Thesis Thursday: Merry Christmas and Here’s What’s Happening in the New Year

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

giphy1Praise Santa because I’m finally home. I made it out of my penultimate semester as an undergrad alive. (Mostly.) Honestly, since I’ve gotten home I’ve mostly been sleeping around requisite holiday stuff.

But anyways. You aren’t here to read about how tired I’ve been. You’re probably here to read about my thesis. Otherwise I’m confused why you clicked on a post titled Thesis Thursday.

I don’t know if I ever spelled this out, but the two thesis projects I had thisgiphy2 semester had two very different goals. One was for my Writing BA, and that necessitated me writing at least 50 pages of original work. I wrote way over 50 before I even considered participating in NaNoWriMo in November. I think I hit about 170 pages of the novel when I won. It’s still not done. Maybe like … 3/5ths done, if you want to get specific. I’m never really sure when I’m writing because I don’t plan a damn thing. But anyways, that one is completely finished and done as far as the school is concerned. I’m going to finish it, but on my own time.

baby-napThe English thesis, on the other hand, is still a massive work in progress. The goal for this last semester was to research things for it and then write the first chapter, and the goal for next semester is to write the last two chapters, defend it and present it. Not necessarily in that order, as I’ve learned, since my presentation is in the middle of freaking April and it’s assumed I’ll still be writing it then.

The finished chapter is currently titled “Taming of the Tropes: How the 81pujydq2ylFemale Assassin in YA Literature Showcases the Biggest Issues and Best Possible Subversions of YA’s Most Popular Tropes” and basically it’s about how so much of YA lit presents a supposedly empowering female main character and then takes away all her power and agency with a really creepy and terrible romance arc. Specifically, I looked at female assassin literature using Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Poison by Bridget Zinn, Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton and–of course–Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. If you want the fangirl version of my thesis, it’s that Throne of Glass is the only one that gets close to present a truly empowered female character while also presenting a plot that thoroughly subverts popular tropes that I’m sick and tired of seeing.

buriedinbooksThe origin of this thesis was me trying to figure out how I could just re-read ToG forever and this is what happened. I’m happy to say that it held up to my intense scrutiny (mostly), because some of them did not. I wrote a blog post about how shattered I was by this re-reading of Grave Mercy, and I reviewed Poison, so if I get around to it I’ll post a reaction to my re-reading of Graceling (mostly okay) and a review of Seeker (mostly not okay).

However, Thesis Thursdays is a long way from over! My second chapter is 200going to deal with marketing strategies for YA books, like cover trends, blurbing, etc, and how that factors in to commodification and tropes, and my third will tackle different publishing strategies as weapons for and against this war of commodification and tropeism. (While still talking about how amazing Sarah J. Maas, Bloomsbury and the Throne of Glass series are.)

Basically, sit tight and wait for next semester. Expect a bunch of bleary-eyed rants about more things that frustrate me. Whether I’m doing research for my thesis or just writing it.

Also, Michaela and I have not forgotten our Betwixt the Books goals. Look for new videos–both solo and together–as we try to figure out how to keep making BookTube videos while separated, since Michaela graduated a semester early and LEFT ME. Coming after the holidays is our promised #imbibliomancy episode on Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant!

Thanks for reading, guys, and happy holidays!



Thesis Thursdays: Why I Signed Up for NaNoWriMo Even Though I Plan to Lose

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

I know what you’re thinking: why is this a Thesis Thursday post? Well, if you click that link above and re-read that again, you might remember that I’m writing TWO thesis: one is an academic paper and one is a novel.

Er. Well. “Novel.”

Basically, I need a minimum of 50 pages. Technically, once I hit 50, I can stop. But–and this is going to sound so conceited but hang in here with me–50 pages is peanuts to me. This is because I write with a bunch of short paragraphs and a bunch of snappy dialogue in my first drafts. That, plus double spacing, means that I am ALREADY under ten pages away from the 50 page minimum but I just topped over 11,000 words.

So, if I’m that close, why NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), you ask?

I could tell you that it’s because I’m committed to this book idea (I am) and that I savor the challenge (I do). I could tell you that it’s because I miss NaNo (I do) and I want to be a part of that again, even if I’m not really competing (I do). But there is one very distinct reason, above all others, pushing me to compete:

I’m out of plot.

You might have been thinking, “Ew, why would you take a already started novel into NaNo you cheater!” or just “CHEATER CHEATER PUMPKIN EATER!” That’s fine. But, trust me, it’s not like that. I just wrote my eighth chapter last night, which exhausted all of the planned plot that I had for this idea. (It was a very spur of the moment idea.) So I am going into NaNo with a set of characters I love, a few things that have happened and NO IDEA WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT.

That’s what’s beautiful about NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t allow you to say, “Well, I’m stuck, better put this down.” You have to soldier through and make things up on the fly–no second guessing.

That’s what I need right now. I’m so committed to this idea that I have, but I’m so confused by it. I don’t know where to go. Even if I can’t make 50,000 words (which I probably can’t), I need the drive that NaNoWriMo will give me. I mean, I once won NaNo in eight days. I get COMPETITIVE, even if it’s just with myself. (That was the year I wanted to beat my record of eleven days.) I need that to keep going.

If you’re on the NaNoWriMo journey yourself, feel free to friend me–adkwriter15 is the handle. If you are on the fence about it, DO IT. Join me in enjoying the journey but not intending to finish the race. Who knows what’ll happen?


My New WIP: A Mental Challenge in Not Thinking and Having Too Much Fun

Well, if you guys know anything about me, it’s that I’m always, always coming up with new ideas and writing too many books at once. (Right now, it’s four. I think. Are we counting thought processes?) Anyways, after a fifty billionth breakdown over “WHY I HAVE NO PLOT?” and “WHY THESE CHARACTERS NO WORK?” and “WHY IS THIS THE SUCK?” I finally called it quits. Not on writing, mind you. THINKING.

Yes, I’ve talked about this before, especially during NaNoWriMo. But this is a level even I’ve never reached before. As it turns out, this is the first book I’ve ever written where there is a certain time when I can write it: when I’m flat-out, drooling, giggly tired. Sound whacked out? Possibly. But I bet you’re jealous of all the fun I’m having.

If I were to read this WIP while sane awake, I would know–as I know now in the back of my head–that this book is rather plotless. In fact, the entire beginning of the book doesn’t make any a lot of sense. Best part? At the moment, I don’t care. I introduce two new characters in situations where I can’t name drop without making it sound force, and in all seriousness they go through the chapter being called “Scaly-face” and “Gandalf Guy.” My MC is actually crazy enough to make that work for me, which is awesome. I’m not even 3 chapters or 10,000 words in yet, and she’s already referenced Disney, Pocahontas, the Wizard of Oz and the Lord of the Rings. She says things that I doubt are going to be funny to anyone but me. But I DON’T CARE.

Maybe this book will never be anything. That isn’t the point here. The point is that I’m fed up with taking writing so freaking seriously. This started as fun, didn’t it? So I want to keep it that way. Sometimes you just need to break away from your real, serious WIP and write something that makes you laugh at yourself. I think of it like a writing exercise–and also somewhere to store all those jokes that I think are hilarious but no one else seems to. The greatest thing is? My short attention span is actually remaining excited about this project. So at least if I’m not writing anything that will ever get me anywhere, I’m WRITING. And that’s the important thing.

And who knows? Maybe this’ll turn into something that is better than any WIP I’ve ever tried to think about!

Books to Movies: Why We Always Hate the Casting

What with so many books being turned into movies these days, I figured now would be a good time to talk about this, since I don’t have NaNoWriMo or a book review to talk about for the first time in ages. Actually, I just finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett, too, and started foaming at the mouth to get ahold of that movie. I was watching the trailer–which I had done before reading the book, but this was my first time after–and I just thought…

Wow. This doesn’t look how I pictured it.

I was genuinely confused, too. I love the actors that The Help has in it (I love you, Emma Stone!), and upon first hearing about the movie and seeing the cast, I was pretty convinced that they had picked exactly the right people to play in the movie. So what had changed?

The problem is, we readers will NEVER be happy with who is cast to play in books-to-movies. There will always be something about the person that is just…off. We don’t know what would make the right person to play our favorite character, but we do know that whoever they’ve picked is just wrong. We can feel it the second we take a glance at them.

When we read, we make the characters into ideals. Whether we visualize the characters or not, we KNOW who these characters to the point that we don’t need to picture them. Characters are not pictures too us–there are no pictures in books besides what our minds create. They are emotions, they are ideals, they are symbols. Asking a mortal person to be all that is, when you think about it, really just too much.

When you think about it further, this extends to even physical qualities as well. I never really visualize the characters in books too deeply. I keep my imaginings of characters to the forms of the soul, if you will. But even I had an extremely negative reaction when I heard that Jamie Campbell Bower had been cast as Jace in the movie they’re making of City of Bones, the first book in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series.

This, by the way, is a picture of him AS Jace. (Notice the gold eyes? Thank you!)

“You are not Jace,” I told his picture. At the time, I couldn’t tell you why, I just knew. JCB is not my Jace. Later I would say that it’s because he looks too young, the hair is all wrong and he’s just not freaking hot enough. But you know what the biggest problem was? The movie had put a face to a soul that I had made into an idealistic god in my imagination. (I mean, if you’ve read the books you’ve done this. It’s JACE.) I’m not sure I would have been happy with ANY actor they had picked, because I had such an image-that-is-not-an-image of my Jace. Who knows, maybe JCB is your Jace. That’s another problem with casting. Casting departments have the loathsome task of trying to match millions of images of different readers’ Jaces. Yikes.

That said, I am more than willing to give Jaime Campbell Bower the benefit of the doubt. I have to put my faith in the idea that the casting departments know the real secret. They know that they will never make everyone happy with the look of their casting choices, so look can only be half of the equation. They have to test the actors and find the person that FEELS most like Jace. Of course, this feel is different for everyone, which is why there are casting TEAMS. Hopefully they all have read the books or at least have an idea to know what they’re looking for. It’s a lot of faith to rest in a bunch of strangers, I know, but let’s face it. They know the wrath of unhappy throngs of fan girls and boys. They don’t want to be tarred and feathered. I will forgive JCB for his face if he manages a convincing Jace swagger and smile. I will probably melt and squeal.

Well, not probably. Definitely.

The NaNoWriMo Aftermath – What Now?

And that’s that. It’s December 1st. November is at an end. NaNoWriMo is over. Writers everywhere have put down their laptops and pens–possibly thrown them out windows–and now have the daunting task of dealing with the tornado of words that NaNoWriMo has left them with. But…what is that?

If you didn’t reach your 50,000 words, don’t worry about it! That doesn’t mean you failed or anything. Whether it was a lack of time or a busted plot, don’t let it sour NaNo for you. There is always next year! Besides, some people just aren’t wired to write the NaNo way, and that is also fine. Everyone writes in the way that works for them, and no way is wrong.

Now, say that you did get to 50k. First off, CONGRATS! Whether it’s your first or fifteenth time, reaching 50k is always a thrill, especially if you had some trouble along the way. Which you would have, unless you are inhuman. Maybe your book finished in 50,000 words, maybe it didn’t. Either way, there are some options for what you can do now that apply to any word count–just make sure to finish up the book first! If you do have to finish up the book, I recommend you write at the same fervored pace of NaNo. You’d be surprised just how much your writing style changes when you aren’t writing to win, and whether you are at halfway or nearly done, that is not a good thing.

The first step after NaNo is always the hardest. First, you have to actually review what you’ve written with a critical eye. After writing, of course, you have to edit, and now that moment has come. Avoid the urge to burn the manuscript–I know it’s strong, but it’s not the right thing to do. Even if you are utterly convinced your novel is crap, there is always, ALWAYS some gems to be found within them, whether it’s a sentence, a description or some other little passage or character–anything! Sometimes it’s just fun to read through the parts that you wrote in delirium. For example, during one midnight writing sequence I started writing editing notes under my chapter headings to remind myself of a plot change that occured right after my sweet, innocent, blonde narrator up and killed someone. The notes get progressivly worse and culminate in my favorite about my main character (Shadowed Thoughts spoilers ahead!):

Do you see what you did at the end there? You’re a genius. Now make it look like you MEANT to have Natalia’s power overrunning her own head and warping her mind with other peoples’ thoughts. Thank you.

 Even if I hadn’t enjoyed myself during NaNo, pretty sure it all would have been worth it just for that.

So then you’ve reviewed. What next? Well, that’s your choice. It’s perfectly okay to stuff the book in a closet and leave it for another date. You aren’t required to do ANYTHING with your NaNo. Not even edit it, or even review it. NaNo is FUN, remember? If that’s your choice than that’s your choice. Don’t let what other people are doing influence your choice. Do what feels comfortable to you.

If you decide to move forward, your first step is to edit. Edit, edit, edit. Edit until you are blue in the face. My NaNo editing starts with me editing the book myself, and then I send it off to three friends for their edits. People say that a critique circle is one of the most important tools a writer can have, and they aren’t lying. Remember, if there is someone or someones you want to edit your novel, they should be people you trust to be perfectly frank. The “Oh, you’re amazing!” from your mom or whatever is nice to hear, but not helpful.

My editing and waiting for edits back from my friends usually takes until about June, when the CreateSpace offer is set to expire. If you’ve checked out My Books, then you know that I self-publish my NaNos through CreateSpace. This is one possible option for your NaNo, even if you don’t want to push the books to the general public. When I first wrote Mind Evolution, my first book that was self-published after NaNoWriMo 2009, I hadn’t planned on selling them. It was just for me and my sense of accomplishment. There is nothing quite like holding a print copy of something you wrote in your hands. I tend to recommend at least redeeming the free proof copy order, because it’s just that amazing.

Some people don’t believe in self-publishing, and that is fine. If you think your NaNo is good enough for the agent route, good luck! I’m sure you know plenty about agents and publishing houses and all that other stuff that could overload a blog if I tried to get it all into one post. Don’t think that just because your novel is a NaNo means that it isn’t a good piece of work, no matter how much I’ve called NaNos crap. Plenty of them have been published, and at least one–Water for Elephants–was made into a movie.

NaNoWriMo was a challenge to exceed your limits. Even if you didn’t win, it doesn’t matter. Even trying has allowed you to break barriers in your limitations. Now, the sky is your limit. Enjoy the ride, bask in your glory and…LET’S GET PSYCHED FOR NEXT YEAR!

Guys, its only NaNoWriMo – CALM DOWN!

Now, I know what you’re thinking? Right now, you’re frazzled writer’s brain has taken in this title and is screeching at me because WHAT DO YOU MEAN CALM DOWN WRITE WRITE WRITE WORD COUNT FRENZY GOGOGO! I’m not talking about that at all. I’m talking about how you shouldn’t be letting your expectations get the best of you.

NaNoWriMo is more like a sprint than anything else. Anyone will tell you, most NaNos end up being a lot of crap that takes months of editing to fix. (If you don’t think this, you are either the Writing God or far too overconfident for your own good, I hate to break it to you.) Nothing written this fast has a possibility of being perfect the way you’ve written it. Hell, nothing written EVER has the possibility of being perfect the first way you write it. Maybe parts, maybe sentences, maybe the idea in general is solid, but you can’t tell me you’ve ever written something and gone “Wow, this doesn’t need editing.” Because unless you are the Writing God, you are wrong.

Yesterday evening, I was minding myself, NaNoing away, when my father walked into my room utterly depressed. He was completely despondent about his NaNo. Nothing was coming out right, he said. He felt like there were critics sneering over his shoulder, mocking him. He could not understand why everything he was writing was coming out looking like utter crap no matter what he did. (Okay, my paraphrasing. I swear what he said was more elegant. Hi Daddy!) If you have ever written a paragraph, then you know that this is a feeling that often occurs. Sometimes, though, we tend to forget something else.


Just because the last thing you wrote was this short story or paragraph that completely blew your mind doesn’t mean this won’t happen again. Just because you’ve gotten used to long periods where the words won’t flow doesn’t mean that this won’t happen again. No matter how many instances you find where you feel like Shakespeare’s got a hold of your fingers, you will have two times wherein you feel like a wreck, a good for nothing and just plain trash.

NaNo is a very potent time for this to happen. Given that you’ve got this word count to meet, you basically give your soul to this novel for 30 days. Sometimes you’ll get these flashes, where you’re just writing and writing and you think, “THANK YOU WRITING GOD, FINALLY!” because everything is flowing out of your fingers and you understand your plot and everything is just BEAUTIFUL. Then, the next day, when you can’t recapture that feeling, you drop straight down into the depths of despair, crying and holding yourself because everything is over. Your novel, you realize, is crap. Even what you wrote yesterday is ridiculously horrible. You’re done as a writer, after this. And this is where it comes back to: CALM DOWN.

When my father came into my room yesterday, I took pity on him and read him the “Shitty First Drafts” chapter out of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. If you have not read the excerpt or the book, I strongly suggest it. If you have, you may remember Lamott’s overall point: first drafts are SUPPOSED to be crap. No one is ever going to see it if you don’t let them, and no one has to. It may be horrible to feel like a complete writing failure, but just remind yourself you can fix it later. In some of my own delirious NaNo moments, I’ve written in red ink under the chapter headings of things I have to add or fix later. There’s nothing wrong with that. Even if this wasn’t NaNo, there’s NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.

In the moment, it’s hard to remember this–I know–but that’s why I’m here. Guys, its only NaNoWriMo. There will be months after this to edit and laugh at your sillier things. Overwrought descriptions and unneeded filler are really, truly par for the course in November. So add everything you want. Let your characters make fools of themselves all over the pages. Let yourself be a fool all over the pages. Really, that’s what NaNos all about. Just remember that there will be time to edit later. There will be time to care about grammar and spelling and plot continuity LATER. You aren’t alone, believe me.

Okay, I’m off my soapbox now. This has been your PSA to remember to not tear your hair out over those little editing things you can take care of later. Just hit your word count. That’s hard enough. (Oh, and don’t interrupt another NaNoer with your own woes. They will angrily blog about it later. …love you, Daddy dear!)

My character did WHAT? – Lessons Learned from NaNoWriMo

(Yes, I’m blogging during NaNoWriMo. So listen up, because these words are words I can’t count into my word count. :P)

Anyways! As previously discussed, NaNoWriMo is the time when EVERYTHING can happen. No matter if you wrote up 50 character sketches and a color coded outline before beginning or you just ran with it, no one is prepared for what NaNo can do to a story. Seriously, no one. It’s only day five, guys, so don’t think that because this hasn’t happened to you yet that it won’t. Because it will.

I write…fast. My friends will tell you that this is an understatement, but I’m just going to stick with fast. That means that I’m already at 12-something thousand. For the first time in my NaNo history, I went into NaNo with an outline and a pretty good idea on who my character was. After all, this is the 3rd book in my Mind Evolution series I’m writing here. I was probably one of the most in-tune with a character around the NaNo-world. But, guess what?

NaNo got to my character.

None of what I just wrote out was supposed to happen. My MC was supposed to be my innocent one. Girly. Possibly kind of airy. Funny like that. AND THEN SHE UP AND KILLED SOMEONE.

Character sketch? No good. And then the sweating starts, because I’m thinking, “MYPLOTMYPLOTMYPLOOOOT!” 5 days into NaNo isn’t a good time to be trashing that already, even at 12.5 k. Plus, I hate writing them and I’ve got a series to further, here. This is how it HAD TO GO. But with NaNo, there isn’t time to go back and fix it, so I had to move on. And do you know what?

I realized that what had happened WORKED. Believe it or not. I couldn’t myself, not at first.

As it turns out, my MC knew what was happening to her better than I did after character sketches, plots–the whole nine yards. With one action that I believed to be completely beyond her, she added layers to my plot and deepened some of the most serious plot points of her story. My plot before was good. Now, it was better. All because my character had apparently gotten out of character, and I had allowed myself to run with it.

Whether you’re doing NaNo or not, there’s something to be learned from this. There is a difference between events that happen that are out of character. Some writers think that they know their character so well or they’re so attached to their plot that the characters can’t make up their own minds. Some people might have backspaced my MC killing this person and let her be the damsel in distress she was supposed to be. I probably would have, if I had the time. But the thing is, when you’re writing, you’re telling this character’s story. This is their life. If something just all the sudden happens that just seems totally out of character, maybe–just maybe–it actually isn’t. I’m not saying, of course, to let everything fly. Some things you write that you just know aren’t right. But for just a second before you hit backspace, think about it. Experiment and see where it takes you. It might not follow your plot or be in character, but it still might be the best thing that ever happened to your story.

What is NaNoWriMo? *gasp!*

It’s November. To any normal person, it is a dreary month, a boring month, that month before the month that brings holidays and the New Year. If you are me and a bunch of other writers worldwide, November is none of those things.

November is National Novel Writing Month.

If you are unfamiliar with the event (or as it is commonly called, NaNoWriMo), then you should know that it is basically a challenge in the month of November to write a 50,000 word novel. Beneath that, it is so much more.

As writers, we’re so caught up in making our writing perfect. Some of us are such perfectionists that we can’t even finish a piece because we get stuck trying to edit it before we write THE END. We work laboriously, trying to come up with something that maybe—just maybe—doesn’t suck. Nine times out of ten, we can’t help but disappoint ourselves. After all, the second you start thinking you’re the next Shakespeare is the second you need to find a new hobby.

NaNoWriMo is a time to throw all that out the window. If you work like a perfectionist, you’ll never be done in time. Nothing irks a perfectionist like not winning, right? Everybody can be a winner if they try hard enough. However, winning requires that you stop caring about quality writing. You stop caring about discrepancies, clichés and even spelling sometimes. You have to learn how to stare into the eyes of writer’s block, because you literally don’t have time for that. You need to be able to kill off a character just to get things moving, or yank the story in another direction because your plot just isn’t working. The challenge of NaNoWriMo goes far beyond just finishing.

Have I scared you? I hope not. Everything I just outlined above might just possibly be some of the best writing lessons you ever learn. Mostly because, above all other things, NaNoWriMo is fun. You push yourself, you push your characters and you have a blast. NaNoWriMo isn’t a thing you have to do, but I certainly recommend it. Don’t worry about if what you’re writing is sucking. It probably will be. Everybody’s will be. And it’s going to be amazing.

NaNoWriMo complete!

So … I finished NaNoWriMo yesterday! 50,000 words, eight days … I feel like the living dead but it’s all good! The book needs serious editing, I really hated my main character but I can handle that. It helps that for the past eight days I’ve had nothing to do with my life because I got a break from school.

Of course, now my question is why in the world did I finish in eight days? To say I could? To win the competition going on between my friends? Probably both, but a word to the wise? It’s a lot more fun when you have to fight to win. I’ll admit, NaNo this year wasn’t particularly fun. More like a rushed job done in between two huge deadlines all while battling some depressing forces.

Well, what’s done is done I suppose. Next year, I’m taking the entire month.

Now … to go EDIT this monstrosity…