Friday, October 26, 2012

What are you doing in November?

I've been participating in NaNoWriMo for years and last year was the first time I actually "won".  NaNoWriMo, for those who don't know, stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November.I participate every year in this great challenge, and though I may not always reach the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days, I always have fun participating.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in you can learn more and sign up (It's free) at NaNoWriMo.org.  If you want to add me as your writing buddy go ahead.  You'll find my NaNo page at http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/avikar. I'll do my best to add you to my buddy list.

Right now I'm debating on what to write on for this years novel. Should I work on Lorenne's story?  This time combining the two stories I've written in separate years to make a completely different one and see if this one sticks?  Or should I work on the sequel to "Shadowed," which I have very little planned and nothing written. Or I may try something completely different.  Cockroaches saving the human race anyone? Does anyone here have a preference on what they'd like to see me do? I'd be interested to hear comments you have.

Although I'm not sure of a lot of things when it comes to NaNoWriMo right now, like what I'll be writing, if I'll win or if I'll even be able to start on time, I do know that I believe that a Non-Profit organization that helps build communities in classrooms, coffee shops, libraries, and living rooms all over the world and help the inspiration flow for me and thousands of my fellow novelists will need some funding to reach all their goals and make next year's NaNo even better.  So, for the month of November, I am Fundraising money for NaNoWriMo.   To help me raise money, go to my donation page.


Thanks for your generosity and support.

Also, if you want to help, but want to get something more out of it than a Thank You, NaNoWriMo does sell merchandise that does help them get the funding they need. https://store.lettersandlight.org/merchandise  Be honest, even if you're not a writer, who can resist the prospect of having a 2 GB USB Bracelet?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Slow Down. Breaking down and Setting Time limits

When I'm going to edit my own work, my process is usually predictable and simple.

Step one: Print the entire manuscript out.
Step two: Mark each individual chapter with post-it notes so chapters are easier to identify. 
Step three: Break the book into 4ths--to the nearest chapter ending. So if the 1/4 mark is on page 60 and the chapter doesn't end until page 63, the first quarter will contain 63 pages.
 Step four: Use paper clips to keep each fourth separated and together, except for the quarter I am working on. I do not always order the quarters in chronological order, though I am only allowed to work in one quarter at a time.
Step five: Edit an entire quarter.
Step six: Transfer notes for quarter edited onto computer.
Step seven: Start on next quarter
Step eight:  Repeat step five, six and seven until the entire manuscript is edited.
Step nine: Incorporate final notes and clean up final passages from edit.


During my first semester in Spalding's MFA program, I've already seen a change in my editing processes, mainly due to needing to get my requirements throughout the semester, but the new procedure seems to have a much stronger effect on my novel than my original way of editing.  I can see and feel the changes in the novel almost instantly, whereas I may need to go through the above process three or four times before I truly noticed a consistent change in the draft, sometimes in entire chapters.

What is this new, more effective way of editing? It's simple really.

I've been breaking the novel into sections for my packets. About 40 pages each--to the nearest chapter ending. So if I'm on my third pack of 40--with the packet supposed to end on page 120--but the nearest new chapter ends on page 119, I'd break it a page short. I work on the forty page section for three weeks. I am not allowed to work outside those 40 pages during those three weeks.  If I make all the major changes to the draft before my three weeks is up, I start at the beginning of the forty pages and do a deeper edit, grammar, sentence structure, smoothness, general clean up.  If their are changes I still want to make at the end of the three weeks, I make a note of it and MOVE onto the next section of forty pages.

How is what I've been doing, different from what I've started doing? Honestly if you break my novel down--at least before I started editing it, I'd have only had 5.5 sets of 40. So, I'd only be adding a section and a half to my original idea, which can't make too much of a difference right?

I think the difference is the forced three weeks to work on the section. By setting that time limit, I force myself to slow down, to really look at my writing, no matter how much I may want to be done with the round of editing. Without the time limit set, I would push through the entire novel at my pace.  I'd make notes to make major changes, however I missed a lot of the changes that were also needed in that same section because I wasn't looking closely enough.  This also works to keep me motivated, focused on working on my story, so that I can make sure all the changes that need to happen can be made, instead of delayed for another draft.

If you're needing a new method of editing, this one may be worth trying.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tenderness Critical Review


Almost any writer can tell you that the three act structure consists of Set up, Confrontation and Resolution.  However there are more ways to write a story then the three act structure.  A book could be written with three, four, five or even six acts. Robert Cormier provides a strong example of the four act structure in his novel Tenderness.
According to Larry Brooks the first act of the four act structure “introduces the hero in his everyday life, sets a hook to keep readers reading, establishes the hero's stakes (what he cares about that will be endangered later), and foreshadows later events. It also introduces the changes in the hero's life that propel him toward the First Plot Point.”
Readers see the first act in first 100 pages of Tenderness. Readers are in the first Act of the story. In this act we meet Lori, learn about her fixations and see how she gets rid of them with Thrash. Afterwards, while watching the news, readers see her develop another fixation on admitted killer, Eric Poole.  Unwilling to leave town before she gets rid of her fixation on him, Lori finds a temporary refuge at Harmony House.
Eric’s past is revealed through an interrogation by a police officer. He then foils the officer’s plans to keep him in prison. On one of his last days in prison, Eric develops his own fixation on a girl, Maria, who fits his victim profile.

In The Four-Part Structure, Larry Brooks wrote the following about act two, “Everything the hero cares about (and readers came to care about in Part 1) is in danger. The hero is usually just reacting to what happened at the First Plot Point—not being proactive. She might try to save the day, but if she does, it doesn't work yet.”

From pages 100 to 140, readers are in act two. Eric stays at his Aunt Phoebe’s house. While waiting for the media to lose interest in him, Eric thinks about Maria and slowly grows tired of biding his time. He wants to kill Maria. Meanwhile, because Eric avoids the media watching his aunt’s house for him, Lori is unable to see Eric, much less remove her fixation.  She is stalled, non-active beyond keeping a vigil on Eric’s house in the hopes of him coming out.
Eric however has seen Lori through the back window of the house.  She looks familiar to him at first, but he eventually remembers that she was a potential witness to one of the murders he committed years ago and wonders if she might be a lose end he has to kill to maintain his freedom.
Concurrently, one of the girls at Harmony House is trying to get Lori in trouble and Lori recognizes she can’t stay there any longer. Giving up on removing her fixation on Eric, she leaves Harmony House to return home. Before she leaves, however, she swings by his house one final time to say a silent goodbye.
 Act three, according to Larry Brooks, is when “the hero becomes proactive, and begins to seriously fight back against the antagonist. He also starts to fight against the inner demons that are holding him back.”
From pages 140 to 214, readers are in the third act structure.  In this act, Lori and Eric finally meet or are reunited as the case may be.  However Eric is suspicious of her and wonders if he needs to kill her. They spend some time together, during which Eric decides Lori isn’t a threat to him and Lori manages to get rid of fixation of him. By then she has grown to care for Eric though and realizing he has not been freed of his fixation on Maria, Lori encourages Eric to go after her. Maria is a trap however. Lori realizes this and stops Eric from hurting Maria, before he has done anything the police can arrest him on. The police threaten to arrest Lori for interfering and she runs into the woods to escape them.
In the Four-Part Structure, Larry Brooks wrote that in Act four “Everything in the previous three parts comes together in a final climax, in which the hero shows that she's overcome her inner demons. After that, there's a bit of time for tying up loose ends.”
From page 217 to 229 readers are in the fourth act. Once Lori and Eric find each other again, they decide to celebrate their near escape and rent a canoe in the park. They trust each other, are fond of each other and feel they may be together for a while.  However Lori falls out of the canoe and into the river.  Eric tries to save her. However Lori dies and Eric is sent to prison for her accidental death. In prison, Eric mourns for the loss of a living creature for the first time in his life, which ends the four act structure.
            Cormier is a master storyteller, who uses the lesser known four act-structure to tell the story of a serial killer and his would-be accomplice.


Works Cited

Brooks, Larry. "The Four-Part Structure." Squidoo. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. .

Cormier, Robert. Tenderness: A Novel. New York: Delacorte, 1997. Print.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

City of Bones: Critical Review


City of Bones opens at a dance club called Pandemonium. Inside, a demon searches for prey among the dancing humans. By slowing this scene down and choosing the correct words, Clare turns a simple walk across a crowded club into a sort of dance that also raises the tension in her novel.  This is seen in passages like:

His hand tightened on the blade he carried and he had begun to step out onto the dance floor when a girl broke away from the mass of dancers and began walking toward him. (…) She smiled, passing him, beckoning with her eyes.  He turned to follow her, tasting the phantom sizzle of her death on his lips. (3)

Despite the demon’s unsavory intentions, this passage has a clear flirtatious feel to it, at least from the girl who is later identified as Isabelle. She is acts almost predatorily with the way she moves around him, makes sure that he sees her and he watches.  We know she’s constantly moving but readers may not realize how much it’s mentioned because Clare wisely chose her words carefully. Instead of several “walks” and “moves,” readers instead encounter “step out,” “broke away,” “neared him” and “passing him.”  Keeping their constant movement from feeling repetitive as it would have if Clare had used the same set of words repetitively to tell the actions.
On the next page, the constant walking continues with the following passage but Clare’s choice of words only adds to the tension that the author has already started to build:

The girl was a pale ghost retreating through the colored smoke. She reached the wall and turned, bunching her skirt up in her hands, lifting it as she grinned at him. Under the skirt she was wearing thigh-high boots.
He sauntered up to her, his skin prickling with her nearness. (…)
A cool smiled curled his lips. She moved to the side and he could see that she was leaning against a closed door. No Admittance—Storage was scrawled across it in red paint.  She reached behind her for the knob, turned it, slid inside.  (…)
He slipped into the room after her, unaware that he was being followed. (4)

Here the words that Clare uses to show the girl’s movements up the tension in the same way that simply slowing the scene down does. The word “retreat” has conations of fear and prey attached to it.  However the word sauntered is the opposite. Someone who saunters is confident, perhaps even a predator. And as readers are aware that the boy/demon wishes to make a meal of the girl, the tension is raised with those word choices.
In two pages, with the two above passages, Clare describes the boy and girl walking at least ten times and only actually uses the word walking once.  Instead Clare uses descriptions like “retreat,” “sauntered,” or “pass” to add more tension and keep redundancy at bay.

Works Cited
Clare, Cassandra. City of Bones: The Mortal Instruments #1. New York: Simon Pulse, 2008. Print.

Monday, October 1, 2012

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . .

I felt...wronged by this book. It started off with so much potential and then it backslid, reverting to already popular storylines to tell the rest of the story, namely Harry Potter and Star Wars. It made the book entirely too predictable for my taste. However, the way this first book is written, I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of the plot lines established in this book are reneged on later,  "Oh, yeah.  We told you that.  But it wasn't true.  Surprise!", which would suck and I really don't like books that do that to you.

I did enjoy the banter found in the book. However everyone in the story seems to have been blessed with a repertoire of witty comebacks, which is a bit unrealistic but I was willing to let it pass. The action scenes had a lot of potential, but I don't think they moved along fast enough or had enough tension to really keep my interest.

There were a lot of plot conveniences. Clary's mother is kidnapped, kept unconscious but otherwise, from what readers are shown, left unharmed. In effect, Clary no longer has an adult she needs to worry about.  The information her mother could have provided her is  revealed until a more dramatic moment. There really weren't any adults in the book.  One is stuck inside the Institute forever and the Brotherhood does basically nothing. Lupien...I mean Luke (that's his real name. But he also has similarities to Skywalker and to Snape) "saves" the day after being absent for most of the book.

At one point, Jace takes Clary to a restaurant and they discuss the menu.  "That food is for werewolves, Kelpie, Zombies, vampires, Sirens."  Honestly what was the point of that scene? As far as I could tell they were naming every mythological creature they could to show they were a part of the world Clare built but some of the creatures listed are so rare, I'm sure not everyone would know what they were talking about and there was no explanation for the creatures they named. So if you didn't know what a Kelpie was, well, look it up.

A lot of Clare's similes and metaphors are awful.
"Leaving the Institute was like climbing into a wet, hot canvas bag."
Um.  How does one fit into a canvas bag, wet or otherwise?
"Her face felt like one big bruise, her arms, aching and stinging, like raw meat."
I think there would be a lot more vegetarians out there if raw meat stung upon contact.  I could be wrong, however.

Clary is whiny and, other than complaining and getting mad at other people, doesn't seem to do much. She does manage to find the cup everyone is looking for but that doesn't help her case much as it was a small thing. She does punch and hurt a few people, but considering they were all on her side can't really be attributed to her doing something in the book. She got credit for killing a demon but a frightened two year-old could have done what she did. So apparently ravener demons aren't that hard to kill.

Very few of my friends would find value in reading City of Bones. It's very much an introductory novel that could have been significantly trimmed down and a little less Star Wars-esque. If I read any of the sequels to this book, it'll be because I'm hoping the storyline gets better. However, if you don't mind a do-nothing-female protagonist and a predictable storyline it may have some entertainment value.