Friday, July 29, 2011

The bookish wardrobe of my dreams

Okay, so I don't know about you people, but I've always wanted writerly clothing. Or rather, not necessarily writerly, but bookish. It seems like if I'm going to be scrubbed out while writing, I might as well have a snarky t-shirt on, you know?

So I've been collecting shirts in my Amazon wish list, secretly plotting the day that I might be able to actually buy one of them. Then I shall flaunt them and feel particularly writerly in the process. But until then, I thought I'd share them with you guys, 'cause they are kind nifty.

Yeah, they're totally rocking and you know it.
  • Writer's Block . . .
    Now, I'm not the biggest proponent of writer's block or the idea that it even exists, but this shirt is simple and darkly funny. And I like funny things. Conveniently it comes in about a thousand different sizes and styles too.
  • Read, Read, Read
    This shirt is fun, playful, and has cats with books. I'm shallow because I love cats and books, so seeing them together is pretty much a win. Also, it's an public service announcement on your chest, because what writer doesn't want people to read?
  • Attack of Literary!
    Vintage comic books covers. Classic authors. What more could anyone want in a t-shirt? Oh, that's right. A ZOMBIE ATTACK. This shirt is delightfully tongue-in-cheek and I love it. <3
  • Keep Calm and Write On
    Sure, it's a t-shirt based on an internet meme, but it basically says "suck it up" in a lovely, WWII Britain manner. Also, you can get it with pajama pants. There's nothing better than a writing shirt that comes with pajama pants. Seriously.
  • Why is an Owl Smart?
    Because he reads books! I love the subtly of this shirt--at first it looks like a normal forest, but then the shelves come into view and it all makes sense. And besides, who doesn't love an owl reading a book? No one.
That's a pretty sweet collection of t-shirts, yeah? Of course, now I'm pretty sure that someone's going to tell me they already own all of my dream clothing, but I suppose I can forgive. Maybe. Either way, what do you guys think? Do you have any writerly/bookish dream purchases? Tell me about them in the comments.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Editing Pyramid

As some of you may already know, I've been revising as of late. Editing and me? We're like this. *crosses fingers together* Yeah. So, in celebration, I thought I'd talk about the different types of editing and what I think of as the Editing Pyramid.
Harken, the mighty Pyramid of Editing
Yeah, I know. That's a rocking graphic there. Anyway, it reads like most pyramid-shaped diagrams, but let me get into the nitty-gritty of the different types of edits, so you can understand it even better.

Global Edits
  • What are they?
    These are the major edits. I'm talking the kind of edits where you realize where you need to kill off a major character during the mid-story climax. Or re-write the entire story from a different character's POV. Global edits are exactly what they sound like: large edits that will affect your entire manuscript.
  • How do I approach them?
    Critique partners are awesome for ideas when it comes to global edits, but you can always tackle them on your own. I like to re-read my entire manuscript and take notes on what plot points do and don't work. Then it's all about shifting through your work and applying those changes.
Line Edits
  • What are they?
    Ever heard about the writer that stared a sentence for hours, trying to figure out whether to use one adjective or the other? Or the writer who re-wrote the same paragraph three different ways? Well that's what line edits are all about: making all the little parts of manuscript beautiful.
  • How do I approach them?
    Line edits can be a bit time consuming, but that's not a bad thing. Read your writing, and then read it again. Read it out loud for flow. Question the voices of your characters and be picky about your verbs. Remove superfluous words like "that" and "just." Pretend you're weeding a garden and keep yanking until you can't find anything else to pull.
Copyedits
  • What are they?
    This is where we focus our editing laser eye-beams and pick out the tiniest errors. You know how you've been misspelling "soldiers" as "soliders" for the entire manuscript? Not to mention the fact that every day of your book is Friday and your love interest's shirt keeps changing color. That's what copyedits do: catch all of the minor mistakes.
  • How do I approach them?
    Read your manuscript and pick out as many typos and inconsistencies as you can. Then get someone else to read your manuscript and beg them to stare it down. Try reading aloud and see if you stumble over anything glaringly wrong. Copyedits are slippery beasts.

So there you go, the three basic types of editing: global, line, and copy. Does that pyramid make more sense now? It's all about scope. Global edits affect your entire manuscript, line edits focus on small chunks of it, and copyedits are super tiny changes.

Now, I'm partial to line editing (obsessive about verbs? not me . . .), but what about you guys? Have you gone through all three types of editing and do you have a favorite? Or is there a fourth branch of editing that I've completely spaced on? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, July 25, 2011

What do you think I should blog about?

So, blogging rocks. It's a nice way to subject you guys to my thoughts. And chat of course. Because that's always good. However, as of late, I've had a lot of trouble coming up with post ideas that seem interesting.

Seriously. I feel like the bag post is the ultimate low. But let's not talk about that.

Now, at this point some people might take a blogging break. But I'm afraid if I stray from my 3-posts-a-week schedule, then I'll just stop posting. Not because I don't like blogging (because, you know, I actually do like it), but because I'm lazy. Really. Those people that blog everyday? I secretly think they're crazy. Well, maybe intimidating is more the right word.

I guess what I'm really wondering is what you guys do when you can't think of anything to blog about? Do you agonize at your computer for hours or do you do other things until inspiration strikes? And what kinds of posts do you find interesting to read anyway? I'd love some feedback, so give me a heads up in the comments.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How should we rec books?

So, Brenna Braaten and I were at the bookstore the other day, when something kinda entertaining happened.

But let's set the scene. Teen book section. Lots of glossy, delightful covers. A table stacked full of books. Supernaturally on display, despite the fact that it was a few days before the official release. There was also a couple wandering the aisles, looking confused.

It turns out that they were trying to find a book for a 12-year-old girl who loves to read. And they didn't really know where to start. So they asked us. Because somehow we looked reliable. Or something.

I found the whole thing kind of hilarious, especially considering the whole WSJ drama of late. Of course, there was a happy ending to this story. We suggested a bunch of different books and the couple seemed super happy with our wealth of knowledge on the matter.

But unfortunately, not everyone has access to a pair of aspiring authors in their local bookstore. And not everyone has perused the book blogs or goes to the library or has someone to make appropriate suggestions.

So how do you guys think we can go about recommending books for teens? Or, more generally, to people that don't usually read? How can we make it easier to help people find something worth their time? And what about a rating system--should we implement something similar to the manga rating system for all books? Tell me what you think in the comments.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The quote-identifying game

As some of you may already know, I'm an English major. So I've had the pleasure of reading a lot of classic literature over the years. While a lot of that knowledge has melted away into the ether, I've also retained a surprising amount. And that knowledge has now reared its head in a bizarre way.

Enter the Barnes and Noble Quotes tote bag:
This is the green variation!
Anyone's that has shopped at Barnes and Noble is somewhat familiar with this tote bag. How so? Well, it's along the same lines as their classic, green shopping bags--lots of text. And if you've ever looked closely enough, you might have noticed that the text is actually various book quotes.

This week I've learned that I can identify roughly 97% of these quotes. Without looking them up. It's somehow pathetic and exciting at the same time.

So I guess what I'm wondering of you guys is this: can any of you identify these quotes? Have you ever played the quote-identifying game (oh yeah, I'm super lame) in Barnes and Noble? Or do you just think I'm crazy? Tell me what you think in the comments . . . and I dare you to get some of the quotes too!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Writerly Tools: NetNewsWire

Today I'm going to get all technical on you guys. Ready to learn about RSS feeds?

An RSS feed is the syndicated version of a website. RSS actually stands for Real Simple Syndication. Every blog has one, whether it's hosted on Blogger, Wordpress, Livejournal, or elsewhere. Even micro-blogs like Twitter and Tumblr have RSS feeds. The one for Squidink looks something like this.

By this point you're all thinking that this is good and dandy, but what's my point? Who cares? Why am I throwing all of this computer mumbo jumbo in your direction anyway?

Well, RSS feeds are cool because they update when a website posts new information. Instead of visiting specific websites multiple times a week, you can pay attention to their RSS feeds. And if you have something called an RSS aggregator, well, you can store all those feeds in one place. And then everything gets easy and convenient.

Today I'm going to tell you about one of these RSS aggregators, a program by Black Pixel that's called NetNewsWire. Instead of visiting a bunch of websites each day, I let NetNewsWire do the work and display the information for me. Not only can I keep tabs on dozens of writing and publishing blogs, but I can also watch for updates of my favorite webcomics--all in the same place!

Does it sound too good to be true? Well, let me give you the full dirt on the matter with five reasons why NetNewsWire might be the RSS aggregator for you:
  1. NetNewsWire is simple and clean
    Writers like blogging, and if you follow a lot of blogs, you know how obnoxious it can be to organize them all. Right now I have 162, so I totally understand. But NetNewsWire makes it easy with folders, and you can always flag items to look at later.
  2. NetNewsWire syncs
    Not only will your subscriptions stay up-to-date between your Mac, iPad, and iPhone, you don't even need the program if you want to take a gander on a different platform. NetNewsWire sync with Google Reader too, which is accessible on anything that can get internet.
  3. NetNewsWire has a web cache
    Say you're going somewhere without internet. Well, like an email client, NetNewsWire "downloads" information in your feeds and allows you to look at them offline. The only downside is that it won't automatically load pictures or videos, but it's still cool, yeah?
  4. NetNewsWire has a built-in browser
    If there's a link withins something that you're reading, you have two options in NetNewsWire: 1) open it in your default browser, or 2) open it within a NetNewsWire tab. This is awesome because you can keep everything organized and within in one program.
  5. NetNewsWire supports sharing
    Want to tell everyone about something nifty you just read? From within NetNewsWire you can email it, blog about it (with MarsEdit), or post to Twitter (via Twitterific). You can also save posts with del.icio.us and Instapaper, for easy sending and sharing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

It all ends

Super dramatic movie poster, yes?
I don't usually do posts on current events, but this is different. This is my childhood.

Today is July 15th, 2011. Earlier today, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 became available to the world.

By the time this post goes up, many of you will have already seen the movie. You'll have waited in lines for hours, or snagged a seat in the early morning, when no one was expecting you. You'll have tingled in anticipation as the lights dimmed and waited patiently through 15 minutes of previews. You'll have cried and cheered and experienced everything there is to experience in the last Harry Potter movie.

If not, well, you're definitely in for a treat.

So tell me, are you a rabid Harry Potter fan like me? Did you dress up in your house duds and go to the midnight showing? Or is the movie on your to-do list? If you have seen it already, what did you think? I've seen the movie, but try to mark any spoilers for those who haven't, yeah? Anyway, let me know what you think in the comments.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sometimes I just slooow down

It feels like the writing community is always stressing on speed. Draft quickly, revise quickly, critique quickly. You need to go, go, go or you'll lose your chance. If you can't be speedy now, then how will you ever manage when you have a book deal and an agent and a deadline to finish by?

I think we all need to calm down.

Now I understand the need for speed. Really. I do. But there's no point in rushing so fast that your writing suffers because of it. And I certainly can't be the only person that's experienced this. Sometimes a manuscript needs to breathe, and we should always let it.

Take a break between drafting and editing. That way you'll be able to revise objectively. Don't deny it--objectivity is key when killing off those straggling adverbs and darling sentences. Likewise, if you're stuck on a plot point, brainstorm. Analyze every inch of the problem until you can make it work. Maybe it takes you a week, or even a month, but it's still better than forcing the problem into an ill-fitting mold.

So how do you guys feel about the constant pressure to produce? Have you ever rushed through your manuscript? Or do you take the occasional break to let things marinate? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, July 11, 2011

10 things I did this weekend

A lot of people will tell you that the best thing a writer can do is write. And read. And repeat. And then maybe do some social networking. This is somewhat true, but it's also important to step away from that cycle and live a little. So here are ten things I did this weekend instead of writing up a blog post:

  1. Went to the Montana Folk Festival and fell in love with Vishten.
  2. Ate a lemondairy. It's basically ice cream and lemon slushie. Together. How was it? Well, it was pretty lemon . . . wait for it . . . dairy!
  3. Watched Boyfriend play the Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood online multiplayer. Not so terribly interesting, but the costumes were super pretty. Lots of ruffly sleeves and corsets and jackets with lacy bits.
  4. Played pinochle. Lost miserably.
  5. Had a horrible migraine that lasted for about six hours. That was delightful. I also slept a lot and strapped an ice pack to my head. It was stylish.
  6. Got tan. Or rather, freckled. This is coming from a white girl who doesn't really change color. Ever. So it's relatively eventful. And I even managed to avoid getting a sunburn. Win!
  7. Went to Walmart three times in an attempt to get cash back. Forgot every single time.
  8. Saw a bunny rabbit!
  9. Ate a bunch of other festival food. You guys don't really know this about me, but I'm a bit of a secret foodie. Because food is delicious. I'll resist subjecting you to the list, though there was a gyro to die for.
  10. Had a decent idea for the revisions on my WIP. Because it's impossible to keep my mind off it for long.

So there you go. I did some stuff. What exciting things did you guys do during the weekend? Did you get some writing done, or did you soak up life like I did? Tell me in the comments!

Friday, July 8, 2011

5 webcomics writers should read

If there's one thing I can safely say about writers, it's that we really love stories. Sure, we're partial to books, but it's not like you don't see us promoting movies and tv shows too. Hey, sometimes we even throw shout outs to video games and comic books. The one thing, however, that I've never seen a writer recommend is webcomics.

For anyone who doesn't know, a web comic is basically a comic that is serialized page-by-page on the internet. For free. If the comic gets a pretty big fan base, the writer/artist will self-publish copies or get picked up by a publisher. Both of which are obviously pretty sweet. It's a good way for aspiring comics to get their work out there.

But yes. There are webcomics that you should read. You should read them as a writer and you should read them for fun, because that's what they are. Fun. Either way, there are a bunch out there and today I'm going to tell you about five of them. So here we go!*

Hyperbole and a Half
A lot of you already know about this one. If not, it's a collection of life stories told through Paint-style illustrations. Paint as in the crappy drawing software that comes with most computers. This sounds a little dubious, but if you want to learn how to make people laugh via timing and precise storytelling, this is the place to go.

Unsounded
Thief-brat Sette is on a mission and she's dragging the undead Duane along for the ride. The characters in this comic are so well-rounded and have such strong voices that anyone could glean something from a quick read-through. The fantastic art and gorgeous world-building only make the ride more enjoyable. Definitely one of my favorites.

Cucumber Quest
Wherein rabbit children go on a classic fantasy adventure. I particularly love how sweet and colorful the artwork is, not to mention the story, which is both earnest and okay with making fun of itself. It's a good reminder to the struggling writer that sometimes it's okay to step back and get some enjoyment out of your work. 

Johnny Wander
A varied comic that switches between colorful shorts and excerpts of the daily life of some college grads. Not only is the artwork nice and clean, there are a lot of fun ideas popping up in this one. There's no storyline, but the comic offers some good examples as to what makes a moment comedic and how to structure a short story.

Hanna is Not a Boy's Name
To put it simply, Hanna is a boy and he's a mediocre paranormal detective with an undead parter who's better at the job than he is. There's a lot of character depth present in this comic, and what's great is that it isn't super blatant. Also, the art and page layouts are super delicious in this comic, which makes it a pleasure to read.

So what about you guys? Have any of you read webcomics before? If so, what comics? Did you enjoy them? If not, I hope you take the plunge and check some of these out. Either way, tell me your thoughts in the comments!

*BTW: As you may have guessed, none of these images belong to me. Shocking, huh?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I like storytelling AND gameplay

I spent a lot of my childhood playing Mario. And everyone knows the basic story of Mario, right? Princess Peach is captured by the evil Bowser and Mario is tasked with saving her. He runs through a lot of exciting places, flings fireballs at turtles, and gets a kiss in the end for all his trouble.

Can we all agree that it's not really the next Hamlet?

And it's not the first, and definitely not the last, video game that's been like this. There are hundreds of video games with sparse or even nonexistent plots. Angry Birds ring any bells? What about Plants vs. Zombies? They're both semi-mindless fun and that's cool.

However, that are also games with stories. Not simplistic Mario-style stories, but crazy intense stories that are worthy of being in a book. A while ago I talked about five video games I think writers should play, and all of them are fantastic examples of video games with stories. And I can keep naming them: Heavy Rain, Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, Final Fantasy.

I don't know about you, but I think the best games are the ones that have good stories AND good gameplay. Because as much as I love me some Tetris, a little drama always makes things better. If we think about this in book terms, then I adore novels with delightfully complex plots AND fantastic craft elements. Two out of two isn't 100% necessary for success, but the combination can be golden. Or, at least, I think so.

But what do you guys think? Video games with good gameplay or with good stories? Or maybe a nice combination of the two? And what about books? If gameplay is writing craft and stories are, well, stories, which option do you like the best? Let me know in the comments.

Monday, July 4, 2011

What soundtracks do you write to?

Like most writers, I like listening to music while I'm writing. Unlike a lot of writers, my soundtracks usually consist of music with lyrics. As of late, however, this has become an issue. The same songs I was writing to a month ago have become super distracting. So I've turned to soundtracks.

Now I have a decent soundtrack collection. Unfortunately, it's not very writing friendly. For example, the music from Lord of the Rings is so iconic that I can't separate the two in my brain. Some of my other soundtracks are heavy on the ambiance. The Hours has some lovely piano pieces, but it's all a bit ghostly. The Portal 2 soundtrack is fun, but a bit too electronica at times.

I'm looking for something epic and dramatic and meaningful and perfect to write to. But I don't have it.

This is where you guys come in. Because I need your help. Do any of you write to soundtracks? Are you partial to any composers or any soundtracks in particular? I've heard some good things about the music from Stardust, Inception, and Hotel Rwanda, but can anyone confirm or deny? Give me some recommendations in the comments!

Friday, July 1, 2011

June Book Roundup

Hey everyone, it's book roundup time!

Well, after the reading failure that was last month, I gotta say, June was much more successful. I won't lie though. The scary pile of books on my desk is still big and menacing, especially since I mostly read things that weren't in the pile. Better luck next month, yeah?

Anyway, for anyone who doesn't know, lemme give you the book roundup lowdown. At the beginning of each month I do Twitter-length reviews of the books I read during the month prior. Genres are listed at the beginning of the reviews and my very favorites are marked with a star ().

Now that we've gotten that all cleared up, let's get into the meat of things.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
YA Dystopian--In a dystopian world emphasizing on morality, Beatrice must decide on her future. Strong characters and adrenaline-pumped action make this a fun read. 

Break by Hannah Moskowitz
YA Fiction--Jonah is gonna to break every bone in his body. This book has absolutely fantastic characterization. However, the ending was a wee bit abrupt.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
YA Fiction--After a terrible car accident, coma-ridden Mia must choose between life and death. Loved the characters and the music, but sloooow pacing.

Liar by Justine Larbalestier
YA Fiction--Micah is a compulsive liar; then her boyfriend is murdered. This book made my brain explode. Super unreliable narration FTW! Go read it now. 

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
YA Steampunk--Sequel to Leviathan. Full of gender-bending angst, political drama, and crazy critters, this alternate history is still my #1 steampunk love. 

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
YA Post-apocalyptic--Amnesiac Thomas finds himself trapped in the Glade--to escape he must navigate the Maze. Lots of fun suspense, but prose relied on a lot of "telling." 

Specials by Scott Westerfeld
YA Dystopian--Last of the Uglies trilogy. Lots of action and brainwashing, however the uprising felt easy. Also, I wish the ending hadn't been so bittersweet.

Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach (illustrations by Ricardo Cort├ęs)
Picture Book--A goodnight story for adults. This is a hilarious combination of kid's fluff and parental rage. And Samuel L Jackson's narration is golden.

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
YA Post-apocalyptic--Sequel to The Maze Runner. Exciting, interesting, creepy things happen (and I love Minho), but it feels a little like the other book rehashed.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
Adult Fiction--Two stories about love and loss and not knowing your place in the world. Lived up to my expectations--sweet, poignant, sad, and wonderful.

White Cat by Holly Black
YA Urban Fantasy--Cassel is the only member of his mobster family who can't use magic. Only better than that. Cons and magic--a combination I never knew I wanted. 

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
YA Fantasy--Meghan's brother is kidnapped by faeries--time for a rescue. Lots of classic faery elements, but with a gritty, modern twist. Also, love the cat.

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
YA Fantasy--Dashti and her mistress, Lady Saren, are locked in a tower for 7 years. Gorgeous, gorgeous book with a lush world and characters to match. 

Going Bovine by Libba Bray
YA Fiction--Cameron has mad cow disease and now he's gonna find a cure. Written so beautifully, but the voice was just too much and I couldn't enjoy it.

Felties: How to Make 18 Cute and Fuzzy Friends by Nelly Pailloux
Crafty--Felt doll book with several patterns for tiny, adorable critters. Completely adorable! Includes everything from a cat mummy to a matryoshka doll. 

Extras by Scott Westerfeld
YA Dystopian--The story of Aya Fuse and what happened after the Uglies trilogy. Expected to miss Tally's POV, but surprisingly, I didn't. Much love to Moogle.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
YA Fiction--Ginny's traveling across Europe on a mission orchestrated from the grave. Fun premise, but the book dragged on. Also, deus ex machinas abound.

Voila. Lots of good stuff this time. How did you guy do? Read anything you loved? Hated? Just didn't care about? Give me a heads up in the comments.