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How do you write a book again?

It appears I’ve forgotten how to write a book. No joke. I’ve been working on my NaNoWriMo piece for four days now and it’s HARD. Nothing is flowing like normal. Those little plot lightening bolts I get when I’m first starting a story…not here.

So I think there are two possible causes of my storm-fee brain. First, I’m trying to write a book in book form with chapters, not scenes. Before is told in scenes, which means it’s a little skippier (spell check, skippier IS a word) than a normal book but I’d figured out how to get around that by the end. Now I’m trying to tell a story chronologically, not in scenes, and it seems I’ve forgotten how to do it. Logically I know it shouldn’t feel that different but it feels worlds apart.

Second, I also think I’m caught up in trying to write in order. Before…Before (oy) I’d never written in order just wrote the scenes as I wanted. Now I’m used to writing in order…but Reverse is giving me a he** of a time with this whole “in order” thing. It feels boring. Maybe I just haven’t gotten into the feel of the book yet, I don’t know. But it definitely makes me want to hit my head against something hard.

And it's definitely not that I chose the wrong story to write, because I LOVE my characters and their story. (Also it helps that my boy MC kind of looks like Jeremy on The Vampire Diaries.) I've been chomping at the bit to write this story. So I don't know what's wrong.

I'll leave you with this:

Sigh.

Anyone have any sage advice on how to start writing this a book? Or want to chime in about your favorite TVD character? I'm kind of in love with Jeremy right now, and of course Caroline.

Woo hoo!

 What's that sound? Probably the air horns I've been blasting in celebration of finishing the first draft of Before. That's right - it's done!!! *throws confetti* So usually a first draft takes me 3-6 weeks. This one I'm estimating at 20 weeks. Oy. Now it's possibly better than some of my other first drafts, but there is still a MOUNTAIN of edits to be made before it's even close to done. However, I am taking a break and this month I'll be doing...

Isn't the monkey cute? Also slightly crazy looking? 

Normally I'd probably take a real break, but as some wonderfully helpful people have pointed out I have vowed to finish 2 books this year. And I'd rather not tack an ending on the book I was writing in March and April to call it "finished." (Actually I think I might need to re-write that one fully. Gulp.) So instead I'm going back to Reverse, which has been living in my head since June.

So we're two days into NaNoWriMo and I have to say - I forgot how much fun writing can be. How much fun it is to meet new characters, listen to them, see how they become real live people on paper. Okay, now I just want to write!

So anyone else doing NaNoWriMo? If so you can find me under lizwhelan.

Oh and I will blog about the conference this past weekend, which was AWESOME, but my brain is in writing/accounting mode right now. But two of the sessions were crazy good so I shall share soon!

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Friday Five

 How is it almost November??? o.O

1. So this has been bugging me for a LONG time and it's hitting a critical point with all the campaign ads right now. My issue: female candidates using their first names for campaign posters. Do you ever see men doing this? No! We voted for Obama and Biden, McCain, Dodd and on and on. But now I'm being asked to vote for Linda or Carly or a whole host of other women I don't know but want me to call them by their first name. Maybe I'm just being overly sensitive, but it feels like we've fought so long and so hard to have women on equal footing and then these candidates reverse that by specifically focusing on the fact that they're women. It truly rubs me the wrong way. And also makes me consider NOT voting for them, which is completely wrong since I shouldn't be voting on a sign but instead on the ISSUES. Does anyone understand the purpose of using first names on signs? Anyone? Every time I see one of those signs, I want to bang my head into a wall. Hard. (Yes, I know this was overly dramatic. Oh well.)

2. I'm going to my first conference tomorrow - the SCWBI New England fall recap conference. It's a one day distillation of their spring conference (which I missed) and I'm really excited, especially as NaNoWriMo starts next week and I'm hoping to do it. With any luck the conference will give me some good plotting ideas for Reverse.

3. Yes, that also means I HAVE TO finish my WIP this weekend. I'm actually close to just writing the ending and dealing with the skip between the scenes I need to write and the ending when I turn to re-writes. Because if I don't end this WIP soon, my brain may explode. Also, I'm 99% certain whatever ending I write now will not end up being the real ending once I restructure the whole entire book.

4. This leads to an interesting conversation I had with my husband. We were chatting about my book and I said something to the effect of, "well I need to finish it so I can hack the entire MS apart and restructure it." And his eyes looked like this: O.O. Seriously. Then he asked something to the effect of, "WHY????" and I said, "it's not right, the pacing needs to be better, and to fix it I have to hack it apart and start over." Then he said he guessed he didn't understand writing. I find this interesting since he's an artist, but writing really is like that. And even when things are really right with an MS (good voice or characters or action), a first draft is really about figuring out the story and it's the re-writes that shape the book. I'm really looking forward to hacking it apart actually. Can't wait for December!!!

5. I am now obsessed with a new Taylor Swift song - Haunted. It's really more rock than country and MAN are the lyrics spectacular. Anyone writing a book with the girl MC who loses the guy she loves should listen to this song.

6. (Yes, I can count.) I have to study for ANOTHER accounting exam this weekend. This will be the 3rd weekend this month I lose to studying for an accounting exam. Does this seem odd to anyone else? I REALLY miss poli sci classes where I got to read and write all the time.

Friday Five: I'm tired

This list has nothing to do with tired stuff, I just thought I'd share that I'm exhausted.

1. I ordered a ton of books from Amazon last Sunday - most of them on writing - and they're set to deliver next Tuesday! So. Excited. I'm really looking forward to January, which I am dedicating to reading about writing. I figure by that point I'll be looking to take a break from writing. (Also how is it my mind is already planning January? I feel like LAST January was just a few weeks ago.)

2. Remember how I was super productive last week and studied and wrote and did crits and read? Yeah, not this week. This week I've been a lump on the couch. I haven't even read a book, mainly because I can't get into any of the 3 books I bought last Thursday or the three books I have out from the library. This weekend is going to have to be SUPER productive because I need to finish up my WIP before November.

3. Thank goodness November is almost here and all the political ad campaigns are almost over. Not that I'm against politics, but negative ads drive me CRAZY. It makes me want DVR just so I can skip them. I have no idea why politicians pay millions of dollars to spend thirty seconds telling you how horrible their opponent is because it seems like a waste of money to me. Also sometimes it makes me not want to vote, which is HORRIBLE. And for what it's worth, Ms. or Mr. Politician, your ad saying your opponent burns the flag on Sundays* isn't going to make me vote for you.

4. I have become obsessed with Taylor Swift's new single Back to December. I've listened to it 41 times in the week I've had it, or about 6 times a day. Actually that doesn't seem too bad.** Also Welcome Home by Radical Face - AWESOME. Interesting my two most listened to songs aren't rock and don't have anyone yelling at me. Hmmm.

5. I have no articles on important things going on in the world to share. This makes me sad because it means I haven't been reading about what's going on in the world. I don't like this. That's all.


*Okay maybe an exaggeration, but really I'm just waiting for that one.
**We'll ignore the fact that I don't listen to music much on the weekends and really that figure should be 8+ times a day.
My brain is slightly fried and I don't have much useful to say about writing. But luckily other people do! I don't think I've shared these links before, but if I've shared one or two I apologize. In any event, here are some super useful articles I've read (or re-read) lately.

First chapters
As someone new to writing, the first chapter always seems the hardest. Actually that's not quite true - writing my first chapter is easy but knowing it's the RIGHT first chapter is kind of hard. Enter Valerie Kemp, who posted a great article on Nathan Bransford's site about how important a first chapter is and how to fix yours. I'd been making some of these changes to my first chapter and her list is definitely something I'll revisit when I work on my first massive edit. Also Beth Revis' article on hooking a reader with a first chapter is outstanding and maybe one of the best things I've read on writing lately. I read it right after I finished the first chapter of my next project and it helped me see a bunch of changes I could make.

Plot
These are actually older articles that I have bookmarked and I always go back to them. The first is by Janice Hardy (and I would HIGHLY recommend you following her blog if you don't; she gives great writing advice) and discusses the purpose of plot. Her tip on writing down that one sentence was super helpful for me, especially as my current MC likes to wander around a lot.* Second is Laini Taylor's three part post on plot. I found this long ago and it may have been the most helpful set of articles I've ever read on writing. Part one is on what is plot, part two is on character motivation and conflict, and part three is on structure. Her comments on freewriting in part three are spectacular; I love freewriting and do it all the time. Also the discussion of beats is great too and something I'll be keeping in mind as I edit Before since the layout/format/structure of the story is a bit different.

Character collage
So I'd never even considered making a character collage until I saw this WriteOnCon video by Tera Lynn Childs. I'm not quite sure why I didn't think of it, since I am a very visual person when it comes to my WIPs, but I didn't. And then I watched the video and I thought, "Hmmm...that might be interesting." And promptly forgot about it. But a few weeks ago, when I was taking a break from my WIP, I decided to do a character collage for the MC of my next project. Oh. My. Gosh. Seriously, such a major help. Pulling pictures out of magazines led me to a much greater understanding of not only my MC, but of other people in her life too. So much backstory developed just from me flipping through In Style and Vogue

Alright, I must get to work. And make some tea. So have you read any fabulous articles on writing lately? If so, share in the comments!

*Not literally, but she tells me a whole bunch of unimportant stuff and I'm constantly struggling to see if what she's telling me needs to be in my book or not.

Friday Five: the Super Fast Edition

 1. How is it already Friday? Where did the week go? I feel like I say this every week, but this year seems to be flying by faster than normal. At least the weekend means a) more time to write and do all the crits I have stacked up and b) actually seeing my husband and possibly (gasp!) even talking to him. 

2. We're getting a new couch delivered tomorrow, and a new chair! This is the first living room furniture we've ever bought (everything else was handed down) and soon I won't be sitting in a hole*!! Woo hoo! Soon we'll get out new entertainment center stuff too and will have a real, grown-up living room. O.O Also then I'll get the old bookshelf in my office and I'll be able to move all my books in here! O.O

3. Sometimes you just need Frosted Flakes for breakfast.

4. So last weekend I got a book from the library that I was VERY excited about. It was fiction and right up military/spy/action loving Liz's alley. I started reading and WOW. I understand authors of these style books do not write for me, the female reader. And maybe I've just become more picky since starting to write, but man was the book hard to read. The plot was...well it took me 300 pages to figure out what the plot was (I knew from reading the flap jacket, but spent 300 pages waiting for it to actually be substantiated) and the amount of backstory... o.O I think I might have been cheering for the bad guy the whole time.** I learned a lot from reading the book, including THINGS BLOWING UP and ACTION are NOT the same thing. Lots of stuff blew up, but it was boring***. And right when I got excited for the book, when things started happening, I realized there were only 30 pages left. :( If I hadn't been so excited to read the book maybe I wouldn't be so upset. But at least I learned some more about writing.

5. It's possible I volunteered for a new job yesterday...well a new second job. They're losing three trainers at my gym and it's possible I offered to fill in until they found new people. Clearly I did not consider a) how busy work's getting, b) that I'm in SCHOOL, c) that I'm TRYING TO WRITE 2 BOOKS BY DECEMBER and d) that all of this rolls up to equal a very busy Liz. Oh well. It would be fun to train people again!


* I mean this literally. One of the springs broke on my side of the couch so I've been sitting at a 45 degree angle for months. 
** Or maybe the bad guy was the good guy and I couldn't tell? I still can't figure this out.
*** That's right boring. Given my love of stuff blowing up, and how IMO it can never happen enough, this surprised me.

My awesomest adventure

My husband and I spent our honeymoon in two of the three most dangerous cities in the US: St. Louis and Detroit.* Oh, and we also went to New York City, Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio. Why exactly did I want to visit Detroit on my honeymoon?


Okay this is actually Shea Stadium, but it's the best photo of our sign.

We are HUGE baseball fans.** And since our wedding was only a couple weeks before the playoffs, we decided our honeymoon would be a road trip where we'd go to as many playoff games as possible. We made it to four: Dodgers-Mets (New York), Yankees-Tigers (Detroit), Padres-Cardinals (St. Louis) and Mets-Cardinals (New York). (Also watched the final game of the Yankees-Tigers series in a sports bar across from the park. It might have been the best part of the trip.)

Of course getting from NYC to Detroit, Detroit to St. Louis and then back to NYC involved lots of quality time in the car - sans GPS because I felt that wasn't in keeping with the spirit of our trip.*** There were some nights when we only got a few hours sleep before we had to get up and hit the road for our next game, but it was totally worth it. We met a ton of awesome people. Also St. Louis fans - nicest fans in the world.


We met Bob in Detroit. He was awesome and also insisted on buying us a beer when he realized we were on our honeymoon.

Okay so we didn't meet Robin Roberts AT a game...but I had to post this photo because I love her.

We also saw some...interesting sights - like the guy peeing in the parking garage not ten feet from me (I didn't really need to see that). Oh and the trillion "roadwork" signs in Ohio - my favorite were the ones that marked NO ROAD WORK. We also saw the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty and the St. Louis Arches. 

Some of my favorite photos:


Interestingly there are no good photos of the Tigers celebrating their win. Hmmm, wonder why?****


We couldn't believe how much red there was in St. Louis. You don't see that at games in the Northeast.


I love the celebration shots.

One of my co-workers dared me to eat a hotdog at a ballpark...so I had one at every ballpark. (Important note: I'm not a fan of hotdogs.)

And why did I just tell you all of that? Because Beth Revis is hosting a contest to win a signed ARC of Across the Universe and I totally want it. You should check out the contest, and her spectacular new website.

*I should point out I have no idea HOW these got voted the most dangerous cities in the US, but I do recall hearing a news story on it right after we got back from our honeymoon.
** Despite our apparel, I should note I am a DIEHARD Red Sox fan and my husband is a Yankee's fan.
*** Thank GOODNESS we never got seriously lost. Well except for that time in Detroit, but we made it out of there.
**** Um that would be because of ** as I had no control over the camera.

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My week in pictures

 How have I missed a week of posting?!? Oh yeah, I was here:


You mean you don't recognize those trees? Well they're in Killington, Vermont.

I was there to do this:


Mmmm pancakes....


Okay not really. We were in Vermont for this:


Our friends' wedding - so much fun!!

And then we traveled to Mass.:


What you've never eaten a baby nose before? They're quite yummy.

Actually my friend's heading abroad for a year or so and we were there for his good-bye party. (I'll miss you buddy!)

And then when we got home I had to start doing this:


I have two accounting exams in 8 days. That is not a typo. Or a rounding error.

So I'll be here for a while:


Okay I'm not really going to be in this bunker (mainly because it's across the ocean), but it'll feel like it. 


Also when googling for pictures of bunkers in Bruges, Belgium, I got this:


Now that's my kind of motto. Think Colin Farrell will take my accounting exam for me?

And not to be self-serving but my husband took this picture of me and I kind of love it...


I was having very deep thoughts about the meaning of life.
(Or praying we could speed things along before I froze to death. Vermont in October...not so warm.)

Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Happy Banned Books Week

How do I celebrate Banned Books Week? I go out and buy a bunch of banned/challenged books:

Now all I want to do is curl up on the couch and read these books.

I've blogged about my feelings on banned books before (here) (oh and here) but it's a topic I can never write enough on because I'm so vehemently opposed to it. Today I'm not going to beat you to death with my opinions on banning, I'm going to share my favorite articles/blogs on banned books.

Saundra Mitchell wrote an excellent piece on how much the library meant to her growing up. If you've ever thought, "why does it matter if a book is banned?" then read that post. 

Natalie Whipple wrote a great piece on a specific book, Get Well Soon, and the importance of the book to her personally. It's important (in my opinion) to remember banning a book means you are taking the book out of the hands of someone it could help

And this post by Julia Karr was interesting, but the comments actually fired me up the most because one asks, "Aren't parents supposed to monitor a child's intake of television, movies, and yes, books?" Of course parents are responsible for what their children see/read/etc. BUT one parent shouldn't be dictating what all children should be reading. And banning a book from a school or library is doing exactly that.

Also you should read Laurie Halse Anderson's blog on banning books - and she does a much better job of including lots of links.

Gosh every time I start reading articles on banning books I get fired up again. So I'm going to leave you with this: if you can afford it, go out and buy a banned book today. Support authors who are taking on tough topics and helping children, teenagers, adults overcome difficulties like rape or depression. Support authors who push the status quo and remind us how important freedom of speech truly is.

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Friday Five: Very list-y

 1. Deep fried butter
Oh you can't make this stuff up. At a fair near me one of the concessions is deep fried butter. I could try to explain it but, well, you might not believe me. So you can read about it here. The comparison to an "already buttered biscuit" seems suspect to me. Now I am going to eat as many vegetables as I can stuff in myself.

2. Fall is here - yippee!*
It is gorgeous here in CT - the leaves have been changing for well over a week and I'm looking forward to all of the trees changing. I watched leaves float down slowly all day today. I really love fall.

3. Winter's on it's way
How do I know this? Our dog is getting her winter coat. She currently resembles a big cotton ball and it's kind of cute. Also her head is wedged UNDER the base of my office chair, so if I move at all I will literally crush it. Why do dogs do this? Also this seems particularly unsafe in a house with old sloped floors that make my chair roll randomly. I should probably move her.

4. Heist Society - how did I not read this sooner?!?
So I (finally) read Ally Carter's Heist Society. It's the first of her books I've read (mainly because it's the first one that's ever been in at the library...) and it is seriously awesome. Given my love of spy-military-political-action-y books**, it should've been obvious that I'd like it but wow did I love it. Are there more spy-type YA books out there as well written as Heist Society? If anyone knows of any, please share!!!

5. Happy anniversary to #1 (aka my husband)
We celebrated four years of marriage yesterday and for the first time ever I wished him a happy anniversary first. Of course I forgot to get a card, or make a sparkly one, but oh well. I did make dinner so that should count for something.

And now I am off to enjoy the gorgeous out doors!

* Be prepared for me to curse fall in a few weeks when we're filling ~70 leaf bags. It's a good thing I like raking.
** Which dominated my bookshelf from 2003-2009.