Wednesday, December 31, 2008

More Top List Stuff, of My Own This Time

Today is apparently a very good day to blog, because when I got on this morning (admittedly not until about noon) my LJ flist of friends & feeds was pretty full of people doing their bloggy thing. I love days like this.

This is also the day where I go back & talk about the books I read this year. In the past years I have put up monthly lists of what books I have read, when I read them, etc, but this year you may have noticed that I haven't done that here. Instead I favored for the master list of books I've read and movies I've watched in 2008. It was an idea that started out small (a meme I was tagged in by harvardbarbie that I kept up with. It doesn't have all the details of the original, but I was more likely to update it. I did leave out quite a few comic issues though, considering I read tonnes this year (what with getting a job at a comic shop & all).

Anyway, here's what I have to say about that list:
I have listed 198 books that I read this year, though I read more than that & forgot to write them down....

Children's Books
Best Children's Book I Read This Year: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (this would also go under Most Controversial, which I don't agree with)
Best Sequel: Small Steps by Louis Sachar, Sequel to Holes
Book I Most Often Recommend to Children/Parents: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Best Picture Book: Flotsam by David Weisner
Funniest: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules! by Jeff Kinney (not as good as the first, but still hilarious)
My Favorite Children's Book I Read in 2008: The Witches by Roald Dahl. (though Lucky was a very close second)

Young Adult & Adult Books
Best Book of the Year (Published in 08): Paper Towns by John Green
Book I Believe Every Teen Should Read: Looking for Alaska by John Green (I read it twice this year)
Most Overhyped Book: Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
Best Teen Series: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares (I'm excited for her new series in 09!!)
Best Sequel: Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones (Sequel to Howl's Moving Castle)
Book That Was Far Better Than the Movie: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Most Controversial: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (because of this, I believe it was a great pick for the high school's book club)
Biggest Cliff Hanger: Superior Saturday by Garth Nix (do not read this until Lord Sunday comes out)
Best Collaborative Effort: Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, & Lauren Myracle
Best Sci-Fi Book: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Best Superhero Story: Hero by Perry Moore

What about you folk? What were your favorite books that you read in 2008? Do you have any special categories? What book do you most recommend for me to read?

Top 10 Lists (as per Yahoo)

I got bored today and found a Top 10 list on Yahoo, then I began looking at the other lists they have posted for 2008 and there's a few interesting things here.

What I stared out with, before these Top 10 lists, was a list of the banned words for the coming years. These are words to be "banned" for overuse and pointlessness. Interesting to me, was that for the first time and emoticon was listed. It was <3, which I can understand with its overuse...but I still like it. One word I'm really glad to see on that list is "Maverick". A lot of the things Sarah Palin was going on about annoyed me, the first being "Joe the Plumber," the second being "Maverick." It ended up being far overused to the point of absurdity, imo. Odd ones I didn't expect were "staycation" (which is something I hadn't heard before, it apparently means not vacationing because of high gas prices) and "monkey" (this is just odd).

The Top 10 Searches on Yahoo in 2008, I find it kind of sad that "Britney Spears" is the number one searched phrase of the year, when Barack Obama is in the #3 spot. And why, may I ask, is the WWE in #2? This kind of makes me fear for the future, when our nation cares more about drama queens & wrestling than they do about politics and HISTORY. I can easily see why Miley & Naruto made it onto the list, with their fan followings being so huge, and with Cyrus's minor dramas throughout the year. I swear, people are looking for a scandal with that girl. The media apparently doesn't like a genuine good girl, they have to work so hard to find something wrong with her. What I don't understand about this list is how "RuneScape" made the #5 spot. I thought RuneScape was old and outdated by this point? Guess I was wrong. (I'm not a gamer at all, mind you)

The Top 10 News Stories. The thing that most bothers me about this list is that Patrick Swayze made it onto the list, but the Olympics didn't. Yes, China is on there, but that's not the same thing, now is it? Now, I can see why the hurricanes might come in first, but I do think that the election should hold the #2 spot. This goes back to my Top 10 searches, same argument there. I don't understand how Shelley Malil made it on the list at all.

The Top 10 Celebrities. This is the list I got to when I decided I definitely wanted to blog this (because my Twitter followers would be annoyed at me, haha). So, the 2008 "Brat Pack" is as follows (in order): Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Chris Brown, Jonas Brothers, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Jamie Lynn Spears, Hayden Panettiere, Zac Efron, & Selena Gomez. First off, for the most part, I love them all. I have nothing serious against any of them (though I don't approve of JLS's pregnancy, I do approve of her keeping the child). A trend here? Most of them relate to Disney. Now, Rihanna and Chris Brown don't trace their roots back to Disney, but they have dealt with the company a few times, and Hayden was originally a Disney star. The rest are currently employed by the company in one way or another. I suppose they know how to pick their stars (and are also masters of PR). Another interesting point here is that none of them are over the age of 20 (though Rihanna will turn 21 in February). Something else is that they all make more money than you & I will ever make.
[interesting point: I am the same age as Chris Brown & Hayden Panettiere]

The Top 10 Olympians. Now here's a list that finally recognizes the Olympics! I like this list :) Coming in first, of course, is Michael Phelps. I love him, and the world loves him. And what he did was simply amazing. He really should have been on other lists, but I guess Yahoo users aren't all like me. I'm glad to see Shawn Johnson & Nastia Luikin on that list, as well as Misty May-Treanor. I'm disappointed that Keri Walsh didn't star on that list with her partner. They are a team after all.

The Top 10 Politicians. I'm glad, first of all, that Barack Obama is #1 on this list. Sarah Palin is second, which I still find ridiculous because she was a running mate, and she received more attention than McCain did. Alternately, I'm disappointed not to see Biden on this list, because if you're going to pay attention to Obama, you should look up his VP pick as well.

The Top 10 Women. I don't have much to say about this list, but I figured at this point I may as well include all the lists. For the most part, I really agree with this list, because I can see how all of these women have been influential throughout the last year. Whether I believe they should have been or not is a different matter. I'm kind of amused that Tina Fey is on that list, though.

The Top 10 Farewells. I would really question the sanity of these list makers if they hadn't put Heath Ledger on the top of that list. His death shook the internet and the fan base response was enormous. I saw the same happen with Bernie Mac & George Carlin. Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture (I had to look it up to remember), had a large influence with his death, so I agree with him being on the list. Others, I had to look up because I didn't know who they were, or even recognize their name in some cases. But I am sure that their deaths were a big thing to talk about in certain circles outside mine own.

Yeah, fine, I skipped the economic one. It was boring & I didn't have much to say about it other than our economy sucks right now. You can go see the list here if you really want to.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Book Review: Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, & Lauren Myracle

Let it Snow, in a way, is not one book, but three novellas. Written by three different authors, the book is split into three different parts that make up one great book. Each part follows a different character (or group) on a different part of the story, and all include a different love story. All of the parts take place in the same time period in the same town and the characters give appearances in parts other than their own.

The first part, The Jubilee Express, is written by Maureen Johnson and follows Jubilee Dougan. Jubilee, aside from having the misfortune of being named Jubilee (she assures the reader she's not a stripper or anything like that), has hit some rough luck: her parents have been arrested in a Christmas sale riot and she now has to spend the holidays with her grandparents. It gets worse, because leaving means she can't be at her boyfriend's family's annual Christmas party. And even as her train speeds towards Florida, it gets stuck in a snow storm. The train is forced to stop practically in the middle of nowhere, across the empty interstate from a Waffle House. Jubilee leaves the train and heads for the Waffle House. Unfortunately, she is followed by a squad of cheerleaders who were also on the train. This is when Jubilee meets Stuart and her luck begins to change.

In the second part, The Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, written by John Green, Tobin, JP, and the Duke have just gotten great news: a train has crashed nearby and an entire squad of cheerleaders has just arrived at the Waffle House where their friend, Don-Keun works. Don-Keun has made a deal with his co-workers: the first group of friends to arrive (with Twister) will be allowed in, but the others will not. So it's a race for the guys to get there first. Except that the Duke is a girl, but she's been promised hash browns and adventure, so she's in. The race to be first to the Waffle House is alternately intense and hilarious. In the end Tobin realizes that maybe love isn't all about cheerleaders, and finds an unexpected love.

In the third and final part, The Patron Saint of Pigs, written by Lauren Myracle we meet Addie. It's now Christmas day and Addie is not feeling the cheer. She's really messed things up this time. First, she cheated on Jeb, her perfect boyfriend. And then she dyed her hair pink. The biggest snowstorm she can remember has hit her town and she hasn't heard from Jeb in days--not that she blames him. On top of all this, she still has to work at Starbucks, because they are open no matter what. In an attempt to prove to her friends, Dorrie and Tegan, that she is not selfish, Addie agrees to pick up Tegan's teacup pig (it actually fits in a teacup) from the pet store across the street on her break. Things don't go quite according to plan, and Addie has to go on a hunt to track down who the pig was sold to by mistake. Everything turns out in the end though, as Addie is granted her Christmas miracle and her love story.

It's set apart from other books in that instead of seeing only one part of a tale, you see many, and see more than one part of that world. Each writer has their own style, but they all blend together well and are equally great reads. Each love story is unique and interesting, but more importantly, realistic. Additionally, all of the characters are enjoyable and relatable.The best part about Let it Snow is seeing how all the pieces come together in the end. This is a great book to curl up with on snowy days!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Review: Feed by MT Anderson (part 2)

Feed by M.T. Anderson
Review by Jez Layman

The future looks pretty good--flying cars, colonies on the moon, more technology--everything we've been promised. But things are never as they seem. Titus is a college student in this time, spending his spring break on the Moon with some of his friends. There he meets a great girl named Violet at a club. Unfortunately a crazy activist chose the same club for his demonstration and Titus, Violet, and everyone else receives a virus from him. This virus doesn't just crash their home computer--it affects the people themselves. The Feed is a device implanted into everyone in this future, keeping them constantly connected to the digital world they live in for most of their lives. The virus can be fixed--for most of them--and after some time in a hospital without a feed connection, the teens are released without a problem. Except for Violet. Now Titus has to deal with Violet's condition, and the way she sees the world. To Titus the future is exactly as it should be, to Violet, it's a dystopia. It gives us a chance to wonder if maybe we can move so far ahead and we loose sight of who we are--or do we continue becoming more of what we already are?

Feed by MT Anderson is written wonderfully, the best part being the way the Feed is shown through the text. At points in the narration the Feed breaks in and sends you pop-up ads and news headlines. You really begin to get a feel for how the world is for someone living with the Feed. Another thing Anderson does well is represent characters in a way that we relate to them. Whether we side with Titus or Violet, it is not hard to find someone in this book we understand. The speech and actions of the teens--especially Titus and his other friends--are very realistic. The most interesting part about this book, in this reviewer's opinion, is the moral issues brought up about technology and change for the sake of change. It can be a hard-hitting book that challenges the mind, or it can be a book that touches the heart. Either way, it will have an impact on the reader. Part teenage love story, part biting satire, this book is a great read for everyone.

Related links: My favorite quotes from Feed
My original review of Feed by MT Anderson

Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

In John Green's new book, Paper Towns, Margo Roth Spiegelman did eleven outrageous things in one night. She righted wrongs, and wronged a few rights, and brought Quentin “Q” Jacobsen along for the adventure. In Q’s eyes Margo was, in a word, awesome. For sixteen years Q lived next door to Margo, and for sixteen years, he had been in love with her. After all, she was the only living legend to ever live next door to him, and was the only one to recruit him in the middle of the night to go on an adventure. It was the best and longest day of Q’s life. The next day, Margo disappeared.
Margo Roth Spiegelman had been known to run away before, but she had always come back home. This time, it didn't seem likely that she would return. But before she ran away this time, she left something for Q: a clue. He begins following clue after clue, desperate to find Margo again and bring her back home. He enlists his two best friends, Ben and Radar, to help him, but after awhile the chances of the clues leading somewhere begin to dwindle. Some of the group wonder if Margo really wants to be found, or if she even can be found. Quentin, however, can't let go and continues the mission to find Margo, but along the way, he also begins to find himself.
The author, John Green, is well-known in the world--mostly for his YouTube correspondence videos with his brother, Hank--but also for his award-winning books for teens. In his few books Green has created some of the most memorable, lovable, and realistic characters in teen literature. One of the best things about Paper Towns was reading the funny interactions between Q, Ben, and Radar. These conversations make the characters believable--they talk and act like regular teenage boys, and the dynamics of their friendship are rarely exemplified so well in teen literature. Even with three guys as the main characters, Green is careful not to make the book gender-specific, so that it can be enjoyed by all. Additionally, the plot was well done and interesting, with very few dull moments, but rather kept the story flowing in a way that makes the reader want to keep going. The story itself is a cathartic roller-coaster, with its ups and downs along the way, with events ranging from a hilarious road trip with great characters, to melancholy reflections of the world and the loss of a friend.
Overall, Paper Towns is well-written and keeps the reader interested with its adventure, mystery, and witty characters. This new book is a great read for teens and adults.

Related links: My favorite quotes from Paper Towns and Let it Snow

On Lauren Myracle, Reviews, & NaNoWriMo

I've recently created a new group on Facebook: TEAM MYRACLE. This is a response to the feud between John Green and Maureen Johnson over the book they co-wrote with Lauren Myracle. Lauren has taken an inspiring position of neutrality in the matter and I believe we should all follow her example!

(and yes, Lauren herself is a member)

Two reviews going up in a moment, Paper Towns by John Green & Feed by MT Anderson. You may remember that I have reviewed Feed before, but I decided to do one for my school's newspaper and wrote a new one! I included a few points from the old one, but for the most part it is brand new!
I am very behind on my NaNo right now. I missed two days worth of writing because of my massive school projects. I have a persuasive speech due on Friday, which I have had to do surveys & an audience analysis for. My English project has taken over my life with its bibliography & electronic notes. Thesis is due on Friday, but I really need to finish these notes first! PR project is actually going along well because I have such a great group (for the most part anyway). Religion required a 7 page paper on Judaism from me, and soon another 3 pages on our Christianity readings. School is insane, it really is.
But I am confident that I can catch up--I did once already, so I can surely do it again!
P.S. for any fans of American Girl or Abigail Breslin or cute movies or movies about the Depression--go watch Kit Kittredge! I saw it for the first time last night and LOVED it. Abigail Breslin, Zach Mills, & Max Thieriot were all amazing as usual and the plot was interesting and the movie was cute and--oh just go watch it already!

Friday, November 07, 2008

NaNo Advice: End of Week 1

Good Ways to Boost Your Word Count and Keep Yourself Writing

I've learned a few tricks along the way from my own NaNo experiences (from this year as well as 06) and from other competitors ranging from first timers to old hats. I thought I'd take a little break from writing to share these with you. (btw, this is not me avoiding actual writing. This is me coping with my ADD in a positive way.)

+ Add a lot of defining words. "He said" "She said" may not always be necessary, but put them in there, an extra two words per piece of dialogue are a great way to add to your word count.

Take that a step farther. "She said, sounding offended." or "He told her with unquestionable certainty upon his face." Add as much as you want without sounding too wordy!

Of course, if you don't mind wordy, by all means, get that word count up! If the count is what matters, take a lesson from Dickens & write up a storm! Sentences that take up a full page? No problem!

+ Another great way to add to your word count is to include quotes. You don't have to wrack your brains trying to think of something new to type! Find a quote that works with your story and roll with it! John Green used "Song of Myself" at least fifty times in his NYT Best Seller "Paper Towns" and writers like Cornelia Funke, Ann Brashares, & Jasper Fforde begin every chapter with an applicable quote! There's no shame in borrowing words to raise your count.

Right now my own characters are quoting Shakespeare's famous lines from "As You Like It": "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts." The best part? It fits my story perfectly. In fact, it has greatly inspired me and helps convey my theme of acting & masks in high school even more than I could alone!

+ Word wars. Timed, themed word wars with a friend. These work best through some form of instant messenger, and hey, there's one built into Facebook if you wish to use it! I personally stick primarily to MSN, so if you want to war with me through that (I still have friends on my list from NaNo in 2006 I warred with daily), leave a comment here and I can send you my contact info.

This is a great way to boost your count quickly and might give you some new inspiration for how to deal with a section if you choose to use the theme (you need not, you can just continue writing for the wars). If you have teenaged characters like I do, any theme can fit what they're talking about. Just today in the lunch room with my friends we talked about the origins of "saved by the bell" and ended the period by singing "Gaston" from Beauty & the Beast. Nothing is really far out of the realm for us college students, and the same goes for many other age groups so long as you have a good group of friends to chat with! It's okay if your dialogue is ridiculous. Sometimes it even makes the characters more believable.

+ A tip to keep going and keep up with your word counts (though admittedly I am behind because of a late start, but catching up quickly) is to set up a goal/reward system with yourself. This is what has worked best for me this past week. Prior to NaNo's kickoff this year my internet was down for almost a full week. I generally watch my favorite television programs online, so I had missed a few episodes. I would tell myself "Okay Jez, write 1000 words and you can watch Grey's. Then after you write another 1000 words, you can watch Private Practice." I even made the amount of words relate to the amount of time I'd spend not writing when I was enjoying the reward part. 1000 words for 1 hour of television. 500 words for a half hour. Or I'd get to a certain milestone before I could write up a new blog post (such as this one, I just finished chapter 10 & went over 9000 words).

+ If you're going to procrastinate, find a way to make it work to your advantage. I can honestly check Facebook every half hour or so with a clear conscience because my characters spend so much of their lives in the digital world. A fair amount of my novel consists of wall posts, instant messages, and SMS texts. So, by seeing what everyone else is doing on Facebook, I'm really researching how my characters should talk, what kinds of typos they should make, and how they'll spend their time.

When I spent ten minutes reading Michael Wesch's blog post on a look back at his famous YouTube video, A Vision of Students Today, I was gathering a teacher's perspective on how children learn today, and how the school system limits learning. One of Delilah's favorite teachers, her choir director Mrs. Rembrandt, agrees with Wesch and I was able to use his ideas to my advantage, and make them fit the story.

With a little creativity any time-waster can be used in your novel. Maybe your character likes to avoid homework by playing fifty games of Tetris just like you do. Figure it out. Make it work. I could tell you not to procrastinate at all, but that would be stupid and hypocritical for me to do. You are a writer, you are going to procrastinate. It's part of who we are. So instead of avoiding the "meaningless" ways of procrastination, make it work for you!

+ And try a program like Word Counter if you're on a Mac, or an online widget for PCs to keep track of how far you are in your novel. If you see that you are 79% of where you need to be for the day (that's where I am now, I'm behind, remember?) it seems a lot less farther away than if you were to take out the calculator & figure out that you have another 2456 words to go until you're back on track for the month. Plus it's cool to watch it update in Word Counter, it makes me feel more accomplished for those 100 little words I wrote than if I had only barely increased my word count for the day.

+ Most importantly, don't give up. So you're 2456 words behind, so what? That's exactly where I am, and I'm not letting it bother me. There are 23 more days in the month. That's just 107 extra words a day, that's nothing! You can catch up in no time at all! It's only week 1, you've still got time. Don't give up now, just keep going and even if you don't win, you can come close. Then when NaNo09 rolls around, you'll know you can get to 40,000 words and 50,000 won't seem so scary. That's what I'm doing. In 2006 I made it to 25,000 words before my computer crashed. I knew that I could have made it that year, and because I made it at least halfway that year before I was cut off due to technical difficulties, I know that I can make it this year. And I think if you really try, you can too.

I leave you now with two quotes that I hope shall inspire you, or at the very least, you can use them in your novel about someone writing during NaNoWriMo (hey, it happens).

If writers stopped writing about what happened to them, then there would be a lot of empty pages.
Elaine Liner, We Got Naked, Now What, SXSW 2006

Please write again soon. Though my own life is filled with activity, letters encourage momentary escape into others lives and I come back to my own with greater contentment.
Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, 'A Woman of Independent Means'

Other helpful links: Maureen Johnson (accomplished writer of 6 YA books!) tells you how to survive NaNoWriMo. Involves lots of pretty pictures from old movies & witty observations.
Professor Michael Wesch's blog on Revisiting "A Vision of Students Today", which I mentioned above & used in my own novel.
The Quotation Page's Quotes of the Day. You can use these or use this site to search for quotes that pertain to your plot.

(Now, if I could write this whole blog post, a full 1448 words in twenty minutes, surely you can write 50,000 words in a whole month)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day!

I'd be a bad blogger if I didn't post about Election Day, especially since this is the first time I've voted. I didn't register in time for the last elections or primaries, but I was on top of it for the big presidential election! This was also the first time my younger sister could vote, having turned 18 only a month ago.

My dad stopped by my house and picked me up earlier this morning around 10:30 and we went off to the polls. There was no line at all. And I didn't need to show identification, just sign my name so they could match my signature. And I had my voting card & license all ready for them to check! Oh well.

I took my ballot, filled in the circles like it were a scantron, and then fed it into the machine. I was #152 of Precinct 16 in Will County. I think my dad is the only person to care about this number, but whatever.

I'm wearing my sticker with pride.

If you haven't voted yet today, and are registered, here's why you should vote:
1. You get a sticker. Everyone loves free stickers!
2. You can give the stub to your child or a neighbor's child so they can get extra credit in school. Or if you're in my PR class, you can bring it in to get extra credit for yourself
3. Starbucks will give you a free coffee if you show some proof you voted
4. Ben & Jerry's will give you free ice cream
5. If you don't, you have to deal with people saying "If you don't vote, you can't complain" for the next 4 years
6. It's a chance to be part of history without having to put forth much effort! You need not die in battle! You can be a part of history simply by voting!
7. It's the right thing to do.

Here's something else fun for all you voters, iTunes put up the Charlie Brown shorts of Linus for President for free.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Encouraging Reading, Part 2

My younger brother Joe just read Small Steps by Louis Sachar in less than a day. I just loaned him A Wrinkle in Time by Madeliene L'Engle, which I've been re-reading lately. I figure he'll finish before I get a chance to read it again (NaNo takes time!) so I let him have it tonight.

My brother never really was a reader, but suddenly he can't seem to get enough of books. He'll read a book every now & again, but they're usually for school. A great motivator for him though, is to see his friends read a book, or to convince him that it's the "cool" thing to do. (And btw, reading is cool)

Another great way is to find a book that he really loves, and this is usually the hardest part. His class is currently reading Holes in school, and he finished far before the class did because he liked it so much. This was only a few days before I went to see Louis Sachar at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL with my mum, so we brought him along. He seemed to really get into it and we bought him his own copy of Holes which he got signed. In his presentation Sachar mentioned Small Steps, which I had always seen around, but never knew the story of. Joe really wanted to read it, but we were already buying so much that night, we passed on it. The next week I bought one of the signed copies Anderson's had from the event. Then a few days after that my mom caught Joe reading my sister's copy of House by Ted Dekker, which she thought was too scary. To keep him from reading that, I presented my new, shiny copy of Small Steps, which he immediately devoured.

So, this just adds to my theory that all you need to do to get a child hooked on books, is to find that one right book for them. Holes is one I like to suggest, as is The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (this one looks daunting, but it's half pictures & flip book! Kids love that). The other night a mother saw me looking through the children's books at the Sachar event and asked me to recommend a book for her daughter, and after talking to the woman I suggested The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by EL Konigsburg.

I think the problem is that most people don't pay attention to a child's unique interests enough to be able to pick out the right book. They'll suggest something new, or a best-seller, or maybe something they loved as a child. And sometimes these work, but some children are really stubborn and they need that exact right book for them, not for you. So talk to your child, find out what they want to read. My children's literature professor last year said that she's sometimes annoyed with the fact that all her son wants to read are Pokemon novelizations, but that she'd rather him read those than read nothing at all. If it gets them started reading, I agree with her. If they find something they love to read, they won't find books so boring or scary, and maybe they'll pick up another. And another. And another.

Just listening to your child is probably the best you can do in any situation, in my opinion anyway. I don't think parents always do that.

...Okay. Back to my NaNo, I promise. (I've written about 1700 words today so far)

NaNo08: Day 3

It's day 3, with 1722 words, and I've just found a new toy. But it's actually going to help me with my NaNoWriMo challenge!

See, I'm working on my new MacBook this year, and I didn't have a good way to count words. I did a quick Google search & came up with a neat little application called "Word Counter" by Super Magnus. I just downloaded it & I'm having a lot of fun with it. I can type my novel up in Word Counter (and back up in TextEdit) and it will count my words as I go along & displays them at the bottom of the screen. I set mine to update every 15 seconds so I wouldn't keep hitting "count" and loose time. And this way it shows me how far I have to go, and how far I've come. It's a great motivator!

Another thing I like is that it has a progress tracker where you can put in a goal of how many words you want & I'll update with a little progress bar & a percentage. Right now I'm at a measly 3%, but I'm looking to fix that tonight. And tomorrow is my day off, no school, no work (my only day off all week), so I should be able to get quite a lot done then!

Also, I set up a reward system for myself. For every thousand words I'll allow myself to watch one of the episodes of my favorite shows I've missed this week when my internet was down. As soon as I finish this section here, I get to watch Wolverine & the X-Men, a new cartoon I love (I'm a big comic geek, X-Men especially). And I'll still have Private Practice, Grey's Anatomy, & The Office to tempt me!

I'll update later with my word count at the end of the day. We'll see how far I can get in the next 6.5 hours!

NaNo: Day 2

I am so far behind on my NaNo. I have gotten some done, but that's only what I wrote in the first 20 minutes of day 1 before my computer's battery died, and what I wrote in my notebook on train rides to & from Chicago (I wish I had a picture to add to my "where to write" series). I have reasons for why I'm so far behind & why I haven't posted.

Why I'm behind: On Saturday I worked from 6:30-14:15, then I went directly to the train station. I met up with my good friend Karina there, who is from Missouri & was only in town for the one day. I hadn't seen her in 15 months, so it was fantastic to see her again! Then she had to leave, so I met up with two of my other friends who were coincidentally in the city on the same day. It worked out really well. We had to wait in line for 2 hours for pizza, but it was good pizza. Then we went to Navy Pier where I rode the big Ferris wheel for the first time (that particular one that is). Then the train ride home. One of them, my best friend Jen, stayed the night here so my mom wasn't so nervous about me taking the late train home by myself. In the morning we had to go to this strange church as part of my field trip requirement for my religion class. And she was here all day long. I did get a tiny bit of writing done in that time, but not much. Mostly I typed up what I had written on the train...and then I made my computer read it back to me. I didn't know it could do that. I had a little too much fun with that function. It's like the YouTube audio preview, but better!

Why I haven't posted: I can't remember if I mentioned this or not, but I've not had internet access for the majority of the week. And I was busy, as I said in the above explanation/excuse. But I'm posting now.

My review of Paper Towns will probably be up tomorrow, since it was in the school newspaper already (I like to wait until it's published). Until then, enjoy Lizz's awesome review of it in video form. And then you can watch the rest of the video wherein she interviews NerdFighters about what salad ingredient they would be. I'm the one who makes the very dorky comment about lettuce. The one right before me is Jen, and two after me is my sister Kayla.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Being Edited & NaNoWriMo

I'm sorry I haven't posted yet about meeting Louis Sachar, Cornelia Funke, & John Green all in one week (and I caught the tail end of Laurie Halse Anderson's speech on Wednesday night too), but I haven't had internet access in a few days. I'm going to try to get Comcast out to my house soon, but my mom won't call to set up an appointment, even though she's home a lot more than I am. I'm on the school's network right now & only have a little bit of time before my next class.

I was just flipping through the newest issue of my school's newspaper, The Blazer and read over the book review I had submitted. I realized something: I had been edited. I knew this would happen, but it still bothers me. Mostly because I sound really repetitive & unimaginative at the end. Then I got to thinking about how this would affect me as a writer. In the future, I will deal with editors who want me to change one thing or another in my books, short stories, articles, etc. that I might not want to change. But here's the difference: "big time" editors will (or at least should be) professional. They will (or should) tell me what they want changed and give me the opportunity to change it before it goes to press. They will not take that liberty upon themselves without asking me first. Some editors might, I realize, but if they do, they're not being very professional about their job and at that point, I really hope I'm not the author they are dealing with.

I'd expand, but I have to keep this short so I can eat before I go to class (I was going to wait until after, but I'm getting really hungry now).

In just a few hours, NaNoWriMo will kick off and I will again participate. You may remember I participated two years ago, but had to take last year off because of personal/family issues. But I'm back this year & I am very excited! I don't have a plot all planned out, in fact, it's not even there as much as I would like it to be before I begin plowing through, but I'll deal with it!
I'll try to make updates like it did in 2006, with tips I learn along the way, word counts, & just "I am avoiding my writing" posts. With the internet situation as it is, I cannot guarantee this, but I will try. I want to.

If anything, I might just learn how much I want an editor to change things for me, haha.

If you want to friend me on the NaNo pages, my username is once again TypesetJez and I've linked that so you can find me (the NaNo site has temporarily disabled author searches to save its server some).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Realistic Fiction
Review by Jez Layman

Banned books week was September 27-October 4th, but banning books is a serious topic that should be acknowledged and fought all year long. Every year schools, churches, political groups, and many others will work to remove certain books from the shelves so that no one can read them. One such book is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which has been challenged and banned time and time again since its publication in 1925. It is listed among the top most frequently challenged books of the 20th and 21st centuries, but is also listed as number 2 on Modern Library’s Top 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century. Charges have come against this book in that it is “sexually explicit” or the language is “inappropriate,” but when today’s college student compares it with television shows and movies they watch regularly, it is likely to seem relatively harmless.

In the book, Nick Carraway moves to the big city and finds a home in West Egg along the Long Island Sound. His next door neighbor is the lavish and mysterious Jay Gatsby, a man of self-made wealth, but of unknown background. Everyone claims to know Gatsby, but few have any clue as to who he really is. Really, he is simply a man trying to impress the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan (who coincidentally happens to be Nick’s cousin). Gatsby dated Daisy before he left to fight in World War I, and when he returned he found that she had not waited for him, but instead married Tom Buchanan. Tom is an untrue husband with a mistress in the city named Myrtle, that everyone, including Daisy, knows about. All of these scandals, and more, are uncovered through the eyes of Nick, who reintroduces Gatsby and Daisy.

This is a story of romantic complications and multiple instances of cheating and adultery, but even more than that, it is a depiction and reflection of life in the Jazz Age of America, during the time of prohibition. Things in Nick’s world are always more than they seem and should never be taken for granted. The characters are life-like and can easily be found in today’s society. Everyone knows a Nick or a Daisy, a Gatsby or a Tom. The plot has its twists and turns, keeping the reader interested, and the style is like no other. Fitzgerald is a master writer of his time and of all time and is constantly ranked among the best writers of the 20th century for that reason.

The Great Gatsby is more than just an English assignment. If you read it for a class, I encourage you to read it again so that you can enjoy it without the worry of the next test or assignment hanging over your head. And if you have never read it, I encourage you even more to read this novel, as well as other banned books. In celebration of banned books, try reading something new and controversial, you might just find a new view on the world, or even just simply something you enjoy reading.

Next review will be up shortly, I'm having a friend read over it for me before I send it in. It will be on John Green's new book, Paper Towns

Book Review: Peeps

This is my 101st post! :)
This semester I've been writing book reviews for my school newspaper, The Blazer. I've been waiting to put them up on here so that I could link you all to read them on the newspaper's webpage, but it doesn't appear that anyone over there is updating the page anymore.

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
Young Adult

This year vampires are popular in literature, but with all the hype over Twilight, other vampire novels are lost in the shuffle. One such brilliant novel is Peeps by Scott Westerfeld. In his book Westerfeld puts a new spin on the classic vampire story. Forget all the folklore about crosses and silver bullets, this isn’t a mythological kind of story, this is about a parasite. The parasite works a little bit like an STD, no biting of necks necessary. Some of the old tales about vampires are explained by Westerfeld in that the parasite changes a person’s perceptions of the world & causes them to hate the things that they liked in their pre-peep days, such as crosses if they were religious.

The main character, Cal, is a carrier for the parasite--someone who has it, but isn't affected by it, except for increased strength and heightened senses. It's Cal's job to find other “peeps” and capture them before they cause any more harm or spread the disease farther. His main target is Morgan, the woman who gave him the parasite, but along the way he meets Lace, a girl who begins to involve herself in the investigations with him. But it’s a little hard to concentrate on the mission when the parasite wants Lace too, adding a little romantic conflict to the story.

The plot is well thought out, interesting, and on occasion suspenseful. And for the life science geeks out there, the even numbered chapters are about real life parasites. These chapters add to the story & make things easier to understand, but if you have a weak stomach it is advised that you skip these chapters as they can get a little disturbing and are not integral to the plot.

Part science fiction, part non-fiction this book will make you rethink everything you’ve known about vampires up until now and make you fall in love with them all over again. Scott Westerfeld has a great writing style and creates characters you’ll remember and relate to. This book is recommended to those who love vampires, science fiction, or just want a good, quick read.

If you liked Peeps, try the companion novel, The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld. New characters, new perspectives, same old parasites.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Banned Books

I'm a day late to comment on Banned Books Week, but here's the thing guys: books are banned all the time. Not just in any one week. This isn't a topic we should concentrate on for a mere 7 days. This is a problem we should be aware of 365 (sometimes even 366) days a year! It's a serious problem where certain people try to govern what's "acceptable" or not for us to read. They try to control our reading habits and make things inaccessible to us. What's wrong for one person could be the absolute best read for another. So don't let those people win. Read banned books. Fight against banning books. And don't ban books yourself. Give reading a chance.

Now, I'm writing up my newest book review for my school's newspaper, and in honor of banned books, I've decided to write on The Great Gatsby. I'll put up the review when the issue comes out (and I'll put up my last one very soon), but until then, check out the list of banned books and see which ones you've read, which ones you want to read, and which ones simply do not belong on that list.

I can't find any one list with all the banned books, but if you google you can find a lot of good lists.

Banned books that I have read:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (banned for putting anthromorphosized animals on the same level as humans. go fig. I LOVE THIS BOOK)
Animal Farm by George Orwell (I didn't like this book, but my friend LOVES it)
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (I have yet to meet someone who likes this book. Still shouldn't be banned though)
The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Adventures of Huck Finn by Mark Twain
Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
The Giver by Lois Lowry (I just debated about this book with someone last night actually)
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
The Witches by Roald Dahl (one of my favorites)
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Bible
Anything by William Shakespeare (though I have not read them all)
Grimm's Fairy Tales
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
1984 by George Orwell (most of it anyway)
Charlotte's Web by EB White
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (more correctly, I've read The Golden Compass & part of The Subtle Knife)

Banned books I really want to read:
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Freedom Writers
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Outsiders by S.E. HInton
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (I may have actually read this in grade school, but I can't remember clearly)
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Also, check out the ALA's page on Banned Books Week for more info on banned books.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Register to Vote. Seriously.

Originally, Spider-Man told me to register. Seriously, he did. My friend found me an old X-Men TAS cassette tape and I popped it in & there was a public service annoucement--from Spider-Man!! It was done in the 90s and was cheesy, but Spidey told me to make sure to register to vote. Then at welcome week earlier this semester I registered. And I'll be voting later this year in national, state, & local elections.

You should register too. Now, I can't ask Spider-Man to tell you to. But maybe you'll listen to these guys instead.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I am not to be trusted

I need to stop saying things on here like "I will do this for you next week" or "I'll put this up later." Because I never do, obviously.

So maybe I'll just post when I actually have something. I do want to post here more often though, so I'll put up the comic reviews--that I already have done! And possibly some shorter reviews & blurbs. When I get my new computer, well, we'll see.

But I am alive. I am reading. I am writing.

If any of you want to read a sample of my children's writing, you can read Fork Lad's Tale here. It's a short story I wrote for my brother, based off of the Whisk Pirate Adventures I've been writing for my friends. Just fun, not serious writing. It's probably more practice because it's very different from my usual writing style.

Oh and hey, if you have a Twitter, let me know! You all can follow me here.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Book Meme

I'm not dead, school didn't kill me. I'm heading out of town in a few minutes here (as soon as the family is all finished packing), but when I get back next week I'll have plenty of wonderful things to post for you all. Including reviews of John Green's Paper Towns (comes out Oct 08), The first 3 (or maybe 4) Traveling Pants books by Ann Brashares, The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Paton, The Witches by Roald Dahl, and The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Possibly some ranting over Louis Sachar's Holes and some stuff on children's literature and picture books too. My children's lit class has prepared me well and I'm more than happy to share what I learned!

Okay, until then I leave you with a book-based meme taken from Jordyn over at Page Numbered

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?
Maybe the House of Night series? Everyone always tells me good things about it and my friend Jess lent it to me once. I got through like 3 chapters and could not read anymore because I hated the main character so much.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?
Ooh, that's tough. Um. I'm reading the pants books now and really connecting with Bridget, so let's take her along. And maybe this is a current book obsession thing, but I want to bring along Margo Roth Speigelman from Paper Towns because she's so awesome, but still really deep and thoughtful. My third guest would be Ginny from 13 Little Blue Envelopes. We'll all go on a road trip! That seems to be the best idea with these girls.

You are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for a while, which book would you expect to be waiting for you at the end?
Crime and Punishment. I tried to read it for school and could not do it. Or maybe something by Dickens.

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?
I don't remember exactly, but I know I did this a few times in school. Cuz that's what honor kids do, honestly.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?
Hm...I'm not sure. There most likely has been. I know I do it with manga sometimes, like the 29th volume of Naruto I could have sworn I'd read before, but as I got farther into it I found out I hadn't.

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead of personalise the VIP).
Depends on the person, but either The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald or The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. I recommend Hugo Cabret to non-reading kids all the time because even though it's huge it's easy to read. Half of the book is like a picture/flip book anyway. And then when they're done and like it they can fell like "I just finished that gigantic book, now I can read anything."

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?
Italian, no contest. I would like French maybe because there are so many good books in French, but Italian would win out no matter what. I'm learning Italian and I love it completely.

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. It was the first book to get me really into reading and I still love it. I try to read it once a year anyway.

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?
I found John Green through Scott Westerfeld's blog, and whereas I'm not a big fan of An Abundance of Katherines I really love Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. John Scalzi too, also through Westerfeld. I haven't read most of his stuff, but I really enjoy Agent to the Stars.
But more importantly I found Maureen Johnson through the blogosphere and she's my favorite author these days. I will read anything written by her, even if it is a blood & tears book. And I hate those books generally (Twilight is the only thing of that genre I like, but for the action and not the romance so should it count?). MJ is a writing goddess, that's all there is to be said about that. Thank you internets!

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

I wrote this library into my book, actually. It's huge, with shelves so high you need those rolling ladders around. Most are hard cover or leatherbound, but some books are paperback and falling apart. These ones are all first editions or the ones I read as a child or never truly published by written by people I know. My favorite books are signed and have personalized messages to me. And there's a huge wall of all my favorite manga, with all the volumes there. And somehow my comics would end up somewhere in a way where the could not be ruined.

Take this if you want, I won't tag anyone this time around

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I'm alive and I've been tagged

Yes, I am still alive. Just very busy is all. I finished up my last exam this morning (very very early this morning I might add, I've been exhausted all day) and I start May Term on Monday. Lovely.

Anyway, Jude tagged me. And then Anita tried to tag me. So here goes!
Here's the rules at a glance:
-Pick up the nearest book
-Flip to whatever page you're on or a random page
-Type up lines 6-9
-Tag 5 people

From pg 80 Generation X: Crossroads by J. Steven York:
"...And most of all, we will need one unit to operate full specs, and we will need it ready quickly, to allow for the cosmetic modifications that we require."
Bervin leaned back against the workbench, allowing a..."

I really don't know who to tag anymore, as everyone else seems to have already been tagged. But I will tag Jordyn, my newest blogging friend.

Also, Jude nonspecifically & unknowingly tagged me for a second game:
Rules are:
a. Link to the person who tagged you.
b. Post the rules on your blog.
c. Write six random things about yourself.
d. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
e. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment at their blog.
f. Let your tagger know when your entry is up

1. The first person to congratulate me today after I finished my last exam was my favourite radio DJ, Jordan, who does the all-request hour on Shine.FM (I called in to request Paul Allen's "Bring You Back")
2. I write more fanfictions for my X-Men forum than I write for my book
3. I crack my toes in my sleep
4. I am allergic to mint, which means I use kid's "sparkle fun" flavoured toothpaste
5. I am a caffeine addict, more specificly a Coca-Cola addict
6. I'm one of the few writers I know who loves editing

Again, I don't know who to tag anymore, so anyone who wants to can consider themselves tagged.

One of the classes I'm taking during May term is Children's Literature. I've already started flipping through the text book; I'm very excited for this class. We'll be reading Charlotte's Web and when the girl in the school bookstore tried to give me a copy I told her "Oh no, I have my own copy, I just read it last month actually." She gave me a very strange look.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Research help: Your Last Days?

I'm working really hard on one of my books right now & I need some help! So, if you could please leave comments here about what you would do if you found out you had only a few months left to live. What would you do? What sort of things would you want to see?

Things to keep in mind:
+ These things must be inexpensive
+ These things have to be able to happen in a small suburb. Which isn't that hard, just, not something that belongs in big cities.
+ The odder, the better. I like small town oddities.
+ My characters are all about 19 years old

Thanks in advance, this will really help my research. I'm planning on a lot of research trips with my writer friend Jessica (you may remember her from my NaNoWriMo 07 interviews) to really get a feel for this book. The first is a trip to the local forest preserve, which will play a part in the story, and serves the double purpose of getting my friend to see it as she's never been. Other crazier trips are in the planning stages, as well as looking into tattoos (though my character only ever thinks about it).

Friday, March 07, 2008

Book Review: Feed by MT Anderson

The feed is in their minds, keeping them constantly connected. And this story stays in the minds of the reader as well. You will not want to put down MT Anderson's Feed and even when you do, the story stays in your head. Part teenage love story and part biting satire this book is amazing. It is unlike other books and gives us readers a taste of what it would be like to be constantly connected, to advance so far ahead that we loose sight of where we came from. So far ahead that we loose sight of who we are and what's imporant and see only the barrage of banners advertising the next big thing.

If the point of science fiction is to warn us of what could be coming, then Adverson has acheived it. The story is written realistically from the point of view of a hipster teen named Titus. He goes to the moon with his friends and meets a girl, then they go to a club & are hacked. Suddenly Titus finds himself grappling with problems he'd never conceived of, and on the biggest adventure of his life: an introduction to real life.

I could recommend this book to certain groups of people based on their taste in literature, or could relate to it, but that wouldn't be good enough. Everyone needs to read this book.

Thursday, March 06, 2008



I knew this was coming eventually: using the moon as a gigantic billboard. Starting March 21st Rolling Rock will have their logo imprinted on the moon's surface with a laser. Every full moon companies will be able to do this. We're turning the moon into the galaxy's biggest advertisement.

Rolling Rock is an independently spirited beer that does things differently, which is why we're trying a new, more tasteful marketing approach this year: putting our logo on the moon -- movertising.

Tasteful? I don't think so.

My father made a good point about this, in a few years the children growing up will never know what a full moon looks like without somebody's banner plastered across it.

What has the world come to when we can't even gaze up at the stars without being subjected to this kind of media infiltration? I keep thinking of MT Anderson's Feed and how the moon was transformed into a tackier version of Vegas and there were flashing billboards at the bottom of lakes for all the "upcars" going above to see. Is that what's next for us? Because, after all, isn't the point of science fiction to prevent certain futures from becoming reality?

Another thing I wonder about is what effect will this have on the moon? If it changes things, even a little bit, it could really affect us here on Earth. The moon controls the tides, and if the tides are changed, well...just watch The Day After Tomorrow. That's the most extreme example, of course, but the moon does have affects on the tide & the tide in turn has affects on other parts of our ecosystem.

For the record, I'm against this. But I'd like to hear your thoughts, so sound off!

Monday, January 28, 2008

From Idea to Story

Recently a friend of mine asked me for advice on writing & eager to help I asked if there was anything in particular she wanted insight on. She asked me how I turn an idea into a story. Wow. What a question! I wasn't sure what to tell her at first, because it was such a vague question--and a big one too! Eventually I told her a few key things & because she had to leave I promised I would blog about them to go into further detail, so here goes.

1) Ask yourself "why this story?" Why do you think this particular tale needs to be written?/Why do you want to write it? What's the point? This piece of information is the most important because its what you'll form your entire story around. You could write a good story & it woudln't be worht a snowflake in the Artic without a reason or main point. This is the hardest step in my opinion, but once you figure this out everything else will be easier. Which is why you should always do this first.

2) Okay, now you've got a point, what are you going to do with it? You need to figure out your plot, or main storyline. Every writer will tell you something different about how to go about this. Some say the best way to go about writing is to start from the beginning and continue in chronilogical order, building off each event. Others say to start from the end and work your way backwards. Robin Parrish gave great advice here* when he said to figure out the ending & key points and then play connect the dots. It really depends on the writer & the story what works best, but whatever you end up doing, always have a battle plan. If you don't, you'll charge headfirst into a war against a clan of highly trained needle ninja only to find that you're wearing balloon armor. It's not gonna go well.
So figure out where you want to go, and where you're going to start. It doesn't matter what you write first, you could write the very middle first, but know your general road map first. The plot will develop as you go along & maybe the end or beginning or something will change. As facts stand though, this is generally a good thing, so let them change. But don't try to start off without a general idea of how your story will go.

3) Characters are essential, I cannot stress enough how important characters are. No story was ever written without a character, even documentaries focus on specific animals in a group. Sometimes the characters come to you first and are the reason you get the idea for the story, sometimes you have to fit them into the story, but they always come because they need to. Make sure you know your characters before you start off--more than just their name** I'm not saying you need a full biography on each character, but at least get to know them a little. Just know who they are & why they're there; they will tell you the rest in time (and more). Every character is a story unto themselves, always remember that.
When you have a nice cast of characters, figure out how they'll interact with each other, this will help a ton in the long run.

4) Figure out your setting so the reader doesn't have to. If you leave out all indicators of setting the reader might think your Neptune space epic is in Oklahoma. Again, specifics aren't necessary at the beginning, but the basics are. As is (always) the "why" of it. Why Neptune & not Saturn? Why an abandoned cottage & not an overbooked 5-star hotel? Where are you going to make your characters live?

From there, the rest is up to you. I wish you all the luck in the world (or however much I'm allowed access to) on your bold, daring, and dangerous endevour of writing a novel. Some people can't handle it, some writers never make it, but maybe someday, you will. Writing is not for the faint of heart, at least not real writing; anyone can write a book, but it takes a true artist to write a good story.

* Max Hsu's interview with Robin Parrish
** Sometimes, as the story moves along, the character's name might need changing. Originally I had a character named Ulrich, who became Matt. I think this change was one of the best things I've done for the character.


Note: I am not an expert. I think Justine Larbalestier says it best.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Juvenile Writings

Recently my mum has been doing a lot of organizing & remodeling. In her quest for cleanliness she found my old notebook from kidnergarten that she saved. It was a daily journal we had to keep. I put up a few random entries here to show people my first ever writings. I also put up writings of mine from 9th, 10th, & 11th grade so I could see how I developed as a writer.

Have a look.

Also, I have another blog for quotes now. Just something fun to do with all the quotes I've compliled. You can see it here or access the LJ syndication here.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Fanfics for a good cause

YO! Fanfic writers! Here's a great way to use your fanfics for a good cause!

Here's the deal, truelovepooh on LJ was diagnosed with both stage two ovarian cancer and breast cancer last year. I don't personally know her, but does that really matter? Anyway, the deal is that a bunch of people on & off LJ are banding together in a mass-fandom fanfic contest to keep her spirits up.

Any fandom/pairing is allowed, just so long as the theme is "healing."

If you want to write about Edward (or Jake) taking care of Bella when she's sick, do it.
If you want to write about Josh Foley healing..well...everyone, do it.
If you want to write about how to save Norrington, do it.
If you want to write about um...Windalf healing a pixie, do it. ('s a fandom! Or we'll make it one anyway XD )

info here

Hope you all join me in this :D


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