A Year Without Books

It’s been months again, but it hardly seems any time has passed since I last posted. The last few months have been hellacious, physically and emotionally. Suffice it to say, writing has been far from my mind because of it. I was in a huge downward spiral of depression and angst with no sign of letting up.

Then my doctor put me on a thyroid medication and it was spook how, in less than 24 hours, I turned 180 degrees and started putting one foot in front of the other again. I’ve known for a long time that I had thyroid problems, but the doctors insisted because my blood tests were “normal,” I couldn’t possibly have a thyroid issue. But the results of taking this new medication prove them all wrong.

Now I’m slowly getting back into a writerly groove and I’m thankful. I’ve missed it.

But I’ve also spent FAR too much money on books this year. People may say that’s impossible, but when I’m feel down or blue or anxious, buying books is my sanity. Especially spending an hour or two browsing through a huge bookstore. Very little is more calming to me than that.

However, I know I’ve spent far and away what I should have, and I need to get it under control.

So, beginning October 1st, I will be giving up buying books for a whole year.

How is this possible? Won’t I run out of new books to read. *scoff* Hardly. I have a couple thousand books for my shelves and haven’t read at least 1/3 to 1/2 of them. Not to mention all the books on my Kindle. And this will get me at least a tiny bit caught up on my TBR list. Not all the way, but at least making some headway.

But I’d like to get your advice: are there any books you know of that are coming out soon, will be forthcoming in the next year, or any favorites you recommend that I just won’t be able to live without for a year? 🙂 I have a wide range of tastes in reading, so I’m fairly open.

Shoot ’em at me before I go cold turkey in a few weeks.

Happy writing and reading!

 

“Sometimes, looking at the many books I have at home, I feel I shall die before I come to the end of them, yet I cannot resist the temptation of buying new books. Whenever I walk into a bookstore and find a book on one of my hobbies — for example, Old English or Old Norse poetry — I say to myself, “What a pity I can’t buy that book, for I already have a copy at home.”
Jorge Luis Borges, This Craft of Verse

“How many cities have revealed themselves to me in the marches I undertook in the pursuit of books!”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections

“To build up a library is to create a life. It’s never just a random collection of books.”
Carlos María Domínguez, The House of Paper

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Bologna 2017 Book Fair

Right now, the Bologna Book Fair is taking place in Bologna, Italy. What an exciting prospect!

The Bologna Book Fair is an annual event that gives agents, editors, publishers, etc., to find new talent, new trends, and acquire new rights. It sounds fabulous. While reading about it, I found this article that relates what current agents and publishers will be looking for at the Fair in regards to children and young adult books. Which is my area of writing emphasis.

Hands down, the most sought after reads will be from marginalized and diverse authors. Most of the agents in the article mention this as a popular trend, but I hope it’s far more than a trend. It should be here to stay and continue to grow so publishing and readership becomes more well-rounded and culturally diverse. That is the society in America. Diverse. Varying. Ever-changing.

It also looks like YA fantasy will be much harder to break into in the next couple of years. That makes sense, though, given all the break-out hits of the past ten years. The bar is much higher.

However, middle grade fantasy is on the upswing, which is good news for yours truly, and YA contemporary is, as well.

Of course, the current political climate was also mentioned and how this will influence the writing wave of the next few years. I don’t doubt it one iota.

I look forward to seeing what comes about after this Fair! I only wish I could go!

What kinds of books are you hoping to see in the near future? Any genre or age group specifically?

Happy writing!

“Yeah, well, we’re all writers, aren’t we? He’s a writer that hasn’t been published, and I’m a writer who hasn’t written anything.”
Steve Martin, Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays

“I wrote a book. It sucked. I wrote nine more books. They sucked, too. Meanwhile, I read every single thing I could find on publishing and writing, went to conferences, joined professional organizations, hooked up with fellow writers in critique groups, and didn’t give up. Then I wrote one more book.”
Beth Revis

Opposing Views

Hello, again, bloggy friends!

The past year has been a nutty one, and I’m shamefully returning to the blogging scene. I’m taking a page out of a friend’s blog and trying to make writing goals for each month.

If you don’t know her, Indigo Wood is amaze-sauce. Truly. A fabulous friend and amazing writing buddy. Go visit her.

Anywho, recently I undertook a massive project to completely revamp my fantasy series. I know I’ve said that before with multiple re-writes, but this is actually a re-think from the beginning. Similar ideas, but plot and overarching series arc is different.

In an effort to bring about the best writing I can muster, I read two different books on writing (from my impressive collection of books on writing), and I wanted to recommend them both.

However, they’re polar opposites in views. But I think that’s a good thing.

The first one is Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell.

Essentially, he wrote a book for people who think they can’t learn how to write. How he learned to write and the techniques from start to finish for completing a book. Including how to plot, finding ideas, structuring a successful novel, etc.

I literally took notes on this book as if it were a class on writing and found some AMAZING ideas for my new plot in the process. This was a life-changing read.

On the other hand, I’m not the most structured writer and feel too confined when following specific guidelines. So I also read Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules by Steven James. A solid book for pantsers or semi-pantsers, like me.

All about breaking out of the structural guidelines that other books purport to be essential to the writing process. Actually, I felt like he was taking a few digs at Scott Bell’s book, directly, but maybe that was just me.

Both of these books offered great advice and two different takes on successful writing. Depending on your mood, ideals, personality, etc, one of these would work for you. I recommend reading them both to get a well rounded concept of how to write, if you’re struggling.

 

Happy writing to all!

 

“In fact, one could argue that the skill of the fiction writer boils down to the ability to exploit intensity.”
James Scott Bell, Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish

“Organic writers are never directionless because we can always work on scenes that fulfill the promises we’ve made earlier in the story or go back and foreshadow the fulfillment of promises we think of as the story takes shape.”
Steven James (Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules)

A Reading Challenge

Hello again!!

What a year 2016 was, and I’m SO glad it’s over. I’ve been quite absent on the blogosphere, but never fear! That was mostly due to many health issues that plagued me over the year and the corresponding depressive/anxious states that occurred alongside them.

I’m truly hoping to return to a more active presence here this year. Starting with…

A reading challenge! Created by one of my fellow bloggy/writing friends, John Guillen.

I did his reading challenge last year, as well, and I think this one will be even better! Last year I completed the challenge just by the sheer number of books I read (313), but this year, I’m planning it out a little more, so I have one book for every challenge listed.

I hope you partake! And go visit John’s blog ASAP! He always has something interesting to say about reading and writing and books. I’ve been a follower for years.

Happy 2017 everyone!

In 2016 I hosted my very own reading challenge for the first time. Of course I didn’t even complete it myself. So now I’m upping the stakes! Last year’s challenge included 20 books. This year’s includes 25. Branch out and read along with me as 2017 unfolds and I continue to diversify my habits. Take […]

via 2017 Reading Challenge Announcement! — Johnny Reads

Blogging Slump

That’s right. I admit it.

I’ve been in a blogging slump. I just haven’t felt like blogging lately, but I’m totally okay with that. I do miss my bloggy buddies as most of you are the reason d’être that I started branching out into reading and writing other things.

But I’ve been focused on writing, reading, more reading, tons more writing, and a little sleeping/working knocked in there somewhere.

On top of that, this week is my last week at my current contract before I head to Maine for the spring/summer.

I’m too stressed right now to be 100% excited because I have so much to do before then, plus I’ve been dealing with some medical issues lately–the last three months, really–but haven’t mentioned it to anybody until last week. And the docs don’t know what it is. So. Yay.

Anywho…

A quick update on my life: I’m 60-some books into my 115 book goal for the year, reading-wise, but that doesn’t include books I’ve already re-read since the beginning of the year. If I did, that number would be in the high 70s.

I did a complete 100k rewrite in six weeks and I won a couple auctions through a literary agency and am getting feedback on my query letter, first 10 pages, and first 50 pages, from three different agents. Squee!! I’m most excited about that. How often do you get that opportunity?!?!?!!

 

What’s going on in your lives, my bloggy pals? I’ll update with more pictures and try to get back on the blogging bandwagon, especially since I signed up for Camp NaNo in April to help me finish the second book in my MG fantasy series.

Hugs and happy writing/reading to all!

 

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.
That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”
― Octavia E. Butler
“A normal reader reads to enjoy, a writer is in training”
― Bangambiki HabyarimanaThe Great Pearl of Wisdom

“You must write as if each word is a precious drop of blood, or a tear to be saved in a glass phial.”
― Chloe ThurlowKatie in Love

Coffee Shop Kook

Home is my enemy right now.

Completely.

I’ve been more productive in my writing in an hour or two at a coffee shop in the middle of my workday than I am for hours at home on the weekends or after work.

Gah!!!

I’m sure it’s because I get distracted by all the things that need doing or that I would like to be doing besides writing. Although I adore writing, I’m in the middle of a massive rewrite and it’s a LOT of work, so I look for things that are easier.

I haven’t had any success at home, so I’m essentially living at three different coffee shops around town. Thankfully, everyone is nice is about it, although my patients do notice I smell like coffee quite a bit.

I’m not a coffee drinker, but the smell of the beans after they’ve been ground seeps into my clothes. I’m fine with it. Eau de Coffee ain’t so bad.

Where’s your most productive location? Not your favorite location, your most productive. Home? Office? Work? Coffee Shop? Frigid street corner?

 

Happy writing!

 

“Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law”
― Douglas R. Hofstadter

“To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self disciplined is to follow in a better way.”
― Corita Kent

Every Character Has A Crutch

We know it’s true. And yet so many writers try to deny it. But I believe that the best and most complex characters all have a crutch of some sort.

And crutches get such a bad rap.

As a physical therapist, I know how important real crutches are to people who literally cannot stand on their own two feet. Crutches get them past a painful period when they need something to lean on.

Characters are no different. They all have crutches.

Whether it be alcohol, sex, bitterness, holding grudges, revenge, food, cruelty, unhealthy relationships, and, yes, even exercise. All characters have one thing in common…

None of them are strong enough to survive on their own. Even characters who are physically alone in the story need something to keep them going.

I’ll use some famous examples from my favorite works:

Anne Shirley from “Anne of Green Gables” – Most especially seen in the first book or two, Anne holds onto the fact that she is an orphan, and keeps grudges for a LONG time. Those grudges and her need to fall back on the orphan plot keeps her engaged in the story and gives her something that keeps her moving forward. She also has a fierce imagination which, while rich and verdant, can also be her downfall. When she can’t handle a situation, she resorts to fantastical ideas of resolution. These crutches make her a well-rounded and likable character.

Celaena Sardothien from “Throne of Glass” – Celaena is motivated by hoping to achieve her own freedom. Which, given what she’s lived through, is definitely a goal. But she falls back on her hatred of the king and her sharp temper as a crutch. She uses them to propel her lofty, and often insanely gutsy, goals towards fruition. She also leans on Chaol and Dorian, despite the fact that she claims to be self-sufficient and doesn’t need anybody. And you know what? That’s okay! We all need something to get us past dark times and difficult situations. As long as they don’t encumber our growth as a character.

The Big Friendly Giant from “The BFG” – This character is so adorably quaint and down-to-earth, it’s almost ludicrous to think he has a crutch. But he does. His fear of the other giants, and his nightly excursions to capture dreams are his crutches. He uses them as a means to make excuses for why he doesn’t take more of a stand… until little Sophie comes into his life.

I like each one of these characters for different reasons. Do I think they’re weak because they have a crutch or two? No. Not at all. Broken and imperfect characters give us an ability to relate to them. And when we see them rise from the ashes of their crutch and their dangerous or unhealthy mannerisms, we celebrate their victory all the more–because they’ve worked hard to prove themselves and strengthen their own resolve.

I’m sure if you thought about it, you’d realize all the best characters have them. And they make the story more compelling and add layers of richness and complexity to the narrative.

What do you think? Any famous crutches from your favorite characters?

Happy writing!

“Being vulgar to be funny is a crutch, and I prefer wheelchairs.”
― Jarod KintzThis Book Title is Invisible