Thursday, January 30, 2014

Visiting the Philadelphia Temple Site

You might all have noticed that half of my life seems to go on with my church youth group, which is kind of sad considering I’m 24. It’s also not completely true. It’s just that when coming to blogging I really don’t have that many interesting things going on. Like, I could tell you about my 7000th dinner that I’ve cooked, or the fact that I only fell over once in yoga today, but that’s not even that interesting to me. So now you get to hear all about the latest awesome thing I did with them.

Something very cool has been happening in Philadelphia. Way back in 2008 the LDS church announced that they were building a temple in Philadelphia. Now, in 2008 I didn’t care because I was about to move to Montana and live with the coolest girls ever. Philadelphia was not my problem. Then I moved to State College, Pennsylvania and now to Philadelphia itself so this news suddenly became really cool.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the site but it’s a whole different ball of wax to be invited in, which is what we all got to do. Sadly, we couldn’t see the construction very well since it was already dark when we got there. The Carrs, who are the on-site supervisors from the church, were incredibly kind and helpful. They gave a presentation to us talking about the construction and drawing spiritual parallels to the challenges they have faced building the temple and the challenges the youth are facing building their lives. Plus we got to see pictures of what the temple would look like when it was done. The design is beautiful and tries to combine the traditional look of a Mormon temple and the lovely revolution era architecture that it will be surrounded by. All of the kids learned something and it ended with donuts and hot chocolate. Can it get any better than that?

Also I got to see a moment of true charity. Poor Blake had just flown in from Texas, was sick as a dog, had done three interviews, and hadn’t slept in 36 hours. On top of that he drove a car down to the temple site with a passel of teens because I didn’t know how to get there. Tammy, you’ve got one heck of a guy!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Persistence and Procrastination

I might be addicted to finding new ways to write but I’ve learned that persistence is my most important writing tool. It’s easy to get lost in a single project. When that project ends I drift away, knowing I should do something but not yet having the motivation to really do much about it. It’s when I stick to something new that I know that I just might have a career at this crazy thing that I love.

As you might have guessed I’m in one of those moments right now. I finished the 1st draft of Stone Prince for Nanowrimo and a lot of my motivation went with it. Now it’s time to do the first round of edits on my dystopian project Chaos Rules and I’m dragging my feet. A month and half later and I haven’t made a whole lot of progress.

Part of that is just life getting in the way. I’ve got other things on my plate. Doesn’t everyone? It’s especially hard when I’m at the stage where I am, bringing the uninterested eyes of an observer to something that I once spent months hammering out. The love that fires me through the muck of the first draft is noticeably lagging a year after I set that first effort aside.

I’ve noticed that the times when I make writing a priority are the times when I really progress as a writer. That may seem obvious to you but it isn’t for me. I struggle with the reality of putting my writing first. Of not letting all the little things I do every day suck away at my time until there’s nothing left for my novel.

I wish this could be the post where I told you all about how awesome I am and how I’ve kicked the procrastination habit for good. It’s not. I’m still late, although now I am pushing myself to be a better writer then I used to be. I do try to write almost every day. Now I’ll hopefully be able to turn this from a hobby into a career.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Learning Spanish, Update the First

You may have noticed that one of my New Year resolutions was to learn Spanish. Since it was such an awesome thing I added it to this year too. But how is that really going?

Hmmm…. Last year actually went pretty well. Not so much the beginning of the year when I flailed around trying to find something to do that wouldn’t blow my budget. Towards the end I was able to sign up for a class at the community college to start me off.

Confession moment, okay? I hated that class. I love the idea of learning Spanish and actually knowing some Spanish, but the in between of actually learning was not my favorite. Languages are hard at the best of time and this was the first class I’d been in officially in years. My brain felt broken. On top of that, it was Monday nights from 6:30 to 9:50. Late nights on Mondays…. Do I really need to explain why that would suck? It turned from difficult to insanely stressful near the end of the semester when there was some form of exam every class. When you only have one class a week, it’s kind of inevitable. So I worked hard, freaked out a lot, got a good grade, and called it done.

Except it wasn’t done. Not until I was fluent, anyway. Learning Spanish isn’t the goal, speaking Spanish is. That’s years of work in the future. So I signed on for Spanish 102.

No one could have been less excited for a class then I was for this one. To make it worse, everyone I knew was excited for me. This was great, right? The few weeks I’d spent without the class had felt very restful. I must have fantasized about dropping it a thousand times, but I stuck it out.

So I walk in the first day of my new Spanish class feeling a little grumpy. That turns into a lot grumpy when the professor turns out to be a jerk and a borderline sexist pig. He yelled at me for disagreeing with him on the meaning of an English word, told us about the failings of his ex-wives, and ridiculed a student until she almost cried. During the break I tried to find a different class. A different day, hopefully a different professor. No such luck. His was the only class available on campus this semester. So I was torn. Do I stick it out? Then, after class was dismissed, he ripped my tablet out of my hands and yelled about how I wasn’t supposed to use cell phones in class. Something just snapped in my head. Why would I put up with this if I didn’t have to? Maybe the other kids needed it for their degree, but I was taking the class for fun. I’d already felt overloaded by adding a class on top of the rest of the things going on in my life. I’d wait until summer semester and take it then.

So I quit. But that left me in a sticky place. I know how often a temporary quit turns into a permanent quit. How was I going to keep from giving up completely? Because whenever I really want to do something it tends work out after all. You’d think I’d learn that and stop stressing myself out. When a friend needed help with one of her own classes I offered to be her study buddy. When I whined about my woes she offered to help me keep learning in exchange for the help I was giving her. A native Spanish speaker, her mother was a language professor in her home country. She was more than happy to help as long as she got to correct my grammar. She’s one of those fiends who thinks that’s fun.
So this now, another class in the summer, and maybe someday fluency. I can dream, right?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Writing Experiments: Outlining

So today is the day where I talk about one of my favorite things. Writing Experiments! One of the more fun ones I’ve been doing is outlining. I started out being a complete pantser. I had a vague idea where the story was going and just rode it to wherever it was taking me. I knew I had to make a change when I had the chance to read something I’d written years before. I was pleasantly surprised with its quality. I felt like the characters were interesting and I was really excited to see where I’d been taking the plot. Hey, I didn’t really remember writing it in the first place! Well, I wasn’t taking that plot anywhere. A little after three quarters of the way through an ending spontaneously began. It was pretty epic but had nothing to do with the rest of the novel. I knew that my plot was where I was struggling at that point. So outlining!

I started small but went big in this department, culminating in Stone Prince my most recent Nano novel. I had the sucker so thoroughly outlined that I even knew what the scene changes looked like. Then it ended at 42K, way too early for any real time novel. When I started thinking of where I could add to the plot to flesh it out I realized that I had made it too tight to do much with. With my outline dictating where I went I didn’t develop side plots or alternative characters like I otherwise would in a first draft. Editing that is going to be a bear. Plus I found that I missed the chance to let something unusual or interesting happen in a scene. Now all the fun was in the outlining and very little in the writing.

Since I liked how basic outlining gave me a semi-usable draft I didn’t want to abandon it completely. That’s when I came across this post by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt, the author of several successful  e-serials. They write prompts instead of outlines. I started thinking about that. Could I flesh out the plot in a way that gave me stability and still leaves me space to deviate if needed? I just might!  Instead of writing out the entire scene I’ve been giving myself the information that would start it and some ideas of what needs to happen during it. I’ve only been doing this for my most recent writing (e.g. Chaos Rules edits) which as you can see on the sidebar hasn’t come very far. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Jennavier Recommends: Written in Red by Anne Bishop

Just to start, you should know I love urban fantasy. I grew up on epic fantasy but the last decade has not been kind to that genre. As a complete lack of new interesting things came out in my genre of choice I started noticing the shiny covers of urban fantasy. They were fresh and more important there were girls on the cover. I’ve always been impressed how most epic fantasy managed to get by the first four decades of it’s life with minimal female involvement between the pages.

Sadly, the problems that plague any genre aren’t absent from this one. The heroine/hero is normally a hard bitten PI-Cop-Magical Law Enforcement person with a murder to solve and a Tragic Backstory. They usually have little to no friends or family, and if female have lots of sex, and some kind of mutation that allows them to eat whatever they want. As much as I love urban fantasy I’ve started to roll my eyes as soon as I open the cover.

That’s where Written in Red bursts on to the scene. It’s from new-to-me author Anne Bishop who just blows everything out of the water. This isn’t just an alternate world, it’s a really alternate world were humans are kept in cities and the Others own everything else. The heroine is a Cassandra, a blood prophet, forced to tell the truth of visions that people won’t want to believe. The hero is were-wolf esque, but not in any way you’d expect. So many of the tropes are present but twisted so far as to be completely unrecognizable. The characters are written with such spot-on humanity (or in-humanity as the case requires) that they are almost instantly gripping. Plus Bishop got her start as a heroic fantasy writer and so all the things I love from that genre are out in force. I’m personally dying for book 2 and think you should be too! 

If you want to check it out you can visit it on Goodreads or the Anne Bishop website.

That's all for now. Come back in two weeks and I'll have another one for you!