Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas time

Well folks, here it is. THAT time of year. You know what I'm talking about - the one with the family, the presents and the not-much-time-for-writing.

It affects me too. Fortunately, I've managed to pack all my presents, decorate the tree, make some cake and also have some fun. It was a good day. For me, Christmas Eve is so much fun. Especially when my cat starts messing with the decorations.

I'm not as in the spirit as I usually would be, because this year, we're lacking snow. Which is a shame. Today, it was sunny outside, as if spring is on its way. But, no matter.

Tomorrow, for Christmas Day, my extended family is coming over (as in my BF and grandparents). There will be much food and much talk. And also, the opening of presents!

Since I'm from another part of the world, I'm going to leave you with a photo gallery of Christmas preparations.

Before - We still get an all-natural tree :D
My two Angel decorations - you can guess why they're here ;)

Decorations at a ready

Kitten playing with decorations - tiss adorable!


Angel in tree now

Pretty snowflake

Decorated Kitty

So, Happy Holidays everyone. And I'll see you all in a few days - there's no way I'm getting any time sooner ;) Have a lot of eating to do.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Back to the beginning

I'm home. Finally. And will continue being home for the next couple of weeks. For those who don't know what that means, let me give you folks some history (I'm not sure I've ever done that before). Anyway, just so you know, this is going to be a history post.

As most of you know or don't, I'm currently 23. I'm just getting used to this ripe old age, but it's started to grow on me. I'm from a small mountain town called Campulung (some of the people who read Hunters might recall it as the place where the Banshee dwelt and where the Mausoleum was - the place of the epic showdown between vampires and Hunters). But this small town has no colleges in it, so off went the young student to Bucharest, to the best Law School in the country. In the meantime, said youngster finished said college. But I still live in Bucharest where I've recently managed to scrape a job (barely) and where I still study my master's course.
Puffeh Kitteh under the desk

But Campulung is still home sweet home - the place where I eat and sleep and where my parents are. And, of course, where my cats are.

So, I'm glad to be home. As usual, I dwell in my teddy bear wallpapered room (I'm serious about that) where all my childhood memories are. And there's a lot of old stuff just lying around.

Like this. In a previous post, I mentioned writing my hands off in grade school during my classes and mentioned notebooks. Well, these are five of them. About three, if not more, are missing, but I'm too lazy to search for them - probably because the writing is atrocious. Notice that two of them have no covers - that's because I carried these things in my backpack each and every day. And they wore out and fell off. the second one, I actually stapled back, but then it fell again together with the first page.
Notice the title page in full color and filled with drawings of a deluded 12-year-old (though I think I might have been 13 when I started that volume - as I see it, it's the second volume of the second book, so I think I might have spent a couple of years on the first one).

Anyway, the thing is - writing was a lot less complicate then. POV rules? Speech tags? Punctuation? Ha! Those were the last of my worries seeing as I couldn't spell. But I got the story out, built an entire background for my characters, didn't have to worry about description or anything actually making sense... I had fun.

At this point in my life, I don't think I ever imagine I could be published. Not that I am, or anything (well, not yet at least), but I've started taking my writing really seriously when I started college - actually, late after that - in 2009, when I was already in my third year of college. That's when I became active on CC and actually learned how to write (I'd learned how to spell in the meantime)

And now, here I am, with queries under way, with another novel in the editing process, with knowledge (though little) of the industry and how everything works. What can I do? Plow on, I say :) Maybe next year will be better. Maybe I'll get a break and have my novel published. Maybe I'll write something else. Life goes on and I'm not going to give up on writing, ever. That's the one thing I know for sure.

And, just for fun, here's a little excerpt out of one of those notebooks (with proper spelling). Just remember I was young and rather stupid. :p

All of a sudden, the door opened and Ryan stepped out, looking a bit wired. I looked at him without saying a word, waiting for him to speak.
"Listen, I've been really stupid," he finally said after a few seconds of silence. "I mean, we were never together or anything, so why should I be upset?" He was talking faster and faster. "So, I'm sorry. Can we be friends?"
I looked at him dumbstruck, not understanding what he kept blabbing about. But one thing I did understand - the fact that he was sorry.
"Okay, sure. I wanted to come and talk to you anyway," I said cautiously.
"You did?" Ryan asked in his normal voice.
"Yes, I just didn't have the guts to do it."
"It doesn't matter. I'm glad we're friends again."
"Yeah, me too..."
An awkward silence fell between us. It didn't feel as if we were friends. Ryan, however, dropped on the couch and pulled me next to him, after which he started talking again.
"I've been pretty lonely this last week. Honestly, I've missed you around. And I've been dying to tell you the news."
"Fire away," I said, feeling that he really meant it. It felt like everything was going to go back to the way we were before the fight.
"I'm so happy! I'm in love! For the first time in my life, I'm truly in love," he said, getting off the couch and waltzing around.
"With who?" I asked, feeling as if he'd dropped a rather large amount of dictionaries on my defenseless head.
"You don't know her, but I'll introduce you to her if you want," Ryan answered with his back to me.
"Sure, anytime..." I said weakly, this time feeling as if he had thrown a hatchet through my chest and sliced me open.
I have to admit that even if I knew that I was in love with someone else (namely Chris), I felt very offended and hurt because I really liked Ryan, and not just as a friend, but as Chris' only possible substitute. I decided that it was better to play supportive friend for him.
So I did. I met Ryan's love who was a beautiful blond girl who was everything I wasn't: calm, neat, attentive and talked very little. And she seemed to adore Ryan.
I gave up on him, listening to him every time he wanted to talk, but not telling him anything about myself in return. What hurt most was that he didn't seem to notice.
So, basically, next day, I was once again knocking on Sam's door to mourn on his shoulder.

Oh, noes! All the teenage drama (and the adverbs piling up, ready to smother every bit of available text). You know what's fun? I didn't have a real boyfriend when I wrote all this - so I made one up :) The story continued with much drama regarding many characters and, somehow, the narrator (as in me) was always in the middle, or around to spy on people.
I had scenes that placed the first person narrator nowhere near. Like 'Meanwhile, at the Legion of Doom' kind of stuff.
But it was fun. This is where I actually learned to spell in the end. And how I began my journey to where I am now. I hope I'll get much further. I need it.

I hope you guys had fun with this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fun Stuff

Looks like I'm prone to messing around this month. Truthfully, I'm not having exactly the hottest month. I'm in no mood for Christmas, which is blasphemy in my book - I usually start singing carols in November. Now, I haven't even taken the tree out and decorated it. I might ;)

The thing is, I'm taking advantage of my last days as a free slacker. In January, I'll be starting work. And that + school + wedding planning = big headache :)

Notice: dangling pony earrings
In celebration of my freedom, I bought a 'Procrastination' t- shirt. Really. I know, I'm not right in the head.

And I took some further photos of what entertained me during the last month -> namely my plotting of Saving Grace and a drawing I made of one of the characters in said story (no, I didn't draw the MCs - I would totally suck at that).

Questionable talent
So, here's more photos for your entertainment. You get the chance to take a look at my handwriting - obtained after writing thousands of pages of utter brilliance. (I'm talking here, of course, about my college courses.)

To be fair, I used to write by hand a lot at the beginning of my writing career. When I get home, I'll search for the said notebooks - I have a bout 12 full 100 page notebooks written with a spin-off after my Jewel series. In that story, I'm the MC, an exchange student at the High School Sam and co. go to in the original books. I happen to meet all of them, as they're my teachers and I butt into their business and have a wonderful adventure together with my BFF and some of my real grade school colleagues. - Jolly good fun. It's the only thing I've ever written in first person.

So, yes, during grade school, in the classes I didn't care for (that's why I don't know French), I wrote in my little notebook and let my friend read. Sometimes, my colleagues asked if they're in it, and if they knew they were, they asked what they were up to - it was fun :) I wonder what they'd say if they knew how serious I actually became about writing.

Wow, this is turning out to be some weird post about my beginnings as a serious writer. You should see my spelling - it was horrible. I usually spelled f instead of th :D Aren't you glad you never got to read any of that stuff? :p

I think that, the most important thing I've learned over the years is that to have your characters randomly burst into song is not exactly a good idea. Also, that I write the best parodies after my own stuff.

I feel like I'm getting a bit annoying here, so I'm going to end it on a happy tone. See you guys soon.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Where's the fun?

Yes, I'm quite wondering this now, because I've realized that marketability is driving writers nuts. I admit, I strive towards getting published just like the next author, but that doesn't mean I'm going to give up on the fun side of writing.

Here's the issue. More and more writers are worried about certain scenes. They excuse themselves that they introduced them, promising that they will be relevant in the future of the story.

Um... you're the writer. I trust you that everything you wrote in there is for my entertainment as well as for the benefit of the plot. So what if your characters are taking a detour? I'm reading a book, which means I want to enjoy myself. I'm not hurrying toward the end. Now, don't get me wrong. That doesn't mean that I'll wait for you to describe every rock and leaf on the way. But what happened to sinking a scene in just for fun? Because it's funny, because it helps with character development and such.

I know we're all cursed by trying to reduce the word count (well, especially me), but that doesn't mean that every single word has to drive the plot forward. I know some of you might think that I'm wrong. But I'm fed up with reading marathon books. At some point, I want to feel the relaxation of a weird plotline that leads nowhere.

And here's where trust comes in. Since I'm the reader and you're the writer, I trust that you know your world better and that you know what you're doing.

Works the other way, too. I'm the writer. Trust that I know what I'm doing with my plot, my characters. Don't complain about them until you reach the part that confirms it doesn't make sense (because first drafts tend to do that).

Writers! Empower yourselves. Give yourselves the chance to fool around with your characters, with your scenes - have fun!

That is all

Monday, December 5, 2011

Withdrawal - Do you like me or not?

Withdrawal - this is an interesting word. And kinda what I'm going through now. After the adventure and mind wrecking experience that November was, now I find myself wanting more of that. And not more of writing, but more of my project. Which is over. And there's nothing I can do about it. I'm having trouble not reading it over and over again to remember the finer points.

But today's post is about something else. I've actually broken my habit and haven't written my characters to be instantly likable. I've let them have their way and something very surprising came out: A girl who struggles and grows (I think/hope), a guy who I'm currently madly in love with for some reason, and a guy who's a complete asshole, but is right about it. Shortly, I've put soul into this.

Let me explain what I mean. Putting soul, to me, means really getting involved in the story - believing that you hold a message you want to share with the world, a lesson you want to teach. With Hunters, I didn't have this problem. That book was for sheer enjoyment. It was never meant to be literary brilliance.
Well, this one either, but I tried to get something across - make people think about it. Just like my YA series tries to teach the values of friendship, family, trust and choices, this one deals with understanding yourself, choices (again - a favorite theme for me), and how you can be happy or miserable in the same circumstances. A sort of  'who you are' vs. 'who society wants you to be.'

Okay, I'm deviating again.

Here's what I actually wanted to say.

Instantly likable characters vs realistic characters.

Here, I'm talking about my MCs, Grace and Nate.

Grace's behavior can be interpreted as both rebellious+stubborn and selfless and brave. As some of my beloved critters pointed out, I could make changes to make her more likable. The thing is, I discovered I don't want to. I know who she is, who she will become, and I want to see how the readers' perception of her would change

Same with Nate - his first line makes him sound like a horribly snob and an unlikable person. Yet, by the end of the section, some people warmed up to him, some didn't. Again, suggestions that I could make him more likable. I could, but he's not. He's anal to the extreme. Can't heroes be anal? The fact that he snaps at the POV character and is bossy makes him sound horrible. But as far as he's concerned, Grace is acting like an idiot, and he's being nice enough by not pointing that out.

My conclusion is that it depends on the POV of the character. If you write the story from the POV of the antagonist, he will be your hero (unless he's really, really evil). And the good guys don't have to be perfect.

Just like the bad guys can be awesome. And people reading my story know what I mean here (hint, hint, Blackwing - the terribly likable demon).

So...what's your position on likable versus realistic? Would you rather engage the reader with a character you know they'll instantly like and follow, or chance to give them a screwed up one which is more realistic?

Friday, December 2, 2011

The end and the beginning

Well, that's it. NaNo is over. I've managed to finish my novel at 96 000 words. Of course, you should cut back about 1000 words since I actually wrote two endings for it.
As I expected, NaNo was fun. This year, I wrote over 30 000 words more than last year. Hunters ended at 62 000 words in December, and added up to 73 000 after the edits.
Saving Grace ended at 30 chapters + epilogue and 95 000 words. I actually hope to keep the word count this time  adding another 10 000 words to it would be a little catastrophic at this point, especially since it's an Urban Fantasy and has to be easy to read.

Here are a few facts about this year's experience:

- my biggest writing streak was 7000 words in one day
- I had 4 days in which I wrote absolutely nothing
- I officially finished the novel today, Dec 2nd, when I wrote both epilogues
- Writing the ending made me cry - that doesn't happen to me. I'm hoping it's because I put a lot of feeling into it.
- I ended up liking Grace a lot. Even if she messes up a lot, she's the kind of character that learns
- I've put meaning into this one. I hope that people will learn something from the experience
- I've read almost the entire story in a day - I couldn't remember half the stuff I wrote there. It was fun - like reading it the first time. Then, I did the ending.

Right now, I'm starting the editing and revising process. The story is already in the critting cycle - and pestering people with typos and wrong words (ooopsy). I'm so nervous because I don't know if people will like it.

It feels weird, now that it's over. I guess I'll need a couple of days to get used to the idea that I don't have to write anymore :) Anyway, I throughly enjoyed the NaNo experience, and I certainly hope I will be able to do it again next year.

How was it for you?