April 2017 Goal Check In!

Blessed be, all! It’s hard to believe May is right around the corner; it feels like this year just started. There are big things still to come, though, so let’s check how we did in April and make a plan for next month!

  1. Writing: Second Draft of Kheras- It’s a good thing I decided to go by the Camp NaNo measurements, or this would have been a flop and a half. I will definitely be meeting my goal of 75 hours put in this month, but I fell way short of fifty thousand words. It turned out that there was a lot more new material to construct for the beginning than I’d planned. I’m proud of everything I’ve done, though!
  2. Reading: Swift for the Sun by Karen Bovenmeyer- Done! I finished this one quite early in the month and am currently working on a review for it, which should be up next week. Be sure to check out Karen’s book here!
  3. Bonus Goal: Work Every Day- I did hit pretty major burnout and skipped a day this month so I could deal with other adulting things. I can’t bring myself to be too terribly upset about the missed day, though; it was an intentional choice on my part to prioritize other things for that evening.

So looking forward to May, what’s on the schedule?

  1. Writing: Second Draft of Kheras- Continuing from this month, I intend to keep working on the edits for my fantasy romance. I’ll probably hit a speedbump when it gets to Mother’s Day (another busy season at the day job), but I’m hoping to get a significant amount of progress made on it.
  2. Reading: The Masked Empire by Patrick Weekes- This one came recommended by a friend who enjoys the Dragon Age games. I don’t play them personally, since I lack the manual dexterity for most video games, but so far it’s pretty promising!
  3. Bonus Goal: Work Every Day- Since this is going to be another busy season for me, I’m not going to be incredibly upset if I have to take a few personal days. But I’m going to do my best not to, as well.
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Five Things: My Most Influential Authors

Blessed be, all! You’ve probably heard it said that writers have to read. Myself, I never believed it until very recently. Intellectually, I suppose I’ve always known it’s true; the more quality materials you take in, the more quality work you can put out. Still, I never actually read. I enjoyed reading, sure. But I was so gods-damned picky that the books I would ingest suffered for it. One of my goals this year, though, is to expand my reading tastes so I can improve the stories that I write on both a sentence- and novel-level.

So! In no particular order (okay, that’s a lie, but I won’t tell if you don’t), here are the top five authors who have shaped my fiction in some way.

  1.  Tamora Pierce. No list of mine would be complete without Tammy. When I look at my life as a reader, there’s not a single writer who has more history with me. I first picked up a Tammy book fifteen years ago, and I have read each and every novel she’s put out before or since. Tammy is the author who taught me that girls could be heroes, too, that you didn’t have to be strong like a boy to be worth having a story told, and–possibly most importantly–that I as a writer didn’t have to disguise my name for people to enjoy my work.
  2. J.K. Rowling. Again, what list could be complete? Harry Potter was my very first binge read. Five books had already been published by the time I picked them up, and I read them all in less than a week, blowing my senior year midterms to do it. Rowling gave me my love of the long game, of learning something in book one that would come back to be vital hundreds of thousands of words later. I think it’s also from her that I get my love of having the inciting event be something offscreen, a long time ago, that the protagonist has to slowly uncover along with the reader.
  3. Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games was one of those books that I couldn’t put down. I think it was largely because of when I first read it, the year I was graduating with my BA and moving into my MFA program. It was the first book I picked up for myself at that time and, probably not coincidentally, the first book that I found myself intentionally looking for the social commentary that she was making. It was a fantastic story even without seeing all the layers (I have a soft spot for prickly heroines) but this was the first time outside of school that I purposefully read deeper than the surface text.
  4. NK Jemisin. I will grant I’ve only just within the last month started reading her, so her inclusion on this list might be a little premature, but I don’t think it is. A book and a half into her works and I am absolutely hooked. These books are everything I didn’t know I wanted until I had it. POC characters in a variety of roles–check. Complex female protagonists–check. Non-medieval Europe fantasy setting; gray morality; beautiful prose–check, check, check. I am going to be reading, rereading, and studying the craft in these books for ages to come.
  5. JRR Tolkien. Of course the grandfather of the fantasy genre would find his way here eventually. But it’s probably not for the reasons most would think. I know lots of readers adore him: his worldbuilding; his attention to detail; his sprawling epic plot. But he’s on this list because The Lord of the Rings is everything I do not want to write. I don’t deny that the work was seminal in creating the booming genre that I now benefit from.
    However, I find that much lore to be stifling when I’m trying to read or write and that the pacing suffers from trying to make room for it. But I never would have known I felt that way or tried to craft my own style against it if I hadn’t read him when I was younger.

Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Blessed be, all! For today, I want to talk about a book a read a couple weeks ago: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.J. Jemisin.

So I didn’t have this one on any of my monthly goals. I had heard good things about it in passing before, so it was on my radar but not my must read list. Then my best friend and CP read it and told me I absolutely must bump it straight to the top of the pile.

So, I obliged. I picked it up right after I finished Restoration and figured it would take me at least a couple weeks to finish. I don’t tend to rip through books; I make a leisurely stroll of it so I can savor the characters and the world. So, logically, even if I started in March I could still put it on my April To Be Read and make it an easy-to-check goal. After all, I’d be–what–halfway done? At the most?

I was wrong. The first half took me maybe a week, reading a chapter or two a night. It was good; I mean, I liked it… But I wasn’t particularly compelled through the narrative, either. Several reasons.

I had a hard time with the nonlinear storytelling at first. Tangents in my fiction tend to drive me up a wall. The further I got into the story, the more used to Yeine’s digressions I became. I eventually even came to like them. But it was a barrier for me at the start.

I also didn’t particularly care for Yeine at first. I was much more interested in the fates of the captive Gods than I was for her, her homeland, her mother, or even her safety. That changed as the book went on, but for a significant part of it, she was just the vehicle through which I was reading about Nahadoth and the others.

I did, however, love the supporting cast to a man. T’vril, Viraine, all of the Gods–I just adored them. Or loved to hate them, in the case of most of the Arameri. I also enjoyed the setting and the feel Sky put in my bones as I read. That alone was enough to keep me going.

The second half of the book took me one day. I physically could not put it down. Also, I didn’t call the ending from half-court, which is always the mark of a strong story for me. I love when the conclusion of the story is both unexpected and inevitable. That I don’t see it coming but also can’t imagine it ending any other way now that I’ve gotten there.

I don’t want to spoil anything, though, so I’m just going to say this: if you had a hard time getting through the first half? Give it time. It pays off!

Camp NaNo: Hourly Goals!

Blessed be! It’s the first Thursday of April, so I’m working way at Camp NaNo. In a way, this is an update to my monthly goals post in which I said I was aiming to complete fifty thousand words worth of work on my fantasy romance. That was before I realized that the fine folks at NaNo had added an option for this year: an hourly commitment for the month.

I will admit, I was skeptical at first. After all, isn’t the whole point of NaNo to generate as much new material as possible, regardless of quality? And, technically, this is true. But. This is Camp, which, is first of all, a lot more lenient than NaNo proper. Secondly, my thought is that, as long as you are pushing yourself to do more than you thought possible during NaNo time, you’re winning.

Which brings me to the hourly goal. Since I’m working on revisions now, it’s hard to quantify it in terms of word count. I could just count the total words of scenes that I’ve completed, but that feels like cheating. Especially looking forward to when I start getting into the parts of the story that don’t need a lot of surgical overhaul. If all I’m doing is moving punctuation and fixing sentence structure, I don’t feel that I’m really pushing myself the way I need to be doing to make a NaNo worth it.

With all that in mind, I set myself to doing seventy-five hours on my manuscript this month. I’m off to a good start; I should hit twenty or so by the time I end my wording binge tonight. The great part about it is that it lets me engage the perfectionist side of my brain–the part that makes drafting ordinarily a slog since I hate every single thing I type–while still feeling like I’m making progress. It changed my vocabulary from, “It’s been almost a week, and I’ve only written five thousand words,” to “I’ve written a chapter and a half, and it only took me seventeen hours!”

I’ll see how I feel about it at the end of the month but, as of right now, the change of perspective alone is worth it!