Process

So if I’ve gone about it properly, this post will appear in the future. But I’m writing it from the past. Weird, huh. Wibbly woblly. Timey-wimey. You know.

Anyways, I thought I’d spew some randomness on the process of novel writing as seen by me. So here goes:

The Process of Novel Writing as Seen by Me
(a not-very-scholarly collection of thoughts)

Stage One: The Random Idea

I love random ideas. I have a Molskine notebook specifically meant for them, and I carry it around with me everywhere—one never knows when inspiration might strike. The weirdest things spark ideas: a mis-heard song lyric, a pattern on a plate that happens to look like a whale, a brief conversation with friends about the relative merits of cupbearers… Some ideas suck. And some turn into novels. That’s why they’re so much fun. I do think if a random stranger were to read through my Molskine they would definitely assume I was mentally unhinged. But you’ll have that.

(There’s sort of a half-stage that comes after Random Ideas and before Brainstorming, but I’m not sure the phenomena known as rattling-around-in-the-subconscious can be very clearly defined, so we’ll just move on.)

Stage Two: Brainstorming

I’m currently brainstorming for this year’s NaNoWriMo novel (I know I’m starting early. Shut up, you’re just jealous) and I love it. I start a notebook for every novel I write, which is great because it 1) Gives me an excuse to buy notebooks, and 2) Gives me a place to jot down ideas without cluttering up the aforementioned Moleskine.

This is where I figure out basic storyline, characters, and world-building, and usually get ideas for a few scenes as well. This stage is fun because of all the POSSIBILITIES!! They’re endless. The world is your oyster. And dang it if it isn’t going to be the most amazing novel ever written!! 🙂

Stage Three: Outlining

I never used to outline beyond your basic Beginning-Middle-Ending type of thing, which inevitably left me with a heck of a lot of head-scratching and getting into plot difficulties I didn’t know how to get out of.

Then I discovered the one, the only, the amazing SNOWFLAKE METHOD and was immediately converted. (I know I’ve mentioned it on here before, but it’s been a while and bears repeating). I really like this method of outlining, as it allows you to grow your story and your characters without it seeming forced or false. It’s also super fun, at least most of the time. Oh, and I never go past Step Eight.

Stage Four: First Draft

Way back in the summer of 2005, I discovered the awesome that is NaNoWriMo, and despairing of the fact that Novemeber was months away, I did my own finish-it-or-bust challenge with my current work in progress, a novel then titled Connor’s Journey. Apart from a book I’d completed pre-college that’s not quite long enough to technically be called a novel and is way too embarrassingly cliché to actually talk about in public anways, Connor’s Journey was my first novel. I’d been floundering in the first quarter of it for quite a long time, and decided I wanted to finish it. So I did. It felt amazing. And in the process I learned something: first drafts are fun, especially if written at high speed with a deadline hanging over your head.

It goes without saying that I adored NaNoWriMo. I’ve done it four times now, and am gearing up for a fifth. I love love love love love the amazing process of writing, especially on those days where you can’t seem to type fast enough to keep up with your brain. Yeah, you hit slow days, but it only makes the non-slow days that much more awesome. And I love the freedom of a first draft. Doesn’t have to be perfect. There just has to be words on the page.

Oh first drafts, how I love thee.

Stage Five: Revision

Oh revision, how I loathe thee.

Okay, maybe not loathe, but it’s certainly a love/hate kind of relationship. Revision is just so painful, and it takes such a looooong time. Nowhere near as much fun (or as quick!) as those glorious first drafts. It’s always rough when you’re forced to admit to yourself that the perfect novel you churned out in November ain’t so perfect. Blech.

At any rate, for me revision generally includes a heck of a lot of deletion/rearrangement/addition/restructuring/reworking of characters/list making. Figuring out what’s wrong with the novel and exactly how I want to fix it is sometimes half the battle. Once I figure it out, I start over from page one and re-key the whole thing. Cringe-worthy, I know, but it forces you to consider every single word in a way that you don’t really do if you’re just changing a sentence or two here and there. It also helps you to get back into the groove of the story and lets your new scenes match the style and feel of the old ones.

In the event that I ever make it to line-editing (debating for five minutes whether this word or that one would be better, and you know I think this sentence needs a semi-colon), I’m always deleriously happy!!

I’ve only thus far wrangled two of my novels through the horrible revision process, and am back revising one of them (the 2005 nano) again—though it won’t be near as extensive as the first time.

Stage Six: World-Wide Fame

Just kidding. 🙂

So that’s the noveling process as seen by me. If you actually read through all of that, you are amazing.

Cheers from the future (or is it the past? I don’t know. I’m confused).

See you on the other side of Kansas!

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Stats

Happy Tuesday, world!

In lieu of more interesting things, I give you

Querying Stats Thus Far:

  • Number of Queries Submitted: 21
  • Number of Rejections: 13
  • Number of Fulls Requested: 2
  • Number of Partials Requested: 1
  • Currently Outstanding: 6 queries, 1 partial, and 1 full

Not exactly sure what any of this means (I certainly never claimed to be good at math), 🙂 but I feel like I have a decent enough percentage of requests-versus-submissions to give me some iota of hope regarding eventual agent acquisition. Plus, I haven’t run out of agents to query yet, which is good.

Got the partial request yesterday morning and was quite happy about it, because 1) The query was 6 weeks old and I’d almost written it off, and 2) The submission included the synopsis, which I don’t feel that great about, but the agent requested a partial anyway so I guess it doesn’t suck quite as much as I feared. Anyways, huge YAY on that score!

No word on last week’s full request as of yet, but I wasn’t really expecting one, as the agent who requested it said she was way behind on reading manuscripts.

So we’ll see.

*is trying not to be irrepressibly hopeful but failing*

In other news, the revision see-saw has definitely tilted towards The Rose Queen; almost finished with a re-read, and am rather optimistic that it can (and will! and must!) be fixed.

Didn’t do any editing yesterday, mostly because I was wrapped up in re-reading The King of Attolia and squeeing at all the awesome parts (which, to be honest, are pretty much on every page) like I hadn’t already read it three times. Oh man. SO much love for that series!! (I know, I know; you’re probably all sick of me mentioning these books in like every single post, but seriously, they really are THAT awesome. Not even kidding you.)

Also, I’m going to Kansas next week, which will probably mean no Tuesday post, unless I’m really awesome and write one beforehand and figure out how to make Blogger post it for me in the future. Hmm. I’ll have to work on that.

Over and out!

Ju-ly, Ju-ly, Ju-ly-y-y-y, It never seemed so strange…

Well, we’re smack dab in the middle of summer, now. Temps have been rising horribly into the hundred-teens, and I’m getting cranky. Especially when I realize that 1) There’s three and a half to four more months of this, and 2) Billions of people across the planet live surrounded by trees and green growing things and can be outside during the summer without the flesh peeling off their bones and their inner organs gasping and dying like a bunch of shriveled-up raisins.

Not that I’m complaining or anything.

Okay, not much.

But really. It’s HOT here. I mean, seriously! I tried to take a cold shower the other day, and there wasn’t any cold water. If that’s not bad, I don’t know what is.

And now for an update on all things novel related:

  • As of last night, I have twelve rejections, eight outstanding queries, and one request for a full (which is a MAJOR yayyy! but doesn’t necessarily mean anything).
  • Editing on The Fire in the Glass is going absolutely terrible. I’m very disheartened.
  • Re-reading The Rose Queen and thinking it might be possible to fix after all…

And that’s it.

Guess I’ll blame the heat for my increased levels of inactivity.

Dang heat.

Fantastic Reads!

Today I give you a list (complete with mini reviews) of Children’s and Young Adult Fantasy Books I Love (in No Particular Order). So, here you go:

Children’s and Young Adult Fantasy Books I Love (in No Particular Order):

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine


I discovered this book at the library as a kid, and have reread it multiple times over the years. Unlike the movie version that shares the same name (the movie was sorta cute in its own way, but the book is about ten thousand times better and completely different), Ella Enchanted is a quirky, imaginative, and touching re-telling of the Cinderella story. Complete with fairies, curses, masked balls, adventure, and ridiculously-adorable-romance-by-letter.

Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith


An old favorite—pretty sure I could quote the entire thing from beginning to end. Originally published in two separate volumes (Crown Duel and Court Duel), this book chronicles the history of the spunky Meliara, Countess of Tlanth, from her role in a misguided war to her noble (but equally misguided) attempts at unraveling the multi-layred intrigue at the royal court. Complete with battles, dashing and mysterious members of the aristocracy (swoon), secret admirers, squee-worthy-Jane-Austen-esque-romance, and a fabulously satisfying ending.

Beauty: a Retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast, by Robin McKinley


Another old favorite, this gorgeous retelling of my favorite fairy tale is as touching as it is beautiful. Last time I re-read it, I got all teary, so you know it must be good. 🙂

Jackaroo, by Cynthia Voigt


Another old favorite, Jackaroo is not quite fantasy in the traditional sense, as it contains no magical elements, but in my mind it still totally counts. It’s a medieval-esque adventure-romance set in an invented land called simply “the kingdom,” and tells the story of Gwen, an innkeeper’s daughter, who happens upon the clothes of an infamous folk hero crammed in the back of a cupboard… Full of gritty details and touching realism, this story has a wonderful ending that you don’t quite expect.

East, by Edith Pattou


A more recent favorite, East is a retelling of the lesser-known fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, which is sort of a mixture of Beauty and the Beast and the Cupid and Psyche myth. This is a gorgeous book, told in alternating first person points of view, which in some cases can be annoying, but in this case works marvelously. It’s about a girl named Rose, and a White Bear under an enchantment, and an evil Troll Queen, and an epic journey North… Beautiful and gripping; first time through I read it all in a day.

The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner


Another semi-recent discovery. I first read The Thief on the plane en route to Michigan for a friend’s wedding a few years ago, and devoured Queen and King shortly thereafter (I’ve read all three twice more since then). These are the kinds of books where the least amount of info you know going into them, the better you’ll enjoy them. Which makes them kinda hard to review. I’ll just leave it at:

  1. Well-drawn and realistic world inspired by ancient Greece
  2. Ridiculously intricate and clever plotting—with surprise twists and turns galore
  3. Fascinating characters
  4. Equally fascinating relationships.

Basically, read them NOW. You won’t be sorry.

Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones


Tragically enough, I didn’t discover this wonderful book until last December. I’ve already read it twice. Basically, Sophie works in a hat shop, gets turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste, and becomes a cleaning lady for the heartless Wizard Howl. Filled with delightfully quirky characters, a rollicking (and complicated) plot, and deliciously amusing chapter titles (like “In Which Sophie Talks to Hats” and “In Which Howl Expresses His Feelings With Green Slime”). This is the kind of book that, once you get to the end, you want to turn back to page one and read all over again.

Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale


I know I mentioned this book a while back when I’d first read it, but it bears mentioning again! Based on a lesser-known fairy tale, Book of a Thousand Days tells the story of lady’s maid Dashti and her Lady Saren, who get shut up in a tower for seven years because Saren refuses to marry the suitor chosen for her. The prose is beautiful and rhythmic, the plot fascinating–and surprising!–and the characters well-drawn. A great, great book.

Curse Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce


A very recent addition to my list of favorites, Curse Dark as Gold is a compelling reworking of Rumplestiltskin. It follows the story of Charlotte Miller, a young woman struggling to save her family’s mill. When she accepts the help of the mysterious Jack Spinner, who can spin straw into gold, she fights against the idea of the old family curse, afraid of what it might ultimately cost her. As well as the gorgeous prose, great characters, adorable romance, and chilling fantastical elements, one of the neat things about this book is the attention given to detail; it almost reads like historical fiction set during the industrial revolution, and one really gets the feel for life in a woolen mill. A fascinating and intriguing read.