Monday, February 28, 2011

I want YOU! Also, a writing goal

ETA (03/04/11): And the third lovely guest blogger has made an appearance. Yay!
ETA (03/03/11): I have two lovely guest bloggers and would love to see a third! Any volunteers?

I've decided to tell you guys my secret goal in the hopes that if/when I fail, you will rain the hate down so hard that I will cower and cry beneath your missiles of disappointment. Umm, yes. A few other people already know, but I figured it was time to lay on some more accountability. Here it is:

I'm going to finish the rough draft my WIP by March 7th.

Oh, the shudders of horror and dismay are racing down my spine. I may only have two/three chapters and 15,000 words left, but they are a nightmare in the making. Let's just leave it at that.

Why am I setting this goal then? Two reasons: 1) so I get my butt into gear and actually finish, and 2) I will be taking a writing vacation starting March 8th whether I want to or not. I also figured that finishing the WIP, instead of leaving a hanging chapter, was a better choice.

For those who are curious, on March 8th I'm off to the illustrious Butte, MT for a viewing of Avenue Q. Early the next morning I will be driving to Portland, OR with Boyfriend for a several days of exciting, exciting apartment hunting. Woo hoo.

Which brings me to my next point. Would anyone like to be a guest blogger for Squidink? I'm looking for 2-3 guest posts that are amusing, witty, and about writing. The perks? Free promo! You will get a cute bio featuring your picture (if you so desire) and a link to your own blog.
And Uncle Sam wants you to do it. Really.
If you're interested, send me a quick email at squidinksarah (ât) gmail (døt) com. But just a heads up, the deadline for any guest posts would be March 6th. I'll update this post with further news if/when the slots are filled.

Anyway, do you guys have any ridiculous goals? Do they make you want to curl up in a ball and cry until your manuscript starts writing itself? Or do you thrive under the threat of deadline? Tell me your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sailor Moon is the reason I write

Everyone has an origin story. A while ago I promised that I would tell you mine. And excitingly enough, it actually involved super heroes. What super heroes, you ask? These ones:
Sailor Mars and Jupiter were totally my favorites, btw.
Yes, Sailor Moon is what did me in. Teenage girls with short skirts, super powers, and the responsibility of keeping the world safe from evil.

Let me explain.

First of all, you need to understand that Sailor Moon was my First Great Obsession. A lot of things in my life can be attributed to Sailor Moon. Yes, I loved the Power Rangers to previously described extremes, but Sailor Moon was different. Sailor Moon changed my life.

Yeah, this sounds a little pathetic, but it's true. Sailor Moon has the honor of being the first animated series I'd seen with an over-arcing plot, and that made my young, pre-teen mind explode.

I became interested in computers because I could go to Sailor Moon fansites. I then learned HTML and made my own semi-popular Sailor Moon fansite. I began to read comic books (starting with Sailor Moon and branching outward) and then I fell down the slippery slope to anime geekdom. Drawing became an official hobby, and I filled sketchbooks with horrible Sailor Moon doodles. I started to realize that a lot of stuff from Asia is really cool, which eventually led to friendships and expanded horizons and all sorts of nifty stuff. The most important thing though, is that my obsession with Sailor Moon turned to fanfiction.

I wanted to write fanfiction. And I did. It was melodramatic, it was overwrought, and thankfully it never saw the light of day. The reason it lives in a cold, abandoned corner on my harddrive, is that I realized something: why write fanfiction for Sailor Moon when I could write something entirely of my own?

That thought was the beginning. That thought spurned a dozen stories and thousands of words. Even though I kept writing fanfiction, I started to cultivate my own ideas, and eventually it got me here. Now I'm working on writing for a living. And I can blame it all on Sailor Moon.

So, tell me, why do you write? Can you chase your origins down to a classic, children's television show? Or is your reasoning something a little more respectable? Have you always known you wanted to write? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Music can psyche you up

So, lately I've been freaking out about Florence + The Machine. There's just something about Florence Welch's voice that melts my bones. I mean, just listen to Drumming Song. There's no rhyme or reason to it, but that song reminds me so much of my WIP.

A lot of songs remind me of my WIP though. I kind of have it on the brain at all times. But I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. Writers in general like to find songs that fit their stories, be it because of the lyrics or the mood of the music. Some writers stick to soundtracks because they find vocals distracting, and others need the passion of a voice.

While I adore soundtracks, I usually write to angry rock music. Despite being a semi-epic fantasy, my current WIP has been primarily composed to the dulcet tones of The OffspringRedFlyleaf, and Shinedown. And yes, I have been asked how I can focus on writing with angry rock music playing in the background. Do I have an answer to this question? Not really.

But music is important though. It  can set a mental mood or propel you through a difficult scene. In fact, if you don't write to music, it might be a good idea to start.

Why? Well, if you start listening to specific song while writing, that music will become a kind of trigger: your brain will start associating it with your writing, which is kind of awesome. That way, if you want to pump yourself up for the work to come, you can do all sorts of things while listening to your soundtrack. Cook breakfast, clean your house, buy groceries--all while prepping your brain for writing! Then, when it's time to sit down, you're already in the zone!

So what kind of music do you write to? Instrumental? Angry rock? Florence + The Machine? By some strange coincidence do we write to the same music?! Or do you think I'm insane? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Writerly Tools: Mac vs PC

A little over a year ago I was in dire need of a new laptop. My poor 17" Toshiba Satellite was dying a slow, miserable death and I needed something to write and do schoolwork on.

Because I'm a computer buff, my computer shopping revolved around on the specs--specifically the processing power offered in the 12-13" laptop range. This led me to the the 2009 13" MacBook Pro.

Being a lifelong PC user that was forced to use Macs in school, I was not particularly enthused about this. Sure, Macs were supposed to be awesome, but I had vivid memories of hating OS 9. And no one likes change.

There was also the fact that after my graduation, this was going to be my writing computer. Probably for a long time. So I did a search on the internet for the types of computers that writers use. What kind of computer is better for writing: Mac or PC? Unfortunately, the internet failed in this regard, since all I found were angry forum posts.

Now I was fortunate enough that circumstances worked in my favor. I had a roommate with a MacBook I could dink around with. I copyedited for a newspaper that ran solely on iMacs. I could base my ultimate computer decision on actually using the OS X operating system.

However, not everyone has these perks. This is why this post exists. Writers need to know: if you're looking for a new computer, which is better, Mac or PC? Well, friends, it doesn't make a difference.


I've used both Macs and PCs and I can safely say that they're both pretty awesome. No lie! They each have their goods and bads, of course, but whether one is better or not is all subjective. I may own a Mac, but I still run Windows 7 on Bootcamp because I like having the best of both worlds!

But since that reassurance isn't really helpful, I'm going to give you guys five reasons why writing on a Mac is awesome and five reasons why writing on a PC is just as awesome*. Enjoy:

  1. Scrivener
    I know, I know, I've already spazzed about this. I also know about the sexy, new Scrivener beta for the PC and that soon, everyone will have Scrivener. But right now, the Mac version is king.
  2. Spaces
    Spaces is a program that simulates multiple desktops. This way, if you want to have a desktop dedicated to writing and one to everything else, you can separate work from play.
  3. Dashboard
    This is basically an overlay of programs called widgets that can be pulled down at any time. If you need to quickly reference a dictionary or thesaurus, this is the way to do it.
  4. Backlit Keyboard
    The keyboard of the newer MacBooks has a sensor that detects when it's getting dark and automatically lights your keyboard.
  5. Battery Life
    If you want to go to a coffee shop and leave the power cord at home, you can. MacBooks can go for hours and you don't need to go into any "power saving mode."
  1. Microsoft Word
    The industry standard in publishing is Word files with Track Changes turned on. And I know, there's Word for Mac too, but frankly, Microsoft gives so much more love to the PC version.
  2. Software Variety
    If there is an obscure piece of writing software that you like to use, it most likely is PC-only program. And there are dozens of these products in existence.
  3. Full Keyboard
    As writers we type a lot. PC keyboards consistently have all of the buttons you need without having to figure out shortcuts to do simple things like delete instead of backspace.
  4. Aero Snap
    If you want to work with several documents or programs side-by-side, Snap is crazy awesome, gets the job gone and comes with Windows 7.
  5. Compatibility
    Windows works with everything. You need to back up your file to a hard drive or you just bought a shiny, new printer? Windows will always make it work.

* - My thoughts are based on the following: 1) I wrote on a Toshiba 17" Satellite laptop with Windows XP for years, and 2) I currently write on a 13" MacBook Pro with OS X Snow Leopard and Windows 7 on Bootcamp.

Now what do you guys think? Did I miss any glaring, fantastic features? Do you use a Mac or PC? Why? Tell me in the comments!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Be brave and write dangerously

Let me tell you about the best test I ever took in college.

It was the final for my fantasy literature class. This class sounds better than it really was. Our teacher was a quirky old man that looked like Colonel Sanders and couldn't stay on topic for the life of him. Normally students like teachers that don't stay off-topic. This was eighty minutes of rambling hell. When it was nearing finals week, I was actually kind of worried because we rarely talked about fantasy literature and all Colonel Sanders did was tell us that he rarely gave high grades.

Test day came. We sat at our desks with pens and blue books, waiting for inevitable doom. The prompt was handed out and it went something like this:
Write a thoughtful, multi-page answer to one of two following questions. One choice is safe, the other is dangerous. 
  1. "Fancy quote about fantasy writing reflecting reality" according to Ursula le Guin. Support this claim using at least three works we've read over the semester. 
  2. Write the beginning of a fantasy story. Make sure to follow the conventions we've been talking about all semester. It must take place in one of the following locations:
    • Billings, MT (the "magic" city)
    • A farmland
    • Two other places I don't remember
I just remember sitting in my desk, watching as everyone else in class immediately started jotting things down in their blue books. Apparently they didn't need any time to make a decision.

At first, I almost answered the first question. But then I remembered something: I was a creative writing major. If there was anyone in this class of literature people that could write the beginning of a fantasy story, it was me. Sure, the other prompt was definitely the safe one, but if I had to be stuck in that room for two hours writing something, I was going to be writing something fun.

Everyone I talked to after class chose the first essay question. Even my fellow creative writing majors. Apparently I was the only one brave, or stupid, enough to take the plunge.

In the end, I got an A in the class. Some of those other people didn't.

Can you guess what the moral of this story is? One choice is safe, the other is dangerous. Sometimes we need to pick the scary choices, even if they don't seem like a good idea at the time.

Everyone in that class could write a decent answer to the first essay question. A lot of writers can write a candy coated fantasy with teen girls looking for love and elements of Harry Potter. Sure, it's not original, but it's trendy and might get you published.

Maybe it's hard to be brave enough to make something new and edgy. But you should do it anyway because your work will suffer if you don't. Don't make yourself write something because you think someone else will like it better. Write the things you want to write. Have fun! The next time you're dipping into cliche, challenge yourself. Cliches are all about being safe, but if you break away the walls, you can find something fresh.

Have you ever made the dangerous choice? Was it in your writing, or just in life? What were the stakes? Tell me your story in the comments.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

YA lit and first person narrative

I've noticed a trend lately. There's a good chance you've noticed it too if you read YA literature. It doesn't matter the genre really, this trend seems to fit any category. And no, it's not vampires.

It's first person narrative.

I suppose I should back up for the possibility that some of you have no idea what I'm talking about. Quick rundown time! First person, second person, and third person are the three basic types of point-of-view narration in writing. Here are the differences:

First Person: I like squid because they are cute.
Second Person: You like squid because they are cute.
Third Person: Sarah likes squid because they are cute.
I dare you to say Mr. Bobtail Squid isn't cute.
Now for some real life application: First person takes place in the head of a character. Second person is generally limited to Choose Your Own Adventure novels and instruction pamphlets. Third person is outside of a character's head and can take the form of a narrator. Ultimately, first person is really intimate, second person pulls the reader into the action, and third person can zoom in and out of narrative focus.

Now let's get back to what I was saying.

I don't have anything against first person narrative, but it's starting to feel like whenever I pick up a new YA book, it's always in first person! Maybe it's because it's so easy for people to relate to something written in first person, or maybe it's because all of the current writers happen to really like first person. Either way, first person narratives are really popular right now and I'm curious about the whys of the matter.

Personally, I've always felt that third person has a delightful flexibility. First person is fun to read and write too, but I usually stick to third. Which is maybe why this whole first person narrative explosion is confusing to me. I'm biased. So I'm turning the question to you guys.

Are you partial to the first, second, or third person narrative? Is one better than the other? Why? Do you like to write in one and read in another? Or doesn't it make a difference? Please tell me in the comments.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Follower Love Giveaway Hop winner!

Today is Valentine's Day. The Day of Lurve. As promised, this is also the day of contest winner announcement goodness. Which contest? This one:
Because I still love all of you. To death.
Unfortunately, if you haven't entered by now, you're out of luck. Sorry! Maybe next time? Either way, I've had a really fun time talking with all of you, so thanks for participating. I hope some of you decide to stick around when I'm not flaunting a contest in your face. Either way, I still love and adore you all. In fact, this is how I feel about you:

Right. Enough squishiness. It's winner announcing time!

Congratulations to Marian! You've been chosen by to win a $10 book from The Book Depository. Woo! You have 48 hours to respond to my email or I'll be drawing a new winner, okay?

Well, that's all for today, but because it would be terribly inappropriate to post on Valentine's Day without a shout out to my honey bunches:

Dear Boyfriend,
I heart you a lot.
You are magical like rainbows and butterflies.
Let's go eat chocolate together.
We are chocolate warriors, yo.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Attack of squidzilla

I don't have a good post for you today. Usually I write them the night before, but things really didn't work out that well, so I apologize. However, I've realized that despite this blog being called Squidink, I have yet to regale you guys with anything squid-ish. Thus, friends, I bring you the glory that is deep sea squid. If nothing else, you should find them pretty darn nifty:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My cat could be your super villain

Sometimes the craziest things happen when you least expect them . . . aka, when you're sleeping. For those of you who were following me on Twitter a few days ago, you might have found something entertaining in your early morning feed. For those of you that missed it, a quick rundown:

Yes, my cat was dive-bombing headfirst into furniture while playing with a mouse, which was screaming for its life as she flung it into the air. I love cats, but the next time you want to write a good villain, go watch a cat play with a mouse for a while--they're sadistic little fuzzballs.

In fact, animals in general are great to observe when you need help developing a character. Kinda sounds ridiculous, huh? Why not just watch a movie or read a book and observe on those characterizations?

Well, the emotions of animals are often expressed in the extreme.

When your dog is afraid of being left alone and accidentally locks himself in a room, he'll freak out and dig through the sheetrock (the dog was fine, btw). When your prissy cat refuses to drink water out of her bowl, she'll show up every time you go to the bathroom in hopes that you run the tapwater for her (this is a different cat).

They may be a little melodramatic, but these kinds of behaviors are fantastic. They're raw and primal and sometimes that's what a writer needs when trying to flesh out a character. Like animals, people don't always act according to logic, they act according to how they feel.

So next time your characters feel a little flat, channel your pets. Go visit a friend with a dog and watch how he reacts to things. Remember my cat as a super villain: she tortures the hero until he thinks all is lost, but somehow, in the end, he survived to fight another day.

What about you guys--any interesting pet stories? Have cats left you fleshy goodies on your front porch? Have you ever transported a dead llama? Tell me in the comments!

Oh, and if you haven't done so already, go enter my giveaway!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Follower Love Giveaway Hop! (CLOSED!)

(ETA 02/14/10 EST): Alright guys, the contest is officially over. Thanks so much to everyone for entering. Stick around because I'll be announcing the winner later today!

Hosted by the illustrious I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and facilitated by darling Brenna over at Writing and Reading, I bring you Squidink's first book giveaway. Yay!
Because I love you. To death.
As you can see in the picture, this blog hop giveaway will last from 12:01 AM February 8th to 11:59 PM February 13th EST. On February 14th, the Day of Lurve, a winner will be chosen by

What, you all ask, will this winner get? Said winner will receive whatever $10 book they want from The Book Depository! The only stipulation is that your book of choice cost $10 or less (duh) and that The Book Depository delivers to your country (which I hope it does).

I know you're all slavering at the bit now. How do you enter to win? Let me tell you!

Mandatory Entry:
  • +1 if you follow my blog with Google Friend Connect and leave a comment telling me the best way to get a hold of you (ie: email address).
Optional Entries:
  • +1 if you follow me on twitter (@squidinksarah) and inform me in your comment.
  • +1 if you were following Squidink before this giveaway (because it's a "follower love" giveaway).

That's pretty easy right? Regular posts will be up between now and the 14th, but until then, I wish all of you entrants the best of luck. Oh, and also, below are the lovely links to the rest of the book hop participants, so feel free to check them out!

Writerly Tools: JustNotes

Wow, it's been a while since we've done one of these, eh?

Now, I don't know about all of you, but I'm a bit obsessed about organizing things. In fact, I've been known to spend hours in programs like Picasa trying to make things pretty. My brain just likes everything in its place. So for a long time I struggled with how to organize story ideas. That is, until I stumbled upon selfcoded's JustNotes.

I've used Notepad. I've used Evernote. I've used Scrivener's scratch pad. All of these are good alternatives, but none of them had the organization or simplicity I wanted. And maybe JustNotes isn't for you. To each their own right?

Either way, JustNotes has filled a niche that I've been struggling with for quite a while. Maybe you'll like it, maybe you won't. But let me give you guys five reasons why JustNotes is my new favorite program:
  1. JustNotes is simple
    I few weeks ago I recommended Evernote to you guys because it has so many options for organization. JustNotes is the exact opposite. The user interface is clean and there aren't so many buttons that it's crowding everything out. JustNotes is as it sounds: just about notes.
  2. JustNotes syncs with Simplenote
    I adore things that sync online. The Simplenote service is cool because it's a note storage system that works with dozens of compatible programs, so your ideas are accessible in multiple environments. JustNotes happens to be work with Simplenote, and if you end up disliking JustNotes, there are dozens of other compatible programs available.
  3. JustNotes has a small footprint
    The footprint of a program is how much of an effect it has on your computer. In this case, JustNotes uses barely any CPU when open and the dock icon can be disabled. My version is currently confined to the menu bar, so even though JustNotes is always there, it stays out of my way when I don't need it.
  4. JustNotes has just enough organization
    Unlike Evernote's system of notebooks, JustNotes uses tags, which are easily searchable. Also, there aren't five thousand text editing options--you're limited to what's on your keyboard. It sounds limiting, but it's great if you just want to jot down quick notes.
  5. JustNotes makes it easy to share things
    Say you draft up a blog post in JustNotes and want to email it to someone before posting it on your site. All you have to do is press Command+Shift+M and JustNotes will copy the selected note and paste it in your email program of choice. Maybe it's frivolous, but it's cool too and makes sharing things convinent.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Why writing friends are so necessary

Writers need to talk to other writers about writing.

I realize this sounds like stupid advice. No, really I do. But it's important and I tend to forget it a lot.

Now, I know I'm not the most active person on the net (it's my inner lurker qualities rearing their ugly heads), but it's not like I'm silent. I make small talk with people on twitter and I comment on blogs. But I'm still pretty new to the online writing community, so it's not like I have too many friends. Also, blogs and twitter are not the same as a private convo on messenger or a phone call with a critique partner.

More intimate conversations with other writers are awesome. You can commiserate. You can be a cheerleader. You can compare word counts. You can snap someone out of a funk.

On the other hand, trying to talk to people in your life who aren't writers about writing is kind of frustrating at times. Mostly because there's no common experience to draw from. Without realizing it, I've been trying to do this recently. It hasn't been going well.

But last night I had the joy of chatting with my one critique partner and it was wonderous. So let me tell you everyone, that talking to writers about writing is amazing. Here are five reasons why:
  1. Writers get that locking yourself up in your room and staring at a computer screen for hours sucks.
  2. Writers understand the "I SUCK" emotion and don't attribute it to the idea that you're looking for attention.
  3. Writers are a bit more justified in telling you to suck it up and write 4000 words tomorrow when you really, really don't want to.
  4. Writers would point out that you've used the word "suck" in the last three points and that it doesn't mean you're a horrible writer. Really. It doesn't
  5. Writers also understand that sitting down and typing is easy, but sitting down and typing something good (aka: not using "suck" in evert sentence) is hard.
Have you ever tried to talk up writing to someone that isn't a writer? Did they care? Did they understand your trauma? What about your critique partners? Or is there really no difference at all for you? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

January Book Roundup

 And now it's time for a special, beginning of the month post!

While I love discussing books with people, I'm not big on writing reviews. There's no ebb and flow to book reviews and it feels a little like I'm committing myself to one opinion. Actually, I'm not big on reading reviews either, generally because I'd rather read the book and debate opinions with you than have you throw them at me.

But at the same time, I want to tell you people what I've been reading. Maybe, somehow, I'll help you find your next favorite series. Maybe we have the same tastes and can recommend things to each other, yeah?

So a compromise. Short reviews. Once a month. Twitter-style. 140 characters or less, baby!

ETA (03/02/11): I used to do five star ratings, but I got rid of them because I don't like how arbitrary they are. However, my favorite books of the month are now marked with a star ().

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
YA Contemporary--Contemporary teen romance that's both fresh and daring. Loved how it deals with female body image issues in a realistic light. 

Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
YA Anthology--Short story collections are hit-and-miss, but this one's a winner. Debates what's better: zombies or unicorns. Team Zombie FTW. 

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
YA Urban Fantasy--Little Red Riding Hood revisited. With hunting. A bit aimless at first, but the striking personalities of the two sisters make up for it.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
YA Post-apocalyptic--A serious zombie apocalypse. First 100 pages a little difficult to sink into, but deadly gorgeous world-building pushed me through.

Mystery--Third Jackson Brodie book. As always, Atkinson's prose and characters are luscious, but too much darkness in the end for my liking.

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
YA Urban Fantasy--Third of the Mortal Instruments. I completely adore Clare's characters and after all of the build-up and drama, such a satisfying ending! 

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
YA Post-apocalyptic--More on the zombie apocalypse. Holy crap loved the character development and continued world-building. Cannot wait for the third book! 

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
YA Historical Fantasy--First of The Infernal Devices. Started off slow, but got better halfway through. Yay for intriguing characters and abundant steampunk elements.

Did you read any of these books this month . . . or did you read them months ago when they first came out? What did you read? Anything good? Tell me in the comments!