Monday, January 28, 2013

In a Genre Rut - Recommend Books to Me!!

You see, lately, I haven't read a single modern book. I've only picked up classics from Barnes and Noble. Why? Because they are proven to be good - they are classics after all.

I don't feeling that a book has wasted my time, because I could have been reading something that might have been much, much better. There are thousands, millions of books out there, and hundreds of classics; there is only one me, and one life I have to live. I don't want to waste my time reading useless books. So I go to those proven to be amazing: classics.

I've only read classics for almost two years or so, with only a few exceptions (one being A Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling). I can't get myself to buy a modern book unless I've heard from so many people that it is good.

There are so many classics out there. Proven life-changers. I want every book I read to change my life or my writing style. I want to improve my writing and my life with each book I read, and classics are proven to do that.

But the trouble is, classics are old-fashioned. They are written in a style that is no longer in use, and if you do use the same style as Dickens, well, you'll have a tough time getting traditionally published. It's just out of vogue.

If you want to be published, reading classics is not bad (it is actually fantastic); being addicted to them is. And I am definitely addicted.

Plus, I could be missing out on so many amazing books (that thought scares me).

I recently went to Barnes and Noble with the intention to buy something new.. I ended up with Anna Karenina (by Tolstoy), This Side of Paradise (by Fitzgerald), and a four-book-set of Ernest Hemingway.


Help me! Recommend some books to me! I need to freshen up my writerly palette; I need to know how books are being written today, and somehow, I've come to think that modern books = useless, and classics = the only books worth reading. THAT IS NOT TRUE! I know it in my brain, but not in my heart.

So, please, if anyone knows any books with great characters and EMOTION (this is big; I love heart-wrenching books, even though I've never legitimately cried in a book.... Whoops) please, suggest them to me.

I love a good tragedy, as long as it is not a "Good gosh, I hate this ending" type of tragedy. Think A Tale of Two Cities, The Casual Vacancy, and Les Misérables. YES, LES MISÉRABLES! Basically: bittersweet endings. Those are awesome. Either adult or YA, doesn't matter, and fantasy or contemporary or realistic... doesn't matter :D

In the end, I just want a book that is powerful, so even if it is chick lit, please, tell me. Basically, what is your favorite book?

Thank you so much guys!

One thing you can take away from my lesson: being in a reading rut is not good.

You write how you read; if you read the same things over and over again, your writing will be formulaic and boring. Why not incorporate some literary elements in your thriller? Branch out! Explore! Read different things so you can bring something new to your own genre.

Has anyone else experienced being in a genre-rut, or am I the only one?

Now I'm off to read Anna Karenina. Sigh. Thanks for your help!

Friday, January 25, 2013

#2 "Write What You Know" - Best Writing Advice...Ever?

This is post 2 of my new blogging series, Myth Busting Writerly Quotes. The point of this series is to evaluate just how "legitimate" famous writing quotes are. If they are the real deal, I will Validate them. If they aren't, I'll Refute them. If they are almost there, I will Mine them (like Mining for gold. Hehe).


As I've mentioned many times, I am NOT  a fan of seeing anything as 100%, or absolute. So, when I say "Write What You Know" might be the MOST IMPORTANT WRITERLY ADVICE EVER, it's a big deal.

I cannot find a un-loophole-y example of when this rule is not applicable. If you want to write a book the reader gets lost it, this quote is there. If you want to write a realistic novel (and I do not mean just contemporary - fantasy as well), this quote is there. If you want to write a powerful novel, this quote is there.

                     Common Misconception Explained:

The beauty in "Write What You Know" does not lie in its literal interpretations.

So, so many people hate this quote. "It's so dumb. If we only wrote what we knew, then there would by no fantasy, sci-fi, or fiction at all. Because, duh, that stuff never happened. So we can't know it."

And with this, out goes one of the most precious writerly quotes ever.

This quote is so much more.

If you want to write a darn good fantasy, you sure as heck need to know your world to build a believable one. If you want a great mystery novel, historical fiction, contemporary, romance, etc., you sure as heck need to know the intricacies of the prison system, the flavor of the 1700's, the nuances of social networking, the logicality in romantic endeavors, etc.

It means: "If you don't know it now, you had better start learning."

What if JK Rowling didn't investigate the four founders of Hogwarts? No Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, or Ravenclaw for us. What if Dan Brown didn't look at a map of Rome for Angles and Demons? (yes, I know, his research wasn't the greatest, but let's face it: it could have been worse).

Fantasy, dystopian, and speculative fiction in general, are also great examples; all the facts are in your own head. You just have to find them. You have to know your world and its nuances to create a believable setting.

You have to get to know it.

The Other Incredibly Important Aspect of This Quote

I believe that emotions are one of the most important things to capture in a novel.  But how can you capture these emotions? The freaking quote.

Don't know how it feels like to be in debt? Well then, the best you can do is read every interview on poverty and try understanding the feeling. You cannot recreate the flavor of being in debt if you've never felt it. If you try without learning about it, it cheats the readers, and some of the readers might have been in debt themselves. Lack of authenticity is especially problematic in YA. Teens are the best when it comes to picking out falsities. Don't let them.

This is a bit depressing, because it means that no matter how much you, a wealthy millionaire, wish to write about a woman in debt, you won't be able to recreate it 100%. Think back to your journals, or diaries. Think about how hard it is to write that scene which mimics the worst event of your life. It feels different. More importantly: it reads differently.

So how can you write about that character you love?

There is a way to sidetrack that issue. Of course there is, and it has led to some of the most famous characters of all time. If there wasn't a way out, Victor Hugo wouldn't have written about the prostitute Fantine, desperate to save her child, or about Jean Valjean, arrested for stealing a loaf of bread.

The solution is "Show, don't tell." Don't rely solely on internal narratives in revealing the character's emotions. Show the character walk in the empty and cold house, not caring to turn up the heater. Show her stare into the fireplace with dead eyes. Show.

There is a solution to it. And, without a doubt, you can have an incredibly powerful novel without knowing how certain emotions feel. Fake it. Do not let it hold you back.

Other than in autobiographies, no realistic character is a carbon-copy of the author. The character is different and undergoes different things. The trick for the author is to understand and know what effects these things would have on the character.

In the end, the writer still has to know about the emotion. If you have a person laughing with joy after being kicked in the gut, either you have an awesome character, or a really fake one.

In fact, in my own novels (WIPs), the most emotional scenes are, for the most part, emotions I've never directly felt before. But I've felt it a bit; and from that, I can fake it.

A story of a prostitute would be more powerful coming from a prostitute herself, rather than a rich old man. But, your job is to understand the prostitute, and make sure you know her. And then: write what you know.

This quote has been VALIDATED.

What do you guys think?

(For those who care, I finished this post just shy of 1 am. I'mna sleep now :D)

After EB Black's comment, I've added a new caveat: One has to actively implement this knowledge in one's writing to make the most of this quote. Thanks for the comment, EB :D

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hit Blogging Milestone - 10k Views! XD

WOOOO!!! As of now, I have about 10,500 views on my blog, which means I hit 10k more than a week ago, but didn't notice :D

I started 'seriously' blogging in June, and although I got 500ish views from the Writer's Voice contest in May, I didn't 'seriously' blog that month. So I guess you can say I have 10,000 views of 'serious' blogging.

I made this blog because of the Writer's Voice contest, and although I didn't make it in (my entry pieces were atrocious) I did make this blog, which is probably one of the best gifts the Voice contest could have given me. Thank you Voice contest!

So, yes, I hit 10k views of 'serious' blogging in about 8 months. May not seem like much, but I'm happy.

Thank you so so so so much for being one of the best online communities ever. Thank you for following my blog, reading my posts, and commenting. It means so, so much to me that you care about what I have to say. It really does; I feel happy :) And I haven't thought too hard about it until now, but I feel so grateful for all of you on my blog.

Thank you so much for every single one of these 10k views!


Friday, January 18, 2013

The Secret to Powerful Word-Usage

You know those times when you come across a sentence, a phrase, even a word, that just makes you pause? When the writing and the prose just make you: "OH MY GOSH THIS IS SO AMAZING!!"?
I recently had one of those moments by listenting to a song in Les Misérables the musical, and now, movie.
Here is the background so you can experience the true awesomeness of the following line from the song.
Basically, Javert, a policeman, is singing about the 1832 Paris Rebellion, where a bunch of students rose against the monarchy. Javert is dedicated to the law, and he plans on bringing these ruffians down. Plus, he's very confident.
Here is the line.
"One day more to revolution, we will nip it in the bud. We'll be ready for these schoolboys, they will wet themselves..."

My reaction at the first part of the line (I don't own this gif)

"...with blood."

My reaction at the rest of the line (I don't own this pic)

ISN'T THAT FREAKING AMAZING? When we think 'wet themselves' we think of scared little toddlers. BUT, it is morbid and dark, because instead of, well, pee, these students will be covered with blood.
It is an amazing, remarkable piece of dialogue (if lyrics can be called such). If you want to hear the actual lyrics, go to 1:35 of the video below.

I think that's where the power of language rests: in the ability to use words in a new and different way to reveal the truth.

The line I just showed you guys incorporates Javert's mood towards the revolutionaries: he thinks they are childish and does not like them at all (to say the least).

What can you learn from all this?

The Secrets to Powerful Word-Usage
  1. Don't rely on clichés or the first thing that pops into your head. Push the simile or metaphor. Do more. Be original.
  2. Turn the phrase or twist the words to your own benefit. Be new. 
  3. Reveal the truth. Don't write an awesomely-fantastic simile if the simile is not true. Don't force in beautiful sentences just for the sake of beauty (I need to learn this too). Let it be natural, and make sure it has a purpose. Case in point: Javert's line reveals his character, which is a big reason the line is just so darn powerful. (Now please, someone teach me to do this!)
  4. Read/Listen. You can't hit the target if you don't know what to shoot for. Read books and listen to movies, people, etc. You will find the sentences you fall in love with, and those sentences (if you analyze and understand them) will teach you more about beautiful sentence-level writing than I will ever be able to.
I REALLY need to see this movie now. Hopefully, I will over the weekend. Sigh.

Happy Friday everyone!

What do you feel is necessary for powerful writing and language?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Les Misérables (Book) Review -- IT IS AMAZING!

This is Hugo's epic, his masterpiece, and his tribute to his beloved country, France. That being said, it is about France. Non-French people will get less out of this book simply because it consolidates Hugo's politics, historical theories, other theories, social criticism, etc... about France. Foreigners can't get as much out of this book for the very reason most Americans won't get much out of a commentary on German politics.

I have to admit, I found some passages tedious. I sped-read through some of it, and I do think that an abridged version, consisting of only the story, would be pretty darn powerful. But, I feel abridged versions are cheating. Sigh.

Another criticism is that Hugo explains away some of the more improbable plot events by saying the equivalent of: 'Who never acted this way? It is human nature.' 'Sometimes, things just happen like this.' It shouldn't be too infuriating as long as you realize that this book is written in more of a Romantic style (in terms of plot).

I do not own this picture.

But the story is FANTASTIC. FANTASTIC. I can't say this enough.

You don't forget the plot, even though there is more than 1,000 pages of it; you don't forget the characters, even though there are about a dozen. You remember it all because it is all so powerful, epic, and memorable. And you love it all. Fantine, that wonderful and tortured woman; Jean Valjean, that amazing hero; Eponine, Javert, Enjorlas, everyone.

I don't want to give the plot away because this book is an adventure, and because spoilers suck. Trust me. I was spoiled on three deaths in this book. If I wasn't, I KNOW the book would be all the more powerful.

I'm telling you how this book makes you feel, which, in my opinion, is more important.

This book makes you feel angry, depressed, sad, frustrated, and, above all, in the end, so, so fulfilled, and so hopeful. Is is a VERY emotional book. The end of this book is sad, not only because of the conclusion, but because you spent over 1,000 pages with it, and now, it is over. Reading this book is truly a journey, a long journey.

It is almost like every other book falls flat in comparison to this one. A Tale of Two Cities (which I found a LOT of parallels in Les Mis, making me wonder if Hugo read that book before he published Les Mis) falls flat, even though I LOVE LOVE LOVE that book. Les Mis is an epic; a novel, like Tale, falls flat automatically.

I highly, highly recommend this book. Just get past the long boring parts (you'll be able to predict it, when you see, "A Few Pages of History" or something like that. It is not a "few").

I say go with this translation because I took a look at the Wilbour one; it is filled with 'thous' and 'thees'. Don't pick that one. This one is more modern, and yet feels like a classic should.

This book is going in my 'Favorite Books' section. I still haven't stopped thinking about it.

Don't be scared at the size! Just buy it if you like emotional books and if you like literature (it's not that expensive, knowing it is about 1,500 pages long; or, if you are okay with the Wilbour translation, it is free as an ebook (I think)). You can thank me later :)

The thing that depresses me is that this book was harshly put down when it was first published. I really, really don't like books becoming 'classics' after the author's death (I wonder if Hugo was dead before this book was considered what it is today). I will make The Casual Vacancy more acknowledged than it is right now once I have the power to do so. Grr. If it becomes famous after Rowling... *shudder* DON'T THINK ABOUT THAT!


NOW I GET TO SEE THE MOVIE! THANK GOSH! That was my motivation to finishing :)

Friday, January 11, 2013

50 Shades of Grey to be Published in Hardcover -- Why We Care

Picture from EL James's website
Yup, here it is! 50 Shades of... cardboard, now (or whatever hardcovers are made of). It will be released on January 29th, "in time for Valentine's day".... I can't even imagine.


There is an interesting article about this publication and its effects on publishing.

Basically, this publication is a reversal of the standard. Usually, first comes the hardcover, and then the paperback. According to the article, the reasoning behind the paper-back first decision was that the series was originally self-published by a very small publisher. Random House (who bought the rights and mass-marketed the books) didn't feel people would buy an expensive hardcover if they had bought the ebooks and print-on-demand books.

Long story short, due to the self-publication, the series was published first in paperback, and then in hardcover.

Why do we care?

Because, according to the article, this might set a new standard in publishing.

Romance, a popular genre on Amazon, has many, many ebooks -- maybe, some of them will go on to be published by a major house. Due to the standard EL James has created, ebooks might get extra attention.

The publishing houses can first publish the book in paperback (to lessen expenses), and if the books are crazy popular, they can publish them in hardcover. This might apply to other genres as well and other novels that become "popular as ebooks and are then bought by traditional publishers."

This might create a new process of purchase in publishing (how about all them p's?).

All I just said was basically a summary of the article (but the article has more details on the features of the hardcover, the story behind 50 Shades's publishing journey, and more).

What I want to know is whether this will open the doors for ebooks, or close them . Will ebooks be more accepted if traditional publishers have a way to make profits off of them? Will ebooks lose the stigma they have?

These are all questions to ponder.

2012 was a major year for publishing history (the consolidation of the Big 6 publishers to the Big 5, 50 Shades of Grey, etc). It looks like 2013 is gearing up to be the same (and two weeks haven't even passed ).

At the end, we know one thing: after January 29th, 50 Shades will dominate the hardcover fiction bestseller list on Amazon, pushing JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy even further back :( Sigh.

What do you think about this?

Monday, January 7, 2013

I'M BACK! 2012 in Writerly Review

I'M BACK! WOOO! I took a two week break from blogging, for those that don't know. I had a TON of fun and I relaxed a lot as well. I'm finishing the first edits of my... sigh, first draft of my... sigh, first part of my novel.

But let's talk about 2012. The year changed my life. Truly.

Around December of 2011, I finished my first full-length novel. Of course, I was ecstatic, overjoyed, and confident that the agents would come running, because I had such a fantastic novel that NO ONE could hate. Who cares that I didn't edit the book? Who cares that it was 136K? My idea was awesome, of course.

So I sent out a (for the most part) first draft query to my top ten agents. The rejections came rolling and I, in my JK Rowling craze, was overjoyed. "I'm becoming like Rowling! I'm a true writer! I'm getting rejection letters like the best of them! I'm going to be famous!"

Then, of course, after a while, the rejection letters (around 67 in a row) did not feel so good. Neither did the contest snubs. Or some feedback from critique partners.

2012 changed my life because it was that year I truly realized what it means to be a writer. It was when I met so many critique partners, learned a LOT, and edited the HECK out of my novel (shrunk it to 84K before I scrapped it and began a rewrite). I grew to love writing as it truly is.

2012 made me feel like a real writer, even without any agent or publication deal. It was a great year (partially because the world didn't end).

Here's hoping 2013 will be just as good. I hope that I'll grow as a writer and that I'll improve my craft. That's all I have under my control,.

I am happy to be back! (Except now I'll have to think up ideas for blog posts. Grr.)

Hope you had an amazing year! Why (or why not, maybe? *sadface*) did you like 2012?