Week 2: Call of Poseidon by CP Bialois

This week, I finished with my book a bit early. I’m not sure if it was because I have an easier time reading books on a Kindle or not. That will remain to be seen.

This week, I read Call of Poseidon by CP Bialois. The book, and a review of mine, can be found here.

This story is equal parts police procedural and Dan Brown-esque conspiracy tale. As I said in my review, I like it when a story shows the culprit early on and still manages to surprise you.

Next week will be The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, another book that I’ve been wanting to pick up for a while. Until then, I’ll be focusing on editing Poplar and Mint.

Accomplishment!

Last night I finished an important milestone: The rough draft for Jasper City is now 100% finished.

I’m aware that it will need work and serious editing, but the words are down. That’s the first major step. I hung in there from the beginning to the end, and to be honest, I’m more proud of this story than anything else that I’ve written.

The city of Jasper once shone. Now it lies in ruins and rust.

The man known as Citizen 71 is exiled to the streets, where he watches the city continue to rot while raising his newfound family. He sees the plight of the citizens, man and machine, ruled by the greed and bloodlust of one man, and hatches a plan that he knows will fix everything.

Mayor Zero sends out the one man he trusts with his life, the decorated soldier A-17, to put an end to this plan. Haunted by memories of battles past and with the thoughts of his terminally ill daughter at home, all he wants is an end to the conflict and the city’s return to normalcy. Is he on the right side to make that happen?

Jasper City started out with one premise in mind: I wanted to take a heroic character, build him up into something like the setting’s Messiah, and in one final instant tear that image down. The story has since evolved, and the end result doesn’t quite have that formula.

I’m not ashamed to say that I was heavily inspired by a Nine Inch Nails album when coming up with the plot. Year Zero gave me a number of ideas, and some desert punk stories such as Dune and The Book of Eli gave me ideas for the overall, post-apocalyptic setting.

For the City itself, I actually based its culture on North Korea. Some time ago I read the account of an American citizen who took a tour through the insular country. (It can be found here.) This wound up working a bit too well: because it’s strongly implied that this story takes place after the wars on terror go horribly wrong, the citizens sound less like they swallowed a foreign philosophy and more like the craziest Tea Party members.

Now I’m taking a break from the story, and letting it breathe before I go back and try to fix it. But there is no way that I’m just going to let this gather dust now.

52 Books Challenge: Week 1

It would’ve been quite embarrassing (to me at least) if I started to lag behind in the first week of the year. To be honest, I’m usually not a very fast reader. One book per week is an ambitious goal for me, but I love a challenge.

So far, it’s running smoothly. Though saying that in week 1 is a lot like saying that you’re sticking to your diet after throwing away your chocolate and chips on January 1, it’s a good baby step. I just finished reading Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

For the first time, I made a conscious effort not to be spoiled by the ending. I had originally planned to see the new movie that had come out, and then made plans to watch the original trilogy on Netflix. I wound up passing on those for now. Usually, I like spoilers, and being aware of the ending before I finish reading does not ruin a story for me. It is still nice to see how a story leads to that conclusion. For this reason, I wasn’t upset when the ending to The Half-Blood Prince became such big news. (Spoiler alert! Snape kills Dumbledore!)

Not knowing the ending made it that much more exciting. The book is already a good read; I love how there are different plotlines going on at the same time, and multiple protagonists and viewpoint characters with their own motivations. The conclusion to the mystery surrounding Harriet Vanger made my jaw drop, and the end of the plotline involving Wennerstrom was especially satisfying after the slow building up.

I’m taking one day of rest before getting started on book 2 on Sunday: Call of Poseidon by CP Bialois.

New Year’s Resolutions!

This post is a day late, but these plans have already been in motion for some time. I also wanted to hold off until my other blog was ready for posting. Here is what I plan to have accomplished by the end of 2012:

-I have already mentioned the first one in my previous blog post. The 52 books challenge, for me, began this past Sunday. I am currently reading Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Next week’s book will be CP BialoisCall of Poseidon.

-Finish and polish my drafts of both Poplar and Mint and Jasper City. Poplar will be be self-published, mostly likely through Createspace, while I will take a more traditional route with Jasper.
–As a sort of “sup-resolution,” I’d like to have the first draft of Jasper finished by the end of the month.

-Write the scripts for a webcomic. I have the idea already forming, taking much inspiration from my experiences working at my current job. I’ll likely save this for Script Frenzy in April.

-Take on some more freelance jobs. Hopefully my new blog will help with that, but that’s also just for fun.

That’s actually about it. There are also some things that I’ll have to do this year, and soon, such as move out of this dorm and get an apartment once I graduate, and possibly take on another job to pay the bills once my loan payments kick in. It’ll be a busy year for me, that’s for sure.

The end of NaNoWriMo and future plans

National Novel Writing Month 2011 is done. Really, it has been done for a few weeks. I’m coming off of the writer’s version of a runner’s high, barely touching a pen except for school or work. I’m ready to start up again, so here are my plans. Much of it starts in 2012, so I guess this also counts as my list of new year’s resolutions.

-Starting January 1, I will be taking part in the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge. I’ve accumulated so many books over time that sit in drawers under my bed, untouched. I keep saying “I’ll read that book soon, it’s on my list, I just have to finish this one,” but that never happens. This challenge will knock a huge chunk of those unread books out of the way.

Camp NaNoWriMo will run in June and August this year, with a break in July. This is as much a blessing for me (and many other participants) as it likely is for the OLL staff. I’ll participate as an ordinary writer, not an ML. Whether I will consider another crack at the ML position is a question for a much later time.

Script Frenzy in April. I tried this last year for the first time, learned the basics of writing a graphic novel script, and had a lot of fun. I plan on participating again, though likely writing for another medium.

NaNo 2012. Don’t even ask what I’d be writing about. That plot likely doesn’t exist yet. The real question is whether I will continue as an ML or not. Considering I won’t be in school anymore by then, it’s a definite possibility.

Before any of that, it is to be noted that even through two NaNo events, my favorite novel project so far is still far from finished. I’d like to finish that rough draft before another WriMo pops up, to avoid the temptation. Poplar and Mint is in the process of being edited, and I’d like to get that polished and self-published by the end of the year.

Job hunting in a tourist hotspot

Contrary to the other posts on my blog, my life does not revolve around writing. I think if that were the case, I would go crazy within a month, and eventually cease to use language entirely. Maybe I exaggerate.

As a baking and pastry student close to graduation, the pressure is on for me to find a job in my field. Rather than settle for any foodservice job, like a server or dishwasher, I’m more worried about finding a job in the back of the house, where I am putting my skills to good use. I had such a job a little while ago, but I was let go because of my own mistakes.

This is not the best time to be looking for another job. It’s only just before season starts, and nobody is looking at applications for at least a month. For now, this is the low season.

When I first started attending school here, one thing that was mentioned was that in my field, there would always be jobs available because everyone loves to eat. This would be especially true with the amount of tourists pouring in. I quickly learned that this was not the case, or at least that the jobs aren’t so easy to find.

“I told you being a grown up was no fun,” my mother once told me. I was reminded of all the times when I was a child, and adults said that they would love the chance to go back and relive their childhood years, while all I wanted to do was grow up in a hurry. I’m not sure if I feel the same way just yet, but it would be nice to be able to run around in my old backyard for a while instead of worrying about my next paycheck.

As summer camp comes to a close…

Recently The Office of Letters and Light rolled out their newest project, called Camp NaNoWriMo, which was basically a lighter form of the famous November event taking place during the summer. Completely camp themed, with the site decked out in blue tents and campfires, “cabins” in the form of scaled-down message boards, and pep talks with stories about shorts being run up the flagpole, it was delightfully nostalgic.

Unfortunately, my last experiences with summer camp were many years ago with my Girl Scout troop in northern Virginia. They were week-long experiences that I didn’t fully enjoy, due to the fact that the other girls in my troop and I just didn’t get along. I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t at least partly to blame for that, but it’s all firmly in the past now.

For this virtual camp, I was given a “cabin” to share with 4 other people, two of which weren’t active, and we were given one page with a message board to chat, give moral support, and occasionally procrastinate together. The unfortunate part is, that cabin is now closed and I can’t remember what usernames they’ve used.

Another positive part of the Camp is that it was essentially two events. The beta took place in July, so OLL could work out the kinks and roll out features slowly, and the full version took place in August. We were given two WriMo months with 31 days, and July had 5 weekends. It all added up with plenty of time to get some quality (more or less) writing done, even with class and work filling up much of my days.

It certainly worked. My novel in progress, Jasper City is 75,000 words strong, with close to 14 chapters and three appendices. Before someone reads this and thinks that wordcount isn’t something to get hung up on, I might never have made this much progress without the Camp NaNo event giving me the motivation. I have a lot to thank for the OLL.

In order to avoid using NaNo events as a crutch or the only reason why I write, I’m making a new effort. Armed with a shiny new blank notebook, I’ve started to push myself to write a little bit each day, at least one page’s worth. Writing longhand gives me time away from the internet and all of its lovely distractions, and writing at all helps me to keep that part of me well exercised, like a muscle. I’m continuing my process on Jasper City, just slowly. But it’s enough.

“There was one particular incident, one that he remembered fondly, with Cynthia. They snuck in to the City Guard offices in Robot Town, and this place was redecorated with torn shreds of fabric and fire when they left. Dex took part in this out of genuine outrage, which Cynthia perhaps wanted little more than to see something in this wretched town burn.”

Recently I’ve been trying to revise something that’s truly awful.

It’s harsh, I know. And I know that the book I’m revising has potential to be good once it’s cleaned up, otherwise I wouldn’t bother. I still can’t help but cringe as I read through it, seeing all of the mistakes that I missed during my first edit.

Two questions go through my mind when I read through: How could I have been so careless? and How bad was it before I started editing?

There’s a switch in POVs when I started writing in first person and then changed my mind, important details such as the murder victims’ times of death are inconsistent, and my protagonist needs a serious attitude adjustment. Those are just a few of my problems.

Yet I’m getting into this story again. The novel is my baby. It’s the little child I forgot about for almost two years and now have to pour in as much love as I can to fix all of its problems.

Fresh eyes helped. I put the book away for over a year, and now there are passages that I don’t even remember writing. The freshness is making me excited for the story again.

Another thing that excited me as a writer actually happened a long time ago. This was actually back in May. In the process of trying to get some people to help me revise my novel, I was asked to complete an interview for someone else’s writing blog. The post can be found here. Not only was it nice to see my name on someone else’s blog and get my 15 minutes, the lone comment made me smile.

“This is a fantastic interview. One of the best I’ve read actually. I’m glad I dropped by.”

Thanks Darrell!

What I Learned From Comics

April was not National Poetry Month for me. Instead, I took part in an international event known as Script Frenzy. People from all over the world got together for the personal challenge of writing a 100 page script in 30 days.

This is the sister event to National Novel Writing Month, which is a 50 thousands words a month challenge in November. Both only sound like scary, impossible goals, but anyone who’s joined can tell you there’s a lot of fun to be had even if you don’t reach the finish line. The idea behind both events is a giant push for you to produce something, whether you think it’s awful or not, because you can’t go back and edit a rough draft if you don’t write anything in the first place.

Back to Script Frenzy. Screenplays are the most popular choice among writers, but any kind of script (shorts, stage plays, audio dramas, even ballet and video game scripts) is welcome. I decided to go with a graphic novel this time after all of my planning the month before, and I won with 119 pages and a finished rough draft of Part I. There’s still plenty left to go, including two new characters and stories for them, but I’m happy with what I have now.

Before this April, I never touched any script format. I had no idea what I was getting into, and the idea made me more than a little nervous. It was later clear that there was little to worry about, once everything got started.

Different ideas lend themselves well to different mediums. My project, Lily’s Odyssey, would not have worked out if I wrote it in novel form. The reason for this is simple: With everything that I wanted to include in Lily’s story, that Freytag Pyramid so familiar in English class became more like a Freytag Roller Coaster, and finally a Freytag Rocking Chair that would ultimately put me to sleep waiting for the end. A Lily’s Odyssey movie would have the same effect, with the added problem of being 10 hours long. It would work much better as a periodical publication. Novels also tend to have one major plot with one or more subplots, but graphic novels tend to get dragged out a bit more if they’re written as a series.

Visuals are just as, if not more important than the story. I don’t plan on drawing out this graphic novel myself, especially with the script being far from finished. That doesn’t mean that the scriptwriter is off the hook. A GN script is full of art direction, often specifically written out panel by panel. (There’s no standard format for this medium, so the level of artistic freedom would vary depending on who’s writing and drawing.) While writing, I had to pay close attention to perspective, who was standing where at what time, and light sources. This isn’t always important with prose.

Go easy with the dialog. This goes with lots of things that get crammed into the draft of a novel. Dialog can afford to get stretched out within reason, and the internal workings of the mind can be explicitly stated if relevant. In a script, however, lots of that gets trimmed away. “She looked away, unable to bear the shame of what she had done,” in a novel simply becomes “She looks away.” Her actions and motives would be revealed through showing, not telling, later on in the script.

The reason for cutting out dialog is a practical one. See those big white speech balloons in comics? They take up a lot of space, don’t they? Put in a long, drawn-out conversation in one panel takes up room that can be put to better use drawing out the rest of the scene. For this reason, conversations need to be shortened and spread across a few panels – with some action going on in the background.

Novels and scripts are definitely different animals, but I had a lot of fun learning that. Now I’m going to make it my goal to write at least one thing in every medium. Stage play? Audio drama? Why not?

For the past few days I’ve been reading some of Ray Bradbury’s short stories, both from The Golden Apples of the Sun and R is for Rocket. Along with being a pleasant way to pass the time, these stories have been giving me ideas for other stories.

I guess that’s how it works now, my inspiration coming from other books and songs with the occasional strange dream, and as attached as I am to these newly sprouted infants that may or may not grow into short stories or more, I do wish they would come by at a later time. Now they only serve as hurdles for me, as one part of my mind wants to guide Lily Travers through the post-apocalyptic United States in my graphic novel script while another part would prefer to figure out what to do with an old, abandoned movie set.

I’ll work through it, of course, while letting my idea bank run until it’s a mile long again, but I have enough unfinished projects to fix up and books to read until the zombies come home. Hopefully after that time comes, I won’t be too busy trying to save my own skin to work on something new.