praying that the main character would not do the Stupid Thing.  This was a great book, and I'd recommend it to anyone who appreciates well-done internal conflict.  If you're looking for a lot of action and a fast moving story, though, this isn't the one for you.

“In poverty she is envious. In riches she may be a snob. Money does not change the sickness, only the symptoms” 

“She cared deeply about words and she hated their misuse as she would hate the clumsy handling of any fine thing.” 



A Monster Calls
Patrick Ness

I'm not really sure what I was expecting from this book.  Certainly not what I got.  It only took me an hour to read, but it was probably the best one I've read in a long time.  It might not be that way for everyone, but it helped me immensely and left me pretty shaken up.  It was intense.  While the writing style is more like something you'd find in a children's book, the subject is very heavy.  I wouldn't call it a horror story, it certainly didn't scare me, but it has strong fairy-tale elements and Ness mixed fantasy and reality in a brilliant way.  I would recommend this book to anyone, but be warned, it will make you feel things.  Even just remembering reading this book is making me emote.  It's a very crazy, but very necessary book.

“You do not write your life with words...You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.” 

“Who is to say it is not everything else that is the dream?” 

“Almost like being in the nightmare, that same feverish blur of the world slipping off its axis, but this time he was the one in control, this time he was the nightmare.” 



Dracula
Bram Stoker

I read this book because I wanted to know where the idea of vampires as we think of them today came to be, and I was impressed.  The story and plot were well-constructed, the reading wasn't nearly as heavy as I'd expected, given the era in which it was written, and the characters were complex.  Not only that, but unlike most Victorian novels, this one boasted strong female characters, one in particular gaining the respect of the entire vampire hunting team.  I would recommend this book to anyone curious about the origin of our idea of vampires, and to anyone who's tired of hearing about them sparkling in the sun.

“You reason well, and your wit is bold, but you are too prejudiced. You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are, that some people see things that others cannot?” 


Ta-da! Three of the books I've read this August.  This isn't all I've been reading, I have a huge pile of books on a table in my room that I've determined to read, so we'll see how that goes.

What have you been reading this month?  Put your book recommendations in the comments.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Story Planning: What I've Tried and Failed At

Hey guys!

Random update about my life: I have a new laptop!  I was using a Chromebook before, which was annoying because every time I needed to use Microsoft Word or anything else that didn't use Google, I had to switch to a different computer which ran about as quickly as a turtle and was an ACTUAL ELEPHANT and completely impractical for college life.

So story planning.

As a writer, I'm supposed to plan stories.  I've tried a couple different kinds of planning, and I thought I'd share my experiences in that area.  Note that I am not a planning expert.  Just slightly organized.

Anyway if you like to read about people's failures (SHAME ON YOU), or if you're looking for ideas when it comes to planning and how each kind works outside of Pinterest (because let's face it, none of us are that perfect), keep reading.  Oh, and if you want to try one of these, please do, and let me know how it goes for you.  Everyone's different.


1. Flying by the seat of your pants.
This is what I've called planning for most of my life.  I start with a story idea, and.....

Yep.  That's basically it.

These stories normally fizzle out because my characters just end up wandering around eating pizza and talking about their problems.  I might have a rough idea as to where I want the story to go, but it will never actually get there because I don't have anything for the middle.


Oh, and the one story that did get past three or four chapters was a train wreck, the characters died without my permission, one ended up outlawed, a few got married accidentally, and the traditional mourning colors changed mid-story.  


2. Scene by scene.
Because when one thing doesn't work, you try the EXACT OPPOSITE. 

Yep, I tried to plan a story by working out every scene in detail.  I used index cards and a little index card folder, which was rather cute, but very overwhelming.  After sitting down and planning out the first few chapters, I started writing.  And then I reached the end of what I'd planned.  I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep it up, and I had to find some kind of planning that sat happily in the middle of the two extremes.  I'm sorry, super-detailed people.  Not my thing.


I also found that this gave me absolutely no wiggle room, which is very important to me.  My rough drafts are VERY rough, and I expect to make a lot of changes in the second round.  With this kind of planning I felt like I was trying to produce something final on my very first go, and it stresses me out just thinking about it.


3. The rough outline.
This is the one I started out on with the story I'm writing at the moment.  I had a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It was written down (not just floating around in my head), and I knew where I was going with the story.  The problem?  If I were to write the story based solely on what I had, there would be exactly three chapters.  Three rather short chapters.  That's not a novel.  I had to find filler of SOME SORT, and it had to actually add to the story.  

Which is how my main character ended up following a toddler around New York City, getting into a massive argument with said toddler's older sister, having a huge existential crisis, and ruining the ending I had planned by dropping out of the story.




So what am I going to try next?  Chapter by chapter.

Yep.  I'm gonna take my story, divide it by chapter, and figure out what I want to happen in each one.  This is less detailed than scene-by-scene planning, but my characters won't be wandering aimlessly through NYC, eating pizza, or dying unexpectedly.  It'll also be easier for me to keep them in character, as I'll have a set goal for each of them in mind.  

So what do you think?  Do you have a planning style that works for you?  Have you tried one of these?  Let me know in the comments!