Sunday, November 29, 2015

Beautiful Books Linkup--November

Cait at "Paper Fury" is co-hosting a linkup called "Beautiful Books." It's a lot like her "Beautiful People" linkup, except focused more on the actual book than the characters. It's also great for answering questions about your NaNoWriMo book, which I'll be doing this month. It's called Ms. Holmes.

1. Is the book turning out how you thought it would be, or is it defying your expectations?

Yes and no. The book is very much following the original outline I wrote in October, but as always, my characters run the show. Recently my villain's love interest tried to tell me that she was actually my secondary character, too, and has been disguising herself as her in order to screw my main character over. I shut that one down pretty quickly because it was insane and would require a massive overhaul on the last hundred pages or so, but it did spark some ideas.

2. What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?

The morning was cold, but the fire crackling across the room kept the place above chilly levels. There hadn’t been a day this week that wasn’t rainy or grey. It was just another November in London, but I hardly noticed it. My face had been buried in sketches for weeks. My fingertips, smudged with pencil, matched the color of the sky. Raindrops pelted the window with a kind of ferocity that made it sound like kids throwing pebbles at it again. I shut the curtains and moved my plans by the fire to read.

As you can see, it needs lots of work.

3. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you ever tried both methods and how did it turn out?

I started out as a complete pantser. I'd have the smallest idea in mind and I would run with it until I got bored, which means I have a lot of unfinished novels in the depths of my documents. I tried plotting a few years ago--for NaNoWriMo, actually--and really liked it, because it made it easier to push through certain scenes since I knew what was coming next. Now I consider myself a "plantser." I almost always write an outline for my book before starting, but I'm flexible enough to change it as I go if something isn't working out. This has helped me actually finish a lot more stories.

4. What do you reward yourself with after meeting a goal?

Netflix, usually. I recently got into "The 100," so I don't let myself watch another episode until I reach my word count.

5. What do you look for in a name? Do you have themes and where do you find your names?

It totally depends on the character. Sometimes I'll go for name meanings, but that limits me a lot, so I usually just pick a name I like for my main characters. I try to go for something unique enough to be remembered, but not so crazy that you can't pronounce or spell it. I used baby naming books a lot when I was younger and compiled a list of names I liked that I keep in my inspiration folder. Whenever I hear a name I want to use, I write it down, then I go through the list when it's time to create characters. I have to make a note of which names I use and in what books now so I don't reuse them accidentally!

Here's a page from my "Awesome First Names" list. I have one for last names, as well, but this one is definitely more extensive.

6. What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?

Usually it depends on the story, but I love to write endings, especially of the bittersweet variety. Finding that perfect last line or scene that'll make your readers cry sparks my creativity like nothing else. But beginnings are always fun, too, because I'm always so excited to start this new and shiny project. I can knock out 5,000 words in an hour. But once I hit the 15,000-20,000 word mark, I start slowing down. I like the idea of middles more than I like writing it.

7. Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?

I'm really liking the one-eyed cat (whose name is Sir Mittens, but Astrid refuses to call him anything but "it" or "the cat") and Mr. Hudson. Sir Mittens is like my dog in the sense that he's a little neurotic and likes to lie down on anything, even if it's the project you're working on at that very moment. And Mr. Hudson is just so happy and welcoming to everyone, and he and his boyfriend are adorable together.

8. What kind of things have you researched for this project, and how do you go about researching? (What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched?!)

Google is my best friend. I can find anything with it, including when rubber bands were invented and the effects of certain slow-acting poisons. I think if anyone outside my family and writerly friends had seen just how excited I was to find a page all about poisons and what they smell/look like, they would've been seriously concerned.

9. Do you write better alone or with others? Do you share your work or prefer to keep it to yourself?

I get more excited about my work when I'm with other writer friends, but I think I'm actually more productive alone. And I share my work all the time, but usually just with my critique partners who I know will give me helpful and honest advice without being harsh about it. I'll share snippets on my blog, but generally not much more than that.

10. What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!

I live off of Cheez-Its and mochas in November, although right now with Christmas coming up I'm enjoying holiday cookies (like biscoitos, yum!). I almost always listen to music (a lot of "Sherlock" soundtrack music has been showing up on my playlists recently), unless I'm really trying to focus on a complicated plot point or tricky wording in a sentence. Then the lyrics can get really distracting. I don't think the time of day matters much, since I can write whenever, but it's definitely easier to focus when I get up earlier than everyone else.

Biscoitos, a Portuguese holiday cookie. It's similar to a shortbread, but really soft and chewy. My dog loves them, too.

I love my writing space. It's tucked away, cozy, and has a very creative feel to it when I sit down at my desk. Plus, everything I need is within arm's reach, so I don't even have to get up and ruin my flow to grab something.

A closer look at one side of the desk. My handy whiteboard is up on the wall, pencils and a notepad by my keyboard, inspirational quotes framed where I can see them.

And the other side. My corkboard has been super helpful when I'm trying to organize all of the edits my CPs give me, plus I can switch out fun pictures for an inspiration boost. I keep those "You should be writing" pictures right where I can see them so if I'm ever tempted to get distracted, they put me back on track.
Your turn! Feel free to answer some or all of the questions in the comments below. :) I love hearing from other writers!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Importance of Fan-Fiction

About a year ago when I joined Tumblr I discovered something magical . . . fan-fiction. I'd known about its existence for a long time (thank you Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell) and I'd written some before I even knew what it was called (I have Harry Potter 8, 9, 10, and 11 written by my seven-year-old self tucked away underneath my mattress as we speak). But I didn't realize just how huge it was until I started following a few fandom blogs.

Me upon discovering how much there was to read.
Fan-fiction is magical! I know it gets a lot of flak for not being "real writing" (whatever the hell "real writing" means, seeing as anything that's been written is by its very definition "real" . . .) or being a waste of time, but I strongly disagree. Sure, there are some pretty poorly written stories out there, but there are poorly written stories for every genre.

Still not convinced? Let me list out a few of my reasons of why fan-fiction is so important.

1. It makes you feel like a part of the fandom

And I'm not just talking about being a part of the fandom as a fan (though it certainly does that, too). I'm talking about becoming an actual character in the story. Ever heard of reader inserts? I didn't either until last year, but I absolutely love them.

The basics are it's a normal fan-fiction story, but it's told in the second person. "Y/N" is the main character, which stands for "your name." So "Y/N" becomes "Kate" (in my case), and suddenly I'm the protagonist in the story. I'm a student at Hogwarts, or one of the Doctor's companions, or riding shotgun with Dean Winchester on the way to hunt down a demon. And I can do all of these things just by reading a story in the safety of my own bedroom under the covers. Here's an example of a reader insert:

“I so owned those guys!” Charlie squealed happily. She held up her hand for a high-five, which you accepted with your own grin. Leave it to Charlie to look like she'd been dropped in the middle of Disneyland when in reality you were covered in blood outside an abandoned bar.

“Yeah you did,” you said, beaming at her. “Are you sure this was your first vampire hunt?”

She rolled her eyes. “Totally sure. Couldn't you tell after that first one?”

You giggled, remembering how Charlie had had to swing three times before she could get the head completely off. It was funnier now that you weren't in life-threatening danger.

2. It's great for exercise

There are all kinds of fan-fic stories, but some of the most popular kinds are definitely ones that involve the impossibly cute couples from all of your favorite fandoms. I've read some pretty adorable Tenrose fics that have made me flail and squeal, and all of that helps to burn a few hundred calories. Reading and exercise, all in one. ;)

Me after reading about Rose and the Meta-Crisis Doctor going to the park with their daughter and being so freaking cute and aoidjgoasdl;liaje.
But since we're also talking about fandoms and ships here, I've also read some extremely sad ones . . . I've gross sobbed over fan-fic series before. It wasn't pretty. But I did get a good workout.

Me after reading the Stolen Dance Supernatural Sam/reader fan-fiction series. Go look it up immediately. Or just click HERE for part 1. It's fabulous. Clearly, considering it's shipworthy and heartbreaking all at the same time.
3. It's easier to write

I'm not saying that it's always going to be easier to write, or that it's somehow this magical genre that flows effortlessly from your fingertips at all times, but the already developed characters and storyworld certainly help. You don't have to come up with the complicated backstories of your main characters or figure out all of the rooms and secret passageways in Hogwarts. It's already been written for you! Now all you have to do is plop those characters somewhere and make them move. Easy as pie.

4. It's a fantastic warm up

Me writing fan-fiction. Apparently I have a thing for gifs of people--or animals--typing like their lives depend on it.
Fan-fiction is amazing for creativity! This past year I've struggled with varying kinds of writer's block, all of which frustrated me to no end, but fan-fiction was always the thing I just had no trouble writing. When my original characters refused to do anything, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were right there and ready to solve a mystery.

And even just staying in the habit of writing was great for me, because eventually the writer's block vanished and I was able to pick right back up where I left off. Even now I'll write a page or two of my fan-fiction series before diving into my NaNoWriMo novel. It's my favorite kind of warm up.

5. It can be adapted for publication

Though you should never try to make money off of your fan-fiction without the express permission from the original creator, you can take those fan-fiction pieces and rework them so they read as regular short stories. Just take out the unique elements and characters that make it fan-fiction and replace it with characters and elements of your own design.

One of my fan-fiction series that's still in the works has hit 20,000 words and is still going strong. I'm loving it! And when it's finished I'm planning to edit it so it reads like a novella. I just have to change a few things, replace Dean Winchester with a character of my own, and voila. Instant story with the possibility for publication.

6. You can make new friends

This is definitely my top reason to promote fan-fiction. I've bonded with so many people over a shared love for different fandoms. (And as bloggers, you should know just how important online connections are, too!)

In about January of this year, I discovered a fan-fiction writer by the name of Kazzy. She has thousands of faithful followers who read every story she posts (and I'm one of them! She's an awesome writer and the author of the aforementioned Stolen Dance series.). One day, she had the idea to host an online "sleepover." So she set up a Chatzy room so all of us who wanted to could join and talk about "Supernatural" and get to know each other as fellow fangirls/boys.

That night, a girl under the pseudonym Sam Winchester invited me to a private chat so I could participate in a Supernatural roleplay with her and nine other girls. We connected instantly. These girls were so welcoming to me and when I say we've spoken every day since, I'm not exaggerating. We roleplay on nearly a daily basis, text each other all the time, and Skype frequently. I've even met one of roleplayers offline because she only lives a couple hours from me! Even though we've known each other for maybe ten months now, I feel like I know these girls like sisters. We're one big family, and I love it.

My friend Charlie and me being nerdy dorks, as usual, after she surprised me by showing up at my house when I had no idea she was coming!! (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for helping to set that up. :) )
Charlie and me at a book festival.
So not only does fan-fiction provide entertainment, but it gives you the opportunity to form new friendships. If that isn't a selling point, I'm not sure what is.

What are some of the best fan-fiction stories you've read? Any personal stories of your own having to do with fan-fic you'd like to share? I'd love to hear about your experiences with it! Leave a comment!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

NaNoWriMo Tag

I stole this tag from Emma at "Kittens on Bookshelves" because it just looked like too much fun to resist. And as we are officially at the halfway point for NaNoWriMo, what better time to post it than now?

1. How many times have you done NaNoWriMo?

This is my seventh year! Although this is only my third year with a 50,000-word goal. I've been participating with my family since I was nine, so you'd think I'd become a pro at staying on track with my goal all the time . . . you would be wrong. I still procrastinate horribly whenever I hit a plot hole and can't figure out how to fix it. Then I generally end up writing like a cat on crack on the last day to write the last 5,000 or so words.

I came across this gif forever ago and have been waiting for an excuse to use it . . . you're welcome.

2. How did you first find out about NaNoWriMo?

My mom found out about it from a friend, told me and asked if I'd be interested, and I believe I responded with, "Um, yes?!?!"

3. What was the name of the first novel you attempted with NaNo?

The Adventure That Started With Nuts. It was a chapter book about a squirrel and a chipmunk who were best friends. They traveled all over the country and got into tons of shenanigans. Eventually they ended up accidentally getting trapped on a boat headed to Antarctica. It was was all very dramatic.

4. Give us a 1 sentence summary of what you’re writing this year.
Genderbent, steampunk, Sherlock Holmes story involves one-eyed cats and time traveling train machines.

5. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?

I think the general piece of advice "write what you love" is the best thing any writer can keep in mind. If you don't enjoy what you're writing, your reader won't either.

6. Did you ever take a year off from NaNo? Why?

Not yet! There may come a year when I will, but I don't see that happening for a while.

7. What's your biggest inspiration when figuring out what to write?

I have ideas to spare (and a notebook full of them to prove it), so the main problem is usually figuring out which one to start with! When I'm actually in the process of writing it, though, music and food are a huge help. A little Taylor Swift or "Doctor Who" scores, chocolate/coffee/tea/Cheez-Its, and I'm good.

8. Read us the first sentence from one of your novels.
First lines are the hardest part of any story for me, but there is one I'm particularly proud of. It's from my 2010 NaNoWriMo story, a middle-grade fantasy that's called Fantasya: A Giant Problem. "There is no 'once upon a time' in this book, because that’s how a fairytale starts, and this is not a fairytale."

9. Why do you love writing?

Because I can create something out of absolutely nothing! With a few taps of the keyboard I can write a story that has the ability to make someone laugh or cry or get inspired to make something of their own. Stories change people for the better, and I love that I get to be a part of that.

How's your NaNoWriMo going? What's your word count looking like right now? What's your story about? Leave a comment!