Categories
books & reading

Novel Update & Words Of Encouragement From The Professionals

My word count right now is 10,021 and I’m feeling a mixture between proud, because I’m not sure I’ve ever done this well with a NaNoWriMo as far as consistency, and concern that my novel is complete utter crud. I mean I like bits and pieces, but as a whole, it’s probably terrible. But I guess that’s in some ways the thing with NaNoWriMo – the goal is to simply get yourself writing and edit later. Which, as a former newspaper editor, is kind of painful for me. But I’m jumping around and letting loose a bit and it’s starting to get fun. I’m anxious to see where this story takes me.

Like most of you, I’m sure, I’m getting these emails from famous authors from the NaNoWriMo peeps chock full of information and quotes. The first two have been from Jonathan Stroud and Phillip Pullman, both authors that I think are pretty awesome. I read the entire His Dark Materials trilogy and consider Pullman a sort of literary god. I started reading Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy a year back and never finished but not for lack of quality so much as time and a huge pile of reading I had to do at the time for other things. Somehow I never found my way back, but I know I will be eventually because it was good stuff. Anyway, that’s hardly the point. I really just wanted to post some quotes from those two emails for anyone looking for a bit of inspiration and for myself for posterity’s sake, unless I’m using the phrase wrong. And then it’s for something else entirely. So yeah…

Quotes from Philip Pullman on NaNoWriMo:

…[T]he first thing you need to remember is that a long journey can’t be treated like a sprint. Take your time…

…One of the hardest things to do with a novel is to stop writing it for a while, do something else, fulfill this engagement or that commitment or whatever, and pick it up exactly where you left it and carry on as if nothing had happened. You will have changed; the story will have drifted off course, like a sh ip when the engines stop and there’s no anchor to keep it in place; when you get back on board, you have to warm the engines up, start the great bulk of the ship moving through the water again, work out your position, check the compass bearing, steer carefully to bring it back on track … all that energy wasted on doing something that wouldn’t have been necessary at all if you’d just kept going! …

…The question authors get asked more than any other is “Where do you get your ideas from?” And we all find a way of answering which we hope isn’t arrogant or discouraging. What I usually say is “I don’t know where they come from, but I know where they come to: they come to my desk, and if I’m not there, they go away again.” That’s just another way of emphasising the importance of regular work…

…When I hit page 70 with my very first novel, I thought: I’m never going to finish this. I’ll never make it. But then stubbornness set in, and I thought: well, if I reach page 100, that’ll be something. If I get there, I reckon I can make it to the end, wherever that is. And 100 is only 30 pages away, and if I write 3 pages every day, I can get there in ten days … why don’t I just try to do that? So I did. It was a terrible novel, but I finished it…

…Every novelist I know—every novelist I’ve ever heard of—is, or was, a passionate reader. I don’t doubt that someone with determination and energy, but who didn’t read for pleasure, who only read for information, could actually write a whole novel if they set their mind to it and followed a few rules and guidelines; but would it be worth reading?…

…On the other hand, if you do love reading, if you cannot imagine going on a journey without a book in your pocket or your bag, if you fret and fidget and become uncomfortable if you’re kept away from your reading for too long, if your worst nightmare is to be marooned on a desert island without a book—then take heart: there are plenty of us like you. And if you tell a story that really engages you, we are all potential readers…

Quotes from Jonathan Stroud on NaNoWriMo:

You could write a novel about the act of writing a novel. It’s a heroic act. (Or so I tell myself as I sit here in my garret study, chewing my nails, scratching my nose and staring blankly at my screen. That’s what this is, I say grimly: a heroic act.) Why is it so heroic? Because it fits the mythic pattern of all great legendary heroes’ lives. It’s the story of a mighty quest accepted, of a long journey undertaken, of insuperable obstacles overcome and finally—in your case after 30 painful days—of lasting triumph won…

…At the beginning there’s a kind of honeymoon period, where I’m pretty excited by the idea in my head, and the possibilities it evokes. Sure there are a zillion details to be worked out later, and plenty of things that don’t yet mesh, but that’s ok—we’ve lots of time. I write the odd fragment and chuckle over the occasional piquant joke. I do a bit of research, visit museums wearing black roll-neck sweaters, scribble ideas down on napkins in coffee houses. It’s a pleasant calm before the storm…

…Then things darken a little. Time is pressing. I want to get to grips with the novel, but I haven’t a clue how. This is the ‘phony war’ period. I now apply myself seriously to work, but the trouble is that it doesn’t hold together. Scenes start promisingly but peter into nothing. Main characters turn out to have all the zest of a cardboard box abandoned in the rain. Dialogue is lousy. Description descends into wall-to-wall cliché. No fragment lasts more than two or three pages before being printed off and tossed aside. And still the real writing hasn’t begun….

…The heroic quest deteriorates into a dog chasing its tail…

…That’s why a deadline—like the one you’re working to—is such a good idea…

…I did exactly the same thing you’re doing this November, and set myself a strict schedule of pages per week to get the first draft done. In my case this worked out at about 100 pages per month for 3-4 months. Each day I kept strict records of what I achieved; each day I tottered a little nearer my goal. Five pages per working day was my aim, and sometimes I made this easily. Other times I fell woefully short. Some days I was happy with what I got down; some days I could scarcely believe the drivel that clogged up the page. But quality was not the issue right then. Quality could wait. This wasn’t the moment for genteel self-editing. This was the time when the novel had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into existence, and that meant piling up the pages….

…This is just a first draft, after all. It doesn’t have to be a perfect thing. I once met an author who claimed only to write when actively inspired. She was a fine and venerated writer, so I didn’t let my jaw loll open too widely in her presence, but I didn’t really buy her claim, and I still don’t buy it now. If ‘inspiration’ is when the words just flow out, each one falling correctly on the page, I’ve been inspired precisely once in ten years. All the rest of the time, as I’ve been piecing together my seven novels, it’s been a more or less painful effort. You write, you complete a draft in the time you’ve got, you take a rest. Then—later, when you’ve recovered a little—you reread and revise. And so it goes. And little by little the thing that started off as a heap of fragments, a twist of ideas trapped inside your head, begins to take on its own shape and identity, and becomes a living entity, separate from yourself….

…So what does my advice boil down to? Sweat blood, churn out the pages, ignore the doldrums, savour the moments when the words catch fire. Good luck with your novels. Those old legendary heroes may not have sat around like us drinking cold coffee and tapping steadily at their keypads, but for them—and for us—it’s the journey that’s the thing. That’s where the fun is.

How are your novels coming, fello NaNoWriMo-ers?

Categories
books & reading family fun

Has Anybody Seen My Willpower?

Conversation with husband last night (who was using his laptop the whole time):

Me: I decided I’m finally going to read Mayflower. I’ve had it for years now and have never read it.

DH: Uh huh.

Me: Why go to the library for new books when I have books here that I’ve never read?

DH: Ok.

Me: It actually looks very interesting. I don’t read nonfiction often enough. And with Thanksgiving coming up, it’s a very timely read, don’t you think?

DH: Mmhmmm…

Conversation with my son at the library, while returning Well of Lost Plots & In The Hand Of The Goddess:

Me: I’m just going to return these books, I won’t get new ones, because I’m reading Mayflower. If we hurry, we can still catch Elmo’s World when we get home.

MM: L, M, N, O, PPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP

Me: But I did just drive all the way over here, I aught to at least look at what’s new…

MM: ELMOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Me: I wonder if they have any of the books I’ve been thinking of reading… I could at least check.

MM: TOES!

Me: Hey look, they have the next Jasper Fforde book!

MM: BOOK!

Me: I’ll just check the young adult section real quick, okay?

MM: No.

Me: They have the next Alanna book, too…

MM: blah blah blah

Me: OH!!! They have Rumors, too! They never have Rumors, I’ll just grab these two to check out…

MM: Elmo?

Me: I probably shouldn’t get the next Fforde book, because his books take so long to read…

MM: Now I know my ABCs….

Me: But these two should be quick reads… And Rumors is NEVER in stock. I should probably jump on that.

MM: babble babble pop babble

Me: And I can always read Maylower during your naps and the other two at night…

MM: Noope!

Me: While writing a novel…

MM: ELMOOOOOOOOOOO

Me: And potty training you.

MM: I go potty?

Me: Oh well, life isn’t fun if you aren’t piling on more than humanly possible, right?

When we got home, Elmo was just ending, but I got these, so I don’t care:

And I think MM will forgive me…

Categories
books & reading reviews

Lessons From ‘The Well of Lost Plots’ by Jasper Fforde

It took me a full month to finish reading The Well of Lost Plots, book three in a Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. Usually I fly through books, so the fact that this one took me so long might mean it wasn’t very good. Might. I assure you, this wasn’t the case. The truth is, reading The Well of Lost Plots was a lot like taking a crash course on Everything You Never Knew You Didn’t Know: Dramatized.

Fforde creates his own little universe inside this series and you have to know the language to understand it all. The language, for the most part, you can learn by being a well studied English Major, but that will only get you so far. Still, even the biggest of dolts can get through this book (I’m guessing) if you are up for the challenge. Here is a small sampling of the things I learned from reading The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde:

Grade: A

  • Books are not written by authors, in the way that you would think. The ideas for a book are transmitted to the author from the Book World using an Imagino Transference Recording Device (ITRD). “The ITRD resembles a large horn (typically eight feet across and made of brass) attached to a polished mahogany mixing board a little like a church organ but with many more stops and levers. As the story is enacted in front of the collecting horn, the actions, dialouge, humor, pathos, etc., are collected, mixed and transmitted as raw data to Text Grand Central, where the wordsmiths hammer it into readable storycode. Once done, it is beamed direct to the author’s pen or typewriter, and from there through a live footnoterphone link back to the Well as plain text. the page is read, and if all is well, it is added to the manuscript and the characters move on. The beauty of the system is that authors never suspect a thing – they think they do all the work.” – chapter nine
  • Footnotes are both very useful and potentially very annoying, much like cell phones, they can be used to communicate important advice, send junk mail to the masses, or gossip with your gal pals about the Karenin’s scandalous affair.
  • Problems in grammar are often the fault of a grammasite, “a parasitic life form that feeds on grammar inside of books. Technically known as Gerunds or Ingers, they were an early attempt to transform nouns (which were plentiful) into verbs (which at the time were not) by simply attaching an ing. A dismal failure at verb resource management, they escaped from captivity and now roam freely…” Chapter 6
  • If you should happen to forget that you are pregnant and go on a drinking binge, when you remember that you are in fact pregnant, you will need a spoon.
  • Another example of a difference between our world and BookWorld is that in Book World, no two people ever speak at the same time, breakfast is almost never eaten, as it’s never mentioned in books and there are rarely two people in a given book with the same name. There are also often countless people in a book with no name or personality at all. It is sort of like walking through a movie set, with lots of Extras milling about.
  • Unlike our world, in Book World there is no TV. So when things like the Book Awards (or Bookies) come up, the main characters all go to the show, leaving behind Generics to keep the stories in order. The Generics are kept up-to-date of the Bookies via footnoterphone updates. With all the usual characters away at the Bookies, fiction isn’t quite so good, but usually nobody notices. This is often the reason people in our world argue over the quality of a recommended book. They had read it during the Bookies.

I’ll stop there. My point is, this book was brilliant. The amount of information Fforde gives, the details he thinks out, it just blows my mind. I don’t think I could hope to be doing it justice in this review except for having quoted it so much. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves literature and comedy and has the patience to sift through Fforde’s mind. The first book in this series is The Eyre Affair.

Categories
books & reading memes & carnivals reviews

What’s On Your Nightstand: October

Last month I said that I planned to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, The Well Of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde, In The Hand Of The Goddess by Tamora Pierce and Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick. When I wrote last month’s What’s On Your Nightstand almost none of the books were actually in my possession. Similarly, this month the only book on my TBR list that’s on my nightstand is the book I’m currently reading. But first let’s talk about how I fared in the last month.

  • Jane Eyre I never finished. I really wasn’t enjoying it. It was kind of depressing me and I decided that life was too short to spend reading bad literature. I wrote more on that here.
  • I just finished reading The Well of Lost Plots a couple days ago and LOVED it, but it seems like it took me forever to finish it. Fforde’s books are always so detail-rich and complex in plot that it’s not something I can devour in one sitting. You have to immerse yourself in his world and if you don’t love that world, you probably aren’t going to make it. I LOVE it though so it was well worth the effort. I think this was the best of his books that I’ve read so far. My full review is located here.
  • I am reading In The Hand Of The Goddess right now and liking it a great deal. It’s picking up much quicker than Alanna: The First Adventure did and so it took me no time at all to get hooked on the story. I’m becoming a big fan of Tamora Pierce as well.
  • I hope I read Mayflower this year. I’ve had it for awhile but keep putting off reading it for various reasons but it does look good and it seems like it would be a good book for the fall, but it’s hard to stay committed when I also want to read….

Books To Read Soon

  • American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld – I’m hoping to read this next month at some point
  • Tale of Despereaux by Katie DeCamillo – the movie is coming out soon and I want to read the book before I break down and see the movie (which you know I will)
  • Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde – Book number 4 in the Thursday Next series, I swear it’s like crack.
  • Rumors by Anna Godberson – follow up to The Luxe, I’ve been wanting to read this for ages, but the library never seems to have it in stock and of course there are always other books that I want to read, too.
  • How To Teach Filthy Rich Girls by Zoey Dean – this book has gotten a few bad reviews, but I know it’s one that I’ll need to read for myself or I’ll never be able to let it go, you know?

What’s on YOUR nightstand? Have you blogged about it and linked up @ 5 Minutes For Books yet?

Categories
books & reading memes & carnivals

Aloha Friday: What Are You Reading?

It’s time for another Aloha Friday, the day that you take it easy and look forward to the weekend, in Hawaii and blogland anyway. As you should know by now, over at An Island Life, Kailani decided that on Fridays she would take it easy on posting and ask a simple question for you to answer. Nothing that requires a lengthy response.

If you’d like to participate, just post your own question on your blog and leave your link at An Island Life’s blog. Don’t forget to visit the other participants! It’s a great way to make new bloggy friends!

So this week, I want to know…

What book are you reading right now? Is it GOOD?
If you aren’t reading anything, what would you like to be reading?

To answer my own question, right now I’m reading The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde. I’ve been reading it for two or three weeks right now. Fforde books always take me awhile because the plots are packed and intense and full of detail, but in an amazing way. The book, which is third in a series which begins with The Eyre Affair, takes place largely in a fictional world, that is, in a world inside of fiction. Where books are taken very seriously because they live inside of them. There is a whole government in this world responsible for the caring and maintaining of literature from the inside and it appears that books are written here, rather than by the author, as one might expect. So there are all these amazing little gems about the jurisfiction agents working to keep things running smoothly, and it’s absurd and brilliant and… well just wonderful.

Last night I read a paragraph that looked like this:

“Take the first had had and that that in the book by way of example,” explained Lady Cavendish, “You would have thought that that first had had had had good occasion to be seen as had, had you not? Had had had approval but had had had not; equally it is true to say that that that that had had approval but that that other that that had not.”

So I’m thinking you can understand why it’s taking me awhile to finish this, but still LOVING it. And I normally read before bed, when of course, I’m the most tired, so I rarely get more than a chapter in in one night. 🙂

Categories
books & reading memes & carnivals

BTT: A Couple Of My Favorite Couples

This week’s Booking Through Thursday question is:

Name a favorite literary couple and tell me why they are a favorite. If you cannot choose just one, that is okay too. Name as many as you like–sometimes narrowing down a list can be extremely difficult and painful. Or maybe that’s just me.

Well obviously I have a couple of couples in mind. The first which comes to mind is Scarlett & Rhett from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind:

They are like my classic favorite. Their love is absurd and messy and real. They aren’t perfect, they don’t get it right, but it doesn’t make their love any less intense and brilliant and wonderful. The other favorite from classics would be Lizzy Bennet and the infamous Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice:

It takes these two a while to realize they are perfect for each other but the chemistry is obvious. Two people so similar but in varying ways, you can see how it took them so long to get their acts together but gah.

A less classic literary “couple” I adore would be the couple-triangle of Stephanie Plum, Joe Morelli & Ranger in Janet Evanovich’s Plum series. Their love story never gets old, thank goodness. Fourteen books in and I’m still hooked on them, still unsure myself which “bad” boy Stephanie should end up with although I think we all know… It’s just the other one is so…

Who are your favorite literary couples?

Categories
books & reading reviews

Kids’ Picks: Grumpy Frumpy! Happy Snappy!

My son hasn’t gotten into too many new books since last month’s kids picks a great book carnival @ 5 Minutes For Books EXCEPT this little gem that I picked up at Target in the $1 bin…

He immediately seemed to know that these little guys were “monsters” in a big scary silly voice, though I’m not sure where he learned about monsters in the first place, it’s hilarious to hear him read this. I guess that means it’s hilarious to hear ME read this, since I read it to him first and he now imitates me, but the cool thing is he seems to remember each page, each voice and I think he really gets the idea of the opposites on these pages. Here’s an example from MM The Future Hand Model…

He loves to turn the book upside down on THIS page to show me how it works – how did he figure this out because I’m pretty sure I didn’t teach him that, much like I didn’t teach him his ABCs. This genius little two year old seriously taught himself. I honed it all in, but really, he was the mastermind there. And here. I’m so proud… sniff…

This book is awesome and a short quick read and so fun to make silly voices with. Did I mention it was a DOLLAR?

I’m trying really hard not to show you every page because there must be some copyright thing against that but all the pages are so adorable and my son just LOOOOOVES this book. Here’s him showing you what a grumpy frumpy looks like…

Sort of… He kind of smirked right when I took the picture but trust me, he was Grumpy Frumpy at it’s finest.

What books is your kid reading this month? If you blog about it, make sure to link up here, and also let me know in the comments section!

Categories
books & reading

Do You NaNoWriMo?

So is anyone else planning to write a novel next month? Have you ever tried? I’ve “tried” but have yet to finish. But I’ve always been in college during previous attempts and did you know there are a lot of big exams in November? In hindsight it wasn’t my best idea. Or I’m the hugest procrastinator and excuse maker ever. One of those.

But so I’ve had this story idea flitting through my head since like um a year ago. It’s changed about eighty gazillion times since then so that if I told you about the first version and the current version you probably wouldn’t believe me when I told you they were related. Maybe I’m only pretending they’re related. But if I don’t start writing soon I don’t think I ever will and what’s left of this story might disappear altogether.

The nice thing about letting it flit through for the past year is that I think I have the core of this story down. I’m not going to “forget” it just yet because I’ve been thinking about it on and off for a year now. Maybe that means this is the “one” – that soon I’ll be the next Stephenie Meyer or Libba Bray or Janet Evanovich or whatever? People will KNOW my NAME and I’ll probably need to start a new blog or start mentioning who I am on this blog. Because I’ll be famous. All thanks to NaNoWriMo.

Or at least, I’ll have fun this month pulling my hair out and trying to do something productive for myself for a month and pretend that my English Degree really does mean something now because, “Look, I’m writing a novel!”

I’ll post the details of my story at some point maybe. I have this weird fear that someone will steal my idea like it’s really that brilliant. So maybe I’ll just include a word count or something or a sentence snippet until it’s done and copyrighted?

Anyone else doing the NaNoWriMo? What are you writing about? Wanna be my writing buddy?

Categories
books & reading reviews

Children’s Classics: Newbery Medal Favorites

The big topic at 5 Minutes for Books this week is Newbery Medal winners. Have you read many of the books that have won a Newbery Medal? Do awards influence which books you will or won’t read? I think for the more official awards like the Newbery or Caldecott – or even the NYT bestsellers, having that recognition would definitely influence me to read a book if I’d maybe been the fence about whether or not to read it, whereas I’ve on occasion opted not to read a book if say, Oprah has it on her book list. Some hype is worthy, some not so much.

I’ve read a good handful of the Newbery award winners, some of which are high up there on my favorite books from when I was a kid. Here are some of my favorite Newbery Award winners:

If I were to make a list of my favorite books from that time period of my life, this would likely be it, so I’d definitely recommend any of them to a young reader or an older reader. I’d be extremely excited if my children chose to read these books someday and may read them again just to brush up on the classics.

Are any of your favorite children’s books a Newbery Medal winner?