Monday, October 26, 2015

NaNoWriMo Draweth Nigh!

Happy Monday, all and sundry!

I can't believe October is on its way out already—where has 2015 gone???

November is rapidly approaching, which means… National Novel Writing Month draweth nigh! I've more-or-less decided that I'm going to take part this year, and if you want, you can friend me on the official site HERE (I'm Gamwyn).

I first found out about NaNoWriMo in the summer of 2005. Forums were closed until the fall, so I challenged myself to finish my very first novel whilst I was waiting! I did, and went on to write another novel that November. I've only missed two NaNos since, and only fallen short of the 50,000 word mark once. It definitely isn't for everybody, but for those who blaze quickly through first drafts, it's just the ticket. I really enjoy the wild creativity that is the mad-dash-first-draft—I'm a write fast, edit slow type person, so NaNo works for me. And I don't always finish the novel during November—last year I hit my 50K, but didn't reach The End until partway through December.

I'm definitely a planner versus a pantser (I wish I could wing it, but I end up writing myself into a hole and abandoning the book whenever I do that), and I've been noodling on the novel I want to write this year for a while. We'll see if I finish my outline by Sunday…

Any other NaNoers out there this year?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Anniversary Aspens

My husband Aaron and I just got back from our anniversary trip last night, and I thought I'd share a few photos with you! We spent time in Prescott and Flagstaff, and got to see aspens in glorious fall color, and it was cold enough to wear SWEATERS. So perfect!

Epic clouds on the way up to Flagstaff!

Me + aspens!

Pictures don't do this justice.

Me 'n Aaron sittin' on a tree. ;-)

On the road up to Snow Bowl

Fall color!

So beautiful!

Going for a walk in the rainy Prescott woods!

We got married in this exact spot three years ago!
I hope you all had a great weekend, and look at that—we're halfway through the week already! Here's to a fantastic rest of October.

Monday, October 12, 2015

ON SHIPS (and not the sailing kind)

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things, of shoes and SHIPS and…

Okay walrus I'mma let you finish, but… :-D Let's talk SHIPS, people.

Éowyn and Faramir from Tolkien's THE LORD OF THE RINGS
These two are like my original ship. My main heartbreak about the otherwise fabulous Peter Jackson movies is the lack of Éowyn/Faramir. I love them SO MUCH. I was enamored with their story back when I first read LOTR circa the age of thirteen. I love how they're both broken, how they both basically go on suicide missions, how they're both stronger than anyone gives them credit for, how they heal each other, how the most romantic sentence in literature is about them: 
And he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky and he cared not that they stood high on the walls in the sight of many. 

Cress and Thorne from Marissa Meyer's THE LUNAR CHRONICLES 
I obviously ADORE Cinder/Kai and Scarlet/Wolf, but something about Cress and Thorne delights me to no end. Maybe it's the fact that of all the heroines in the series, Cress is most like me and I relate to her like whoa. From her distant crush to her wretched hike through the desert to her plucky bravery to her jealousy to her wanting to be kissed before she dies…… OH CRESS I LOVE YOU SO. I love how Thorne admires her smarts and pluckiness and really sees her for the deep beautiful soul that she is. CRESS AND THORNE FOREVVERRRRRR. 

Dorthea and Will Ladislaw from George Eliot's MIDDLEMARCH 
OH. MY. GOSH. Just thinking about these two and a certain epic conversation taking place during a thunderstorm at the end makes me want to drop everything and re-read. *heart-eye-emojis* This is a dense novel that has so many wonderful aspects to it I'm not going to even attempt to sum it up properly. But there is a long slow burn between these two that lasts most of the book but finally culminates into amazingness. Will is possibly one of the most passionate characters I've ever read, and Dorthea's misguided goodness and integrity balances him out in such an interesting way. The book is about more than them, obviously, but they're the living, beating heart of the story.

Polly and Tom from Diana Wynne Jones' FIRE AND HEMLOCK
This book fascinates me. It's hard to explain, but the story draws you in like magic and doesn't let go. The relationship between Polly and Tom really sneaks up on you—it grows as the story grows, and for awhile you don't even know what's really going on. Polly is brave and plucky and smart, and cello-playing Tom is so enigmatic and interesting and kind, and… you really just have to read it. But suffice it to say, I ship these two HARD.

Emma and Mr. Knightley from Jane Austen's EMMA 
Obviously I love Elizabeth/Darcy (I mean really, who doesn't??), but Emma and Knightley hold a very special place in my heart. I first read EMMA when I was about fourteen, and I'd never seen the movie so I didn't know what was up—I had the delightful experience of having Emma's dawning realization about Knightley at the same time as she did. I love their deep friendship, the way they bounce off each other, how they're perfectly flawed. HOW JEALOUS KNIGHTLEY IS OF FRANK. :-D

Shevraeth and Meliara from Sherwood Smith's CROWN DUEL
I first discovered CROWN DUEL/COURT DUEL (originally published as a duology) at the library when I was eleven or twelve, and OMG I shipped these two sooooooooooooooooo hard. I've read it approximately one billion times since then. I love how the latter half feels like a Jane Austen novel, and who doesn't adore exchanging letters with a secret admirer, making wagers on who can ride faster in the rain (THAT WAGER YOU GUYS THAT WAGER), the part at the end where he slowly pulls his gloves off………… I kind of can't handle it. Goodness.

Mal and Alina from Leigh Bardugo's GRISHA trilogy 
I get the Darkling fascination, I do, but I love Mal SO MUCH, you guys. Their friendship, their history together, how much he gives up for her, BASICALLY ALL OF RUIN AND RISING. You guys should have HEARD the noises I was making in the last quarter of that book. I was weeping by the end. I'm sorry, is it raining on my face?
Kestrel and Arin from Marie Rutkoski's WINNER'S CURSE trilogy
I can't handle these two. Her people enslaved his. She kind of buys him at a slave auction. He has ulterior motives. They grow into this tentative friendship. She saves him from a thing. He saves her from a thing. THEY KISS. Role reversal. She has to be loyal to her country. He has to be loyal to his. And then in book two…… augh augh augh augh SO MANY FEEEEEELLLLLLLS. I'm sorry. I can't.

Because he does this thing, and then she DOES THIS AWFUL THING TO HIM. And yet… and somehow… and then… but then… AND THEN……… Please please please just read these books. I beg of you. You'll understand.

Um I think I need to go have a cup of tea. And maybe do some rereading. *nods*

Back to you, walrus.

Friday, October 9, 2015

On Inspiration

I'm pretty sure I've done a variation on this post before, but it's been a while, so I thought I'd do it again:

Where do writers get their ideas?

I can't speak for all the writers out there, but mine come from… everywhere. Sometimes a random conversation can spark a whole book—that's happened to me twice: once chatting with friends over watermelon (it was SO good. I was visiting Georgia in the summertime, and all watermelons after have been compared to that one and found wanting) about cupbearers, and once at a stoplight with my sister when I wondered aloud what would happen if a specific group of people—and ONLY that specific group of people—had the ability to do magic.

Sometimes a frame of a movie causes my brain to go off in a different direction (whole book ideas were sparked by REVENGE OF THE SITH and the first ROCKY, respectively. In fact I'm currently outlining the latter).

Music is CRAZY inspiring to me. Once upon a time in 2006, I was listening to the band KEANE's album UNDER THE IRON SEA, and the atmosphere of the music and the lyrics were hugely inspirational in brainstorming, outlining, and drafting the novel I wrote that year (the novel that, several incarnations and a handful of years later, garnered me my agent this spring). I did most of my summer revising to the soundtrack of the band OF MONSTERS AND MEN's album MY HEAD IS AN ANIMAL.

Reading inspires me. Art and nature inspire me. Sometimes I have no idea why a certain thought or image jumps into my head—they just appear. Often I'll have ideas for characters before the plot, occasionally they'll come intertwined. You just never know.

I have a Moleskine notebook (it's looking rather battered these days) that I jot down my random ideas into. If I don't have it with me, I write them down on my phone. I've recently started a Scrivener Idea File, too, for exploring ideas that aren't quite ready to be their own thing yet. It's fun to flip back through my notebook and see the date I had certain ideas.

So for me, ideas are everywhere. You just have to be paying enough attention to snag one when it comes along.

Monday, October 5, 2015

What I Did This Summer (Revision Edition)

Notebook and laptop and tea—the revision arsenal!
So I know summer has technically been over for quite awhile now, but seeing as it's only juuuuuuuust now starting to cool off here in Mordor the land of eternal fire Arizona, I present to you: What I Did This Summer (Revision Edition).

The revision notebook! Totally worth $12.
In the beginning of April I signed with my amazing agent (who may-or-may-not-be-but-probably-is a wizard), and I spent much of the remaining part of the month brainstorming and wool-gathering and otherwise hen-scratching in a brand new notebook. Once I had a new story structure figured out and had it approved, it was time to embark on The Biggest Rewrite Ever.

I wrote and re-wrote the beginning approximately eight billion times (at least it felt like that many). I experimented writing in first person to connect more with my MC. I finally gained enough forward momentum to write the first fifty pages and send them off to my agent for approval. I got the green light and kept going.

Revision requires
It was so hard and so rewarding at the same time. I got to write brand new scenes that are now some of my favorites of all time. I struggled with structure and pacing, because I'd moved a major midway-point event up towards the beginning. I wrote a lot of panicked emails and texts to my CP, as well as sending her each part of the novel when I finished it.

Everything was slowly beginning to take shape. I was seeing glimmers of magic. Three-quarters of the way through I realized I'd left myself an enormous gift in one of my new early scenes that could massively impact the ending. It was sooooooooo cool, you guys. I mean it would have been more brilliant if I'd actually done it on purpose, but shhhh it'll be our little secret.

I finished the entire draft and sent the rest to my CP. She came back with very insightful notes, and I worked through each one of those. She was super mean and made me re-write my climax…………… whiiiiiich turned out to be a super good idea, because I LOVE LOVE LOVE it now. Totally worth the work. :-)

Hubs and I were up north in Prescott when I was rewriting my climax.
He brought me snacks because he's awesome.
Then I sent the shiny new manuscript off to two fantastic agency sisters, who read and critiqued it for me quite brilliantly. I gathered and digested their notes, and gave my pacing a hard think. I put my novel up on the wall and stared at it for a while, then started rearranging and condensing and FIGURING IT OUT.

Before the manuscript surgery!! Each card represents a scene.
The blue and green and pink are all for one POV (I didn't have enough of just one color). 
During the surgery. Cards over on the left are deleted scenes. 
After everything was rearranged and stitched back together!

I went through the novel again, rewriting scenes, making the rearranged parts work where I'd put them, condensing more, killing someone (I literally did this to solve one of my problems…… 0_o ).

THEN it went to my agent, who hadn't read it since its original queried incarnation.

Just a brief side note here to say that I'm fascinated and pleased that through all this revision, the story itself didn't really change—it just became a better, more honed version of what it was always meant to be. I think that's really cool.

Anyway, after that my agent did a tight line-edit (we won't talk about my embarrassing overuse of certain phrases), I rewrote a couple of small scenes, and it was DONE. Phew!!

Working on Line Edits!
And that's how I kept out of trouble (and mostly out of the hot hot sun!!) all summer. :-)