Reading About Writing

This year, I’m taking an AP Language class as my English course. Besides it being incredibly dull despite my interest in the subject matter, one of our three* textbooks is something called Writing With Style. Essentially it’s a writer’s thoughts on how to write, as apparently writers often feel the need to tell us how to craft opening paragraphs.

I’ve always been wary of people telling me how to write. Editing is one thing, and so is advice, but only when it is given with the understanding that everyone takes a different approach. Veronica Roth’s style, for example, is most definitely not going to be my own, and so on and so forth. We writers realize this as we discover what kind of pace and routine works for us.

But this book is an altogether different kind of advice from what I’ve previously read. It is a how-to of grammar, a step-by-step play of persuasive writing that’s generally meant to be a one-size-fits-all of nonfiction. It does not apply to novels but to an altogether stricter genre, and so I’ve found that I can forgive it for telling me exactly what to do and when to do it.

Of course, I’m not that kind of writer, and while the book may prove useful for my school career, at first glance it doesn’t seem to be of any help to my novelist side. Still, I resolved to learn something- anything- from this book. After six chapters, I believe I’ve come to a conclusion that will sum up my feelings about Writing With Style from the perspective of someone whose focus is quite a bit more fictional than the author intended.

Here is what I’ve learned from Writing With Style: learn the rules of good writing. Study them. Practice them. Do so until even the most hardened debate opponent is dissolved into a quivering puddle of incoherent half-rebuttals after you’re finished with him. And then, when you’ve done all that, when you’ve memorized what makes a good writer beyond memorization, do one last thing:

Forget it.

My Creative Writing teacher perhaps said it best: we have to learn the rules so that we can ignore the rules. This is the freedom that novels allow us. Within certain boundaries, most of which have to do with grammar, we can do whatever the heck we want. Books such as the one my class is reading serve a purpose outside their intended audiences only so far as to give us a general direction, a few main points we take away that may or may not influence the way we structure our writings.

Main Idea of today’s post: have fun with your writing. Challenge yourself. It’s still important that you are understood clearly, but beyond that, make up your own rules. That’s what fiction is.

Happy reading.

*I don’t even know.

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LazyPost: An Introduction to Tumblr

Hey, readers.

I do apologize for using the LazyPost so relatively often lately, but I can’t help it.  As the school year wraps up and projects must be completed and finals studied for, I’ll probably be using this thing a bunch more times.  So it goes.

Anyway, I came across this neat site a couple of days ago.  I haven’t been able to go through a lot of it yet, but from what I have seen it’s got pretty much all the road blocks we writers run into.  So go check it out!

It strikes me that a link isn’t much of a post, even a lazy one.

But this is my blog, so I don’t care.

Happy reading.

Every Writer is a Little Insane

This month’s Teens Can Write, Too! prompt was as follows:

“What are your writers’ habits and eccentricities?”

The thing about me as a writer is I like quiet.  I like everything to just be still.  I don’t like noise or activity when I’m writing.  That usually means me sitting alone in my room with the door shut and no music playing.

I know the whole thing of, like, having a playlist for characters and playing it while writing certain scenes is a common thing among writers, but I’ve never been a part of that.  I feel like music just distracts me from what I’m really supposed to be doing, which is focusing on the story.  In fact, I’ve never been able to listen to music while writing anything, and that includes homework.  Aside from maybe math, I don’t have the capacity to have two things going at once.

So that covers what I do while writing.  It turns out, though, that I perhaps do just as much for the story when I’m not writing as when I am.  I can’t think of things on the spot when I’m sitting at my computer.  A lot of times I’ll have an idea while just laying around the house.  I’ll work through an upcoming scene or flesh out a character, all in my head without putting things to paper.  I find that I can’t fully represent my ideas in writing when it comes to tools that other writers use, i.e. outlines, character charts, et cetera.  It’s a lot easier if I just think about it and then go straight into drafting.

Speaking of thinking about it, I do have one rather strange habit.  On rare occasions- rare, mind you- I will roleplay my characters.  Now, I don’t mean to say that I’ll dress like them or anything (which I know some writers do), I mean I’ll put myself in their shoes.  If I’m having trouble imagining how a character is going to react to an event in my plot, I’ll say to myself, “Okay, self.  You are now this character.  This thing happens.  What do you do?”  I’ll go through a whole scene that way, becoming a character and acting out what they would do.  It used to be I would, like, really act out the scenes, but nowadays it’s mostly all in my head, though I will blurt out a line here and there.

I make sure to do this when I’m alone, for obvious reasons.

My eccentric side doesn’t stop there, however.  In fact, it really never stops until I’m finished, because here’s the thing: I absolutely hate people reading something I’ve written before it’s finished.  I’ve touched on this subject before here on the ol’ blog, but there’s just something really personal about my fiction, especially unfinished fiction, that I don’t like people seeing, not even my family.

Well, that’s my little batch of crazy cakes for you.  If you want to see what some other teen writers do, links are below the cut.  For those of you readers who aren’t part of the chain and who write things other than blog posts, what are some of your quirks?

Happy reading.

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An Interview With My Brain

It’s once again time for me to contribute to the Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain.  This month the prompt is:

Choose your favorite of any of your own characters. Conduct a ten question interview with him or her.

The person I’ve picked for this interview is one of those characters that seem to bounce from story to story, never quite finding a permanent home in the novels I attempt.  However, her current incarnation is looking pretty hopeful.  She’s not a main character, but she’s certainly one of the more interesting ones.

Readers, allow me to introduce you all to Vee.  *elbows Vee*  Say hello to the readers!

Vee: Hey. Oh, by the way, I have to ask.  Do you really have to call them readers?  What is that?  Can I call you blogger?

Tayqlor: Can I just get to the questions?

V: (smirking) There is literally nothing I would like more than for you to start asking me personal questions.  Fire away.

T: Um, okay.  Let’s start with the basics: name and age.

V: Vee.  No last name.  Fifteen.  Do you want to know my shoe size, too?

T: I’m ignoring that.  What’s your favorite hobby?

V: (grins) Does staying alive count?  Or practicing my fighting skills.  I’m getting pretty good at hand-to-hand combat.

T: Why don’t you tell me more about yourself?

V: (laughs) What, is this a documentary on All Things Vee?  You gonna sell my life story to the papers?  No thanks, I’ll have my privacy.

T: Oh, come on.

V: There isn’t much to tell.  People say I’m hard to get along with, though I can’t imagine why.  I live with some friends of mine.  We’re outcasts, I guess.  Always have been.  That’s just the way things work, where I live.

T: What’s your typical outfit look like?

V: Jeans.  A shirt that isn’t too tight, something I can move around in.  I’ve usually got my hair- it’s brown- up in a ponytail.  Oh, and my gloves, of course.

T: Tell them about your best friend.

V: Hound? He’s a wild one.  Literally. (grins) You wouldn’t want to get him angry.  He’s pretty quiet most of the time, though.  Keeps to himself.  I’m the only one he really talks to, actually.  We’ve been friends for years.

T: Moving on…What are you most afraid of?

V: Yeah, ’cause that’s not a personal question.  Seriously, blogger?

T: Please, just answer this one?  We’re on a blog chain, here.  Lots of teen writers are going to see this!  You can’t just give me nothing.

V: Well, I can, actually.  Watch.

T: I know what it is.

V: Don’t you dare.

T: It’s going- hey, what are you doing?!  Put me down!

V: Don’t mess with a telekinetic.  Or have we not mentioned that yet?

T: Fine, fine, no more telling the readers about you!  Now put me down!…Thank you.  On to the next question.  What’s your biggest pet peeve?

V: I hate useless people.  I’m trying to survive here, you know?  I can’t afford to have someone who can’t do anything along for the ride.  It just slows me down.

T: Harsh.  Next question.  Do you consider yourself more a leader or a follower?

V: I’m more of a loner.  I don’t play well with others.  It’s shocking, I know, I seem like such a social butterfly.  Oh, sure, I’ll join up with a group of people for a while, but as soon as things aren’t going my way, I’m out of there.  With Hound, of course.

T: Of course.  Do we have time for some more questions?

V: Oh, yeah, take all the time you need.  It’s not like I was doing anything important.  No, I’ll gladly give up hours of my life to being probed about every insignificant detail of my existence for the benefit of your readers.

T: I get the sense you’re not really enjoying this.

V: Stop the presses!  I think the blogger just had a brain wave!

T: (fidgeting) Yeah, um, can we just get back to the questions, please?  Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

V: Hopefully far away from you.  (grins) Actually, I can do that right now.  See ya.

T: Vee, where are you going?  We’re not done here!  Vee?!…(nervous laugh) Readers?  She’s, uh, she’s gone.  Sorry.  But what a character, isn’t she?  Anyway, thanks for tuning in.  Links to the rest of the blog chain are under the cut.

Happy reading.

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Is This A Kissing Book?

Readers, I’m proud today to be kicking off this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain.  Honoring Valentine’s Day and Cupid and whatnot, this time around the theme is:

What are your thoughts on romance for your typical genre?  Do you tend to have a little, a lot, or none at all?

I’m not sure if I really have a typical genre, but I suppose lately the majority of what I’ve been writing is dystopian (yes, technically a subgenre, but you can’t expect me to simply call it sci-fi when dystopia is barely that).  Ah, yes, Dystopia, Land of the Love Triangles.  With such hits as The Hunger Games and Matched featuring this particular shape, it’s no wonder I’m perfectly okay with a bit of romance in my reading.  Even novels in this category that don’t favor three sides to their relationships have some sort of love story mixed into the plot.

Love is sort of hard to avoid in the future, it seems.

Writing is much the same.  When I write something like this, sure, I’ll have some romance here and there.  It’s my opinion that every great book has at least some such aspect to it.  However, just as The Hunger Games leaves its share of infatuations in the background in order to focus on the larger plot at hand, a dystopia shouldn’t just be about the kissing.  A dystopian novel, almost by definition, is about a group of oppressed people making a stand against a corrupt and unlawful society.  It’s about fighting back and being strong in the face of adversity.  It does not leave room for the main characters to be obsessing over whether their crush is going to call them or not.

Readers, this is something that must be kept in the right balance in order for it to work.  I understand that in stories, people do find each other, and yes, maybe they fall in love.  That’s okay.  A lot of times it might even be better for the overall arc of the story to put that in there.  In dystopia, though, the romance angle must be kept backseat to the larger plot, which is of course fighting aforementioned corruption.  That’s how I try to write my dystopias.

Of course, that being said, I should probably address the preferred geometric state of my characters’ love lives.  As attractive as it may seem to include one to mix up the plot a little, love triangles are a bit overdone in my opinion.  I mean, essentially they were run into the ground by the whole Twilight/Teams thing, and although that’s not even in the same genre as dystopia, it seems to me that any book today featuring a triangle will inevitably be compared with the Saga. (For more of my opinion on love triangles and Teams, see this post.)  Sure, I’ve considered a love triangle, but to actually put one in my writing would require a lot more thought and planning in order to make it seem somehow different from all the other ones out there.

I mean, really?

In the end, though, this post isn’t about triangles.  This is about how much love and romance and such I like in my dystopian writing in general.  My verdict is this: it’s all right when doled out in small portions.  Even in a terrifying future, people can get together and break up and marry each other.  However, dystopia should very rarely, if ever, feature this in the forefront.  That’s the job of the action and politics that form the core of this genre.

Most of that isn’t a problem for me, since I’m not what you’d call a romantic type.  I’m in no way a poster child (poster writer?) for a Valentine’s Day-type novel.  I do find it interesting, though, that our society seems to think that romance must be in any book that’s halfway good.  What if writers of this genre moved away from the relationships?  I’d like to see a dystopian series that has none of that kind of love in it, just to see if the story by itself can still be just as good.  Say, that gives me an idea…

Happy reading.

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Going Public and Reading For the Authors

Readers, today I entered a writing contest.  I wrote a short story, printed it out, and mailed it to people I have never met in the hopes that they might read it and enjoy it.  Needless to say, this wasn’t easy for me to do, given that I don’t normally like it when people read my stories.  I’ve never been comfortable with this.  Everything I put down on paper just seems too personal to give out to the world.  My friends and family will certainly attest that I’m reluctant to share my writing.

Why is this?  Is it because I fear they will tell me I’m a horrible writer?  Or some other reason?  I don’t know, but I need to get over this sort of literary shyness if I’m going to ever make it as an author without having nervous breakdowns every time something’s published.  Other people reading your work is inherent in being a writer, which is why I’m so puzzled by my inability to not get all nervous about it.

I think this was one of the reasons I started blogging: to get over this dread of people reading what I write.  After all, you’re all reading this now, and I’m perfectly okay with that.  I think this blog helped me a lot in getting to the point where I can do things like this contest.

My worries about this subject inevitably lead to the simple fact that writing is a very personal process.  Every time I write something, at least a fictional something, I leave a little bit of me in the pages, in the plot and the characters.  And that’s a scary thing, to put something like that, something I’ve worked on for a while, something I feel close to and am proud of, into the world.  To let everyone, from good friends to people I don’t even know, read it and comment on it and tell me what they think of this thing I’ve created.

Anyway, there you have it.  I’m planning to post that short story on Novel Journeys starting in a couple of weeks.  So I guess you have that to look forward to, if you like reading that sort of thing here.

ON TO ANOTHER TOPIC!

So, ever since reading The Fault in Our Stars, I’ve been basically on a literary rampage, trying to get my hands on every John Green book I could (admittedly, he’s only written three others, but still).  My school library has both An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns, the former of which I have finished and the latter of which I will finish in the next day or so.  I’m really enjoying both of these books, which is remarkable in that I don’t usually read books because of the author.  I read books for their story or their title, but here I made an exception.  I’m reading these because John Green wrote them, and I’m having a remarkably pleasant time doing so.

This has taught me that reading for the author can sometimes be quite rewarding.  I had known this before, and with some authors I’ll read anything they write, but this is different.  I was first introduced to John through his Vlogbrothers channel on YouTube, so I suppose you could say that I even read The Fault in Our Stars just because he wrote it.

It’s a different approach to a new book, but it’s been fun.  And that’s about all I have to say on the subject.  Tomorrow I’ll be posting for this month’s TCWT blog chain, so, at the risk of sounding clichéd, stay tuned!

Happy reading.

I Suppose This Post Isn’t Really About One Specific Thing.

Well, readers, it’s the weekend once more.  To be honest, I don’t really have much to talk about.  If you don’t want to read many hundred words of my babbling about books I’m going to read at some point in the future and books I’m reading now, you should probably just stop here.  I won’t be offended; I promise.

My reading is still slow going until I get onto something new, and I haven’t been writing nearly as much as I want to, so there’s nothing coming down that creative channel.  However, I made a promise both to myself and to you lovely people that I would be writing a post twice a week to the best of my ability to do so, and since I’ve been doing almost nothing all afternoon but streaming Parks & Recreation* on my computer, it is most definitely within my ability to write one today.

First off, I suppose I should hash out a game plan for the next year, seeing as how this is our last shot at actually planning out an entire year until the apocalypse (I’m kidding, everyone).  You remember the Eclectic Reading Challenge, don’t you?  Well, I’ve worked out with my oh-so-clever brain that the number of genres I have to read (twelve) corresponds to the number of months in the year (which is also twelve, wouldn’t you know it).  So, my plan is to read and review one book per month.  January’s book will be The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, as per a commenter’s request (just the first one, though; I’m not really in the mood to read a five-book trilogy all at once).

On a related note, did you know the books were based off of a radio series made by the author?  According to Wikipedia, at any rate.  And everyone knows Wikipedia is the best source for factual information.

Moving on.  You can always check out all of the books I’ll be reading for the Challenge up at the page called “The Challenge.”  If you have a book to recommend for me to read next (meaning in February), please, let me know.  Help me make sense of this gigantic stack of books in my room (which will be growing again this week because The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is coming in the mail)(wow, are there a lot of parentheticals in this post).  If you’ve even read this far.  In which case, bonus points to you, good sir or madam!

So, the author's site calls it a "technothriller"...which I suppose is an adequate term.

Last order of business: Omnitopia Dawn, the book I’m hoping to finish quite soon.  I like it a lot, and I think it’s because it’s basically a computer book.  You know the type, with lots of hacker jargon and coding talk.  It’s actually a near-future tale about a World of Warcraft-type online game, in case you need the background.

My main point, though, is that for some reason I love books with lots of technical computer stuff in it.  I’m not sure why, because none of what they’re talking about makes much sense to me.  At the same time, though, I don’t need to understand to understand.  I get the gist of it.  Does that make sense to anyone here?  Another example of this type of book is Evil Genius (which is such a good book, everyone should read it) and, I’m told, Brain Jack, which I bought about a week or so ago but probably won’t get around to for a while. My main point is, do any of you like this subgenre (can I call it that?), readers?  If so, do you feel like you need to understand it, or does it not matter to you?

Well, I think this is a good enough post about nothing at all.  I really do apologize for the lack of actual quality here; apparently the creative side of my brain is taking a sabbatical.  It’s probably from all the Parks & Rec.

Happy reading.

*Speaking of the show, does anyone here watch it?  And if you do, isn’t it AMAZING?!