What’s Up Wednesday: Rainy Day Edition

 

(check out the links to learn more about What’s Up Wednesday or Ready. Set. Write!)

This post is brought to you by Midwest Thunderstorms, wreaking havoc and stealing electricity since…forever. (Seriously, though, it’s been raining since Sunday. I love the rain, but the only things these cloudy days have brought are mosquitoes and humidity, which I do NOT love. On the plus side, electricity outages got me a shortened work day on Monday.)

WHAT I’M READING

I finished The Lucy Variations, and reviewed it last Friday. Contemporary isn’t half bad! But now I have three fantasy picks that came in at the library and YAY! First one up is Defiance, by C.J. Redwine, which I have refused to read any reviews on so I can remain unspoiled. I’m going to try not to speed-read through this one, even though I have The Girl Of Fire And Thorns waiting for me when I finish. *happy dance* I’ll give my daily weather one plus: reading is so much better during a thunderstorm.

WHAT I’M WRITING

I’m pretty sure this is the part where I say I’ve reached my goals…if I did. Does partially count? Last week I wanted to work on some character and worldbuilding, while writing my first chapter through to completion. The former two happened, and I had a crazy good time with it.  The latter…not so much.  I wrote around 1K (in one evening, natch), but that was the only time I actually was able to sit down and write.

So, I’m going to try to do word-count goals this week. I’ve never had much success with these, but part of that is because I’m stubbornly unreasonable when setting word-count goals, and because I’m a perfectionist and have let word-counts mess with my head at times. But I’ve been trying to work into that over the last two weeks, and I’d like to give it a go. This is a first draft, I’m allowed to be terrible, and my goals don’t have to be lofty.

500 words in five days. 2,500 for the week. That’s the goal. *pats self* Now shut up and write.

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW

Family. Friendship. Photography.

Family. My family members are some of the most supportive and loving people…I couldn’t ask to be surrounded by better leaders, mentors, friends, and buddies.

Friendship. I’m continually amazed by the writing community and the way they enthuse and encourage everyone involved in this [occasionally terrifying] thing called writing.

Photography. Okay, so I’m biased because I know some of the people and places involved in some of these shoots…but for the most part, it’s simply the gorgeousness of Wyn Wiley’s photography that sucks me in. So much emotion in a single photo.

WHAT ELSE I’VE BEEN UP TO

Well, sister’s surprise grad party was a roaring success. She had NO CLUE, which was unbelievable and a total answer to prayer. But possibly the biggest surprise was an old neighbor who came, a lady who used to hate us, warmed up to us after six years of Christmas carols and cookies, and became a hesitant friend shortly before we moved.  We hadn’t seen her since we moved nearly five years ago. It was a wonderful time, culminating in a water fight and group pictures.

On Saturday I have my first training session (8 hours!) to get my gun permit. I’m interested to see what it’s like to shoot a pistol vs. what I’ve read. I could pretend that this is author research…but the truth is, where I [have] live[d], you learn how to use a gun properly, you don’t dismiss the hurt that people have caused with guns, and you don’t step on anybody’s toes about it. I’ll admit that I’m excited to learn, but I am glad to be learning from a trained professional with the proper equipment, rather than taking potshots with one of my neighbors. o.0

What Up on your Wednesday? Check out Jaime’s blog for more links!

Sink…Swim…Start Over

I’m writing. I’ve done my character research and worldbuilding and checked off those boxes on my captain’s log. Prepping my stores to sail on this writing adventure is full of forgotten joy. Sussing up previously unknown character motivations, inundating myself in photos of my fictional location. It may not be dialogue on the page, but folks, I’m armed with scissors and glue and paper and an MBTI quiz and I am being an author. 

And then I start scribbling down notes and lines and plot points and I smile to myself and turn up Imagine Dragons and think that this must be what it’s like to write. My thumbtacks are sharp, my notecards white and empty, and I am ready to do this!

So I sit down at my laptop and reintroduce myself to Scrivener and launch off on this ship to the great unknown. I’m a few thousand words in and…my ship is leaking. There’s a million tiny cracks, and I can’t find my wash bucket to start bailing. I don’t want to jump ship, but there’s a thunderstorm brewing, the horizon is endless, my sail is in shreds…why am I here, exactly?

I know it’s a first draft. It’s going to have cracks that you patch with red marker and sticky notes (FIX THIS NEXT TIME), but sometimes your first draft…sinks. It doesn’t just flounder into the harbor; no, it heads straight to Davy Jones’ Locker.

And while I’m clinging to the flotsam of my outline, I’m wondering what went wrong? I had colored paper clips and bullet points! My outline actually existed! My characters were fabulous, and I’d just launched them onto this journey that I’ve been planning for five years. What was wrong?

In my case, this was my second time launching off on this route. My first draft made it to The End, but was too battered and crushed to try repairing. It needed a total overhaul. So I filched the sails and the anchor and headed towards another ship, the good vessel REWRITE.

Except every ship needs a few basic things, just like every story. I had my Who: a girl, suitably complicated, at least in her character profile. What: an epic journey and a terrible band of rogues. When: a time and era of my own choosing, ending in a predictably gold and red sunset. Where: the great high seas…or a foreign country. My How: the aforementioned vessel, which I was hoping would fare better than my first doomed craft (the SERENDIPITY). Why was I not seaworthy?

Ah, the talk around the docks. Everyone asks the necessary niceties above, but a few reminded me of the one I was missing. Why?

I had every ingredient for an epic story, but I was pushing out on my own without motivation to give me fortitude and hold this leaky ship together. I knew where I was blowing, and I still had my old anchor, but I had no reason to set sail. Neither did my character. Why would she launch on this journey? What could possible rattle her from the comfortable confines of her Chapter 1 locale? The choices and confrontations could not be sustained off a spur-of-the-moment decision. When the swells are over your head and there is no sun on the horizon, you’d better have a good reason for being on the boat.

So, back to harbor. Let that battered sail dry out; patch it up, it’ll fly another day.  Go ahead, paint the decks, find out what provisions you’ll need for this particular route. Dress appropriately for the culture you will enter. Buy a new hat, colored pens, and about three dozen notebooks.

Then sit down with your character. Ask her why. Keep an eye out for the squalls that will test you, or the ones that will drive you out to sea. Are they to blame for why you’re in the middle of the ocean? It’s one thing to be you vs. a thunderstorm; you’ll survive that trip. It’s quite a different story when it is you vs. your own flimsy motivations.

So now I’m off for another trip, folks.  I’ll tip my hat and remember why my character and I are setting off on this epicness. I’ve smashed the bottle and rechristened the ship. Let’s see how far the SECOND WIND takes me.

THE LUCY VARIATIONS

I said I was going to read The Lucy Variations, by Sara Zarr, before it was due back at the library today. So I did. I got home from work yesterday, ran 2 miles, sat down with this book, and didn’t get up until I was done. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that everybody read books this way, but I knew that if I put this one down, I wouldn’t pick it back up.

Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.
That was all before she turned fourteen.
Now, at sixteen, it’s over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano — on her own terms. But when you’re used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?
National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr takes readers inside the exclusive world of privileged San Francisco families, top junior music competitions, and intense mentorships. The Lucy Variations is a story of one girl’s struggle to reclaim her love of music and herself. It’s about finding joy again, even when things don’t go according to plan. Because life isn’t a performance, and everyone deserves the chance to make a few mistakes along the way.

Let me say first that I’m not sure I’m able to give an unbiased review of this book. It felt too close to me, a little too emotional for me, to be able to talk about it objectively. This book was frustratingly accurate. The reason I feel like I can’t/shouldn’t review this is because I was in that world. The music world. There’s a lot of my life that was completely different from Lucy’s, but I was amazed at how accurately Sara Zarr depicted the pressure of being a young musician. The times when you feel you have no agency, and this thing you loved is out of control and you no longer love it and you walk away…I did that. I was far from a musical prodigy, but I walked away from piano after I graduated high school. The pressure to make a career out of music soured the entire thing for me. The only way I felt that I could make myself heard, make everyone around me understand, was to walk out. I didn’t walk out on a recital, but I did walk out. No more lessons, practicing, nothing. You want to know what it’s like to win a few competitions, lose your first love, wonder what happened? This book will tell you exactly how it feels.

I’ll admit that there were parts that had me in tears. Tears because of the love and loss of music and the way it feels inside of you, and the way talent and expectations and selfishness are held in the same fist, the way family dynamics and sibling relationships can pressure and distort your perspective into something you don’t want it to be…they were all fabulously written exactly the way they are in real life.

But the rest of it was frustrating. Let me say this up front: Lucy was an unlikable heroine. I don’t want to spoil it, but her friend Reyna tells her something about her need for an audience, and how that plays into her interactions with those around her. Absolutely true. The one thing that redeems Lucy is the fact that she understands this near the end. She makes some frustrating decisions along the way, but she realizes some of the reasons and is able to realistically come to see some of the alternating perspectives. The characters are not one-sided, and Lucy eventually comes to see both sides. How she gets there is frustrating and occasionally stupid, but in an accurate teenager way. You know what I mean? I wanted to be mad at her, but I felt like I couldn’t because Sara Zarr wrote it all in such an understandable way. Frustrating, but accurate.

So. I loved it, cried over it, got mad at it…yep. Well written, but not for everyone.

Have you read THE LUCY VARIATIONS? What did you think?

What’s Up Wednesday

 

It’s Wednesday again, and the end of the first week of Ready. Set. Write!

WHAT I’M READING

Barely started The Lucy Variations, by Sara Zarr. This is mostly because I took a small detour and read Mind Games, by Kiersten White…and I didn’t regret it a bit. Loved it! This week’s schedule didn’t give me a chance to review them, but I’m working on it.

WHAT I’M WRITING

My goal last week was to write the first chapter of my WIP, a total rewrite of a five-year-old project. I didn’t finish the first chapter, but after experimenting with several different beginnings, I’ve finally found where I want to start. Not a first-chapter-completion, but  the writing is coming well simply because I’ve found a point to begin with.

This week’s goals are different, though. I thought that I had enough memory of the old project to be able to simply take the barest skeleton–main characters, basic geographical world, and five or six tentpole plot points–and start all over. But despite my success in finding my beginning, I’m feeling very behind on my worldbuilding. Yeah, way to do things backwards…but this week I want to write character sketches, and do a little bit more research on my world. It’s a fantasy in the vein of The Blue Sword, and I write best when I have specific images and descriptions in mind, regardless of whether those make it into my writing. I need to rebuild some of the visual, cultural, and moral aspects of my characters and countries. So the goal(s)?

1. Finish writing Chapter 1

2. Write a character sketch for each of the main characters

3. Pull out the old country maps I created and answer five basic questions about each of the three countries involved

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW

Friendship. And God’s faithfulness. I drove to see my best friend over the weekend, a chance for us to spend time together after only brief meetings in the past six months. Five of the eight hours driving were through severe thunderstorms and hail (hello, hail damage on my car. Great to see you again…), eventually adding an hour and a half to my original travel time, and nearly killing myself on a lonely gravel road in the middle of nowhere at 1 AM when sleepiness and hilly roads took over. Not kidding: somewhere in rural Kansas there are impressive swerve marks, the alternative to flipping my car as it went airborn on gravel at 60 mph. Sometimes you have moments where the only explanation is the hand of God, and that was one of them. I was able to enjoy one of the most refreshing weekends I have had this year. On Sunday we sat at her kitchen table and talked. Just talked. For five hours.  This was after four hours doing the same thing the night before, and countless hours together with her and her family during the rest of the day(s). Some people wear you out. I have been blessed with a friend that fills me up.

WHAT ELSE I’VE BEEN UP TO

Last preparations for my sister’s grad party. It’s this Saturday, which means yet another weekend away from home. But I’ll get to see hundreds of people from my hometown whom I haven’t seen in years.

Swamped at work. I love my job, truly, and while I’m enjoying the added responsibilities, there’s a lot to be nervous about. I’m struggling to find the balance between having delegated authority over people and respecting the innate authority they have that comes when they have 20+ years on me.

Settling into summer. Finally running consistently again, playing volleyball, and getting into the full swing of summer. Sunsets are still my favorite, and while I have to walk half a mile to get where I can see them, it is totally worth it!

Check out Jaime’s blog for more links on this bloghop! 

HELLO I AM THE LOVE INTEREST

Are love interests ever unexpected?

Sometimes it seems like all the author has to do is describe him/her as being around the protagonist’s age, and presto: love interest. Particularly in the case of YA heterosexual relationships, it seems like you can see the setup coming from a mile away. Of course the unknown boy in the room is the soon-to-be plus-one. Of course he’s never seen that girl before, and of course they’ll be locking lips by The End.

Maybe it comes in the descriptions, when the maybe-lover is described too carefully. Imagine it this way: the time you spend reading about him/her equals the time the protagonist spends studying him. More than two words about his hair, and you’re caught staring.

Granted, it sometimes needs only one description: soul-searing eyes. (Blue eyes works, too.) They end up turning into neon signs that flash: “You will be in love by Chapter 5.” Actually, all you really need to hear is that he/she is close to the protagonist’s age, and they’re nearly a guaranteed OTP.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind an obvious romance. I don’t mind the dark-haired, green-eyed, walks-on-wearing-checkered-Vans boy who has a sign taped to his back, “HELLO I AM THE LOVE INTEREST”. I enjoy the tall, dark stranger just as much as the next person, but every once in a while I want the other kind of romance. You know, the slow-burn kind.  The kind that sneaks in without the brass band and three-dozen roses.

Some stories achieve this through giving him/her enough ambiguity that you don’t know whether to trust him/her or not. This usually slows the loving process. Others mix it up by simply multiplying the potential love interests. After three or four grand entrances, you spend the rest of the time guessing which one is going to win; a book version of the Bachelor[ette], but with a love triangle usually added in.

Okay, sarcasm aside, I know there are numerous books where you knew exactly where this relationship went, and yet it still was fresh and enjoyable. What I’m wondering is if there is one where the love interest surprised you? Where you didn’t expect it to be him, or her? Not that there wasn’t a lack of chemistry or that they barely talked to each other, please.  But I’ll admit that I’m a little burned out on insta-love and I-am-your-new-love, and I-am-your-age-we-must-be-in-love.

So, two questions:

1. What books do you know of where the love interest was either unexpected or unheralded?

2. What’s the best example of a slow-burn romance that you’ve seen?

What’s Up Wednesday

And welcome back to What’s Up Wednesday, the weekly blog hop hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk. This week also kicks off the beginning of Ready. Set. Write!, included under the “What I’m Writing” section.

What I’m Reading

I just finished The Rules For Disappearingby Ashley Elston, and next on my list is The Lucy Variations, by Sarah Zarr.  I can probably count the number of YA books that I’ve read that would be classified as “contemporary”, so I’m interested to see if I dislike them as much as I used to. Okay, so maybe dislike is too strong…forget, maybe? Contemporary tends to be a *shrug* genre for me, without many books that get filed away for a re-read. And while it’s also the opposite genre of my WIP right now, I’m sort of in the mood for it. Plus, they’re library books. So I have to get through them before they’re due. (Yay for reading motivation!)

What I’m Writing

Writing goals! Yes! My WIP (which is thoroughly untitled and will be until something drastic happens) is actually a total rewrite of an old project from 5 years ago. I’m starting out simple this week: Get the first chapter done.  This is way easier said than done, as my original opening involved a prologue and several flashbacks. I have to find out where the story actually needs to start. For the record, I’ve written three different openers already. Phooey.

What Inspires Me Right Now

I didn’t list this book above, but I picked up a copy of Bird By Bird, by Anne Lamott, this weekend. I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m really enjoying her writing style, and what she shares is funny and accurate. Reading it feels like taking a walk as a writer and clearing my head of a lot of things. Or listening to a friend and nodding and saying “you, too!”, like we’ve both uncovered the same secret and it’s been put into words for the first time.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

I’m driving out to visit my best friend this weekend, which is part of the reason I started out so simply with my writing goals. Time is going to be in short supply! I’m also planning a surprise grad party for my sister in our hometown, and I’ve got prep work starting on a debate workshop I run every August with some fellow debate club alumni. This is our sixth year organizing it, and I find myself spending more time planning sessions and writing about advanced debate theory than I spend doing homework doing the school year. Um, what is summer break, exactly?

Check out Jaime’s blog for links to others on this blog hop, and feel free to join in!  What’s up in your life?

Tell The Truth…for now.

Okay, this is going to be the last TTTT post for a little while. They’re going on indefinite hiatus while my summer starts churning into something far busier than I ever expected. They’ll occasionally resurface, but maybe a little differently (mostly likely in the form of rants rather than current-day snippets. You’ve been warned!). Much of what I usually say here can be added to the What’s Up Wednesday blog hop that I’ll be participating in as a result of Ready. Set. Write!

Yep, I’m joining in. Ready. Set. Write! is a summer writing intensive hosted by Jaime, Erin, Katy, Elodie, and Alison. It’s open for signups today, and set to run until August 28th. Check out any of their blogs for a far better explanation than I could give (plus an opportunity to join in on the fun!). 

So, that’s the (short) truth for today. Writing, writing, writing. I’m excited to set some writing goals and join in on this community. No matter how crabby/grumpy/hermit-like I get when I don’t write, I still need strict priorities and goal-setting to get it done. 

And that’s the truth!